Escape destination – Bali, Indonesia

Vacation for me is beaches, clear blue sky, tropical surroundings, a variety of bars and restaurants. All of this when mixed with crazy fun and exciting people becomes even more interesting and memorable.

Until now the only place which uses to top the list was Goa, India. This time one of my friends came up with an idea to visit Bali, Indonesia. I instantly accepted this destination because of two main reasons; first because of easy access (Connections, visas and overall budget) second I wanted to visit this much discussed iconic island.
Visa Few weeks of planning and we were already at Ngurah Rai International Airport Denpasar, Waiting for a taxi to take us to Kuta. While we were being drove to Kuta we realized that Denpasar is nothing less than a busy corporate capital city filled with a lot of trade and industries along with major government institutions.

Whereas, Kuta being not very far from the city is probably the largest tourist area in Indonesia famous for surfing, few good accommodations and nightlife. We selected Bali Bungalo Hotel for being fairly reasonable and also for its location.
Booking was done at – http://www.booking.com

Bali is relaxing part of Indonesia that has something or the other which interests people of all age. Unfortunately this time of the year it was raining on and off. So, couldn’t really plan well but still managed to visit few interesting spots. The days were mostly spent strolling in the busy tourist streets while nights were kept strictly for celebrations.
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The first day was blown enjoying water sports in Nusa Dua, strolling in the busy tourist streets of Kuta relishing nasi goreng, mie goreng & satays (off course with Bintang) whereas night was celebrated in Boshe VVIP Club. Second day was calm and relaxed, in the morning after the breakfast headed towards the famous Ubud Village & the Sacred Monkey Forest followed by Potato Head Beach Club in the evening. Third day was filled with some thrill and action as we tried our hands on river rafting in Sanur and spent some quality time at Ayana Rock Bar.
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1404731_10152611097523152_2531185916838689747_oExploring Bali is exciting as the attractions are diverse and natural landscapes are breath taking.  I will definitely visit this all-in-one vacation spot again to relax and unwind; this time probably will keep few more days in hand.

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A Scottish Experience

While I continue globetrotting, this time my stop was Athens of the North, Edinburgh.
Also, home of the Scottish Parliament!

I started my day with a lavish breakfast buffet at Edinburgh Marriott Hotel and then straightaway took bus# 100 (24 hours service/Wi-Fi enabled) to the city centre. The bus dropped me at Princess Street which is 15 minutes ride and apparently the last stop. From there I started walking using a route planner available at www.walkit.com.
My plan was to cover all the main tourist attractions and interesting spots before the day comes to an end. My on foot journey included:

Princess Street Garden:
a beautifully landscaped public park in the centre of Edinburgh. Various concerts and other events are also held here during the festival time.

Edinburgh Castle:
a magnificent historic fortress.
For ticket pricing and timings refer to – www.edinburghcastle.gov.uk

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Scotch Whiskey Experience:
a large tourist attraction, offers a whisky tutoring session that takes place in the form of a virtual tour.
For ticket pricing and timings refer to – www.scotchwhiskyexperience.co.uk

Grassmarket:
the Grassmarket lies to the south of the Edinburgh Castle and is famous for a lot of pubs and cafes.

Greyfriar’s kirkyard & Greyfriar’s bobby:
a graveyard related to multiple paranormal activities.
For people who like adventure you can also book a ghost tour at – www.cityofthedeadtours.com
(Strictly Not For The Faint Hearted)

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Royal Mile:
the busiest tourist street in the old town.

After walking so much already, it was time to have lunch. What could be better than the traditional Scottish delicacy – Haggis?
Now, I admit that the description of haggis may not sound all that appealing but it’s definitely worth trying if you’re ever in Scotland.

“A haggis is a simple dish prepared by using the lungs, heart and liver of a sheep, to which is added suet or fat, oatmeal, onions and a little stock and seasoning, filled into some sort of casing or skin (traditional way is using a sheep’s stomach) which is then boiled for several hours.”

I headed straight to Whiski Bar where I was welcomed by Ms. Karen and was given a comfortable, cozy place to settle down. By the time chefs were busy preparing the dish for me, I was being introduced to few of the many scotch whiskeys they have. Established in 2012 this place has bagged many awards already in the past few years. Promising to give everyone fresh Scottish food using the very best local produce this place is mostly crowded with locals and tourist. Keeping in mind this large footfall per day advance reservation is recommended and could be done here – www.whiskibar.co.uk

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At last my most awaited dish was presented on the table with absolute finesse. Honestly speaking I found it very tasty and the scotch was pairing well with it. For the sweet finale I tried cheese cake of the day and must say it was extremely pleasurable!

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Lastly, to conclude the day and to digest the food I started walking towards the Holyrood Park which is adjacent to the Holyrood Palace. The parks highest point is Arthur’s Seat, a massive hill just outside of town providing a bird eye view of the city and is popular for hill walking. Within the park you can also visit St Anthony’s Chapel – a 15th century medieval chapel, as well as Duddingston Loch – a natural fresh water loch (an important site for bird breeding)

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Edinburgh is definitely an ancient city with interesting history and a cosmopolitan capital with a wide selection of restaurants, hotels, shops and active nightlife spots. It is not the most exotic destination but different in terms of culture. Flashes of tartan can be seen on the kilts of men playing bagpipes to the shortbread packs displaying a true Scottish character. In Scotland, traditions run deep and locals are more than happy to share them with you.

