The current scene in the Bay Area region is very much hipster (as known by all residents of the world). Gone were the days when toast just referred to that brown piece of cardboard popping out of the toaster. Artisanal bread, topped with what may seem like “mundane” toppings – cheese, jam, nuts and fruits is all the rage. And oh no, not just regular jam, but jam made with organic farmed fruits, farm fresh cheese and nuts. I wanted to experience this trend as much as I could before people realized that they were just getting excited about bread, and jumped on a newer, more basic bandwagon.
[Listen to this piece by This American Life. Read this article in The New Yorker.]
I had read about a couple of popular places that embody this trend . The Husband who struggles to be up to date with the hipster world stumbled upon a cafe late last year and described (failingly) the amazing breakfast he had that featured fruits on toast. After surfing Yelp I decided that I needed to experience this new trend. Hence I was led to farm:table (reads farm to table not farm *cricket sound* table as pronounce by a noob (not me)).
Farm:table is a tiny, Harry Potter’s-bedroom-under-the-stairs sized cafe? restaurant? breakfast area. While there is a little more variety in the menu by way of croissants, eggs and pastries the star of this establishment is toasted bread (varies daily) generously slathered with butter, topped with mascaporne cheese and assorted fruits, with a sprinkle of nuts. Sounds pretty basic, I know. Even the husband mused, “Who would think to put fruit on bread!”, and then paused to realize that jam was essentially canned fruit.
But believe me when I say that this variety of toast was like nothing I’ve ever tasted before and was definitely not basic. Each bite was at once creamy, crunchy and fruity. It is probably one of the best breakfasts I’ve had, a great departure from my usual breakfast of bread and fried egg. I would return to farm:table in a heart beat if I didn’t live an hour away. But make no mistake, I will be making the trek the next chance I get!
A few days back I was running late in the morning and decided to forego my customary cup of tea. BIG MISTAKE. I suffered a killer headache the entire day. I couldn’t wait to get to my bed and lay there forever.
This headache got me craving the smooth cappuccinos I used to drink on the daily when we visited Rome. We stayed in a tiny, charming hotel near Piazza Navona. The area was surrounded by Italian coffee shops, situated away from the touristy areas. There was this one small shop that was part grocery/part cafe where the barista made the most perfect cups of cappuccino for 1.25 euros. Most places in Europe charge extra for a “sit-down” cup of coffee. But if you stand at the bar, its considerably lesser. Every morning we’d walk down to this cafe to get our shot for the morning and bask in that caffeine glory.
This coffee was on my mind throughout the week. I HAD to get a similar cup in to my system. So I dragged Jay to Chromatic Coffee in . And I finally had my luscious cappuccino, Although it wasn’t close to the Italian counterpart, it did the job it was meant for.
It has been over a month since I signed in to WordPress. Things have been hectic and I’ve been traveliing quite a bit. When I did manage to find the time I watched a lot of Downton Abbey. And by a lot I mean A LOT. Also, I though it was Downtown Abbey. Jay was like wow Downtown Abbey like Downtown New York ah? And I was like yeah, thats how they roll. Turns out, that wasn’t how they roll.
I also read and watched Gone Girl. OHMYGOD what a mental story that was! But I loved it.
I took a short trip back to Madras and I got to witness Madras rains after two years. It was blissful. I love rain. It makes me feel so snuggly and so serene and so.. happy. There is nothing like a powercut due to heavy rains, and no food in the house – yeah, I’ve experienced that too. We are facing an extreme drought here in California. It has rained only about six, seven times in the two years I’ve been here.
Whilst in Madras I frequented Saravana Bhavan as much as I could. I have some sad news to report back my fellow Saravana Bhavan lovers, THEY HAVE REDUCED THE SIZE OF THE VADAI!!! Pre this horror when you order one plate vadai you will get : one nice big fluffy, crispy, oil drenched vadai+ chutney + sambar. Now, in the hellish present if you order one plate vadai you will get : four tiny lemon sized vadais + chutney + sambar. Safe to say, I was adequately baffled too. When I first saw the plate I was equal parts surprised and angry, (and a little scared thinking about the future). The waiter said, “Customers ellam complain pannurange madam, aanna management kekemaatikraange.“
Over the past few years I have lived through many changes – getting married, moving away from home, living with a boy, seeing little cousins grow up, but this disaster revolving around the vadai is the most painful. I don’t know how I’m going to get through this. And what if I go back to Saravaan Bhavan after a year? I don’t even want to imagine the state of future vadais, its the stuff of nightmares.
