Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Holiday notes

It's that time of the year when heartful wishes and thoughtful gifts are exchanged. Holiday vibes is evident in every corner; at the workplace, in the shopping arenas, around the travel hubs, at the food joints, the schools, the places of worship and many more. Family re-unions happen everywhere to celebrate Christmas festivities and the upcoming New Year; Houses are decorated with creative fixtures and innovative light-work. Theme parks and other public gathering areas are spruced up with Christmas trees, colorful lights, festive activities, musical bands and parades. Cinema halls feature several kid-friendly movies that are themed on the festivities. Cities, towns and villages sport an energetic and a lively atmosphere. With that, 'Urbancell' wishes its readers, a Merry Christmas and a New Year filled with joy, energy, happy anticipations and fulfillment of many dreams. Please look forward to more exciting posts in this space in 2008. Till then, cheers and happy holidays !!

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Red rocks and the holy connection

Sedona in Northern Arizona is not just famous for its amazing red-rock formations; its even more popular for its Vortexes as they call in Sedona. These Vortexes are spots of high energy and are found in abundance in the red-rock town. The doses of high energy emanating from the several Vortexes, combined with breathtaking scenery, the sounds of oak creek and year-round mild climates sort of create a natural healing effect. It's no wonder that Sedona's residents are highly spiritual and religious. Most of the shops are filled with aroma of incense sticks, sounds of cosmic music and stocked with new-age religious material. Psychic readings, aural pictures, and healing massages are quite a common ritual. Visitors are intrigued by the mysticism in the air.

In a region that is teeming with such high energy levels and spirituality, its also natural to find several centers of worship. Two of the most enchanting ones are the 'Chapel of the Holy Cross' and 'Kunzang Palyul Chöling'. Chapel of the Holy Cross is an impressive architecture perched on the red rocks and among more red rocks. A small drive up the hill on the Chapel Road leads to this stunning building in a very serene setting. The panoramic views from the hill and the naturally-lit church rejuvenates the body and the soul while inducing a powerful sense of holy presence. There is also a small gift shop attached to the church that sells religious items.

The Stupas of Kunzang Palyul Chöling in Sedona is in a secluded residential area of Sedona; providing a perfect spot for meditation and prayer. Access to the actual Stupas are through a gate and a small hike up the hill. Tara Stupa is about 6-foot tall and was the first one to be built in Sedona. This is also the first stupa the visitors would come across in their walk. The second Stupa is a towering 36-foot one and is called the Amitabha Stupa. A Buddha statue on top of a small hill near Amitabha Stupa radiates a sense of calmness. These Stupas, rightly located in Sedona harmonize the energy of the environment similar to its famous Vortexes.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Visit to the rock arts

If you are cruising on north I-17 from Phoenix in Arizona, a leisurely 2.8 mile drive east on exit 298 takes you to a charming little visitor center (with friendly staff and stocked with useful books, maps and information), a large un-paved open parking space, a mobile caravan with satellite dish and an old chimney on the ground. That's the gateway for one of the largest Petroglyph sites in a region called Verde Valley in Arizona. Called the V-Bar-V Heritage site, it depicts the rock art of the prehistoric Sinaguas who occupied regions of Arizona between the 6th and 15th centuries.

A short 0.4 mile stroll from the visitor center around the chimney and through the grasslands leads to the rock art site near the Beaver Creek area. The actual site with 1032 petroglyphs on 13 panels is in a nice shaded region. The style of rock art depicted on the red rocks is known as the Beaver style. It's a very distinctive art style noticed through various studies of rock art sites in the Beaver Creek area. This style is indicative of the Southern Sinagua between the ages of 1150 and 1400 AD. Some of the art work that can be seen here are that of animals, birds and reptiles. They are very clearly etched on the red rocks. A knowledgeable guide at the petroglyph spot takes time to educate and answer various queries of visitors. This historic site is open for visitors Friday, Saturday, Sunday and Monday from 9:30 am to 3 pm (Closed on certain holidays like Thanksgiving and Christmas).

