Goa-based fashion designer Ninoshka Alvares-Delaney is one to watch! This fashion pioneer from Saligao is in the organic fashion space and was recently honored by the Union Minister of State for textile, Smriti Irani from over 1660 designers across the country for her unique use of eco-friendly products, handloom fabrics and dyes. In a state that’s always equated fashion with Wendell Rodricks, quiet, graceful Ninoshka is slowly but surely getting the attention she deserves.

ninoshka fashion designer

Apart from the fact that she stays a few minutes away from my home in Saligao, we also have two people in common – her sister, my classmate – Kim and a professor we both admired in our respective colleges – Rajesh Nambiar who taught Ninoshka during her NIFT days and years later, taught me in a subject in MBA. Strangely, the two of us had never met long enough to have a conversation until my trip to Goa last week when I visited her workshop.

I walked around the Delaney’s house to the back and through their garage till I found myself at their little office in the backyard that was buzzing with activity. A few minutes later, she led me upstairs to a much quieter, spacious room that had two tailors at work on sewing machines and another making necklaces out of fabric that anyone else would have discarded without a second thought.

upcycle ninoshka

We’re both reluctant conversation starters, but it wasn’t long before I’m poring over fabric that’s been printed with… of all things… onion peels!! The fabric and print looks so delicate that it feels as if touching it would wipe the patterns away like powder, but Ninoshka tells me that the fabric is just like any other – can be washed, dried, and worn like normal. How cool is that!

onion peel fabric

Ninoshka explains to me the whole process of how she managed to accomplish something so oddly brilliant and then opens out rolls of fabric that have been dyed with pomegranate, marigold, rose, indigo and pigments given out by beetles!

The label crafts elegantly tailored business, evening and casual fashion made of high quality, sustainable and certified materials. In fact, the brand uses a label that’s trademarked to the India Handloom Brand, meaning the quality of the materials she uses have been tested for a period of 6 months before being trademarked. Why is this important? Because handmade fabric is prone to human error and Ninoshka finds that having her fabrics certified beforehand saves a lot of hassles later on.

I didn’t ask her about what sparked her interest in fashion, her philosophy and all the accolades she’s won, because it’s all available on the internet. Here’s what our neighbourly conversation was like:

What is your personal style?

When it comes to my personal clothing preference, I’ve always opted for organic clothing. Synthetic fabric never appealed to me and I never felt comfortable in them. For me, comfort is paramount and what I others think of my attire comes second. Even when it comes to my hair, I don’t colour it or attempt to hide my greys. I let it be as it is – natural. It may be greying, but that’s something that everyone goes through. Why hide it?

What’s it like running a business like yours with a child?

It’s very tough managing a business with a child. Before Daniel was born, the business was slow and I was happy at the pace it was going. For a year after he was born, it was stagnant and slowed. It’s now that he’s started going to school that I’ve decided to buck up and achieve what I want to. I have a few hours while he’s at school to do the bulk of my work. I won a couple of awards this year that quickened my growth, so that helped too!

How do you manage creativity with commerce?

I don’t like getting involved in money and sales. It stifles my creativity and takes up too much of my time. If I think about sales and price tags, my mind is occupied with thinking about what designs will sell and what won’t. So I’ve left the marketing and sales up to my husband so that all my thoughts and energy go into creating the best designs possible.

ninoshka collection

I’ve read that artisans are your biggest inspiration. Why is that?

Artisans are so content with what they have. If we have a mobile phone, we always want a better one. We want a car. We want more luxury. But I’ve worked with these people and I see how content they are with their lives. They think like children and aren’t influenced by the outside world. At one point, I worked with artisans in Gujarat and we had the theme ‘sky, water and earth.’ One lady embroidered a circle with fish inside, and when asked what it was, she said it was the well outside her home with fish swimming inside. Another person created something and I couldn’t quite fathom what it was. He later told me that it was a constellation in the sky.

All these things exist around us, but we don’t notice and aren’t inspired by them. Our thoughts are so complex and influenced by so many things. That’s why I aspire to be like those artisans.

Goans love to dress up in their finest gowns for feasts and weddings. Since you only wear organic clothes, do you find it odd to wear simple, understated clothes on such occasions?

Not really. For occasions that need formal or showy attire, I pick linen or silk garments instead of cotton. I once wore a linen skirt and organic white shirt for someone’s 50th wedding anniversary – and you know what huge occasions those are! Golden jubilees are even grander than the wedding itself! Everyone was in their beaded, shimmery clothing and I was the complete opposite. I was surprised to have got a lot of compliments that night – and even 3 orders for the skirt I was wearing!

I think Saligao is still more open-minded and accepting of organic clothing. When it comes to the south and the coastal belt, you will find that for formal occasions, everyone looks identical. All the women wear the same, tailor made suit-skirt set or a top and skirt made from the same fabric. It will have some small differences like beads or embroidery but other than that, it all looks mass produced.

ninoshka studio goa

Tell me more about your attempts to revive the Adivasi weave in Goa

My husband and I are working on marketing the Adivasi weave in Goa. We are helping Dr Rohit, a historian to market the weave which is presently being made in Karnataka, as there are no weavers left in Goa. however our aim is to get the weaving industry started in Goa again with the support of the textile ministry.

The Kunbis are aboriginals of Goa and wore the Adivasi Sari, also called ‘kaapad.’ Their way of draping the sari was basic, called ‘Detli’ and involved wrapping the sari around the waist and typing it over the right shoulder in a knot. This style of draping facilitated fieldwork. The sari ended just above the ankle and did not need a blouse or petticoat, although younger women did use blouses with puff sleeves. A white shawl called ‘voll’ was thrown over the shoulder and the pallu was tucked in at the back to form a pocket of sorts.

This weave was compact and made in Goa on handlooms but with the decline of handlooms, the weave stopped in 1985. It is one of our endeavors to get the original Adivasi weave revived here in Goa.

Which celebrity’s personal style do you admire?

I love the way Kiran Rao dresses. She’s always comfortable in sarees and kurtas. In Hollywood, they’re all well dressed, but I like Emma Watson’s style the most.

Where can one buy from the Ninoshka label?

We’re available online on sites like Jaypore, Bunosilo and Peacock Colours along with a handful of retail stores..

—-

It’s always a pleasure meeting people who enjoy doing what they love and whose benefit to society is their biggest satisfaction. Ninoshka’s philosophy of ‘fashion with a conscience’ is refreshing, to say the least and just goes to show that the future is definitely hand-made!

That wrapped up my chat with Ninoshka Alvares- Delaney! If you enjoyed this one, don’t forget to subscribe!!

Let me know what you think and keep in touch on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram!

Bye!

Welcome back, you guys!

Let’s get down to business!

WHO GOT COLDPLAY TICKETS???

I didn’t. And to be honest, I didn’t even try.

I love Coldplay as much as any of you – but I rarely fangirl over musicians, actors and the like.

But chefs? Oh-My-God!

I will go to Virar in a Virar-fast local train at the peak hour of 6pm (FROM DADAR) to meet a celebrity chef.

(If you’re not from Mumbai, anyone who lives here will tell you that going to Virar at ANY time is no child’s play.)

You all know who Chef Gary Mehigan is! The mid-sized judge on everyone’s favourite cooking show, Masterchef Australia, of course!

He was in Mumbai for a couple of days along with Executive Chef Hermann Grossbichler for the ‘CEO Series 2016’. Gary, Hermann and the team at Grand Hyatt Mumbai, curated an exclusive seven course menu on the theme of Seven Wonders of the World”, hosted by noted journalist and epicure Mr. Vir Sanghvi.

Look at the Mumbai-styled dabbawala welcome he received!

I got that last minute call from the folks at Hyatt and was in another part of the city with commitments for the rest of the day. But who can resist the opportunity to meet “boom boom shake the room” Gary? I dropped everything and made my way to the stunning Santa Cruz hotel as fast as I possibly could.

In an intimate setting with the city’s best bloggers, Gary Mehigan talked about his journeys to Mumbai, Bangalore, Delhi and Jodhpur. He candidly told us about how amazed he was at the sight of street food vendors wiping loads of butter off a pan and serving it with bhaji.

Gary gave us insights on how he preps for events that require elaborate food. A chef from his team heads to the hotel two days before Gary arrives and oversees the preparations. When Gary lands in that city to take over, his teammate heads to the next hotel and so on.

“South Indian food,” he said, “is more familiar and appealing to the South Indian palate. It’s lighter, more subtle and has similarities like coconut, lime, curry leaves, heat and texture.” However, he wishes that Indian restaurants would change their menu once in a while.

The meal for the AmEx CEO series may not feature an Egyptian dish or Peruvian dish, he said – but it takes inspiration from various cuisines and is put together in his own unique way. The Indian dish is inspired by his sighting of a truck loaded with cauliflower in Russell Market in Bangalore – its a popular ingredient as new food trends emerge.

The sumptuous menu menu has been inspired from the seven wonders of the world right from rich soft textured salmon with flavours of ceviche from Peru, Butter roasted cauliflower caramalized with spices from India, Brazilian Moqueca; crustacean veloute,white chicken cooked in authentic Chinese sauces to Italian ConcodOro, Lemon curd & olive oil semi freddo,slow cooked lamb inspired from Middle East flavours and refreshing compressed watermelon from Jordon.

When it comes to sweets, Gary finds a particular one diabetically sweet! “I’ve never tasted anything as sweet as Malpua,’ he said.

And every time he visits Grand Hyatt, Mumbai, he makes sure to make a meal out of the Peking Duck in it’s restaurant, China House. (Must check it out, if its Gary’s favourite!)

Before we left, we made sure to get some great photographs with the Masterchef – and he was quick to offer quirky poses for each one of us.

P.S. Check out my interview with the 2014 Masterchef contestants a while ago. That was the best season of the show, wasnt’t it?

So tell me, who is your favourite Masterchef Judge or celebrity chef? Comment below and let me know!

Also, keep in touch on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram!

Bubye!

 

I pull up to a two-storeyed bungalow at the end of a breezy, tree-lined street, minutes away from my home in Goa.  As I park my scooty outside, I wonder…

“What do I talk to her about?”

“What if she gives me some of that bitter tasting potion they call ‘green tea?’

“Why do healthy things taste so bad?”

Snigdha Manchanda is India’s first tea connoisseur. At 28, she founded ‘Tea Trunk,’ a gourmet tea label with signature blends that were unheard of in India. She is the empanneled author and spokesperson for the Tea Board of India and represents the Indian Tea Industry at conferences around the world. Snigdha has even pioneered the concept of ‘tea walks’ in Mumbai.

As she opens the door, she holds a long, transparent flask of tea that I eye suspiciously and we make our way upstairs to chat. We talk for a bit, on how she moved base from Mumbai to Goa and how I did the opposite. We talk about how there’s more to the world’s most popular drink than you can imagine. And on how her love affair with tea is bringing delight to tea enthusiasts the world over.

Me: Where did your passion from tea stem from?

Snigdha: Tea was a big part of my life since I was a child. Since my father was posted in Assam, he used to bring me a pack of tea whenever he could. It was then that my obsession began. I wasn’t interested in toys and other things children loved. I wanted to collect as much tea as I could, and when relatives traveled, all I’d ask for was tea from the places they went to. My collection had tea from all over the world – Kenya, China, Malaysia, Korea and Sri Lanka. I had all these teas, and knew nothing about them.

Every morning, my mother would make tea and alongside, she would boil water with lemongrass, mint or carom seeds. After our morning tea, I would dutifully sip on this herb-infused water all day. This sensitized my palate at an early age.

Tell me about your logo – the animated elephant!

I stored my precious teas from across the world in an old trunk my father had. For years I refilled it with gourmet teas and every time I took a sip, it would take me on a journey to different tea gardens. When I grew up, I started working as a brand strategist and worked in a company for 8 years before taking a sabbatical. It was then that I went back to my father’s trunk to indulge in my passion – tea. It suddenly became important for me to seek knowledge so I went off to study tea. When I was done, I named my company ‘Tea Trunk’ after my father’s trunk – only now, it was the trunk of the elephant.

Where did you study? What was it like?

