Saturday, May 20, 2017

Basic classic Indian wardrobe essentials


An Assam silk sari with zardozi work clutch

      When you build a classic wardrobe, you need to pay more attention to quality than quantity. A piece that you invest on, you should be able to assemble on it, mix and match and repeat on successfully many times.

      I will list the item right below...

1.       A silk Sari - Sari is the soul of any Indian wardrobe. There are plenty of saris and fashion trends also changes quite often. If you don’t want to worry about the fast changing fashion trends, it is the perfect reason for one to go for traditional saris. In this case, it is the silk sari. There are options like Assam silk, Kanchipuram, Paithani, and Panchapally to Ikkat and many more.

A Chikankari sari

2.      Since you own a silk sari, you can either go for a Chiffon printed sari or Chikankari sari, Kantha work sari, Kashmiri embroidered, or one with Gujrati mirrored work is great too.

3.      You should own a silk/cotton salwar suit; probably it should be a solid color. You can choose between neutral or very vibrant color. Then you can always mix n match and wear it in many different ways, dress down or dress up depending on the occasion.

A solid salwar with Banarasi dupatta

4.      You should own a couple of dupattas so you can always mix and match with your solid salwar. Bandhani, Phulkari or Banarasi dupattas are great options.

5.      Indian wardrobe will be incomplete without a pair of juttis. They go well with your salwar, churidar or even sari. They come in either solid or pattern.

6.      A pair of shoes makes or breaks an outfit. When it comes to shoes, you should own a Kolhapuri sandal; you can either go with silver or gold. It definitely adds up to your outfit.

A jutti, bangles, jhumkas and a silk sari

7.      You should own stack of silver bangles. If you want to be budget friendly, then black metal is a great choice. Silver bracelets are always good. And glass bangle plays a great role too.

8.      A pair of jhumka is great, either silver or gold. If you want to perk up your look instantly, then sure go for it.

9.      A bindi small or big is essential, perhaps an identity of any Indian outfit.

10.     Without a bag, any look will be incomplete. Potlis and Indian work clutches like zardozi or phulkari. A femininity and an aura that you need for your whole Indian look.

A Kohlapuri sandal, potli, jhumkas and silver bangles

Saturday, May 13, 2017

Red Chutney, New Jersey review


 
When two cultures assimilate, the result is always brilliant, and when it comes to the assimilation of cuisine from two cultures, the effect is even more brilliant. Whether its Chinese-American, Latin-American or Mexican-Italian, but when Chinese meets Indian cuisine the food and flavor take it to another level. Yes, Indo-Chinese a very popular cuisine in India, seasonings, and flavors from both countries come under one roof. Born in Calcutta, Indo-Chinese seasons in Chinese way merged in Indian cooking techniques. If you ever taste it, you won’t forget it.


After moving from India to the USA, I always look for Indo-Chinese cuisine. Some restaurant's menu does include a few entrees but not a whole lot of items. Recently, I was lucky enough to visit Red Chutney in New Jersey and fortunate enough to find the same flavor in the restaurant. Eclectic, oriental interior with urban feels, sophisticated modern lighting, Red Chutney naturally create a great ambiance. It was an incredible feeling entering with a warm welcome, in spite of the weekend dinner rush.



The opening menu itself gives you immense hope of ordering so many items, what you always look for in an Indo-Chinese cuisine. Regardless, they also offer a vast array of pure Indian entrees too. For the starter, we opted for Chili Paneer, and since Indo-Chinese is always known for spicy, we chose Chicken Tikka for the kids. Dipped in Sichuan sauce, Chilly Paneer was an epic, flavorful, entirely coated with sauce and came with a bed of salad. I am still enchanting the enticing paneer till today. Chicken Tikka was perfectly baked, but Chilly Paneer undoubtedly was the show stopper.


