When a dream becomes real

The Story of the past few months...

The story of the past few months began around May 2015...right around the time when the entries here started to dry up....and for good reason.

My life was slowly starting to look more and more crazy - with an infant who was few months old, a day job that I was getting back to after maternity, one pop-up at 18 Reasons in May and another in the works at Fat Angel (I love this bar!) in August...but then of course, I had to pile more than that, right? So I added to the list 'shop for space' to go brick & mortar with Indian Paradox.

The process of shopping for a space to transition from a pop-up to a permanent brick & mortar started to take shape sometime around the turn of 2015. However, the thought has always prevailed during all stages of my pursuit - from wine exams, to working in wine bars to (most recently) pop-ups.

For the past 4+ years, obtaining the space for a permanent Indian Paradox in my beloved city of San Francisco, in a neighborhood of choice was the "be all and end all" of this journey.

But, like most journeys, when I arrived at the so-called destination, everything was so surreal. And, there was a sinking feeling in the stomach - echoing questions like: 'What the heck have I done?'

'You have got to be kidding me' - I chided myself. And before I know it, I was done on the last leg of the nerve wrecking negotiations to sign the lease for a cute space at my favorite SF neighborhood

The much awaited day had arrived, to sign the lease...and I was still in a daze during my travel via Uber to the landlord's office. 'Wow - I am actually doing this!', I thought. And then it was done...just like that. Surely, there were mixed emotions, that felt like jumping off a cliff and jumping up in joy - all at the same time. But, this is what I wanted and strived so hard for...for so many years.

Slowly but steadily, everything that I believe in and live by came to my mind - led by the words of the author of this book I've been reading: 'In the Sphere of Silence', where he so aptly states: "Change requires risk. But how much are we willing to risk? The irony is, the things we are so scared of risking are like chips in a casino, useless unless they are risked'.

It then dawned to me  that, this means I've attained the first goal of this long arduous journey. A pursuit that was always on the side of a day job, an actual paycheck and a busy personal life. And now it has become real - very real. 

So all fears aside, I could not wait to take this project that I was longing to become real, in full swing now!

Earlier this year, even before I started 'shopping' for a space, I had found an architect  (after a lot of searching & interviewing) who has turned in to a trusted resource to bounce off ideas  in not just architecture and interior design, but even build-out tips and other helpful referrals.

I am so fortunate to have met so many great, resourceful people during this journey. And I have reached out to with so many of them with questions during these last few months. Now, I am in the process of interviewing general contractors to start buildout of the space. This has been another exhausting and yet interesting task - now I am pushing hard to find someone who will help complete this project within the budget and timeline (both very tight!) in plan. 

Oh, and did I mention that there has been a parallel effort on going to interview and hire my first and most important employee? The Indian Paradox lead Back Of the House (BOH). I have started to talk to some interesting folks in the industry - stay tuned for more updates on this.

Last but not least, how can any startup food/beverage experience be complete without the (friendly?) intervention of the dear most city officials of San Francisco? Thankfully, we have building permit to start build out from the SF Building Department. But, there is still permit to be obtained from the SF Planning department to sell alcohol (wine & beer). And so it goes...

That is it for now. On the finishing note, I have to say that when I received the poster to put up the ABC notice on the window of the space, I caught myself smiling smugly and thinking....the next few months are going to be one heck of a roller coaster ride. Almost immediately I also thought, what is life if we don't roll the dice at some point?

Before signing off,  if I'd like to leave you with one image of 'my life in a nutshell', then here it is... :)

Anika_ABC_Poster

 

To all those who dream and strive everyday to make them real....Sante!

 

+Kavitha

Masala Dosa with a Maremma Toscana

The Story of Masala Dosa

What a year 2014 has been! A year of several milestones, many lessons and most of all so many wonderful memories to cherish!

While reminiscing the year as it comes to an end...I realized that I have not written about my absolute favorite street food (or absolute favorite food for that matter) all of this year! Nor had I tried pairing it with some delicious wine! How can this be!? 

It just felt wrong to end such an eventful year without this. So, even with an extremely tight time crunch at my corporate job (what's new) and a gazillion other things I am juggling, with Indian Paradox and otherwise, I decided to make, pair, relish and write about this food that I absolutely die for!

Okay enough with the mystery, the topic of this blog is Masala Dosa :)

This is the one food that I can devour for breakfast, lunch AND dinner, or food that just comforts me or food that has satiated my hunger when I returned from school in Chennai....I can keep going.

So many memories are intertwined with the aroma of the ghee or oil that welcomed me as I came home after so many long days with a growling stomach....and the sound of dosa batter when it comes in contact with the hot 'dosa kal' (the case iron skillet used to make delicious dosas - beats any non stick skillet hands down!) is just the sound of sheer bliss :)

All these thoughts got me to start making the masala (stuffing) first. This masala used as filling inside a dosa (think like a crepe filling) deserves a special mention. It is made up of potatoes, onions, Indian green chillies and curry leaves blended together with a garnish of mustard seeds, spices like asafoetida and etc. As the ingredients suggests, it is a very earthy filling with a comforting goodness, that weakens my knees every time I take a mouthful of it.