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Anatomy unleashed

Since the dawn of Homo Sapiens on the planet, they have always been fascinated with the human body. It is always thrilling to know what happens inside us, what we are made of and how the different parts of the body work in harmony to maintain the most complex organic life form on earth. That's why Biology and Medicine are such engrossing subjects as they expose our knowledge banks to some of the most complicated interactions even taking place. How would it feel if common people who have had no exposure to the study of human bodies get a chance to quickly learn and nurture their curiosity?

Bodies...The Exhibition is created exactly to address this inquisitiveness of human mind. This exhibition makes several globe-trotting trips; San Diego, Las Vegas, New York, Columbus, Pittsburgh, Buenos Aires and Framingham being the current stops. Real life bodies and organs are chemically treated to create permanent polymer preserves. The San Diego exhibit features 21 whole-body specimens and more than 260 organs meticulously displayed with pertinent text to educate. The exhibition consists of several partitions/rooms, with each room pertaining to a theme based on functional systems like digestive systems, circulatory system, nervous system, respiratory system, excretory system, skeletal system, reproductive system and so on. There is at least 1 whole-body specimen and several smaller dissected sections on display in each room providing an in-depth view and understanding of the different organs and their interactions. Enthusiastic kids and adults are fascinated as med-students and other physicians in-house de-mystify their perspective on the human body.

As much as the displays induce valuable knowledge about our human body, certain displays also encourage us to follow healthy living habits. Displays of diseased organs are showcased to discourage people from indulging in over-eating, smoking and the like. Fetus displays are though-provoking as several stages of pregnancy are taught in one of the most practical methods. The complete network of nerves spread on the display table mimics an intricate thread work and is awe-inspiring. The final exhibit hall displays several cross-sections of the complete human body laminated in a glass sheet. This MRI-eye view is mind-blowing to say the least. This hall also leads to a gift store stocked with numerous books, models and multimedia paraphernalia. It is a must-see for all the curious minds out there.

Bodies...The Exhibition in San Diego is in UTC Wesfield Mall.
(Displays from May 8, 2007 to January 13, 2008)
4425 La Jolla Village Drive
San Diego, CA 92122
Ticketing over phone: 1-877-BODIES5
Sunday - Thursday (10 am - 7 pm)
Friday - Saturday (10 am - 10 pm)

* No photography and food allowed inside the exhibit halls
** AAA discounts offered

Monday, November 12, 2007

Decadent tastes in a luxe setting (in Chennai)

When a renowned French chef dishes out his delectable concoctions in an ultra-chic pastry boutique in the heart of Chennai, you'd feel pure Ecstasy. That's exactly what Chef Mickael Besse brings to you in Ecstasy, the newest pastry shop in town. Located inside Sathyam Cinemas, the first thing you'd notice about Ecstasy is its trendy urban styling and a cool contemporary decor. Once inside, you are transported to a juxtaposition of international brands with cheerful Maitre D' welcoming you to sample some of the most delicious creations in this part of the world. Ecstasy is just a beginning to creating more such international experiences in Chennai. Chef Mickael Besse takes time to share some views about his creation.

1) When did Ecstasy open in Chennai? Is this concept the first-of-its-kind in Chennai/India?
Ecstasy opened to the public on the 7th of September 2007. Yes of course, it's the first in terms of an exclusive pastry shop outside the hotel. The concept of Ecstasy is to give the best international food experience to our guests.

2) Ecstasy's USP seems to be the convergence of the best in the world of food, lighting and furniture. That's an amazing concept. Could you elaborate a bit on the lighting and furnishing aspects?
Yes, we use the best ingredients in the world like Mascarpone cheese for Tiramisu, Philadelphia cream cheese for Cheese Cake, Valrhona chocolates for all chocolates bonbons, pastries, ice cream etc. Concerning the furniture, we have chairs imported from, Italy. All the crockery and cutlery are from the worlds' leading brands like Nambe, Guy Degrenne, Rosenthal, Spiegelau and Sambonet.

3) Looks like you procure the chocolate ingredients from Valrhona. Does that include cocoa beans and flavoring ingredients like vanilla, caramel etc.? Are the chocolates made in Ecstasy's kitchen though?
No. Unfortunately we cannot buy the cocoa beans as it is necessary to have some heavy machine for making it and it is a long process. The Valrhona factory has a very good selection of Grand Cru chocolates and I don't think it is absolutely necessary to customize the raw chocolate for getting better quality. We have selected the Grand Cru chocolates only from different beans that have origins in the likes of Forestaro from Amazonie, Criollo from Central America, Trinitario and others from the world over.

