George Restaurant and Bar – Panaji, North Goa

George specializes in Goan cuisine and sea food … how do I know ? Well …

a) It says so on the banner

b) I’ve had the food and IT IS awesome

c) All the locals eat there. One can always be sure that the food is good if the restaurant is always packed and 75% of the people eating  are locals.

In the capital Panjim, you’ll find George Bar and Restaurant, right around the corner – going towards Panjim Church. On the first look, It’s an old and rickety looking joint, but they do have an a/c enclosure on the first floor – Called the family room 🙂

Like all the other times we have visited Goa, this time also we had-to-have one meal at George. So a long 3 course  lunch it was and very economical too  – in Rs. 650 we were full to the brim.

Beer like the rest of Goa is at a reasonable 70-80 bucks for 650ml, for starters we had Prawn Masala (Rs 95). The prawns were coated in an amazingly spicy onion-tomato-chilli-garlic-bellpepper’ish-masala. For main-course we ordered Squid xacuti (Rs110), Pork Vindaloo (Rs80) and Fish-curry-rice (Rs100) … Ya ! I know its sounds like a lot and it was but we wanted to get a taste of everything – And we managed to finish everything 🙂 We ended our meal with a bowl of Caramel Custard (Rs40).

Goan cuisine is an interesting mix of varied influences, apart from the seafood – chicken, beef and pork are part of the goan food tradition. Some dishes that will be on all menus in a Goa restaurant are – xacuti, sopotel, vindaloo and cafreal.

Vinhalhos / Vindaloo – is ‘vinho’ for wine, ‘alhos’ for garlic (Portuguese), ‘viande’ – ‘aloo’ for meat (French) – potato  (Indian). A very spicy blend of tones of red chilies, garlic, vinegar, some fenni and palm jaggery. (Did you know that one of the ingredients of Pork Vindaloo is coconut fenni ? )

Cafreal is a goan dish of tribal origin. It was supposedly named after the African soldiers or Kaffirs who brought it to Goa centuries ago. In this dish the meat is marinated and deep-fried. The result is rather dry, but spicy dish. This is the equivalent of Portuguese-style grilled chicken and the sauce is made from the left over marinate.

Sorpotel is prepared from meat diced and cooked in a thick and very spicy sauce favored with red chilies, cinnamon, cloves bathed in tangy toddy vinegar. Sorpotel keeps for several days, and is actually considered to taste better the day after (something like our ma-ki-dal).

Xacuti (pronounced as sha-coo-ti), has its origins in Portuguese cooking. It has lots of earthy spices like nutmeg, coriander, turmeric, chilies, ginger and cloves. Additionally tamarind and lemon juice make for a pungent curry.

I also picked up some ready-to-cook-curry-packets in Goa. Crossing-my-fingers they turn out well !

Convert youtube videos online for free

I have a confession to make. I LOVE youtube.

So ? Whats so great about it, you ask ? Everyone loves youtube.

Well, yes and no. Everyone likes to spend time on youtube, watch a dozen videos everyday and then move on. I, on the other hand, actually like some of those videos enough that I like to take them with me and play them back on my iPhone/iPod video.

Unlike some other video sharing sites, though, youtube doesn’t offer an easy way to download videos for offline viewing.

There are a ways to download videos from youtube to your personal computer and then convert them to a format which the iPod can play back, but they’re all just inconvenient hacks. They work, but not if you’re in a hurry and are not really in the mood to play around with the countless options that tools like ffmpeg (which, by the way, is an excellent open source video converter) support.

This is where ConvertDirect comes in.

ConvertDirect is an easy to use and free online service for converting youtube videos to one of the many video formats it supports.

Just enter the link to the youtube video and chose the format you want your converted video to be in. Type in your email address and ConvertDirect will send you an email with a link to the converted video. The link will be live for 48 hours during which time you can download the video from their servers.

If you only want to use a desktop player like vlc to play back the videos offline, then click on the “Download the online video directly” tab and download the video to your computer.

Converting youtube videos for offline playback couldn’t have been simpler and more convenient than this.

Go ahead and download all those music videos great educational videos you’ve been waiting to watch and take them with you on the road.

Are there any other great online-to-offline software that you guys use ? Cool websites ? Let us know in the comments.

Will Open Source survive the economic crisis

Will it ?

