Woman Around Town’s Editor Charlene Giannetti and writers for the website talk with the women and men making news in New York, Washington, D.C., and other cities around the world. Thanks to Ian Herman for his wonderful piano introduction.

Poornima Vuppuluri

New York Has an Indian Accent


It’s divine, it’s delish and most importantly, it’s here!

Rohit Khattar, owner of Indian Accent in New Delhi, one of India’s most renowned restaurants, rounded up the country’s top culinary crew, including Master Chef Manish Mehrotra, and outsourced the fleet, fervor and flavor to create its namesake, an equally trendy counterpart, here in New York City.

Indian Accent, located adjacent to Le Parker Meridien Hotel New York, has made its way up the gastronomic guide in New York’s very vigorous restaurant rankings. Unveiled early this year, this restaurant has become the talk of the town even among non-Indians.

pathar beef kebab, garlic chips, bone marrow nihari

Pathar beef kebab, garlic chips, bone marrow nihari

Thanks to the doings of chefs like Hemant Mathur, former chef of Michelin star restaurant Tulsi and Devi and currently a chef for the group, Fine Indian Dining; Vikas Khanna of Junoon, Avtar Walia of Tamarind and now Rohit Khattar, Indian cuisine which was once tucked away within the periphery of Queens, one of New York’s five boroughs, has penetrated into the epicenter of fine dining in Manhattan, where the critics are fierier than the meal itself.

dal gosht, lamb, lentils, cumin sunchokes

Dal gosht, lamb, lentils, cumin sunchokes

The menu at Indian Accent fuses the diversity of India on a platter therefore making it an ambrosial and nostalgic affair for the Indian American diners. The extensive menu offers patrons a three course meal for $75, four courses for $90 and finally, the chef’s tasting – a hearty eight course dinner for $110.

Granted this may appear a little exorbitant for a non-Michelin star and nonnative restaurant, but the chef’s glowing references forms a backdrop for the coming meals: Indian Accent in Delhi has bagged several awards including securing ninth place in Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants. This is in addition to taking the number one position as Delhi’s best restaurant according to TripAdvisor. Furthermore, according to theworlds50best, Indian Accent (Delhi) has been ranked 77 in the world, which in New York City terms, translates to a grade higher than restaurants Daniel and Masa.

sweet potato shakarkandi, kohlrabi, crispy okra

Sweet potato shakarkandi, kohlrabi, crispy okra

Indian Accent in midtown Manhattan poses the same aptitude as its counterpart, chiefly because Chef Mehrotra merely embellished the wheel instead of reinventing it. The menu features the timeless classics including the paneers (soft cheese) and the vindaloos (Indian curry) but, now, it’s teamed with luxury contemporary items such as fois gras and quinoa, which is what makes it, cutting edge.  The angelic flow of dishes from start to finish captures the spices and tenderness from East to West, specifically from New Delhi to New York. Warranting this is the admission of New York’s favorite eats into the menu – pastrami and beef.

Although the combination of prix fixe, pricey and fine dining, points to pomposity, the restaurant insulates the lavishness to the plate-level. Food is dished out with utmost care where even the smallest details such as trimming and frills are given equal priority while the flavors capture the essence of the four corners of India thus tricking the eyes and treating the tongue.

Chef Mehrotra’s inspiration for preparing the dishes comes from the road-up. The chaat (North Indian savory snack) which was paired with a dry Madeira for example, is the first item to feature on the menu. This crunchy flavor packed snack which is usually sold by street vendors in India, has been overhauled and spun to make even a road-side snack look like an elegant work of art whist retaining the elemental crunchy tangy mini-fireworks characteristic.

paper roast dosa wild mushrooms, black truffles, water chestnuts

Paper roast dosa, wild mushrooms, black truffles, water chestnuts

The same applies to the paper roast dosa (fermented crepe). Dosas are one of the most popular items in the South Indian cuisine but despite the innumerous fillings people have experimented with, none would ever have imagined that water chestnuts would actually enliven the dated dish. The restaurant is famous for its kulchas (leavened bread), which comes in a variety of assortments namely; saag paneer, butter chicken, smoked bacon, pastrami and wild mushroom. Every item on the menu forked over modern scrumptious Indian eats but never tipped over the traditional intricacies of Indian cooking.

