Goa Garnishes Upper Crust in the latest edition! 

Read all about the quarterly round up of restaurant showcases in and around Goa- from Far East Asian Cuisine to Mediterranean Nostaligia in the latest edition of Upper Crust. Grab your copy today. 

Miguel Arcanjo: Dining with Legend

Taj Exotica, Calwaddo, Salcete, Benaulim, Goa 403716 Phone:0832 668 3333 Meal for two: Approximately Rs.2000/- + taxes

Some people hear their own inner voices with great clearness and live by what they hear. Such people become crazy, or they become legends.”- Legends of the Falls. 

Touted as one of the most exclusive restaurants in Goa named after the maestro first Indian executive chef in 1939 at the Taj Mahal Mumbai- this restaurant is an ode to his legacy. A place by reservation and exclusively dedicated to the art of pampering, this establishment is situated on the lobby level of the Taj Exotica. Stately refined with an aura of luxury, a fountain in the center for company- one gazes at the open interactive kitchen set against bay windows in the distance. This is a perfect destination of special moments and events. 

A choice of air conditioned comfort during the day one can opt for sitting in the verandah overlooking acres of lush green lawns, the restaurant provides a perfect arena for the maestro’s gastronomic delights that have been painstakingly researched and restored by the chefs. Start off with the Forest mushroom cappuccino with drizzled truffle oil to get the meal underway and carry in tune with the chef’s interpretation of Masci’s favourite preparation- the Chicken Liver pate en encroute with toasted brioche and garnitures. 

The Chorizo de Goa was a beautiful mélange of cured pork sausages with a delicate infusion in a croquette and phyllo chorizo parcel and a carefully balanced Chorizo terrine cake. For a more Mediterranean flavor- try the Atlantic Black Cod which lays claim to the experimentalist ahead of his time in the way Masci would blend flavors to create a ‘Nouveau’ experience for his diners. Fish baked with fermented soybean, wilted young spinach with a brush of stewed rhubarb soy soil and lemon balm. 

For the dessert lover in you, we would recommend a spectacle the folks at the restaurant lovingly call the ‘Grand Dessert Opera’. A sinful interactive play of swirls and whirls- raspberry, chocolate and dried fruits. Wait for the end, it sure will get a response out of you.

 Koi : The Art of Zen on a plate

Gauravaddo, Behind Snip Salon, Calangute, Goa 403515 Phone: +91 98118 25551 Meal for two: Approximately Rs.1300/- + taxes

 Named after the enchanted fish – the koi, that swims across many waters of Asia, Shefali Gandhi & Aziz Lalani, have conceptualized a ‘style’ of dining that many may wish to experience. The Art of Zen on a plate as referred, the duo has endeavored to capture the tantalizing flavors of Far East Asian cuisine with interpretations of delicacies from Vietnam, Japan, Thailand and Indonesia, to name a few.

 Enter the Jade walls that compliment herringbone styled floors, the Buddha bust sets the mood for a perfect fine dine setting and allow them to you’re your mind of ‘expectations’. Start off your evening in style at the Martini bar with a wide array of signature Martini cocktails that would appease anyone fancies. The Silver Bullet Martini is a showcase with a cooled stirred martini poured over a Mont Blanc pen in a frosted glass. 

For the mains- the signature lies in the Burmese khow-suey and is a meal in itself. A slice of Japan makes way in the sashimi and sushi counter. Or simply indulge yourself in the Korean pork ribs succulently marinated to perfection, a gastronomic treat indeed. One of the only standalone fine dining restaurants, to host a Teppanyaki counter, do try the theatrical experience in the ‘Seven Deadly sins’. 

 This is Supper Theatre Live with a special 7-course menu curated by Shefali Gandhi and seats 8 by reservation only. We were amazed to bear witness to old school traditions in the Gueridon trolley for their signature Mandarin flambee crepe dessert that signed off the evening with aplomb.

 

 Sheela’s: A Landmark in Goan cuisine

Opposite St Jacinto Island, Sancoale, 403710 Phone: 0832 2555675/ +91 9049158277 Meal for two: Approximately Rs.900/- + taxes

 This story dates back nearly three decades when Nicolua D’Souza, a tailor by profession, started this venture. It had begun as a simple styled ‘taverna’ where the lady of the house Luiza would cook for the locals who worked on the barges in the vicinity. 

Today that very ‘taverna’ is a landmark thronged by a line of cars parked on either sides of the rode opposite the picturesque St.Jacinto Island. Run by Sylvester D’Souza, the proprietor’s son and in its 28th year of operation, the buzz is still alive with customers waiting for a quick meal before they head off to catch their flight.

The restaurant has two sides for seating but one has to sit on the deck to view the scenic beauty of the river. During lunch, waiters scurry around with moderately priced thalis, the local lunch favorite. We asked for the signatures, which were highly recommended and we were not disappointed. 

For starters the Chonak Raechade Masala (local goan fish) and Sylvester’s famous Stuffed Crabs. These are alive and snapping when brought to the table for one’s selection. A seafood lovers haven with the daily produce being hauled off the trawler live and fresh, the Rawa fried prawns go well as finger food snacks and the portions are wholesome. The seasonal Fried Bombay duck (bombil) is a crowd favorite with portions selling out and ordered from the morning by local patrons. 

If however the old favorites tickle your palate, order the Xacutti with Goan bread. We tried something unique in a special chicken preparation made by Luize, ‘Chicken Luizmarie’ with a three-flavor masala. It goes famously well with drinks and is highly recommended. 