Conventional logic would say, Yes ! I mean, Open Source is free, right ? Everyone should infact be only using Open Source in an economic crisis.

Well, Andrew Keen doesn’t think so and he’s on Slashdot right now for thinking the way he does. Now, Andrew is entitled his opinion and all that jazz, but, seriously, I think the article is a load of bull****.

The reason Andrew’s thought process doesn’t make sense to me is because he completely and conveniently has chosen to forget the very reason why Open Source even exists. Andrew thinks opensource is for making money and since money is scarce these days, it will not survive. And he’s confusing web 2.0 with opensource.

For the lazy ones, I’ll summarize, Andrew says that the tough economic times that we’re going through will spell the end of the “free” web 2.0 days. That we won’t be seeing any websites providing free services anymore. Fair and square.

He also goes on to say that Open Source is free labour and since it is free, it won’t survive the economic downturn either.

The hungry and cold unemployed masses aren’t going to continue giving away their intellectual labor on the Internet in the speculative hope that they might get some “back end” revenue. “Free” doesn’t fill anyone’s belly; it doesn’t warm anyone up.

Now, first of all … praise where its due. That’s a nice headline you’ve chose for this post Andrew. I mean, Copywriting-101 … Nail it with the headline. But, I don’t think you took the rest of the class, because the rest of your article is full of half baked assumptions that come through pretty clear.

OpenSource is not Web 2.0 and while Web 2.0 does use a lot of opensource at it’s core, they’re both different. Web 2.0 also doesn’t mean making a website and then giving away the services for free. Free services have always been a part of the web and will be.

Web 1.0 or whatever they called it back then was about the Internet finding it’s feat and Web 2.0 has been about cleaning up the house, making the designs plain and simple, making sure the visitor can find what they’re looking for and giving the visitor a reason to pay and come back again. Flickr, 37signals and smugmug are Web 2.0. Sure the 1.0 guys made mistakes, but then that was 1.0 – IT IS EXPECTED 🙂

Now, coming to OpenSource. Andrew, my man, you really have to understand that people don’t contribute to OpenSource for the money. Sure, some people do. But, that’s not how opensource survives. It survives because it has a community. You know the kind, where like minded individuals come and discuss ideas and stuff. Well, in the 21st century, they code, apparently !

A lot of these opensource contributors actually like to code. Not, because they get money out of it, but because they like to … well … code. And make friends in the process. Now, friendship is a weird concept. Give stuff away for free and make friends doesn’t actually endorse the idea of OpenSource but then people who get the idea of OpenSource … just do. And that is the power of it. It doesn’t change the world but it goes a long way towards it.

Did I tell you that it is free ? Does it make sense now ?

The problem with your theory is that it goes beyond any logic I’ve heard about or can think about. Oh wait, there IS NO logic in your theory.

Hyper-V vs. ESXi – Response to techtarget's article

So, I was reading this article which talks about the advantages of MS Hyper-V over VMware ESXi and I’m amazed at the FUD that Microsoft has been spreading. I don’t usually write about virtualization over at this blog, but this I just have to clear.

It is quite clear from the article that the author, Greg Shields, has no clue about ESXi (or Hyper-V, for that matter). Greg starts his post with the following sentence,

Hyper-V Server is a free, recently released download from Microsoft that brings free virtualization hosting to small environments, as well as to those that don’t want to pay the extra cost of ESXi.

What extra cost Greg, would you care to explain ?

ESXi is free and has been for a while now.

Oh and ESXi supports SCSI (FC/iSCSI) and NFS data-stores, which means that the virtual machines can reside on any of the above, and not only flat files on a vmfs formatted volume.

Greg talks about the advantages of Hyper-V over ESXi and claims the following,

One particular administrative boon of Hyper-V Manager over ESXi is its use of NTFS partitions for the storage of VMs as opposed to VMware’s proprietary VMFS. Hyper-V Server can support the hosting of virtual machines through virtually all forms of Direct-Attached Storage and Network-Attached Storage, in addition to traditional SAN storage via iSCSI, SAS, and Fibre Channel. Since Hyper-V Manager runs atop Server Core, whatever storage back-end you select must have client-side support for this special operating system version.

First of all, Like I’ve already said, ESXi supports all transports that Hyper-V does and secondly, I really don’t understand why storing VMs on an NTFS partition is an advantage compared to VMFS ? How does it even matter where the VMs are stored ?

