Friday, November 25, 2011

FOODIEPAEDIA, FOODOPHILE and the amazing world of all things food!



On the eventful late evening of the 24th Day in the fifth month of Circa 2011, I turned a lexicographer. I coined the word Foodophile and submitted the entry to Merriam-Webster's Online Dictionary. Merriam-Webster - An Encyclopaedia Brittanica Company - has been a dictionary of repute and has ranked amongst the top reference sources for readers worldwide. Hence to get my word included in its online pages seemed like a highly motivating feat that emboldened me to get into more word coinage as I trundle along my moments in a day and days in my life.


But first a formal introduction to you with "FOODOPHILE" and how it appears on Merriam-Webster. It appears under "FOOD" in the 'New Words & Slang' section of The Open Dictionary of Merriam-Webster's online edition. This is how it is showcased -


foodophile (noun) : a person who has a great fondness for food : an ardent food lover
"She is such a foodophile that most of her life is devoted to thinking about food - how it tastes, how it looks, how it smells."
Submitted by: L. Aruna Dhir from India on May. 24, 2011 09:45 

Here's the link to corroborate my claim to fame -

http://www3.merriam-webster.com/opendictionary/newword_search.php?word=food


"Foodophile" has, since, also debuted on Macmillan Dictionary, Urban Dictionary, in the User pages of Wikipedia, Wiktionary, Definition-Of - Community Dictionary by Farlex and Pseudodictionary. Please find the links below for each of these references -

http://www.macmillandictionary.com/open-dictionary/entries/foodophile.htm
http://www.urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=foodophile&defid=5955025

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/User:L._Aruna_Dhir
http://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/foodophile 

http://www.definition-of.com/foodophile
http://www.pseudodictionary.com/foodophile


With this kind of encouragement, it is time now to create a brand new term, especially because there is that vacuum in our lexicon that this word can admirably fill. So, here's unveiling - FOODIEPAEDIA. Amongst the deafening sounds of trumpets in my head, let me announce that "Foodiepaedia" is a portmanteau of two words - Foodie and Encyclopaedia. This emphasizes the etymology of the term.


Dictionaries define Foodie as "a person keenly interested in food, especially in eating or cooking." According to Wikipedia - Foodie is an informal term for a particular class of aficionado of food and drink. The word was coined in 1981 by Paul Levy and Ann Barr, who used it in the title of their 1984 book The Official Foodie Handbook.

And now we have the more formal word "foodophile" to describe an ardent food lover.

Encyclopaedia is defined as "a book or set of books containing articles on various topics, usually in alphabetical arrangement, covering all branches of knowledge or, less commonly, all aspects of one subject."


Hence, Foodiepaedia is coined as a "noun" and stands for a Foodie / Foodophile or Food lover's Encyclopaedia holding within its fold a treasure trove of information on the subject of food, be it the origin, history, etymology, facts, trivia, tips, recipes and pictures of food, presented in an alphabetical order. 

And to be Foodiepaedia, the tome needs to give all this information and more, bound and limited only by all that is available, searchable and known; as beyond these realms the writer / researcher cannot go.  It needs to be as exhaustive as possible and as well researched as it can be, in order for the book to be elevated to the status of Foodiepaedia. It is a collective of thematic information on the chosen subject of food and aspires to become as wide and deep in its richness as it is possible at the time with propensity to be revised with newly added information as and when such information comes up in context. 



Here's an example on the usage of the word - 


1. Larousse Gastronomique - that age-old culinary bible - is a highly respected Foodiepaedia and provides rich information on food for use by a Foodophile.


2. Alan Davidson's Oxford Companion to Food is a definitive Foodiepaedia that must always enjoy a pride of place on a Foodophile's bookshelf.


3. "The Cheese Lover's Companion - The Ultimate A to Z Cheese Guide by Sharon Tyler Herbst and Ron Herbst is an excellent Foodiepaedia on Cheese and is a wonderful resource on the subject."



I hope the coinage of these two interesting terms - Foodophile and Foodiepaedia adds more colour and character to our usage of the English Language and helps us become more lucid and interesting  in our writing and speech.


Pictures courtesy - www.deviantart.com and Google Images

Tuesday, July 05, 2011

LIFE WOULD BE SO LONESOME, IF NOT FOR THEM!


