Monday, February 15, 2010

A ‘Fat’ Greek repast

What surprise does one have in store for one’s husband after celebrating 29 valentines together? Roses…cards…gifts?? Everything seemed ‘old hat’…until I read the following in an article.. ’give your loved one what he desires the most….’ Eureka! Now although this exclamation is most famously attributed to the ancient Greek scholar Archimedes your truly was bubbling with excitement. No bath tub to be stepped out off this time…I leave it to that ancient scholar; but my tube light began glowing….food. The most important ingredient in the life of my better – half, and if I could add the romance to it ?

Perched on the rocky cliffs of Vagator, was just the place. Now Joe just loves to see the sun set, I believe he secretly makes a wish as that golden orb sinks below the horizon, and here was one just recommended to me. Sit on cushioned cane chairs, sip on Ouzo with a plate of me zee’s and hope that he had wished for a ‘continuing romance’….maybe I had to ensure that the way to his heart was going to be through that stomach…

So at 4.00 pm that evening we sampled the famous Pita Souvlaki wraps, a choice of kebabs topped with tzatziki dip (a creamy combo of yoghurt, garlic, cucumber and olive oil), my senses will be stirred with anticipation on what will follow. I dart a quick look across at him. He was looking dreamily across the expanse of water. I would have to work harder. ‘How was it?’ I murmur softly….’excellent,’ he replies abstractedly. Well romance and the setting was fine, but it would help a little more if it was directed towards me.

Enter Mariketty who has created this open air restaurant that features a fare specifically chosen by her. Given the fact that not many restaurants feature Greek food, it was good to go to the expert. Sitting with her as the evening shadows began to descend, she explains that Thalassa is an acronym for ‘Sea’ in Greek. She points at her extensive menu, ‘I have hand picked dishes that will suit the local palate,’ she says. ‘Now I will leave you as I go to the kitchen to prepare the starters.’

And as the moon shimmers on the water we look at the big platter of ‘Greek starters’ to start the night. Joe’s eyes began to gleam as he took in a big helping. We nibbled on the Keftedakia, those round crunchy meat balls- boy did it tickle our palate. The hidden spices came alive as the meat interacted with the juices of our oral cavity. ‘Don’t feast on this alone,’ I caution, ‘there is so much more to try.’ Take the Tzatzitu dip- yoghurt, garlic, cucumber with olive oil mix, creamy. I superstitiously licked my lips…and that was no invitation-I wanted to take in that flavor that clung to my lipstick. Uummm! Now does anyone eat rice for a starter…my food habits state that it is an excellent accompaniment for a main course…but not the Greeks. The Dolmadakia - the Greek specialty of Vine leaves stuffed with rice and herbs. Delightful! And then the Saganaki. Those crisp fried slice of feta cheese is a delight to savor. I am now running out of adjectives… because there was another preparation of feta cheese on the platter. This one was topped with oregano and kalanata olive oil…soft melting moments with that hint of spice. No....I was not talking about the look in Joe’s eyes….they were firmly plastered on his plate. Maybe later, was my involuntary thought. Was I competing with food? Silly thought. I applied myself to the task on hand, sampling the Tiro-kaf-tari-the spicy feta cheese dip served with pita bread. Now feta is a brined curd cheese traditionally made in Greece. It is a sheep's milk cheese with varying amounts of goats’ milk. Baaa! I was making ‘sheep eyes’ across the table. This time I got a smile in return. Mariketty’s ingredients were working.

From the grill came the lamb Kalamaki kebab, on skewers - the minced delicacy oozes flavors that had me begging for more. The soft succulent meat transported us to Corfu-Mariketty’s original home, and the Sofrito, layers of beef steak cooked in garlic and parsley in that gravy sauce so reminiscent of the island fare and the Pastitada, pieces of beef delicately flavored in the tomato sauce, red wine and Greek herbs. Oh There is a lot more of Mariketty’ specialties…Mousakka, pastas…..the gentle breeze had wrapped me in its embrace, as Joe says… ‘Awesome! There’s that fire in my belly…..’ what did he mean? Was there time for dessert?

I ask for the preparations and decide to let his fire burn for a little longer….they have an exciting variety of desserts…from home made Greek yoghurt to rich cheesecakes or even the traditional baklava…I decided on the blueberry cheesecake and the Alpine chocolate mousse and for once offered some to my better half. I was not wrong. A sure formula to make them whisper ‘sweet nothings’ in your ears.

I have heard of the ‘Big Fat Greek wedding… all I can say when in Goa one does not need to be invited for one. At Thalassa it is a repast to remember.

It’s a ‘fiesta’ all the way

In the heart of Baga’s activity, a long pebbled pathway bordered by swaying palms leads you to a restaurant, lanterns swaying in the breeze as they hang from tress, candle lights fluttering in their glass chimneys tables set under a canopy of stars. Romance? Yes the place is created for it… the décor says it all…Joe’s anticipation began to mount….no not for romance. It was his craving-for good food. Actually it takes very little to stir those taste buds of his…but with a name like that he was prepared for festa’ time..even though carnival was a few weeks away.

The seating itself is different…..started by Yellow and Manek Contractor, this duo has made contemporary fine dining the place to be frequented by one and all. There were people of all nationalities….what did they have in store for us?

Having trained under German chefs, Yellow has compiled a menu of German, Italian and European cuisine. For starters from her very home town Bavaria comes the honey flavored goat cheese milk served with savory waffles. Every bite is a pure delight....the crunchy croutons on top of the smooth melting cheese a gourmet’s fantasy. And then there are the old favorites…pizza, thin and crisp with a slight singe on the rim has a wide variety of toppings to add piazzz to the night. But these are just suggested starters….there is a whole range of Italian pastas, the lasagna is her very own speciality, and in the fish section her recommendation which is superb, the Kingfish au gratin, baked on wood fires before being served with a heady white wine sauce.

But this lady has given the whole range of culinary delights a new twist. Joe had the classic pepper steak while I decided to have the Chicken with an Asiatic flavor. Now one normally nibbles at the food and make small conversation between bites..did it happen? No siree…..the man in my life was feasting with gusto….a classic way of dining. Perhaps it is called a Classic pepper steak as most diners would behave like the man in my life… I wonder?

But Yellow is a person after my own heart….she believes in adding balance to the choice. Two full pages of desserts, as yellow confesses that is the icing on the cake. There is Fiestas Special Zabgolione..the foamy dessert with that hint of Port wine made a la minute, and designer ice creams. Ah yes! The Cappuccino Pear has coffee ice-cream sandwiched in meringue in an Irish cream liqueur with a marinated pear.

Now it was my turn to ‘gorge’. It was pure delight. Oh goes without saying….Manek and Yellow promise you a ‘fiesta’ all the way.