In my opinion, just the fact that ESXi is 32MB in size vs. the over 1GB of Hyper-V should be reason enough for a consumer to try ESXi. 1GB of Microsoft written software … hmmm .. let me calculate how many vulnerabilties would there be in that !

Now, I’m a fair guy and I do agree that Hyper-V has its advantages. Like the fact that it is a Microsoft product. And that reason by itself will make it the default option for a large number of Microsoft shops. But, this article here … give me a break ! I know a trashy article when I see one. I’m all for comparisons as long as they’re fair.

Back From Vacation

This is a quick note to let all visitors know that I’m back from my vacation in Goa and just haven’t been able to update this blog since then. Work as usual has been taking most of my time but I intend to get back to updating this blog regularly as soon as I can find the time.

I’ve got loads of stuff to write about from the trip, the beaches I visited, the pubs I went to and the food I ate. Keep reading.

Off to Goa for the weekend

The long weekend that is. Tomorrow and Friday is a holiday in most places in India on account of the Festival of Dasara. Am off to the coastal state of Goa. Yummy seafood and cold beer is what awaits me.

I will not be posting at all while I’m gone. Expect an update with lots of pics from nice, sunny Goa when I’m back 🙂

Gotta rush now … the beach is calling me.

Riding on the clouds – Panchgani

My first visit to Panchgani (and Mahabaleshwar) was also my first real ride on my new Motorcycle, the Royal Enfield Thunderbird. This was back in 2004 and I still remember the planning I put in for that. Of course, I was new to Pune and didn’t know anything about any highway around the city and this was my first trip out of the city. My planning was almost flawless.

Considering that Panchgani is just about 100 kms from Pune, the planning was overkill, but its better to be prepared than Sorry, right ?

A ride to Panchgani has almost become a thereupatic session for me now. I go to Panchgani whenever I want to escape the maddening city crowds (Although, it doesn’t really help when, on a long weekend, Panchgani is swamped with tourists from across the state) and the monotony of office life.

A trip to Panchgani/Mahabaleshwar during the monsoons is a plus. Fabulous views and awesome weather (if you like the rains). The small town covered with monsoon clouds looks absolutely stunning.

The Route

To save all you readers the planning, here is the gist of it. Panchgani is about 105 kms from Pune. Take the NH4 (Pune – Satara – Bangalore) highway out of Pune. Cross the katraj and khambatki ghats and about 85 kms from Pune you’ll see a small blink-and-you’ll-miss-it signboard directing you to a right turn on the highway towards Panchgani.

From here on the nice and broad national highway gives way to a small and winding state road which passes through a small town called Wai, before climbing up the Panchgani ghats. The road is well maintained all the way and you’ll be hard pressed to find a pot hole even in the worst of the monsoon season.

As an aside, considering the amount of rain this part of the country gets, I wonder how our municipal council leaders even have the cheek of blaming the monsoons whenever they’re questioned about the bad quality of the roads in our cities.

Places to Stay

Panchgani has lots of options to suit every budget. My wife and I usually stay at the Eco-camp whenever we visit and if we’re there during the rainy season, than Hotel Mountview it is.

Camping has never been more fun or convenient – Eco-camp provides the bare essentials of modern living and the thrill of camping. Our visits to this place have always been delightful. It has a couple of spacious tents neatly setup on a cliff, over looking the most spectacular view of the valley. They have family tents which accomodate 8 people and small two person tents also. The tents also have electric points good enough for plugging in the mosquito repellant or mobile chargers. The loos are cubical type, clean and with hot water available.

The best part about the place is the Barbeque area/ bonfire (wood and stuff was provided), so it’s a good idea to bring some marinated stuff. The tariff is about Rs.150 per head. (02168-241164 meg_andre@hotmail.com, ask for Megan).

Don’t miss the sunset, when you’re there.

Another great place to stay is Hotel Mountview. Words from a friend of ours “Hotel Mountview  -Khambatta’s Garage – the most awesome’est place to be at, in Panchgani …. Parsi out of this world food, a view to die for and much much more…Anyone whose been there can vouch for this :)”. Again its not very expensive & a lot of fun. I can assure you of good food, which is included in the tariff (about Rs 800/day).