It was half past Eleven and my handset beeped ominously, twice for good measure. Just as I was drifting into dream land, having decided to take an early night, I struggled out of bed to reach across to the techie life line. As blood coursed rapidly through my veins and my heart pounded loud enough to pierce the snores of my tired better half, my mind sprinted an Olympic 100m to run through a gamut of thoughts ranging from alarming to bizarre. I blinked a few times and rubbed my eyes vigorously to get to the SMS, with a nagging thought that Some Most important Stuff was resting on the machine for me to read and consume. I needn’t have lost even the initial part cycle of sleep as it was only a good ol’ humanitarian trying to urge me to buy that sauna belt I was shying away from, all in my interest so that I could get back to my shapely self. Yes, even close to the witching hour, these good fellas have your interest in their minds.

But that was last night. Today I was in the middle of my morning monologue with the Almighty and the inevitable happened. The most familiar tone in my life rang, first gently then crescendoing up to a shrilly pitch till I excused myself from His chamber to pick up the persistent call. It was another of God’s good men coercing me to invest my hard-earned money in the BEST instrument ever and see my money treble in a short span of time. I knew in that very instant that I was the chosen one and God was sending me a special message via this kind man. Dammit, I had not even finished my prayers for the day and was already beginning to reap benefits.

The good news is that these chosen angels – men and women – will find you anytime, anywhere. Forget about tapped phones, the ED, CBI or even the FBI, it is these good Samaritans who are not just watching you but watching out for you. Even if you do not have the resources they have the commodity to sell to you – Platinum / Titanium card, Penthouse in the toniest part in suburbia; you may not be sick but they have the cure – weight loss in five days or guaranteed money back; from Psoriasis, Piles to Pulmonary tuberculosis they have the panacea; you may not be bald yet, but they will have the best technology to recommend.

The only piece of bad news in this whole do-gooding thing was when DoT tried to create DNC registry. But thank heavens that it sank before it could float and is now lost in the quagmire of Do Call and Do not Call business.
So these good fellas are back in business with a vengeance. You  are out of town and your cell is on roaming – it beeps, rings, beeps, rings……….till you feel lighter at least in terms of the paper you carry in your wallet.

Some of these good people seem to hit the bull’s eye each time they call or send an SMS. I often get the sauna belt / guaranteed Ayurveda weight loss / lose flab in three months flat and never put it back……type of messages almost every day. I thought only my close ones or I knew that I am pining for that second dream home in Delhi. I am wrong. Even they know. Otherwise how do you explain all those alluring messages selling me beautiful homes in Orange County, Olive County, Golf Estate, Diamond Towers and the like? This god-send force of people also knows that I am on a self-imposed sabbatical and have begun sending me tips on “Earning the EXTRA income.”

But there could be those odd times when they miss it by the long shot. Like when they sell Japani technology to increase height in a fortnight to my husband who hovers just a few notches below 6’1” or when they urge him to buy ‘fashion in plus size’ (kxy) for women who are not just large hearted but generally large.
I come from the hospitality industry so a call from hotels always shoots the antenna up. It could be a job call, a consultancy request or an ex-colleague wanting to touch base. But these days they are calling to make me a member of their loyalty club or send me a platter of unsuspicious looking promotional cookies along with, you guessed it, the promotional mailer. 
But do not get irritated. The number of messages and calls you get depends on how important you are. Here’s the logic - the more important you are, the more number of credit cards you have, more bank accounts, and club memberships and so on. Which means that there are more avenues for people to sell your number to these DM sharks, sorry I mean God’s own people.

I wonder when I am being laid down to rest six feet under or my last mortal remains being incinerated to ashes – depending on the sentiments I leave behind with those who are left behind – would my un-biodegradable instrument ring or beep for that one last time for me.

And here is a piece of the best news – your relationship with these good men and women is forever. You cannot unfriend them like in Facebook or remove the connection as in LinkedIn. With them, it truly is, till the end of time. Time to pen down a new ballad, then, eh?

But hey, wait a minute! My cell’s ringing. You never know it could be Branson’s bright boys this time selling me the dream inter-galactic trip!!!!!

