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

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I want to EAT the WORLD & I want it NOW!!!!

I’m on a trip.  No, I am not under the influence of psychotropic substances or reaffirming my existence as a shaman in an alternate universe. However i believe at times I am almost there, when listening to one of my all time favourite artist- James Douglas Morrison. A poetic, retrospective frame of mind. And right about now, I want to Eat the world indeed! What better place to start at- Eat the World DXB

I must admit, I’ve been trolling (OK, stalking more like it – Milo & Hectors Ice cream ever since 2015.) The fat kid in me loves ice cream ever so much,gawked and drooled  at the ‘Ice cream sandwich’ like Kris Kringle to cookies and milk on a Christmas chimney shake shake. 

So on a prayer and an over booked flight, i make my way to the first of a series of #foodtrails this year and the first stop is Dubai. While most of you have been to this tourist destination, there’s not much to mention that you already are unaware off. So diving into the concept of Eat the World DXB– it reminds me of a gypsy caravan tent site. Mind you, the majority of folk there in participation were British, albeit the food anything but, the oh so famous -Fish & Chips. Each one setup across the sprawled lawns, right next to the majestic Burj Khalifa that played gracious and colorful  host with its amazing light and sound display, across the tower as well as the periodic dancing fountains in front of it. The weather was peppy and crisp with a nip in the air, that would allow you to curl up in a blanket and settle into the sounds of funk and some great covers from the band in the background. A camp site indeed (sans the bonfire and gypsies dancing around it in rejoicement and celebration.

  The Burj Khalifa. Need I say more? Didn’t stand a chance to get a glimpse of Shilpa Shetty though. Food with a view indeed. 

I have always pride myself in understanding the finer nuances and cheat codes of deciphering an all you can eat buffet, by trying to beat the system. Albeit, just like the discreet charm of a casino, the house always does get the better of me and win. With over 45 camper trucks participating with eclectic food ranging from Crab burgers and sushi to Mexican burritos, pizzas and gelatos this poised itself as a mini episode of Man vs Food with a selective calorie choice of sorts for moi. 

Always up for a challenge, I meticulously surveyed the carts and the first hour went by the admiration of these food trucks. Reminded me of the Jon Faverau movie Chef. Cuteness overload with sayings and innovative artwork & design- it called out to my creative senses. A kids area with inflated islands made me wish I was young again- just to bounce with no care in the world. 

  

This dynamic duo kept the feet tapping all night with a heady mix of contemporary jazz to covers. 

There were a few live seminars and cooking demonstrations that had a captivated audience, understanding the art of baking the perfect cake, to mixology sessions for ones next house party.  As much as I would have liked to sit through it all, I had a mission. A mission to ensure I ate my heart out (figuratively speaking). 

  
Live cooking sessions underway. I love the Brits and their sense of humor. 

Here is a spotlight of the event through my IPhone. A snippet of each dish would be self explanatory, in order not to send you into a inception like comatose state. I’m nice that way. NOT!! 

  

Gelato’s drive me wild. On a stick, they take me to the brink of insanity. Especially freshly made and a wide variety of choice- Walnuts, pistachio, coconut, Vanilla bean, Belgian chocolate & Strawberry to name a few. 

  The Crunchy Crab burger is the stuff dreams are made off. Beer batter fried chunks of crab in a wholesome bun with loads of coleslaw and secret sauce. Hits the spot. 

  The folks from Made of Dough, stole my mind and thought for innovative design. An old Land Rover Discovery converted into a stone slab wood fired pizza oven was innovative and compact and looked so good. Quite practical indeed. The pizzas were nice. 

  Onion rings with crab sauce and fiery chillies was your gastronomic orgasm for the fast food fiend in me. Gulliver would be proud given the size of em rings. 

  Ever tried Haloumi? A delicious Cypriot semi-hard, unripened brined cheese made from a mixture of goat’s and sheep’s milk, (sometimes cows too). Slightly coarse in texture and deep fried with pomegranate seeds and melted fondue, this was definitely an acquired taste. 

  One can never really go wrong with French fries, especially when you are listening to La bamba being belted out live in front of you. Lest to forget the crab dressing accompaniment. Sweet sour and tangy. 

  Braco’s sliders-These are undescribable. I shall do a great injustice even trying to explain the same. Let me stick to the ingredients and let your mind run wild in all different directions. Here’s goes.  

 Grass fed rib eye beef with chimichurri & British cheddar cheese torched with a flame gun (shown above) and served buttery. A calorific sin of magnanimous proportions. 

  Churros Churros Churros. Fresh off the boiling vat. Whoop. Little sticks of chocolate doughnuty heaven indeed. 

  This organic cooler was a thirst quencher. Fruity with a tequila base and some Thai cucumber- it was indeed (almost) organic. Aint tequila in some cultures considered organic too? 

  Italiano in UAE. Love the enthusiasm of this bunch and they were so much fun not to forget mentioning some of the best Buffala I had on my trip there. 

