Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Vegetarian Biryani preparation

Step by step Veg Biryani made by me at home with (kheera raitha).

The recipe followed is by VahChef Sanjay Thumma:

Thursday, September 18, 2014


Had been hearing of the Burger Feast at Deli9. Two things spurred  me to go try the burgers. One, the amazingly tempting pictures. Two, the fact that I never had an occasion to go to Deli9, unsure as I was about the cuisine and the ambiance.
I have given up on KFCs and Macs for a long time now and been searching for places that serve a good burger. Went to HRC (Hard Rock Cafe) after hearing great reviews of the burger there and found the burger good but not outstanding. This might be because I eat only vegetarian. Perhaps the meat ones are good.
Coming to Deli9, it is an outlet in the White House building on the SP Road at Begumpet. They have a couple of outlets more but I am not aware of their location. Moreover, this one is closer to my place. This is not too big, perhaps just a 50-seater. The ambiance inside is air-conditioned and good.
I had a look at the two menus, that of the feast and the regular one. The burgers on the feast menu were priced much higher than the ones on their regular one. The regular one costs 115/- but the one offered in feast costs 195/ . No discounts because of the feast either.
The feast menu had three offerings for the vegetarians and I ordered the one shown below. The picture is from their brochure as I didn't take any.
What I got was quite similar to the one in picture except that I also got some shredded greens and just three potato wedges unlike the six  shown in picture.
I am off-sugar and therefore didn't go for a dessert but asked for a salad. There were none that appealed to me on the menu and when I was pondering on what to order, I was suggested a Caesar salad, not on the menu. I agreed to it. The salad was priced at 125/- and came with a good portion size. The lettuce was crisp and had all the right condiments. Instead of containing the croutons within, it came with a side of dry bread. But the steward was quickly on my side asking if I would prefer a soft one. When I said a yes to it, the dry bread was replaced with a soft garlic bread which went excellently with the salad. But yeah, one slice isn't enough for the entire plate. I wish I had asked for a slice more.While the salad was great, it was a tad too sour for me. Perhaps the lemon juice or vinegar could be toned down? I had gobbled it down as I was hungry but then it left a sour taste on the teeth.
The next to come was the eagerly-awaited burger. I had requested the multi-grained bun to be replaced with the regular one as I didn't fancy going healthy while indulging myself.
After all those burgers from big chains, this was heaven! Loved to sink my teeth into this deliciously balanced burger. Right proportions of soft bun, crisp patty (made of potato and different vegetables), the tomato, lettuces and the sauces in every bite.
The downside? None. Perfect taste which didn't require adding anything. It was nicely complemented by the potato wedges and the shredded veggies. When they weren't enough to last the burger, I asked for more and was served immediately.
The salad together with the burger made a sufficient meal for one person.

Veggie 9 Burger
Th pluses are the ambiance, attention to the customer and great taste.
The sole minus was a slight delay in service but it was worth the wait so I didn't mind it.

The total of 320/- for a salad and a burger with taxes came to 423/- Was it value for money? Hmm, a yes and no. Considering that 200/ may not be too much to pay for one's meal but a burger costing 200, and was it like outstanding? Something that's really, really special? Not really. Maybe, I need to have a go at burgers on their regular menu to compare.
The place holds a lot of promise and I will definitely visit it again to taste the other fare on their menu.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Gujarat tour : the hotels: Hotel Accolade, Hotel Atithi, Hotel Oasis

As mentioned in my earlier post about the sudden plans of going to Gujarat, the obvious thing to do was to first find a place to stay and my reference was the TripAdvisor. I also had a look at discounts available through Make MyTrip to check how much I could negotiate the room rates for.I shortlisted a few based on the reviews and my budget.
My selection criteria was as below:

1. Buffet Breakfast available: Would be good to set out with stomach full as you spend the day outside with no surety of when you get the next meal. Also saves time in finding one in the morning. Whether the buffet contained limited or unlimited items? Some of them had set menus of three items to be selected from their menu.
2. Has an airport pick up? Saves time in all those odd hours searching for the hotel
3. Check-in Check out timings
4. Centrally Located
5. Availability of Wi-fi
6. Opt for a no-smoking room
7. Opt for a room with no sound...the higher the floor, the better
8. And of course, the rates and the discounts

My big advantage is that by going during off-season, I not only got rooms easily but also availed flexible check in/check out timings.

