“You don’t smell the wine, you NOSE it,” Sneha asserted with a smile.
“Try nosing it first before you take a sip!”
And we followed the connoisseur’s instructions obediently. We ‘nosed’ it thoroughly before attempting a sip.
We were just about to take it to ‘the next level’ when she intercepted yet again:
“Stir it up now and nose it again, let me know if you sense anything different.” The unique specimen from the exquisite Four Seasons Wine collection - The Sauvignon Blanc did ‘taste’ refreshingly different as we ‘nosed’ it after stirring; it seemed as if the embedded flavors were slowly expressing themselves to the fullest. As if, the sleeping beauty's trance had just been broken.
“Now I guess we can take a sip” she continued,” But remember, DO NOT gulp it right away, enjoy the taste and try to relate it with its signature fragrance”
We couldn't wait really; I took a longish sip and tried to follow her guidance there-after; the wine had something exceptional about it. It was almost like a dual impression that gripped my taste buds with sheer astonishment, one inflicted by the “nosing” effect and the other due to its fine texture we could feel its hypnotizing aftermath, the feeling was majestic.
"That’s the essence of Wine Tasting, my friend", I was mind-reading alright!
There we were, at the exotic dining territory, Peshawri at the ITC Sonar, Kolkata to indulge in a fascinating gourmet saga; the delightful foodie encounter marked with the Four Seasons wine and Peshawri cuisines presented to us with utmost care. It was my prospective debut with Peshawri food and the very fact that this opportunity came out of nowhere, sent across surges of unscripted thrill and effervescence. I was extremely keen to try out the signature dishes that resulted out of a chef’s tenure of meticulous training and dedication; mastering the art of formulating the typical essence that forms an intrinsic aspect of the cuisine, is indeed a mark of expertise. Talking of history, the Peshwari cuisine has been inspired by the spirit of the NorthWest frontier (the British demarcated the North-West Frontier Province in the year 1900, which comprised parts of Afghanistan, and the Northwest part of Pre Independence India.) tradition of camaraderie around the warm glow of a campfire – succulent tandoori fare, low on oil and high on authenticity.
I was absolutely eager to taste those dishes prepared with prudence; those recipes that test a cuisinier’s ability to gauge the perfect proportion of spices, settling into a perfect mix of marinades and to decide upon the heat of the tandoor in collation with a pin pointed estimate of the cooking time. I am glad to vindicate that the Peshawri cooks didn't disappoint me at all.
The hospitality was amazing; right from the point we entered the ITC’s premises, till the point of serving the finger-bowl, we were treated with royal warmth and grandiose. Our hosts Sneha and Sonal were as receptive and jovial as ever.
“Can you guess any of the ingredients that constitutes your sip? Can you identify the taste of any specific component of the wine?” – Sneha had already shifted gears into a teaching cum interactive mode.
“No guesses?” I was completely on the back-foot by then.
“I think I tasted green apple…”; a guest responded promptly, I was taken aback.
“Bingo! Impressive”…Sneha exclaimed with a tinge of smile perhaps she could envisage a future connoisseur-counterpart in the former.
Meanwhile, our scrumptious starters had already arrived. Ranging from the luscious Murg Malai Kebab to the Paneer Tikka and the Mutton Seekh Kebab, we literally tasted heaven at the Peshawri den. The only precondition was not to use any cutlery, just to entangle firmly with the Peshawri flavor and endowment. Those crafty aprons enhanced the quintessence of a majestic Saturday afternoon treat.
With the arrival of the characteristic Four Seasons Barrique Reserve, Shiraz 2008, the spirits were up and running yet again. Experimentation was on the cards and to our utter bewilderment, different brands of wine tasted distinctly sensational with the specific assortment of kebabs. The Shiraz 2008 tasted marvelous with mutton while the Sauvignon Blanc created an out-of-the-world impact when consumed with the Murgh Malai Kebab. That’s how 'tagging' is inflicted; these wines 'deliver' in partnerships and there we were, exploring every bit it all by ourselves….
It was time for the main courses to arrive in assortment with the typical Peshawri breads; I could sense the growing excitement from the other side of the table as the highlight of the menu. The delectable Dal Bukhara made its way to the 'center'. It’s a signature Peshawri delight; the "mere" aroma resonates and pierces deep into a foodie’s mind and stimulates him to the core! “A harmony of black lentils, tomatoes, ginger and garlic simmered overnight on coal embers and finished with cream and a dollop of unsalted butter” was what the bio-data read; however the traditional dish tasted heavenly without the prior knowledge of it's ingredients. Selection of the right kind of bread to compliment this culinary master-piece was also critical. However my experimentation struck gold yet again; the piquant lachha parantha formed the perfect "Jai-Viru combination" with the Bukhara alright. The Murg and Paneer Kurchan were the other gems to "illuminate the crown"; I wish I was equipped with the unconditionally replenishing hunger attribute such that I could gorge along..unrestrained..... Sigh, I had to stop mid-way! However, I gotta acknowledge that the choice of condiments in each and every dish, their skillful blend and the mastery depicted in terms of maintaining that tender moistness despite the application of heat is TRULY amicable.
The desserts section featuring Phirnee, Kulfi, Gulab Jamun and Rasmalai, scripted the perfect “happy ending” to the show that presented real “quality” merged with appreciable “quantity” in the same window; the window that opened a completely newer avenue in-front of us.
“Could we have a glass of green tea just to round it off?” – Sonal offered us another tinge of felicity.
Some other day, Sonal, for sure; and with the kind of hospitality you people extended, I am bound to come back with my family soon enough. That’s a foodie-promise.
Thanks to both of you for the bundles of wine-tasting “gyan”,the first hand information on the history of Peshawri food, their perfect association with the four seasons wine and of course for helping me out in the extended “food photo-session”. I will surely be in touch with both of you for the future endeavors; your generosity and reception is highly appreciated. And Sneha, I would remember this line for a long time- "It's a different kind of a HIGH that you experience with wine, it's different". Cheers.
Post by - Sammya Brata
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