  

‘The dream’ fulfilled. Milo & Hector’s caramel ice cream with sprinkles sandwiched in double chocolate gooey cookies. Heaven in every bite. Screw the calories. It was so worth it. 

Stay tuned as I tunnel my way back to the real world. 

Art on a Plate 

This is part of a series of articles written for Goa Times (Times of India) on people and happenings in and around Goa. 

This article encaupsulates Art on a Plate in the age of food being presented as a work of art- a feast for the eyes. 

Click on the image to enlarge it and read. 
  

Publication:Goa Times 

Written by: Nolan Mascarenhas 

Planet Hollywood Hotel- it’s here!

Let’s dig deep and ask ourselves- are we star crazy? I’m not referring to the constellations or stars in the skies rather all the Stars in ‘Woods’ ranging from Holly,Bolly,Tolly and perhaps someplace in the world-Molly. 

Let’s play the Instant two second reaction game? Ok! Here goes.What happens to you when you see a known celebrity pass by? Do you salivate, perhaps scrimmage through your Gucci handbag for that IPhone (selfie time to guffaw with friends over drinks later) and go ditzy and weak in the knees all at once? I have the odd family member time and again and it’s hilarious, mind you. If so, this is one place you don’t want to miss on your destination radar. 

Welcome to Planet Hollywood. A place that could possibly have you mingling and hobnobbing (non chalantely) with A and B listers on the next breakfast table or casually lapping it at the pool. It’s a destination hideaway where the stars come to unwind and this iconic international brand is the ONLY one of its kind (currently) making its presence felt in our backyard right here in Goa. Only two Planet Hollywood Hotels in the world (the first being in Las Vegas) and the first one in Asia. This is a huge deal indeed. I’m excited!!!

I drive up the very German block design inspired driveway and make my way to the reception. Right then and there I stand with a jaw drop expression. No I did not see Pamela Anderson walk past me, though that is on my bucket list this lifetime, rather was arrested by the ‘Wall of Fame‘ with its ginormous screen at the bar in the lobby- The Heart Bar. 

 The devil lies in the details of the minimal decor and color tone setup with white and purple being the predominant winners for the overall theme. My check-in was smooth and time flew by, as my eyes traversed the length and breadth of that wall. Stars in all their glory from current to yesteryears- with the ocassional odd movie playing on the screen for visual appeal. 

Tired from my journey, post the meetings and greetings from the effervescent staff, I am ushered to my room. It’s uncanny how I am given a room with Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson adorning my masthead above in his Hercules avatar- a movie I happened to watch just the other night. Karma perhaps?

 The room is spacious and well balanced in decor and light. It’s got mood lighting for all you lovely couples and a beautiful relaxed balcony with a hint view of the beach in the distance. The bed has a cloud like embrace and allows you to sink in whilst it moulds itself to the contours of your body. There is an added touch with a leg massager given for those aching feet and is a much needed delight to sore heels. 

The bathroom is well proportioned with his and her sinks and a wet rain shower cabinet with a similar resemblance of ‘Boogie Nights’ and shimmering floors. Rather large enough to hear myself think, like ‘The Thinker’ on the commode. 

Tastefully Opulent   
A hot shower post, I am ready for breakfast. While this is a #staycation mention, the one item making it to this review has got to be the delicately moulded Eggs Benedict at the hands of Chef Sundar. I would do it a great injustice if this had to be explained especially the gastronomic senses that sent my tones into a frenzied rapture- a mere suggestion for you egg lovers? Do yourself a favor and head on over to Planet Dailies and order this marvel.
Eggs Benedict with Hollandaise sauce  

The eager beaver in me scouted the grounds to find out much an interesting thing. There is a playground for kids and an archery zone to practice your aim. The beach is close by with its pristine sands. The swimming pool is magnificent and vast with a pool bar menu thrown to you by the peppy staff as a frisbee. Fun indeed!! 

For those more adventerous there is a Zorb in the pool as well as a paddle boat to exercise those muscles. The gym has an overview of all the heavenly bodies entering the pool in swim trunks and bikinis. This could, without doubt be a venue for the Pirelli calendar of 2017. I did spot a couple of celebrities but this is a haven for them to unwind; so Mum’s the word!!! Head on over and carry your camera.

The spaces are expansive and one can make out the grandiosity of the venue through the definition of its negative space. Neat and crisp lines with memorabilia around to remind you of the theme at hand. 

Grandeur defined in negative spaces 

Each section of the resort is well defined; from their Pink Room Spa to their multiple dining venues. There is Planet Dailies– their signature all day dining restaurant, Fame– the hot spot resto lounge, Heart Bar– the eclectically designed high energy bar, Cigar lounge– A perfect place to relax over champagne, martinis and that perfect stogie in old world charm (I felt the ghost of Winston Churchill while I sat there- it’s that Brit!!) 

Being spoilt for choice I have decided to head on over soon just to cover the Food Junket of these amazing establishments. More on that shortly. 

