Whims and Wine | Merricks Creek, Mornington Peninsula

The drive is never so long as I think it will be. It always feels as though we’ve barely even shrugged off the city, when the Peninsula Link suddenly slings us out at some glorious stretch of sand or eucalypt or grapevine. 

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I’m still finding my way when it comes to food blogger gifts and invitations. Truth be told I don’t really know where, or even if they fit in with whatever it is I’ve got going on here. I’m hardly flooded with requests but I have been along to some very lovely events and I can’t deny it’s all very nice. Exploring those experiences through photography on Instagram is easy. Writing is the tricky part, and so far I haven’t quite figured out how to incorporate my blog into that. 

So when I was sitting at a table out there on the Mornington Peninsula swirling my wine in its beautiful bubble glass and sinking into the warm touch of afternoon sunshine, and realised – ‘My god, I need to capture this gorgeous moment in words’ – well, it was a welcome feeling. Continue Reading

A Melbourne Cafe Care Package

John (a resident Chicagoan) and I have been exchanging care packages for a few years now. Receiving a big ol’ parcel from the other side of the world that’s brimming with (mostly edible) goodies is very good for the soul, and I highly recommend you find someone with which to take part in such trade. In previous correspondence, I’ve sent the likes of Arnott’s Tim Tams, Mint Slice and Shapes, Milo, Cadbury chocolate and Allen’s lollies. In return – Lucky Charms, Reese’s everything and Ghirardelli Squares abound. The Ghirardelli Squares, especially; I think John has found that these serve as a far more interesting alternative to packing peanuts. I’m very much inclined to support this notion.

This particular care package, however, has been quite a while in the making. For this one, I wanted to get a little more local than the same old ‘Aussie stuff’. I freakin’ love Melbourne, and that’s what I wanted to show off in this parcel. It’s no surprise that the care package very naturally took on a ‘Melbourne cafe’ theme. Cafes are the cogs of this city. An influx of Italian migrants after World War II sparked a passionate, inner-city coffee culture – and coincided rather nicely with the proliferation of the modern-day espresso machine. We’ve been working on a seriously good thing for decades. Heck – we’re one of the few places in the world to give Starbucks the boot.

And so, this little gift is my ode to the Melbourne cafe. John – enjoy! 

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Market Lane | Seasonal Espresso, 250g

Obviously, I had to provide the means for a good cup of Melbourne grade coffee. I’ve been a little infatuated with Market Lane coffee lately; over the past few weeks I’ve found myself sipping at both the Therry St and Prahran Market cafes. The coffee is smooth and delicious. I feel myself in the midst of my first true allegiance to a particular coffee roaster. Their cups brandish a simple philosophy: “We love to make coffee for the city that loves to drink it.” For you, John – I’ve included a bag of Market Lane’s Seasonal Espresso beans (Uh, yeah. You’re gonna need to buy yourself a coffee bean grinder. Merry Christmas!). As I meticulously bubble-wrapped every item in this parcel, the aroma of these beans almost drove me mad. I mean, listen to this – ‘Notes of ripe cherry, orange and chocolate fudge.’ Seriously. 

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 T2 | Melbourne Breakfast, Teabags 25pk

‘A deep and warming tea with a hint of sweetness, reminiscent of Melbourne. Full bodied with a touch of vanilla. An essential tea.’ Yes, Melbourne is a city of coffee drinkers – but we’re pretty damn solid on the tea front too. T2’s Melbourne Breakfast was the obvious choice here. I’m not sure if it’s just my Melbourne bias here, but this is one of my favourite T2 teas (there are over 200!). T2 popped up on Brunswick Street in Melbourne’s Fitzroy back in 1996, and is now a bit of a giant in the boutique tea world. The first U.S. store even opened in New York just a couple of months ago. So whether Melbourne or New York is next on your (extensive) travel list, John, definitely drop in to T2. So much to smell, sip and savour! 

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MörkMörk Original Dark 70%, 250g

This. Really, this is where John’s little Melbourne cafe care package sprouted from. The duo behind Mörk – one part Melbourne specialty coffee scene, one part Swedish chocolatier – combine to create the best powdered hot chocolate I’ve ever tasted. The pair take their hot chocolate seriously, using only the finest and purest ingredients: ‘cocoa powder, 100% cacao liquor from Sur del Lago in Venezuela and sweetened only with unrefined coconut blossom sugar’. It’s pretty sensational. Nothing like the sickly sweet stuff that’s usually the norm on cafe menus. My usual Mörk dealers are the lovely folks at Twenty & Six Espresso, though I picked up this sexy cardboard canister at the very cool Melbournalia on Bourke Street. 

