Monday, December 17, 2012

Reincarnation

Sometimes, your last life catches up to you. Most times, it doesn't hurt, it doesn't sting, it just makes you wistful. It makes you miss the stuff you left behind. The people you left behind. The friendships that got eroded.

It reminds you of the crazy crazy times you had then. And you wish you had someone to remember them with. Someone to say to, "Remember how we were crushing on this song that time?" Or someone who shared the joy of an experience and won't mind revisiting it with you.

You miss the feeling of discovery. The feeling of newness. The feeling of exhilaration that you shared together. It doesn't mean you don't have most of it in your new life, but it would just be nice to be able to remember those times again.

Wouldn't it? 

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Pasta-E-Fagioli and some news

I have recently started writing food features for an online magazine, Leacock's. Yea, yea, I know its a funny name, but go check us out.

My first article for them of course had to be one of my funniest moments in cooking. The time Petrovski started cooking for me and kept me in the dark about what the dish was for almost 3 years. He made this Pasta and beans dish that he called Mac-N-Beans Russian style and it became one of our comfort foods. He does this thing where once he discovers that I like something, he won't let me know what exactly it is. Just so he can make/buy/get it for me all the time. He does that for wine too. I honestly don't know the name of my favorite wine!

Anyway, here is the pasta dish that I finally weaseled out of Petrovski. It's true comfort food. I din't grow up eating it, but I wish I had!


   


Monday, September 03, 2012

Samsung's Social Media Debacle

By the time this goes on air everyone will know about what Samsung's digital/social media team did. Yes, I lay the blame squarely on the Social Media agency, Digitas. Having worked in one, I know for a fact that you don't let things like this happen to your bloggers. Being a blogger too, I expect the SMM agency to stand up for the blogger.

Picture from Samsung India's Facebook page
Let's quickly go over the details. Clinton Jeff of Unleash The Phones and another unnamed blogger (it's easy to guess who, but since the blogger wants to be anonymous, let's keep it that way), through a contest held by Samsung Mobile India got invited to the IFA Conference being held in Berlin. Some insider details here - IFA is a big time tech conference. Usually held at different places every year over the world, it is highly revered. Most new tech gadgets have an unveiling, showing, launch or presentation there. Last year a phone brand I was handling also launched at IFA. As the SMM person of that account, I would have LOVED to take my developed posse of bloggers to that, but my super-rich, super multi national company did not want to take me itself, so my bloggers were out of question. We settled for simple handsets provided to the bloggers kind of reviews. It is common place for most big brands to have a blogger outreach program. Basically, the brands will reach out to bloggers who write about their product category and invite them to press conferences, blogger's meets, or handset review programs. Samsung, big brand that it is, held a contest to determine two bloggers who would get to fly to IFA, live in Berlin and attend the event on their dime. In exchange, the bloggers cover the event. IFA. Or sometimes, a specific event too, like maybe the Samsung Unpacked event. But cover it objectively. Just because Samsung pays for the trip there, they don't write all hearts and flowers stuff about Samsung. In fact they can choose to write about whatever the hell they please. Including other brands too. These bloggers though, were in for a rude shock, when Samsung, on arrival to Berlin, asked the bloggers to wear a uniform and present the phone to the media and public. From behind a booth, in like, an all Samsung covered uniform. In short, Samsung assumed that it paid for the ticket and stay of two booth attendants who came with some extras of being tech bloggers. Obviously the two refused. All hell broke loose. They were asked to do so or if. (They were threatened with no return tickets and no hotel stay basically abandonment). The guys ultimately decided to concede partial defeat and to wear a Samsung T-Shirt. But no booth attendance for them. To which Samsung guys wrote them an angry email.

At this point, the bloggers, being well, smart Social Media savvy people, chose to go online with all this. Nokia stepped up, offered them hotel stay and return tickets home at their convenience. Read More here.

So there are a few fair points to be made here. Internationally, this news is being made as an Samsung India mistake. Emphasis on the India. Nope. Sorry boss. All Social Media Managers in India do not operate like this. Since I exist, and I was honestly and seriously very passionate about my bloggers, I am sure others do too. I have friends, tons of friends, in the SMM business in India. None of them would dream of letting something like this happen. This gaffe did not happen because it is an Indian agency, it happened because some people at Samsung, and almost all the people at Digitas are idiots. I lay the lion's share of the blame with the agency. It is the agency who liaises between the bloggers and the client. The consumers and the client. How could THEY let this happen??

