Sourish Bhattacharyya, dailymail.co.uk
In a world where divisive politics rules the news, imagine people following discrete religions, speaking different languages and having varied ethnicities united by the adhesive power of food.
On March 21 night, 2,000 chefs across 150 nations in five continents served a French dinner at their restaurants in a one-of-a-kind celebration of a country that is synonymous with gastronomy and haute cuisine.
India, in fact, was No. 3 on the crowded world list of Gout France, or Good [JB note: strange translation of the French word for "taste"] France, which is the name of the initiative being steered by the French Foreign Ministry with the legendary Michelin multi-starred chef Alain Ducasse since 2015.
On the Gout France night, chefs such as Priyam Chatterjee (pictured) wear French national colours
As many as 66 Indian restaurants, including 14 in Delhi-NCR, participated in Gout France this year. 'The common point of this event,' in the words of Ducasse, 'is generosity, sharing and the love of what is beautiful and tastes good.'
It draws its inspiration, incidentally, from the doyen French chefs, Auguste Escoffier, who launched the Dîners d'Épicure (Epicurean Dinners) initiative - the same menu, the same day, in several world cities and aimed at as many diners as possible - in 1912. All this information set me thinking.
French cuisine may be the world's gold standard for good food, but Indian gastronomy today is ranked right after French, Japanese, Italian and Chinese, although the Spaniards may like to consider themselves to be ahead of us.
Yet culinary tourism is not even listed as one of the 20 objectives set by the Ministry of Tourism for itself. It is time for us to turn the tide, take inspiration from a global event of the scale of Gout France and get the world talking only about Indian cuisine for just one day.
Dishes such as Coquilles Saint-Jacques were served on the celebratory night
Given the global footprint of Indian cuisine, and the appetite of the Narendra Modi government for mega events, it is not a Herculean mission. Imagine, what a grand statement it will be for India's ultimate soft power.
It will also open doors for people-to-people exchanges, which increasingly are seen as an important accessory to public diplomacy.
As the Ambassador of France in India, Alexandre Ziegler, put it so expressively: 'Partnerships between nations are not forged only by diplomats signing MoUs.'
Ziegler, who's from Sauternes, home to the world's finest dessert wines in Bordeaux, and who owes his Germanic name to his Swiss great-grandfather, kept repeating that French cuisine is not only haute cuisine.
'People tend to believe French cuisine is very expensive and quite complicated, but gastronomy can also be a daily life experience,' Ziegler said.
The magnificent spread of Indian cuisine, and its many regional avatars, needs to be shared with the world - and what better way to do it than to have a different celebrated chef from India cook at each of our embassies around the world on one day.
That is just what the 35-year-old Akrame Benallal, chef-owner of the Michelin-starred Restaurant Akrame in Paris, did during dinner at the French Ambassador's residence on March 21.
A day before the dinner (March 20), he spent the afternoon with the chefs from the partner restaurants - again, contributing to a better understanding of French cuisine. Gout France may be a one-night affair, but it underlines one salient feature of the emerging world civilisation - food brings people closer in a discordant universe.
Smart new destination for high tea
The other day I was struck by the complaint from a well-travelled young woman about how it's impossible to get leaf tea at even posh hotels around our country, which also happens to be the second-largest tea producing nation in the world.
I find it hard to digest the irony of being a citizen of a top tea-producing nation and yet being served 'dip tea' (from tea bags) in establishments that take pride in calling themselves 'luxury hotels'.
From irony, it becomes a farce, when the very same hotels take immense pride in showing off their collection of single-origin coffees from exotic locations.
At Roasted, Aerocity, you are served your favourite leaf tea inside a gleaming gold-tinted stainless steel container
For many years, the Emperor Lounge at the Taj Mahal Hotel has been the only place in Delhi-NCR to get a decent cup of tea served in fancy dispensers.
It is therefore with great anticipation that I welcome Roasted at Roseate House, New Delhi Aerocity.
The 56th outlet of Singapore's luxury retailer, TWG Tea, which has acquired a formidable collection of more than 800 single- estate teas from around the world, Roasted breathes life into a space tucked away in one corner of the hotel's lobby.
The selection at Roasted consists of nine leaf teas and an equal number of tea bag offerings.
For accompaniments, Roasted could have stopped at scones (freshly baked), clotted cream and jam, or madeleines (French shellshaped butter cakes), or financiers (French almond cakes), but they also have finger sandwiches where the chefs have let loose their imagination with unusual toppings such as pulled duck, juniper berry and apricot jam; coronation chicken (cooked in Madras curry) with Californian grapes and chopped celery.
Delhi could do with more of such places.
America is in love with dosa waffles
America has developed a taste for dosa waffles
After wallowing in second-class status for long, Indian cuisine appears to have made serious inroads into the American table.
A lot of the excitement about it has to do with Srijith Gopinath of the Taj Campton Place Hotel, San Francisco, retaining his second Michelin star for the second successive year, and Indian Accent opening to a warm reception in New York City, coinciding with Floyd Cardoz’s Paowalla and Suvir Saran’s return to the Big Apple’s forever-bustling restaurant scene with Tapestry.
In an article headlined ‘Indian Cuisine Catches Fire,’ Nation’s Restaurant News, the US restaurant industry’s daily read, the writer, Brett Thorn, mentions the success of Payal Saha’s The Kati Roll Company, also in New York City, where fillings include tamarind shrimp and duck vindaloo.
The growing following of Biju Thomas’s dosa waffles, which has propelled the fast expansion of Biju’s Little Curry Shop in Denver and Boulder, Colorado, was also given a mention.
Interestingly, mainstream American restaurants are adapting Indian ways. At Nix, a trendy vegetarian restaurant in New York City, Chef John Fraser has two tandoors in the kitchen - and he’s not the first, for Douglas Katz has been cooking with tandoors at Fire Food & Drink since 2001.
Greg Braxtrom’s Olmsted in New York City has gobhi pakora, duck chakna served with naan.
And Sweetgreen, a 65-outlet fast casual chain based out of Los Angeles, was so successful with its Curry Cauliflower Salad that it has added a Curry Chickpea Warm Bowl for the winter along with a carrot turmeric drink.