Dear (Ex) Roomie

Dear (Ex) Roomie,

While I’ve had many roommates over the years, you were the last one I shared an apartment with. It was an odd turn of events that I spoke to a common friend about wanting to shift to a different part of the city because I didn’t want to live alone, when we didn’t even know that we existed. Two meetings later, we had moved in together because we were looking for a new place. What followed was years of companionship and endless talks.

In spite of our initial observations of each other, it wasn’t difficult to start talking. Once we got on talking, one topic would lead to another and we would end up forgetting what we had started off in the first place. While it is rare to have this with someone, it is rarer to have it on for the amount of time we did. And I can say this from my experience of having gone through roommates. Compound to this the fact of our wide difference of beliefs and you have got some interesting conversations.

Of course I put up a lot with you because you routinely got me chocolates, the cookies from Karachi Bakery, jawbreakers and those big lollipops with swirls in them. I also like to think that you put with me because you were basking in the awesomeness that is me. There might be a difference of opinion on your part about that, but then that is ok. You must be confused by all the awesomeness that I speak of 😛

I fondly remember the nights we spent at Barista. Sometimes they would have loads of conversations while we sat on the ledge outside with our backs to the glass, and the other times we would spend time inside with hot chocolate by your side, and latte by mine; reading our own books instead.

It’s of course ironical that we don’t share apartments now is the opposite of the reasons that I moved in, that I want to live alone now. When under the same roof, we would always run into each other even with different work timings. Now that it doesn’t happen, we will catch up with dinner sometime this week then.

 

Written for the 30 days 30 letters prompt: A letter to someone you don’t talk to as much as you’d like to

 

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Dear Old man who sat next to me on the bus

Dear Old man who sat next to me on the bus,
Of course I don’t know if you actually read my blog, because I never mentioned my blog in our conversation in the bus. If by some means you did stumble upon my blog, neither of us do know for sure that it is the other person on the other side of the screen. Maybe this letter is something that might hit a familiar chord with you.

You and I met on a bus ride from Ahmedabad to Baroda one evening years ago. The bus was incredibly slow and took almost twice the time it normally takes. Both of us could have still not had had this conversation, had my mobile not been on low battery. I generally keep my earphones on, or use some app if I am not sleeping on the bus. On account of not having a good charge, I pulled out a book from my bag. I still remember that it was ‘Atlas Shrugged’ by ‘Ayn Rand’.

You could have kept to yourself but luckily for us, your curiosity got the better of you. You asked me with wonder how people of my age were reading the book. I confess that my initial feeling was that of contempt, primarily at the idea of being disturbed by a stranger while I was reading. However, better sense prevailed, and I told you that this book had been a recommendation from my mentor. He had in fact repeatedly insisted that I do read it.

While we did discuss the book, as to why I liked it and why you didn’t, you began to ask me about my job. It was a different manner in which you asked questions. We discussed processes, systems and control mechanisms. How the cost spent quality control ends up more than paying for itself in the long run, and what your personal experiences had been about it from your time at your own work place.

To this day, it remains one of the freest flowing discussion I have ever had with a stranger. Thank you, for the conversation that day. Thank you for the time that felt that it passed faster than it did, and for the re-assurance that not all old people who chat with you have marriage or settling down to discuss.

 

 

I wrote this for the 30 days 30 letters prompt: A letter to a stranger. Other bloggers can add the links to their posts in the linky below:

Jalaram Nasta House’s Sev Usal

Sev Usal is a spicy Maharashtrian dish. Sev is actually fried noodle like strands made of chickpea flour and fried, while Usal is a gravy made with white peas and chutneys along with spices and condiments like ginger, garlic, tamarind and so on. The dish is an incorporation of the two elements. While it can be had by itself, it is more enjoyable to be had with a bread bun locally called as Paav in India.

While Sev Usal is not a dish that is native to Baroda, people of this city have brought it as close to perfection as possible. In turn, the residents of Baroda have showered love by making it a staple part of their diet. A Sev Usal stall is common sight. In fact, in terms of food dishes it is considered by many to be the pride of Baroda.

Locally, Mahakali (named after the Hindu Goddess) is one of the most popular places to have this at. Such is the popularity that many more small time stalls bearing the same name or a variation of it have come up. However, my personal favourite place to have it is the Jalaram Nasta house which is also called Lalabhai’s Sev Usal centre.

