Laduree || Workshop Brothers || Gumption

I REMEMBER the first time I tried macarons - it was in France, home of the itty bitty, pretty meringues, and I thought they were average. I think to the people I was with, I had essentially arrived at the motherland that welcomed me and spat on the doorstep. 

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Fast forward to the present, I’ve left virtually all travel plans to Maria and Iris. Laduree is the only store I insist upon, and is in fact the second place we, visit considering its close proximity to where we were staying. Living in the CBD was such a dream.

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Gosh they’re pretty.

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Sometimes all I really want from a macaron store is their packaging.

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La Belle Miette definitely trumps with sizing of macaron to box.

Among the numerous flavours we tasted at Laduree, citron lemon was my favourite. It was like a zingy tart with the characteristics of a quality macaron: crisp and slightly chewy. Coffee fell flat on its face, tasting like cheap syrup. 

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Prices were ridiculous, about the same for a cup of coffee for one macaron. It’s their hype and price inflation that led to my conclusion Laduree macarons are for gifting and/or aethestic indulgences, not gastronomical enjoyment.

Workshop Espresso

500 George Street, Sydney

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Quick pit stop. I think their hand might have slipped when they were aerating the milk. 

Gumption

Shop11, the strand arcade

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Standing room only. Their milk jugs have the most angular spouts I have ever seen…but our lattes became flat whites. Not that it’s a big deal that will have me fuming and asking for a refund (did I ever tell you about the time I made a short black for a patron? That incurred a refund.) I just like the creamy froth. Nice cocoa finish.

Usually I’m meticulous about chronological posting, but that hasn’t gone too well recently. Maybe I’ll whisper to you about burgers next, maybe I’ll let the explicit photos at Aria do the seducing. 

Catch you for the next post.

Holy Basil

Shark Hotel
127 Liverpool street, Sydney CBD

WHEN I FIRST read the name in a text from Maria, I thought it was an interjection, a prelude to some infuriating experience she just had. I don’t know, ‘holy’ usually precedes a common expletive when I hear it, and maybe ‘basil’ was just her being a foodie and trying to freshen up old things - the mind works in mysterious ways.

Of course, it turns out to be a restaurant and our first dinner in Sydney. On entry we are almost immediately greeted by a floor staff member who guides us to our table. We’re seated by the massive artwork of Buddha with a protruding nose, a symbol that arguably foreshadows the aromatic meal to befall.

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SOFT SHELL CRAB lightly coated in a special batter, tossed in a salt and pepper mixture, fried and served with 2 kinds of sauces.

Somewhat juicy with ample seasoning enabling it to be enjoyed by itself. I care not for the side embellishments, other than a touch of lemon for a citrus breather.

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ROAST DUCK CURRY (RED) - spicy base of red chilli, sweet chilli, kaffir lime leaves and garlic infused in coconut milk with seasonal vegies

Oh cheesy crusts, this is splendid - thick with spices, immensely fragrant and as smooth as Elvis Costello’s vocals as he croons in exhausted breaths of layered fragility (I just watched the film okay). The curry drenched lychees especially, as the dulcet juices burst and amalgamate with the curry into a triumphant tantrum across the tastebuds. Yet the duck emerges to be the peripheral factor as it has not absorbed its surrounding flavours. 

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GRILLED MARINATED LAMB SHANKS - Lamb shanks in special marinade grilled and served on a bed of stir fried vegetables: beans x zucchini & broccoli

The unwanted card of an otherwise fabulous hand, I’m surprised the lamb shanks are classified as a chef’s special. The outer edges are much too tough, but softens towards the heart of it. Too bad, I enjoy the sweet marinade and the smoky char.

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PINEAPPLE FRIED RICE - Vegetable fried rice with pineapple x tomatoes x onion & cucumber

Once I embrace the deep fried onions, I’m addicted. The exceptional juiciness imparted by the pineapple and currants has me clutching unsuccessfully at the present: it transports me back to the first time I fell in love with this dish, some 7 years ago in a Thai restaurant, in Taiwan. Memory jogs are the best jogs.

