Au naturel the Natti way 

I am currently playing catchup to the concept of suitcase living due to multiple travels and find myself on days like these playing George Clooney’s character in the movie Up in the air. I assure you there is no resemblance or similarities between us two (apart from the fact that we both own a Harley- and well, were single- alas the good one bit the dust all but recently dear ladies. My sympathies) but it’s more towards the concept. So let’s not detract when post all this madness between multiple cities, some slow and some super hectic it felt good to head over to Natti’s Naturals in Anjuna. 

Often, many of us in the food industry get asked the age old question- Wow, what a life? Eat and review food all day? what does it take for me to land that job? Ever heard the saying- “the grass is greener on the other side?” It’s NOT in my opinion unless it’s got faux pas AstroTurf present. Even the best of us succumb to health issues from eating out so much and at times require and deserve some wholesome good organic food. The minute you enter her place you are greeted by this effervacious host- Natti,  who makes it her personal mission to ensure you have a healthy hearty good time. The menu and the offerings are organic, simple and wholesome. Most of the vegetables used in the preparation come from the garden behind. And her drinks prepared are preservative free. 

The minute I entered her cafe, I felt healthy rejuvenated and fresh. Something I was long looking forward too. In conversation about LIFE (which we normally gravitate towards- there’s something about Food and Life which is so entwined.) A small example being ,Natti’s principles which she imbibes in her meal – all her salads are washed with filtered water with himalayan salt & white wine vinegar. All the juices are made from scratch so she asks you upfront to be patient. Raw organic sugar & local honey from a farm is utilised and you have options for gluten free bread, almond or soya milk.

 I choose a  vegetarian offering. Yes I love my veggies and given a chance, I eat my greens for the majority of ones week. I must admit when I was suggested the quiche I squinted towards a more substantial ‘filling’ item on the menu. Natti assured me my trail would not be in vain. Each of her portions can easily feed two. She accredits her half punjabi genes for the wholesomeness of quantity without discounting quality much like my lovely Punjabi brethren. Their hospitality is for another upcoming story. 

The Mini broccoli & feta quiche with green salad had a light base (given it was a gluten free) not to mention the size was filling yet appetising. The greens were crunchy and fresh recently plucked as promised. The beauty of this dish was the fact it made way for the decadent yet healthy Natti’s Nutti Chocolate cake (gluten & dairy free made with almonds- which most of you still question me on in wonder- be nice to Natti and she might tell you her secret ingredient – alas no Promises) 

And just like that the better part of the afternoon comes to an end. My appetite and hunger fulfilled only monetarily. She urges me to try a few non vegetarian items off her menu. I am stuffed to the gills and happily so. 

There’s a round of travel in my calendar Natti but I assure you I shall return soon. 

Mini broccoli & feta quiche with green salad Pic courtesy: Nolan Mascarenhas Photography

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Gardening @ the bar 

I must confess. I miss my garden. The smell of wet mud, the plucking of weeds and my entire gardening apparel, gloves, hat et all. The simple joys of pottering and tottering around getting my hands dirty (in a matter of speaking). 

On my food trail in lovely Mumbai on a glorious sweaty and sunny afternoon a foodie bestie and self decided to head over to Jamjar diner @ Versova for some much needed catch up and a ‘special surprise’ that awaited me. 

Least expecting come dessert time was the presentation of this ‘sinful surprise’ brought to our table- Flower pot surprise. 

I guess it must have been the constant high pitched tone shrills me and my bestie kept on at that possible caught the attention of our garçon attending to us to attentively without ask hand over this delicate creation. 

So what is the Flower Pot Surprise? As you can see it looks like an orchid plant but underneath the so called deceiving earthly mud is a ton of gooey brownies, a few diced marshmallows infused with dollops of vanilla ice cream topped off with Oreo soil. A gardeners treat indeed. 

Mind you though, looks can be deceiving. Though small in size it took all our might to down this treat. It is comfortable enough to satiate at least 3 people on the table so order one carefully.

With great tunes belted out in a very chic retro diner (loved the old juke box) and great conversation ahead here’s to happy food trails ahead. Oh- I forget to mention – don’t worry if you don’t have green fingers for this any color will do as long as the sweet tooth craving prevails. 

