Monday, August 29, 2011

The lingering aroma... of Cinnamon Stays a B&B in Gurgaon

True Cinnamon

What comes to your mind when I say Cinnamon? 

Sweetly pungent, the aroma of cinnamon is unmistakable, a culinary legerdemain that draws out the sweetness of not just apples but all sorts of fruit and vegetables, converting them to ambrosia. Spicing everything from Mexican moles to Moroccan tagines and Indian curries it tempers the richness of nuts and seeds and transforms ordinary dishes to sensuousness.

I associate Cinnamon with happy things, messy baby meals of cinnamon scented applesauce that got onto every part of my babies except into their tummies! Slow mornings of Cinnamon sugared doughnuts washed down with aromatic coffee and that bowl of nutty oatmeal comfort fragrant with Cinnamon that I start my days with.
As of four days ago Cinnamon Stays will top that list.

Untill this trip, I disliked travelling to Delhi, which was painfull when one considered that one had to do it almost monthly. Not because I do not like the city itself, I actually love it, but it’s a tough city for independent women travelers especially when it comes to accomodation. Initially I stayed at hotels, but found that they do not offer facilities like room service. And coming in late at night, I didn’t fancy dining in their restaurants alone. And I never ever slept well because I never really felt completely safe. Not to mention that the guilt of leaving kids often caught up on me at days end when there was no work to keep it at bay. Subsequently I stayed with friends and family a lot and enjoyed it but hated messing up their daily routine.

So when my friend Shilpa Sharma of Breakaway – a really promising new holiday company that’s launched recently suggested a B&B property in Gurgaon that was ideal for women travelers, I thought, Why not?

According to their website Cinnamon Stays is a boutique bed & breakfast tucked away amongst a colony of red-brick villas just off the bustling Sohna road in Sec 48 of Gurgaon. This little bed & breakfast spread over two villas with a total of 8 rooms to let out, they offer well maintained rooms, personalised service, simple home-made food and WIFI. It sounded great so I booked.

The day I arrived into Delhi was quite long. I was upset having left my daughter, Natasha, who had a cold and had been on the brink of tears ever since. The airline lost my bag and I had to wait 2 hours at the airport for it. Thanks to that I didn’t get enough time to prepare myself for my first cooking demonstration and the preperations for it were not complete so we were delayed by 20 minutes. I detest delays. So by the time I left Delhi and headed towards Cinnamon Stays and Gurgaon I was homesick and heartsick.   

I arrived to find Manish Sinha waiting outside for me. He had been guidine us to the place via smses. A warm light beckoned me in from behind him. I walked into a warm and cosy home space. An open kitchen spilled into the dining room, where Manish’s wife Shilpi was bustling around and Mohommed a guest from Kazakistan sat working at the Dining table. Within minutes Shilpi had me cosily ensconced on the sofa with a big cup of coffee warming my hands… and my heart.

I did not feel awkward for even a moment, I felt right at home. I was introduced to the Sinha’s son, who was playing a video game and had a moment to look around as they got the dinner organized. The sitting room was a cheerful room of organized clutter all around, bright colors, piles of books, beautiful paintings, artifacts and pop art that grabbed attention made by the Jugaad studio.

Yep that had me intrigued too. It turned out that Manish had a little side business going in the Jugaad studio - an idea, design, concept and merchandising studio in which he and some partnering artists played with popular culture - Bollywood, cricket, the arts and music on any surface they got their hands on, shoes, helmets, lamps, bottles, canvas and even the walls and doors when Shilpi is not looking!

Shilpi and Manish are from the HR and media world and Cinnamon is their maiden adventure into hospitality. Shilpi is a very hands on mother juggling a career as a life coach with her own company Purple Tree trying to make a difference in people’s lives. Manish is dreamer, an advertising planner, closet copy writer and social media enthusiast with a yen to build a business around jugaad concepts and conversations. 8 year old Neo, their son is a gadget guru and foodie with a thousand questions! The cast at Cinnamon also includes, Suri, the manager who wants to be a pilot, Yogi the cook who wants to drive fast cars and Rashmi the wonder woman and crisis manager from Mangalore who is efficiency personified.

By the time I assimilated all of this information, dinner was ready. A special meal Shilpi had cooked in my honour. I was so touched as I sat down to the meal with Manish and little Neo as Shilpi bustled from kitchen to table, making fresh Sattu Parathas. Yes, that was the other high point of my stay there, I got to taste Bihari food. Because it is not glamorous, Bihari food is little know outside the state. Which is sad because this hearty trencherman’s food, simply made and filling is not only delicious, but also extremely nutritious.