Then for our mains, we had Hakka noodles for the kids and Veg Manchurian and Chicken Biryani for us. Buttery soft Hakka noodles loaded with veggies, savory Soya seasoning was definitely ideal for picky kid eaters like mine without any complaints.


The Veg Manchuria golden veg balls diving in succulent garlic sauce tickles your taste buds. The Chicken Biryani with rightly cooked rice and wonderfully well-stuffed chicken was delectably delicious, and everything was great for the price. Attentive service was a raving part of  Red Chutney.


We ended the day with Kulfi (Indian style ice cream). It was velvety and creamy, but sprinkled with some colorful sparkles took away the natural look. Nevertheless, It is worth a visit, if you savor yourself some Indo-Chinese affair. Unlike its name, Red Chutney is fierce, flavorsome, tangy and sweet. If you want to tantalize and tickle your taste buds, this is the right place to visit.


My rating is 4 out of 5.

Address: 1538 Oak Tree Ave, Iselin, NJ 08830

Hours:
Saturday 12–10:45PM
Sunday 12–10:15PM
Monday 12–3PM, 5:30–10:15PM
Tuesday Closed
Wednesday 12–3PM, 5:30–10:15PM
Thursday 12–3PM, 5:30–10:15PM
Friday 12–3PM, 5:30–10:45PM

Phone: (732) 549-7788

Saturday, May 6, 2017

A cup of Assam Tea with Kunal Kaushik


    A dream that bloomed in bespoke of Brahmaputra. A dream that affiants to his root and heritage of the alluring waves of Assam to bring it to the forefront of the world stage. A dream that he wears in his sleeves showing the world magnificent handcrafted handlooms of Assam silk. That is the translation and reviving of renowned Designer Kunal Kaushik's muse. Luxe luxurious, glorious, yet little unknown to rest of the world Assam silk. Kunal Kaushik showcased his collection "Looms of Assam" in the prestigious Tiffany's fashion week Paris. He not only showcased it but is back with a bang by owning the best designer in Tiffany's Fashion Week Paris with all the rave reviews.


    Kunal Kaushik's work is rhapsody of colors of Assam which translates into modern and chic muse with charismatic cuts, fantastic frills, tassels, alluring fit and ornate in the intricate sustainable Assamese weaves - Eri, Muga and Pat silk. His latest collection for Tiffany's fashion week in Paris "Looms of Assam", at first glimpse is very global, but his Indian-Assamese soul to it has detailings like Riha (a scarf worn inside Assamese Sador especially during auspicious occasion), Pator Sador (Assamese silk scarf), motifs and colors as well with his own rhythm and rendition. In addition, his logo for Tiffiny's fashion week, also written in Assamese accentuates every bit of Indian-Assamese root.


    Growing up as an artist after graduating in Fine Arts from Baroda MS University, Kunal Kaushik quickly moved over to his niche FASHION, inspired by his home state quintessential Assamese weaves, started his fashion house "Ethnicity Design House." In fact, his latest collection "Looms of Assam" is also a great tribute to weavers of Assam. Kunal Kaushik is not just barely a designer but a trendsetter for many young dreamers/artists, for perseverance, passion and handwork can achieve what you aspire. Working on 17 years with Assamese weavers and trying to set a solution for Assamese weaves, his dream is to revive and present Assam silk in front of the world with modern and urban suited silhouette that is globally relevant. Working with Salukachi weavers of the only silk village of Assam where generations do weaving for the living, Kunal is empowering them through his "Looms of Assam" which work towards promoting and preserving the art of Silk Weaving. Let's hear from his heart…


1. Kunal Congratulations on your huge success in Paris and your immaculate work. It is unquestionably a sentimental win for the whole north-east India. How do you feel about it?
Kunal Kaushik: Thank you so much. Indeed it's unquestionably a great feeling at being the Winner First Place at Tiffany's Fashion Week Paris Autumn Winter 2017 at Paris. Words seem to desert me as I try to express my feelings at my achievement.  And that to an international recognition. Ever since I started, my journey has never been easy. Every bit of my journey until this moment has been one with constant hardship and struggle. Having put one step forward, I have to put two steps backward. But I went on moving ahead since last 17 years persistently and never looked back and without even for a slightest of the moment, expecting a reward or appreciation. But God has been kind. So it means a lot as my belief is now more determined and strong and to further pursues my vision and goal of establishing Looms of Assam in the world market.