So for now I leave you with this – the one decent item left in Saravana Bhavan : sambar vadai (which also has two tiny vadais).
When we started discussing about our trip to Europe, the first thing I was super excited for was – breakfast. To rephrase, breakfast in Paris. I am a sucker for all things loaded with carbs, and bread, is my weakness. I’m the person who loads up on free bread and butter in restaurants although a good main course is next. There is this Italian restaurant near my house that serves mediocre food but their whipped butter and fresh bread is killer. I LOVE that place. So obviously I was very psyched to try all the different croissants and baguettes.
I’ve had my share of decent croissants but guys, believe the hype when I say that the French take croissants to a whole new level! The first day we decided to have breakfast at one of the many cafés that were strewn around our hotel. All cafés in Paris follow the same theme – red, they all have outside seating and EVERYONE smokes. The tables outside these cafés are placed so close together you could totally join in the conversations and pick food off each others tables without even stretching. One day we decided to have lunch in the outside seating area and this guy was blowing smoke in my face throughout the whole meal. It was unpleasant to say the least.
While visiting most cafés we realized that the ‘locals’ had their coffee standing at the bar. We were the noob tourists “sitting down” for coffee. We later realized that coffee served at the bar is infinitely more cheaper than if you “sat down”. Its one of those “European” things that I don’t get.
Most cafés have a set breakfast menu offering one of each treat – croissant, baguette, pain au chocolat. We tried the breakfast set for a couple of days and switched things up with the Nutella crepes (chewy, chocolatey goodness) and Norwegian smoked salmon with the fluffiest, creamiest, most decadent scrambled eggs I’ve ever had the pleasure of eating. Coffee in Paris is good enough, but the coffee in Rome was the best. If you are visiting Paris first I’d recommend holding off a little on the food until you visit Rome, because that is where the magic lies.
In the past twenty four hours I have eaten :
1. A slice of bread with Speculoos cookie butter
2. Strawberry flavored yogurt
3. Ten gummy bears
4. Tea with milk and a huge spoon of sugar
5. Half of a berry smoothie
Although I was fasting, I am reeling from an intense sugar high now! This sweet tooth problem is getting way out of hand. Somebody really needs to cut me off.
Tamil Nadu has a bustling “snack scene”. While most Tamil households practice the “tiffin” culture, (a small meal between lunch and dinner at around 4 o’clock) that consists of idli, dosa, adai or such, my family partakes in the “evening tea”. And no, we’re not British. I have fond memories of my extend, boisterous family spending our evenings talking about politics, religion and sharing anecdotes (some even for the millionth time) over bottomless cups of tea and golden brown masala/paruppu(dal) vadais.
The combination of tea and vadai was the most popular item in my house. My mother would fry batch over batch of crispy vadais, enough to satisfy the endless stream of guests that waltzed in to my home (many of whom I think came just for the tea).
I remember hovering impatiently over the hot kadai pestering my mother to “make it soon”. ‘Cause Lord knows, I was always hungry. Considering the amount of time I spent talking to my mother in the kitchen, I never actually managed to cook anything. So when it came to the vadai I took care of the consumption while she did the manufacturing.
Cut to last week when I decided to make these vadais because what’s Ramadan without some oily goodness clogging up your blood stream . I scanned the Interwebz high and low for a recipe that fit. Nothing managed to click. Finally I gave up and decided to just wing it. I soaked the dal and chopped the onions, green chillies and ginger. Few hours later I was frying up slightly misshapen, but delicious vadais. Turns out the time I spent in the kitchen was of use. While I didn’t pay attention to what or rather, how my mother made the food, my brain was passively recording everything for future use.
And that, my friends, is why you should never take yourself for granted.
Also, y’all are welcome to my house anytime for tea and vadai.
I had a terrible Sunday, you guys. I woke up (with great difficulty) to a breakfast of Turkish sausage and eggs. And that’s where the nice part ends. Since I wanted to eat a steak for lunch I thought it would make sense if I exercised a bit before. So I decided very enthusiastically, to go swimming. On the way to the pool my stupid allergies flared up but I pushed it aside and swam anyway. Once my arms were the perfect shade of grey I decided it was time to get out. Note: Was still very excited about the prospect of steak.
