Can you believe that Easter is around the corner already? Where has the year gone?
Well either way, you know what this means: IT’S TIME FOR GUILT FREE CHOCOLATE AGAIN!!!
Can you believe that Easter is around the corner already? Where has the year gone?
Well either way, you know what this means: IT’S TIME FOR GUILT FREE CHOCOLATE AGAIN!!!
I remember my first visit to Australia: I had just discovered Krispy Kreme, and I was determined to try every flavour they had in the store. The result? An extra 10kgs in 10 days. Fun times. Well Krispy Kreme isn’t quite what it used to be, but don’t worry, there are many other places rushing in to fill that doughnut shaped hole in our hearts (geddit?). Like Brisbane’s Doughnut Time, for example.
Because it’s always time for doughnuts.
The Elvis, $6
Peanut Butter, Banana and Bacon filled with raspberry jam
The George Costanza, $6
Caramel and pink salt glaze, topped with salted pretzels
Veruca Salt, $7
Salted Caramel filled and dusted with Cinnamon Sugar
The Butternut, $6
Burnt butter glaze with crushed pistachios
The Cate Blancett, $6
Topped with Tim Tams
Melon DeGeneres, $6
Sour watermelon glaze
On the whole, the base doughnuts were soft and fluffy in texture, perfect for you to sink your teeth into (literally!).
The Melon DeGeneres (have I mentioned that I love a good pun?) was my first and favourite, with a sour watermelon glaze that was instantly recognisable but not overpowering. Utter perfection.
The next round gave me a taste of (clockwise from top left) The George Costanza, The Butternut, The Cate Blancett, and the Veruca Salt. These ones ranked a little lower for me (also because I have an unhealthy obsession with anything watermelon), mostly because the flavours weren’t as uniquely wacky as I wanted them to be. No, the George Costanza didn’t make me thirsty, and the Cate Blancett wasn’t quite Galadriel, but The Butternut, though, was a standout – with a burnt butter glaze and chopped pistachios, it was so simple that every bite just made sense. The Veruca salt also hit up my love for a filled doughnut, but although it’s well made, I feel like there’s only so much you can do with a salted caramel doughnut, no matter how funky the name is.
And on my latest visit, the King: The Elvis. Elvis is an inspiration to many, not just because of his hip-grinding music, but also because of his hip-expanding eating habits. Apparently he’s got a real love of deep-fried peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, and at Doughnut Time, they’ve taken that idea, added bacon and banana, and put it in a doughnut. It did very much feel like a heart attack in a bite that I was expecting, but it wasn’t quite hitting the spot for me to keep going beyond the first bite. Maybe I needed hot bacon, or maybe I just needed more salt? Great concept, needs work on the execution, I think.
So this is really a review of three places, compiled into one blog post. I’d gone to the popup in Top Shop at QVB first, because I’d seen very well dressed women carrying around teal boxes of doughnuts and I just had to follow. It was near the end of the day, and judging by the paltry number of doughnuts left, it had been busy, and yet the lady behind the counter looked so happy to be there still. She was happy to have a chat about the flavours (though the signs were pretty clear), and told me all about the new stores that we’re opening. She knew her stuff, and I trusted her.
The second visit was to the popup in Chatswood (also in Top Shop), and this time, buying two doughnuts got me two thrown in for free! Perhaps it was slow moving stock, or perhaps they were going to close for the day. Or maybe they were just being nice. Either way, I was grateful for the generous gesture, and again the service with a smile put a smile on my face, too.
The third visit was to the stand-alone store in The Living Mall (Central Park), and again the service was impeccable. Either I’d been having some awesome luck, or they just hired some really perky people to match the perky doughnuts.
I think it might be the latter.
In some places in Sydney, $7 could buy you lunch. Not a particularly generous lunch, but a lunch nonetheless. Or at least, a hearty Vietnamese pork roll. So to pay $7 for a doughnut might sound a little steep. But the way I look at it, I would totally pay $7 for a full dessert, and this is exactly that, just in doughnut form. They are quite large by doughnut standards, and there is clearly care put into the making of them. Worth it.
Value for money: 1/1
When Simon and I went, we were joking about the fact that Doughnut Time pop ups were set up in a fashion store like Top Shop. I mean, it’s something for everyone right? If you can fit into the clothes, good for you. For everyone else, there are doughnuts.
