This time of the year is for cakes!

It is the time of the year when the annual Nilgiris Cake Show is on and like always I found it difficult to give this event a miss. For the last seven years I have somehow managed to squeeze in a visit to the show. This year, I almost missed seeing the sugary beauties. My first visit to the St Joseph Indian High School Auditorium, the venue of the cake exhibition, on 25 December ended in disappointment as I had to do a U-turn at the venue because of the large Christmas crowd. There were visitors at every nook and corner of the ground and near the ticket counters. It would have been extremely foolish on my part if I decided to get lost in the sea of humanity. I thought a wiser move would be to go to a handicraft fair which I so badly wanted to visit.

The cake extravaganza was on till the 1st of January. The period between Christmas and New Year offered me no free time at all and I was wondering if I could go to the show at all. Another thought that played in my mind was whether I should go at all as I had already gone all the way to St Joseph’s once. Finally, I decided to go at the 11th hour on the last day of the exhibition. I reached the venue at around 5.30pm. Luckily, the crowd was not as big as the one that I saw on Christmas day.

Unlike the last two editions of the cake fair, I did not notice any bouncers and there were very few security men. Maybe, it was the timing. As the exhibition was drawing to an end perhaps the organisers decided to do away with the bouncers. It was a blessing in disguise as bouncers would have made my photography experience a little difficult.

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Photographing the prime attraction of the show, a replica of the Red Fort, proved to be tricky as there were a lot of selfie enthusiasts hovering around and trying out myriad poses and then there were people taking group photographs or photographs of their partners. I had to strain my legs and stand on my toes to get a picture.

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Adjacent to the Red Fort was another equally eye-catching cake, this one a multi-staired wedding cake with intricate work. All these cakes are the creations of students of the Institute of Baking and Cake Art.

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The next cake in the row was a cute one depicting a group of penguins.

I then moved on to check out the smaller cakes.

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This one of a genie (Aladdin’s genie) looked enchanting and straight out from a story of the Arabian Nights.

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Next was a colourful wedding cake.

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IMG_7430A cake avatar of a pagoda looked pretty followed by an equally pretty one of a fairy.

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A white wedding cake accentuated by sugary fish made for a lovely picture.

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This sewing machine looked so real!

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A cake version of a natural disaster looked interesting.

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The Buddha in his cake form looked so serene.

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In contrast to the Buddha, a Scorpio cake looked quite scary. I wonder if anyone would have the guts to sink their teeth into this one.

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To erase any thoughts of fear created by the Scorpio cake were a happy clown and a towering snowman looking so endearing with his red muffler.

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The Moana Wave cake showing an islander looked cute.

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A giant ribbon cake looked so yummy and so did the Easter Bunny.

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The dining table with sugary delights looked so inviting.

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A cake showing the newlywed Bollywood couple Deepika and Ranvir looked hilarious. Deepika in her cake form looked quite matronly.

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A cake of Christ the Redeemer looked so perfect.

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I forgot to check out what this cake was all about.

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A wedding cake with large floral motifs looked stunning.

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This group of cute insects looked adorable and so did another with Santas.

After drooling over the cakes, I walked into the adjoining space which was host to a consumer fair. After a quick walk through the fair I headed to the food stalls and settled down with some spicy chaat and a crispy Delhi papad with a sprinkling of chilli powder. With that I ended my visit to the cake show on a spicy note.

 

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It’s Mango Time!

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I have been visiting the Mango and Jackfruit Mela at Lal Bagh Botanical Gardens since the last seven years but have never blogged about it. But this year, visiting the mela was an altogether different experience. I have not been using my DSLR like I usually do nor have I been blogging like I usually do. I just couldn’t wait to click and just couldn’t wait to be engulfed by the aromas of hundreds of varieties of mangoes. It is simply a lovely experience stepping out of home on a hot summer day. Summer is my favourite season and ever since I can remember has been synonymous with school holidays, play, travel and also mangoes.

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I left home on a bright Sunday morning. My initial worries about my day getting ruined by the rains vanished when I saw the sky. I took an auto as I was running late; I had actually wanted to leave two hours earlier. It must have taken my half an hour to reach Lal Bagh. I was greeted by a serpentine queue at the ticket counter which surprisingly had only one man on the job. What was more surprising was that those standing in the queue were hardly perturbed. There were expressions of happiness on almost all the faces that I saw and there were some who were even clicking selfies! Hats off to all these ambassadors of happiness!

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As I walked inside the gardens, I noticed a large crowd of people sporting different hues of summer. Many were there with their entire families. It felt so good seeing so much warmth all around to add to that of the sun’s. For a moment, I forgot why I had come to Lal Bagh.

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Closer to the stalls selling mangoes, the bag sellers (actually a husband and wife duo) were doing brisk business. With ban on plastic catching on, the demand for shopping bags is on the rise. The couple  selling the bags chose a strategic location, just after the entrance of the fair and before the stalls.

 

The mini makeshift exhibition hall had on display innumerable varieties of mango. I never knew there were so many kinds of mangoes. Even during the past editions of the mela, I don’t recall seeing so many varieties.

