Saturday, October 29, 2016

simply grills , thrills @ Goa Marriott

I read somewhere “ I want a home facing the sea, but I also want to be close to the mall, the movie multiplexes, the superstore and the children’s school. “ Miramar is not just close to all these and more, but also close to a science center, a sports complex, and the cultural center of Goa, Kala Academy. Miramar is not just the most perfect place to live in the whole wide country , according to me, it is also home.
The Goa Marriott situated in Miramar, faces the Arabian sea, as well as the Mandovi River, thereby garnering one of the most beautiful sunsets the city of Panjim has to offer.

The Goa Marriott resort in Miramar, has reintroduced their sea facing outdoor fine dining restaurant 'simply grills' . The concept is fairly simple, you choose the fresh catch of the day by weight and ask for it to be cooked in any number of marinades. Seafood and outdoor eating is synonymous to Goa, but this is the five star version of the local shack experience.

 While the shacks serve up beer in bottles, these guys have a themed bar every night! We had ginger margaritas in testubes, a pineapple mocktail in a beaker, which was passed of as glucose, and a red cycle ambulance was wheeled in with it's own strawberry mojito through the hospital drip apparatus! There are plans of starting a herb and spices infused bar, using fresh herbs grown in house, aswell.

The young and dynamic team at the Goa Marriott are taking the Food and beverage scene in Goa by storm. So while Goa is famous for it’s alfresco dining by the sea, the typical shack eating experience has gotten a majot makeover.

The food too is beautifully plated, thoughtfully paired with complimentary side dishes.

 We started with the sriracha marinated calamari which was panjim fried and served on a bed of focaccia drizzled with basil pesto. A dish rich in textures and flavours it set the standard of rest of the meal pretty high.

The 'tall boy' is a triple decker fish burger to your choice of fish using fresh avocados instead of mayo was inspired. A very European dish , even though it was burger, it reminded me of fish and chips.
The lobster Thermidor was a really glorious looking dish, but to be fair all lobster dishes look glorious to me, a crustacean lover, especially when it is served in the shell. read about best places for crab in Goa . The lobster  was a tad salty due to liberal use of Parmesan cheese, thus overpowering the sweetness of the lobster flesh.

The bebinca cheese cake

The simply grills unlike its name is hardly simple, and most definitely not just about Grills.

The sunsets ofcourse are the spectacular draw, and the restaurant opens at 6 in the evening, allowing for a leisurely supper. The infinity pool, as well as the waterfall surrounding the pool bar, add to the aqua theme of the open air dining space.  Watching the tour boats sailing on the Mandovi, or the beams from the lighthouse from across the River at Aguada; this place is meant to indulge in the slow life.
the infinity pool with a waterfall around the pool bar

The days fresh catch

microherbs at the open kitchen. kitchen garden for all to dee!

The bright eyes on the fish speak: fresh

tasting times with these tastetubes

a tall boy indeed

Next came the pesto pomfret . I was keen on seeing what chef created with the pomfret, a fish which is as versatile as chicken when it comes to pairing flavours. So while the Konkani belt makes a mean pomfret koliwada, or the fiery Goan recheado, or the herby mint chutney pomfret, and the mildly flavoured steamed parsi patrani machi. One can shallow fry, deep fry, steam a pomfret, and pairs amazingly with far eastern flavours as well as middle eastern spices.Chef made an Italian inspired basil pesto Pomfret, which exemplified the range of both the cook as well as the produce . It was perfectly cooked to maintain the freshness without going dry or rubbery. 

For desserts we were indulged in a chocolate papa bun, which is essentially a fried brioche bun, which has layers and layers of butter folded within it, this came with nutella, in a sort of breakfast-for-dinner kind of dessert.

The chilli garlic prawns served with a silken smooth mash, was a meal in itself, again interestingly plated, byChef Ganesh and his team.

The real treat was the bebince cheesecake which is the signature dish at simply grills. The coconut jaggery layered ‘queen of all Goan desserts, meets, the baked new york cheese cake in an east meets west juganbandi. And before you ask me why, lets just say why not? The rest of the country is going gaga over gulab jamun cheesecakes, and other Indian desserts paired off with cheese, here is Goa’s take.

