In this age of blatant consumerism, I was recently introduced to two home grown, 100% desi brands that epitomize the concept of ‘Make In India’. Read on to know more about Himalaya2Home and Aromazeia, and my recommendations from both these webstores –
I was introduced to the Himalaya2Home brand by Mr. Alok Bhatt, who shared detailed insights into Garhwali and Kumaoni food practices with me post my return from Mussoorie. I was looking for a platform for my readers (and myself) , where they could order grains and pulses that I devoured during my trip and vouched for – and Himalaya2Home fulfilled all our requirements. Here you’ll find cereals, pulses, spices, herbs, honey, oil and personal care products all originating from the mountains.
The wedding industry has reached it’s all time high, with each passing wedding season getting more elaborate and opulent than the previous. Which is why the Marriott group of hotels are showcasing their properties, their culinary expertise and wedding services on offer under the brand name #ShaadiByMarriott. And the folks at JW Marriott Mumbai Sahar are taking this initiative a scale higher by hosting wedding themed Sunday brunches at their all day dining restaurant JW Cafe.
This Sunday brunch provides a perfect sneak peak into the varied kinds of cuisines, different bar offerings and the exquisite decor that the team can put together if you decide to host a wedding at the JW Sahar. And even if you’re not getting married, their Sunday brunches are the perfect place to unwind and spend a lazy afternoon chomping down on the best of food and drink. Don’t forget to wear loose comfortable clothing, you’re going to need it.
There’s a Goan vacation for everybody! India’s favourite tourist destination offers a plethora of options for every kind of traveler. Adventure junkie to the nature lover to the honeymooning couple to the food explorer – Goa has something for everyone. Especially if you’re a luxury traveler, and you love your five star hotel beds, relaxing spa treatments, gourmet fine dine, and the best of service. Goa will spoil you with luxury stay options as well. And who better than the Marriott group of hotels – the first name when it comes to grand hotel stays, to help me experience an opulent Goan getaway.
Location: W Goa, Vagator
We drive down Goa’s narrow picturesque bylanes, passing by shuttered shacks and the occassional North Indian tourist on a scooter to arrive at Vagator in North Goa. The rains convert Goa into a different destination altogether – flooded paddy fields on either sides of the road, coconut trees swaying dangerously, and shades of green you didn’t know existed. #50ShadesOfGreen. After a failed attempt at climbing up to Chapora ‘Dil Chahta Hai’ fort in a downpour and a subsequent skidded knee, we made our way to W Goa.
Among Bandra’s ever evolving culinary landscape, where restaurants open daily and an equal number shut shop, very few eateries manage to leave a mark and be remembered. It has been a week since my preview meal at the newly launched The Bandra Project by Pizza, but the recall and remembrance value still remains high. The iconic Pizza Express undergoes a makeover to transform itself into a community hub that is a lot more than just a restaurant and bar. Because change is the only constant in life.
A good hotel is so much more than plush interiors, comfortable beds and delicious food. I love hotels that go above and beyond the conventional route, to create memories and experiences that the guest rarely forgets. Which is why I fell head over heels in love with the JW Marriott Mussoorie Walnut Grove Resort and Spa property. The hotel has a soul that resonates strongly within the walls, and positivity that reflects on the faces of their smiling staff.
I was visiting JW Mussoorie as a part of the Culinary Soujourn of Garhwal organised by the property in association with Rushina Munshaw Ghildiyal of the APB Cook Studio, to discover more about the region of Gahrwal and their cuisine. (You can read more about the trip here.) Promoting the local Garhwali cuisine is just one of the many initiatives the hotel has undertaken. They want to help promote the culture of the region and the hidden beauty of Garhwal, all under the ‘sustainable tourism’ bracket. Any hotel that truly practices this form of responsible tourism – generating income and employment along with alleviating any deeper impact on environment and local culture – is a must visit in my opinion. In case you are looking for more reasons to visit, here they are. Read on!
1. The Food – A Multicultural Experience
We were there on a culinary soujourn, so it’s only fair that I mention their food first. Usually, five star hotels manage to wow guests with the world cuisine on offer, but rarely do they get their regional dishes spot on. At the JW Mussoorie, they take extra care in showcasing Garhwali food and bringing it to the forefront. Credit here goes to the Food and Beverage team that includes two lovely local women from the nearby village, who have been employed by the hotel to train their staff and cook meals for their patrons.
A must have at the property is the Garhwali thali, available on request at the JW Cafe – their all day dining restaurant. The thali is a wonderful way to acquaint yourself with a few popular Garhwali dishes, with the mountains around you for company. I love that they manage to do rustic dishes like the Kandli Ka Saag – a vegetable dish made from bichoo ghaas aka stinging nettle, with just as much elan as they do a thin crust pizza. The breakfast spread here is mighty impressive, especially because they rustle up local favourites such as Gehat ka Paratha (stuffed horsegram parathas), Aloo Swala (thick aloo puris), and Urad Dal Pakodas. Ask nicely and they’ll even throw in the recipes for you to replicate at home.
