If You Happen To Be In Harlem…


Those of us based in Kerala, India won’t be able to celebrate at this event, but we surely hope some of our readers can. It came to our attention via some inexplicable psychic Soul Food connection and boy do we wish we could be there!

As the banner states, the festival honors the food, culture and spirit of a part of New York with a storied history of Renaissance and decline. The celebration itself is evidence of Harlem’s Neo-Renaissance. Cultural talks, Food strolls, Dinners, and Cooking demonstrations are incorporated into the festival program. Continue reading

If It Looks Like 51, And Tastes Like 51, It Must Be On The 51 Menu

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We had an excellent review of 51 this week, which keeps our mind on what makes the place tick. And constant keeping on the lookout for ideas that our culinary team can play with, master, test on we chosen few tasters (someone has to do it) and for those that make the cut, take it live on the menu.

Here is a case in point.

Click the image to the right to watch the video about this unusual twist on the lemon bar, or here for a related article. Coming soon, we hope, on a menu near you (should you happen to be at Spice Harbour in Kerala, India) will be our own twist on this lovely idea:

Lemon Bars With Olive Oil

51 Keeps Winning Hearts, Minds, Eyes And Most Importantly Taste Tests

Photo Ratheesh Sundaram, Indian Express

Photo by Ratheesh Sundaram, Indian Express

We cannot help it–we love the press that 51 and Spice Harbour have generated together, including in Architectural Digest and Conde Nast Traveler‘s 40th Anniversary Edition of India’s Most Stunning Boutique Hotels Handbook among other prestigious media outlets. Not in some vanity-driven ugly manner, but as a matter of fact we love that the Indulge team at Indian Express, and specifically Rosanna Abrachan has captured in elegant prose exactly what we would want anyone to know about 51. Thanks, Rosanna! And Ratheesh, superb photography! Some text to sample:

While the menu is not expansive, it is rich and colourful as we first saw in the Xandari salad. With its origins at a property managed by RAXA Collective in Costa Rica, the starter is perfect for evangelists of eating healthy. Continue reading

Simplicity, An Elegant Solution To Food Needed Fast

Sam Kaplan for The New York Times. Food stylist: Suzanne Lenzer. Prop stylist: Maeve Sheridan.

Sam Kaplan for The New York Times. Food stylist: Suzanne Lenzer. Prop stylist: Maeve Sheridan.

51 completed its first round of food trials many months ago, and all is well, and getting better all the time.  As we welcome a new executive chef to our team on February 7, lots of ideas await him from our team for the next iteration of Malabar Soul Food.

Though food trials are an ongoing affair, we all do our best to eat a balanced diet, away from work, as much as possible.

So, thank you Mark Bittman for recognizing that there do not seem to be enough minutes in the day:

Simple Stocks for Soup on the Fly

9 ways to transform water into a flavorful dish in a matter of minutes.

2014 Food Writing, Putting 2015 In Perspective

My mother thought of food the way we all now do: as a means of self-definition. CREDIT ILLUSTRATION BY MICHAEL GILLETTE

My mother thought of food the way we all now do: as a means of self-definition. CREDIT ILLUSTRATION BY MICHAEL GILLETTE

When a writer of John Lanchester’s deep quality and broad diversity uses the word repent, we take note. This reflection on the current state of foodie-ism caught our attention a couple months ago as we were well into 51’s first season open, and preparing for the next opening, reminding us to keep it all real, in perspective. Below we excerpt what should be read from beginning to end, using the dangerous ellipsis as carefully as we can but hoping you will click over to the source:

…Once upon a time, food was about where you came from. Now, for many of us, it is about where we want to go—about who we want to be, how we choose to live. Food has always been expressive of identity, but today those identities are more flexible and fluid; they change over time, and respond to different pressures. Some aspects of this are ridiculous: the pickle craze, the báhn-mìboom, the ramps revolution, compulsory kale. Is northern Thai still hot? Has offal gone away yet? Is Copenhagen over? The intersection of food and fashion is silly, just as the intersection of fashion and anything else is silly. Underlying it, however, is that sense of food as an expression of an identity that’s defined, in some crucial sense, by conscious choice. For most people throughout history, that wasn’t true. The apparent silliness and superficiality of food fashions and trends touches on something deep: our ability to choose who we want to be. Continue reading

Thanksgiving: Art History on a Plate

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As we continue to work on plating and food trials for 51 at Spice Harbour, the concept of deconstructing a typical Kerala dish often makes it into the conversation. During these conversations with Indian colleagues the subject of “typical American food” frequently comes up. Like India, there’s no one “American cuisine” (don’t get me started on the horrors of our fast food exports), but a Thanksgiving meal comes close.

In the collaborative spirit of preparing and plating a meal that’s meant to be shared, multi-media artist Hannah Rothstein deconstructed the classic Thanksgiving meal of turkey, gravy, cranberry sauce and “sides” with a nod to 10 artists with the most distinctive of painting styles, with the acception of Cindy Sherman, a photographer best known for her conceptual portraits. Continue reading


Revolution Foods makes healthy kids meals for both schools and stores. Co-founder Kristin Richmond says mentoring and support have been key to the success of her business. Shelly Puri/Courtesy of Revolution Foods

Revolution Foods makes healthy kids meals for both schools and stores. Co-founder Kristin Richmond says mentoring and support have been key to the success of her business. Shelly Puri/Courtesy of Revolution Foods

In the past year, with conceptualization and then food trials that led to the opening of 51, this story catches our attention and interest. Thanks to the salt, over at National Public Radio (USA) for the new vocabulary:

Culinary Institute’s School For ‘Foodpreneurs’ To Cook Up Innovation

The Culinary Institute of America may be best known for churning out chefs. And some of its graduates — from Grant Achatz to Roy Choi to Anthony Bourdain — have succeeded in entertaining and inspiring a new generation of foodies.

But not all CIA graduates don chef toques. Continue reading

Occasional Vegetarian Mentions

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Thanks to the New York Times, among other sources, for our ongoing foraging for new, interesting recipes for 51 and other restaurants where we bring vegetarian cuisine to a new level (click the image above to go to the brief, beautiful instructional video):


Aioli With Roasted Vegetables

Melissa Clark makes aioli with lemon juice and serves it with roasted broccoli, cauliflower, beets and other seasonal vegetables.

Wine In India, Historically Intriguing

Amphora shards have been found all along India’s western coast. Courtesy National Institute Of Oceanography

Amphora shards have been found all along India’s western coast. Courtesy National Institute Of Oceanography

As Spice Harbour’s restaurant, 51, looks forward to the day when it might serve a glass of wine with an evening meal, we look back in time for a bit of inspiration, thanks to our friends at Caravan:

…In August, I spoke on the phone to A S Gaur, a marine archaeologist at India’s National Institute for Oceanography and co-author of  a paper on ancient wine imports. Speaking from Goa, Gaur said he had recently discovered amphora shards at what appears to be an ancient shipwreck near Bet Dwarka, an island off the coast of Gujarat. Amphorae were widely used in ancient times for transporting liquid goods, especially olive oil and wine. According to Gaur, the amphorae near Bet Dwarka most likely date from between the second and the fourth centuries CE. It is difficult to analyse the residues found on the shards for a conclusive answer, he said, but trying his “level best” Gaur surmised the amphorae once held wine. “Roman wine,” he said, “was very famous in India during that time.” Wrecks and shards from the same period have been found at many other sites too. All over South India, Gaur told me, “many museums have amphora shards.”