What I especially loved is that while all the managers as well as the chefs are from outside of Goa, and most of them are celebrating their first on season of Goa, they have been mindful of the cooking ethos of Goa, these are fresh days catch thoughtfully prepped and elegantly plated to showcase the best of Goa.

Monday, October 24, 2016

Goa on my plate : Antojitos Goa

In a ten feet by six feet area , jostling for place is a double frier, a double grill, a work station, a refrigerator and a wash basin, this tiny litchen travels on wheels every day to Taleigaon with three people in it. This mobile kitchen , aka a food truck is perhaps the single most revolutionary thing to happen to food in the past few years. Think of the movie Chef, or immensely popular food and travel shows playing on almost any food channel which calls takes it’s food trends seriously.
Even though food trucks have been taking USA by storm, India which has always been quick to follow suit where food trends are concerned ( think cake pops and red velvet cupcakes) , this trend has been slow on the uptake. Primarily because of the large amount of legalese involved as well as the nitty gritties of actually making a portable kitchen. But Elvis and Steve , Owners of Antojitos food truck have surmounted all odds, and managed to convince the various civic and political powers that be that , goa needs food trucks.

Given what these guys have achieved in the sheer pioneer-of-food trucks sort of way, I would aapplaue these guys irrespective of what they serve.
Antojitos is slated as a tex mex food truck. Why Tex-mex? Well the guys say it’s because Indian and Mexican flavours and food is so familiar. But I suspect it is because, Mexican cuisine is by far one of the commonest forms of food trucks world wide, the food revolution capital San Francisco has a lot of Mexicans, Mexican food is bold flavours, easy to eat on the go, and has a robust colourful,street friendly food. Small town Mexicans are setting up food trucks every day in The land of dreams , to make a living.

Ambience: Think green fields, open skies, a wide road with ample parking, a fairly clean promenade and parapet to sit on. And an open kitchen.

Food: Elvis and Steve serve specials over the weekend, which are all the rage. The weekend specials come up on their FB page or on their instagram feed. The regular fare consists of beef or chicken burgers, with extra bacon if you so choose. My tip, if you have bacon, opt for the bacon. At 250 ruppees the burgers seem steep, especially for a food truck, but these guys are trying to do gourmet cuisine. Don’t mistake them for the local cutlet pao gadda , for the fare here is restaurant quality. The medium rare steak is beautifully pink in the center, adequately rested for the juices to seep in. their Burritos are sell out item I am told. My favourite though were their hotdogs. They are not the mustard and ketchup variety. Now on my recent trip to Newyork, the home of the Hotdog so to say, we had a lot of these pork sausages sandwitched in a footlong bun variety of hotdogs. The One at Antojitos, compares to the best in Newyork, there I said it. Piled high with beef/chicken mince, with spicy salsa , contrasting against the sweet bread, this was a winner. If I had to change something, I would want more char grilling of the pork sausage.

The Nachos are again a big sell, predominantly I guess because it is so typically Mexican, and something the younger generation is aware of. Nachos were originally fried tortillas, which were tossed with cheese baked again and topped with jalapenos. The creation was by a man named Nacho, and when he was asked the name of the dish he said Nacho’s special. Over time the apostrophe before the S was dropped and today we simply know it as Nachos.

The one at Antojitos is unlike the original, for one these are store bought Nachos chips, which are loaded with roasted bellpeppers, sweet corn, mince, hot sauce and molten cheese. It is an assembled dish, unlike the original the nachos are not baked in the oven after assembly. Though not very authentic, they are zesty, crispy, crunchy and creamy. Tomatoes, chips and cheese, is a winning combination. And surprisingly this is a very filling meal in itself.