Second, if bloggers were being taken to IFA, why was an accompanying person from the Social Media team not there? The minute you have live social media coverage happening, a social media executive HAS to be present to monitor it. Bloggers are not reporters, they are more casual and more prone to needing help with something or the other. I don't mean that as an insult, but generally, a reporter is very well connected. He/she can get around problems much more easily than a blogger can. A publication is much more recognized than individual blogs, so that influence does not have the same kind of pull. Hence, a Social Media exec needs to be around. Someone who can flash a badge as a person on the Media team and help them around. It is absolutely essential.

Third, where is Samsung's Crisis management team? Social media wise as well as PR wise. In most of our big brand clients, we always had a Social Media Crisis Management scenario mapped out. For the smallest level of crises to the biggest, most media attention getting ones. And the actions on them would click into place the minute, THE MINUTE more than the involved people knew about the crisis. Samsung, has not commented on anything yet, their Social Media platforms go about as normal, and there is no communication about this entire issue from their end till this post went live. Why??? This, is the basic of all communication teams!

Lastly, what is Samsung's loss, is triple fold, Nokia's gain. Samsung is the brand. And it goes without saying that as a brand, you safeguard the identity and image of the brand like it's soul. Because it IS your soul. Samsung lost out on their positive image, any sympathy over the apple debacle, will dissolve over this and any positive coverage for a long time is simply stupid to expect. Bloggers don't forget that easily. They are a little like reporters in that way. After they let this happen, they did not even try to redeem themselves a tiny bit. They did not kiss and make up with the bloggers, no peace offering, no compromise, nothing. Kicking them out on the boot was even more stupid than any of the already pulled off drama. And then, Nokia swoops in.
I must say, Nokia, good move buddy. They cleaned up Samsung's mistake, offered the bloggers a new hotel, new tickets home and peace of mind. Nokia becomes the hero who had a cameo role. No one is going to stop talking good about Nokia for a while now. Not only does the brand have a good image, it also sticks by it. Nokia becomes, with one simple move, the knight in the shining armor. Good on you, Nokia. Well played.

The most important thing here though is, no, this is not an Indian thing. In fact, Samsung is a multi-national brand, and their Social Media is handled by another multinational company, Digitas. This was stupidity displayed at all levels. And that is the mistake of the agency, not of the country's attitude. 

Friday, July 20, 2012

Your way or my way


So, it happened the way I said it would
You fell in hard, and dragged me in
You knew this would happen
the way I said it would
You would fall and drag me through

So, one day you called me out 'the blue
Had a random conversation bout you
I held the phone this side of the sea
Wondered if this would happen
the way I said it would

So, you surprised me as much as you could
Tried new things coz you knew
I would fall in for the new
It would happen the way I said it would

Of course I resisted as much as I could
Made up reasons, threw up tantrums
But you weathered it all through
And made it happen more than
the way I said it would

So, you stand at altar waiting for me
I walked up finally, crying to glory
You smiled at me and made me stop
You knew this would happen
the way you wanted it to.

Friday, June 29, 2012

Lola Rosa Cafe (Best Montreal Discovery Yet)

Location :  545 Milton, Montreal. 
Website : http://lola-rosa.ca/ 
Damages : Average Expensive - $13 per plate (approx)
Food : Awesome!
Ambience : Very Boutique-y, homey feel
Service : Amazing, personalized and friendly

"I could issue an open challenge to any restaurant in Montreal to make a plate of Nachos better than this one!" said my extremely satisfied husband after he sampled the dish.


Seriously. It was THAT good.


And not just the Nachos. Going by a few online reviews, our first order was the Nachos. We ordered a half portion first, but when we saw the dish arrive on a fellow patron's table, we promptly changed it to a full portion. And we paired a black bean burrito with it. We definitely wanted to have the brownie there, so we chose to skip the appetizer or soups. Can't you tell how healthy we are? :D

The Nacho (notice the capital N) were served on a huge wooden chopping board (ingenious!). Let's discuss them layer-by-layer. First we had some amazingly crispy tortilla chips. They were pure corn, from the taste of it, and lightly salted with a bit of garlic pepper. Then came the black beans. Rich, thick saucy beans, full of flavor. Topped on that was a thick red salsa, bursting with the freshness of tomatoes and cumin. Next were lots of bits of avocados( my favorite!) and chopped scallions. And finally on top, rest two scoops of sour cream and shredded beetroot. The whole thing was topped with a generous helping of chopped coriander and paprika. Oh and did I forget the cheese? Of course there was cheese. Oozy, melty, soft cheese. All over the dish. And the whole dish was piled high on the chopping board/plate. Beautiful. Take a look. 

