The flavour of Kolkata

The flavour of Kolkata
The city is known for its old alleys. One such is shot by Atanu Pal.

Thursday, December 31, 2015

A candid conversation

Father: Why are you so naughty, sweetheart?
Daughter: I don't know. You have to ask the gods. They made me.
F: They made your elder sister too. She's not like you.
D: I was made by the naughty gods.
F: And your sister?
D: Simple, by the sober gods.

Saturday, December 26, 2015

Two new Facebook communities by media houses

Observed these two communities on Facebook recently created by Times of India (TOI) and ABP (The largest media group in eastern India) and felt like doing a quick post.

It’s the age of social media and print media houses have realized that they will lose connect with new readers if they are not what is now called ‘social’, i.e. active and effective on social networking sites (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram etc).

TOI being one of the smartest in the business, had started being social long back. ABP being the quintessential Bengali-run business, has realized it much later. They have set up a division called ABP Digital to spearhead their digital initiatives.

TOI has recently started a Facebook community called ‘Kolkotha’ and has been widely promoting it on Times of India, Ei Samay (its Bengali daily) and other publications may be. The community is dedicated to unleashing the talkative Bengali Kolkatan share his/ her endless thoughts on selected subjects. However, it doesn’t proclaim to be meant for only the Bengali. Anyone game for talking is welcome.

ABP had probably made a quick note of it and it soon followed in opening a similar themed Facebook community called ‘ABP Tumi Na Thakle’. However, having said that ABP is a laggard in anything digital, Tumi Na Thakle has turned out to be more engaging than TOI Kolkotha.

How? Simple- TNK is bringing up more things for discussion and setting the patrons thinking and responding (by patron I mean someone who ‘like’s a community on Facebook). And that’s precisely meeting its objective. Whereas Kokotha has been running its 15-word story contest for quite some time and doing nothing else (Remember, in the super fast world of digital, even two weeks can be ‘quite some time’) .

ABP is connecting to basic elements of Bengali persona- Sense of humour, sentiment, passion- through its posts on the community wall with nicely done creatives. Its creatives have a bright yellow & black colour palette, whereas Kolkotha has a palette full of dull shades aiming to give its creatives a vintage touch. To me, the TNK creatives are more appealing.

Here are some of the creatives from ABP Tumi Na Thakle and TOI Kolkotha.

The popular pun 'DiPuDa', which sounds like someone elder 
called 'Dipu', means Bengali's eternal favourite holiday destinations- 
Digha, Puri and Darjeeling.

Wish to come back again on this sometime in near future.
#TOI #ABP #Kolkotha #ABPTumiNaThakle #KolkataConnect #BengaliConnect #TalkativeBengali 

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Wednesday, December 23, 2015

The Christmas and new year celebration at Yauatcha

The festive time is back and Yauatcha, as always, is all geared up with its well-curated offerings. Starting this Christmas eve going on till new year eve there is a five course set menu of food and a number of drinks to choose from (apart from the a la carte menu).

The food menu offers the best of Cantonese cuisine in the city. It is a six-course meal covering a salad (Mixed Salad with Lotus Root), steamed dim sum, fried/ pan fried/ baked dim sum, stir-fry, rice/ noodles and chef’s special dessert platter (which is always special at Yauatcha). Other than the salad and dessert, it’s for you to select one from a list of six-seven options in veg and non-veg, except for rice/noodles where there are three options (all vegetarian).

Fried Turnip Cake
Chicken Cha Sui Buns

There are signature Yauatcha favourites like Vegetable Chive Dumpling, Crispy Duck Roll and Stir-fry Chicken with Mushrooms in Clay Pot. The non-veg dishes are in chicken, prawn, lamb and duck. The price is just Rs 1500 all inclusive per person.

Vegetable Chive Dumpling
 Crispy Duck Roll
Chef’s special dessert platter 

The beverage package is no less tempting. You can choose your six drinks from a menu and pay just Rs 1250 all inclusive per person. The menu features signature cocktails & spirits, wines, beer and non-alcoholic drinks.

