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:

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
Open | 15th November – 20th December 2013, Fri : 5.30pm – 10.00pm

The Baked Brownie: A Cocoa Quest

Recently I’ve begun to notice more baking recipes calling for dark, high quality cocoa. I’d never much ventured beyond good ol’ Cadbury Bourneville before, so the idea of experimenting with a premium cocoa really intrigued me. Nothing spurred this intrigue more than the famous Baked brownie recipe. Baked is a cafe and bakery in Brooklyn, New York, and I bought their first cookbook Baked: New Frontiers in Baking from Book Depository earlier this year very much on a whim. I’d never even heard of Baked before – but was in the mood for some new cookbooks and this one seemed fun.

I’ll admit, it remained untouched for many months. But when I did finally pick it up with a mission to bring to life a Baked recipe, I couldn’t go past The Baked Brownie. Flung to fame after being featured in Oprah’s O Magazine as one of her ‘Favourite Things’, this brownie seemed to be a pretty big deal. And there’s nothing quite like a fine brownie.

The Baked Brownie urges the baker to “Use a dark unsweetened cocoa powder like Valrhona. A pale, light-colored cocoa does not have enough depth.” It also implores that the dark chocolate one incorporates is a “well-respected chocolate”. Now – the first time I made The Baked Brownie, I used Cadbury Bourneville cocoa and whichever block of dark chocolate was on special at Coles. And I’m not going to lie – those things didn’t turn out half-bad. In fact, they were pretty damn delicious! Which is why I was especially curious to find out how much of a difference it would make if I went the extra mile…

I picked up some Lindt Excellence 70% Cocoa for the “well-respected chocolate’, but the dark cocoa powder proved a little more tricky. I couldn’t track down any of the Valrhona brand in Melbourne – it looks like I may have to order it online in future. For the time-being, and after quite a but of hunting, I found a ‘Premium Dutch Cocoa’ in David Jones. Made by a New Zealand company called Equagold, the only description intimated “Rich coloured, mild, bitter sweet flavoured Cocoa produced from the highest quality West African Cocoa beans and processed in Holland”. At $17.50 for 300g, I bit the bullet.

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(For anyone else on the hunt for a high quality, dark cocoa powder in Melbourne – I later remembered from my old days an an employee that Koko Black sell a dark cocoa powder at $14.45 for 300g.)

I was, as The Baked Brownie recipe suggested, less interested in the Dutch processing of the cocoa – but more in its colour and aroma. I was excited to get home and find that this cocoa was a gorgeous, dark brown, and that its smell was so deep and different to any other cocoa I’d used. It actually smelt like real chocolate!

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And so, I whipped up The Baked Brownie once again with my new premium ingredients. Unfortunately I had a minor mishap in removing the cooked creation from its baking dish, leaving a whole lotta brownie stuck to the glass base. Such silly kitchen tragedies can sometimes render me rather defeated, and perhaps it was that (or having eaten far too much brownie mix already) which led me to think, upon tasting the ‘new improved’ brownie, that it really wasn’t anything special. Despite the fact that Mat was experiencing a transcendent moment over his first taste, all I could think was: “Well, gee. That was a waste of money. Stupid, stupid brownies!”

It wasn’t until I opened my tin of ugly little broken brownie bits after work the next night that I truly experienced the awesome power of The Baked Brownie in all its intended glory. If the first batch was pretty damn delicious, this one was freakin’ sensational.

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The depth of flavour, as wanky-food-critiquey that may sound, is honestly what stood out. Using premium ingredients took everything from that first batch and magnified it to create such a rich, chocolatey taste that lit up my whole mouth. I think the texture benefited as well, adding to the wonderful hint of fudginess that makes a really fantastic brownie. I’ve already made another batch (this time removed flawlessly from the baking dish – thank you baking paper!) and I have to say, I think they could quite possibly be the best brownies I’ve ever tasted. I’ve had the joy of spreading The Baked Brownie love to friends and family, and received outrageously good feedback!

So, my foray into the world of dark, high-quality cocoa powder was quite a successful one indeed. I’ll definitely continue to make brownies this way, and I’m eager to start using it in other recipes too. I’m sure Cadbury Bourneville will always have a place in my cupboard, but it’s exciting to get more and more confident in baking and experimenting with how quality ingredients can make such a difference. In the meantime I’ve got a kick-ass new recipe in my repertoire, and a huge new item on my bucket list – visit Baked in New York one day to try the real thing!

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
Open | Tue – Sat : 7.30am – 5.00pm

Parkville Store on Urbanspoon

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