I was amazed that India, a nation of tea drinkers had not one institute to study tea. I studied in the Tea Sommelier Academy in Sri Lanka under the guidance of a Japanese Tea Master and went to the U.S. to study further at Specialty Tea Institute.

What did your training involve?

I would begin plucking tea leaves at 5 am in the morning and go on to process, brew, taste and hand blend them. I would taste a hundred cups of tea a day – beginning in the morning and finishing the final cup before the end of the day. We would spit out every sip into a brass spittoon and write down the flavor profile for each.

Snigdha then brewed two cups of tea and bought it out with a little bowl of honey.

“This is marigold tea. If it’s too bitter for you, we’ll add some honey,” she said.

I sipped and surprisingly, it was wonderful! It had a floral aroma, and the first sip was extremely refreshing!

Bitter? Far from it!

This is delicious! Why does drinking green tea usually taste so bad?

As tea ages, it gets bitter. By the time it reaches a factory, you have no idea how old it is and how many hands it has changed. Secondly, when tea bags on the shelves reach their expiry date, they are sent back to the factory where they are mixed with new leaves in the ratio of 80% old leaves to 20% new. So a consumer actually has no idea when the leaves he is brewing has been plucked – hence the bitterness. Tea is actually a seasonal plant, but because we get it all through the year, we think it’s always available.

What are some of the myths attached to tea drinking?

People think that different kinds of teas come from different types of plants. But white tea, oolong tea, green tea and black tea all come from the same plant. It’s the level of processing that differentiates it.

People also think that tea tastes good with everything, but, like wine, different teas pair better with certain foods. The rule is fresh notes with fresh foods – like lemon grass tea with cucumber salad. Vanilla tea can be paired with chocolate cake because they are from the same family.

How do you go about curating these signature blends?

I travel to places like North India for strawberries, Kashmir for Saffron, Uttarakhand for chamomile and visit lots of farmer cooperatives. I try hundreds of cups of teas from each place and sample the ingredients from dozens of vendors before finalizing the one I want to source from. They then supply to our factory in Coimbatore where it is minimally processed and packaged. If you open one of our teabags, you will clearly see the lavender petals, rose petals, saffron strands, chili flakes, vanilla pod bits – you will be able to hold each ingredient in your hand and tell what it is. There’s nothing artificial in there. We’re planning to launch Hyderabadi Suleman Tea and Kerela Pepper Tea soon.

Managing a tea brand can’t be easy. What are some of the challenges you face?

In a country that’s still grappling with the idea of a Wine Sommelier as a profession, explaining that I am a Tea Sommelier is difficult.

Secondly, Indians have been drinking tea for thousands of years, so when I tell them that I’m a tea expert, I often get looks that say “Really? I need someone to tell me about tea?”

Another challenge I face is trying to get people to experiment with tea other than chai. Also, tea is a male dominated business. It has been traded since colonial times like steel. I struggle with getting people to look at it like a lifestyle product.

What about the rewards?

I haven’t really reached the peak yet. When I manage to change people’s mindset towards tea, it gives me immense happiness. Just like when you realized you didn’t need to add sugar, honey or milk in the tea you’re drinking right now.

It’s rewarding when I make people aware of the health benefits that tea has.  In China, tea used to be consumed only as medicine. In America, people are making the shift from coffee to tea, whereas in India, we’re slowly gravitating towards coffee. I’m trying to reverse the trend.

Why do you like tea so much and where do you see yourself going from here?

Tea for me is a lifestyle. When I think of coffee, I think of being active… on the move.. being hyped up.

But tea is different – it’s calming and relaxing and I love that about it. I wish to partner with more restaurants and open a tea school in India. India without a tea school is like France without a wine school.

Where can people buy Tea Trunk products?

You can order them online on our website. We’re also available at five star restaurants and hotels. In Mumbai, you can find our teas at Burma Burma, La Folie and The Table. In Goa, it’s available at Urban Cafe, Cafe Chocolatti, Alila Diwa, Grand Hyatt and more.


THAT GOAN GIRL x TEA TRUNK GIVEAWAY!!

Hey everyone!

I hope you enjoyed reading about Snigdha and Tea Trunk! I love the way her childhood passion led to the launch of a flourishing brand! Just goes to show that it’s never to late (or early) to go after what you want!

