Thursday, July 2, 2015

American Whiskey Tasting and Cocktail Making Session with Shatbhi Basu at Afraa, Salt Lake

I have to tell you a secret - I love women who know their whiskey. I remember meeting Shatbhi Basu back in 2013 when I attended the first tasting session of hers, and boy, she made cocktails which made my head spin! I really did not want to miss out on another class with her, and I love her, because there is something new to be learned at every session! This time, the American Whiskey tasting session was held in Afraa, and apart from the usual suspects (Jim Beam, Jim Beam Black, Maker's Mark, Woodford Reserve, Jack Daniels, and Gentleman Jack), we had a secret entrant to the list.

Of course, once at Afraa, Salt Lake, you really cannot avoid nibbling on their delicious cheese platter, smearing a bit of the brie on a piece of flatbread, or nibble on a cheese straw. I do the same, to prepare myself for the tasting.

Did you know, unlike Scotch, which takes decades at time to age, the maturing process of Bourbon Whiskey and Rye is much less, because of the humid, and hotter weather in America? The warm weather is perfect for quick expansion and contraction of the liquor, which pushes it in and out of the barrel it is contained in, ensuring that the process of inserting the flavors into the liquor is much quicker.

Buy Jim Beam Honey India
As the different whiskeys are set before us, we are led through the bright brashness of the Jim Beam, then the slightly harsher Jim Beam Black, the caramel flavors of Maker's Mark, the rather mature tones of Woodford Reserve, the blast of banana from the Jack Daniel's, which is pronounced even further in Gentleman Jack. The surprise entry is Jack Daniel's Honey, the whiskey liquor made by the company. It is really sweet, with strong flavors of banana and honey, and reminds me of the Banoffee pie for some reason.

Different kinds of American whiskey 
Here is a fun thing to know about American Whiskey - what you might call Moonshine, or White Whiskey, which is the freshly made, or slightly aged and filtered rye or corn whiskey is making a comeback in the form of Jack Daniel's Unaged Rye, or Maker's White (Rye). This form of whiskey almost went out of fashion with the rise of Bourbon whiskey, but it seems that people now want to go back to their roots, and have what they were originally making back in the days, because that's all the rage, apparently.

Jack Daniel's Honey
One of the things that stuck with me was a quote from master distiller Jeff Arnett. The man has been associated with Jack Daniel's for a considerable period of time, and he believes that making whiskey is like making tea. "It doesn't take forever to bring out the best flavors. The hot water helps draw them out perfectly, just as our hot summers do our whiskey!" I think that makes a lot of sense when it comes to whiskey distillation.  

Whiskey Cocktails India
We sampled some of the whiskey based cocktails - the Tom and Jerry was light and refreshing, and perfect for the weather. We were served some nibbles as well, and the Chicken Wings were pretty delicious. For the vegetarians in the crowd, there were some Vietnamese Spring Rolls too.

Chicken Wings
The event was attended by several celebrities from Bengali film industry as well as many wine and liquor enthusiasts. Shaheb Chatterjee was one of them.

Shaheb Chatterjee tollywood photo
And of course, no evening can be complete without a photo of the photographer, along with the lady of the hour!

Shatbhi Basu Poorna Banerjee
Disclaimer: Poorna Banerjee attended the Whiskey Tasting Event at the kind invitation of Beam. 

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Envy 1000 Body Spray Rush and Nitro Review

Buy Envy Deodorant India
Envy 1000 Body Sprays are priced at 180/- for 140 ml. They are available online at Flipkart. These sprays are quite different from normal deodorants, because these have no gas in them. But they claim to perform better than deodorants with gas in them. They are sold by the brand Vanesacare.

About Envy 100 Body Spray: Like a gushing river of exhilaration, this invigorating fragrance takes over your senses and provides you a sublime push of confidence to go ahead and make things happen.

Envy 1000 Rush Body Spray
Envy 100 Body Spray Rush and Nitro are available in sturdy metal packages, with a plastic cap. They feel heavier than normal perfumes, and have about 1000 sprays worth cologne in them. The packages are really travel-friendly, and I have carried them around without issues in my bag.

Unlike many other deodorants, these do not have gas in them, so, when sprayed, they do not make that hissing sound, or cover you with a cloud of smoke (which I don't like much), but, rather, target specific areas. I generally spritz them on my underarms and torso, and use as needed. They are excellent to spray on fabric as well.

Envy 1000 Nitro Body Spray
Envy Nitro body spray has a strong, fresh scent, which I can describe probably as 'aqua'. It stays on for nearly 8-9 hours easily, and although I carry the bottle in my bag just in case, I have not had to reapply it for the first 12 hours at least. The scent is strong, and I have a fascination for scents which tend to be on the masculine side, and this is exactly that.

Envy Body Spray India
Envy Rush body spray has a spicier, and definitely more exotic scent. I prefer using this one because it stays on for 8 hours easily, and has a scent which is quite masculine. However, this perfume is also, for the lack of a better word, extremely refreshing to smell, and both my father and I like it. I have seen that the scent for the no-gas liquid deodorants tend to stay on longer, and they linger on my clothes till they are washed. That is definitely a good sign.