I would go back for their Quesadillas as well. again big not just in flavour but in the helping as well. the molten cheese with marinated meat mince , neatly packed between flour like flat breads reminiscent of our own chapatis. Do not be dettered by the foreign sounding name, this dish is as Indian as mexican food can get. Do try it if it’s your first time trying Mexican cuisine, and then go home and stuff sabji within a chapatti, add cheese, and tell your kids you made a quesadilla.
Served in biodegradable plates, keeping cutlery to a minimum, these guys are doing their bit to reduce carbon print. They also use solar power to power their truck and kitchen appliances I am told.
Yes they seem a bit expensive, but think of it as a life experience, you get to try a new cuisine and a new experience of a food truck, that’s two checks off your bucket list.

What impressed me is that these are proud Goan boys, who are striving to make it big in Goa itself. Having worked in many places both in India and abroad they have chosen to drive a blue and red truck serving up their dream in the form of a food truck. They have faced a lot of hurdles to get you this experience of dining gourmet Mexican food served on the go.

The food truck is stationed in Taleigaon, opposite vasant vihar complex from 6 in the evening onwards, on most days. They have specials on Friday , Saturday and Sundays. Follow them on their FB page for fresh updates.
Food 3.5 plates
Service 3.5 plates (can get pretty hectic at peak hours)
Ambience 4 (a view of the farms, a clean promenade to sit on, open skies, no tables and chairs)

liked what you read?
read about more Mexican food adventures

Master of food and wine, Mexican night at the Park

Every few months the Park Hyatt resort and spa in Goa, organises an elegant sit down dinner, with personalised place cards, thematic center pieces, and a select group of invitees. These evenings are called, the masters of food and wine evenings.

This time around it was a Mexican themed night at the park.

Now, on previous occasions at the masters of food and wine, the affair has been a fairly formal , but this time around we were greeted by the wait staff in colourful sombreros.The mood was definitely festive and even the décor was the playful piñata, made by the children from El shaddai, the NGO that the resort supports as part of their corporate social responsibility.

Margaritas Marked the start of the non somber sombrero night, even as ace mixologist Shatbhi introduced the patrons to the Patron tequila range. The evening reached a crescendo with latin American dancers and foot tapping music.

cactii as table decor

fellow blogger amigos

loved the pinata

the non sombre , sombrero party

 The meal itself was a nuanced pairing of tequila to four courses which celebrated Mexico and Latin America. What I often look out for are the elaborate centerpieces that the park always manages to create. This time it was a desert scene with sand, rocks and cactii, elegantly arranged in large glass bowls.

And it isn't just the centrepieces which set the masters dinners apart. It is the immense task of serving plated meals to more than forty covers. In India we are either used to beautiful alacarte meals but then it is rarely served in such a mass production, or else our meals tend to be more communal, with either a biryani or a curry which can be prepared in bulk. The task at hand to individually prepare some of the components of the four course meal was immense. 
yup, was live on instagram live!

read more about this pic later

The first course was ceviche red snapper, served in a margarita glass, with the acidity of the lime matched by the heat from the chillies..

The next course was grilled prawns served with a salsa... and this is where the stress on the kitchen became apparent. Ceviche is still a dish which could be prepared early on, buying them time to plate and pass , but prawns are temperament and sensitive to matters of heat. Cooked too early and they would go cold, reheating them would make them leathery. The inconsistency were apparent and yet it was a beautiful foil to the tequila. The tomato salsa and the corn meal smear matched ... note for note in a masterful jugalbandi/playoff. 

The mains is when things got interesting. There were two choices, a crispy skin snapper on a bed of rice and peas, with skillet sautéed mushrooms and pickled onions, and then there was grilled mixed veggies with sweet potato dumplings. We all opted for the fish, and yet as I took pictures of the vegetables on the vegetarian option, the reds , greens and yellows were fresh and vibrant and looked absolutely delish. My eyes did not deceive me, the vegetarian option was the uncontested winner in the mains. The fish fish was dry, mostly because we are used to having our fish and rice with some dirt of gravy/ curry /sauce , something to tie the dish together. Again in choosing to celebrate seafood the third time that night, the chefs had made their task difficult for themselves. A slow cooked lamb, a roast chicken pollo or even pork dish would have needed less individual attention, unlike crisping the skin on each fish fillet and then turning it at the exact time so as to cook it to opaque and yet not over cooking it. But more on the vegetarian dish. 

