Archive for February, 2009

If there is a better known restaurant in Delhi than Karim’s , I dont know what it is. Every first time visitor to Delhi is advised ” You must go to Karims.” It happened to us the first time we went to Delhi in 2003 and we remember Karims vividly. It was just after the terrorist attack on Parliament and one of the dead terrorists supposedly had a bill from Karims in his shirt pocket having  eaten his last meal there. I don’t know if the story is true or merely apocryphal.

Karims which has been in business for almost 100 years is famous for it’s kababs and biryanis. Located close to the Jama Masjid , it’s approachable only on foot or by cycle rickshaw. The lanes leading to it are too narrow for cars so we parked in the nearby  lot and took a cycle rickshaw. Karims is located in an ordinary residential building and ,as it has become more successful, it  has expanded into neighboring buildings. It’s dining rooms are  now located in several buildings fronting on a central square. Some of the food is prepared in an alfresco kitchen that you pass on the way in.  There is no point in describing the dining room, the furniture or the cutlery.  Karims is  about food , first and last.

Since we were a large group with some big appetites, we were able to try a good part of the menu. We started out with a selection of kababs – seekh kabab, boti kabab, burra kabab – and tandoori chicken. The meat was just right ,lightly spiced and perfectly grilled , soft and tender but slightly resistant to the bite. After years of eating what passes for tandoori chicken in the U.S,Karims tandoori chicken was a revelation.Moist ,succulent and grilled to just the right amount of doneness. In less time than it takes to write this paragraph, it was reduced to a pile of bones gnawed clean.

We then attacked the mutton biryani , the mutton stew , egg curry and naan. There was one other curry dish but I’ve forgotten what it was. The biryani was a surprise. Over the years, the biryanis, particularly the Hyderabadi and Moplah versions that I’ve had, have been spicy .Karims mutton biryani was almost plain in comparison but it was just about perfect. The long grains of rice , perfumed with ghee , were soft yet firm and provided a fitting counterpoint to the morsels of tender mutton. The mutton stew was another masterpiece . The word “stew” does not have happy connotations most often bringing to mind long simmered Irish stews with greasy chunks of lamb.  However, in India, stew ( or ishtew, as it is pronounced) is a curry made with whole spices. Karims ishtew was in a class by itself I thought as I happily scooped it up with pieces of naan. All in all, Karims lived upto all my expectations though I didn’t care much for the neighborhood.

As famous in Delhi circles as Karims is Moti Mahal. In the fifties , and perhaps even earlier, it’s name was synonymous with tandoori chicken, chicken makhani and maa ki daal. The original Moti Mahal was in Daryaganj but today there are outposts all over Delhi and abroad. I’m not sure whether they are all related to the original Moti Mahal but , in any case , the name has lost it’s former lustre. My son, who was visiting India after 20 years, had been keen to visit it ever since he had heard about in far-off Boston  but our local contacts warned us against it. Still , in deference to him, we visited the Moti Mahal branch in Defence Colony. Located on the third floor, the narrow, dingy room was accessible by a tiny lift . It was not a good beginning but I must say the food was pretty good.We started with the vegetable pakoras and chicken kababs, then tucked into  chicken makhani,palak paneer, fish curry, dal tarka, assorted parathas and jeera rice before ending up with kulfi. All the dishes were commendable , if a little heavy,the portions were generous and the service attentive.Unfortunately the ambience was not inviting and I don’t think I’d go there again.

The Defence Colony market was very close to where our daughter’s apartment is and we did the bulk of our restaurant hopping there. One place that we went to again and again was Sagar which serves excellent idlis, vadas and dosas. It became almost a morning ritual for us to go there for breakfast. It’s remarkable how much more cosmopolitan Delhi has become over the years ; one yardstick is that good South Indian fare is easily available there. The fluffy idlis , the crisp vadas and the lacy rava masala dosas were our standard breakfast fare at Sagar and we would wash them down with excellent South Indian coffee. Service was very efficient and friendly and we appreciated the fact that extra sambhar and chutney were served without our asking. The sambhar , by the way, is worth a special mention– so goodit was .