Next, the burrito. This was also one of the best burritos we have had so far in the city. Carlos and Pepe's had turned out to be an extreme disappointment already. 

The burrito was a nicely warmed tortilla, with black beans and corn queso served on a bed of salsa sauce. This was served with a side of mexican rice and fresh crunchy salad with a dressing that I could not identify but sure did love. Next time, we shall take pictures that  after having a couple of bites so you can see the insides better. 
The burrito was normal portion. So we finished it easily enough. But the Nachos. Oh my god. We were beyond full and yet we could not stop eating it. Really. We kept going at it. Both of us. Ashwinfinished the Nachos and although we were so goddamn full, we could not help but order the dessert we had promised ourselves. So it was brownie with ice-cream time.
Ah, piece of heavenly goodness. 

The brownie was soft with a nice crunchy top, dense, but fluffy. My immediate reaction to the first bite was, "Damn I wish I could bake THAT well!" Since Ashwin had finished the never ending Nachos, I took it on myself to leave no morsel uneaten of the brownie and proceeded to stuff my face with it. 
The people at Lola Rosa are really sweet too. We reached there just minutes before their kitchen closed since Ashwin had a match before, but they still entertained us. In fact, our server, a pretty young woman, was having her dinner that time, but in spite of that, she gave us her full attention and kept interrupting her meal to come to us and ask if we are ok, or we needed anything else. 

Near the end of the meal, the owner, Eric, himself came and asked us if we loved it. Nice. 

Now if you are from some weird planet and food and service alone isn't enough to pull you to a place like Lola Rosa, their is yet another beautiful facet to this Bistro. It's like a living, breathing, everyday, Post Secret Project.
The tables near their window place seating have little drawers in them. Ashwin noticed these when we were waiting to make a bit of space in our tummy for dessert. When I, the eternal explorer, opened these drawers, we found little bits and pieces of papers and notes. Little secrets or anecdotes that people had scribbled on them and left them there. It was beautiful. I went crazy after that. I opened the drawers on all the tables in our row (We were their last customers so the place was empty. Really. I do not embarrass my husband like that publicly!). It really was beautiful.

When we were paying the bill, Eric mentioned that they have a new restaurant opening in St. Laurent area soon. And that will have even more food! Color me excited. :D

Monday, June 25, 2012

She loved the smell of smoke


In the small hotel bed, the two of them lay next to each other.

He had opened his arm out on the pillow and her head rested in the crook of his elbow. Turning away from her, towards his side of the bed and he pushed his other hand into his backpack on the floor, riffling for a few moments, and fished out a cigarette pack. He flicked it open with one hand and pushed a cigarette into his puckered mouth.

She watched him with a mixed look on her face. Her forehead wrinkled with disgust but her mouth slightly upturned with fascination.  Her plump cheeks were flushed pink, from his proximity or from the wear and tear of his prickly stubble. She looked away from the cigarette smoke and laced her fingers through his other hand. The one on which her head rested. That’s when she noticed them. Small, dark, round marks on the underside of his wrist. Several of them.

“Are those..”  she gulped, turning her head back towards him.

“ Cigarette burns” he said between puffs.

She looked at his hard chiselled face. It was a weird face that he had. He had a soft school boy dreaminess around his eyes, but the rest of his face was all string and chiselled. High cheekbones, a strong square jawline and smooth, thick black hair. But his eyes were a light molten brown. Darkened amber, but light milk chocolate. She loved his eyes the most.

“Don’t worry so much,” he drawled lazily, “this is from way before.”

“How does it burn like that though?” she asked hesistantly.

“When the cigarette is at its butt end, I just quashed it on my wrist,” he said casually, like his wrist was just another spare ashtray he had lying around.

“Did it.. didn’t it burn?”

“Like hell”

She looked at his thin, almost black lips. That too was from his smoking, she knew. He had been smoking from almost 12 years, since sixth grade. He had tried to quit a few times, all half-hearted attempts.

“See these marks?” he jerked his cigarette hand towards her, “these are lighter. They will go away with time.”

