How an Indian feast at Tamarind Indian Cuisine, French macarons from Le Macaron and the film The 100 Foot Journey took a group of friends on a delicious journey!
My girlfriends and I recently took a delicious journey to India and the south of France, without ever leaving Orlando! We shared great foood, great wine, decadent French macarons, a delightful movie, which every food enthusiast should see, The Hundred-Foot Journey and the company of wonderful friends, which took some creative scheduling, but we made it happen. I encourage you to #MakeSomedayHappen and GO for a delicious journey with your friends!
The Hundred-Foot Journey tells the story of Hassan Kadam (Manish Dayal), a culinary ingénue with the gastronomic equivalent of perfect pitch. Displaced from their native India, the Kadam family, led by Papa (Om Puri), start a new life and family restaurant, Maison Mumbai, in the quaint and picturesque village of Saint-Antonin-Noble-Val in the south of France. They find themselves in a heated battle of wills and wit fueled by cultural differences, with Madame Mallory (Academy Award®-winner Helen Mirren), the chilly chef proprietress of Le Saule Pleureur, a Michelin-starred classical French restaurant, located 100 feet away. Hassan’s passion for French haute cuisine — and for Madame Mallory’s enchanting sous chef, Marguerite (Charlotte Le Bon) — combine with his mysteriously-delicious talent to weave magic between their two cultures and imbue Saint-Antonin with the flavors of life that even Madame Mallory cannot ignore. Directed by Lasse Hallstrom, from another foodie fave, Chocolat, and produced by Steven Spielberg, Oprah Winfrey and Juliet Blake.
Be Open to Try Something New
I was grateful my friends were willing to try something new. I had never visited Tamarind Indian Cuisine, a small family owned Indian restaurant in Winter Park. Most at the table had never tried Indian food before so this was a culinary adventure for all. At first, the location, in a strip mall sandwiched between a Michael’s and Office Depot, gave us pause. Don’t let exteriors fool you. It was a delightful place, with really good food. We often judge a book by its cover in many things, including selecting a restaurant. However, I’ve found great local eateries in the oddest of places – a fun experience at a gas station in Miami comes to mind, which I shall share with you soon – but you must be open to try new things. Tamarind was not Maison Mumbai with its French chateau opulence or ambiance but it was charming. Being open to new flavors comes up in the movie when Hassan (Dayal) tells the supremely snooty Madame Mallory (Mirren) “maybe 200 years is long enough” as she questions why he added his own spices to a 200 year old classic French recipe. Why not change things up? Be open to sample small local restaurants, be adventurous! GO try something new!.
“Turn The Heat Up”
We started dinner with baskets of Papadum, a light, thin crisp seasoned dough that is more cracker-like than bread. Served with a trio of sauces: cool mint, sweet and savory tamarind and, my favorite, a spicy tomato and pepper chutney that turned up the heat of every dish I added it to!
We sampled two types of Naan, a leavened Indian bread similar to a flatbread, baked in a tandoor oven. The fresh Garlic Naan ($3.25) was delicious, steamy-soft goodness. The Kheema ($3.95), stuffed with minced lamb, was quite filling. They offer various Naan options with onions, chilies, cheese or cashews, raisins and coconut. The Garlic Naan is a must order.
One of my favorite scenes in the movie is when Papa (Puri) in a defiant yet adorable tone, spars with Madame Mallory and replies “I will turn the music down, but I will turn the heat up” in response to her request that he tone down the family’s exuberance. Live life loud! We certainly did on this night.
Wine is always an important part of our gatherings and I was happy to see Tamarind had a few nice options on the wine list, at a great value. We shared a bottle of Laeticia Estate Pinot Noir ($40) from Arroyo Grande Valley in California. Its ripe black and red fruit aromas with raspberries, a hint of earth and Asian spice on the palate was a nice pairing with the variety of flavors at our table. It’s always a challenge to pair spicy foods. I am a pinot noir girl and this one did not disappoint.
The Chicken Tikka ($13.95), a favorite of the group, comes like sizzling fajitas on a hot iron plate. Pieces (i.e. “tikka”) of boneless chicken marinated in yogurt, ginger, garlic and spices are grilled in a tandoor, or clay oven, served with onions and lemon wedges. Also known as Tandoori Chicken, it is a definite must order.
Why not try it at home?
As we shared the rich Butter Chicken ($13), Goan Shrimp with Coconut Curry sauce ($16) and Lamb Roganjosh (16) – which literally means “red intense heat!”- in a red curry sauce with fennel and saffron, we were wondering if it was the AC in the restaurant, the spicy dishes or our animated conversation that had all of us feeling the heat. That’s what happens when you get a group of girlfriends that haven’t seen each other in a while! The laughter from our table was constant.
The folks at Tamarind definitely followed Papa’s advice when it came to flavor. He says “If you have a spice use it! Don’t sprinkle it in. Spoon it in!” and they did! Every dish was full of flavor. The spices all dancing together in my mouth like a Bollywood number. I love spicy foods, my friends not as much but everyone found the spice just right. The menu features several chicken, seafood, lamb, and vegetarian dishes and you can order the level of spice as you like. GO turn up the heat!