Flower pot surprise -(before & after)   Pic courtesy – Nolan Mascarenhas Photography 

Poco Loco with mi Churro 

Anyone heard the latest song by Prince Royce feat Pitbull- “Back it up?”, I’d suggest you all do when you read this post especially while I dig into this sinful Churro at San Churros in Bandra. 

Before my avatar in a galaxy and time zone far away, this used to be my midnight haunt especially post a strenuous workout (yes it makes no sense, however when looked at from my perspective, was a calorie nullifer to counter my sweet tooth cravings. Simple math, though i sucked at it BIG time in school- run like a mad man on the treadmill to burn a measly 350 calories only to gain it with this sinful concoction at midnight). Hence the name ‘loco‘ made perfect sense. 

mr. NObody along with a dear friend and foodie from Mumbai decided to troll the old haunts once again (nostalgia kicking in). The Churros were just as I left them. All crunch with that extra dose of sugar powder sprinkled over and heady milk chocolate dip- sinful and consistent. 

For those who didn’t know -Churros were invented by Spanish monks (god bless them) and its part of the extended donut familia. Well,anything remotely close from that is always welcome in my books. 

Savour this with a small yet heady concoction- Macchiato and its something to give one that instant sugar rush to boost ones night. 

And for the musically inclined, the song would have ended by now. Get the drift “papichulo”. 

 Churro Poco with Macchiato  

Pic courtesy: Nolan Mascarenhas Photography
  

Wok in for some soft Crab 

I remember the first time I tried a soft shell crab. It was as bizarre as something straight out of weird foods and customs of a lost tribe. After all who would eat a crab whole. I questioned galore and was coaxed into trying it- doomsday thoughts filling my mind with every crunch. Will it chip my teeth, get stuck in my gullet etc. Safe to say I have been a fan since 1995. 

Braving the rains and many cancellations later due to scheduling conflicts I find myself at Wok n Roll. For those of you in Goa and around it’s steadily crafted its niche as quite the pan Asian influenced ‘go to’ restaurant nestled in the lush green mountains around Fort Aguada in Sinquerim. This time around I have my food buddy Varun Carvalho for company. Yes, he is still the ‘singing dentist’ as per last record. We are dined in the company of Alwyn Mascarenhas aka ‘Ollie’ as the ladies prefer. 

The main attraction on the menu (apart from Ollie for you lovely ladies – If memory serves me right he is single) served was the Chesapeake blue soft shell crab with a chili and salt Asian influence. Served with prawn wafers and some kimchi -it is unassumingly simplistic without much fanfare however has a sinful crunch. The crabs are fresh and the serving quantity plenty. This is one produce that is hard to get with only a few restaurants sourcing them so better head over there before it’s all over. Another item worthy of mention is the Clams in Lemongrass coconut curry with a steaming pot of rice. Hits the spot. 

This is part of their ongoing crab festival and all you crab and fish lovers do hurry. And ladies you have a double treat in store for you.

Chili & salt soft shell crabs  Pic courtesy: Nolan Mascarenhas Photography 

A Coppa with Sofia

I did mention earlier of my detox diet plan and eating healthy for a period of time.Then again after some serious sunshine and a sudden heavy unexpected downpour- I took refuge in a place away from home in Baba’s Wood Cafe ‘Da Maria’. I love all things Italian- The cars, the bikes, the women, the fashion and of course the food (at times not necessarily in that order.) And Mariagrazia Raschi with her welcoming Italian hospitality makes one feel at home the minute one steps in. For all those living under a shell- they have shifted to Miramar and are right above Bina Punjani Hair Studio. With the thunderous roar and thrashing showers (which I barely managed to escape- thankfully bone dry) I found myself staring at Sofia Loren (not in person, f course) in her early 20’s preparing Spaghetti cacio e pepe from a still of her movie La Ciociara (Two Women- 1960). A gorgeous photograph resonating the quintessential focus of a ‘trattoria’, which Mariagrazia proudly advocates. Its home style cooking with fresh ingredients- satisfies the senses every single time.  