snapper for supper

the photograph does not do justice to the actual dish

The advantages of sitting at the same table as the managing director Shobhit sawhney , and being inordinately verbose about my love for the vegetarian option meant that I got a second main course. Much to my delight too, because those sweet potato dumplings deserved an encore. I had already sneaked one of Nolan mascarenhas plate, and had been craving for another one of those gnocchi inspired starchy dumplings. In fact this dish of two shades of zucchini and three colours of bell peppers and sweated red onions had a distinct Italian feel to it, a generous molten layer of mozzarella cheese or a good grating of parmigiana cheese and they can make it a regular dish in the Italian themed restaurant, Prego. 

Dessert was a bit of a let down . maybe because of sky high expectations from the churros and tres leches combination. I love the sinful yet comforting sweet sponginess of a tres leches. A tres leches is at it’s core a sponge cake which is soaked in three forms of milk, and here the cake had not had enough time to soak, leaving dry sponge at the core of the cake. It needed perhaps ten more minutes and a more generous use of the milk components. The churros again are essentially deep fried batter, much similar to donuts, but are cylindrical rather than round, and generally ridged which allows for crispy deep fried bits, which are then rolled in sugar and cinnamon. The Churros were soft, more like the sweet buns we get in Goa.

the eye catching dessert

with Shatbhi, the master mixologist

The night was young , and spirits were high. The night was called to an end with Shatbhi, who had curated the Patron tequila cocktails, wishing Mexico a very happy belated Independence day, which had been on 16 september, a few days before the Mexican night event.
At the beginning of the evening I had been furiously clicking pictures of the margaritas, and the tequila bottles, so as to share them with all my blog readers, and my instagram followers.
I overheard some expats, or maybe they were foreign tourists staying at the resort, snidely remarking, “Indians must not have seen tequila before.” I let it pass.
But as the tequila flowed over the course of the Mexican night, I got bolder. At one point I carried four glasses to the kitchen table top, just so that I could get a better picture of them, I even coaxed a fellow blogger Fernando Monte d’ Silva to do the same. Proud of my country and what I do, I had no qualms of standing up to prejudiced foreign nationals.
As the event grew to a close, Shatbhi raised her glass and added “Viva Mexico” and we all repeated after her. I thought passed through my head, that somewhere in Mexico, half way around the world, someone might be celebrating India, and raising a toast to Indians. That is the power of food, because the tastebuds hold no prejudice.

Thankyou for joining me on this culinary journey of a land across the world from us, and yet so familiar. 


Friday, October 21, 2016

breaking bread with Sujit Sumitran :Goa on my plate

The world over , there is a conscious move towards eating more mindfully, cooking food with age old and time tested techniques, and getting more a-tune with Nature.

This week ‘Goa on my plate’ continues its profile on Home chefs, but this time around it is with a difference. Sujit Sumitran, bakes artisanal sourdough bread in a woodfired oven he built with his wife Sudha Sumitran, in his own backyard, behind a sprawling Portuguese style House in Brittona, overlooking the Mandovi. The couple have made Goa their adoptive home just two years ago, but they have imbibed the very essence of the Goan living. The sussegad lifestyle has been misinterpreted by most as the ‘easy life’ when in actuality it is the ‘slow life’, and baking sourdough bread is essentially a slow cooked food, where time is an essential ingredient.

Sujit Sumitran, also known as the bread whisperer brings to life the symbiosis of yeast and lactobacilli in an alchemic baking of the sourdough bread.
The bread whisperer at work

The use of wild yeast makes the sourdough intrinsically different from other breads made with commercial yeast. Not just in the characteristic flavour, but also because wild yeast generally has a diverse bio composition, which is better for breaking down the proteins within the bread. Teemed along with the bacteria, lacttobacili, also known as the ‘good bacteria’ it is a probiotic, fermented bread dough. Thus, the sour taste, which lends itself interestingly to our Indian curries, and especially Goan cuisine with it’s natural use of souring agents such as kokum, tamarind or vinegar in our curries.

wild yeast all the way from california. truly international cuisine.

