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Tuesday, June 28, 2022

Pune's nostalgia-inspired culinary destination

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New Delhi, May 31 (Ajit Weekly Newslife) Ex-software engineer Poornima Somayaji, founded a Pune-based food studio, Aragma Food Studio, that offers cooking classes, workshops, weekend pop-ups, and special events. Their philosophy is to create elevated nostalgia-inspired food experiences with maximum flavour, local ingredients, and intriguing stories.

Aragma is a Greek word that means “enjoying the small pleasures of life”. Poornima turned to food for comfort after suffering a personal loss. She wanted to share her newly discovered love of food with others so she created the studio, as a place to slow down, sit back, and savour each bite and every moment with loved ones or new friends.

The studio is a charming space that can accommodate up to 14 people and is designed to make you feel at home. Dining at the studio will transport you to your living room with a group of friends.

The services at the Studio can be broadly divided into:

Sit-down dinners

Poornima organises sit-down, multi-course dinners, which are by default private dinners unless announced as ticketed. The menu features modern cuisine prepared with fresh, local ingredients sourced from food forests in and around Pune. The dinners are prepared by young, in-house expert chefs with Michelin-starred experience. Poornima hopes to offer regional Indian cuisine as part of its sit-down dinners in the future.

Cooking studio

Sign up for hands-on recreational culinary classes here. At the studio you’ll find flavour and fun in everything from the perfect Thai curry and regional Indian delicacies to farmer’s market favourites and comfort food classics. Cook with the freshest ingredients in cutting-edge kitchens instructed by experts and regional food home chefs!

Weekend pop-up menus

Every Friday evening, Aragma offers one-person meal boxes that can be reserved in advance. The menu typically includes comfort food from various cuisines from India and around the world, ranging from gua baos and ramen bowls to an Udipi oota meal.

Two things that stand out, the first is their list of ingredients, every ingredient used in their cooking has a unique story and is sometimes given to them by customers or obtained through foraging. For example, the pepper is freshly harvested from the farm of a long-term client. The team then spices their butter with fresh green pepper, dries some of the seeds to make ground pepper powder, and ferments the rest. Similarly, during her travels, Poornima brought back dried Mahua flowers from a tribal village in Maharashtra. They are now making a boozy pudding with the flowers.

The chefs transform ordinary fruit and vegetables into works of art. Chocolate Chikoo, a toffee-flavoured mousse with a spiced chikoo and blueberry filling moulded into the shape of a chickoo and coated in dark chocolate, is one such dish.

While it celebrates everyday ingredients, the team also spends time researching and obtaining ingredients from all over the country. The chefs serve a snack made with chakli flour, accompanied by green pea and coriander puree, fresh butter, and grated smoked Bandel cheese, an indigenous unripe, salted soft variety of cheese brought to India by the Portuguese and now only available in towns near Kolkata, on one of their sit-down dinner menus.

Poornima believes in conscious collaboration. They get their produce from non-profit organisations such as 14 Trees Foundations, which has been restoring native green cover on ecologically degraded patches of barren hills near Pune. Poornima is also creating a community of mindful eaters. It has been able to source produce directly from small farms and tribal villages throughout Maharashtra with the assistance of family and friends. Their wild honey, for example, comes from a tribal village near the Bhimashankar sanctuary.

The backstories delivered with each dish are another aspect that distinguishes the dining experience at Aragma. Without a doubt, flavour is inextricably linked with memory and emotion. Poornima engages guests with anecdotes about the ingredients and the land that produced them, as well as the fantastical recipes they inspire. When she tells the story of her boozy pudding, for example, one can vividly imagine walking through a tribal forest picking Mahua flowers. Her stories evoke memories, which enhances the dining experience even more.

Schedule a sit-down dinner, a home-delivered meal, or a cooking class. Aragma Food Studio’s sit-down dinners start at INR 2800+ tax. Private diners can have their meals customised.

(Ajit Weekly Newslife can be contacted at Ajit Weekly [email protected])

–Ajit Weekly News

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