Monday, December 6, 2010

Ship Ahoy!

Anchored securely on the shores of Sinquerim, the waves lapping its side, one cannot but feel like the Caraveleiro’s of the days gone by. You get my drift…don’t you? There is a coffee shop with a difference and it’s called ‘Caravela’.

A walk through the village, under swaying coconut palms, you board the Caravela, turn right and you are there. It’s a place to rock…well quite steady on the waves…but you can rock around in delight. There is even a happening Bar attatched ‘The Drift’…you get my Drift?

No ‘pun’ intended but here is a Coffee shop with a concept. ‘Leave yourself in the chef’s hands…we customize what the customer wants.’ Now while all coffee shops are perceived as a place where ‘quick and standard preparations’ are the needs of the customer, Chef Niteen Chugg has a ‘menu’ with a difference- definitely Cosmopolitain. Lebanese, Indian (Goan and North/South Indian), Continental (French/Italian), with a pick of American fare.

We leaf through the ‘user-friendly’ layout. ‘What’s your desire siree?’ the menu seems to ask. Health…Light Bites…Arena…Grills…And even our Chef Rego’s Goan specials. So what was our desire? I looked across at Joe…wrong move. Where food is concerned the ‘desire’ is rampant. ‘Why don’t we leave it to the chef?’ he states tongue in cheek.

Well I guess that was exactly what the chef was waiting for. After all it is his aim to please. Health….now did you think of ‘hospital’ food? ‘You can even take a tip or two from this chef if you would like to prepare this ‘fare’ at home. The mixed green with shrimps, or the Bruschetta platter-you make your own with dips offered…olive tapenade, caponata and a tomato confit…Yummm! I ‘buttered’ another toast with that ‘tomato’ confit, shades of olive groves…definitely healthy.

But move on we did to the Light Bites section. A must is the Buffalo Blast…Now this is no real buffalo, just crispy chicken breasts, and cheese with an American…the place called Buffalo (BBQ) sauce served with Blue cheese dressing. Now that fried chicken with that cheesy dressing brought out the ‘cheesy’ smile on Joe’s face too! I had to work harder to scoop the portions of the preparation from the plate into my mouth than he did. ‘There is more coming,’ he whispers. ‘Ditto for you,’ I growl back.

Now while we did not have the Sandwiches there were many other diners who were taking a nibble off that preparation, perhaps blowing away their ‘blues’ as they gazed into the ‘azure’ blue sea....Oh yes this place is right on the beach. They picked their fillings and left it to the Chef’s expert hands.

On the menu is listed - The Grills. Now interactive chefs prepare them right in front of you that could be your next choice (Indian or Continental).

But we decided…or rather the chef decided to pamper us on the ‘Grand Stand’ seat - the Arena. Duck Breasts with Brocolli, Asparagus and Roasted Beet and the Steamed red snapper with chili and cilantro on Risotto. Now if you see the ducks feet paddling furiously under water while he produces a ‘calm’ exterior that was this ‘foodie’ couple. The Duck-even Donald and Daisy Duck would quack with ecstacy…soft, not stringy...the chef really got this duck right and combined with the hash potatoes….Heavenly. A ‘must’ says friend Carol Roy who makes the ‘best’ duck preparation herself. She was seated on the next table and when we asked for her view….the portion did become limited. Too many cooks doing the ‘tasting’ or should I say ‘eating.’

In Goa do as the Goans do and a Goan meal is a must. Chef Rego’s special! Prawns in corinader with Balchao Naans and rawa fried with his special Masala…well there was a slight motion on the boat…’yours truly was trying to paddle like the duck to make ‘extra’ space to accommodate the fare. Envy Joe. Elasticity at midriff level is his asset. The preparations were sadly dwindling while I was still at the ‘rocking’ mode.

All in all it was a delightful experience and if you are there as the evening sun sets below the horizon...the ‘Drift’ awakens to a new beginning. Get ready to set sail as you drift into a pleasurable frame of mind, definitely a coffee shop with a difference.

CARAVELA Address: VIVANTA Holiday Village,
By TAJ, Dando, Candolim, Bardez 403515 Village,Goa Phone: 0832 664 5858

Going ‘Loco’ ! Try Poco Loco

‘Well I have had my fill of Continental, Italian and Pan Asian food,’ I grumble aloud to Joe, ‘is there any other cuisne worth trying out?’ If the topic was anyother subject, other than food there would be definitely no response. What is it that enthralls men, that they cannot hear the ‘beseeching’ need in their better-halves voices, when they are reading the newspaper? Guess it must be some sort of…I better not put it down- ‘syndrome’. But like I mentioned earlier-talk food you get response. He raised his head from the ‘printed’ barrier and drawled ‘what about Mexican….’ I looked at him slowly…only one restaurant of its kind in Goa, many had started and closed shop, but this had withstood the ‘palates’ of time and was still going strong….POCO LOCO.