**************

Thursday, June 09, 2011

“WATCHING LIFE GO BY”


 

How many times have I stopped to smell

the scent of a flower;

How many times have I seen through the clarity of water

and peered into my soul; 


How many times have I stopped to

listen to the silence of the woods;

How many times have I asked ‘How are you?’

and then genuinely wanted to know;


How many times have I appreciated the honesty of a child
However, may have, the bluntness hurt my pride;

How many times have I corrected myself
before setting other things in order;


How many times have I looked at  the complete picture
before filling in the shades of grey;

How many times have I watched the first ray of the sun
and marveled at the miracle of life;


How many times have I given a part of me, not for the goodness of it
but simply to share;

How many times have I painted my dreams in wet colors
and not worried about the stains;

How many times have I heard the music and waited long enough
to listen to the notes;


How many times have I cared to laugh from my heart
and smile with my eyes;

How many times have I lived life to the fullest
and not simply watched it go by.

******
Picture courtesy - www.deviantart.com

Monday, May 02, 2011

Sunday, May 01, 2011

ILLUSION!

First penned on 11th April 1995


Like a whiff of fresh air
you came into my life
And vanished with a sudden sweep of the breeze;

Like the soft shining dew
on the face of a petal
You rested on the surface of my palm,

But one ray of sunlight
And you just washed away;

Like an early morning dream
You blinked on the lashes of my eye
But disappeared into oblivion
With the first woken moment;
You were there yesterday
Next to me in flesh and blood
Today you are lost
Wrapped beneath the sands of time;

You hummed in my heart
Like a tune echoing in the woods
But amidst worldly din
You turned into silence of the dead;

Like a lone, exquisite icicle
You hung from the isolated
corner of my mind
But onslaught of maddening thoughts
And you melted away;

Like an illusion harbouring on the subconscious
You played with my life
But  a return to reality
And you were nowhere in sight.

*****************
Picture courtesy - www.deviantart.com

Thursday, February 24, 2011

A BITE OF THE BIG APPLE








 CLARIFICATION –

1.    This ode to New York is based on a pre-9/11 visit.
2.    World Trade Centre was very much a part of our reality then.
3.    Global terror had not reached its current proportions.
4.    It was much easier and more pleasurable to travel across the Atlantic. No body scans, no overly suspicious security checks.
5.    The Pierre was a Four Seasons Hotel and not a Taj Hotels managed property, which it is today.
6.    The prices listed are dated to that visit and no longer valid now.
7.    Gai Brodtmann, my ex-boss and dear friend is now a Member of Parliament in the current government in Canberra, Australia.
8.    Pierre Jochem, my other ex-boss in now the Regional VP & GM at the Raffles in Singapore.


‘You will simply love New York’, friends proclaim to me as I experience the best of Americana, both along the east and the west coast.

And true to its reputation, the Big Apple, the City of lights, the City that never sleeps is as trendy and as glitzy as they come.

Nothing, not even my two and a half months long stay in the US prepares me for New York.  And to add to the glitter I am staying in Manhattan, easily the best burrough in New York, the ‘IN’ place to be located in.  My address for the Four-day long stay is going to be ‘The Pierre’, the most elite and exclusive Four Seasons hotel located on the trendiest Fifth Avenue.  The name is enough to add oodles of glamour to the introductory lines of my conversation, raise many an envious brow and catapult me from the identity of a commoner to the Ivy League of jet-setting, globe-trotting clique that sets an Armani cash register ringing.   But more on The Pierre later, the Hotel that embodies the big-ness, the High-Profileness of New York in superlatives, that is a residence to scions of some of the famous business families including Rockefeller, whose list of regulars include names like Naomi Campbell and where it is easy to spot the Casanova of modern-day love ballads, Michael Bolton cradling his favorite drink in the Hotel’s unobtrusive Bar.

You can arrive at New York by getting into either the JFK airport near Queens or at the Newark airport in New Jersey.  While a cab from Newark into New York would cost you about $80, a cheaper and easier (given the infamous NYC traffic jams) way could be to get on to an airport shuttle and get dropped at the doorstep of your destination.  As against the daylight robbery of a cabbie I pay an affordable $16 for a comfortable 1 ½ hour-long ride into the Big Apple.  The only sore point was a bit of ego bruising.  Here’s what happened. Upon being reprimanded for not knowing the directions to The Pierre like the back of his hand my shuttle driver admits that ‘this’ is the most posh area of New York and that he’s never had the reason to be here before. He further adds that ‘anybody who stays at The Pierre, I don’t think comes by a Shuttle’.  I am slightly hurt by the driver’s blunt statement but soon forget the insult as the gracious doorman takes my hand to help me step down.    The jarring comment soon becomes a matter of the past as I step into the legendary Hotel and am made to feel absolutely at home by the warm and courteous hotel staff.