The Colonel’s Kababz is another joint  well worth visiting. I believe there are other branches all over Delhi but the one we visited was at one end of the Defence Colony Market. The whole chain is the brainchild of an ex- Army Colonel who was very fond of food and cooking and decided to go into the food business after he retired. At this location the restaurant is located on the second floor. The longish dining room is on the second floor and has the feel of an army mess hall, the tables and benches being arranged with military precision. It’s a popular place and it was full the afternoon that we went there. Service was a little harried but efficient. It’s always good to order the specialties of the house and , for the most part , we stuck to the kababs., eschewing the quormas and other gravied dishes.We had four types of chicken kababs( murgh lasuni kabab, murg achari kabab, Murgh chusa and mugh kalmi) , fish kababs and tandoori khumb ( mushrooms) and some plain rice. From the limited dessert menu, the very limited dessert menu, we had the firni  or rice kheer.  The grilled foods were all very good , particularly the murgh lasuni kabab , flavored assertively but not overpowered by the taste of garlic. I didn’t think I’d like the mushrooms but I did , their texture a contrast to the chicken Kababs. Good food in relaxing surroundings. Recommended.

Also at the Defence Colony Market was Soi 46, which advertises itself as a Burmese restaurant. The name itself is an anomaly since Soi , I believe , is the Thai word for street.Located on  an upper floor, the sign for Soi 46 is barely visible from the street. The food it serves is a mixture of Burmese and Thai by which I mean it’s neither. If I didn’t know the name of the dish from the menu, I wouldn’t have been able to tell you whether it was Burmese or Thai. I’ve been to some good Burmese restaurants in the Washington D.C area and the food at Soi 46 doesn’t compare with them. We started out with some interesting fruit drinks and then had Burma’s best known dish Khowswe ( vegetarian and Chinese versions) and a couple of noodle dishes that were forgettable. Average at best and not worth a visit.

We traveled out of the Defence Colony area to get some Gajak, a North Indian sweet which a friend had asked us to get for him. We found it at Evergreen in Green Park, an amazing, amazing place. It’s huge and occupies two large floors. The ground floor houses the sweetmart and  serves snacks such as ragda pattis, bhelpuri, gol gappe, samosas etc. The upper floor serves South Indian, Mughlai, and Chinese-Indian food ,all of it surprisingly good ,and inexpensive to boot.It’s a treat to sit there and watch a turbaned sardarji and his family tuck into plates of noodles. Or a Chinese gentleman polishing off a masala dosa. Or a Westerner demolishing a paneer makhani. I would gladly go there  just for the cheerful hustle-bustle and for people watching .

Towards the end of our stay we went to Rajdhani, which serves topnotch Rajasthani food in  Connaught Place. The dining room is slightly below street level and is not particularly well lit  but the enthusiastic wait staff make you feel very welcome . We had an enjoyable meal there. We all opted for the thali , and a good decision it was since we got to taste the full gamut of Rajasthani food. Rajasthan is mostly desert and the people there necessarily live on a rather spartan cuisine  based mostly on pulses, lentils and beans with a limited range  of vegetables. Meat is eaten sparingly and was not an option at Rajdhani which is “pure veg”.

We were served in stainless steel thalis and katoris which were kept filled by a constant stream of waiters. There were at least four different types of unleavened bread- chappatis, phulkas, missi rotis, puris etc.- all piping hot and delicious. The accompaniments included two- three types of beans, a couple of potato-veg curries, daal, different chutneys , kadhi , pickle and pappadums. There was also plain rice and khichdi  before we wound up with dessert, a moong daal halva which was superb. All of the food was excellently prepared and the service was a delight.  On a previous visit we had been to Chowki Dhani near Jaipur and the costumed waiters there kept forcing more and more food on patrons with the result that they got turned off and wound up wasting most of it. No such problem at Rajdhani. The waiters were eager for us to sample more of everything but they were not insistent. Afterwards, at their urging , we visited the somewhat cramped kitchen which was a marvel of efficiency with it’s rotating grill used to cook the various breads. A thoroughly enjoyable place to sample good vegetarian fare.