And so I finish the masala and moved on to making the coconut chutney to douse the masala dosa in to.

Finally I started piling up the hot dosas.

The whole place smelled like my home in Chennai...which got me in to a very good mood....

masala_dosa

 

The wine pairing with Masala Dosa

When I decided to shop for some vino to go with the masala dosa, I soon realized that this was a daunting task. My conundrum was, to be able to pick a wine that will marry the earthiness of the masala and yet stand up to the combination of the spices and the lentils - yet not overpower the food!

After a lot of thought and talking to the wine associate at my favorite wine shop in the peninsula, I went home with a Vermentino from Maremma (coastal) Tuscany. The rationale behind this choice was that, Vermentinos usually have a fine marriage of acidity and slight mineral flavors that brings about a freshness to every sip - also they have sufficient viscosity that will ensure the wine does not end up seeming flat when paired with food - especially Indian food like Masala dosa with the heaviness of the potatoes, lentils in the dosa batter and flavors from the spices.

vermentino

 

Tasting notes

On the nose the aroma of green apples, melons and a slight sweet smell of honey was prevalent. The minute I sipped the wine, I could tell this was a very expressive wine, with even hints of Italian spice flavors (rosemary?). 

 

The verdict

Finally, it was the moment of truth! I placed my masala dosa + chutney plate on the table with the glass of Vermentino. 

masaladosa_vermentino

I dipped the masala dosa generously in to the thick coconut chutney and savored it as slowly as I could. Then duly followed that with a sip of Vermentino. This wine definitely did it for the Masala Dosa. The ginger and spices in the masala were nicely embraced by the 'green' fruit flavors in the wine along with a spring like freshness.

In the middle of all this it dawned on me... here I was enjoying a hot masala dosa with a glass of crispy Italian white wine on a blissful overcast San Franciscan December evening. If this is not a moment to cherish, I do not know what is? 

Cheers to simple blessings like these and wishes for several more of these to come in the next year.

Merry Christmas and a Happy 2015!!

+Kavitha

An Indian dance (Dabeli) to Italian (Sangiovese) tunes

THE Story of DABELI

I hail from the southern-most metropolitan city of Chennai in India. There is a joke among South Indians (especially from Chennai) that for Chennai-ites, everything to the north of Chennai is considered North India. Though this is a joke, I have to admit that there is an element of truth to this. At least when I was still growing up in Chennai (about 15 years ago) every aspect of the city - from the language spoken (Tamil and Tamil only!) to the people's clothes (more on the conservative side), it was almost like it was a country of its own!

And of course the food (more rice consumption compared to Rotis and Naans) was no exception either. Even when foods from other parts of India (like the Bhel Puri or Pav Bhaji etc.) were sold, it definitely had a 'South Indian' touch to the taste. 

While some of these aspects are true for many states in India, Chennai is more so than many - so much so that, at one point in its history (not so long ago), there were a lot of agitations preaching against its natives speaking the national language (Hindi) - which is so widely spoken and understood in the rest of India.

Given all this and also that we did not travel far and wide outside of Chennai and the state of Tamil Nadu, it is no exaggeration when I say that my knowledge of the various cuisines and foods from the other parts of India was quite minuscule.

Ironically, once I left India and landed in the U.S, I actually had the opportunity to meet several people from all parts of India. On one such encounters I had the good fortune of hearing about this delicious Indian street food snack called Dabeli aka Kutchi Dabeli (originated from the Kutch region of the western state of Gujarat). And I was surprised that I had never heard about this raved about Indian Street Food snack until then!

After hearing an ear-full about the grandeur and glory of this Dabeli, I sought out to Google to research even more and then last weekend, I felt like I had heard and read enough about this Dabeli.

So it was time for action and I started buying its ingredients. Then, first I made the Dabeli masala from scratch, but after that the recipe for more and more easy. And after about 30 minutes, the drool-inducing Dabeli was ready for this Chennai-ite's consumption!

dabeli

The WINE paired with Dabeli

But before I describe my first big bite, I have to stop and talk about my other favorite part of this adventure. My wine pairing of course! Dabeli can be quite a tricky to pair with any wine. Mostly because, the Dabeli filling consists of potaoes, the Dabeli masala and some other spices, the garnish comprises of masala roasted peanuts, chopped onions and sev (fried chickpea flour). How could I come up with one wine that will stand up to all these intriguing mix of flavors?

Well, fortune favors the brave. So I bravely walked the isles of Beltramos. Based on my gut feeling for the flavors of the Dabeli, I had narrowed down 3 wines: 1. A Tempranillo from Espana, 2. A Monastrell, also from Espana and 3. A Sangiovese from Italy.

