Sunday, January 20, 2013

Bring On The Midnight Gelato!

Those of you who know Purushu and I, will be aware of the frequent late night dates we go on in the city during the weekdays. Once the kids are tucked into bed, we two adults head out all the way across town to M.G.Road...for the wild life of dessert!

Until recently our sojourns usually took us to Naturals Ice Cream, occasionally Cocoa Tree or much less frequently, Canopy at Abad Plaza. The bright lights would beckon from the colourful interiors of another haunt open on M.G.Road that late in the night, Haji Ali, which serves up the most authentic falooda in town, but a cursory check of the whopping number of calories in one serving has so far managed to keep us away! Especially at night!

But now we have a new entrant on the late night dessert scene in the city and we find ourselves veering in the direction of Milano Ice Cream to savor the scrumptiously delicious Gelato that they serve there.

Exactly a month ago to the date,  the ever gracious Giancarlo Segalini (who coincidentally turns a year older today too-Happy Birthday!), egged on by his wife Sara, started this gelateria in Ravipuram. Sara has a long standing relationship with Kerala through her Coir and Jute business and when Giancarlo visited our God's Own Country in April last year, he noticed there were no gelaterias here. And thats how it started. Ah a simple and noble thought, which has brought such joy into the lives of us Kochiites! 

The quaint little gelateria sitting opposite the new Tanishq showroom in Ravipuram has this deceptively simple chocolate brown hoarding outside that indicates its existence, but take the bait and walk inside and you are transported into another wonder land altogether. Pristine white walls and cute little arches beckon you through the entrance and to the treasure that lies at the end of the narrow hallway, extended by the clever use of mirrors.

The treasure at the luscious end of the tunnel being of course, the luminescent display of the day's freshly made gelato all set for gobbledom, manufactured right there on site by Giancarlo and his master chef,  Maurizio, who is as jolly as an Italian chef can only be! White haired, hurly burly and with a belly that boasts of satiatingly amazing food escapades, you like to know that you are being fed by this jovial funloving chef! 

But then, how could he possibly not look the part, he after all hails from the Italian province of Parma. Now if Italy is known as the food capital of the world, well, anybody who knows their penne from their fettuccine will know that Parma is the capital of that food capital!
The wonderful Milano team. (L-R) Giancarlo, Shafiq, Maurizio and Muhammad

So when you know your Gelato is being made by someone with that kind of pedigree, of course your tummy rumbles louder. But there is a task to be accomplished first. Choosing  your flavours. The young men at the counter who do the honours of serving you the gelato, at first glance, seem to be imported from Italy too. After all, the owner is Italian, the master chef is Italian, even the entire sylvan decor of the place is designed and executed by the Italian designer, Paolo Zani. And these fellas standing there with their jet black gelled hair and Mediterranean complexion, not to mention, the bright red Gucci loafers, they gotta be Italian too, right? Wrong. They are Mohammed and Shafiq from Kasargod! Could have fooled me...:)

So Mohammed and Shafiq help you choose your flavours, giving you as many tasters as you want before you nail the deal. Yes this is the bewildering part. On one hand you have the sweetly tart fruit sorbettos that gleam at you with their bright colours, then you have the comforting milk based flavours that are combined with the required crunch and punch to keep you in heaven, and then those chocolate flavours designed to hit your head with enthusiasm. Best of luck with choosing!

I think of the flavours I have tried so far, the purplish pink Fruit of the Forest, a vibrant medley of all things berry, is my absolute favourite. Plus, you get to convince yourself it's healthier because it has less fat than the milk varieties(uhuh...). But if you do choose to go down the more decadent path, then the Chocolate Orange has the right blend of sweet and bitter to keep your mind tingling for a while. 
I did like the Milk and Honey one too which had bits of home made meringue sprinkled on top. Another Sorbetto that blew my mind was the Strawberry...intensely strawberrylicious as it gets...YUM! As you can see, I can go on and on. Am looking forward to seeing the new flavours that this team brings forth over the days, as they get more familiar with the local produce. Just imagine when mango season rolls around...ah Manga Mia! :)

Once you have chosen your flavours, Mohammed and Shafiq serve it up for you according to your choice of size and bowl. Whatever you choose, they make sure to make even that experience a pretty one. The Strawberry Sorbetto/Ferrerro Rocher rose cone is something I cannot forget...:)

As for the rates. Get this. The small cup comes with two flavours at Rs50, the medium with three flavours at Rs80 and the large cup with three flavours but larger sized for Rs100. I know...what a STEAL! 