Located inside a lane that opens to a road, it is not very easy to locate unless you’re specifically looking for it. I remember getting lost, the first time I went there alone without my friends who would normally take me there. It is marked by a banner in red with the name written in white in Gujurati.

lalaoutside

You will first be given a premixed dish to get you started with. If you ask for extra (and I always do), you’re first served the sev and onions, while the gravy comes few moments later.

lalsevdry

You can mix and match the sev with the Usal to get the combination you feel right. This is how I start.

lalatable

An important aspect over here is what is locally called the ‘Tari’. It is basically a chilly preparation made from oil, green and red chillies. It is very spicy, and is added on top at the last before mixing the whole thing.

lalatari

To be honest, this is one of the reasons that gives Sev Usal its signature feel and adds an extra dose of yum. And there, you finally have your Sev Usal ready..

lalasevusal

Feel free to dig in.. Part of their team was happy to be part of a picture that I took before leaving.

lalateam

The dish and the place are so wonderful that I take my guests and friends over to have a taste of this iconic dish. This is a picture of Shail di and me, when she had come to visit quite some time ago. Repeated comments as to how much younger she looks, may result in bricks flying in your direction 😛

lalashailandme

I am attaching its location on Google Maps for you to locate it.

 

Written for day 10 of the A to Z challenge.

 

Hola for some yummy Mexican food

This is another place that I stumbled upon by accident. I was looking for a place that accepted online orders and payment for home delivery orders, when I came across HOLA Mexicana. I enjoyed their food so much, that I ended up ordering at least once every week for some time. Soon it dawned upon me that while I have had their yummy food many times, I haven’t actually been there even once. I made up my mind to go there over the weekend.

HOLA Mexicana is quaint little place nestled in a building complex Fatehganj, Baroda. Their banner is well lit, so that you don’t miss it. The only catch is that you can easily park a two wheeler, but a car will need some efforts.

holaent

They have a warm looking interior, which can easily manage 20 or so patrons. One of the plus points is that they have A/C and wifi, so it makes spending the hot noons or evenings easy.

holaint2holaint1

One of my regular orders over here is their mexican rice. While they offer both veg and non veg options, I like to go with the chicken version. It is a fabulous combination of rice, sauces, spices, tanginess, vegetables, beans, shredded chicken (since I go for the non veg version) and cheese. I have had it almost everytime I have ordered from them, and I still enjoy it each and every time.

This is what the bowl of mexican rice looks like when you receive it.

holarice1

I like to give it a nice mix, before diving in.

holarice2

Not one to get satisfied with just one bowl of rice, I order something else to go with it. This time I ended up with one of their omelettes.

holaome1They make a nice fluffy omelette that has stuffing inside the fold. Mine had chicken, vegges, spices and cheese. Needless to say it was absolutely delicious.

holaome2

What is even better about the place is that in spite of serving such delicious food, and giving you a warm and comfortable ambience, they are easy on the wallet. Here’s a snapshot of their menu

holamenu

This is hands down, one of my favorite places in Baroda to have mexican food. I will leave you with a picture of the HOLA Mexicana team who were happy to pose for a pic for me.

holateam

 

 

Written for day 8 of the A to Z challenge

Gokul Ras thad, a delicious discovery

I love those happy accidents when I find a place I have never been to before, and end up having brilliant food at it. One night, my old room mate and a friend came over and asked me to join them for a drive. Since none of us had dinner, the idea was to have something on the way. We had taken the old NH8 highway out of Baroda towards Ahmedabad. Around 9 kilometers on the highway, we stopped outside this place which we hadn’t seen before. Since the place had opened only two months ago, few people knew of it then.

Gokul board

I absolutely loved this idea of having small tents over each table. This way you can enjoy the cool breeze that is blowing, and yet maintain your small personal space. There are lights and pedestal fans inside the tent, for when the wind is not enough.

gokul tents Gokul tentThese are how the tents looks up close. There is enough space inside for a group of 6 to sit and eat comfortably.

Three of us were in the mood for Kathiawadi (belonging to Saurashtra region of Gujarat) food, so this is what we ended up ordering:

Wagharela Rotla (Broken flat bread that has been stir fried with spices and sauce)

Gokul rotla

There was Lasanya Bateka (Potatoes made in a gravy with loads of garlic)
Gokul bateka

The friends love Brinjal so we ordered Ringan/Baingan Bhartha (Squashed Brinjal)

Gokul bhartha

And some Ringad ane papdi nu saak (Brinjal Sabjee with beans)

Gokul brinjal

Of course we had piping hot rotis with fresh white makhan (butter) on them

Gokul rotibutterSince I felt adventurous, we had fried sated chillies (which I didn’t eat , and my friends had to finish)
Gokul chillies

And this is how my plate looked when we were eating.