Doughnut Time has clearly put a lot of effort into their retro-chic branding, which just adds to the experience of the quirky doughnuts. This is especially clear in the fun space outside the standalone store – where you can while away the time with building blocks. You might have to fight off a toddler or two, though – and the young, hip vibe of Top Shop only complements that. Makes you feel young and carefree just going there.
Just try to ignore the possibly impending heart disease if you go too often.
It’s nice to see a doughnut shop that clearly takes pride in their work, that is also easily accessible. It means that I can get my doughnut fix whenever I want, and so far it hasn’t failed to brighten my day. Sure not every doughnut is a standout, but there usually is a little something for everyone, and I haven’t felt like I’ve gotten a bad doughnut there yet.
Oh and I finally found the secret to enjoying these without putting on the weight. Eat them with some friends, because the calories don’t count if it’s shared. ?
Bonus points: 0.5/1
For someone who loves cheese to the point of a gallbladder removal (true story), I’ve always been a bit touch and go on cheesecakes. Light, airy, lemony cheesecakes are good, dense, dry, baked cheesecakes, not so much.
But there has been so much hoo ha about the baked ricotta cheesecakes from Pasticceria Papa that I had to give it a go. Maybe I’d been eating it wrong this whole time.
But then again maybe I just wasn’t built for cheesecakes. I mean, I may look like I’m made of cheesecakes, but I assure you that it’s not the case. The original ricotta cheese cake had the effect of drying my mouth out, and the nutella version just added a sticky rich feeling on top of everything.
Such a shame, since it’s one less delicious thing in the world to appreciate. My tastebuds mourn, and my waistline rejoices. Or at least that’s how I’m explaining the jiggling.
Foodie friends are the best. They feed you, they eat with you…and they don’t judge you when you decided to eat a crap ton of sugar and call it dinner.
In fact, they’ll do it with you.
That’s pretty much what happened when Simon, Christine and myself went to the opening night of Passion Tree at the new The District Dining in Chatswood. We pretty much had a “give me one of everything” moment, and it’s no child’ s play, let me tell you that much.
And it didn’t help that I was prepping some food at home before the event and only had roast chicken skin to eat. Yes. The whole chicken.
ARE YOU PROUD OF ME NOW MA?? ARE YOU PROUD OF ME???!!!
Anyhoo, you know how sugar always seems like a good idea as a kid because you pretty much don’t remember the crash afterward? Like how women who go through childbirth supposedly have some sort of amnesia that makes that forget the worst of the ordeal?
Yeah. No such luck here. We knew we were heading straight for a sugar crash, and we were going down in a blaze of glory.
We started off with macarons, which were surprisingly good in texture, but lacking in the flavour department. And in the age of Adriano Zumbo, there’s no reason to have bland macarons. The Chocolate didn’t much taste like chocolate, and the Blueberry left us scratching our heads wondering what we just ate.
The Jasmine was the best of the lot, bringing out lovely floral notes that made a macaron refreshing. Salted caramel and Strawberry came a close second, with actual oozing strawberry sauce coming out of the bright pink macaron.
We then had the Green Tea Bingsu, which is a Korean dessert made of finely shaved ice and topped with all sorts of ingredients, from fruit, to cereal, to ice cream. yes, it IS customary to have ice cream on top of your shaved ice, and don’t let anybody tell you different.
Unfortunately though, this was no Kanzi cafe and its towering pile of melon and snowflakes. In this case the actual shaved ice was not quite finely shaved enough, and somehow managed to be a touch watery. The green tea ice cream was quite nice but not especially so, and the cereal and azuki toppings made it all like a Japanese parfait. So points for that.
The Original Honey Toast gallantly rode in and saved the day – crispy-on-the-outside-fluffy-on-the-inside toast (or should I say, loaf) was drizzled with sauce and covered with ice cream and whipped cream. And a blueberry sauce on the side, just for funsies. I really enjoyed how the really absorbed all of the melted ice cream and sauce while retaining its crunch, and it gave me the same warm, fuzzy feeling like when you dip garlic bread in soup. But sweet.
Think about it. Yeah, you know that feeling.
And this point we were about to keel over in a sugar crash so large it would reduce any rational adult into a floor-lying-air-kicking tantrum, so we decided to wash it all down…with sugary ice blended drinks.
