Rude Food by Vir Sanghvi: Eat, drink and be merry
Istill remember the first time I met Kapil Sekhri. It was at a tasting with both Sekhri brothers (Gaurav and Kapil) at the Delhi Leela and I was pleasantly surprised by the potential of their red wines. I was to try the wines again and again and they just got better. The red Sette is probably the best wine made in India.
In a couple of years after that first tasting, Fratelli became famous but Kapil never changed. It helped that the Sekhris were already a wealthy Delhi industrial family and that wine was a passion for Kapil who could have just stuck to the family business.
Success makes many people arrogant, but it made Kapil even humbler. He was a habitué of restaurants at India’s top hotels. But when he started going to meet F&B managers to persuade them to put Fratelli Wines on the list, hotel executives were shocked to see that he used the service entrance. When he came as a guest, he said, he came through the main door. But when he came as a vendor, he used the service door.
A few weeks ago, after he had recovered from asymptomatic Covid, Kapil suddenly passed away from what I imagine were the after-effects of this little understood disease. He was 45.
He will be remembered as the guy who finally made an Indian wine that did not taste like an Indian wine. He gave us a world-class wine to drink at a very Indian price. The world of food and wine owes him a huge debt.
Fortunately, the Fratelli range continues to flourish. His wife Puja has taken his place and his brother Gaurav is a little more hands-on during the transition. The company has continued with the products that Kapil launched before his untimely demise.
The big one is TiLT, a range of fun wines in cans, aimed at a younger demographic. Each can contains only as much wine as one third of a normal bottle so you can open it without worrying about how you will finish it. There are two still wines: white and red. And two sparklers: white and rose. There is also a spritzer called Noi, also sold in cans, which is a perfect drink for a lazy summer day.
More daring is a collaboration with the cheesemaker Käse to launch a collection of cheeses with a wine connection. The Cheddar is wrapped in the leaves of the Sangiovese bush, whose grapes go into Sette. The Chenin Rinsed Sunburst is a limburger-style cheese, which is mixed in a brine laced with Chenin wine for over a month. And the Gusto is an Alpine-style cheese rinsed in Fratelli’s Syrah wine.
TiLT was Kapil’s dream project and now that it is such a huge success I am sure that he is looking down proudly from up there, a smile on his face.
You probably remember Kamia Mulhotra from her days as a TV star (Buniyaad, etc.) but what you may not know is that she has been a successful restaurateur for many years. She started nearly two decades ago with a gastropub called Hungamma in Mumbai’s Lokhandwala, which later extended to another outlet in Juhu. Then, there was a larger restaurant and nightclub called D Ultimate in Oshiwara till she came home to Delhi and opened Kafed’or in Hauz Khas Village.
Kamia’s son, Yajush Khosla, is an organic farmer who wanted to open a restaurant. Alas, the pandemic intervened so he has started Curry and Culinary for delivery. The menu is full of authentic North Indian and Hyderabadi food, some of it made to recipes that Kamia learned from her father who, she says, liked to cook while listening to the music of Begum Akhtar.
All of the food I tried was good but there were some real standout dishes like the Khade Masala Ka Gosht, a creamy Murgh Rezala and a very rich haleem. It is the sort of food you don’t find on restaurant menus and Kamia suggests you go to their website (curryandculinary.com) and pre-order the dishes.
Do you remember the cronut? It was a cross between a doughnut and a croissant and was all the rage in New York a decade ago when people would queue outside Dominique Ansel’s bakery to pick some up.Mitali Sahani was training at Ansel’s Bakery when the craze began and she says that the high point of that period for her was watching Leonardo DiCaprio queue up for a cronut.
Mitali is back in India now, a Mumbai girl in Gurgaon, and still bakes every day at Mr and Mitts Bakery (mrandmittsbakery.com), which has become famous for its sourdough, which Mitali even turns into delicious doughnuts.
The cloud kitchen operation is Mitali’s response to both the pandemic and to the end of her last, very successful venture which collapsed when the partners fell out. She runs a small, artisanal operation from a 700sq.ft place in Gurgaon, turning out breads, cakes, desserts, cookies, cheese straws and yes, cronuts. The business is booming and when normal times return I imagine she will open Mr and Mitts Bakery outlets. With her talent, they are sure to flourish.
I have a new favourite condiment these days. It is the Burmese Chilli Onion Garlic Oil made by a small family-run operation called Pickle Shickle. It is run by Rithu Nanda with her two daughters, Prerna and Preetika, who told me all about their complicated lineage.
Preetika’s Burmese maternal grandfather, George Moongsi, walked to India with his Indian wife after the Burma-India war, changed his name to Munshi and stayed on here.
The Pickle Shickle ladies also have Coorgi influences and these show up in their pork pickle. I loved their prawn pickle too but that crispy onion and chilli oil is my absolute favourite. They call it Mere Piyaaz Gaye Rangoon and it is their top seller (understandably!). I am going to order from them regularly. And if you want to (as you should), this is the site: www.pickleshickle.com
The Ghai family brought ice cream to India, first with Kwality’s and then Baskin Robbins. Now, a new generation is doing different things. Shivaan Ghai studied at the Stern School of Business in New York and discovered a low-fat pudding company in Brooklyn. It went belly-up so he bought the rights to the name and used it to launch – you guessed it – a range of ice creams.
I should hate The Brooklyn Creamery ice cream because it has a low-fat content and I usually only like ice cream with a high-fat content. But Shivaan has drawn on the accumulated experiences of his family to create a low fat, sugar-free ice cream that I actually like.
I tried the Sea Salt Caramel and the Chocolate and liked them both. There is more on the way: a range of gluten-free coconut milk ice creams and even a low-fat, low-sugar version of the Choco Bar or Magnum.
It is early days yet so even though the Ghais know how to make sure their ice cream gets to the right places and understand the cold chain, The Brooklyn Creamery website has still to go up. But this could be a market-shaping product if Shivaan plays it right!
The views expressed by the columnist are personal
From HT Brunch, December 20, 2020
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