Panchgani is known for the many british style boarding schools and the excellent strawberries, not in the same order, of couse 🙂

Drive down a couple of kilometers from the town towards Mahabaleshwar and you can have a lovely Lunch at the Mapro farm. The cheese sandwiches, pizzas and strawberry creams are out of this world. Don’t forget to buy some fresh Jam and syrups for yourself.

Friday Linkfest #3

Welcome to the Third edition of the Friday Linkfest. Read on for the best of the web 🙂

Travel

World’s top 10 trekking destinations

The adventures of Wan

Must read for anyone who likes to ride on two wheels.

Roopkund Trek

Flickr stream of a friend who just came back after completing the Roopkund trek.

Technology

10 insanely useful Django tips

Amazon Kindle 2 in the wild ?

OpenSource you can use

Install boxee or xbmc on an Apple TV

Life

Bollywood – a misleading model for contemporary cinema

Deal Sealed

The Politics of Indian Politics

Ashok Chakra - Emblem of India

One of the good things about being a blogger is that I can always pen down(keyboard down ?) my thoughts whenever I want to. I can write about a subject and give my opinion on it. Hell, I think even having an opinion is one of the greatest benefits of blogging.

Those who know me, know that I don’t really care much about Politics. Politics, for the most part, bores me. And when it doesn’t bore me, I find it too predictable.

But, the last few months have even made me take notice.

First the hulla over the Nuclear deal, then the Amarnath controversy in Srinagar, then the Amarnath controversy in Jammu, then back to Srinagar and then Back to Jammu. In between all this, Raj thakeray managed to bring badass Mumbai to its knees – More than any terrorist attack. Oh yeah, the Nuclear deal tried to rear it’s head once in between again but that didn’t provide a lot of masala, so no one bothered much

And how can I forget the Singur crisis. Mamata Bannerjee and her troupe and the excellent show they put up. I’m sure I’ve forgotten a couple of dozen incidents around the country but this should be the gist of it.

I’ve written about the Nuclear Deal earlier and my status quo on the deal still stands. I understand how the deal is good for the country but I still don’t understand how  is it bad. I understand that the left and the BJP are concerned that India will not be able to test any more Nuclear weapons after the deal, and there was an internal US govt. memo that was leaked which also said this, but how many Nuclear weapons is the BJP govt. planning to test anyway.

The last time (before the deal) we tested a weapon, India was virtually ostracized from the international community. All aide was more or less cut and the US put sanctions on US. Isn’t that the exact same scenario which the left/bjp is fearing will happen now (after the deal) ? So, what has changed ? We couldn’t clearly conduct tests then and we can’t conduct them now ?

International politics is dirty business, I agree, but is internal politics any cleaner ? The Amarnath board controversy is probably the ugliest political game I’ve ever witnessed in the country. The ugliest ever, although I’m assuming given my young age ( !! ), I’m missing out some even juicier political games played in the past.

The controversy basically started over a piece of land which  was being used by the Hindus during the 2 month long Amarnath yatra. Every year since the last couple of decades thousands makeshift tents are put up for pilgrims who stay here on their way to the Amarnath caves. The government this year decided that since the Amarnath shrine board is pretty rich, they’ll transfer this forest land, which was not being used for any other purpose anyway, to the shrine board and ask them to make permanent structures for the pilgrims to stay and stuff.

Now, as soon as the government spoke about permanent structures, all hell broke lose. Seperatist parties and leaders started calling this as a crime against the muslims and the people of the valley and basically started protesting that the government is transferring Kashmiri land to the Hindus. There were protests all over the valley and over this controversy the Chief minister of Jammu and Kashmir had to resign. The government took back the order.

Now, the Hindus in Jammu (assisted by the BJP, of course) started protesting demanding for the government to revoke the order which revoked the land transfer. The protests this time went for another couple of weeks. Well, the government now spoke to leaders of both the sides and declared that they’ve come to a solution. The solution was to give the ownership of the land for about two months each year during the yatra to the Shrine board and the rest of the time, the land is with the forest department as usual. That stopped the protests to a bit, but have the so called seperatists and the other protesting people realised that this is exactly the arrangement that was there before this whole controversy started ?

Th seperatists (led by the PDP party) took this whole controversy to stage yet another Pakistan Chalo (Walk to Pakistan) drama, but atleast they’re honest about their intentions. The BJP, on the other hand, will never claim responsibility for what they started in Jammu. They’re happy supporting the hinduists from the sidelines and waiting for the next general elections, while they all kill themselves fighting over something they don’t even fully understand.