After some thought and discussion with the wine associate, I finalized on the Toscano Rosso from the Maremma region of Italy. This wine is classified I.G.T (more on that on the Bonus! section below) and composed of 50% Sangiovese, 30% Cabernet Franc and 20% Alicante.

mercurio_wine

Tasting notes

To be honest, the very first sip of the wine was not stellar. But, I did not lose heart. While assembling the first Dabeli, I left the wine to open up so I can try it again after a few minutes.

Lo and behold! after letting the wine breathe the wine tasted a lot more discerning than the first sip. This time on the nose I got cherries and sour raspberries. And on the palette, I actually got a ton of Italian spices, like Rosemary and Oregano! This wine finally started singing to my taste buds and made me a happy camper :)

 

The verdict

The Dabeli was causing this flavor roller coaster in my mouth - right from the very first bite. The crunchy peanuts and sev kept coming back in every bite of this mouth watering snack. As per the recipe, I had also spread a spoonful of Amchur chutney on one side of the Pav (Burger buns) and the cilantro mint chutney on the other. And those chutneys never disappoint either.

They call this Dabeli a step brother/sister) to the other famous Mumbai street food - Vada Pav. But, after my first hand experience with this Gujarati treat, I had to disagree. No doubt, the Vada Pav has earned its own bragging rights, the Dabeli was no less in comparison. The cumin and coriander spices in the Dabeli masala infused in the potatoes just married in to the Italian spices I tasted in the wine.

dabeli_wine

How could grapes from Italy go hand in hand so harmoniously with the spices from India? Wine and food never cease to amaze me...makes it totally worth while to look forward to more such moments in life...over and over.

Aavjo!

 

Bonus!

I.G.T wines stand for Indicazione Goegrafica Tipica - these were a special wine category introduced to celebrate the wines that were pretty darn good but did not "make the cut" to Italy's highest classification of wines (D.O.C.G). To delve a little deeper in to its background - the D.O.C category was once the highest level of wines in Italy. But due to the corruption that prevailed with the wine entities, a lot of 'mediocre' wines achieved this status. At one point the Italian government intervened and created the new and improved status called D.O.C.G which 'guaranteed' a certain quality with the Italian wines and cheeses marked with this label. But as always, the law went the other extreme and caused a lot of good wines to not make it to this level due to the new and stringent rules. Hence was born the I.G.T status, to celebrate the high quality wines called 'Super Tuscans' that lie somewhere between D.O.C and D.O.C.G statuses.

+Kavitha

Masala Peanuts and the Sonoma Rosé

THE Story of MASALA PEANUTS (KADALAI)

San Francisco is already starting to feel cooler than the last few weeks. It always makes me sad when summer is ending. Hailing from the city of Madras (aka Chennai) in South India, I need sun to exist!

I had to maximize on snacks that remind me of good old hot, summer days in Chennai (which is every day by the way!). And what better way to do that than with spicy, crunchy masala peanuts?

One of these days this week, I got back home from work and jumped in to my Masala peanuts mission right away. The recipe for this dish is not that hard at all, yet the results - so rewarding!

I dry roasted one cup of peanuts, made the batter with the spices, coated the peanuts with the batter and deep fried them. All done in 20 minutes! (The curry leaves fried separately and sprinkled on top is to die for!)

peanuts

The WINE paired with Masala Kadalai

There is a particular wine I have been eyeing all summer and kept waiting for the right occasion to purchase it. And with this dish, it seemed like that moment had arrived. It is the 2013  Heintz Rosé of Pinot Noir. I have always known this as a very sought after wine from a single vineyard wine maker from the Sonoma county. In my mind, it was a no-brainer how well this chilled rosé would pair with the spice coated crunchy peanuts. Also, pairing a wine from an acclaimed winemaker so close to home with an Indian street food so close to my heart was just the right thing to do!

Tasting notes

I grabbed a handful of the masala peanuts and shoved it in my mouth. Then washed it down with the Rosé. The first impression was, how clean the wine felt on the nose and palette.

The bone dryness along with crispy acidity was just perfect to follow the chilli powder and cumin coating the peanuts. Then there were light floral aromas, definitely strawberries and raspberries dominated. 

Overall very very smooth and refreshing with the spicy, crunchy peanuts.

peanuts_rose

The verdict

For me, Marina beach in Chennai inevitably comes to mind when I say or even think about peanuts. They are sold everywhere - literally. However, the peanuts' recipe sold on the beaches of Chennai are even more simple than this. The vendors with steaming carts/baskets of peanuts would just sit down and hand you a paper cone filled with these goodies. Walking down the beach, staring at the several statues lined up while munching these peanuts used to be so blissful!

What would life be without these simple pleasures? And if I added a glass of Rosé to sip on along with these peanuts, how could life ever suck? 'Whistle podu' to simple pleasures! :)

 

 

+Kavitha