Category Archives: Sweets

The Vertue of the Coffee Drink

The Vertue of the Coffee Drink
8 Raffa Place
Carlton
Vic 3053
+61 3 8060 6987
The Vertue of the Coffee Drink on Urbanspoon

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If Melbourne is renowned for laneway secrets and excellent coffee, The Vertue of the Coffee Drink is one the best representations. Hidden behind the Shell petrol station off Lygon Street, what seems to be a narrow opening suddenly enlarges into a brilliant well-planned café space. Sparkling coffee machine, check. Beaming coffee roaster, check. Giant printout of one very wordy coffee advertisement, check. Delicious well-poured coffee, triple check.

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My first visit to this concealed Carlton café took place when my brother’s family visited sometime in March. We were done with the magnificent Melbourne International Flower and Garden Show and were famished, so we went to check the place out. After I had knocked back one very smooth and rounded magic, we got down to the business of filling our tummies.

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(Left) Scotch Egg, smoked pork belly, pig skin cracker, piccalilli mayonnaise, onion marmalade, brioche soldiers $21
(Right) Chickpea Chips with charred asparagus, preserved cherry tomato and basil salad, shaved parmesan, poached eggs $18

The menu is clever and creative, quite a far call from the usual brunch items such as eggs benny or smashed avo. Instead, there’s scotch eggs, which my Sister-in-law took a liking to, and chickpea chips which were calling out to me (in hangry halicunation).  The former was an indulgent porky platter of belly and crackling. Apart from the salty meat, the rest of the dish was spot-on. My dish was a vegetarian number involving crisp yet fluffy chickpea chips, sweet sweet roasted cherry tomatoes and charred asparagus. Had the poached eggs been taken out of the heat a second or two earlier, it would have made for a perfect brunch dish.

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Smoked Fish Chowder, Old Bay spiced squid, Port Arlington mussels, quail egg, barbequed corn $18

My brother ordered the seafood chowder, an item from the lunch menu. It was rich with seafood flavours and cream and had a generous serve of par-cooked vegetables that added crunch to the soup.

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Magics $4 each

The Angmoh felt left out and so we visited a week later. He enjoyed the coffee so much that he ordered 2 that very morning. We also got to sample a couple of sweet treats that were supplied to the café. The Butterbing peanut butter chocolate chip cookie is incredible in terms of texture. Brownie-macaron cookie is how I’d describe the cookie to be, with its crisp shells harbouring an insanely rich fudgey center. Take 2 of said cookies and smear in a rich decadent peanut butter filling and you have one helluva dessert. I also made do with a Kwak cinnamon scroll that originates from Oregono Bakery in Sydney. Smothered with a mountain of icing sugar, it was dense and chewy but could use a little chopped apple or raisins in its layers.

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Chocolate peanut butter cookie

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Kwak cinnamon scroll

The Vertue of a Coffee Drink is pretty much what Melbourne café culture embodies: hipster name, hidden location, excellent coffee and alternative delicious brunch fare.

 

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Filed under Brunch, Carlton, Coffee, Sweets

Nora

Nora
156 Elgin Street
Carlton
Vic 3053
+61 3 9041 8644
Nora on Urbanspoon

Nora

Fakebooo selected a café for one of our Thursday brunch sessions: Nora. He had yet to sample the famous charcoal-based tarts and promptly needed to rectify that.

welcome

We stepped into the small-spaced café in Carlton and fell in love straight away. It was stark, it was clean, it was cute and the only the presence of the open kitchen and coffee machine prevented the café from appearing like an art gallery.

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Piccolo latte $4

As Fakebooo sipped on his decent Small Batch coffee, we contemplated the menu. It was hard to decide when everything sounded so interesting and alluring. In the end, we made our choices: “Dear Mitchell” for me and “Pig from the Ground it’s Raised From” for Booo.

Pig
Pig from the ground it’s raised from – bacon, scallop, mushroom, watercress & taro puree, radish $18.50

If you thought the names of the dishes belonged to a degustation menu, wait till you see the plating! Fakebooo’s dish was just too beautiful to eat. The taro puree was a gentle smear at the rim, with the zucchini and radish artfully arranged to hide the slab of bacon steak. The taste of the dish was just as amazing. The pork was tender and full of flavour and topped with dehydrated scallop flakes that provided sweetness. The raw vegetables gave a refreshing green taste to counter the richness of the meat and the smooth taro paste bound it all together.