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Will surely visit again!

Chicken Dum Biryani

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Ingredients:

1 kg chicken (washed and drained)
2 large onions (sliced)
2C. Coriander leaves (chopped)
1T. Saffron
½ C. Luke warm milk
2T. Ghee (clarified butter)
5T. Oil
Salt

For marinating chicken:

¾ C. Thick curd/yogurt
8-10 green chili’s (slited)
1 ½ T. Ginger garlic paste
1T. Red chili powder
¼ T. Turmeric powder
¾ T. Coriander powder
½ C. Coriander leaves (chopped)
¾ C. Mint leaves
1 Lemon (juiced)
1 ¾ T. Salt

Biryani masala (make powder)
8 cloves, 1″ cinnamon stick, 4 cardamom, ¾ T. Jeera, 12 pepper corns

To cook rice:

4C. Basmati rice
6 cloves
3 cardamoms
1″ cinnamon stick
3 bay leaves
10 mint leaves
1 tbsp oil
1 ½ T. Salt
Water

Recipe:

Marinate chicken with the ingredients called for ‘marination’ along with biryani masala powder. Keep aside for 4 hours or a min of 1 ½ hrs.

Cook basmati rice in lots of water along with bay leaves, cloves, cinnamon, cardamom, oil, salt till its half cooked. Strain the water and spread the rice on a large wide plate. Allow to cool.

Heat 1 tbsp oil + 1 tbsp ghee in a vessel, add sliced onions, sauté for 8 -10 minutes till caramelized. Remove and keep aside.

Add the saffron to the luke warm milk and combine well. Keep aside.

Take a wide deep vessel to prepare the biryani. Add 3 table spoon oil, add the marinated chicken and spread out over the vessel. Cook on high flame for 2 minutes. Add a table spoon of oil over the chicken pieces. Reduce flame.

Spread half of the rice over the chicken layer, pour half a table spoon of ghee all over the rice, add half of the caramelized onions and spread over the rice. Next sprinkle a table spoon of coriander leaves and pour about one fourth cup of saffron milk over the rice. Over this layer, spread the remaining rice. Again pour half a table spoon of ghee all over, add remaining caramelized onions and spread over the rice. Finally sprinkle a table spoon of coriander leaves and pour remaining saffron milk over the rice.

Place lid and seal the edges with wheat dough. Cook on high flame for 2 minutes. Remove the vessel from the stove and place an iron tawa. Allow to heat. Reduce to low flame and place back the biryani vessel on the iron tawa and cook biryani for 20-25 minutes. Turn off heat and do not remove lid for 10 minutes.

After 10 minutes, remove lid, combine gently and serve hot with raita and curry of your choice

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Augustiner Keller – Munich, Germany

Beer is one of the oldest drinks produced by humans. Historians believe that the grain was first fermented to produce beer, almost 2000 years before it was used for baking breads as a staple. Beer not only being used for celebrating events but was also used as a payment or as gifts at that time.

While I was in Bavaria’s capital city, I got an opportunity to meet Mr. Christian Vogler. The landlord of the oldest and the finest beer garden in Munich. He is an internationally known chef by profession and said to have been a master of the legacy Augustiner – Keller (in Hackerbrucke) since April 2010.

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It was brought into existence in 1812 after the official order by King Max Joseph I was passed, that these gardens could be places where both beer and food could be served. Since then this award winning place has lived to the reputation of serving freshly tapped beer and other Bavarian delicacies keeping the tradition alive and following high standards of service.

This place is also very much recognized amongst the locals and the tourists for its unique atmosphere. The first thing which you might notice here is the multiple seating options starting from the terrace to the unique vaults or if you like your lager under the shade in the open air then finding that perfect seat under one of the many chestnut trees should not be a problem. These trees were planted years ago so that the shade they provide could cool the ground and prevent the beer in the ice cellar from getting warm in summers.

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The beer at Augustiner is served straight out of wooden barrels and the strike of a bell marks the announcement of the opening of each new barrel.

Along with the selection of international specialties, light snacks and vegetarian dishes their beer selection is amazing as well. Majorly you can choose from Augustiner Edelstoff, Augustiner Weissbier, Augustiner Pils, Augustiner Dunkel or Augustiner Heller Bock. If you visit this place during the Oktoberfest you will also find Augustiner Oktoberfestbier and Augustiner Maximator two additional types of beer especially brewed for the festival time and cold weather.

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It also fascinates me that being the smallest brewery in Munich 70% of population drinks Augustiner and all this is without any publicity as the management  believes that there publicity is the quality. So if you are in Munich and looking for a casual place that works for dates, hanging out with friends or just grabbing a beer this place is to be!!

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For more information refer to: http://www.augustinerkeller.de/

Thank you for joining in with the interview, Mr. Vogler!

