Ploof Gourmet Kitchen and Deli

Ploof Is always around on the radar and one cannot help but visit it a few times every year , it close by to where one stays , no hassles with parking or the location and the food is good. Off late on top of eating there one has picked up some of their raw products as well from the Deli although value for money the Deli is not , picked up pork chops from there last I went and the bill was about 1200 or so for about 5-6 odd pieces, yes it served two people for dinner but drive a little more towards Jorbagh market and one can get the same number of chops , slightly smaller at around the 500-600 mark.

But this is not a review for the Deli ‚Äď and coming back to the restaurant itself :- Continue reading

Driving from Delhi to Shimla : Updated October 2013

Been a while since i posted here and what better way to get back at it than to update one of my starting posts and for which i still get a lot of comments ; Driving from Delhi to Shimla.

Have had the fortune of being able to make 2 drives up in the last 2 months , primarily thanks to my interest in driving a new car which i gotūüôā , and happy to report that it’s still a comfortable drive.

In both cases one left at about 6:30 AM in the morning , which is typically 1.5 hours later than my usual departure time , but i had passengers and timings had to be adjusted accordingly.  The first drive was done in August while the rains were still very much present here in Delhi , and the second barely 10 days ago. The update is an integration of observations across both drives. The first one took about 10 hours both directions and the second one was much faster , 8.5 hours one way and 7 coming back. The delay in the first was primary owing to encountering massive thunderstorms which reduced visibility and speed.

Getting out of Delhi is smooth as butter now early in the morning , depending on the road and the area of Delhi one is leaving from , crossing the border can be done in 30-40 minutes now. We now ofcourse have the ring road bypass or the Mahatma Gandhi road bypass which gets one out pretty much just short of ISBT. Signal free and reasonably good tarmac ensures that it takes all of 5 minutes to get to ISBT , which can be a mess depending on your luck. Post this till the Panipat toll there are not too many places where one can encounter a Jam. The entire stretch is in good condition , broad roads , good tarmac , not too many potholes . Traffic or rather traffic discipline is still as bad as its ever been.

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The Panipat bypass looses its sheen for me , while its still far far better than what it used to be , the number of trucks and heavy vehicles plying on it now means reduced speeds and enough overtaking required. To compound the problem , the trucks dont still to their lanes resulting in enough situations where speed drops down to a crawl owing to two trucks side by side with no space , only option is to wait till one of them moves ahead of the other. The Panipat toll is slow , i wish they would pick up a thing or two from the Delhi-Gurgaon toll operators and waiting time would drop drastically , there is a certain air of “laziness” which seems to prevail with everyone taking their own time to move on , give receipts and change. Fortunately the lines are still short enough , or atleast i have not encountered a long one , can take upto 10 minutes to pass the booth.

After Panipat is where everything goes back to the good old days , the stretch till Ambala and a little beyond is pathetic . Part of the 6 laning of the road till Jalandhar, the entire stretch lies in shambles. I believe vendors have not been paid for a while and overtime all work has stopped completely.

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6 lane plan scope : Photocredit : The Tribune

Hence there are quite a few diversions thanks to NHAI not finishing the work on the numerous flyovers which are in different stages of completion.  At any point thus where one encounters a flyover there is a diversion which one must take , the diversions are narrow so traffic ends up moving mostly in a single file. Add rains to it and you will encounter standing water as well.

Karnal is a mess and going through the town can take a good 30 minutes depending on traffic conditions. The main road does not exist anymore since it was dug up and hence we have arteries so to speak on either side which handles the traffic now. These are narrow again , can have lots of standing water , are broken as a result and do not be surprised to find yourself crawling.

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One of the many flyovers in an incomplete state : Photo credit : the Tribune

I try and go past Karnal before stopping for a break so i can get it over and out of the way. There are as always tons of options for food available with old favorites such as Jhilmil Dhaba still present and new ones such as The Savoy , Haveli. Just short of Jhilmil one also has Sagar Ratna now available. Simply too many to name , just slow down and pick anything which catches your eye!

