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..

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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!

I’ve always believed that India’s real riches are the diversity of food it offers – food that’s as multi-flavoured as the country itself.

Outsiders may generalize Indian food to be just about curry, whereas even in India itself, we write off North Indian food as butter-chicken-naan and south Indian food as dosa-idli-sambar. But food in India is more than a means to satiate hunger, it is the way to an Indian’s heart. Any Indian!

At the Marriott Goa, the kitchens are abuzz everyday from the 14th till the 20th of August 2017 to bring these different flavours, tastes and associated emotions to life! With one day dedicated to the cuisine of one region, they’re dishing up the most elaborate spread of regional cuisine under one roof! It helps that the team of chefs hails from all parts of the country, and on the day I visited, I had the richest, most decadent cuisine of all – Punjabi!!

Head Chef Pawan Chennam greeted me and introduced me to Chef Gurneet – the man behind the dinner for the day. Punjabi food is luxury, in every sense of the word and the spread of food from salads to mains and even desserts was jaw-dropping! They even went so far as to bring the vibrant madness of Punjab’s streets to the hotel, with carts selling chaat, corn on the cob, golas and chole kulchas!

AMBIANCE

Until now, I had only visited JW Marriott properties. JW Marriott is a tier higher than the regular Marriott brand that recently took over Starwood Hotels. The difference in ambiance was apparent right away. The quiet, luxurious interiors in earthy and gold tones I was used to in Mumbai’s JW properties was absent and in it’s place, loud coloured furniture in red and green. There was a lot of red and blue neon lighting which was a bit jarring at first.

marriott interiors restaurant

The decor had a ‘Punjabi dhaba’ theme that was carried through in the truck/cart styled set up and huuuge utensils of biryanis that I’ve only seen before in videos of the langar (communal meal) at the Golden Temple in Amritsar. On the other hand, the desserts were daintily placed on hanging swings.

marriott interiors

culinary journey of india marriott goa

Given the fact that the theme of the restaurant would be changed every single day in keeping with the region, the level of attention given to decor was impressive! Overall, the ambiance was super casual and noisy, more like a pub on a Saturday night, minus the music.

marriott food festival interiors

marriott punjab food

SERVICE

This was one place where I felt that everyone, from the staff to the chefs, were genuinely happy to be there, doing their jobs and giving more to it than was expected of them. The service was extremely warm and welcoming! They kept checking up on us, suggesting and bringing the next course from the buffet which was a few feet away – right to the table. I was quite surprised to find out that most of them already follow me on Instagram!

FOOD

Like I mentioned earlier, I was glad to have made it for the Punjabi feast! I’m sure the cuisines of other states would have been equally fantastic, but Punjab is a state you can eat your way through. Dollops of ghee, cream and butter, soft, tender meat, rich spices, deep flavours and indulgent sweets – all of it makes for a hearty meal!

Here’s a fraction of the spread during the Culinary Journey of India food festival at Marriott, Goa

buffet marriott goa

gurneet dhaba marriott goa

Never seen a spread of pickles like this before!

pickles marriot goa

salads marriott goa

Coming to the food I actually sampled, Marriott once again leaves me torn when it comes to choosing my favouirte dish. Every time I thought I had found it, the next dish outdid the last.

We started off with Chole Kulcha, a quintessential street food item that I’ve never tried before, simply because I always run straight towards the Chole Bhature. It was a meal in itself! Masaledaar chickpeas mounted on a soft, flour bread called kulcha, garnished with onions, tomatoes and a squeeze of lime. For those who love spicy food, this is as good as it gets!

chole kulcha marriott goa

Melt-in-your-mouth galouti kebabs from the Awadhi table followed! What distinguishes this one among other kebabs is that the tenderized minced meat and mild spices are formed into patties and roasted on the tava. My favourite kebabs are Malai chicken – so heavenly!!

galouti kebab

Mahi Amritsari followed. You can tell how crispy that batter is by just looking at it, right? Inside was still piping hot and flaky Mahi fish. Love these bite-sized snacks!

atter fried fish marriott goa

What is a Punjabi meal without Dal Makhani and Naan! Rich, satisfying and so creamy, this delicious mixed lentil dal left me floored and I couldn’t get enough of that naan either!

dal makhani marriott

We tried capturing the steam on camera as we opened the flour casing over this Mutton Dum Biryani and some of you may have caught it on my Instagram stories too! Set in deep silver cauldrons, the mildly cooked mutton is added to the fragrant rice and thereafter fused together. This biryani was low on spice, light on the stomach and makes you want to keep eating it!

dum biryani mutton

My favourite dish was the Rara Ghost! If you ever go to Marriott Goa, ask them to make it for you! It tastes like ROYALTY.. seriously!! It was so good that I tried ordering Rara Ghost at 4 other places during my visit to Goa but none of them came remotely close to this one. The lighter curry in the picture is Dhaba-kukkad or to translate literally, chicken from a restaurant/stall by the highway. Pair it with that flaky Lacchha paratha, and you’ll be on Cloud 9!

rara ghost dhaba kukkad

I’m not a huge fan of kadhi (yoghurt based curry with besan doughballs) so I just nibbled this dish. While the ever-popular rajma-chawal was good, I was too star-struck with the previous courses to pay much attention to it.

kadhi pakoda

*clears throat and points below*

gajar ka halwa

How amaaaazing does that Gajar Ka Halwa look! It had a divine taste and texture of milk, carrots and nuts cooked for hours, and wasn’t dripping with ghee. The dessert spread was actually pretty vast and featured all kinds of cakes (even a gajar ka halwa cake), but I took the traditional route and tried some pinni laddo too! Pinni Laddoo is a traditional sweet eaten during winter and is made of flour, khoya, sugar and nuts. Those who don’t like very sweet desserts would enjoy this one!
pirni laddoo

Last up, Chef Gurneet got me a gola!! Wheee!

