Drunched…Now what is that.

Goa in the monsoons…can one believe that this season too has a ‘happening’ avatar? Imagine the pitter patter of raindrops on the leaves….sometimes torrential downpours….

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the sunlight breaking through causing the rainbow over the Mandovi River to shine like a beacon. A colorful  bridge of pure delight….like one from the mouth to the stomach. Yes there is variety to stimulate one’s spirits.

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One such restaurateur was Xav Norr of Route 66. With pastry ‘life partner’ Nicola, the route this monsoon on a lazy Sunday afternoon had one ‘drunk drenched’ with happiness. It was the Brooklyn experience for a Brunch Foodgasm….in other words that afternoon ‘brooked’ no competition. It was an invite to Mr Nobody’s food trail.

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So what was on offer? Mini bite sized preparations…eat till you say stop. 16 minute bite sized goodies…Yes it’s the Sunday blast….well the locals believe it’s a day of rest, but nowhere was it specified that the stomach should have one too. Juices, Spirits….it’s your choice. Hot and fresh from the kitchen onto the table…

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Peanut butter and jelly sandwich…Yuum, Manhattan Donut Baggie burger…high on taste, small enough to pop, Beer batter Onion rings….crunchy munchy delicacy, Bourbon glazed ham and cheese on rye….Aye…Aye…Aye.

And then there was Nicola’s gooey sweetened preparations. Pure SIN. On a Sunday? Time for confession. Those Gooey cinnabuns rocked..the sexy n wild red velvet cakes popped…in the mouth. Lollipop style. And of course you had to Do (those) nuts….start guessing.

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Time for a sing song? Let Varun Carvalho lead the way. He gets you into the mood.

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A bit hazy…always crazy…it was a lazy crazy afternoon that ranked right up there with the monsoon….unlimited torrential it was pouring flavors and happiness unlimited. It that is not ‘drunched’ what it?

Zor (Spring)….A great Balance

Let there be that ‘spring’ in your step…perhaps that could have been the secret of a healthy and relaxed way of life in this tiny state in the past. So let us share the secrets of the ‘zor’ which sadly (except perhaps for a few) are slowly falling into neglect.  Nature’s beauty slowly being polluted. The Challsamchi Zor in Margao where God was said to have put together 40 springs, the Secret Dossa zor in Assagoa lying amidst the sacred groves (Dev rai), the Rivona springs in beautiful Sanguem taulka. In the past it was a full day picnic with tiffin and a soak for medicinal benefits especially for the eyes. That was the local mantra.

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Today we have moved away from nature to Spa’s. Everyone and just anyone has to avail of the Spa therapy here. There are Spa’s which provide the relaxation ‘mode’ and ayurvedic benefits too.

Let’s take the up market Shamana Spa at The Grand Hyatt in Bambolim. Shamana means ‘balance’…and the treatment here is for body and mind restoration. And while the natural spa’s heal is based on the mineral properties in the water and one’s strong belief in the same, at Shamana Spa trained personnel interact with you to work out the treatment you desire.

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And to add to the ‘uniqueness’ choose your ingredient…..there is diamond, pearl and natural seaweed too. One can spend a full day immersed in the treatment. A complimentary sauna, steam, Jacuzzi and a swim in their full length indoor pool too.

Choose those facials….pigmentation is just a massage away. Or that massage with the hot lava stone. Rejuvenation at their fingertips. The rooms, they have ‘couple’ rooms too…they all have a well appointed feel, changing rooms and toilets attached. Perfect balance in all respects.

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End the experience with a choice of ‘special teas’ or a chilled drink of lemon water. It’s a day worth remembering.

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Yes our little state of Goa would have a perfect ‘balance’ if our natural spa’s were spruced up. But Spa’s like this one compensate to the ‘feel good’ factor. As Kevin Richardson said ‘I believe as human beings we are out of balance, out of synch with the earth.’

The Spa’s like the Shamana Spa at The Grand Hyatt in Goa makes us live up to our old traditions where health is wealth. To quote Buddha ‘to keep the body in good health is a duty….otherwise we shall not be able  to keep our mind strong and clear.’ That is what is known as a perfect Balance.

Butterflies are Free. 

Eliza Dolittle said ‘I don’t really go out to Party but I’m definitely a social butterfly.

Interesting…because that what happened to us on a Thursday night. I am not really a party animal but had heard that things were happening at the Sol. This is a place where perhaps everyone who is someone catches up to relax, unwind and ‘flit?’

