What’s cooking: Baroda

Bombay has spoiled me in terms of its culinary scene. If there’s a place in India that has every possible cuisine served in 10 different restaurants, it’s Bombay. It has an establishment for every mood and every price range. So when I come back to my hometown, Baroda, I’m often disappointed by new outlets. While many places match restaurants in metro cities in terms of ambiance, they lag behind in terms of taste and innovation. Nonetheless, some places stand out, in terms of taste, hospitality and the vibe. Here are some of the places in Baroda that stood out for me:

  1. JJ’s Cafe:

I’ve been wanting to write about JJ’s since ages. It is probably one of the few hidden gems in Baroda and while I feel sad about letting the secret out, I believe this place deserves more appreciation. This is a tiny, hole-in-the-wall establishment in the Marble Arch complex that also houses Shades. It’s not a fancy place, there are just 2 tables for 2 people each and some bar stools. The food takes time to come since the owner makes it himself. There’s no AC, no fan, but I didn’t feel the need for either when I visited the place. The menu scores full marks on variety. I’ve tried their pasta, their egg dishes, their mains and their platter and I’ve loved all of them. To top it all, this place has a fab coffee menu which coffee geeks like me will fall in love with. All at an incredibly reasonable price.

A meal for 2 with a beverage each will cost around 600 rupees.

2. Ms Muffet:

Another hidden gem, this is a place you won’t find on Zomato. It is a weekend pop-up kitchen that is open from 7-10 pm almost every Saturday and Sunday. The chef is incredibly friendly and whips up the most innovative dishes that you will not find anywhere else in the city. Imagine Chhole Bunny Chow and authentic South Indian Sagu curry with neer dosa. The home that this is housed in very cosy and welcoming making it ideal for people who want a quiet, satisfying meal.

A meal for 2 will cost roughly 500 rupees.

3. Bawaz Cafe:

One of the newest addition to Baroda’s food scene, Bawaz is a place that will cater to the Parsi food cravings of the city. For those who miss Bombay and Pune’s dhanshak and kheema pav, this place is for you. It serves both vegetarian and non-vegetarian Parsi dishes. The interiors are incredibly informative and a lot of attention has been paid towards retaining the charm of an Irani cafe. The Irani chai and all the cookies/biscuits are must-haves at Bawaz.

A meal for 2 will cost 700 rupees

4. Elysian:

While Elysian does have good food(their cheese naan being my favourite), their coffee menu is so elaborate(Atleast 50 different coffees to choose from), you could have a 5-course meal that would only consist of coffee courses. From apple pie coffee to tiramisu coffee, they have it all. Since I come from a family that is obsessed with all kinds of coffee, Elysian was a hit and we can’t wait to try more from their coffee menu!

A meal for 2 with a coffee each will cost 1200 rupees.

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5. Daily Dose:

Daily Dose is an adorable bungalow converted into a cafe, next to Akota Stadium. It’s so welcoming, you won’t feel like leaving. They play old 70s and 80s songs here and that won me over. There’s a huge book collection so you read a book for as long as you want. The menu is very simple, I go here just for the vibe, but I’d recommend the iced tea since that’s what I’ve always tried here. While I haven’t seen a full house on any of my visits, friends have told me that they often didn’t get tables here since it was full, so I’d suggest going there in the afternoons when it will be relatively empty. But a visit to Daily Dose is a must.

A meal for 2 will come up to around 400 rupees.

I wrote this post with the hope that more places like these come up in Baroda’s food scene. At the same time, as customers, it is our duty to encourage new cuisines to prevail in the city, in all their authenticity. We need to open up our palates and our hearts to new cuisines, since these cuisines are the doors through which we can experiences different cultures and make Baroda a melting pot of cultural diversity. So the next time you go out, try a new cuisine, interact with the chefs and the owners, ask them about the origin of the dish and trust me, you’ll come out of the restaurant with more knowledge than you entered it with. Till then, be Khanabadosh and never stop exploring!

