Food, Travel, Design and the occassional wordiness

Travel: London Day 2  November 24, 2016

Filed under: art,travel — Kolika C @ 9:12 pm
Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

Our second day in London with toddler, grandma and mama started with a hearty breakfast and a stroll to London Bridge.
Following that we walked down through the alleys of Borough market to Pickfords Wharf to the remains of Winchester castle and then onwards to Shakespeare Globe. We would have loved to be a groundling today but the Little Matchgirl is playing all week and that just makes me incredibly sad. Also grounding-ing with a toddler would be tough who by now was napping hard. We got him his first intro to Shakespeare today. And with that comes a little foray into 400 year old British/ world/ human history for a boy who’s not yet 3 (Amused). Go ahead judge me.



Next we tottered to the little Christmas market set up at South Bank (almost next door) in front of Tate Modern. Here’s Grandma enjoying some churros with hot chocolate.

See the featured pic- I love the juxtaposition of this where the clean curves of Millennium Bridge stem from Tate Modern and lead to St. Paul’s Cathedral across the Thames, with a little Christmas charm and glitter in between.

Helpful stranger gives J a life as he chooses ornaments to take home to Boston


After spending 2-3 hours browsing genuine high quality handmade items and sampling market food and fish and chips, we walked back to the hotel only to realize we’d left something back.

So back I went, picked it up and realized that toddler was now snacking and napping with grandma in the hotel, meaning I had some serious art browsing time and I was inside Tate Modern. It’s fate people. Within seconds I was at the fourth floor, internally weeping in front of a Guerrilla Girls exhibit. img_1699-2

6PM and Cinderella’s magic would be wearing off soon and Tate would be closing so I left the other floors for another day and walked back to the hotel, rather fulfilled and genuinely happy with myself. 

It’s rare that you get the joys of traveling solo, traveling with kids, traveling with your mom and seeing your friends all on the same trip. 

London, the more I see you, I feel like you’re that tertiary contact I’ve heard so much about but never got the chance to meet, that contact all my closer friends eyerolled and had a snide remark to say about but everyone forgot to mention how similar we actually are and how well we would gel together. It’s nice getting to know you. Let’s see how the next few days go.


Travel: Culinary joys of Calcutta December 17, 2014


Wait… how is it that the place that taught me to love food and people-watching didn’t get at least an honorary mention in my travel blog? At least until my mother made me do it. Gasp. Yes, she made me write a where-to-eat travelogue for a proceedings book for a medical conference her group is hosting. Confused? In short, doctors lead boring, stressful lives so when they go to conferences other doctors want them to know how cute their city is and where all they can go chomp between the talks.

Why does it have to be here? For one, the amount of research and thought that went into writing it deserves it be placed in this blog. Secondly, this is the best I got, yet. Until I sum up every piece of advice, I have been giving my guests and traveler friends and write something better about what to do in my city, you will have to be happy with the description of where to eat there.

Calcutta- A Taster’s Paradise

You might have visited before, you might have deep acquaintances in this city. You might associate this city with many things—Mother Teresa’s charity, Tagore’s literature and boisterous, friendly Bengalis, but if City of Joy were ever to be renamed into a city of something else, it would most likely be food. So, here’s an insight for you: your hosts (and coworkers here) are indeed, in their heart of hearts, self-proclaimed hosts of travel/food shows, they are judgmental critiques, passionate foodies and elaborate guides who want little more, than to show you their city, through their eyes and palates.

This Calcuttan might be traveling the globe for years, but ask her about a recent trip…and then listen carefully for the mention of brilliant food, jaw dropping concoction of ecstasy.  Food might not be the only reason she travels, but surely that is one that tugs at her soul. No matter where she goes, her function, budget or preferred ambiance, food, she loves. And now that you are in her city, there is little respite for you.

Unlike most other Indian cities, Calcutta does more than boast its home-spun (Bengali) cuisine—the quintessential fish and sweets. Instead, it proclaims its love for food by offering a magical amalgamation of all things tasty, all cuisines that have traveled across the globe to fascinate the Calcuttan palate. Tastes which have traveled far and wide to marry other tastes and create what is the eclectic Calcuttan flavor.