We drove to the store to get my Kosher certified Angus beef steak only to find that it was the ONLY MEAT ITEM ON THE SHELF THAT WAS COMPLETELY SOLD OUT. How is that even possible? Did the Universe decide that it wants to mess with my cravings? ‘Cause I’ve been wanting this steak for over a week. I even bought organic Yukon Gold potatoes to roast AND I AM NOT AN ORGANIC PERSON.
Depressed and defeated I settled for Kosher Angus beef burgers. I put Jay to work on the new cast iron skillet we bought for the steak WHICH WE NEVER GOT TO EAT.
The beef burgers were good and I roasted the potatoes anyway because.. well, just because.
Note: Allergies decided to party IN MY NOSE and I could only breathe through like, half a nostril.
At this point I realized that I didn’t dry out my wet hair and I felt feverish.
SIDE BAR: I told Jay I am feeling “somewhat”, which is Zarine for sick. And he asked “somewhat as in?”. I said I feel hot and cold at the same time AND HE LOOKED AT ME LIKE I WAS MENTAL. Feeling hot and cold is a legit sickness. He just doesn’t know it yet.
Now added to my 99 problems my left heel decided it wanted to join the shindig and started hurting like a little *beep*.
I didn’t feel like eating the dinner I made (methi bhindi masala) so I roasted two corn(s)? Cobs? Slathered it with Amul butter and salt. I was tired from all this drama so decided to go to bed early. I kept tossing and turning throughout the night. I always sleep on my side but now when I do, I can only breathe through one nostril. So now I sleep on my back, this way I have access to half of each nostril. I was out of Zyrtec so Jay offered to buy me a huge pack in the morning. After he left for work and after I treated myself with a mango to cancel out the crappy Sunday I had, I took one pill. I didn’t know antihistamines were this strong because I literally went through the day in a haze. It is a wonder I didn’t fall asleep over my cooker while making lunch.
I just inhaled one third of a watermelon and am now waiting for 8 PM which is a respectable time to go to bed.
I’m not big on Hallmark holidays but once I heard that Friday was National Donut Day (yeah, its a thing) I had to get some donut in to my system. We woke up bright and easily on Saturday, excited to try out a local donut shop called Stan’s Donut and it was such a disappointment. I had to erase that memory of the bad donut so Sunday evening we went to a good ol’ donut corporation – Krispy Kreme and I had my favorite original glazed chocolate donut. To further quell my greed I had two more. Go ahead and judge me. It was worth it.
I have this terrible sickness where if I start watching a tv show or a movie I have to watch it till the end no matter how terrible it is. This past couple of months I painfully sat though Desperate Housewives. It was so exhausting but I HAD to know what happens in the end. Now I am watching the last season of Beverly Hills that I stopped while I was in college with a bit of 30 Rock on the side. I’m itching to watch Orange is The New Black but waiting for my finals to end before I get sucked in to that vortex.
A couple of nights back in order to save the mutton from getting burnt Jay mutilated my tea vessel to place it inside the pressure cooker. I haven’t had my Lipton tea in two days now and I’m going just the tiniest bit insane. Speaking of tea, Oprah came up with a new tea. Starbucks sells it, so if you want one you have to ask for an “Oprah Chai Tea Latte”. Its a mouthful. N is a huge Oprah fan so I tried the tea for her sake. It tasted like sugar water with ground cloves. Americans have such average taste buds. They should taste my mother’s ginger tea. It’s so good that she could mass manufacture it.
So not many of you know but I’ve been trying my hand at Instagram cooking videos for the past couple of months. I’m no fabulous cook but I get a kick out of trying. My wonderful friend who works for The Hindu decided to feature me and a few other Instagram cooks as her first story for the MetroPlus. I am such a huge fan of The Hindu and it has always been my dream to be in it. So check me out in todays MetroPlus and here’s the link to the online version. You can also follow me on Instagram @zarinem.
“To live is the rarest thing in the world. Most people exist, that is all.”
– Oscar Wilde
Steamed Shanghai vegetarian bun, Mama Ji’s, San Francisco
Shrimp stuffed mushrooms, Mama Ji’s, San Francisco
Fish with chillies and Sichuan Pepper, Mama Ji’s, San Francisco