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We’re all in this together

It’s the dream.

Going with your girl gang on a Himalayan adventure for 10 days. No supervision, nobody to stop you, beautiful views to wake up to and hot Maggi to devour in the mountains. These are your closest friends, your school friends, the ones who’ve seen you in those awful uniforms with oily plaits and who still choose to love you. I kind of miss the uniform but that’s not the point! It’s the dream to be able to go on a long holiday with your bestfriends.

Well, it wasn’t the dream. Far from it.

We were a group of 5. 1) Rajvi, who’s strictly an adventure lover, cleanliness freak and has certain expectations from everything, which, if they aren’t met, she will have no qualms in expressing her displeasure. 2) Priyanka, who doesn’t identify herself as an outdoors person; this was her first proper trekking experience which, it’d be safe to say, changed her perspective on many things. 3) Krishma- Loud, insanely amusing, someone who will judge people at first sight but will also love them unconditionally. 4) Smin, always speaks before thinking, loves nature and is always up for everything. 5) ME- I’m the kind of person who will want to do everything in a holiday and make everyone around me accompany me to all the places I want to visit. I’m a lover of packed itineraries and a full Bunny at heart.

All of us are completely different people with completely different opinions on everything. While we all enjoy travelling, we have very different ideas of it. We were also travelling with a group that was completely different from the kind of people we’ve encountered, so the degree to which each of us socialized with them was also different.

I’d be lying if I said we didn’t have at least 100 moments of disagreement. At the same time, I’d be lying if I said it wasn’t one of the most memorable trips of my life.

We covered the Parvati Valley region, mainly Pulga, Kheerganga, Jari and Kasol. Taking you through the journey quickly below:

Day 1- Our bus to Himachal was from Delhi so we went from Baroda to Delhi and took a bus from there in the evening.

Day 2- We reached Bhuntar in the morning. From there we went to our homestay in Pulga by car. 2-3 kms before the campsite, we stopped and had the first bomb dropped on our head- we had to trek 2-3 kms with all our luggage. We’d all assumed that the trekking would begin once we reached the homestay, where we wouldn’t have to carry our luggage. As we toiled to the homestay, Rajvi and Smin carried all the heavy luggage and helped us reach the homestay ALIVE. We explored Pulga, a little village, half an hour from Kasol in the evening. It’s as uncommercialized as anything can get. Walking through the tiny streets and playing with the adorable dogs was Priyanka’s favourite part of the trip.

 

Day 3- We went on a hike that we were told was short, but for everyone except Smin and Rajvi, it was super-long. We hiked to the forest behind Pulga and although we were dead tired, it was beautiful. Clean, quiet and gorgeous.

Day 4- This was the day we had to trek 15 kms to Kheerganga. We’d been told that it would be very tough and I had a meltdown the night before, because I thought there was no way I’d do it. As we started walking, the only thing I told myself was that this was what I’d come for and I couldn’t just give up. It was a 6-7 hour long hike and much easier than I expected, except for the last hour which was too steep. We all had to encourage each other and shout words of motivation. But when we reached the top, Kheerganga was totally worth it. Words cannot describe the joy I experienced there. At night we all sat outside, without electricity, just gazing at the stars. Kheerganga was an experience we’d never forget.

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Day 5- We trekked back to Pulga from Kheerganga. We fell on our beds, cleaned up and dreamt of the night before.

Day 6- We again had to take ALL our luggage back through the route we initially came on. While it was still tough, after doing Kheerganga, we didn’t complain much for this short trek. We took a car to Jari, which is on the outskirts of Kasol. In Jari, we trekked downhill with our luggage to a guesthouse by the Parvati river. While I hated the downhill trek, the river view kind of made up for it.

