Thursday, June 30, 2011

Eat. @ Porgie + Mr Jones

291 Auburn Rd, Hawthorn 3122 ph : (03) 9882 2955

Firstly let me apologise for the strange tinge to the photos.  I didn't realise that the Macaron Monster is quite capable of changing the lens option on Hipstamatic until after we left!

Porgie + Mr Jones is the (big) sister eatery started by the same wonderful crew of Friends of Mine and Snow Pony.  We found a similar high quality of coffee and food at this lovely little shop, giving those in the Hawthorn area a fantastic little shop as their "local".

A variety of jams and drinks for sale, with their own range of relishes and chutneys.

Macaron Monster and I were seated at a communal table near the wall, with Bubs in Pram parked adjacent/behind me. The shop is fairly crowded and a pram can be difficult to manoeuvre, but this was made up by the friendly staff and their enthusiasm to keep us comfortable.  Certainly very tolerant of me + 2, although not extremely kid-friendly due to limited floor space.  A door at the back of the store, as in Snow Pony, opens into a warren of small dining "rooms" but we did not venture that far into the store.

The menu is very similar to that of the other 2 eateries.  The McPorgie is identical to the McPony @ Snow Pony.   I decided to go for the Smashed Avocado with Thyme Buttered Mushrooms, Marinated Feta and Tomato Basil on Wholegrain Toast.  An unusual choice for me as I'm no fan of the fungus, but Smashed Avocado is so the new black of breakfast dishes nowadays, so how could I not give it a go.  The avocado, mushrooms and feta went smashingly well together *cheeky grin*.  A lovely mix of soothing avocado and earthy, buttery mushrooms, countered by the salty bite of the feta.  A hit with the Macaron Monster, who usually doesn't like anything but poached eggs and ham!

The Mocha cannot be faulted, comparable to the high standards I've experienced at Mr Jones' other Eateries.

The freshly squeezed orange juice was lovely and sweet, served in a good sized quaint brown bottle, adored by the Macaron Monster, and at $4.50, much better value than the one at Cornelius.

Eat.Play.Shop. Recommends : the Smashed Avocado.  A new favourite ;)
Give it a Miss : again, if you want to pay by credit.  This is cash only.

Porgie and Mr Jones on Urbanspoon

Highchair - No
Toilets - Yes

Monday, June 27, 2011

Batch # 11 - Blueberry White Chocolate Ganache Macarons

Brand new flavour to try for Batch Number 11.  I wanted to try a different berry with the white chocolate ganache, and settled on some blueberry jam I found at the shops the other day.  The new color mixing didn't go as planned.  I was going to make them blue, as I want to make some blue macarons as part of a later project.  However the artificial blue color scared me a bit so I added some pink and they came out mauve.  I forgot my previous rule that the color will fade after baking, so some of them were more shades of grey rather than purple after their stint in the oven. 

Lovely shade of mauve just after piping.

The other thing that happened was that somehow a small amount of moisture got into my food processor as I was processing the almond meal.  This was terrible as the almond meal came out clumpy.  I swear it was clean and dry - and shows how the tiniest amount of moisture can wreck the TPT!

Almond Meal Fail!

Okay, onto some positives!  The texture was very nice this time round, and because my ganache was a bit warmer and runnier than usual, the macarons matured much quicker and within 24 hours they were perfect for eating.   In fact I'm going to go and have a cuppa and a macaron now ;)

Lessons Learned -
  • Absolutely important to keep food processor and mixer both dry and clean, as the TPT and the meringue are both very sensitive to moisture.
  • Good quality ingredients are very important.  I'm not very impressed with this lot of blueberry jam so far.  Next time I'm going to get fresh blueberries and make my own, but currently they are going for $10 for the tiniest punnet at my local greengrocers and I need a few punnets...... so will have to wait till the prices comes down somewhat!

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Eat. @ Limelight Cafe

352 Blackburn Road, Doncaster East 3109 ph : (03) 9841 0511

There have been many Italian Restaurants which have come and gone in the building that now houses this new, eye-catchingly lime-green cafe.  Every time we've driven past the place it always looks quite busy, and out of curiosity we came to check it out and to see whether it's finally a "keeper".  Having read a quite a few discouraging reviews, we were pleasantly surprised by both the service and the food that we had for lunch today.

The dining area consists of 3 zones - indoors, "out-door room", and outside.  Being a cold, windy winter day we (wisely) opted to be seated indoors.  The staff were friendly, efficient and certainly very helpful with all our requests. We arrived at midday and there was only a handful of occupied tables initially, but within 30 minutes the place was filled with grandparents catching up with grandkids, real estate agents and retirees having lunch.