We still have a toll on this road too , and i dont understand why they take money. This is the old toll booth which has been around for donkeys years , what they have done is shifted it a few kilometers towards Ambal , earlier it was less than a kilometer away from Jhilmil. The fee is now 100/105 INR one way , so not cheap at all and given what you have just driven through and will be till post Ambala , i find it hard to justify its existence. Broken down , dirty looking booths with just flat out arrogant guys working in it. If the Panipat guys were maybe a little lazy , these guys definitely are. Long lines a good possibility.

The Ambala Chandigarh expressway is simply fantastic in terms of the overall experience and you get to Zirakpur in no time. Just be careful of people crossing the expressway , even though there are guard rails ; as we know most people will not listen. Occasional cow might be around as well just in case you started to loose the ” i am in India” feelingūüôā !

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Toll at the Ambala Chandigarh expressway. Photo Credit : Automotive Horizon

Zirakpur is crowded , anyone coming here after a gap of a few years is going to be overwhelmed by the construction which has taken place. Fancy residents and malls on either side of the road. When hitting Zirakpur remember to get on to the service lane and not the flyover. The flyover takes one into Chandigarh city , which earlier was not a problem because a U-Turn was possibly to come back , in fact it was a better option than taking the normal road to Shimla since there was no chance of getting stuck in a jam. Now however the U-Turn is not available and one has to drive a fair bit before being able to turn around. The right turn from the service road to get onto the Shimla road is busy and it can take 2-3 cycles to clear it depending on the traffic and the time of day that one is passing by.

Post this it is a bit crowded for about a kilometer thanks to the hordes of people , buses , trucks standing and moving around but opens up fairly quickly. Now one is on the Zirakpur-Kalka-Panchkula highway which hits the newly opened Himalayan Expressway , or the point at which one can take a left to go towards Kalka / Parwanoo. There is a toll on this road as well , about 30 INR but does not take too long to cross. The entire stretch from Zirakpur to the start of the Expressway can be done in a comfortable 20-25 minutes , and then add another 10 -12 odd minutes to get to Timber Trail. What an achievement!! The old road which used to go through Kalka etc was stuff which nightmares was made off.  Time saving is at-least 45-60 minutes if not more overall.

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Zirakpur РKalka expresway : Photo credit : http://munishchauhan.blogspot.in

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Himalayan Expressway : Credit : http://www.truewanderers.in

There is yet another toll booth at the end of it before hitting Timber Trail. This is entry tax for Himachal. Quite a joke and if first impressions are everything , then this does not put Himachal in a good light at all. Atleast now they have some kind of temporary structures which they call a booth , about a year back they had a few people sitting on stools. Himachal has to be one of the worst states in this country when it comes to understanding Asthetics. A beautiful road which ends on a bad note. (Have a picture , will add it later on )

Other than traffic from this point onwards the roads in good condition overall. The Barogh road is open posts the landslide for a while now and has new tarmac hence quite smooth , the Solan bypass has been fixed up as well and is an equally good option. Solan remains crowded as ever which cannot be avoided as do the other places one passes by such as Kandhaghat.

Happy and safe Driving!

Snowfall in Shimla

Just an ¬†update for everyone who has been sending me questions on when they can expect snowfall in Shimla , and make travel plans accordingly – Shimla got some snowfall a few days back , while weather predictions are at best vague there appears to be a period between 24th – 26th December when most weather¬†information¬†services are predicting moderate to heavy showers – given the temperatures , this could easily translate into snow as well , but like i have been mentioning , there are no¬†guarantees.ūüėČ

Driving from Delhi to Shimla : Update July 2012

Managed to make a quick trip up and down earlier this month and thought i would share an update with everyone on the road condition between Delhi and Shimla ,  given that its one of the more popular posts.

The driving has clearly become much easier!

