More memories of tingling tastebuds

June 11, 2010

Food is such a big part of our culture. All Indian celebrations have a heavy focus on preparing delicacies. Deep-fried mathris, calorie-rich laddoos, spice-laden curries…as unhealthy as these things sound, they are absolutely delicious. And I indulge, reminding myself to eat well during the in-between period.

Being vegetarian is part of our healthy diet routine, but what helps keep the cholesterol levels in check is conscientious eating.

When traveling I’m easily tempted (especially since I am so “good” at home) but even so, I try to indulge in moderation.

Continuing with yesterday’s post, here are some more stories about dishes I’ve especially savored and which have special resonance for me, not just because of the food item, but because of the memories associated with it.

Innovation at its best on a moving train
Last year we went on our first-ever international group trip. We didn’t know anyone in the group — met them for the first time in the shuttle transporting us from our hotel in Johannesburg to Pretoria railway station.

A retired couple from New York whose mission in life is to travel as much and as far as they can; a single, effervescent tech recruiter from Connecticut with whom we immediately “clicked”; another retired couple from Florida traveling with their close still-gainfully-employed friends, who were more mesmerized by my job description than my husband’s (he is usually the one that wows people and by the time they get to me it’s “eh!”); another couple in their 80s who kept to themselves; a couple that loved cruises and are probably setting sail someplace right now; and a single Chinese woman we surreptitiously labeled loony.

We experienced many goosebumps together and by the end of that week had become a pretty tight-knit group. The wildlife aside, what all of us enjoyed the most was the warmth, hospitality, and quality of food aboard the Blue Train.

When we hopped on, the chef was informed that there are two vegetarians on board — the kind that won’t eat any meat…not even fish.

We had been given an hour to relax in our luxurious rooms and change into formal dining room attire. My husband doesn’t own a jacket or a tie, so he was loaned both (good thing I bought him a silk shirt a couple of years ago!) and I tried to accessorize the hell out of my casual summer dress (a scarf draped around my shoulders made the cut).

Isaac, our server, smiled the whole tiPortobello mushroom over couscous 1024x768 More memories of tingling tastebudsme and I won’t forget the way he’d say, “Sirrrius??” to everything we told him about California.

While everyone got something from the menu, the chef had prepared a specialty for us — mushrooms topped with braised eggplant over a couscous cake, accompanied by grilled cherry tomatoes, potatoes, baby carrots and broccoli.


Given that he hardly had any prep time to whip up something so scrumptious, it was phenomenal.

Later when the chef made the rounds, he told us he had fun working with what he had available in the kitchen.

“You mean you’ve never made this before?” I asked, eyes widened.

“No, ma’am,” he said. “I was experimenting but seeing that you wiped the plate clean, it seems to have worked.”

Sure did!

Spinach samosa 1024x768 More memories of tingling tastebudsOn our return journey from Pilanesberg National Park, though, the menu had a vegetarian entree: spinach puff pastry over grilled onions and tomato salsa, with a side of layered zucchini, eggplant and peppers.

More than half the group (most of whom were dedicated carnivores) ordered that. And for good reason.

Just look at this picture — it’s bound to make you hungry. And we were going by the description alone!

From the appetizers and salads to the entrees, desserts and the cheese platter post-dessert, everything was impeccably presented and divinely delectable.

I will cherish those memories for a long, long time.

The stinking rose
Remember the tech recruiter from Connecticut we met on our South Africa trip? We became good friends, having spent eight hours each day together, laughing at the same jokes, pulling my husband’s leg, sharing our passion for travel and reading — heck, we even discussed a business plan! We kept in touch via e-mail and Facebook and within six months I had convinced her to pay us a visit.

A foodie like me, she made the most of her brief visit to Whole Foods one evening, picking out some blue cheese, fig crackers, and flavorful red wine. Later we came home and made a couscous dish and buttered asparagus between dancing to Lady Gaga and Beyonce’s peppy Telephone tune.

The following day we drove to Carmel-by-the-Sea and chanced upon Nico, an Italian-Mediterranean restaurant with elegant decor and patio dining.Baked garlic2 More memories of tingling tastebuds

We started with some tomato-basil soup (I highly recommend it) and pear, pecan, blue cheese arugula salad, followed by roasted garlic, which really should be renamed “buttery” garlic. I literally took the cloves from the bulb and spread them on my toasted parsley-sprinkled bread.


Who knew the stinking rose of Gilroy could taste so good by itself, not just as an accentuation?

We completed our lunch with a farm-fresh roasted veggie pizza and walked the streets of Carmel-by-the-Sea with full stomachs and happy hearts.

These are just some of my cherished memories around food. I’ll be back with others in a couple of months, when I have compiled some more to share.

What are your favorite foods? When you reminisce about a trip, does your journey pause at a certain restaurant, sidewalk stall, or gourmet cafe?

I’d love to hear your stories.

Do share.

16081BD1A60533E0F1173D28DE4F0D3F More memories of tingling tastebuds

dp seal trans 16x16 More memories of tingling tastebudsCopyright secured by Digiprove © 2010 Mansi Bhatia

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6 Responses to More memories of tingling tastebuds

  1. witty jesterNo Gravatar on June 13, 2010 at 5:25 am

    Interesting Read…..Made me hungry

    • MansiNo Gravatar on June 14, 2010 at 10:09 am

      Thanks. Hope you helped yourself to some “brownies from mom” ;-)

  2. Judith van PraagNo Gravatar on June 13, 2010 at 11:50 am

    Mansi, Eggplant is one of my favorite fruit vegies. It looks particularly yummy in the picture. At Uptown China in Seattle they make garlicky eggplant that melts on your tongue. Recently we had cod at a Japanese restaurant in Half Moon Bay (south of of San Francisco) that made me understand the meaning of Umami it may sound funny, but I felt transported by the flavor (ready for take-off) and honestly I didn’t have any sake to blame. Thinking of the (real) Dutch apple pie served with a glob of whipped cream the size of a tennis ball, at a corner café in the Amsterdam neighborhood "De Jordaan" makes me long for the next visit, as does the thought of a "Hollandse Nieuwe" bought from a street vendor and eaten on the spot.

    • Judith van PraagNo Gravatar on June 13, 2010 at 11:51 am

      Missed thanking you for calling on my memories by sharing your favorites, lovely post.

      • MansiNo Gravatar on June 14, 2010 at 3:06 am

        Thanks, Judith.

    • MansiNo Gravatar on June 14, 2010 at 10:07 am

      Thanks for those recommendations, Judith. I’ll be sure to carry them with me when we visit Seattle and Amsterdam :-)


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