Want a break from the local cusine? (Though I wouldn’t see why.) Teppan is their in-house Pan Asian restaurant, where you can not only gorge on delicious sushi, but also watch some live theatrics at the teppanyaki counter. Or else, nibble on some grills, while you nurse your cocktail looking out at the Northern Garhwal range of mountains from the classy Trout House Grill and Bar. Don’t forget to sip on their famed Hot Chocolate at Perch – a tea lounge that offers a panoramic view of the mountains – with a book and your thoughts for company.
We were lucky enough to indulge in a beautiful Garhwali Fusion meal where the chefs used local ingredients infused with modern cooking techniques. When a kitchen churns out genius dishes like Stinging Grass and Pinenut Kebabs or a gateaux made out of the local Bal Mithai, you know you’re in for a gastronomic treat.
2. The Location – The Hills are Alive
What wows you the minute you walk into the JW Mussoorie lobby is the sight – you get a stunning view of the lush green valley. And if you choose to stay in a valley view room, you get to wake up to that view every morning. With gorgeous balconies in every room, you can’t help but lie on the sofas without a care in the world, pondering over life as you look straight out into the mountains. Look into the distance and you can see snow capped peaks of the Himalayas even during summers. Even if you haven’t opted for a valley view room, you can still enjoy the view from most of the restaurants at JW Mussoorie and a number of different vantage viewing points littered across the property. The mountains brought pristine air, and serenity in to my room, only to be disturbed by the chirping of birds.
The hotel is also aptly located on the outskirts of Mussoorie, yet not too far from the hustle and bustle of the main market. It is easily accessible, yet isolated thereby making it a perfect destination for some much needed rest and relaxation.
3. The Wellness Programs – For the mind, body and soul
Like most high-end hotels, the JW Mussorie also has a fully equipped. 24-hour gymnasium for those who want to work out while on vacation. Not to mention a fantastic, indoor heated swimming pool overlooking the mountains which makes it perfect for when you want to go swimming even during cool weather.
A fabulous wellness initiative that the hotel has organized is the Yoga session that is available to all hotel guests every morning, completely free of cost. I was lucky enough to participate in one such session, and the experience was surreal. Doing asanas barefoot on the grass connects you to mother earth like nothing else can. Meditating while breathing in pure mountain air was such a calming experience, I’d fly back just for that! Yoga classes in the city just don’t match up.
The hotel also houses the Cedar Spa by L’Occitane which is an ideal space to unwind at after a tiring day of sight seeing. The majestic Cedar trees that dominate the ridge line of Mussoorie have been used to create signature therapy treatments at the spa, along with L’Occitane products. I underwent a fabulous massage session at the spa, and emerged feeling like a goddess ready to embrace the mountains.
4. The Activities – Fun, Family Bonding
The hotel goes out of their way in attempting to create a fun experience for the entire family, such that you return back home brimming with positive memories. They organise a Kachadi or a ‘get together’ every evening over high tea for their guests. The JW Mussoorie lawns turn into a melange of colour and sound, as families intermingle, play various games such as badminton and croquet together, while live music plays in the background. Not to mention the fabulous masala chai, and chaat on offer.
The Den is their in-house gaming arcade complete with carrom, table tennis tables, and arcade games. Not to mention the underground bowling alley, that children (and adults) seem to flock to. It’s also a wonderful space to leave your kids for an hour while you go get a back massage at the spa.
The hotel also organizes excursions to nearby tourist spots on request. Their ‘Breakfast in a Stream’ is one such fabulous activity you could enjoy. I repeat, breakfast IN the stream, not BY the stream! We were treated to a hearty breakfast in the middle of a gushing stream, after we trekked down an easy slope for about 20 minutes. Cool water flowed under our legs, towering mountains all around us, while we gorged on some delicious breakfast spread. Parathas, croissants, fresh fruit, and even a live omelette station – all in the middle of the stream; not to mention the freshly squeezed orange juice being handed out to us.
The hotel gets it’s name from the number of walnut trees that are interspersed within the property, and if you’re lucky enough to visit during walnut season you can actually go picking walnuts with the hotel staff!
5. The Environmental Initiatives – Go Green
JW Mussoorie not only preaches about sustainable tourism and responsible travel, but also practice it extensively. Our aim as responsible travellers should be to add to the region we visit, instead of depleting and deriving it’s natural resources. Which is why the Plant A Tree initiative is a fantastic way for tourists to give back to the mountains of Mussorie. The hotel encourages all guests to plant a tree on the property, which their gardening staff later looks after.
The hotel also has an accompanying farm on which they grow their own vegetables and fruits, most of which are utilized in the hotel kitchen. The greenhouse on the lawns also grows a variety of herbs and shrubs which are again included in a lot of meal preparations. The farm and the greenhouse are picturesque locations to escape to on the hotel campus, and enjoy some solitude in the middle of all that vegetation.