Thursday, March 5, 2015

Lays Introduces MAXX: Two New International Flavors of Chips

Lays MAXX Chips India
Lays is upping the game with the introduction of Lays MAXX in India, which is popular for extremely fun flavors.  I looked it up the net, and it seems is in Thai and the flavors are pretty interesting (pork ribs is one of them, I think!). In India, they have launched two flavors, and of course, I had to pick them up, because, you know, chips! The two new flavors of Lays Maxx are Sizzling Barbecue and Macho Chilli. 

Lays MAXX Chips
Sigh. I was thinking of seafood, or salt and vinegar, and they gave us chilli. Shallow of you Lays! 

The packs are priced pretty reasonably for Lays MAXX -  INR 15/- for the small pack, and INR 30/- for the large one. The difference between these and normal Lays chips is that these come with deep grooves, which is supposed to "capture" more flavors, I guess? Plus, I think it will be great for picking up dips, although the chips felt quite fragile to me. 

Lays Macho Chilli Flavor 
Okay, first up, Macho Chilli. Now, here is the deal. Macho Chilli was not really what I had expected. I had thought it would be hot. It was not. In fact, it had a vinegary taste which was really not my thing - and it totally overpowered the chip for me. I had to drink water to get the taste out of my mouth afterwards. Sorry Lays, this one actually reminded me of another flavor from the same brand - the Chile Lemon, when I had thought it would be more like that addictive Hot and Sweet Chilli Flavor you had on a few days ago. They were so good that I bought and ate huge packs of it. 

Lays MAXX Sizzling Barbecue Flavor
After the disappointment of the first one, I was apprehensive about trying the Lays MAXX Sizzling Barbecue Flavor. But, here again, Lays surprised me. The flavor of smoke and sweetness are the first two things you will get when you bite into a chip, and I liked the subtle heat that crept up behind the sweetness from the chillies, and a bit of onion following suit. This one is a total winner in my opinion, the barbecue flavor not overwhelming at all. Me likes! 

Lays MAXX Chips Groove
For those of you who want to see how "groovy" these chips are, here is a shot from the side. Take a look! I somehow am getting reminded of my childhood and a particular chips called Ruffles, strangely enough. I am, however, glad that Lays has come up with at least one nice new flavor. 

Lays MAXX Chips Flavor Macho Chilli and Sizzling Barbecue for India

Gaurang Shah: A Revelation

Gaurang Shah Designs Art in Saree
You see that picture? That is a saree. It is NOT applique. Every detail was woven seamlessly, the inspiration taken from a famous Telengana artist's paintings. We saw more, but this saree in particular struck my fancy. The lady, sitting, with her pristine earrings and the little smile on her face, made me happy somehow. The man who had designed it, Gaurang Shah, told me that it took him a year and half to get this weave correct. Once you look closely, the weave's almost 3-D nature stands out.

Gaurang Shah Store
We sit at Gaurang Shah's lovely boutique, a quiet place near Menoka Cinema Hall. Gaurang keeps a few sarees on display, but his prize possessions are all packed inside wooden almirahs, locked and kept safe from prying eyes. When I ask which saree he is proud of, he smiles gently, and tells me that they are all precious to him.

"How will you really determine the value of a saree woven by an eighty-year old weaver, who took three years to weave one? You would lock it up, because you know you will never get another one like it - its unique." He looks at me and I understand his passion.

Working with different kinds of material, Gaurang seamlessly weaves two or more different patterns into a single saree seamlessly. Sometimes its a Gujarati Patan Patola base with a bright, traditional Kanjibharam pallu and border, and sometimes its a completely traditional pattern, woven in a way which is completely against the grain - but somehow, it works out in the end, stunning me with the complexity. 

Patan Patola with Kanjibharam border
In the upcoming Lakme Fashion Week 2015, Gaurang will be displaying a few of his favorite weaves. He loves the zamdani weave, and often produces gorgeous floral designs, which is more common in Andhra Pradesh. As he hails from Andhra, he loves working with the zamdani weave, but he admits that the Bengali zamdani, with its more geometric pattern, and self-color designs are also fabulous.

tree of life in a zamdani weave. 
In the LFW, 2015, Gaurang will have Vidya Balan as his showstopper this year. Graceful in a saree, Vidya loves the sarees and their intricate designs. Kirron Kher is also a long-term fan of Gaurang's work, and has been the showstopper for his sarees numerous times. Apparently, he had initially wanted to ask her to be the showstopper, but was initially dismissed. But after a while, she had discovered his sarees in a friend's boutique, and on an impulse, he had asked her to his Mumbai store opening, and not only had she come, but she had also agreed to be his showstopper for a number of shows. Kirron Kher definitely looked stunning in a number of gorgeous drapes.