Gokul plate

 

So, if you ever end up with a craving for Kathiawadi food, with some lovely ambience, I will accompany you here.

 

Written for day 7 of the A to Z challenge, 2014

 

Canara Coffee House

One of the first things that I wanted to know of, once I had taken up a job in Baroda was where all the good food is available. I have friends from college who call Baroda home, and they were more than happy to take me to the right places. One such place is Canara Coffee house.

1-Canaralogo

 

Canara Coffee house is a place where people have been going to with their family for years now. The place is popular strictly on account of word of mouth at how good their food, or because someone from the family has been going there for at least a generation now. The thing that Canara Coffee house is most famous for is Poona Misal.

3-canaramisal

Misal is a Marathi word and means mixture. Typically sprouted moong (green gram) is mixed well with spices and pastes, and topped with chopped onions and tomatoes along with some namkeen chewda. Namkeen Chewda is in itself a spicy mixture of dried and fried lentils, chickpea noodles (called sev), peanuts (called sing), roasted rice puffs (called mamre), and more.

A generous helping of curd is given along or dabbed on top so that it serves to cool this hot and spicy mixture. You can choose to have it as it is, but that is not fun. You can take a spoon, and mix it all up. This gives you a lovely mixture of things hot and cold, sweet and spicy, crunchy and wet.

4-canaramisal2

Another thing that this place is famous for is their South Indian food. You will find the standard fare of Dosa, Idli, and Uttapam here. MY personal favorite happens to be the Masala Uttapam which is pan cake made from a batter made mainly from rice and dal. Then a generous layer of spiced, mashed, boiled potatoes along with onions is applied. When you have it with their Sāmbhar and chutney, it is absolutely yum.

5-canarauttapa

Look at these pictures which show how the place still retains its old charm.

8-canaraext 7-canaracorner 2-canramenu
The thing with the lights is their menu. They have a wonderful concept for the menu here. The menu has a listing of all the dishes they serve along with its price. Since the things that are served change for breakfast and evening meals, each item has a light turned on to show if it is available for serving at your time of order. I absolutely love it.

6-canaramenuclose

If you ever want to visit this place, I am attaching its location on Google Maps. Let me know when you’re coming, and we’ll enjoy a meal together.

 

 

 

 

Written for day 3 of the A to Z Challenge 2014

Barista, the place I belong to

Everyone has a place that is special for them. A place which they are not just fond of, but a place that makes them feel comfortable, a place where they get a feeling of belonging. The Barista Lavazza café in Baroda happens to be mine.

Baroda is not where I came to know of Barista, our connection is much older than that. More than 10 years ago when I used to haunt the Crosswords book store at Mithakali in Ahmedabad, I would spend time in the adjoining café with the book I would have had bought. That café happened to be Barista. It was a ritual for me to read my pre-ordered Harry Potter on the day of release in Barista. When having bought anything other than Harry Potter, I would spend less time in there, but a visit was always on the cards.

Then something horrible happened. Barista shut down, and was replaced by some other chain of coffee shops. It was decent, but didn’t have the same feeling as Barista. Years later, when I had to meet a friend in Baroda, she asked me to come to Barista. I was overjoyed to learn that Barista had opened sop again. Lavazza had taken over, and opened up at new places. They were smart in the fact that they didn’t change what was already bringing back the old loyal customers, and yet had something for new lovers. My love was back.

After renting out a different place with new roommates in the same area, I could easily spend more time at Barista. It was natural for one of us to be tired from work, and ask the other to join him for coffee at Barista. Barista still serves some of the best coffee that I have had. Their hot chocolate is to die for. Let me walk you through the place with pictures.

Welcome to Barista

BaristaoutsideThis is one of the few places that I know where people love sitting outside as much as they love the insides. There is no special sitting arrangement outside, just two ledges on either sides of the door where you have glass panes. There is enough space to sit on it.

Baristaoutsit

There have been many nights when roommate and I have spent sitting there just chatting away into the last hour of the night forgetting what happened at work, or sometimes just reading in silence.

baristagroupspot

When we went in as a group, this was our spot. One could keep track of the score if there was a cricket match going on. We could all have our drinks and snacks placed in front us, on the centre table.

baristamochaWhen it came to hot drinks, I prefer their Cafe Mocha. It is such a wonderful blend of chocolate and coffee. The cookies help as well 😀

baristabrrista
At times when I felt like reading alone, I would order a Brrista for myself. It is their version of a cold frappe which has icecream blended with coffee. The only sad thing about this is that I end up finishing it quickly in three sips, and am left wondering where it all went.

baristaart2 baristaartThey have such lovely wall art decor. The first one has “AT ANY TIME OF DAY A CUP OF COFFEE DELIGHTS, REVIVES AND STIMULATES THE SENSES.” on it.

