Legacy: Blended Whisky from Bacardi India

Among alcoholic drinks, whisky is very popular in India, it is said that one out of every two bottles of whisky in the world is consumed in India. The IMFL (India-made foreign liquor) whisky market is growing at a great speed. And one of the star segment here is the mid-range market, selling at above Rs 1000 a bottle, where there is plenty of activities.

There have been quite a few recent launches in the segment, the latest being the brand Legacy from Bacardi India – a whisky made in India, and made for India. The bottle has a sub caption “The Spirit of India” right below the Legacy trademark. 

This is the first foray of Bacardi into the India-made segment of whisky. A blended whisky, Legacy combines Scottish and Indian malts along with Indian grains. At the launch of the brand in Hyderabad at Taj Falaknuma, I was exposed to this new product. There were multiple presentations on the product from Zeenah Vilcassim, the Marketing Director, and Ishrat Kaur, the Brand Ambassador of Bacardi. This was followed by Legacy being paired with some lovely Hyderabadi food, from the kitchens of Taj Falaknuma.

On nosing, one found that the whisky has a peaty aroma to it along with fruity notes. On the tongue, there is no strong aroma, and there is a mild note of Oak too. With the addition of a little water, it became very muted and smooth as well as mildly sweet with a little taste of spice. At the finish, one could feel a little smokiness. The whisky has artificial peat added to the blend, which differentiates it from most brands. We had some spicy Hyderabadi kababs to try out with the drink, and these were perfect foils to the smooth taste. 

Legacy is from the Indian operations of Bacardi, the Mexican spirit company with a presence in more than one hundred countries. The whisky has been launched as of now in three states of India, Maharashtra, Uttar Pradesh, and Telangana. A 750 ml bottle is priced at Rs 1560 in Hyderabad, positioning it against brands like 100 Pipers and Teachers Highland Cream. Tastewise the smoothness should find favour with the people who enjoy a smooth drink, and the brand is expected to do well. 

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Bangla Mishti Hub: For the Best of Bengal’s Sweets

Bengal and sweets go hand in hand. When we talk to our non-Bengali friends, one of the main topics that arise apart from the decadency of the state is definitely its sweets. We Probasi Bengalis often find solace in proclaiming that our mishti is the best in India, and that is corroborated by all or sundry. Often, when some of our non-Bengali friends visit Kolkata, they ask for names of iconic sweet shops in the city, and believe me there are lots of them. If someone wants to cover them, they have to possibly crisscross the city a few times. But no longer. The Bangla Mishti Hub at Rajarhat is a useful step in the direction where Bengali sweets from many a top brands can be tasted under the same roof. 

Bangla Mishti Hub promoted by HIDCO, a Government of West Bengal corporation, is located just off Gate no 3 of Eco Park in New Town Rajarhat, not too far from the famed Biswa Bangla gate. The place was started in 2017. As you enter you can’t help but locate a stall of Biswa Bangla selling various products from all over Bengal. Your first thought is whether this is a place promoting sweets in isolation or other products too.

It is good to note that Biswa Bangla stall is the only aberration, the rest of the shops, or rather stalls in a huge hallway are all from Bengali sweet vendors. In fact, there are close to a dozen different stalls of sweets here. Of these, Nabakrishna Guin was closed for the day. And I was a little surprised to see Haldiram’s as they are not traditionally not known for their Bengali sweets. However, the stalls did have many delicacies of Bengal. 

Our first stop was at Bheem Nag’s Brother Srinath Nag. Well, this is not the famed Bhim Chandra Nag, a 200-year place in Bowbazar which is world famous for its sandesh. I was told that this place had a lineage from his brother’s family. I however do care more for the taste of the sweets. The Kheer Kadamba here was just super, and the Sharbhaja (a milk cream-based sweet from Krishnanagar in Nadia district) also acquitted itself well.

I am from Golpark, and was happy to see my friendly neighbourhood Ganguram here. But I do consume their Mishti Doi and Radhaballavi frequently at home, so decided to pass it for today, given my limited capacity. But my wife still went for their Baked Sandesh. Noticed that Ganguram, and many other outlets were selling tinned and packed sweets so that people can do their purchases in very little time. As Mishti Hub is not too far from the Kolkata Airport, many people flying out collect a few delicacies en route their flight to other cities.

