WOOING FOODIES AT BUFFET SPREADS!

By Tara Narayan

LAST week a friend my friend Elizabeth and me were itching to run away in the falling rain. I said the best place to watch the rain falling would be the Taj Convention Hotel (now the Taj Cidade de Goa Horizon) perched high on the cliffs of the Bambolim plateau where the old Cidade de Goa (now Taj Cidade de Goa Heritage) is located. She said, okay, let’s go, “I’ve not seen the new hotel yet!” She’d acquired a new driver for her car and wanted to test him out; so off we went with great expectations of god alone knows what.
To be honest I’ve not felt like stepping into any of the Taj hotels in town Panaji after my friend Vincent Ramos (the late area director of the Taj Hotels in Goa) passed on too prematurely, he was a super friend and I still feel a pang or two every time I step into one of the Taj hotels for some reason or another.
Truth is I’ve also stopped frequenting Goa’s many five-stars except when a press conference I want to attend comes up at one of them. At the five-stars one is constantly get fascinated by the manner in which a whole range of new and old menu snacks are laid out in style. Call it the cheap thrills of aam aurat if you like (although Elizabeth says she’s khaas aurat, I grant her, she is)
There’re always some interesting things at the Taj buffet tables and nowadays I notice they do some designer tempting salad layouts, I feel like I may just enjoy just the fare there. It’s the most colorful section of course and nowadays features all manner of baby micro-greens and sprouts. Both are said to be ultra-nutritious, micro greens are baby veggies and sprouts are baby grain and seed plants…moong sprouts are of course very visible; but there are also pea, radish sunflower shoots said to contain amino acids which are the building blocks of protein. Broccoli is considered the healthiest microgreen (the microgreens from the Brassicae family, also cabbage and radish are also much raved about in well-being talk).
You’ll be surprised how delicious microgreens may taste, they’re generally rich in potassium, iron, zinc, magnesium, copper and antioxidants…yes, microgreens are healthier than vegetables. The Brassicae family of veggies have glucosinolates, carotenoids, phytochemicals, etc. No wonder five-star buffet spreads add up to Rs2,000 plus, plus.


Truth is nobody feels like eating too much come the Chaturmas monsoon months and most Hindus want to fast a little or a lot as in intermittent fasting mode as in one meal a day for piety’s sake or wellbeing’s sake, both are important depending on our ways of thinking. Pet puja should come last but for most it comes first and mostly I’m one of them, although I always say and notice that if I have a sumptuous breakfast after my own heart, I can go without food till the next day dawns!
WHY have I been stepping into the 5-stars lately? Just this and that, maybe looking for decently made cocktail samosa, old-fashioned aloo patties, potato au gratin, some baked dish or another. It’s hard to find decent au gratin recipes, also soups like minestrone, and my favourite Waldorf, Greek and Russian salad…inevitably cheating takes place when it comes to feta cheese or arugula lettuce which I love the most. Although prices are Rs500 per portion salad packed up to take away.
But to stay with Taj Horizon where Elizabeth and I found ourselves it turned out to be a dismal day of magnificent glass windows overlooking a misty or fogged out Arabian sea – only dull cloudy monsoon rain non-views, smothering grey, nothing to see, not even the beach waves.
After admiring the tall walls sporting all kinds of green plants at the entrance we walked in and I was quite surprised that an officious hotel representative pounced on us to enquire if he could help us! Not sure how to respond to that I said, well, we’ve come just to look around because my friend wanted to see the Taj Horizon, we want to walk around for the views and maybe eat at one of their restaurants if that’s okay with him. It was okay with him, mercifully, and he said they had three restaurants we could go to including one serving Goan cuisine.
We sat down at one of the tables at the multi-cuisine C2C for the views but there were none being so high up in the clouds outside! All grey fog outside the tall glass windows of the restaurant is here. So there was nothing to do but check out the menu which along with the buffet lunch also had a la carte menu. Someone came up to ask us our names, why? It was very intimidating, it’s the first time I was asked who I was at any five-star hotel, be it a seven-star hotel – I mean I wasn’t attired in diamonds, okay.
Brushing all the queries aside we ordered. Elizabeth a chicken soup and me paneer kebabs, the first was terrible, the second was very good. I went up for a dekho of the buffet and that was mesmerizing and I lingered before the salad counters sporting the micro greens and sprouts salads in itsy bitsy glassware…maha-tempting.
I asked one of the waiters if there an offer on the buffet menu for just salads, appetizers and deserts? And was surprised he said, Yes, they do have a “Cosy” offer at half the full buffet price. Then why didn’t the otherwise helpful girl at the reception tell me that when we came in and she welcomed us with the day’s information! Disgruntled I returned Elizabeth at the table, still feeling hungry. I ordered a paneer paratha takeaway to take home for the hubby and it turned out to be a monster paneer paratha with edges quite kacha, but the dahi which came along with it was terrific. As were the eco-friendly containers which I notice now come with “plasticky” covers. Don’t ask me why but at these luxury hotels with their high-end prices I’m always difficult to please!
Must be because in the media we get to see all the highs and lows of life and once in a way it is educative to go stay at a 5-star resort in Goa. Vincent Ramos invited the hubby and me to spend a weekend at the Taj Exotica down south Goa once upon a time, and I cherish the gardens which come close to the gardens which the late Capt Krishnan Nair of the Leela hotels used to take such a personal interest in. He confided in me once that he insists his gardeners plant the classical trees of India in his hotel gardens so that Sanskrit Bharatdesh may return, something like that.
In Capt Krishnan Nair’s Leela gardens one would find kadamba, real Sita ashoka, gorgeous chaffa gold and green, also kailashpati…in fact, one may feel like sleeping off on a plush swing in the gardens rather in the fancy rooms with beds so soft one sat down and sank and sank real low, woke up with an aching back! Never sleep on ultra soft cloudy beds if you’re 40 plus, plus.
ANYWAY, forget the Taj Horizon. One evening recently I found myself at the Taj Vivanta Miramar near where I stay at CaranzaleM, and the friendly Chef Puneet Badola packed me the softest grilled mashed potato (in garlic aoli) sandwich he could do – and instead of a side helping of potato fries, give me a salad to go with it. It was a most perfect carbohydrate-rich sandwich in white bread. In multigrain ragi it would have been superlative I imagine, but then when one is old and decrepit with ill-fitting dentures, we do not like anything sticky which may make them loose and fall out in an embarrassing moment!
Old and older is a punishment if we do not read what’s blowing in the wind early enough to learn the message of putting wellbeing first in life. The body is a slave of the mind, remember that! First clean up the clutter piled up in the attic of the mind. I’m reading too many homilies these days from dawn to dusk and midnight over social media.
WHICH reminds me I met a guy at the Taj Vivanta Miramar who told me he does nothing for a living but lives in one Taj hotel or another. This left me speechless and of course, I didn’t ask what his business was which permitted him the luxury of having to give the Taj hotels as his constant address…next time I will, Suraj Paul Dias of DaDi Ventures. Would you like to live from hotel to hotel as your permanent home away from home? Quite a few people think of doing it and I think I might enjoy it too!
Long, long ago I was influenced by an American traveler in his 70s in a Mysore three-star hotel, say some 30 something years ago. He confided that he had settled his wife and children, but kept enough money in the bank for himself to live comfortably in hotels, “Only my banker knows where I am at any time. I find the serving boys in three-star hotels and clubs take good care of my needs and treat me better than my family members would…I generally travel from south India to Vietnam, Cambodia, Thailand, Malaysia, and Indonesia. Lovely good climate places which are affordable. When I die my banker will inform my family and do the needful, until then it’s che sera sera, I enjoy my travels in my youthful old age!” I remember envying the old boy, kept in touch for some time and then lost touch. Wonder if he is still alive somewhere in Bengaluru where he loved the Raj era club.
Honestly, one may meet up with all kinds of fascinating adventurers of life in five-stars and non-five-stars. But as aforesaid I rarely drop in at 5-stars now… Vincent Ramos used to give us poor small-fry goanobserver.in advertising support in the old days, and those times I frequented the odd five-star hotels to keep track of what was happening. Say buy a loaf of sourdough bread at the Taj Vivanta Panaji’s bakery outlet! Now there are other places to buy bread and in any case I want to stop eating bread-rice carbs which are harming me the most. Perhaps some intermittent fasting and keto dieting will ease my rainy day joint pains!
But I may as well tell you here. My favorite hotel currently, Fortune Miramar, is hosting free tea and hot dog festivals at its Orchid lounge …it’s Chai and Baarish time, tea is free, just pay for the chaat crunchy fryums — some are sublime (damages Rs200 to Rs250). I’ve discovered they do a most sumptuous Shahi aloo tikki and amongst the hot dogs there’s a vegan version with a jackfruit hot dog in it (Rs400, with side frills). Say hello to Executive Chef Narendra Chauhan here if you’re going one of these rainy afternoons to kill time before it kills you.

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