Memories of the Tuscan Sun

Being the recipient of new knowledge is always an enriching experience and as time passes, it is an experience, that for various reasons, doesn’t happen as often as one would like it to. As perpetual students, the one aspect that cannot be compromised on, is exposure to different cultures, a purpose I find best served through the regional (Indian and international) promotions routinely conducted at starred properties. The talent is usually talented, the ingredients usually genuine and the final result as close to the original product as local tastes allow.

At the end of a very hectic day, I found myself sitting at ChaoBella, at Crowne Plaza Today, Okhla, downing my second Red Bull of the day, in a desperate attempt at keeping myself afloat, awaiting the opening of their Tuscan buffet at 8pm. I needn’t have bothered, as I found out later. Well prepared and properly served food, eaten with the right company can revitalise just as effectively as an energy drink.

Fat little bocconcini soaked in pesto and garnished with chewy slivers of golden fried garlic.
Fat little bocconcini soaked in pesto and garnished with chewy slivers of golden fried garlic.

At ChaoBella, the antipasti or starters, were laid out in the buffet and so were the desserts while the main courses needed selection off of  a menu. A very sensible protocol I thought, while loading a plate with crunchy little crostini topped with mushrooms in a creamy dressing, spoon after spoon of caramelised whole shallots flavored with herbs, a few pieces of soft and creamy bocconcini soaked in pesto and garnished with golden fried slivers of garlic, slim pieces of melba toast smeared with some very well made chicken liver pate, chunks of deep fried brie coated with sesame seeds and little cones of salami dotted with soft, white fat. I’d like to say that was all I ate for my first course, but alas, such food will either take me two whole days to shop and cook or a fortune to visit Italy to eat. Good sense prevailing therefore, I made the most of my visit and proceeded to sample the brilliant spread with some artichoke tarts, grilled aubergine, a salad of seared tenderloin and hearts of romaine lettuce, and a few more pieces of that utterly delicious fried brie, which I was tasting for the first time. I’m fairly sure Nupur, who I had the privilege of dining with that evening, thought I was a regular glutton, which I was.

When you visit ChaoBella for this promotion, this is the course you must do all the chatter and drinking with. It’s built for that, what with the many different starters available and then again in bite sized pieces.

The range of antipasti at the buffet is immense.
The range of antipasti at the buffet is immense.

Moving on, I thought the Carabaccia quite interesting, given that I love onion soups in any case. When it arrived, I realised this beef stock based Italian version of my beloved French edition (which too uses beef stock), was quite similar and equally delicious though I did miss that Gruyere smeared thick slice of grilled bread in the centre. Choosing a main course was tough, partly due to the protests of my sore back, full tummy and list of choices, each of which were equally tempting. Probably for the first time in a very long time, I chose something other than pork chops, given that they were available too. My main course was duck – two pieces of succulent and plump roast duck, the skin hiding an even layer of delicious fat, flavored with orange zest, coated with an orange flavored sauce and accompanied by roasted brussels sprouts. It was a dish fit for a king.

I picked my desserts from the buffet and found them to be a perfect end for a perfect meal. If you like your Italian, enjoy different varieties of antipasti and can appreciate the subtleties of superb ingredients, you should visit ChaoBella and sample their Tuscan feast.

Sid Khullar

Sid Khullar is the founder of Chef at Large, a blog that began in 2007. He enjoys cooking, writing, travelling and technology in addition to being a practising Freemason. Health and wellness is a particularly passionate focus. Sid prefers the company of food and animals to most humans, and can be reached at sid.khullar@chefatlarge.in.