Home of the Kathi roll (or Frankies), Calcutta is opulant with neighborhood joints with scores of loyal patrons who will claim theirs are the “best Kathi rolls in the world”.

Calcutta will proudly serve you her own Mughlai and South Indian, often from the same store front. Stop by, feel royal with a crispy bite from our greasy, delicious Fish Kobiraji.

Our authentic Biriyani recipes are claimed to be from the Afghan hills. And if you question the Kabul heritage of their spices, Calcuttans will modestly explain (to their cousins from Hyderabad and Mumbai) that the aromatic, flavorful, no-sauce version of meat laden deliciousness is a Lucknow-style Biriyani, something the West and South are yet to discover.

We have Punjabi dhabas lining not just our highways but also, congested inner city streets. Stop by Azad Hind for a midnight snack or a heavy late afternoon lunch. With crowds spilling out of every door in that place, you might have to sit in your car or stand in the street to finish your food. Hence, street food. Make sense?

Our ‘real Madrasi’ coffee is the specialty of our Tamil neighbors. Even though we love our Cafe Coffee Days, every now and then we will stop by little holes in the walls in the Lake Market area, to sip steaming hot, frothy coffee from double-layered steel cups.

If you would much rather stay away from the hoopla and sip tea in the cozies of your own balcony, tasty snacks from Bikaner are there to keep you company. Available both in chain and independent store-fronts across the city, taste from dozens of varieties of toasted nuts, dry fruits and spicy mixes.

Internationally minded? Our fruitcakes are from Jewish bakeries from the past century, our Chinese lo mein comes from our very own Chinatown and Mediterranean delicacies are a-galore at upscale joints lining the city.

Craving more caffeine? Want a crash course in the last 50 years of Calcutta? Ride up north to College Street and walk up dimly lit stairs of the Indian Coffee House. See, Calcutta is a place where people don’t just go to work and then go back home, it is a place where every clerk is a poet, every officer an author, singer, actor, collector, critique… and to live this second life, they have a third place, where they “adda” (meet with friends discussing all things essential to surreal, from politics to football, from economics to literature). Long before Starbucks (and hence the modern day cafe) branded their “third place”, Indian Coffee House in College Street has been every Calcuttan’s “third place” for generations. Warm camaraderie and heated conversations are paired with an equally hot, black “infusion” coffee. That is Calcutta. Taste it.

So without much ado, let’s start you on the journey. 20 places to try and taste, while in Calcutta.

Full meals and sit-down eateries:

  1. Peter Cat—Home of Calcutta’s favorite Chello Kabab and also delicious mutton biriyani (Park Street area)
  2. Arsalan—Claimed by some locals to serve the best Biriyani in town, this is a must stop for other delicacies like Firni too. (multiple locations Park St/ Park Circus area, www.arsalanrestaurant.in)
  3. 6 Ballygunj Place— for authentic Bengali cuisine (multiple locations: the original was in 6 Ballygunj Place, near Ballygunj Phari of course, but now they have locations in Salt Lake as well as other cities like Bangalore)
  4. Charnock City—Named after Job Charnock, the founder of the city, this cozy, well-lit restaurant serves scrumptious Daab-Chingri (shrimp and coconut served inside a coconut) and other Bengali, Indian and continental dishes served with views of lush greens of the Salt Lake Stadium and beyond (Salt Lake, EM Bypass)
  5. Hush—Italian food with a cozy bar for those that prefer quiet times and good food (City Centre, Salt Lake)
  6. Five Rivers— for their Kashmiri menu (City Centre 2, Salt Lake)
  7. Barbeque Nation—Go for unlimited kababs and also unlimited GenX IT professional crowd (Sector V, Salt Lake)
  8. Mocambo—As a NYTimes travel writer says “My mother went to Mocambo to listen to Doris Day covers. I went to Mocambo for Fish à la Diana#”  (Mirza Ghalib St)
  9. Bohemian—Bengali cuisine but with an eclectic, international touch (Ballygunj)
  10. Chinoiserie—for upscale Chinese at the Taj Bengal (Alipore)
  11. Baan Thai—for upscale Thai at the Oberoi Grand (Esplanade)
  12. Sigri—North Indian and Kababs

