Kensington Market, Toronto

When asked about my favorite place in Toronto, I answered with a straight face & without a second thought , “Kensington Market!”. The thought that immediately followed this proclamation, was hardly nonchalant in character. It was one of surprise laced by curiosity. The answer, I had assumed, would be a tad different; Perhaps the speckless boardwalk paralleling the serene waters of Lake Ontario, maybe the hygge-ligt coffee shop that offers safe haven in the boisterous winter months, even possibly the grey-stoned castle, Casa Loma. Despite these choices,  I had chosen one of the most crowded, loudest markets on the fringes of Spadina Avenue as my favorite spot in the city.
Why? I write this as an answer to you and and to myself.

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Khara Biscuits & My Love-Hate Relationship with Sugar

Rosy as it may seem, my relationship with sugar like any other is flawed. Sweet yet oddly imperfect.
I hail from a family that is ravenous for sugar and the clan has rightly  realized that its absence will only add to the existing pandemonium. Hence, we give in to its captivity. Be it the amber hued jaggery syrup that is made specially for dosas to diligently mop up or those surreptitious, midnight thefts of of chocolate or those weekend dessert projects bustling in the kitchen, such as Holige( Sweet Rotis)  and the likes or that generous chunk of jaggery stirred into every single savory dish, we love “the sweet life” and life without it is imagined to be listless, dark and sullen. I finally have a reason for my foray into the cozy, hygge-ligt world of baking. It is that “sweet”gene rampant in my cells that yells and throws unbearable tantrums until I give in.

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The ‘Stop to Smell the Roses’ Cake

Not that a chocolate or an orange flavoured cake doesn’t entice me substantially, but that winter morning demanded a distraction from the familiar. I was fortunate Sumayya Usmani’s ‘Mountain Berries and Dessert Spices’ had sailed from it’s confines of the store and landed amid the cozy comforts of my living room. The author is driven by authenticity and her recipes are brimming with tradition. She paints the book with dishes showcasing the magic of rose petals, cardamom, berries, pistachios and other produce native to her homeland.

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Reminiscing the holiday season – Toronto Christmas Market

We are moments away from the burgeon of spring and the blazing sun. The cold will soon be vanquished by bursting clusters of flowers dripping from balconies. The mellow, cloudy mornings and flurried side walks, snow peppered rooftops and tree branches sheathed in ice….the harbingers of winter will  depart for their temporary hiatus. Soon, sunshine will storm through diaphanous curtains and light will flood. It is a good, beautiful thing, I know. That doesn’t mean however that the gray skies aren’t…
It has dawned upon me that I have warily erased the memories of the magical Toronto Christmas Market and since I’m caught in a race against time, we now travel back to the holidays.

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A Letter to the Elusive Vegan French Macaron

An Overworked Kitchen
Toronto, Canada
February 13th, 2017

Dear Vegan Macaron,
Bonjour!
You have seemingly become one of the most profound culinary discoveries this decade, much to the delight of enthusiastic vegans & vegetarians such as myself. A riveting creation with bloggers and foodies responding maniacally(again,such as me). Stalwarts in veganism have challenged & battled the ‘Egg’ to recreate the delicacy that bears little forgiveness to it’s maker. You surprisingly imitate not just the supremely elegant,tantalizing looks of your non- vegan friend but thoroughly infatuate the taste buds too. The chewy goodness and melt in the mouth factor have indubitably been captivated. You are no fake my dear, rather, an identical twin…
Allow me to abate the flattery so I can come to the point. It is of my opinion that no baker is satiated well enough until he/she masters or at the least, attempts the task of conjuring the glorious French Macaron. With this, I  begin this intense, heartfelt and veritable account of my journey with you. Please allow me to bare my heart and I pray you take no offence. I have no intention of appearing impertinent or petulant. I’m just a mad, incorrigible baker that has discovered an authentic, calming remedy for insomnia,  a learner that is on a tranquil quest to decipher the cryptic myths & mysteries of baking, and, at the bottom of it all, I’m just a soul that loves insanely, to eat, experience & live….

