In the first week of June, Team APB traveled to Mussoorie as part of the 4-day Culinary Sojourn of the Garhwal. A program put together by Rushina Munshaw-Ghildiyal and JW Marriott Mussoorie Walnut Grove Resort & Spa to promote the culture and cuisine of Garhwal. We were part of a group of journalists and food writers from all over the country. It was a wonderful trip. And we have returned from this beautiful region of our country bursting with insights into one of the lesser known cuisines of the country. We will share more on our food experiences as we go forward but we would like to share the details of the trip first!
On arrival at the Jolly Grant airport in Dehradun we were met by the team from JW Marriott Mussoorie and settled into waiting vehicles for a gorgeous 2-hour road trip to our destination in Mussoorie. After more than an hour of the scenic drive, we made a pit stop at JhariPani about 9 km from Mussoorie. And what an incredible pit stop it was! JhariPani is popular for its waterfalls and the view of the vast Shivalik range it offers is just breathtaking. As we breathed in the mountain air, and took in the views (and mandatory selfies) stylish snack boxes were snapped open and an impromptu breakfast was laid out by the hotel team. We settled down to steaming hot kullads of chai as the team piled us with aaroo, (local peaches) robust earthy gehat parathas (gehat also known as Kuliith is a local dal intrinsic to Garhwali cuisine) with achaar and beverages packed in.
After that fantastic welcome to the hills of Garhwal, we were off to JW Mussoorie, and now super excited about the rest of the trip!
On arrival, our cars drove up to the main entrance and we alighted to a rousing welcome by a band featuring a randsingha and dhols! We walked into the hotel, to find the team waiting to welcome us with pithai and prasad of meetha rot. Ramandeep Marwah, General Manager, JW Marriott Mussoorie along with Sunil Kumar, Director F&B, Chef Sidharth Bhardwaj, Executive Chef, Pratyush Anand, Director of Sales & Marketing and Rushina – who was already there, were waiting to welcome us. We were warmly welcomed. Then Vaidehi Deshpande, Marketing Communication Manager apprised everyone of what was in store for us over the next four days as we sipped on a delicious jaggery based welcome drink and tried not to be distracted by the view! Across the lobby the French windows of the hotel framed the majestic mountains of the Shivalik range.
We went to our (very nice) rooms to refreshed ourselves, although we had only a few moments that went into nibbling the Aadse (rice cakes) that had been left in our rooms to welcome us and leaf through the special travel diary JW Mariott had created as a souvenir of the trip. We had to meet at the daily ‘Kachdi.’ This is the hotel’s interpretation of a typical Garhwali custom. Locally kachdis are gatherings under the village tree at the end of the day where people meet to chat over chai and snacks. The kachdi at JW Marriott has grown into a much looked forward to daily occurrence. The location for the kachdi overlooks the mountains surrounding the property while two leafy walnut trees spread themselves just about the lawn seating the guests. The team of the hotel had all guests pampered with all sorts of treats, bhutta, cotton candy, chaat, an assortment of local atta biscuits and chai along with live music and party games like tambola. After a quick orientation and introductions, we retired to our rooms.
That evening, we met at Wisteria Deck, an alfresco specialty restaurant on the property. HEre as we were handed local drinks and cocktails, we were introduced to local Pradhans, men and women who were heads of surrounding villages. JW Marriott Mussoorie works with local people in various capacities to provide employment and promote sustainable tourism. One way in which they do this is by employing women who come in from the surrounding villages to showcase Garhwali cuisine. We had a chance to meet them at breakfast later in the trip. But that evening over shots of the locally brewed kacchi, a local liquor of cloudberries and some delicious local kebabs like lamb kachmouli, fish pakodas and more as bar snacks, we got a chance to learn about the Garhwali culture and cuisine from the local wise ones that had joined us.
The day concluded with an elaborate Asian dinner at Teppan, the South East Asian restaurant at JW Mussoorie that boasts of a live teppan counter. The meal featured a plethora of dishes served up by Chef Vikram Dhangwal and his team including California Sushi Rolls, Avocado Sushi, Vegetable Burnt Garlic Soup, Chicken Thai Curry with Jasmine Rice, Five Treasure Mushrooms, Teppanyaki Soba Noodles, Teppanyaki Garlic Fried Rice, Teppanyaki Glazed Salmon and ended on a sweet note of dessert featuring Wasabi Crème Brûlée & Mango Sticky Pudding. We were really impressed at such a beautiful, spread so far from anywhere and could not help but marvel at the logistics of serving it up. After this grand Asian feast we slept very well that night although we must admit, we were eager for the next day!
To read Part II of Team APB’s Culinary Sojourn of Garhwal click here