Searched for hotels in mid-range and found few, of which the ones that fit my requirement were the Krios and the Accolade. During both stints of my stay in Ahmedabad, Krios promised a room but backed out in my call for confirmation saying that they have an earlier booking extended. Found that strange.


Hotel Accolade, Ahmedabad

There was an airport pick up but the service was not free. The hotel had all its basic amenities in place. It was quite clean too.There was no noise to disturb you and you get a fitful sleep.
The breakfast buffet, part of the package had a mix of North and South Indian & Continental. I remember having dosas, sandwiches, parathas, baked vegetables, all about 10 items or so. I thought that the buffet was frugal. Nonetheless, they tasted decent...till I had their Sunday buffet and then found that the breakfast was brilliant. Though the number of items hadn't increased, they had much better tasting food on the weekend. What I thought should have been included is a Gujarati item so that it provides an insight into what Gujarati food is about. On the down side, the dining area was not too great as they dumped the plates right in front of us into a waiting tub. The dirty tub, the wash area, a broken and under-repair part of the hotel didn't make a pleasant sight while eating. The waiters were attentive and helpful though.
On the minuses, the hotel's very business-like approach was a slight put-off. The courtesy was there but the smiles missing. Going out of way to accommodate your requirement was not there. For example, when I couldn't partake of my breakfast as I had to leave at 7 am, I requested them to parcel a little from the breakfast but they only replied that they do not have such system in place. Hence I was forced to delay my leaving to quickly eat what I could. And being a slow eater, that was a tough feat to pull. It was good that I ate because there were no eateries enroute that day.
If I have to come back here, I will because they deliver what they promise and for their decent food. Just wish there were less of the rigid politeness and more of genuine smiles.

The cab driver happened to point out Atithi, another hotel in the vicinity of Accolade and told me that they had a tie up with this hotel too. This was not among the top ranking hotels in TripAdvisor.Yet, curios, I got down and checked the hotel. For a similar tariff as that of Accolade, I was getting a bigger room and with a one-side free airport/railway pick-up/drop. Good enough. The hotel was newer and therefore, again as Krios had turned me down, I opted to stay in Atithi during my next stint in Ahmedabad. The good thing is the room itself, which was vast and comfortable. Bigger bathroom with a secluded bath area. What was not good was the toilet paper being placed behind the seat. To maneuver your self into the position of turning around to pull it down was tough. The seat, even for a short person like me, was too low and on the first day, I found myself plonk down unexpectedly on it.  The wash basin was jammed and I would find myself wait patiently for the water to drain down slowly.
They have excellent facilities at the door like different touch buttons for different signs. You touch one of them to highlight your status. But believe me those statuses are royally ignored. I had pressed the 'do not disturb' button on the day I wanted a break in the travel and just as I hit the bed, I get a call asking me if I wanted to get the laundry done. One, I don't think the services should make a call unless the resident actually asks for something. Second, whats the point in my displaying a do not disturb status? Twice,  I had the boys drop in with things I hadn't even ordered. I feel it is a nuisance to get up from bed to open the door to such unnecessary intrusions.
Coming to their breakfast, I felt that it is a fiasco. Being a slow eater, I take a long time eating and I found one of the guys stand at the end of my long table and not leaving till I had done with my breakfast. Uncomfortable when someone is breathing down your neck as you eat. There were very limited and unappetizing items on the table. But we could order stuff from the restaurant's south Indian menu. Going to Gujarat and ordering South Indian isn't exactly a great idea but then I had to. I don't know how this system works because the meaning of buffet itself is defeated when everyone's busy ordering from your a la carte menu.
On the upside, the wi-fi speed is excellent but then having to log in with a new password every time you log off for long periods can be a bit cumbersome.I was here in two stints having left my luggage in their care for a couple of days and then coming back. All these check-in and check outs were handed smoothly with no hidden costs.
If I come back, it will for the size of the room and its cleanliness. And just because I wasn't uncomfortable there.

Both hotels situated close to Law Garden area, I had good access to the local evening shopping and street food therein.

The hotel in Bhuj was booked just one day before arrival because the booking agent with who I had dealt with was useless and I had to make my own last minute arrangement. This hotel's standards or facilities were not on par with the hotels at Ahmedabad but the tariff was similar and even slightly higher. There was no offer of railway pick up but then I insisted as I was new to the place. Bhuj is a tiny place and they sent a cab to pick me up from the station just about 5-6 minutes away.

