Two posts in one day! But I had to write about the wonderful experience I have had in the last several months. Since I am the owner of a bookstore, I travel though my books. Kinda like a Staycation that is so popular now in our hard economic times. Actually, I have not been on a real vacation for two years now. But, don’t feel sorry for me, it has been my choice to run my business and stay open. I could have closed a year ago, worked another job, made some money, gone on a vacation, but then I would not be here right now blogging about my new experiences.
It started a year ago. A new restaurant opened in Howell called India Gate. I’ll be honest, I was little surprised that an Indian Restaurant would open in Howell. My only experience with Indian food was when I was in New York City in 2004 on my bookstore trip to meet publishers. The other bookstore owners and myself choose to go to “Wicked” on Broadway (second day it was open). There was a special at an Indian restaurant to buy tickets to the show and eat at their restaurant. I don’t remember too much of the meal. I am an adventurous eater and I am sure I liked the meal. In my memory now, the only thing that comes to mind is how awesome the show “Wicked” was. Through time, the Indian meal faded. So, in August of 2008, India Gate opens. I was ecstatic that there was a new restaurant, with new cuisine, that was near by to my home and business. I took my daughter, Bailey, out for dinner and to a new adventure.
As Bailey and I approached the restaurant for the first time, we could smell the wonderful aroma coming from the front door. Bailey choose to go with me because she is a vegetarian and there are many well- known vegetarian dishes in Indian cuisine. We were greeted at the door with not only the aroma of spices but of incense that was burning near the entrance. This restaurant in its former days, was a pizza parlor. When my children were little, we came to have pizza and grinders sometimes just as a family or with a group of friends. The kids could run around while us adults could chat and eat. So, upon entering this new restaurant of new cuisine, I was pleasantly surprised by the decor. White table clothes, candles in burgundy beaded holders, a border wall covering in a stylish design, pictures on the walls that didn’t take over ones attention, and in general, a pleasant atmosphere. Bailey glanced at me and I at her that we approved and there was no sign left of anything pizza. We were seated at the corner table, which I believe was the last one before having to wait for the next table.
We were given our menu to peruse. We were glad there were so many patrons that felt the same about having a new place to dine. We checked over the six page menu many times quickly, when the server offered a hot white towel to clean our hands. Oh my, what a great touch! I think at that moment for me, many memories came back to when I was young and was offered a hot towel at my favorite seafood restaurant in Detroit. I so gratefully took the towel, as did Bailey. Next we were offered a small sipping glass of rose water to cleanse our pallet. Here I was in Howell, of all places, being treated as a royal guest. A small appetizer of crisp chips with two dipping sauces were next in the small parade of gifts that were offered to us. Then the daunting task of choosing our meal came next. The menu was divided into drinks, appetizers, Tandoor and vegetarian, curries and breads, paneer and biryani and lastly of Indo-Chinese and desserts. Being that it was my first experience to order from this menu, I selected what I was familiar with in my past experience, saffron. I have made many Spanish dishes, especially paella with saffron. I love the scent of this spice and so it was the lure of saffron that I picked chicken biryani, basmati rice with spices and marinated chicken with a hint of saffron. Bailey’s selection was baingan bharta, oven roasted eggplant, mashed with onions, tomatoes and spices. Our appetizer, of course, was vegetarian, samosa chaat. You are probably wondering after all these months how I remembered the exact events of this meal. I often bring this to my attention when I read a memoir, how is it that this person can write about what has happen to them with such fine detail. Now I know. It is because it has made quite an impression on my five senses and has become a passion.
As Bailey and I waited for our appetizer to arrive and we nibbled on the crisp chips , we tried to guess our sauces. Each was unique to our taste buds, minty, fresh with a flash of spice and the other a tamarind sweet flavor. We looked about us to see what others were eating. The table to my right in the front corner I noticed happened to be customers from my bookstore. The parents had brought their three children no older than 12 with them. How wonderful it was to see that they had introduced their kids to this unique food in Howell. We chatted lightly about what they had to eat and the children were enthusiastically telling me about what desserts they had chosen. They finished their meal and they departed, but not before we had claimed a new found friendship outside of my bookstore. We have a bond of a meal shared without having eaten with them, but beside them. Soon the samosa chaat was brought to the table. It was a colorful dish of a bright red sauce over chick peas, topped with a touch of yogurt, chopped fresh cilantro to set off the colors. To our pleasure, underneath the chick peas and sauce was a cut up samosa, a fried pillow stuffed with potato, green peas and spices. The combination was marvelous as Bailey and I decided our first dish was a winner.
The hustle an bustle of the new restaurant continued while we waited for our main courses to arrive. I was touched that when the women left they were thanked with a beautiful long stemmed red rose. Now, I thought to myself, wow, when was the last time I received one of those. I would come her just to be able to be sent away with my new love, Indian food and a long stemmed red rose. I sit here now trying to envision which of all these treats that were brought to me that evening back last August was the lure that would draw me back time and time again.
Right on cue, our main meals arrived. Bailey’s entree was a light mash of roasted eggplant, spices and a touch of tomato decorated with cilantro on top to put over basmati rice. The dish of basmati rice alone gave off such a exuberent scent that my memory went to the time I entered my first Maylasian restaurant and the sensuous smells that drifted to my sences. I poked the rice around to find cardoman pods and small seeds and decided that was the fragrance that was making the rice so pleasant smelling. My entree of chicken biryani was colorful and tasteful. Both Bailey and myself needed take out boxed because we had over indulged but had to save room for dessert. Of course, I had to have the exotic gulab jamun, a milk dumpling deep fried and soaked in a light sugar syrup and served warm. Bailey tried kulfi ice cream mango flavored. Our first meal was coming to an end and I just remember how pleased I was at the whole aura that had just occurred. I couldn’t wait to phone my friends and family to tell them of the fabulous dining experience. And yet, to brag that I had received a long stemmed red rose!