All chocolates and bonbons are made in house with the best of ingredients like pistachio, almond, Illy Arabica coffee, crushed roasted cocoa beans, Earl Grey tea, and many others only to be discovered at Ecstasy.

4) Ecstasy takes pride in using the freshest ingredients for its food. Are these imported on a very frequent basis from Europe and other countries? How about fruits like blueberry, strawberry etc.? Does Ecstasy use a lot of locally available ingredients as well?
The first idea when we create a new shop is to use on priority all best ingredients available locally (figs, vanilla pods, Alphonso mangoes and the like). If it isn't available, we try to customize them.

For the rest of the products (Valrhona chocolates, Mascarpone and Philadelphia cheese, blueberries etc), we import them via certain agencies in India according to our consumption.

5) Does Ecstasy plan on offering any daily specials? What are the most popular sweets in Ecstasy and is there a plan to also carry flower/herb-flavored or liquor infused chocolate truffles in the future?
We don't have any daily special dishes but we change the menu, display, drinking desserts, tea and coffee, beverages, chocolate bonbons and ice cream three times a year.

The most popular sweets are undoubtedly ''Tiramisu'' and ''Le Chocolatier'' for Display desserts, ''Fraises au Vin Epic é et Glace a l'Huile d'Olivee'' for plated dishes, ''Chocolat Liegeois'' for Drinking Dessert, ''Hawain Blue Mountain Kona'' for Coffee, ''Darjeling White'' for Tea, ''Les Trois Roses'' for the ice cream dessert, and ''Freezing'' and ''Palou'' for chocolates bonbons.

We have planned to bring some new ideas in the next menu, something with herbs, but I cannot tell you where and how as I want to keep it as a surprise for the customer.

6) Is there an Asian-style tea-tasting bar for sampling premium teas that Ecstasy offers?
No we don't have a tea tasting bar but you can enjoy some of the premium teas with or without a dessert. A chocolate bonbon can also be a very good compliment for tea.

7) Could you share a bit of your professional background? Did you specialize in baking and pastry making in a French pastry school?
I have learnt pastries and kitchen during 3 years in a French pastry school. I have worked as pastry chef in some of the biggest Michelin Star Hotels like Mister Régis Marcon at ''L'Auberge et Clos des Cimes'' in Saint Bonnet le Froid in France, Mister Henriroux at ''La Pyramide'' at Vienne in France, Mister Roger Souvereyns at ''Le Scholteshof'' in Hasselt in Belgium. I have also travelled to different countries for demonstrations including Saint-Petersburg in Russia, in Tokyo and Kyoto in Japan ....

8) Why did you decide to take up a culinary career in Chennai? What attracted you to a relatively traditional city like Chennai? How do you rate Chennai among the most popular culinary destinations in the world like France, Italy, Spain, Tokyo , London , New York and Las Vegas?
I have decided to come to Chennai because I got the opportunity to take care of the inter projects from A to Z in a multiplex for the first time. I have travelled to many countries but had never come to India. I heard a lot about this country and it presented me with a wonderful opportunity to give the best of my knowledge to every body. Mr. Kiran Reddy (owner of Sathyam Cinemas) was a big influence in my final decision to come since he wants the best for his customers. Sathyam Cinemas has a lot of projects in the pipeline and it is a privilege and honour to be associated with all of them.

9) Are there any plans to expand the food range in Ecstasy to include savory items like panini, quiche, soups, salads, savory crepes etc.?
Not presently. As I have mentioned above, we have many others projects coming up inside and outside the complex, and in some of the other south Indian cities.

10) What is your vision for the future, in terms of making Ecstasy a global brand?
We have just begun looking at some other options.

