Tag Archives: Italian

{Restaurant Review} Vapiano – fresh and delicious

31 May

What do they say about never saying never?

Insalata di arance e noci

Insalata di arance e noci

Well, I experienced it myself very recently. Vapiano in Bahrain City Center always looked promising but the previous two dining experiences at Vapiano were sub-par and less than delightful that I was quite sure I wouldn’t want to try them again. But with a little coaxing from Obai & Hill’s Zainab, I thought about giving Vapiano’s summer, fresh menu a try with a disclaimer that if I didn’t like it (again), I would refrain from doing a review on my blog.

On the scheduled day, my family and I stepped into Vapiano to sample their new menu. We were ushered in by a very friendly server who then educated us about all the new dishes and desserts. On her recommendations we settled for 1 starter, 2 main courses, 1 salad and a dessert. All this was to be accompanied by freshly squeezed orange.  For the starters we ordered the Caprese  that had cherry tomatoes with buffalo mozzerella on the bed of basil and rocket leaves. The cherry tomatoes were sweet and juicy and the rocket peppery as its supposed to be – all fresh and crunchy.

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Caprese

This was just the right antipasti to whet our appetite for the remaining courses to come. The hubby had ordered Estiva – a tender chicken breast pasta drenched in semi- dried tomato sauce, with a mild kick of ginger, mint and rocket . We specially asked our server to request the chef to cook the pasta a bit more than the “Vapiano” al dente. As per our request, the pasta was just perfectly done with succulent chicken pieces and  flavoursome tomato sauce and herbs.

Estiva with conchiglie

Estiva with conchiglie

My daughter who is notorious for shunning restaurant food was content with her bread and butter. She particularly enjoyed the fresh orange juice with her simple grub. As for me, I had ordered a barbecued chicken pizza which was sumptuous to say the least. It was quite a large portion unexpectedly and so we had the rest of it in a take away bag.

barbecued chicken pizza

barbecued chicken pizza

All the wonderful food was balanced by a very citrus-y , sunshine salad adorned by pistachio called the insalata di arance e noci. To my mind, it feels like summer on my plate with juicy orange fillets, pistachios, lamb’s lettuce and chicory. The flavours were heightened by a very light walnut and orange dressing. This was the highlight of my meal at Vapiano and it would be something that I would keep going back to Vapiano for many times over.

Insalata di Arance e noci

Insalata di Arance e noci

The close of the meal was marked by the unavoidable chocolate dessert called the Cioccolata e espresso which is Vapiano’s own homestyle chocolate espresso mousse, cantuccini (literally translates as coffee bread or popularly known as biscotti)  refined with grape juice and sweet amarena cherries.

Cioccolata e espresso

Cioccolata e espresso

Feeling happily sedated after such a wholesome meal, we thanked our hostess for the day and returned home with the lingering memories of the summer food at Vapiano. Thank you Vapiano for a wonderful experience that was so fresh and delicious that I don’t think I can have enough of it this summer!!.

 *This is a sponsored post but the opinions expressed all solely mine.

Judging a Masterchef competition + Flourless Chocolate Orange cake

30 Nov

An exciting opportunity came my way when I was asked to be a guest judge for an Italian Masterchef competition. This competition was being hosted by Cucina Italiana in Bahrain. I have always enjoyed Cucina’s food and drinks and this was an opportunity I really looked forward to.

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It was alright being invited to be a judge and all but I was completely ill prepared. Come to think of it, I didn’t really know how I could prepare myself. I ran myself some youtube videos of Masterchef Australia and observed a few judging scenes for the kind of questions to ask. I reached the venue dot on time to meet the participants and to understand the format of the competition.

The participants were to choose from the fresh ingredients provided by Cucina within 10 minutes and prepare a main course in 45 minutes in the restaurant’s kitchen. Most of the contestants, including me have never been inside a commercial kitchen let alone cook in one of them. It did feel daunting to me and I was wondering how the contestants were going to cope with the task.  But the restaurants Head Chef (who was also one of the judges for the evening) gave all the contestants a good brief about how to use the various appliances and some safety guidelines.

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The contestants looked very confident and well prepared. They seemed determined to get past this ‘heat’ to go to the semi finals. I wouldn’t wonder at their eagerness because the grand prizes were that alluring. The prizes included a splendid trophy, a Masterchef apron, 6 months of free cooking classes at Cucina, the winning dish was to be added on the 2014 menu of Cucina Italian and much more.

