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My wife tagged along with me one day last week when I was showing homes in Old Saybrook. It was around 2pm and asked her what she’d like to have for lunch before we headed home. Because we both are known to be pretty fair scratch cooks and bakers choosing a restaurant is always a challenge. She was loath to choose a burger place, one of the ubiquitous seafood restaurants or asian food and was undecided. I decided looked at my Yelp in the hopes we find something new and fresh and did we ever hit a pay dirt. 

 

 

Opened just 7 months, I found Himalaya Cafe…slated as an Indian Bistro & Lounge. It had a menu that lined up with our sensibilities and mood! We headed that way…they were open just 30 minutes more.  

 

 

Himilaya Cafe, the vision and creation of Sanjay Odedra, is conveniently located at 1456 Boston Post Rd. in Old Saybrook. Don’t let the modest façade fool you…when you enter you’ll be impressed! Sanjay created an inner sanctum that’s both interesting and unique. It’s a space that is true to his vision which is a destination where people could come to relax, be casual, memorable and a departure from restaurant norms. In my humble opinion he made he more than accomplished this.

 

He designed all the furniture that was handcrafted in India which used reclaimed lumber from a decommissioned fishing boat. The finishes vary from clear finishes over uber-thick Koa wood juxtaposed with the whimsical & wonderful tropical colors of the bygone fishing boat that provides a warm, well-worn patina that only time and the sea could provide. I loved the lower table height at table for two by the window where I could take in all the wonderful artifacts Sanjay has collected during his travels...each telling its own story. 

 

  

I stopped by one day to talk to Sanjay but he was out for the day and instead had the pleasure to speak his sister Sima Odedra who clearly runs the show. One can tell Sima loves whats she is doing as she just exudes a happy and welcoming energy. She works tirelessly to realize the vision Sanjay had for Himalaya Cafe. 
 

I quickly learned during our conversation that the Himilaya Cafe as I experienced it in month 7 was more an evolution than the original plan:  a cozy, warm, inviting space where one could come relax and converse over drinks and small plates. 

 


Deepak Sanap, Chef Extraordinaire

 

Enter Deepak Sanap (my new best friend;) and the executive chef! With 20 years experience, Deepak is the creator of the very wonderful menu that changes often and never disappoints. He just didn’t fall into the culinary world he pursued it beginning with graduating as pastry chef at just 17 from YWCA Mumbai. He got lucky at age 18 with a 5 year stint at Taj, the 5-Star Hotel chain owned by Sheraton. He was then head chef and baker on a British cruise line before migrating to the USA. He’d then spend his next decade plus honing his skills and talents owning and operating his own restaurants alone and n partnership in Ohio and New Jersey until he returned to India for a short hiatus. When he returned to the USA he came to be Himalaya Cafe’s venerable, talented and deft executive chef. 

 

Deepak Sanap making papadam 

 

The menu is admittedly limited so they can concentrate on the quality and scratch preparation of each dish using the finest local and imported ingredients. Oh man is it the right game plan. As I returned for a third time eating off both regular and their specials menu I was transported to another world yet again. Sima spoke of their plans to slowly expanding their fair into gluten free offerings as well. They do so much in such a small space. 

 

Everything we tasted was over the moon and unlike any other Indian restaurant we’ve had the pleasure of trying. Starting with the simple papadam normally offered at such restaurants you’ll Immediately you notice a difference. 

 

Theirs are prepared on premises as they arrive to the table rolled, not flat, with some flame charred spots for extra flavor. It’s with a mango chili pepper chutney to dip as opposed to the trite trio of tamarind, green sauce, and pickled onions offered elsewhere. The Paneer Tikka, a seasoned cheese and baked in the tandoor oven was unique. The onion appetizer special incredible! 

 

The Korma is other worldly packed with flavor, texture, complexity and depth. The long grain jasmine rice is delicate, fluffy, aromatic, moist…perfect.  There delicious naan a perfect companion to the aforementioned offered plain, garlic or sesame seed,  my personal fav.  

