I often come across as a slightly lost and confused kind of a person. Be it my extreme hyperactivity levels, or slightly irritating ability to connect random things, they tend to add to an aura of confusion around me. I try to be a WYSWYG (What You See is What You Get), with hardly a difference between what I show to the world, and what I am. But do I succeed?
Deep down I remain an extremely confused person. I am unsure about my life, career, settling down, choosing between poha and eggs for breakfast, or even about what my interests are.
Although beneath the multiple layers of confusion, both externally and internally, I always stay true to one thing- people around me. I learn things through them, see the world through their eyes, and interpret their tastes to venture into untested culinary territories. I believe my intelligence stems from the people I know, and it will keep growing as I keep connecting and sharing with more number of people.
But as the number of people I know keeps consolidating into smaller and smaller groups, I am totally at sea with respect to which ones to manage my relationships with. Manage lesser number of people and shrink this unique intelligence network of mine? Or, Keep growing it for an indefinite period and attain Moksha?
Confusion follows me everywhere, or rather I take it along with me. It is topmost on the list of things I carry, higher than my phone too. So when I was in Goa last weekend it chased me, and I guess it infected my friends too.
On a hot Saturday noon, we left our resort looking for something interesting to do in Goa. Goa always has options, but my mind was muddled trying to balance my quest for finding a new Goa and my friend’s zeal to discover the Goa I already knew.
We decided to venture out to this French Beachside place called La Plage (The Sea in French), at the Ashwem Beach. The ride was long and the sun was strong, but my Kokam Juice-powered body was turning the hot winds into a fearless cold sweat. The ghost of confusion was off my back, and I was calmly enjoying the ride. And then we arrived at La Plage.
Sitting neatly in one corner of the beautiful Ashwem Beach, La Plage is a French Cuisine hotspot run by a French lady. Once we entered the place, I could feel a difference in atmosphere. The decor was crisp, spacious, and well-organized. The tables were marked, and the owner took reservations. No wonder Haute Cuisine and its related culture had its origins in France, they can make even a Beach Side Shack run in an elegant manner.
I had a brief conversation with the owner. She was a charming lady, probably in her mid-50s. She had beautiful silver hair, a wrinkled yet shiny skin, and a demeanour which was friendly yet authoritative. I sensed perfection, something which had translated into this place, and into its food. She allotted us the table we wanted, having comfortable resting chairs, the kind of which my GrandPa used to have.
We ordered a Sula Zinfandel Rosé, served perfectly chilled tucked in an ice-bucket. A Rosé evokes fascinating memories of me drooling over Roohafza as a kid, but as the present sinks in, I am channelled back into a more alcoholic mode of refreshing luminescence.
I picked up the menu, and there was finesse sprayed all over it. The dishes were deliciously described, helping me imagine the culinary outcomes of my order. We ended up ordering Fried Sardines with a Red Pepper Sorbet and a Tomato Crumble.
I sat back and started sipping the wine back, the conversations were flowing, but I was a bit lost in myself. Probably it was the wine, or it was the heat. Or just me.
The dishes arrived, breaking my imaginary (order->culinary outcomes) equation with ease. The plates were just like everything else at the place, nothing short of perfection. The plating was so gorgeous that it would have been a sin even touching the dish, leave aside eating it. But then I took the fork, captured the dish, and poked in.
Sardines were a bit too Fishy and bland for my liking. For someone who prefers dipping in Goan Masala rather than the Sea, it was like eating a tasteless porridge. Probably that’s the way the French make it. But then I discovered the Red Pepper Sorbet.
Served as a dip for the Sardines, Red Pepper Sorbet took me through a dreamy journey of the La Plage kitchen. I saw someone roasting the Red Peppers on open fire inducing a lovely burnt taste. I saw someone blending it, adding Sugar, dash of alcohol and some lime juice to the mix.I looked around for some Ginger in the kitchen. Probably that could have taken it to another level. Probably not.
The fish dipped in sorbet was another being now. It had a new life, and its renewed life had a new meaning.
Tomato Crumble looked as a something ready to breakdown, but still so firmly bound. A layer of juicy tomatoes and a crust induced with three secrets of French cuisine (Butter, Butter, and Butter) was mixed with crunchy walnuts and separated by a sheet of melted mozzarella. The side was a simplified Caesar Salad with a thickish, and quite evident vinaigrette.
I cut through a sizeable cross-section of the dish to taste. What followed were the slightly sugary notes of tomatoes along with the crunch of walnuts. A thought that Mozzarella and Tomato would have been married to each other in their previous lives crossed my mind. The dish was totally different from the Sardines Sorbet combination, as the results were much more on expected lines. But both the dishes had minimal spicing, and relied on the purity of the ingredients involved.
We took a break from eating and walked towards the beach. The sun was at its peak but there was a something more pleasant about the atmosphere here. I took a dip and came back to our table. I took a few sips and then closed my eyes.
I re-entered the kitchen looking for the refrigeration unit. I opened it up and tried to look for the Red Pepper Sorbet but couldn’t find any. I opened my eyes. My friends were back. And we ordered some Sorbets and Vanilla Ice Cream.
It was simply the best Vanilla Ice Cream I had ever consumed, as it relied more on the purity of the vanilla beans involved rather than anything else. It is a pity that the brilliance of Vanilla has been reduced to a default flavour by commercial ice cream makers. The term Plain Vanilla is both misleading and disrespectful to the delight Vanilla can be.
The sorbets were an experience, involving a series of tangy strawberry, floral litchi, elegant guava and regal flavours of mango.
Post the meal I sat with my eyes closed. The wind was blowing smoothly and my feet were tucked in finely powdered cold sand. I had found the new experience I am always on the lookout for in Goa. A sense of eerie calm had replaced the ghost of confusion which always rides on my back. This is what a great culinary experience can do to you.
I was still at sea, but more sure about my being than ever.