Look at that happy face after all that decadent food! Little things like these make my day!

gola

That brings me to the end of ‘Punjabi Food Day’ at the Culinary Journey of India Food Festival! One of the chefs generously asked me to visit everyday to sample every cuisine – and as much as I’d have loved to, I got to keep the waistline in check 😛

I however LOVED the concept of the food festival and it is one that will open your mind along with your taste buds. You will experience a burst of taste as you travel from one corner of the country to another with Marriott Goa. There are 2 days to go, so make your way down to Bambolim soon!

Let me know your fave Punjabi dishes in the comments below and keep in touch on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram! Bye!

P.S. I know the pictures aren’t the best, but I did what I could given the lighting situation. <3

The Rajasthani Food Festival is underway at Grand Hyatt, Goa and ends on the 16th of August. It was my first time visiting the property, which is funny, considering I’m sampling the fare at Grand Hyatt Mumbai every second weekend! I was lucky to have made it to the bloggers table during this visit home and not only sample some decadent Rajasthani food, but also catch up for the first time with some other Goan food bloggers I’ve been interacting with in cyberspace.

grand hyatt goa rajasthani food festival

The Indian restaurant, Chulha was decorated keeping in mind the Rajasthani theme, with standing umbrellas and decorative fans made of colourful fabric. Little dolls dressed in bandhini + mirrorwork sarees hung everywhere and there were dozens of flower streamers for added ethnicity.

We sampled on some vegetarian and non-vegetarian starters. I loved both the chicken starters, with a slight bias towards the Banjara Murgh Tikka, having a rich cashew base with a little crunch.

banjara murgh tikka

Although, how delicious does this one look!

chicken tikka hyatt

Bikaneri wadi aur subz ke seekh were looked cute and I couldn’t help but notice how consistent they all appeared. They were melt-in-the-mouth goooood!

shammi kebab

As we relished the starters, the mixologist gave us a live demo as he prepared our cocktails, explaining to us why he paired ingredients together and the inspiration behind them. Since the upper class folks of the Mewar region of Rajasthan enjoyed their whiskey, the Royal Mewar cocktail was made keeping that in mind. It was strange to see cardamom paired with whiskey in this cocktail, but those who tried it, absolutely loved it!

grand hyatt goa cocktails

I was torn between ordering lassi and a ramgarh milkshake and ultimately chose the Rose Milkshake. I’m glad I did because the Hing and Chilli Paneer Tikka proved too fiery for my tastebuds and a fragrant milkshake was the perfect antidote!

hing aur mirch ke paneer tikka

pithod ke tikka

All the Rajasthani classics featured in the main course of the menu and it was indeed fit for a Maharaja! In order to let us sample everything on the menu in small portions, the chef smartly presented it to us in the traditional thali.

We learned that though 75% of Rajasthais are vegetarian, the non-veg food is so legendary that those who eat it, devour it!

One such crowd favourite is Laal Maas (or red meat) – bright red hot gravy made with red chillies and mutton pieces. It was no-doubt, one of my favourites on the menu.

Another dish that had everyone singing its praises was the Maans ka Soweta – lamb chunks cooked in Indian spices, corn kernals, capsicum, red chillies and spices. The meat was so tender and well flavoured that we could tell it had been marinated for a long time! The gravy was amazing and thick too!

rajasthan food festival hyatt goa

What Chole Bhature is to Punjab, Dal Bati Churma is to Rajasthan – a classic with a history that’s as extraordinary as its taste. I loved this quintessential three-in-one-treat with baked bhaati/little dough balls in a spoonful of ghee, spiced dal and sweet, crumbly churma – it’s as fun to eat as it is to mix up!

Other things on the menu that featured in our thali included Ker Sangria (wild beans and local berries in mustard oil), Papad Methi Aloo Mangodi (potato, papad, fenugreek, dry lentil dumplings), Rajasthani Dal Dhokli (mixed lentils, chickpea flour and hing) and jodhpuri kabuli (saffron basmati rice with spices).

Desserts – the section to which my eyes are instantly drawn held only two items, to my disappointment. The Malpua, a deep fried pancake made of khoya and soaked in sugar syrup, served with rabdi, a condensed milk based dish is too delicious for words! I love mine slightly crispy, like the ones they have at Bhindi Bazaar and Mohammad Ali Road in Mumbai.

malpua and rabdi hyatt goa

We were also given a serving of badam ka sheera (a semolina based sticky dish with almonds) that was literally swimming in ghee! While ghee is an essential part of Rajasthani food, it was too rich for me to handle and I couldn’t eat more than a spoonful. I’d have loved to see some more desserts on the menu though – perhaps jalebi, dilkushar or rabri ghevar? Ooooh!!

Make your way down to Grand Hyatt Goa for a taste of Rajasthani Cuisine! We don’t really have restaurants in Goa that serve up authentic regional fare, and if you don’t plan on travelling to Rajasthan anytime soon, it’s the perfect opportunity to take a culinary trip there instead.

There’s a lot more of my Goa adventures to share with you guys! And God, so much food!

