Celebrating birthdays - cousin mania
I love birthdays. Not that I always do anything special or go overboard but occasionally others do that for me. My celebrations this year started last weekend (22nd) in Chennai where an impromptu plan kicked off on a Whatsapp group (don't they all do that these days?). We were using our excuses for birthday celebrations to really meet and spend time and get reaquainted with a cousin I hadn't seen in a while. And get to know him and his family.
It was a fabulous but food-filled weekend which it usually is with Bengalis (especially) and when it involves my very foodie cousin Bikramjit (Tanu to the family - yes we love our nicknames), it most definitely is an extravagant feast. So a special thank you to him, his company and the lovely PR ladies/guys, and F&B teams that went out of their way to make this a very special celebration.
The first day was spent with my cousin, Nirup and his family at their home as we introduced ourselves to them, reminisced about childhood, aunts, uncles, mayhem, carefully skirting around any cagey family dynamics (no family is without them). It was wonderful and Mrinalini (or Malu as she is called) served up her home cooking with some very special Coorgi (not the dog but the people from the Coorg hills of South India) cooking - simple, delicious and utterly satisfying. With a bit of a sleep in the middle (as I caught up on much-needed zzzs), we started with a belated celebration of my cousin Nirup's birthday (it was on 20th) with a few shots of Abelour which I carried from Dubai (yes the irony is not lost) as a birthday present. A wonderful spirit that Tanu introduced me to and I thought it would be perfect for my malt-loving cousin. The evening dinner involved (muslims - please move swiftly on) Pandy curry made with her grandma's handwritten recipe.
Day 2 if I had to simplify started with a lovely 'picnic' lunch by the bay at Vivanta once again hosted by Nirup (why do we do this jostling for the bill but opt to share instead) but orchestrated by Tanu that got us a lot of attention. Had the most delicious seafood lunch - king prawns, crab curry, red snapper for us non-vegetarians and ravioli and veg curry for the vegetarians. All of it washed down with some wheat beer (can't remember the name) that was quite light and refreshing.
The epic celebration was at night - organised by Tanu (of course) and hosted by the ITC Grand Chola's Avartana restaurant. The 14-odd course was curated and created by the very deft and clever chefs and overseen by Chef Nikhil Nagpal. I could not even begin describing the experience - the menu was definitely South Indian inspired flavours taken from everyday home-cooked meals and streetfood that was elevated and sublime. It played on taste, textures, smells. As Tanu always insists - good food, well presented is complete art because it appeals to all five senses. I love Indian Accent, but this menu would give him a run for his money. If you are in India and in Chennai, make this one of your stops. Until then, enjoy the photographs.
My real birthday was yesterday (26). And it was spent the way I like it - with a good friend, Sunita, transitting through with her son, introducing them to some gorgeous Iraqi food along with Bish and Wasila, "cake cutting" with my daughter-in-law and my favourite man who apparently "can't wish me for my birthday without cake".
All in all - I did quite well.
Enjoy the photographs on Facebook.