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Autumnal Musings…

Distraction seems to have got a hold of me & I’m compelled to blame the changing season this time. However, autumn and the glory of colors that entail aren’t just mere distractions. Soothing greens change to glimmering golds and although it doesn’t technically conform to the science of alchemy, they bear with them a promise of euphoria. 

Summer is long gone and with it the burst of sunshine pouring through our diaphanous curtains. I awoke to a grey, gloomy sky and though for some it qualifies a few extra sleep hours, the silvery silky sky and the the soft rain behoove me to indulge in a walk. I don my long gray coat over a thick grey sweater only to realize my sartorial preferences are blending perfectly with my surroundings. Save for the fall foliage, the sky, the facades of historic buildings & the modern skyscrapers with glistening window panes are swathed in shades of grey. Drizzles of rain nonchalantly knock against my umbrella as I circle & navigate around the pathways of Toronto. A crisp breeze and ripples of chills accompany me. Neighboring pedestrians carry sprouted umbrellas and walk briskly while I amble tardily, permitting the rain to soak me. For the moment, Audrey Hepburn croons to Henry Mancini’s ‘Moon River’ on my phone.

A dimly lit cafe beckons me to enter. Luckily I never leave home without a book. I’m soon sipping sweet, honeyed black tea, seated on a high chair, facing a massive glass window on which the rainy water drops have created bizarre patterns. Erin Morgenstern’s, ‘The Night Circus’ absorbs me, only for a bit though. Soon, I’m engrossed in the picture painted outside. Streams of cars buzz across the street. People are wordlessly rushing while a poor, homeless man displays a sign for want of spare change. His furry labrador is snuggled close silently watching the scene in black & white. A man in a turquoise jacket waits under the cafe awning hoping for the rain to stop pitter pattering. A bicycle is parked right out front and it’s saddle, a wet mess. The ground I imagine is gladly welcoming the rain after a parched three summer months. I click many mental pictures before exiting.

The hues of leaves appear darker in the rain, more vibrant, more pronounced. Most make their home on the tree as they gently sway in muffled whispers. The rest are drenched thoroughly but ornately studded over the concrete of the footpath….a beautiful disarray. I make a mental note to capture this in a water colour painting. These are after all, fleeting moments. Evanescent. Soon, barren tree branches will be laced by flurries of snow and the ground, a pristine white spectacle. The crimsons & golds will vanish in the blink of an eye because Mother Nature never falters. Autumn will valiantly bid goodbye and leave us wistfully waiting….

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I will be back soon with Italian adventures. Until then, Ciao!

 

A Love Story with New York City – 2

“One belongs to New York instantly, one belongs to it as much in five minutes as in five years.”
– Tom Wolfe
A journey
October 23rd, 2010. The cold, nippy air, despite bearing a stark contrast from the world I come from, spurred feelings of pure elation and I vividly recall, I wasn’t going to let a moderate amount of jet lag or a massive amount of “missing home” stop me from experiencing that.  Call me crazy but this was the land of ‘F.R.I.E.N.D.S’ after all and every red bricked building had me hoping it contained the purple walls of Monica’s apartment(don’t worry, I knew they shot the whole thing in LA). Call me silly but this was the land where Serena & Blair fought & made up but, through it all, granted alluring, scenic views of the city & a glimpse of the lavish, sequined & sparkling piece of the city, The Upper East Side.
Maybe that’s when the fascination began, 10000 miles away and was bottled up tight until this chilly morning, when it all came bubbling out…..the funny thing is, four years later and many miles farther, the fascination still silently continues. That would explain my undiluted love for books that allow me to indulge in the magnetism of this city:
Truman Capote’s, ‘Breakfast at Tiffany’s’ where he so explicitly describes Holly Golightly & Paul’s horse ride amid a leafy , autumn ridden Central Park. The glamour of Tiffany’s still intrigues me although I only have my imagination to rely on.(On the Bucket List.)
Melanie Benjamin’s ‘Swans of Fifth Avenue’ where she takes the reader to a classy 1970’s New York, Bergdorf’s, tea time at the Plaza & Babe Ruth. “Delicious sounds of the city”, she so rightly narrates.
Wednesday Martin’s Memoir, ‘Primates of Park Avenue’ where she forays into the contrasting lives  of the West & the East Side of the city…Birkins, sprawling views of the Central park & Lulu lemon.
As we took our first drive in the hollows of the Holland Tunnel that chilly morning, encapsulated by the waters of the Hudson River, I failed to fathom the magic I was about to encounter in the coming couple of years. Here are some of those moments…..

