Monday, May 28, 2018

Goa on my plate : Diva restaurant by Chef Ritu Dalmia

When a famous celebrity chef opens her flagship restaurant in your tiny state, you as a foodie are excited at the prospect, and when Chef Ritu Dalmia opens her famous Diva line of Italian restaurants for the first time outside Delhi after famously stating once that she would never open a Diva restaurant outside of Delhi , you are positively thrilled.
Diva restaurant , Goa

Chef Ritu Dalmia’s reason for opening Diva in Goa is because she loves Goa, but as a foodie I think she made a very good choice. with a number of good Italian home style restaurants, regional cuisines of Italy being highlighted as well as Italian chefs in starred restaurants who bring their Nonna’s recipes with them , Goa has been exposed to world class Italian cuisine , and would receive Diva with open arms.

Diva restaurant is located in a new-ish resort in North Goa, called Andores resort, in Tivai Waddo Calangute. A verdant green property fringed with palms, the restaurant itself is by the swimming pool and the large glass windows allow natural light to stream in.

Chef Dalmia , who incidentally also has a restaurant in Milan called ‘Cittamani’ which serves Innovative Indian cuisine using Italian ingredients also has influences of Goa, and her Delhi restaurant Diva spiced has uses of Kokum and Coconut. While these may not be part of an Italian cooking , Chef has been known to incorporate fresh local ingredients true to the season in her menus, and that’s what I am most looking forward to.

The tasting menu in true Italian style, started with an antipasti,went on to the first course a primi, and a second course secondi and then desserts, also how can we forget pizzas!

For the Anti Pasti, we had a refreshing tartare of cubed beetroots and green apple with a zingy lime mustard dressing, as well as a more subtle prawn salad with graceful fennel shavings and orange segments. I think this course set Diva apart instantly. Each mini cube of beetroot and apple were painstakingly sliced and similar across all the plates, the flavour combinations as well as the precision knife work were both impeccable.

Diva restaurant, Calangute , the Anti Pasti

Then came the Pasta dishes. For the vegetarians there was a mozarella filled gnocchi, tossed in a simple marinare style sauce. I liked it, but thought the mozzarella filling converted the traditional bite sized gnocchi to more of a mouthful. I personally like my gnocchi smaller and more swimming in sauce . To read about my three favourite Pasta meals from my trip to Rome READ HERE.

Each Raviolo was perfection , Diva restaurant , Goa

Gnocchi , Diva restaurant, Goa

But, the minced lamb Ravioli stole my heart! As a rule, whenever I visit an Italian restaurant, I order ravioli. Why? Because that’s when you know if they make their own in house pasta , at least in India. There is so much more complexity and technique required in making raviloli, like the stuffing, the pasta rolling itself and the sauce, and at Diva the spiced lamb with a onion and rosemary infused puree was sublime. I didn’t check the menu, but if they make tortellini’s then that’s what I will have next time, because those too really judge the depth of creativity and precision of a Italian restaurant.

The secondi, or what is considered the Maincourse was potato roulades with a grilled veggies, and beaten chicken breast with lime and peppercorn and baby roast potatoes. I wasn’t very impressed by the presentation, nor the flavours. To be fair, these were tasting portions and I wouldn’t judge plating on such small portions, a valiant effort with the painted stroke of beetroot sauce on the side. I agree it added drama, but my chicken was dry and I was scraping the beetroot sauce for some relief. My favourite parts were the grilled baby potatoes and the onion segments. It needed more of the dipping sauce or a jus.

grilled chicken, Diva restaurant Goa

Diva restaurant, Goa

Now for what you have been waiting for , the Pizza. We were served four classic combinations, the Margherita (Chef Dalmia’s favourite choice), Verde with pesto, pine nuts, fresh rocket leaves and moxarella ( my favourite and highly recommended), Sabine with salami red peppers and red onions ( the most photogenic and also for those who enjoy spicy pizza) and the Cotto with cooked ham, olives mozzarella and parmesan (this one was a meat lovers paradise, generous helping of ham on the pizza).

Yes, the pizza is decidedly good here, but don’t take my word for it, Diva was chosen among the 70 best restaurants with a pizzeria in the world, and the jury consisted of Italian embassies around the world and the restorazione Italiana Magazine.

And now for the desserts. I can hear you guys saying “Basta Basta !” I can’t take it anymore, but I promise this is the last for now.

the tiramisu , and the art devicting Ravioli. 

One of the best chocolate torte, it was a miracle how something so crumbly and moist could hold its shape on the plate, because on the tongue it melted into a gooey mess of chocolatey flavours. The Tiramisu valiantly held its own against the scene stealer torte. Diminutive in a shot glass, it still managed to pack a punch with the amount of coffee that it had, it is deceptively benign looking but delivers on taste.
Pasta Art , Aradhana Seth for Diva , Goa

Can you guess the various Pasta patterns ? Art by Aradhana Seth, for Diva restaurant Goa

Apart from the food, I was also taken up by the eclectic artwork in the place, done by Aradhana Seth, with the use of black and white abstract images to depict pastas of various shapes, and using an old Italian magazine to create mosaic art along with dry pasta , as well as geometric patterns to depict herbs and spices. The creativity had clearly emanated from the kitchens to the walls.

