Resolutions lie in Paris Brest 

For all those wondering where had #nolansatwit disappeared for the season- well, I was working out! NOT. Whilst I see a sarcastic grin on the face of my nutritionist (yes, I have one of those and she’s awesome) and my yoga teacher, who probably has no will left to teach me, given all the calories I’ve gained over the last fortnight (I’m sorry, I’ll shed them all, I promise)In all fairness, I did bid them sweet goodbyes before I decided to partake in a wild season laced with eating binges and reckless abandonment for waistline safety. 

This post is more of a reconciliation effort to the dedicated professionals who keep my waistline in check and a peace offering to have them take me back to the fold of ‘eat right, workout left‘. 

It’s been a while since I put thumb to phone screen, more so take a decent picture of food and granted that I’ve been sober for more than 56 hours is making progress in the New Year, and to a different progression of blogging. 

I followed my nose to an old haunt of a friends cafe, situated in the midst of the fields with the ocassional kite for company. This is what greets you at Baba Au Rhum Cafe. It’s sublime, earthy and tranquil and the music is transcendal. I promised Dayini, I would head on over once the madness of the stated ‘outsiders‘ left us all to our mundane routine and normalcy prevail. Having said that, it was packed, though it still had an overtone of calmness and peace within. 

Known for her love of organic and holistic approach from fresh juices, meaty homegrown burgers and wafer thin crusted pizzas, it was indeed something in the reckoning to start this year with. 

Before you write me off, for all the decandence of gluttony in #foodporn that I am responsible for (falsely accused and awaiting trial) I stumbled upon this piece of  heaven which does have a irrefutable historical significance engraved in sport and fitness. (An evil snicker entails, with the item in question being of sinful repute

This my dear ladies, gents and kids of all ages, is the Paris Brest– a French dessert made of choux pastry made of almond praline creme with hazelnut and dusted with sugar snow. What stands chaperone is the Cortado– a single orgin coffee espresso with foam to light up ones brunch.  

Did you know? 

The Paris Brest was created in 1910 to commemorate a bicycle race from Paris-Brest-Paris, that took place in 1891. The circular choux pastry is representative of a wheel. It became popular with riders due to its high energizing calorie value and is a common fixture across patisseries all over France. 

Whilst there try the Bacon delight  (a freshly baked croissant with avocado, local Gouda, a fluffy egg, homemade bacon and spring onions) some fresh juices with quizzical mysterious names- I stuck to a fresh beetroot juice and the Ham & Cheese quiche. And for those following my Instagram you saw the pizza. For those yet to follow me, check out my handle @nolansatwit 

Bacon Delight   
Ham & Cheese Quiche   
Did someone say Breakfast of Champions? BINGO.  
Happy New Year and here’s to more madness from my travels and foodploits this year! 
Pic courtesy: Nolan Mascarenhas Photography. All images shot on Iphone6 

The Festive fiery season 

I love the festive season in Mumbai. Right in time for Diwali, the city is vibrant and overflowing with a buzz on overdrive with holiday mode in full swing,not to mention the chocolates and mithai that’s flooding my bag at the moment. 

And to add to this joy and celebration the ITC Maratha Mumbai,at their famous Dakshin restaurant -has introduced a Telangana menu at the able and passionate hands of Chef Sankara who hails from the newly divided state. At this juncture,I can think of Two states by Chetan Bhagat but we ain’t talking about a love story here just yet nor was Alia Bhatt at the far end table for company. 

The food from the state of Telangana is quite a boot camp for my senses. It’s quick and dirty with its flavors that send your gastronomic senses into a tizzy, with the level of spice playfully infused with chillies that would play tongue twister with you on multiple levels. 

I’m not a player in the realm quest for dragon’s breath nor do I intend to save the damsel in my shining armour this time round, however had to defeatingly quench my tickled tastebuds from the overdose of spice with a freshly squeezed sweet lime juice for company. 

Joined by a few foodie friends and the lovely and graceful Rini Sinha, who meticulously detailed the offerings with a doze of historical significance, it was a much needed sigh of relief before my next morsel. Mind you the food was scrumptious but the spice factor was a level 4 tectonic plate shifter in my books. 

Punugulu  Pic courtesy: Nolan Mascarenhas Photography

Diving right into the menu the spotlights apart from the filling thali being the star of the show and a must have for an overall meal, was the Punugulu- a deep fried green lentil dumpling which resembles much of a wada and anything that deep in crunch is something loved by all. 

Kodi Roast Pic courtesy: Nolan Mascarenhas Photography

Move over immediately to the Kodi Roast- succulent chunks of fried chicken tossed in tempering chilli and koriander leaves with a melange of spice. 

Royala Vepudu  Pic courtesy:Nolan Mascarenhas Photography

The highlight for my meal was the wafer paper thin Appam’s which I could not get enough off, accompanied with the Royala Vepudu- king prawns tossed with onion and tomato marinated with ground spices. A dry gravy, yet so moist the minute consumed with the ‘hot melt’ like appam’s. Bliss

There are a number of delights from the state on offer. Being a festival you have a limited time offer period running. It’s on from the 13th-22nd November only, so hurry and make your reservations for some mouth watering delicacies in the most literal sense of the word. 

Dining with ‘Legend’

I admit. I have procrastinated over this article for over 2 weeks. I have scribbled and scratched paper (the old fashioned ink to pen) tossed it in the garbage – had a cuppa more than needed and still run short to deliver what I thought would be a befitting article to what I ultimately penned. That’s when the realisation hit me. This article was never going to match up to anything in my head for two primary reasons- the gentleman written about was a Legendary Chef of the Taj Group of Hotels in his time and the more discerning fact of him being my grandfather who I never had the chance of meeting in person. Welcome to the Miguel Arcanjo @ Taj Exotica Goa.
Miguel Arcanjo fondly known as ‘Maskie’ Pic courtesy: Mitter Bedi Photography 
They say Legends are what one makes of them. Passed on thru time immemorare, it’s the build up which makes them larger than life. I happened to chance over his accolades (4 scrap books and counting) way back in 2006 when my mother decided to pen a biography about ‘Masci’ – as he was fondly known, which eventually won her the Special Jury award at the Gourmand World Cookbook awards in 2008. If your wondering what’s that? It’s the same award Julia Childs won a few years earlier. That book Masci- the Man behind the Legend is a short documented snippet of his life interspersed with a few management lessons and a few forgotten recipes of the maestro for company. It has been out of circulation since its award and is scheduled for a second edition sometime soon- back by popular demand!
It’s an lovely feeling sitting with people who ‘claim’ to know my grandfather over the years. I’ve heard multiple accounts of his life from a few people who are alive. All the stories percolate to two distinctive traits that shine through- him being a stickler for discipline in his kitchen and a maestro in everything he put his hand too. Genius is a word never used lightly however in his case use effortlessly by one and all who met or interacted with him. He cooked up a storm for dignitaries, celebrities, heads of state and rock stars alike and what grabbed headlines eventually was somewhere in the 70’s the Taj gifted him a kitchen worth a crore. Do the math it’s close to a Rs.55-60 crore kitchen in today’s day and age given inflation rates. 
Let’s focus on the task at hand though. The restaurant is revisited by me for the third time- however this time with the daunting task of me being settled into my writer avatar. No pressure, I assure myself as the specially crafted menu makes its way to our table. This is a tasting menu for the season ahead and has a revisit of some of Masci’s old documented recipes. 
I shall shed a spotlight for this post on ‘Nostalgia‘ which was his signature love for all things Portuguese and Goan. A simpleton at heart- Masci was known to relish his wife’s Deoniza cooking. He would head home for his afternoon siesta in between working hours for his power nap and his fish curry rice at my grandmothers hands. And just as he laid command over the kitchen at the Taj Mahal hotel he willingly handed over the same to his wife back home. It was her domain and that was the end of it. While the whole of Mumbai and the world were his ardent fans he had mad love for her and her cooking. 
The Taj Exotica Goa has painstakingly documented and researched his works and menus extensively and with their own twist have recreated some masterpieces from his hand written menus. Known for his Chicken Liver pate en encroute with toasted brioche and garnitures to the Chorizo de Goa– home cured pork sausages they came up with a delicate infusion of his famous Chorizo terrine, croquettes and Phyllo chorizo parcel the team as recreated magic all over again. Master class indeed- Would Masci have approved? I sure hope so given his soft corner for his home cuisine. 
Chorizo de Goa  Pic courtesy: Nolan Mascarenhas Photography 

Let’s not forget a few exotics that made their way to the table. Masci known to experiment back in the day would be pleased. The Capesante- Canadian scallop with a sinful plum relish, sauce vierge sweet pea purée & angel hair crisp leeks was stelar. It took me all of 5 minutes to just admire the creation let alone contemplating eating it. 

Capesante  Pic courtesy: Nolan Mascarenhas Photography 

The beauty of a course menu, is one gets to know what’s in tow and I waited in anticipation for the Atlantic Black Cod baked with fermented soy bean,wilted young spinach with a brush of stewed rhubarb soy soil and lemon balm. It begged my mind to demand second serving. Table manners prevailed and I refrained. The infusion and blend of flavour is hard to describe. It’s a must try for sure. 
Atlantic Black Cod   Pic courtesy: Nolan Mascarenhas Photography 

A set menu is never complete without a single origin Jamaican Mountain brew. Exquisite and well balanced. It complimented the Opera perfectly. What is the Opera? Click here to find out more. 

As I sign off with a huge sigh of relief, I feel like Po from Kung Fu Panda having attained a glimpse into the enlightened gastronomic world of delicacies and Master Shifu being none other than the legend, the man, my grandfather who I fondly knew as ‘Papa’- Miguel Arcanjo Mascarenhas or to the culinary world ‘Masci of the Taj’.

Thank you for this schooling time and again. 

Welcome to the Dark side 

A disclaimer: this post is going to be ridden with errors as I have carried on part of a sensory experiment. I typed most of this with my eyes closed. Yes, you read correctly. After all I believe in a holistic submersive experience as was presented to me at the Alila Diwa Goa all but recently- the invite simply sent a chill down my spine ‘Welcome to Dine in the Dark‘.

dining-in-the-dark

As a concept, I have bared witness to this earlier, in my days of travel at Dans Le Noir in the charming area of Clerkenwell, London. This indeed was a first of its kind (to my knowledge) in Goa and I was eager as pleased to accept the invitation.

What is the concept? You eat in the dark. We all know the art of good food is primarily a hidden caveat with many eating with our eyes before the first morsel enters our gut. It’s visual appeal followed by the taste of the senses on most counts. It’s subconscious. This concept wipes clear the distraction with a pitch black canvas for visual company- the restaurant  insist one eats with their hands (there goes table manners out the window….thanks for nothing mum,knew it was a waste of time) and the servers for the evening are bang on cue with the drinks being guided like Air Force One pilots with the blind vision impairment trainings regiment undergone in case of a sudden nuclear explosion- ie in short -flying blind.

I arrive at the destination- Spice Studio an elegant, contemporary setting for a dining experience centered on the authenticity of Indian spices,and am greeted by Siddharth Savkur- General Manager and Rashmi Chittal, the PR & Marketing Manager, who painstakingly shadowed my erratic schedule to get me there on a Thursday (yes this happens once a week with a prior reservation in tow…so make a note on your calendar for the next one.) Siddharth or so I presumed for a moment having only shaken a hand was an eerie feeling (pitch darkness remember) and all but suddenly hooked onto the familiarity of his voice to guide me to my seat. This is NOT his first rodeo, having done this on multiple occasions is at ease. Lest be known that this is my second time with a gap of almost a decade in between. Helped for saving face but hey who could see? Right?! evil grin.

The cuisine is inspired by a 100 mile radius of the quintessential Indian thali. I obviously was not privy to the menu. I got to know about it only post the completion where I was informed of the dishes I ate.

A short summary and sequence of events that followed…. Crunch…ah there goes the paapad (a roasted Indian bread) got that one right, only a few 20 odd items to go. My hands fumbled to the nearest dish, only to find them dipped into something squishy- a gravy perhaps. Oh wait a minute,that tasted like prawn- and enticingly so, might I add. Going in for the kill of adjusting my palate the way one is used too, I landed with a surge of sweetness on my next bite. I consumed a Rajbhog whole. It was all too familiar A sweetness that jolted me out of my chair. Do try and imagine a mildly spiced curry followed by a dessert soaked in sugar water

Get the drift? Like, Mad Max for my senses all night long. I had the salty twang of pickle interspersed with a carrot halwa all in the same gambit. An experience for the books indeed. A riot of flavor just the way an Indian thali is meant to be savored and enjoyed not in that particular order mind you. One can choose between a vegetarian and non vegetarian option.

The non vegetarian option was a zinger indeed. From the Peeli Mirch ka Murg, Rawa fried fish fillet, Rajma aur kele ki shammi (a brilliant blend of rajma beans and banana kebab) to the Jhinga masala (prawns) and the all time favorites Rajbhog and Gajar ka Halwa (Indian carrot dessert) this was one meal that devoured my senses silly. It leaves you acclimatising oneself from start to finish. One lays in suspense -prior and post, having experienced the art of interstellar travel that occurs in the midst of all this.

Oh and if your wondering when does the photograph arrive? It’s dark baby. And I’ve transitioned to the dark side. The force is strong in this one – Master Yoda save me.

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