hard at work , baking bread

As I said, this time we have a home chef and an artisanal baker with a difference, because Sujit does not sell his bread, he teaches people how to make them. Baking sourdough is how food was made centuries ago, it is not just food but a part of world history, with wild yeast all the way from the time of the California gold rush. The slow life is not, exactly the ‘easy life’ and the sourdough, or what I have decided to rename the sussegad bread demands patience. It demands that you get up early on a Sunday morning to head over by 8 to Sujit and Sudha’s home, it demands precise measurements of flour and water and salt, it demands you learn the basics of bakers mathematics and gluten physics. The ‘sussegad sourdgbread’ demands you coax and pull and fold and tuck it every 30 minutes, until it is pliable and pillowy soft. The whole process takes over 8 hours to make and bake.

Sujit bakes the bread in his wood fired oven using coconut shells, in a sustainable manner, reusing the shells and broken teigs and dry leaves. This sustainable, organic approach also weaves into their own kitchen garden with fresh basil, chillies and veggies for the picking.

The real test of the bread is in the tasting though, and it begins with the warm, earthy looks;The  bread is gorgeous to look at with it’s brown baked crust and dusting of white flour, along with elaborate etchings known as scorings, but it is also a much healthier form of bread. Tap the base for the hollow sound, which means the crumb within is aerated and fluffy, the gluten strands which we have lovingly stretched noe truly come into their own when we cut into the bread. The crusty outside and the soft spongy inside is exactly what a breadophile dreams of. We tasted the green chilly and sun dried tomato sourdough as well as the 8 grain sourdough bread. The piquant chilly, the earthy tartness of the sundried tomatoes were the perfect foil for the sourdough, which unlike my prejudice was not sour at all. A mild acidity of the bread lends flavour and body, much like the fermentation of grapes does to wine. The 8 grain sourdough was nutty and more crunchy, but was wonderfully aerated thanks to Sujit’s signature style of baking his bread in a double dutch cast iron oven.
whole wheat crackers made with the levain

the beautiful home 

meet an eclectic mix of people from around the country; added bonus of the class

The day long cooking class, meant that we were served lunch as we waited for breads to proof.

Sudha’s cooking is very much like the home she keeps; at first glance simple and Spartan, but a closer look shows the personalised details, the various layered nuances. So while her home has a neat stacks of terracotta pots and pans, and shiny brass and copper teapots , there is also a string of dried herbs and spices bringing a touch of whimsy, her kerala inspired vegetable stew, has the staples of coconut milk, but layered flavours of chillies, peppers, ginger , bay leaf and cinnamon. Sudha takes cooking classes as well, and her repertoire of Appam and coconut milk based curries like the ishtew and chemeen curry, are perfectly suited for the Goan palate.

the beautiful home in Brittona

Lunch is served

vegetable stew, a recipe worth beg, borrowing or stealing. luckily they have a class for learning it too

firing up the oven

baking bread the old fashioned style

i am cooking my eye. 

my eye is cooked. I decided to score an eye on my loaf, as an amalgamation of my two professions of ophthalmology and food writing. 

Goa is also one of the few places in India, which is a historically bread eating state. We boast of many versions of the Goan bread, pride ourselves in our baking skills with every family having the inhouse home baker, and we are lucky to get our bread freshly baked every day from the ubiquitous Podder. Sourdough bread compliments Goan eating habits, while enhancing the nutritive value of the bread itself, by allowing the bacteria and wild yeast to help digest the nutrients and increasing their bio-availability.

Both Sujit and Sudha’s baking and cooking classes are attended by food and cooking enthusiasts from all over the country. You can book a class, on their website 

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Lipsmacking Maldives

Maldives, named after the sanskrit Maladweep, or garland of islands, is a collection of 26 atolls, is on almost every persons travel wishlist. What is not to love about pristine beaches , clear blue waters, and tiny islands providing tons of privacy and endless instagramming opportunities.

Now an Atoll is a ring shaped coral reef which encircles a lagoon partially or completely. these coral reefs not only provide for a living breeding bio diversity spot which helps support the underewater sea world, and provides fantastic opportunities for scuba diving, but the coral reefs also break the onslaught of waves, and the tiny islands, present within these lagoons are almost always bereft of waves, and most often have shallow pools of water. essentially you have large areas of salty swimming pool like waters with the added advantage of swimming with live fishes. 