Dinners are popular, the view out there is so impressive, especially in the night when the church across on the island is lit and its reflection is mirrored in the water.

Baba’s Wood Café ‘Da Maria’ : Ciao Goa

Shruti Resort, Next to Little Italy, Gaurowaddo Holiday Street, Calangute, 403516 Phone: +91 7264946643 Meal for two: Approximately Rs.1500/- all-inclusive sans alcohol

 An oasis of calm on one of the most bustling streets of Goa, would be the best way to describe this restaurant. Off the main road of the ever-crowded Holiday Street in Calangute, Maria Grazia has brought a little piece of Italy to Goa with her ‘unique’ flavors of Italia cuisine. A quaint ‘trattoria’ styled establishment in an open courtyard fringed with palms with a small pool that catches the reflection of the canopy of stars overhead is calm and borderline unnerving as the silence deafens ones senses despite the fact that this is one area patronized by the boisterous holiday maker. 

An inner area showcases apparel on display, the warmth of the lighting and the slatted tables on the cobbled floor. Its warm, its cozy and it bears the ‘Da Maria’ stamp. The menu is true blue Italian with a wide variety of soups, starters, pizzas, pastas and salads to choose from. Start off with the all time Margarita, Salmon and sour cream thin crusted 13” wood fire pizza baked in the kiln in the courtyard. 

Follow through with the Parmigiana- aubergine with basil Parmesan and tomato sauce. For the carnivore in you look no further than the Beef Carpaccio- delicately shaved and thinly sliced with rocket salad and pomegranate spelling heaven on a plate. With a slight nip due to a cold dewy night, we requested for a bowl of hot soup. Maria in her Italian affable nature suggests the Mushroom soup with croutons, which became our flavor for the night. Mind you the portions are huge and filling and can easily be shared. 

The Spaghetti a la Carbonara will be served with a warning chide by Maria stating that it has to be consumed in under ten minutes flat to avoid it becoming like bubble gum. This is an old favorite and has her signature attached to it since inception. The desserts are urban legend and have patrons travel from afar to sample the Afogata al Café or whisky version for the proverbial nightcap. 

A must have with the home made gelato on offer. A multitude of varieties to choose from she recommends the hazelnut. The Eat and drink desert ‘Copa Mangiabevi’ a fruit salad-brandy-ice-cream concoction or the seasonal Strawberry tiramisu are some specialties on offer that would wish you hadn’t had such a heavy meal an hour earlier. ‘Da Maria’ is sure to appeal ones senses.

 

 

 

 

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Bullet for my Valentine 


This has nothing to do with the popular rock band or for that matter me taking a bullet for my Valentine in a metaphorical manner of speaking. Valentine’s Day is quite the bat signal in Gotham for the likes of a bachelor. A precarious time for singles out there. The perilous questions one has to dodge of getting ‘too serious’ or for that matter ‘having the talk’ of where relationships go in general.
 My advice to avoid this entire drama- fly far away, meet a lovely lady in Andhra Pradesh-visiting 6th century undiscovered caves and ask her if she’s busy for the evening. No she wasn’t Lady Lara Croft though that fantasy still remains in at the top of my travel list. Ladies love adventure. So when a wanderer on a ‘bullet’ (read Royal Enfield), comes along with a camera and a penchant to cook a meal, it’s a surety that one is not meant to be alone this day.

 The menu for dinner was working up the local flavors of the region to give her a taste of the state. Going ‘glocal’ for the global traveller. A gracious friend and foodie willingly allowed me to use his kitchen for this feat. Keeping in sync with the theme, I started out with a salad signifying the color ‘red’. Beetroot Thoran also known as ‘poriyal’ in the south of Andhra is an Ayurveda recipe with a 180 calorie count serving that requires 2 cups of grated beetroot, 4 tsp of grated coconut, 1 sprig curry leaves, 2 chopped green chilies, ¼ tsp mustard, ½ tsp cumin, 1 tsp urad dal, 1 tsp fresh grated ginger, 1 garlic clove crushed, 1/8 tsp turmeric and salt and oil as needed for additional taste. Heat a little oil in the pan, I normally use coconut for its health properties and add mustard and cumin and allow them to crackle. Add ginger,green chillies and curry leaves post and fry till the ginger gives you that flavorsome taste. Add the dals, red chillies and garlic cloves. Fry until the dal is golden brown. Add the grated beets and turmeric and sauté till lightly cooked. To speed up the process cover the pan. Add the grated coconut and fry for about 2-3 minutes and serve. It makes for a great salad option and can be had plain though locals prefer it with rice or chapatti.

 As a starter option, Miss Croft wanted to help and participate. Cooking together does add spice to any equation. All you men reading this, try it at home with your ‘better half’. It makes you a rather dishy offering to your respective partner. Obviously groceries were an issue with my friend not having had the time to shop. A cabbage at the far corner of the kitchen had me work up a Cabbage vada.

 Vada or vadai is a deep fried snack made from ground lentils that make for the perfect snack. Here’s what you need. ¾ cup chana dal, 2 /1/2 cups finely chopped cabbage, 1 tsp ginger paste, 1tsp garam masala, ¼ tsp red chili power, a handful of mint and coriander leaves, 2 green chilies chopped, 2 tsp rice flour (you can use more depending on the quantity you wish to make. This serves 10-12 vadas) and salt as needed.