I loved the Sattu Parathas. Sattu is a very versatile ingredients in Bihari food. Essentially a grainy flour made of roasted, skinned gram that is pounded it is a dish in itself when mixed with milk and salt or sugar but it also makes the base of many quick fix recipes. As a paratha stuffing like it was being served today or to make Litti, another staple bread eaten by the Biharis. That night along with the Sattu parathas we had a simple Aloo Saag (spicy gravied potato dish) Khatt Mithth (a tomato chutney) Baigan Bharta and assorted pickles and chutneys. It was a comforting meal followed by ice cream and by the time we were done, I found I had unwound and the stresses of the day were gone!

Dinner was pleasant, and little Neo grilling me about food, made me miss my kids less. Once we were done, and I had promised Neo we would cook together the next day, Shilpi showed me to my room. The Green room (there are also the Puraani Jeans room, the Grand room and the Doodle toom). But I fell in love with mine completely. A cosy little space, all done in green, with a hankerchief lawn out of the other door, the piece de resistance was the central wall painted with a tree on which a gilded cage hung open as birds flew away free. A little green stuffie welcomed me in and kept me company under the lovely tree.

I slept beautifully safe that night and woke up to a lovely breakfast the next morning, with the sunshine pouring onto the dining table. I started with a great cup of filter coffee (the coffee at Cinnamon is consistently fab) followed by the full complement of juice, fruit, cereal, poha, cold cuts, toast, and eggs cooked to order, much of the food locally sourced like the Bhuira Jams from Himachal.

That afternoon, Neo and his parents attended my Mexican cooking demonstration at the new Nature’s Basket store at Gurgaon, and I made him a special Quesadilla to order (for which Sir New conferred me with the compliment of Hot and Spicy aunty – hes going to be a ldy killer that one!) We shopped for ingredients and that night he and I cooked a candle light dinner for his parents; Pasta Alio Olio scattered with Parmiggiano Reggiano and Fruit tarts filled with Strawberry Cream Cheese and Dragon fruit and red grapes mascerated in lime and honey.

Just like the spice, my stay at Cinnamon stays was a heartwarming, uplifting experience, a home-away-from-home, populated by what became a surrogate family, filled with varied conversations, and inspiring stories of fellow guests, creative chaos and SO SO much inspiration...

Shilpi’s Sattu parathas
For filling
1 bowl of Sattu
2-3 tbl spoon mustard oil
3-4 finely chopped green chillies
1/4th bowl finely chopped garlic
1/4th bowl finely chopped onion
2- 3 tbsp lemon juice
Salt to taste
Ajwain optional
Prepared Dough for Chapattis.

Put Sattu in a bowl and combine with all the other ingredients except chapatti dough. Stuff the resultant filling in the dough and roll out parathas. Griddle roast them with pure ghee or vegetable and serve hot. 

Shilpi’s Tamatar ka Khatta Meetha Chatni
5- 6 ripe tomatoes
2 red chillies
I tejpatta (Bay Leaf)
1 tsp cumin seed
1 tbsp mustard oil
50-60 g Jaggery
Sugar- 1 tbsp

Heat the mustard oil to smoking point and add the chillies, Bay leaf and cumin seed. When Cumin splutters and the spices are aromatic (30 seconds) add the tomatoes. Allow to cook for around 5- 7 mins untill soft. Add jaggery, sugar and salt. Pressure cook for 1 whistle. Garnish with chopped coriander leaves and serve.

Jugaad shoes
Beautiful paintings.
Organised Chaos!
Jugaad studios
Cute foodie corner!
Home cooked Dinner!
My Green room - haven of R&R
A warm welcome!
At the demo!
Chef Neo stirs in the honey!
This is how you cook Pasta.
Chef Neo AKA Mister Shifu!
The Chef approves!
Chef Neo's Pasta Alio Olio with Parmiggiano Reggiano
and fruit tart, filled with Strawberry cheese and fruit mascerated in lime juice and honey..
The Grand room with its ornate four poster bed and luxurious touch of decadence.
The Purani jeans room where you can reconnect with your younger self!
GYAN and Links
Cinnamon Stays Gurgaon,, On facebook - and Tripadvisor - OR email to for bookings and queries!
Jugaad Studios make hand painted Juboks – their signature our hand-painted customised canvas shoes, Thematic Tees, Quirky accessories, Logos and more including getting your walls  painted!



Nikhil Merchant said...

this place is like home away from home ! fun fun !... great recommend ...

arundati said...

this place looks so warm and welcoming. hope natasha is feeling better.