‘The Taste Of Malabar’ Food Festival At Nook, Aloft, Cessna Business Park

What comes to your mind when you think of the Malabar region? For me, a mere mention of the place conjures up images of lush greenery, gorgeous beaches, swaying coconut trees, banana chips, appams and stew, toddy, little chai shops, red rice and a whole lot of other things that are quintessentially Kerala. That said, I don’t have any personal experience of visiting the Malabar, that coastal region in Kerala that runs from Goa to the southernmost part of the country. All the impressions I have about the Malabar region are purely based on things I have read and holidays undertaken in other parts of Kerala.

So, it was with great curiosity that I recently reached Nook, a restaurant by Aloft Hotels, in Cessna Business Park, Kadubeesanahalli, Bangalore. I had been invited to experience the ongoing ‘The Taste Of Malabar’ food festival at Nook, and was very eager to check it out. Let me hasten to tell you that I thoroughly enjoyed my time there, savouring the lovely food that was served to me.

29541981_10215710282055195_2686910224454909952_n
The swanky, contemporary decor at Nook by Aloft, Cessna Business Park

The Taste Of Malabar food festival at Nook by Aloft

The festival is an attempt by Chef Aniket Das (Executive Chef at Nook) to showcase the cuisine of the Mapilla community from the Malabar coastal region. Mapilla – also called Moplah – is community of Malayalam-speaking Muslims in the Malabar, with a distinct cuisine of their own. There is a heavy-handed use of coconut oil and spices like dried red chillies, cloves, cardamom and pepper in Mapilla food, as is the use of curry leaves, tamarind, ginger, coconut and rice. The cuisine borrows heavily from the Arabic world, thanks to widespread trade relations between the two places. Though non-vegetarian food rules the roost in Mapilla cuisine, there are several vegetarian delicacies worth savouring as well.

Ambience and decor

I loved how the food festival brought Kerala to life. A little stall was set up to represent the chai kada (tea shop) of Kerala, complete with a variety of chips, bananas hanging off hooks and Malayalam newspapers. Coconut-leaf decorations adorned the ceiling, and most of the food was presented in earthenware utensils that are so typical of Kerala. Another small stall handed out tender coconut water to the guests who requested them. An exhibit showcased a few ingredients that are indigenous to Kerala – coconuts and red rice and red bananas. The front office staff were dressed the Kerala way too, with golden-bordered kasavus, white shirts, mundus and veshtis.

29513040_10215710264254750_4433354651265400832_n
A Kerala-style chai kada set up at Nook, as part of The Taste Of Malabar food festival

I am a sucker for attention to such little details as these, which indicate that research and thought have gone in into providing a complete experience to the customers.

29496624_10215710279175123_2838789755624226816_n
Assorted chutneys, chips and poppadums served in earthenware vessels at the food festival

Food and drinks

The food festival menu is in addition to the regular buffet at Nook, at no additional charge. A walk around the buffet showed me that it was quite, quite expansive, spanning a vast variety of vegetarian and non-vegetarian dishes. I really mean it – the spread here is HUGE.

29542431_10215710263094721_6538684475155415040_n
The pretty bread basket that is part of the buffet at Nook

A live fish fry counter that had been set up for the food festival elicited sighs of pleasure from my fellow diners. I sampled only the vegetarian fare, of course.

29495944_10215710280895166_7991560152048205824_n
Live fish fry counter at Nook, set up for The Taste Of Malabar Food Festival

As we settled into our seats, little pots of Kerala delicacies were brought to us to munch on – assorted chutneys, poppadums, rose cookies, tapioca chips, sweet and savoury banana chips, and jackfruit chips. Every bit of this was thoroughly enjoyed by yours truly, especially the lip-smackingly gorgeous pumpkin, curry leaf and raw mango chutneys.

BeFunky Collagealoft3
Top left: A variety of chutneys; Bottom left: Poppadums; Bottom right: Sweet and salted banana chips and jackfruit chips; Top right: Tapioca chips; Top centre: Rose cookies

Next up, I tried out the somasi – wheat flour shells stuffed with different types of fillings and then deep-fried. I loved the two vegetarian versions, with paneer and mushroom stuffing within.

The onion samosa that I sampled alongside was also beautiful, crisp and perfectly done, the filling delicious.

I understand, from my non-vegetarian fellow diners, that the somasi with chicken and beef filling was exquisite too. The stir-fried squid and chicken was, apparently, very well done as well.