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Ihaan, Kiran and me…decided to party that night with Joe. Yes we were pepped up because this was our first visit to the ‘Boutique Hotel’ on a Thursday night.

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We caught up with GM Ashley Thomas. And then the band began strumming…. What are they called? The Chrysalis. Very interesting if one remembers the Chrysalis is a transformation of the Butterfly. And this is Chrystal Farrells own band. But let’s get back to the butterfly….

Those pretty creatures that flit around nature and beauty. Nature…It is said that on earth there is no heaven…just pieces of it. Just found one. The Sol is a beautiful oasis of peace with a body of water, beautiful green fields and…yes let’s talk food.

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So what did we nibble on…their pizzas are great. They have a variety…a big choice although pepperoni is my fav. The thin crust is oh so mind boggling. Yes pizzas have a great history, but closer to home we too have our own crusty variations too…the pao (Portuguese for bread). The Goan breadmaker is known locally as PODER, an adaptation of the Portuguese ‘padeiro’

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What is the story of this bread? Let’s get back to the 16th century when the Portuguese found a surfeit of toddy in a small area called Utorda in South Goa  And with it began the Goan pão which is  a culinary masterpiece, because the toddy was used as a leavening agent instead of yeast. And so we have the pao, undo, poyi, the pokshie the unique crisp kakon (the bangle) and the katre (butterfly shape too)

Let’s end with a quote from the American drama film… “I only ask to be free. The butterflies are free. Mankind will surely not deny to Harold Skimpole what it concedes to the butterflies’

Goa has that magic if one wants to be free..

Roots

Alex Haley captured it for posterity, the story of Kunta Kinte a 18th century African in his book Roots. With so much development along this belt of Baga in Goa, we are sure to forget our very own ‘Roots’

Francisco D’Souza has helped rewrite the past. But this is not a novel but a story told over dinner at Casa Portuguesa an old heritage home in Baga. Francisco has retained the olde world charm, dim lighting included. It’s a story about how locals lived in that era.

Give a big shout to Marianne Borgo a French actress who is so passionately in love with our culture. So here we stood posing for the camerain a happy frame of mind with food author on Mediterranean food Kornelia Santoro getting ready for the meal. Informality is the theme.

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But before we start take in the ambience. That old piano, the chandeliers. Stop to see the ceramic bottles standing all in a row.

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Yes the old altar remains the way it used to be. The old Icons are still intact. Perhaps the new ceramic bharnees with the flowers add a ‘quaint’ touch.

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Francisco can plan your meal for you, off the menu. The old Portuguese Goan touch. And don’t be surprised if as a ‘digestive’ he will pick up his guitar and sing a few Portuguese numbers for you.

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At the end it was time to say goodbye. But many people did linger on. This is not one place to be experienced in haste.

You don’t stumble upon your heritage. It’s there, just waiting to be explored and shared. Robbie Robertson

Love is the poetry of the senses.

L’amour est la poésie des sens (Balzac). That is the French translation. Sounds romantic…doesn’t it? Time hubby and I made the most of it…and we did. It was the Celebration of Good France Day at The Park on Holiday Street. And it was apt that the celebration took place in their restaurant LOVE.

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But first let’s find out what was the origin of the literal word LOVE. It is used so often these days that one does not even stop to think about where it originated. It goes back to the very roots of the English language. The word is recorded in the earliest English writings as far back as the 8th century. The Old English word is lufu. It is said to be related is related to Old Frisian (West Germanic) word luve, There is a cognate lof in the early forms of the Scandinavian languages. In Latin it was lubet meaning it is pleasing and lubido meaning desire.

Pleasing…desirable…  Those words did come to mind as we sat down to a four course menu with General Manager Mr Saurabh Khanna. The restaurant is by the beach, can one get more romantic? Want to get to Paris in france and see the Eiffel Tower? That too was taken care of.

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We nibbled on the Amuse Bouche…time to choose the courses. It was back to the days of fine dining…Saumon Fume, ferme roquette fraiche, fromage a la crème, roulade, coeurs de palmier, de raisin et de la salsa aux tomatoes sechees (Smoked Salmon with a grape sun dried tomato salsa). Sounds more poetic in French. Lets take my choice of the main course: Ralentissez jarrets d’agneau cuit dans son jus avec tente glacure d’asperges, micro greens tour de pommes de terre boulangere (Lamb shanks in its jus, glazed asparagus tent, micro greens boulangere potato tower). Get my point. English translations are a bit too prosaic. After the cheese course we opted for dessert. Looked at my hubby saying…where are the roses?

