The expansive floor to ceiling windows of Shuchi Mittal’s apartment yields a swiping sunset over New York City. Cars in traffic look like toys from far above as their red lights signal a rush for uptown and the fading white lights signal a race for the Manhattan bridge. Closer to the apartment building, but still far below is a wintery landscape of barren trees and brownish-grey grass surrounding New York City’s judicial buildings. The almost completed World Trade Center’s windows reflect fading lights of pinks, purples and oranges of a setting sun. Across the river, a Brooklyn skyline emerges between Manhattan’s tall buildings. By the time the sun takes its final bow for the day, all of the guest have arrive at Mittal’s apartment for EatWith.com’s “Indian Tapas: Curry Bowls to Creative Bites.”
EatWith.com is a global experience of dining in the homes of personal and home chefs. It’s an opportunity to share individual stories, receive traveling tips from locals and meet new friends. The guests at Mittal’s home included a travel writer of Lonely Planet, Connie of ConnVoyage.com and other like-minded guests with a love of food. Our host for the evening is Shuchi Mittal. She’s the author of 29Calories.com, a former banker who is now a personal chef and caterer for small events. She—along with additional chefs—create and plan food events with EatWith.com.
When the red sun dipped below the distant horizon, we opened bottles of wine and started indulging in Mittal’s elegantly plated hor d’oeuvres on a dining table with a beautiful floral arrangement, cups of water and a typed tasting menu reading the evening’s tasting. As we introduced ourselves, Mittal drifted towards her stove to start warming Dal Mushroom Soup made of pureed cumin roasted mushrooms and red lentils (She spends at least a day preparing dishes before events). She spooned the soup into silver cups, in which each serving was garnished with a cilantro leaf. The next entree was Chickpea Fritters made of curried chickpeas, quinoa, sriracha aioli, in which the flavor subtly mimics sweet crab cakes from the Chesapeake Bay. A dish made of spiced chicken, carom flatbread and kale slaw, Chicken Chaat was presented on a thick wooden cutting board. Although, kale isn’t quite a traditional Indian ingredient, it was a colorful garnish against the chicken and flatbread. The main highlight of the meal was Green Biryani Rice Pilaf spiced with South African mint curry topped with a generous raita to tame the heat. It’s a dish inspired from Mittal husband’s South African family. Our sweet tooth was served Cardamon Pot de Creme, made of cardamom custard, chocolate ganache and biscotti biscuits. The evening ended with a gently sweetened Date Ginger Tea.
Both travel writers who were present at Mittal’s tasting talked about their biggest hurdle of trying to communicate with locals for insider tips while exploring foreign cities. EatWith.com facilitates that task while providing homemade meals. For guests with uneasy feelings about eating in strangers’ homes, EatWith.com offers a one million dollar insurance in case of difficult meals needing medical attention.
When traveling among popular tourist attractions, I’ve wondered what international cuisines taste like without American influences. Mittal’s Indian tapas answered my question. Her tasting offered us a glimpse of Indian dishes not found on standard menus. Instead we received a authentic homemade Indian meal while watching a transient New York City evening skyline.