Sunday, March 31, 2013


Disclaimer: I managed to snag a complimentary invite to the sneak peek tasting before the restaurant formally opened

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Bangpop is the newest addition to the South Wharf eating district, focussing on authentic street Thai flavours, with prices that won't hurt your pocket. So having said that, Bangpop is an awfully appropriate name. 

I had heard a couple of weeks back that Bangpop were doing a sneaky tasting, so naturally bothered them until I was granted a table the day before the first tasting!

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Residing where The Sharing House used to be, the interior hasn't really changed much from what it was originally, it's bright with high ceilings and pops of colour all over the place. 

Accompanied by my friend Shamim (who slept through her nap alarm and therefore delayed us!), we eagerly perched on our high stools, at the lego covered bar, where we drank and ate the array of predetermined food that was placed in front of us. 

Oh and what a variety it was!

We started with Khoa Kreab Tod (which I didn't manage to get a picture of because we arrived late), Thai rice crackers served with a lemon grass and chilli jam. Man, that jam just seriously punched you in the face. Hard. Really hard. And you liked it. We particularly loved the rice crackers with black sesame seeds through it, great crunchy texture and incredibly moreish!

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To keep the chilli going we then tried the Larb Kai, a warm chicken mince salad with fresh mint, shallots and dried chilli. Oh my goodness. This made so happy. Vibrant, citrus and chilli all at once. I had to take breaks between mouthfuls to fan my mouth and grin stupidly. 

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The Kor Moo Yang, chargrilled pork neck served with sticky rice was salty, firm and just delicious. The sticky rice was a little cold by the time it got to us, so it was hard to give it a solid evaluation, but it did go quite well with the pork. 

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We had seated next to 5 and Dime Bagel and his wife, who was pescatarian, so had already tucked into the spicy prawn salad, which had similar flavours to the Larb Kai, being citrusy, spicy and minty, but a personality all it's own as well. 

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The Lad Na Ka noodle was a breather from all the chilli, and reminded Shamim and I very much of wattan hor noodles in an egg sauce. It was explained and that it was from an area that had some Chinese influence in their food and it showed. The stir fry noodles with chicken, gai lan and baby celery was very homely and wholesome. The noodles were just so soft and slippery in a gravy that was thick and herbaceous. I'd be super excited to have a bowl of this (to myself of course) when the weather cools down. 

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We were a little over enthusiastic with the Gaeng Lueng Tai, poached barramundi with southern Thai style yellow curry with Thai basil and lime leaf, and I didn't get a proper picture of it before we tucked in. Whoops! I think I tend to struggle a little when my curry gravy is more soupy than saucy, as Malaysian curries are generally very enthusiastic with the coconut milk, but the flavours in this were still just lovely and warming. 

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Although we thought we were full, you never really are once you see dessert. We were treated to two, the first being the Fak-Thong Kang Buad (which I think may not have made it to the final menu), a coconut milk dessert with pumpkin. It was quite unusual, served warm and not overly rich (surprisingly). The pumpkin was so sweet and tender. 

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And finally, what I think is the Woon-Ma Prow, with young coconut jelly, young coconut flesh and toasted coconut. This was a great way to finish up the meal. Cooling and sweet, and a little bit lighter on the system. 

I was seriously impressed. I've always complained that we don't have enough good Thai food in Melbourne, but at Bangpop we had incredibly vivacious flavours that popped and made you sweat. Sure, a little bit out of the way in South Wharf, but have we finally got what Melbourne's needed? 

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I'm very much looking forward to coming back again, bright and colourful food with everything generally around or under the $20 mark and no queue (yet). I would be more than happy to tuck into some Larb Kai, Kor Mee Yang and Lad Na Ka again, and am extremely interested to try out the pad thai, Tom Yum Koong and maybe more of those chillis…getting the sweat on in Melbourne during winter sounds like it might be a treat…

35 South Wharf Promenade
South Wharf

BangPop on Urbanspoon

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Friday, March 29, 2013

Easter Eggs with Cacao and Tim Clark!

Disclaimer: I was invited to join in a blogger event at Cacao 

Happy Easter everyone! Although I may personally be toning back on the chocolate (need to keep weight in check for trip to America in June!), I hope your weekend is filled with the delicious stuff, fluffy bunnies and time with family and friends.

Or if nothing else that you're all enjoying a good sleep in!

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I thought in celebration of the chocolate-filled holiday (although yes, it has it's roots in religion, but that bit is not as fun), I would share some photos from a fun little night we had in Cacao Fine Chocolates and Patisserie's kitchen in St Kilda, with Tim Clark, one of the co-owners and master chefs and a gaggle of 8 bloggers or so. Not that you need to look at more chocolate, but maybe after the weekend you might still need a little more. Maybe?

It was a seriously sugar-induced night. Although we started with some savoury nibbles in the cafe area, brightly and vividly decorated (pop in to check out the adorable humpty dumpy chocolate display, made with one tonne of chocolate!), it wasn't long before the hot chocolate came out (super delicious yo) and soon after, we moved into the kitchen to…well…have more chocolate.