Wash and soak the chana dal for 1.5 hours and drain completely. Cut the cabbage in quarters and dip them in hot water and leave for 5 minutes. Drain and rinse well and shred the cabbge into very small size bits. Mix with coriander leaves, salt, green chilies, the dal, curry leaves and pulse the remaining chana dal to a coarse mixture without adding any water. Add this to the cabbage mixture along with garam masala and red chili powder. Mix well and set aside for 10 minutes. Add 2 tsp of rice flour to the mix. Take a small portion of this mixture and check if it can be formed into a ball. It has to bind well or else add another tsp of flour and mix. Post which fry until golden brown and drain with kitchen tissues before serving for excess oil. In all honesty, the vadas did burn a little but even if I served her haggis at that time, she would have scored a 10 for effort.

I cheated on a fruit dessert with Figs. Also known as the forbidden fruit, it’s filled with antioxidants, flavonoids, fiber and potassium. Cleopatra couldn’t have enough of it, and the Greeks consider it sacred associated with love and fertility.

So men, the moral of the story lies in your ladle. Start cooking now.

 

 

 

Cheaters do Prosper 


2017 is turning out to be a tempted vixen in disguise. I’ve been good and dedicate to my regiment- (I’m referring to food here), in case one let their mind wander frivolously. Invariably the cosmos aligned and temptation had me meet a lovely lady who asked me out on a dinner date. Yeah, that’s a first for the year. I am as surprised as you are-believe you me! Whilst I promised utter dietary dedication over the last few weeks, I couldn’t just sit there and eat a salad while she consumed her meal in abandonment feeling guilty every other passing minute.
I decided to play the chivalry and cheat card and order on behalf of us both. She was kind enough to accept. Started off with a mushroom soup and a wholesome salad followed by some vino and a clam pasta with a light drizzle of olive oil, chopped garlic and some oregano seasoning. Dessert in a sinful chocolate mousse was for one with me playing second fiddle, consuming a miniscule excuse of a gelato to keep up with Robinsons.
Let’s pause for a second- I think splurging on a diet is mandatory, not an option. Now that I’ve got your attention, taking away a person’s favorite foods can be the death knell to a diet, in my honest opinion. I read somewhere of this concept called ‘structured cheating.’ Allow me to play devil’s advocate and elucidate this concept further. There’s a difference between enjoying your favorite foods occasionally and eating everything you adore. The key to maintaining ‘control’, is deciding what you want and how much you’ll have, and then “eat it with full consciousness … lick your lips, and then move on with your life.”
Here’s my personal 5 cheat point plan to allow one to lose weight without literally losing one’s mind.
1) Accept your “binge foods.” Acceptance is half the battle won. We know your desire for them isn’t going anywhere. And as we all know, when you tell people they can’t do something — like enjoy a slice of pie — they’re going to want to do it even more, human nature at its defiant best. With this in mind it builds up a ‘calorie count meter’ that’s imperative to psyching ones mind strategically much like the feeling of a depleted bank balance at the end of the month in lieu of our salary credit.
2) Have a plan. As weird as it sounds this helps me every single time. “If you happen to be a dessert lover (like moi) and eat out ever so frequently (guilty again), ask to see the dessert menu first,” This way, you can budget your calories for what matters most to you. Knowing where you’re really headed — toward that lemon cheesecake, perhaps? – It will make it easier to skip the creamy clam chowder or deep-fried cheese sticks as mains.
3) Eat what you love, in small portions. You can have it all, just not all in one day. No food is off-limits as long as you keep your portions reasonable. Don’t believe me? Make a beeline to my next review and witness it first hand. Everything goes! I cheat daily. I satisfy my sweet tooth with a teaspoon of organic honey that I keep in the freezer so it melts slowly with the slurp atop my tongue and satisfies my craving without consuming too many calories. Also try the ‘8-chomp mastication rule’. Chew each morsel of food repeatedly 8 times and over before consumption. This is scientifically proven to gestate and burn food simultaneously with a workout of sorts.
4) Compromise. Much like the lovely ladies who urge me to watch Netflix rom-coms over Sci-fi fantasies at home, a diet is a love affair filled with compromise. I love my creamy chicken salad- however drastic changes were made to mine by cutting the calories with replacing half the mayonnaise with yogurt. Compromises are an empowering thing. Especially when a Rom-com can be practiced in real time post the movie v/s a dream within a dream, if you get my drift?
5) Cheat galore only on what you love. Here’s my philosophy- ‘If it’s bad (for your diet), it had better be good’. So instead of grabbing a trio of donut holes each morning with ones coffee, and distractedly downing a doughy 300 calories, I would recommend splurging on something worth savoring. Donuts to me could be a perfect wedge of pineapple upside down cake, if your heart so desires?
Having opened up the cheater’s handbook, the underlying principle, which you got to stay committed, too is any format of physical activity or a mix format of a few. Kickboxing, Yoga, Pilates, cycling, swimming, walking, running anything goes. That’s something one could never cheat on irrespective.
So go ahead; have your weight loss and eat cake, too!
 