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KeepCup | ‘Brew’ Glass Coffee Cup, Medium (12oz/340ml)

With all of these wonderful Melbourne beverages, it seemed pertinent to provide something from which to drink them. KeepCup is a pretty nifty little Melbourne invention, kickstarting a revolution of the reusable coffee cup. For one, they’re stylish; this positive aesthetic has played a huge part in KeepCup’s success and people’s desire to, you know, actually keep using them. And then there’s the design: they’re made to seamlessly fit in with standard volumes at cafes, plus fit right under the brew head of an espresso machine. Barista-friendly! The new ‘Brew’ series with a glass cup design is absolutely gorgeous, and I knew as soon as I saw it that John would be receiving one. I’m so jealous of this KeepCup, in fact, that I’ve decided I must absolutely buy one for myself. 

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Gânache Chocolate | Cafe Latte Pralines

What would a steaming hot cuppa be without a little something to nibble on? I stretched my mind far and wide trying to think of the perfect little sweet treat to include in this parcel – when suddenly it came to me. I’d seen these beautiful Gânache pralines photographed on blogger Iron Chef Shellie‘s Instagram account months back. What could be more perfect than handmade chocolates (cafe latte flavour, no less!) stamped with our iconic W-Class trams? 

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Make Me Iconic | Iconic Mini Tram

And lastly, a little extra dose of the W-Class tram for good measure. It’s the most Melbourne way to get to all of those excellent Melbourne cafes, after all.

I’ve received word that this care package made it safely to its destination on Christmas Eve. May these tasty tidbits from Melbourne keep you warm this Chicago winter, John! Those who follow me on Instagram will know that John, the scoundrel that he is, has already gone and one-upped me in the parcel exchange. Guess it’s time to start plotting again!

Beatrix: The Return of Cake Weather

Don’t get me wrong, I’m an advocate for the consumption of cake at almost any given time. As I settled into a little window spot at North Melbourne’s Beatrix last week, however, I had to agree with the lovely lass serving up a hefty piece of Coconut Shagg to a customer: it’s officially cake weather. So long to the sweaty days of an all-too-hot summer – Melbourne’s autumn has finally kicked in. And whilst I’m not a huge fan of the impending cold, it’s at least a comfort to remember that wonderful ability to warm up from the inside out. A cup of tea and a bit of cake from Beatrix is a pretty splendid way to do just that.

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Loved by locals and one of the North-side’s greatest sweet spots (though I’d venture to say all of Melbourne!), Beatrix is a tiny café on the corner of Queensberry and Lothian Streets in North Melbourne. It’s cute and quaint, though be warned that the cosy size might make for a wait to sit, particularly on Saturdays. If you’re pressed for time, however, don’t think you’ll be alone in swinging by to pick up a take-away treat or two. Speaking from delicious, passionfruit-frosted experience – the Saturday-only Vanilla Slice is cause enough to make a trip totally worth it.

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What I love about Beatrix, and what makes it the perfect chilly day comfort, is that everything is freshly homemade – in the warmest, fuzziest sense of the word. I’m talking unabashed CWA-style, Grandma’s kitchen baking. Last week I fell prey to a piece of Beatrix’s Carrot Cake (pictured above). It’s probably not winning any beauty contests, but I was at once reminded of the chocolate sponge cakes my Nana used to make for every family birthday growing up, and so couldn’t resist. Wonderfully moist and light, a divine white chocolate cream cheese buttercream frosting and a hint of wintery spice – it was just superb.

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I’m still on my way to conquering most of Beatrix’s baked fare, but I can say that the Rhubarb and Custard Crumble Tart, Ginger Crème Brûlée Tart, Potato Brioche Doughnut, Vanilla Slice and Salted Caramel Slice are all magnificent. I’ve not sampled one of Beatrix’s famous ciabattas yet, but I do believe that needs to be rectified very, very soon. The ciabattas maintain somewhat of a cult-like following – only a couple of varieties are available each day, and they disappear fast. Luckily, Beatrix updates Facebook every morning with the day’s offerings: ciabattas, cakes and cakeish things alike. So if you’re hanging out for that Sydney Road ciabatta or Devil’s Food Cake, Beatrix makes for easy stalkage.

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Beatrix is the sort of place I’d make sure to take an overseas visitor; it’s cosy, welcoming and embraces old-school Aussie baking (I was not surprised, but very impressed to find that owner Nat Paull apprenticed for Maggie Beer!) with a little vintage America and a whole lotta love. In absence of foreign callers, however, I’ll be hopping over to Beatrix to continue my own personal pilgrimage. These are the days of cake weather, my friends, and I know where I’ll be taking shelter from the cold.

Beatrix | 688 Queensberry Street, North Melbourne, VIC 3051
https://www.facebook.com/BeatrixBakes
Open | 
Tue – Sat : 9.00am – 4.00pm

Beatrix on Urbanspoon

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