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Dear Mitchell – eggs our way, house chilli dressing, shallots, salted shrimps and Thai greens $14.50

Although my dish didn’t appear quite so pretty, it was bloody tasty. The beaten eggs were cooked in a 62 degree fashion, making it softer, more wobbly and more gelatinous than its boring steamed cousin. The dressing of sweet chilli and dried shrimp pumped up the flavours, giving simultaneous little bursts of sweetness and umami. The Asian vegetables of green papaya, Vietnamese mint and spring onion provided a little rawness and a little crunch.

sides

Both our dishes came with a side of wombok and a brown muffin. The wombok was glazed with house-made Thai curry paste, which confounded both Fakebooo and I. It just didn’t seem to go with either of our dishes. The bread on the other hand was well-received. It turned out to be a very eggy Yorkshire pudding-like bread, and it served well as our carb component to our brunch mains.

I loved everything about Nora: from goggling at the (t)art on display, to sipping on sweet tingly sparkling water (did I mention it’s free!), and awakening my tastebuds with the playful but delicious food. What about the tarts you ask?

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Charcoal tart – lychee, cheddar, Vegemite $5

This time, I tried the lychee, cheddar and Vegemite tart. The odd combination of ingredients meshed well in a pungent, sweet and salty manner. I liked it, although the true-blue Vegemite-lovin’ Aussie Angmoh refused to take a bite.

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Filed under Brunch, Carlton, Coffee, Modern, Sweets

Takeaway Special! Pop Up Scrolls, T by Luxbite

scrolls

Pop Up Scroll
86 Smith Street
Collingwood
Vic 3066
+61 4 3384 9281
Pop Up Scroll on Urbanspoon

One Friday night, I turned to The Angmoh and asked him in a most casual manner, “Angmoh*, watcha gonna do tomorrow since I gotta work?” to which he rattled off his usual weekend pattern followed off with a “why? Can I get you something?”

Well, since he asked, I couldn’t say no, could I? And that’s how I got myself 3 delicious scrolls from Eat a Scroll in Collingwood. I left the flavours entirely in the hands of The Angmoh, which tested the waters of our relationship if he’d returned with those filled with ingredients I didn’t like. We haven’t broken up, so he chose well.

The Angmoh made away with a cream cheese scroll, a chocolate and caramel one and finally, one with peanut butter and banana. These 3 were brioche-based, although there are croissant-type ones too. I’ll be honest, I had them on the Monday later. And guess what, they were still fresh and delish. The scroll itself was soft and not too buttery and the filling was gentle with the amount of sugar in it. Even the chocolate and caramel scroll was just right in terms of sugar and richness, leaving you without the feeling of sick.

My absolute favourite scroll of choice is cinnamon and I hope Eat A Scroll will someday create some old-fashioned ones too.

*I do not really call The Angmoh “Angmoh”.

T by Luxbite
2/517 Flinders Lane
Melbourne
Vic 3000
+61 3 9629 9662
T By LuxBite on Urbanspoon

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(Left) Calamansi – jackfruit, chilli salt, longan, meringue, kaffir lime sherbet, vanilla tart $9
(Right) Yuzu – Raspberry, matcha marshmallow, meringue, baby shiso, vanilla tart $8

I swung into T by Luxbite after a shopping spree at Gorman. Shorts, skirt and raincoat poorer but fuelled with adrenaline and serotonin, I oohed and ahhed at the too-pretty-to-eat tarts on display. It was a hot day and already hyped from shopping, I found myself not craving chocolate. Instead, it was the lighter citrusy flavours that I was after.

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The tarts are priced according to their shape. I chose the Calamansi tart, which is circular, and the Yuzu tart, which is rectangular. Both tarts are filled with a rich citrus curd which is once again not too cloyingly sweet. The prominent taste of jackfruit in the Calamansi tart was very enjoyable. However, some of the flavours are lost on me, such as chilli salt in the former and shiso in the latter.

