Pana Chocolate – Raw, Healthy, Handmade & Guilt-free!

panda 5 rating

Pana Chocolate was founded by Pana Barbounis – who is passionate about raw and slow-cooked food – and following on from the success of his 45 gram raw, vegan chocolate bars has opened his first standalone raw-dessert shop.

Pana Chocolate is a wonderful addition to the Church Street, Richmond area and serves up healthy handmade raw, delicious tasting and looking desserts, as well interestingly flavoured chocolate bars. Pana Chocolate uses natural, vegan and organic ingredients like cacao, nuts, coconut and 100% pure essential oils to create wonderful and unique flavour combinations – which include Fig + Wild Orange, Sour Cherry + Vanilla, Rose and Mint just to name a few.

Prepare to be overwhelmed with the number of selections here which leaves you wanting to try out one of each. As mentioned before no desserts are made or sweetened with sugar but are all natural and made from plant-based, organic ingredients sourced from all around the world. Cacao beans come from the Amazon, Coconut Oil has been cold pressed in the Philippines,  Dark Agave Nectar comes from Mexico, Cinnamon is organic and certified from Sri Lanka (where I am from!!), Cacao Butter is organic, cold pressed and fair trade from Peru and organic carob comes from Spain.

The space is simple and clean – with most of its offerings for takeaway patrons – however if you did want to eat in there is a row of seats available by the window looking out onto Church street. I love the décor of Pana Chocolate – there is an entire wall that is covered with clipboards that have cute, inspirational quotes and sayings on them. This adds color, brightness and wow factor in such an easy and simple manner. Such an awesome idea – Love it!

There are 10 different types of chocolate bars to choose from– Eighty (80 % Cacao), Raw Cacao, Orange, Coconut + Goji, Fig + Wild Orange, Rose, Sour Cherry +Vanilla, Cinnamon, Nuts and Mint. All chocolates are low in GI, have no dairy or soy, are Gluten Free and are handmade. In fact they are all handmade in a small scale kitchen located at the back of the shop. A major difference with these chocolates is that you can envision and see the love and care that has been placed into each bar of chocolate or dessert for that matter – down to the packaging and wrapping of each individual piece – it has been done by hand and provides a human connection.

I have tried the Sour Cherry + Vanilla, as well as the Fig + Wild Orange flavours. Between those two the Sour Cherry + Vanilla would have to be my favourite – the chocolate is smooth, silky and not overly rich and literally melts in your mouth – with the sour cherry adding a great tangy sensation that glides over your tastebuds. The Fig + Wild Orange was also great – the combination works brilliantly together and if you are into the citrus flavours this would be one for you to try.

The piece of resistance at Pana Chocolate is the cabinet of goodies. The first row is full of their raw cheesecake / desserts of the day which are in a slice format, that can range from Raspberry Ripe (their version of a Cherry Ripe), Chocolate Strawberry & Rose, Spiced Apple, Blueberry & Ganache, Banana & Chocolate – these range from $6.50 to $8.50.
Their second row has smaller bite sized treats such as Lamingtons, Lemon Slice (this is new!), Pana Pop (more on this later), Brownie, Vespa Wheel (their version of a Wagon Wheel – complete with a buckwheat wafer biscuit and a soft coconut marshmallow centre encased in a gooey raspberry chia jam and dipped in cacao) and Fudge just to name a few – these range from $3.50 to $5.50.
The third row is full of individual raw chocolates like hazelnut mousse, coconut barrels and truffles – in flavours such as Coconut & Mint Cream, Rose & Pistachio, Hazelnut Praline, Sneakers (yep spelt like this), Lavender & Macqui, Mango & Salted Caramel and Coconut Barrel – there are more flavours in store!
At the very bottom of the cabinet are their chocolate bars in all the 10 flavours mentioned above for sale ($6.50).
There are also other healthy goodies for sale – from coconut water, coconut + cacao balls to their very own hot chocolate sealed with the pana heart of approval.

After marvelling at the cabinet of goodies and spending a good 5 minutes oohing and aahing I decided to ask the friendly staff member of what she thought would be good try out and settled on the Pana Pop as well as the Fresh Mint & Raspberry slice.