What did I say, Maldives is THE destination for adventure seekers, and leisurely laid back holidaying.

the first meal off our flight was a soupy noodles, a favourite with the chinese tourists, super value for money at just 6 dollars a humongous bowl.

I later found out that Maldives is the Gucci bag of holidays for the Chinese. They constitute almost a third if not more of the total tourists to Maldives, which ranges in the numbers of 1.5 million. in the year 2013 the number of Chinese tourists going to Maldives, crossed the indigenious population of Maldives. and the numbers don't seem to be reducing! Chartered flights, special discounts and chinese translators have helped make Maldives their preferred destination.

here is a video of our resort chef preparing a street style wok Noodles, which was a big hit with the Chinese guests as well as us. The use of Ice instead of water , I think is the key here. have a look at the video

sea shell shaped pasta, served in a creamy sauce with mixed seafood , consisting of clams,prawns,and fish

stir fried sea food,calamari and prawns in an asian inspired Wok style preparation

Tropical fruits, none of which is grown on the mainland, is almost all imported. the sunny island makes you want to eat healthy, not to mention the uber fit swim suit clad tourists

These calm waters were not devoid of their wild life . my vlog of the circling sharks during shark feeding , is here
tender coconut water, one of the only indigenous fruit found on the islands.

paradise perfection

our resort , sun island, had live barbeque everynight, with the fresh catch of the day cooked over the flames.

Maldivian dal, made with curry leaves and pandan leaves, is an ode to their Sinhalese ancestry. some of the earliest settlers were from srilanka, and Maldivian language, culture and food has many similarities.

we lived in these gorgeous watervillas which was surrounded by sea on all sides, infact it was perched on stilts right in the sea! catching the sunrise from the comfort of your own room, was the ultimate way to wake up to a day ont he island.

Another fantastic video of me eating banana chips while my brother snorkels in our back yard, it helped that we had a live coral patch walking distance form our rooms, teeming with colourful fishes.

a breakfast of three flavours of yogurt, half a dozen variety of fresh fruit, and muesli. most resorts offer a full board or half board package. we opted for a half board, which included breakfast and dinner. Needless to say we over ate at breakfast :)

Maldives is a completely muslim country, and here on this plate I had the best french toasts made with a raisin bread, soaked in egg, and doused in caramel sauce and dusted with sugar, and also my very first encounter with the 'beef bacon' . since no pork is cooked in most of the islands.these beef bacons were totally lean with almost no fat trimming!

anothersrilankan dish, string hoppers and kiri hodi. Kiri hodi loosely translates to coconut milk curry. this one had curry leaves and pandan leaves, it was tasty enough for me to contemplate a trip to srilanka soon.

Koi fishes at the gorgeous spa "aaram"

enjoying drinks under the swaying coconuts. checked off the bucketlist.

pose with tender coconut at the submerged pool bar. checked off the bucket list.

Azure, sapphire, sky ...blues, to drive the blues away.
Gorgeous blue seas had me going gaga, watch the vlog as I do my school girl glee :)

To mark my dads 60 th birthday , this whole trip was his grand treat to us. this pancake with chocolate cornflakes, with maple syrup and cherries was my birthday breakfast creation for him. Something riffled up from the breakfast spread.

baby foodie was in his elelment the whole journey, he got special eggs every morning, preparedl lovingly by the restaurant staff of Sun Island resort, with butter and milk, whipped through an egg. yummilicious.

Travelling with family, means catering to everyone's different choices, and needs. so Beer, strawberry and cocnut milk mocktails, fresh oranges screwdriver and a Mojito all chilled at the bar.

Most of the staff was from Bangladesh. Here iqbal is cooking some of the most tender medium rare beef steaks, which won over even the most well travelled of tourists all the way from cornwall England.

^0 is a milestone birthday, and Maldives was a milestone holiday. Thankyou for travelling with us in our online journey of our travels.