4 Sep 2015

A Weekend Getaway to Courtyard by Marriott at Chakan, Pune

The weekend's nearly here! So have you planned a getaway yet? If you are in Mumbai (or Pune or Nashik), and have already 'done' all the nearby weekend spots, here's a wonderful monsoon getaway for you. The husband and I recently spent some time at Courtyard by Marriott at Chakan, about 35 kms from Pune. 

Our weekend started early, on a Friday morning, and the drive from Mumbai to Chakan was fairly quick - just 2.5 hours to cover the 150 kms. It was a lovely, rainy day and the drive passed by in a blur of green. 

We arrived to a warm welcome in form of this cute edible art creation --->

Our room was large & well-appointed. The French windows let in a lot of light and its ledge was my favourite reading place. There was also a convenient settee next to the window to lounge about on. The bed was comfy and the hotel has thoughtfully provided reading lights. There's ample storage space and a safe is available as well. 

A word about the Wi-Fi at the hotel - it's super-fast & very reliable! And at Rs. 500 per day, it's a fantastic deal, especially if you (like me) spend weekends working ;) 

Since the hotel is located in an industrial area, there were sporadic sounds from the neighbouring  factories, but nothing too loud or very disruptive. 

24 Aug 2015

Wisk, Mumbai's new baking studio, and a meeting with Janice Wong

One of the best pastry chefs in the world, a spanking new baking studio in the city and the opportunity to not just watch an artist in action, but also a chance to eat one of her edible art creations - that's what I was up to last week. 

Janice Wong has been named Asia's Best Pastry Chef for two years in a row (2013 & 2014) by San Pellegrino sponsored "Asia's 50 Best Restaurants" Awards. Wong owns one of Singapore's best pastry shops, the 2am:dessertbar. She was specially brought down to Mumbai to inaugurate the gorgeous baking studio, Wisk. I was invited for the media launch last week and Thursday evening found me in Kala Ghoda in South Mumbai, excited about checking out the newest studio kitchen in town, and getting a first-hand look at edible art in the making. 

Image courtesy Wisk by Cakesmiths

Janice Wong
Vrinda Jatia
Wisk is located on the second floor of Jatia Chambers, a pretty white building in the lane going down from Rhythm House. I walked up the wide, old-fashioned staircase of the building, and into a kitchen wonderland straight out of one of those fancy TV cooking shows! The studio has cute touches here & there - pretty crockery, inspiring cookbooks and lust-worthy baking paraphernalia. Wisk is the brainchild of Vrinda Jatia, an entrepreneur who launched Cakesmiths in 2014 - an online platform where you can buy high-end baking supplies. Encouraged by the response to her venture, she then decided to open this beautifully-appointed baking studio, which simulates the experience of a professional bakery. The state-of-the-art baking studio is aimed both at professional bakers and serious home bakers. I loved the clean, slightly minimalist decor of the studio, fully stocked with some of the best baking equipment. 

17 Aug 2015

6 Inspiring Podcasts You Should Be Listening To (plus a funny one!)

Today's post is a bit different from the usual topics I blog about, mainly because I have been listening to podcasts quite regularly these days. Have you jumped on the podcast bandwagon yet? My friend Chhavi has been the biggest podcast evangelist in my life, and she co-produces some fab podcasts over at Indus Vox Media (this is NOT a plug!). A few months ago I downloaded Podcast Addict on my phone, and I have been listening to podcasts on everything from food to writing. I thought I'd share some of my favourite ones (listed in no particular order). Have a listen... 

Burnt Toast is my absolute favourite food-related podcast. It's by the foodie folks at Food 52 - that veritable encyclopaedia on cooking, eating, baking, cheat recipes and more. In this bi-monthly podcast, the Food 52 team talks about what's new in the world of cooking, food culture, cookbooks, weird food they have eaten etc. Most of the episodes also have a guest speaker. I love the casual, conversational style of the podcast, with an added dash of humour. One of my favourite episodes was on smart meal planning and another one was on throwing dinner parties

10 Aug 2015

The 'Alice in Wonderland' Guide to Oxford

Which was your favourite book growing up? Besides the Enid Blytons that I used to devour (cream tea, anyone?), one of my favourites was Alice in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll. I remember we had a chapter of it (the one with the Mock Turtle, I think) in our English textbooks one school year. Some of my classmates found it weird or couldn't understand why it was such a big deal. I had already read the book (of course) and had loved it - sure, it was pure fantasy but it did make for a cracking story! 

I didn't know then that Lewis Carroll (or rather Charles Dodgson) drew a lot of inspiration from Oxford, when he spun the tale to little Alice Liddell. In spring this year, I was invited by Tourism Ireland for a media trip (read my Dublin posts here), and I decided to hop over to England for a bit. While I spent most of my time in London, I did take a day-trip to Oxford. I had visited Oxford earlier, but this time I wanted to retrace Alice's & Lewis Carroll's steps, and see Oxford as they experienced it.

I was lucky to meet Mark Davies, a local historian and somewhat of an Alice expert. What follows is an unedited version of the feature that I wrote for Condé Nast Traveller on my Alice in Wonderland experience in Oxford. 

Follow me down the rabbit hole, then...

4 Aug 2015

What Italy Is - A Photo-essay

If you have been reading this blog, you'd know that I'm positively obsessed with Italy! It's my favourite destination, and I have travelled through it quite a bit - not just visiting the 'grand tour' cities of Venice, Florence and Rome (admittedly, great places all!), but also travelling through some little known regions. 

Italian cities, towns & villages are full of these lovely little lanes - some dark & narrow, others winding up (or down), some leading to quiet piazzas, others reaching a dead-end. So last week I posted a new series on Instagram - The Alleys of Italy. In case you missed it, here's a recap. There are bonus photos not seen on Instagram, plus there's a cool video at the end! Enjoy this little journey around Italy, through my lens, and get inspired to explore il bel paese. And follow me on Instagram to stay updated :) 

Sirolo - Le Marche

I started off my 'Alleys of Italy' series with this gem from Sirolo, a town in Le Marche. The black & white cobbled stone pattern, the burnt sienna walls, the quintessentially Italian white Vespa, and the rolling greens of Marche's countryside just visible at the far end - Sirolo is a pretty little town in the Ancona district of Le Marche, and is known for its pristine beaches. From its medieval town centre you can get a sweeping view of Marche's Adriatic coastline, and of Monte Conero - a limestone mountain whose steep slopes slide straight down to the sapphire sea.