To make the festivity complete the restaurant has a welcome addition for the time- Dance the night away to electrifying music with live streaming / DJ music specially curated for this night.
#Yauatcha #DimSum #ChristmasMenu #YauatchaChristmasSpecial #KolkataChristmasFood

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Saturday, December 12, 2015

Drop your clothes and make an impact

It’s an urge from the well-known menswear brand Turtle: Drop your clothes and be noble!


No, not a campaign for creating sensation, quite a different one rather. The brand urges you to drop your spare clothes at its stores in Kolkata this season so that people who are far less privileged get to be better clothed this winter, through its campaign ‘I dropped my clothes’. There is a canter as well, which will be moving in various parts of Kolkata to collect clothes.

This is the second season of the campaign, after a successful first run in November-December last year.

The clothes will be donated to the NGO Concern India Foundation who will distribute the same to the needy people. Set up in 1991, they have been extending financial and non-financial support to grassroots NGOs working in the areas of education, health and community development. Currently, CIF supports over 270 grassroots NGOs across India reaching out to 1,90,000 marginalized people directly through offices in Mumbai, Bangalore, Chennai, Delhi, Hyderabad, Kolkata and Pune.

Apart from clothes, you can also donate money to the NGO in a cheque drawn in favour of it for this initiative and drop it in a Turtle store in Kolkata or at the canter.

The campaign was kicked off on 3rd December by Abir Chatterjee and Arindam Sil, the protagonist and director respectively, of the upcoming detective flick Har Har Byomkesh at the Turtle store at the recently opened Acropolis mall. It will go on till 20th December. To spread the good word, donors are encouraged to post their donation with a picture or video on the social media with (hashtag) #iDroppedMyClothes.

The campaign being launched by Abir Chatterjee and Arindam Sil

According to Turtle, the campaign aims to help those in the city who do not have access to basic clothing in the winter, thereby tackling a wide problem from the grassroots level so that they are able to survive the unpleasantness of winter by being adequately clothed.

Turtle is also actively involved in the conservation of endangered species of turtles across India for many years and recently entered into a partnership with TSA (Turtle Survival Alliance, an international organization working towards conservation of endangered species of turtles in multiple countries across the globe) to support the conservation of freshwater turtles around the world to help shape a better and more sustainable community under its CSR philosophy. Turtle’s recent #Savelittleshelly campaign has been a successful endeavor to promote Turtle’s conservation during World Turtle Day.

So it’s time to drop (before the mercury drops further), get clicked and share. Happy dropping!

#IDroppedMyClothes #Turtle #CSR

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Tuesday, December 08, 2015

The home baker experience- Sweta’s Bakes

Home bakers in Kolkata have got prominence in recent years, thanks to social media including blogs. Some of the city’s known names among food bloggers are home bakers themselves. The advantage of a good home baker, i.e. products that match or are better than the stuff one gets at his/ her favourite cake shop, proximity (say, a neighbourhood baker) and most importantly their ability to make customized cakes which is a cutting edge over the catalogue-based offerings at the cake shops have worked in their favour, I presume. The honesty that goes into a home baker’s fare vis a vis the commercial approach in even the best cake shops is bound to be noticed.

It was my first visit to a home baker and I was looking forward to this Saturday evening invitation last month. When I arrived, my blogger friends were already settled down. There were Indrajit, Manikuntala of Food Rover, Soumya Shankar Ghosal- a passionate photographer who runs the unique photography group Streets of Calcutta with Indrajit, themed on street photography. The group has a Facebook page and its website. There also was Subhajit who’s in charge of IT and digital initiatives at Oxford Bookstore. Mrs Sweta Kumar (the baker) and her family welcomed me to their apartment in Hiland Park, a posh housing complex on EM Bypass in extreme south Kolkata. Sweta operates from here under the name Sweta’s Bakes.

The welcome drink was the refreshing Blue Lagoon. It was followed by freshly fried vegetable spring rolls served with chili Schezwan sauce. The filling was wholesome and tasty and it went well with the tad sweet, runny chili sauce, though I thought the crust could be a bit thinner.