That tarts are lovely but I’ll wait till it’s much cooler before trying the Chocolate and Kuma tarts, which I’m sure will be fantabulous.

 

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Filed under CBD, Collingwood, Pastries, Sweets

Rice Workshop, Raw Trader

Rice Workshop
238 Little Bourke Street
Melbourne
Vic 3000
+61 3 9650 6663
Rice Workshop on Urbanspoon

rice workshop

Sometimes all I’m after is a quick no-frills tasty meal that is easy on the wallet and super satisfying. Rice Workshop is one such place where the food ticks all those boxes for me.

The concept is simple: choose your staple of rice or noodles, add on the seasoned meat and toppings (ontama egg for me), and if that’s not enough, pick from a selection of deep fried goodies to complete the experience.

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Regular kimchi beef $8.50, add ontama egg

My comfort meal at Rick Workshop is the kimchi beef bowl with an added soft-boiled egg. The thin slices of fatty beef are marinated in a sweet soy with slight hints of maple. Paired with slightly spicy vinegary kimchi, it’s a sucker of a combination that gets to me each time. An ooey-gooey egg is cracked over the ricebowl and coats everything with a gelatinous slurpy egg blanket, yum!

Complimentary sides of pickled ginger or radish are available and I always pile my bowl high with the radish. The piquant crunch is irresistible!

A simple soft serve of matcha or black sesame is available for those needing to round up the meal with something sweet.

Raw Trader
10 Sutherland Street
Melbourne
Vic 3000
+61 4 7869 2008
Raw Trader on Urbanspoon

raw trader

For myself, I was hankering for a healthier sweet treat after gobbling up my meal. I crossed a couple blocks to Raw Trader, a healthy café situated near Short Stop Donuts that offers raw, unprocessed, vegan dishes. I indulged in a chai “cheesecake” and enjoyed the fragrant hints of cinnamon, cardamom and cloves. The texture of the cake was creamily smooth and made for a wonderful guilt-free way to finish up my day in the city.

chai cheesecake
Chai cheesecake $10

Tummy satisfaction doesn’t always need to be in the form of a fancy degustation. I find that simple pleasures of delicious fuss-free food warms the soul. What’s your go-to meal for a quick soothing?

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Filed under Asian, CBD, Chai, Japanese, Korean, Raw, Sweets

Kitchen Workout: Paleo Semi-raw Carrot Cheesecake

carrot cake

I’ve been slack in posting recipes. My recent clean-eating challenge had me craving for desserts and I initially turned to Steph’s (The Natural Nutritionist) blog. I made her carrot cake with cashew cream icing (which was yummy) and loved the icing so much I was then inspired to use it as a filling for my own dairy-, gluten-, sugar- and gluten-free cheesecake.

This recipe is semi-raw. The only cooking involved is roasting the carrots. The rest is just blitzing up dates, nuts and coconut. I use Mayver’s Hazelnut and Cocoa spread for the base but this can be replaced with melted coconut oil and cocoa powder.

ingredients

Base

Ingredients:

50g walnuts
50g cashews
200g dates
2 heaped tablespoons of Mayver’s Hazelnut and Cocoa spread

Method:

Place the nuts and dates into a processor and process until crumbly.

Stir in the hazelnut cocoa and press into a lined 26cm cake tin.

Place in the fridge and allow to chill.

base

Filling

Ingredients:

1kg carrots
2 tablespoons honey
2 tablespoons coconut oil
125g cashews
140ml coconut cream

Method:

Pre-heat the oven to 190 degrees. Peel the carrots and line them up on a baking tray. Pour over the melted coconut oil and roast the carrots for 30 minutes. Drizzle the carrots with the honey and continue roasting for another 20 minutes. Set aside and cool.

While the carrots are roasting, place cashews and coconut cream into a processor and blend until well-combined and slightly smooth. Place the mixture into a mixing bowl.

Once the carrots have cooled, place carrots and liquid from the roasting tray (this will contain the coconut oil and honey) into the processor and blend until the carrots form a smooth puree.

Tip the carrot puree into the cashew coconut mixture and stir until well-combined.

Pour into the cake tin and chill overnight.

Best enjoyed after a Halloween-themed WOD!

crossfit

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Filed under CrossFit, Food Challenge, Kitchen Workout, Paleo, Raw, Recipes, Sweets, Vegan

Pana Chocolate

Pana Chocolate
491 Church Street
Richmond
Vic 3121
+61 3 9017 0935
Pana Chocolate on Urbanspoon

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In the midst of my clean-eating challenge, one of the withdrawals I experienced was from the lack of sugar. Before the challenge, I would indulge in something sweet almost every day. There were regular snacks of cake for afternoon tea, ice cream after dinner or cookies for supper. The challenge required me to give this up, but I had to find sweet sources to tie me over for the 4 weeks. Thankfully, there’s Pana chocolate.
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Pana offers raw natural chocolate made from all the good things like cocoa, cold pressed oils and agave. A variety of flavours are available, including orange, coconut, mint and my absolute favourite, rose. The chocolates can be purchased from most health food stores and even independent supermarkets like Foodworks, where The Angmoh ducked in one evening to get me a couple of bars to satisfy my sweet craving.
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Pana opened up shop in Richmond a while ago and for some reason I procrastinated a visit. This challenge was more than enough reason to check it out. It’s small, cute and inspirational, and displays a fridge of little cakes and truffles. These can be enjoyed on site or taken away to be gobbled up at home. I grabbed two to go: a matcha strawberry cake and a chocolate ganache. OH. MY. GOD. These were the best raw cakes I had ever come across. The filling was incredibly smooth and creamy, a texture that is almost impossible to achieve due to the use of nuts. Each element had an amazingly pure taste to it as well; I particularly liked the strawberry layer, it was like tangy strawberry jam without any nasties. The matcha was mild in my opinion, but I do like my matcha to be intense. The chocolate ganache is simply divine. The ganache is so rich that it’s hard to believe there’s no cream in it.
Pana chocolate is the dreams of any dessert-loving paleo, vegan or clean-eating freak. The price is quite steep for each serve, so do savour each delicate morsel lovingly.

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Filed under Chocolate, Paleo, Raw, Richmond, Sweets, Vegan

A Hangry 4 week Clean-eating Challenge

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I live to eat. And when I deny myself food, it’s because I don’t want to eat it and not because I can’t eat it. I’m not one to fall for fad diets and I have participated in a couple of food challenges. There was once where I subjected myself to no sweets for one week. This ended up with me almost biting The Angmoh’s head off by Day 7. I’ve also joined Fakebooo for “Live Below The Line”, which you can read about our experience here. Recently, I embarked on a 4 week clean eating challenge organised by my crossfit gym and it put me in an extremely uncomfortable place. The rules were simple: eat real food, period. It was not 100% paleo (as many crossfitters are) and there’s some flexibility as to how strict you want to restrict yourself to certain foods. The big no-nos were refined carbohydrates (such as flour), refined sugar, processed foods and alcohol. Small amounts of dairy and complex starches (such as rice and legumes) were allowed.

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Sashimi salad

And that’s not the end of it. There’s Fran. What’s Fran, I hear you ask. Well Fran is not the sexy sultry pouty nasal-sounding lady we all adore. In the crossfit world, she’s one bitch of a workout. It consists of 21 thrusters and 21 pull-ups, followed by 15 thrusters and 15 pull-ups, ending with 9 thrusters and 9 pull-ups. It generates a crap-load of horsepower and leaves you collapsed in a messy wheezing heap of sore thighs, arms and an audibly pounding heart, ready to burst out of your chest. And Fran is the benchmark for the challenge. Do it on Day 1, train hard and eat well over the next 4 weeks and do it again on Day 29. And it’ll be awesome if you can up your weight, rely less on assisted bands for pull-ups and do it in a faster time.

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Gluten-free banana pancakes, maple, peanut butter

I wasn’t aware of any of this when I was casually asked if I’d like to partake in this madness. “Challenge accepted” I stupidly readily agreed and found out all of this on the very first day of the challenge, having missed the briefing due to work. Not one to tuck tails, I hopped on the bandwagon, completed Fran and on wobbly legs, headed home to plan my meals for the days to come. My eating rules were: no refined carbs, no refined sugar, no alcohol, no processed foods and no cheese. I allowed myself small amounts of rice or potato and small quantities of milk and yoghurt. As I wiped away a tear, I bade farewell to Beatrix and Jocks.

