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The year-end Holiday Season brings respite from the heat, merriment and the expectancy of presents. It is hard not to delight with a little thoughtfulness wrapped in a box under someone’s tree. And if this special someone is a foodie, then there is nigh a better gift than some good chocolate and cheese. But wait before you head to your closest gourmet supermarket! Chennai has been quietly playing host to some of the brightest in the business and offers some terrific surprises for those who appreciate finer things in life.
PS: No one will notice if you surreptitiously forward this to well-meaning friends; throwing a well-placed hint or two never hurt!
World’s best Chocolates from Cocoatrait
Fine chocolate has been all the rage these past years. From plush chocolate boutiques to artisanal ‘Bean-to-Bar’ startups, Cacao-fiends in India have never had it better. I have had the privilege of observing these trends alongside the most erudite Chocolatier I know. Nitin Chordia is a chocolate educator, maker, distributor, consultant and a certified taster.
Nitin started off as a retail consultant, setting up the Godrej Nature’s Basket stores across India. After a taste of the good stuff, he dived head-first into chocolate, scoring a certificate from International Institute of Chocolate Tasting in London. Nitin now runs a chocolate consulting and education set-up called Cocoashala which serves everyone from bakers and artisan chocolate makers to the Belgian consulate. Nitin also retails his own line called Enchante and distributes some of the world’s best bars like the award-winning Marou (my favourite), A.morin and Pacarai online and at gourmet stores across the city. But my advice is to visit Cocoashala in Mylapore just to check out his Chocolate Wall which segments chocolates around the world based on their flavour profile. Plus if you are nice, you might catch him roasting and grinding Cacao beans. The heady aroma will stay in your head for a while!
Farm-fresh Cheese, bakes and organic goodies from The Farm
You will usually find Arul Futnani in a cowboy hat and jeans at the entrance to the restaurant, right next to his beloved Bullet. Always up for a good chat, Arul’s chilled-out vibe and strong belief in where his food comes from captures the charm of The Farm. It is a bit of trek for most Chennai-tes but has become the city’s greatest magnet for those whose tinker with food.
Aditya Raghavan, former Physicist and geeky Cheesemaker, has been working at The Farm to create some stunning cheese. The product is not merely a replication of European technique but uniquely crafted using local ingredients and technique. Aditya’s Camembert uses milk from cows next door and is aged in local Tamarind-wood for a unique finish. The Farm’s Madras Jack and Tomme de Semmancheri are already famous, apt for a place which started out as a dairy farm. You can also pick up well-known cheese like Ricotta, fresh Mozzarella and the like, but a bit of curiosity for aged cheese will be well rewarded. Do grab delicious bakes at The Farm Store with plenty of gluten-free and organic options. I never come back without a pack of Green Peppercorns from the vegetable shelves and Nilgiri Honey.