Gaurang Shah with a Gorgeous Floral Andhra Zamdani

Although it had initially been difficult to explain to the Lakme Fashion Week people what he had been doing - the complex creations coming out of a combination of traditional designs and modern outlook, and the weaving of different kinds of patterns and textures, with time, the concepts Gaurang had tried to portray had been conveyed, and currently, he is one of the hottest designers of traditional garments in India. He sees sarees as investment - to be worn through generations, and his designer range begins from 6,000/- INR and can go up to 6,00,000/- INR, depending on the design. Kolkata loves his stuff, and although the shop is not even a year old, the sales are pretty brisk. 

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

The Move

It was the summer of 1996. I was 13. A very old 13, I daresay. I watched as my mother gently picked the last item of clothing off the wooden alna, folded it, and placed it inside a trunk.

We were moving. I was leaving the house I had grown up in. My heart was breaking, slowly, but I affixed a smile on my face and busied myself in packing the spice jars, wrapping them with newspaper to keep them from breaking while traveling.

We were going away. My father had assured me that it would be no more than a few months, but somehow, his fragile smile and guilt-ridden face had told its own story and I knew I had to understand.

I always understood. It was my destiny, probably.

Maudlin, I walked downstairs and looked at the big brown house from outside. When they had asked for a partition down the middle, so that both parties got a bit of each floor, I had laughed and told my father to paint our side pink, and their side white, and then call our home “Two-in-One”, naming it after the ice cream. But now, a lump lodged in my throat. I would miss my corner room, where I stored all the books. Those books were now inside my aunt’s suitcase –I did not know if the new house would be big enough for them, so I had given them all to her for safekeeping.

At last, the packers finished, and the truck chugged away. We followed shortly after.

We were left standing outside a big building with flats in it. I held my sister in my arms, looking up to the fourth floor where we would be residing. The building did not have a lift. I could see a few curious faces peering down at us. I squelched the urge to scream and walked bravely inside.

It was a nice apartment – I admitted grudgingly after we entered. I could see my mother’s handiwork. She had set the beds and the sofa up. One room was small, with a tiny bathroom and balcony attached to it. The other room was larger, with large balcony which looked out into the back, and I saw a large pond and coconut trees. I turned back, washed some rice, and set it in a pot to boil with some potatoes, for lunch.

We mostly ate in silence, father trying his best to cheer us up. We won’t spend too many days here. As soon as the house is renovated, we will go back.

But I knew better. Our part of the house would be practically torn down and then rebuilt. It would take months, years… I thought in despair.

My face probably showed my exhaustion, because at this point ma ordered me to go to bed. I walked off to the room assigned to me and lay down on the bed. I was exhausted, but I could not sleep. I kept on staring up at the ceiling, my mind could not help but compare and dismiss this house.
Suddenly, the bed depressed, and I saw my mother sit down on the edge of it.

“I have something for you.” She looked at me and smiled. Then she pulled up the edge of the bed cover and pulled out something from under the bed.

It was my trunk filled with books. 

Disclaimer: This post is in association with Housing and Indiblogger.

Sunday, March 1, 2015

Challenge Accepted!

I always thought of my father as a bit of an escapist. He would sometimes not confront people because he just did not like them, and he would walk away from them rather than trying to talk to them about a problem. However, he never did that to me. I remember spending hours fighting with him over certain ideas and thoughts – I would be called a liberalist, I would call him conservative – and the fight would continue over cups of hot, sweet tea and bowls of potato curry. We would mostly fight over ideas and ideology – he would be more about choosing a safer path to face relatively few hassles – I, on the other hand, would argue about doing what one loved.

Our arguments, however, were mostly momentary. Till the day when I chose to pick up English, a subject I loved, over Accountancy, a subject I tried to love. I tried for two whole years to love Accounts, but I could not. I would understand the matter, do the work, get nice grades, but in my heart I knew I was not happy.

