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

Gelato World Tour, Melbourne 2013

A few weeks ago, I had no idea such a thing as a Gelato World Tour existed – much less that one of its eight whirlwind stops around the globe would be in my very own Melbourne! Luckily, things very quickly changed. That very stop was set to take place over the fast-approaching weekend of 25th-27th October, and the Melbourne foodie community was abuzz with anticipation. Sixteen Australian gelato artisans would converge upon Argyle Square, Carlton, to offer up their bid for a place at the tour’s grand finale in Italy late next year.

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It probably goes without saying that I love ice-cream. I’ve gelato’ed my way across Europe, look forward to my Ben & Jerry’s chocolate-sprinkle waffle cone as much as any movie at my cinema, and had a major life moment when David Lebovitz, famed homemade ice-cream connoisseur, responded to a tweet of mine. So obviously, the Gelato World Tour was an event I’d have been remiss not to attend. Mat and I trundled over to the festivities on the Sunday afternoon, met up with my friend Hannah, and bunkered in for the ‘Gelato Experience’.

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A $10 ticket earned two cups of gelato plus three mini cones to sample whichever of the sixteen flavours on offer took our fancy. The lines for each gelato artisan and their nominated flavour were, in most cases, extraordinarily long – which at least gave us time to strategise how we were going to use our precious five samples to best effect!

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‘Cremino’ – Salted caramel gelato with house made gianduia fudge, fresh meringue and crushed amaretti : Gelato Messina // Donato Toce (head chef) and Simone Panetta (manager and local partner of Messina Melbourne) : Gelato Messina

The one ice-cream that all three of us chose to line up for was Gelato Messina’s ‘Cremino’. Aside from wanting a taste of what is often famed as the best gelato in Australia, the Cremino creation simply sounded downright delightful. As we waited in line, we actually learnt that it had just been declared the winner of the Melbourne leg of the Gelato World Tour, which was a nice affirmation of our first choice! It did not disappoint, either. The ice-cream, meringue and crushed amaretti created a beautiful taste and texture – but it was the pockets of incredible gianduia fudge that really set it off! Donato Toce and Simone Panetta of Gelato Messina were also the loveliest gelato artisans we met all day. Whilst most of the other representatives seemed a bit worn by the weekend (understandable!), these two had plenty of time for every customer and did it all with a smile and a laugh. Very much looking forward to the first Melbourne store opening on Smith street, Collingwood, very soon!

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‘Deconstructed Kaya Toast’ – Pandan kaya gelato with swirls of kaya and a Malaysian cream cracker crunch : N2 Extreme Gelato

For my second gelato cup, I chose N2 Extreme Gelato’s ‘Deconstructed Kaya Toast’. I’m a huge fan of N2 Extreme Gelato on Brunswick Street, Fitzroy, but hadn’t tried this creation which featured on the rotating menu back in August. Inspired by a popular Malaysian snack, kaya toast, I was very curious to give it a go! The kaya – caramelised coconut egg jam – was served in true N2 style via syringe, and was a wonderfully new flavour for me. The whole creation was really brought together by the Malaysian cream cracker, though – that element just worked wonders, and certainly makes me want to try the real deal!

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‘Pavlova Gelato’ – Meringue based gelato with a passionfruit swirl mixed with meringue pieces : Frangipani Gelato // ‘Pistachio Crunch’ – Smooth and creamy pistachio gelato made and layered with roasted pistachio nuts : Cones Ice Cream Hawthorn

I capped off my tastings with the ‘Pavlova Gelato’ from Frangipani Gelato in Sydney, and ‘Pistachio Crunch’ from Cones Ice Cream Hawthorn. The Pistachio Crunch was definitely the standout, with a sensational salty-sweet flavour. Mat and I had run out of time and had to sacrifice our final mini-cone – but honestly, we had been well and truly satisfied with our spoils! The tour was a fantastic chance to take a gastronomical glimpse into some of the country’s best gelato creations – here’s hoping we can hold our own at the grand finale next year!

The Custard Tart that Saved the Day

I approached Magic Johnston just after noon last Saturday, my heart singing for a world of delicious baked goods gathered from across the city. The first Flour Market – a congregation of some of Melbourne’s best and emerging bakers and their coveted creations – had been my sole weekend mission. As I arrived, however, I was met with the equivalent of tumbleweed drifting sadly across the bright and sunny event space. Brown paper lay strewn across benches, tantalising treats listed and crossed out in thick black marker: SOLD OUT.

It would seem that, as I lay in a blissful Saturday sleep-in, a whole lot of early birds swept in to catch the doughnut. And brownie. And cruffin.

Really – I should have known better! I’ve been spoilt in the realms of all-day breakfasts, and forgotten that a baker’s world is one of the morning hours. In a foodie city like Melbourne, the advertised 3pm finish time surely never stood a chance.

Nevertheless, it was with a heavy heart and empty hands that I walked back along Johnston Street. Mat, who I’d excitedly brought along with me, did well to respond kindly to my otherwise comical dejection. He did even better when, barely minutes into the drive home, he pulled a sudden right off Johnston Street and parked with a promise of consolation. And so was my first visit to Casa Iberica.

A family-run business for over forty years, Casa Iberica is a little deli on the corner of Johnston and Spring streets in Fitzroy crammed with food goods from Spain, Portugal and Central and South America. Mat had discovered and visited once before on a hunt for dried smoked chipotle chilli and black beans for this Jamie Oliver Vegie Chilli recipe. Until Mat’s expedition, neither of us had any idea that such a trove lay beyond the graffitied roller doors we passed whilst normally in the area outside of business hours! From paella pans to palm hearts, ancho chilli to acai ice-cream – each shelf, fridge and freezer is packed full of an incredible variety of authentic, specialty items.

However, Mat had brought me to Casa Iberica for one special thing: the custard tarts.

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Hailing from Portugal, where they are called Pasteis de Nata, the custard tart is a delicacy to die for. I tasted my first one at the Hopetoun Tea Rooms a few years ago, and it’s been a passionate love affair ever since. It would seem the custard tarts at Casa Iberica have somewhat of a cult following – and I can definitely see why! They are some of the best I’ve tasted. The pastry strikes a delightful balance of crispy and chewy, and the custard is perfectly textured and beautifully flavoursome without being super rich.

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The price tag, at three for $5, is certainly a winner as well! I would highly recommend popping in to try them if you’re in the area – though as with the Flour Market, the earlier the better is perhaps a good lesson to heed. Particularly on a Saturday, when the little store is jam-packed with customers,  it looked like we were lucky enough to scoop up some of the last few remaining tarts. Thank god – I don’t think I could have dealt with that kind of heartbreak again!

So, despite missing out at the Flour Market – a little, delicious custard tart (or three) saved the day. And fortunately the Flour Market is set to be a recurring event – so next time I’ll be armed and ready at opening time with the rest of Melbourne’s crazed foodies!

Casa Iberica | 25 Johnston St, Fitzroy, VIC 3065
http://casaibericadeli.com.au/
Open | Mon – Thu : 8.00am – 5.00pm, Fri : 8.00am – 6:00pm, Sat : 8.00am – 2.00pm

Casa Iberica on Urbanspoon

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