This particular night, Tim explained he would be helping us make our own easter egg, with a salted caramel chocolate ball on the inside. Excite? 

Yes much.

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Tim, who was friendly and chatty, busily explained the properties of chocolate as we snapped away like crazy. Tim was the perfect host and teacher. He had all the credentials after all, having worked in a Michelin star restaurant in Germany, working on cruise ships and at Crown Casino. He was also Australia's first Callebaut Chocolate Master (as the competition only opened internationally in 2004)…even beating Zumbo to the title and getting to represent Australia in France! 

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The first step to making our eggs, was to temper the chocolate. Foe to all Masterchef contestant, but when in a relaxed and non-pressured situation such as this, was actually incredibly relaxing to watch. 

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It's hard to explain in the short exactly why you temper chocolate, but it's to basically control the consistency of the crystals (chocolate is composed of lots of different ones), to ensure chocolate maintains a glossy, shiny appearance and doesn't get that 'bloom' where it turns lighter in colour and looks a bit funky. I'm sure there are a few other reasons, but I suppose that's the main one. 

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Tempering is quite a fine art, you need to heat up the chocolate to a certain temperature first, and then spread most of the chocolate over a stone table (preferably) to bring the temperature back down, before combining it back with the remaining and still warm chocolate. It was a lot easier for us as Tim knew just by touch when the chocolate was at an appropriate temperature, but beginner chefs on their own would need to use thermometers, at least in the beginning!

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It's incredibly relaxing to slide the chocolate around, I found it very therapeutic. It's an incredibly beautiful ingredient, especially when it's of this quality, just so fluid, smooth and creamy.

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Moulds are filled, air bubbles tapped out, tops smoothed out and then quickly emptied. Tim had us sprinkle some hard salted caramel flakes on the first layer, popped them in the freezer for a bit, and then did another layer over it. This made it quite thick. 

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I just love how shiny the chocolate looks in the moulds!

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While we waited for our egg shells to be ready, Tim took us through making a salted caramel spread. 

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Which we all couldn't resist getting our fingers into.

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This is what the final product looks like after it's been completed and cooled. Like fluffy caramel clouds in Candyland. Light in texture, but still so sinful! 

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In some prepared chocolate ball shells, Tim showed us how to pipe in the caramel, before letting us all take turns to do it. We only had to fill it up two thirds of the way, as after that we had to seal the caramel with a layer of chocolate (makes the caramel last longer). Then it was simply a matter of popping the halves together, and letting them sit in the freezer again to solidify a bit.

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The final step was to take our shiny, shiny, shiny, shiny egg shells, gently rub them on a heated piece of metal (to melt it a little), put the chocolate ball in one half and then close up the easter egg. 

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Throughout the night, we also got to sample Cacao's other goodies, such as their gorgeous and beautifully handcrafted chocolates and truffles and macarons (vividly coloured with great texture) and had a sneak peek at some of the pastries hanging out in the fridge, waiting to be baked in the morning. All in all, an absolutely fun night, although we all absolutely in need of a strong herbal tea by the time we got home! Sugar crash anyone?

And what about those eggs we made? 

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Well they're delicious. Just ask dad and I.

52 Fitzroy Street
St Kilda 3182

Cacao Fine Chocolates & Patisserie on Urbanspoon

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Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Tasmania - Hobart - Day 1

Oh Hobart. Where do we start with you? 

Brad and my visit to Hobart in December last year (yup, still catching up there), was my first visit and so I was naturally very excited. How could I not be with a whole new eating ground to explore? 

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Fortunately it was only an hour and a half drive from Port Arthur, so I didn't have to wait, wiggling away in the passenger seat with excitement, for too long before I got to eat anything!

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Learning that our hotel wasn't quite ready to check us in, our first port of call was naturally the Jackman and McRoss bakery in Battery Point. The place was pumping! And clearly beloved by locals and popular with the tourists! 

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And why not? The cosy bakery has a lovely warm and rustic atmosphere to it, with plenty of table space, table service and lovely large front windows which let the afternoon light gently saturate the space. 

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We, somewhat stupidly, sat smack bang in front of the display case with all the luscious cakes and sweets. Oh why Ashley. Why?

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But I was good, at first, settling in with a lovely chai latte and an insanely delicious vegetable frittata. It was smooth and oh so buttery. Probably incredibly naughty, but who's checking? It's generally hard to be totally overwhelmed by frittata (in my opinion) but this won me over completely. 

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And after our more savoury nibble, I had to tuck into one of the sweets at least, surely! Although sweet, sugar dusted fruit pies and vanilla slices beckoned, I could not turn down the big fat blueberries on the blueberry tart. Cool and sweet, with a lovely short pastry shell. Oh and juicy! Of course!

