>The irrepressible and lovely Agent Green Glass (AGG) invited us over for dinner a few weeks back.
AGG is real estate maverick. In a honeycombed city where people convert balconies into rooms and rooms into two rooms, AGG converted a 2BHK into a 1 BHK. As Mumbaikars would tell you, ‘BHK’ stands for bedroom hall kitchen. AGG and her husband, A, have the best designed flat that I have personally come across. Their flat is wonderfully and aesthetically planned. Lots of wood, pastel shades, masks, finky posters and AGG’s comic book themed tables. All of this was conceptualised by AGG. Each corner could be the topic of a feature in a interiors design magazine. The photo below is a view of the entrance and this is just a tiny sample. I do hope that a design magazine or blogger covers their house someday.
Our Chef for the night was the man of the house, A. He cooked in their uber cool open kitchen, separated from the hall with a self designed bar table. I noticed that A’s and my cooking styles are quite different. I get flustered when people are around me when I cook. I need my peace and solitude. I would make an exception for Padma Lakshmi though.
A, on the other hand, cooked with élan as he chatted with us. A is also quite trim and fit. He breaks the typical Indian TV channel stereotype of men of food being super sized folks. Just look at the all the rotund food show anchors floating around on TV to know what I mean. (Note to self: don’t miss the gym tomorrow after writing this!)
Another difference was our world view on recipes. I like to live on the edge when I cook. I follow my instincts these days and rarely look at recipes except for the odd pointer. Recipes bore me. The flip side of this disdain is that my guests would be subjected to a limited range of often non conventional dishes. Which is why I say that you should try the recipes I put up on Finely Chopped at your own risk.
A, on the other hand, uses a wide variety of recipes as bases and then builds on these. The result? A much more varied range. Representation of diverse cooking themes. And more authentic dishes. Our dinner menu bore this out. This was not the usual Bengali treating Bengali… kosha mangsho, doi maachh, alu posto stuff. Our dinner was designed in Italy.
There was a fantastic pan seared chicken. Flavoured in balsamic vinegar. A is particular about his ingredients. We ate the dish fresh of the pan. Danced in our mouth to the mature tune of the vinegar. A is also particular about his cooking tools and no one is allowed to use his saucepans. He takes his cooking seriously
We had this with a Tuscan vegetarian pasta. I was a bit intrigued by the ‘vegetarian’ bit and told A so in no uncertain terms. I quoted Chef Max of Penne and pointed out that Italians apparently don’t eat vegetarian food. A patiently told me about the Tuscan pastas which were tossed in fresh tomato and used Ricotta cheese as their base. The ricotta cheese was apparently the hero of the dish. One of the rare occasions when meat took a back seat. Well who would argue with a man who knew his food? And lifted weights at the gym most evenings?
A also told me about how aubergine or good old begun is as preferred in Italy as it is back home in Bengal.
Incidentally I noted this love for aubergine amongst the Chinese in Malaysia. They had a dish of diced eggplants sauteed in shrimp paste and olive oils. I had this at Arindam and Sasha’s at KL and loved it.
A made a penne pasta tossed in tomato paste, chives, Ricotta cheese and tiny bits of brinjal/ eggplant/ begun/ aubergine fried in EVOO (geek speak for Extra Virgin Olive Oil).
A’s pasta won over a pasta neutral person like me too. I loved the fact that the sauce discreetly held together the pasta without being too creamy or soupy. A told me that he dislikes pastas which swim in sauce. A point of view that we share. A’s pasta was very well flavoured, subtle, allowed the individual ingredients to stand out. The diced egg plants were an inspired touch. Highlighting how the world would be a better place if we got over conceited pedestals and occasionally read recipes.
I dug into my chicken and pasta with gusto when A exclaimed.
“Oh shucks, I forgot to put something“.
“You are kidding,” I replied, “this tastes perfect”.
“I forgot to put in the cheese,” he said with a sheepish look.
“I was nervous as you were the guest. A food reviewer after all. I forgot in all the excitement and anxiety”.
Damn. Need an image makeover for my own good I guess.
PS 2 Turns out that one of the first houses that AGG & A lived in after they got married could have been a flat where we lived in the early 80s! This was at Bank Plot, Station Road, Dhakuria, Calcutta. How six degrees is that?