Final thoughts: As good as the restaurants are, Indian cuisine is best sampled at homes. Indian home cooking offers a variety that restaurants cannot hope to rival. Indian- Chinese can be very good ( espescially at the bigger restaurants) but it can also be horrid ( as we found when we ordered some take-out food) . At the low end the food is so heavily spiced that it doesn’t taste like anything– either Indian or Chinese. I also find myself increasingly unable to stomach Mughlai food – the heavy gravies make me feel distinctly uncomfortable afterwards. My choice would be to stay away from Continental or Pan Asian restaurants in India and just stick to places serving regional  fare .

There were many other places we would have liked to visit  ( Parathewale Galli for one ) but we were constrained by time and our stomachs. We did sample a crosssection of the vast Indian repertoire and we enjoyed ourselves. Happy eating, foodies !

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No, I did not embark on an eating tour of India. That would have taken months, if not years. We were on a three week trip to India primarily to attend my nephew’s marriage in Mumbai and to visit our daughter who is just finishing up a posting in Delhi. In the course of our stay we visited Mumbai, Mahableshwar, Pune and Delhi and this is an account of our gastronomic adventures there.

What with all the pre-wedding get togethers, wedding feasts and post wedding celebrations we did not eat out too many times in Mumbai. One restaurant that we visited and enjoyed was Gajalee , a Vile Parle eatery that specialises in the cooking of Goa and the Konkan Coast, espescially fish dishes. Having been there last year, we knew exactly what to order. We started out with the Bombay Duck, that improbably named fish: melt-in-your-mouth fillets coated in a light egg batter, deep fried but almost greaseless and impossibly light. We followed that up with a killer shrimp pulao , curried kingfish ( isvan), an excellent mutton curry , amboli ( fluffy multi-grain pancakes) and tandoori chicken. A vegetarian member of our party ordered a tofu dish and pronounced it very good; I ‘ll have to take her word for it since I was bingeing on the fish and the mutton.  The tandoori chicken I thought was overly spicy and nothing special. We all opted for sol kadi, that delicious, slightly sour concoction of kokum extract and coconut which is the only proper accompaniment for such a meal. I am told that Gajalee also serves an excellent mutton thali but you cannot order it in the A/C room where we were seated. Perhaps next time. Desserts ( chocolate cake, blackberry flavored mousse cake etc) were good if a little incongruous since they did not complement the coastal food that is the standard fare at Gajalee.

In Mahableshwar, we stayed at the Fountain Hotel, an  all inclusive resort with breathtaking views .The food was mainly vegetarian and Gujarathi style in deference to the mostly Gujarathi clientele. I must say it was excellent  and , of course plentiful. Most meals were served buffet style except for one meal which was a sit down dinner. Breakfast consisted of idlis and vada sambhar /chutney, upma ( sometimes), puri bhaji , toast and jam, fruit etc. Other meals had the full complement of Gujarathi cuisine with dhokla, patra,oondhiu,  batatu-nu shak, flower-vatannu shak,kobi nu shak, chapati, thepla, khichdi, pulao,meethi daal,  kadhi and ,of course, a variety of desserts. All dishes were of a high quality but it was too much of a good thing. We soon felt bloated and craved a change. Off we went to The Grape Vine , a Parsi eatery in fromt of the State Bank offices in the center of town. It was a funky place and we were seated in the mezzanine which offered a bird’s eye view of the rest of the small restaurant.We ordered beer and flavored fruit drinks as we waited for our food to be prepared and served. Parsi food , at it’s best, can be very good; moderately spicy with distinctive flavors. It can also be blah, bland and mushy pap. The food at the Grape Vine , a mixture of Parsi and “Thai”, was somewhere in-between. The fault may have been partly in our choice of dishes. We started out with an appetizer of grilled chilli prawns, which was definitely a mistake. The prawns were not the freshest, they were  not fully cooked at the center and were barely warm when they got tothe table. We had to send them back and ask for them to be cooked some more. For the main courses we ordered patrani machhi,prawn biryani and chicken dhansak.  Our son , craving something different from the Indian fare of the past few days, ordered Thai red curry of chicken .The patrani machhi ( pomfret steamed in banana leaves) and the prawn biryani were very good but the chicken dhansak, gloppy and tasteless I could have lived without. The Thai red curry was not bad , though a Thai might not have recognised it as such.The desserts , as at Gajalee, were Western style and purchased elsewhere. Sorry sir,no lagan-nu-custard.