 

Pasta with Roasted Red Pepper Sauce

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Ingredients:

3 whole red bell peppers
Olive oil
1 onion (finely diced)
2 garlic cloves (minced)
¼C. Cream
Fresh herbs for garnish (finely minced)
Cheese for garnish (shaved or grated)
2C. Any pasta

 Recipe

Roast red peppers, peel the charred skins from the peppers, then run your knife along the inside to scrape out the seeds and puree.

Cook the pasta in boiling water untill al dente.

In a skillet, drizzle in olive oil. Add diced onions and garlic and cook until soft. Pour in pepper puree and stir together. Add salt and pepper according to taste.

Pour in cream and stir to combine. Taste and add more salt, if necessary. Add cooked pasta, and then stir together.

Place pasta into a bowl, top with chopped herbs & cheese.

Traditional Viennese Schnitzel – Figlmueller

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So, my next stop was Vienna, Austria and as they say “No kangaroos in Austria” I dint find any but instead a lot of well groomed horses. The hotel (Imperial Riding School Renaissance Vienna Hotel) not very far from the airport also had a history related to horses as it was a military riding school back in 1850’s.

After a well deserved rest it was time to explore the city and taste the Viennese cuisine. It’s said and believed that Viennese cuisine is second to none in all of Europe.

Vienna is very much known for its coffee houses serving creamy coffees and rich chocolate cakes. Both indoor and outdoor seating’s are available; choose depending on your mood and company.

The best way to discover a city is to walk your way through; it not only gives you a panoramic view but also a chance to discover the hidden streets and alleys probably very famous amongst the locals for various reasons!  😉

This well-appointed city is full of architectural excellence. While I was walking, I crossed the famous Belvedere Castle, Russian Liberation Monument and made St. Stephen’s Cathedral my last stop for the evening as just behind this historic icon is Figlmueller – The home of the Schnitzel.

For over 100 years the chefs at Figlmueller are serving perfectly crisp & tender schnitzel and now it was time for me to try one.

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A schnitzel is a boneless meat(veal, mutton, chicken, beef, turkey, pork), thinned and flattened with a hammer, coated with flour, beaten eggs and bread crumbs, and then fried. This popular dish is garnished with a slice of lemon and served either with potato salad or potatoes with parsley and butter.

The reason why this restaurant is popular in the area is the originality of the recipe, fresh and best quality ingredients, the traditional presentation, and ambience. Talking about the ingredients, even the bread crumbs used for the coating is made exclusively of the Austrian emperor roll which is again made to order.

After the mains I also tried the Kaiserschmarrn with stewed plums from the dessert section. Loved it completely!!

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The staff is absolutely polite and speaks German and English. You might have to wait for few minutes before you could get a seat as this place is mostly crowded. For me the overall experience was worth the wait and money but for people who don’t have much time to wait it is always better to reserve a seat in advance.

For more info logon to http://www.figlmueller.at

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Cottage cheese in Butter & Tomato Gravy (Paneer Makhani)

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Ingredients:

250 Grams Cottage cheese (Paneer)

For Makhani Gravy:

06 Tomatoes (pureed)
4T. Butter
4 Green cardamoms
1T. Ginger paste
1T. Garlic paste
1T. Red chili powder (deggi mirch)
¼ T. Dried fenugreek leaves (kasuri methi),roasted and crushed
1T. Honey
3 ½ T. Fresh cream
Salt
Few strands of Mace

Recipe

Heat two tablespoons of butter in a deep non stick pan on low heat. Add the green cardamoms and mace and cook till fragrant.

Add the ginger paste and garlic paste and sauté for a minute

Add the pureed tomatoes, salt, red chili powder and cook, stirring occasionally, for fifteen to twenty minutes.

Add the kasuri methi, remaining butter, honey & cream to the gravy and mix well.

Once the gravy is done add the cubed cottage cheese and cook for another 5 minutes.

Serve hot with roti or rice.

The Wine Story

One of my very favourite wine.
One of my very favourite wine.

Just like any other wine beginner I too was lacking clarity of thought when I decided to open my first bottle of wine. Believing it to be just a grape juice I felt kooky when people suggested that some of them also tastes like tobacco.

Finally got settled with logic that everyone has to start somewhere and the only way to learn about wine is by drinking it. Knowing very little about wines I went with the bar tenders decision and tried Sauvignon Blanc from New Zealand.

The first experience was amazing; I got some interesting information about the wine, grape and the region.

A little bit of wine knowledge is good when it comes to trying different wines. It could be anything starting from serving temperatures, taste, body, aroma or sweetness.

Wine is best enjoyed in the company of others but for little peace loving people like me surroundings are also very important. I generally prefer finding quite places free of any kind of smell as I can concentrate better and get a clear sense of wine aromas. Sitting by a calm river or watching a sunset is what I like to do while I am enjoying my lovely!

Over the last few years I have tasted many wines in different countries. They all have different taste notes ranging from berries to bell peppers, black currants to green apples. But what I have learnt from this ongoing wine journey is, to drink wines I like and keep trying the new once.

Some people find the massive wine world complicated but for me it’s all about enjoyment.