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HOLY BASIL FRIED ICE CREAM - Ice cream wrapped in pastry, fried and served with special caramel sauce and coconut crunchies, 

Full marks for textures, the filo pastry is thin and crisp and the ‘crunchies’ add to that. It’s speaking about the flavour that bores me due to its saccharine extremities; there’s no need for extra sugar with the coconut or candied almonds. I would prefer if they opt for a different flavoured ice cream to balance it out, like a dark chocolate or heavy rum and raisin. 

It’s a good first day of stuffing our faces. Later on we find George Sreet’s Aero Cafe & Bar $8 cocktails, before capping the night off with popcorn and Captain America. I swear one day I’ll finish that movie.

Holy Basil on Urbanspoon

Geelong Extravaganza

Held last Sunday July 13, the Geelong Extravaganze showcased some of the region’s finest produce and products. Here’s a quick snapshot:

Originating in Geelong, Cartel coffee has since made its made to Melbourne (off the top of my head, you’ve got Operator 25 and T-Roy Browns). I attended their Coffee Class (they offered some brewed Ethiopian coffee) which was highly informative and very interesting. Like the fact that fully washed coffee is more acidic and there are over 1000 possible flavour compounds in coffee. I definitely should have taken notes throughout the session rather than after :/

Pulled pork bun and crisps. Absolutely saturated with flavour.

The caneles on the other hand, featured burnt bases and yet an enjoyable vanilla custard filling. 

Mmm. Definitely much better weather than the last trip. The festival was very small, but that one coffee class was worth the travel and admission fee. Too bad none of the cafes I wanted to visit were open on a Sunday.

Goodness Me July Box

Goodness Me is a monthly food subscription service. Each month, you receive a box of various goods samples, that “are always natural and GMO-free and which are two or more of the following: Organic, raw, gluten free, dairy free, sugar free, sustainable or vegan.”

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Almost three weeks ago I got my first Goodness Me box delivered to my door (along with my Notemaker order, so that was a double whammy of happiness). Frankly I liked the contents of the June box better, but that’s not to say July didn’t have its merits. I hadn’t intended this as a post originally, so apologies for photo quality.

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ZUCCHINI AND ALMOND FLATS (Fine Fettle)

I’m not sure why I thought to take a photo of the back of this but I’m glad it worked out. These were absentmindedly enjoyed on the plane ride to Sydney, I remember them being almost peppery, but crisp and a great snack.

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CITRUS BODY SCRUB (Raw Wellness)

The moment I set eyes on the little jar I was sold. The ingredients consist of raw sugar and 6 different types of oils - you could actually use this as cooking ingredient. I’m glad Goodness Me introduced me to the simplicity of natural skincare products, I might make this myself after restocking on the ingredients.

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MOJITO SLICE

The recipe was included in the box, which I made on the morning of work instead of rushing out for food court food. It was fabulous on its own with a great nuttiness; even better with a smidge of butter. They keep really well too; I’d continue buying The Ginger People Ginger Syrup just to make this recipe and add it to my daily juices. 

Le Monde Cafe

83 Foveaux Street, Surry Hills

OUR FIRST DAY IN SYDNEY and it was Le Monde that bore the weight of upholding the city’s reputation. That it was located uphill from Central station when we were still lugging our baggage about wasn’t helping its case, but it did its best despite the unfavourable odds. 

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Taller buildings and narrow roads detract from the cafe’s natural luminance entitlement. Furniture the shade of tacky late 80s brown inadvertently lowers my expectation of food quality; Melbourne has done me no good with its ‘aethestic decor = good food’ conditioning.

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Maybe it was the imagined anonymity granted by being in a different city. This Sydney series features a lot more photos of my surroundings.

Sydney showing us a little lovin’. Actually, I was impressed enough with their double decker trains.