At Pune, we stayed at an executive suite in Chandani Chowk and ate all our meals out so there is rather more to write about, food-wise. The best meal we ate was at Nisarg, which specialises in fish dishes just as Gajalee does. We were there on Dec 28 th , the last day of their crab festival  when they serve up a variety of crab dishes. Nisarg I believe has two locations. We went to the one which is just down the street from Purepur Kohlapur, an old favorite. Going into the restaurant, we saw the live crabs penned outside in an enclosure; big blue-black bruisers ,about the size of Dungeness crabs ,which we learnt are flown in  from Chennai.

 Being a party of 12, we had the upstairs A/C room almost to ourselves but had to rein in our appetites because we had another function / dinner to attend that evening. We started off with Bombay Duck, the rolled up fillets, dusted in rice flour , thicker and quite different from those at Gajalee but just as delicious  in their almost greaseless splendor.  A platter of fish ,lobster and live crab was then brought out for our inspection and we chose a large kingfish( isvan) which , at the suggestion of the maitre  d’ was filleted and prepared in three different ways; hara masala ,tandoori  style and plain fried. All were good but the hara masala was the best. This was followed by a Crab Handi, crab meat in a delicious coconut-garlic –  ginger gravy. My son, a crab fanatic , pronounced it the best crab dish he had ever eaten. High praise indeed and well deserved. By this time , we were almost sated and were slowing down . We could not do justice to the isvan curry and rice which followed and that was unfortunate because it was very , very good. The sol kadi that washed down the meal was also just the right blend of kokum and coconut and  tasted even better than the beer that we had started the meal with.

Last year, we had been to Coconut Grove which also serves seafood , though Manglorean style.  It , Nisarg and Gajalee are all very good but I think if I had to chose one, I would chose Nisarg in a photo finish.

That evening  we went to Sigree, a Bengali owned eatery started by an IIM graduate who also owns the hugely successful Mainland China chain. In fact, there was a Mainland China outpost right next to Sigree. The food at Sigree could best be described as Afghan/ Moghlai food as interpreted by a Bengali.We formed a large party of almost 20 people and had the restaurant almost to ourselves. There was a large  outdoor buffet section which seemed to be very popular as it was almost full. Appetizers consisted of a number of different kebabs , perfectly serviceable but not exceptional ,and two starter dishes which were standouts. One was a tandoori cauliflower, large florets of cauliflower flavored with mustard, served piping hot and al dente. (This dish was by special request, since it had been removed from the menu).The other was very thin slivers of okra fried until crisp.Scrumptious. Of the main courses , the standout was the Roghan Josh, the fork tender mutton falling of the bone and napped with a delectable, unctuous  red gravy. I tasted the chicken curry and had a bit of the pulao but I had a second helping of the Roghan Josh. I was pretty full by then but I couldn’t resist the Kulfi, perhaps my favorite among Indian desserts. We enjoyed the meal at Sigree, very much , but I couldn’t help casting a covetuous eye at the outdoor buffet. Oh, well, perhaps next time.

When we went shopping at Pyramid, we had lunch at the nearby Mainland China, a different outpost than the one previously mentioned. As is standard with this chain, the decor was attractive, the tables spaced widely apart, the china and cutlery superior and the wait staff polished and attentive. We had a one fish dish, one turkey dish and a vegetarian entree. I don’t remember the exact names of the dishes but will say that they were all very good. The sauces were slightly Indianised and tasty.The one criticism would be that the turkey was very tough. Serves us right for ordering it but we were so taken with the idea of having turkey in India that we had to have it. Wish we had stuck to the chicken. Eating there , we were reminded of Silk Road, a Chinese eatery in Koregaon Park that we had been to last year. It’s a single restaurant rather than a chain but the food they serve was as good if not better that at Mainland China. In particular, I remember that their coriander soup and chicken-corn soup as the best I’d ever tasted.

