Kolkata to Kingston: Finally, Indian Fresh Foods and Basic Groceries Are Coming to Midtown | Restaurants | Hudson Valley

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In recent years, Kingston has seen a boom in new restaurants. There’s authentic ramen, poke bowls, Polish pierogi, Turkish takeout, wood-fired pizza, donuts galore and, of course, new American cuisine. Asian fusion restaurants and tacos abound. But much to the distress of many (including this inexplicably Bombay-born blonde, writer and resident), the lack of an Indian restaurant – even the garden variety, the chicken tikka, the buffet type – has been acute. But finally, finally, finally, Indian food (and pantry staples) has arrived on Broadway in downtown Kingston thanks to the recently opened Calcutta Kitchens.

If you don’t cook, you don’t eat

Growing up on the outskirts of Kolkata in the late 70s and 80s, Aditi Goswami’s home cooking was a constant activity, from breakfast to midday tiffins and afternoon chai to a grand dinner. of family. While her father was an avid gardener, cooking was primarily her grandmother’s domain. “I didn’t know a life without a kitchen. If you didn’t cook, you didn’t eat,” Goswami says of a pre-takeout, pre-fast-food India, where the hearth was still the heart of the home. “My grandmother was a fantastic cook. My father, if he didn’t cook every day, was a real cooking enthusiast. He shopped for all the ingredients with great attention to freshness, quality, seasonality. He and my grandmother are the ones who really taught me to look at food, to think about food. And of course, how to cook.

Goswami’s passionate involvement in cooking began at the age of four with tasks like shelling peas, and her skills and responsibilities increased until at the age of 12 she was able to prepare complete meals. Like her father, she developed a tandem love of gardening. “I was interested in culture and cuisine,” says Goswami, “what becomes of what, how ingredients are processed and how they can be used very differently in different dishes.

After getting married and moving to the United States at age 25, Goswami was introduced to takeout culture in the American workplace. Yet she carried on her traditions of home cooking in rural Connecticut, preparing meals for her family and visiting guests, in the casual, customary style of Indian hospitality.

“I always enjoyed entertaining in the sense that I enjoyed feeding people, not big parties, just inviting people over for dinner,” she says. “Or even if they came for a date between the children, offering them tea and something small to eat.” While Americans may retain a distant relative of this custom – offering a glass of lemonade or store-bought cookies to a guest – everything Goswami offered was made from scratch. And friends and neighbors were blown away.

So, under the encouragement of her peers, Goswami began making and selling some of her chutneys at the local Connecticut farmers’ market in 2009. Within two weeks, she incorporated Calcutta Kitchens LLC, although she still claims that she had no intention of starting a business. . Chutneys have given way to simmering sauces – pantry shortcuts for making authentic-tasting Indian dishes in a fraction of the time, with a fraction of the ingredients. Everything was an adaptation of something she would make at home, recipes that could scale affordably and without losing flavor.

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In the 13 years since Goswami launched Calcutta Kitchens, the range of chutneys, simmers and spice blends has grown to have nationwide distribution, although its first and favorite connection with the public has always summer via farmers markets. At his market stalls, Goswami has started bringing prepared meals to sell alongside his potted goods, specializing in vegan and vegetarian food. “I could never do enough – I saw there was a real demand for it,” she says. “Indian cuisine lends itself very well to vegan and vegetarian, even gluten-free, without trying to be something different.”

With those years of experience under his belt, the idea of ​​a storefront began to simmer in a distant corner of his mind. Three years ago Goswami moved to the Hudson Valley and the pieces began to fall into place. “All my farmer friends from the markets were from the area,” she says. “I wanted to live where they lived. The community here appreciates this kind of food very much.

An ode to Tiffin

In India, “tiffin” refers to a light afternoon meal, the equivalent of tea in England, merienda in Spain or the decidedly less glamorous after-school snack in America: a transitional meal between lunch and dinner which can be sweet or savory. . The term is also used interchangeably to describe the stainless steel stackable containers that everyone from school children to business executives use in India to pack their lunches, with different compartments for different dishes. (In major metropolitan areas, massive networks of tiffin wallahs on train carriages and bicycles deliver hot, freshly prepared meals from home kitchens directly to the workplace – the pre-Grub-Hub, the delivery of OG food.)

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Samosa and spicy potato chutney is a typical tiffin food, which Goswami offers at Calcutta Kitchens in Kingston.

  • Samosa and spicy potato chutney is a typical tiffin food, which Goswami offers at Calcutta Kitchens in Kingston.

Goswami, who does not like large meals, missed this aspect of Indian life. “In India you have these places where you can always go for a chai and a quick snack,” she says. “Here you have donuts and coffee, but I haven’t always wanted something sweet, or a giant sandwich, or a big plate of food. I just wanted a little snack, something in between.

Still, she didn’t necessarily think she would be the one to fill that void in American gastronomy. Living in Accord and a regular at the Kingston Farmers’ Market, Goswami started asking for a commercial kitchen. A friend put her in touch with the owner of 448 Broadway, Kingston, which once housed Artisan Bakery. “When I saw the space, it was like everything that had been swirling around in my head immediately clicked into place,” says Goswami – tiffins, his product line, Indian pantry ingredients .

Paneer Pioneer

“When I decided to open in Kingston, I didn’t know there weren’t Indian restaurants here,” laughs Goswami. “I wasn’t trying to be a pioneer. I happen to live here and love Kingston so I thought it would be nice. It was the right time and the right place to do it.

Since opening on May 4, in its storefront at 448 Broadway, Goswami has been cooking home-cooked Indian dishes five days a week. Three of those days the meal is vegan, two days there is a meat dish. There is no menu, she cooks what she wants depending on the weather and seasonal produce. “It’s like your mother’s cooking,” Goswami said. “You walk in and say ‘what’s for lunch today?'” And I say, ‘this is what I did’, and this is what you eat. With an open kitchen where you can see Goswami at work, the feeling is like pulling a chair over to someone’s kitchen table while they continue to chop, stir and chat over their shoulder.

Daily deals are announced via Instagram stories. Recent tiffins have included chicken biryani with koshimbir, a typical South Indian cold salad; ghugni, a bengali dried pea curry, with tamarind chutney and sweet pav rolls. “Most Indian dishes are more of a simmer,” says Goswami. “So it’s even better the next day.” For vegetarians who visit Kolkata’s kitchens on a weekday meat day, there are always extra servings of recent vegetarian and vegan dishes available in the freezer, as well as frozen flatbreads like naan and paratha. And there’s hot chai and cold lemonade to sweeten the deal.

Jars of simmering sauces and chutneys from Calcutta Kitchens line the walls of the bright and airy corner space, along with curated cookbooks. Goswami also sells basic Indian groceries, pickled vegetables with ubiquitous basmati rice, various types of dal (lentils), and harder-to-find but essential spices like hing (asafetida). There are sidewalk and indoor bistro tables, armchairs and a long communal table, where Goswami hopes to one day lead Indian cooking classes.

At least for this year, Goswami will continue to do the Kingston Farmers Market, as well as monthly markets in Larchmont, Phenicia and Park Slope. “What I know and what I do would not have been the same without this constant interaction with my clients on a friendly basis, with their feedback informing what I do and the type of experiences I provide,” says -she. “I owe a lot to the knowledge I gained at farmers’ markets, and I feel like I need to maintain that connection.”

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