After our little tea and coffee break, we made our way down Salamanca Place, where the market would be if you are there on a weekend, to suss out what dinner options we might have. There were plenty of delicious looking options, and the stroll around the cove was lively and lovely. 

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Eventually, we passed by some floating fish and chip shops and all I wanted were oysters. For this, we stopped by 'The Fish Man', which was actually a fish monger on the water, and got half a dozen. Not as cheap as in Port Arthur unfortunately, but these were plumper and still incredibly cool and satisfying. 

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I'm so happy.

We then checked into our hotel, the Leisure Inn Hobart Macquarie, which was actually a bit bigger than I expected it to be and perfectly comfortable. There was a bit of street noise, but it was pretty easy to filter out. 

Brad being a boy, promptly turned on the tv once we got into our room and zoned in on the cricket. So with a slightly exaggerated sigh, I announced I would go for a walk and took myself out to see what was in the immediate area. 

Which was how I stumbled upon this adorable little shop. When I saw it from the outside, I had to do a double take. It looked a bit like an op shop, with rather adorable and vintage looking bric-a-brac, but in clear big letters on the window was 'THE RETRO FUDGE BAR'. 

I had to go look. 

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It was the cutest space, it was actually home to a vintage store, except with a twist. There was also a big display counter of fudge. And loads of it. More than 17 flavours. Woah.

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Made with lots of love, Matthew and Tania have been making fudge for over 5 years, first selling at the Salamanca Market before setting up their own brick and mortar shop (although according to Facebook they're moving from this location that I found the at). I bought some red velvet flavour which I brought to one of Brad's aunts when we stayed with her in Strahan, and it was so smooth and velvety. Just a divine treat. 

This is one thing I came to love about Hobart, and the area around it, there were so many little home crafted goods that seem to have enough of a market in Tasmania and don't make it across to the mainland. I loved finding these little treasures and tasty nibbles and hope if I make a trip back, that I can spend more time sussing them out…and maybe actually go to the famous Salamanca Markets too!

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For dinner, Brad and I wound up at the Mill on Morrison. We had strolled by it earlier, and although the menu was a bit all over the place and seemed to be lacking a clear and concise vision, had way too many yummy sounding things on it for me to ignore. 

And it had decent ratings on TripAdvisor and Urbanspoon. I'll take that. 

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The Mill on Morrison is housed in a beautiful historic flour mill in the CBD, and it keeps a rather vintage feel to it, with not much done to it's interior. It felt a bit like a dance hall with some tables added to it. As such, the restaurant was pretty noisy as the acoustics weren't great, but on the bright side, it looked like a great place for a big family gathering in the middle of the restaurant, as there was plenty of space for the kiddies to run around, without the chance of them running into someone, or something!

The menu is big. There's a lot on it. It's meant to be a tapas style menu where most of the menu items are shared, and it seems to take inspiration from everywhere, tacos, to paella, to garlic popcorn. Why not?

Despite this, as generally larger menus mean less focus on execution, I found the food quite tasty, playful and well presented. By no means is The Mill on Morrison a formal dining experience, it's meant to be casual and laid back. 

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The beetroot and wild rice salad, with pine nuts and goats cheese was an incredibly generous serving for $10 and I absolutely loved how earthy this whole dish was. 

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The pea, mushroom, blue cheese and walnut arancini were hot, crunchy and fulfilling. I wouldn't have minded the blue cheese to be a little more pungent though! 

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We happened to be in on a night where they were doing a bundled deal for their tacos and a corona. So we chose a chicken, avocado and corn puree taco, chilli beef, red bean and cumin yoghurt taco and a pulled pork taco with chipotle peppers and apple sour cream. 

I found the shells to all be a little bit 'wet', but this kind of worked nicely as it made it easier to fold around the filling and make for a slightly neater eating experience! All of the fillings were tasty, the chicken being just pleasant, the beef with a great kick of chilli and heat, and the pork was probably my favourite. The apple sour cream really giving it a sweet and refreshing note. 

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We also a mac and cheese with leek and gruyere. Oh my god. All the cheesy sin in one little bowl. So good, although so bad! 

Sure, we were stuffed afterwards, but when there are sundaes on the menu, you just can't say no to dessert! Coming in two sizes and in a variety of flavours, we opted for two small sundaes, just to try more flavours.

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My reaction upon seeing them?

"It's like…Disneyland…."

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Whimsical and playful, one had a champagne sorbet with strawberries and a hairnet of caramel, whilst the other was rocky road with chocolate ice-cream, marshmallows and nuts. Maybe not the most sophisticated of desserts, but totally enjoyable and totally fun. 

All in all, a low key and fun meal. And a great first day in Hobart…next up, MONA and Garagistes...

Jackman and McRoss
59 Hampden Road
Battery Point
TAS 7004

Jackman & McRoss Bakeries on Urbanspoon

(Was located at 83 Harrington Street, but I think they've moved. They are also at Salamanca markets)

11 Morrison Street
TAS 7000

The Mill on Morrison on Urbanspoon