August 30, 2009

Cupcakes in Melbourne

Competing in the cupcake challenge has intensified my already insatiable appetite for cupcakes, recently Daz and I decided to go on a grand cupcake tour of Melbourne, for research purposes of course. I searched the Internet for anything cupcake related that existed in Melbourne. We set out early in the morning, had some breakfast, bad mistake, then proceeded to eat our own weight in cupcakes, along the way we almost made ourselves violently ill from eating too much frosting. So here's what we tried.

Little Cupcakes
Shop 7 Degraves Street Melbourne

little cupcakes shop front

No cupcake tour would be complete without making a stop at the infamous little cupcakes. So we started at the best and worked our way through my list. We tried a selection of mini cupcakes. My thought process was, they're tiny so I can eat more of them. They are $2.50 each or $2 each if you purchase 4 or more, and everything you buy is served with the most friendly smile you will ever see. Top score for customer service! We tried, cookies and cream, strawberry, Belgium chocolate and chocolate mocha.

little cupcakes

cookies and cream cupcake
Cookies and Cream Cupcake

chocolate mocha cupcake
Chocolate Mocha Cupcakes

belgium chocolate cupcake
Belgium Chocolate Cupcakes

strawberry cupcake
Strawberry Cupcakes

Every single one was delicious! The frosting was so light that it wasn't sweet at all. I had intended on only consuming half, but I just had to eat all of them right there and then. My favourite was the strawberry, so full flavoured and cute with its little silver balls.

The Cupcake Bakery
495 Collins Street Melbourne

cupcake bakery shop front

A relatively new addition to Melbourne, this bakery was first started in Sydney. A friend of mine had been to the bakery the week before and warned to stay away from the Chocolate cupcakes, she thought they were a bit dry. We tried the Choc Mint (Standard - $3.50) and Tiramisu (Delux - $4.50).

tiramisu cupcake

The service at the cupcake bakery is fantastic. I got into a conversation with the owner about cupcakes, and even told her I was a food blogger, something I don't do often from fear of being attacked. They even have a massive cupcake on display!

giant cupcake from cupcake bakery

So we grabed our cupcakes and sat down to enjoy the cakey goodness. I would love to say that the choc mint cupcakes were wonderful, but unfortunately it was a little dry.

choc mint cupcake

dissected choc mint cupcake

The tiramisu was moist and very tasty. It was a little on the dense side, something that is good in a mud cupcake, but I don't think this cupcake was intended for that purpose. I doggy bagged half of my choc mint cupcake, I thought it would be best to save my stomach at the early stay in the tour.

dissected tiramisu cupcake

Let Them Eat Cake
147-149 Cecil Street, South Melbourne

let them eat cake cupcakes

We didn't actually get to sample any of the cupcakes at Let Them Eat Cake. Whenever I go somewhere food related, I usually ask if I can take a courtesy. I don't have to explain why I take photos, I just don't want to surprise anyone and make them upset. At let them eat cake I was so excited about all the pretty cakes in front of me that I totally forgot to ask if I could take photos. I took two snaps and then I was attacked. And I'm not kidding. I had heard that they were pretty rude at let them eat cake, but the lady behind the counter exceeded rude! She told me off for taking photos, even after I apologised, she still attacked me. She demanded I delete the photos from my camera, which I wasn't going to to. I still wanted to order something and thought that she would put it behind her, but as I was ordering she was still talking down to me and pointing out what a "bad thing" I had down. I didn't want to be spoken to that way any longer, even after I had said I was sorry, so Daz and I left empty handed. As Daz and I were walking out she was still screaming across the counter at us, with a shop full of people! I've decided that I'm going to go back, buy some cupcakes, then take photos of her and the inside of the shop from the street. I'll be on public property there so she wont have any say. Ha Ha.....take that rude cake lady!

let them eat cake cupcakes 2

Crabapple Cupcakes
Shop 6/163 Commercial Road, Prahran Market

crabapple cupcakes shop front

I like crabapple cupcakes. Most of their cupcakes are quite dense and if you get them fresh, they are delicious. I've been to crabapple cupcakes a couple of times and every time I always seem to get the raspberry white chocolate mud cupcakes...mainly due to the frosting I wish I could make frosting like that! So on this occasion we tried the raspberry white chocolate mud, lamington and flourless chocolate mud cupcakes.

crabapple cupakes

lamington cupcake
Lamington Cupcake

raspberry and white chocolate mud cupcake
Raspberry and White Chocolate Mud Cupcake

flourless chocolate cupcake
Fourless Chocolate Mud Cupcake.