We put in our orders and the food was served within 10 minutes, which is always good when dining with little ones.  We ordered the Arancini which was a starter, which was a generous serve of 3 cheesy rice balls served with Napoli sauce for $12.90.  I knew Macaron Monster loves this, and it was a hit.

They have several kids menu items including fish, parma, cheesburger and lasagne, all served with chips, at $9.90.  We ordered the lamb kebab with chips which was a good sized serve and was very tasty, but might have a touch too much garlic for the little ones.  Yes I kind of cheated and ordered this dish more for me, considering I knew that my arancini was to be shared!

Their Mocha was a bit below average.  Again perhaps because I've now been spoilt by the high standard of coffee in Melbourne.

I love the "Coffee is my life" detail on the saucer!

Bottled orange juice was $3.50 a bottle which is quite reasonable for a cafe.

They had an awesome display of desserts, which is what prompted us to order small meals instead of their larger selection of mains which included steak, risottos, salads, burgers and even lamb shanks.  

I haven't made macarons for a while and the Macaron Monster of course requested some of their very colorful macarons.  Not a fantastic choice unfortunately, as the macarons had rather dry and hard shells, a fairly solid filling, and ate more like a cookie despite us resting the macaron to bring it back to room temperature.

Chocolate Orange and Bubblegum flavoured Macarons.
I'm still trying to figure out how to infuse bubblegum flavour into the filling...

Macaron Monster had trouble just biting into it - they were more than 5cm in height!  The inside showed really thick crust and a crumbly centre.  It is saying something when my Macaron Monster refuses to finish a macaron....... and they cost $2.90 each!

Ample parking and proximity to the Playdays Play Centre makes this a very attractive spot for families, hopefully we can see consistency in the food and service, and finally this area might have a "keeper" of a cafe. 

Eat.Play.Shop. Recommends : having lunch here after a morning of play next door.
Give it a Miss : oh most definitely those macarons! 

Limelight Cafe on Urbanspoon

Toilets - Yes
Highchairs - Yes, Ikea type

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Eat. @ Duchess of Spotswood

87 Hudsons Rd, Spotswood, 3015 ph : (03) 9391 6016

Queen's Birthday lunch at the Duchess of Spotswood.  The British-Royalty-Trivia-Lover in me did a thousand little excited jumps on the spot at how fitting a day this was for us to cross the bridge and venture to the other side of town to try this "destination cafe".

We had a short wait while the staff cleaned up the table for us.  I had actually checked whether they were kid-friendly (using twitter no less!) and was promptly answered so I knew they welcomed families but they had no highchairs.  They also have a basketful of toys and books for entertaining the kids.  We were seated on the outside table so we brought the pram out from the car, and Bubs was happy!

I loved, loved, loved all the cute names of the dishes on the menu.  The breakfast menu had dishes called  Stormin' Norman, which is griddled ham with house made beans, fried egg and hand cut chips; and  Poetry (in Motion), which is warm prunes, walnut, orange zest, yoghurt, and home made oat biscuit.  Then there are all day items like the Idle Tongues, which is crispy ox tongue with soft semolina, wild mushrooms and deep fried smoked egg; the Duchess of Pork (hahaha) which is crispy pig's jowl with fried egg, rich truffle sauce and sour dough toast; and the Scotch Woodcock, which is scrambled eggs with gentlemen's relish and white anchovy fillet.  In the end we actually opted to have the lunch menu as it was getting past noon.

I had one of the specials of the day, which was Wagyu Shin, with a madeira and red wine sauce, with soft semolina, root vegetables and field mushrooms.  This is one of the best dishes I have ever had.  The flavour of the sauce was intense, interesting and a perfect match to the tender wagyu.  The vegetables, mushroom and semolina complemented the meat, but were outstanding by themselves.  I didn't get to eat half the dish because my kids absolutely loved this and polished off most of it - my Little One and I are now campaigning for this to be made a regular dish and we want to come up with a cool, British and royal name for it!

Hubby had the Gamekeeper's Lunch, which included housemade pheasant terrine, duck ham, twice smoked ham, smoked venison loin, pickles and sourdough with relish.  An unusual choice for him, but he quite liked it (he called it "cute") and polished the whole thing off.  My favourite part was probably the duck ham.

The kids shared the Oxtail Soup, but since they ate most of my lunch, I had the pleasure of eating (and wearing - see later) most of theirs.  This was a very intensely flavoured beef broth, and came with 2 pieces of buttery toast.  Ah, I had almost forgotten how much I like traditional British food.