The common perception that wine paired with Indian cuisine equals disaster is finally and thankfully become a deception – the chef’s tasting pairings includes wines from Italy, Germany and Spain, which ultimately accents the Indian-ness.

makhan malai, saffron milk, rose petal jaggery brittle, almonds

Makhan malai, saffron milk, rose petal jaggery brittle, almonds

The dessert proved the chef’s mastery. The makhan malai saffron milk, rose petal jaggery brittle and almonds in particular, was an absolute hit. The texture of the frothy milk cream base with the crunchiness of the almonds and jaggery (sugarcane) and topped with bright pink flower petals is divinely delicious and an eye-opening experience – maybe this is where metaphors like “save the best for the last” originate.

The dynamic duo, restaurateur and chef, have successfully managed to encapsulate the tale of two cities on the dinner table. Truly, the crusade from farm to fork has never been so enthralling.

Photo credit: Christopher Villano

Indian Accent
123 West 56th Street

Maya Newell’s Gayby Baby Asks: What Makes a Good Parent?


Maya Newell’s debut documentary Gayby Baby is winning over audiences outside the LGBTQ community. Released in 2015 in Australia, the film has been screened around the world, emphasizing that raising children is hard work, no matter who is doing the parenting. The movie is told from the viewpoint of four young adolescents who are being raised in Australia by same-sex parents. As it turns out, these children are more worried by internal familial battles, issues that crop up in ordinary families, than they are about the external war being waged against homosexuality and gay parents.

Gabby Baby – Kids care about the battles at home and not the wars outside.

In the opening credits, the camera pans across framed portraits of conventional families – the moms and dads sitting beside their children, their faces gleaming with pride. The dissonant voice-over of Australian parliamentary members debating the adverse effects of gay parenting plays in the background. Finally, the camera focuses on a happy family – two mothers with their children, all of them beaming with joy.



Director Newell invites the audience into the homes and lives of four preadolescent children – Gus, Ebony (photo, top), Matt and Graham – each being raised by same-sex parents. While the children confront issues outside of gay rights, there’s no doubt that family structure also has an elemental impact on their actions, reactions and interactions.

Gus, age ten, is struggling to find his masculinity. He is passionate about WWE and wants to attend the live show, but his lesbian parents discourage his interest, fearing that wrestling’s portrayal of violence and machoism will make him too aggressive.



Matt, 11, is struggling to understand why his biological lesbian mother blindly believes in the preaching of the church, the same church that ousts her for her sexual orientation. This leads him to question religion and God. His challenge is sticking to what he believes, while not questioning his mother’s devotion.

After relocating to Fiji, Graham, 11, is instructed by his gay parents to keep their family dynamic under wraps. However, he is more afraid of being outed for his inability to read, a result of his birth parents’ poor upbringing..

And last but not the least, Ebony, 12, hopes to attend an inner-city performing arts school where she can pursue her dream of becoming a popstar. She also hopes that the new school would be less likely to judge her family.

Of course, the issues the documentary raises – machoism, insecurity, illiteracy, and aspiration – are ones that most young adolescents face regardless of the family make up. Once we have seen these families, Newell subtly yet politely raises the most primal question – what makes a good parent? Creating a positive environment for children has less to do with the sexual orientation of the parents and more to do with the qualities they bring to the role – patience, self-sacrifice, love, and encouragement, to name a few.

Movie Banner featuring Gus

Movie banner featuring Gus

Despite its political message, the film is delightfully entertaining as the main characters speak extemporaneously with no hidden agenda. At one point, Gus argues with his mother about his reluctance to join the school’s debate team. After going back and forth, Gus fails to convince her, thus winning his point that he lacks the very basic skills of debating.

The filmmakers interviewed over 40 families before settling with the four children in the film. They made the decision to cast children between the ages of ten and 12. “It’s that beautiful cusp between adulthood and childhood, when you’re beginning to have a vision and opinion of the world” said Maya.

Gabby Baby, released in 2015, was shot over the course of four years, during a time when Australia political climate was roiled with proposals to ban LGBTQ marriages. The filmmakers used crowd-sourcing to fund the movie. Producer Charlotte Mars said that the film raised more than $100,000 in its first six weeks.