I was a little disappointed in the lamington cupcake. To me it just tasted like a vanilla cupcake with chocolate frosting and coconut sprinkles, nothing like a laminton at all. I dont know why, maybe t needs a really fluffy light sponge cake with a oozzy chocolate sauce. It was still really nice, just not like a lamington.

crab apple price board

Planet Chocolate
Highpoint Shopping Centre L03 7326, Highpoint, 200 Rosamond Road, Maribyrnong

planet chocolate cupcakes

Whatever you do, never...and I mean NEVER buy cupcakes from Planet Chocolate. Yes they look kinda cute and have the potential to quench a cupcake thirst, but they do the exact opposite. I asked the girl behind the counter what flavour she had and it was a choice between vanilla and chocolate. I decided on vanilla. When I asked her what type of frosting it was she told me it was cream cheese so I was sold. She Literally threw the two cupcakes into a bag, I was worried they would get damaged and look terrible. To my luck they were as hard as a rock and could have been tossed off the top of a 3 storey building and still stay intact.

planet chocolate vanilla cupcakes 2

The cream cheese frosting was not cream cheese at all. It tasted like a big wad of lard, and no cream cheese frosting I know could withstand a nuclear attack. Lesson learnt, keep walking past Planet chocolate.
planet chocolate vanilla cupcakes
Peterson's Cakes
117 Chapel St, Windsor

On our way to crabapple we drove past Peterson's Cakes, and saw a lovely wedding cake made entirely out of cupcakes which apparently is all the rage now. I was pretty sure that they they didn't sell cupcakes over the counter, but the store on chapel street has a cafe section and Daz was a little thirsty, so we stopped in for a look see.

petersons cakes shop front

I walked all the way around the shop and saw no cupcakes. Sigh. Daz had a drink and a little rest on a chair, then I got up to pay the bill when low and behold I saw it. The last cupcake left in the entire shop. Yes it was more of a patty cake than a cupcake, and yeah it was a little worse for wear, but I gotta give it a try right....I'm on a cupcake tour, I just have to. I handed over my $2 for the patty cake/cupcake. I sat it down, had a good look at it and then ate it. It was really nice. I total surprise. Despite it probably being older than me, it was pretty moist and the icing was nice. The taste reminded me of cupcakes my mum and I used to make when I was little. It was good, ugly, but good.

vanilla cupcake

After exiting Peterson's Cakes, Daz told me he had to give up. His head was hurting and he was a little sugared out. I could have kept going for ages, it was only 2pm, the day was still young. I still had more places on my list to visit, but for the sake of our relationship, we drove home and Daz had a rest. He promised that next weekend we could finish the tour. The other locations are;

Sweet Source in Carlton
The Replete Providore in Hawthorn
Cooks Food in Toorak (not sure about this one)
Switchboard cafe off collins street,
Lounge Bar Cafe on Swanston street
Sophisticakes of Melbourne @ The Arts Center Sunday Market (my review here)
Wild Holly Cakes in Brigton.
Ferguson Plarre Bakehouses
Happy home Made cupcakes (my review here)
Cupcakes by Paolo (my review here)
Amsterdam St cafe in Richmond for Sugadeaux Cupcakes
I've even been told that Costco have cupcakes, so I'll have to try them!

So stay tuned for part two of the cupcake tour, In the meantime, do you have any suggestions of cupcake venues I should try?

August 25, 2009

2010 Gourmet Traveller Awards

Today the post man bought me a surprise, the 2010 Gourmet Traveller Australian restaurant guide. I did what I do every year, opened the guide, took a red pen and marked off all the restaurants I've visited. In the space of 2 minutes I went from eating at 17 top 100 restaurants to 14. Bugger! I've just gone backwards! Well I look at it this way, I have even more places on my list to visit, and that cant be a bad thing.

For all the information on the awards winners and a complete list of the top 100 visit the gourmet traveller website. I've also updated the top 100 list on this blog.

And so starts another list to get through, how many top 100's have you tried?