The Pana Pop – was a white chocolate cheesecake with a berry centre coated in delicious cacao – represented a mini Magnum. From the very first bite you could tell this would be a memorable treat – the soft textured coating coupled with the creamy white chocolate cheesecake and zing from the berries worked perfectly together. You could almost eat the entire Pana Pop in one mouthful – but I would advise against this and instead treasure every mouthful; or you could just order another Pana Pop!

The Fresh Mint & Raspberry slice was another winner. There were three distinct layers – the bottom layer being a combination of cashew and brazil nuts, the centre layer being the mint and the top layer representing raspberry. The consistency of all layers was dense yet smooth – with the perfect level of sweetness across all three layers. I couldn’t really taste the mint flavour that strongly – although the strip of green at the very top held quite the minty flavour. I love the use of the fresh raspberries through the raspberry layer which not only added texture but extra flavour. The base was wholesome and added further texture and flavour bringing the whole slice together.

I enjoyed my time thoroughly at Pana Chocolate – I actually perched myself in a corner seat by the window and enjoyed these treats whilst working away on my laptop. On my way out I ordered a lamington to take away (as I had been told by a friend that these were simply superb!) which was packed away in a takeaway bag and sealed with a massive heart sticker – the Pana symbol – which I thought was really cute.

Whether you are into healthy eating, have certain dietary requirements or not – Pana Chocolate is definitely a place to check out. It produces great tasting chocolate that have been lovingly prepared using quality ingredients for anyone and everyone to enjoy.

Rating : 5 Pandas
Price: $$
Menu – The dessert menu changes daily but no doubt whatever dessert treat you get it will be delicious!
Fullness: 100%
Atmosphere / Ambience: Simple, Cosy and Enticing
Standout Dish: Pana Pop
Service: Very very friendly and helpful (especially when you are overwhelmed with choice and don’t know what you want)
Restaurant Details and Location:
panachocolate.com
491 Church St, Richmond

Opening Hours:
Monday to Friday: 10:00am – 5:00pm
Saturday: 10:00am – 4:00pm

Pana Chocolate on Urbanspoon

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/panachocolate
Twitter: @pana_chocolate
Instgram:pana_chocolate

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Little Bertha – Sweet Treat Heaven!

panda 4.5 rating

Little Bertha Delivery

Little Bertha Delivery

BOX OF GOODIES!

BOX OF GOODIES!

 

Lil Bertha Cakes

BOX OF GOODIES!

Little Bertha is a cake and boutique catering service that bakes fresh every day to order for a multitude of customers, that vary from a large number of cafes around Melbourne, corporate catering as well directly to you at home.

Little Bertha was established in 2005 and is all about the local produce – using free range eggs from country Victoria (Healesville) mixed together with locally sources sugars, flours and premium quality ingredients. They also use real butter instead of margarine as well as no premixes or preservatives in all of their products. Another major plus point is that they offer products that are gluten-free.

There is a huge variety of sweet treats to choose from – cakes, cupcakes, biscuits, slices, muffins – which can be delivered as individual portions, slabs or petit fours. If you refer to the Little Bertha website there is a convenient shop for both wholesalers and online shoppers with orders being delivered anywhere in and around Melbourne – be it to your front door at home, at your office workplace or even for corporate purposes. You have the option of also collecting your order directly from Little Berthas wholesale bakery kitchen in Abbotsford.

Across the road from where I used to work was a restaurant called Non Solo Posto (NSP for short) and whenever I was craving something sweet, I would make my way there and order the Pistachio & Raspberry Teacake – this became my favourite and most craved dessert. This heavenly cupcake was a combination of almond meal together with a rich pistachio flavour and laced with raspberries through the soft and cloud-like cake – topped with a very generous offering of white chocolate cream-cheese icing finished a single vibrant red raspberry. It is the most divine thing you will taste right up until the last bite. I try to eat half at a time – and save some for later in the day but that never worked as it just tastes too damn good! This was my introduction to Little Bertha cakes and I was hooked.

It was to my great pleasure that I received an email from Little Bertha regarding a mention of their products on Grazing Panda and asking if I wouldn’t mind if they sent me a box of their sweet treats to try out some of their other products – who would say no to sampling of cute and delicious looking treats? Of course I didn’t mind!

