Crafting the Perfect ‘To-Eat List’

I love trying new places to eat, and for that Melbourne is certainly a marvelous place to be. However, I’m hardly out there conquering the latest and greatest openings of the city every week. As much as that sounds rather glamorous, my approach is a little more laid back. In all my trying-of-new-places I’ve inevitably found a few I’ve become quite fond of – and so a lot of my gastronomical adventures are simply returning to eat and spend time in those cafes and restaurants. And I’ll admit – it’s always so much easier to head to a favourite like Twenty & Six Espresso after waking up late and hungry on Sunday morning.

The new discoveries generally come from either a convenient whim, or a list Blu-Tacked to our fridge entitled ‘PLACES WE WANT TO EAT AT’*. I would highly recommend the use of such a list; it makes one feel superbly accomplished upon completion and is far less overwhelming than a vast and click-happy Urbanspoon wishlist! Our list is simple – just a few select eateries with no deadline or urgency. It’s a wonderful go-to when the timing and mood fit!

I love taking the time to sit down and write up a new List. Armed with a copy of The Age’s Good Food Under $3o (currently out of print) and the beautiful coffee-table tome Flavours of Urban Melbourne – the process is tactile and visual and filled with tasty promise. I also keep my ear to the buzzings of the blogosphere, Twitter, Broadsheet and Urbanspoon to catch any post-publication goodies.

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The first ever List saw Mat and I venture to Pope Joan on Nicholson Street, Brunswick East (a charming, airy space that’s lovely for lunch!), Easy Tiger on Smith Street, Collingwood (splurged on the banquet and did not regret it) and Beatrix on Queensberry St, North Melbourne (I can’t believe it took me so long to discover the Queen of North-side sweet treats!). It was a hugely successful list and each eatery garnered a return visit or two. In the case of Beatrix, we’re talking a return visit or twelve.

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We now have a fresh new List taking pride of place on the fridge. Small Victories has already been tackled – we had a yummy breakfast there, and would definitely return if just to spend more time in the leafy sunshine on cute, quiet little Rathdowne in Carlton North.

newlist

Next up: Cutler & Co., Cobb Lane and Common Galaxia. That almost sounds a bit poetic, doesn’t it? Here’s to putting poetry in motion!

*Apologies, grammar geeks! The name just stuck!

The Brûlée Cart and Coburg Night Market

Despite being a regular traveller on the number nineteen tram, to memory I’ve only ever made it beyond Brunswick once before. The second time, as it goes, would happen just this past Friday evening. This would also be the evening on which the holy Food Truck Gods (closely related to the Brunch Gods) would look down upon me, and deem to send a torched-up treat my way. It was divine intervention. There’s really no other explanation.

I was on a sudden, determined mission to get an outdoor dining setting before summer hit. After work I beelined across the city toward Bunnings Coburg, resolute that by December 1st (a mere two days away) I’d be sitting comfortably on the outdoor terrace sipping a cool glass of wine. Or a cup of tea. Or whichever beverage happened to take my fancy at that particular moment. As I edged ever closer, browsing my Twitter feed to fill in time – it happened:


https://twitter.com/thebruleecart/status/406293527753416704

The Brûlée Cart was in Coburg. I was in Coburg. The stars had aligned and as soon as I’d signed off for the delivery of my three-piece timber bench and table set, I was rattling back down the number nineteen line on another mission.

Initially funded through a Pozible campaign earlier this year, The Brûlée Cart is helmed by brothers Bart and Jack White. The food truck industry is certainly thriving in Melbourne at the moment, and there is some seriously delicious, gourmet food on offer – but I have to say that a crème brûlée truck is one after my own heart. I’d previously tracked the Cart down once at Trailer Park (Salted Caramel), and another time in the streets of Brunswick (Dark Chocolate and Peppermint). It seemed Friday night would see me a third time lucky.

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It was a short journey before jumping off the tram and heading to Bridges Reserve, nearest to the corner of Sydney Road and Bell Street. The Coburg Night Market was alive and busy with people, but not so big that it didn’t feel like an genuine, local market. I noticed especially that there were a lot of kids and families about, and market-goers spread out across table, chair and lawn to eat and drink and listen to live music. There were plenty of tasty-looking places to eat, including stalls from Phat Brats, Wingman Chicken Wings, Meatball Company, Mr. Calamaro, Running Sangria, Trailer Made and Bianco Latte Gelato. It was a wonderful atmosphere and I’d definitely recommend swinging by one warm Friday night before it finishes up on the 20th December.