Nalin Chandra Das is another iconic sweet joint in North Kolkata that is more than 150 years old. Again a sandesh specialist, had on display about ten types of Nolen Gurer Sandesh, as well as contemporary stuff like Chocolate Sandesh, Rose Sandesh, and Black Currant Sandesh. Their Rasogollas were the largest among all displayed.

Hindusthan Sweets is a more contemporary name in Bengali sweets. They are also into the restaurant space with their brand “Bhooter Raja Dilo Bar”, and the management is known for its savvy marketing. Their Am Doi and traditional Rasogollas are things that I love, but on this day we tried a plate of Mihidana, a micro-sized sweet from Bardhaman (the closest cousin it has in Bonde or Boondi, though there is a huge difference in taste). The Mihidana was well made. 

Gupta Brothers, known more for their chaats and non-Bengali sweets had some random sweets and were even selling Pringles potato chips! Was tempted by their Kachori-sabji, but decided to give it a pass. K.C.Das the originator of rasogolla was in full cry serving a range of delicacies. Recently I have become a fan of their savouries too like Radhaballavi Cholar Dal, Chhanar Chop. They have their signature creations such as Lalmohan and Rasamalancha which are not to be missed. 

Mithai was distinct in offering huge-sized sandeshes, a couple of them proudly adorning their counter, weighing more than 500 grams. Of course, they are so well-known for their Mishti Doi as well.

Balaram Mallik and Radharaman Mallik perhaps has the most corporate model among all the sweet chains in Kolkata, with outlets in almost every locality. Apart from other delicacies they are known for their Baked Rasogollas, which are in high demand. Banchharam is another famous shop making its presence felt here, their lyangcha in my mind is even better than Saktigarh, the original town known for this delicacy. Their Bengali home sweets such as patisaptas and pithes are also in great demand. 

All over the hub, there are boards giving information about the various sweets of the state, enriching your knowledge as you savour the sweets. For food connoisseurs, these informations come very handy.

One aspect which I missed was the representation of sweets from different districts of Bengal in a big way. On quizzing the various stalls, I was told that the district special stalls are sometimes given space during special occasions like Durga Puja, but usually, the stalls are restricted to the Kolkata biggies. Each Bengal district has its signature sweets, so there is scope to even plan a district mithai hub, either here or somewhere else to popularize and promote them.

The other issue was the facility lacked a toilet, the only option for relieving yourself is to walk down to the nearest place inside Eco Park. Maybe the authorities can look at building a public toilet either on or around the premises. 

All that said, Bangla Mishti Hub is definitely a great idea well-executed. For the uninitiated, it can give a holistic idea about Bengali sweets in a very short time. 

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Eating Out on a Trip to Turkey

 In my travelogue of Turkey, I briefly touched upon Turkish food. But there have been quite a few queries asking for details on the cuisine and the various dishes that we tasted there. The need for a separate post about Turkish food stems from that.

Adana Kebap Platter in Istanbul

My earlier exposures to Turkish food were in Hyderabad. Hyderabad has a Turkish Consulate fostering closer ties of that nation with our city. The erstwhile rulers the Nizams had a deep connection with Turkey and there were many marriages between the Turkish royals and the Nizam’s family. The Consulate does an annual Turkish festival in well-known hotels in Hyderabad, usually flying down chefs from Turkey. I had the good fortune of attending quite a few of these, fostering an interest in me the cuisine.

Turkish cuisine has a strong influence of the food of both Europe (especially the Mediterranean) as well as Western Asia. Istanbul and cities like Kusadasi and Antalya are dotted with small restaurants and street stalls, serving essentially meat-based delicacies. 

Doner Sade  - Istanbul (top) and Antalya

One of the most popular snacks is Durum (doner, what we call shawarma rolls here. There are usually two versions Tavuk  (chicken) or Et (beef). A typical durum (doner) in Turkey costs Lira 40-50, about Rs 200-250, and can easily fill in for lunch. You can opt for Doner Sade where the meat is not rolled into the bread and is served separately. Some even ask for Pilaf instead of bread along with the shawarma meat.