I am quite happy with both Envy 1000 body sprays. They are reasonably priced, easy to use, lasts me long, and has a nice, lingering smell. I am quite happy with these, especially for those who like fresh, clean scents.

Disclaimer: PR Sample.

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Asus Zenfone2: My Current Favorite Phone

Image courtesy: Flipkart

Today’s smartphones are truly wondrous – from shopping to checking mails to taking photos, you can do virtually anything on your phone, and I have been a fan ever since I bought my first on. I am always on the lookout for cool new smartphones, and recently, the Asus Zenfone2 caught my eye. I bought it for a family member a few days ago, and it is rapidly becoming a favorite.

Perhaps my favorite feature of the Asus Zenfone 2 is its size – it is not too large or too small – and I don’t have to squint my eyes to see what’s going on. The display is clear and large, and the 13.97 cm touch screen is perfect for watching videos and reading books. I downloaded an e-book reader, and started reading a few books right away.

The phone itself is ridiculously thin, and the design is super sleek. Although I am no expert, I have to say, it looks really cool! The version I bought comes equipped with Android Lollipop, and has a 2.3 GHz Processor, which makes surfing and operating the phone really smooth. The phone has been in use for more than a month, and it performs great!

The fact that this comes with 2 GB RAM minimum (which can be expanded to up to 4 GB) makes it a gamer’s paradise. Those who know me are aware of my love for gaming, and this makes gaming so much easier. I hate lag, and this one promises to not make me wait while I am fishing my heart away in Hay Day, or running before monsters in Temple Run.

The Zen UI of the Asus Zenfone2 has a smart interface, which I could customize in a flash.

There are two cameras in this phone – a 13 megapixel camera in the back, AND a 5 megapixel front camera. Being a selfie-lover, I am quite happy with the front camera, which is clear and quite good.

The storage of this phone is massive – up to 64 GB. This makes it very easy for me to store my music collection in the phone, and I like the sound quality – it is clear. The headphones provided with it is easy to use and quite sturdy.

Monday, June 29, 2015

Bun Plus Bun Festival at Flurys, Kolkata: 20th June to 5th July, 2015

Arjun Chakraborty and Nilanjana Chakraborty at Flurys
"The Bun plus Bun festival has a nice ring to it, right?", S notes, and surreptitiously puts another roll on her plate, longingly looking at the butter for a second before digging into the soft, fluffy Mexican coffee bun, the Papparoti, topped with a layer of dark coffee-flavoured sugar. The yeast has raised the dough wonderfully, and M and I look at each other, approvingly, biting into yet another bun.

Bun plus Bun Festival at Flurys
We are at Flurys, Park Street, where Chef Vikas Kumar reigns. 'I wanted to showcase buns, you see. They remind me of my childhood, and I think bread is a very intimate part of most of our childhoods, so I wanted to showcase buns'. The speciality buns can be picked up from the counter, or you can have it as part of a meal - there are plenty of buns to choose from.

Masala Buns and Chicken in a Blanket at Flurys
Priced at 55/- each, these are called the 'speciality buns', and I am guilty of revisiting Flurys to pick some up on a later date. Some of the buns are paired with the beverages, like the Boston Bun, which the chef advices to have with a cup of Darjeeling. Although I am not  a fan of coconut, under the frosting, the bread is wonderful. The Pao de Queijo, made with tapioca flour, is a great choice for those who want to go Gluten-free.

Pao de Queijo
The Devonshire Cream Bun, however, is my favourite among the sweet ones - a long roll studded with dry fruits, it is slit lengthwise, and cream is piped into it. I brought one home, and heated it up last night to consume. To my delight, that fluffy cream collapsed into a heap of melting goodness, and I tore off parts of it, and slathered it with the molten cream. For a hungry girl at midnight, it was a beautiful meal indeed.

Devonshire Cream Bun
The Chicken in a Blanket is a thin layer of bread, wrapped around a chicken sausage and baked. Similar to 'pigs in a blanket', this seems to be the favourite of the table, and is consumed quickly. 

Chicken in a blanket
At this point, all of us are stuffed silly from the bread overdose, and when Vikas comes out to ask what we would like to eat, a collective groan can be heard. Nevertheless, at this point, Nilanjana Chakrabarty asks for a half-portion, and we follow suit.

Karachi bun kabab
There are five options to choose from. Sadly, vegetarians get only one option - the Meaty Mushroom burger. The Karachi Bun Kabab comprises of a split masala bun, containing a thick patty of minced lamb kabab, which has a fine texture, and a bit of tang is added from the minty chutney it is smeared with.

Goan Sorpotel
I, of course, go with the Goan Sorpotel. The version Chef makes here is tangy, with bits of pork, and a fiery red chilli on top, which, naturally, is munched down. Served with the Poee bread, which has a delicate sweetness from the addition of toddy to it, the sourness of the meat dish balances the sweetness, and before I know it, my plate is empty.