Ecstasy is open daily from 12 noon - 11 pm.
Photos copyright: Ecstasy

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Grilling fine food in Sorrento Valley

The Sorrento Valley hi-tech area gets a brand new eatery in the form of Skewers, the brain child of Ahmad Sakha. Having spent 10 years of professional life in corporate finance and global business development of a wireless semiconductor company in Sorrento Valley, and over 4 years in privately held companies, Ahmad always looked for fresh, healthy and tasty eating options. That motivated him to bring healthy and quality food to the market place and corporate clientele in the area.

He started working on a concept a couple of years ago while earning valuable experience in the food industry with a Quiznos outlet. His ideas finally formed shape on October 1st 2007 as he opened Skewers to the general public. With a strong focus on offering a healthy food with rich flavors, Ahmad and his wife Latifa have worked on an innovative menu with infusion of Greek, Persian and Afghan tastes. Ahmad's globe-trotting to land of exotic food and spices coupled with an Mediterranean connection further helped him perfect the tastes. He has also taken great care to hand-picked chefs well-versed in Greek and Persian cooking.

Ahmad and Latifa have a strong commitment to using only the freshest ingredients. The food at Skewers is cooked fresh at the time of order. The patrons who dine here can be rest assured that Skewers never uses frozen/caned produce or artificial coloring and flavors in their cooking. Even the meat is trimmed by the chefs everyday.

Skewers also caters to guests with varied food habits by offering a huge selection of vegetarian appetizers, entrees and sides. Skewers even alters spice levels to suit individual tastes. Early next year, patrons will also have an opportunity to taste some specialty dishes as part of Skewers' daily and weekly specials. There are plans to add wine and beer to the menu in the near future. Breakfast will soon be served between the hours of 6 am and 10 am .

In terms of the setting, Skewers is spacious and aims to provide a close-to-fine-dining experience in its ambiance and tastes, but at very reasonable prices. The decor is chic with HDTVs and soon-to-be added wifi hot spots. Apart from dine-ins, Skewers is also fully equipped to handle catering and hosting parties/events. With the patrons already appreciating the tastes and quality, Ahmad aims to expand Skewers into a popular restaurant chain to continue offering the same high-quality food at reasonable prices.

Skewers is located in
9254 Scranton Road, #106
San Diego, CA - 92121
Phone (858) 658-0109
Fax (858) 658-0107

Hours of Operation
Monday through Friday - 10 am to 7 pm
(Breakfast coming shortly - 6 am to 10 am )
Saturday - 11 am to 4 pm
Sunday - Closed
Available "after hours" for private events

Food Photos copyright: Skewers
Decor Photos copyright: Bhadri

Presenting "Skewers coupon" for your savings !!

Monday, November 5, 2007

Leaning towers, dam and a lake

It's not the leaning tower of Pisa. These are electric lines running on the side of the road that leads to Hoover Dam. Hoover Dam is a gravity-arch dam built in Black canyon on the Colorado river in the border of Arizona and Nevada. Taking just 4 years to complete construction, it is considered as an engineering marvel. Also called as Boulder Dam, this monolithic structure is considered a National Historic Landmark and is maintained by the Bureau of Reclamation. The dam forms Lake Mead which is a reservoir as well as National recreation area.

Featured in such talkies like the James Bond action flick Golden Eye, Hoover Dam has been a major tourist attractor since its opening. Having Las Vegas in its proximity definitely helps in bringing local and international visitors throughout the year. A good portion of the drive from Las Vegas is scenic and the final stretch is prone to traffic as tourists try to locate vacant parking spaces in the Visitor center. Discovery Tour of Hoover Dam and the power generators are conducted to provide an enriching educational experience. The Hoover Dam Visitor center is open between 9 am and 6 pm everyday with the exception of holidays like Thanksgiving and Christmas.

Lake Mead being the largest man-made lake in the United States, offers a wealth of activities like boating, water skiing, swimming, fishing, hiking along the lakes and wildlife photography. It is believed that Lake Mead attracts about 8 to 10 million visitors every year. The Alan Bible visitor center in Lake Mead is opened 8:30 am to 4:30 pm everyday with the exception of few holidays like Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Countdown to sparks and sparklers ...