Continue reading

Burn Calories, Eat What You Want

A breakfast taco in Texas. John Burnett/NPR

A breakfast taco in Texas. John Burnett/NPR

Now that the heavy lifting of food trials of 51 is mostly behind us, we are ramping up food trials at Marari Pearl. Any of you who know members of the Raxa Collective food trials team can attest that some of them remain mysteriously svelte, and others are gravitating into Santa Claus territory. Does this story at The Salt provide any explanations, or possible solutions? It is worth a read:

Last month, a friend and I rode bicycles 738 miles up the spine of Texas from the Rio Grande to the Red River, dodging oilfield trucks and yipping Chihuahua dogs.

All that pedaling had us burning about 5,000 to 5,500 calories every day. And so the 10-day journey — eight days of it riding into a headwind — became a movable feast.

There were hero sandwiches, Tater Tots, loaded baked potatoes, rib-eye steaks, chiles rellenos, cheese enchiladas, fried shrimp, cheeseburgers, french fries, hot dogs, barbecue brisket, beef jerky, chocolate glazed donuts, Snickers bars and fried pies. Continue reading

51 Ways To Have Your Porridge

Definitely not traditional: two colorful takes on porridge, from Friday's London Porridge Championships. Dai Williams/Courtesy of the National Porridge Championship

Definitely not traditional: two colorful takes on porridge, from Friday’s London Porridge Championships. Dai Williams/Courtesy of the National Porridge Championship

I loved it when we found out that one of our favorite companies was sponsoring a competition for porridge-making at exactly the time we were first planning the menu for 51.  And since opening, 51 has offered both sweet and savory options for porridge on its breakfast menu, but thanks to this story in one of our go-to food knowledge sources we are thinking that we can and must do more to expand the porridge horizons of our guests:

Dr. Samuel Johnson’s dictionary once summarily dismissed porridge, defining oats as a “grain, which in England is generally given to horses, but in Scotland supports the people.”

That was in the 1700s. These days, porridge is seen as more cool than gruel. Today is World Porridge Day — and to celebrate, London hosted its own porridge-making competition. Continue reading

Pre-Colonization Food

Sean Sherman’s Walleye filet with sumac and maple sugar, a white bean and smoked walleye croquette and toasted hominy; Becca Dilley/Courtesy of Heavytable.com

As we fine tune the concept of Malabar Soul Food at 51 we’re always on the lookout for other stories of cultural culinary crossovers. This is especially relevant with chefs who are pushing culinary limits by reaching back to early foodways like Sean Sherman, a member of the Oglala Lakota tribe. Mr. Sherman’s life is in the kitchen, but a great deal of his energies go into discovering the pre-colonization foods of his Great Plains ancestors. Thanks once again to NPR and the Salt for sharing this story.

Sherman, who calls himself the Sioux Chef, grew up on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota. It’s where he first started to learn about the traditional foods of the Plains, whether it was hunting animals like pronghorn antelope and grouse, or picking chokecherries for wojapi, a berry soup.

“We were close to the Badlands and its sand hills, which is not the best growing area by far,” says Sherman, who’s now 40. “But we would also spend weeks in the Black Hills, crawling around and learning stuff.”

Sherman’s grandfather was among the first Native American children to go to mission schools on the reservation, and he was one of Sherman’s first teachers. Continue reading

A little taste of Kerala

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Just down the street in Mattancherry is an organic spice shop with a wide variety of classic South Indian spices. The aroma inside of the shop definitely met my olfactory needs for new smells.

The 51 restaurant at Spice Harbour serves a Xandari Salad to represent Raxa Collective’s other property, Xandari Resorts. The Xandari Salad has become a favorite at 51 with its tahini-yogurt dressing, avocado, roasted cashews, and feta cheese on top of a fresh lettuce mix.

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Continue reading

Monsoon Time, And The Living Is Easy

Sarah Anne Ward for The New York Times. Food stylist: Maggie Ruggiero. Prop stylist: Maeve Sheridan. Parmesan-Crusted Rack of Lamb

Sarah Anne Ward for The New York Times. Food stylist: Maggie Ruggiero. Prop stylist: Maeve Sheridan.  Parmesan-Crusted Rack of Lamb

With Spice Harbour‘s restaurant, 51, open and having passed through the swelter of late summer, we find ourselves sampling new dishes that work well in a water-front setting during these luscious monsoon showers.