I love interacting with you on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram – so come over and say ‘hi!’

xoxo

Located between two party towns, Siolim and Vagator, is a convenient hangout. Soro, meaning alcohol in Konkani is fast becoming a popular live music spot for locals and tourists.

From the outside, it looks like an abandoned, rundown house – with barely any paint, bricks showing and cracked walls that would otherwise make you drive past without a second glance. What sneakily give it away are the vines of fairy lights and lamps that emit a warm glow, inviting patrons like moths to a flame.

AMBIANCE

Soro is like a throwback to an old village tavern in the years gone by – and everything from the exteriors to the galvanized iron roofing retains the old world charm of its original structure. The walls are left untouched, which gives the entire place a rustic feel, but the theme is also subtly enhanced by the cleverly conceptualized industrial-looking interiors.

The restaurant was formerly a soda factory and that look has been maintained flawlessly. Large, exposed A/C vents, heritage tiles, bald filament bulbs, vintage graffiti and shaky looking furniture adds to its quaint ambiance. The modern touch can be seen when you look at the bar – a fine mix of dull bottles and bright popping coloured ones on a shiny rack.

On the night I went, the music was nothing short of brilliant. A DJ played a mix of songs from the 90’s and each one was better than the last – giving us all the nostalgia feels! On certain nights, Soro has live music, but I’m not sure how comfortable that would be for diners. Considering that the place is small, I have a good feeling that the music would be a little too loud to allow conversation.

There are two choices of seating – either prop yourself up on old-world bar stools around a table indoors or sit on long benches and communal-looking tables outside under a canopy of trees. I chose the former.

SERVICE

I’ve read zomato reviews where a majority of people said that the service was lacking. I didn’t find it slow at all, but then, the restaurant was at 40% capacity the day I visited.

FOOD

Batter Fried Calamari – The first dish I ordered, and it wasn’t that impressive, to be honest. Calamari is a great dish to satisfy that restaurant-appetizer itch and tastes best when the batter is light and crispy. This came with a thicker, slightly soggy batter that I wasn’t a fan of.

Southern Fried Chicken- Got to love chicken with that extra craggy crust and tender meat inside! This was one of the better dishes of the evening. The seasoning was just the right kind of ‘spicy’ and it was low on grease! Potentially winning dish, right here – I only wish it came with coleslaw instead of cabbage.

Chicken Cafreal with Poi – While the restaurant has a multi-cuisine menu, there are plenty of Goan food options and I had to try one! We picked Chicken Cafreal with Poi (Goan bread) – a popular Sunday lunch dish and one that’s equated to Goan cuisine! This one was average and not the best I’ve ever had. It possessed the wonderful blend of aromatic spices but I personally love it when the flavour goes all the way into the meat – which wasn’t really the case here.

Masala Mutton – Soft, tender chunks of mutton in Indian-styled spiced tomato gravy really hit the spot. It had a wonderful smoky flavour and aroma, and went well with simple rice. One of my pet peeves is seeing wonderful dishes being garnished with thick slices of onion. If it’s not an Indian restaurant or a dhaba on the highway, why consider garnishing this way?

Pork Ribs – We have this thing in my family – whatever my brother orders for himself turns out to be the best dish of the night, and we eye his food throughout the meal until he’s forced to share. Case in point – these pork chops! Served with sautéed vegetables and Soro’s special sauce, they were lip-smacking good! It was flavourful, delicate and tasted like a delicious mix of soy sauce, ketchup, honey and garlic.

Mix Fruit Chocolate Rolls – When I ordered this, I pictured a roll stuffed with fruits and chocolate sauce on the side. However, the roll was stuffed with chocolate and came with ice cream served on a slice of pineapple. I’m not complaining, it was an absolutely delicious dessert – hot and crispy on the outside, with warm, molten chocolate paired with ice cream – yum! Got to love flaky pastry!

Banana Fritters with Ice Cream – Sweet, batter-fried bananas with a drizzle of honey sauce and scoop of ice cream – one can’t go wrong with an easy combination like that, and Soro didn’t. However, it could have been presented in far more appetizing way!

WHAT I LIKED

Ambiance – Definitely going back to chill out in here just for the ambiance! And if that epic DJ is playing again, so much the better!

The “sportsy” feel – Whether you want to shoot some pool on the table outside or watch the football game on one of their TVs, Soro seems like the perfect place to do it! Maybe it’s just the masculine-like vibe it has going on.

WHAT COULD BE IMPROVED

Presentation – While I love eating on the streets and at cheap places, I don’t like “dhaba style” garnishing and presentation at upscale restaurants.

Overall, Soro is a far cry away from glitzy clubs that dot the tourist belt. It’s uniquely Goan and appeals to the global crowd as well. Definitely worth a visit!

Meal for 2- Rs. 1200 + alcohol

Getting there – Assagaon, Siolim Road, Vagator, Goa

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Bye!

The Baga-Calangute strip has recently seen a dip in splashy, upscale ‘dining experiences.’ The area is now littered with cheap rooms, cheap food and cheap everything else. It’s quite a surprise to come across a stylish-looking eatery amidst the chaos these days.

Buried in one of the by-lanes is the area’s newest entrant, Habanero, a trendy Tex-Mex restaurant. It managed to create quite a lot of buzz before the launch, a couple of weeks ago. I visited just two days after they opened their doors to catch up with school friends. Generally, I don’t usually review restaurants that are as young as this one. Being as new as it is, the kitchen and staff are still probably working through new ideas and processes, there could be service mishaps and a generally uneven experience. Then again, at first look, it did impress!