Fast approaching is a day that is bound to be filled with bundles of joy, lights galore, colorful sights, sounds of firecrackers, aroma of sweets and savories, lot of exuberance and excitement in the air and new bonds and friendships. This day is celebrated as Diwali aka. Deepavali (Also called the Festival of Lights) around the world every year by Hindus with great splendor and enthusiasm. This glittering festival that symbolizes the victory of good over evil falls on November 9th this year. Adults and children alike rejoice Diwali and greatly look forward to the festivities.

The preparation for Diwali starts many days ahead; The elders in the family work on their traditional recipes to dish out some delicious specialities and invites are sent out to family and friends to participate in the celebration. Shopping for the festival of lights is always a great experience as cheerful crowd throng the firework and sweet stalls. It is a carnival atmosphere on the streets as people look to buy new clothes to wear on the festival day. The consumer mood is upbeat and great seasonal deals are announced on house-hold appliances and consumer electronics. Temples around the area are spruced up to join the celebration of the devotees.

In most cases, the day of festival dawns very early in the morning as enthusiastic kids get ready to taste festive goodies and light their fire-crackers. Some communities start the celebrations at twilight. The whole town is lit with decorated earthen oil lamps and is definitely a sight to behold. Prayers are performed with various offerings to God. This festival provides a great opportunity for kids to showcase their creativity and mingle with other kids in a fun setting. Gifts are exchanged between family, friends and neighbors as new friendships are formed. People are more tolerant and polite on this day and are willing to help more than a bit to ones that cannot afford the celebrations. There is a sense of well-being, increased energy levels and a bit of adventure and thrill in the nerves. It is a very special day for the Hindus and rightly provides positive vibes and goodwill.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Art and architecture on a hill

Perched on top of a hill in the Santa Monica Mountains near Los Angeles, The famous Getty Center houses an art and architecture research institute, research libraries and museum galleries. Visitors all over come to visit the popular J. Paul Getty Museum for its huge collection of European paintings, sculptures, artwork, manuscripts, drawings and photographs in neatly laid out gallery pavilions. Automated trams take the visitors from the street-level parking spots to the central arrival plaza on top of the hill.

At the top of the hill, the various buildings of the Getty center blend very well with the innovative landscaping consisting of water bodies, tress, fountains and a large central garden. The complete campus design focuses on elements of space and natural lighting with a contemporary feel to it. The natural lighting within the galleries are adjusted automatically based on computer-assisted systems. The buildings are intuitively placed and provide easy access from one hall to an other. The Los Angeles city views from the Getty center are to die for.

Numerous events round the year in the form of lectures, conferences, performances, demonstrations and gallery talks further enrich the visitor experience. For a more serious visitor, GettyGuide stations provide a way to explore the art collection in depth. The audio player available for $5 at the pick-up desk in the museum entrance hall is a valuable tool to take during the pavilion visits. A number of cafes/restaurants and picnic areas provide good dining options during the visit. Avid shoppers can be seen at the Museum Store or the many Satellite shops. Entry to the Getty center is free and no reservations are needed.

The Getty Center
1200 Getty Center Drive
Los Angeles, CA-90049
(310) 440-7300

Open ...
Tuesday-Thursday (10 am - 6 pm)
Friday-Saturday (10 am - 9 pm)
Closed on Mondays and certain holidays

Monday, October 22, 2007

Trip to the gardens

A 30 minute drive from San Diego downtown takes you to Flinn Springs, the location of Summers Past Farms, an enchanting garden nestled in its foothills. Summers Past Farms is a owned by the Lozier family who have had a rich tradition in farming. This farm spreads over a decent sized area with specific portions marked for a herbal garden, a vegetable garden, a children's garden, Shakespeare garden, a secret garden, special event area, lavender fields and various shops.

The herbal garden is a delight as fragrances of basil, mint, dill, rosemary, thyme, sage and lavender fill the air. Kids have a great time playing in the children's garden or with the friendly cats, Yarrow being the friendliest. The natural lounge by the Green Bean Coffee Bar is a nice place to relax and enjoy the gardens while sipping hot coffee or savoring mango flavored iced tea with flower petals.