BeFunky Collagealoft
Left: Mushroom somasi; Centre: Onion samosa; Right: Paneer somasi

The buffet also included three drinks (if I may call them so!) that are integral to Kerala – neer more or mildly spiced buttermilk, cumin-flavoured water, and water that is infused with a herb called pathimugam or sappanwood.

BeFunky Collagealoft4
Left: Water infused with pathimugam; Centre: Neer more; Right: Cumin-infused water

I chose some salads from the regular buffet to sample, next. I must say I absolutely loved the salad counter at Nook, it is so very expansive, with several types of vegetarian and non-vegetarian versions available. There are different types of chaats on offer at the counter as well.

I loved the Capsicum Salad here, with a sweetish dressing, served with bits of feta. The Jackfruit Salad (yes, you read that right! Nowhere else have I come across a salad like this!) was a close second favourite. The Ripe Fig Salad was good too, as was the Soya Nuggets Chaat (the latter, again, something I have never come across before).

BeFunky Collagealoft2
A few items from the salad counter at Nook by Aloft. Top left: Grilled pineapple, grilled watermelon and capsicum salad with feta; Bottom left: Soya nuggets chaat and pesto pasta; Bottom right: Fresh micro greens; Top right: Fresh fig salad; Top centre: The jackfruit salad that I so loved

For main course, I tried out the Kerala Red Rice with Ulli Theeyal, a tamarind-based preparation with shallots. While I loved the earthy taste of the red rice, I felt the ulli theeyal could have done with a bit more flavour. The Cabbage Mezhukkuperatti or stir fry that I sampled alongside was very well done, too, mild and simple, yet full of deliciousness.

BeFunky Collagealoft5
Left: Kerala red rice; Centre: Ulli theeyal; Right: Cabbage mezhukkuperatti

I also tried out the Vegetarian Pizza, Singapore Noodles and Hot-And-Sour Vegetables from the regular buffet, which I felt were just about okay. I loved the Paneer & Papad Sabzi I sampled from the buffet, too (Just how innovative that is, right?!)

As per my fellow non-vegetarian diners, the Mapilla Chicken Biryani was out of the world, and the appams with chicken stew were fantabulous too. I didn’t have space enough in my tummy to try out the vegetarian versions. The sheer variety of pickles that was part of the buffet – from chicken and prawn pickle to lal mirch ka achaar and mixed vegetable pickle – was mind-boggling!

BeFunky Collagealoft7
Some desserts on offer at Nook by Aloft. Left: White chocolate with roses and nuts; Centre: A decoration that caught my fancy at the dessert counter; Right: Chocolate gateau with a (surprise!) mango filling within

The dessert counter at Nook is vast, just like the salad bar, including stuff for every kind of sweet tooth there is. Thanks to the food festival, the dessert counter had typical Kerala sweet dishes like buckwheat halwa, Calicut halwa and Vattayappam (sweet steamed rice cakes made with toddy). This was apart from the regular sweet dishes like ice cream, pannacotta, mousse and various Indian desserts.

BeFunky Collagealoft6
Some of the desserts on offer at Nook by Aloft. Top left: Basboosa, an Arabic dessert; Bottom left: Calicut halwa; Bottom centre: Buckwheat halwa; Bottom right: Vattayappam; Top right: Mango and ginger mousse (stuffed with mixed fruit jam!)

I was able to try out very few of the desserts, of which I adored the chocolate gateau and the buckwheat halwa. The vattayappam, basboosa and mango-ginger mousse were so intriguing that I had to pick them up but, sadly, they did not hit the right taste notes with me.

Festival details

  • Type: Lunch and dinner buffet
  • Price: INR 1099 + +
  • Date: March 15 to 27, 2018
  • Timings : 12.30 – 3.00 PM & 7.00 – 11.00 PM.
  • Address: Cessna Business Park, Sarjapur – Marathahalli Outer Ring Road, Kadubeesanahalli, Bellandur Post, Bengaluru, Karnataka 560103
  • Phone: 08045101010

In hindsight

Overall, the buffet was quite interesting, not to forget vast. I loved how the kitchen has gone to great lengths to add that element of surprise to some of the dishes. Also, like I said before, I loved how the overall look of the place and the food makes the mind travel to Kerala.

A few of the dishes I tried out from the regular buffet were just okay, while the others were beautiful and par excellence. That said, the buffet menu changes regularly, so the items (and taste) I encountered might not be the case with you, when you visit.

Considering that Mapilla cuisine is predominantly non-vegetarian, options for vegetarians are relatively limited on the food festival menu. However, the regular buffet more than makes up for it.

The buffet is definitely value for money, with or without the food festival, considering the huge spread. I don’t think I can try out all the items at one go, even if I tried to.