(Chain restaurants that haven’t lost their charm

  1. Mainland China—for delectable Chinese food outside of Chinatown. (multiple locations including cities outside Calcutta)
  2. Oh! Calcutta—authentic Calcuttan cuisine (multiple locations including internationally http://www.speciality.co.in/index.php/brands/oh-calcutta/)
  3. Flame & Grill—(multiple locations including Prince Anwar Shah Rd http://www.speciality.co.in/index.php/brands/flame-grill/)

(Street food and Take-aways: )

  1. Hot Kati Roll—while kathi rolls are ubiquitous in Calcutta, this is locally claimed as one of the best roll-‘stalls’ in the city. (Park Street)
  2. Aliya—for beautifully fragrant, less-oily Biriyani (strictly take-away, Chandni Chowk)
  3. Utsav—for fish fry and chilli baby corn (Hajra)

(Dessert: )

  1. Flury’s—Housed in an old Brit-era building with tall windows bang in the middle of all Park Street action, Flury’s sells decadent pastries and savory baked goods. (Park Street, http://www.flurysindia.com)
  2. Nahoum’s—Their cakes and breads smell of childhood. Of rum, fruits, chocolate but mostly of nostalgic New Market childhood.. Nahoum’s is abundant in every Calcuttan’s memory, it is that much more prevalent in the confectionery-history of sweet-toothed Calcutta. So go there with a local, early enough in the day to enjoy fresh goodies. (Esplanade, New Market)


This is no way an exhaustive list, and I haven’t been home in so long I forgot how some of this tastes. Maybe that was what my mother wanted–Me to long to go back home, to reach out to my old friends and go out with them to the old hangouts. Well you are successful, Ma, I am craving all of that now and some of your Jhinge Posto too.

Huge shout-out to Debarshi and Saikat for your help with this. Lets get together soon!


Eat food. Stuff you like. As much as you want. | The Fat Nutritionist September 7, 2013

Eat food. Stuff you like. As much as you want. | The Fat Nutritionist

Finally a blog and a blogger who writes well, writes sense and talks about food the way it should it discussed. With common sense.

Michelle, I am a fan.


Organic: Don’t do it! May 26, 2011

Filed under: food,Marketing — Kolika C @ 5:27 pm
Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , ,

A case discussion on Whole Foods Market made me angry, as did so many previous gym shower chats. Don’t get me wrong, I love Whole Foods Market, Trader Joe, Wegman’s. I am just against this large industry that is called Organic. The industry that deprives the new convert farmer to grow produce for 3 years. the industry that pays oodles to certifiers and auditors to go check. The industry that mass-produces (albeit without pesticides), that selectively promotes what they want to and is trying to create a niche, that is like a giant hairy monster in a pink baby crib.

No pesticides is a great idea. No I don’t want to eat fertilizers, but how much fertilizers are you having when you are chewing on the asparagus side to your chicken Marsala? Not a lot, if the asparagus is cleaned and steamed well.

For your fresh raw lettuce and carrots, yes it does make sense; but really your hair is not going to thank you if you use organic natural shampoo. The labeling is not pure and absolute. The Science behind the label is farther away.

I think we need to open our eyes to understand and selectively trust Science and Research and Development. Please remember science, all across the globe, is as good as graduate students who practice them, who are as good as the funds that feed their bosses and their mice. Cognitive misers that we are, we jump at the first opportunity to unload our analytical thinking on 24 year old, head banging geeks locked in labs. We should know better. (I have been that geek, trust me)

It takes less corn syrup than sugar to sweeten your cola and to your body they are the same. No really.

Sustainability-wise, when you go to your local farmer’s market, you are spending more but actually serving the needs and interests of your neighbors and your locality. You are supporting native agriculture, which will sustain native ecology. But when you go to organic retailers and buy Organic in grocery retailers like Wal-Mart…you are just feeding some distant, very unfairly traded farmer, fish-breeder in China.

I believe in sustaining my family, my neighborhood, my community and my planet. But I don’t believe in billionaire industrialists who are playing your and my concern and adding to their top line.

Genetically modified foods may not be for your kids, but it is a stepping stone to feed a lot more kids in many parts of the world. Don’t buy it, if you wont, but don’t hurt the process. There are way too many left hungry, who would much rather have food than healthy food.  Genetic engineering is making a lot of things possible. And if you don’t want genetic engineering, stop taking pills, stop using cosmetics, flush away your vitamins, because all of them are made possible from biotechnology and applied genetic engineering.

Let’s put the sense back into Science and let’s end with this comic that I as part of the nutraceutical technology band-wagon looked at everyday to remind me of the world we live in and of my grand mother of course 🙂


Travel: Chic Chicago land August 6, 2010

Filed under: travel — Kolika C @ 1:25 am
Tags: , , , ,

Chicago celebrating
the Hawks’ win

So many times I have started writing a travelogue on Chicago, after all it’s only natural. It has been my favorite vacation, hide-out and go-to spot for so many occasions, so many people and so many reasons. In the last few years among a million moves, this is one place I have ‘visited’ every year at least once, in some years in every season, in this year, I stayed back for a whole season. Southwest airlines gave me 3 free roundtrips to Vegas, I flew so much to and from Chicago.

And that many times I have backed out and fled the challenge (of writing the travelogue) because every visit to this city, I opened a new page, discovered a new sculpture, a new favorite food, a new neighborhood!

I used to pride myself on being able to guide someone on a one-day trip of Chicago—all the major touristy happenings that is. Hectic, but very doable I’d say. And I still fervently believe that tourists, especially alert tourists often are more efficient: time, money and sometimes even map-wise than are long-term residents of any place. 
Living in a place, growing a habit, having a fixed bed to sleep in and a vehicle at your disposal often rots the well-honed tentacles that guide you in the land of new and unknown. 

And this summer in Chicago is making me lose my edge. So before it’s all gone, while I keep looking for and rediscovering Chi-town’s chic-ness, I’d like to pen down a few brief pointers, things that came in handy for me when I was a tourist.