Hummus & Kebaps on Bosphorus Cruise

We enjoyed a full Turkish meal on the Bosphorus River Cruise in Istanbul. Here the spread started with soup, followed by mezze platters and then a huge assortment of kababs (or kebaps as they call there). Finally, there was dessert. But mostly as we toured Turkey, we found people doing their lunch with mezze, salads and kebaps.

Urfa Kebap

Among the kebaps, the most famous is Adana kebap. A long sheekh of beef is served with bulger (a cereal popular here), salads, and often a large piece of smoked chili. A variant Urfa Kebap is less spicy. Chicken lovers usually go for Chicken Shish. Kebaps are served with bulger, vegetables and dips. You can substitute it with Turkish bread or French fries.

Isgara Kofte (Top) and a Street Side Kebap Place in Istanbul

Kofte or meatballs is another popular food. Izgara Kofte is juicy grilled meatballs with little spices again served with salad and bulger or French fries.  We loved these at a small place next to our hotel in Istanbul and often went back for the food.

Dolma (top), Beef Stew (Middle) and Mezze Platter

The cheese, salads, and cold cuts in the buffets were often meals by themselves. At least three varieties of olives used to be there along with lots of vegetables. Among the cooked dishes were stews, eggplant is extremely popular here, but we enjoyed the Chicken and Fish stews also. We encountered the famed Dolmas (stuffed vegetables) in very few places. Our hotel at Kusadasi served the best dinner buffet of the trip with the food very local, while the breakfast at Hilton Istanbul was sumptuous. The salad bar at the Kusadasi dinner buffet had more than twenty varieties of salads.

Simit Stall (top), Simit (middle) and Kumpir Stall in Istanbul 

The most popular street food seemed to be Simit, a donut type of bread served with chocolate and other dips. Kumpir is another common street food where baked potatoes are stuffed with vegetables, sauces and even meat.

Pide Beef (top), Cured Meat (middle) and Pide shop in Cappadocia

Turkish are fond of the local pizzas – called Pide or Lahmacun here. The pides are long flatbreads and can have toppings such as beef, cheese, or vegetables. In Cappadocia, we went to a village-style pide shop and witnessed how they make the pide. The pides in this area are very long and cut into pieces before they are served. One pide, good enough for a couple of people cost Lira 50 (Indian Rs 225).


In Antalya, very near the Duden waterfalls, we tried Gozleme, meat mince stuffed parathas very similar to our Moglai Paratha or Baida Roti. The preparation is also like these except for a little olive oil used instead of oil, and the mince is almost bereft of spices.

Baklava (top) and Baklava varieties in a shop in Taksim

Regarding sweets, everyone knows about Baklava. The usual baklavas found on street corners are simple and without any toppings. But the main shops have many variants of baklava with different shapes and toppings. More popular is Turkish Delight, a slightly chewy sweet from Ottoman heritage available in many variants. Istiklal Street near Taksim Square has the best baklava and Turkish Delight shops, having more than a dozen of each delicacy. But the prices are the most expensive here. 

Turkish Ice cream is popular, not just because of its taste, but also for the theatrics of the ice cream vendor as he serves them. I had experienced it in one of the Turkish festivals in Hyderabad, and again went for it in the busy Sultanahmet area of Istanbul. Dondurma as it is known has a special resin named Mastik added to it, which gives a hard and thick texture.

Turkish Tea

The Turkish love their tea and coffee served in all restaurants including lunch and dinner places. The coffee is extremely flavourful often a little bitter. Some places serve a small piece of chocolate to chew with the coffee. This is one thing that one needs to pick up for bringing it to India.

Also Read: Turkey Travelogue

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Go Turkiye: Cappadocia, the Land of Fairy Chimneys

If I was given the option of just visiting one place in Turkey, my answer would have been Cappadocia. You would have not seen this kind of landscape anywhere in the world, a large number of rock formations resembling chimneys caused by weathered volcanic eruptions millions of years ago.

We approached the region from Konya in the evening, a journey of about three hours. As we entered the main city of Nevsehir, we could see statues of horses all over the town. It was here that we came to know that the word Cappadocia means “Land of beautiful horses”. Over the next few days, we could see many horse ranches spread all over the region.