Hotel Oasis, Bhuj, Gujarat

The room , not too big really, had the basic amenities and I had no complaints. Except that you need to wait for hot water for a bath in the evenings as it takes time for them to get it to your room or have the geyser centrally switched on and wait for the water to heat up. The wi-fi speed was excellent with no major log in issues. The hotel is three storied and doesn't have a lift facility. Funnily, I found few rooms situated at the back of the hotel and I was allotted the last one in that row. I didn't get a good feel as though I were an outcast. But then when I asked they offered me one on the ground floor so I needn't go up the steps all the time. I turned that down as being so close to the reception and restaurant might create disturbance. One plus of being the last room was that there was no noise.
This was one hotel where I just dropped in going by its No. 1 ranking without bothering to read other hotels' reviews so I cant say if I chose the best one. But 3 star it surely wasn't, though not lacking in terms of tariff.
The room didn't have the required paraphernalia for preparing tea/coffee either.All food had to be ordered from their restaurant Sankalp, which had an exorbitantly priced menu. There was no provision for a buffet breakfast. Well, on the upside, the food was good, the tiffin items and the Gujarati stuff.
The hotel had tie ups with drivers who would drive you to your destination but then ask for drivers who know their way around. I got a good one on day 1 but the one on day 2 made me miss some localities as I found out later that he was one who just drives around Bhuj locally and not too familiar with places outside Bhuj.

Common to all hotels:

Though the room boys aren't all that well trained, there is no hollering in the corridors. The hotel rooms are quiet.
Providing flip flops for indoor use...though a bit too big for my size.
Inability to converse in good and fluent English. They were more comfortable in handling calls and conversation in Hindi. Would be a bit tough with people with no knowledge of Hindi.

Friday, September 12, 2014

Finding Fanny

Finding Fanny's promos promised a  movie different from what the typical Indian cinema doled out.

The movie opens with a voice-over by Deepika Padukone. It is a story set in a remote, lazy, lazy village of Goa. About Dimple Kapadia living with her widowed daughter-in-law Deepika. Deepika is friends with Naseeruddin Shah who is the village postmaster. After 46 years, the postmaster has a letter returned undelivered-that letter in which he had sent a proposal to his Fanny. He is deeply depressed about what could have happened but did not happen only because he never had the courage to ask. As he laments over the wasted time, Deepika proposes that they go in search of Fanny.
Arjun Kapoor has returned to the village six years after he had left it miffed that Deepika had chosen to marry someone else. Pankaj Kapoor's character is that of a painter who has trudged the world and is in quest of his muse. And his muse had to be someone who was heavy built. He finds that muse in Dimple and follows her everywhere so that he could create that perfect painting.
Deepika manipulates all these odd-ball characters into getting into the wreck of the car that Pankaj Kapoor owns and they all go in search of Fanny.
Whether they find Fanny and what the climax is forms the rest of the story.
This is a movie where the heroine doesn't wear more than 6-7 sets of dresses throughout. The hero looks like your neighbor who throws on a casual jeans and T shirt.Very restrained acting by most of the characters. For me the surprise packet was Arjun Kapoor, who normally portrays an hyper energetic character but has shown a great restraint in this one. Naseeruddin Shah, again, is indefatigable. He is well-complemented by another power house, Pankaj Kapoor. The movie takes you not through a gamut of emotions but through life, its moments, the regrets, the realization, the celebration of it.
A streak of humor throughout is present. The instances do not elicit loud guffaws but the movie has the power to draw those little smiles and in one or two instances also bring a tear to the eye.
How would I rate it? Difficult to say. The movie has its sluggish moments where you want it to move forward but then given that there isn't a lot happening in the movie, how much faster can it go? Yet, it packs a powerful punch in its 100 odd minutes of running. Every word spoken has to be caught or else you miss out on some wonderful exchange.
Ranveer Singh has a minuscule portion and in the director's words, you bend your head down to pick  that pop corn and he is gone.
I may not rate it as a must-watch but definitely a good movie to watch.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Gujarat tour: the plan and the itinerary

For a long time, I wanted to visit Gujarat. It beckoned the vegetarian in me. I made an impulsive decision and bought my air tickets with the cheapest to and fro fares available, which incidentally left me with just two weeks' time to plan the itinerary, the hotels and the travel agents...