This film does have a realistic happy ending. Gus’s mother, despite having her doubts, partakes in his passion for WWE; Graham, with the help of his fathers’ encouragement shows continued improvement in his literary skills; Matt stands up to his belief of disbelief and happily opts soccer over church; and, Ebony, although not gaining admission to the school of her choice, loses interest in singing but emerges a more confident young woman, a spirit that is stronger and more prepared to face any societal challenges she may encounter.

Ultimately, the documentary addresses the day-to-day pressures of parenthood, demonstrating that LGBTQ parents are no different. As the American author, Jill Churchill, puts it, “There is no one way to be a perfect mother and a million ways to be a good one.”

Click to  watch Gayby Baby on iTunes.

Courtesy of SUPERGRAVITY Pictures

Razzle and Dazzle with Holi Hai!


New York City is known for its diversity and throughout the year, across the five boroughs, various ethnic groups showcase their heritage through their traditional music, fashion, festivals and parades. Holi Hai! held on Saturday, April 30th, celebrated the internationally recognized Hindu festival of colors, also known as Holi.

The dance troupe NYC Bhangra hosted the seventh annual “Holi Hai!” gala in Midtown Manhattan. The Dag Hammarsjold Park in Midtown East burst into rainbows, thanks to the thousands of attendees who came together to immerse themselves in color and culture.

IMG_0590In accordance to the Hindu calendar, timed to the phases of the moon, Holi usually falls in the month of March; however, since “Holi Hai!” is held outdoors, chief organizer Megha Kalia, decided to host it in April, at the onset of the warm weather.

What was once conceived, observed and ritualized in the Indian subcontinent, Holi, has now become an internationally recognized festival. Mainstream artists Coldplay and Beyoncé traveled all the way to the motherland to capture the merrymaking in their latest single, “Hymn for the Weekend.”

IMG_0609But the popularization of this festival across the U.S. occurred years before the video was released. Indian organizations such as the NYC Bhangra, have hosted this splashy event to keep the tradition vividly alive – welcoming the arrival of spring, nurturing the appreciation of life, love, equality and color and eradicating any social and cultural differences.

The festival’s main tradition, visible this past weekend, involves pelting, blowing or smearing fistfuls of rainbow-colored powder on each other. Everyone, regardless of age or ethnic origin, is fair game. Towards the end of the event, revelers resembled luminous kaleidoscopes, survivors of a civil color war.

Picture 1For seven straight hours, the crowd danced to the pulsating beats of the dhol (double-headed drum) while feasting on authentic Indian food. In addition to the performing arts, “Holi Hai!” featured blockbuster dance performances which gave the audience a glimpse into the aesthetics of Indian culture and tradition.

Although the festival’s roots derive from various mythological connotations, the salient theme of Holi constitutes the triumph of Good over Evil. As a result of its loose religious ties, which may have been due to generations and generations of Indians focusing solely on the idiosyncratic action of throwing of colors, the underlying concept of Holi has become a versatile pretext for celebrating life, thus making it a widely anticipated event even among non-Indians.

Holi Hai! in New York City is an annual soiree. So next year, trade in those drab winter clothes for white and participate in the city’s biggest prismatic festival.

Photos by Poornima Vuppuluri

For more information, go to the website for NYC Holi Hai!

Hot Sauce Expo Is a Fiery Event


Democratic Presidential frontrunner Hillary Clinton revealed what she always carries in her purse –  a bottle of hot sauce.  In fact, when she was first lady, she had more than 100 different varieties of hot sauce made available for her use. Of course, Hillary’s not alone in her love of the spicy condiment. We’re living in a world where concepts like global trans-culturalism have gone beyond the workplace and social circles and are now on our dinner tables. As the world is getting smaller, our palates are becoming more international and the evidence is clear; more and more people are replacing their ketchups and mustards with Srirachas and Cholulas. But if you’re looking for something more potent and powerful than the usual spicy condiments, you should attend NYC’s annual hot sauce expo.

The Fourth Annual NYC Hot Sauce Expo was held on April 23rd and 24th, at the Brooklyn Expo in Greenpoint, Brooklyn.  This aptly named event caters to hot sauce aficionados who will travel anywhere for a dose of divine damage. The exhibition can best be described as rock/punk meets culinary arts resulting in a quaint, tear-jerking and mouthwatering atmosphere.