Cappadocia is known for its caves and hotels that are located inside caves. Our hotel Demisos Cave Hotel, located at Mustafapasha was one of them. The climb to the hotel was quite steep, but once inside we found a completely stunning experience altogether. Each of our rooms was actually a cave, with all facilities like an attached bathroom and modern amenities. Since there were no windows, initially we felt a bit claustrophobic, but soon got accustomed to the place. The hotel run by a lady had about ten rooms and had a coffee shop outside to cater to the guest. 

The next morning was balloon time. Cappadocia is known for hot air balloon rides to watch the sunrise. I am not too comfortable with heights and adventure sports so opted out of this experience. My wife along with my niece left at 4 am for the hot air balloon experience, which costs around Rs 18000 per head in Indian currency. 

The team returned around 8 am when we were having breakfast in our cave hotel. The balloon experience starts just before sunrise, as you see the first rays of the sun lighting up the Cappadocia chimneys. There are about one thousand balloons that go up every day for a short ride of around one hour. About a dozen persons are huddled in a basket that is attached to the balloon. The overall experience is exquisite.

However, the ride is not without risks. A week before we reached, a hot air balloon crashed while landing killing three of its passengers – all Spanish tourists. 

After a sumptuous homemade breakfast at our hotel, we were ready to explore Cappadocia. Our guide was a young lad just out of college, and he showed great enthusiasm in showing us around. The region has a number of valleys, and each has its own style of fairy chimneys. The volcanic eruptions had resulted in soft rock formations in the region, and wind and rains washed away part of these deposits with the harder part protruding out to the extent of even a hundred feet. These rocks were malleable and easy to carve out, so persecuted groups in many periods found it convenient to carve out homes, churches, and even stables for their horses inside these chimneys. Entire underground cities also came up to protect them from the enemy, and the larger ones even had ten stories below the ground level.

Cappadocia is known for its rocky valleys. Our first stop was the Love Valley, where it was our first look at the phallic natural structures. Next was the Fairy Chimney Valley, where the structures were different, looking like mushrooms. In fact, the local police station was housed in one of the mushroom-shaped structures. 

Cappadocia also has a couple of castles built out of the rocks, and Uchisar is perhaps the most famous of these. A huge rock structure with windows like pigeon holes used to house a few hundred people. After visiting one of the palaces our last stop for the day was Goreme Open Air Museum. The museum houses the large monasteries that were cut out from the tuff or soft rocks. We took a walk around the structures and visited a church located in one of them. The Christians persecuted by the Roman Empire had taken refuge at Cappadocia, and thus there are many multi-storied sites with religious inscriptions in the caves and the chimneys. There was a large community dining room and kitchens too. The structures are as old as 1800 BC. 

In the evening we visited a local café in Mustafapasha for dinner. He assembled very tasty and fresh local sandwiches which we enjoyed with Turkish coffee.

The last day at Cappadocia took us to Rose Valley. The valley is thus named because the chimneys here are colored rose. There is a long trek that we attended but as it was too steep, none of us except our niece could handle it. We visited the Avanos pottery town as well as a pottery workshop. Avanos has had a tradition of making pottery since the BC period, and even now the locals are continuing it. Some of the products are very intricate and can be compared to the best in the world. 

We were pining for Pide, the Turkish pizza ever since we landed in the country. Our guide took us to a village pide place, where we could try cheese and beef pides. The specialty of pides of this region is that it is extra long. The preparation of the pide was also shown to us.

Our final visit was to the Underground City at Kaymakli. There are many underground cities in Cappadocia, most built by Greeks to protect them from attacks by Persians. Later during Ottoman rule, refugees used to still live in these cities. Kaymakli has eight floors all underground, and one can only reach up to five. Some of the pathways and narrow and low, in some places you have to crawl. You can be privy to an entire city with stables, churches, oil factories, kitchens, storage places, and wine factories. 

We spent two days in Cappadocia but actually, you can definitely spend a couple of days more. There are many walks, treks, horseback viewing, and exploring the caves that you can do. Many people visit Turkey just to visit Cappadocia. 

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