Thursday, June 23, 2011

A Friend with Benefits

When you think of friends with benefits you are clearly going the wrong way.
But, not me. There are some great benefits of being friends with Varun Sheth.

He's the sweetest boy ever. And he cooks. And super well too.

I've always behaved like a food critic in restaurants. Giving a critique when noone really cares.
This started way back when I couldn't even tell the difference between chalk and cheese.
I was a fussy eater while growing up and my mother would feed me with stories like apples and pears are cousins. This was done in an attempt to make me eat pears.

Being the fussy eater that I was, when dessert was served my eyes would light up and suddenly there were exactly 2 empty circular spaces in my tummy to fit in 2 gulab jamuns. I deserved the dessert reward just for being that creative with my explanations.

Anyway, on Tuesday I did no such thing.
My friend, Varun cooked up this neverending meal that was nothing but super.

How did it all start for him?
I think this is a pretty amazing story. 
I've known Varun for what feels like forever and he was as confused as I still am.
He represented India in Counter Strike (the video game). I thought that was awesome. But, he was made for something bigger. And that was 1 tablespoon.
It all began with Varun being bored at home and realising how much he wants to eat pizza which led to him making it himself, from scratch. And then doing it everyday. Making better sauces. Adding different toppings. And then a chef was born.
Varun then went on to study at the Natural Gourmet Institute in New York and when he returned he started his own Gourmet catering service called 1 tablespoon.

Now about the food...
There were starters, main course, dessert and even wine. All in the middle of the evening.
But, who's complaining?

We started with some wine. I was thirsty.
As I sipped my wine, Varun started bringing in one tasty treat after another.
First there was the hummus and lavash followed by a garlicy dip (I forgot what it's called) and pita squares.
I love garlic but hate how the taste won't leave me and I need to brush my teeth 5 times after eating it.
But, no such thing happened.

After this we had creamy corn vol-au-vents. This is something I ask my mother to make for me on every birthday because I love vol-au-vents so much. I have only ever eaten the ones she's made. But, these were super too. I would've preferred less of the wafery part but then that's just me.

This was followed by crostinis with a tomato paste, goat cheese and burnt onion. So, I love goat cheese like I love every other cheese and there's something lovely about sweet burnt onion but I am not a fan of tomato. But, guess what, I totally loved it. It was nice and creamy and you couldn't feel the tomatoey texture which is what I usually have a problem with. Full marks again!

This was followed by Varun's specialty - pizza.
He makes everything from scratch - the dough and even the sauce. I could choose my toppings so I went with red and yellow peppers. While Varun made the pizza at lightning speed, I walked around and took some photographs. I'm an amateur photographer with a fancy camera. I tried.

And then when I took really bad pictures, I just continued eating. Seemed to help a lot.

The pizza was followed by ravioli which was filled with a mushroomy pasty filling. A little salty on the outside. But, only because I asked him to put extra salt so I could play around with my photography while he threw salt in the pan. Sorry.

Then came the best part - the dessert.
This is the part I look forward to the most in every meal.
Varun knew that and let me have my desserts in between courses.
So, actually at this point I had already had a bowl of crème brûlée and strawberry sorbet.
Yum yum yum.
The crème brûlée was probably the best I've ever had. Perfect crackly top (without being so thick that it gets stuck in your teeth). And the inside couldn't have been creamier. Even though it was super creamy and that by this time I had eaten as much as an elephant, it was still easy to digest. Loved the black vanilla dots in it.

The strawberry sorbet on the other hand was served right into my wine glass. Well, atleast that's how I had my first serving of it. It was like the white wine pulled it in and gave it a big hug.

This is where I stopped to take a breath.
Yoga has taught me the importance of breathing.

And then we ended the perfect meal with a cannoli (topped with chocolate chips). 
Varun explained how it was made. Something about ricotta, wine, coffee powder, whiskey and I went into a trance. 

All this over some great conversation and average photography on a day that couldn't have been anything but delicious. And I got some sorbet and a chocolate biscuit to take home.

My frank opinion: Go for it!
Not only was I impressed by his food but his kitchen is super clean. Something I really appreciated.
Varun caters under the name 1 tablespoon. That's a lot more than what I got.
Check out his website for the complete menu.

Definitely get the brownies.

photos & illustration by me.


Varun said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Neha Kamath said...

the benefit of being my friend is featuring on my blog and enjoying my awesome company :)

Varun said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Varun said...

Appreciate the effort you put into writing and editing this. Its super fun to read as most of your other ones have been, keep it up :)

kritika said...

neh..b of some benefit to the rest of us and do write down the recipes too ;)

Pooja said...

neha! LOVED reading your blog! I started reading on my blackberry and stopped only when I thought I was about to go blind. Lots of love, Pooja

Neha Kamath said...

Hi Pooja,
So nice to hear from you.
I love that you loved it.
And I know the feeling. I also read too much on my blackberry. The zoom button makes you seriously want to get your eyes checked. Or in my case eat carrots.
Feel free to follow :)
Love, Neha

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