The next day , on our way to the airport, we lunched at The Bowl House, part of a chain that offers quick, inexpensive Chinese/ Thai/ Moghlai food . The entree of your choice is served over either rice or noodles in a bowl, which explains the name.I had a  Chicken chilli, my wife had paneer tikka and our son had the Thai curry chicken, all over rice. Not bad, not bad at all.

Those of my readers who have read my previous posts may remember that I profess  not to like Indian-Chinese food. I’m going to have to modify my stand.Most of the time Indian-Chinese tends to be too heavily spiced, combining the worst aspects of Indian and Chinese cuisines. However, when it is well-prepared it can be very good , as we found on our Indian trip. My son went out with his cousins on a trip through Mumbai and they wound up at Henry Tham’s restaurant. For him, it was a rare experiance of Indian – Chinese cuisine and he said that it was superb. As for me, I’ll admit that it can be good, even very good, but given a choice I’ll take Chinese food over Indian -Chinese every time.

Next Week- –Part II ( Delhi)

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India – SriLanka. The Indian tour of SriLanka could not have been more satisfying for Indian cricket fans. Dhoni as usual led from the front and had a great series . The difference between the two teams was that India played as a team with each player knowing exactly what needed to be done . Much of the credit for this must go to Dhoni and to the coach , Gary Kirsten. I remember the flak that Kirsten took when he was appointed coach and all those critics who were howling that an Indian should have been appointed coach. Their silence now is deafening. 

India did lose the last ODI after being up 4-0 but were able nevertheless  to get a look at some of the bench warmers. Jadeja in particular looks destined for a promising future. I do wish though that Balaji had gotten more of a workout.The five overs that he bowled were hardly enough to assess his comeback performance.The punctuation point to the tour was the incredible T20 win scripted by the Pathan brothers. Yusuf Pathan is a real find and seems to have the ideal temperament for the T20 format. I hope it rubs off on Irfan.

Sorry to see Mahela Jayawardene announce that he would be stepping down from the captaincy after the Pakistan tour. The SriLankans were not a match for the Indian team in this series but that wasn’t his fault.He led them to some notable wins earlier and he’s a class act . I hope he regains his batting touch once  he is freed from the cares of captaincy.Incidentally, what is it with the SriLankans initials ? What do they stand for ? DMPD Jayawardene ? WJUPC Vas ? M is for Mahela and C is for Chaminda but what do the other letters indicate. In any case,  I like Mahela and Chaminda much better.

New Zealand Tour. The teams for the Indian tour of New Zealand were announced today and , as usual, Indian cricket fans are not happy. Allegations of regionalism ,selectors playing favorites ,etc. are flying around. Why can’t we realise that with so few slots and so many contenders vying for a spot in the national team, there is no way everyone will be satisfied ?

On the whole, I think the selectors have done a good job and given the nod to some deserving youngsters. There are a couple of things that could have been done  differently but , on the whole, this is a good blend of youth and experience and should do well in New Zealand if they are able to acclimatize themselves quickly. New Zealand performed creditably in Australia but I just can’t get a handle on their true abilities . With the weather conditions so markedly different they make it difficult to predict how the matches will shake out.

If I had been the lone selector, these are the changes I’d have rung in. I’d have dropped Rahul Dravid who has been in wretched form and brought in S. Badrinath. They both played for South Zone in the Duleep trophy final and while Dravid was dismissed for 5 and 0 , Badrinath scored  100 not out and 59 . I’d also have dropped Munaf Patel because I think his fitness is in question . His only attribute is pace and he has never been able to bowl as fast as he once did. Glad as I am to see Balaji back in the Test team, I wonder if his type of bowling is best suited to NZ conditions. The rest of the pace attack is OK, though  if RP Singh was fully fit I might have slotted him in. Sreesanth, I suspect, was left off because of his behavioral shennanigans and I’m glad of it.Good to see M. Vijay and Dhawal Kulkarni rewarded for their efforts in domestic cricket though I feel for Aakash Chopra who has been out in the cold for no fault of his own after a good debut in Australia in 2003. In the ODI squad, Rohit Sharma needs to come good; he’s certainly had a number of chances. After Irfan Pathan’s heroics in the T20 match , I am not surprised to find him in the ODI and T20 teams. I  understand the value of an all rounder who can bowl medium pace and bat , but Irfan has yet to live upto his early promise. His bowling is expensive and lackluster and his batting so-so.  He batted superbly in Sri Lanka but one swallow does not a summer make. If Irfan  doesn’t perform on this tour , it’s time to give him the heave-ho. Overall, I hope this is the swansong for the seniors and that , after this tour, Dravid and Laxman bow out gracefully and that Badrinath and Pujara/ Rahane get a look see. It’s too much to expect that Sachin will decide to call it a day but I wish he would take himself out of the ODI squad and concentrate on the Tests.