I was expecting a few of their sweet treats being delivered home but never expected a whole entire boxful to arrive – with over 20 treats to sample! It was a great colourful surprise. Below is a picture and a description of each of the cakes that I received. Along with the box of cakes that I received there were cute picture cards with the name of each item on them so I knew what each cake/slice/biscuit was – such a brilliant idea. The pictures on the cards done in a watercolour style – which I loved – represented and looked exactly like the real life item.

Beetroot cake
Beetroot Cake
A small sized cupcake made of shaved beetroot, cardamom and topped with icing and finished with toasted salted beetroot chips and pepitas. The cake was quite dense (as a result of being butterless) yet moist and had an interesting flavour – you wouldn’t have been able to tell that this was a beetroot cake unless you read that it was – it was subtle. I love the combination with the cream cheese icing and the combination of the crunch of the pepitas and the toasted salted beetroot chips – the saltiness was a great addition to the sweetness of the cake and icing.

Chocolate Zucchini Cake
Chocolate & Zucchini Cake
A larger sized cupcake that you would definitely mistake for a chocolate only cupcake – complete with chocolate icing and a golden almond praline. The cake is made with a combination of almond meal, freshly grated zucchini, cocoa and cinnamon. The combination of chocolate icing, cake and the crunch of the almond praline is magnificent. The standout is the almond praline – gooey, crunchy golden goodness!

Carrot Cake
Carrot Cake

This was another of the smaller sized cupcakes which was topped with cream cheese icing and finished with pistachios and candied carrot. The cake had a mix of nuts which included walnuts and was soft, light and bursting with flavours. A really tasty version of a carrot cake.

Hazelnut & Cranberry Meringue
Hazelnut & Cranberry Meringue Cake

This is an impressive cupcake made of meringue and hazelnut meal topped with white chocolate cream cheese icing and finished with a beautiful glazed glistening hazelnut praline. I have never experienced a cupcake made of meringue and loved the idea of this – from the moment you bite into this cupcake you are in heaven – there is the initial crunch followed by the soft gentle taste of the meringue together with the burst of tang from the cranberries. Yum! The smoothness of the icing works well with this combination.

Fig & Ginger Cake
Fig & Ginger Cake

This cake looks very pretty from the onset – it has pistachios and dried flowers on top of the yoghurt cream cheese icing. This cake is in a rectangular shape and is a soft flourless cake made with almond meal and flavoured with fig and ginger – a perfect combination. Such a tasty cake capped off with the tang and sweetness of the icing. One to try!

Lamington
Lamingtons

Everyone knows about lamingtons – buttery sponge filled with strawberry jam and coated in dark chocolate icing and finished by being rolled in toasted coconut. The Little Bertha lamington was cloud soft and literally disappeared in your mouth almost like fairy floss – divine!

Lime Yoghurt Syrup Cake Lime Yoghurt Syrup CakeLime Yogurt Syrup Cake
Another stand out cake with an exhilarating combination – lime and yoghurt! The tangy butter cake has had yoghurt folded through together with blueberries and finally dropped in lime syrup. The end result was a full on tangy flavour (people that enjoy the lime flavour to things would love this cake) however still made for quite a refreshing cake – the addition of the raspberry did compensate for the tang.

Mandarin Polenta Cake Mandarin Polenta Cake
Mandarin & Polenta Cake

This cake would have to be one of my favourites (*drool*) – a round golden, moist and overly delicious flourless cake made with fresh mandarins. I love the little texture bits that you get to bite through once you bite into this cake – thanks to the polenta and almond. I am usually not a fan of citrus in my desserts or sweets but was pleasantly surprised when I tried this cake. Really great!

Passionfruit and Poppy Seed Cake
Passion Fruit & Poppy Seed Cake

This rectangular cake is made of poppy seeds and top with a zingy passionfruit icing and finished with two Mimosa sugared pearls. I found this cake to be a tad on the dry side with the poppy seeds providing an added crunch, however the flavours worked well together – the tang of the passionfruit was refreshing – which was needed to liven the poppy seed cake.

