Category Archives: Out

Mr Nice Guy

I’ve been a big fan of Mr Nice Guy cupcakes since my awesome friend Georgia introduced me to them.  My first Mr Nice Guy was some kind of amazing berry amazingness that was the perfect cupcake – light, moist cake with sweet-but-not-too-sweet flavoursome icing.  So as soon as Cindy & Michael posted about the new Mr Nice Guy Cafe in Brunswick (which happens to be a 10 minute walk from my office) I had to go.  Unfortunately, the cafe isn’t open on Tuesdays, so I had to wait a couple of days…and now it’s taken me a couple of weeks to write this up.

The cafe is at the Noise Bar on Albert St in Brunswick.  It’s full of couches and has a few ‘proper’ tables as well –  a blessing for those of use with a habit of spilling food in our laps.  It’s actually quite a charming space, although pretty quiet – I was the first person there when I walked in at 12:15, but a a couple of other groups came in while I was eating.

Along with the famous cupcakes, Mr Nice Guy also serve vegan tex mex and crepes. I had the quesadilla with vegan sour cream on the side ($2 extra) and it was damn tasty, although I wanted something more from it – a bit of fresh salsa would have made everything amazing.

I went specifically for lunch, but there was also no way I was leaving without a cupcake. I picked the Betty White: chocolate cake with coconut icing and flakes of toasted coconut on top – it’s like a bounty bar in cupcake form.

Betty White
Betty White – the Bounty bar of Vegan Cupcakes

I took my camera along with full intentions of documenting my meal, but I got distracted by the tasty food and forgot all about it until I was paying (I took the cupcake photos once I got back to the office).  As I was fishing for my wallet, the amazing crepe cake below came out, and the owners were trying to figure out how to photograph it with dodgy phone cameras.  I offered to let them use my decent-but-not-very-fancy digital and emailed the photos.  This is the crepe cake:

Crepes layered with lemon cream cheese and glazed with berries.

As a thank you for the camera use, I got a bonus free cupcake! It was gorgeous – rosewater cake with a chocolate icing – so tasty!

Rosewater cupcake with chocolate icing

Bonus Cupcake: Rosewater with chocolate icing

The verdict: great space run with a complete lack of pretence, relaxed service, and tasty, tasty food.  I hope they get the custom they deserve and keep on serving up delicious vegan food to Brunswegians for a long, long, time.


Monk Bodhi Dharma – Breakfast Degustation

Monk Bodhi Dharma seems to be the one southside cafe all the northsiders get excited for.  Personally I like it well enough, but I don’t think it’s the best my neighbourhood has to offer – I’d put Carlisle St favourites Batch and Las Chicas both ahead of MBD.

It’s exciting to have a veg-only venue, and one that has plenty of vegan options, but I still have a few complaints.  The first is that the blocks of wood they use for seats are damn uncomfortable.  It’s true I have a spectacular arse, but I’ve eaten there with svelte friends who found the accommodations equally uncomfortable.  That said, I love the fit out, and find the use of the tiny space endlessly fascinating.

The second is that I think the food is overpriced – $15 for beans and rice is, frankly, a bit much.  The third is that I find the meals, while always flavoursome and hearty, sometimes lack one element that would bring them together and lift them above what I usually make at home – a bit more protein, say, or a little creamyness; perhaps some yoghurt to cool the spiciness.  I certainly wouldn’t apply this to all the dishes – the corn hotcakes are perfection – but I’ve eaten a few almost-but-not-quite -perfect dishes, too.

Complaints aside, I am very fond of MBD, and it’s on semi-regular rotation for breakfast out (if I ever make it past Batch, that is).  And I was *super excited* when I booked a table for the Breakfast Degustation way back at the beginning of December last year.

The MBD Breako Dego (as I took to calling it) is 100% vegan and consists of three courses plus chocolates and coffee for $40.  I opted to pay the extra $10 for fancy coffees to go along with the courses.

The coffees (all pourovers) were amazing – hardly surprising given coffee is one of MBD’s great strengths.  They know their coffee, have a variety of different beans on offer, and are happy to make recommendations.  As much as I love coffee I’m happy to admit my ignorance once things get past a certain level, but I appreciate the knowledge that goes into the selections.

The first course was ‘summer vegetables with tomato water and horseradish vinaigrette’.

This consisted of thin slices of squash, heirloom radishes, tomato, herbs, and peaches in a light broth.  It was a beautiful dish, though I thought there was just a touch too much olive oil, which overwhelmed the delicacy of it.