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Soon I was amidst the sea of stalls and I went on a clicking spree. Mangoes are not just yummy to eat they are a delight to photograph too!

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And in between the mango stalls, there were other vendors making the most of the crowds and doing brisk business.

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Two stalls selling ‘Aam ras’ (popular name of mango puree) was a hit with many. Balloons were of course a favourite with kids.

There were a few stalls selling jackfruit. Like the mangoes, the jackfruits were also vanishing from the stalls at a fast pace. I was amazed to see many shoulder the weight of an entire fruit and walk away. At some stalls, the farmers were shelling the fruits with artistic ease.

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After hanging around the stalls for close to an hour, I ended my trip to Lal Bagh with a walk by the lake. My simian friends were there in plenty and I couldn’t help going after them with my camera. And the Monkey Man of Lal Bagh was also there amazing one and all with his proximity with the monkeys.

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There’s so much to eat at Avarekai Mela – III

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My plans to visit the annual Avarekai Mela at VV Puram this year almost fell flat because I was unsuccessful in getting a day off. So far, I have attended the fest only on week days to avoid getting stuck in the midst of burgeoning holiday crowds during the weekend. So I was left with only one option, either go on a weekend or give the food soiree a miss this year. If I finally made up my mind to go it would have to be on the 14th or 15th of January, the last two days of the fest. These two days coincided with Sankranthi and Pongal, both of them being important festivals. And this further deterred me because transport would be a big problem as most drivers of public transport vehicles would be on a holiday.

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I eventually decided to go after my colleagues pushed me to go because in their opinion most people would prefer staying indoors to celebrate the festival than eat outside. So I needn’t have to worry about huge crowds.

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Luck was on my side that Saturday morning because I managed to get a bus pretty fast and then an auto to complete the journey to the venue, Sajjan Rao Circle in VV Puram. The sun-soaked morning further lifted my mood. When I reached the venue, I realised my colleagues were right because there were hardly any people at the stalls. Also, after facing huge crowds at last year’s fest, the organisers decided to put up a large shamiana on the side of Vasavi Condiments to serve most of the foods. A separate stall was put up for serving sweets.

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The warm surroundings, medley of aromas, and festive atmosphere made me feel hungry. But first I had to finish taking pictures. The vendors at the stalls were in a happy mood and most of them were waiting for the foodies to come in. Taking pictures turned out to be much easier save for the harsh 12 o’clock light.

After I was done with the pictures, I made a beeline for the stalls. I was in a mood for dosas and zeroed in on the Kali Dosa and Hithkabele Saru. I had fallen in love with Kali Dosas during my first visit to the fest and decided to relive that beautiful food experience. As I waited for my dosa, I clicked some more pictures. When the dosas came, I again took a couple of pictures before going chomp chomp chomp. The dosas (there were two on the plate) lived up to their reputation; they tasted divine.

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Now the question was what next? I had room for some more grub. I thought of going for the Ragi Mudde (ragi balls), the wonder food of Karnataka, accompanied by the Avarebelle Saru. Unlike, the Kali dosa and other dosas, the Ragi Mudde do not rank high on the taste quotient but then they are extremely nutritious and filling. They are a favourite with the poorer section of people in Karnataka because they are very economic too. It took me some time to finish off the two Ragi Muddes on my plate because as I mentioned they are partaken only for their rich nutritional values and not for their taste. As I munched and munched I noticed that visitors were gradually increasing. I was happy that I started early and reached at an apt time.

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I left the venue happy promising myself to come back next year too.

It’s “Kabali Da!” at the cake show!

I managed to make it to the 2016 Nilgiris Annual Cake Show at the 11th hour (on 1 January which happened to be the last day of the annual affair). And I took a crazy decision of going not only on a Sunday afternoon but also on the last day. Would the first day of the New Year end on a sweet note for me? Well, only time would tell!

Like in the recent years, the venue of the cake show was the St Joseph’s Indian School ground on Vittal Mallya Road. I reached the venue around 2pm and had roughly 45 minutes to tour the exhibition because after that I had to make it to the weekly meeting of the soon to come Bengaluru Tree Festival at next door Cubbon Park. And in between that I also had to make time for a quick chat with my friend Kannika who had come on one of her fleeting trips from Chennai.

After I saw off Kannika at the cake show premises, I entered the exhibition hall. As expected, the venue was super-crowded. And for the first time, I noticed bouncers were positioned at strategic locations. One of them even told me not to click pictures pointing out to the many warning signs that were screaming out “Photography prohibited”. For a moment, I felt disappointed because I had come all the way not only to drool at the cakes but also take pictures. My disappointment soon made way for happiness when I saw many visitors clicking away merrily and there were many like me with DSLRs.

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The cynosure of attention at this edition of the cake show was a near perfect version of the London Bridge made from 500kg of sugar. My first reaction when I saw the spectacular creation was “Wow!” Unlike most other cake exhibits which were encased in polythene covers this one wasn’t, thus making for a happy click. The dim lights added to the attraction.

