I recently had the privilege of sampling life from four different parts of the world at the Quartet of European Delight Culinary Festival that was held recently at the Eros Hilton, Nehru Place, New Delhi. The festival was to showcase food from four East European nations of Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland and Slovakia.
Kicked off by the Ambassadors of the four respective countries, the festival stood to portray way beyond just regional cuisine. Being a travel buff who daydreams about spanning the world someday, I was most fascinated by the posters and tourist pamphlets portraying the beautiful architecture and landscapes of a land we hear seldom of. For someone who hunts for lesser traveled places (and desperately wants to run away from the average noisy Indian tourist), this seemed like a secret gold mine I did not want to share with many. Luckily for me there wasn’t much of a crowd where I was standing – there was, however, quite a deluge at the corner of the venue that constituted, you guessed it, the bar. Understandable. Firstly, we are Delhiwallahs. And secondly, there was a free flowing supply of local booze from the region, including, as we were told, 9 varieties of beer alone. We sampled a few, and guzzled the rest, especially this fruity tasting beer that someone mentioned was made from aloe vera which we was rather nice. In fact, this is something one can think of in India too, with agencies like IFAD who are struggling to push the aloe vera agenda in the north eastern states; imagine the look on their faces when I go and tell them ‘dudes, chin up! you can make beer out of these!’
The service was a bit slow and confused that evening, perhaps because of the unexpected turnout of people (apparently twice of what they had expected and planned for). Scary! Reminded me of my FICCI days when I was part of organising teams; we looked like paranoid potheads with dark circles back then. Anyhow and moving on to the object of our affection- we were really looking forward to sampling the lesser known food from this region – most of us did not have imaginations beyond Hungarian goulash and oh, we were so in for a surprise spread.
I got to sample food from Czech Republic and Poland (could not make it through the crowd to the other counters, at least not before their food was over).
My Polish platter had Marinated Duck Breast with Juniper and Apple and Beetroot Salad; well cooked duck, slightly sweetish from the apples and pleasantly herbed. There was also chicken with walnuts which was a first timer for me, and yes I love walnuts in any form so this was welcome. There was a chain of greens on the side, all of which were mildly flavoured – one herb at a time is a good idea when you have a sea of food to go through.
The Czech platter comprised of what I could scrape at the end of a busy queue- Braised beef fillet with Creamy Sauce and Cranberries Compote, the meat was slightly chewy for my taste, but I’m guessing that’s how they have it back home. The chicken schnitzel was nice, thin and crunchy, so were the Cauliflower Pancakes with White Cheese and Chive. But the flavourful Potato Dumplings with Fried Onion turned out to be a rather addictive favorite that evening.
My favorite part of the evening though, was watching the folk dance performances – pretty dancers in prettier costumes creating a colorful whirlwind on the stage to tunes so lively that one could not but help jigging in their seats, or was it just me? At least I found company in my momentary madness in Indu who applauded with a very energetic, very English ‘Bravo!’ after every gig – we knew we had a good time. In fact I was surprised nobody from the audience broke into a dance! I probably wasn’t drunk enough so that’s my excuse but containing such adrenaline rush was a tough job.
The festival is on till this Friday, 9th November and for those who haven’t been there already – its four countries on one platform, you’ve got to see this to experience it.
You might also like to read what these bloggers had to say about the fest: