Monthly Archives: April 2015

Rediscovering Cashew-The wonder fruit of Goa

I have loved cashews ever since I can remember. Roasted, plain or in marzipans. I love them in any form. Being married to a Goan, of course I am now well-versed with the importance of cashews in Goa and its popularity, but it was only recently that I rediscovered the fruit, apart from the nut, I am so familiar with.

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Park Hyatt Resort & Spa Goa’s Cashew Trail beckoned us to Goa. I am ever willing to go to Goa, just as most of us are. But in reality, it was the cashew related itinerary, which intrigued me.

As a food and beverage writer, I was keen to know more about feni and urak, the drinks made from cashew apple and of course cocktails made with these. I was equally curious to see how Chefs infuse the cashew into a variety of dishes across cuisines. And that’s exactly what the culinary wizards at Park Hyatt Goa did. I was mesmerized.

I was in for a surprise at Casa Sarita, the Goan restaurant at the Hotel. The special five-course menu was paired with urak, feni aged one year, an Oak Cask 2012 edition feni and a Port Oak Cask 2010 edition feni. These feni selections were specially presented by the Vaz family for Cashew Trail 2015.

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I loved the passion with which Mac Vaz painstakingly explained each feni as we got ready to sip it with each course. I have great regard for Chef Edridge  of Casa Sarita, who is a master of his craft. He loves his Goan cuisine and knows it really well. Well enough to, give it his own contemporary twist. And yet, the dishes are authentic. That’s what makes him a class apart.

Chef Edridge Vaz - Casa Sarita

We began with the Assiette of seafood peri peri and Cauliflower tondak served with first pressed coconut milk and salted cumin biscotti. Exquisite flavours enveloped my mouth, as, I savoured each morsel. The spices used were 100% Goan and the modern twist to it was laudable. Light and flavourful, I relished the cauliflower tondak. The cumin biscotti added the right amount of zest to the course, in terms of the crunch. Never knew Vegetarian Goan food could be so appeasing. The Cinnamon feni sorbet meant to be our palate cleanser, was so delicious that it well could have been my dessert. Smooth in texture, it almost had a creamy feel to it.

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The highlight of the evening was the Alle Belle Cold Cheese cake with Cashew Jam. It had me spellbound. A traditional sweet of Goa, Chef had presented and served it so interestingly. It looked so appetising that my heart broke to upset his presentation on the plate. The base of the dessert was crispy and crunchy, juxtaposed perfectly with the smooth and creamy cheese cake on top. The highlight undoubtedly was the cashew jam, which I tasted for the first time ever. Chef Edridge had yet again proved his mastery. This was an example of innovation at its best.

The gourmet dinner and exquisite fenis proved to be a heady experience.

If the dinner, was an extraordinary experience, so were our subsequent meals, where cashews were so skillfully integrated into various dishes. Pulaos, curries, lentils, soups, chutneys and dips. Yes, there was cashew in all of these and more. And yet, the palate never did tire of it, even though we relished this cuisine for three days, albeit in different forms. The Cashew Trail finale brunch replete with cashew based dishes is something I will always remember and cherish. Each dish stood apart from the other. The chefs’ creativity knew no bounds today.

What can I say about the cocktails created with feni and urak? any of these were a revelation for me as I discovered several spices and seasonal fruits which were cleverly used with feni and urak to create the innovative Buenisima, Orange Sunrise and Fenirinha among others.

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Apart from savouring myriad cashew creations in various forms, the picking of the cashew apple at the Cashew farm in Valpoi and watching the feni being distilled, is something which made this trip so memorable and the experience unparalleled.

And as I sit at home in Mumbai and bite into my cashew chikki and relish the cashew nut and mango chutney, so generously provided by the Hotel, as our lil’ giveaway, I get nostalgic about the 4th Cashew Trail at Park Hyatt Goa. I had embarked on a guilt-free, hedonistic journey, but I am not complaining. For this one, once is clearly, not enough.

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Going Healthy The Greek Way: Epigamia

It’s not everyday that I write about a yogurt. So this one must be special. It is. Epigamia, is a low fat, high protein, delectable Greek yogurt, which is going to be available in Mumbai from mid next week at all leading retail outlets. I was fortunate to get a sneak peek into it.

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Made from an ancient Greek process of straining the yogurt, it is low in fat and calories with double the amount of protein as compared to regular yogurt.

The quality of the yogurt struck me as outstanding, as I tried the first spoonful. Thick, creamy yogurt, with the right texture. No trace of anything synthetic, no superficial glaze, as many brands have. There are no artificial sweetners, colours or flavours used in it and that makes it a class apart. I knew I could be sure of the quality immediately as it comes from the Hokey Pokey ice cream stable.

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The packaging is attractive and convenient. The flavours range is truly startling. The most unusual array I have ever seen. Minty chaat, Imli chutney, khatta meetha, for those who enjoy tangy and tart flavours. But delicious all the same. The Alphonso Mango and Strawberry caught my fancy as did the plain one. Refreshing.

One now actually has a healthy option, sans preservatives. It actually satiates your cravings for something sweet. I am so glad Epigamia is a part of the Mumbai yogurt scene. Priced between rs 35-Rs 38, it is a steal.

