Archives for category: Food & Wine

Haresh Shah

Daring To Be Different

geishabrau
When our Japanese partners were reported what Shah-san was up to all through the week, flabbergasted, the executives and the editorial team are in awe of the fact that an executive of Playboy Enterprises was in their country expressly for meeting with them and yet they would not see him for an entire week. They were equally astonished when heard from Ray Falk’s office that Mr. Shah, nay Shah-san, accompanied by Sasaki-san, was crisscrossing  their country and visiting places in an attempt to glean first hand some understanding of the land  and its culture, its people in general and the young existing and potential readers of the Japanese edition of Playboy in particular.

Even though they didn’t know what to make of this Shah-san, they were positively impressed and intrigued, not to mention amazed. And then approved of my itinerary as was set up by Ray’s office. The places I would visit and the people I would be exposed to should give me a fair idea of some of what they had hoped to communicate to me when Lee (Hall)  had originally conveyed to them what my mission would be working with the new team.  That my role would go beyond giving them pep-talk,, turn around and then catch a plane back home. That I would roll up my sleeves and work hand-in-hand with them, not only in making and re-defining the magazine itself, but also talk about and make possible ancillary publishing activities as an extension to the regular issues.

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Haresh Shah

My Not So Intimate Encounters With Italy And France

bestfoodwinewomen

The first time I landed in the land of Ciao Bella and O sole mio, they dumped our baggage on the tarmac next to the aircraft, barely said sorry and told us we would have to carry it to the terminal ourselves – that the ground personnel had just decided to go on a strike. A bit different story when I first arrived at Charles de Gaulle in Paris. I am met at the airport by Gerrit Huig and the editorial assistant Ann Scharffenberger. They talk me into and I unwittingly agree to drive us through the city in our rented little Citroën. Though I had taken lessons in driving a car with manual transmission, this is my first time trying it out without an instructor sitting next to me. I haven’t yet gotten the knack of synchronizing the gears with the accelerator and the breaks. The car would shudder, stall and come to an abrupt stop in the middle of swirling rush hour traffic. Happens several times on the Arc de Triumph round-about. I get furious faces, obscene yelling  that I don’t understand, French version of the finger and then silly mocking giggles from my two passengers. But I somehow manage to survive both welcomes. Not exactly j’taime.  

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 And The Power Of The Power Before And After The Communism

Haresh Shah

hotelrubble

‘So what are some of the Czech specialties?’

‘We only have three.’

‘And they are?’

‘Pork, dumplings and cabbage. Dumplings, pork and cabbage and cabbage, dumplings and pork.’ Answers Ivan (Chocholouš) and breaks out in a big laugh.

‘And of course there is Svíčková…’ he continues. Which is not as common to come by.

Every time I return to Prague, my dilemma remains the same. What to eat? There are other things on the menu – klobasa? Breaded and fried chicken breasts?  Fried cheese? Fruit dumplings? But time and time again, Ivan will make me take the U turn and order Vepřo, Knedlo, Zelo. By now he knows my taste. More like my sensitivity to the fat contents and the toughness of the meat normally served by most of the local restaurants. Pork, dumplings and cabbage being the national dish, the chances are that in a good restaurant the cut they serve would be tender compared to the neighborhood hospodas.

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Body And Soul Union

Haresh Shah

cuernavaca

Actually our destination this Sunday is Las Mañanitas, more in line with an all day weekend outing for Playboy executives to spend a leisurely afternoon in the lush gardens of one of the most beautiful hotels and restaurants in the world. Enjoy sumptuous Mexican delicacies washed down with Tequila Sunrises and Daiquiris. Only a short half an hour drive from Mexico City, the town of Cuernavaca is heralded the City of Eternal Spring by the geographer, naturalist and explorer, Alexander von Humboldt, is a perfect escape from the dense clouds of pollution, swarms of crowds and the constant dint of noise of Mexico City. It is the pride and joy not only of the town of Cuernavaca, but of the entire country. We sit under the open sky and under the cooling shades of the trees and sip on our psychedelic tropical drinks. We are surrounded by  the tall royal birds among them the proud peacocks gracefully prancing up and down with their iridescent tails spread out into magnificent round throne like fans. Prancing along are other long necked beautiful birds swaying and strolling while jumping monkeys frolic up and down the tree branches. It feels like being in paradise, the garden of Eden as one would picture it. The only other time I would come upon such an exotic place would be several years later on my first visit to Playboy Mansion in Los Angeles.

