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Archive for the ‘Trivia’ Category

Come Dine at My Home

Herald 2day, 30 Sep 2009

By Vidyadhar Gadgil

When one thinks of eating out in Goa with family or friends, one rarely thinks beyond the cities and the tourist belt. But that is gradually changing, with new restaurants in the quieter villages in the interior, off the tourist beat. One of the prime examples of this trend is ‘Andron’, in the serene village of Nachinola, tucked between the villages of Aldona and Moira. Set up by Antonio Nazareth (popularly known as Tony), a marine engineer, Andron gives you the increasingly rare experience of a quiet retreat, away from the cacophony of the tourist belt, where you can relax and enjoy a meal in an ambience that reminds you of home.

What prompted a marine engineer to set up a restaurant? Tony reminisces, “After twenty years at sea, away from the family for long stretches, I was fed up. The children were growing up and I was missing their best years. I planned this for a long time, and then finally took the plunge in 2004, quitting my job as a marine engineer, and setting up ‘Andron’ in my home village of Nachinola.”

Wasn’t it tough setting up a restaurant without any experience in the line? “It was not easy,” confesses Tony, with his typical understatement. “But my mind was made up. I had this dream to set up a restaurant where people could get authentic Goan food in a homely village ambience, catering mainly to families rather than the tourist trade. After coming back to Nachinola, I did short-term courses in bartending and waiting at the Institute of Hotel Management. The years between 2005 and 2008 were tough, but now things are going well. Word of mouth publicity has done the trick,” Tony beams.

That much is obvious, as the restaurant is filling up, and Tony, the sole person serving tables, is having to rush hither and thither. We quickly place our orders, following Tony’s recommendations – pork chops, beefsteak, roast pigling, chicken cafreal, bangda reichado, vindaloo, aad-maas and sundries (before you make moral notes about gluttony, note that we’re a party of six people) – and Tony bustles off to serve the other tables. Meanwhile, the menu card is a delight to read and displays the care and thought that has gone into every aspect of this unique restaurant. There is a one-page introduction titled ‘Come Dine at My Home’ which informs you that ‘the word “andron” has its origin in Greek, meaning an ancient Greek house – an apartment for men, especially for banqueting and dining’.

The food arrives, and there is no time to think of anything else as you savour the delicious flavours. The meat is tender and perfectly cooked – the beefsteak and pork chops, in particular, are a perfect delight. When Tony finds some time to come and chat, we ask him about the name of the restaurant. “Actually,” he grins, I thought of the name as a combination of my children’s names: Ana, Andre and Aaron. Then, when I was setting things up, I discovered this meaning in Greek.” Clearly, serendipity is at work, as it is in the two-storey building that houses the restaurant . “I planned this as a house for the family, but when I decided to set up Andron, we stayed on in our old house and decided to use this as a restaurant. If I had thought of it earlier, I would have designed this differently.” You’re glad he didn’t – some things are just meant to be, and clearly fate has conspired in a series of lucky accidents to produce Andron.

It’s time to leave, but we go to meet Peter Miranda, the chef from Nachinola who served up the culinary treat that we just enjoyed. Peter has been working here for the past 2-3 years. “The masala recipes are from my mother,” Tony tells us, “but it’s Peter who puts it all together.

The bill is the final surprise in a pleasant evening. The prices at Andron’s are about half of what you would pay for comparable food in Panjim, and most of the dishes are priced in the Rs 80-100 range. Six of us have stuffed ourselves silly, and had a few drinks too, and the bill is barely over Rs1000. How does Tony do it? But this is a question you decide not to ask – there is a limit to looking a gift horse in the mouth.

Andron also hosts family celebrations and parties for large groups. Contact Tony on 9421194482 for details. And even if you don’t live in the vicinity of Nachinola as we do, remember that it’s well worth making a longish trip to sample Tony’s generous hospitality.

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Free and Creative…

Herald 2day, 25 July 2009

One of the many charms of Goa is that in the unlikeliest of places one discovers something completely unexpected – and enthralling. Who would imagine that the unobtrusive signboard marked ‘My Place’, about a kilometre before the Vagator beach, would be the gateway to the best Italian food in Goa – and probably better than you could get anywhere in Mumbai or Delhi?

