Lattee Art: The Championship!

My boyfriend thinks I’m addicted to coffee. To let me know he supports my addiction he got me free tickets to the Melbourne International Coffee Exposition through work. And he even came with me.

Held at the Melbourne Show Ground, the coffee expo was everything I though it would be: the pungent aroma, the coffee, coffee vendors, educators, baristas, coffee machines, coffe beans, coffee enthusiast and one opera singer.

Realizing that every single person was some sort of coffee connoisseur, I decided to avoid eye contact with anyone that looked like they would spark up a conversation. I would sneak to the side of the busiest tent and asked for three espressos. Two for me, one for Jack. I was hungover. We had most of our fun eavesdropping on other peoples conversations. While I love a good flat white or macchiato, I know nothing about the details, procedures, or techniques behind any of it. It’s really a whole other world.

Then, out of nowhere, music started blasting, making it hard for us to eavesdrop without being noticed. We did the only thing you do when you hear unexpected music; we followed it. It lead us to one of the most unintentionally exciting competitions we have ever experienced. The Latte Art Championship! I can check that off my bucket list.

I’ve always wanted to know how exactly how they made that flower so perfect, not to mention the fire breathing snake I was once dazzled by. How do those geniuses posing as mere artists do it? It is a swan or a dragon? Maybe two swans looking the opposite way? I don’t know, but I was beyond fascinated.

Each barista had a total of 7 minutes and 45 seconds to make 9 lattes for 3 judges. They had to recreate 3 previously picked out designs. If they mest up, they could re-do the whole lattee, but all the baristas that did went over the time limit. It was as thrilling as it was nerve-racking to watch! There were 2 hand held cameras covering the action, 2 big screen TVs on either of area showing the footage, loud music the baristas would bob their head to, two crappy announcers commenting on every move, the audience clapping and wow-ing at every completed latte, and the judges silently tearing apart every stroke of the art.

Never in my wildest dreams did I think anything like this existed!

Breakfast Thieves

Breakfast Thieves is one of my top two favorite breakfast places in Melbourne. I thought I would just come right out and say it because I don’t you want you to mistake it for anything else.

You’ll find Breakfast Thieves in the bottom floor of a renovated warehouse on the corner of Gore Street in Fitzroy. It’s the one with the top to botton windows. I feel in love with the detail and simplicity of the decor straight away. They use a combination of wooden and white walls. Purple flowers in a silver vas and a loosely tied paper with the story behind the building adorn each table. Water and the menu were giving to me as I sat down. This is important because the water came in a very expensive looking old whiskey bottle, which I have put on Pinterest to replicate one day.

I ordered a strong cappuccino which came out almost immediately. It was the first time in Melbourne the coffee mug was not a standard brown, or black; it was bright blue. It’s the little things that do it for me. The coffee was so good I had to ask where it was from; the Social Roasting Company. I asked for a second.

I was craving french toast so I ordered the Pain Perdu. This is one of those plates you have to take a picture of because you will be showing it off to friends and they will ask for a visual: Thick, soft brioche topped with slow cooked caramelized apples, fresh strawberries and mascarpone cream and some pistachio nuts scattered throughout. There were colors, accented flavors and different textures, everything I think a french toast and pancakes should be.

It took me at least two bites to realize the mascarpone cream was not ice cream. It’s a cream made from cheese. I have never been as pleasantly surprised by a case of mistaken identity.

The Pain Perdu from Breakfast Thieves will be the the first meal  I have upon my arrival in Melbourne come November.

Breakfast Thieves420 Gore Street Fitzroy, Melbourne, Australia 

Losing It at the Market

The idea of getting fresh produce from a farmers market or local out door market has always intrigued me. I always thought I could some day recreate a page from a magazine where the girl looks cute as a bowtie for no reason. You know the one… her hair is down, silky and flowing. She looks effortlessly cool, but also comfortable because the only thing she’s carrying is the cute tote her groceries will call home. She has her iPod with her and even though she’s taking her sweet time she looks completely in control of every aisle she turns on.