The Kookaburra , the SG and the Duke are  types of cricket balls and a Cricinfo article by Aakash Chopra piqued my interest in them. In his article, Chopra mentioned how  the BCCI decreed that the Australian manufactured Kookaburra be used for the Duleep Trophy . Because the Kookaburras are so expensive ( Rs. 3,000 or about $ 65  each compared to Rs 800 or about  $18 each for the SG) , only the barest minimum number of balls was made available. The article  led me to look into the various types of balls . There are a lot of opinions on this subject but  this is what I was able to glean.. The Australian-made Kookaburra has a flatter seam and is closer to a perfect sphere enabling bowlers to extract more pace and swing in the early overs. However , it is less durable and loses it’s shape after only 20 overs or so. In later overs, it doesn’t afford as much reverse swing .The SG ( full name: Sanspareil Greenlands) has a more prominent seam and enables less swing than the Kookaburra early on but more in the later overs . It’s also more rugged and holds it’s shape much longer. The Duke ,which is used in England ,is closer to the SG than to the Kookaburra. The Kookaburra and Duke are more consistent in quality since they are machine made; the SG is handmade. England uses the Duke and India the SG while all the others use the Kookaburra. How much difference does the ball make ? Not much, according to Venkatesh Prasad, India’s bowling coach. Prasad says ” As a bowler, there’s no need to make any technical changes to bowl with different types of balls.” The success of Zaheer and Ishant Sharma in Australia would seem to prove the truth of his words.The expensiveness of the Kookaburra does not mean that it is superior.

The Aussies use the Kookaburra because it aids their pacemen .Indians use the SG , I suppose , because it is less expensive and better suited to the hard pitches on the subcontinent. 

By the way, aren’t you shocked at the cost of cricket balls. I know I am.

Australia – New Zealand ODI’s . With the final ODI having been abandoned, the two teams drew the series 2-2 with Australia retaining the trophy. I think this was the only fair result as the rain shortened decider was more like a T20 match rather than an ODI. After trailing 0-2, the Aussies did well to come back to tie the series though it’s too early to say that they’re b-a-a- c-k. They will be leaving for South Africa to face a tough, confident Springbok team on the latter’s home ground . It should be a torrid contest with the winner likely to ascend to the top of the points table in both Tests and ODIs.The Aussie batting has some promising newcomers and looks pretty strong though Clarke’s health is a concern. It is the bowling which is a questionmark. Siddle, Johnson , Bracken and Co. are triers but they will be hard put to contain the Proteas. If the Aussies can pull off series wins, it will be a terrific achievement but after the form South Africa displayed on their tour of Australia they should be favored to win handily.

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The $1,000 Pizza

The thousand dollar pizza was unveiled  a couple of years ago in March 2007 by Nino Selimaj, owner of Nino’s Belissima Restaurant on Second Avenue in New York.Nino, who owns 5 other restaurants/pizzerias in New York, only offered this extravagant pizza at this one location and claimed it was not a publicity stunt. Having watched a Food Channel TV show about it, there is little doubt in my mind that it was.

The thin crust pizza , which had to be ordered 24 hours in advance , was made to order thusly : A 12-inch pie shell was slathered with creme fraiche , then dotted with 4 different kinds of caviar, thin slices of lobster tail and sprinkled with chives. I must admit it looked quite pretty. The different colored mounds of caviar set off by the white of the creme fraiche and the lobster tail ,contrasted nicely with the green of the chives.

The pizza was served cold, naturally, as caviar does not stand up to heat.The TV show showed one of these pizzas being prepared and served to a couple of customers at the restaurant . They pronounced it delicious but, pardon my skepticism, I don’t see how it could have been. I’m inclined to agree with the critic who said that it must taste very much like a bagel with cream cheese and lox.