And of course, if you want it on a cone, its Rs5 extra...but go for it! It took me a trip to Milano(the Kochi one of course) to realize that eating gelato out of a cup is one of the biggest injustices you can do to yourself. 

Take it on that cone and look at all those pretty colours before you indulge. Bury your nose into it, smell it as you eat through it and allow its creaminess to drip onto your fingers. Total sensory indulgence...that's the only way to go! 

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Wheeled back into action by a movie!

Getting this blog running again has been on my mind for some time now. But I just was not getting that final energising push to do so. And then last night, I watched Annayum Rasoolum and I knew...the time had come.

Why this movie you may ask? A 3 hour long intense love story that some of the fellow audience found more comfortable to giggle through or berate(though nobody walked out)?

Because in it I saw my beloved city, Kochi, in a way that it had never been seen before. This is no ordinary feat, mind you, considering every movie these days seems to have Kochi as its backdrop. Heck, walking into a film shoot has become a regular occurence for all Kochiites. You just can't escape the film units which throng every possible location out there.
Panampilly Nagar,  Vytilla Junction, Marine Drive, the Rainbow bridge, the old bungalows of Fort Kochi, the city's malls and luxury hotels have all become regular canvases for films to roll out on.

Thus to shoot within the very same tiny geography and engagingly bring out a rustic, hearty core of Kochi, centred primarily in older hearths like Mattancherry and Vypeen, was a masterpiece move by the team of Annayum Rasoolum.

Within the subtleties of this intense romance, just like the city the story is based in, there is of course deep soulful love, but there is also darkness. There is joy, there is materialism, there is crime, there is frivolity, there is sadness, there is freedom, there is ecstasy, there is achievement, there is heartwrenching comedy, there is purpose and of course there is reality.

However what ends up being most fascinating for me, and so smartly executed, is the way the city actually relegates itself to  a backseat role while the movie instead plays out inside the diverse modes of transportation Kochi has to offer.

Speeding buses-not the AC Volvo buses that are featured often in films these days, but the regular breadbox ones; noisy ferries; privacy ensuring autos; convenient tourist taxis; and zipping motorbikes are all used as 'vehicles' to move the story forward, each with its own timely significance, yet always keeping the city as witness. When all else fails, the hero, played flawlessly by Fahadh Faasil, turns to his Forrest Gump instinct and RUNS!  Also constantly looming in the background against vivid hues of different skylights are the huge ships and barges that are so intrinsic to the socioeconomic  fabric of Kochi.

No, I wasn't thinking about all this so deeply while watching the movie. I actually just sat back and allowed its slow pace to engulf me with the lives of the characters before me.
Yet again and again, along with the unique characterisations of the entire cast, I found myself drawn to the different essence of Kochi that emanated from the screen.

Interestingly the transportation metaphor never occured to me till much later. While we were leaving the cinema hall, I heard a lady rebuke the movie saying all it had were scenes that jumped from a bus to an auto to a ferry etc. She had actually nailed it. Thats when I rewound the movie in my head and realised it was a lot more brilliant than I had initially resigned it to be.

And I couldn't have been happier for I get simple pleasures from using public transportation. I actually enjoy taking the bus when I can. I think the ferry system in Kochi is one of the most efficient, cost effective but most under utilised method of navigating this city that  is essentially an archipelago of islands. I can't wait for the Metro to finally arrive. I find tourist taxis in Kochi are some of the most reliable, safe and economical in the state and country.

So of course a public transportation junkie like me would find it absolute genius to use these simple day to day objects in our life as a platform for the movie!

Thus for me, Annayum Rasoolum, with its thorough exploration of a somewhat simple romance between two regular people,  has became more of a visual and cerebral exploration of Kochi, the enigmatic metropolis that I now call home. Nothing much in the characters or their lives resembled my own, yet the feelings resonated within. Thats what good cinema does to you.