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It turned to be a lot of fun with the host of evening Peter Lyons (also a judge) at his sarcastic and funny best. He asked all the contestants difficult questions and put them in the spot a lot of times.The kitchen, where the contestants were busy working was being video shot so that the diners, guests and the supporters of the contestants could see them all in action on a big screen display in the dining area. I was thrilled to see the participants preparing different kinds of Italian style dishes which meant sampling and judging was going to be so interesting. The dishes that were being prepared included:

1) Stuffed chicken breast with sun dried tomatoes and mozzarella with a side of blanched spinach in  lemon and orange zest, garlic bread etc

2) Baked hammour (fish) and spaghetti Alfredo

3) Pumpkin rissotto

4) Tagliatelle pasta in tomato sauce and minced bacon

photo (3)The judging was to be done on the parameters of presentation, authenticity, balance of flavours, taste and portion size.

The stuffed chicken with sun dried tomatoes and mozzarella won the contest for the day. It was heartening to see the crowd cheer for the winners as the competition drew to a close. As a judge, perhaps I learnt a lot more than the contestants themselves. I appreciate their guts and their wits to be able to draw out a dish of such high calibre in 45 minutes. It is no easy task and I have observed it first hand. It would be interesting to note who goes through to the finals to win the grand prize. I sure hope it is one of the contestants from the qualifying rounds that I judged.

COC3

All this excitement wouldn’t mean anything without something as spectacular- sounding as a flour-less chocolate orange cake. This beautiful and truly beautiful cake has been unjustly languishing in my drafts for a long time. I thought there was no better time to bring it out to celebrate the glory of the culinary arts. Being flour-less renders this cake light and slightly guilt free. But then I shall back track and say that some things in life ought to be outright indulgent. This cake is indulgent from all the wonderful Valrhona French cocoa and baking chocolate it uses. It makes me so so sad that I used the last of them few months back and I can’t seem to find them anywhere in Bahrain. Flour is replaced by almond powder which gives the cake a generous nutty flavour which is oh-so addictive.

COC2

And, I almost forgot to mention that this beautiful, beautiful cake is a creation of my favourite cookbook author – Nigella Lawson. Only she can come up with techniques which sound dodgy— like boiling whole oranges and then pulping it all up to incorporate in the cake. Yet the outcome of such drastic actions is beyond amazing and then you realize that after all it is Nigella’s recipe and it can’t go wrong.

COC5I made this cake for my husband’s birthday in July this year ( and hence the candles in the pictures) and it is a pity that it has seen the light of day only through this post. Well it was destined to be posted with a special event as far as my culinary adventures go. Judging a Masterchef competition is certainly a feather on my culinary cap. I wish to participate in this competition as a participant in the near future to see what it takes to be a Masterchef.

COC1a

Restaurant Review Project 22 – Vapiano

15 Jun

It was just the last weekend, when we were out and about in the city, we decided to hop into a new, snazzy looking restaurant in town called, Vapiano- quintessentially Italian, with its busy-ness, the cheer, colour, the drama and aroma of sizzling olive oil and basil in the air. There was no way, one wouldn’t stop and take a look at what’s the noise all about. The ambiance was the deal -sealer in our case.

chefs at work

Located at the City Center Mall, the inviting, homely decor is likely to attract many food lovers like us. To see that the modus operandi of this Italian  restaurant was unlike most others that we had been too, intrigued us further. The first thing that came to our notice was the head board which was  a chalk board with a sketch of Sophia Loren and one of her famous quotes that went,

Everything you see, I owe to Spaghetti

(I almost laughed out loud when I read that. She can’t be serious!!)

Right below the chalk board, we spotted a line of busy chefs in bright red aprons working their chef knives and skillets and dishing out delicious looking pasta.  We were completely enamored. On entering we were handed over a charge card each which we were to use when we ordered our meal. The place was jam packed which served as an indicator that the people of Bahrain were starved for a new place to try. We found a seat with great difficulty and sort of shared it with another family.

We then went over to the chefs to order our meal. The menu wasn’t exhaustive but still had enough options to hold anybody’s interest to try out something they hadn’t before. I was thrilled to bits to know that they had wholemeal pasta as an option.