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Haresh Shah

The People, The Pride, The Passion And The Philosophy Of Making California Wines

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His desk is huge and cluttered and we’re face-to-face with an unkempt and eccentric looking vintner wearing the wine stained sweatshirt bearing the logo of one of his creations, Le Sophiste.  With shoulder length long black hair, he looks like a cross between Tom Jones and Abbe HoffmanBonny Doon‘s President for Life and the founder, Randall Graham is known in the industry as the Rhône Ranger as in the Lone Ranger, a.k.a Crazy Randall, because of his refusing to succumb to what he calls the terror of Cabernets and Chardonnays. Instead, he devotes his energy and resources to growing  exclusively the Rhône varietals such as Grenache, Mourvedre, Marsanne, Rousanne, Viognier, Cinsault and Syrah. His response to the industry’s perception of himself: when your foes believe that you are insane, you have a great technical advantage.

Life is too short to keep drinking the same wines, Graham philosophizes, I have a soft spot for ugly duckling grape verities, he adds with a wry smile. Randall studied philosophy at the University of California in Davis, prior to getting into the making of wines in 1983.  Realizing hat he wasn’t a good philosopher, he decided to blend his love of philosophy with that of wines he would make.

He believes wines need certain raison d’etre, and he has made Bonny Doon’s mission to make wines that complement California’s emerging fusion cuisine, which is closer to the Mediterranean and south of the border than it is to the American meat and potatoes.

His is a loft office in what once must have been a barn. I see a cat scurrying in the background and also a couple of young women busily hurrying back and forth across the hall carrying stack of papers. The cackle of the wood burning fire place makes you fell warm and cozy on this cold, gray and rainy day

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Haresh Shah

Of Pinot Noir And The Burlaping in Boonville

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The year is 1995 and talking of California wines to the Europeans is somewhat of a joke like the early transistor radios made in Japan were to everyone. Never mind that almost twenty years earlier on the day of America’s Bicentennial on July 4, 1976, the world’s wine experts were asked in a blind tasting to compare six California Cabernets and Chardonnays along with as many of Bordeaux and Burgundies and to everyone’s horror and American wine makers’  delight, California’s best stood shoulder to shoulder with the French on everyone’s scorecards, putting them instantly on the world map.

While the wine professionals of  Europe took a note of it, the wine consumers of the Continent remained oblivious to even their existence. Frustrated, California’s vintners decided, the time had come to make the world aware of the lush Napa Valley and its wines that were growing by leaps and bounds off the northern California Coast.

As a part of the broader push, California Wine Institute has invited the Dutch edition of Playboy to experience California’s wine country in all its glory, including its rapidly emerging cuisine and enjoy their steadily growing warm hospitality industry, in hopes that Playboy would take the message to its upscale demographics in Holland.

The editor-in-chief Jan Heemskerk himself takes upon the project and picks me to accompany him and assigns me to write a major piece for his edition. Not because by any dint of imagination I am a connoisseur or even an expert of wines, but because he thinks of me as someone who knows his wines, especially the ones from California.

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Haresh Shah

Happiness Is A Piping Hot Croquette

automat

Art directors are a breed unto themselves. Crazy as they come. Crazy as in creative crazy, in positive sense. They are normally temperamental, egocentric and a proud clan. Starting with the Godfathers of them all, Art Paul and Tom Staebler of the U.S., Rainer Wörtmann of Germany, to Milan Hlaviček of Czech Republic and Andrzej Pągoski of Poland – these masters of the visual communication  are also the purveyors of good taste, dressed in their own individual style, be it the beat up pair of blue jeans, or wrinkled khakis and equally as wrinkled shirts and jackets. Or the designer suits and long fancy rain coats. The category in which, the first Dutch art director, Dirk de Moei falls.

Always impeccably dressed in his light crème suit and his longish off white trench coat, his trademark tortoise shell red framed glasses with inquisitive and confusing looking set of smoky green eyes peering through tinted lenses, Dirk is flamboyant, no taller that 5’9”(175 cms), his rusty brown hair isn’t too long, nor short, his round face makes him look no different than Mr. middle of the road from the planet earth.  The man of good taste in clothes and food and he carries the most expensive Smythson of Bond Street, thick as a paperback address book, he is the man about town. To the editor-in-chief Jan’s (Heemskerk’s) somber personality, he is the fleshy one of the duo that arrived in my Chicago office in early 1983, to learn the ropes.

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