Feeling Nostalgic @ Cigar lounge   

If you know me, I have a bucket list of sorts. One of them would have recently been ticked off this year, all thanks to the magical pool under a starry lit sky. The lights twinkle beneath you and the cool blue water is a perfect romantic setting for you and your loved ones. I happened to do hand stands and cartwheels however- blame it on the kid in me. But imagine a late night swim (the pool is open till 9pm) with your beloved and relax in the perched jacuzzi ahead and whisper sweet nothings to your special someone. A truly magical experience. 

Before I sign out here’s mr. NObody for a fleeting second feeling like a Somebody!!  Till I head on over again Planet Hollywood – you have been a STAR! 
Stars above and below 

 

Pic courtesy: Nolan Mascarenhas Photography. All images shot on Iphone6 

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 

Mr.Worldwide

If your wondering about the title- as much as I would like to be Mr. Worldwide aka Pitbull, I still am mr. NObody the last time I checked. Here’s a candid confession about the beauty and art of eating a buffet (learnt the hard way of course) You are spoilt for choice and neglect is never an option. But in these days,of counted calories and busting seam lines, one has to be extra careful and selective in this ‘art of choice’- yours truly for sure. In my constant struggle and strife of keeping the calorie count in check, with an excessive workout regiment, I was invited with a few Mumbai foodies to Hornby’s Pavilion at the ITC Grand Central -Lower Parel for their Kitchens of the World Series. This time around it was Street food focused with many exotic preparations in store. 

Having travelled extensively it was a delight to hop around a multitude of signature cuisines at the comfort of ones own chair, being not too far away on display at the buffet counter. Some of these dishes have had me travel far and wide to witness and sample. If I had to spotlight a quick culinary trail, let me start straight at home with the India section hitting all the right spots. From the Nalli Nihari to the Dum mutton Biryani the ITC Hotels can do no wrong, this being the fourth time in a span of a decade I have bared witness too. It’s spot on! Sweet sorrowful parting of tender meat chunks falling off the bone with a mere fork nudge in symphonic harmony. The Galauti kebabs and mushroom adaptation were sinfully exotic and perfect in texture. 

Nalli Nihari  Pic courtesy: Nolan Mascarenhas Photography

Heading to the chaat section which always has a soft spot in my heart were the Agra ka chaat and Aloo Tikki both which stole the show with much aplomb. Taking off to Singapore, was the Rojak salad which has delicate blend of mango, papaya & pineapple alongside the Bellpeper salad tossed with bean sprouts a favourite on the streets of Istanbul. The Ablama– a Lebanese dish comprised of a stuffed Zucchini filled with meat, rice and tomatoes cooked with tomato sauce was an instant favorite. 

Ablama  Pic courtesy: Nolan Mascarenhas Photography

The menu is carefully crafted by Chef Dhawal Ajmera, who took the time from his packed schedule to sit down and go through his preparations with us. From pickles seasoned in his own kitchen, to research oriented menus and adaptations of world favourites to suit the Indian palate, one would be fooled by how much knowledge he has amassed at such a young age. A watchful eye on our plates and suggestions did make for an interesting, educative, experience indeed. 
Aloo tikki

Pic courtesy: Nolan Mascarenhas Photography    

From Pizzas with Mozarella cheese to the famous Korean Bulgogi with a twist, this place is a sensory delight for the world traveller who appreciates and experiments with multiple cuisines. It was more of an overload walking through the ‘isles of food coma’, a playful jest moment shared between us two surrounded by Pork spare ribs on one side and quesadillas on the other. Fresh hot baguettes and cheese to fritter prawns- Singapore style, it was a good place to be in. Unfortunately the aisle was rather narrow and I gawked like a stalker or so the prawns would have thought. The googly eyes were a dead giveaway. 
Picarones Pic courtesy: Nolan Mascarenhas Photography 

Moving over the the desserts on offer was a variety, from the Columbian Chocolate mousse to the deep fried Picarones (a Columbian version donut) which were smothered in honey syrup and dusted with cocoa, I couldn’t help but notice and wonder as to the ‘real’ reason behind Pablo Escobar’s weight gain. A few of these would be equivalent to an hour on the mill for me,at an incline that too, but I am sure Mr. Escobar would have savoured these from his motherland. 

 Pumpkin Pudding  Pic courtesy: Nolan Mascarenhas Photography

The Crepe Suzettes with an orange and honey glaze were delightful- do ask for a fresh batch and they would happily oblige and not go mention the gooey Pumpkin pudding from the streets of Brazil which were amazing. Lest not forget, the Jalebi and rabdi from our homeland which had me asking for a second helping. (Click on it to see the video) Yes, I’m a calorie fraud and I didn’t care right about then. 

The beauty of reciting this eclectic menu, is there is no stoppage in sight anytime soon. I could ramble on and confuse some, get hate mail from others- yet just leave one and all gasping for more. My simple suggestion is, make a reservation and head on over at the earliest as this festival closes on the 22nd of November. 

Bon Culinare Voyage!!!!!