Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Eat. @ Friends of Mine

506 Swan St, Richmond 3121 ph : (03) 9428 7516

This sister eatery to Balwyn's Snow Pony is just beyond cute.  On my way to Ikea, Bubs, Macaron Monster and I stopped by for a quick brunch.  I love the decor of this cafe, with its eclectic mix of opulent chandeliers, slightly mismatched chairs, white linen and cute signs, it exudes a cute balance of quirk, class and cosiness.

We were promptly seated and the staff was very helpful with the pram.  I noticed a couple of other mums with toddlers coming in for a bite, amongst the tables with "business people" having their "business meetings" over cups of coffee in the mid-morning. (Gotta get me a job like that!)

The Pick. Me. Up. Please is a cute little breakfast roll (like the McPony at Snow Pony) with lovely bacon and eggs, for $5.50.  It worked out to be the perfect little roll for the my Macaron Monster.  In fact she was so full after eating most of this that we didn't end up having a macaron!

My Baguette with Liza's Coronation Chicken, Mango Chutney and Coriander was very pleasant.  The condiments give the roll a nice fresh taste, which balances out the substantial amount of curry chicken.  A very filling brunch for $11.90.  I took about a third of it away for a snack in the afternoon.

My Hot Chocolate came in a good-sized glass and was near perfect in its chocolatey goodness and generous milky froth top. 

Reservations are displayed on scrabble tile holders, too cute!

There are sweets, cakes and macarons on display which all look very appetising.  Unfortunately we were in a rush and were quite full, so we did not get to sample any.  I would love to come back for an afternoon tea at some stage!

Eat.Play.Shop. Recommends : a great option if you're in the Richmond area.  Have not sampled enough to make a definite recommendation, but there is a great brekkie menu, plus other items from baguettes and mac & cheese, to bubble and squeak, duck confit and shepard's pie.
Give it a miss : if you must use your credit card - cash only!
Friends of Mine on Urbanspoon

Toilets - Yes

Monday, May 30, 2011

Play. @ Healesville Sanctuary

Healesville Sanctuary offers a fantastic opportunity to experience and learn about Australia flora and fauna for both young and old.  We headed there for a fun day out with a bunch of our good mates and our growing bunch of littlies on a recent public holiday. 

When I told my Little Ones that we're going to Healesville Sanctuary and in an effort to entertain them while I packed I asked them to draw me some animals. I was given a lovely list with pictures of elephants, giraffes and crocodiles.  Initially this surprised me, but it also highlighted to me that, as a parent, it is very important to educate our kids about our native animals and wildlife.

It's like taking a lovely long walk through the bush, but on concrete paths, and the wildlife is not so wild.  The Sanctuary looks after a large range of Australian animals, in as natural a habitat as they can achieve. (But obviously the fencing is necessary both for ours and THEIR safety!) 

An interesting shot of the animal hospital.  Is that a handheld vacuum on the operating table?

If the kids still have a lot of energy left over there is a giant bouncy trampoline thing that certainly occupied OUR little ones for quite a while!

The Bird show in the afternoon was a highlight. 

The Wipe for Wildlife campaign mascot/superhero "CrapMan" was on hand to encourage us to use recycled toilet paper.  (My Little One remembered him from the Zoo!)

Eat.Play.Shop. Recommends : this is a fantastic place to see native Australian animals. 
Give it a Miss : well I personally didn't think the Deep Sea area was very impressive.  Probably biased by the fact we used to have membership at the Aquarium though....

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Eat. @ The Maling Room

206 Canterbury Rd (Corner Maling Rd), Canterbury ph : (03) 9836 9889

The businesses on Maling Rd, in the heart of Canterbury, still have that old fashioned charm of local shops with that slight sense of exclusivity due to its location.  The Maling Room sits at the entrance to Maling Rd and is a well known coffee-orientated cafe in the area.

I was given a kids menu, which is always a good sign that they are welcomed. 

My Little One wanted the fairy bread and this was a fairly robust serving that was quickly gobbled down.   Breakfast at home had been cereal so this was an extra treat.

Unfortunately my experience of my meal on the day we visited did not meet the expectations of what I had read about prior to our trip there.  My mocha was very disappointing - it was more like a bitter cappuccino with a generous sprinkle of chocolate powder.  Perhaps they do a better latte, espresso or cappuccino, but for the first time I couldn't finish my coffee.

