Valentine’s Day Menu at Bon Appetit
Every time I am invited to a tasting session before the epic V-day bash begins at Bon Appetit Cafe, (both Hazra and Salt Lake outlets), I tend to not eat for a day or so. Its fortification, you know, for the marathon eating session that will commence the moment we land up at R’s place. P (not to be confused by yours truly) accompanies me as always, and we settle down on plush cushions (in my case, a space on the floor because that’s closest to the food!). A plate of cupcakes are settled in front of us, and our eyes gleam at the bounty. The menu that we are served today will be served all through the Valentine’s week, starting this weekend.

R (Chef Extraordinaire, Restaurateur, Food Blogger) smiles. It is a very evil, exceptionally wicked smile, because we, as always, are his lambs to slaughter. And slaughter us, he does. This year, he has kept the theme a simple one – his food philosophy has now become slightly minimalist, and he prefers fresh, simple flavors and earthy elements in his food. And it reflects on the food, with the lightened sauces, use of spices instead of cheese, and the inclusion of fresh vegetables.
A plate of Crostinis hit us. R explains, there are two kind – vegetarian and non-vegetarian. The vegetarian version is stacked with a salad flavored with a light sour cream dressing, and creamy chunks of fresh paneer is strewn over it. The base is crisp against the crunchy vegetables – a lovely repast for a single person or for sharing. The chicken version contains roasted shreds of chicken and has a lovely hint of underlying spices. 
For a short period of time, we do not speak at all. Calm of mind all passions spent, as they say.
Pizzas start appearing in the mean time. The Baby corn and Three Pepper Pizza has a paper-thin crust, with a smearing of a black-pepper sauce. It is topped with pickled peppers, jalapenos, capsicum and chopped baby corn. The key is the less use of cheese, to let the toppings shine through. The crunchy base versus the spicy filling is the perfect note of seduction for a spice lover like me. The Salami and Basil pizza, with its tomato sauce base and generous topping, is perhaps not as exciting to me as the Keema Do Pyaza, which comes in the end. A fitting finale, its a generous helping of spicy keema and onions on top of the pizza with a generous hit of cheese that melts harmoniously with the spice, and adds to the creaminess of it all. 
R has another pair of aces up his sleeve. He flourishes in front of us a pair of bowls containing Spaghetti. The rich, thick tomato sauce that he pours on top of the vegetarian version is heavy with the smell of roasted garlic, which accompanies the butter-tossed spaghetti perfectly, with a mild hit of basil in the aftertaste. The Bolognese sauce in the non-vegetarian version is a rich portion of the meaty sauce poured on top of the Spaghetti. The sauce is milder in nature, and is toned down with lashings of cheese in it, making the addition of Parmesan pretty much unnecessary for me. Surreptitiously, I dig in for a second helping while P is busy chatting with R. 
From Italy, we move to Mexico. Rice Bowls are what he is offering this year, with homemade re-fried beans, salsa, cheese sauce and a choice of either chicken or paneer (depending upon your preference). There is a fine layer of crushed nachos on top that adds to the crunch quotient nicely, and the re-fried beans are good enough to be eaten on their own, with a tang in them that is worth digging into over and over again. 
There are also a pair of Quiches. The Cheesy Vegetarian Quiche is filled with chopped vegetables, with a thin crust and a creamy base. Au contraire, the Chicken and Mushroom Quiche is earthy and rich in flavors, with the mushroom holding court and letting the umami flavors of the chicken shine through. 
Of course, I forget. How can a meal end without desserts? Especially those contrived by the great R? A plate of hand-molded chocolates laze in a corner, filled with butterscotch bits. They melt in your mouth and leave a beautiful aftertaste in the mouth for a while. R also stuffs my mouth with a chunk of Mocha Fudge, which lusciously melt on my tongue. We also eat a portion of smooth vanilla ice cream with a chunky strawberry sauce where you can clearly make out the chunks of chopped strawberries.
The cupcakes. Ah yes. I forgot. There are four flavors. Cinnamon Apple White Chocolate repeats itself this year, being the most popular flavor from last year. The Strawberry and Cream is more to my liking – A red velvet based encasing a center of liquid strawberry coulis, topped with a dollop of whipped cream. A sinful delight for P, who polishes off the small ones, and takes the big ones home to love and to cherish. 

I am more interested in the Red Velvet with the Cheese Frosting. It melts on my tongue, and although its a sugar overdose, I like OD-ing on sugar anyway, so who’s looking? The best is saved for last of course – Chocolate Caramel Crunch. A rich chocolate liquid filling and butterscotch makes up the center of this cupcake, while a thick layer of chocolate ganache tops it, with more crunchy sugary sprinkles layered on top. I quickly remove the large cupcake to my domain, and hold on to it precariously all the way back home. 
And now, while I write, the chocolate cupcake lies beside me, the liquid chocolate filling oozing out of it in a thick trickle, making me remember the last bite, and leaving me wanting more. 
Disclaimer: Poorna Banerjee was invited to the preview of Valentine’s Day Menu 2014 by Rahul Arora. 
Written by Poorna Banerjee

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