Monday, November 29, 2010

A gastronomical experience at Nobu, Melbourne

Nobu is one of the most recognised brands of Japanese restaurants. I was delighted to have been invited to the one in Melbourne which is at Crown Entertainment Complex. Over looking the southern banks of the Yarra River, Nobu Melbourne offers a stunning view inside and out. River stones suspended in mid air, cherry blossom adorned ceilings, burnished woods, and rich hues create an ambiance of elegance and refinement.

The food was absolutely divine......................

The fish is one of his signature dishes and it was awesome.

Another signature dish.

Yet another signature dish.

And all the desserts were to die for. :)

Sunday, November 28, 2010

The British Airways Aviation museum

British Airways have their own aviation museum at their headquarters in Waterside!!

This is my favourite.........the dress is made of paper and was the uniform on the Caribbean flights!!

Yum Cha and Bubble Tea

Yum cha, also known as Ban ming, is a dining experience which involves drinking Chinese tea and eating dim sum dishes. Yum cha in Cantonese literally means "drink tea".
 In the US and UK, the phrase dim sum is often used in place of yum cha; in Cantonese, dim sum refers to the wide range of small dishes, whereas yum cha, or "drinking tea", refers to the entire dining experience.

Recently in Melbourne, I had an amazing Yum Cha experience with my friend Meherangiz and her sister-in-law Layla.

Dim sum is a varied range of small dishes (a concept similar to tapas) eaten for breakfast, brunch or afternoon tea, as part of the yum cha dining experience. Dishes are usually steamed or fried and may be savoury or sweet. They include steamed buns such as char siu baau, assorted dumplings, sui mai, and rice noodle rolls, which contain a range of ingredients, including beef, chicken, pork, prawns and vegetarian options. Typical desserts include egg tarts, sai mai lo (tapioca pudding) and mango pudding. Many dim sum restaurants also offer plates of steamed green vegetables, roasted meats, congee porridge, and soups.

The dim sum are usually small and normally served as three or four pieces in one dish. The restaurant we went to served in 3s which suited us perfectly! The servers wheel the dim sum trolleys around and customers have to pick from the selection. The server then marks the order on a stamping card on the table.

After yum cha, we went to a place where they served "bubble tea" which is a Taiwanese innovation. Drink recipes may vary, but most bubble teas contain a tea base mixed with fruit (or fruit syrup) and/or milk. Ice blended versions of the drink are also available, usually in fruit flavors. Bubble teas usually contain small tapioca balls or pearls called "boba". Pearls made of jelly are also available in many places. These teas are shaken to mix the ingredients, creating a foam on the top of some varieties, hence the name.

The Tapas Culture and gastronomy in Madrid

Madrilenos live by a different clock. They commence their day with a cafe con leche and churros at the neighbourhood cafeteria. Their work day starts at half past 8 or 9 and ends quite late – post 7 pm or maybe even 8 pm. Most Spanish companies have a lunch break between 2 and 4 pm. It reminds me of Goa and susegad. Quite often people actually go home for lunch. And lunch generally comprises of 2 courses and a dessert with coffee. Wonder how they can work after all that food!!

Sausages which taste very much like Goa Sausages.

The famed Jambon

Salad with anchovies

Hake with crabmeat stuffing

Madrilenos are a very social lot and their lives revolve around their families and friends. The evening begins quite late – post 9 pm. They start off at a tapas bar, have a glass of wine and a few tapas, whilst catching up with the latest news and gossip. Then they move to the next tapas bar and the next and generally wind up quite late in the evening.

Tapas are a wide variety of appetizers or snacks and they could be either hot or cold. Tapas bars range from the traditional to the modern and there are hundreds of them in Madrid.

The word "tapas" is derived from the Spanish verb tapar, "to cover".

According to legend, the tapas tradition began when king Alfonso X of Castile recovered from an illness by drinking wine with small dishes between meals. After regaining his health, the king ordered that taverns would not be allowed to serve wine to customers unless it was accompanied by a small snack or "tapa."

According to The Joy of Cooking, the original tapas were the slices of bread or meat which sherry drinkers in Andalusian taverns used to cover their glasses between sips. This was a practical measure meant to prevent fruit flies from hovering over the sweet sherry. The meat used to cover the sherry was normally ham or chorizo, which are both very salty and activate thirst. Because of this, bartenders and restaurant owners began creating a variety of snacks to serve with sherry, thus increasing their alcohol sales. The tapas eventually became as important as the sherry.

Tapas has evolved through Spanish history by incorporating ingredients and influences from many different cultures and countries. Most of the Iberian Peninsula was invaded by the Romans, who introduced the olive and irrigation methods. The invasion of the North African Moors in the 8th century brought almonds, citrus fruits and fragrant spices. The influence of their 700-year presence remains today, especially in Andalusia. The discovery of the New World brought the introduction of tomatoes, sweet and chili peppers, maize (corn), beans and potatoes. These were readily accepted and easily grown in Spain's microclimates.
Source: Wikipedia

The Real Madrid

I had to rediscover Madrid as the city has truly undergone a massive change from the last time I visited which was almost a decade ago. The best icon to describe the Madrid of today would be the stylish, contemporary and business-like T4 terminal designed by Richard Rogers at Madrid Barajas airport. The kilometer long terminal building which opened in 2006 has a bamboo clad wavy roof and each area is colour coded from blue to yellow which not only indicates the direction but is also pleasing to the eye. Honouring the Nobel Prize winner of Literature Mario Vargas Llosa are 3 sculptures of women reflecting various moods – the dreamer, the flirtatious one and the realist.

The dreamer

The coquette

The realist

The city itself has been transformed for the better with the organization of traffic, widening of roads and construction of high speed tunnels and thoroughfares. This allows the tourist to take in the sights on foot, which is truly the best way to admire the beautiful buildings and architecture of the city.

Iglesia San Jeronimo

Palacio del Congreso

Edificio Espana
Madrid is the centre of the Spanish speaking world and is the gateway to Latin America for the Europeans. It has always been a microcosm of Spain and has been the seat of the Spanish royal house for many centuries. It has a buzz and energy of London and contradicts the easy going attitude of the Latin world. It is the country’s political and cultural centre and has a lot to offer in addition to the museums, nightlife and the Real Madrid football club.

Madrid is a fascinating mix of past and present. On one hand you have traditional old buildings and on the other contemporary buildings like Norman Foster’s Caja Madrid Tower and Herzog & de Meuron’s CaixaForum. The tree lined boulevards are a welcome change in a large city and the narrow streets with the many plazas (squares) with small cafes, tavernas, cervecerias and tapas bars are fascinating.

The inside of a taverna

The Prado museum is right in the centre of the city and it is well worth the visit though it demands more than a few hours of browsing. Near it are 2 other world class museums, the Reina Sofia and the Thyssen-Bornemisza. Opposite are beautiful hotels – The Ritz and the Westin Palace which were built to accommodate the royal guests in the early 1910 who were attending a royal wedding.

El Prado

The Westin Palace Hotel
The Debod Temple, an authentic Egyptian temple dedicated to the gods Amon and Isis, is in a park near the Plaza de Espana and takes one completely by surprise. How did it get here? Many valuable monuments and archaeological sites were in danger of being destroyed due to the construction of the Aswan Dam in 1960. The UNESCO made an appeal to countries to help save these monuments, and as thanks for the aid given by Spain, particularly in helping to save the sacred buildings of Abu Simbel, the Egyptian government donated this temple to the Spanish people in 1968. The temple originally stood in Debod in the Nile Valley not too far from the city of Aswan, but the need for the new dam meant that it had to be moved elsewhere or it would have remained underwater forever.

The Debod Temple

The Palacio Real, or Royal Palace, is Madrid's largest building and possibly its most beautiful is located next to the equally beautiful Plaza de Oriente square and is the largest royal palace in Western Europe. It was built on the site of the old Alcázar, the Moorish castle destroyed by fire in 1734. You can do a guided tour of the interiors which is absolutely gorgeous and has beautiful furniture, tapestries, works of art and paintings by the Spanish artists.

Palacio Real

Statues of the kings of Spain lining the courtyard

The palace gardens, called the Campo del Moro, are also worth visiting, as is the square nearby. The Plaza de Oriente takes its name from its location - to the east of the palace, and contains several sculptures of the precious Spanish monarchs. Just across this beautiful plaza stands the Royal Theatre.

Statue in the Plaza de Oriente

The Opera House

Some of the best shopping for clothes, especially the high end brands, is on the Calle de Sorreno, Calle de Goya and Calle de Velazquez. Zara in particular, is very cheap and affordable as it is a local brand. One of my favourites.

It is easy to get around Madrid as the metro is quite compact and user friendly. Most economical is to buy a ticket for 10 journeys on the metro or bus and costs Euros 8.