We enjoyed dining outside in the hotter than usual winter weather.  We ordered some of their homemade lemonade, which was refreshing and not too sweet or sour.

Hubby had his usual cappucino, which was good.  We are so spoilt in Melbourne with most cafes serving pretty decent cups.

Being a "British" meal, I had a lovely pot of tea.  Plus I wanted to have it with some of the awesome cakes on display, which the waitress told me were all baked on the day.

Our table was on a slight slant due to the pavement outside the shop.  Unfortunately this, coupled with my clumsy Macaron Monster, meant that half the soup got knocked over all over me.  Happy to report though, that they have a spacious bathroom, and they even have a change table!  I smelt pretty tasty for the rest of the day!

Unfortunately it also meant I couldn't sit down and enjoy dessert with a leisurely cuppa, so I took away a ginger cupcake with me.  This was awesome (should have bought more as we had to fight over share this in the car!)  Interest in cup-cake baking now renewed!

A most lovely meal.  I think we will have to cross over the Westgate more often for food like this!
Eat.Play.Shop. Recommends :  The awesome awesome awesome Wagyu Shin (did I mention it was awesome?)
Give it a Miss : No complaints really, maybe something to make the table outside less slanty?

Duchess of Spotswood on Urbanspoon

Toilets - yes, and also a change table
Highchairs - No

I am very honoured to have been given the opportunity to do a guest review for Little Eats who have an awesome website on cafe culture for little ones!  Here's the post I did for them, and check out the Little Eats website for more great kid-friendly cafes to visit!

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Eat. @ Cacao Fine Chocolates

Ground level, Melbourne GPO, Melbourne
Westfield Doncaster, 1st floor, Kiosk 107, 619 Doncaster Rd, Doncaster
(near the Apple Shop)

Suffering from Macaron-making fatigue, we bought some macarons for afternoon when we were out doing a spot of stocktake shopping at Westfield Doncaster the other day.

Apart from macarons, of course Cacao makes a large range of
 fine chocolates and seasonal products.

The macarons at Cacao always look very well made and delicious.  Brightly colored, multi-flavoured, enticingly arranged in their special macaron display cases, I'm always tempted to get one when we walk past.  It took me a while to try these, being a bit apprehensive about chain-store type sweets and baked goods.

The macarons we got were lovely.  From left, we had passion fruit, salted caramel, raspberry and lemon.  Each of the flavours were very distinct, and the shells had a nice bite to it.  The chewiness was a bit variable.  The Salted Caramel was our favourite (maybe we just like this flavour?).  However I still prefer the ones at La Belle Miette.  Cacao's not a bad option though if you're in the 'burbs.  Prices are comparable at $2.50 a macaron.

We've also had them from the Cacao store at Melbourne GPO - macarons are great for dessert after lunch at Kenzan@GPO!  The quality is much the same as the store at Doncaster.  (Don't have any pictures of those sorry - disappeared too quickly!)

Eat.Play.Shop. Recommends - the Salted Caramel macaron
Give it a miss - will let you know if I find an unpleasant flavour, none so far!

Cacao Fine Chocolates and Patisserie on Urbanspoon
Cacao Fine Chocolates & Patisserie (Doncaster) on Urbanspoon

Monday, June 20, 2011

Eat. @ Salotti Del Cafe

Eastland Shopping Centre, 171 - 175 Maroondah Highway, Ringwood 3134

I don't think Eastland Shopping Centre is famed for its food.  The Food Court has the usual suspects of fast food joints and Asian take-outs.  Salotti Del Cafe, sitting just outside of the Myer Entrance near the ABC shop, has surprisingly pleasant fare for those not wanting the fried food option.  They offer a good range of wraps, Turkish bread rolls, pies, cakes and desserts.

The wraps are very reasonably priced at $6.50.  The chicken with cos lettuce is like a Caesar Salad in a wrap, and really quite pleasant and a pretty good low carb option.

Their Turkish breads come with a variety of fillings.  We had the kid-friendly chicken version but have had the turkey breast and cranberry before and found them both quite pleasant.  Would have liked a little bit more filling, but not a bad bite over all.

Coffee and Tea are not outstanding but quite palatable.  (Mind you I think I've been totally spoiled by the awesome coffees I've had at other places like Seven Seeds and St Ali.  I DO love the design on their table tops though!

The kids adore the poffertjes.  These little dutch pancakes are very moreish and we liked ours with berry coulis and ice-cream.

Eat.Play.Shop. Recommends :  the poffertjes, good with a cup of tea!
Give it a Miss : I wouldn't travel across town to dine at Eastland.

Salotti Del Cafe on Urbanspoon