The farm has a couple of charming shops; The gift shop in the timber barn is a 3500 square foot garden and retail store stocked with gardening paraphernalia, cook books, aroma candles, fairy items, organic spices, jams and jellies, soaps and more. The herbal shoppe and factory is an instant hit among visitors as they are immersed in the aromatherapy of handmade herbal soaps, fragrance and massage oils and natural skin care products. Spa accessories and soap-making kits are some of the other items found in the store.

Summer and Fall days are filled with events ranging from antique and craft fairs to pumpkin patches. Visiting the farm's website or browsing the newsletters is a great way to keep informed about the numerous special events. The annual soap making week attracts large number of visitors who gather to learn the art of making herbal soaps; a nice holiday gift. Summers Past Farms is open Wednesdays through Saturdays from 9 am to 5 pm and on Sundays from 10 am to 5 pm.

Summers Past Farms
15602 Old Highway 80
Flinn Springs, CA - 92021

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Aerial route

San Diego residents turned their eyes skyward on October 12th, 13th and 14th as military and civilian performers blazed the Miramar skies with some astounding maneuvers and complex formations in their aircrafts. Marine Corps Air Station (MCAS) Miramar plays host to supposedly the largest air show in the country every year.

This 3 day mega event boasts a number of exhibits, a consumer fair, marine air-ground task force demonstration, twilight demonstrations with pyrotechnics and fireworks, jet fueled trucks, Guinness recorded 'wall of fire' and various civilian and military demonstrations.

Flight enthusiasts are enthralled by some of the coolest flying machines like U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds, F-117 Nighthawk Stealth fighters, USN F-18 Super Hornet, AV-8B Harrier, MiG 17-F and F-16 Falcon in action here. The list doesn't end without mention of special effects hang glider, radio-controlled aircrafts, aircraft carriers and sail planes as well. Miramar Air Show returns again in October 2008 for more action and excitement.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

A historic landmark in the heart of San Diego

San Diego considered as America's finest city is known for its beaches, golfing and abundant sunshine. However, it may come as a real surprise to imagine that a San Diego neighborhood could have actually been the birthplace of California. 'Old Town', a San Diego landmark is shrouded in rich history and culture and is believed to be the spot where it all began.

Today, 'Old Town' stands as one of the premier tourist destinations in San Diego with its 3 historic parks (Presidio Park, Heritage Park and Old Town San Diego Historic Park), numerous other historic sites, over 2 dozen ethnic restaurants, 100+ specialty shops, art galleries and boutique hotels. A walk in the Old Town transports you to charming Spanish ambiance with a cosmopolitan San Diego flavor; Aroma of fresh Tortillas fill the air as curious onlookers appreciate a local artist's masterpiece. Colorful old town trolleys criss-cross the lively streets even as the announcer educate and entertain the guests with interesting facts and Old Town folklore.

Old Town with a historic backdrop plays host to several weddings. Saturdays come alive as musicians dish out some exciting live numbers and artisans display jewelery, clothing, photographs, pottery, hand-painted glass and more in the popular 'Harney Street Old Town Saturday Market'. Ghostly haunts welcome visitors to the world-renowned 'Whaley House', a great example of mid-nineteenth century Greek Revival architecture. This historic museum is also an officially designated haunted house with a footfall of over 100,000 visitors every year.

The exciting Old Town trip doesn't end without sampling spicy Mexican food, wine tasting, creating candle art, visit to the candy shop and gawking at fossilized gems and road-side scrap-metal insects and robot creations.

Saturday, October 6, 2007

Style and sophistication in a street

Imagine a palm-tree lined avenue flanked by rows of stylish shops on either side and paraded by limousines and fancy cars. It's the high street of glitz, glamor and fashion in Beverly hills, California. "Rodeo Drive", about a 3-block stretch is often considered as one of the most expensive and exclusive shopping districts in the world.

The rich and the famous of Hollywood are often found shopping here on some of the foremost international designer labels like Armani, Christian Dior, Chanel, Cartier, Prada, Bang & Olufsen, Dolce and Gabbana, Fendi, Louis Vuitton, Gucci and Escada to name a few.

Rodeo Drive is not just visited by the celebrity shoppers; it also plays a good host to the tourists from all over the world who come here to experience the glitzy lifestyle. Visitors often park at 'Two Rodeo', a European style shopping enclave housing its own share of designer names such as Versace, Tiffany & Co and James Elliot and providing eclectic dining options.