So, when I came back home after signing up for English and tore the application papers for a prestigious commerce college, I realized I had burned my boats. My father took one look at the papers and told me that he would not pay a single dime for what he thought was a ‘wasteful subject to study’. I grimly accepted the challenge and moved ahead with my work. But I was not sure how to pay for the college.

That was the time when my aunt, my father’s sister, stepped in. She had always wanted me to choose my own destiny, and as a child, we had shared a strong connection. A professor, she knew why I needed to study the subject of my choice, and aided me, not by giving me money – no, she could have done that very easily, but she knew I would not accept it because my pride would not allow me – but by giving me something to do which would earn money. She also gave me money to buy books – which I vowed I would return, and told me she would be there if I needed help, but I should learn to pay my own bills, because that is what will make me independent. I took heed, and did exactly that.

I tutored students, sold old books, jewellery and cosmetics to my friends, read palms, and in short, did everything I could to ensure that I repaid her the money. It was the only way I knew how to, and she let me. In the process, I started earning quite a bit of money, which I would then save, to pay for college, tuition, my daily expenses, and I saved the rest. I became much more practical, worldly, and, to be honest, grew up. And when I presented my exam results to my father, who had thought I would flunk, he knew that despite everything, I would not give up pursuing what I wanted to do. 

I am forever indebted to my aunt for believing in me, and knowing that I would be able to achieve what I sought out to, but only if I worked hard, and I thank her from the bottom of my heart. Check HDFC Life website for finding out more about how you can help in making sure others around you are more self-reliant.

Disclaimer: This post is in association with HDFC Life and Indiblogger.  

Saturday, February 28, 2015

The Fatty Bao, Indiranagar, Bangalore

Pork Char Siu Bao
So when Madam S told me to get my royal tush to her city and stay with her for a while, I extended my otherwise business trip to Hyderabad to go to Bangalore, and one of the first places that was on my wishlist was The Fatty Bao. I have heard so much about the Pork Char Siu Bao from my friends that I decided that it was the place for me to go to.

So one fine Saturday, S drove me to Fatty Bao. Located in Indiranagar, the place is in the same building where The Monkey Bar is. As I was already quite happy with Red Fork, I decided that nothing on this particular road could be terrible, could it. So, armed with the thought, we sat on the open terrace, with the foldable colorful chairs and tables. The server poured us some water from a pretty bottle, and gave us a pair of menus. 

I was here for the Bao, and I was not going to spare one bit on anything else. S, however, ordered herself a drink which had cranberry and ginger and a hint of lime. The cran cooler was pretty refreshing and delicate, although I thought it had a bit too much ice in it for my liking, which eventually watered down the drink quite noticeably.

After ordering our food and drink, we lay back, taking in the balmy breeze that seemed to be the perfect accompaniment for this rather laid back meal. Bangalore weather, although slightly finicky, was mostly dry when I visited, and only a couple of bouts of light rain was all I experienced through the course of my trip.

We had both ordered Bao. For the sake of variety, S got the Teriyaki Glazed Chicken Bao, which was quite brilliant with a little bit of crisp chicken skin, a squiggle of citrus-y mayo, cucumber and onions, and perfectly cooked chicken, flavored with teriyaki sauce and soy. The balance between sweet, sour and tart was perfect, and the bun's texture and softness was the perfect foil for the crunch of the skin within. I would have been more in love with this particular angel, if not for what I had ordered.

The Pork Char Siu Bao was what I was looking forward to, and dear lord, it was everything I had wanted and more. The pork itself was fall-apart soft, with perfect meat-to-fat ratio. There was a lovely char on the outside of the meat, and a little bit of crunch - not overwhelming, though, no, this was another great example of restraint, where overwhelming the meat was not a desirable outcome. That is why, the Hoisin sauce merely enhanced the sweetness of the meat without making it too sweet for me. The white Bao itself was super soft and milky, and the cucumber added to the freshness quotient. Although I could not taste the Green Apple Kimchi, I did not really miss it I guess.

As we ordered our second round of dumplings, a trio of bowls were set before us. I tasted each, hoping to get one with a bit of heat - but alas! All three of these were pretty mild. My favorite was the green - a combination of oil and wilted herbs - parsley, probably, with some garlic added to it.