August 23, 2009

Taxing Dining Room

Dining Date: August 2009
2009 Rating: 87th
2009 Star rating: 1
Chef: Michael Lambie
Location: Level 1, Transport Hotel, Federation Square, Cnr Flinders & Swanston Streets
Melbourne Victoria

taxi dining room 1

Taxi dining room is located at federation square in the heart of the Melbourne CBD. We ventured out to the city on a particularly nice day, the sun was shining, the weather was warm and I was feeling flirty. So I put on a dress and some nice high heels. It seemed life the rest of Melbourne had the exact same idea and everyone was heading for the city. The traffic was a nightmare and we ended up parking a mile away. My feet are still angry with me! We were late, and I HATE being late. We practically sprinted to the restaurant from the car park, at least once we got to the location we could sit down and relax. I was really worried that they would have given our table away. We were having another winter express meal and he session times are pretty strict. Luckily the table was still waiting for us, and there was no need to chow down at lightening speed.

taxi dining room 2

Taxi has a great atmosphere, laid back while still being funky and modern. The views across the river or city, depending on where you sit, are breath taking. I'm in love with the city of Melbourne and can never bore from seeing the tree lined Yarra river, or the towering sky scrapers. I managed to take a couple of shots of the interior of the restaurant before my camera battery decided it had enough, its funny how batteries require regular charging. Thanks to modern technology my pocket camera, which doubles as a mobile phone was all I had to document the meal. Apologies in advance for the crappy photos!

taxing dining room 3

We started with a glass of wine each, Galli estate Pinot Grigio from Heathcote Victoria. The selection of what to have for entree and mains was limited, but I didn't mind. The quality of the overall meal was exceptional so I don't feel like I missed out at all.

taxing dining room wine

We started with Panko crumbed brandade cake with spiced tomato jus. It came with a cold noodle salad on the side and I'm not quite sure what the other thing was. But it tasted delicious! Daz and I decided to share the entree and dessert at the end of the meal. As soon as I took my first bite, wished I had opted for my own main. The cake was so crunchy on the outside and beautifully fluffy within, such a joy to eat.

taxi dining room entree

If the entree was nice, the main was heaven. I love a really good slow cooked piece of meat and the braised beef with mushrooms, bacon, pommes puree and red wine jus was fall apart perfect. We were given a knife that looked like a ice pick. It was so pointy and extremely sharp with menacing serrated edges, I thought it was hilarious as the dish could have been eaten with a spoon.

the ice pick

I loved the crispyness of the bacon. Everything on the place was so soft and juicy it needed something to contrast with so you could fully appreciate the texture. The crunchy bacon was such an awesome surprise when you took a mouth full of the creamy luscious mash. I was so extremely happy after eating this dish I think I had a meat-o-gasm.

taxi dining oom main meal

We were sitting directly opposite the pass for the dessert section. Literally every minute 4 souffles would be whisked away to hungry customers. Looking at all those beautiful gravity defying souffles I had to have one for myself. We discovered that it was a Grand Marnier souffle with orange caramel and blood orange sorbet. The souffle was piping hot, so fluffy that when you put it n your mouth it disappeared. But the absolute stand out for me was the sorbet. I could have a massive bowl of that sorbet on its own, then ordered another for dessert. It was so tasty, the true flavour of orange was right there on your palette, it filled your mouth and was so tangy and sweet that it made my mouth water while I was eating it! Something that doesn't happen often to me.

orange souffle from taxi dining room

After we devoured the entire thing I contemplated licking the plate, no jokes. So I moved the cup that the souffle was baked in and unwittingly discovered Taxi's secret anchoring system. We all know that a lot of restaurants use sauces or puree's to stick down food to the plate, but did you know they use pieces of cake? Underneath the cup was a perfectly circular piece of cake. It was ingenious, no slipping and fits snuggly in place. The thought of eating the cake crossed my mind, but then I thought it probably wasn't intended t be eaten so might give it a miss.

taxing dining room secetes

Overall I liked Taxi Dining Room. I thought all the dishes I tried were well executed, some even presented with a little flare. I would definitely go back to sampling some of their dishes other dishes.

August 19, 2009

Cupcake Fun!

With all the cupcake fun going around the blogging world lately*, I thought I would join in too, I was supposed to bake my very own batch of cupcakes for the RSPCA cupcake day, but worksafe got in the way. I've been trawling the inter-of-the-net and made do with drooling over everyone's fantastic creations. There's even been a new discovery in the tiny cake world, the first ever reported siting of the muffcake! If I cant bake myself, at least I can live vicariously through others in the comfort of my own cushioned seat.