Next up withs a ‘king oyster muchroom and avocado carpaccio with grated summer truffle, drizzpled with jalepeno oil & served with fresh bread’.

Now I love king oyster mushrooms, and I love avocado, so this dish was always going to be a win.  The jalepeno oil added a gentle heat and complexity to this delicious dish.  My only complaint was that there wasn’t more of it – but any tummy rumbles were kept at bay by the two fresh bread rolls served alongside.

I love bread, too, and having both the seedy grainy and the crusty sourdough was excellent.  Some good butter would have made these perfect, but I guess that would’ve spoiled the vegan-ness (Nutelex, perhaps?).

The last ‘proper’ course was a ‘sweet potato and coconut breakfast custard on a macadamia and ginger cookie crumble, served with Cointreau caramel and a balsamic tamarillo reduction.

This was truly spectacular!  The sweet potato custard tasted exactly like pumpkin pie, the crumble had a good ginger spike, the caramel was sweet but not over sweet, but the true genius of the dish is the balsamic tamarillo reduction.  Those dark smears on the plate had an incredible intensity of flavour – sweet and tangy and caramelised and lively and truly amazing.  I wanted to lick the plate, and probably would have were we not seated at the communal table with eight or so other Dego diners.

The final course was a selection of handmade organic vegan chocolates.

Look, they have gold on top!  These were amazing.  I’m actually not always a huge fan of dark chocolate (I realise this makes me a complete failure as a foodie snob), but these didn’t have the harsh bitterness that I sometimes object too.  They were smooth and moderately sweet, and intensely flavoured with orange and cocoa.

The breakfast degustation was a pretty spectacular start to the day, and I left feeling perfectly satisfied but not stuffed.  It was a highly enjoyable experience, and I’d probably go back next time I have $50 to spare on breakfast.

Monk Bodhi Dharma
Rear, 202 Carlisle St, Balaclava (next to Safeway)Ph: (03) 9534 7250
Breakfast Degustation: $40 + $10 for matching coffees

I’ve been meaning to do a lot of things

Well hello again.  Yes, it’s been a while (again).  Things keep getting in the way – not of cooking and eating, I have been cooking eating – oh, I have been cooking and eating!  But of photographing and writing and, well, doing anything with this blog at all.

I’ve been meaning to tell you all about the cooking and eating, though – about the incredible meals I’ve eaten at Attica and Ezzard (kindly subsidised by my amazing housemate who takes pity on my student budget).

And I meant to tell you how those meals inspired me to cook a 10-course degustation meal for my mother’s 60th (So much work! So much delicious!).

I wanted to tell you about the delicious vegetarian pancakes and vegetarian pho at Thanh Na Nine (I had the faux pho, but there’s faux-free pho as well):

And I wanted to tell you about the bbq “beef” at Yong Green Food. And also their blueberry vegan “cheesecake”, which I didn’t take a picture of because I was too busy eating it.

About making dulche de leche the old fashioned way (by boiling tins of condensed milk on the stove top for 2-3 hours.  Some people are scared of this method, due to the threat of exploding hot caramel, but you just have to use a big pot and make sure you check the water levels frequently.  Also, let the tins cool completely before opening, otherwise, yeah, exploding hot caramel.  Nobody wants that.)

And about the “pie party” we had for new years, which included Smitten Kitchen’s incredible Cauliflower & Caramelised Onion Tart, and a Mushroom, Blue Cheese & Caramelised Onion tart inspired by Sweet Source in North Carlton, and Cindy & Michael’s scrumptions vegan sausage rolls (ok, I was lazy and used the butter puff I had in the freezer, so mine technically weren’t vegan, but damn they were delicious – much nicer than “real” sausage rolls!).

I was going to mention the new (double!) oven that the landlord (finally!) bought to replace the old one which had holes melted through the door.  And the food processor I bought with my xmas monies (Best. Appliance. Ever).

I wanted to tell you about Ilona Staller, which is Ciccolina‘s sister restaurant and opened just before Christmas around the corner from me.  Verdict: delicious food, great drinks, fantastic service, in desperate need of more vegetarian options (there’s only one veg entree and one main, though there’s a good selection of sides, and their deserts are incredible).

I wanted to tell you about Misty’s Diner, which is outstandingly kitsch and serves wonderfully artery-clogging clogging food that conforms to every US cliche you can think of (deep fried! giant serves!) and I don’t care because it makes me happy.

