I enjoy food research. Usually it’s just reading up on a cuisine or a particular dish. I love knowing the background, how certain dishes came to be, how they evolved etc. I love trivia and the history of some of the things I adore eating. Now I might find this very interesting and was so excited I thought I’d write a blog post on it, but as I started writing I was very hesitant to continue because I kept thinking- does anyone really want to know? I mean do they even care how or why a dish is called by that particular name?
I thought about this for weeks, thinking it’s very interesting to me but is anyone else curious enough? When one day at dinner a friend serving himself some saladasked with the most puzzled look on his face ” why do they call it Caesar’s salad? I mean what does it have to do with Julius Caesar?”
It’s possible my entire face lit up and I thought oh lovely, it’s a sign I should go ahead and write this up. So for the first time I came back from a meal did NOT write the review and instead continued writing this article with great excitement. So here I present my humble attempt at culinary education to those who might be interested.
We start in the Queens country and a dish named for one of Englands national heroes- Beef Wellington – this dish of beef, mushrooms, wine and pate cooked in a pastry has been named in honour of Sir Arthur Wellesley, the first Duke of Wellington in England. He was a national hero for defeating Napoleon at Waterloo in 1815. Sadly I haven’t eaten a beef wellington in the city I’m still on the hunt. Shall report back to you my readers as soon as I sample one.
Moving from the Island country to the continent, and the ever famous Carpaccio – This was named after famous Venetian painter Vittore Carpaccio. The colour of the thinly sliced raw beef is very similar to the red hue Carpaccio’s paintings were famous for. An excellent Carpaccio is served up at Salt Water Cafe in Bandra Mumbai. Carpaccio can be used in salads, as just plain cold cuts or however else you would like to serve it up.
One of the most popular and widely ordered salads is the Caesars salad – This might be slightly surprising to some but the classic and undoubtedly popular salad has no relation to Italy or Julius Caesar. In fact its origins are traced to Tijuana in México, in 1920. The owner of an Italian restaurant, Caesar Cardini is said to have created this dish one day when a rush in the restaurant had depleted their supplies. He tossed together whatever he could find, romaine lettuce leaves, croutons, parmesan cheese, lemon juice, and worcestershire sauce and called it the aviator salad. He later re named it after himself.Originally it was said to have been prepared in front of the patrons and eaten by hand.
Some of the best Caesars salad I’ve eaten in the city is at Spaghetti Kitchen and Inox Nariman Point and Indigo Deli Colaba. I’ve ordered them at both places on numerous occasions with and without add ons and they have never disappointed. So if you think about it, the Caesar salad is a do it yourself, salad with kitchen availables!
Caesars Salad at Spaghetti Kitchen
Caesars Salad at Indigo Deli
I didn’t know till very recently that one of my all time favourite desserts, the Pavlova is named after a Russian Ballerina. This crisp crust meringue dessert filled with fruit and cream is said to have been created in honour of Anna Pavlova, a Russian ballerina on one of her tours of New Zealand and Australia in the 1920’s. There is a dispute between both countries as to where the dessert was originally from and a matter of great pride for both. However, most research has indicated New Zealand.
This dessert doesn’t seem to be very popular in the city, probably because there is a majority of chocolate fans and not everyone enjoys a meringue based dessert which is sad, but thankfully I’ve been lucky enough to eat it at a few places. According to me the best Pavlova I’ve eaten hands down is the Kiwi pavlova at Busaba in Colaba and a Mango pavlova at Cafe Pico in Phoenix Market City.
Kiwi Pavlova at Busaba
Mango Pavlova at Cafe Pico
For breakfast, it seems fitting that Eggs Benedict should get its name from a country that does a hearty breakfast right.Eggs Bendict -a dish that is widely relished and some would argue the ONLY way to eat eggs, Eggs Benedict has many stories of its own. With various versions of how this dish got its name the popular version is that it was created at Delmonico’s in New York. The story is that regular patrons Mr and Mrs Le Grand Benedict were fed up with the same menu and asked for something new. The chef obliged them by serving eggs on ham on an English muffin with hollandaise sauce.They seem to enjoy it so much that they kept ordering it and so the dish was named after them. Despite this English muffin it seems the origin of these eggs are American.
For me two places that serve outstanding Eggs Benedict are Basilico and Indigo Deli both of which are in Colaba, Mumbai. Basilico has been serving this wonderful dish much before Indigo Deli arrived on the scene, but as usual the deli never disappoints.
Eggs Benedict at Indigo deli
Italy is the home of pizza and specifically the Pizza Margarita – One of the most popular pizza’s across the world and widely eaten especially in India. It was created by Chef Raffaele Esposito in the late 19th century in Naples Italy. The pizza was made with tomato, mozzarella and basil so that the colours represented the Italian flag. He made different varieties of pizza especially in the honour of Queen margharita of Italy. Her favourite out of all offered to her was the one with mozzarella basil and tomato and so the chef named it after her! Most Italians believe that a true pizza is the pizza margarita and nothing else. Any Mumbai local will agree that the best pizza of any kind is served at the famous Trattoria at the Taj President in Mumbai. The pizza margarita is no exception. Having said that the most unsuspecting places also dish out a decently good margarita and Ice cream Works at Phoenix Mills in Lower Parel is one of them. Very Surprising but I relished this little pie in minutes.
Pizza Margarita at Ice Cream Works
It is believed that the most popular snack is a Sandwich.We don’t know for sure if they were invented by him but they were named after the Earl of Sandwich of England,who refused to leave his card game with his friends to eat. Some say instead he requested for food that was easily handled so he could eat with his hands and didn’t have to stop his game and eat with forks and knives. Some say he specifically requested for slices of beef between two slices of bread and that became known as a sandwich.
There are various sandwiches which are to put it simply- yummy.My personal favourite is the Philly cheese steak sandwich at the Indigo deli. They have a host of other delicious ones but this is my personal favourite. Brie and caramelised onions sandwich from Cafe Zoe in Lower Parel Mumbai is my pick for best veggie sandwich. A classic BLT (bacon lettuce tomato) is also one of my favourites but I make it best at home. I think a sandwich is very personal and depends on what you like in it so this one is hard to recommend but these two would be my best picks. If I may add, that the simplest and probably closest to the good Earls heart will be the ham sandwhich at the Willingdon club, a sandwhich and a club rarely are more anglacised and meant for each other!
Brie and Caramalised Onion Sandwich at Cafe Zoe
Chicken Sandwich at Woodside Inn
There is still a lot of doubt about these stories and each have various versions but these seem to be the most popular beliefs. I hope some of you found this as interesting as I did.