AMBIANCE

The ambiance at the restaurant stands out, right from arched entrance with the the Habanero Chilli logo and bright yellow name to the graffiti wall on the side. Inside, in the plant-filled courtyard, the ambiance is warm and vibrant. I personally loved the hanging stained glass lamps above every table and the vivid back-panel at the bar. Attractive!!

Picnic-table styled seating adds a laid back, communal-feel round a stage on which there is live music. We first sat right in front of the band and later realized that the speakers were located just in front of us and had us conversing in shouts. We had to move to a side table within 10 minutes.

The band for the day, Raagas to Riches was without a doubt, the best part of the evening. They belted one energetic track after the other and it was just because of the music that we stayed long after the point at which we felt that the picnic bench seating was getting a little too hard for comfort.

SERVICE

The servers seemed a little lost, unsure of the recommendations they were giving. I hope it was just due to the fact of the restaurant being new, and that the service bucks up in time. However, they were quick in attending to us when we arrived and brought out complimentary nachos (which weren’t great) very quickly.

FOOD

While I loved the menu’s quirky design, the options were very limited and the food itself was disappointing. None of the dishes we tried was worth writing home about. It was confusing to see Mexican Thali, Kingfisher beer cheese dip and black bean hummus in a tex-mex restaurant, but not as surprising as the absence of Mexican classics like the chimichanga and guacamole.

Chicken Wings – There are few dishes more crowd-pleasing than a platter of piping hot chicken wings. We picked the ‘mini’ portion of 8 wings instead of ‘mucho’ comprising of 18. It was one of the better dishes of the evening. The wings delivered an delicious juxtaposition of habanero spice, smoke and sweet with a fabulously sticky glaze and was served with cool ranch-yogurt dressing.

Fired Up Grill Pizza – Could definitely be improved upon. It was loaded with toppings.. chicken, zucchini and broccoli (don’t know what that was doing there), and it would have tasted a whole lot better if the cheese was stringy instead of clumpy. I wasn’t a fan of the biscuit-like base either.

Pomfret with lime and chilly – We picked the pomfret off the beach grill menu as suggested by the staff and chose the lemon dressing. Ahhh! Lemon overload! The taste of the dressing was sour and absolutely overpowering and was difficult to finish, even with five people nibbling on it. It came with veggies, rice and a flour tortilla – none of which were particularly appetizing. Maybe we should have opted for the beef instead.

Roasted 1/2 chicken – Habanero seems to pull of simple dishes better than its Mexican fare. The half roasted chicken with those oh-so-pretty caramelized char marks was succulent and flavourful.  Served with a variety of sides, this decent-sized portion managed to satisfy our hunger. It could have used a bit of gravy, though.

I really wanted to like Habaero, but it was just a bit off as the service and food missteps dimmed the appeal of the pretty outdoor restaurant. Like I said earlier, it may be due to the restaurant being new, but since it has a franchise in Bangalore already, I’d have expected the food to be even better than the ambiance. If you’re in the area, and you hear that Raagas to Riches is playing, drop everything and head over.

Meal for two (excluding drinks) – Rs. 1000/-

Address- House No. E181/B, The Milky Way Road, Khobra Vaddo, Baga, Goa

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I grew up on Famous Five, Nancy Drew and the Hardy Boys.

Yes, I was that geeky kid.

For those of you who read, mystery novels are the most captivating genre to get engrossed in! Maybe it’s the puzzle, the chance to watch the detective chase clues and try to beat him to their meaning. I grew up convinced that there were going to be mysteries around every corner, waiting to be solved.

Anyway, long story short – apart from existential crises, no mysteries came my way. That was until I found Mystery Rooms!

Mystery Rooms, at the Candolim-Calangute junction is bringing the massive detective- gaming trend to our home turf! This real-world game imprisons participants in a room with family and friends, and together, you’re forced to hunt for clues in the game environment. Using logic, teamwork and some creativity, you can free yourselves in a race against the clock and win!

My team (comprising of cousins and an aunt) took on the Lockout – Prison Break Challenge. The premise of the game is that we’re locked in a brutal, regimented prison for being wrongly committed of a crime. The jailer is away for one hour and it’s the only opportunity we have to execute our escape plan.

The level of the game is ‘moderately hard’ and solving the clues posed quite a challenge. It’s easy to see why the success rate of the game is only 10%! Observation is key to escape, and the most important clues are sometimes hidden right under your nose, waiting to be found. At other times, one has to hunt, literally, in the most unlikely places.

We did pretty well! Considering we escaped with 15 minutes to spare in a game that few succeed in. I don’t want to give too much away, but I’ll say this: nothing is useless in the room – everything you see will help you get out in some way or the other, so keep your eyes peeled!

Mystery Rooms currently has two challenges ready for the public, and another two to open within the month. So you can find your choice of alternate universe to get lost in. You could be an eminent personality who’s been abducted by a terrorist organization or save the villagers by solving the secret behind a cabin in an occult forest.

Brain-teaser lovers, gather up your team and get your neurons all fired up in these hard, but do-able challenges. Rather than reading a mystery novel at the edge of your seat, you’ll now have a chance to actually live it!

Book here – http://www.mysteryrooms.in/

As always, let me know what you think on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram!

Bye!

Welcome back!!

As New Year approaches, all roads lead to Goa – India’s number 1 party destination. With cheap booze, shady shacks and umpteen choices for a New Years party, it’s a lovely place for a laid-back yet fun celebration.

After staying at places like Ratapani Range Retreat and Phoebe’s farm, I’ve found a new love for experiential stays. Living with locals, picking my own home on AirBnB, eating home cooked meals, exploring the sights my hosts recommend have always been much more fulfilling than staying in a cookie-cutter hotel rooms. Agree?

In case you’re unsure of what AirBnB is all about, let’s just say that it lets travelers stay at unique apartments owned by people (or hosts) – places with character in a quaint neighbourhood or high-rise building. From staying in an extra bedroom in a host’s house to an old, colonial mansion, the options are endless.

It doesn’t end there, you can live like a local – take the bus or hire your own car, explore at your own pace, buy your own groceries – and all while being kind to your wallet. If you fancy something unique in Goa this time around, check out these top AirBnB houses I’ve found. Ring in the new year Goa-style!

Casa De Cocum, Dabolim

Goa can be chaotic at this time of the year. If you’re looking for serenity and an unmatched view of the beach, check out Casa De Cocum in Dabolim. Located 5-7 minutes away from Dabolim Airport, this Mediterranean-styled bed and breakfast has interiors just as magnificent as the ocean outside. A gorgeous doll-house styled dining area immediately caught my attention, but the spacious verandah, tree-lined lawns and rustic accents would appeal to you too!

Accommodates – 2 | Price – approx Rs. 5500/night

Heritage luxe Suite in Casa Menezes, Batim

How about living in a 350 year old heritage mansion? Casa Menezes is a sunny, well maintained house in Batim, a 15 minute drive from Panjim. If you love art and history, you’re bound to appreciate the old wooden furniture, hall of art and regal interiors. Grab a cycle and explore the area, go bird watching or bask on the sands of Siridao beach. Food is taken care of too – with a scrumptious complimentary breakfast as well as pre-orders for Goan, Portuguese and Indian food.

Accommodates – 2 | Price – approx Rs. 10,000/night

Indigo Rooftop Villa, Candolim

The listing has close to 100 images, but I can’t stop myself from clicking ‘Next.’ This highlight of this gorgeous property is that it’s perched on the edges of lush paddy fields. While the coastal belt is a stone’s throw away, you may never feel like leaving your room – with an infinity pool on the third floor over-looking mangroves and swaying palms. Lounge on the deck while soaking up the sun on patio chairs or relish the silence in luxe interiors containing high backed armchairs, a case full of books and a bedroom where you’ll find floor to ceiling windows instead of two walls.

Accomodates – 16 | Price – approx Rs. 95,000/night

Portuguese Villa, Saligao

Get the peace you need on your holiday while having the parties and beaches just minutes away. This Portuguese Villa in a sleepy Goan village gives you a glimpse into everyday Goan living. While the façade of the home has been preserved, complete with tiled roofs and courtyard, the interiors have been done up to suit modern tastes. Cook your own meals in the spacious kitchen, take an afternoon siesta on traditional high beds or sit out in the balcao and watch the slow paced village scenery. Kids will enjoy playing outdoors in the enclosed garden, too! Grocery shops, malls, theaters, restaurants and pubs in close proximity and bikes/cars can be arranged on advance notice.

Accommodates – 6 | Price – approx Rs. 18,000/night

Villa Bonita

Nestled among stunning landscapes, this stunning villa is a perfect balance between comfort and modernity. If a swimming pool is a non-negotiable part of your holiday, you’ll find it here along with a gym and full fledged resto-bar. The 3 bedroom villa has a large sit-out, a dining area, master bedroom, covered and open terrace, satellite TV and other facilities. The business and party districts are all less than half an hour away.

Accommodates – 6 | Price – approx Rs. 35,000/night

Fully Furnished Apartment, Saligao

Looking for a home away from home? You need to check out this homely apartment close to the beach belt in North Goa. Located in a residential building with friendly neighbours, this self-serviced apartment is ideal if you have kids or are travelling with family. Comfortably accommodating a group of 7, it has all the amenities you need to spend a quick holiday in Goa on a budget. From cutlery, crockery and a fully functional kitchen (that can save you a ton on eating out) to a spacious balcony to chill out in, this comfortable place has a personality of its own.

Accommodates – 6 | Price – approx Rs. 12,000/ night


I hope these one-of-a-kind properties convince you to ditch the hotel-luxury this time around. Each of these top AirBnB listings in Goa is located in an area you’d love to know.

Enjoy your stay, and do check out some of my favorite places to eat when you’re in Goa!

Bye for now! Keep in touch with me on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram!

It’s that time again…

The last quarter of the year! The time when long weekends are aplenty, family/friend’s wedding parties are being finalized, EDM concert tickets are up for grabs and New Years, as always is ready to leave us wondering where the heck the year went!

I know you can relate! Happens every time

Being in Mumbai, I hear so many people planning trips to my home-state of Goa (again!) Makes me wonder, what their folks at home must be thinking.

I can probably guess what they AREN’T saying! Take a look at this:

Among the things you plan during your trip, your stay probably tops the list. And that’s why I’m bursting to tell you some exciting news!

IBIS STYLES RESORT IS COMING TO GOA!

I’ve had many encounters with ibis as a brand in Mumbai due to the fact that an ibis hotel is located a few kilometers away from my home here in the city. Their very first hotel in Goa is opening soon in Calangute, which is again – a stone’s throw away from house there. Yay!