DO. NOT. JUDGE. ME. JUST DON’T.
The Turkish Delight was my favourite of the lot, with actual Turkish delight pieces in the rose and chocolate flavoured drink. Colour me impressed. And pink. Like the colour of Turkish delight. It did get a touch cloyingly sweet about halfway through, but that may just be influenced by the fact that we were already hitting that wall of sugar rush. Just maybe.
And you know what the treatment is when you hit a wall where you think you can’t go on any more? You push past the pain. It’s exactly like running. Or an all you can eat.
Same same, really.
So we head right back down the rabbit hole with waffles.
We were pushing past that wall so hard, we ordered two waffles. TWO. Take that, sugar crash. The S’mores waffle was a diabetes-inducing Nutella-marshmallow-strawberries-and-cream, while the Caramel Popcorn was a more straightforward caramel sauce/popcorn/cream sorta deal.
The S’mores coulda really don’t with some actual blowtorching of the marshmallow – rather than just the pillowy white gooey state it was in – Aqua S style. And no Nutella. Please no Nutella. It just pushed it over the top, and gave me that sticky peanut-butter-on-the-roof-of-your-mouth sticky feeling. Caramel Popcorn was heaps better, but really should be enjoyed without cream.
Repeat after me. Whipped cream does not make everything better.
I like that Passion Tree joins the ranks of other late night dessert cafes like Max Brenner and Oliver Brown without completely cornering you into the chocolate corner. It may be sacrilegious to say, but I don’t always want chocolate in my dessert, thank you very much. Sure, it’s not crazy amazing in terms of the food, but with a tiny kitchen just for assembly, it’s really more about giving you a bright space to have a seat with your friends and while the night away over some sugar. And I think they’ve done that nicely.
Not everyone can be a Cafe Creasion, you know.
What happens when three food bloggers get together to make Danish pastries? Lobster tail happens, that’s what. A discussion about cake boss and egg tarts became one about a super flaky concoction known as Sfagliatelle, a.k.a. the Lobster Tail, that’s been injected with a flavoured cream.
Because, you know, how else would it be filled?
NUTELLA, THAT’S HOW.
I’d never tried it, and I barely had time to register the shocked looks on Simon’s and Christine’s faces before I was being ushered into the car and toward Pasticceria Tamborrino, where I hear that their Lobster Tails are legit.
And I may not know about what makes a legit Lobster Tail, but I must say that these ARE THE WORK OF THE DEVIL. They were put there to condemn you to a hell of always having the lobster-tail-cravings, because once you go lobster tail, you never go back. Pastry that shatters with every bite only to give way to a velvety, vanilla scented, sweetened cream.
Life will never be the same again.
Damn you Simon and Christine. Damn you.
No, like cardiac-arrest-literally.
Gelato Messina’s Dessert Bar in Darlinghurst has always been OTT in their creations, but when you have a collaborator like ex-Hartyard Andy Bowdy, you know that you’re in for a real treat. Or a sugar spike so high it can hold its own against the statue of liberty.
Now I am not a sweets person, not by a long shot, but when I do, I like to go all out. And the Rocher Ferrero certainly fits that description: hazelnut and chocolate come together in a soft serve swirl covered with so many shards of wafer and chocolate that you don’t know where the crispy ends and the rich gelato begins.
We honestly couldn’t finish the cone between us two, which seems like such a waste of good food, but truly, I don’t think we were robust enough to finish this cone.
On a serious note, it was well executed, and the whole thing actuslly tasted like a Ferrero Rocher on steroids, which is no easy feat. The staff were polite and efficient, and I really like how they tried to make use of a tiny space to at least give you a place to stop and enjoy the dessert masterpiece you’ve just purchased.
What do you do after you go on a multi-pork-roll-food-crawl down oxford street? Walk to Surry Hills to get dessert, of course!
And that’s how we found ourselves at Cafe Cre Asion (how do you even pronounce that, anyway?) ordering cookies, macarons and tea on an incredibly full stomach.
This Asian dessert cafe has all the usual suspects…suspect. Matcha features in many of the menu items, including their famous matcha lattes.
The latte was okay, iced, but what really blew me away was the enthusiasm of the service. Sure, there were a few mixups, but they all looked so happy to be there. The macarons were also surprisingly good as well – the roasted rice had a lovely savoury quality to it, and the lychee had an amazing perfume.