Always fly into Midway rather than O’Hare, you will save an average of 45 minutes each time you choose the former over the latter, plus Midway has a Potbelly Sandwich store and has Southwest flying into it.  😉
Always walk, don’t drive. If you are a shopper, a foodie, a photographer, an adventurist, a people-watcher, or a thrifty combination of all above, please walk and use the CTA. Parking like in most big cities is expensive and rare and tough. If you have a license plate from anywhere other than IL, you are on the special menu for the city’s revenue system. But that’s one of those secrets everyone knows, but only few are shameless enough to talk about.
Always book a hotel close to downtown ‘the loop’, or absolutely within walking distance of the El (or Elevated CTA train lines). You might spend in taxi rides and transportation what you save on your hotel stay.
When I was not staying at home, with friends, or family, these are the places I had spent my nights: Intercontinental Hotel Rosemont (near O’ Hare), La Quinta Inns and Suites (near O’Hare) and Rodeway Inn on Ogden Ave. Intercontinental was one of my best hotel stays ever across the globe, that kind of service, décor (that’s important for me), stay is a steal for only $150, now that I think, it could have been on a special. LQ was a good value for money, but not the greatest service: I’ve stayed at better LQs and the Rodeway Inn I guess I didn’t know any better, a dismal 2.5/5 for value was a great learning experience.
Friends and family who have hosted me on other occasions were all well located: Hyde Park (accessible by the Metra and #6), Forest Park (..by the Green line and Metra), downtown on Madison (by everything!)
Next the touristy spots: you will probably want to do an observation deck? Choose the 4th tallest in the city John Hancock over the tallest Sears er. Willis tower. Why? Well Big John offers candid views of blue-green Lake Michigan and better views of all things nice and tall (including Willis) that defines Chicago. It also has history framed in photos and words for a overall good time. Big john has a restaurant high up, which is more famed for the views than the food or value for money; contrary to a bunch of good eating places downstairs, including Jamba Juice and Cheesecake Factory (both of which we love despite being chain-restaurants).
Also while you’re up there, try to go a little before sunset, so you can see the city by day, (maybe some of Indiana too?) a glorious sunset and the city-lights when dark.
If you’re like me, you like cheesy. Navy Pier might just be the funnel-cake smelling, souvenir selling, junk-shopping, street-food eating respite from the walk. It has something for every one. A Beer Garden, a Stained Glass museum (showing Mosaics too currently), a Children’s museum, a make-a-bear store, Bubba Gump Shrimp, American Hot Dogs, Ben and Jerry’s and fun stuff from across the globe in a vendor market type atmosphere. Unwind, relax, catch some magic show for kids or watch the fireworks if you’re lucky 9pm Wednesday 10:15pm Saturday in summer (subject to change), also July 4th 9:00 pm and Dec 31st midnight.
You’d probably like to take a boat-ride along the plentiful water of the lake. There are many companies, Wendella, Seadog, Lakeshore, Chicago Architecture Foundation, Spirit, Mercury, Caravan…. to name a few. Which sounds the most authentic? Chicago Architecture Foundation. Wrong choice, unless you want a dead-with-boredom, grumpy, drone-y explain Chicago’s magnificent architectural wonders in a pin-point fashion.
I have taken about 6 different boat rides, some many times and I can see why you’d prefer SeaDog’s speed boat tour, or Wendella’s 90 minute lake and river or Tall Ship Windy for obviously thrill, : best value (fun, info, relaxation) for money and some good time sailing with a special someone. Fancy watching the fireworks from afloat the water? You can, just schedule accordingly!
If you’re traveling with kids or love animals and/or are from a place where there are no good zoos or aquariums, you might want to spend a few hours in that niche.
Lincoln Park is free but rather lame. Good for those in the city for a day lazing but not time-crunched tourists. Choose Brookfield Zoo of course for a good tour keep 2.5-3 hours in hand. Go to the Shedd Aquarium, but get tickets in advance. Keep a good 4 hours to include everything.
If you are a art-junkie, try sneaking into the Art Musuem on Michigan, its free Thursday evenings. If you’re a museum addict, you might like the Field Museum. But beware both these will take whole days if you want to do them well, so when planning a day trip you might want to avoid them.
So what do you do the morning of your ‘one-day’ in Chicago? You go to the Cultural Center and collect some brochures and self-guided sculpture tours then climb the stairs to go, see the largest stained glass dome ceiling. Once done marveling walk out and enjoy Chagall’s Four Seasons, Buckingham Fountain, Picasa, Cloud and Crown Fountain; if you don’t want to go to the Cultural Center you can also find valuable information in these blogs:  http://chicago-outdoor-sculptures.blogspot.com/, http://chicagosculptureintheloop.blogspot.com/ and http://www.architectureintheloop.blogspot.com/
If you have more than a day, definitely spend a day on the museums and check out the individual neighborhoods—their old-style architecture and specially their specialty restaurants. Also educate yourself on the many fairs and festivals of the city during summer and plan your trip accordingly. While traffic and flight deals might be unfavorable, Taste of Chicago or the Blues festival besides many others, are well worth at least half a travel-day. 

For an efficient one-day tour start with the sculptures and murals while you have the all the morning energy to walk (or substitute with the zoo and aquarium), take the boat tour, climb up an observation deck, go to Navy Pier and intersperse these with culinary wonders that makes Chicago what it is.
And thus coming to the most important part of any travel: Food.
Chicago has been called a food-lovers paradise so many times and a haven for hot-dogs and pizza. I was not as much a believer in the whole hot-dog works thing or the pizza while I was a visitor and I hang my head low (and high) saying that the last 3 months has done miracles on my hot-dog taste-buds and cultivated special taste receptacles for pizza that I didn’t know existed. And I am not just talking about the quintessential deep-dish pizza, I mean pizza: crispy thin-crust, wood-fired, stone-grilled. Any. All. Now I actually love each one for the specialties that they are.
For Chicago-style deep dish pizza try Giordano’s, Gino’s East or Lou Malnati’s. Everybody has their own favorites that they swear by, I like Giordano’s best.