Lately I've noticed something curious, well maybe not recently.....I've only just started documenting it. Every where I look there are cupcakes, and not just the cupcakes of the baked variety, cupcakes in every shape and form. Here are a couple of fun photos I've taken over the last few weeks that are cupcake related. Please excuse the quality of the photo's, they're all taken on my mobile phone.

The first is from Spotlight, all things fabric and home deco. This was a treasure trove for cupcake paraphernalia. There was a kitchen timer in the shape of a cupcake, which I sadly didn't take a photo of and I found various cup cake mugs and dishes

cupcake dish and plate

cupcake plate

cupcake cup

I even found a cupcake place mat!

cupcake place mat

At Riot they had a gorgeous cupcake stand made entirely out of glitter and Styrofoam. I seriously wanted to bite into one of these! After asking if I could take a photo, one of the sales assistants said it was a great idea to entertain kids with. Buy a whole heap of Styrofoam balls and make cupcakes.....yeah.....thats why I'M taking a photo, tips on how to entertain children. Little did they know I was the massive kid with a cupcake fetish. I got out pretty quick after that.

Riot cupcakes

I saw a cupcake trapped in the Eiffel tower in a gift shop at Chadstone. Wish I had taken a photo, is was so freaking funny. But my favourite of all is left until last. Today I was at Boarders on one of my frequent trips to drool over cookbooks I may want to purchase if I win lotto, or a very sick rich old lady dies and leaves me all her money. Where do you find these? track....anyway I was trying to keep a low profile in the bakery section when I looked up and noticed they were filed away under "diet". Holy mother of goat, the fitness industry has finally come to their senses and made....'the cupcake diet!' I did not touch a thing and at least 4 titles were facing outwards and featured cupcakes on the cover. After taking the photo I delved a little deeper and found more cupcake books on the shelf. Freakin awesome!!

cupcake diet

I'll continue to keep an eye out for cupcaky-ness and bring you another instalment soon!

* Some of the most inspiring creations come from the most humble blogs;
Agnes from Off The Spork
Conor from Hold The Beef
Stephcookie from Raspberry Cupcakes
Sharon from We Love Baking
Lorraine From Not Quite Nigella
Trissalicious from Not Another Food Blog
The guys at Koali Life
Rilsta from My Food Trail

August 16, 2009

Results - Savoy Cabbage, Pine Nut, Raisin and Pecorino Insalata

Buzo's coleslaw 3

I was once a avid hater of raw cabbage, now I'm a convert. And it was all because of this recipe! There are a couple of things that I've learnt during the time that I've had this blog, making macarons is not fun and cabbage can actually taste good when uncooked. I think that is a massive bonus to this recipe too, there is absolutely no cooking required, that is if you don't count toasting bread crumbs in the oven as cooking.

Buzo's coleslaw

To be honest you dont need any skill to make this recipe either. Its just a whole heap of chopping, slicing and arranging. Most of the effort is required when eating it, another bonus in my book! There's very little clean up too! I only made a half batch of the recipe and it made quite a bit, I had left overs for lunch the next day. The bread crumbs were a little soggy on day two, but the salad cream was delicious soaked into the beard crumbs!

chopped cabbage

Chop your cabbage


Toast your crumbs

dumped into the bowl

Put it all in a bowl....

cabbage coleslaw

Then toss! "Now, you shake it to the left. You shake it to the right. Do the Hippy Shake Shake.. With all of your might!"
On the night that I made it, I didn't really feel like eating meat, which happens from time to time. Daz was pretty annoyed at that, being a red blooded male if there isn't something that either moo-ed, baah-ed or oink-ed on his plate for dinner....he still feels hungry, regardless of how big the meal might be. So I braved the elements (Daz at cranky level 9 is like sitting through a storm!), and dished up the cabbage with a soft centred fried egg on top. He loved it. The only way I can get away with not serving meat is by substituting egg, and with the runny center going all over the cabbage it was like having extra sauce. It was pretty good. I can imaging this salad being pretty tasty at an afternoon bbq, a couple of beers to wash down the cabbage would be extra nice.

Buzo's coleslaw 2

August 10, 2009

Savoy Cabbage, Pine Nut, Raisin and Pecorino Insalata

Restaurant: Buzo Restaurant (NSW)
Recipe from Chefs Todd Garratt and James Hird (Hopefully not the Essendon Bombers James Hird) (appeared on Attica website earlier this year)
2009 Rating: Number 90, 1 Star

I've never been a fan of coleslaw. Coming from an Italian background, all my exposure to cabbage has been of the cooked variety, so exploring raw cabbage is somewhat of a novel experience to me. I had half a head of savoy cabbage in the fridge and I wanted to use it, preferably something different to my usual braised cabbage. So I turned to my trusty friend gourmet traveller.