My hair is always too dirty and up in a ponytail on days when I would have the time to go to the market so it never seems worth it to take the trip.  But once upon a time the stars aligned! The perfect opportunity for a field trip to the beautiful South Melbourne Market in Australia showed its face. My 8am boxing class was cancelled Sunday morning and I still had what was left of my blow dry from Saturday night.

What happened next is not essential but still important. I put on my comfortable but stylish navy blue pants, a white button down shirt and my brown Oxford shoes. I was going after the whole J.Crew catalogue look. I took $50 out of my wallet, my tram card and shoved it in my pocket. I was really going for it! I don’t know if you can imagine how giddy I was, but I had my playlist of Broadway songs on shuffle to match my excitement.

I had no idea what I was getting myself into. I know what an out door market looks like, I’ve walked past hundreds of them for fruits sake! I thought getting in and out of the market would be a breeze, a walk in the park. But I’m here to tell you… it’s not. Not for me at least. Going to the market on a whim proved a bad choice and extremely unsuccessful. With so much produce to choose from, coming up with a meal just seemed desperately impossible. I found myself completely frozen in time awing at all the people and colors around me.

I couldn’t understand how they were moving around so fast, knowing very well what they wanted and what to grab for. Either everyone was on high speed or I was in slow motion (I think we both know which one). I felt so out of place I decided it was best to ‘stop and smell the roses’ both literally and metaphorically. I decided to make this first trip to the market about observing other people, taking in the smells and colors, getting to know all the different shops, witnessing how some people would buy corn at one shop but prefer buying capsicums at the next one. Why? What’s the secret?

What makes one better than the other? How am I to know if I should buy green grapes from the Fruit Seller rather than green grapes from the Man Who Sells Fruit across the way? I don’t think I’ll ever know but I did learn the following

  1. Prepare a list of items you want/need before the trip. Maybe even look up recipes you want to make during the week and work from there.
  2. If you accidentally bump into the tomatoes and they fall to the ground one by one, in slow motion, don’t panic! No one will yell, they’ll be very kind.
  3. Stay away from the cupcake section, even though they look and smell delicious it’s not what you came for.
  4. Keep repeating number 3 to yourself until you’ve made it back to the fruit.
  5. If you buy half of the items you need at one shop, and half the items at another not one person will give you the stink eye. They most likely don’t know you exist.

In the end I ended up buying two huge sweet potatoes, two medium sized white onions and a lovely bouquet of flowers for myself. While I was too overwhelmed to get enough groceries that actually contributed to being anything close to resembling a Sunday Night Dinner, I was very happy I took the time to go. I swear, here and now, I will do a better job on the next go around.  Maybe next time, I won’t even have to go to my usual supermarket for the rest of my groceries afterwards.

Marmalade and Soul Part Deux

If you’ve read this blog before you know that I am in deep breakfast love a beautiful cafe in Melbourne, Australia called Marmalade and Soul.

I went back. By myself. I couldn’t help it. I was craving a homey atmosphere and a good looking plate of food.

I got there early and ready to eat. When I requested to sit in the back room, the waitress asked me if I was sure, twice. It may not be next to the open kitchen,but it was completely empty at the time and is decorated by a chandelier made out of wooden spoons.  I ordered a strong cappuccino and read a chapter of “Starter for Ten” by David Nichols*. I didn’t even look at menu, I just sat back, relaxed and got excited for what was to come.

I waved off the waiters three times before deciding it was time to order. Feeling a bit adventurous I ordered the poached beaten eggs in goats cheese sauce, olive oil, and toast. I couldn’t picture what it would even look like, but I took a chance. I was in the mood for eggs and I love goat cheese. It was a no brainer.

Beautiful, isn’t it? I didn’t start eating for ages. I anticipated you wanting to see a close up shot so there it is. The detail in this plate is what gets me most. There were tiny flowers that I didn’t want to eat, I felt bad. The thought of ruining this masterpiece by eating it was unnerving, but someone had to do it.

I can’t pin point the exact reason, but Marmalade and Soul not only delicious, it also helps to cure my homesickness.

I have yet to visit for lunch or dinner because it’s a bit more expensive than I’d like it to be. Priorities.

* I read three books by David Nichols this year and loved them all. If you know any authors with the same style let me know.