As always, tell me what you think in the comments below, k?

So, coming to the giveaway… here’s what you have to do!

  1. SUBSCRIBE to the blog, Like our Facebook page and follow on Twitter 
  2. On Facebook – Tag friends you would like to have a tea party with and comment on what kind of tea and snacks you would serve at your tea party

OR

3. On Twitter – Retweet the contest question and tag friends you would like to have a tea party with.

I’ll be picking TWO winners at random and they will win a tin of Tea Trunk’s flavour of the month!!! The more friends you tag, higher your chances of winning.

A few T&C’s

The Giveaway is open only to people living in India

Contest Ends on Sunday 26th June 2016 and the winner will be announced on Tuesday, 28th June 2016 on the Facebook page and the blog

The winner must email me on thatgoangirl@gmail.com by Wednesday, 29th June failing which, another winner will be chosen.

Good luck and keep in touch!

Bubye!

Hello!!

I’m announcing the winner of the That Goan Girl x Urban Desi… so waitttt for it….

The winner is Drashti Doshi!

Drashti, please email me at thatgoangirl@gmail.com or inbox me on Facebook with your details and I’ll have the Urban Desi bag sent to you pronto!

Thank you everyone for participating – some old faces and many new ones! I enjoyed reading all the comments and really wish everyone could win. If you think it sucks not winning a contest, it’s even worse picking a winner!

Anyhoo, this is just the start, so stick around!

I’m heading home to Goa this weekend after 4 long months for some much needed R&R!! If you have anything you want me to blog about from there, comment below and I’ll try my bestest! There are some great new restaurants to try out this time around! I’ll be sure to keep you posted.

See you on the other side!

Much love

xoxo

 

Boy, oh boy!

Do I have a surprise for you!

Well, it’s not really a surprise because it’s all I’ve been talking about since launching the revamped blog last week!

In order to celebrate the new and improved website, I’m having our FIRST EVER GIVEAWAY!!! I can’t tell you how psyched I am! I’m like a squirrel on a sugar rush!

It’s also a small token of appreciation for all the support you guys have shown me so far!

So what’s up for grabs?

Glad you asked.

I’m taking the road less travelled and staying away from the commercialized stuff. I recently came across a little company called ‘Urban Desi’ that’s being run by Aashka, a girl just out of college. Urban Desi is all about creating modern, contemporary accessories with an Indian spin on it. I’m talking things like hot pink fabric with gold, Indian-styled embellishment, Aztec printed clutches, pastel necklaces and wide bangles. Total statement pieces, if you know what I mean!

Here’s what I will be sending the winner… and it may just have a goodie inside!!

I’ve chosen Urban Desi because I think it’s important to support growing talent, local businesses and young entrepreneurs and I really believe in the quality of products they offer.

What do you have to do?

It’s simple!

Subscribe to That Goan Girl (if you haven’t already!)

Like That Goan Girl and Urban Desi’s Facebook Page

Share one of your favourite posts from the blog on your Facebook Timeline (even this one, if you want to!) and reply to the ‘Giveaway’ Facebook Post once you do.

Extra Credits if you tell me WHY you want this pretty, little stunner!

Some T&Cs

The Giveaway is open only to people living in India

Contest Ends on Thursday, 19th May 2016 and the winner will be announced on Friday, 20thMay 2016 on the Facebook page and the blog

The winner must email me on thatgoangirl@gmail.com by Sunday, failing which, another winner will be chosen.

Good luck, and thanks for being so amazing!!

xoxo

Now that I think about it, it’s pretty ironic. Watching Masterchef Australia religiously at 9 pm, while my own dinner burned to a crisp in the kitchen. Feeling their anxiety every time a cloche was lifted, revealing a complicated dish; dread while someone realizes their oven wasn’t on and there is 3 minutes to go, laughing at Matt’s ridiculous suits…

Masterchef Australia India

So when I was one among the handful in Mumbai invited by Hafele to Wine and Dine with Sarah Todd, Emelia Jackson and Rishi Desai, I couldn’t contain my excitement. Walking into the Hafele Design Studio, I got chatting with the three straightway (after squealing with joy)

Let’s start with Rishi Desai… I’ll call him De-sigh for the rest of this post, for obvious reasons.
“What’s your favourite part of Mumbai? Do people recognize you on the street?”