Here’s a little information that would be helpful for your next holiday:

Located 5 minutes from the buzzing Calangute beach, the ibis Styles Goa Resort is ideal for a family holiday, romantic getaway or a fun-filled adventure with friends. While the airport is about an hour’s drive away, its prime location means you can explore so much of North Goa. The resort is in close proximity to the Tibetan Market, Casino, Souza Lobo restaurant, Baga beach, Anjuna Flee market, Fort Aguada and more.

Each room has a designer pool view with a gorgeous, comfy bed, private balcony and sit out area. The room comes with a safety locker, kettle and mini bar with snacks on request.

Did someone say ‘Food?’ Your breakfast is taken care of as well AND you don’t have to wake up at the crack of dawn for it. The ibis Styles Goa Calangute Resort has free breakfast for the longest time – 7 am to 12 noon.

You can grab a meal at the ‘Spice it Restaurant’ that is open from 6 am to 11pm. This multi-cuisine eatery offers delectable buffets and an al a carte menu with light meals round the clock. Make sure you try out some of their favourites – Caldo Verde, Pork Vindaloo, Kingfish Rechado, Prawn curry and Goan Xacuti. Because, hey, you might as well eat like a Goan does!


Get the party started within the property before moving to one of Goa’s hippest hangouts. The Hub is a chic, contemporary bar at the resort that provides the perfect ambiance to toast a celebration or simply chill out in.

Yet another major amenity is taken care of – Free Wifi! Browse the internet at great speeds during your stay at ibis Styles Goa Calangute Resort

Don’t let your vacation come in the way of your workout! The fully equipped gym lets is open to guests and comes with a treadmill, cross trainers, recliner bicycles and other equipment.

Goa isn’t complete without a host of activities (and pictures). Activities that you can partake in while in the area are dolphin rides, banana boat rides, parasailing and jetskiing, trips to Bat island, kayaking, and white water rafting. Craving some nightlife? Cohiba, SinQ and Club Cabana are less than 15 minutes away from the resort.

If you’d like to stay in and soak in the resort-vibe, take a swim in their outdoor pool. You can ask for a complimentary go-pro to capture your moments underwater!

As in all ibis resorts, safety is a priority. Scanning of bags, CCTV cameras and double room locks will allow you to enjoy your vacation minus the worries.

Ready to pamper yourself? Book your next holiday at ibis Styles Goa Calangute Resort and live in luxury while you’re in the susegado sunshine state.

Be sure to let me know how your experience was in the comments section below! Also, do read about the time I spent at Phoebe’s Farm, Mumbai!

Catch ya later!

Note: This is a sponsored post for iBis Styles Goa Calangute Resort.

I should be a drinker.

At least, society thinks I should.

I’m Goan. I’m Catholic. I live alone in a new city. I’m in my twenties.

I fall into every ‘drinking stereotype’ in the book and then some.

But it’s true. I don’t drink.

I’ll give you a moment to gasp at that declaration. People usually do.

It’s funny. I never judge anyone for choosing to drink alcohol, but I’m often judged for choosing not to because of where I’m from – a state where alcohol is dirt cheap and free-flowing.

So I thought of taking the opportunity to tell you what it’s like being a paradox in a world full of stereotypes.

But before that, let me tell you why I choose not to drink.

Firstly, I find it immensely unappealing. I never liked the smell or taste of alcohol and I could never understand why people think it’s a necessity in order to have fun.

Does that mean I’ve never had fun? Or that I’m a boring goody two-shoes?

On the contrary, I have more fun in clubs and parties than most people, all while being 100% sober. I don’t need liquid courage to go up and sing karaoke or dance without a care in the world. I definitely don’t need to get high to speak my mind – people who know me will tell you that I’m brutally honest regardless. As for all the drunken hugs people give each other, I can hug it out while drinking my lime soda. The world needs more hugs, anyway.

A part of my aversion stems from the fact that I love being in control – of myself and of whatever else I can have power over. The idea of being even a little tipsy and out of control is a scary thought. Also, alcohol leaves one worse off, not better. Fun? Not by a long shot.

Strangely, this small insignificant part of my life hugely impacts the way people perceive me. I sometimes wish that alcohol wasn’t such a big part of life and more so, wasn’t something that Goa is identified with. So that maybe I can feel less alone.

When most get to know that I don’t drink, the most common question is “why?” There’s no good answer to this question, and I know that because I’ve tried them all. More often that not, I’ll reply with the truth, “I don’t like the way it tastes.” Obviously, this answer doesn’t seem to satisfy most people and they will continue to dig until they’ve found a satisfactory answer.

“But how is that possible? You’re from Goa!” they say.

So? You’re a Mumbaikar- do you eat Vada Pao all day? Gujaratis, do you do the Garba 24×7?

“Are you joking? Have you even tried it?”

Let me break it down for you. That glass you’re holding… I don’t want one or need one. What’s so hard to understand? How does this warrant a third degree investigation into my lifestyle?

Many proceed to suggest names of drinks they think I would enjoy, or cocktails I could order. Well, genius, isn’t it kind of obvious that if I like alcohol in the slightest, I would have probably figured that out for myself during the last quarter century?

“What a waste of being from Goa. What do you drink if you don’t drink booze, especially on weekends?”

The only thing that’s wasted the time I spend listening to your drunken rants. Come back when you want to bid for a piece of my healthy liver, k?

And regarding what I do if I don’t drink? Same as you – I talk, eat, laugh, shop, socialize and have a hell of a lot more money saved at the end of the month. Sometimes… I even stay home doing nothing at all. Shocking!

Then there are the close friends who say “Man, I really want to see you get drunk one day.”