Rodeo Drive wears a particularly chic and bright look in the evenings around Christmas time when festive lights and decorations adorn the street. It is recommended that Sundays be avoided because most stores are closed on that day.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Sinful indulgences in the city that never sleeps

To say that New York city is one of the best culinary destinations in the world is an understatement. It is a voyage into the realms of gastronomical delights. Be it the glitzy neon-lit avenues or the dark narrow passageways; they are all teeming with endless eating joints, dishing out food ranging from a fast street-cooked finger food to a lifestyle 9-course gourmet meal in a five-star setting. A modest 3-day Gotham trip fit about a dozen culinary escapades, most notably;

Hampton Chutney - Quaint little SOHO shop with an international twist to traditional South Indian crispy sourdough rice flour crepes (Dosa). All Dosas have a filling of varied kind and served with a choice of chutney. Sealed towelettes in a corner, ensure clean hand before indulging into the exotic chutney flavors.

Rice To Riches - Rich and creamy rice puddings are served in a trendy, hip and ultra-modern shop. Some bold flavor combinations complement greatly with the stylish decor.

Pinkberry - When the sweet and sour tastes of the Yogurt are swirled in a precise proportion and presented in a perfect consistency, you'd get Pinkberry. Choice of about 18 toppings on the perfect white or green Yogurt canvas completes the work of art. The shop's decor is fully functional with the frozen creations.

Max Brenner Chocolate - This is the latest addition to the growing list of imported chocolate shops operating in the city. This Australian-based chocolatier takes delight in offering an extensive chocolate-based menu ranging from Chocolate fondues to Chocolate Pizzas.

Artisanal Fromagerie, Bistro and Wine Bar - Cheese lovers, especially flock to this sophisticated restaurant on Park Avenue. An in-house cheese shop and a great-tasting daily fondue selection is just a start to a number of exciting French specialties. About 160 wine selections pair up with the 250+ varieties of cheese. The Artisanal cheesecake makes a perfect ending to that important appointment.

Vatan - An Indian Vegetarian eatery that gets its marks more for the decor and the concept than for the food. Patrons are transported to an ancient Indian village where they get to savor some rich, spicy North Indian prix fixe fare served in a rustic traditional way. The only rule here is to land at Vatan with a hungry stomach for the eat-as-much-as-you-can offerings.

Pommes Frites - A 2nd avenue fried food paradise serving authentic double-layered Belgian fries made from premium fresh potatoes and numerous sauce dips. This charming shop with wooden paper cone holders is often voted to have the best fries in New York city.

John's Pizzeria - Established in 1929 and on Bleecker Street, the coal-fired and the brick oven Pizzas are some of the best found in this part of the world. John's thin-crust pizzas have the perfect mix of cheese and sauce and they literally melt in the mouth.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Race in the sky

After leaving its footprint in about half a dozen international destinations like Abu Dhabi (UAE), Rio De Janeiro (Brazil), Monument Valley (USA), Istanbul (Turkey), Interlaken (Switzerland), London (UK), Budapest (Hungary) and Porto (Portugal), 'Red Bulls Air Race 2007' descended on America's finest city, San Diego. This thrilling air race with some of the best pilots in the world competing against each other in a display of speed, precision and skill was conceived by Red Bull sports in 2001. After planning for alamost 2 years, the first race of it kind was held at Airpower in Zeltweg, Austria in 2003. Since then, it has travelled around the world leaving its audience with a sense of awe.

The Red Bull air race debuts in San Diego for the first time. The San Diego leg had 2 rounds of racing; qualifying round on September 21, 2007 to shortlist the 12 fastest pilots for the actual race day on September 22, 3007 at the picturesque San Diego bay near the downtown. The race was attended by thousands of spectators at the 2 ticketed locations in Embarcadero and multiple other locations spread around the bay like Coronado.

These locations offered vantage view points to feel the planes swish by at 400 kmph close to the ground in pre-set race paths. The high-fly excitement with incredible maneuvers, naval display and parachute drops, all lasted about 6 hours. After a scintillating display in San Diego, this competition races to Perth (Australia) next.