Aurangabad, India. After two days spent clambering around some of the most amazing carvings in the world, it was time for one of Don’s oh-so-well planned days off.
How he knew months ago that this would be a great day to do absolutely nothing but lounge by a terrific pool we had completely to ourselves does astonish me. What a trip planner extraordinaire! (Of course, you can’t really ever go wrong giving me a day to read by a lovely quiet pool.) Still, excellent planning, Don.
We are staying at the Vivanta Taj, a sort of Taj-light “palace style” hotel, set in five acres of landscaped gardens.
It is a lovely setting. There may be chaos outside the well-guarded main gates, but inside all is serene. While not the most luxurious of rooms we have encountered, it does have the best bathroom lighting and – this is a first – a swing on our private veranda! Nice…
We had a drink and a snack in the Garden Cafe one night, which Don will describe. It gave us a front view of the Maharashtrian folk dances, but we get an even better view every night from our little veranda.
Today we linger here all morning and then it’s off to Delhi, a really big city. Hope we can handle it!
Don’s Food Corner
When we went to the Ajanta Caves, which is a full-day expedition, we were encouraged to get a boxed lunch to take with us. When we looked at the menu, we thought that one box would be enough. No, they said, we would each need our own. When we picked the boxes up in the morning we were startled by how heavy they were. (Unfortunately, no photos.) When we opened them up later we found that each box had enough food in it to serve about five people. We gnawed on the multiple sandwiches, fruit, juice and cake for nearly two days before ordering another meal.
The other night, while being entertained by the dancers outside in the garden, I ordered a vodka martini, which was perfectly shaken, with the tiny shards of ice floating on top that is always the sign of a properly made martini. This was not on the menu during my seven-day Ayurvedic rejuvenation program, but sometimes a bit of vodka carries its own rejuvenation properties. Jo had a kir royale. These people know how to make drinks.
For the food portion, a vegetable kebab platter was ordered. The nicely spiced and nicely charred vegetables included filled potatoes, mushrooms, tofu and cauliflower. All very fine. At the end, they brought a skewer of charred pineapple. I think the rejuvenation people would have approved.
Last night we tried to focus on dishes special to the region. The winner was a chicken dish called Malvani kobdi curry. It’s a specialty of the Konkan region within Maharashtra or, in other words, a regional dish within a region. It was especially creamy and not too spicy. It tasted similar to chicken korma, but the difference is that Malvani kobdi achieves its creaminess with finely ground fresh coconut and coconut milk while korma uses yogurt.
I looked up the recipe and there’s another secret ingredient: Malvani masala. With masala being basically a generic term for a host of different mixtures of spices that might change from not only one region to another but from one household to another, I doubt I’ll ever find this specialty anywhere else. But like so many things in India, it’s those little things that make the experience magical.
We also had a non-regional lamb dish that kind of resembled rogan josh, but it wasn’t very good. Another reminder to stay with the local specialties — as true here as it is in the U.S.