Goan Cocktails Tapas Popup by Sarah & Nolan

Antares, Goa’s premier food and entertainment destination, in collaboration with Nolan Mascarenhas, a notable Goan food blogger recently joined hands to bring their captive audiences an immersive Goan experience like none other. Sarah Todd, curator of Antares is an impassioned chef and connoisseur who made her name on the world stage during the sixth season of Masterchef Australia in 2014. Thereafter, she took her love for food to the next level through her inspired work at Antares where she continually brings demiurgic masterpieces to the table every season.

Nolan Mascarenhas, son of a coveted Goan food critic and author Odette Mascarenhas, has undoubtedly inherited his distinct skillset as his love for food and the culinary arts at a very early age. Now, more than a decade later, he is a distinguished photographer, connoisseur and food blogger whose name is fairly well known in culinary circles. His new penchant for mixology, coupled with Sarah’s flair for all things food has taken the form of a Goan Tapas-Cocktail popup, where the heart of Goa’s food and flavours meet in one glorious union of fusion tapas and cocktails.

The bases used at the festival were diverse, ranging from the infamous Urrak to the sweet Port Wine No. 7, a common fixture at any Goan wedding. Everything from Coconut White Rum – Cabo to King’s Beer has been included in this exclusive line-up. The incorporation of fruits and vegetables of local origin such as Bimli, Star Fruit, Amarnath (Tambdi Bhaji), and Oxtail (an old Portuguese household dish), using preparations from the Saraswat to Hindu-Goan, right up till the Portuguese and Christian-Goan influence, left connoisseurs no room for doubt that this elegant fest had Goa at its heart.

Bearing in mind the acidity of the varied flavours and the intoxicating piquancy of spices used, the pairings of cocktails and tapas have been divided into three distinct sessions, playfully referred to as Acts.

The first “Act” comprises of a solo cocktail that owes its title, ‘Star Fruit Bellini’ to both, its main ingredient, as well as the emblem of its host location. Its essence, Star Fruit, commonly found in Goa during this season, adds a signature subtle acidity to the bellini which remains simple, classy and elegant. Its composition includes Star Fruit puree, champagne, vodka and sweet syrup, all served up in a dainty flute.

The second act is divided into 2 parts, each to its own distinction. The cocktail for the first part of the act was inspired by the yesteryear memories of Nolan, who pays homage to his childhood through a drink that imbibes the essence of it. The Tapas for this session was Jack’s Oxtail Bruschetta, a tantalizing, steaming stew with crusted Poi. Jungle Juice was its accompanying cocktail, served up in its traditional, rudimentary style: Urrak with green chilies, Limca, and dashes of rock salt and lemon.

The second part of the same session was the vegetarian options to the same act. The cocktail prepared for the same was Midnight Prowl, a risqué drink that imbibed a staple beverage of every Goan enjoyed during the seasonal hot summers; sugarcane juice. With this as its base, Captain Morgan’s Dark Rum was added into the mix, along with a spell of fresh pineapple, ginger and two drops of lime. Additionally, the drink was garnished with fresh streaky ginger juleps to give it a little extra zing. Keeping pace with this thrilling cocktail was Sarah’s personal rendition of Cafreal Bao, a timeless Goan favorite made of green curried chicken and a soft local bread.

The vegetarian canapé, a thrill to every son of Goan soil, used a treat we all became accustomed to while growing up; Tambdi Bhaji (red leafy vegetable), along with feta and olives. This Hindu-Goan inspired canape form was reminiscent of the addictive petit entrees offered at Goan weddings, right before the crowd toasts the bride and groom’s prosperity. Married to this entrée-styled dish was an old-fashioned Port Wine Cobbler, comprising Port Wine No. 7, sugar, sparkling water, cracked ice, all brought together fashionably with a cocktail cherry and orange slices.

More than halfway through the event, the third session took the patrons by storm as Chef Sarah’s true skills as an artist came to play. Third sets of Tapas, each more impressive than the next, and each paired with a unique complementing cocktail left people at a loss for words. The first tapas hit right at the heart of every Goan present, using soul-stirring mussels cooked in the fiery flavours of chorizo, served as paella in a miniature tasting spoon. Free-flowing King’s beer shooters came right alongside the zingy tapas as a refreshing accompaniment. Zavoiche bhaji on Malai Vade quickly followed suit as a vegetarian alternative to this, coupled with an option of either Bimbli Martini or Keiri (green mango pickle mojito). The Christian-Goan influence at the event was felt strongly with the third set of tapas that were dished out as Kishmoor-infused prawn curry rice arancini with teflan. The sheer authenticity of flavours, emanating from the dried prawn Kishmoor to the teflan proved to be near impossible for any to put down, while its escorting cocktail, the Tamarindkum jaggery-infused margarita with crushed black salt inevitably sealed the deal for the duo.

The final Act for the evening tended more to the sweet palate that resides within the soul of every Goan, a craving that must be satiated at the conclusion of every meal. To this end, the Dark chocolate Bebinca Mille Feuille with roasted coconut garnish held its ground admirably, leaving every last patron with a parting satisfaction that would stay with them long after. With it, the naughty Voodoo boasted a half measure each, of Kahlua, Cabo, and butterscotch schnapps, and a small measure of milk, tickling tastebuds and warming hearts all round; a fitting end to an enthralling evening.