I wanted to tell you about Rachael Kendrick’s kinky brownies because they may well be the best brownies I’ve ever eaten, and I’m compulsively pimping the recipe to the rest of the world.

I wanted to tell you about Mamsita (the corn! THE CORN!) and Naked for Satan and HuTong Dumpling (which I think is totally worth the 100% mark-up over Camy, if you can manage to get a table).

I wanted to tell you about my favourite hangover cure (because a lot of this eating has been accompanied by a lot of drinking).  It’s called shakshuka, and it’s the best.

I wanted to confess that this blog is basically a recap of all the food blogs I stalk.

And that I’m a bit embarrassed by my iPhone photos, but I bought a shiny new camera which takes much better pictures and will be debuting soon.

And that I’m taking off on a Big Fat US Adventure in March and April, and I’m very excited about all the amazing food I’ll eat there.

And there’s still more things I wanted to tell you about, but maybe I’ll leave those for another post.  If anyone’s still reading.

Quick Bites

There’s been so much going on lately that I haven’t got to blogging any of it.  So here are some quick bites – snacks, really – about food and, well, food.

1. Radical Grocery, Brunswick St, Fitzroy

After working just up the road since it opened, I finally made my first trip to The Radical Grocery Store on Sydney Rd.  My recent obsession with home made aoli has lead me to rediscover the excellentness of mustard, which has lead me to craving roast beef sandwiches, which lead me to try the Cheatin’ Style slices, and I was surprised by just how roast-beefy they tasted.  Craving satisfied.

I also grabbed the Vegi Deli mock chicken nuggets, and a Funky Pie Chic ‘n’ Cheese, Neither of which I’ve tried yet.  And at the last minute, I grabbed a brownie from the basket of goodies on the counter (damn suggestive placement!).  I nommed that straight away, and it was divine – rich and fudgey and chocolately and delicious!

2. Pies! Pies! Pies!

I seem to have a bit of a pie thing going on at the moment.

Castro’s, Melbourne Uni.  Known for some of the best coffee on campus, as well as the hottest barristers (who have since moved to the new cafe by the ERC).  I stopped by for a quick lunch after meeting my supervisor last week and had the Veggie Korma Pie, which was divine!  Thick, flavoursome curry gravy, yummy veggies, good crust.

Georgie Pie, Sydney Rd, Brunswick.   Their lentil and potato pie is damn tasty.  And they do a great custard tart.

TOFWD, Degraves St, Melbourne.  If I’m running late and haven’t had time for breakfast, I’ll sometimes grab a piece of the Kashmir pie from TOFWD while I’m waiting for my connecting train to arrive (don’t get me started about the Upfield line.  There’s a reason I don’t live in Brunswick anymore).  It’s tasty and nourishing and makes all my public transport rage evaporate with the first bite.

3. Court Jester, Breese St, Brunswick

Speaking of running late and catching the Upfield line, this place is conveniently located between the train station and my job, so I stopped in for breakfast the other day. I really like this place.

The long communal table.

I had the Brunswick Green again, and it’s still good, though not as good as last time.  The asparagus is obviously not in season, so they’d used pickled asparagus.  This wasn’t the gross mushy stuff you get from the supermarket, it was firm and textured and vinegary and rather delicious (but I like the fresh stuff better).  The avocado also wasn’t great – avocados just aren’t that great at the moment.

The Brunswick Green

I really like Court Jester, but I think they’d benefit from a more seasonal menu, or at least making sure their produce is always great quality.

4. New York Cheesecake

I volunteered to make this for a dinner at a friend’s place entirely because I’d started drooling the second I saw the pictures over as Smitten Kitchen, and had been revisiting that post twice a day since it went up.  Then it appeared twice on my RSS feed (both times in veganised form), and I had to make it.  I was a little wary given my ridiculous oven (there will be a new oven in my not-to-distant future), and I kind of whimped out on the price of ingredients and made a 3/4 size filling, which turned out to be just fine, thank you.  And goodness, it was pretty with the cherry topping running down the sides:

Someone else bough a banoffee pie, and desert awesomeness was had by all.

5. Tofu Kapitan

When this recipe from Vegan About Town popped up in my Google Reader, it was all I could think about for the next few hours.  So I checked the fridge and the cupboard, and I had everything required to make it except tempeh, so I made a tofu version, and it was DELICIOUS.  The tender potatoes, the rich sauce, the smell of it cooking…mmmm.  I had plenty of leftovers, and it was even better for lunch the next day.