2. Tell us how do you get inspiration to create such great work? How your childhood or life imprints your design?
Kunal Kaushik: My greatest inspiration has always been the ardent sense and desire of creating something new innovative and creative. My Dreams are my basic source of inspirations. In fact, the creative urge has always been the basic source of motivation and inspiration leading to an emotional creative outburst in the form of my designs.
Creativity is something inborn in me. It's a God gift. A divine blessing. My mother is a very good artist and designer. She used to make beautiful paintings and design and stitch beautiful garments. So it an inborn gift in me from my mother. I owe it to My Mother.
However, my belief and sense of pride in myself, my roots and my family, my culture and traditions, the true colors of my home state Assam and the North East Region are always major factors of inspirations.


3. How do you define fashion?
Kunal Kaushik: Fashion for me is nothing but an extension of art. An extension from my canvas and easel to fabrics and garments. Being a designer, and one with social responsibilities,  fashion for me is a great challenge for me in making every person look beautiful, confident, sensible and comfortable, justifying their age, personality, profession and culture. It's designing a personal fashion statement and style for every individual rather than imposing a particular style and trend. It's about making every individual human being special and extraordinary.


4. Where do you see Assam in terms of fashion in next ten year?    
Kunal Kaushik: I'm a very positive person with an open and broad perspective in life. But as far as Fashion is concerned in Assam, the next ten years will be a too short period for its growth and to establish it's potential and identity in the greater world of fashion in spite of all its untapped potential and resources, as
 Fashion is still in the nascent stage. Grass looks greener on the other sides. Same holds true for us Assamese. We are eyeing the green pastures on the other sides. We are more inclined and influenced by western culture and other trends. While doing this we are paying a very heavy price at the cost of our culture and identity as well as heritage. Our efforts should be to showcase the world what we have and it’s potential. For instance, silk weaving came to Assam along with the Ahoms. It has been so many centuries yet the world is not aware of our mesmerizing silks. I took it as a personal and missionary zeal to show it to the world and dedicatedly work towards it. Nobody believed in me and my vision and my quest. But I did it and Almighty was kind. God opened its doors. And an Assamese came as a winner in  Paris. It means a lot. Especially being from Assam.


5. Can you please tell us about your future projects?
Kunal Kaushik: My Future Projects revolves around the missionary zeal with which I started my career 17 years back, to showcase promote and popularize the handwoven traditional fabrics of Assam and those of the various tribal and ethnic groups of Assam and the North East Region of India. And to create a global market for it.
After winning the prestigious award in Paris, I'm next invited to showcase my creations at the glittering Tiffany's red carpet show during the very Prestigious 70th  Cannes Film Festival on 23rd  May.  And then in Paris and Monaco in July. New York in September and Paris again in October.


6. Any advice for upcoming designers who choose fashion as a career?
Kunal Kaushik: My advice to upcoming fashion designers is to be more sensible and to belief in their potentials and creativity. And to be a trend setter rather than being a trend follower. Fashion is all about new innovations and creativity. One should be original to sustain in the long run. Being honest and sincere and hard working and dedicated and of course, focus with perseverance and to understand the literal essence of being a designer in the true sense of the term. A designer designs and creates. A designer does not copy. So, belief in yourself and hard work. Success will be yours.

You can always follow him on Instagram @ https://www.instagram.com/kunalkaushikofficial/

P.S - All photo credit goes to Kunal Kaushik. 