New York is easily the world’s ‘Action’ capital.  There’s something happening for everybody all the time. If you are the ‘arty’ kind then NY presents ample opportunities for you to get lost in the world of museums. A guide to New York states that you could devote an entire month to museums in the city and still not do them justice.  But if you are hard-pressed for time, like I was, then I would recommend that you see definitely two of the biggest that New York boasts of.  The Museum of Modern Art that prides in itself for housing one of the world’s best and most comprehensive collection of modern art. And The Metropolitan Museum of Art, popularly called ‘The Met’, which is the biggest in the Western world. The treasures of “The Met” include a vast collection of American art and more than 3,000 European paintings, including masterpieces by Rembrandt and Vermeer.  There are also many Islamic exhibits, and the greatest collection of Egyptian art outside Cairo.

When time is of essence, one of the most intelligent things to do, I have discovered, is to get on a guided daylong city tour.  While it may leave you ‘not fully satisfied’ it still manages to give you a fair snap shot of the city.  Plus you can easily make a claim to the fact that you’ve been there and done that!  I got onto one of those conducted by Grayline Tours on my second day in the city.

After a sumptuous breakfast of toast, bagel, cream cheese, egg white omelette with herbs and tomatoes, fried potatoes, Blueberry pancake, Grapefruit juice and coffee, I take a cab for the Grayline Terminal in time to start off at 8 sharp.  (Contrary to what I had been told, cabs within the city are not that expensive and cost anywhere between $6 and $10 on an average.  However, a 10-15% tip to the cabbie is considered mandatory). 

The tour begins at Saint John the Divine – the largest Gothic Cathedral in the world.  A magnificent building, currently under renovation, the Cathedral has some beautiful stained glass works.  Since the “Manhattan Comprehensive Tour” is resolved to pack a lot in the day, the first half of the day is a quick drive through the famous Harlem (known for its glorious heritage as the intellectual, political and artistic capital of black America); Museum Mile (stretching from the Carnegie Mansion to the modernistic Guggenheim); Rockefeller Center (home to Radio City Music Hall and famous for its giant Christmas tree and ice-skating rink); Times Square, Greenwich Village & SOHO (the trio to which I return later, with a vengeance); Little Italy (offering both casual outdoor cafes and fine restaurants featuring food from every Italian region); Chinatown (a bustling, multicultural “city within a city”, Chinatown contains more than 150,000 residents, making it one of the largest Chinese settlements outside Asia.  Personally, I much preferred its counterpart in San Francisco and found it to have more vibrancy and character). 

With one half of the ‘Touch and go’ tour over at the stroke of half past noon, we are right in time for a 3-course lunch in a traditional restaurant in the heart of China town.  Spring-rolls, fried rice, vegetable noodles – Cantonese style, pork spareribs, chicken Manchurian-style, dry chili lamb, Chinese green vegetables (with the over powering presence of PakChoy)  all washed down with the oh-so-American coke, diet and regular and rounded off with delicious mango ice cream and fortune cookies (mine reads ‘you speak beautifully,’ putting a smile on my face, perhaps also having met with its purpose).

Soon after lunch we drive, on a balmy afternoon that is increasingly becoming warm, to one of the tallest buildings in the world.  The twin buildings of the World Trade Center at 110-storeys are simply overwhelming.  The World Trade center is home to 450 businesses and 50,000 workers.  For a tourist, however, the main activity involves a visit to Top of the world for breathtaking views from the 107th floor (the express elevator takes just 58 seconds to reach this level) of the Center’s glass enclosed Observatory and 110th floor outdoor deck.  The view of Manhattan, the beautiful skyline (immortalized by scores of Hollywood films) and the majestic Empire State Building is awesome.  A movie about the history of New York in the Center’s Simulation Theater is yet another major attraction.

