Tuesday, April 22, 2008


The party last weekend was awesome and the food was a hit... phew!! I was so glad. The assembly on the final day did not take too long just about 4-5 hours and that too mostly because of the cakes, which everyone loved - especially the chocolate icing (heavy cream, dark chocolate, orange zest). It was a tricky thing to make - the cream and chocolate blended well, but totally refused to thicken - maybe i did not use enough cream/chocolate - so I had to beat in an egg at the last minute and whip it at top speed on my electric mixer, shove it in the freezer for 20 minutes and re-whip at medium speed..and there it was - a beautiful icing at the right consistency. I will post the pics soon.

Monday, April 07, 2008

Spice Market, New York

Jean-Georges' local creation Spice Market in West Village, New York was an awesome find for us. We headed there after mid-night on Saturday, famished and tired after navigating through the city traffic. Thankfully for us, they served dinner until 1am. I was amazed to find dinner guests even at that late hour but luckily we were seated within 5 minutes. The cocktails were beautifully presented, and although I was not very fond of the Ginger Margharita, my friends absolutely dug it! We started off with Lobster rolls, which were sushi-like in presentation, and tasted superb. Each bit-sized roll was cool and fresh and the accompanying sauce complimented the taste perfectly. We also tried the mushroom rolls which even I (a mushroom hater) ended up eating. They served the rolls with an Indian-type coriander chutney. For our main course, we tried Vietnamese Chicken Curry (which was very very similar to the Indian Korma and we loved it), Chilli Egg noodles and the delectable Cod. The fish was perfectly cooked, with a slightly crispy exterior on a melt-in-your-mouth interior. We finished off with a creme brulee topped with apple whip, which unfortunately disappointed us, because we have eaten much better tasting ones elsewhere. But apart from the dessert, the rest of the food was really good. The next time I am in New york, I will definitely try this place again and this time, pick a different dessert - something choclatey maybe?

A Mystical Journey

On Saturday evening, my friends and I decided to attend a Sufi musical concert in New York called A Mystical Journey. They mainly attended it because I really really wanted to go and checkout an Islamic musical concert out of sheer curiousity and because a lot of people I know recommended it. It turned out be AWESOME. I was amazed at the range of instruments and performers; I had expected it to be slow religous tunes, but some of them were as fast as head-banging rock tunes. The repertoire of artists was so diverse, that no two could be compared. They gathered from all over the Islamic world - Africa, India, Pakistan, Syria, Algeria and more - to entertain us. I really cannot pinpoint one performance that I loved because the kind of instruments they all used were so different and fascinating that all of us were totally mesmerized. Houria Aïchi from Algeria transformed a simple Islamic concept - There is no God but God - into a high energy, leg tapping chant. The Dalahoo sufi Ensemble started off with a melodious beat but soon moved onto an extremely fast paced rendition of Rumi's poems including the Reed Song. All the poems that I had loved and quoted in a number of my Philosphy classes came rushing back to me as I heard them. My friends who had no clue what Sufi music was or in fact what Sufiism was, also were totally engrossed in the performance. It was delighful to see Islam in this context - where the messages of love, unification with the divine and peace were being discussed.

These are some of my favorite Sufi poems, oft quoted and oft used.

You've no idea how hard I've looked for a gift to bring You.
Nothing seemed right.
What's the point of bringing gold to the gold mine, or water to the Ocean.

Everything I came up with was like taking spices to the Orient.
It's no good giving my heart and my soul because you already have these.
So- I've brought you a mirror.
Look at yourself and remember me.

- Jalaluddin Rumi

Thy Spirit is mingled in my spirit
even as wine is mingled with pure water.
When anything touches Thee,
it touches me.
Lo, in every case Thou art I!"
- Mansur-al-Hallaj, The Mystics of Islam.

Friday, April 04, 2008

The Wild Flower

My friend described to me his morning commute today, I was really impressed and decided to pen it down. That is how "The Wild Flower" came into being. My commute to and from work is almost always as pretty, especially in the Fall and Spring. Now that Spring is almost here, I can see traces of cherry flowers in blossom and the wild yellow ones that I do not know the name of, but that is for a different poem. Today is all about the little flower that grows somewhere in La Jolla right next to the road.

The Wild Flower
- Narmeen

On the way to work today
I was stalled at a traffic light
I looked towards the bay
And saw a flower, purple and bright.

She raised her head to the sun,
And whispered a sweet, shy greeting.
The sun pausing his run,
Sent her warmth without the heating.

Ready to start her morning,
She drank some dew and then some more;
And then without any warning
She was visited by her butterfly beau.

The sea played a melody
The soft breeze sang a tune for them
The butterfly asked the bee
To watch over their peaceful realm.

The traffic light then turned red
But this morning I did not zoom
"Congrats", I turned and said
To the wildflower and her new groom.

Party time

Hosting a party is probably my second most favorite thing to do, the first being reading. I enjoy the planning phase much more than the actual party itself, as anyone who knows me can tell. Well, the same is true of traveling, but parties give me a totally different high - especially 'coz I can change the theme/kind every time and because I can host them much more often. It all started at 40 where we always had a lot of people at home - sometimes 15-20 and we used to cook for every one in huge quantities and different dishes for every meal - this exercise gave me the basics I needed to be able to cook in quantity, the rest just followed from seeing a lot of Top Chef and Food Network and ofcourse, seeing that brilliant joy in the faces of my friends when I served them new flavors each time - as they say compliments can get addictive! Now as with all other things, I have to constantly up my level and try to beat the standards I set myself, which is a lot more difficult to do than pleasing all my "oh-so-easy-to-please" friends :) (a toast to them).
Anyway, the occasion is here and I just began my planning last week. I have one more week to go and I think I am on schedule. The difficulty this time was the type of food I have envisioned in my mind. Making a fusion of different culinary styles is not always easy but with some planning and experimenting, it can be done right and can taste very different too and I might just be able to satisfy my guests.
The most difficult part is the ingredients. Heralding from an Indian background, I had to make sure each dish has a characteristic Indian touch to it and that took hours of swapping one ingredient for the other to make a complex yet coherent dish that encompasses the American/European style and Indian flavor. I do not want to say more as that will steal the surprise element, but I will put up my recipes once the party is done. It suffices to say that I will start and end my party with Jello shots - once they are in, I am sure my guests will be ready to try anything!!
So good luck to me and I will keep you posted...