Gosh, I really do like food a whole lot!

Birthday Dinner – MoVida

Yesterday was my birthday.  I am now 32 years old, and so far I like it a lot.  To celebrate, I went out for a fancy dinner!  Basically, it was an excuse to finally go to MoVida, which I’ve been wanting to do for, oh, a couple of years now.

I invited The Socialist, Awesome Housemate, my ‘wife’ Kt, and her girl B.  Because there were five of us, we had to have the Chef’s selection, which is 10 dishes for $65 per person (not including desert or drinks), and they’re happy to cater to dietary requirements: out of the five of us, there was one vego and one no seafood, and we were very well looked after.  There was some initial confusion about the no seafood, but that was because a minor communication thing and they sorted it out straight away.

The light was too dim for my poor camera to cope with so there’s no photos, which is a shame because the presentation was beautiful, but I’ll do my best to describe the vegetarian tapas:

1. A vegetarian version of MoVida’s signature tapa (anchoa), with lettuce, palm heart, and smoked tomato sorbet. The sorbet was amazing – smokey and light and cool and savoury!  Yum!

2. A savoury cheese custard (manchego? I’m not sure…), served in an eggshell, with a wafer-thin potato crisp. The crisp was delightful, with a clear flavour of olive oil and good salt.  The custard was intense and completely amazing – full-bodied and creamy and dense and utterly delicious.

3. Croquettes with leek and mahon cheese.  This was one of the vegetarian dishes that the whole table got to try, and they were really yummy!  Salty with a hint of paprika, and a rich, gooey centre.

4. Asadillo – “marinated roast capsicum and tomato salad in Moorish spices”.  This was pretty tasty but not as amazing as the other dishes.  I do love roast capsicum, though.

5. Salad of palm hearts with romesco sauce.  I’d never had palm hearts until last night, and they are quite delicious – a very mild flavour and a firm texture.  They make me think of bland artichokes, but that’s not quite it.  Anyway, this salad was lovely and light, and the romesco sauce was full of flavour.

6. Setas asado con jerez  – “oven roasted portabello mushrooms finished with sherry vinegar”.  These were AMAZING!  A really substantial dish with loads of ‘roasted’ flavour.  OM NOM NOM!

7. Roasted cauliflower with almonds.  Man, roasted cauliflower is the best!  Almonds are the best!  This was really tasty.  Although I was getting quite full by this stage, and also the saltiness of the dishes was building up in my mouth.  I think this was about the time we’d finished off the wine, too, and since the cheapest bottle was $55, none of us was feeling particularly inclined to get another one.

8.  Another salad with Warrigal greens, croutons and red grapes.  Delicate and beautiful – the sweetness of the fruit was lovely, and nice balance to the saltiness of some of the dishes.

9. Espinacas con garbanzos – “sauteed spinach with chickpeas & spices”.  This was the second vego dish that the whole table shared.  It was nice, but a bit too salty for me.  Not the most amazing espinacas con garbanzos I’ve ever had (in fact, I like my home made ones better), but tasty nonetheless.

10. Tortilla – “traditional tortilla with confit potato and onion”.  I was so full by the time this came out, it’s good it was just a small serve.  It was lovely, though – more delicate and melty than the version I make at home.

Aside from the slight over-saltiness, the food was absolutely wonderful.  The omnis got mostly seafood dishes, and Awesome Housemate, who doesn’t eat seafood, got a really good range of things.  Everyone really enjoyed their food, and we were all absolutely stuffed by the end – we’d been eyeing off the churros, but no one could manage another bite when the time came.  I’m not thrilled that we had to have the set menu because we were a group, though I understand it from a logistics point of view. I would have liked the option of a smaller set of dishes, or one that included desert.

We were all a bit tired because I’d also had a cocktail party the night before (I love birthdays!  And parties!  And cocktails! And indulging with my friends!), so it was a sedate kind of affair, but it would be a fabulous place to go for a really fun night.  The wait staff were great – gorgeous and fun and attentive and the service was absolutely superb.  At one point The Socialist dropped his knife, and within seconds someone appeared with a fresh knife and fork saying “I heard something drop – what do you need replaced?”  The space is also lovely – warm and intimate without being crowded, and that magical level of noise where there’s a great happy buzz to the place but you can still carry on a conversation without raising your voices.  We got to linger for a bit over two hours, and would have gladly stayed longer if we’d had bellies big enough for desert, and, well, unlimited funds for more wine.  I’ll definitely be back!

