If you are a Mumbaikar or a Pune'ite, chances are that you might have frequented this beautiful hill station at least once with your family. For us, well we grew up frequenting Lonavala and Mahabaleshwar on most of our vacations. Not only was the weather pleasant year round ,it also was a quick getaway which needed lesser travel,without any travel reservations,especially railways. But one thing striking about Mahabaleshwar is you don't get bored of it. We discover multiple things to do, places to go on each of our visits. And then there are those pleasant childhood memories that we cherish.
Modern day Mahabaleshwar has progressed a lot.The quality of roads and ghats are much better, so yea, not much of nauseating and puking episodes, and apart from activities like Go carting and Strawberry Farm visits, there are a whole bunch of entrepreneurs who have taken upon themselves to keep the modern crown and foodies entertained and delight them with loads of food. So apart from Mapro farms, do pay a visit to Pure Berrys and The Cheese Factory.
On our recent visit, we did discover a lot of places apart from tourist spots, we call them Foodie Spots or Khane ke Adde. So let me just put them for you.
For the Strawberry Fix:
Mahabaleshwar is actually something like an unofficial strawberry capital of Maharashtra. Giving the strawberries tough competition are the yummilicious Mulberries. Visiting Mahabaleshwar and not having strawberries with cream is nothing short of a crime. We personally love the ones served at the shops in the market. Plus these shops have the option of topping it up with fresh mulberry or strawberry icecream. You can actually taste the fresh fruit in the icecream...no artificial flavours here. We prefer buying strawberries from the stalls outside Mapro Garden. These are freshly plucked and not over ripe. Plus you get a good bargain if you buy in bulk.Back home, remove the leaves and stalks and store them in the freezer. Never wash them if you are going to freeze them. They keep good for 5 to 6 months.
A visit to Mapro Garden is a must when in Mahabaleshwar. Not just for their jams and squashes but also for their wood oven pizzas and grilled sandwiches. Personally I am not too keen on their strawberries with cream. The newly launched lounge drinks squashes section is worth a visit. Got to try new flavors like coconut, triple sec, hazelnut, vanilla, mint. The Mazaana chocolate has a new chocolate covered paan flavor apart from chocolate coated dates, cashews and almonds. Falero chews had new flavors like blackcurrant and guava apart from the regular strawberry and kacchi kairi. Particularly enjoyed watching the short film on strawberries (we discovered y strawberries get their name from..they were cultivated using a bed of straws). Another thing worth a mention is the landscaping at Mapro. Very pleasing on eyes. And if you love taking selfies, there are a lot of places for you here!
Pure Berries have come up with their outlet just a few kilometers from Mapro. The recently opened Cheese factory is worth a visit. They have a few varieties of cheese spread like the regular plain one, the garlic herb, the pepper but my favorite is the smoked one. Its got a subtle smokey flavour, not at all overpowering. Can go really well with barbeque. They were in the process of launching the cheeses like morzerella, gouda n more. The fried Oreos there are a must try. Kids loved it. Their Squashes counter was a delight. Loads of different flavour. Apart from the regular squashes they had topping also. Tried a variety of them and bought loads. They have a few preserves too. The apple cinnamon and the apricot is worth a try. The sugar free variety is also available in some flavours. Noticable product was the biryani oil which was oil infused with spices. Quite potent without being overpowering. The pastry section was not too big on variety, but the brownies cupcake was good. The strawberry cake bar was moist n fresh. They have a Pure Honey section too. The highlight of the outlet are the vintage buggy n the car displayed there. Pure old world charm!
Malas too have come up with their outlet a few minutes after Pure Berries. Their mocktail mix collection is good with catchy names like bizzare black. Not many options in food though.
Desi Food Fix:
If you are a total desi food lover, there is still something for you. The hot and crisp Pakodas at the stall outside mapro are worth try. And the lovely Lady Ms.Sushma believes in serving hot pakoras, so no previously fried stuff kept on stall. And relishing the vada pav with tea and some Parle G is a true delight. Personally, we would give the firangi sandwiches a miss for these potato pakoras.
Back in the Market, Pani Poori stall outside Poonam restaurant has the best chatakedaar paani pooris. Just the right mix of spicy, tangy and sweet. We dined a couple of times at Poonam restaurant which serves awesome veg food. The sevice was quick and it was always full. The Pav Bhaaj was not up to my bambaiyya palatte. The punjabi thaali was wholesome and filling.
And if you get tired shopping on a sunny afternoon,the colorful ice golas come to the rescue.
Markets and Shopping:
Women love shopping, we are no different... the market lane gives us a feel good goosebumps .. The footwears are especially cheap and durable, and the designs are niche. Then there are handbags,especially those khadi kinds, and the dohars and blankets that need attention. The rest, well, you can give a miss, or just window shop!
Evenings are more fun, at the market, enjoy the cool weather with hto roasted chanas from Mama or Kaka Chanewalle at the edge of the market street.
There's a thing about hill stations and Bakery. Mahabaleshwar has its very own Elsie's Bakery, which is currently run by 3rd generation Bakers. Loved the warmth with which the D'Souza Sisters welcomed us. There's a whole variety of goan style cakes and sweets , especially during the peak season. We loved the cakes and the Traditional Goan fudges and sweets.
Honey Boney??: Wana learn where your honey comes from?
A visit to this Natural Bee Museum run by Govt of Maharashtra will take you on a Sweet Honey ride. We have always been buying natural Honey from this place,every time we came here with parents. But this time, their Staff Mr.Beloshe took us to the museum and explained us live the entire process of honey making...and don't worry, you wont be stung by a bee. Alright we studied about the queen bee and the workers, but didnt knew they actually catch the queen bee and get it in the farm and the worker bees follow the queen by smell. The honey production fluctuates as per season, its flourishing in spring. the honey is named after the plant or flowers the bees thrive on..so you have a more popular jamun honey.Natural honey and Gulkand is worth a buy here.
So the next time if you think of Mahabaleshwar, think Strawberries, but go beyond the Jams and Squashes!