Coonoor – Encounter with Cheese making:
I did not get an opportunity to stay at Acres Wild while on my visit to Coonoor in April 2011 but I did make it a point to meet Manzoor Khan, the man behind Acres Wild and cousin of Aamir Khan (popular Bollywood actor). One thing I liked most about Manzoor, is his accessibility be it on e-mail or phone call. On reaching Coonoor I called him up at around 10am and he was more than happy to meet me and my family to show us around his vast property that includes a cheese making unit. We met him at around 10:30am while he was already in the midst of introducing the geese near a small lake, to some school children from nearby Coimbatore who had come for a tour of Acres Wild property. Unfortunately his better half Tina was missing in action that day but he did admit that she was the brain behind the cheese making unit at Acres Wild.
He met me as if we had known each other for ages. We had only interacted over e-mail and phone calls in the past. The children were scrambling around to get his autograph, for his earlier successful role as a leading Bollywood producer and director of well known hits like Jo Jeeta Wohi Sikander, Akele Hum Akele Tum,Josh and Jaane Tu Ya Jaane Na. But now he has settled down for a quiet life in the hills surrounded by nature far away from the glamorous life he led at Bombay.
Manzoor was proud to admit that he learnt cheese making after coming down to Coonoor from his wife, Tina. He first showed us the natural biogas plant that he setup, which uses cattle manure as the only raw material to generate eco friendly energy. From here he took us to the cheese making unit and explained the entire cheese making process. Who says he is not an expert 🙂 He took questions from everyone of us and meticulously explained each and every process. It was a great lesson on cheese making for me. I never imagined cheese making was an art before meeting Manzoor. Cheese and Wine manufacturing are so similar, where both are valued by its age and pedigree. There are so many varieties of cheese available and he explained most of them while taking us to the dark, cool cellar where cheese is stored to age. Later he invited us to taste the cheese prepared at the unit. It was given alongwith a biscuit and that was my first cheese tasting experience in my life.
Acres Wild also featured in HOMP hosted by my favorite foodies Rocky and Mayur (NDTV Good Times) and I did trail them here too.
I wished Manzoor good luck in his new venture and am sure he will be as successful here as he was in his previous Bollywood avatar. Maybe next time I will plan a stay at Acres Wild and learn cheese making in more detail……
“The Bungalow” at Ooty
The property managed by Tranquilitea is truly a home away from home. I had booked the entire Bungalow located in the heart of Ooty near the Race Course for 3 days. The occasion – my parents wedding anniversary and my son’s freedom from Board exams.
The caretaker Amudha and her family took enough care to make our stay very memorable and what I liked is their prompt service and never say no attitude. The best thing about the package was the FOOD and being a foodie this comes top on my priority list. Amudha charged us ONLY for the ingredients that were used to cook our meals. You can’t believe it,but yes its true. The cost used to be a measly 200 or 300 bucks for a great meal dished out to a family of 5 foodies !!!! Its always said that our appetite increases while we are at a hill-station and if the food is great, what a combination for a hearty meal be it vegetarian or non-vegetarian….
The Bungalow has 3 large bedrooms with attached bathrooms; a dining room and a living room with a lone Television set. The Bungalow must be atleast 80+ years old but well maintained and the furniture is real antique. T he weather was very cold even while it was scorching summer elsewhere in India but the caretaker ensured we were kept warm by lighting firewood at the fireplaces located in every bedroom and living room. Fortunately there was no power shutdown while we were there and this ensured 24 hours hot water running in the taps. The place is well maintained and kept very clean including the bed linen and bath towels changed every day.
The Bungalow has a sit out in the open lawns outside, where one can enjoy nature and chirping of birds while sipping hot coffee. I could spot so many sparrows which is now rare in cities like Bangalore. At night one can use the Barbeque setup but thanks to rains every evening, we had to give this a miss.
On the trail of Rocky and Mayur of HOMP fame (NDTV Good times), we also took time to meet Sandeep Subramani at Coonoor, who manages Tranquilitea. Tranquilitea apparently appeared in this famous Foodie TV show recently. He showed us around the vast tea gardens located within the other property called Tenerife. We were treated to the best tea I ever had in my life (without milk and sugar) plucked from the tea gardens. I never ever imagined, tea tasted so good in its original form. Sandeep is a young entrepreneur (mid 20s perhaps) who says “Tea runs in his veins more than blood” and is very passionate about tea tasting. He is now successfully into managing Holiday stay properties at Ooty and Coonoor.