Head to Diva restaurant now open in Goa, situated in Calangute, open all 7 days of the week, for lunch and dinner during the monsoon season of Goa ( which is now) and soon have more hours of service come next tourist season. It’s a bit tricky to find, but put Andores resort or Diva restaurant on google and you should be fine. Indoor seating with pretty surroundings are a bonus, parking is present in the resort itself.

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Tuesday, May 22, 2018

Travelling with a toddler to Le Meridien Goa

This mother’s day was made even more special when Le Meredien , Calangute , decided to host three of us mom travel bloggers in Goa. What we came away with was memories, some great mommy bonding, and the big bonus was the children got along famously aswell.
Le meridien Goa , staycation in Goa, 

We were welcomed into their plush rooms, overlooking a Mango tree laden with blush coloured Mangoes, as well as a large sized chess board. What immediately caught my attention, was the clever use of space within the room.

Using a different pattern on the wall paper and the rug under the circular sofa, the helped create lounging zones in the room. The circular bed was our favourite spot, sturdy enough for jumping on, comfortable high backs to see TV from, or gaze out of the room at the unseasonal rain pattering on Mangalorean roofs.
Le Meridien Goa, this one was one of the little alcoved sitting areas in the room, one of three such areas. 

Interesting Houndstooth pattern to depict the native Kunbi tribe of Goa

The change in wall paper , to distinguish this beautiful round bed/sofa perfect loung area. Le Meridien Goa

Art work depicting the St Augustine's church ruins , Le Meridien Goa

The art in the room was inspired by the Kunbi tribe , their checked kunbi saris and the typical brass jewellery.

There were 4 different places where kids can read/lounge/jump/ play/ sleep in depending on how big your kid is. For shreyu, he was immensely taken up by the cupboard, where he decided to open up a shop selling imaginary Poppins and lollipops.

But he also had real chocolate lollipops as part of his welcome treat, and the cute dessert in a jar, with miniature slippers, starfish and I was blown away by the attention to detail and the painstaking craftsmanship of the F and B team .

Next up was éclair decorations. Eclairs are the French inspiration that the Lemeridien draws from its origins. And more than the kids it was the mothers who enjoyed the éclair making at the signature coffee shop of le meridian, which doubles as a bar by night. We were explained that each Meridien property has a unique éclair to themselves and here it was the Mango and cashew ones. But honestly , we have been to Meridien Mahabaleshwar and Pune, but haad never experienced this part of the hospitality.(do ask about the eclairs if you ever visit a meridian property) . another unique part of the meridian properties is the art in the hotel which is unique to the place.
we enjoyed getting messy with whipped cream

Mom Ruchi , and I making the most of edible creative eclairs, Le meridien Goa

One thing I always maintain, no destination or hotel is not child friendly, kids find everything fascinating, the question is the property ‘parent friendly’.
The balconies and the absence of child locks on the doors ( he was easily able to open the doors , the absence of any latch in the bathrooms ( a pet peeve of mine in almost all hotels , because children just don’t seem to understand privacy. )

The pros were ofcourse the circular bed/sofa, as well as ample room to run around in the room, also that there is ample cupboard space, because while travelling with a toddler, we carry their universe with them. From his toilet seat to his favourite blanket make it to the travel list.

The swimming pool.

unbridled joy of childhood.\, Le meridien Goa

The kids club

that happiness cant be faked . 

Chess with Dad, at the kids club, Le Meridien Goa

chess with mama. Le Meridien Goa. wonder woman and super man a DC comic special twinning for mothers day.

Beach fun at Le Meridien Goa

Twinning in our Mothers day T shirts 

Kids club Le Meridien Goa

The food
Cold Coffee at the coffee shop at Le Meridien Goa

dinner at Jazz and grills Le meridien Goa, for detailed describtion and review do check out my instagram check the hashtag #vacaywithlemeridiengoa

grilled recheado chicken , at Jazz and grills, Le Meridien Goa.

vreme brulle and chocolate brownie, match made in Heaven, Le meridien Goa

enjoying our Morning cuppa , Le meridien Goa

Twinning in our disney mickey night shirts , mother's day special

poached eggs, served on a bed of Goa prawn curry. for full review and more details. come check out my Instagram @thefoodietrails, use hashtag #vacaywithlemeridiengoa

you know a hotel loves its moms, when they have a coffee machine in the room.

... and candy jars for kids

Mothers day special body painting, his first Dinosaur

and then he attempted making a dinosaur aswell

This special mother's day Menu was a culmination of all the chefs favourite meals as a kid. from fried rice to roast chicken , the menu had it all, for more details, follow me on my instagram handle where I have detailed posts on the food, @thefoodietrails, le Meredien Goa

The have one of the most extensive juice bars for breakfast and everything from cucumber to beetroot can be juiced to your liking. le meredien Goa. follow me on my Instagram @thefoodietrails for detailed food posts. #vacaywithlemerediengoa

The destination:
Calangute is a tourist hub, convenient to visit the beach, shopping for moms , very nice salons and spas within walking distance, and every possible cuisine within a stones throw away.
We loved our mom bloggers retreat to Le meridian, made more exciting by the fact that Ruchi with her daughter Ivanka and Avantika with her son Panav were part of it. Both the kids were within 10 months range of Shreysht which made the bonding between the kids heartwarming to watch. From running between chairs with Panav, to discussing the virtues of sitting in the back seat with Ivanka, the babies had as good a time as the mommies, and that’s the best gift for a mother on Mother’s day.

happy family times , le meredien Goa

The Mom's tribe Avantika, me and Ruchi 

memories at Calangute beach