“Food is a passionate affair”
“Cuisine is not an old tired marriage, it is a passionate affair!” Shouldn’t we approach food that way? Yet so often we are short on time and on imagination, eating the same foods over and over again. It’s time to spice up your life. This advice is as much for relationships as for food.
The movie was food porn, in the best sense of the word. It was sensuous, tempting and beautiful to watch. The stunning scenery of the French countryside made me wish I could hop on a plane to the south of France. The food had me drooling throughout. It would have only been better if the food aromas had been piped into the movie theater with “surround-scent” effect. A true feast for the senses! Thankfully, we were pleasantly satiated from our dinner at Tamarind or else I may not have survived. Word of advice, don’t go see this movie when hungry.
When you love food so much that one bite into a rich and creamy burrata or a flavorful succulent lamb can bring tears to your eyes, you’ve experienced food-gasm. This movie had a similar effect at times. Although, the actual romance of Hassan and Marguerite was kept on simmer, much to our disappointment. One scene in particular, where eggs are being cracked and whisked to make the perfect omelette, was absolutely breathtaking. It actually brought a tear to my eye. Ok, I admit it. I cried like a baby and almost wiped my nose on my neighbor’s sleeve. Without spoilers, I will say, it was a touching scene between Hassan and Madame Mallory that shows people can learn compassion for one another and bridge their differences through food. A bit of behind-the-scenes trivia I learned, the omelette recipe used in the film was one that Manish Dayal’s father used to make for him when he was a child.
Food brings people together
The movie shows a clash of cultures bridged by food. I always wonder what would happen in the world if we broke bread with one another more often? Cultural differences could be embraced and accepted. I know I’m being hopeful but I think this dream can come true. Another bit of behind-the-scenes trivia shows how important food is in forging relationships. Every weekend during production, Om Puri (Papa) invited his on-screen family to his home where he would cook traditional Indian dishes for them. This brought everyone closer and made their bond on-screen more natural and believable. Sharing food around the dinner table brings people together, whether family or friends, and there is nothing better.
For dessert we combined both cultures shown in the film. We were treated to a sampler platter of traditional Indian desserts made in-house by the kind folks of Tamarind. We sampled Gulab Jamun ($3.95), fried cheese balls in rose flavored syrup, which I would have never guessed were made of cheese. They were like soft little sponges of sweetness. The Pistachio Kulfi ($4.95), an Indian Ice cream with pistachio nuts had a mild flavor I can imagine as comfort food, and Ras Malai (3.95), cottage cheese dumpling in a thick evaporated milk sauce was quite rich and creamy.
As we ended dinner and prepared to make our own 100-foot journey (or so) across the street to Winter Park Village’s Regal Cinemas, I provided each of my friends with a gift box of French macarons from Le Macaron in Winter Park. I selected flavors that reminded me of France: chocolate, caramel (my favorite), rose and lavender. This little store is quite the treat. They offer a large variety of macaron flavors as well as awesome gelato. As I anticipated, everyone loved taking these home to enjoy after the movie. I loved receiving a text proclaiming “These macarons are the bomb!”
“Food is Memories”
One of the reasons I am absolutely “crazy in love” with food is because “Food is Memories”. A special dinner date, a glorious vacation, playful childhood moments, a fun outing with friends and many more beautiful memories are all brought to mind simply with the smell and taste of a dish. Young Hassan learns how to cook from his mother, as so many of us have. Those scenes brought back memories of my childhood in the kitchen, stirring the sauce pot, as I watched mom making my favorite lasagna. As I travel, food reminds me of home no matter where I am around the world.
Food has the ability to transport you to another place, another time, another world. Much like movies do.”
This movie transported us on a journey to India and the South of France, which inspired us to take that trip in real life…someday…soon. I suspect I will be remembering this fun night with friends for years to come any time I encounter a tasty Indian curry dish or French macarons.
The 100 Foot Journey was a love letter to food and family. I laughed and cried and fell in love with the characters and the food. Helen Mirren as Madame Mallory was simply exquisite, Om Puri as Papa was hilarious and Manish Dayal as Hassan was absolutely adorable. I am not a film critic, the same as I am not a food critic. I don’t take film or food experiences apart and dissect every element. I look at the overall experience and judge by how they made me feel. Both Tamarind Indian Cuisine and The 100 Foot Journey were delightful and thoroughly enjoyable. Having worked in the restaurant industry, I would agree with some critics that may say this movie is not realistic, but since when are movies supposed to be realistic? This is not a documentary. The film did what it set out to do. It transported us to another place, it made us feel for these characters, it brought back memories of childhood, it reminded us to be compassionate of others and accepting of our cultural differences, to be adventurous and to fall in love with food and with people every chance we get. I am sure you will agree. GO see this movie.
I hope you are inspired to create your own delicious journey with your family and friends!
Tamarind Indian Cuisine is located at 501 North Orlando Avenue, Winter Park FL. 321-207-0760, open 11:30am-3pm, 5pm-10pm.
Le Macaron is located at 216 North Park Avenue, Winter Park FL. 321-295-7958, open from 10am-10pm.