The pasta rack

I ordered for a  whole meal spaghetti with pesto (basil pesto, olive oil and pine nuts)  and Insalata  Mista ( small) which was  a bowl of mixed lettuce cherry tomatoes and carrots, and small bottle of coco cola.

Whole meal spaghetti in pesto sauce

We were allowed to stand on the other side of the counter and had the previlege to see the chef prepare my dish. The ingredients looked fresh and everything seemed oh-so-posh. But the moment I had a forkful of pasta, I realized the pasta was totally under cooked to the point of being raw. It just tasted terrible and I am not exaggerating. Personally, I pride myself for developing tastes for any kind of food, however unpalatable, quite quickly. But this pasta was something else. Under cooked and the flavours all over the place; this was probably the worst pasta dish I had ever had. I didn’t go beyond a few forkful and left it untouched.

For the bowl of fresh salad was such a life -saver. The ingredients were fresh and having opted for a safer choice for salad dressing ( ceaser), I didn’t have to leave the restaurant completely starving.

The husband ordered a penne in pesto with some bruschetta ( toasted bread, tomatoes, garlic & olive oil) and a bottle of coco cola.

Penne in pesto

Unfazed by my pasta disaster, my hubby was quite optimistic about his. In all his excitement he sprinkled plenty of pepper and added flavored olive oil, and had a mouthful of pasta. His was as under cooked!! We were stumped! Was this the new way of cooking pasta?? I hope not, cause it tastes horrible. If this is what authentic Italian is all about then it is definitely not for us.

And our friend ordered, Fusilli in Pomodoro e Spinaci (Pasta in  Tomato sauce & Spinach) with a bottle of coco cola

Fusilli in tomato sauce & spinach

Bruschetta

The food looked so good, but tasted just the opposite.

Even my friend’s dish was equally ‘meh’.

But the bruschetta was a quite good.

We didn’t dare order for dessert and quickly paid our bill which came to around 17.8 BHD which was too much for a crappy meal like that.

Once again, I was reminded, that all that glitters is not always gold!

This would be my first and the last visit to Vapiano!

For the verdict:

Food = 1/5

Ambiance – 3/5

Service – 3/5

I would skip giving Vapiano an overall rating because it was such a horrible experience and hence I see no point in doing so.

Dorie Greenspan’s Almond Biscotti

28 Jan

This is one of those rare treats that my hubby truly enjoys and actually insists that I bake this more often.  Biscotti require double baking and that is where it puts me off.  But that’s double standards when I am so patient with my breads and their multiples rises but none for my hubby’s favourite biscotti! So I decided to make this biscotti for my hubby to see him devouring it. He did not forget to thank me too.

Last year I made biscotti (twice) around the same time when were all under home arrest; self-induced. The first time it was an almond biscotti which vanished off in a jiffy and the other was a chocolate biscotti which was an equally good contender. The Almond biscotti I did not mention in my older post because I have none left  but I was quick enough to take some pictures of the chocolate biscotti. But that was last year.

This year, I searched and searched in my archives for the same almond biscotti recipe and I couldn’t trace it. I was feeling so disgruntled because I clearly remembered my hubby telling me he preferred the almond one over the chocolate. Hmmmpppfff..

Call it divine intervention and I do believe in this miraculous mumbo-jumbo; I was flipping through Dorie Greenspan’s book ” Baking from my home to yours” and there I found an Almond Biscotti recipe that I hadn’t ever laid my eyes on before. I have gone through this book more than a dozen times but never saw this recipe!!

But it solved my problem in a jiffy. I set on the task immediately and finished the job in mere 1.5 hours ( including the double baking and the cooling bit). I realized I have come a long way since last year where it took me so much time to put the ingredients together to start baking etc. Now I am much more at ease and so much more confident in the process.

These may not be the prettiest looking biscotti but the flavour was spot on. All the credit to the almond flakes and almond essence. This got rave reviews from my hubby, his colleagues at work, my friend, Gayathri and my daughter. So even if they weren’t that perfect looking, I was pretty happy.