Rating: 4/5

Simply Refreshing : Vietnamese Pop Up at Shiro

Vietnamese cuisine is fairly new to India and still relatively lesser known, but fast gaining popularity. Five Star Hotels and stand alone specialty Pan Asian restaurants are the only ones who generally serve this cuisine in metros.

The Vietnamese pop up at Shiro, in Mumbai, led by Chef Vu Dinh Hung from Ho Chi Minh City seemed like the perfect opportunity to step into the restaurant, after a somewhat long gap. Of course Chef Vu had trained the team here headed by Chef Sameer Juvekar and left. Yet, the entire meal served to us was authenticity personified.

This simple but flavourful cuisine, has borrowed a lot from China, Thailand and of course  has an obvious French influence too. But all to its advantage.

We began our meal with the customary summer salad rolls  comprising  vegetables, bún (rice vermicelli), & other ingredients wrapped in Vietnamese bánh tráng (rice paper). These truly were a refreshing start as it was light and easy on the stomach. The burst of crunchy veggies in the rolls felt good to bite into. Ours were the prawns and crabstick ones, but Vegetarians have an exciting Tofu option.

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Cha gio, or the spring rolls with vegetables came next. Unlike the Chinese spring rolls, these are lighter and easier to digest. One has to wrap them in a lettuce leaf and dip into the sauce to relish them in the traditional way. These surpassed our expectations. Absolutely extraordinary flavours and gave a boost to our palate.

No Vietnamese meal is complete without Pho and I must confess, I was secretly awaiting its arrival. Pho is a popular noodle soup, made with rice noodle, herbs, broth and chicken. It is filling, yet, not a complete meal. In fact it is quite light and refreshing. The dash of chilies and the paste added the right amount of zing to it and perked our taste buds beyond compare.

Olive oil, lots of tomatoes, Italian basil, pistachios, all have a large presence in Hung’s dishes, we discovered. Along with these, he mixes Western foods with Asian ingredients in his signature dishes to give them a contemporary twist. I loved that as he obviously does a perfect job of it.

The BBQ eggplant took us completely by surprise. I was reluctant to try it but with its unique marinade and copious amounts of peanuts and grilled to perfection, it turned out to be one of my favourites that evening. As in our baigan bharta, the eggplant flavour was masked, and yet distinctly enhanced.

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A mildly flavoured aromatic chicken and potato curry with steamed sticky rice followed. It was strongly reminiscent of the Thai curry minus the galangal and lemon grass of course.Vietnamese curries are made with freshly ground spices as opposed to pastes. Totally my comfort food. Relished it. Could have been a bit more spicy though.

Although each dish we were served, was savoured by us, but they had saved the best for the last. The glass noodles had an eclectic flavour. The myriad textures- crunchy, creamy, teased our palates and made us crave for more. It was a compete meal in itself, although Chef Juvekar, generously sent us some clay pot fish which had subtle saucy flavours and was equally delicious.

The chef’s creativity knows no bounds. The chocolate fondant with figs ( my first ever) was delightful and decadent. What a fabulous combination I thought, it was. The cream and crunch were married perfectly. The molten chocolate filled our mouth and we were satiated beyond words.

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The chef transported us to Vietnam through his culinary journey. Even after a meal comprising so many dishes, we were not uncomfortable. That is the beauty of a Vietnamese meal. The fresh ingredients have a lot to do with this. A memorable meal, I shall always cherish. On till April 26, pop by to experience this unique pop up:)

Rating: 4/5

Easy on the Pocket & High on Taste Quotient: Gaylord’s Steal-a-Meal

It was a walk down memory lane. I actually stepped into Gaylord at Churchgate Mumbai after several years. Really don’t don’t why. Nothing had changed. The staff was still as warm and courteous and yes, my old favourite dishes were still a part of the menu.  Thank God. Of course several new additions were there too. Justifiably so.

For a change I was here to sample the new Steal-a-Meal. A set Indian menu for lunch which changes daily and offers a variety of non-vegetarian and vegetarian dishes. The Monday menu can be enjoyed again on a Thursday, Tuesdays and Fridays have the same offerings and what you eat on a Wednesday is there again only on a Saturday. So there’s a chance you will be trying new dishes each time you go there.

Our Non-veg platter arrived. The spread looked appetizing and was aesthetically presented. Goan prawns curry, Pindi chole, waldorf salad, pineapple raita, murg seekh kebab, jeera rice n rotis were part of the meal. Whew! That was a lot of food. Given the taste and quality of the food, that meal sure is a steal!

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A visit to Gaylord is incomplete without its Continental food, so I could not resist ordering their Chicken A la Kiev. Truly delectable. Made me so nostalgic. The creamy, butter mushroom filling simply melt in our mouths and the crusty covering over the chicken breast was done to perfection. Absolutely divine. The steamed rice and boiled veggies along side are the perfect accompaniment. We savoured each morsel, slowly and leisurely.

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The food there is value-for-money and the portions large. The attentive staff is there for the guests always, should you need anything. And it is service with a smile, that enhances the dining experience.

We rounded off our lip-smacking meal with a caramel custard, again, an old favourite. the caramel was made exceedingly well, with the right amount of sweetness and the custard, creamy, just the way I like it. I was satiated. But have to go back for Peach Melba and Baked Alaska. These are desserts very few restaurants today offer.

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So, if you’re around Churchgate for lunch, don’t miss this affordably priced meal.

Rating: 3.5/5