 
 
 
 

Date with a Clause 

If anyone asked me how I envisioned my Christmas at the start of the month, I would have scoffed at the idea and barked of my role as the Grinch this coming season. Flashback to an impromptu meeting at a Saturday night market followed by a late night bike ride with a beautiful stranger had me chimney down a different tune. Whilst many you folk went for midnight mass with refreshments and cake post (yes, I ain’t no heathen, I went for one as well), to the festive Christmas dances around Goa till the wee hours of the morning- I had an agenda in place. For all the single guys reading this, listen up. An invitation to a home cooked meal for a lady is sure brownie points on any given Sunday, and a double whammy at that when it happens to be Christmas. Donning the apron I had a plan in mind. An aperitif, salad and dessert were on the menu. Pre-planned and decided on our first encounter itself.
 For the sake of coveted ambiguity- Annie hails from Norway, is ambidextrous, loves her veggies and on occasion meets Mr. Clause from time to time. Yeah, they are practically neighbors, proximity wise. Cooking up a meal required something quick and easy yet spelt chic and sophisticated. Keeping it traditional had me research and play around with the Eggnog donning the aperitif quadrant. Did you know- culinary historians still debate its exact lineage; most agree eggnog originated from the early medieval Britain “posset,” a hot, milky, ale-like drink. By the 13thcentury, monks were known to drink a posset with eggs and figs. Milk, eggs, and sherry were foods of the wealthy, so eggnog was often used in toasts to prosperity and good health. The Coconut Eggnog had a local touch of Goa infused. A pack of full fat coconut milk, 2 cups light coconut milk, 4 egg yolks, 1/2 cup maple syrup, 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon, 1 teaspoon ground nutmeg, 1 teaspoon vanilla extract, and always some extra nutmeg for service. I just combined all the ingredients in the basin of a blender and blended away till they were well-combined and frothy and chilled it. Why did I do this you asked? Compared to the traditional Eggnog recipe made with milk, cream and eggs, dairy-free nog made from coconut milk has about half the calories and a fraction of the fat. It’s surprisingly creamy, and the coconut flavor may trick you into thinking you’ve already added a shot of rum (saving you about 100 calories.) Yes, I’m considerate like that.

 Ever Dated a Carrot with Feta in a salad? No pun intended, I assure you. All one needs is 3 carrots, 2 tsp chopped coriander, 1.5 tsp of extra virgin olive oil, 2 tsp honey, salt, juice of 1 lime, ¼ cup crumbled feta cheese, 2 tsp of chopped toasted almonds, 2 tsp finely chopped dates. A 20-minute parallel process has one thinly slice the carrots into ribbons using a vegetable peeler or mandolin, including any remaining “stubs” of carrot. Its important to note that you have to soak it in ice water until the ribbons firm up and curl, about 15 minutes. Drain and pat dry. Whisk together the cilantro, olive oil, honey, half a teaspoon salt and the limejuice in a medium bowl. Add the carrots along with the feta cheese, almonds and dates, and toss until evenly combined

 That didn’t stop there. With Christmas carols for good measure, I topped it off with Mariah Carey’s “All I want for Christmas is you” and served her the piece-de-resistance- Poached Pears in spiced tea pudding. And people say, I’m not a romantic. Scoff! A 15 minute preparation required 50g golden caster sugar, 1tsp honey, 4 luscious strawberries, 2 spiced tea bags (I infused strawberry cream and peppermint), 2 pears halved and scooped with a spoon, little orange juice zest and yogurt. You start off putting the sugar, honey in a big saucepan with 600 ml water and bring it to a boil, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Add the pear halves, then cover and simmer until the pears are just tender – do poke them with a skewer to check. Lift out the pears, then turn up the heat, throw in the strawberries and boil for a few minutes until syrupy. Serve them pears, with warm syrup poured over and a spoonful of yogurt. Move over to the simmering bonfire in my backyard on a nippy night with toasted marshmallows and a blanket for company, it definitely began to look a lot like Christmas for sure. 

 

 

 

Smooth Criminal 

Smooth Criminal 

Ever been called a ‘Smoothie’? An informal definition would pit it as a ‘man with a smooth suave manner’. Used in a sentence would construct accordingly- ‘A smoothie with an eye for a pretty girl.’ As for Miss YSL earlier- that’s the resonation she left me with. Whilst I thought it was the wine talking, apparently I jotted the wrong digits. That definitely was some great wine.

Early to bed, early to rise makes Jack healthy, wealthy and wise. Well, good for Jack given the fact that he aint living in Goa during the festive season. A season where parties are never ending, alcohol ever flowing and food fit enough to feed Kim Jong-un’s personal army. Who is Kim Jong-un? That’s an entire story for Google altogether- a rather interesting one at that.

The after effects of a singleton read ‘moi’, attending a party to the point of departure is as perilous as the savvy Jack Sparrow sailing the Bermuda triangle, though he does it with more panache and style and probably lives to tell the tale. 

A ‘5 point something ‘ checklist runs through my head every time I have to fight the urge of a social soiree. The folks are kind and inviting and more often than not, I fall in the mix of common company through my parents gracing the occasion given the circles we know. So I have to be on my best ‘seen’ behavior- i.e. when they have me in their line of sight.

What is the 5-point rigmarole?

Point 1- I stick to wine when I have to indulge. After all it’s fermented fruit juice and is supposedly great to keep the calories in check. Also studies show a glass a day actually does wonders to your heart and cardiovascular system. Stick to juice you say? Unless it’s fresh, its pointless. Tetra-paks and canned juices are a BIG folly.

Point 2- Lay off the friend starters and hunt for peanuts and or baked chips etc.

Point 3- Have a slice of cheese before every drinking session. Not only does it line ones stomach and counteracts the effects of being tipsy rather it partly fills you to consume less at the lunch/dinner.