The Eggs Benedict with Smoked Salmon looked very nice and came with a generous amount of baby spinach (which made me feel healthier!)  Unfortunatelymy actual order was for EB with the bacon rather than the smoked salmon. (The waiter dude seemed distracted and had already come back once to confirm that I didn't order a babycino)  I didn't complain as my Little One had already finished the fairy bread, and having waited 20 minutes for my meal I didn't want to wait any longer for another.  Having said that, the Eggs Benedict was not bad, however I would  have liked  a bit more Hollandaise sauce than was given.

The cafe itself was quite roomy, and there's room for prams.  Beware though, there are a couple of substantial steps leading up to the front door, and then another step into the cafe, and they can be a killer if you're alone with the pram. 

Eat.Play.Shop. Recommends : using the Entertainment Book voucher here as there's 25% off.
Give it a Miss :  hoping that I just happened to have had a bad coffee since they seem very fastidious with their coffee preparation in the articles I've read.....

The Maling Room on Urbanspoon

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Shop. @ Daiso Doncaster

Westfield Doncaster, 619 Doncaster Road (Cnr Williamsons Rd), Doncaster VIC 3108
Ground Level, Next to Fish Pier and Opposite China Bar

Daiso opened its second Australian store in Westfield Doncaster today.  No more having to drive all the way to Richmond, for those who live in the Eastern suburbs!  The other advantage over its sister store at The Hive is that parking is free for 3 hours here. 

This Daiso store seems a bit more spacious than its older sister in Richmond.  Most of the aisles are wide enough for a pram; however, there are a few "baskets" of wares in some of the aisles which can make for an interesting obstacle course.  And if there are a few prams and elderly citizens with frames in the shop (as there were today) there can be a bit of a pram jam!  Still best to put bubs in a sling if possible!

The wares available are similar, and being the first day of opening, the shelves are well stocked.   Lots and lots of goodies for the kids, and for me also!  Top buys are eating and cooking utensils, storage boxes and baskets of all shape and sizes, and of course the kawaii stationery!  Okay, I love knick knacks so pretty much the whole store is great, and at $2.80 each item it's way too easy to buy waaaaay too much!  I won't post too many photos as it's all very similar to the ones I posted on my original post on Daiso in Richmond.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Eat. @ St Ali

18 Yarra Place, South Melbourne ph : 9686 2990

St Ali was one of the first places we visited, prior to marriage, babies and prams, that centred on coffee - the simple yet intricate process of coffee appreciation, from the sourcing and roasting of the beans, to the delicate coffee art.  Fast forward 8 years on, we have had all of the above, and St Ali has also undergone a few changes.  No longer under the helm of Mark Dundon, with a much bigger menu and larger, more crowded dining area, St Ali has become a must-visit for Melbourne coffee fanatics.  Yet the sense of familiarity is still there, with the casual white washed walls of the warehouse, the smell of the coffee, and the casual friendly staff.

This is the best mocha I have had in recent memory.  So smooth, perfect amount of chocolate, and not a hint of bitterness.  I never have more than one coffee at a time but for the first time I was soooo tempted to have another!

The Pork Me - Crispy Pork Belly Baguette with pickled cucumber, carrot, coriander, spinach and wasabi mayonnaise was delicious but extremely filling.  Much like the pork belly sandwich I had at Proud Mary, I could only eat half and I was stuffed!  The accompaniments gave the baguette a fresh taste, and was reminiscent of the Vietnamese Pork Rolls you can get on Victoria St.  However this was much more expensive - at $20.90 this is much more than I would pay for an average lunch!

Lots of other things to try on the menu.  From brekkie fare like muesli to full on lunch items including soup, pizza, and burgers, all with cute names like Moo Sanga (scotch fillet sandwich), Oceans Eleven (fish and chips), Chickadee (chicken burger) and Dutch Oven (beans and toast, hahahaha!)  There are sweet things available at the counter for a light snack with your drink.

The staff were all extremely friendly and helpful.  There are however 2 steps at the front which can be challenging with a pram, but the other patrons all seem very casual and helpful and I had lots of help getting the pram in and out of the front door.

Eat.Play.Shop. Recommends - The Mocha!
Give it a Miss - for the slightly exorbitant prices.