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Combi – chia parfait

There was no weaning period for me. I quit sugar cold turkey. Day 2 into the challenge, the headaches hit. Desperate for a lick of something sweet, I fell back on fruit and bananas became my best friend. My meals consisted of protein and vegetables and once a week, I indulged in a bowl of rice.

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Oven-roasted fish on wilted vegetables, topped with a pine nut crust

I thought it was going well until Monday of week 2. My day involved a simple lunch of roasted cauliflower soup, only to end with a workout of more thrusters. Bad food mistake, I simply had no energy to lift and was left physically and emotionally exhausted. It also made me panic because that meant I was going to suck big time at the impending Fran. Wiser eating choices had to be made.

LBSS sweet potato
LBSS – kumara, kimchi, poached eggs, cashew cream

As I progressed into week 3, my mood swings were more volatile having PMS and I took my frustration out on The Angmoh. My coach even remarked that I was more tired than usual. But I did not let it get to me. I turned up at every possible work out and trained at least 5 times a week. I made better eating choices and started including more rice into my meals. I noticed I was no longer craving processed desserts when colleagues at work brought in an insanely rich chocolate cake and I had no inclination even for a taste of it.

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Pana rose chocolate, Strawberry matcha cake, Chocolate ganache

Not to say I didn’t have any sweets over the past 4 weeks. I’d go insane and The Angmoh would have dumped me lickety split. My sweets consisted of the raw variety. There was raw cheesecake from Patch and raw chocolate from Pana. These desserts contain natural and raw ingredients, such as cashews, coconut and agave. Eating out was tricky so I used the challenge as an opportunity to check out Little Big Sugar Salt, Combi and Raw Trader.

roast pork belly
Roast pork belly with roasted fennel and apple puree

My meals varied from the simple vegetable soups to the fancier roast pork belly with apple puree and fennel. There were the usual paleo players of zucchini noodles and cauliflower rice. The Angmoh made me oven roasted fish with a nut crust, on a bed of wilted vegetables. On one of the weekends, instead of brunching out, I threw together a simple summery salad of sashimi, leaves and tomatoes, dressed in a lemon and wasabi dressing. Some mornings, I indulged in a homemade gluten-free breakfast of banana pancakes, drizzled with maple and topped with natural peanut butter. Throughout the 4 weeks, I continued practising Meatless Mondays and relied heavily of spuds or rice for energy. My snacks at work were Corn Thins smeared with hommus from “The Pure Produce Company” or peanut butter by Mayvers.

The downside of the challenge is that I miss my comfort eating like slurping up pasta coated in bolognaise or biting into crisp chewy sourdough. Social occasions can be lonesome when you are at a pub drinking water while the boyfriend nurses a chilled beer. The initial rocky start of being hungry and tired all the time evened out over the weeks as my body adapted and I made smarter food choices.

chai cheesecake
Raw Trader – Chai cheesecake

The upside of the challenge is that I was never alone. My crossfit buddies shared their experiences regularly and this provided great comfort. The Angmoh endured throughout my challenge and not only cooked food to suit the challenge, but ensured I had enough to eat all the time. (He did pig out on a pizza on the very last weekend while I munched on a salad but I forgive him.) I also discovered new and fun places to eat at and fell in love with raw desserts. I started reading food labels more carefully and now think twice before putting an item into my shopping basket.

carrot cheesecake
Semi-raw carrot cheesecake

On the last day of the challenge, I put together a semi-raw carrot cheesecake (gluten, dairy, egg and sugar-free, oh and recipe soon to come), had a delicious kimchi bibimbap for dinner and tucked myself early into bed. Fran 2 has been done and dusted. Not only did I manage to up my weights, I smashed my time by more than a minute.

I’ll be honest. If ever approached to do another restricted diet challenge, it is highly likely I’ll think twice before saying yes. But I’m glad I did complete this one as it has made me more aware of what I put into myself and I am keen to continue practising a lifestyle of minimal sugar and processed foods.

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Filed under Brunch, CrossFit, Food Challenge, Paleo, Raw, Sweets, Vegan