Point 4– Quarter plates and one serving! This has helped me immensely in being social without hurting anyone’s feelings as well as keeping the food count to a minimum. Sushi sized servings in a quarter plate, works.

Point 5- Don’t find affable company to go off the reservation. Hence the ‘something’, mentioned earlier. Now, if you do find that ‘someone’ to sin with, this is what happens the morning post.

Aunty Dolores is currently a houseguest for the holiday season. A second mum to me during my formative years (like that ever fructified- no pun intended) she is one of the last remains of the Golden Age of Hippies in and around Goa. Yoga, Vegan, Natural soaps and the works has her like a child of Mother nature living in the next bedroom beside me. 

Talking to her, one could feel pure and reborn. Have her make one a breakfast and you could feel healthy on the spur of the moment. But in an age of ‘time’ being ones enemy and all that jazz this is what she whips up. 

Collard Greens Smoothie With Mango and Lime- This remedy is perfect when it comes to getting you over that ‘hangover’ from the night prior. Being in Goa this is perfect given the abundance of mangoes we have around. It works wonders and can be done in a matter of minutes. 

Basically its Frozen mango and green grapes with spinach. A refreshing power smoothie, and that in a matter of minutes. What goes into this? 2 tablespoons of fresh lime juice, 2 cups of stemmed and chopped spinach, 1.5 cups of frozen mango (yes I freeze mango pulp from my trees outside, so I can enjoy it for the entire year round and one cup of grapes. Combine the limejuice, ½ cup water, the collard greens, mango, and grapes in a blender and puree until smooth for about a minute. A way better option than watching Arnold Schwarzenegger in ‘End of Days’ combining a ‘throw it all in’ smoothie with alcohol and a stale slice of pizza- though I’m sure that’s something one could look into for a ‘boys gone wild Netflix and chill bachelor party’. 

Back to the smoothie- Someone ask Annie if she’s ok? She’s been hit by, a smooth criminal.

Mr.NObody is your average bachelor blogger, critic, and food aficionado struggling to walk the fine line between healthy eating and carnal gastronomic delights.

Follow him on @nolansatwit

V for Vigorous 

As the year comes to a close, I decided to rant a little more and torment you poor sods every fortnight (yes, I’m considerate that way). Welcome to my column; aptly titled –a twit’s wit in Goa’s leading daily- OHeraldo. 

I hope you all enjoy it and do send me your feedback on my rants through the gastronomic world currently resided in. 

Click on the image to enlarge or read the text down below. 

V for Vigorous                                      

At a social air kissing party- discussing world peace, demonetization and its impact on the agrarian economy and vegetable vendors, monopoly currency fit for the Joker from Batman and world peace all in one breath, someone chirped; “Aren’t you rather thin for a food critic and blogger?”- A statement as presumptuous as the fake YSL clutch bag she held for dear life. Move over to the rapid fire round at the a la spread dinner table had her follow me around like a heat seeking missile to prod further about my eating habits and carefully scrutinize my choice of vegetarian delicacies that graced a table fit for the cast and crew of Game of Thrones. Winter was coming indeed and the Pork Roast across the spit was divine. 

It took every ounce of desire to look away and head for the shriveled up after thought vegetarian produce that sat in the neglected remedial corner of the table. Ostracized and how- no consideration for its feelings, hello vegetables have feelings as much as veal does or did.

Before we delve any further into my tormented crazy world of consumption, here is a tad descriptor about moi. A born carnivore as much as a lover of the great single malt and everything related to ‘sin’ encompasses my mortal existence -from high cholesterol to the proverbial potbelly and lethargy that follows with it. Some would pit me as a rather ‘Vigorous’ lifestyle. A description fit for the perfect ‘foodie’ and field of gastronomy high priests and priestesses. 

Back to Miss YSL, lets call her that for now shall we? Looking at the asparagus and figments of roman lettuce with cherry tomato grace my plate sent a gasp of disbelief that promptly had the server pour her a glass of fine chardonnay to appease her newfound horror. 

Post that was a downhill conversation that has me talk about life, my bachelorhood, my vegetarian affinity and how I change from Clark Kent to Superman in preference related to red meat v/s the by product of their living consumption and had me speak a ‘dead’ language- Latin and break out into the did you know series unveiling the geek in me. ‘Vegetus’ is Latin meaning lively or vigorous. The folks at the Vegetarian Society of the UK purposefully derived the word ‘vegetarian’ from vegetus, not vegetable, or at least that’s what one of them said.

Living the life of a bachelor has its own trials and tribulations. As we carried on discussing my life much to a meek pitiful- Please come home and let my ‘maharaj’ feed you, you poor starving sod, delving into the obvious was shopping and procuring food out there. All the men reading this right now- What’s the current price of a kilo of onions on aisle 4? Exactly. You look just as dumbfounded as a deer caught in the headlights up front.

Ever been to a supermarket and wandered aimlessly up and down the isle wondering what to purchase? (This does not apply to henpecked husbands who have a doctor scribbled list handed over by their ‘better’ halves while they head over to the parlor for some manicure time.) For some bachelors, the hardest part of eating healthy is going out and getting the food. A supermarket is a large, complex place, and it typically operates on a purely capitalist basis: cheap, scientifically engineered, focus-group-approved charades is given more shelf space and prime placement because the companies that make said crap have large budgets for ads and kickbacks. By using a simple checklist system, you’ll always have a variety of food in your fridge, and you can avoid the lure of the garbage passing itself off as food.

