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A taste of 3 festivals

September seems to be the season of delicious flavours and aromas. Here’s a chance for foodies to try out new dishes at food festivals across the city

Delhi has given its way to autumn — a season of active outings, leaving behind the monsoon clouds and lazy couch. Food Festivals across the city are luring people with delicious aromas and new flavours.

From standalone restaurants to hotels, festivals break the monotony and also pave the way for innovation and revival. While The LaLit New Delhi has been at centrestage with a series of Chef’s Pop-ups, Mayur Vihar’s Crowne Plaza is always offering something new. Along with dishes which wow, there are drinks which have a zing.

“We saw a rising trend of gin-based cocktails in India and abroad, and that’s why we thought it would be good to have a two-day festival for gin lovers,” says Anjali Batra, co-founder, Food Talk India. Different reasons but same goals — pleasing the palate, offering new experiences, catering to an evolved urban dweller or global traveller. Food is revolutionary — it builds relationships and keeps you occupied in good, better or best of times. Here are three festivals that give you a chance to embark on a foodilicious journey!

United Flavours of India, The LaLit New Delhi – 13th to 26th September
Just about everyone knows Baluchi at The LaLit. It’s the most well-known place for authentic north-west frontier cuisine. But the hotel is also promoting regional and lost cuisines of India within its properties for a year. Titled Chef’s Pop-up, the series involves each property coming up with an exclusive menu and the Executive Chef of that property traveling with the festival to all the other properties. The last one at New Delhi was Amar Sonar Bangla, in which Chef Madhumita had experimented with recipes going back to pre-Bangladesh days.

The current festival, United Flavours of India, is curated by Executive Chef Ashish Sanyal who heads the kitchens of The LaLiT Ashok Bangalore. With 22 years of experience in the F&B sector, the chef has done some unique combinations. In every dish, there’s a mix of styles, spices, methods from different regions and the result is an amazing amalgam. Not only are the dishes unique, but finger-licking! Whoever ate Indian food with a fork and knife, doesn’t know the pleasure derived from licking curries off the fingers.

Imagine eating mutton chops with sambhar or tawa fried salmon with quinoa. Sounds bizarre but the chef is a well-travelled man, and “People abroad know only kebabs, tikkas and butter chicken, but I want them to know that India has much more to offer. And everything is not as spicy as they think it to be. Besides, I like combining stories with my dishes and that makes people understand dish better”, says the Chef.

Here, the must-try dishes are: Singhada Roast on Idli Toast, Surkh Mahi ke Tukdey (Southern style grilled Salmon on lemon quinoa with kafir infused moilee sauce) and Dakshin Chaap (New Zealand lamb chops grilled with southern spice rub with lemon rice Aaranchinni). End this united flavours meal with Lassan ki Kheer (garlic kheer and paan barfi). There is also another interesting dessert Shimla Mirch Halwa (capsicum halwa with rose rabdi and rum poached pears).

The Gin Explorers Club, Olive Bar & Kitchen – 22nd and 23rd September
Going by the experience of Food Talk India founders, Shuchir Suri and Anjali Batra, gin is currently the popular spirit for cocktail lovers. Ironically, the famous gin and tonic entered India as a cure for malaria. During the British Raj, the soldiers and officers would mix quinine in tonic water. As this was very bitter, they made it more palatable with gin, water, sugar and lime.

Since 2015, the popularity of gin has risen manifold and many international brands have entered the market. “There are also many good Indian brands. We have rolled in some popular brands and would have liked to get more to the festival, but they didn’t match the Delhi government criteria. The idea is to educate people in a fun ambience, which is why we have called it ‘Gin Explorers Club’,” says Batra. Started in 2014, Food Talk India organises bespoke experiences in the F&B sector, along with marketing activities.

The festival will have pop-up bars by brands such as Monkey 47, Bombay Sapphire, Beefeater, Caorunn, Tanqueray and Tanqueray 10. Svami tonic — India’s first small batch artisan tonic water will be served. And it’s not about getting drunk on gin, but being high. There are tasting sessions, Gin 101 talk with Deepali Gupta Bhatia, Gin Chocolate tastings by All Things Chocolate, Sunday brunch at The Grammar Room, a fun paint and gin activity with Angel Bedi of The Filmy Owl fame. Then there’s a line-up of DJs and musicians such as Dhruv Visvanath, Smiti Malik and Adhir, Poco Loco. The musicians and artists have been programmed by The Piano Man. There are secret gigs as well.

A Taste of India, Crowne Plaza, Mayur Vihar & Noida – 14th to 23rd September
Catering to those who love Indian cuisine and wish to taste dishes from the different regions in the capital is the festival — ‘A Taste of India’— at the multi-cuisine restaurant Infinity. This festival offers a diverse range with food from the Konkan belt, Kashmir, Bengal, Rajasthan, Punjab. While the format is a buffet, the USP is that it’s a different region every day. And it’s only on offer for dinner.

Privy to a special dinner curated by General Manager Nivedita Awasthi and Executive Chef Diwas Wadhera, the experience was an interesting one. Keeping original recipes of different regions, the Chef presented them in a regional dish as well. For instance, Dal Nariyal ka Shorba was served in a coconut shell. Each sip was a flavourful one with a burst of lemongrass and coconut milk. Then there was Litti Chokha along with Sattu juice. With a distinct smokey flavour, this is as close to Bihar as you can get. Paneer ki Bansari could have easily been a thinner version of the spring roll but for the fresh, melt-in-the-mouth paneer in this crispy covering. The Palak Kofta Baloochi with Smoked Paneer Makhani was perhaps the most delectable for the crisp spinach blended well with the makhani.

All these dishes can be enjoyed at the festival. If you miss out on this during the festival, it’s also on the regular menu—Chocolate Dome with Indian Delicacies. This is a truly sinful unmissable experience. There are many meat dishes and all kinds of meat—seafood, mutton, chicken. There are live counters too.