“The ones on the other hand won’t?”
“Nope. They are not meant to. I held the butt to my skin for longer.”

“Mmm,” she said, already back to her thoughts again.

He smoked out a couple more drags before she spoke up again.

“How does it hurt?” she wondered out aloud, “Does it sting, does the flesh smell?”

He thought for a second and replied, “It was a long time ago, Kari.”

“Can you..” she looked into his eyes, took a deep breath, and continued, “Can you quash that one out on me?”

She held out her wrist.

“No!” He almost screamed, his voice thick with horror.

“It’s not going to kill me!” she exclaimed

He shook his head firmly, “No. No way.”

“Niel,” she pleaded, “c’mon”

“Why do you want me to do that??” his voice was raw, hoarse, suddenly.

“I don’t know,” she shrugged, and the sheet slipped away from her shoulder to her breast, revealing her low cut tank top.

His cigarette was burning out now. He reached across her to his ashtray.

“Niel,” she implored him.

“Kari, I..” He was at a loss for words. “Why?” he asked her, again, heavily.

“I want to feel it,” she answered simply, “I want to feel a bit of the pain you did.”

“What will that get you?”

“I don’t know Niel,” her voice became quick now, urgent, “Maybe some understanding of your life.” She brought her hand closer to him.

He looked at his cigarette. It was starting to singe his skin.

“Kari, please” his voice still hoarse.
“Do it,” she said simply and led his hand to her wrist. She held out her hand, palms open, exposing her wrists underside.

He brought the cigarette really close to her skin. Her soft, white, fleshy skin, with a hint of pink. He was looking at the cigarette, intently. She was looking at her wrist.

A bit of ash rolled off the burning stick and touched her white skin. Her eyes, expecting a burn, opened slightly wider. When she realized it wasn’t the cigarette, she looked up at him. “Niel,” she smiled, “Do it.”

He brought the cigarette down on her wrist. Held it there, and looked up at her. She had shut her eyes.

“When I turn 18, I will start smoking” Kari promised herself.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Smoke's Poutinerie - Vegetarian Poutine!






Location :  2019 Rue Bishop, Downtown Montreal
Website :  http://smokespoutinerie.com/

Damages : Next to none! $6.99 for a small and $8.99 for freakishly huge meal
Food : Awesome!
Ambience : Like a fast food restaurant
Service : Again, like a fast food restaurant
So, this review might be slightly biased since I am a first time Poutine eater. Actually, no. Second time. But the first one was so bad, that I have 1) Erased that experience from my mind and 2) In comparision, this Poutine, was OBVIOUSLY great.

One amazingly big brownie point goes to this eatery for the simple fact that it had Vegetarian Poutine! In a city where everything is meat based, in a place where the Bacon is named after the country, getting the state dish's vegetarian version is a find. 

And the vegetarian Poutine was great too! Out of the two people in our party who ate the meat versions, one of them liked the vegetarian more.

Both of us veggie people got the Onion and Mushroom Veggie Deluxe Poutine. So no variety there. Though I, like an idiot, ordered for the large portion. Let's just say, that we all took home leftovers, but Ashwin and I, the large portion orderers, well, a week later, we still have Poutine sitting at home. After being consumed as an entire meal 5 times already. THAT huge.

Well, the Onion and Mushroom Poutine was amazing. The gravy was well spiced, onions perfectly caramalized and the mushrooms soft and well dunked in the gravy. The fries were as good and crispy as fries should be, the cheese curds used were soft and creamy and melt in your mouth cheesy. Topped with fresh green peas, the entire thing came together really, really well. Though next time, I think I'll try the Nachos Poutine, because that looks like an amazing fusion of cuisines. Mexican and French? Yes Please!

Ashwin found his favorite meat combination, Chicken Bacon Poutine. Let's just say that he likes it so much, he refuses to let me throw out the leftovers, a week after too. He believes its the perfect combination to go with the Poutine-y fries, gravy and cheese curds combination. 

We were way too hungry to take pictures this time, since we went there directly after Ashwin's Soccer game. Which was directly after work hours. But the pictures here are from the Poutinerie's website, and that is exactly how our food looked. So you won't mind me pilfering the image from there, will you?

Last piece of advice though - When eating Poutine, always always opt for the smaller portions. No matter how famished you are. It will always be more than enough. I promise you. (In case it isn't, Montreal is full of desert studios to fill your stomach after anyway right? ;) )