Like the luminous Brooklyn Bridge spanning the East River. Admittedly, it’s not a smart idea to stand atop a bridge to admire the masterpiece that it is,  especially in the freezing  -1° winter of December whilst fighting cold winds. So, we waited for the warmth of spring. Decked in golden lights and surrounded by skyscrapers seemingly lit by glowing fireflies, the Brooklyn Bridge waterfront park promises a stunning view.
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Roosevelt Island is a little island in the East River and the idea of travelling in a cable car, speeding past the Queensboro Bridge while being able to appreciate the nonchalant waters & the hustle bustle of the city below seemed perfect. Unlike the history of this island which is far from perfect aka a harbor for asylums & prisons.


The unfurl of glitter that occurs in a Manhattan Christmas draws everyone like a moth to a flame. The flood of lights and bombardment of colors at every corner translates into warmth & joy regardless of the winter mayhem. Synonymous with a New York Christmas is  the Rockefeller Tree which has been spoken about enough & more in romantic comedies but allow me to share with you some other spots that scream & shine with colour & shimmer.


Travel back a month before Christmas & we have Thanksgiving. No turkey for me but I’ll have a big serving of Pumpkin pie & the Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade please! While a giant Snoopy, Kung Fu Panda & Mc Donald’s soared in the skies, there’s a minute possibility I raced back to childhood and an innocent excitement got the better of me.


Talking about childhood, I have to make a mention of the Spider man Broadway Show, an indulgence but every penny’s worth. The mind fails to reason for few moments when Spider man uninhibitedly & undauntedly flies high above whilst shooting out fake webs…is there a one in million chance that he could be real? (Here’s hoping!)

The American Museum of Natural History aside from spawning memories of  Ben Stiller’s ‘Night at the Museum’ also makes for a fun day trip but beware of your legs falling off! (The museum is massive and a day is too short to explore). Although a little time at the butterfly conservatory can make one forget the turmoils of not just the long walks & the million photo clicks around museum but the trials and tribulations of life itself. Fearlessly, they flapped, fluttered & perched on my head, the husband’s bag and another’s dress & posed with utmost poise for the cameras around….
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Say hello to Rexy & Dum Dum!

And finally, every September 11th, some friends & us stood at the edge of the waters of the Hudson River in Jersey City and witnessed the Tribute in Lights, two columns of lights ascending heroically to the skies, much like the brave hearts the world lost on that fateful morning….IMG_8453.CR2

This ends my NYC series on the blog. I’ve pushed hard to try and recount my experiences, the byzantine thoughts that crossed my mind as I explored the choked up streets but for some reason I feel these articles will always be incomplete, something amiss like the missing piece of a jigsaw puzzle…maybe because some feelings can never be wholly described….

Do read the rest of the NYC series here…
Times Square, NYC
Highline Park, NYC
Cherry Blossom, Brooklyn Botanical Garden
A Love Story with NYC- 1

Next on our travel adventures, come with us to the glorious Canadian Rockies, where nature stole our breath, one mountain at a time!

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