[Laughs] “C’mon.. I’ve been in India for 24 years. I know every bit of Mumbai. Me khup changla Marathi bolto (I speak Marathi perfectly) Yeah, people do recognize me on the street sometimes. Things have changed a lot after the show.

What kind of food do you love? What’s Kolhapuri food like, I hear it’s really spicy.

Masterchef Australia in India

I’m a Kolhapur boy. My mom has a shop in Kolhapur where she sells spices. She sends them to me, sealed and frozen so they don’t lose any flavour. My signature dish is slow cooked Goat with cauliflower Puree. People think Kolhapuri food is spicy. It’s not, it’s all about the balance. Kolhapuri food is sweet, spicy, tangy and acidic and it all comes together beautifully. Let me make one thing clear. Nobody outside Kolhapur can cook Kolhapuri food… Nobody.

You have a young son…Is he showing signs of loving to cook?
My son is 8. He tries to cook. I’m teaching him Marathi though.

How can the judges eat so much food in one show? Different cuisines, different flavours, and yet judge so minutely?

Have you seen Matt? He’s huge *gestures*. Well they eat cucumber and drink a sip of tea in between to cleanse their palate.

Tell me about the Judges, what are they like? Who’s your favourite guest judge?
Oh, they’re darlings. It’s hard to pick a favourite. Heston is the sweetest man, one of my favourite people. I was so lucky to be able to cook on all 4 days that he was with us in the kitchen. He makes food an experience. I learnt so much from him on how to add theatre to food – how to cook food that require all 5 senses to be used while eating it.

Matt knows everything about every cuisine. If you give him Konkani food, he will tell you what you’ve missed, what you’ve added too much of, and what you’ve substituted. He just knows.

Masterchef Australia That Goan Girl

So, what now? Can your fans expect to see you on a cooking show?
I’m recording a show actually. It’s really interesting. Every episode has a different theme. But I can’t say any more about that yet. You’ll just have to wait and watch.

Sarah and Emelia agree that Masterchef Australia has been the most stressful thing they have done in their lives.

Emelia – I had my life planned out. I had a two year plan, a five year plan, a ten year plan, everything. And then Masterchef happened. So many opportunities opened up and I had so much on my plate. I was under so much pressure to make something of my life.

As the Dessert Queen, you’re famous for your Panna Cotta. Where does all this dessert knowledge come from?
Emelia – I’ve been in love with food since as long as I can remember. My mum and grandmum are fantastic cooks, and I used to help them out a lot. So the interest really grew from there. I have these phases where I’m obsessed with a particular cuisine. When you love to eat, I guess it comes easy.


What new technique did you learn?
Emelia – I really loved learning how to make a consommé, actually. It was such a risky thing to do in the competition. So it was a really rewarding to see the crystal clear broth come out at the end. And a huge relief too!

Sarah, I’ve never felt like more of a midget than while standing next to you. How do you manage to keep the model figure and be surrounded by food all day? When did your love for food begin?

Sarah – I make it a point to balance my love of food with the gym. I eat wholesome food – which is what my cookbook will be about. My love for food probably started with my son, Phoenix. Before him, I used to grab whatever was quick and easy. I later realized that I would have to cook for him – make it tasty and nutritious.

How did you feel on being eliminated? And on being called back the second time?

Sarah – After a point, days and nights in the Masterchef House began to mesh into one. I had been away from my son for 2 and a half months and he refused to chat with me on Skype. I started getting emotional and that began affecting me. So when I got sent home, I got a chance to relax and rejuvenate before I got called back. It was just what I needed.
How has Masterchef changed you?
Sarah – It just taught me to follow my dreams. Life is just like the Masterchef kitchen. You have the best dish one day and fall flat on your face the next. Life doesn’t happen the way you want it to, just keep pushing and things will happen. If you want something badly enough, go out and get it.

To the people at The Great Food Show, Good Food Magazine and Hafele, I owe you one! 🙂