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

Sweet Brunchings

I am, by all definitions of the term, a huge sweet tooth. I mean – I’m pretty damn fond of food in general, but sweet things? Now that is where I really shine. The mention of a dessert menu makes me weak at the knees. Scarcely a day goes by without at least one small morsel of chocolate. My past lives have included work at both a chocolate cafe and boutique candy store. I battled in a nationwide campaign as the poster girl for Ben & Jerry’s Strawberry Cheesecake. Seriously!

So when it comes to brunch – that gorgeous, sacred meal of late-rising breakfast-lovers – I skip straight to the sweet stuff.

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French toasted gingerbread sandwich with vanilla cream cheese and roasted plums : Code Black Coffee (no longer on menu) // Ricotta and rose stuffed crepes with fresh berries, saffron-lemon syrup and hazelnut praline : East Elevation

In a city besotted with breakfast, the sweet side sure packs a punch. I love that after skimming over the vast and varied egg dishes (sadly, not my thing!), and lingering somewhat over remaining savoury dishes, I’m not simply left with a token plate of pancakes. There are beautiful porridges and granolas, and wonderful odd imaginings like the French toasted gingerbread sandwich from Code Black Coffee, above. Even my boyfriend, Mat, who is normally more partial to the pulled porks and black puddings of the brunch world, quite often has the envious moment over my pickings.

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Cinnamon waffles with pomegranate molasses, vanilla bean custard, agave and house almond dukkah : Stovetop // Summer fruit salad with melon, stone fruit, chia, mint, sesame snaps and vanilla yoghurt : Auction Rooms

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Coconut crusted French toast with espresso mascarpone : Lux Foundry // Vanilla and honey porridge (rolled oats & organic quinoa) served with crushed walnut : Breakfast Thieves

It does mean I’m terribly predictable; Mat usually knows exactly what I’ll be ordering before I’ve even made up my mind. But it’s a pattern that works, and the cafes of Melbourne have revealed some truly amazing dishes in the process. A growing favourite at the moment is Twenty & Six Espresso. A cosy little place in North Melbourne with a fantastic courtyard we’re excited to get some use of as the weather warms, we always get beautiful service and the menu features dishes that are absolute creations unto themselves. French toast is always a big pull for me, and the Aphrodite (below) on the current seasonal menu is to die for. The poached quince, lemon curd and goats’ cheese ice-cream balance so outrageously well!

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Poached quince and lemon curd brioche french toast, goats’ cheese ice-cream, pistachios and freeze-dried berries : Twenty & Six Espresso // Balinese black sticky rice with mango and coconut milk : Twenty & Six Espresso (no longer on menu)

I would love to hear any recommendations on sweet brunch dishes and destinations of Melbourne! I’ll be sure to share my future discoveries here. And if you are so inclined, check out my Instagram (which turned out to be a rather handy brunch retrospective!) – where all my sugary shenanigans tend to pop up first!

The Finders Keepers Markets

Last Saturday I woke gloriously late in the morning to such a sunny, soul-warming Spring day that just begged to be properly enjoyed. I adore these beautiful months of transition between Winter and Summer, where a warm and sunny day feels like you’ve won a little treasure in the lucky dip. With nothing planned, I jumped on my various social networking feeds – sure that there would be something or other on offer in Melbourne this particular October 5th.

Lo and behold, ’twas that very weekend that The Finders Keepers Markets were in town! The Finders Keepers Markets are independent art and design markets that make their way through Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane on a bi-annual basis. I’ve definitely found myself becoming more and more interested in local, independent design lately – and not having been to The Finders Keepers before, it was a swift decision to change out of my pyjamas and jump on a tram toward the Royal Exhibition Centre.

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Row upon row of gorgeous wares aside, there could be no more fitting backdrop than the 19th-century Royal Exhibition Building itself. I’ve probably only visited a handful of times – but brimming with the crowd, stalls and decor of The Finders Keepers, I think this was the first I’d ever really noticed how truly stunning it is.

I took the afternoon to slowly wander the markets, methodically winding around every stall cluster to make sure I didn’t miss anything. It seems quite redundant to say, but really – there were so many beautiful things! As a crazy stationery lover, I was rather besotted with Ask Alice, Bespoke Letterpress, Write to Me and an ever-favourite Able and Game.  I was also very much on the verge of buying this Red Frogs scented candle (made in recycled beer bottles!) from Pigeon & Weasel Soy Wax Candles.

However – it was but one, very special thing that captured both my heart and my money this day. That thing was this handmade wooden treasure box with a gorgeous Art Nouveau style fairy engraving from Foolhouse:

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This treasure box honestly stopped me dead in my tracks. An overwhelming sensation fell over my body, and a strange voice whispered inside my head: Terri. This was made for you, and you alone. You must buy it. You must buy it now! Quick! 

And so, I did.

As a kid I was thoroughly obsessed with all things fairies – so much so that one teacher suggested to my mum at parent-teacher interviews that I might try ‘broaden my horizons’ on account of my strictly fairy-based writings. I’ve also grown up in a family that’s valued the importance of finding and keeping little ‘treasures’ – whatever that may mean to the particular treasure-keeper. I think I actually had quite the emotional moment over this treasure box, much to the bemusement of the stall-owner!

Whilst there was so much more I could have splurged on at The Finders Keepers, I’m still pretty happy to have come home with my sole loot, and simply having had a beautiful afternoon at the markets. Despite the crowd, I had enough time to be able to wander slowly and found it all rather peaceful, really! I’d love to return next time it pops up in Melbourne. In the meantime I’ll be keeping an eye on The Finders Keepers blog for updates, plus nifty features on Australian independent designers and artists.

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