 

  

 

The mango lassi is not out of a jug as I’ve caught some other places pouring…it too is made from scratch. The chicken vindaloo is also remarkable in its depth, flavor and texture. 

 

When I returned to do the interview for this blog I had to have the Chicken Korma again. If it could be, it seemed better than the last time as did every bite I enjoyed. I am swept away when dining there. Even Deepak’s kheer, their rice pudding,  is over the moon with it’s rich, creamy texture, and the wonderful addition of chewy blonde raisins perfectly sautéed into chewy candies and nuts makes it all that more memorable.

 

I loved eating at the bar and seeing Deepak work in the open kitchen as Alyse, our friendly and competent waitress, met our every need. For me I never once needed to ask for at thing. 

 

 

If you love Indian food and seek a different experience along Connecticut’s shoreline I whole heartedly recommend Himalaya Cafe. You will not be disappointed. I noted a Salvatore Dali quote on the wall...”Don’t fear perfection. You’ll never achieve it!”  Deepak has shown Dali he was wrong. If Deepak’s food isn’t perfection it’s as close as you’ll ever experience.

 

 

When you go please tell them Mick & Lizzy sent you!

If you do Sima promises you a free desert!

 

Don't you love their sense of humor? Being married it's more correct than a joke!

Once you eat a slice of your own warm bread from the oven you can't go back. By the time a loaf of bread hits your shopping basket it was baked long ago. It may be "fresh" but it's not the same. It's also not as healthy, costs more, and has ingredients ("to preserve freshness") in it I'd never put in my bread dough. 

While my favorite "Rustic Bread" recipe is a mere 5 minutes to make (See previous blog titled "Your mother cooked from scratch, now it's your turn") and great to have with say Ravioli di Ovo but not quite the right fit for your lunch sandwich or for traditional bacon and eggs in the AM.



Ravioli Di Ovo: I will do a blog with my recipe on how to make these. It's a cheese ravioli
with an egg yolk on top of the ricotta cheese filling . I serve it with a sage butter sauce with crisp pancetta.
The oozing yolk mixing with the Italian bacon and sage butter is heavenly!

 


Mmmm....a nice start to the day!

Amish White Bread

My favorite go to recipe is an Amish recipe that I tweaked to my liking and increased in volume create two perfect loafs. One I sometime roll up with cinnamon for a wonderful cinnamon swirl loaf or I simple freeze a loaf for future use. Any of the bread you bake can be frozen after it's cool. Once thawed it will be as fresh as it came out of the oven. Here's my recipe both in baker's percentages and measured volume:

Prep time: 20 minutes with 2 hours of rising time
Cook time: 25 mins
Total time: 2 hours 25 mins

Serves: 2 loaves

Ingredients
* 2 Cups warm water about 110-120 degrees (472g)
* ⅔ Cups white sugar (134g)
* 1½ Tablespoons yeast (2 packages) ADY Active Dry Yeast
* 1½ Teaspoons salt (9g)
* ¼ cup vegetable oil (218g)
* 6 cups flour( 762g / 381g)

Bakers Ratios:
Hydration: 61%
Sugar: 17.5%
ADY: 1.5%  |  IDY 1%
Salt: 1.2%
Safflower Oil or melted butter: 10% 

 

Instructions
1. Place sugar and 40°c water in warmed mixing bowl 
2. Sprinkle with yeast and let dissolve 5-15 minutes 
3. Add salt, oil and half the flour mix together
4. Add remaining flour and mix till its pulling away from the sides.
5. Pull out onto lightly floured surface and knead shortly
6. Place in greased bowl flipping to cover both sides.
7. Top with saran wrap or damp warm towel
8. Set aside in draft free area and let rise till doubles in size. About 1 hour
9. Remove cover and punch down.
10. Lay out on lightly floured surface and cut in half and form into two equal loaves.
11. Flatten one out into rectangle and "jelly" roll into a loaf with cinnamon sugar if you want to make one white and one cinnamon sugar loaf)
12. Place in greased 9x5 bread pans.
13. Repeat with other half
14. Cover and let rise till double in size about 30-50 minutes.
15. Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees or 325° convection.
16. Once double in size bake for 25-30 minutes.
17. Pull out and brush top with butter if you like. 
18. Let rest 10 minutes before removing to cooling rack.

