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While gorging on delicious food can be quite a high in itself, a splash of liquor adds that heady dimension and those strangely enticing, boozy flavours to your dinner you never thought existed. Infusing alcohol into your food takes care of two things in one go – unavoidable hunger pangs and the need to feel a tad buzzed at the end of a tiring day.
Pune does a host of these ‘drunken’ meals, which go beyond the usual chocolate oozing with a bitter-tasting liquid (among other alcohol-soaked desserts) or even classic alcoholic foods such as steak with a red wine reduction, or beer-battered shrimps. The Little Door, for instance, has dedicated an entire section of their menu to alcoholic pastas – think spaghetti cooked in red wine and tossed in olive oil, garlic and paprika, or the scrumptious Spanish rice paella aromatised with some strong and sharp white wine-soaked saffron, or decadent champagne risotto, or even some al dente, vodka-flavoured penne. It is basically like a Saturday night party in your mouth!
11 East Street Café seems to truly believe in the power of alcohol to make anything better, for it offers an array of boozy dishes such as a refreshing yet dizziness-inducing wine lamb salad or chicken doused in what they call a ‘mind-tingling’ tequila and cheese sauce. My pick from the menu, however, would be their cheese balls stuffed with onions, coriander, green chilli and jalapeño that come accompanied by a thick, smooth beer sauce that is equal parts bitter and mellow. Where Else Café & Bar incorporates the same flavour profile into their rich, buttery chowder. This comes laden with molten cheddar, fresh cream and succulent chunks of diced chicken (or finely chopped broccoli and mushroom if you go for the vegetarian version). A generous splash of beer creates an interesting texture play thanks to its thinner consistency, besides lending a slightly sharp, beer-esque aftertaste.
Speaking of boozy broths, Euriska rustles up a gorgeous bowl of saffron and brandy flavoured seafood soup – the brandy adds its inherent warmth and heartiness to the preparation, besides providing intense depth of flavour, making it the perfect serving for a rainy evening. Little Italy, for its part, does a mildly intoxicating pizza alla vodka, which features a thin-crust pie slathered with tomato sauce and loaded with mozzarella, parmesan, jalapeños, red peppers, capers, and pineapple bits and finished off with a few drops of Smirnoff.
Over at Stone Water Grill, you get a sticky, subtly crackly barbecued pork belly glazed with a sinful Jack Daniels whiskey marinade that blends beautifully with tinges of maple syrup – possibly the classiest way to get tipsy. Or then there is the ingenious mulled wine-braised leg of chicken that has pearl onions, crisp bacon bits and tangy orange chips accompanying meat so tender, it falls off the bone. Finally, Social Clinic dishes out an excellent plate of chicken crisps with an alcoholic twist – here, juicy chicken bites are drenched in the goodness of a marinade made with a liberal amount of gin (!) and mustard (and served with lemon aioli) that is sure to change your idea of partying.