It was Friday night, and the ‘wet’ spells and terrible ‘pot-holed’ by lanes did nothing to calm my nerves. Joe gives me a ‘under the eyelid’ glance. He is well aware of these moods. ‘There is music tonight, it’s a Mexican fiesta,’ he states, and after a ‘hump’ and ‘jump’ over the pothole of course, we arrive. The environment is warm and inviting…and it was packed to capacity…a heady murmur of voices having fun and strains of jazz music.

‘I wonder what’s great about Mexican cuisine,’ I say in an undertone, ‘perhaps this is one of the ‘entertainment’ variety places we find in the North Belt.’ Joe hastily ‘Shhhed as we met with Chris Diplock the warm and friendly General Manager of the Resort.

Tonight was buffet, but I was informed by the Chef Kundan Jha that all the preparations were from the menu. Joe had as usual stayed back at the watering hole….Margaritas were flowing like the Rivers of Babylon…Gosh Babylon had nothing to do with Mexico. the land of Corn and beans. I took a look at the spread, attractively laid out…the salads or starters...Nachos/Tacos/Bean salad/ Mexican en Saladas fiesta and Mix lettuce with the varieties of Guacamole, sour cream, grated cheese and a delectable tarragon flavored red wine vinaigrette.

Now we have all tried the Nachos with salsa…those corn and flour crispy chips but Chef kundan had added on the Tacos to this menu. Now Tacos are made of corn and they were the diet of Mexicans even before the Spanish reached there. The people of the valley ate Taco filled with fish and the first taco feast was enjoyed by Hernan Cortes who had a variety of these preparations laid out for his captains filled with chicken, beef, beans and cheese. Why the name ‘Tacos’ was still retained remains a mystery but here was the ‘dish’ evidently a legacy of that feast…duplicated with chicken or beef….Ole! I took in another one standing right there at the counter. Let Joe remain at the ‘Toro Loco’ watering spout…I remained at mine. Each man to his own!

Who said that? I wondered as I tried a little of that red wine vinaigrette on the mixed lettuce salad. Joe later confessed that he would not mind swapping a jug of that vinaigrette for ‘booze’ it was ‘fantabulous’ he hiccupped! Hold your horses…not drunk but in that pleasant state of euphoria.

But let me move on. The Seafood Quesardillas….now what is this preparation? You see it is very important to do some homework on the food you are going to savor. It gives you an insight into the preparation. Now Mexicans make it primarily of cheese inside a folded wheat or corn tortilla and it is cooked till the cheese melts. The word comes from Spanish which literally means in to‘cheese in tortilla’ and some people even call it a cheesecake. I had mistakenly ‘supposed’ it to be an omlette till I spooned a morsel into my mouth. Chef Kundan had filled it with seafood and those people who had mistakenly called it a cheesecake were absolutely right. ‘Soft…fluffy…savoury not to be mistaken for an American cheesecake but with definite traits.

By now Joe had joined me at the buffet. ‘What’s good?’ says he. I ignore the comment. There is so much more to discover. ‘Try our Fajitas’ says Chef Kundan, ‘it is our USP (unique selling Preaparation).’ There was a choice of chicken and Beef marinated in Mexican spices, sautéed bell pepper, onion and tomatoes. Now while this is served sizzling in the a la carte menu, on a buffet we had to work on our mix. So I picked up a flour tortilla, put in the mixture of chicken fajitas added a dollop of sour cream and fresh tomato salsa.

Now this preparation is very famous especially in Dallas, Texas in fact some refer it to Tex-Mex food. I overheard some tourists mention about the authenticity in the taste. Wow! While I could not vouch for authenticity the taste was ‘palate boggling’ In fact although basic preparations of bean, corn, guacamole and sour cream played an important role in all the preparations they were driving me ‘plain loco.’ Every dish tasted different, everyone had its own identity. So if it’s a ‘La fiesta’ you are looking for remember to do it Mexican style at Poco Loco.

Poco Loco
Address: The Royal Goan Beach Club @ Monterio,
PO. Calangute- Baga,
Tel no: 0832 2277178-83