The man behind this restaurant, Svatantra Sarjano, is as fascinating as the food he serves up. Probably around 60 (he refuses to say), he is a handsome, energetic presence. And how did he come by his name? “It was the name given to me by Osho. ‘Sarjano’ means creative in Sanskrit, and Osho would say, ‘Sarjano is the most creative person I know. In the early morning, he will be translating my discourses into Italian, then he will be working in the kitchen cooking up some fantastic food, and then he will take some photographs. When does he find the time to be the Latin Lover that I have heard so much about?’”

You can well believe the Latin Lover bit even now – the looks and the charm – and even more so when your eye lights on a photograph from the Osho days. “I came to India 30 years ago, and spent 20 years at the Osho Ashram in Pune, where I was in charge of the kitchen,” says Sarjano. He finally quit the Osho Ashram, unhappy over the direction it was taking after the death of Osho.

Among Sarjano’s many talents, he is a well-known photographer, and has contributed for over 30 years to a wide variety of top-notch glossy magazines from all over the world, including ‘Elle’, ‘Playboy’ and “Paris-Match’. It was a bit of a change from there to becoming a chef, but the foundation had been more than laid by his experience in running the kitchens of the Osho Ashram.

“I never thought I’d make a living from my cooking,” muses Sarjano, “but after leaving the Ashram I started a Japanese restaurant in Pune with a friend of mine. It was called ‘Tampapo’, and while it was never a roaring success, the cognoscenti said that it was the first authentic Japanese restaurant not only in Pune, but in India.” Sarjano started ‘My Place’ six years ago, on the insistence of his friends.

By this time, the dishes recommended by Sarjano have begun to arrive. There is Gnochhi Al Gorgonzola Noci, little dumplings of refined flour and potatoes, with a little egg beaten in. Sprinkle a little grated Parmesan cheese on top (that’s what you do with all Italian food, except fish preparations, Sarjano informs us) and it makes for a scrumptious dish. There is also Ravioli Di Zucca E Amaretto, which offers us a glimpse of the wonders that an ordinary pumpkin can be made to perform, and spinach reveals its magic in Ravioli di Spinaci e Ricotta (Spinach).

But the tour de force is clearly the Canelloni and the Lasagna, and there is a reverent silence as my wife and I dig in. Sarjano is telling us more about the various dishes, but we aren’t really listening, with our entire attention taken up by the amazing tastes exploding within our mouths.

Replete we sit back, and it’s then that we start asking Sarjano for details about the food. With an indulgent grin, he brings us a copy of his “Food is Home: The Little Book of Italian Cooking”. You spot the inscription “A Shobha De Selection” and ask him the story about that.

“Well, Shobha De once visited Tampapo. We got talking and she insisted I had to write a book about Italian cooking. I told her I already had it all written out, and showed her the manuscript. She was enthralled, and undertook to get it published. Then followed a long struggle with the publishers, for whom this book was like no cookbook they had seen earlier. And Sarjano is a stubborn man, not willing to give up his ground easily. As Shobha De says in the foreword, “We fought over the title, the cover picture, blurb and just about everything else.”

Interspersing Sarjano’s life story with recipes and musings about food, sometimes taking off into the realms of philosophy, this is a must-buy, not only for its recipes but also as a memoir. If you’re not already in love with Italian food, after reading this book you will be hooked for life. And it’s likely to change your perspective on cooking: “If you don’t love cooking, please don’t do it.”

It’s time to leave. “Hey, one last message for the readers of Herald,” says Sarjano, “I’m looking to get married to an Indian woman. So put the message out.” You’re not sure he’s serious, but he assures you he is. And then he turns to my wife, “And what about you?” he asks. “Well, I’m married, to this fellow,” says the wife, with a distinct note of regret in her voice, and you know it’s truly time to leave.