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Day 7- We trekked uphill from the guesthouse and then went to Kasol. While Kasol was good, with its cafes and street shops, I felt that after visiting Pulga and Kheerganga, Kasol felt too commercialized and overrated. I forced the gang to go to the Gurudwara in Manikaran which although decent, wasn’t as great as I thought, but the chhole in a bun outside the Gurudwara was delicious. We hit a couple of cafes and then crossed the bridge to go to Chalal, a nearby village in search of a popular cafe called Cafe 9. We ended up getting lost but more on that later. We were also the last ones to make it back to the guesthouse that night where we enjoyed a bonfire.

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Day 8- While everyone else was relaxing that day, we again went uphill to hit more cafes and have a mandatory shopping session. We went to Bhuntar by car that afternoon and took a bus to Delhi.

Day 9- We reached Delhi in the morning and the public-transport lover in me dragged everyone to take a metro to Hauz Khas. Smin and Krishma ended up getting lost with their phones not working. Priyanka was dead tired by then, Rajvi was running around to find S & K and I was feeling a plethora of emotions at the same time. After everything was settled, we got a hotel, rested and had one of the most lavish breakfasts in HKV. The rest of the day was full of disagreements as well and I was amazed we didn’t kill each other.

Day 10- The tiny arguments continued till we reached home and we didn’t meet each other for many days after the trip because of several reasons, we all knew this was something that had to be repeated. A LOT.

A blog post of my first trip with my bestfriends would be incomplete without their experiences, in their own style. Since the trip taught us the importance if respecting each other’s idea of travel and fun, here are the #ParvatiValleyMemories from my favourites:

Priyanka- I have never been an outdoors person but the trek to Kheerganga was one of the best things I’ve done so far. The mesmerizing view and the feeling you experience at the top are worth the pain. The sound of the river was so peaceful. Apart from that, the dogs of Pulga were adorable. I could’ve played with them all day.

Krishma- When people tell you that going on treks changes you as a person, you believe them. And while it wasn’t exactly life-altering for me, it was pretty special. Trekking uphill with a backpack for 6 hours works entirely against my very grain, but if it means doing it with my best mates, I would do it again. EVERY SINGLE THING AND EVERY SINGLE TIME, without a doubt. That’s how special it was.

Rajvi- While we trekked to Kheerganga in hopes of enjoying the hot springs, we ended up not doing that at all and just chilling and stargazing. Travel is sometimes about keeping your expectations lows and taking disappointment as it comes.

Smin- The first highlight of the trip has to be the moment we reached Kheerganga after a physical as well as mental challenge. It wasn’t great or exotic but unarguably special, at least for me. The second is the day our inner Bunny was satisfied (We’re all huge YJHD fans) It was supposed to be a chill day but in a limited period of time, we explored Kasol optimally and the best part was our way back to our home-stay. We were tired, exhausted, falling, singing, trembling and slipping on our way back and the only thing our bodies demanded was rest but what mattered the most to me was that in that moment, we were HAPPY. The third highlight is about the pros and cons of being extremely adventurous and BUNNYish. We read on the internet that Cafe 9 is a must-visit place, it was far and isolated but remember Bunny? We had to fulfill our whims. So we ended up taking the road less travelled and realized that the cafe existed only in a parallel universe.We wandered for an hour but never reached the cafe, although the time  we spent searching for it and cursing it will be something I will remember.  All in all, a trip with your girlfriends is a must.  It gave me the kind of happiness I get when I see food. Only this time, the happiness was for my soul.

I think the ladies put it better than I did. It was incredibly difficult to make the trip happen with date and permission issues but I would go through all of that trouble anyday to be with the people who will always, always have a special place in my heart. Another important lesson this trip taught me that destinations hold within them a lot more than what they show. Kasol is known to be a stoner’s paradise and most of the people only visit it to procure marijuana and other drugs, but that was never my intention. I ended up discovering the beauty of a region that’s rarely acknowledged. Take a trip to Pulga for its warm people, for the dogs, eat the chhole in a bun outside the Gurudwara in Manikaran and sit by the Parvati river in Jari. But most of all, do it with people you love. Visit Parvati Valley with your tribe and have an experience you will want to repeat again and again.

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