The second half of the Tour begins with a Ferry ride over the Hudson River to the world-famous Statue of Liberty and the historical Ellis Island.  The Statue of Liberty, declared a national monument, is the most American of Americanisms.  Anyone who sees this spectacular Green Lady is astonished by its beauty (sculpted in a thought provoking manner by Auguste Bartholdi) and gigantic size (height from ground to top of the torch – 305 ft, 1 inch). While the museum in the vortex of the ‘Lady' could keep you occupied for a couple of hours (with easily an hour or so going away in queuing up to get in), a ‘must do’ is the strenuous climb up the 354 steps to the Lady’s crown.

Before returning to the Battery Park, the Ferry takes a detour to Ellis Island entrenched in the Immigrant American history.  More than a hundred million Americans can claim ancestors who came through Ellis Island.  A movie on the epic Immigration, a museum, audio tour, The American Immigrant Wall of Honor and live performances make learning about American History fun and informative.

Battery Park, to which you return after the second half of the day well-spent, is a hub of activity – carts selling hot-dog & pretzels, street musicians, interesting sculptures and excellent portrait artists abound.

The Tour ends with a quick passing through Wall Street (‘The’ place of green bills in the Finance Capital of the world), United Nations and South Street Seaport (a restored historic district which has restaurants and shops located in and around the piers overlooking the East River and Brooklyn).

My second night out in New York is spent dining at Amaranth – ‘the’ place to dine in, currently, in Manhattan.  Amaranth (an imaginary flower that never fades) at 5th Avenue on 21st East, 62nd Street, true to its reputation, is buzzing with activity thronged by trendy New Yorkers draped in latest designer wear.  While Amaranth may be making waves, it had a set of discerning guests to please that evening.  My host for the evening is Pierre Jochem, the handsome and debonair Hotel Manger of The Pierre together with his young, strapping son Cedric who is currently interning at the other Four Seasons Hotel – considered an institution in Hospitality circles.  Pierre insists we are seated in front of the restaurant.  “Being seen and being noticed is an integral part of dining out in New York,” he explains to me.

Pierre, who was the Food & Beverage Director for Hyatt International at the age of 25, is a tough customer and chooses the menu for the evening as if he was buying a masterpiece.  Cradling our welcome drink of Champagne with guava and peach, Cedric and I engage in some looking around leaving Pierre to select the wine for the evening (Cennatoio Chianti Classic 1997) and the food.  Forking in our choice of appetizers (Baby Arugula salad with shaved Pecorino Toscano, Caprese salad, Buffalo Mozzarella with tomatoes and basil and Prosciutto di Carpyne served with Figs) we see Paparazzi narrowing down on a couple seated near the entrance, hidden behind dark shades in that evening hour.  ‘It is not uncommon to chance upon well-known TV and movie stars in restaurants on 5th Avenue or Madison Avenue,’ Pierre tells as I forget my Gourmet meal desperate to find out ‘who’ they are.  As we weave our way through the carefully selected main course of Tagliatelle with mixed wild mushrooms; Four cheeses Raviolini with butter and sage and grilled Halibut with extra virgin oil and vegetable relish, I am delighted to be the center of attention for one of the paparazzi whose flashbulb focuses on our table.  Pierre tells me that the man mistakes me for a ‘Maharani from India’ but Cedric and I are certain that Pierre, with his movie star good looks, is the real object of the lensman’s desire.

Feeling pretty important and adequately noticed we round off our meals with Apple Tart with Sherbet; Lemon, Raspberry and mixed fruit sorbet and Biscotti with a Berry coulis and vanilla sauce.  Pierre makes his wallet lighter by 205 $ as we sign off a thoroughly enjoyable evening.

On my third day in New York I have this strange sinking feeling of there being a vacuum – a queer sensation of emptiness.

So far I’ve touched New York but not felt it.  So, I decide to get on to a walking tour of the ‘Happening’ City (walking in New York is certainly one of the best ways to see the city and let its essence sink in).

I take a cab from The Pierre to Café Riviera on the West 4th Street, which is New York’s oldest neighborhood dotted with beautiful, brown-stoned Town houses, small cafes, salons and unique shops.  Many famous movie stars live on this street.  Walking towards 8th Avenue I make a left on hitting the 8th into Bleecker Street.  With its set of unique shops, bookstores and café’s, this is the main shopping street in Greenwich Village.  I find an exquisite Asian art shop from where I pick up a unique fruit bowl from Bali made in antiquated wood.  I’m sure it will make a nice farewell gift for a friend.