Sorry to shatter your dreams, buddy. Not in this life. And might I add, that if this is all you aspire for, I do think that aiming for something bigger would be a far better use of your time.

Teetotalers, have you ever told someone that you don’t drink, only to have them offer you a drink two minutes later? To me, it happens all the time. If you’re a vegetarian and I offered you a steak, would you dig in? Like, what is this logic? Please save the money you would have otherwise bought my overpriced drink for and buy me cheesecake, if you must.

There’s no dearth of snarky comments, especially when you’re from a state where alcohol flows like water.

“How lame.” “You’re so uptight.” “A Goan who doesn’t drink? C’mon! You MUST be lying!”

Oh wow. We are in fourth grade and I’ve given in to your peer pressure. Quick, bring me 3 vodka shots!

“But don’t you drink in church on Sunday?”

This one makes me laugh – more at the ignorance of the comment than anything else. It’s a church, not a disco. And no, we don’t sit there with our chilled beers, we drink a drop of wine maybe four times in our lives in Church. *Sigh* people are such experts on Goa… or so they think.

Let’s not forget the other kind of folks – “Good for you. You aren’t missing much,” they say this as they take another sip of their drink. So much for irony.

Since relying on drinks to have fun has become the norm these days, it takes courage to be a rebel and stand out. Ultimately, its not worth changing your choices for others anyway – people always have something to make a big deal out of.

Besides, what’s the point of all your “fun” if you look and feel miserably hung over the next day. I could certainly do without that.

Do you relate to this blog post? Do people who equate Goa with alcohol get your goat? Go ahead and share this blog post with them.

As for me, I’m going to bookmark it and forward it to the confused lot of drinkers at my next party.

Bye!!

 

In a state where one has a hundred food choices available, a restaurant must be a black sheep in order to stand out. True to its name, The Black Sheep Bistro is doing just that. Located in Panaji, this fusion restaurant is run by husband-wife duo, Prahlad and Sabreen who’ve worked in the hospitality line around the world.

The menu changes frequently, based on the season and ingredients available in the market as the pair believes in the ‘farm to table’ philosophy. Taking global inspiration, they give food their signature spin using local produce with the intention of promoting healthy food habits and lowering their carbon footprints. If you think their mission is admirable, wait till you see the food!

Chocolate glazed chicken, stuffed chorizo, quail eggs in kismur butter, seafood risotto, malwani mushroom stroganoff and chakri churros can possibly give you a glimpse of their exotic offerings at affordable prices. The appetizers and mains are quite impressive, to say the least!

AMBIANCE

Located just off 18th June Road in Panaji, from the outside, The Black Sheep Bistro looks looks like any other building – with classic pale yellow exterior walls. The interiors though, are thoroughly contemporary – beautifully combining old world charm with modernity.

You will be greeted by a floor to ceiling bar. As you move in, you will find a variety of paintings on the walls, both by local artists and world famous photographers. The seating options vary from among high bar stools, plush sofas or comfy chairs in the enclosed gallery. The dark wooden floors, subtle lighting and trendy music give one a feeling of being in a lounge and fine dining restaurant all at once

SERVICE

Prahlad and Sabreen give guests warm welcomes and stay to chat for a minute before recommending dishes off the menu. The service is brilliant and the staff know the menu thoroughly. Since I was seated in the outdoor gallery patio, I had a glimpse of the squeaky clean kitchen with Sabreen giving most dishes a finishing touch alongside the chefs.

FOOD

The Black Sheep Bistro is pretty well known for their signature handcrafted cocktails, but they gladly tweaked them into mocktails for Mum and me.

AMANTE PICANTE – Originally made with tequila, fresh cucumber, mint, chilli and other signature ingredients, we had it minus the tequila. The drink had crisp, herbal flavors that were very refreshing. It had a satisfying balance of sweet and salty with a subtle spiciness added in the mix.

BLUSH – Pink, fruity and perfect for a girl’s night out – that’s Blush for you! This fizzy mocktail was made with pomegranate juice, citrus and mint. It’s not too sweet and packs a powerful punch.

IRANIAN LAMB ABGOOSHT ON TOAST –There’s more to Middle Eastern food than falafel, hummus and shawarmas! I love the way rustic lamb abgoosht got a classy makeover – it was served on crunchy garlic bread with a dollop of spicy harissa sauce on top, lest it’s too mild for the Indian palate. The lamb was so tender and creamy, on the verge of being a spreadable paste, with super tiny pieces of potato and beans. Can honestly say that a eating this took my imagination to a land of vividly coloured spices, dusty bazaars and smoky cafes.

KONKAN STYLED GRILLED CHICKEN BITES – A Goan version of Tandoori chicken, these little chicken pieces come marinated with konkan spices and an onion-tomato chutney on top. I thought it would have a hint of coconut to it, being Konkan, but it didn’t. Worth a try if you don’t like your food very spicy!

CRUDO OF FRESH FISH – I wouldn’t have considered ordering this, if Sabreen hadn’t coerced me to give it a try! The dish comprised of thinly sliced raw fish… yes, raw! It was drizzled over with Paan infused olive oil and sprinkled with almonds, fresh herbs and baby tomatoes. The cold ‘Modso’ fish was cut paper thin and had no aroma, but had a mildly salty taste. If you’re an adventurous eater, it’s worth a sample!

