The familiar, post-September nip in the air and the promise of a cheerful evening ahead, made our step lighter as Rattan and I stepped into Chowbella at Crowne Plaza Today, Okhla. The annual AGM of The Delhi Wine Society is the most anticipated and well-attended event in its calendar, where even the most reclusive members are seen sipping wine and smiling happily, writes Balesh Jindal. Pictured from left to right: Delhi Wine Society Vice President Rukn Luthra, President Bunty Singh and Treasurer Ranjit Gupta. Secretary Prem Behl wasn’t able to make it
The al fresco venue was apt considering the wonderful October evening. Blazing flames in gigantic cauldrons provided a dramatic backdrop as we were welcomed with a perfectly chilled Fratelli Sauvignon Blanc. I feel the first wine served sets the pace and the mood of the evening and this one fit the bill very well in terms of freshness and was just right in being semi dry with hints of fruitiness. Numerous finger snacks were circulated with it including a delectable thin crust pizza and stuffed prawns.
Everyone had ample time to settle in and exchange pleasantries before the committee members took to the dais. Bunty (Kulbir) Singh, the president, with his impeccable sartorial sense, dressed in a dark suit, took the mike and admitted candidly that the year gone by was somewhat uneventful, partly due to the fewer events organized but mostly because of a lack of response from members.
The cost of events seemed to be the major deterrent in organizing events. It was suggested that a few events could be hosted in members’ homes so as to reduce overheads and venue costs and sometimes just chese and wine tastings could be arranged with light snacks and no dinner. Left: Jug Suraiya makes a point. The Delhi Wine Society welcomes suggestions from members
The long pending issue of registering the Society was brought up and Bunty promised that the Society would take it up in all seriousness. In his usual self-deprecating manner Bunty offered to step down and bring in new blood to rejuvenate the society but his offer was promptly declined by all.
Prem Behl, who had been Secretary for a decade, sent his regrets and apologies as he was unable to continue due to work pressure. Mr. Venu from his office was applauded warmly for his efficiency in sending out invites and keeping a tab on the acceptances without a single mistake ever.
Ranjit Gupta accepted the post of Secretary and offered the use of his office for organizing events. In his quiet and concise way he informed the members about the financial state of the society. Rukn Luthra, the dapper Vice President provided the glamour element and even without uttering a word! His smile had the “everything is all right” quality about it .
There was a short but interesting video presentation by Fratelli wines, who had sponsored the wines for the evening. As everyone made their way towards the beautifully laid out tables, the best part of the evening was yet to come. The menu, discerningly selected by Ranjit, offered a choice between Italian and Chinese delicacies. Pictured: Line-up of Fratelli wines
Some ladies made a beeline towards the open-style kitchen where drama was unfolding as the master chef, Zhang Fu Gui, pulled and pummeled noodle dough, and, hey presto! hundreds of noodles unfurled as everyone gasped at this culinary magic. From my warmly lit table, a quick glance confirmed that most of the guests had opted for the Chinese cuisine reinforcing my belief that in India good, old Chinese scores over fancy Italian any day.
Shredded Roast Duck soup was accompanied by Fratelli Chenin Blanc, but if I were asked to choose I would go for the Sauvignon Blanc in terms of the richness of notes. The Cabernet Sauvignon was served as soon as the Steamed Dumplings with Garlic and Chives arrived.
The very palatable Cabernet was also a great accompaniment to Pan Fried Artichokes with sundried tomatoes. The main course of Sautéed fish with Pine Nuts and Fried Pork Belly were the highlights of the evening. Another interesting vegetarian option was Fungus Mushrooms with Silky Bean Tofu in garlic sauce. All these were accompanied by the amazing hand-pulled noodles. Above: Members watch the noodle demonstration with rapt attention. Below: Close-up of interested ladies absorbed in how the hand-pulled noodles are made
Italian Yougurt Cake with Lemoncello and Berry Compote was a fitting finale and the Fratelli Shiraz lived up to the high standards set by the chef. I have noticed that just as in all relationships there is one part that is dominant and the other tries to match up to the standards set, so also in the relationship of wine and food. There are times when the food overwhelms the wines by the sheer force of its quality. In other instances, the amazing quality of wines nudges the food into the background.
To conclude, I would say that Ranjit’s efforts to organize the event paid off with excellent results in the quality and variety of food served. Let us all get together to organize more such evenings especially since the weather is so delightful at this time of the year.