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To me, food is not only about what I eat. It’s the ambience, it’s the wine, and it’s the company  that I have, that makes an experience top notch. I was fortunate to have some amazing foodie experiences around the globe, in 2015 (and when you are vegetarian that’s even more exciting)

Thai lunch at Spirit House, Yandina, Australia

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The evocative Spirit House in Yandina on Australia’s Sunshine Coast, was an oasis of tranquility tucked deep into a bamboo grove with spirit houses and statues, open-air pagodas around a fern-fringed pond. As I walked into this restaurant I felt transported into the lush tropical gardens of a Thai villa. There was a water-lily-strewn pond with cheeky water dragons and dragonflies hovering over it. I had a Thai lunch in an electric red pavilion overlooking the calm pond.  I just loved their fresh ginger punch and coconut-smoked tofu with green mango. I enjoyed their brick colored curry of pumpkin, garlic and roasted peanuts served very strangely with rotis and their betel leaf snack! The Spirit House also runs popular hands-on cooking classes that conclude with a meal. Bookings for these classes should be made well in advance.

Evening at the rooftop Lebua bar, Bangkok

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I visited the famous Sky Bar, now famous for being featured in ‘The Hangover Part II’, atop Lebua State Tower, Bangkok with my daughter, for a drink at their famous bar. This is touted to be the world’s highest outdoor bar with stunning vistas across the Chao Phraya River.The ‘mixologist’ made us a ‘Pandora’s Box’ – which had a zillion ingredients from wild fig, vanilla cigar, orange peel to gin and house made raspberry bitters. It’s a ‘mobile drink’- served in a carton so that you can carry it wherever you go!  Got top marks for creativity!

Thai Dinner at Nahm, Bangkok and at Point Yamu, Phuket

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Acclaimed Australian chef and writer David Thompson’s famous restaurant Nahm at the Metropolitan Bangkok (considered one of the best Asian restaurants in the world) has re-interpreted traditional Thai street food and old recipes gleaned from ancient cook books. The minimalistic restaurant décor in a pleasing colour palette and muted elegance was the perfect stage for a special dining experience.   Located on the ground floor of the stylish Metropolitan Hotel (belonging to the COMO group) on Sathorn Road, Nahm Bangkok is the sibling of Nahm London, which was the first Thai restaurant to be awarded a Michelin star. Our signature appetizer, ma hor — a sweet and savory mix of vegetables, palm sugar, shallots, garlic and peanuts and pineapple was an explosion of flavors and the perfect introduction to our dining experience.  What stood out was the subtle balance of flavors; from galangal to lemon grass. Another canapé featured an interesting betel leaf dish which we folded into a cone and filled with a mixture of pomelo, roasted coconut, peanuts, palm sugar and herbs. I loved my main course of pak wan (green vegetable) stir-fried with garlic and mushrooms with a lovely smoky flavor, along with a yellow coconut and turmeric vegetable curry and jasmine rice. The crowning highlight of the evening was the sublime Thai dessert with pandanus noodles with black sticky rice, water chestnuts, tapioca and coconut cream.

We had some great Thai meals at the newly opened Point Yamu by Como too. My favourite Thai dessert was amazing here- mango with sticky rice and coconut milk..The simplest of desserts and the tastiest.

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 Dinner at  Dr Shakshukha, Tel Aviv

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Shakshuka, a comforting  spicy tomato and egg stew, is the signature egg dish of Israel with North African influences, and for the most authentic version we visited Jaffa’s famous Dr Shakshuka where the rotund owner Bino Gabso showed us how he makes this classic dish in battered frying pans. I enjoyed the Libyan style couscous served here along with the doctor’s special lemonade. The décor and the ambience of this restaurant(a ceiling covered with pots and pans and hanging lamps) and the great company- our guide Sharon Pelleg, a lovely group of  friends, made the meal extra special.

 Slovenian gourmet feast at  Tourist Farm Saksida,  Vipaava Valley, Slovenia

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The most creative meal of the year ? A  gourmet meal at Saksida Farm, Slovenia cooked just for me and my husband, by  the very talented and creative chef Marco who has worked in top restaurants in Paris and Rome. His wife Ingrid Saksida explained each course and every dish was a true work of art. In total the meal consists of 6 courses with wine from their vineyards to compliment each course. The starter was a lollypop with pumpkin seeds  and cheese set artistically in a  gnarled piece of vine from their vineyards.  Followed by a delicious pumpkin soup, with  parsley cream, watermelon and cheese.  The main course was  Gnocchi with herbs and dry tomato, smoked with dry melon mint. From Rose sparkling wine to Pinot Noir red wine from their vineyards, the pairing was just perfect..

Rustic Kumauni food at  Van Serai  Uttarakhand

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At Van Serai,  a rustic pahaadi style retreat tucked into a thick deodar forest on a hill, near Jageshwar in Uttarakhand, India, I had a  typical Kumaoni meal of madhwa ( millet ) rotis with green lau saag and a smoky-flavoured daal made from a small black bean called bhatt along with Bhaang ki chutney (cannabis seeds actually ground along with yoghurt), and a piquant raita of mustard and cucumber. Simple, but memorable. There’s something about the mountains and cold weather that makes you ravenous? That meal really hit the spot.

  Breakfast  at Corner Courtyard, Kolkata

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I loved my visit this year to the Corner Courtyard (TCC) in Kolkata, a hundred year old colonial property restored into a quirky boutique hotel with a gourmet café restaurant. Vintage photographs, walls lined with book. At the  popular café restaurant with Swarovski studded chandeliers, I had a  leisurely breakfast  of  a ‘Flipped Parfait’, that was a delectable stack of  assorted fruits, topped with muesli and yogurt and glazed with honey and syrups. Definitely one of the best breakfasts of the year.

   Yeats Supper at Broc House, Sligo, Ireland

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This food experience was more about the sheer magic and mystique created by way of ambience, the table settings, the views outside the window and glorious poetry by Yeats. A couple, Damien Brennan and his doctor wife Paula Gilvarry, served simple Irish food  and wine, and  between courses, Damien Brennan brought the life and poetry of William Butler Yeats alive with his readings. The most magical dinner of the year.

Learning to cook at Niraamaya Surya Samudra, Kerala, India

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My idea of heaven: a vegetable thali at Niraamaya Surya Samudra, near Kovalam in Kerala with Avial, Beetroot thoran, Rice, Vendaikka Pachadi, Paruppu Curry, Ada Pradhaman. They also had some very unique dishes on their dessert list like black pepper ice cream (it tasted divine) and jackfruit cheese cake. What was really memorable was a cooking session with the chef learning to make a simple but delicious okra dish- Pepper Vendakai -using simple spices, onions, chillies and tomatoes. And got a bottle of their yummy home- made beetroot pickle to take home too!

Lunch on a Spice Plantation inMahe, Seychelles

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At Le Jardin du Roi, an 18th-century spice plantation in Mahe, Seychelles overlooking the Anse Royale beach in the south of the island, I had a typical Creole meal in a small eatery– grated papaya and golden apple chatney tossed with lemon juice and fried onions, a vegetable curry and rice with lentils and a mocktail of tropical fruits grown on the estate. Simple, comfort food in a delightful setting.

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Among other stand- out food experiences, was a fusion Israeli meal at  the Modern Restaurant in Jerusalem, Israel after seeing the Dead Sea Scrolls, a great meal at  Chui Safari Lodge, near Lake Naivasha, Kenya where in a carnivore’s paradise, I got an absolutely divine vegetarian meal. Happy 2016 all! Eat healthy, eat a dessert once in a while, and keep exercising!

 

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