First things first. Find a place to stay. Two days of research and calls resulted in short-listing of a hotel.
My major advantage of traveling in the third week of July was that monsoons are considered an off-season for tourism in India...what with the irksome showers. Therefore, there weren't major hassles of tickets, rooms or check-in and check-out timings.

Next was to plan an itinerary and see how to go about it. Just some ideas from the different forums and websites made me start with a 3-day Ahmedabad visit first. After that I allowed myself to go with the flow.

I found that there were mainly four regions to cover: Ahmedabad and around, the Kutch region, the west (Dwarka), the South (Diu, Somnath, Junagadh, Gir) I could also do Vadodara, Surat and Anand (as I really was keen on visiting the milk factory ( in the areas lying south of Ahmedabad.)

For my planning, I found this website very useful as it gives you a detailed plan of places to visit and also a fair idea of what can be covered in the number of planned days. ( .
My areas of interest were to visit the tribal villages to watch and buy the various handicrafts that they produce & history and architecture of those times. What I knew for sure was I didn't want to cover any wild life and also wasn't too keen on temples unless they happen to hold some historical/architectural value.
What I also was sure of was that I wanted to relax and not rush through a hectic schedule. Only after I happened to wake up, I'd plan to cover places close by. Of course, to visit places far off, I had to get up sooner but then they were interspersed with the lazy days. I ended up doing fewer places and definitely missed on some which I wish I could/should have but then overall it was a very relaxed tour.

This is how I went about my 12 days' travel


  1. 26 July 2014:  Landed in Ahmedabad at 8 am. Slept after breakfast till 3 pm as I had woken up at 3 am to catch the flight. Evening, met an old classmate and had early supper. Went to Law Garden to have a dekho at the clothes. Went to the Alpha mall (the biggest in Ahmedabad) for a quick tour and evening snack.
  2. 27th July: Booked a cab for 7 am to go to Palitana, 250 kms away. Came back to hotel on Law Garden road.
  3. 28th July: Morning checked out from hotel. Booked cab and started for Patan, Sarkhej Roza, Adalaj ki Vav, covering Modhera and on the way back Rani ki Vav, and Patola. Night train to Bhuj.
Based at BHUJ:
  1. 29th  July morning: Reached Bhuj: Covered Amba Mata temple, Vaishno devi, Vijay Palace, Mandvi Beach, Ship Building Yard,
  2. 30th  July:  Kala Dungar, Banni Villages. Hodka, The White Desert
  3. 31st July: Check out from hotel and visit to Bhujodi, Ajrakpur, Local sight seeing.
  1. 1st August:  5 am, back to Ahmedabad and a BREAK. Did nothing but relax.
  2. 2nd  August : Check out from hotel and Start for Mt. Abu by cab. Reached at around 7 pm. Rowing on the lake and shopping for trinkets
  3. 3rd August Morning. Check out from hotel at Mt. Abu and go to Dilwara and Dattatreya (at Guru Shikhar) temples.
  4. 3rd August night: Board train to Veraval from Ahmedabad at 10 pm.
  5. 4th August morning: Reach Veravael. Take cab to Diu. Back at 5.30 pm to Somnath
  6. 4th August night: Board train to Ahmedabad.
  7. 5th August morning: Arrive Ahmedabad. Check in at hotel, sleep and then Ahmedabad local sight seeing: HatheeSingh temple, Shaking minarets, Old city, Lakshminarayan temple, Siddi Syed Mosque, Kangaria lake.
  8. 6th August morning: Check out and local sight seeing and shopping, Dada hari ni vav, Dutch tombs, Shopping,
  9. 6th Evening: Board flight back.

Sights missed: Lothal, Adalaj ki vav, Shreyas Folk museum , Bhuj local sight seeing.

The entire itinerary was built on-the-go. I had plenty of time to do so and second, it being an off-season period, tickets were easily available. What I also tried to do was spend night time on train to minimize spending on hotel accommodations. Second, by not traveling by cabs, I not only saved time, as cabs do day travel, but also traveled the distance for one-third the cost (train vs. cab).
All in all, a very relaxed tour with no hurrying, waking up early or packing the day with loads of activities.