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It was, however, a familiar wash of blue that beckoned me across the market – and before I knew it I was cracking the top of my very own Lavender & Honey crème brûlée. Also on offer that night was French Vanilla & Raspberry and Salted Caramel. I’ll maintain that Salted Caramel is my all-out favourite, but the Lavender & Honey was delicate and delightful in flavour. The brûlées are $8 each, and the perfect size to sate a sweet craving (although I think I could definitely eat at least three of the Salted Caramel one after another!).

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It’s true – I am over the moon with my new outdoor dining setting (on this balmy December 1st evening, I am indeed sitting comfortably on the outdoor terrace sipping on what turned out to be a glass of room-temperature water.). But I had another calling that night, and I am proud to claim that I rose to meet the almighty challenge. Most importantly – I must bestow upon you the urgency to claim such victory for yourself! Whether on a definitive mission or simply on your travels, The Brûlée Cart is so, so worth your visit.

The Brûlée Cart | Follow on Twitter or Facebook for locations
The Brûlée Cart on Urbanspoon

Coburg Night Market | Bridges Reserve, Coburg
http://coburgnightmarket.com/
Open | 15th November – 20th December 2013, Fri : 5.30pm – 10.00pm

Parkville Store

I am fiercely fond of Parkville, where I set up camp in April of this year. Despite having been a past Parkvillian during my early university years, I don’t think I quite appreciated what a stunning suburb it really is. Having since dwelled in a mishmash of postcodes across Melbourne, north and south, I can safely say that this little elm-lined pocket is my favourite. I love exploring and trying new places to eat, but there’s something so lovely and comforting about having a good ‘local’.

Parkville is certainly no great trek from delicious fare at some amazing cafes and restaurants of the inner north – but admittedly is scant of much within moseying distance. I’m talking serious moseying here – the kind that you barely muster after hunger pains have finally forced you out of bed late on a Saturday morning (I’ll ‘fess up now to the occasional early Saturday afternoon). And so it was with great excitement that Mat and I recently discovered our very own ‘local’ – the Parkville Store.

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Located on Morrah Street off Royal Parade, Parkville Store lies neatly tucked away in what may just be the quaintest and quietest part of all Parkville. If it hadn’t been for a quest Mat and I were on to find somewhere close by that sold Jam Lady Jams – absolutely divine jams handmade in the Yarra Valley  – we may honestly have never found it! The cafe’s online presence is seriously minimal at the moment – without even an Urbanspoon listing (I quickly rectified that!), we were reluctant in believing it actually existed. But our thirst for a good Rasperry Grappa preserve spurred us on, and thank the Brunch Gods it did.

Parkville Store really strikes a genuine balance between modern and retro cosy. Sleek wood benches blend with formica-topped tables and vinyl chairs, and you’re as like to find old-school cinnamon sugar and butter as smashed avocado on your toast. There’s a small, friendly staff (Mat and I are determined to edge in as first-name basis regulars as soon as possible) and the atmosphere is warm and relaxed. And of course – the food is pretty damned great.

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Pheonix Chai latte // Porridge with rhubarb and ginger, coconut and ginger crumble and Parkville honey

I’ll admit, I knew it would be love from the moment I first glanced the menu to order my usual chai latte: they served Phoenix Chai. My absolute favourite! It’s made from syrup but it’s wonderfully potent and gingery, just the way I like chai. To find it on offer at Parkville Store was obviously a stroke of destiny. For coffee lovers, Melbourne specialty coffee roasters’ Padre Coffee is the house brew.

The menu features delicious, simple dishes that embrace local produce like Parkville Honey, Jam Lady Jams, Istra Smallgoods, Mt. Zero Olives, Myrtleford Butter Factory and Meredith Dairy. In a nod to its beginnings as a grocery store in the late 1800s, the walls are lined with shelves and fridges from which customers can purchase the fresh produce and pantry goods used in the cafe’s own kitchen. There’s also a beautiful old jewellery cabinet displaying a selection of tasty pastries and a delightful range of lollies dear to any Aussie childhood!

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Parkville Store honestly feels like the sort of place more people should be talking about. Perhaps that’s part of the charm, though – that the owners aren’t at all bothered with attracting the zealous crowds of Melbourne brunchers, or half-hour long wait lines milling on the pavement outside. It’s everything a ‘local’ should be: focused on its locals. Customers and suppliers alike, Parkville Store makes them the star of the show.

And with regulars like this guy, why wouldn’t you?

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Parkville Store | 52 Morrah St, Parkville, VIC, 3052
http://theparkvillestore.com/
Open | Tue – Sat : 7.30am – 5.00pm

Parkville Store on Urbanspoon

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