The prices at ‘My Place’ are very reasonable, and a meal for two would cost about Rs 1000, a fraction of what Italian food would cost elsewhere. It is open only in the evenings, and one has to book in advance. Call Sarjano at 9326135721.

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Herald, 13 July 2008

By Sujay Gupta

The still of the afternoon was broken by the sporadic wind bursts as it flirted with the trees. The leaves winked, jumped and dozed off. There wasn’t time for energy. Or thought.

Goa was a baby. It lunched and slept as some restless wanderers pottered around. I was on one of my usual Sunday gallivanting expeditions, hunting for unusual answers, in an unusual setting amongst a group of motley folks who love life and do things differently.

In the evening quiet, I headed off through the pathway that takes you from Calangute to Mapusa and then cuts across and heads to the junction that finally takes you to Moira and Aldona. Goa’s genteel spots, relatively devoid of ugly warts of building blocks, resorts and the orgy of tourism. Yet.

Moira, Aldona, with its chapels, taverns, roads that bend and embrace, few patches of paddy fields and the rain teasing the palm trees . The meadows and streams were, as Wordsworth would have said, ‘appareled in celestial light”

I drove through this ballad of beauty, looking for a home near the Aldona church. The home of Mariette Corriea and her deeply intense husband with a brilliant mind Vidyadhar Gadgil.

It is a little away from the main Aldona centre, in the adjoining sub village of Corona, further into the beautiful crevices of the land. The Gadgil-Correia home is tucked in the woods, an old, spacious Goan bungalow, gorgeously frayed a bit on the edges, with gracious warmth leaking through its tiles.

This wasn’t really a setting for what I encountered. A group of six teams solemnly seated, like in a class. In front was a short man with a half flowing beard, straight out of a chemistry lab, with a set of questions. Behind him a laptop, with files of visuals and audio.

Goa’s, first and only, Sunday Evening Quiz Club (SEQC), had begun proceedings, under the watchful eye of Quizmaster Aniruddha Sengupta, (Annie for all practical and linguistic purposes).

Annie, who is writing many books has moved here from Chennai and lives in Porvorim with his four dogs Chipko, Jaya, Baloo and Hero, and wife Anjali, another member of the SEQC, who answered many many more questions than I did.

The quizzers included adman Harshvardhan Batkuly, whose agency Saviofaire, has come close to winning the national Brand Equity quiz twice, then the hosts Vidyadhar and wife Mariette, architect Rajiv D Silva and others. I, a newcomer was teamed with three girl kids in the “Sujay and the girls” team. We promptly came last. But that’s not the story.

It was revelation that Goa has a quiz scene, a club, a group which takes time off every first Sunday of the month, to take part in one of the healthiest mind and friendship sports. Annies questions (and the time he took to put it all together) could match any national quiz show, and having attended quite a few, I dare say the questions, here at Gadgil house, were several notches higher than the big branded televised quizzes.

Some of my favorite question picks:

Q: While studying at Oxford in the 1960s, this person made a name for himself raising money for the then little-known charity Oxfam, famously managing to obtain the support of The Beatles in a charity fundraising drive.Who is he?

Answer: Jeffrey Archer

Q: Its roots were in an ad in the New York Times and Wall Street Journal which said, “Young men with unlimited capital looking for interesting, legitimate investment opportunities and business propositions.” What was this now very famous event?

Answer: The Woodstock music festival

And then this one. I wish we knew this when the cheerleaders controversy was on during the IPL:

Q:What feature of their student lives do George W. Bush and former US Presidents Ronald Reagan and Dwight Eisenhower share with actors Reese Witherspoon, Haile Berry and Cameron Diaz?

Answer: They were all cheerleaders in school or college

Bush, a cheer leader?!!..wait till the democrats get wind of this!

The SEQC, was not telecast live, the winners did not drive away with luxury cars, and there were no models as arm candy, on the arm (where else?) of the quiz master.

Just rounds of soft beef sandwiches and other snacks and some super Aldona feni during a break.

Yet another Sunday, and this big answer to a big question.

Why do we come to Goa? Because, my Goa, still is, the place to be.

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