PORK BELLY w/ poached eggs x avocado salsa x cherry tomato x garlic puree x cucumber pickles x watercress & toast

Wholly unimpressed. The fat was firm, the pork hadn’t been cooked long enough. Ticks all round for perfect poached eggs.

ZUCCHINI & HALOUMI FRUTTERS w/ roquette x tomato x avocado x cherry tomato x spanish onion salsa and poached egg

There’s 0.25 more cherry tomatoes than advertised on the menu, that’s false advertising haha. There was a good balance between the zucchini and haloumi so that it wasn’t too salty. Cumin helped it along in its claim as my favourite dish of the trio.

POTATO ROSTI w/ smoked salmon x spinach x feta x poached egg x hollandaise sauce & pistachio

I found it too oily, but the resulting crunchiness was too much for me to decline further bites. Overall flavour collaboration was on point.

For our first taste of Sydney, brunch went fairly well. Over the course of the next four days we indulged in all sorts of food pleasures frenetically documented on our Instagrams (apologies if you were offended by the food porn) and I resettled comfortably into the ‘food as social mediator’ mindset. It’s great being able to sample a range of items from the menu and celebrate that in good company :)

Le Monde on Urbanspoon

I got that burger time sadness

8bit.

8 Droop St, Footscray

8bit. is a neat throwback. Your order placard comes as a potted character; while you wait you can relive some classic arcade games. Even the fire extinguisher is guarded by a plushie Mario, though you’d hope he’s still keeping up with his plumbing and mushroom stomping duties and what not.

AFTER BURNER - Beef x Tomato x Red onion x Lettuce x Cheese x Chilli sauce x Jalapeños x Chipotle mayo

We were lucky to snag the last few seats at the bar, which meant a good look at the work chain. Pretty intense stuff, I’ve never seen anyone oggle a burger with that level of dead eyed concentration before. Too bad my burger was about the same standard as HJ’s whopper (thin dry patty, overbearing bun) with barely so much as a baby dragon’s breath of heat. 

8bit. on Urbanspoon

Charlie and Co.

Lvl 3, Emporium
287 Lonsdale Street, Melbourne

I confess I prefer shopping precincts over centres, and don’t give the Emporium nearly the amount of respect it deserves for its level of decency. Well Charlie and Co. eventually got its chance, with mixed levels of enjoyment.

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EL MEXICANO - Wagyu patty x onion rings x cheese x jalapenos x BBQ sauce x smoked chipotle chilli mayonaise

For the most part it was just the bbq sauce doing the sweet talking; chipotle mayo was MIA. Structurally it was a good burger though: soft bun, supple patty and crunchy onion rings.

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We also got some truffle fries and extra onion rings to share. The latter was terrific with a thin batter that produces a resounding crackle as you tear into it, weeping its characteristic sweetness onto your tastebuds. Who’s crying now, onions.

Charlie & Co Burgers on Urbanspoon

Perk Up Burgers on Collins

610 Collins Street, Melbourne 

CHIPOTLE BURGERBlack Angus Beef pattie x Mayo x Lettuce x Smoked dried Jalapeno x Tomato x Pickles

Truly food for thought. Perk Up served a burger reminiscent of the ones served by the tough tuckshop ladies in my primary school years. Initially, I was set on waving it over as boring and inferior compared to other versions served around town, before I figured it was tough judging it completely on the things it wasn’t.

I mean my burger was flavoursome with detectable levels of spice (even if the beetroot and tomato portion was pitiful), just not a champion amongst its kind. There there chipotle burger, I’m sure someone somewhere loves you.

Perkup Burgers on Collins on Urbanspoon

Flight to Geelong

MELBOURNE. As much as I love the city I’ve grown up in, circumstances around this time led to my wish to escape and take flight.  So it was on a particularly long night that seamlessly met with day, I began my V/Line venture at Southern Cross Station. 