Savoy cabbage, pine nut, raisin and pecorino insalata

Serves 6
Cooking Time Prep time 15 mins

100 gm Iranian raisins (see note)
125 ml (½ cup) marsala
600 gm (about ½) savoy cabbage, thinly sliced
1-2 tbsp white balsamic or white wine vinegar
100 gm (2/3 cup) pine nuts, toasted
100 gm sourdough breadcrumbs, torn into 5mm pieces and toasted
80 gm pecorino, finely grated
4 cups (loosely packed) flat-leaf parsley leaves

Salad cream
4 egg yolks
2 tbsp white wine vinegar
2 tsp Dijon mustard
300 ml olive oil
100 ml pouring cream

1. Place raisins in a bowl and pour in marsala to cover, cover and stand overnight.

2. For salad cream, process egg yolks, vinegar and mustard in a food processor until combined, then gradually add oil in a thin, steady stream until emulsified. Transfer to a small bowl, stir through cream and season to taste with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper. Refrigerate until needed. Salad cream will keep in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 1 week.

3. Combine cabbage and vinegar in a bowl, toss to coat and stand for 10 minutes.

4. Drain raisins, discarding marsala, and add to cabbage with pine nuts and half the breadcrumbs, pecorino and parsley. Add salad cream, toss gently to combine and season to taste. Serve immediately scattered with remaining breadcrumbs, pecorino and parsley.

Note Iranian raisins are available from specialty food stores or see for stockists. If unavailable substitute with seedless raisins.

August 6, 2009


esposito front door

Date: August 2009
2009 Rating: 75th
2009 Star rating: 1
Chef: Maurice Esposito
Location: 162 Elgin Street, Carlton, Victoria

Its been a while since my last top 100 visit, and this month I've managed to visit a few, thanks in part to the Put Victoria on the Table promotion. Earlier this week we moseyed on down to Esposito @ Toofeys. Esposito is renowned for his seafood so I at least knew what I wanted for my main, something fishy.

esposito wine

The decore and atmosphere was actually quite lovely, there was only one problem. Jonquils! I HATE Jonquils, don't get me wrong, I think they are very pretty, but they smell horrid! I would not immediately pair the smell of Jonquils with mouth watering dishes, but on the other hand I really dislike them, the next person to walk through the door may love them. So its hardly something I can complain about.

We started the meal with a complementary appetiser. I love it when the chef takes the time to come up with something that each of his/her diners receives before they start their meal. Its even better when that little something extra tastes awesome! We received a tiny little dish filled with mixed herbs including tarragon, mint, dill, parsley, fennel and spring onion all combined in a mustard dressing. It was delicious, great way to kick things off.

esposito appetiser

We weren't particularly hungry so stuck to the two course dinner. For entree/main I had the John Dory fillets with kipfler potato and mud crab crush and artichoke tortellone. I enjoyed the dish. The crab/potato crush was by far my favourite, you could really taste the crab in the crush and it went really well with the crispy skin on the dory. The problem? The fish was extremely under seasoned and there was a tomato on my plate in the middle of winter. Enough said.

esposito john dory

Daz had the Black Angus fillet steak with mushroom ragout, 50 year old balsamic vinegar and potato puree. The plate was quite pretty. Daz's reaction was that the dish was good, but not great.

esposito black angus

For dessert I had the Hot date tart - Spiced frangipane with vanilla bean ice cream. I just couldn't resist the name of this dish and I just had to have the hot date for myself. I was pretty glad I did. There was some slight confusion and my date went to another table, would have been understandable if it had been a blind date. By the time it reached me, the ice cream had melted quite a bit. The pastry was flaky and it definitely lived up to its name, piping hot with the nice thick layer of date. Hmmm yum!

esposito hot date tart

The end of Daz's meal was a bit more cheesy than mine. He had Pyengana cheddar, toasted fruit bread and house of Hines quince paste. I had a little nibble of his cheddar and it was pretty good. Crumbly and sweet, too bad the fruit bread was more like toast.

esposito cheddar

Esposito was nice, I wish I had a chance to try more of the seafood, so another visit is needed.