interacting with a foodie dad, a celebrity chef and an actor | David Rocco talks about making family meals fun with kids...

It's always a pleasure to meet celebrated Chefs and foodies so when I was invited for an interactive lunch with David Rocco at ITC Maurya I couldn't resist. After all I am always eager to know what drives people to cooking great food and how they shape up a life around it.

Oh...and also, engage more lives into the business of food.

One very important observation of mine is, that every single foodie derives inspiration from his or her mother's kitchen. A kitchen where a mother or a parent cooks in a warm environment, is a potential breeding ground for some great talent. The warmth and coziness of a mother's kitchen lives through a celebrated life, a kitchen garden or a herb garden stays in the memory as a sacred place and the weekly grocery shopping trips with parents also stays as a fond memory that one always wants to recreate.

Imagine how huge potential we have in shaping up our kids' food preferences. We don't need to tell our kids what is good or bad, just feeling good about what we eat, finding joyful moments during cooking and dining is what we need to aim for. Everything else will definitely fall into place. And the kid will grow up and find food, ingredients and flavors in her fond memories, most probably would want to revive them all.

That is what I found really impressive when David talked of involving kids for tossing up a meal in a fun way. They wont pick the green bits of herbs when they have cooked the meals by themselves. Try baking a garden pizza with your kids and see how they would eat every bit of green form it. You would be surprised to hear what he said about not allowing the kids to eat alternative food when a family meal is served on the table, the kid would go to bed hungry, wake up in the morning and eat the same food alright when hungry. All mothers were nodding vehemently.

We talked of Olive oils and cheeses and how the climate and local factors change the taste of the same product and how local produce should be celebrated more for it's flavors and freshness, imported stuff is better to be used occasionally. David talked about paneer and how Indian mozzarella also has a nice firmness due to added cow's milk to the predominantly buffalo milk mozzarella culture.

We were tempted to compare olive oil to mustard oil and then agreed that both the oils are like oranges and apples as Ruchira rightly put it into words. I would love having both of them in my life, in my kitchen  and on my table as well. I love both these oils in my seasonings and in my salad dressings. I would always prefer to have all my food cooked in traditional oils rather than the refined crap marketed as the healthy 'alternative' today.

West View at the top floor of ITC Maurya was quite in the day time, being a weekday and we didn't even realise how much time we spent interacting and talking about foods from our country.

David had liked our daals and mustard oil and chutneys and I hope we will see some interesting Indian flavors in his India series. The Italian menu at West View was done by David Rocco, executed by Chef Manisha Bhasin and her team.

There was Champagne and Prosciutto wrapped melon cubes for starters...

First course was Penne con Pomodori e Melanzane was simple flavors that we cook at home like pasta alla norma , the pasta had minimal aubergine and more tomatoes probably keeping in mind the taste of north Indian palate, I would have loved more aubergine any day. Aubergine is such a flavorful creamy vegetable. The pasta was liked by all nonetheless. It was paired with Fratelli Sauvignon Blanc.

Second course came with a Saltimbocca di pollo, chicken with prosciutto and sage cooked in marsala wine. It was really interesting, every element shining through the delicate balance of flavors. The stock and Marsala wine reduced with sage made a flavorful coating sauce that made the chicken breast quite juicy and well done. This course also included a lovely Beet Risotto. Perfectly creamy, al dante and cheesy flavors. There was not much beets into it but David told he makes it with beets stock and puree back home and is darker in color. I was imagining how that would taste with the cheeses. I might try that myself very soon.

There was fresh and crisp blanched broccoli doused with red chilly flakes and onion on the side and very fresh baby carrots with cilantro. Perfectly the way I love my vegetables.

The second course was paired with Fratelli Sangiovese.

Good food enjoyed over more banter about food. I liked it when David said he trains people from communities for making meals affordable for all. Fresh seasonal and local produce is cheap and can be used effectively to achieve nutrient value at a lower cost. Otherwise too, this meal served at West View was an example of how simplicity of ingredients can be superbly flavorful.

I was disappointed by the desserts though. Don't blame it to my general apathy towards desserts always but I do appreciate great tasting desserts. Torta Caprese, a flour less chocolate cake was eggy and that masked everything in the cake filled with blanched almonds. Zabaglione con Frutti di Bosco (mixed fruit with espresso zabaglione) was better as it had strawberry coulis, a few blueberries and hints of espresso. I might have liked it a little chilled may be. It was a good dessert, probably spoiled by the eggyness of what I tasted first.

In totality it was a nice day out, a weekday well spent, exchanging foodie bits from different cultures. I hope David corrects himself on the impression of Indian curry spices masking all the flavors and freshness in most foods. I told him how our Chokha is such a flavorful simple salad-mash dressed with raw mustard oil and that our daily food is not at all masked by heavy curry gravies.

David was a good sport and posed with blogger friends before leaving.

Anita Tiku , Reeta Skeeter, Deeba Rajpal, Ruchira Hoon, Charis and Parul were the other bloggers present and we all sat for a while for a cup of coffee before dispersing.

I would show you the most beautiful part of West View at ITC Maurya. the terrace herb garden before I sign off.

This place looks beautiful at night but the herbs and fruit trees growing in pots can be seen in full glory only during the day time.

I recommend the Sunday brunch at West View during winters. You would love to sit al-fresco and enjoy the herb garden, the winter sun and the wonderful food they serve. Always a nice pleasant place to visit.