Veg spring roll

Some of the offerings for the evening were laid out on the table. The pretty kiwi cake, the blueberry muffin, the gorgeous Red Velvet cake and the beautiful tarts. I do not have a sweet tooth and I am pretty much a dry cake person. So I got off the mark with the English tea cakes which followed. It was delicious. With a masterly balanced sweetness and the generous dollops of butter used in it, it struck the right chord with my palate with its smell and taste. Indrajit recommended one of the tarts.

 (Clockwise from the top) Chocolate truffle cake, blueberry muffin, kiwi cake and red velvet cake 

Kiwi cake

Chocolate truffle cake

Red velvet cake

English tea cake

Next came the chicken quiche. It was different from the one we see in the cake shops. The filling was inside a tart shell. There was molten cheese on top of the filling. The ingredients were top notch, however, it failed to appeal to me. For quiche, my vote goes for the classic recipe of a soft pastry cup filled with baked chicken with cheese, which is best made at Cakes, the chain shop.

Chicken quiche

I also sampled the blueberry muffin. It was well made, like the tea cake. Sweta was telling us how she became a home baker in a self-taught manner. She attended bakery workshops by chefs but found it difficult to replicate the same cakes baking at home with the same ingredients. We were munching on her special dry chili chicken. It had bell peppers which I like, and the pungency was such that even children would like it. Unfortunately, as I found out, it was not on her menu card, as it takes more effort than baking. Her family supports her endeavour and takes pride in it. While her elder daughter helps her a lot, she also happens to be her toughest critic. And I think it’s bliss to have a sharp critic at home.

Blueberry muffin

Dry chili chicken

We now cut the red velvet cake. And the very first bite got us hooked! We were bowled over by it by the time we finished our slices. Even those who don’t have a sweet tooth will like it. The sponge, the frosting, all were perfect to the core. The frosting tasted better as it was fresh, and the sweetness was just right. The chocolate truffle cake came after this, but I was not in a much of a mood to let the wonderful feeling of the red velvet cake be spoilt by it. I nevertheless tried a small slice, and it was good too. Not overwhelmingly sweet again, with good quality chocolate.

The red velvet cake slice

The chocolate cake

Sweta conducts workshops at her residence (suitable for freshers). A range of cakes, muffins and tarts is taught over 3 hours and participants can take home their baked stuff. It costs Rs 1500 per participant.

Anybody who has a thing for dry cakes can mentally bookmark Sweta’s Bakes. The other cakes and muffins, including choco walnut brownie, are top notch. By the way, she makes pretty good chocolates too. I sampled all this later thanks to her gift hamper.

The homamade chocolates in the brown box

Sweta (Second from left) with family

As the countdown for Christmas has begun, Shweta is preparing to bake plum cake (which is a personal favourite and symbolizes this time of the year to me, among other things) and other Christmas cakes.

The menu says, her dry cakes cost Rs 300-400 per pound (Choco chip cake, date walnut cake, fresh fruit cake, plum cake, rich Christmas cake, brownies, marble cake etc), which is not expensive given the high quality. Cream cakes (Rich chocolate, Black Forest, chocolate truffle cake, red velvet cake etc) also come in the same range, with few costing Rs 250-275 per pound. Other than this, she bakes tarts (Rs 15-25 apiece for an order of 12), cookies (Rs 120-150 for a pack of 12) and muffins (Rs 18-35 per piece for an order of 12). There’s a special red velvet cupcake too, at Rs 40 apiece (for an order of 12). Orders are to be placed one day in advance. ‘Sweta’s Bakes’ is on Zomato (where you can take a look at the complete menu) and a Facebook page by the same name (where you can find latest updates).

For ordering from Sweta’s Bakes, call 9830974709 (If you are a Hiland Park resident, the intercom no. is 48073). There is no home delivery as of now.

Here’s hoping a great Christmas of baking to Sweta.

#HomebakerKolkata #Sweta’sBakes #CakesinKolkata

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