For thin crust pizzas, Piece (Wicker Park) and Flo & Santo’s (South Loop). Piece’s mashed potato and chicken on white crust happens to be my favorite.

Freddie’s is a typical neighborhood joint with heavy portions sprinkled with Chicago culture. Although known for its double sausage dogs, their tastiest item is their chili

Hot Doug’s is a definite go-to even if you dont do anything else in Chicago. One meal here and you will be coming back to town for more. Never mind the line in front of the restaurant, you will have to wait in line for 40 to 120 minutes and as I have said time and again, it is well worth it. 
Doug serves up gourmet hot dogs: everything from the thai chicken with seaweed salad and spicy peanut dressing, to the duck sausage with foie gras truffle, pork with apple and cranberry, the elk, the alligator, the antelope and the vegetarian spinach option among them too…. each getting fancier than the rest. They have specials every day, try those. Duck fat fries (although it doesn’t attract me much) are a Fri and Sat only special. They are strictly cash only and are closed Sundays and most holidays, please check their website and call them for hours.

Another place that catches up on the Chicago dog fever is American Hot Dogs: try each one. My favorite: the Baltimore deep fried dog.

312 Chicago is a hyped downtown joint if you have business to accomplish. Food wise, not recommended at all. Instead walk a few blocks to Grand Lux Cafe on the Magnificient mile and enjoy all they have to offer. My favorite their Creme Brulee duo–the regular vanilla coupled with a chocolate one. 

In the mood for Europe? Try Austrian Bakery in the Lincoln Park area. Great sandwiches and breakfast options run parallel to their abundant pastry styles and cakes. Chocolate Croissants and Rum Balls are my favorite.

That brings me to Mindy’s Hot Chocolate in Wicker Park. Take the waiter’s suggestion, because he will say Chocolate #1 which is a warm chocolate souffle with salty peanut butter ice cream served with a pretzel. Dont miss out on the goal. When choosing a hot chocolate try their Black and Tan or Dark French 72%. If you like cinnamon, the Mexican Chocolate might just grab your fancy. 

want to bring some for home? Get their cookies, donuts and a hot chocolate mix. 
Trust me its all worth it.

More chocolate cravings? Take your pick at hand-made chocolates, gelato and candy at Canady le Chocolatier. He might give you some warm cider to go with your chocolate samples, if you are lucky. Amazing palate cleanser, makes me love his creations even more.

Closeby, for lunch, brunch or dessert and coffee stop by at Little Branch Café for their quiches, lox or dark chocolate gelato or mocha.
Dont miss out on Greektown’s braised lamb (Rodity’s is great, but there are others too like Pegasus, Santorini’s). 

Make a trip up north for great Ethiopian family-style food at Abyssinia near Broadway.

Find the many Polish restaurants on Belmont. Try Cafe DK‘s pirogies– the most amazing concoction of meat, cheese and potato.

Russian Tea time near the Art Institute has great breakfast scones and tea.

But dont get me wrong, as much as I love the food scene, I’m drawn to Chicago for my friends and family
People who’d hosted me and helped me settle in, people who’d let me visit at all times of day, those who’ve traveled to visit me while I was here and those who’ve traveled with me. 
And of course, those who gave tasty instructions of where to try the next greatest food on earth, albeit distantly. And then those, who braved 13F cold and ear-numbing wind, to go chocolate-tasting with me or stood in line for 2 hours in the sun and rain to get hot dogs, walked 10 miles in a day for our famous comprehensive 1 day tour and then dozed off on my knees on the train, or those who’ve driven for hours to catch up with me on airports.
I’m just thankful all these people have great taste!


%d bloggers like this: