The Calorie Night’s Watch


A double onslaught fast approaches- One of the most anticipated series Games of Thrones makes way as well as the pile on of calories. My arch nemesis for the longest time, the best description of these suckers is something I read; tiny creatures that live in ones closet and sew clothes a little bit tighter every night, drawing an analogous quest and claim for ‘Waist-eros’. Hopefully this season will be kind and not indulge me in binge eating over marathon sessions. Now while I sit back awaiting a challenge laid down by the lovely folk at PEMA a wellness resort in Vishakhapatnam, where I’m enticed to a multi-coursed 500 gram gourmet meal, the intrigue and surprise on my face runs comparable to the time the Mother of Dragons sat down to Khal Drogo’s breakfast specialty- a horses heart. Luckily, this all-vegetarian led holistic healing centers atop a hill with the picturesque coastline ahead has thrown down the gauntlet. Challenge accepted.

With grams weighed and a calorie intake monitor in place under the strict eyes of dieticians and master chef’s creating wonders, this is one of my meals. Starting off with a Curried Cauliflower soup (200 grams at 59 calories) followed by Herbed Mushroom Caviar (120 at 97) and a Soufflé de legume (200 at 186) and Honey glazed apple sandwich (100 at 70) totaling to an astonishing 412 calories over this four-course meal! Speechless. With the right exercise, water intake and calorie count with expert supervision for a variety of body cleanses, I drop an astonishing 3.5 kilos in 5 days. But it did get me thinking- the calorie wars can be won if we condition ourselves to avoid ‘binge eating and drinking’ over our favorite prime time shows. But if the need does arise, there’s hope in these substitutes that could combat one’s meteoric calorie rise.

Moong dal- Every Indian’s favorite, this dal is full of Vitamin A, B, C and E and many minerals, such as calcium, iron and potassium. It is often advised by dieticians to replace fatty foods with Moon dal as it is a weight loss food that is rich in proteins and fiber, so one feels fuller after having a bowl of dal for a long time and curbs your cravings. My recommendation would be adding finely chopped onions, tomatoes, boiled potatoes, sprinkle of rock salt, pepper, a dash of lemon and top it with coriander and bhel- “Voila! Chaat a la Moong”. Try substituting this for the buttered popcorn. Don’t hate me just yet.

Dhokla- This humble dish from Gujarat is famous all over. This light and fluffy delicacy is seasoned with coriander leaves, mustard seeds, green chutney and fried green chilies. Made from fermented flour it is rich in nutritive values. Being steamed and not fried, dhokla has less oil content, makes them low on calories. 100 gms of dhokla contains only 160 calories! Need I say more?

Cinnamon- Everything is nice about this weight loss food. This nutty flavor spice is also known for its diabetes fighting properties. Add ground cinnamon as a replacement for sugar in cake dough or in your tea and coffee to get the most out of this wonderful spice every day. If it’s too much of a hassle indulge in dark chocolate, the darker the better and stick to a few pieces, please.

Beetroot juice- Yes this is the odd one out, but trust me beet juice gives your body a stamina boost allowing you to exercise longer and burn more calories post the show. Beets are a blood-building herb that detoxifies blood and renews it with minerals and natural sugars. This weight loss food also aids in eliminating toxins from your body. Try my favorite concoction- 2 medium sized beetroots, 2 oranges, 5 slice of fresh pineapple, 2 tablespoons of Lemon Juice and a sprig of Mint. Voila- should keep your cravings to the least minimum. Blend and savor. 

Valar Dohaeris Caloris Non! (Loose translation; All Men must NOT serve calories!) Shoot me already. 

Enjoy the show.
 

The Stuffed Moppet 

Namaskaaram! A warm and sticky welcome from God’s own country-Kerela. An encounter with a doctor at a recent check up had me take notice of what exactly I was fuelling my system with. A whole representation of eating habits, which I’ve mustered along the way, my drastic weight loss due to troubles plaguing the mind and soul initially, a culmination of all of these had me realize over a period of a decade the amount of misguided abuse, I had let my body suffer at my own hands. We all look out for that twelfth hour of immortality when pitted against a wall. Not at the risk of sounding like the harbinger of doom and despair, but its always great to have a reality check every once in a while.

 We really are what we eat. Travel took me far down south; it’s always a pleasure walking into the kitchens of Maggie Q, a Brit living here since 1994 can aptly be described as ‘spontaneous combustion’. Warm, caring, razor sharp wit, unapologetic and carefree would be the best way to describe her. A practitioner of Ayurveda mastering the ancient scrolls in existence since 900 B.C, she is happy to share. Slightly perturbed about my said given condition, I’ve been codenamed ‘Moppet’, a small endearingly sweet child. She aptly describes my current condition as somewhere in between a lopsided Dwarf and a Tooth Fairy. A detox and body prolife was in order not to mention a jolly good ol’ stuffing. Now I know what is running through that mind of yours, however focusing on power health foods ‘stuffed’ with the right healing herbs and spices is what was what the doctor prescribed.

 Stuffed Yellow Chillies- 350 grams of yellow chillies approx. 2 inches, ½ up roasted and grounded peanuts, ½ cup roasted and ground sesame seeds, 2 tablespoons unsweetened, shredded coconut, 1 tablespoon fresh cilantro leaves, chopped, ¼ cup water, 3 tablespoons sunflower oil, ½ teaspoon black mustard seeds, ½ teaspoon cumin seeds, ¼ teaspoon salt, ¼ turmeric. Wash and dry the chillies, cut one side of each length wise making a pocket. Scrape out the seeds for a milder dish. Blend the ground peanuts and sesame seeds with the coconut, cilantro and water into a low thick paste. Stuff the chillies with said paste. On a heated pan add oil followed by mustard seeds, cumin seeds, salt and turmeric. Sautee on a medium flame till the seeds pop. Add the stuffed chillies to the pan on medium heat. Gently and frequently turn the chillies on all sides until the skin is evenly brown and chillies are tender. Served hot! Keep in mind, this is a hot and pungent dish, sharp, penetrating and a stimulant. This forms a great digestive apart from being a very scrumptious dish.

While the first dish invigorates and targets certain organs closer to the digestive system the second is the counter balancing effect to a stuffed meal. Light, scrumptious, highly fibrous and a great balancer to the fiery chillies is the ladyfinger.

Stuffed Okra (Ladyfinger) – 350 grams of fresh okra, ½ cup ground roasted sesame seeds, ½ cup ground roasted peanuts, 2 tablespoons unsweetened, shredded coconut, ¼ teaspoon turmeric, ½ teaspoon masala powder, ¼ teaspoon salt, 1 tablespoon fresh chopped cilantro leaves, 1 tablespoon chickpea flour, ¼ cup water, 3 tablespoons sunflower oil, ½ cumin seeds, ½ teaspoon black mustard seeds

Wash, dry and cut of the ends of the Okra. Pocket the same as done with the yellow chillies earlier, Make a mixture of the sesame seeds, peanuts, coconut, turmeric, masala powder, cilantro, salt, chickpea flour, and water into a paste for the filling. Heat the frying pan to medium and add oil, cumin and mustard seeds. Cook till the seeds pop and add the okra and turn for 10-15 minutes till brown and crispy. This forms a great laxative apart from other beneficial healing properties to ones digestive system. Serve with chapati’s (Indian bread)

Stuffed out, the rejuvenation process has begun. 

A ‘Whirlwind’ Experience at Sea

Statutory Warning! The next 1282 words, describe a ‘Whirlwind experience‘ aboard a floating world in the middle of the ocean. Granted its not an apt choice of words and I got home all accounted for, it did feel like just that- the minute I boarded the Mariner of the Seas by Royal Caribbean – a colossal 138,000 tons cruise ship, with 15 decks of activity poised in serenity at the Singapore Harbor.

From afar, one would be misguided to underestimate the ‘fun’ hidden within. After all, it does look like any other cruise ship meant for the honeymooners of mush. Looks can be deceiving, and I happened to witness it first hand the minute I boarded. “There is something for everyone”- a line that has been used beyond reckoning and is rather staid these days, not to mention over promised, would be the apt title for this ‘cruise’ and it sure lives up to its name. Let me give you a few activities that left me spell bound and thoroughly engrossed enough to realize that 96 hours passed me by. Did someone mention the relativity of time in a Interstellar manner of speaking?

THE Dreamworks Parade

Its an all star round up when life size characters of King Julian and Princess Fiona and Kung Fu Panda parade up and down the gangway to welcome one and all aboard this journey of Fun and Frolic. They even are amazing enough to click photographs with. Check out Gloria from Madagascar, she is a whole lot of hug and is quite supportive for ones weight ego issues, in a diminutive matter of speaking.

For the DareDevil in you

One realizes that moment of self proclaimed fallacies in regards to ‘physical fitness’ when the sign up for the adventure zone. You have a Rock climbing wall for the enthusiast such as ‘moi’ to climb atop and suspend oneself 25 feet above deck with unparalleled horizons of the deep blue sea and all that lurks within and shout out with arms wide stretched ‘I am the king of the world’ and play spectacle to all below who guffaw at your idiosyncrasies.

Or if that doesn’t cut it for you, try colour-coordinating footwear to match golf balls on the mini golf course during putting practice. Mind the wind and draft, it plays havoc on ones putting stance, or maybe it was the alcohol talking from one of the many bars around. For all the ‘insomniac hoopsters’ in the house, there is nothing like a great game of Basketball at 2am in the morning.

A Jacuzzi and Movie

Not all Fun and Games require physical exercise. After the bitter sweet realization sets in and parts of ones body, unheard of before- scream for attentive rejuvenation the best way to swallow ones bruised pride, no pun intended, is to catch a movie on a larger than life screen close to 70mm theatre sized format, in the middle of a bubbly Jacuzzi at 9 pm till midnight. I had a wonderful time watching a country western- The Magnificent Seven, with a beer in one hand and a shower of rain from above during the movie. A surreal experience indeed. Do remember to keep the towel handy, as the wind gets rather gusty in the wee hours of the morning. A definitive experience- with like-minded company, to redefine the term ‘Netflix and chill’. Goes without saying I wasn’t so lucky given three hairy men sharing my tub. Three more and I would be living my country western flick in real bubbly life, as a matter of speaking.

John Travolta meets Evgeni Plushenko

Contrary to popular belief, the ship while cruising is as stable as a Professor delivering a lecture on quantum astro physics on a cold winters day in Harvard. However, if some wish to get ‘Jiggy’ with it, allow me to suggest two multiple varieties on two different surfaces. For starters you could head to the neon lit discotheque at the far end of the ship, and boogie away to Saturday night fever Travolta style, and bust a move while you at it or be a vision on ice like the 4 time Olympian Evgeni Plushenko. Yes don’t look so baffled, I assure you I am not doing a Hemingway through this article and this piece is written and edited sober. There is an ice skating rink in the middle of the ship!!!! And you can learn the art of making a complete fool of yourself and redefining the term ‘Bottoms Up’ every few feet on twin blades. Whats more allow for the show to begin post ‘your’ practice rounds and see these graceful figurines make you feel inadequate and left footed every step of the way. Please wear full pants, I speak from experience having to break away follicles of hair like icicles due to the severity of the cold.

A Yankee and a show

Given all the vigorous and not so vigorous activity leaves one famished. What better experience than to dine at Johnny Rockets, one of the specialty restaurants transporting you back to the days of jukeboxes, hamburgers, hotdogs, sundaes and corn chilly fries. The Strawberry milkshake is best left to be sampled as words currently transport me to the chunky bits of fresh strawberry amidst goodness of brain freeze slush. Set in a 60’s setting of the American diner this is a fun filled experience for adults and kids alike with a set menu that includes some scrumptious mouthwatering fare that would appease the palates of adults and kids alike.

Consume the meal with gusto and don’t miss to catch the Musical at the indoor theatre Gallery of Dreams.

Its a world class production and keeps ones feet stomping through the spectacle.
Jackpot ‘Kaching!!!’

Right about now, the only infamous words coming to my mind is the sputtering of Clint Eastwood to the tune of ‘Feeling lucky punk’. No, I am not held at gunpoint nor am I in a Mexican standoff at the Roulette tables in the casino below deck. A full-fledged casino to satiate the appetite and wallet of the gambler in you, this gambler paradise has something for everyone. From slot machines to Blackjack to 21 one never gets bored. I even managed to win a little as a first time gambler. What can i say, beginners luck perhaps? After all, the house always wins right? Maybe not applicable in this case given it’s technically not a house? One would never know!! To question or not to question, that is the answer. Strictly for adults only.

As I sign off, I would like to harp upon the activities NOT covered in the gambit of Fun and Frolic aboard. Time did not permit me in a 19 hour day of whirlwind madness to indulge myself in the VitalitySM Spa with 100+ treatments with medi-spa treatments and acupuncture or the 4 pools including the Solarium that is an adults only retreat.

Nor was I privy to the state-of-the-art Fitness center with classes that included Tai chi and yoga or indulge my shopping delights in the duty-free shopping on the Royal Promenade including a Coach¯ store, jewelry, perfumes, apparel and shopping etc. Time also did not permit me to enjoy my stateroom with ocean facing balcony that had a flat-screen television with touchscreen way finders and digital signage to get the digital geek in me fed and be happily content. However having witnessed it all, I am eager and ready to get on my next cruise for a longer duration of time to plan my schedule more meticulously to experience all that it has to offer.

Boredom is never an option aboard the vastness of the ocean thanks to Royal Caribbean and Tirun Marketing.

Picture courtesy: Nolan Mascarenhas Images shot on IPhone6

The Easter Egg Hunt 

Nearing the end of the Holy period, my Instagram feed is cropping up temptations aplenty. From White & Dark Chocolate coated bunnies and decorated eggs to Minion shaped marzipan ones, each has me impatiently counting down the days till Easter Sunday. During this period of abstinence, many friends around gave up the consumption of eggs as part of the diet and it got me thinking about the historical significance of the Easter egg also known as Paschal eggs. Did you know? Eggs, in general, were a traditional symbol of fertility and rebirth, in Christianity, for the celebration of Eastertide, Easter eggs symbolize the empty tomb of Jesus, from which Jesus resurrected. Quite fascinating. One ancient tradition was the staining of Easter eggs with the colour red “in memory of the blood of Christ, shed as at that time of his crucifixion. This custom of the Easter egg can be traced to early Christians of Mesopotamia, and from there it spread into Russia and Siberia through the Orthodox Churches, and later into Europe through the Catholic and Protestant Churches.

 Speaking of history- I have my own history with eggs, not the Easter kind but the white ones with the ‘yucky yolk’ in the middle. I wouldn’t say a bad one but rather an unpleasant one. For the longest time I was harangued for leaving the yolk on my plate and at times subjected to be force-fed. Then as I grew older armed with half baked knowledge of the perpetual medical debate of cholesterol and how the ‘yolk’ was bad for you, had a bitter sweet remedial victory to the likes of “I told you so” to said authority. Memories are made of collective experiences and this had me stray far away from the goodness of protein found in them.  

 However eggs have been gradually shedding their bad reputation and gaining in popularity among health-minded eaters of all persuasions, from egetarians to protein-seeking athletes. Most experts now agree that eating eggs in moderation-up to one whole egg per day- doesn’t increase heart disease risk in healthy people.

 I am of the firm belief that mixing things up and eating a variety of foods is the best way to ensure you’re getting enough of all the vitamins and minerals that your body needs to function optimally. So it pays to alternate egg dishes with other healthy options, like fiber-packed oatmeal or yogurt with fresh fruit and nuts. Eggs are high in protein, which appeals to people looking for morning meals that have staying power. But there are plenty of other breakfast-friendly foods that accomplish the same end: Yogurt, soy and cow’s milk, beans, nuts, seeds, and certain whole grains like quinoa all deliver a nice hit of protein in a naturally nutrient-dense package. Here are a few egg free breakfast hacks for the busy bee in you.

Peanut Butter Oatmeal- This is my all time favourite, just for the peanut butter that adds dimension to the meal. Cook 1/2-cup oats with 1-cup soymilk, and stir in up to 2 tablespoons of natural peanut butter. This serving gives you for 21 grams of protein!!!!

White Bean-Avocado Toast- Mash 1/4 of a ripe avocado with 1/2-cup white beans plus fresh herbs if you so desire, and spread over a hearty slice of toasted whole-grain bread. Prep time- 5 minutes and throws in 14 grams of protein.

Banana Bread Smoothie- A simple blending of 2 cups Soy Milk ¼ cup Walnuts, 2 large, very ripe Bananas, 1 tsp pure Vanilla Essence, 1 tsp Ground Cinnamon, 3-4 seedless Dates, a dash of Sea Salt and 2 handfuls of Ice and voila that’s 35 grams of protein in ten minutes.

As for self, I know what the near future holds in the form of sweets and meats galore. Here is the big question plaguing me- What size of the egg shall I buy? Will it be Chocolate- the way it was in 1873 when J.S.Fry & Sons introduced the first chocolate Easter egg in Britain or would it be the Minion shaped Marzipan eggs with semblance to the ones I tasted in the Philippines ‘mazapan de pili’, all those years ago from ‘pili’ nuts? 

Heres wishing you all a Happy & Joyous Easter ahead!!

For more follow me on @nolansatwit on Instagram and Twitter. 

 

 

The Sleepy Minion 

An excerpt from Stopping by the Woods on a Snowy Evening by Robert Frost- “The woods are lovely, dark and deep, But I have promises to keep, And miles to go before I sleep” generally sums up and epitomizes our current lifestyle for the present generation of ‘millennial’. We work hard, party harder, love deeper, socially antisocial, and technologically slaved sleep deprived beings on most counts. Sometimes I wonder and wish for an additional seven hours to a twenty-four hour day to get the job done. It’s harmful. I know it. What am I doing about it? Nothing really. Well not until I met Calin from Nebraska at the recent Saturday Night Market.

Calin works in the ER and goes without saying is a workaholic. She works twenty-hour days and while we walked around the grounds admiring it in entirety she had a certain sense of calm about her. She quipped of having been at ‘peace’ in a very long time, with her mind not racing in a thousand directions and being socially disconnected not to mention mentally traumatized given her work area. Having suffered a panic attack and anxiety attack almost simultaneously made her take note of her body and listen to it carefully. That’s something we both had in common. I had a panic attack but recently and that made me sit up and focus on certain ‘lifestyle’ choices that were plaguing me both mentally and physically. Over a cup of tea, notes were swapped as well as our common love for Minions- those nubby yellow henchmen of Gru from Despicable Me. Still clueless, Kindly Google!

 Now while the earlier version of yours truly would literally kill a Saturday Night in quick succession with multiple venues and a crazy all night party working towards the wee hours of the morning, the new and improved one choose a homemade recipe and a conversation to lull out a perfect set rendezvous. That’s the exact moment when revelation hit in this preparation as thunderous as Thor’s hammer and Zeus lightening bolt in unison- Banana Cinnamon Tea. Did you know? Bananas are one of the more well known sleep aiding foods. Aside from tasting great and being full of fiber, bananas are a good source of potassium and magnesium, which both act as muscle relaxants. When your muscles are relaxed, you are able to let go of stress more easily and drift into a deeper sleep. They also contain Vitamin B6, an important micronutrient that aids in the body’s production of serotonin, a precursor to the other sleep hormone melatonin. While they maybe rich in potassium and magnesium, what most people do not know is that the banana peel has, even more, potassium and magnesium than the banana itself, and it is often thrown away as trash. That was a new discovery for this preparation. 

Imagine the numerous times stress calls on us. That depletes Magnesium as a mineral in ones body first. Cinnamon apart from tasting amazing is great because it is one of the best ways to balance blood sugar levels. When blood sugar levels are balanced, your hormones can function in a way that allows for better sleep. If your blood sugar levels are off, then you may have energy at night, or be tired during the day.

 How does one go about this preparation? All you need is one yellow banana; I had to use five elaichi bananas present in my kitchen given the lack of a normal one. If you were using the Moira banana half of the same would do just fine given the size. A pot of filtered water and a sprinkle of cinnamon, if you like. Cut off both the head and tail end of the banana and put the banana into a pot of bowling water. Boil for about 10 minutes and sprinkle some cinnamon into the water as well. If you’d like to add some stevia for sweetening, do so. Stevia helps to balance blood sugar levels, and will not spike blood sugar levels before bed.

 Drain the same and enjoy a hot piping cup of tea allowing you into slumber land shortly thereafter.

If you like the article, would love to hear from you. Follow me on @nolansatwit

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.

 

 

 

 

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

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 

 

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.