That was quite something, right? Do book yourself a slot at The Taste Of Malabar before the food festival ends!

Advertisements

Monkey Business At Pookode Lake, Wayanad

Wayanad has several tourist attractions, ranging from lakes and waterfalls to beautiful, ancient temples and national parks. On our recent brief holiday to Wayanad, however, we decided to take things reallllllyyyyyyy slow – not endlessly checking off things from a to-do list, but exploring at our own pace, just as much as our hearts (and bodies and our little daughter!) dictated.

In the two full days and two half days that we spent in Wayanad, we ended up visiting only two lakes – the Pookode Lake and the Karalad Lake. We absolutely loved Karalad Lake and were not much charmed by the Pookode Lake, though it is just as beautiful a place as the former.

A view of the Pookode Lake, a tourist boat plying over it

The moment we entered the premises of Pookode Lake, our senses were soothed by the sight and sound of water lapping against the banks. The very next moment, we felt tension seeping back into our minds and bodies again – the place was super crowded, there was just too much chaos, and a closer glance revealed that the water was quite dirty.

The lake premises have too many things crammed into it, we felt – boating, a small temple, a permanent exhibition of Wayanad-special products, a children’s play area, an ice cream shop, a canteen, caricature artists, a fish spa, an aquarium… just too messy. And, oh, the monkeys! There are scores of monkeys at Pookode Lake, very naughty, very bold, not one bit afraid of the tourists.

We were told getting a chance at boating on the lake would involve a wait of at least two hours, so we decided against it. Instead, we chose to take a walk around the lake and settle down on a stone bench to just be and take in the surroundings around us.

It was rather sad to see this plant bearing the brunt of vandalism! So many names, so many initials carved into its leaves – sigh!

The monkeys kept us thoroughly entertained, the hour or so we spent at Pookode Lake. I have come across monkeys at tourist spots before, but never ones as precocious, as atrocious as the ones here. The monkeys at Pookode Lake are absolutely undaunted. They don’t have second thoughts about pulling at tourists’ clothes or bags, to get hold of their ice cream cones or popcorn packets. They appear out of nowhere, seem to jump out of everywhere. They sit right next to your bench, staring you up and down, sniffing the air, as if telling you they know all about the bag of chips you have hidden in your backpack. They don’t allow the tourists a moment of rest and relaxation, really. You have to see them in action to believe me.

This particular monkey was busy biting its tail, when we entered Pookode Lake. Later, we saw it had bitten a hole through its tail!

I had read about the monkey trouble at Pookode Lake earlier, so we left all our food in the car and did not carry any in our backpacks. We did not buy any food at the in-house canteen, either. The monkeys, therefore, left us alone, well, relatively at least.

A little monkey quenching its thirst, at Pookode Lake

Thankfully, the monkeys did not seem to be all that interested in my camera. They were content to do their mischievous acts, letting me capture all of it on camera.

A naughty monkey enjoying an ice cream cone snatched off a tourist!
This little one was so happy playing with his mother’s tail and lying down on it! It was so very cute to watch!
Another monkey, another ice cream cone, another tourist’s dupatta grabbed
fb_img_1520594147711-01950741590.jpeg
We sit on the heart of India!

We walked away from Pookode Lake with mixed feelings.

Of the two big tourist hotspots in Wayanad – Pookode Lake and Karalad Lake – I personally preferred the latter. Both lakes are equally beautiful and offer boating facilities. However, Karalad Lake is quieter and much better managed, as they have just a few boats to offer and very limited tourist activities. There are no monkeys at Karalad Lake, either! I much preferred the calm of Karalad Lake to the chaos of Pookode Lake. If you have to choose any one of these two, I would suggest Karalad.

*********************

Tips for travellers:

  1. There is a minimal entry fee for visitors to Pookode Lake, INR 20 per head or so. Camera charges are separate.
  2. The lake tends to get quite crowded, especially so on weekends. Boating might involve standing in a queue and long wait times. Please do be prepared for this.
  3. The monkeys here are atrocious. Please do be on your guard at all times, and safeguard your children as well. It would be best not to carry any food with you into the lake premises, and avoid eating at the canteen too. Do not feed the monkeys, try to scare them or entertain them in any way.
  4. The parking lot is a short walk away from the actual lake. Please do bear this in mind while travelling with very young kids or aged people. You could make use of the local autos to commute from the parking lot to/from the lake. If you are travelling via a cab, you can request the driver to drop you at the lake and then proceed to the parking lot – that is allowed.
  5. The permanent exhibition within the Pookode Lake premises is quite good. It stocks a variety of products indigenous to Wayanad, all of it reasonably priced. This is a good place to shop for souvenirs and for exotic ingredients to take back home with you from your trip.