The objectivity is starting with the basics and staples. It’s a upward approach understanding the requirements of fuel ones body needs, much like that of a diesel and petrol sedan. Once you get thinking like that you automatically build mechanisms in your head of how to curb the urge when presented in the format of calorific consumption. We call them power foods. And the list includes Raw almonds or walnuts filled with good fat, oatmeal high in fiber and low in cholesterol and one can use it to make healthy pancakes, olive oil (extra virgin please), canned tomatoes- believe it or not they contain more nutrients than fresh tomatoes and fresh fruits and vegetables, brown bread and the list goes on.

Time for dessert has her consume her last glass (read bottle) of that amazing wine and satiated with information that redefined her belief in the concept of vegetarianism and bachelorhood as an informed decision rather than a lifestyle choice. Having lived through the ordeal I decided to consume an apple given the lethargy of me running that extra mile the next day. After all yoga was a few days post. Miss YSL though turned out to be a fan and I even managed to get her number. 

V for Victory. 

But hey, that could perhaps be the wine talking. 

Mr.NObody is your average bachelor blogger, critic, and food aficionado struggling to walk the fine line between healthy eating and carnal gastronomic delights.

Follow him on @nolansatwit

 

 

 

The Suitcase Diaries: Legend of Banaras 

Varanasi, also known as Banaras, plays home to much that is magical and mystical. A journey through the core of Uttar Pradesh’s ascetic region, highlighting why this destination is one worth exploring

 Varanasi, also known as Kashi or Banaras, is the world’s oldest continually inhabited city and has been a cultural centre of North India for several thousand years, closely associated with the Ganges. A major centre for pilgrimage in Hinduism, it is believed that death in the city will bring salvation. If one had to describe the soul of this place in a sentence, it would be aptly described in the words of Tahir Shah: “The combination of enlightenment and death is the primary business of the city.” 

There is more than meets the eye; lurking beneath this city, filed with a rich lineage and culture of education, music, gastronomic feats, history, mysticism and trade, this city has something for everyone. Vibrant and eclectic with a wide variety of choice, this city has churned out a number of prominent Indian philosophers, poets, writers, and musicians who live or have lived in the city. 

Home to one of Asia’s largest residential universities – Banaras Hindu University (BHU) – the city gives one the nostalgic feeling of a potpourri of religious beliefs as it is believed that Buddha founded Buddhism here in around 528 BC when he gave his first sermon, ‘The Setting in Motion of the Wheel of Dharma’, at nearby Sarnath, and Guru Nanak Dev visited Varanasi for Shivratri in 1507, a trip that played a large role in the founding of Sikhism. For the culturally acute, Tulsidas wrote his epic poem on Rama’s life called ‘Ram Charit Manas’ in Varanasi. Here’s through the looking glass of the recent Uttar Pradesh Travel Writers Conclave 2016, the marvels of what this spiritual city has to offer.

 Postcards from Varanasi

 

For those sweet tooth cravings, indulge in a Gulab Jamun – a milk-solids-based sweet mithai. Made mainly from milk solids, traditionally from freshly curdled milk, it is often garnished with dried nuts like almonds to enhance flavour. A dish prepared during the medieval times here, it is derived from a fritter that Persianate Central Asian Turkic invaders brought to India. One theory claims that it was accidentally prepared by the Mughal emperor Shah Jahan’s personal chef. The word ‘gulab’ is derived from the Persian words ‘gol’ (flower) and ‘āb’ (water), referring to the rose water-scented syrup. ‘Jamun’ or ‘jaman’ is the Hindi-Urdu word for Syzygium jambolanum, an Indian fruit with a similar size and shape.

 

Stroll the serene and quiet morning scenes from the Sonwa Mandap in Chunar fort, near Varanasi; a fort filled with stories and legends galore. One tells the story of Nepali king Sandeva (1333) who built this structure for his daughter Sonwa (translates to Golden hair) when he was looking to find her a husband. 


He had but one condition: the suitor had to defeat him to win his daughter’s hand in marriage. Fifty-two kings tried and lost their heads in the process. The pavilion never donned the avatar of amandap (marriage hall) because as the story goes, Sonwa was spirited away by an admirer who chose not to fight. Blood and gore trumped by peace and tranquility. From supervised baths of royalty to executions and solitary confinement of prisoners over the years of its many rulers and reigns, this place has many tales to tell; after all, legends are but elements of truth, based on historical facts with ‘mythical qualities‘.

 

 The Silk Puppeteers are the weavers from an era past, entrusted with the delicate ‘zari‘, brocade work of the intricate Benaras sarees. During the Mughal period around the 14th century, weaving of brocades with intricate designs using gold and silver threads became the speciality of Banaras. Depending on the intricacy of its designs and patterns, a saree can take from 15 days to a month and sometimes up to six months to complete. With no room for error, and precision at its finest hour, these master weavers spin stories via silk. 

Did you know? In the old days, women used to cook food wearing pure silk sarees as they were fire resistant. Also, they had an anti bacterial property that made for hygienic cooking. 

 

Ever had that moment, when the beauty of an object left you speechless? Ponder and revel in Meenakari artwork. Expensive indeed, this art form was invented by Iranian craftsmen during the Sasanied era and Mongols spread it to India and other countries. Its name is derived from ‘Mina’, referring to the azure colour of heaven.