All this time I never realised the platforms are further divided into two sections. Metro lady was barking furious when I got on the wrong train…thanks for the heads up I guess. Thankfully I did emerge in Geelong an hour later, where a prolonged walk was eventually usurped by the song of brunch.

A Spot for Joe

33 Little Ryrie St, Geelong

Located on the flip side of the main road, next to a parking lot, it was difficult to pretend I had arrived in a town more jarringly incongruent from where I had just left. Tall window panes allow for filtration of ample sunlight, illuminating the minimalistic furniture. Pot plants and exposed brick walls suggest a more homely side to this smart cafe.

The counter partitions the room with a display of pastries, coffee paraphenalia and other sweets and sandwiches; non-segregation of the kitchen allows the aromas of brunch to freely waft about and tease your senses.

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Brooding in one of those ‘I don’t know what I’m craving’ moods, I eventually settled on Quinoa Porridge, a true winter winner with warm pears, roasted almonds and fragrant honey.

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Beans by Dukes Coffee; goofy grin encouraged by smarties.

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Dessert was a moist carrot cake, while easy on the spices, the whipped cream cheese frosting was gloriously smooth.

A Spot For Joe was a great pit stop in the comparatively quiet town, echoing the city I was so comfortably familiar with.

A Spot for Joe on Urbanspoon

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At the time this picture amused me since I had just watched Kill Your Darlings which, for the most part, I enjoyed. Of course Lucien’s manipulative, apparent guiltlessness coupled with fear and confusion interested me most. I still got away with an interest in the Beat Generation, something I’ve filed away in the mental list of reading material. 

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Eastern Beach is the main attraction at Geelong isn’t it? I’m not sure about the story behind the lifeguard statues, they’re not even facing the right way. Or maybe they are, and theoretically they’ll perceive any potential dangers to befall on the swimmers before they occur.

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Burger Inc.

320 Pakington Street, Newtown

It’s a very casual, relaxed fit out. The tables are far enough apart to impose a ‘bare’ feeling, with the impersonal colour palette ultimately spotlighting the two things that matter most: the people you’re with, and the burger you’re having.

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Having just missed my train, I had an hour to cull, spent making a round trip to Burger Inc. Long story short I went on a shopping spree involving heavy and inconvenient kitchen stuffs and this walk became absolute hell.

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Number Seven -  Beef Burger w/ bacon x beetroot x pineapple x cheddar x salad x aioli

At least the crunchy chips were a comfort. They bring to mind a friend who once told me she resented chips that tasted like potatoes: she would’ve passed on these too.

As for the burger, the pattie was quite dry. I’ve grown accustomed to softer, fluffier buns. If you do eat here, I hope you drove.

Burger Inc. on Urbanspoon

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The round trip included takeaway from James St Bakery. This was the artwork in one of the nearby alleyways, I think the expression is rather marvellous.

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Rhubarb and frangipane tart.

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Assorted macarons. Salted caramel was a let down; good chewy texture otherwise.

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One of my last sights of Geelong. I think silent laughter suffices. Frankly I didn’t feel anymore content after the trip because I couldn’t shy away from the ‘baseline’ perspective. A follow up trip for the Geelong Extravaganza proved more fruitful; write up to come in a definite, just distant, future. 

I promise I’ll treat you to some burgers in between.

Tiba’s Restaurant

504 Sydney Road, Brunswick

Birthdays.

Love ‘em. There’s a wonderful sense of joy and attachment about celebrating the existence of an individual who’s co-evolved with you on a planet of 7 billion, and you’re among the handful who gets to celebrate with them. So really, we’re just as special as the birthday girl haha! 

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To celebrate, we went to Tiba’s on Sydney road. It’s a large restaurant; they accommodated easily to our group of 8. Naturally, it was customer sparse at around 5.30pm, but it quickly filled up and was practically a party by 7 pm. 

They weren’t very thorough with the table setting though - half the table was missing serviettes.

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The wares of restaurants are usually so enticing it’s practically a sin to order the same thing as your companions. 