Having trudged purposefully some more I find myself on the Crossing Christopher Street in the Greenwich area, known to be world’s most famous “Gay” street where Gay Pride began.   

I am in the vicinity of New York University with its impressive building and thickly shaded boulevards.  I turn right on La Guardia Place onto West Houston or West Broadway (the same street changes names) and find myself in South of Houston (pronounced ‘Hows’ ton) filled with the trendiest shops, unique NYC designers, cafes and some of NYC’s most exclusive art galleries.  Popularly called SOHO and once the neighborhood for New York’s budding artists, it is known for its chic boutiques, popular art and photography galleries and make up salons. Cobblestone streets give this neighborhood a very European feel.

I moved through some more cafes, galleries, antique shops and designer boutiques on Spring, Green and Grand streets before turning right to the 6th Avenue.  The walking tour through the Greenwich, University and SOHO areas took me about an hour and a half. 

And if you were to take a No. 6 bus to 45th street and walk west you would find yourself walking through the Theatre District.  Broadway gave us Cole Porter, George and Ira Gershwin, Neil Simon, Eugene, O’Neill ……….., who in turn gave us Carousel, Gypsy, Oklahoma, Annie Get your Gun, Sound of Music, West Side Story, Phantom of the Opera……..  A ticket for Broadway show costs anywhere between $100 and $250 depending on the popularity and the show’s novelty.  However, if you have the patience to stand in serpentine queues at the Times Square or the World Trade Center you can get the same day show tickets for half the price.

Walking through the crowded Broadway Street I bump into a friendly Gladiator.  He obliges me with some pictures and I walk ahead finding myself face to face with that much-hyped monument to man’s modern mindset. Times Square, a place of intense activity, has been described as a “wall of light and color, urging the onlooker to chew gum, drink beer, see the world’s most beautiful girls………”

For most of the last 100 years, the Great White Way has had the biggest, the gaudiest, the most remarkable signs in the world.  While I am looking around, I see a couple of American Indian musicians set up shop at the Square and start playing to the passing crowds.  Quite a few like me stand to listen and sway to their music and upon leaving either drop a dollar in a box or buy their CD (Angel by the duo called UMBRAL, mixing sounds of guitar and a traditional wind instrument, is one of my favorite CDs).  In a typical tourist fashion, I also buy some ‘I love NYC’ T-shirts for $2 at the Square.

After my official meeting at the Marriott Marquise a stone’s throw away from Times Square, I wander around the stylish Madison Avenue before taking the bus back to The Pierre. You must remember that the buses in New York only accept 1.50$ and all in coins.  

The Pierre, as I mentioned earlier is a very exclusive hotel and a home to several kings and queens, Heads of state, Corporate big wigs and movie stars.  The day I was checking in, the Hotel was swarming with black-suited security personnel in attendance for the Israeli Prime Minister.

The Hotel brochure states, “From the multilingual Concierge, to the elevator attendants, to the housekeepers who visit twice daily, guests enjoy quiet, unobtrusive service with a standard-setting degree of personalized attention.”  I couldn’t agree more.  In less than four days I am addressed by name and my preferences are already finding their way into the Hotel’s guest profile.  I am staying in the beautiful Boudoir room that comes for $ 950 plus taxes a night and located on 37th floor offers a breathtaking view of the NY skyline anytime of the day but much more spectacular at night.  The Hotel uses Bvlgari range of cosmetics and offers complimentary newspaper and shoeshine service.  Marked a VIP guest, I also get complementary bottles of Evian Natural spring water, S.  Pellegrino sparkling natural mineral water and a plate of chocolates or petit fours depending on the Patissier’s creativity.

In the evening I am connecting with Gai Brodtmann, my ex-boss and friend who’s also in New York to attend a conference.  Gai insists that she will take me out for dinner provided I can find an excellent Indian restaurant.  I entrust the task to the Hotel Concierge who come up with the name of the current hot favorite - Tamarind.  

Gai, looking ravishing in black pants, a pink body hugging high neck, black stilettos and a pair of her favorite Gucci sunglasses, meets me at The Pierre Bar to catch an early drink before we walk through the famous Plaza Hotel, diagonally opposite to The Pierre and now a landmark for the movies such as Pretty Woman and Home Alone that were shot there. 