Recipe for Almond Biscotti

Ingredients

All purpose flour – 1 1/2 cups

Baking powder – 1 1/2 tsp

salt – 1/4 tsp

Yellow cornmeal – 1/2 cup

unsalted butter at room temp – 8 tbsp

sugar –  1 cup ( I used 3/4)

eggs – 2 large

Pure almond extract – 1 1/2 tsp

almonds , sliced – 3/4th cup

Preparation

1. Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 350 F/ gas mark 4/180 C. Line a baking sheet with parchment

2. Whisk the flour, baking powder and salt together. Add the cornmeal and whisk again to blend.

3. Working with a stand mixer, fitted with a paddle attachment,  beat the butter and sugar until very smooth for 3 minutes. (Mine did not become too smooth because it is cold here that even at room temperature the butter was quite solid. I thought at this point, that this project of mine was heading for a doom. But I soldiered on anyways.)

4.  Add the eggs and continue to beat, scraping down the sides to incorporate everything. The mixture will turn light and creamy –( BUT mine did not. That didn’t deter me. I went ahead like Dorie had got it wrong.)

5. Beat in the almond extract.

6. Now incorporate the dry ingredients in 3 lots and slowly. Let it mix until everything is just combined. Add the almond slices and combine well. ( At this time, I got the sticky dough out and used a spoon to combine the almonds well)

7. Using your hands or a spatula, work the dough into 2 logs about 12 inches long and 1 1/2 inches wide, each.  ( I got smaller ones and I think it was because my butter +sugar+ egg mixture wasn’t the dream like creamy and fluffy)

8. The logs that you shape will be more rectangular than domed. It will bumpy, uneven and rough.

9. Place both of them with a lot of care into the parchment paper of the baking sheet

10. Bake for 15 minutes or until the logs are lightly golden but still soft and springy to touch.

11. Transfer the baking sheeting to the rack and cool the logs on the baking sheet for 30 mins.

12. If you turned off the oven, bring it back up to 350 F/ gas mark 4/ 180 C AGAIN.

13. Using a spatula transfer the logs to a cutting board after they have cooled for 30 minutes and then using a serrated knife, cut the logs into 3/4 inch thick slices. Return the slices to the baking sheet – this time standing them up and slide the baking sheet back to the oven.

14. Bake the biscotti for 15 minutes, or until they are golden and firm. Transfer them to the racks and cool to room temperature.

I think the cornmeal gave it that special crunch and the almonds lend the wonder depth of flavour. The sweetness was just right and I feel biscotti obsession coming through. I feel I need to try savoury ones and ones with pistachio and other nuts. Watch this space!

Panettone : Fresh From the Oven November Challenge

28 Nov

With Thanksgiving being celebrated in most American homes, I felt the excitement rub off on me after I visited some food blogs. All the talk of good food pushed me into baking something spectacular. In the lieu of such delicious circumstances, the Fresh From the Oven November Challenge couldn’t have come up with a more appropriate challenge. Sarah of Maison Cupcakes challenged us to make the very popular Italian Panettone. This bread  is eggy, ever so slightly sweet and full of buttery goodness.  I added plenty of black raisins, chocolate chips and candied fruit in all my excitement. I even bought a special tumbler like mould to bake my Panettone since I couldn’t get hold of the traditional Panettone mould anywhere.

When I had a first look at the instructions, I felt intimidated beyond measure. I read it couple of times and it seemed like I could break it down into parts and implement it. This recipe required the dough to rise 4 times for an average 2 hours atleast. The baking time was broken down to 10 +40 minutes. All this was quite overwhelming considering my nascent approach towards bread making and the first mistake I committed was to follow the instructions blindly without tallying it with the ingredients list. In my haste I completely forgot to add the vanilla essence, citrus zest and two egg yolks as prescribed by the ingredient list. Unfortunately, the instructions fell short too. The part where the 2 egg yolks+citrus zest+ vanilla essence were to be added weren’t mentioned at all. I read it once, twice and thrice but my mind was more pre-occupied by the number of rises than taking note of whether all the ingredients have been incorporated or not. Ignorant, I continued in my pursuit of baking the Panettone. The results were less than impressive for obvious reasons. My dough did not rise at all inspite of the tediously long time I provided it. From that instant on, I was skeptical about the output. But I went ahead with it nevertheless and in the end I had a very ugly-looking but a delicious Panettone. Pardon me for the hideous pictures as my Panettone wasn’t an inspiring subject for photography.