Somehow we ordered 3 each of the Vegetarian and Mixed Grill platters. Generous serves of meat, salad and dips were heaped across the plates we didn’t even come close to finishing.

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A close up of the vegetarian platter. The felafels were gorgeous and the salad fresh, yet we discovered that yes, it is possible to screw up deep fried cauliflower. 

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The pastry of the spinach and cheese pies were rather tough.

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Service wise the waitress serving us had poor skills, characterised by her obvious annoyance through rolled eyes and provacative prosody. I guess we all have our bad days, and we were unfortunate enough to be subjected to that.

As for the final photo: I don’t know how it came about, but there’s a running gag about potatoes so we got ‘Julian’ as a present and personified him on the operating table. Whoever said you shouldn’t play with your food has obviously never had a food baby.

Quick post to report I am still alive, but more importantly that couscous is tasty and everyone should have more of it. It’s great for those days (read: everyday) where recipes bore me and I just feel like waltzing around the kitchen, throwing ingredients together a la Remy of Ratatouille.Today’s variation is as follows:
Make 1 cup couscous as per packet instructions. Add a splash of lemon juice and apple vinegar; stir thoroughly.
Finely chop 1 brown onion and stir fry until just tender. 
Dice 1/2 an avocado.
Quarter a handful of cherry tomatoes.
Roughly chop the kale.
Toast some walnuts. I like using the sandwich press.
Break up some feta over the saucepan of couscous.
Add everything to the couscous and stir well. Serve with a sprinkle of MUMA Raw Core Love.


Off to watch How To Train Your Dragon 2. Happy Monday!

Quick post to report I am still alive, but more importantly that couscous is tasty and everyone should have more of it. It’s great for those days (read: everyday) where recipes bore me and I just feel like waltzing around the kitchen, throwing ingredients together a la Remy of Ratatouille.Today’s variation is as follows:

  1. Make 1 cup couscous as per packet instructions. Add a splash of lemon juice and apple vinegar; stir thoroughly.
  2. Finely chop 1 brown onion and stir fry until just tender. 
  3. Dice 1/2 an avocado.
  4. Quarter a handful of cherry tomatoes.
  5. Roughly chop the kale.
  6. Toast some walnuts. I like using the sandwich press.
  7. Break up some feta over the saucepan of couscous.
  8. Add everything to the couscous and stir well. Serve with a sprinkle of MUMA Raw Core Love.
Off to watch How To Train Your Dragon 2. Happy Monday!

Ziggy’s Eatery

195 Carlisle St, Balaclava

How many blogs have you visited before arriving at this one? Sometimes I get carried away looking through places on Urbanspoon too, so I’m taken aback when friends recommend places I’ve never heard of. I guess it’s statements like these that unintentionally come across as pretentious haha.

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Funnily enough said friend, K, who brought and myself here is particularly health conscious (you can read some of her great articles here). Guys I’m flattered to be considered as a binge eating companion but I’m open to trying extended health binges too you know :P

Jokes aside, Ziggy’s is a cool joint located a short walk from Balaclava Station. 

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Space is limited. The interior is predominantly occupied by one large table at the back and a few 3-seaters opposite the kitchen.

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Hot Bikini Hot Pineapple & Chipotle Relish

Since Denise from Huxtaburger, I’ve been on the lookout for other great chilli burger options. The Hot Bikini was pleasing with the increasingly ubiquitous brioche bun. I would have liked more salad. but my prime problem was with the relish which was just removed from the fridge and offered unwelcome temperature contrasts. It was also incredibly runny and had virtually abandoned the burger ship for the cardboard boat. 

There would have been less mess if the pineapple came in a ring rather than pieces, otherwise my experiment with the 'scientifically proven way of eating a burger' would have resulted in full support for the hypothesis.

So what’s the verdict? K and A were impressed with their burgers (and K’s been here multiple times), so I’m inclined for a second burger since the fundamental elements were down pat. 

Ziggys Eatery on Urbanspoon