Buongiorno, Goa

January 5, 2016

This post is a part of the What’s On My Plate series

Picture Courtesy: Fernando Monte da Silva

The breakfast spread at Baba's Wood Café stares back with wanton abandon



Around about December 5, last year, I woke up to find myself being added onto a WhatsApp group titled ‘Breakfasto Italiano’. Now, if I’ve said it once, I’ve said it a million times; I’m a notoriously poor morning person and a notoriously poorer breakfast person. I absolutely loathe breakfast. I cannot stomach (truly no pun intended) the thought of eating as soon as I’ve woken up to my greatest challenge: facing the day. So now, with all these views set firmly in stone, imagine my surprise when I find myself being added to a, you got it, breakfast invitee list; a list that specifically indicated that we had to be at the venue, ready for this form of torture at 8:30 am.


The curator for Goa’s version of The Tower of London (as my mind had begun to envision this affair) was none other than my fellow blogger, food critic and all-round, well attired master of ceremonies, Nolan Mascarenhas, a man who Instagrams food even more than I do, a feat in itself, which I think made the experience intriguing, and has to a large extent changed my views on breakfast as a meal (miracles do happen).



Picture Courtesy: Fernando Monte da Silva

Slices of ciambella drenched in crème anglaise make for a great early morning meal



With a little over a week to go to the event (which unfolded on December 20), Nolan decided to send teasers out to everyone, with pictures of what they could expect from the affair. And for making us wait for nearly 10 days to have to eat what he sent us pictures of, there is a seat for Nolan in a very special place in the Seventh Level of Dante’s Inferno. But of course, this is a tale that surpasses my (now former) disdain for breakfast, manic Instagrammers and what awaits Nolan in the afterlife. Nolan may have been the curator of the event, but the artist was one of a far more Milanese in nature, in the form of Mariagrazia Raschi, the driving force behind Baba’s Wood Café in Panjim.


My first impression of Baba’s, when it first opened its doors in 2012, wasn’t one that was favourable, but ever since then, it has impressed me increasingly, and with this breakfast, it simply left me speechless. First off, it has been that profound belief that good people make great food, and on the basis of that premise, let me leave things at the statement ‘Maria’s hospitality is simply breathtakingly warm, and is reminiscent of a visit to your nonna who you haven’t seen in years’; enough said. The reason I sing Maria’s praises, is because it’s not often that you can walk into a restaurant with a toddler that needs sleep and is cranky from a dearth of it, and the proprietor pulls out a cot, with assurances that if any other patron has a problem with it, they can leave. This is something that you can expect at Baba’s, that has been experienced first-hand by me and mine.



Picture Courtesy: Fernando Monte da Silva

Simplistic, yet gorgeous is the best way to decribe the uovo all'occhio di bue con asparagi



But I digress…Coming back to the morning in question, when you climb up the stairs, to a smörgåsbord on her little terrace that is warm and wooden, in sharp contrast to the crisp early morning air that still has just a little bit of ‘bite’ left to it, the day cannot start any better. Now Goa has its own rudimentary, folksy breakfast, with pao bhaji being a firm favourite for most. Over time, with exposure to the touristic needs, the ‘English breakfast’ also became popular with many, including yours truly. However, an Italian one was one that I was oblivious about. After being warmly greeted by the gracious hosts, I was introduced to the ‘spread’.


The first thing that you notice is vibrancy in colour at the table. From the brightness of freshly-cut fruit and recently-pressed juices, to the sombre yet glistening hues of brown of the croissants and muesli at the table, the visual itself kicks into hyper drive, as does the olfactory soon after. But no matter what the other senses may say, on the behalf of a meal, nothing speaks up like taste does, unless one is speechless, which is even better, as was the case here. So let me introduce you to my new-found friends. First is the ciambella, which is supposed to conventionally be Italy’s answer to the doughnut. While it remains fried in many regions, the one we sampled was baked, much like the ferrarese variant of the baked good. And one does not just eat ciambelle on their own; no sir. What you need to do is cut yourself a thick slice, douse it with crème anglaise, repeat the process with another slice and then top it with fresh strawberries. Sound sinful yet?



Picture Courtesy: Fernando Monte da Silva

The coppa amaretto is sinfully decadent, whether eaten at breakfast, lunch, dinner or any time in-between



This was followed by the crostata, a baked tart or pie, also known as coppi in Naples and sfogliate in Lombardy. While it has been historically recorded as containing fruit as a filling, ours was a little more decadent, with chocolate taking the place of fruit, and I assure you, no one complained. Nolan then surprised us by suggesting that we try something known as uovo all’occhio di bue con asparagi. This dish is so flavoursome, yet so simple to whip up, that it’s now on my Sunday to do list, and literally translates to a bed of parmesan, with a layer of sautéed asparagus playing the role of a buffer between the cheese and an egg, over-easy.


Last on the menu, more because of a rapidly expanding waistline rather than anything else came the coppa amaretto; a seriously challenging dessert because of its strong bodied flavour and even larger volume. Comprising a dense and dark chocolate mousse, infused with brandy before the addition of a layer of whipped cream, all the while incorporating crunchy and chewy segments of amaretti biscuits, this is not something that is (quite literally) for the faint of heart.


Now, I’m not a cruel man. This piece has neither been written in an attempt to show off at what I did on a Sunday morning, nor to taunt others about what they may never eat; quite the opposite, actually. It turns out that Maria plans on opening her doors earlier in the day to share this good fortune with everyone else out there. If she goes through with her plan, queue up and make the trip. You have no idea what you’ve been missing out on all along. Until recently, neither did I.



Fernando's Findings

Baba's Wood Café and I may have had our differences in the past, but after its shift to its new avatar, all hatchets have been buried for me. This experience has surpassed that of any breakfast I've ever had...ever...

Maria is a hostess par excellence, and proves beyond the shadow of a doubt that while the food is doubtlessly important, the people behind it are even more so.

Estimating the average cost of the breakfast menu is something that is still up in the air, as the plan is far from set in stone (at the time of publishing this review).



How to get there

The address

Bela Goa Annexe, Miramar, Panjim, Goa 403001

The directions



Food is a huge part of any culture and for me, chancing upon a good meal is synonymous with having a great day. The What’s On My Plate series of posts is where I discuss food, great places to eat, and anything gastronomically moving. This could be anything from a great place to eat, to an obscure kind of food, to an origin story. After all, there is no love like the love of eating.

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The views here are completely my own, and may not reflect those of any other members of the human population, which is why it is 'my blog'.






I will always do my best to not be offensive, but sometimes, just sometimes, there are things that annoy me. So if I'm writing about one of them (and if anyone involved is reading this), I apologise for any hurt sentiments in advance.






Try not to be overly sensitive and take offense to things like beef, bikinis, sex scenes in movies, Donald Trump's inability to be an effective president and so on. The world is happier with unicorns in it.


© 2015 by Fernando Monte da Silva