To begin with, I don’t see how this creation even qualifies as a pizza. When I think of a pizza, I think of a piping hot pie covered with tomato sauce and melting mozzarella cheese, with some combination of toppings such as pepperoni or sausage , green peppers, onions etc. but definitely not including caviar or lobster tail. The pizza served at Nino’s did not have either tomato sauce or cheese and it was served cold . Cold !! As for the toppings , they were obviously chosen because they were costly. 

According to Nino, the pie cost about $ 750 to make . Most of that must have been because of the caviar.  To my mind, caviar should be eaten with blinis or toast points . It doesn’t belong on a pizza.

This whole episode reminds me of the time Craig Claiborne and a friend ( Pierre Franey ?) indulged themselves with a $ 4,000 meal at  a Parisian restaurant , Chez Denis . I forget the exact circumstances but American Express footed the bill .This was about 30 years ago , so in todays’ dollars the cost would be about $ 12,000. While it was a luxe multicourse meal , most of the cost of the meal was due to the wines that accompanied it.

The difference between that meal and this pizza was that the meal was acknowledged to be a one time occurrence and a publicity stunt. Even so, it was roundly criticised for it’s wastefulness and decadence. The same criticism could be leveled at the thousand dollar pizza even though it was created back when times were good.Today, when times are hard and getting worse, it appears positively obscene.

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Yesterday’s newspaper carried an item about the Japanese belief that blood type and personality are linked. In Japan, it’s perfectly normal to ask  “What’s your blood type?” in the course of a conversation, just as here we might ask ” What’s your ( zodiac) sign?” Until recently, job applicants in Japan were asked for their blood type and companies would make decisions about job assignments based on employees’ blood types. Children in some kindergartens are divided according to blood type so that each type can be taught according to the method best suited to their personality. Matchmaking agencies provide blood-type compatibility tests and consumer goods such as womens’ handbags, chewing gum , soft drinks and even condoms are formulated for specific blood types.

Surprisingly, such thinking is not new , having been first put forwarded by Kumata Hara in 1916. Hara was a doctor but subsequent research showed that there is no scientific basis , no link between blood types and character traits. However the idea never died down and it is rumored that during World War II, battle groups were assembled according to blood type. The notion got fresh legs in 1970, when Masahiko Nomi, an advocate with no medical background,popularised it. His son , Toshitaka, continues to push it today . Last year , this was the subject of four of the top 10 bestselling books ( one for each blood type) in Japan .

In brief, these are the supposed characteristics of each blood type:

Type A: Calm, avoid confrontation, uncomfortable around people. Shy, sometimes withdrawn, seek harmony. Never really fit in.Very responsible, creative, sensitve, most artistic, conscientous.

Type B: Most practical of the blood types. Specialists. Very focused, less than co-operative.  Strongly individualistic. Pay more attention to thoughts rather than feelings. Can seem cold, serious. Well intentioned, impulsive.

Type O : Energetic, outgoing, social. Most flexible of the blood groups. Start things but give up rather easily. Flighty, undependable. Speak their mind. Very self confident. Value the opinion of others. Considered the ” best” group in Japan.

Type AB: Hard to categorize since they are a mixture of contradictory traits e.g shy and outgoing.Trustworthy, responsible. Can’t handle too much when under pressure. Interested in art and metaphysics. Considered the “worst” group in Japan. Most anime villains are type AB. ( LOL)

As might have been expected, young women are most receptive these ideas and use them to determine who might be best suited to have a relationship with.

In general, people are compatible with others of their own blood type and with type AB. This makes me wonder why Type AB individuals are considered the ” worst” type, particularly since their characteristics don’t seem to be bad.

To us outside Japan, these ideas will  seem strange, if not foolish. Even in Japan, they persist inspite of a lack of medical evidence to support them. I suppose that if something has been around for a long time and is being constantly repeated it takes on the appearance of truth.

It doesn’t seem logical that all of humankind could be divided into just four groups. At least astrological signs, another far fetched correlation,  recognize 12 separate divisions.I know my personality doesn’t t fit the description assigned to my blood type. I have some traits belonging to Type A and some to type B and some to Type O. That’s what I’d expect.Try it yourself. Check the traits described for your blood type and see if they match.