But for a minute, leave Sofia be and let’s focus on what Mariagrazia brings to the table. She thought a nice shot of brandy would cheer me up. And known for my love for all things sweet she asks me to try out her latest creation- Coppa Amaretto & chocolate. As exotic as it appears and sounds- it is rather simplistic in nature. Lets deconstruct shall we? A  gooey free flowing chocolate mousse interspersed with crunchy amaretti biscotti layered with a slug of brandy topped with fresh whipped cream.Simple enough to make you drool? The portion is huge. A suggestion would be to share even for the voracious appetite. Its sinful indulgence. You make a fool of yourself trying to consume the remnant stains of mousse that holds dear to the spoon taunting you to slurp some more to show its chrome beneath. The fresh cream sends you into a heady tizzy like a walk in the clouds both in color and texture. A delightful chore indeed but in the end so worth it.

Coppa amaretto and chocolate   Pic courtesy: Nolan Mascarenhas Photography 

Did you know? Legend has it, the invention of this amaretto has received an amorous Renaissance treatment. In the early 18th century, a Milanese bishop or cardinal surprised the town of Saronno with a visit. A young couple – residents of the town, welcomed him and paid tribute with an original confection: on the spur of the moment, they had baked biscuits made of sugar, egg whites, and crushed apricot kernels or almonds.These so pleased the visiting bishop that he blessed the two with a happy and lifelong marriage, resulting in the preservation of the secret recipe over many generations.

Thank you rain gods to drive me into the arms of two amazing Italian women to share a coppa to the melody of the falling rain outside.

A Fish in the Bay

Living in a place that’s synonymous with fish, it’s hard to outdo oneself. Every second restaurant in and around Goa serves some lip smacking seafare and each have their own signatures attached. Another thing that strikes me is the consumption of fish near the sea. Ever wonder the irony of it. But one can always fall in love with the tranquility and solitude Bay 15 has to offer. A property with a view indeed. 

This evening was a delight at the hands of Chef Mir Hafizur Raheman the executive chef of this fine establishment. Under new management of the Justa group, i was told there was something new in store. With the thrashing melodious sound of the waves against the rocks with the pale moonlight we were in for a 5 course treat. 

Mediterranean cuisine is hard to dish out in this fair state with many plying their wares and trades with pomp and gusto. It’s a Herculean task to get something out that wow’s the eyes even before you dig into that first succulent bite. Everyone is doing it. What makes one different? When asked -Chef Raheman, a rather quiet character with his elf impish like smile said it all with his carefully crafted Tandoori Marinated Red Snapper. 

Let me assure you eating with ones eyes was the brief for the evening. I was overjoyed as how I normally am when I visit the Harley Davidson showroom and this was a first as far as food plating goes. Carefully and sinfully plated, it played and toyed with you to dig in instantly like a knee jerk reaction. Every single fiber in ones hand had to refrain from tugging in to destroy each masterpiece. Chef Raheman  having learnt from some of the Michellin star chefs carefully sits with me and dissects his piece de resistance. 

The fish -fresh and the tandoori marinade was perfect. But what enthralled me was the condiments added to it, giving that extra zing. Served with eggplant caviar, a lace of katchumbar salad and potato sesame Tikki -it’s an aromatic play date of an Indian meeting a Mediterranean beauty from some exotic locale in a plate. What’s more, it’s beautifully inspired. 

The fish falls off the fork and is quite a task, as I stumble in front of a lovely date for company. Luckily the light was dim so I didn’t make a complete fool of myself. The Tikki though firm was succulent. And the eggplant caviar take a bow. I’m not a fan of aubergine by any stroke of imagination. However this took the cake quite literally (no pun intended on the way it was presented I assure you.) 

Tandoori marinated Red Snapper  Pic courtesy: Nolan Mascarenhas Photography 

While you sample this masterpiece might I suggest trying the Lamb chop Barrah a spicy Indian flavoured marinated lamb served with lentil khichdi minty pea purée and haricot. I haven’t forgotten all you sweet tooth lovers the Chocolate Chilli Baked Yogurt with Kurbani ka Meetha is something up your alley. 

The net is cast and I’m roped into the gastronomic visual delight on offer here. Kudos to the creativity of the Chef. 

Salut till I come again.