Sarah was kind enough to add the missing instruction later but it was way too late for me to rectify. My Panettone was fabulously tasty but lacked the texture of the traditional Panettone.

Recipe for Panettone

Serves 1 large loaf

Ingredients:
7g sachet dried yeast
400g strong white bread flour
75g caster sugar
2 large free range eggs plus 2 egg yolks at room temperature
3 tablespoons lukewarm water
half teaspoon vanilla extract
finely grated zest of one unwaxed orange and one unwaxed lemon
half teaspoon salt
175g softened unsalted butter
75g sultanas (I made up the weight with raisins too)
50g candied orange, diced or finely chopped
50g dark chocolate chips (or more fruit)
40g unsalted butter to finish
Makes enough to fill a 15cm tall cake tin or panettone mould. Bear this in mind if improvising with smaller round tins.
Directions:
1. Mix 125g of the weighed flour with the yeast and sugar in a large mixing bowl or the bowl of an electric mixer and make a well in the centre. Mix the two whole eggs with the water and pour into the well. Stir in the egg yolks, vanilla and grated zest using your hand or dough hook. Gradually work in 175g flour plus the salt to make a soft sticky dough. ( I completely missed out this step because the original post missed it out too, but I should have checked and read well).
2. Using your hands or a dough hook, mix the flour into the liquid to make a smooth thick batter. Sprinkled a little of the remaining weighed flour over the top of the batter to prevent a skin forming then leave in a warm place for around an hour or until the batter is very bubbly.
3. Next add the softened butter and work in with your fingers or the dough hook on a slow speed. Beat until the butter is incorporated with no streaks.
4. Turn out the dough onto a floured surface and knead thoroughly by hand for ten minutes  (or use the dough hook for 3-4 minutes) working in the remainder of the weighed flour to make a satiny soft pliable non-sticky dough. Depending on the flour, you may not need it all or you may need a little more. (Mine was fine).
5. Cover the bowl with cling film (I used a tea towel as well, mainly because it feels “rustic”) and leave to rise at room temperature until doubled in size, probably 2 to 2.5 hours. Don’t leave in a very warm place as the butter will melt.
6. Next uncover the dough and punch down to deflate. Cover again and let it double in size again (1 to 1.5 hours although I left mine 2 whilst we had Sunday lunch).
7. Meanwhile combine the sultanas with the chopped peel and chocolate chips. Stir in a teaspoon of flour to stop it clumping in the dough.
8. Prepare the tin by lining with parchment paper. The paper should extend 5cm higher than the height of the tin.
9. Punch down the risen dough again and turn onto a floured surface; sprinkle the fruit and chocolate mixture on top and work into the dough gently until evenly distributed.
10. Shape the dough into a ball and gently drop into the prepared tin. Cut a cross into the top. Lay a sheet of cling-film loosely over the top of the tin and leave for another hour or so until doubled in size again.
11. Towards the end of the rising time, preheat the oven to 200c / 400f / gas 6. When ready to bake, melt 15g of the butter for finishing and brush it over the risen dough. Put a knob of butter in the centre of the cross.
12. Bake for 10 minutes or until just starting to colour, then brush again with melted butter. Reduce the temperature to 180c / 350f / gas 4 and bake for a further 40 minutes until a good golden brown and a skewer inserted to the centre comes out clean. (My loaf was going very brown after 30 mins and I had to cover with foil to stop it burning).
13. Remove from the oven and place the tin on a wire rack. Allow to cool for a few minutes before teasing it out of the tin. If your crust is fragile allow to cool further before removing from tin.
14. Cool completely before slicing.
This experience has been an enlightening one and I understand more than ever why only bread makers are called ‘ Artisans’ and no other branch of baking is revered so much. I have learnt a lot from this experience and wish to make the Panettone once again and see how I fare.

Weekend Dinner – Veg. Lasagne, Whole Meal Loaf & Tomato – Feta Salad

26 Aug

You must all know Mimi by now. What you may not know about her is, she is a very peculiar toddler. While I know of kids who love to eat out and gorge on fried chips, munchies, chocolates, biscuits, flavoured milk, burgers and cola, my child detests it with all her might. She prefers eating home-made meals. Hot and piping, right off the stove. Going out with her never means a break for me from the kitchen. I have to make her meal, feed her and only then step out. Else I have to carry her dinner of roti & sabji or dosa & sambar and feed her on the go. When I rant about it to my girlfriends, they feel, I am blessed. They narrate to me their struggles of trying to get their children to eat home cooked meals.