********************

I hope you enjoyed traversing Pookode Lake with me, virtually. Do let me know, in your comments!

Postcards From Karalad Lake, Wayanad

Wayanad, a district located in the north-east of Kerala, is a no-brainer holiday destination for the people living in Bangalore and surrounding areas. Wayanad is just about a 6-hour drive away from Bangalore, anyway, with quite a few home stays available. Most of the Bangalore tourists who visit Wayanad, however, stay just for a day or two – there is not much to do here, they say, just a couple of lakes, temples, tea and coffee plantations, and the undulating mountains. The husband and I, however, beg to differ.

Yes, Wayanad does not have many tourist spots per se, but the off-beat traveller does indeed have a lot to explore here. For people who enjoy being in the midst of unadulterated nature, who enjoy history and love learning about a culture and way of living different from theirs, Wayanad has plenty to offer. In fact, our homestay owner gave us a list of over 30 destinations that are worth visiting in Wayanad, which one can cover only over a stay of at least seven days! And that is minus the explorations of the pretty nooks and crannies that you run into here, which aren’t listed anywhere as such, but are surely worth the experience.

We stayed in Wayanad for two full days, plus a few hours on the two days we travelled to and fro. We were not inclined to check out all the sights, cram in a load of sights and scenes into the two days we would be spending there. Plus, the fact that we were travelling with a small child did not allow us the flexibility to do the full-on sightseeing that we might have resorted to earlier. Also, thanks to the winding, narrow roads of Wayanad and the fact that the popular tourist spots are all located at a 25-30km distance from each other, we think covering everything in one go is not really a great idea. Wayanad is, as per us, meant to be explored slowly, soaking in the sights and sounds and smells and tastes a little at a time.

We took it real slow this time, just choosing to visit two of the many tourist spots in Wayanad – the Pookode lake and the Karalad lake. I leave you with some postcards from the beautiful Karalad lake, my favourite spot in Wayanad.

******************

Our Experience At Karalad Lake

With the help of Google maps, we took the interior countryside roads to Karalad lake, very few vehicles passing us by. The lush greenery on both sides of the roads enchanted us. I would say the drive to the lake was just as beautiful and enjoyable as the time we spent at the destination.

329
At one point en route to Karalad lake, there were these beautiful, green, green, green banana trees on both sides of the road. We couldn’t resist getting down to click some pictures here!

Karalad lake is a clean, serene and beautiful place, an oasis of calm. It is smaller than the Pookode lake, by the look of it, but much less crowded and peaceful. I fell in love with the spot at first glance, and so did the bub and the husband.

278
I loved this rock sculpture (?) of a mother and her child lost in their own world, right outside Karalad lake.

Karalad lake is the sort of place where you just sit and let the force of nature take over you, relax and rejuvenate you, heal you from the inside.

285
Our first view of the beautiful Karalad lake

The waters here are magical, calm and quiet at least on the surface. They fill you with peace, as you take them in.

296
Another group, soaking in the peace at Karalad lake

There are just a few boats plying the waters at Karalad lake. Take a ride on one of these, as we did, and the lake will enchant you further with its sights and sounds and hues. A boat ride here is such a soothing experience, quite unlike the overcrowded, stress-filled boat rides that we have had elsewhere. The splash-splash-splash of the boat’s oars cutting through the waters almost lulled us into a trance, the way real boat rides should.

292
Tourists on a pedal boat at Karalad lake

Karalad lake is home to flora and fauna of several kinds, and we thoroughly enjoyed this bounty of nature here. The flowers in particular, by the lakeside, are very pretty.

BeFunky Collagekaralad
Colourful flowers at Karalad lake
300
The beautiful water lilies to which Karalad lake is home

If you are lucky, you will spot a couple of the small animals and reptiles that inhabit Karalad lake. We did!

308
This little fellow was almost invisible, the same colour as the tree trunk he sat on. Can you spot him?

Our boatsman told us there are several types of snakes that inhabit the waters of the Karalad lake, as well as a special kind of small turtles. We were blessed to spot one of these beautiful, little turtles on the course of our boat ride.

365
Isn’t he super cute?!

Overall, we loved the time we spent at Karalad lake. Though the lake is quite small and there isn’t  much to do here, we liked this place much better than the crowded, not-so-clean Pookode lake in Wayanad. We walked away from Karalad lake, sated, our hearts content.