Exit from Delhi is now very smooth thanks to the completion of the flyovers / new tarmac which NHAI was laying down. We managed to get from Central Delhi to Murthal in about 45 minutes , nothing very aggressive with the respect to speeds Рthe time saving came through the fact that a healty 80kmph could be maintained for most of the time given the quality of the roads Рand this at 615 AM in the morning when traffic was starting to build up , leaving earlier say 5-530 AM might shave off another 10 minutes or so.

The entire stretch to Panipat remains as nice and speedy as it has been for the last few years. Disappointed to note that the Panipat flyover (bypass) is clearly not being maintained as well as it should be , while there are no potholes on the road , the surface is not as smooth as it used to be and given that the toll is still operational it should be in a better state.

Panipat onwards is where the speeds start to slow down and traffic starts to build up , there is significant construction taking place and there continue to be many diversions , slip lanes and overall bad roads. This lasts till past Karnal and what earlier used to be a fast stretch has become quite slow.  Add to this the fact that buses etc stop on the slip lanes to pick up/drop off people , it can be quite frustrating.

Continue reading

Delhi to Shimla by Road : Update as of 28th July 2011

Delhi to Shimla

Just a small update for everyone with regard to the road condition between Delhi and Shimla as it stands as of a few weeks ago
First the good news. The stretch from Delhi to Panipat now is simply awesome ( excluding ofcourse our traffic behavior) , the entire stretch from Azadpur to the delhi border has been done up with a series of flyovers placed as well cutting the time drastically. Wide open roads with very few lights ensure that you can zip through this stretch now , a welcome relief from all the years it has taken for this to be completed.

The bad news. Panipat to Ambala is current a massive work in progress project. NHAI is expanding the road to make it into an 8 lane stretch. Good intentions but it makes for poor driving at this point . The current length of the road has been reduced and there are very few straights now available to build and maintain a decent pace. In many places the stretch is only about 500 km’s before there is a small diversion in aid of a flyover pillar being placed. A bit frustrating if you are trying to push but once ready ( not sure when) i am sure this will be an excellent stretch

The flyover work at Zirakpur is over ( FYI for those not aware – post Ambala the expressway has been fully functional for quite sometime now). Traffic is bad but more owing to bad driving than anything else.

The best part and something i have been looking forward to for years is the new stretch between Zirakpur all the way to Parwanoo. A brand new road , with 5-6 flyovers built in makes it a delight now. I managed the run ( which is approx 30 -35 odd kms) in less than 20 minutes , a far cry from the days when it used to take as much as 45-60 mins depending on traffic.

Once at Parwanoo of course the problems which have plagued this area and further on Kalka continue to exist , but there is a bypass being built now which will come out a little before Timber Trail once  completed ( not sure when) which promises to , if not reduce time, at least make the drive less stressful.

Turning off Facebook Open Graph

I am not even going to attempt going into the details , negatives and positives of the announcements which Facebook has made in the recent F8 conference , theres a lot of information out on the web and sites like Watblog have covered it well. What i will touch on is the Open Graph feature

To summarize , Open graph essentially allows other websites to access details of your Facebook account to try and give you a more personalized experience while surfing the internet. FB has tied up with 30 odd vendors across the web right now to try and make this happen. So if you visit a website , the open graph gives you recommendations basis what it thinks you will like – what you like is something it will try and figure out by scanning your FB account – Yes , Privacy suddenly becomes public.

I for one am still in the process of digesting all the implications and the information present on this , but what i did do was to turn off this feature to ensure that till i am 100% convinced (IF) , my details are protected and for those who wish to follow the same approach , this is how you can turn it off ( Incidentally for me it was off by default , but never hurts to check it out)

Login to your account and go to Privacy Settings from the account tab present on the top right. Then go to applications and websites in the choices which you see.  Once inside this page , scroll right to the bottom , to the INSTANT PERSONALIZATION link and uncheck ALLOW. This will deactivate the feature.

Facebook Privacy