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A neon green replica of a giant dragon (measuring 7.5 feet in height) vied for attention with the London Bridge. There were selfie enthusiasts galore laboriously trying to wade through the crowds to get that one picture to update their Facebook profiles.

The air was vibrant with loud banter, camera clicks, laughter, bawling of babies and various expressions of enthusiasm as I moved on clicking pictures.

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A cake picture of a dancing goddess looked enchanting.

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A colourful cookie doll house glowed from within a polythene case.

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Aladdin and the genie looked oh-so-cute!

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A giant sugar replica of a pretty doll in a red ball gown grabbed eyeballs.

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This multi-coloured, multi-tiered wedding cake looked so yummy. How I wish I could sink my teeth into it.

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True to its name, the Royal Rajasthan cake looked regal.

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The national bird of India was there too looking resplendent.

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And ho ho ho, whom do I see here, a large Santa!

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The yellow fishes made for a pretty picture.

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Queen Cleopatra in her cake avatar was a stunner all the way!

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I spent some time trying to figure out this cake. Jack and the bean stalk?

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Among the umpteen cakes was this chessboard too.

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A cake avatar of popular Kannada actor and director Shankar Nag would have gladdened the hearts of his many fans. Nationally famous for his production “Malgudi Days”, Shankar Nag died an untimely death in a car crash in 1990.

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Adding to all the colours were these pretty cake bags.

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And what do I see here – the 101 Dalmatians. Bow wow!

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The blue wedding cake with golden accents looked elegant.

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The guitar cake rocked.

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And there was one more wedding cake!

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I could not figure out this cake too – A sort of Money Mountain?

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An Ashoka Pillar stood tall among all the wonderful creations.

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The yellow BMW car wasn’t so visible.

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And finally, what do I see here – a giant cake replica of Kollywood superstar Rajnikanth. The makers were undoubtedly inspired by his recent blockbuster ‘Kabali’. The signature pose tells it all!  Droves of selfie takers made taking a picture very difficult. It only goes to show that Rajnikanth is equally popular in his cake avatar too!

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After a quick bite at the Consumer Fair adjoining the cake exhibition, it was time to rush to Cubbon Park only to realise that the meeting was called off because it was New Year day. The cakes nevertheless made my day and of course the hurried walk through the green expanses of Cubbon Park.

Late Post – A Friday well spent – 2

After a fruitful three hours and a half at Lal Bagh I headed for Sajjan Rao Circle (the venue of the Avarekai Mela). I got a rickshaw quite fast and was there in about 10 minutes.

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Colourful posters and vendors selling colourful ware were all around the venue. There was a lot of noise and honking in the air because of which the cry of the vendors was barely audible. At a distance I could hear the shrill call of a barbet. I inched forward like a snail because I was distracted by all the colour around. The unmistakable aromas of various kinds of dosas getting cooked on tavas started getting stronger as I neared the food stalls. Clearly, the dosas like always were the most popular items.

A noticeable change in the Mela this year was the crowd. The queues were longer than at the previous editions and I could see many visitors getting impatient. Because of the huge demand some of the cooks were getting worked up especially those laying out the dosas. And though there were more stalls than at the earlier editions, there weren’t that many dustbins. The ones which were there were overflowing with used paper plates.

 

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And maybe, the organisers should consider going in for more space to ease crowd movement. Toy and cloth sellers were vying for space with the visitors. There was considerable vehicle movement too.

For obvious reasons, I wasn’t in a mood to click many photos. The steady stream of foodies walking in made me want to rush in for some grub. You can never say, in minutes the queues could double in length. And I needed time to think what to eat first. As I was thinking, I eyed a fresh-from-the-tava stack of Avarekai dosas.

Needless to say, they looked and smelt yum. What say you? And the small cups of Avarekai sambar kept near the dosas made it that much easier for me to decide what I wanted to eat first.

After buying the token, I had to stand in the queue. A couple of people who tried to break the queue were snapped at by ones standing behind. Some choicest expletives were being hurled across both ends.
The Avarekai dosa- Avarekai sambar combo was simply divine. Yay, I had made a good choice!
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I have always loved Akkirotis and thought I would go in for the Avarekai Akkiroti next. So I bought a token and joined the same queue which by now had grown three-fold. The wait was much longer than the wait for the Avarekai dosa. One of those standing before me had come with a large group of friends and ordered 20 dosas in one go making waiting a one-of-a-kind ordeal for poor me and the others standing behind him. Phew!
By now my legs were weary and I had developed acute queue-phobia. The crisp and delectable Avarekai Akkiroti made up for some of the disappointment. I decided not to eat anything more and let the taste of the delicacy linger in my mouth.
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By now the crowds had gotten larger and the food stalls as well as the vendors selling all kinds of other stuff were doing brisk business. I decided it was better to head home.
I flagged down an auto to take me to the Corporation bus stop. As luck would have it, the auto developed engine trouble and stopped right in front of the Corporation end gate of Cubbon Park. I had to get off. Instead of walking to the bus stop I quickly changed my mind and decided to walk through the park and take the Metro from MG Road. I was sure I had made the right decision :). The auto problem seemed to be a blessing in disguise. So what if my legs were weary.