Sunday, August 29, 2010

Indian wedding part two

In my last posting I started my Indian wedding story and left off at the artichoke dilemma so let's continue.

I was happy the owner didn't rip me a new one when he found out about the artichokes so I had to come up with a new item that he would like.  Fortunately that was easy.

One of the things chefs hate about tastings is you can have almost the entire menu decided with ease but there will be a few of those little details that just can't be decided on and that's what can take time.
Now, the menu was done.  What a relief!  All the food was ordered, everything was organized with the chef of the Hyatt Regency Kolkatta, where the event was to take place, and I got our tickets and flew over there with one of my Indian sous chefs.  

My Indian sous chef and others warned me about how dirty Kolkatta is compared to Bombay and that I should be prepared.  Bomaby doesn't exactly have what I would call that "shopping mall or doctor's office cleanliness" so I was trying to imagine what on earth Kolkatta could be like.  From the way I was warned I had this ominous feeling without even the slightest hint of what to expect.  I felt kind of like I was getting set up on a blind date with a woman who my friends know but I didn't and was being warned before the date "Curt have an open mind and be ready for anything."  What does that mean?

We arrived there in the middle of the afternoon in the customary heat and sticky humidity of Indian climate, hopped in a cab and took the painful 30 minute ride to the hotel.

Before I proceed let me tell you a little about cabs in India as it is something completely different to what any non-Indian is used to.  In some parts of Europe they use Mercedes for taxis.  In America they often use a comfortable, spacious family-type car like a Lincoln or four door Ford.  Hong Kong uses those red sedans with the white top.  In India they have these black cabs with yellow tops and they are not spacious to say the least.  Oh, they don't have air conditioning either.  Did I say those things are small?  Crap, I cannot sit in the back seat with my legs together because my knees hit the seat in front so I have to sit with my legs open.  I am 5'10" so I can only imagine how it is for somebody over six feet tall. To give you an idea of how small they are let me give you another example.

One day I had my electric guitar that I was travelling with and I use a hard case as opposed to a soft case which more resembles an elongated backpack that can be strung over your back.  The hard case looks like a long, slender suitcase and it was longer than the car was wide on the inside so if you put it in the back seat, you can't close both back doors.

Suspension, that is another story.  India has some of the worst roads and their cabs have some of the worst suspension. When you take a long ride in one of these cabs your ass actually gets numb, no kidding, so when the cab driver told me it would take at least 30 minutes to get there I just rolled my eyes, anticipating the uncomfortable, humid, sticky, sweaty journey.

I was sitting (or trying to) in the back of the cab, fidgeting the entire way and since I was still new to India and had only taken a cab a few times I, and my ass wasn't quite used to riding in these things.
As we were riding along I was looking at the scenery and couldn't help but be puzzled.
I asked my Indian chef I was travelling with, "hey I thought you said Kolkatta was much dirtier than Bombay."
"It is," he said.
"What?  Where? Looks like Bombay to me."  Makeshift shacks on the side of the road with blue tarps used as a roof, trash thrown everywhere as if there was a contest to see who had more trash on their side of the street and people squatting on the side of the road taking care of nature's duty since they didn't have any bathrooms.
"No it is different," he said.
"Dude you are on crack, you know our hotel has a vision plan don't you" I said, confused.

After I returned to Bombay many of my friends asked me about my trip and what I thought of Kolkatta and how it is much dirtier it is compared to Bombay and the only thing I could deduce is that maybe because I am not from there I just can't see the difference.

So after our "lovely" cab ride we arrived at the hotel.  If there is one word I can use to most accurately describe India in my opinion it would be "dichotomy."  Here we just took a drive through trash-filled streets and slums and in the middle of this we arrive at a beautiful, five star hotel with a pristine landscape, decorated with exotic looking plants and flowers that transcends into an idyllic vacation spot that make you forget what you drove through to get there.

We entered the hotel and that beautiful appearance we drove up to continues inside.  The hotel's decor is modern and simply stated with earth tones.  It is impeccably clean, dark brown wood panels line parts of the walls and there is a beautiful, off-white colored marble cleverly used in different textures.  Polished and smooth for the floors, and a rough finish for the walls and columns.  (Marble is very cheap in India so it is a commonly used material for decor in many hotels)  The upper level of the lobby overlooks a very large and spacious restaurant/lounge with handsome, grey marble columns, tall trees and beautiful mahogany wood floors and tables with a massive, three story window that reveals the gem of this hotel.  Just on the other side of that massive window is a beautifully manicured garden with exotic, colorful plants, palm trees, the greenest grass I have ever seen, fountains, and tables arranged sporadically along the lawn for al fresco dining.  All of this natural greenery and plant life juxtaposes nicely to the man- made interior of marble, glass and wood.

We check into our rooms and change and I am hit with a massive does of Deja-vu.  This room feels just like the room I am staying in at the Hyatt Regency Mumbai.  Oh, that's right, both hotels used the same designer so it has basically the same feel.
I returned to the front desk and ask one of the staff to call the executive chef to inform him of my arrival.  He comes up to greet me and takes me to see the kitchen.  Now that is another story; the dichotomy continues.
Tune in next time

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