Do you guys really blame me for not being interested in Politics ? And I haven’t even started talking about Raj Thakeray and Mamata Bannerjee yet. Oh, the bihar floods and the attacks on Christians in Orissa.

Pune di Biryani

Because of the fact that Pune has a sizeable Parsi as well as Biryani population, Pune also has a lot of really nice Biryani places. When one thinks of biryani in Pune, a couple of places pop up immediately – Dorabjee’s, Blue Nile, George just to name a few. This post is my take on them.

In the 70’s when my dad was posted at Pune, A couple of joints were his favourites. Dorabjee’s was on the top of that list for Biryani. We finally located the place after endless searching around in tiny by-lanes & twisty one-ways of Old Pune, but the food is well worth the effort.

This tiny, rundown little Iranian restaurant hasn’t changed one bit (or so it seems) in the last 20 or so years, neither in looks nor (thankfully) in taste. The menu is limited to ‘Today’s Specials’. Don’t expect top-of-the-line-extraordinaire-service, cause what you get is a no-frills service attitude – quick and simple. Almost as though everyone wants to cut to the chase, and get to the biryani asap !

They do have some other mutton and chicken dishes to choose from but unfortunately there is nothing much to eat for the vegans. We had the mutton biryani (Rs 100) which was had the typical parsi taste (not to confuse it with the Hyderabadi or Lucknawi biryani).

Although, there are 100s of variation of biryani there are 3 major types – Lucknawi (Lucknow), Hyderabadi & Iranian. What is usually passed of as Biryani in most places in India is actually Pulao. And there is a big difference between Biryani and Pulao, which most people don’t bother with.

Lucknawi Biryani is the more colourful one with the meat and rice cooked separately. Then layered as plain white rice –fried meat – masala rice – fried meat – Saffron rice. It is seasoned with dry-fruits and is not very spicy.

Hyderabadi Biryani – The meat is not fried but marinated in a paste of yogurt and spices, the layering is done with just masala rice. Neither meat nor rice is cooked prior to being layered in the Handi. This is the spiciest version of the biryani.

Iranian Biryani – Rice is separately cooked with some butter & few spices, the meat is served on top of the rice. Something like chelo kebabs, another awesome Parsi rice preparation.

In a pulao, the stock of meat forms the base and the rice is cooked with the spices so that it absorbs the flavor of the spices. There is no layering involved and the Dum technique is also not used . The Parsi Biryani is more of a pulao.

Blue Nile is another parsi place famous for biryani. I have to admit, though, I’m not a big fan of Blue Nile’s Biryani and like the other dishes more; the Iranian chicken biryani (Rs 130) is quite dry and a little bland.

They have (unfortunately) diversified into Chinese and other stuff, but the best bet are the kababs and tandoori chicken. The place smells good and the aroma of the kababs is intoxicating, and I’m sure one day I solve the mystery of what tastes as good as it smells. The one thing that you must have here is the Caramel Custard.

Both Dorabjee’s & Blue Nile are more famous because they are old, and not so much for the food. I did enjoy the experience at both the places but they didn’t come up to my expectations. After all, when you hear about the place from so may people you do expect awesome food.

George on the other hand is famous for being old & the food. I’m a bit finicky about cleanliness and only do  ‘take-away’ from here. But both my brother and husband love this place. Not only is their biryani good but the other stuff like naans and kadhai chicken are also yummy. The pan shop outside the joint is more famous than the restaurant so do indulge in a meetha pan.

Now, how can I not mention ‘Khan Bhai’, while talking about Pune Biryani. ‘Khan Bhai’ is not a restaurant. To taste this wonderful stuff one has to do a bit of hard work. Start with waking up early (to ‘book’ the biryani of course), its only sold in KG’s (abt Rs 400/kg) – one Kg is enough for 7-8 ppl, by 1pm you have to drive down to Shivaji Market area to collect it and return back to deliver the empty utensils the next day. Phew!! That’s a lot of work but trust me, it is well worth it. How do i know ? Khan Bhai’s biryani excels in the 3 biryani test – 1. The aroma test 2. The separate grain of rice test and 3. The taste Test.

Contact me to get the number for the most Fantabulous Biryani in Pune ;).