 

A group of priests daily at this ghat perform the Agni Puja (Worship to Fire) wherein a dedication is made to Lord Shiva, River Ganga (the Ganges), Surya (Sun), Agni (Fire), and the whole universe. Dashashwamedh Ghat is the main ghat and is located close to Vishwanath Temple. This is probably the most spectacular ghat. 

Two Hindu legends are associated with it: The First – Lord Brahma created it to welcome Lord Shiva. 

According to the second legend, Lord Brahma sacrificed ten horses during Dasa-Ashwamedha yajna performed here. The yajna dates back to ancient India and was a horse sacrifice ritual followed by the Śrauta tradition of Vedic religion. 

Used by ancient Indian kings to prove their imperial sovereignty, a horse accompanied by the king’s warriors would be released to wander for a period of one year. In the territory traversed by the horse, any rival could dispute the king’s authority by challenging the warriors accompanying it. After one year, if no enemy had managed to kill or capture the horse, the animal would be guided back to the king’s capital. It would be then sacrificed, and the king would be declared as an undisputed sovereign.

 

From sages and mystics to a dip in the Holy Ganga to the Sadhu deep in trance, the city is bustling with activity at the crack of dawn. A man, wrapped in a white shroud, his head freshly shaved, sits mournfully and watches a burning pyre. A bamboo ladder, supporting another body, its shape visible under an orange shroud, makes its way to its final immersion in Mother Ganges. Cows standing idly, then settle down amidst the debris to chew cud. The omnipresent pye-dog picks its way down to the water’s edge. A purple kite flown by a child on a nearby roof climbs impossibly high into the sky. A burning candle, surrounded by flowers, someone’s offering, bobs along in their wake. Rub the sleep of one’s eyes and make way to the banks of the Ganga to see the ritualistic salutations to the elements via traditional beliefs. A morning snapshot for the senses.

How to get there?
• Distance between Varanasi and Goa is 1746 km by road along with an aerial distance of 1450 km.

• There are no direct flights or trains or buses available between Varanasi and Goa. The convenient and fastest way to reach from Varanasi to Goa is to take a plane from Varanasi to Goa via Mumbai and Delhi.

• The cheapest way to reach Goa from Varanasi is to take a flight from Varanasi to Mumbai then take Matsyagandha Express from Mumbai to Goa.

 Pic courtesy: Nolan Mascarenhas Photography 

 

Tolerance or Menace? 


As a travel writer and consultant, i am of the firm belief that a place is defined by the holistic society that comprises it lending itself to the aura and experience of ‘tourists & guests’ that visit it. 
The burning question today in the Times of India. 
Is the menace of hawkers & beggars on beaches giving Goan tourism a bad image? 

Hawkers and beggars are either direct or indirect outcomes of the society that creates them. From a tourist stand point it’s important to note that it does tarnish the overall experience of the state or any other state/ country for that matter in the same breath as infrastructure, security etc. 
The experience of a tourist friendly destination is the seamless integration of all these factors involved making it ‘tourist friendly’ for all who visit our lovely state. 

Though I’d take a step back and split the two in entirety- hawkers sell products to earn what some would call a ‘honest living’, beggars prey on the emotional quotient of humans as a outreach program for help and monetary motives. 

Why? Cause ‘no thank you’ , is never taken at face value. I’ve seen them pester tourists into involuntary submission just to not have them hang around them. This also has a negative impact on us as a tourist friendly destination. As mentioned earlier it’s deep seeded and is more than meets the eye.

Tell me what you think. Here’s my take and personal opinions on it. 

Objectivity & Opinions 


Over a gifted night of wine & cheese in the solace of my own dominion, I read this phrase that stuck with me till date. 

‘Opinions are like arseholes, Everyone has one’

Without too much of a pun on the word, in my ‘opinion‘ everyone is entitled to their own as long as they don’t subject it on the likes of others around them- at times forcefully imposing their point of view leading to culling objectivity in the process. 

A beautiful piece written by a talented fellow blogger for OHeraldo in Goa- Fernando Monte da Silva and I share a few thoughts on the subject. 

My excerpts as follows:

“In the field of throwing open ones ideas up in the air objectively speaking of course- is the false assumption of acceptability from multiple thoughts alike. Basing that assumption the objectivity of food is that of Russian roulette from multiple factors ranging from the chef having a lovers tiff to the improbability of sourcing the right ingredients thus leading to lack of continuity and monotony to produce the same fare time and again matching to expected objectified standards by patrons. 

As a writer it’s imperative to understand the perception of the chef to allow a deconstruction of his food through a presentation and taste storyline for acceptance and approval from the concerned recipient. Many a times, this is lost in translation thus leading to objectivity been thrown out the window without caution. Influencers and foodies alike play a integral part in this constructed ‘storyline’ and it needs to be cajoled with utmost love and care. Failure to do so would lead to quite the catastrophe. 

Let’s  break it down with an example. Not a particular fan of aubergine- does that make the ratatouille carefully crafted unpalatable to describe and eat to my readers? Objectifying the process and the closeness to home is something everyone looks forward too in a meal given Nuevo cuisine and international fare.

 Objectivity of a writer is paramount as their recommendations form the quantitative basis of food making its way to multiple palates for them to make a decision accordingly.”

“Monetization for the art of writing and blogging is a trend that has long been in parlance just as paid media is these days. 

My opinion on that is just cause it’s monetized, a seasoned writer should not be influenced by the same. There are two independent parallels. Cash for goods and services in this case words. 