We hop into the taxi (the fare comes to about $8  including the tip but Gai decides to leave a cool $10 bill) and race towards ‘Tamarind’, located at 41-43 East, 22nd.  Tamarind, run by Restaurateur Avatar Walia, has been voted the finest Indian Restaurant to open in New York in almost a decade and is featured regularly in Crain’s New York Business and New York Times. 

The restaurant opened four months back and has climbed to the top in this short time.  Avatar Walia is a proud owner as he tells me that even “Lord Lichfield from England voted us the Best Indian Restaurant in the World.”

Tamarind’s clientele is upper class, hip and younger and a fair mix of Indians and Americans. Its décor is minimalist, consciously moving away from loud, in-your-eye Indian and with aesthetically placed Rajasthani screens, traditional textile prints from Gujarat and temple bells. Its kitchen is run by Chef Raji Jallepalli–Reiss who hails from Hyderabad and Memphis and whose extensive menu is multi-regional. 

We choose Fume Blanc, Robert Mondavi ’99 and the unavoidable beer (for Gai) for the evening and enjoy the most authentic and delicious Indian meal this side of the Atlantic. Our choice for the evening – an assorted Appetizer platter of Raji’s aloo tikkiyas, vegetable samosas and bhel puri’ jhinga angarey (Jumbo prawns marinated in yogurt and roasted with chili and cilantro)’ Raji’s machli tikka’ Chicken shahi korma, paneer makhni, achari mushrooms, Tamarind rice, assorted breads and kheera raita (passing off the dessert completely) – came to us for $130.  Apparently the pricing is also right at the Tamarind with an average check for two running upto $40-50 for lunch and $80-90 for dinner.

While the current Mayor has done wonders to New York’s reputation and cleared up the streets, earlier unsafe with criminal activities, it is still possible to get mugged in the Big Apple.  Being careful and vigilant are the buzzwords.   The other trick is to totally avoid risky neighborhoods – Bronx and Central Park at night are not the safest places to be in.  Also avoid taking buses and walking alone at night.

There is a certain, specific way of hailing cabs in New York.  Get off the kerb, onto the road in full vision of the cabbie and stretch up and flail your arm(s) as far as it goes.  If you are lucky you get one in 5-10 minutes, otherwise be prepared for a 20 minutes wait especially at night.

In the day, however, it is really convenient and economical to bus it in New York.  And it’s not even down market as you find men in business suits, well-turned out older ladies and the younger crowd in trendy outfits using it as a preferred mode of transport.  Given the scenario, shuttling between the Fifth Avenue and the swanky Park Avenue and back to the Central Park is a cakewalk.

While in New York, one of the musts that you just have to do is to walk through the legendary Central Park.  Stretching from 59th to 110th streets, the urban park spans 843 acres.  Highlights include the Central Park Zoo, the Wollman Memorial Ice-skating Rink, horseback riding, Belvedere Castle, Bethesda Terrace – the formal center of the park with the famous Bethesda Fountain, the memorial to the Late John Lennon and a battery of caricature and portrait artists.  The Park also is a jogger or walker’s delight.

It’s my last day in New York.  I’ve seen New York but not enough of it.  I’ve already spent four glorious days but a few more would have been nicer.  I’ve had one helluva time in the Big Apple and as an icing on the cake on my final day, I am lunching with Pierre Jochem at The Pierre’s famed Rotunda – the Hotel’s renowned signature room with its intimate, private clusters of seating and loveseats, splendid trompe l’oeil murals and ceiling, created by American artist Edward Melcarth.

My lunch comprises of orange juice, the classic Pierre salad followed by vegetarian Risotto for the entrée capped off with cappuccino (given the good living in New York, no dessert for me please).  Pierre picks up the soup of the day (a special sea bass soup) and crab cakes and washes it all down with two cups of Espresso.  As I look onto another table I can swear that we have Christina Aguilera as our lunching companion that afternoon.

At the stroke of five, having packed and rested a little, I find myself comfortably ensconced in a chauffeur driven, shiny black limo with compliments of The Pierre racing towards JFK airport via Queens with Pavarotti for company.


(Picture courtesy - Google Images & Flickr)
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