At the same time, we are approaching the opening of what we believe will be Kerala’s most fabulous beach resort and its restaurant will offer cuisine worthy of this sort of a “comfort zone” hideaway.

Between Spice Harbour and Marari Pearl we have done more sampling (someone has to do it) than is generally good for the waistline, but we are committed, dear reader, to your comfort.

Continue reading

Taste Of Xandari At 51

10155003_752610181446587_5118148078119598173_nRecently we passed a quarter million views on this site. We have no clue whether that is wow-alot or woeful-low; what metrics indicate how well we address the interests of both contributors and readers other than by comparing the performance of individual posts versus other posts? Carbon Emissions Series: Vacationers’ Diets, approaching 10,000 views and our most popular post, tells us alot about what our readers care about.

In short, they seem to love reading about good food that is also good for the environment and is healthy. This tells us why readers have also responded well to our posts about Xandari. To get a sense of the love, you can read a bit; to feel it, there is no choice. You must visit the resort. In case that is not in the cards in the near future, how about a taste?

Screen Shot 2014-04-23 at 4.07.00 PMIn Kerala, visit the Mattanchery neighborhood of Fort Cochin and stop in at 51 to sample one of the best-loved salads at Xandari. Since both Kerala and Costa Rica are situated within the tenth parallel north, chefs in both locations have many of the same farm-fresh ingredients to work with.

51-Spiced Vegetarian Lunch With View

Seasonal vegetables wrapped in chickpea crepe

51-spiced vegetables, wrapped in chickpea crepe, with summer tomato coulis

It is good to sit by the water at lunchtime, on occasion, and read while tasting something new (thanks, kitchen!). Here, an incidental passage from a book review that fit yesterday’s midday meal at 51:

…When my grandmother taught me to make banana pancakes, which we did every Wednesday night through much of my childhood, she would counsel “Hold the bowl” as I stirred, which became, in our letters to each other, code for “I love you.” At the beginning of Nigel Slater’s memoir “Toast: The Story of a Boy’s Hunger,” the author puts it this way: “It is impossible not to love someone who makes toast for you.”

Surely none of this was on my mind on April 5, 2013, when I purchased “Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone,” by Deborah Madison. I had, exactly a month previously, met a swell fellow, who happened to be vegetarian… Continue reading

Flynn, Come To Kerala!

Awesome people get invited places. Awesome people who cook well, probably even more so. We think Flynn, who we first learned about when he was 13 years old, and who we were reminded about more recently in his 15th year of awesomeness, qualifies:

At the age of ten, Flynn McGarry wanted to cook. He began practicing his knife skills afterschool, and then soon after started creating dishes, simple at first, for a few of his mother’s friends. At eleven, came the purchase of Thomas Keller’s The French Laundry cookbook, then Grant Achatz’s Alinea. The influence was immediate…

As noted more than once recently, development of 51 and Spice Harbour have sensitized us to the intersection between food, art, and design so Flynn’s story continues to thrill us. Continue reading

If You Happen To Be In Kerala


We have been posting “If You Happen To Be In…” stories since March 30, 2012. They are, like many posts on this site, incidental stories about exhibitions, readings, and other events that we believe are of interest to travelers who relate well to Raxa Collective’s mission. Coincidentally, that was about the time when we first briefed a team of architects on our plan to restore and revitalize a property in Kerala’s historic harbor town, Fort Cochin. Today, the last day of the current fiscal year in India, a day before the Fools’ pranks of April, we considered to be an auspicious day to open our doors. So, after two years of recommending other places, openings and things to see around the world, today we welcome you to visit on our turf. It is a quiet opening. No fanfare, no parties; just genuine welcome and hospitality. Continue reading