Saturday, April 29, 2017

Bespoke Banarasi,Bell sleeve ,Tassel earring...#ootd


       Spring is in the air with wonderful weather, flower power and much more to look forward to. I look forward to wear more spring-summer outfits as well as sarees. Some of the most popular spring trends I see these days are dramatic bell sleeve and tassel earrings everywhere. Bell sleeves are super stylish and fuzz free. Tassel earrings are major trend this year. I very often sport them with my western dresses.
     As you guys know my love for mekhela-chadar and my love for banarasi/bespoke weaves are not any less then one another. I get little hopeful and adventurous. Why not incorporate these latest trends in Saree. Here I am in a black Banarasi Saree with pink green and purple lotus motif and silver leaves with pink velvet boarder. This Saree has a very contemporary and modern appeal to it and is perfect for a soiree. The saree is very light and comfortable to wear. Someone like me who is not perfect in draping can easily wear this saree. Since the Saree has motif all over, I want to keep the rest of the things simple, and keep the Saree as the main focal point. Only thing I felt the Saree needs is a long simple tassel earring with pink beads and pearls. Just to add a bit of zing to it. Hope you all like it.




Saturday, April 22, 2017

Tibetan Kitchen , Middleton , Ct review



 I have always been fascinated by Tibet, whether it's their magical monasteries, monks, quaint natural beauty, dignified Dalai Lama, ethereal Everest or their simple delish cuisine. When a friend of my mentioned about this hidden gem, I could not stop myself visiting it. In art affectionate Wesleyan's home, Middletown, yes Tibetan Kitchen, Middletown, CT is a tiny piece of an art in its own way. Scarlet walls with Tibetan accents like Buddha and delightful portrait of Dalai Lama brought little Tibet inside this charming place. A little dream of mine became a reality as we entered into this Tibetan Kitchen with a vintage yet cherry, warm yet humble, eclectic oriental casual space.



After a hearty and speedy greeting, we were seated. As going through the menu, we switched it a bit. As a momo(dumpling) lover, even though it is in the main course; we chose Momo as a starter. I and my husband had vegetable momo(Tsel momo) and for the kids chicken momo(Sha Momo). Veg momo  was a knockout at the first bite, with luscious vegetables inside and with softened cover outside. It was served with a bed of healthful salad(Dhang-tsel) and for dipping, a red hot sauce. Chicken Momo was delicious too, but veg mom was a clear winner. As for momos, you have an option of either steamed or pan fried. I preferred the steamed one because I found it more succulent in comparison to the pan friend one. The food was very flavorful but not to the point of very harsh for your taste buds; they offer the choice of individual spice level as well.




For our main, we opted for Noodles and Tibetan bread because we have not tasted either before. The Tibetan bread(Shogo Ngopa) comes with a layered bread and potato gravy with Spinach and Tomatoes. The bread pretty much resembles Indian Lassa Paratha, and the potato gravy is similar to Indian potato curry with the lovely addition of spinach and little chunks of tomatoes. The noodle(Tsel-Gyathuk Ngopa) was simple yet quite different from Chinese or Thai take. The raving part was the freshness that oozes with a slightly spicy taste, fresh vegetables(celery, carrots, cabbage, spinach), and chunky, succulent tofu.


As soon as dessert menu arrived, my kids were excited to order Gulam(Cheese balls in sugery syrup) Jamun. It was as sweet and plum as Indian Gulab Jamun with a dash of coconut flakes. Tibetan Kitchen menu was easy to follow with a generous serving at a reasonable price and great options for vegetarian as well. An evening ended with charm, warmth and delicious food.

My Rating is 4 out of 5

Address: 574 Main St, Middletown, CT 06457
Phone: (860) 343-3073
Hours:
Saturday 11:30AM–3PM, 5–8:30PM
Sunday Closed
Monday 11:30AM–3PM, 5–8:30PM
Tuesday 11:30AM–3PM, 5–8:30PM
Wednesday 11:30AM–3PM, 5–8:30PM
Thursday 11:30AM–3PM, 5–8:30PM
Friday 11:30AM–3PM, 5–8:30PM

Sunday, April 16, 2017

Fragrance of Bihu

Bihu delicacies from my Ma's kitchen. All served in bell metal dishes.