After all this while, I realize, I am truly blessed, for various reasons. Mimi’s habits not only ensure that she eats  healthy and fresh meals  but also prompts me to try different cuisines in my kitchen. One such weekend dinner was about experimenting with Italian. Vegetarian only.

I prepped up for some vegetarian lasagna, a crusty loaf and some easy tomato – feta gorgeousness of a salad.

Vegetarian Lasagna : The silly thing about reading recipes is that they make you feel that it is the simplest thing in the world to do. But when you get around doing it with your bare hands, you realize you completely lack co-ordination. It happens to me all the time. Lasagna was tricky to make especially the boiling of the sheets. I wanted it all ‘al-dente’ and micro observed to get it right. But when I was done, peeling them off of each other was a task that took me the maximum amount of time. The vegetable part was easy since it was just about going chop, chop, chop. The white bechamel sauce was something I make  regularly so that did not take any time either. Layering was enjoyable like artwork. Cheese scraping was done by my friend Namit to help me get the dinner on the table before the clock struck mid night. The result was remarkable and worth all the effort. Mimi loved it and had an extra  helping. This is definitely winner of a recipe.

Recipe for Veg. Lasagna

Ingredients

Lasagna sheets  – use as required, I had to use about 24 of them since I had a large tray to fill

Salt to taste

White Sauce* – 1 1/2 cups – 2 cups

Cheddar cheese grated – 1 cup ( more the better)

Oil – 2 tbsp

Butter- 2 tbsp

Garlic crushed – 8 cloves

Onions chopped – 2 medium

Mushrooms  chopped finely – 7-8 nos.

Brinjal / aubergine chopped finely – 1 large

Zucchini chopped – 2 medium

Capsicum chopped – 1 no.

Tomatoes chopped – 4 medium

Dry Basil – 1 tsp

Dry Oregano – 1 tsp

Maggi vegetable stock – 1 small cube

Fresh Parsley chopped  – about a handful or less

Preparation

1. Heat a lot of water in a deep pan. Add enough salt such that the water tastes like sea water. Add lasagna sheets and a little olive oil to the water. Boil it for 10 minutes and take them out. Spread them out carefully without burning your fingers and cover with a damp cloth.

2. In a separate pan, heat oil & butter. Saute the chopped onion till they are translucent and then add crushed garlic. Add the Maggi vegetable stock cube. You will see it dissolving in the oil in sometime.

3. Add all the chopped vegetables except capsicum and tomatoes. Let them cook. Add salt but with care since the Maggi vegetable stock has a lot of salt in it already.

4. Now add the tomatoes and cook for about 2-3 minutes. Once they turn soft add capsicum, dry basil, dry oregano and parsley. Mix well and cook for some more time. Take it off the stove.

5. Preheat the oven to 200C  and butter your baking dish.

6.First lay down a the first layer of the pasta and then the white sauce on top of it. Then put another layer of pasta and a layer of the vegetable mixture. A layer of pasta and then the white sauce. Alternate layers like that and fill up the baking dish.

7. Once the last layer of pasta has been laid, spread grated cheese on top and cover completely. Shove it in the preheated oven for about 20-22 minutes or until the cheese has turned golden. Serve hot.

*Notes – For the white sauce/bechamel sauce,  you need 4 Tbsp of all-purpose flour, 2 cups of hot milk, 2 tbsp of butter, salt to taste and pepper.

To prepare- Take a heavy bottomed pan, put it on the stove and melt the butter first. Add the flour and stir well. Do not let it brown and cook well for about 2 minutes. Add the two cups of hot milk and stir continuously. You will find that the sauce has thickened. Add salt and pepper and let it cook for another 2 minutes. Remove from fire and let it cool. While using if the sauce has thickened too much then you could add a wee bit milk and heat it a bit to loosen it.

Whole Meal Loaf – Sometimes I feel, we demand a level of convenience that is immodest. But when you make bread with your bare hands, kneading and toiling , it presents itself as the most humbling experience. I followed the same recipe as in the post about Nigella Lawson’s bread. Only that I shaped it like a baton and made some deep gashes  atop to give it a rustic feel. The loaf was crusty on the outside and on the inside the crumb was a delight to bite on. I made some garlic infused olive oil which was such a splendid accompaniment along with blobs of butter.