The Duck with Hoisin and Spring Onion Sheng Jian Bao was next on my list. Although I adore duck meat, I believe it can be easily overwhelmed, and that exactly what happened in this case. Although the duck meat filling was generous, and the cast-iron pan gave the buns a lovely crunchy crust, the Hoisin sauce totally overwhelmed the finely chopped duck, and to add to it, there wasn't enough duck fat to make the filling moist.

The dumpling skin was lovely and airy, though, but S was looking forward to the Gyoza, so we decided to finish this round and order another. At this point, we both realized we were getting late, so we ended up ordering our last dish here.

We had contemplated between ordering some Ramen and another round of dumplings. In the end, the urge to eat more dumplings won out, and we chose the chicken and celery Gyoza. The skin of the Gyoza was thin, but not overwhelmingly so, with a satisfying crispness. The celery thankfully did not overwhelm the chicken, adding a little bit of crunch and flavor to the filling, and not much else. The filling was perhaps the blandest one, but it never claimed to be something more. I wished for a seriously spicy sauce to be paired with this dumpling, but alas! It was not to be. Needless to say, it did not stop me from wolfing down the last piece.

I have heard that the Ramen and the Brie Tempura here are also pretty good. They have a strict policy of not letting kids under the age of 10 in for dinner, and reservation is recommended.

The Fatty Bao - Asian Gastro Pub 
610, 3rd Floor, 12th Main,  
Off 80 Feet Road,  
Indiranagar, Bangalore 
Phone: 080-49652983 (Reservation Recommended)

Friday, February 27, 2015

Lakme Unveils 'Sculpt' for Spring/Summer 2015 : Exclusive Absolute Sculpt Studio Matte Lipstick Swatches

Lakme Absolute Scupt Studio Matte Lipsticks 2015 launch
Lakme is all about bold shades this season, and the new look is all about bright shades. Year 2015 marks Lakme Fashion Week's 15th Year, and the brand celebrates it with the launch of the new 'Sculpt' range, with brand new shades of Absolute Sculpt Studio Matte Lipsticks. Available in 15 colors, these shades are gorgeous and perfect for the warm Indian skin tone, according to Anamika Khanna, Grand Finale Designer for Lakme Fashion Week Summer/Resort 2015.

Anamika Khanna Designer
"I think this year it is all about the sculpted look, with emphasized features like the lips. I am matching some outfits that would look beautiful with the bright colors, and the new fashion trend is now leaning towards a look which is more feminine and celebrates womanhood," Said Anamika Khanna, who was present for the event at her flagship store in Kolkata. Also present was Purnima Lamba, Head of Innovation, Lakme, who talked about the matte shades which will be available in 15 different shades. For the event, 7 bright shades were selected and exclusively available. The texture of the lipsticks were superb - smooth and emollient, and they looked amazing on me.

Lakme Absolute Sculpt Studio Matte Lipstick Colors 
 I swatched all the shades and found a couple of them which really struck my fancy - a dark warm brown shade which I am wearing below, and a lovely tangerine shade which looked absolutely stunning once I wore it, although at first I thought it would be too orange for me (you can see from the swatch - its the fourth one from the left).

Lakme Absolute Sculpt Studio Matte Lipstick Swatches
As you can see, the shades look really bright. Under the yellow light, I could not really catch some of the colors properly, but I have to say, there is a gorgeous plum shade which was worn by D of Poutprettty, called Plum Spell, and she looked absolutely stunning wearing it. There was another bright red worn by my friend S from Sorelle Grapevine, and she still had it on after she had eaten a full meal! I on the other hand was struck with the browns and the oranges, and decided to check the shades out.

Wearing Lakme Absolute Sculpt Studio Matte Lipstick 
Of course, I am bound to gravitate towards the food scene, and apart from the usual cold drinks on offer, they did have some really nice chocolate tarts and these little canapés topped with olives and peppers and some sour cream on top. I might have popped a few in my mouth while others were busy wearing lipsticks.

Anamika Khanna revealed that this year, her showstopper at LFW will be Kareena Kapoor, and she will be sporting some of the shades, and her look will be feminine and sexy. I might have vented my anger at not being able to find too many clothes that suit girls with curves, and she agreed wholeheartedly. I must say, I am looking forward to the collection and the looks the collaboration produces - and Lakme Sculpt will be

Me and Anamika Khanna 
Disclaimer: Poorna Banerjee attended the launch of Lakme Absolute Studio Sculpt Matte Lipsticks at the kind invitation of the brand.‎