      I miss home Assam every single day, perhaps around this time of the year even more for not being there. Yes, it is Bohag Bihu time, spring seasons of the Assam's most vibrant and whimsical festival. Bihu is the biggest and most favorite festival of Assam. Another name of Bohag Bihu is Rongali Bihu, Rongali means color, the color of food, culture, tradition and love and assamese hospitality. I feel nostalgic; the nostalgy transports me directly to Assam, probably 20 years back Assam, where I spent my childhood and adulthood during the early 80s to early 2000. 

Me and my daughter, dressed for Bihu last year

Kapau Phool(Foxtail orchid)

      A few days before Bihu our whole neighborhood became fragranced whether it's Tilor ladu(Sesame balls) or Pitha(Rice cake). New leaves grow on the tree, Kapau Phool(Foxtail orchid) and Bhatau phool bloom, Rose Chesnut blooms, and early rain makes it even fresh and fragrance. I would have been waiting on the same night for Bihu special magazine which is loaded with my favorite writers writing my Deuta (Dad) brought on the way back home from his work. Crisp paper of the magazines also smells like Bihu fresh and pristine. Our home would have been fill with guest my aunts, cousins. Our home itself is transformed into its own festivity, charming chit-chat, felicitous food, gleeful laughter and what not. Yup, those were the days feels still yesterday. Those days my mom would have been busy entertaining guest, cleaning and setting all Assamese Kanh kahi-bati (bell metal utensils) along with preparing food. My Dad would have been shopping for everybody buying new clothes including our domestic help Hiramni's family. It is a tradition of Bihu to buy new clothes. I recall a day before Bihu, my mom and my younger aunt, before she got married, busy making Bihu snacks pitha, laru(a sweet ball consisting of coconut, sugar or sesame and jaggery). As a child, me and my brother used to take a sneak peak of the Bihu snacks. Our house is filled with those aromas and at the same time in a distance, you hear dhol beats and fragrance of blooming flowers. Our heart and mind were filled with the fragrance of Bihu memories, as I look back after 20 years. My mom and Aunt used to make a lot of snacks. Koka used to make sure that nobody return from our home without having snacks and a cup of tea. A tradition that koka made, my mom is still continuing that tea tradition.

A scene from today's Bihu. Assamese dancers weating traditional dress and carrying a Dhol(Drum)

      Husori groups (Group of people performing Bihu dance) come to visit you for performing dance and music. Sometimes expectedly and sometimes unexpectedly. You have to be well prepared. Our front yard is filled with Bihu song and dance. As they say dhool beats brought thunderstorm. Buffalo horn trumpet(Pepa) is played and crisp sound of Nasonis (female Bihu dancers) dressed in assamese golden thread muga silk along with their graceful moves.

Process of making Til Pitha

     I still remember how we all used to sit and enjoy hot pitha from the tawa (Pan) with steaming hot tea for adults and milk for kids. Crispy, crunchy tilpitha(A rice creps with melting jaggery and roasted sesame inside) the taste that is only found at home and Nowhere in the world. Taste that I recall brought me home, brought back the beautiful phase of my childhood. After two-three weeks of Bihu when dhol beats fade, you can hear a flute in the distance. Even as a child, I could tell flute had so much pain. Someone is pouring his heart out. But as a teenager or adult, I understood that it was the translation of some heartbreaker's melancholy, who did not get his love in Bihu.

