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!

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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