Ice Cream

Ice Cream Vendor Promotes a Cool Down

Since its inception in 2013, this event has been refined to accommodate its fiery-loving attendees. For instance, during the first year, milk and ice cream stations were absent which got people running for cool relief to the nearest bodega outside the venue. Food stalls were scarce making it disconcerting for patrons who were looking to pair their new-found spicy condiments with some lunch items. But the worst of all were the privies – those god-awful stinking modern-day conveniences also known as a port-a-potty. Thankfully, all of these and more have been rectified thus making this one of the most sought-after events for thousands of tongue-searing hot sauce fans; rookies and the vets alike.


Hot cocktails

I attended “day one” of the event, knowing all too well that I would spend the next day comforting my tongue and tummy. The Brooklyn Expo Center had a bazaar like feel where over four dozen hot sauce vendors from all over the country had gathered to display hundreds of concocted spicy salsas. The booths snaked through the hall. Milk and ice cream vendors staged themselves at prime locations serving as recovery points for the gasping hot sauce junkies. Also on hand were local food and beverage vendors who showcased their hot sauce infused eats and drinks.

My friends and I have attended this festival since its existence four years ago and, as patrons, we know the process, the peppers, and the most effective pacifiers.  We’ve learned to equip ourselves with Tums and drinkable yogurt and, most importantly, we’ve mastered the art of pacing ourselves systematically whereby we’re actually enjoying the taste of hot sauce rather than swigging it with a gallon of milk.


Fans with the event’s official poster

A $10 admission ticket also includes a complimentary hot sauce poster. The tastings are free, but hot sauce bottles cost between $7 – $25, and the drinks are priced around $6. The $100 VIP ticket, which includes a complimentary hot sauce bottle, a few other knickknacks, and an open bar, just seems grossly wasteful.

At this point, there is no smell or sight that will actually shock me at this event. I have eaten the Carolina Reaper aka, the world’s spiciest pepper, a title bestowed by the Guinness Book of World Records. I have participated in the spiciest brownie eating competition and sampled several ghost pepper extracts.


Mixing drinks

So, out of experience I can tell you that if you’re looking to prove your machoism, this is not the place to do it. I have seen grown men heave, hurl, and sob like babies, I’ve witnessed people seeking medical attention, or worse – rushed to the ER. The fans who come here are not calorie conscious but scoville attentive. Similar to an instrument that measures weight or temperatures, the scoville scale measures the “hotness” of a pepper. Just to give you an idea – a habanero chili is rated roughly 100,000 – 300,000 units on the scoville scale, but a Carolina Reaper has a record breaking heat level of 1.6 million units! Thankfully, the spiciest hot sauces have the most ominous sounding names so you will think twice before trying the Voodoo Prince Death Mamba or the Edible Lava.

Although the event revolves around everything there is to know about hot sauces, the founder, Steve Seabury and the other organizers have made it more than just sampling and sobbing. During the two-day event, patrons can participate in competitions such as the chicken wing eating competition or the Grimaldi’s pizza eating contest. To administer these spicy trials and painful tribulations, the host dresses in biker gear and a punk rave coat and announces the rules and countdown while the participants prepare themselves for the some of the most painful minutes of their lives. Winning these competitions is extremely tough – winners are not just judged on how many they’ve consumed, but on their ability to keep the fiery food from coming back up again.


Inside the hall

The Brooklyn Expo is the most fitting venue for such an event. This 25,000- square-foot warehouse with floor to ceiling glass windows is large enough to comfortably accommodate hundreds of fans and yet small enough for people to run into their hot sauce idols. In my case, I was fortunate to meet the greatest hot sauce savant, Ed Currie, the founder of the Carolina Reaper. When the room gets too hot, the backdoor opens to a spacious outside arena. Although no chairs are provided for the general admission attendees, people are fine with sitting on the concrete ground and to enjoy the lucent rays of the sun while trying to balance their PH levels with beers and oysters.

If you feel like you’ve missed a breath-taking event, not to worry as I can assure you that next year’s event will be an even larger and bigger piquant party. Just keep your eyes and ears open to updates which will be announced around February and in the meantime dabble around a few hot sauces because, who knows? You may discover someone has produced something even spicier than the Carolina Reaper.

Photos by Poornima Vuppuluri

For more information, go to the website for the Annual NYC Hot Sauce Expo.