Sunday, 6 March 2016

Mediterranean Food Festival at The Bayview, Hotel Marine Plaza, Churchgate

Mediterranean Food. The term immediately conjures images of Greek Salad, Falafel, Pita Bread for most of us commoners. I have no idea about various world cuisines and am still learning about their authentic preparations. So when I got the chance to sample the ongoing Mediterranean Food Festival at a blogger meet organized 2 days ago by The Bayview, Hotel Marine Plaza, I was ecstatic :)

Walked in The Bayview on 1st floor and felt like I was on a cruise :D Designed like a ship, it provides stunning views of Marine Drive, enough to enthrall anyone for couple of hours even without delectable food, which is what we bloggers were provided. Chef Matteo Girelli provided us a brief overview of Mediterranean cuisine which primarily has loads of fresh produce, olive oil, herbs, cheese among its main ingredients. While we would immediately think that it only has dishes like salad or falafel, it is in fact a vast area with several different kinds of food preparation and actually Hummus, Falafel, Shawarma become a part of Middle Eastern cuisine rather than Mediterranean! It is easy to understand. For example, in India,when we say 'North Indian cuisine', we automatically think of Punjabi food. But it also includes food from hilly areas of Himachal Pradesh or Uttarakhand or dishes from Uttar Pradesh,Bihar which are different from Punjabi or Mughlai,it is quite diverse that way even though we forget it in reality! On hearing Chef Matteo explain how vast and diverse Mediterranean cuisine is, I realized it is just like in India we have diverse food in every corner and it would be impossible to show it all in one place :) Dishes from south of France, Spain, Italy, Greece which are healthy,tasty and not spicy (like Indian cuisine) are a part of this food festival to give us a true glimpse of cuisine from the area. Hearing Chef Matteo speak about the cuisine and its focus on vegetables, I could not wait to try it out. The 10 day festival has a new menu each day and it is mind-boggling to see the variety of dishes on offer. In fact, among us bloggers group, the majority were vegetarians and even the non-vegetarians had to admit that the veg dishes looked good and as we proceeded to taste them, they tasted good too of course :D

Started with Italian Minestrone Soup,a rich vegetable soup. Now, as I said, I have no idea about how the authentic dishes taste. I have never traveled outside India and I would love to go to a grandmother's house in every country to taste their dishes the way they make (because let's admit it,no matter where we go,it is always maa & dadi/nani ke haath ka khana that we crave for!). So my observations about the taste of any dish is purely based on whether I like it and comparing it with different versions I might have had earlier. When it comes to Minestrone soup, I am very confused. I have had Minestrone at at least 5 different places in my lifetime and every place has given a new version! Some have loads of cheese, some have loads of vegetables, some are spicy, some are not so spicy,some have been rich red in color, some bordering on brown. Here the Minestrone soup is green in color and truly enriched with loads of vegetables but I have never had this version of Minestrone anywhere else. No idea how authentic Minestrone is prepared in Italy but this is different from any other version in India. Mind you,doesn't taste bad. In fact, it is quite filling on its own and a fellow blogger commented that it is very similar to Thai curry if you add coconut (and probably lemongrass). Listening to him, I immediately recalled certain stories I read in childhood where the characters talked of making soup as dinner. This would definitely qualify for a soup like that! I am definitely going to Italy someday just to figure out the truth about Minestrone :D

The journey through Appetizers, Salads, Main Course, Live Station and Desserts was fabulous. Loved the Italian Bruschetta, the perfect assimilation of crunchy baguette with tomato, basil  and cheese while Greek Domates Dolmasi i.e. tomatoes stuffed with olives and bell peppers were little explosions of juicy flavors. Asked for repeat rounds of both :D The Salad counter had some brilliant offerings. Fresh, crunchy veggies (cucumbers, bell peppers, mushrooms, tomatoes,corn and more!) in mild dressings, it sparkled on taste as well as health front. Breads, Sauces, Pickles as per personal taste preferences for everyone. Not a step out of tune here. Really brought that feeling of dining somewhere along the coast of Greece or Spain or Italy or Turkey,not a care in the world :)

Things just got better at the Live Station where we got smooth and creamy Gnochi in red as well as white sauce with exotic veggies, clearly the winner of the night. Seeing the Main Course,I saw cheese in almost every dish and was wondering if I would like it at all, being the non-cheesy person myself (my sister on the other hand would have cheese in everything if allowed :P). And guess what,I liked everything. Loved Spanish Brocoli Gratinadas, took Broccoli to another level altogether. Turkish Safranli Pilav (Saffron Rice with Peas) was brilliant, fragrant and light while Italian Lasagna had just the right kind of layering and cheesy kick. A lot of dining places (including high-end ones) overpower their rice and biryani preparations with essence and fragrances, especially Kevda essence for some reason! Nothing like that happened here which shows the delicate attention paid to the dish at hand :) Turkish Mousakka deserves another mention as the mix of grilled eggplant, bell pepper and zucchini with bechamel had every reason to turn into a heavy loader for the stomach but it turned out to be full of flavors and light at the same time! Safe to say that the essence of Mediterranean cuisine has been kept alive. Every dish is light, flavorful, smooth, loaded with veggies which can be individually tasted and enjoyed. 

And I also love how we also had perennial Indian favorites like Steamed Rice, Dal Tadka, Paneer, Raita, Indian Bread (Tandoori Roti) in the mix which would be perfect for someone like my parents since they are quite conservative in their tastes and if they attended this food festival, they would taste other dishes but then search for something familiar to feast on :) 

The Dessert section again gave a nice surprise by offering very light and delicate desserts on the whole. Apple Jalebi was a novelty item, it actually tasted like dense Malpua which is great for someone with sweet tooth like me. For those who do not like anything too sugary,fret not as everything else here is geared for them. Light and fluffy, we had Strawberry Cheesecake, Tiramisu, Pear After Dark. Fresh and healthy,we had the beautiful fruit platter. And then we fought over the last piece of the most dense and yummylicious Chocolate Mousse. It kept coming and it kept disappearing - in our stomachs :D 

Excellent service by ever smiling,polite and helpful staff kept us cheery. I learnt quite a few things about Mediterranean cuisine and would recommend this Food Festival to everyone. Priced at Rs. 1893 per person, it is a complete value for money in my opinion, considering the quality, the service and the ambiance :)

If you are inquisitive about something new, attend it. 
If you are into healthy yet tasty food, attend it. 
If you want to spend an enjoyable evening with your loved ones,chatting and laughing while gazing into the Arabian Sea, attend it. 
If you are a foodie who wants to expand your food knowledge, attend it. 
If you want something more in a buffet than regular Indian gravies and desserts, attend it. 

Thankful to Chef Matteo Girelli and the entire staff at The Bayview for this opportunity to travel through a beautiful part of the Mediterranean region while making some delectable memories :)

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