Tomato-Feta Salad – First, this salad is such a stunner to look at. Second it demands nothing out of you except a few firm and sweet tomatoes sliced and arranged on a plate adorned with a few pinches of feta. No seasonings required to perk it up. The feta does what is required of it, that is, give it that tangy-salty twist.

 

 

The dinner goes down as one of the most memorable ones. To be able to put a smile on my family’s and friend’s faces makes it worth my while. Every attempt that I have made that seemed outside my comfort zone has met with mixed results. But it is only practising the craft again and again that has made all the difference.

There is so much more that I yearn to learn through such wonderful dinners.

For the beautiful collage and photographs I have my friend, Namit to thank. While I was busy preparing the dinner, he made use of that time to click some wonderful frames. Thank you so much for your patience.

Restaurant Review Project 17- Coco’s

18 May

I came back to Bahrain on the 12th of May and there was something so reassuring about being back to the familiar setting. I was all the more excited about taking it from where I had left off. My Restaurant Review Project seemed like a scrapped project when I went back to India, amidst all the crisis.

As I stood against the backdrop of the Financial Harbour in Manama city and the setting sun, my heart experience mixed emotions. Life seemed to limping back to normalcy but the sight of tanks /APCs undid the small confidence. Below is the picture of Financial Harbour in Manama.

Soon plans were made and we found ourselves ( my hubby and my friend, Namit) at ZoE in block 338. I always wanted to check out Zoe before but never got around doing it. A quick survey of the menu and it was unexciting like a mall without sale signs. We still ordered for some drinks but the wine was too meh! I was hopelessly disappointed with the whole set up. The seats weren’t comfortable and the food unappealing. We were forced to search for something else in the same block where the food didn’t seem so stodgy. After a little flurrying around we landed at COCOs. So a review that was going to be about ZOE is now about Coco’s.

Coco’s is in block 338 and is a clear case of a beautiful vintage Villa being turned into a restaurant that even had garden seating for customers. It was tad too humid and warm to sit outside but the indoors were packed. The statement fountain intrigued me and found myself looking at it every now and then.

We were given the impression that a wine list would be given to us but after a few minutes of waiting it was made clear that no alcohol was sold at Cocos. Having made to sit outside and with no wine to chill, it wasn’t the best start. Meanwhile the menu cards arrived and the list seemed pretty exhaustive.

The brunch and breakfast list seemed very interesting. A huge selection of eggs and I am sure, you’d find the the one’s the way you like them on the list. It was a mix of all kinds of cuisine. It had Italian, some middle eastern, some french and Asian dishes thrown it. But what struck me was the prices and I found it pretty affordable. At 3 or 4 BD per dish( average), this place can make for a regular haunt, I decided.
But I was made to bite my tongue sooner than I would have liked.

I had ordered Grilled Hammour with mashed potatoes and steamed veggies, all covered in tomato sauce. It arrived piping hot and was a decent fare. The hammour was well done and mashed potatoes were their buttery best. I was happy with my dish until the point I actually got bored of eating it. All the buttered mash potatoes and the grilled to perfection Hammour seemed bland and boring after some time. Wonder why!

Amit, ordered some grilled chicken sandwich (a safe choice) with some refreshing watermelon juice. He felt that the chicken was too tough to chew on and extremely dry. It was a four part sandwich and he couldn’t get past two.

Namit had ordered Penne Ariabiata which seemed appetising from afar that I almost wished I had ordered it instead of my unexciting hammour. But soon similar complaints of a bland fare were exchanged from his end too.

So all in all, Coco’s did not manage to impress us lot. Considering the brimming crowd we felt like pariahs and the only ones who thought it wasn’t really that great.
It cost us 10 BD which was the only thumbs up in the whole deal and we made a hasty retreat.
So Coco’s has been SLICED and wasn’t the best place to start with!!

The rating goes like this:
Food- 2.5/5
Service 3/5
Ambience 3/5
Overall 3/5

I still have hope for Cocos and might dare visit them again for brunch or breakfast. Don’t know whether I would have company though:-)

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