Writing is an art form indeed and a mature writer should not allow the cost of words dictate the truth behind them. Are we saying that if it weren’t paid it would be truthful? There are two sides to that story. 

There are many incognito writers I am aware off who go unannounced and craft beautifully written articles, however died out naturally in coverage due to ‘life’ happening to them in the interim. Eating out is a serious business these days and let’s not forget extremely expensive. 

Having said that the cycle of ad space vs articles is something people are banking on these days. Also there should ideally be no demarcation between traditional media and website blogs. A few known blogs have coverage close to rival of many regional papers and hence capitalize on the same much like how newspapers and magazines run. 

More eyeballs. Having said this in the matter of objectivity it’s a sharp sword. Once bitten indeed if a writer is not true to his word it shows through the readership of fans knowing that monetization ruined the piece written was not objective enough. 

All it takes are a few bad reviews and voila, one loses credibility in the eyes of all.”

Thank you for a wonderfully crafted piece.  

M.P.D @ Lafayette Gourmet 

Alter ego personality clashes are uncommon among most….. FALSE!!! 
In my opinion- everyone has at least two personalities within whether they identify with it or not. Now take someone with Multiple Palate Disorder and an overriding sensation of being spoilt for choice, with 11 cuisines fighting for ones palate sample at La Fayette Gourmet, Dubai Mall and you would understand the term- Sensory Overload. 

A sanctuary, right within a bustling mall that serves the likes of lip smacking Rotisserie, Moroccan, Italian, Asian, Sushi Art, Indian, Grills, Mediterranean and mouthwatering beverages to choose from it really sends even a seasoned palate into a tantalising tease. 
Introduced by a family friend, Andrea- with the menu being conceptualised even before I set foot in Dubai, this restaurant’s reputation precedes itself and does have a dedicated fan following. Little wonder given the fact that Lafayette translates to ‘faith‘ a la ‘faithful‘ 

To segregate the meal let me first start off with a out of bed kickstart- Turkish Coffee. As the famous Turkish proverb goes; “Coffee should be black as hell, strong as death, and sweet as love”. 
Turkish Coffee

I love the traditions that go along with the way one consumes a Turkish coffee- the meticulous details followed. There’s a certain way of preparing it. Other than having Turkish coffee beans, you need small coffee pot (copper is recommended) called “cezve” and Turkish coffee cups (thin porcelain cups like espresso cups) called “fincan”. If the beans are not ground, a Turkish coffee grinder (kahve degirmeni) is required for that smooth flow and taste to boot. 

Note: If you are not making your own Turkish coffee but being served, let the host/waiter know in advance how much sugar you want in it. It can either be served as sade (without sugar), az sekerli (a little sugar), orta (medium sugar) or sekerli (sweet).

Steeped deep in tradition, after drinking the coffee, there’s another waiting for the ones who like fortune reading. This tradition of reading someone’s future from the coffee grounds is called “fal” and very popular in Turkey. They say “Don’t believe fortune telling but don’t be left without it”. 

Did you know? Back in the old times when a woman was asked for marriage, potential husbands were served coffee and allowed to judge whether the woman was a good match for marriage based upon her ability to make coffee. Some prospective brides used to add salt instead of sugar in order to avoid an unwanted marriage. And if they wanted to end the marriage talks, they used to spill coffee over the guests. Even today, in modern Turkey, some people still keep traditions alive.

If the coffee didn’t jumpstart my senses the next serving sure did. 


Lafayette Wasabi prawns with mango salsa. Aptly described as a ‘riot’ to ones olfactory senses- succulent crunchy farm fresh prawns coated with a wasabi dip and sweet mango salsa. The first reaction is the crunch followed by the tingling hair follicles stimulated by the wasabi dip and the mango salsa playing agony aunt to ones singed tongue. This is a dish that hits the spot- in a matter of literal speaking. 
Something to cool oneself down with an Italian salad had its calling in the Burrata mozzarella with heirloom tomatoes and gazpacho vinaigrette


Ideal to share just the way the ‘Italians like it’ (sic), it’s reminiscent of the way cheese is to be consumed. Rich creamy gelatinous textures, engulf ones palate and scraps back a rolling jawline to consume it in entirety, it’s a sin to relinquish this dish in haste. The juicy tomatoes and crunchy bruschetta accompaniment all pans out perfectly much like a synchronised orchestra with tones of ‘Whiplash’ in between. Bang for the buck- (no pun intended.)

Nearly consumed yet craving for more I decided to skip dessert with more focus on the Warm Goat Cheese parcels with roasted beetroot salad, rocket leaves and raspberry vinaigrette. Yes I can see all you folk rolling your eyes in wonder at a first- (no dessert?), just goes to show how M.P.D skewed the food made me. It made me switch loyalties. Sigh!!! I go shoot myself now. 

Anyhow before I do, imagine an old Chinese uncle taking you to a decrepit attic on your 18th birthday and handing over a silk tightly enclosed parcel with ornate wonders and treasures within (not the creepy kind, think more like The Emperor Tomb from The Mummy franchise) – the sense of entitlement and satisfaction consume you all at once, with the warm goat cheese gushing and urging you to consume each parcel whole (no droplets of cheese will be wasted) with the roasted beetroot and raspberry vinaigrette laying a smooth tarmac of sweetness to accompany the fermented cheese atop ones tongue. 
It’s no wonder with creations like these, that this establishment has its ‘faithful‘ heading back to their doors for more, time and again. I look forward to my next dessert for Round 2. 

Images shot on Iphone6