Chicago Hot Dog with Everything
M had asked for the Chicago Hot Dog with 'Everything'. The pork sausage was smoky and succulent, topped with a generous helping of a slightly sweet lamb chili, mustard, cheese, pickles, and served with the fries. I prefer my chili hot so this does not catch my fancy, although I won't mind more of those sausages.

Viennese Coffee at Flurys
Of course, the food extravaganza for me must be washed down with a cup of coffee - in my case, the Viennese, because I need a jolt of caffeine to my system. We sit and chat with Arjun Chakrabarty and Nilanjana Chakraborty - a lovely, and exceptionally talented couple. I have grown up seeing films of Arjun Chakraborty and later, have heard him sing, and meeting him in person is always a pleasure. Nilanjana, jewellery designer and tarot reader, meanwhile, is a fantastic person to know. The Bun plus Bun festival is on till the 5th of July at their Park Street Outlet, and the buns are available at different outlets around Kolkata.

Boston Bun
Disclaimer: Poorna Banerjee dined at Flurys at the kind invite of the management. 

Launch of Ananya Banerjee's book Planet Gastronomy at Starmark

'Planet Gastronomy is an attempt to cover the better part of the globe in one book, one famous recipe at a time' - Ananya Banerjee

I am sitting at Starmark with Ananya Banerjee, food stylist, cook and globe trotter. Her new book, Planet Gastronomy, is a collection of recipes around the globe which she has painstakingly collected over the years, cooked, and adapted to her own taste buds.

Ananya Banerjee
Ananya now lives in Mumbai, but her heart belongs to travelling. Her journey across the globe brought her in touch with many different kinds of cuisine, and she wanted to create a book which would have a compilation of the most popular dishes she ate.

"Of course, there's always Google. But when I wanted to have a cookbook which would compile many dishes from around globe, I drew blank. So, I decided to come up with one of my own."

Rita Bhimani
 The launch of the book Planet Gastronomy was attended by a number of celebrity - quite the star-studded affair. Conducted by the very elegant Rita Bhimani, it featured, among others, Chef Joymalya Banerjee, Rakhi Purnima Dasgupta, Actor June Maliah, Nilanjana Chakrabarty, Designer Agnimitra Paul, Lopamudra Saha, and the Mayor of Kolkata, Sovan Chatterjee.

June Maliah
 There was a nice discussion about food after the launch was over. The mayor regaled the audience with stories of the food he had eaten around the globe, and how some of it had been really alien to him at first. Chef Joy talked about the food he makes - contemporary Bengali cuisine, and how Bengali food is modernised now. Rita Bhimani spoke about the relevance of understanding the concept of Global Cuisine and how its important to explore food more.

I received a copy of the book, and the photos and the recipes look nice. A more detailed review of the book will be up on the blog shortly.

Disclaimer: Poorna Banerjee was invited to the book launch by the organisers. 

Friday, June 26, 2015

Dove Oxygen Moisture Shampoo and Conditioner Review

Dove Oxygen Moisture Range in India
A few days ago, I received a package from Dove, and it is one of the coolest ones I have received till date. It contained the new Oxygen Moisture Shampoo and Conditioner from the range, and I have been using both for the last few days.

What Dove Says about the Range: Introducing the new Dove Oxygen Moisture range, which comes with an advanced solution that gives your hair the balance of moisture and volume. This new range with innovative Oxyfusion Technology can put an end to your daily dilemma, leaving you with hair that is beautifully nourished*, smoother# and looks 95% thicker.

Dove Oxygen Moisture shampoo is a transparent, lightweight formula comprising of oxyfused moisture ingredients that instantly disperse on the hair. This formula helps to gently cleanse and nourish hair, leaving it beautifully bouncy, and full of natural volume. Enriched with the Oxyfusion technology, the Dove Oxygen Moisture Conditioner delicately moisturises dry and dull hair, restores smoothness and leaves hair looking thicker.

Price: INR 83/- for 80 ml. Shampoo and INR 91/- for 80 ml. Conditioner.
Dove Shampoo India
My Take: The packaging is done simply - similar to other Dove shampoos, which I like. The squeeze bottles make these really easy to carry. The shampoo is clear and runny, while the conditioner's texture is thicker, but spreadable. I followed instructions, washed my hair with the shampoo, and left the conditioner for around 3-4 minutes before washing it off.

After the very first wash, I saw that my hair felt much softer and smoother to touch. However, my hair was not weighed down, or limp. Both shampoo and conditioner had a strong smell which might not be to everyone's liking. However, I like it.   

Dove Oxygen Moisture Shampoo Conditioner 
Over prolonged use (I shampoo my hair every alternate day, I have realized that this shampoo is able to clean out oily scalp without drying it, and the moisturising conditioner works great on my fine hair. A good product during the monsoons, when I feel that my hair is naturally weighed down because of the dampness in the air. This is a good option for people with fine, limp hair, as it gives the hair some much-needed volume, without the frizz.

Dove Shampoo

Disclaimer: PR sample.‎