BaristacoverThis is another lovely piece they have, that takes up almost half of the wall. I love how they have not drawn the features and expressions of the people in it, and have left it to the viewer’s imagination.

BaristaMyspotThis is my spot when I go there by myself. If someone is already occupying it, you may find me sulking about it. The moment they leave, I get up and move to it before anyone else does.

baristapanaroma

This a panaroma shot from the spot. I can cover the entire place from it, corner to corner. I can see the wash room and wait at my seat instead of having to wait at the door for the person to come out. The barista can signal for me when my order is done. I can look at the outsides through the door and glass panes, and keep an eye out for a friend who may have made plans with me. It also has a charging point right behind the chair, and I can keep my laptop plugged in. I remember sitting hours over there playing games on my laptop.

baristacupOne day I received a call from the Barista office regarding a feedback form I had filled up. They had called to confirm my address, and they sent in this lovely mug as a gift along with a letter.

baristaletterThe letter reads as :

Hi Hrishikesh,

Thank you for writing in!

We appreciate feedback like yours that inspires us to move in a positive direction.

I am enclosing a small souvenir with this package.

Please keep writing for customers like you are the ones we work for. 🙂

 

Barista Team.

BARISTA FOR ALL.

 

They’re the best!

 

 Written for day 2 of the A-Z Blogging Challenge 2014.

 

Happiness on a barbeuqe

Food has always been something that makes me happy. Some of my favorite memories are associated with it. I think I have now come to a level where food is something beyond the daily nutrition a body needs. It is a spiritual experience. Food is something that can make you salivate as you look at it, a mere whiff of well-made food can give you goose bumps, while taking a long slow bite will have you close your eyes and just get lost and the juices flow down your throat.

This post is about one of my favorite place to eat: Barbeque Nation (Vadodara). While I have been living in Baroda since 2009 started, and kept hearing rave reviews of the place I could only eat there a year after in 2010. It happened as a spontaneous decision, when I was discussing with a friend where we could get to eat some wonderful chicken. Twenty minutes later, we were giving out orders for juice at the place.

Let me tell you how the place works. You select one complimentary drink from the menu (and can order more that will be charged extra), while they start serving you starters on your table. The center of the table has been cut out to make place for a mini barbeque, where skewered foods will be placed with red hot coals below the grille. Let me tell you that their food is wonderful. One of the best I have ever had. My friend and I literally hogged our way through them. When we were about to be feel full, we asked for the bill to be brought in. The server who came asked if enjoyed our main course, which made my ears twitch and ask him where the main course was, followed by asking him if we would be charged extra for it (sheepishly so, I might add).

The main course you see, is part of the package. It is not served to you at your table, you have to go take what you want in your plate instead. There are salads, soups, daals, sabjis, some pulav or biryani of some sort. Rotis and naans are served at your table though. Yes, both veg and non-veg options are available in the main course as well. I had my second emotional surge when I saw that there was a big assortment of desserts as well. Belt loosening, salivating and becoming a poster boy for ‘kid in a candy shop’ later saw me eating even more. This is how it is at all barbeque nation places, and how I am each time I visit them.

I have been to this particular Barbeque Nation many times, and once to a different city as well. While the food was awesome at both the places, I have a soft corner for this on account of the fondness for the staff here who are ever so courteous and happy to serve you. No matter how packed the place is, their service and quality doesn’t go down. I have pictures of one such time spent there with friends, which I will share with you now.

nonvegskewer
Chicken, lamb and fish on skewers
Broccoli, mushrooms and some other vegetables
Broccoli, mushrooms and some other vegetables
Sushi
Sushi
Our drinks. I have a pearl oyster. Which had an egg in an oyster on a bed of ice
Our drinks. I have a pearl oyster. Which had an egg in an oyster on a bed of ice
Gulping the oyster
Gulping the oyster
Trying to have it all in a go
Trying to have it all in a go
The fish
The fish
This is the wonderful reaction to that wonderful dish
This is the wonderful reaction to that wonderful dish
Closeup of the fish. Don't ask the name, forgot
Closeup of the fish. Don’t ask the name, forgot
Friends having a go at the salads
Friends having a go at the salads
I love desserts, and they love me back
I love desserts, and they love me back
nirvanabbq
This is how I look when I am lost to good food

Written for the Write Tribe Festival of Words -2. Day 2 prompt : Food