High Commission of India Flavours of India May 2024 event

A Festival of Flavours With the Indian High Commission


Recently, Ottawa food lovers were treated to an evening of tasting the flavours of India’s diverse regions at an Indian Culinary Festival hosted by the High Commission of India. Flavours of Bharat offered a unique opportunity to experience the many stunning styles of Indian cuisine, with a menu curated by Indian chefs from across Canada offering their talents to the event, including Ottawa’s own Joe Thottungal, together with Sommelier Marie-France Champagne, were the masterminds behind the event, which took place at the Horticulture Building, Lansdowne Park.


Joe Thottungal is the visionary behind his two Ottawa restaurants, Coconut Lagoon and Thali. Chef Joe cooks with love and passion for his culinary traditions, which he now shares generously with visitors to his restaurants. He sources local or Canadian ingredients whenever possible and fuses contemporary techniques with the classic flavours and textures of Indian cuisine. In 2022, he received the Order of Ottawa, honouring his work addressing food insecurity. Numerous other Indian chefs, now based in various Canadian cities, were also present, with each chef presenting an Indian food speciality. Marie-France Champagne is the Sommelier at Coconut Lagoon and heads both the Sommelier and Bartending programs at Algonquin College. She was the Master of Ceremonies for the evening.


The cuisine of India is extremely regional and is affected by the seasons, which influence the availability of ingredients and the style of food. The hall at the Horticulture Building was flanked on both sides with tables presided over by chefs who graciously offered dishes representing cuisine from different regions. I was glad to arrive with an empty stomach, all the better to enjoy myself! At the back was a music duo, Flute Siva and Osmon Zakir, performing on flute and drums, which provided a pleasant background for the evening and as a visual delight, many women wore beautiful silk saris.

My first dish was a tender breast of duck served with curried squash. We also tried curried potatoes, a very succulent lamb cutlet and white fish in a delicious sauce. For me, the beauty of Indian cuisine lies in the skilful use of various fragrant spices, which offer complex layers of flavour. It was a real party for my taste buds! Needless to say, it was necessary to sample dessert, too. I tried a lovely fruit tart with fresh berries and an exquisitely rich flourless chocolate cake, which was as smooth as fudge.


In addition to all the wonderful food, we had the opportunity to enjoy elegant wines crafted by an Indian winemaker, Namratha Prashanth. Namratha is a wine merchant, consultant and brand owner based in Bordeaux, France. For more than a decade she lived in a patriarchal household in India, where she was forbidden to work. Finally, she left the oppressive and violent marriage and moved to France, where she acquired a Master’s degree in Wine Management & Marketing at a school in Bordeaux. Then, with an entrepreneurial spirit, she launched Wine Equation, a wine negociant company offering a range of wines and wine services. She went on to collaborate with a French winemaker and create her own brand of wine called Solicantus, which is now distributed in five different countries. Solicantus is currently available at the LCBO.

It was a pleasure to meet her, to taste her impressive wines and to learn about her inspiring journey of empowerment. Namratha dedicates a part of the wine sales to educating girls in India because she strongly believes that education provides liberation of the mind and that it is the key to progress in society. To learn more about Wine Equation, visit the website www.wine-equation.com

Solicantus Rouge Melodie du Sol 2020
Cotes De Bordeaux, France

This fragrant red wine was crafted from grapes grown on vines with an average age of 35 years. It is made with mainly Merlot (90%) with small amounts of Cabernet Sauvignon and Malbec. The nose gives soft notes of ripe red and black fruit with subtle spice and cedar. The palate shows bright fruit flavours, spice, herbaceous hints and supple tannins with a very silky mouthfeel and a rich, lingering finish. This wine was sustainably produced, and the vineyard is also converting to official organic designation. You can cellar this wine for 10 to 20 years, with it peaking around 20 years. Solicantus Rouge pairs well with rack of lamb, roast pork or roast prime rib.

Dry • 14.5% • LCBO VINTAGES# 36563 • Vegan • $38.95 

Solicantus Blanc Melodie du Sol 2019
Entre-Deux–Mers, France

Fragrant Solicantus Blanc is made from a blend of Sémillon, Sauvignon Blanc, Sauvignon Gris and Muscadelle in an unoaked style that preserves the freshness and vibrancy of its floral and fruit notes. On the nose, you can immediately notice floral, citrus and orchard fruits. The palate is true to its name, with a symphony of flavours: peaches, apricots, pears, orange blossoms, green apples and citrus, with crisp acidity and minerality. The lingering finish gives hints of lychee and pineapple. It is light, but at the same time gives an impression of richness. You can cellar this wine for more than five years. An unforgettably beautiful wine that I highly recommend. Solicantus Blanc pairs well with many foods, such as Thai mango salad, yellow coconut curry, vegetable satay, butternut squash and porcini mushroom risotto or vegetarian pho.

Dry • 12.5% • LCBO VINTAGES# 36564 • Vegan • $33.95

Cool India craft beer was also available, and I noticed that it makes an excellent counterpoint to the spicy food. How spicy, you might wonder? I would rate most dishes I tried at a medium spicy level, or just right!

A flight to India would take at least 14 hours from Toronto. This Culinary Festival was a wonderful opportunity to sample Indian cuisine right here in Ottawa. Many thanks go out to the High Commissioner of India, H.E Sanjay Kumar Verma, along with gratitude to all the chefs and the sommelier who organized this unforgettable event.

For more wine and food discovery from Jane Staples, visit www.bellovinoj.com

HEADER IMAGE: Indian winemaker Namratha Prashanth and Sommelier Jane Staples at the May 2024 Flavours of Bharat event.