RED KISMUR FISH FILET – A Goan meal isn’t complete without fish… or dried fish in the monsoon. This dish combines them both in a lip-smacking-ly awesome way. The fish was delicate, juicy and cooked to perfection. It was coated with crunchy chilly-kismur (spicy dried prawns) all in a gorgeous sticky sauce. Below the fish were French Fries (or so I thought) until I ate one only to find that it was apple sliced to resemble chips! Tender, crunchy, sweet and tangy and on top of it all, beautifully caramelized. Highly recommended!

PORK CHOP WITH BARLEY – While the meat was well done, the dish badly needed some gravy. I would have really liked some sticky honey sauce or BBQ sauce to give it some moistness. Barley is not something you see a lot on Indian menus. It was simple, healthy and delicious, but again, needed the sauce.

CHOCOLATE – Just one dig into this ever-so-soft, dark chocolate cake! That’s all it took for hot, chocolate lava to come flowing out and flooding the plate. This ooey gooey cake was rich and fudgey without being oversweet. It was served with crème anglaise on the side which would have probably been better if served in a small bowl alongside as it was hard to scoop up with the spoon. You’ll probably need to share this with someone!

CHOCOLATE SALAMI – When I heard that The Black Sheep Bistro had chocolate salami, to say I was excited is an understatement. The last time I had it was when my grandma made it over 10 years ago – and I wanted the nostalgia feels so bad! It wasn’t the same though… the Nanz is pretty outstanding when it comes to dessert! Where hers was the size of coasters with teeny tiny biscuit flakes, this one was pretty small in comparison with large biscuit pieces. It came with candied orange peel and cream on the side and tasted ok.

The Black Sheep Bistro seems to have got the formula for a memorable meal spot on! A warm setting, great food, knowledgeable staff, focus on quality and value for money offerings are elements that can’t escape you.

Without a doubt, the best fusion restaurant in the sunshine state. If it’s not a part of your to-do list in Goa, take my word for it – you’re missing out! There are very few restaurants with an assured sense of individuality and identity – and this is one of them.

Cost for two – Rs. 2000/- without drinks

Follow me on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram for delicious photos and entertaining conversations! Oh, and subscribe too, won’t you?

Till next time!!

When the rest of the schools in India had Fancy Dress Competitions, my school in Goa had a “Carnival Fiesta” in February. As a painfully shy child, saying that I dreaded that day every year is an understatement. Every kid HAD to dress up as something or someone, and we had a carnival parade in front of camera happy parents, before being handed the mike to speak into. I remember standing at the mike on quite a number of occasions, speechless, wishing that the earth would just swallow me whole and end my misery.

Fast forward a decade and its ME holding the camera (MUHAHAHAHA)! Carnival is four days when Goa comes to life. Not that it’s dull the rest of the year… in fact, far from it!

The revelry that dates back to the 18th century was started by the Portuguese, a tradition that Goans have retained. Carnival (literally translated to “throw away meat”) is the last few days that Catholics can indulge in meat and liquor before the fasting period of Lent begins. There are street parades, parties, floats, music, dance and everyone is welcome to join in!

The Carnival in Goa is held over four days – one day each in Panjim, Mapusa, Margao and Vasco. The one I attended in Panjim is supposed to be the grandest of them all, probably due to the wider streets, bigger space and more decoration that’s possible in the area.

The most magnificent float is always the first one. Atop it is King Momo, the mythical king of revelry and chaos (what a fun job!) and he presides over all the festivities. King Momo, in his luxurious velvet cloak and gold crown is flanked with his entourage of pretty women and waves to enthusiastic cheers of “Viva Carnival.” He then reads aloud a decree proclaiming that his subjects can now enjoy three days of merrymaking.

In the olden days, people used to smear each other with eggs, fruits, flowers and other messy things. While some of them still do, it has majorly been replaced with coloured powders. Another interesting thing is that the parade is a subtle way for people to express sarcasm and criticize the government. Floats are used to raise voices against government policies in a comical manner known as Khell. This year, the burning issue of the government reclassifying the Coconut Tree as “grass” had many floats mocking the issue. Sadly, they were denied participation.

The floats wind their way through decorated streets, each one accompanied by a troupe of lively dancers and their own music. Spectators stand on either side of the, pushing and shoving for a good view and good photographs for the 4-5 hour long parade – which is why most of my pictures have someone’s head or hand blocking the view.

I once read that an old tradition called for people throwing old utensils out of the house as the Carnival procession passed by, forcing attendees to duck for cover. That would have been a funny sight!

Among my favourite floats was a one of a Portuguese house, with a man and chubby old lady sitting in the balcao. The man, dressed in a black suit and tall hat would sip his tea while the lady would wave at random people in the crowd, mimicking what older Goan ladies do every day. A maid would dust the window and offer the couple some more tea. It was really cute!

Yet another popular one was Minions – a ginormous Minion made entirely of waste plastic bottles sat on the float, while other minions mingled with the crowd, danced and posed for selfies. The amount of strength needed to walk and dance along the streets for four consecutive days is immense… I can never fathom how everyone manages to pull it off.

Judges of repute are bought from other states to watch the parade, rate floats and distribute prizes on the last day.
 
TGG Tips 

  • Extremely beautiful Carnival masks are sold on the footpath, and it’s a good idea to buy them after the parade for cheap!!
  • Buy passes and sit on the stands erected along the street for a crowd-free experience and better pictures
  • Go early to find a  spot to park your vehicle or be prepared to park on one end and walk to the other end for a good place to stand.

P.S. The pictures in this blog post have been taken by my friend’s Dad, John D’souza (John’s Studio), from Canada. Kindly do not reproduce them without permission.