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And then it was presented…with the dessert. The passion fruit crème brulee decorated with rose petals.

Well the French do end things in style…and so did The Park. For the nightcap…a play on the senses. The Chocolate Cointreau Shooter. What more could one ask?

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Love was in the air…at Holiday Street,

 

A Twist to the Tale

The mango has arrived. The trees are laden with every possible variety. Yes we Goan’s are proud of this fruit, even stating that there are One hundred and six varieties that existed or still exist in Goa.

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Did the Portuguese bring in the fruit to our shores? Yes we are aware that there was one named after Afonso de Albuqerque who helped establish the Portuguese colonies in Goa. But then there are the Colaço, Malcorada, Oliveira and even a Xavier to name a few…there is a definite twist to this tale.

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Where does this story begin? This is one version. Apparently this fruit was native to India way before the Portuguese arrived. There is mention of the same way back during the vedic period. So here is the story of the Portuguese and the mango. A clever friar proficient in the method of grafting created the different varieties. And as the Portuguese travelled back and forth between their colonies they took the saplings with them. Now there is definite evidence that it reached Brazil. In fact it was that perfect fruit which was eventually called the Alfonso..or the Alphonso as it is known today.

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Did that mango flourish in the East? No recorded evidence, although the Portuguese did have their colonies there. Today however inspired preparations bring the mango to the fore. Alwyn Mascarenhas proprietor of the Wok and Roll an oriental restaurant brings out the Mango Som Tom …an adaptation of the famous papaya salad. ‘I never did like papaya,’ he confesses sheepishly, ‘and so here is the preparation in its’ new avatar.’ Well one might not get to taste this preparation throughout the year. The firm mango strips need to get the fruit off the tree.

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But remember in Goa it’s always the spirits that take center stage so you will not be disappointed. Throughout the year sip on the frozen mango mixes. They look good enough to ‘spin’ you through your holiday.

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A gentle belch of contentment,,,then wok…twist…and Roll….you can even get one ‘mango mania hangover’ named after you.

 

 

In print…a Master Chef at work

She was a finalist at the Masterchef Australia…and now Sarah Todd has made her base in Goa. At Antares.  But her passion for food does not stop here. Let’s take a peek into what she is about in this beautiful earthy paradise.

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The restaurant…Antares! Split down three levels, right down to the seaside, the menu is all about the natural use of ingredients. She has fashioned many of the preparations by studying the local preparations and unifying the ingredients to create ‘inspired’ preparations of her own.  Take the case of her Ponzu slow cooked lamb croquettes. One is aware that meat croquettes are a hot favorite of the ‘locals’, it’s a Portuguese legacy which has been enhanced over the years. Goans stand in a line every morning outside eateries to have them as elevenses, just before lunch. It is also a popular favorite to nibble on as a snack with their drink. These minced spiced preparations have a flavor to entice the palate.  But Sarah perhaps inspired by this preparation has created a different styled croquette from her very own repertoire. Australian style….its pulled lamb, slow cooked over eight hours which forms the filling of this preparation. The puree as garnish and accompaniment adds to its interesting ‘avatar’

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The mixes…. Uniquely crafted and spirited. Definitely not the ‘run of the mill’ classics. Linger around come noon to beat the heat, try out their Sunday brunches. This Strawberry basil Margarita definitely packs a punch especially when accompanied by Crystal’s soul stirring music. End that meal with a Captain Expresso. It’s expresso coffee, Kalhua and Captain Morgan at the helm…a sure shot ‘express’ way to lighten those spirits.

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The Book….Sarah’s very first print. Simplicity personified. It’s all about nature. Guess it’s proper to say that and ask her, ‘how does your garden grow.’ Right in her restaurant she has ‘nature’s bouquet’, a start up of her own small garden. She is natures ‘natural’ I guess.

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Talking about printing….this art entered India through Goa  It was a letter to St. Ignatius of Loyola, dated 30 April 1556, Father Gasper Caleza speaks of a ship carrying a printing press setting sail for Abyssinia from Portugal. It was to help the missionaries stationed there. However there were circumstances that prevented this printing press from leaving India. So the operations  began in Goa in that very year with the first printing press being established at the Jesuit Saint Paul’s college in Old Goa.

And while Raymond Chandler says that ‘the flood of print has turned reading into a process of gulping rather than savoring’, there are many things to savor at Antares