293
One of the cottages available for rent at Karalad lake

*******************

Tips for travellers

  1. There are very few boats plying at Karalad lake, so you might have to wait for a while for a ride. Do plan your visit accordingly.
  2. Unlike Pookode lake – which boats of an aquarium, a cafeteria, several boats and a little temple – there is nothing much to do at Karalad lake. Do be prepared for the same when you visit. The waters here are much cleaner and the place much less crowded and peaceful than Pookode lake. Personally, we loved Karalad lake, and couldn’t form a connection with Pookode lake.
  3. There is parking space available right outside the lake. Unlike many other tourist spots in Wayanad, there is not much walking involved in visiting Karalad lake. This is a place that will suit tourists visiting with young kids and the aged.
  4. The lake is open to visitors till about 6 PM, but boating is allowed only till 5 PM. Do plan accordingly – you need to reach the lake at about 3.30 PM so as to ensure a chance at a boat ride.
  5. There is accomodation (tents) available at the lake, for those who are interested. You need to book these well in advance, I am guessing.
  6. I hear there are zipling facilities available at the lake when the circumstances are favourable for the same. We didn’t spot any ziplining happening, however, when we visited. If you plan to visit the lake exclusively for ziplining, do check on the availability.
  7. There is an entry fee of about INR 30 per head for Karalad lake. Boating charges are separate, depending upon the type of boat you choose (pedal boat or one with a boatsman and oars).
  8. There are a couple of small stores telling tea, snacks and assorted knick-knacks right outside the lake compound.

*******************

I hope you enjoyed traversing Karalad lake with me! Please do tell me, in the comments section!

One Morning, In Wayanad

Since long, the husband and I had been craving for a vacation where we did absolutely nothing. We wanted a holiday where we would just eat, sleep, read, walk around the place we were staying at, and play with the bub. No sightseeing, no agenda.

So, as soon as we got a chance, recently, off we took to Wayanad, to stay in one of the many homestays there – one named Kudajadri Drizzle, to be precise. We wanted to just be, and do nothing else. It’s a different story that the bub didn’t let us just be at the homestay, and we had to head out for some sightseeing just to keep her entertained – not that we didn’t have fun in the process. 😛 Another story is that the drive back home to Bangalore from Wayanad took us 12 hours – the double of what it takes usually – thanks to crazy traffic. We ended up more exhausted than ever, but still, I am glad we managed to see a new place.

Wayanad is beautiful, all rolling hills and lush green and small town and winding paths. The homestay we stayed at was lovely, an ancient family home which is now let out to other families, and we thoroughly loved the experience of staying in it. We walked around in the plantation attached to the homestay, ooh-ing and aah-ing at various trees and plants, the bub’s mouth opening wide in awe as she touched Touch-Me-Not plants and watched them closing up. We explored the hill station in bits and pieces, learning a little about their cuisine, picking up some foodie souvenirs, trying out new dishes. I wouldn’t say we got the relaxed, do-nothing sort of vacation we wanted, but we did get another sort of beautiful holiday – one in which we were not inclined to see all the sights the destination had to offer, but kept it to the minimal.

I leave you with some pictures from our walk in the homestay’s plantation, one gorgeous Wayanadan morning.

*********************

087
The bub, the husband and the mother, walking into the plantation
402
Beautiful, beautiful green pepper was everywhere!
081
A close-up of the green pepper on a plant. My! What an experience it was to bite into one, plucked straight off the plant, and gasp as it filled my mouth with its spiciness!
139
Citron fruits, narthangai in Tamil, on the tree
165
Green pepper being dried in the sun, to be packed off and sent off to various destinations
BeFunky Collagecocoa
Cocoa beans, in various stages of ripening. This is the first-ever time we saw these on the plant! How exciting!

 

134
Coffee berries! That’s where coffee, as we know it, comes from.
BeFunky Collage123
Left: Golden yellow konna flowers (Cassia Fistula) that are of great significance in Vishu poojas; Centre: Pink dandelion!; Right: Guava fruits hanging off the tree
127
The sweet little calf, for whom the plantation is home. I was fascinated by its beautiful eyes!

 

BeFunky Collagepaaku
Tall, tall, tall betelnut trees in various stages of fruition
097
Spellbound by all the Touch-Me-Nots!
BeFunky Collageflowers
Different types of flowers we spotted, on our walk through the plantation
140
A cardamom plant blooming! Can’t say we have seen one before.
BeFunky Collagetrees
Left: A betel leaf creeper; Centre: Bananas on the tree; Right: A papaya tree

*********************

I hope you enjoyed this little walk through a Wayanad home plantation with me. Do let me know!

Please stay tuned for more stories from our trip to Wayanad!