      Bihu morning after taking bath with turmeric and ground green gram, as an assamese belief that if you bathe with these, you will have no skin issues for the whole year, we used take blessings for our grandpa. A year back, before his death, while taking blessings from Koka(grandpa), his eyes were moist. The next Bihu was without Koka. After my Koka passed away we missed taking blessings from him. And it was a tradition to visit his cemetery with my aunts and take blessing from him in our minds, and Bihu color did not seem as vibrant as it used to be.

Me dressed up for Bihu wearing Assamese traditionals(Mekhela Chadar)

      Now after moving to the USA, we used to visit Bihu celebration either in Boston or New Jersey. It was always great fun wearing Assamese mekhela chadar and enjoying Assamese food and cultural programs. After having two kids, we hardly drive and go to Bihu to New Jersey and Boston. We now have a few more Assamese families in Connecticut, and we have nice get together with friends. Even though we celebrate Bihu here, but Bihu of Assam is still smitten with the memory of my Koka, my childhood friends, my brother, my mom's all home made sweets and snacks and the whole vibes of Bihu.


      Today morning while dropping my daughter to school, she showed me, ma look spring is coming and our gladiolus is blooming. I felt great. I will make some pitha for my family perhaps not as good as my mom or Aunt, but something that I will offer to my children on this Bihu.

Happy Bihu Everyone!

Sunday, April 9, 2017

Market Place Kitchen and Bar, Avon CT - Review


    There is always something about new whether it's New Year, a new song or new company, there is a bit of freshness, charm, promise and thrill to it. As a foodie, new restaurants always do the same for me. Market Place Kitchen is a newly opened restaurant in Avon that we recently ventured.

    A high ceiling open modern kitchen and a brick wall with a fireplace, it felt cozy at first glance. I was quite impressed with the service in spite of a full pack Friday evening; they served gently and gracefully.


    We began with a Mediterranean sample platter consisting of roasted red pepper, hummus, falafel and eggplant puree with Nan. I got hook to the way it is presented on a cutting board. Falafel was crisp and scrumptious. Hummus was whipped and velvety, Olives slightly bitter succulent, sweet cornichons were complimenting to it. 


    For mains, we got Garden flatbread for kids. The flatbread was flavorful with healthful garden vegetable (Roasted Sweet Potatoes, Zucchini, Caramelized Onions, Wild Mushrooms, Roasted Grape Tomatoes, Roasted Shallot Crème, Grana Padano Parmigiano Cheese) and mildly aromatic olive oil. 


    I opted for Asian style Udon noodles and panned seared tofu with roasted Savoy Cabbage Slaw, Sweet Chili Soy, and Coconut Sauce. Taste is no complaining, but I was expecting little more exotic, it was like any other regular noodle. The chef could have been slightly more innovative. 


    My husband got Tuscan white bean burger. It served with Fire Roasted Tomatoes, Grilled Portobello Mushroom, Sliced Red Onions, and Organic-Hydroponics Bibb Lettuce. It was luscious and rightly cooked till inside and freshness of vegetables with crunchy sweet potatoes fries added perfect zing to it. Will surely recommend and wouldn’t mind ordering on my next visit. 


    For dessert, we delighted with flourless chocolate cake. It came with a dollop of ice-cream. Chocolate cake directly came from the oven with chilled ice cream. We already sensed it before tasting a bite. It is decadent enough to cheer you up.
    Market Place Kitchen sources from local, organic and sustainable harvested food and spirits. They have a great option for gluten-free, vegetarian and house made pasta too. The portions are quite huge compared to other organic or farm to table standard, can’t tell the same about the price. Regardless Market Place Kitchen added it's own zing to Hartford country’s food scene.

My rating is 3.75 out of 5. 

Address: 336 W Main St, Avon, CT 06001
Phone:(860) 470-3641

Hours:
Sunday 11:30AM–10PM
Monday 11:30AM–12AM
Tuesday 11:30AM–12AM
Wednesday 11:30AM–12AM
Thursday 11:30AM–12AM
Friday
(Good Friday) 11:30AM–12AM
Hours might differ
Saturday 12AM–11PM