A nice place to have afternoon tea with a friend, or takeaway some treats. Be careful of rocking up with big groups though – it’s quite a small space that’s really more suited to uh, intimate catchups.
Or you know, you could just go by yourself and stuff your face with macarons like I wish I did!
When I think about Russia, I always think snow, potatoes, and well, the mob. Men with scarred faces, the very image of toughness. The whole Eastern European thing. Which, you know, can be very intimidating, when you know nothing about the culture and want to find out more.
So imagine my surprise and delight when I was invited by Olga to sample the delights at her cafe, Izba Russian Treats, in Newtown!
The Beef Blini is very much like a savoury crepe, made from a traditional yeast leavened batter to create a soft spongy wrap that surrounds seasoned beef mince.
Made with caramelised onion, the beef mince was very lightly sweet, and together with the blini and rich sour cream, made for a very addictive dish. Light but satisfying, this is actually a great option for a quick lunch, and isn’t as stodgy as I would have assumed Russian food to be.
If you’d like something a bit richer, the Salmon and Buckwheat Pie consists of puff pastry, filled with tender buckwheat, smoked salmon, and eggs baked right into it. The smoked salmon lends quite a heavy hit of salt to the pie, which balances out the “blandness” of the buckwheat. Be sure to get a bit of everything in each bite!
And then, what we really came here for: the cakes. Olga has learnt how to bake at the knee of her grandmother – who’s recently turned 90! – and her mother, and has inherited recipes passed down from generation to generation.
Although the savoury dishes were surprisingly light, the desserts ticked ALL the boxes for luxury and richness. The signature Izba – so named for the wooden hut that it’s shaped after – is made of sponge cake, cream, kirsch-soaked cherries and rich chocolate over the top. So good, so rich. Even as large a glutton as I am, I needed to eat share this cake with friends, especially after the first heady hit, as the delicious DELICIOUS sugar, cream and cherries continue their welcomed assault on my senses.
On the “opposite” end of the spectrum was the Bird’s Milk, which is meant to be as light as bird’s milk. Having never tasted bird’s milk I can’t comment on the name, but this was a considerably lighter cake of cream, sponge and a light layer of chocolate ganache. There was something so simple and straightforward about it that created an aura of charm around it, but the Izba, with all its old world pomp and circumstance, still remained my favourite.
Olga really opened my eyes to the world of Russian hospitality. Could she have been extra nice to me because I was a guest? Maybe. But the interactions with her other customers that I eavesdropped on carried a warmth of an owner who is passionate about the product, and down in the trenches working long shifts alongside her staff.
Oh, and that stereotype about Russians not smiling? Well, Olga says that it just takes a while for them to open up, but once they do, it’s a genuine invitation to their hearts and their homes.
And their dining tables.
How much can there be to soft serve? Heaps, apparently. Aqua S debuted to crazy round-the-block queues with a single, unique flavour: sea salt soft serve, tinted a bright robin’s egg blue.
You might say that it was the flavour that launched a thousand queues.
They have two flavours that change every week, with sea salt as the constant, and whimsical toppings like cotton candy, torched marshmallow and popping candy. Because what’s the point of soft serve if it doesn’t delight the kid in you? They seem to do fruit flavours especially well, with a fantastically juicy watermelon that was well balanced with the sea salt. The Apple Blackcurrant tastes like the large bottles of juice that you can get at the supermarket, and was quite refreshing, if not slightly on the cloying side of sweet.
The service is polite and efficient, and quite no-nonsense, which takes away from the whimsy slightly. And the price gets to me too, because $6.30 for a cone with two toppings somehow seems a tad steep to me when round the corner you can get decent soft serve for around the $2 mark. It’ll be interesting to see how long Aqua S can keep churning out new flavours though, because if they can, they’re in the running to be the Messina of Soft Serves in Sydney.
Before I came to Australia, hot cross buns were a completely foreign idea to me. Most of the bread I had growing up was savoury, so needless to say when I got exposed to fruit breads, I became obsessed because now it felt like there should be sultanas in EVERYTHING. So I decided to combine my love for bread pudding – it runs in my family, I swear! – and newfound appreciation for the hot cross bun, into a next level dessert to warm you up this winter.
And of course, what’s dessert without a little secret ingredient?