Fiona Fernandez: Stir the pot, and start a festival
It was one of those indulgent, happy-go-lucky Sunday afternoons spent with a few hardcore foodie travellers, each showing off their exploits across the globe. And while at it, everyone's bucket lists for the coming years were being plotted and dotted on a make-believe world map.
To the South
"Buenos Aires!" shouted one of the biggest gastronomes in the group. What was interesting is that Mr. Culinary Explorer had already been to "BA" (as he chose to call it), albeit on a whistle-stop visit, and was lusting for more. Why the revisit?
Alas, for many in the group, Argentina meant acres of ranches, the sensual tango, Malbec wine, Maradona and Gabriela Sabatini.
After 15 minutes of a palate-pleasing virtual adventure, courtesy his stash of videos and Instagram photos, we were sold. Suddenly, Bologna, San Sebastian, Melbourne or even Fez in Morocco, which has been quickly rising up the charts, didn't sound as inviting. Turns out, the Argentine capital is a heady mix for foodie travellers, where diverse ingredients and local produce make for a cracker combination to make it a world-class food and drink destination.
Piqued, we decided to dig out more. BA hosts some of the biggest, most expansive food festivals in all of South America, some of the best classic steakhouses and wines, and, what intrigued us the most, had simple, executable lessons for Mumbai.
Every November, it plays host to a four-day food festival, Feria Masticar, that is held in a large warehouse in Colegiales, north of Palermo. This, we were told, is where the best of BA's cuisine is on display. Visitors can interact with chefs from some of its most popular, big-ticket restaurants; many of these tend to be off-limits, so this is a fantastic platform where, for a nominal entry, anyone with a passion for food can explore and experience an unmatched spectacle of fresh food and wines. It's also a must-visit on the city's calendar, and is teeming with tourists, naturally.
A food riot
Watching a master BBQ chef in action as he packed in a mean stack of high-quality cuts was a delight, as was a lesson in Argentina's impressive wine culture that went beyond its signature Malbec wines.
We also marvelled at how farmers struck deals with confectioners to use their local produce (fruit) for ice creams and desserts. Mentors and their apprentices from the F&B industry, dressed in their chef whites, were seen sharing a laugh and a tip each time they'd bump into each other at the festival.
It was a riot for the eye, a feast for the senses and above all, a celebration of a city.
Imagine recreating a similar festival here, where the best and biggest restaurants and chefs take on a pop-up avatar by offering visitors a taste of their creations and menus? Mumbai possibly boasts of more intense flavours and an unmatched culinary diversity. A start needs to be made somewhere. Now, as we witness a far more enterprising bunch take centre stage in its attempt to change the way the city dines, why not give us an annual food festival that represents its countless communities, its rustic origins and its tag as India's original cosmopolitan city?
It's high time we do justice to the country's real melting pot in every sense of the term.
mid-day's Features Editor Fiona Fernandez relishes the city's sights, sounds, smells and stones...wherever the ink and the inclination takes her. She tweets @bombayana. Send your feedback to email@example.com