1 Hosier Lane, Melbourne
Ph: 9663 3038

Set menu: $65 for 10 courses
Wine: from $55/bottle or $11/glass

Camy Shanghi Dumpling Restaurant

Yep, it’s everyone’s favourite cheap ‘n’ dirty laneway restaurant.  The food is cheap and tasty, the service is rude, the decor is ugly, the music is super-kitsch (and ‘Happy Birthday’ is usually played at least once during the meal), and I really fricken’ love this place.  I think of it as a quintessential Melbourne experience.  I hadn’t been for ages, so when The Socialist and I found ourselves in the city around lunchtime on Sunday, that’s where we headed.

I usually have a standard order: Mushroom and vegetable dumplings, Chinese broccoli with garlic sauce, and pumpkin cakes.  Small or large depends on how many people are sharing, but it always comes out at under $10 per person (undoubtedly part of it’s enduring appeal).  But on Sunday, neither of us felt like dumplings (unprecedented!), so I actually read the menu and tried out some new things.

I had the Shanghai Vegetarian Sliced Fried Rice Cake:

It’s basically glutinous rice cake, sliced up and fried with a few mushrooms and some Chinese Broccoli and a salty sauce (perhaps a little too salty).  I absolutely adore glutinous rice cake things, although I’m much more familiar with it in Japanese sweets like mochi.  This dish has a similar texture, only denser (and oiler and saltier and, well, savoury).  I really like the blandness and guzshiness of the rice cake.  I love tamales for the same reason, and when I lived in Canberra, I used to go to the Gorman House Markets nearly every Saturday and get a spinach tamale with chilli sauce and a ginger beer and sit on the grass in the sun to eat them.  Good times.  Anyway, inspired by the memory of yummy-bland-with-spice, I added a little chilli sauce to the rice cake and it really lifted the flavour.

We also got Chinese Broccoli with Garlic Sauce to share:

Oh my goodness, SO MUCH GARLIC.  I love this dish!  Steamed greens!  Little baby corns!  GARLIC!!!  Very tasty.

And to finish, we had the Fried Red Bean Cake:

This was really similar to the taro cake, which I’ve had before, but I think I prefer the red bean.  The filling has that wonderful mild sweetness typical of Asian deserts, and the pastry was crisp and crunchy (although it had started to go soggy by the time we got to the end).

The Socialist ordered the Eggs and Prawns with Noodles:

It which was basically a prawn omelette on noodles.  He seemed to thoroughly enjoy it.  I can’t say for sure, but I suspect everything else we had was vegan.

We ordered way too much food for two people, and it ended up costing around $15 each, which is a shocking! amount! to spend there.  It’s not elegant or refined food by any stretch, but it is cheap, and it is tasty, and it feels like home.  If home were full of rude people who harried you to leave as soon as you finished eating.

Camy Shanghai Dumpling Restaurant
23-25 Tattersalls Lane
Ph: (03) 9663 8555

Two Whole (Cup) Cakes

Today I met up with my lovely friend ess_jay for a long-overdue cake date.  I was already going to be in the city to see Edie and Thea for MQFF (which was really excellent), so I suggested we check out the new cupcake shop at QV, The Cupcake Family.  Yeah, yeah, I know, cupcakes are so whenever.  I don’t care.  I heart them.

I had the Blueberry Cream Cheese and ess_jay had the Lemony Sunshine.  They were both delicious, and properly cakey.  I’ve had a few cupcakes that taste pretty much like packet mix, but these had lovely texture or density.  The Lemony Sunshine was especially delicious, with surprise!lemon curd in the middle.  Yum!

I forgot to take pictures while we were there, but I did get a couple to bring home:

The Coffee Crunch was very delicious, with yummy walnut chunks and a chocolate coated coffee bean on top.

The Lemony Sunshine got a little but smooshed on the journey, but was still very yum!

Awesome Housemate and I had half of each each, and he immediately asked me where they were from, which is something of an endorsement.

After a taste of ess-jay’s strawberry macaroon, I decided I’d have to get some of my own to take home as well.  I got strawberry, chocolate, vanilla and green tea.  They were very sweet and moist and chewy and crunchy and AH and I ate them all before I remembered to take photos.  I particularly liked the strawberry and vanilla.

The Cupcake Family
Shop 22, Red Cape Lane, QV
Ph: 9663 0055

Cupcakes: $3.70ea