It is always good to come across events and discussions where farmers and chefs come together discussing food and ingredients, farming and consumer demand along with the concerns of local procurement of fresh produce, grains etc.
We witnessed a wonderful Tasting India Symposium last month where the farmers and chefs came together at a Chaupal (al fresco meeting usually held by village panchayats) and discussed the issues and challenges of local produce, its procurement and usage and the ground issues faced by the farmers as well as the hospitality industry.
Tasting India Symposium is a thoughtful initiative by Sanjoo Malhotra and Sourish Bhattacharya that brings the issues of sustainable food and tourism to the discussion tables openly. I got the opportunity to speak at this symposium about sustainable food in a panel discussion and about Banaras ka Khana in the knowledge session.
At the Chaupal of Tasting India Symposium I witnessed a genuine discussion between chefs like Ravitej Nath, Alex Moser and farmers from Tijara Rajasthan, Uttarakhand and Himachal Pradesh in conversation with Ishira Mehta who works with farmers all across the country. It was encouraging to hear that Chef Alex Moser has gone out and found great regional produce from Uttarakhand and Rajasthan and is exploring more to make local foods a part of his menu at Andaz, Aerocity.
Later we decided to go to the hotel and witness it all ourselves. Andaz is a luxury hotel that has brought a fresh approach to its lobby and decor, we could see how casual chic clothing of the hotel staff looks so cool as compared to the stiff formals everywhere else, just a sign of how a property takes simpler things to new heights.
The various design elements of the hotel are something to explore and absorb leisurely, so today I will talk about Annamaya, the European style Foodhall that is nestled within the hotel premises.
The best thing about Annamaya being it brings regional Indian fresh produce and artisan products for the guests and local customers. There is a food court with Indian and European design elements blended seamlessly, so is the food philosophy that uses local produce to create a world class menu.
One can buy fresh produce and all sorts of millets, pulses, single origin Indian chocolates, pickles, preserves, tea, coffee and almost everything one needs under one roof, all procured from Indian organic farmers from all across the country.
The most interesting part is that all the ceramic pottery comes from khurja, the copper hammered finish utensils are also made locally, supporting local artisans. I was so thrilled to see that one could buy even the utensils if one likes, I actually bought a plate and there is more on my agenda already.
And yes we tasted food too. This is one place where you will get aloe vera sandwich made with freshly plucked leaf growing right at the counter, they have a special shelf to grow their own micro greens too. There are many more greens sourced from local farmers that are included in salads like the kale and feta salad we loved.
All the meat, poultry and seafood is procured from organic sources I was told. The Duck confit we tasted was phenomenal, glutinous and soft flesh that was pleasantly charred too, a result of sous vide cooking and then a flash of tandoor grilling before serving. The salads and the morel and asparagus orzo pasta were all so beautifully made we polished off all of it quickly between three people.
The food shows how fresh local and seasonal produce translates into great taste, the hard work of the chefs also evident in the eclectic dishes served in a casual yet classy ambience. I met the pastry chef Gordon Galea whose favourite Indian sweet is Sonpapdi and who loves serving chocolate chili brownie made with single origin Indian chocolate with his signature hazelnut gelato.
Annamaya is finally the Foodhall that I would like to visit regularly and buy produce from. The good food and casual approach to dining is a great approach in my opinion, more people will be able to go and enjoy local and artisan products.
Oh and the bakery section is brimming with organic goodies that cost just as much as any neighborhood bakery, I am so glad to know some good options for the conscious eater too.