St Ali on Urbanspoon

Toilets - yes, but no change facilities

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Eat. @ Snow Pony

95 Whitehorse Rd, Balwyn ph : 9816 8911

Having been to quite a few interesting and cool cafes that serve good coffee and great brekkie/brunch/lunches in the inner suburbs, it's great to see that Snow Pony lives up to similar standards while being much more travel-friendly to Eastern Suburbanites.

Having never been here before, I ran in to check for the availability of a pram friendly table before Hubby got our precious luggage out of the car.  The waitress was very friendly and helpful and found us a spot in the semi-outdoor corridor seating area towards the back of the cafe.  Snow Pony is divided into little dining areas, with 3 table-for-twos on the side walk, main dining area in the shop, a few cosy little rooms coming off the corridor seating area, and a few communal tables in small courtyard out the back.  It was a bit chilly out the back today, but baby was rugged up and it made us appreciate the warm drinks and hearty food all the more.

Hubby had the Giddy Up, which is the Snow Pony Big Breakfast.  The "Happy Eggs" come as you like it, and he had them poached (so very in vogue right now!)  These were done very well, with the gooey centre oozing out over the crunchy bread as you cut through the firm egg white.  My favourite bit of this dish has to be the smashed avocado.  Simply done with a bit of lemon juice and a dash of pepper, it gave the hearty breakfast a tangy freshness. 

The cappuccino came with the now expected pretty latte art.  Hubby felt it was a little bit too cool, but was otherwise a fine coffee.

The McPony, which is the Snow Pony "McMuffin", was not exorbitant at $4.90.  A comforting arrangement of ham off the bone, emmental cheese, and "creamy dreamy scrambles" between 2 perfectly toasted english muffins, this was very pleasant.  For some reason I kept thinking this would be pretty good as the perfect brekkie for a hangover!?  I just felt it was missing something, and it hit the spot after I stole a bit of smashed avocado and roasted tomato from Hubby.

My choice of a small savoury item like the McPony was made because I wanted to have some scones and tea.  Their lemonade scones were served with Bonne Maman 4 fruits jam and Chantilly cream, and went fantastically with a pot of English breakfast tea.

I've read a few negative reviews for Snow Pony, but based on our visit today, we were very happy with the service and the food we ordered, and will definitely return.  We had a 25% discount by using an Entertainment Book Voucher, and the normal prices are comparable to most inner suburb cafes offering the same fare, which mostly do not offer discounts with any programs.

Eat.Play.Shop. Recommends : The Giddy Up for big eaters.  The scones were great for any time of day.
Give it a Miss :  if you want to use your credit card.  It's cash only!

Snow Pony on Urbanspoon

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Batch #9 - Salted Caramel Popcorn & Sweet Orange Macarons

A few weeks' rest from making macarons.  Now to try some new flavours!  Very excited to see the glossy peaks I'm getting in the meringue!

The Salted Caramel Popcorn is my first endeavour to add flavours to the shell during baking.  Previously the shell is flavoured by the migration of moisture from the filling into the shell during maturation in the fridge.  To get the popcorn flavour, I replaced a small amount of almond meal with the same amount of ground up popcorn, which I had smashed up in the food processor.  The 'popcorn meal' seemed to absorb more moisture than the almond meal, and my TPT turned out a bit dry and thick.  In a last moment of brilliance (read :desperation!) I added in a little bit of extra egg white.  I think I went a little overboard as the macronage ended up slightly more runny than I'd like, but the macarons tasted fine.  Hubby said the popcorn flavour needed to be a bit stronger, so I will endeavour to rectify this in the next batch!

The caramel turned out better this time as compared to Batch 6.  I forgot to put in the salt as I was piping, so I sprinkled a little of the sea salt onto the filling after I piped them onto the shells.  Fortunately the results were still good!

The Salted Caramel turns a lighter color after being whipped.
Onto a new citrus flavour.  The Sweet Orange macarons did not come out as tangy as the lemon or lime ones (therefore SWEET orange!)  I used a mixture of orange zest, orange juice and a tiny bit of orange essence to flavour the butter cream.  I generally don't like using flavour essences as I find it tends to leave an after taste in the mouth.

Lessons Learned :
  • I now understand why most cooks don't like to flavour the shells as it can be a bit tricky!  Having extra egg white on hand can help you achieve a good macronage consistency if you find it's a bit thick.  Obviously it helps if you've made this a few times and know what consistency you'd like to achieve!
  • The color orange requires a bit more yellow than red when color mixing!!!