Wine and Cheese from the heart of Spain

Spanish wine brunch

Viva España mailer. Swissotel cabanas in the background.

February 9th, 2014. Sun kissed the tip of my nose and warmed my glass of wine. I retreated to a more cooler corner of the breezy cabanas. You could watch airplanes all day from this rooftop lounge at Swissôtel Kolkata. I took a sip of the incredible Macabeo Chardonnay (de la casa de Torre Oria). One of the best whites I’ve had, this bright yellow delight had been flown in from Valencian soils rich in limestone.

I always believe that a good wine is similar to a warm hug, only from the inside. A light caress for the taste buds, a gentle nudge for the spirits to sour. To go with the wine, there was of course the specialty, Queso Manchego (Manchego cheese).  Made in the La Mancha region of Spain, it’s a cheese that leaves a piquant aftertaste of sheep’s milk. A delicacy no doubt but I’m a fan.

There at Viva España, a Spanish wine brunch (by Advertising Club Calcutta and the Calcutta Malt and Spirits Club) there was enough fare to take the average Bengali on a Provencal adventure. I decided not to be shy and dug into a generous serving of Paella de Mariscos (Seafood Paella). For those who are wondering what that is, Paella is a traditional Spanish rice dish originated in Valencia. It’s what a robust mother in the east coast serves when the family gets together at the table for lunch. Flavorful, spicy and vigorously continental.  A milder cousin of the Paella would be our Bengali Khichuri, though I wonder if we would ever see land snails, oysters and clams go into the cauldron.

A mellow afternoon well spent.

paella khichuri

Paella de Mariscos and Bengali Khichuri (pic source: Google,

Viva España - Spanish Wine Brunch at Swissotel Kolkata

Viva España – Salad Bar, Torre Oria, Cabanas

Social dancing at Tollygunge club

Friends from Columbia

Social dancing at Tollygunge club

Salsa Under the Stars with Aditya at the Tollygunge Club

Just another day at the Kolkata International Salsa Congress. One is reclining with a splendid bottle of red wine, expecting warm dinner at the table any minute. Temperature steady at 13 degrees, and we are outdoors watching Latin social dancing at the lush lawns of Tollygunge Club. My teacher, Mr. Dibyajyoti Mukhopadhyay (founder of the Indo Hispanic Language Academy) introduced me to a lady eager to meet fellow Columbians in Calcutta. That’s how I met Julia, a sprightly and ever smiling person who loves to have conversations. For some reason she insisted on naming me Diya (Diya, mi querida, como estas tu?). Months away from home, it was good to listen to her gushing in rapid Spanish with Eider and Jose.  They would look at me expectantly in between and unable to come up with anything profound in my baby Spanish, I would stick to Si, Si and Verdad (yes,yes, true). Desperate to make an impression I volunteered an obvious: Hace frio, no? (It’s cold, innit?) To which Jose promptly replied in English: It’s actually kinda warm. 

Julia gave me an earful later for egging her on to dance with Jose. Fellow Spanish language enthusiasts, know that not all Spanish speakers dance.

When Stand-up Comedy met Latin Dancing

Stand up and Dance Show Night at CC&RC club

Eider, Luisa, Alexander and Eva

February 2nd, 2014. As dusk unveiled a curtain of stars, Tiki torches lit up the sprawling lawns of the CC&RC club. Mercury had dropped to a pleasant 14 Degrees. Spotlight followed a young gentleman on stage. Of course he looked familiar. He was Papa CJ, one of the most sought after stand up comedians in the country.

Whether it was the cold or the anticipation, the audience held their breath. We were all there as part of the Kolkata International Salsa Congress. An annual event hosted by Vive la Salsa, Kolkata (Aditya Upadhya & Shaneel Mukerji). We Calcuttans  are thrifty by nature. Always enjoying  joke at other’s expense. But gender, age and nationality were never a bar for Papa CJ . Among peals of laughter, the stage lights dimmed to give way to that bewitching Tango music.

Originally from Columbia, Eider had come for the first time to the City of Joy with Luisa, Alexander and Eva. They are BNF Danza & Entretenimiento (Dance & Entertainment), a very popular company based in Dubai known for their fiery and passionate productions. I had met Eider a few years back in a Salsa festival in Bangalore. He is one of those brooding unassuming type of dancers who set fire on stage the moment music comes on. First time in our city also was Euphoria Dance Company, with Jose, Nerea, Federica and Massimiliano all the way from Italy. Jose took his dancing expertise from the United States to the continents to became the fast & furious of world salsa. Us Bongs tend to be fond of our cute little pet names, for no Bengali is born without one. Check out Jose’s, he’s popularly known as Jose ‘La Salsa’ Diaz.

Mega Show Night at CC&RC club

Papa CJ always has his audience in splits

Mega Show Night at CC&RC club

Jose, Nerea, Federica and Massimiliano

Dance brought people together from all over the world. When it comes to show business, India always packs a punch. Performers from Mumbai, Bangalore, Delhi, Pune showed off their Salsa, Bachata, Zouk skills in style. Calcutta presented Contemporary and intricate Salsa and Bachata routines (Vive la Salsa). A fine blend of international and national talents, the evening just kept on getting better.

Laughter twinkled at the corner of eyes, shadows cast long and mysterious in the firelight. The audience drawn to their feet marveling at the passion and commitment each dancer brought to the stage.

Thank God we take time out to experience new stories, to walk in new directions. Calcutta shall always have her spirit of adventure and her will to explore the quixotic.