Adolf Hitler was a blood type A and it’s hard to desribe him as ” calm” or a person who ‘d seek harmony and avoid confrontation” .. both characteristics of Type A’s.

No, the notion that blood type and character are somehow linked absolutely doesn’t make sense to me . It’s harmless providing it isn’t used to dictate the course of one’s life or  the lives of others.

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THAT Was a SUPER Bowl !!

It couldn’t have been any better . After years of dull, boring games or rank mismatches, we’ve had two great SuperBowls in two years. For a Giant fan like myself, last year’s upset of the Patriots was wonderful but, I’ve got to admit, from the spectators point of view this year’s contest was even better . “My” team, the Arizona Cardinals, lost but so exciting was the game that I didn’t mind much.

Early on, the Steelers looked like they were going to run away with the game. They scored first and it looked like the Cards were done. Conventional wisdom was that they had a chance only if they could get the early lead and hang on to it. Down 10-0, they not only came back but were poised to take the lead just before the half. Then Warner’s pass was picked off by Harrison in the end zone and returned for a 100 yd TD with no time left on the clock. How Harrison managed to keep on his feet after being tackled by at least 5 Cardinal defenders , how he managed to stay inbounds ,I’ll never know. People are already saying that it is the greatest single play in SuperBowl history. I don’t know how one judges these things but it definitely is up there.

At my house, the general consensus was that after such a play, with the Cardinals down 17-7 instead 0f bieng up 14-7, it was all over for them. How could they hand the Steelers a 10 point lead and have a chance ? No way, we all said. But come back the Cards did and they  actually took a 3 point lead with less than 3 minutes remaining. NOW, it was all over, I thought. My pregame prediction ( Arizona 20-17 over Pittsburgh ) seemed to be on the money. With 2-1/2 minutes to go and the Steelers 75 yards away going up against a ferocious Cardinal defense  that had held them in check in the 2nd half…. nah, no chance! As the Steelers got in field goal range, I thought to myself that at worst it would be a tie and the Cardinals would still have a shot at winning in OT. And then, Santonio Holmes made that amazing catch and , finally, it was really over .

Stray thoughts: Though I was rooting for Arizona , I was happy for the Steelers because theirs is a class organization , beginning with the owner Dan Rooney and the coach Mike Tomlin. I also like the players though I was upset at Joey Harrison’s rough tactics.

 Giant fans were no doubt rueing the loss to the Eagles that knocked the G-Men out of the playoffs.If only they had beaten the Eagles , they would have had a home game against Arizona with  a good chance of making it to Tampa. In a way however,  it was better for spectators that the Cardinals made it to the SuperBowl rather than the Giants. A Giants- Steelers matchup would have been a defensive struggle like the one played by the Steelers and Ravens in the AFC Championship game. Yes, defense wins games but it is not pretty to watch.

Amani Toomer made some harsh comments about the Giant coaches and the front office in the week leading to the SuperBowl. Toomer is a long time Giant having played there for 14 seasons and he is a class act. Much of what he said made sense. He said that Coughlin had lost the sense of urgency that he had shown last season, that he was not really interested in player input,that the offensive playcalling was unimaginative and predictable and that too much burden was played on the O-line.I think he was spot on particularly about the playcalling. But, was the Giants stodginess due to the lack of a game breaking receiving threat that could keep defenses honest ? The value of a deep threat was underscored in the Super Bowl by Larry Fitzgerald and Santonio Holmes and Anquan Boldin. With Toomer, Steve Smith and Domenik Hixon unable to break free of their defenders , Kevin Gilbride’s options were severly limited. One rumor has Boldin coming to the Giants for a running back. We’ll see..

I can’t help thinking of the success enjoyed by young coaches this season. In addition to Mike Tomlin and Ken Whisenhut and John Harbaugh there was Mike Smith  at Atlanta. Did they all succeed only because they had good teams or because their youth made them more daring and aggressive in their approach to the game ? I hope it’s the former because the Giants are stuck with Tom Coughlin for another couple of years and he’s no spring chicken .

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