 

How I lost 40 Pound Eating Ice Cream Once a Week

by Mick Marsden

 

I thought the title may get your attention. I’ll explain how the ice cream made it’s way into this article as it played a pivotal part for real! 

 

This is the first in a series of blogs on eating right, losing weight in a healthy way and keeping it off, and the like. So back to the title. I admittedly love to eat. And after marrying the love of my life and feeling content, both she and I added a whole bunch of weight enjoying each other’s company along with too much food! 

 

Are you one who has battled some weight issues through your life? It really didn’t matter how many times Suzanna, my family doctor, begged me to lose weight each year and the health benefits. I’m sure you’re much the same. But for me after a spine surgery followed by injuring the same, and bi-lateral partial knee replacements, I decided the weight was costing me way too much in pain, a loss of function and lifestyle, and of course why wait for a heart attack to get motivated. 

 

During my recovery from my knee surgery I decided to get serious. When I started rehab at Gladeview, which was the catapult to my success and recovery, my calorie intake of course was much different than before surgery when I tended to overeat. My diet was controlled there. This helped me take the first steps to get to a goal weight where my therapist there and Doctors have always wanted it to be...

 

When I came home I lost 5 of the 226 pounds on my 5’ 10” frame. My waist was able to withstand the pressure from a 38 in waist band but I had a huge basketball that hung over. Strain on the back and of course was not helping the new knees get to where I needed  them. 

 

Each week we bring our grand children to the Moodus ice cream parlor each week. I wasn’t sitting idly by so I was a willing participant in consumption…but this time around I wasn’t grabbing the large hot fudge Sunday but a small cone. The place we visit has a TV on the wall and we would sit and watch Guy Guittieri’s Diners, Drive-ins, and Dives which is a show that highlights exception places that make food from scratch. What I was seeing was what I grew up eating. Good food, sourced locally, but everything made from scratch. That was it! I proclaimed us a Scratch House going forward. 

 

You should know at this juncture that my wife founded and runs a 10 year old farm to home delivery service and for years we’ve only eaten food that was locally sourced. We did by lots of things still from grocery stores like bottled sauces, breads, rolls, pasta, pancake mixes, and the like. But no more! I now bake every loaf of bread, rolls, pasta, and even pancake mix. What I found was its was no more time consuming than what I was doing before. 

 

Over the next few months I used a fabulous app on my iPhone called Lose-It! I configured the app with my stats and it suggested an amount of calories to help me maintain my portion intake. I made and ate only scratch made local food, choices more high in proteins, and watched my weight drop comfortably and steadily forcing me to buy all new clothes! I reached 186 and have maintained it between 185 and 189 for now 16 months. I’m delighted. I eat great food in satisfying portions and don’t avoid fat, sugar, and food types that have been trendy. Just common sense eating. Mindful eating. Paying attention to everything I put in my mouth. 

 

There is virtually no fast food in my life…like a stop at 5 Guys…but that’s great fresh ground beef and real potatoes. I won’t do your McDonalds etc. thing…that’s not helpful. 

 

 

If I motivated you to even consider it…I’m delighted. I will write more blogs sharing how I can make the best rustic artisan bread in literally 5 minutes with no kneading that is both healthy and cost effective. Easy white loaf bread…this recipe just a 20 minute effort to gain 2 wonderful loafs of white bread from your sandwiches and toast, pasta and more. 

 

Thanks for reading. Have a happy, healthy day!

 

Lose It! – Weight Loss Program and Calorie Counter on the App Store

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