Pistachio & Raspberry Teacake
Pistachio & Raspberry Teacake

My absolute favourite!! (Refer above to my description)

Berry Crumble Cheesecake (2) Berry Crumble CheesecakeBerry Crumble Cheesecake
This cheesecake slice was highly intriguing and had a lot of flavours running through it – so it was a fun cake to try and decipher. Made of blueberries, raspberries, blackberries together with cream cheese and sour cream on a biscuit base and garnished with a crumble top. Everything about this cake was delicious but my favourite would have to be the biscuit crumble on top – I could eat an entire bowl of this! The combination of the berry tang and the crunch and smooth flavours of the biscuit was delicious.

Louise Cake Louise Cake
Louise Cake

To me this isn’t really a cake but more so a slice – complete with a coconut shortbread base, followed by layers of a fruity berry filling with a crusty coconut meringue top and finished with icing sugar and freeze dried berries. When you take one bite and get a cross section of all the layers the combination of flavours do work well together – from the coconut, meringue, berries and punchy lemon hit. A great textured dessert.

Strawberry Brunch BarStrawberry Brunch Bar
Strawberry Brunch Bar

This strawberry brunch bar is another one of my favourites. There is a biscuit base with a cream cheese centre layer that is topped with a strawberry filling and finished with a brown sugar and puffed cereal grain topping. When looking at this beauty – you would expect the top part to be crunchy, however it is soft and melts in your mouth. The strawberry is the hero of this slice as it adds a tanginess to the overall sweet taste.

Granola Bar (2) Granola BarGranola Bar
This is one of your healthier options complete with fresh nuts, seeds, dried fruits and puffed grains. Even though this looks mighty healthy it still has a very tasty and delicious flavour to it thanks to the combination of cranberries, coconut, apricot, pistachio, golden syrup, almonds, macadamias, hazelnuts and vanilla paste used. The bar was chewy and the textures altogether made for an enjoyable experience.

Monte Carlo
Monte Carlos
The Monte Carlos had a strawberry centre in between two soft and delicious short bread circles, which had been dusted with icing sugar. The combination of the buttery short bread that literally crumbled in your mouth with the not-too-sweet vibrant strawberry filling was brilliant!

Salted Caramel Cookie
Salted Caramel Chocolate Snap
This Salted Caramel Chocolate Snap was another one of my favourites – the caramel centre was soft, sweet and gooey with rock salt placed on top to create the salted caramel effect. The biscuit itself made with brown sugar, dark chocolate, Dutch cocoa, pistachios, white chocolate and all spice was soft and malleable – which made it so easy to eat (more like gobble down!). It almost tasted like a spiced walnut biscuit. Try it for yourself!

Litte Bear-Tha Gingerbread
Little Bear-tha Gingerbread
These gingerbread men / women biccies were adorable – almost too cute to eat! As they were gingerbread – you would almost expect a bit ginger flavour hit – however the ginger flavour was quite subtle which I liked. The biscuit itself was quite soft and overall it was an enjoyable bear treat to eat.

Mexican Chocolate Chilli Cookie
Mexican Choc-Chilli Cookie
The Mexcican Choc-Chilli Cookie had a surprise in the centre – soft chocolate ganache – which would make anyone’s day. The biscuit reminded me of marzipan in a way and the chilli flavour hits you at the end of your mouthful which creates a fiery zing. The cookie is not overly sweet thanks to the addition of cinnamon and had some crunch due to the almonds. A fun tasting cookie.

Pumpkin Sandwich Cookie
Pumpkin Sandwich Cookie
The Pumpkin Sandwich cookie is made with a combination of the pumpkin, brown sugar, cardamom, nutmeg, salt and vanilla paste and comes with a cream cheese centre topped with pumpkin seeds. From the first bite the flavours reminded me a lot of the gingerbread cookie. The cookie was soft with the added crunch from the pumpkin seed. I was a little disappointed as I was expecting more of the pumpkin flavour to shine through.

I would highly recommend anyone who enjoys a great tasting sweet treat or for that matter even people who aren’t big fans of sweet treats to check out Little Bertha for themselves – there really are options for everyone. They even cater for gluten free and vegan requirements.

If you check out their website you can have a look at the very long list of cafes in and around Melbourne that stock their beautifully handcrafted products. Or even better – order a box delivered fresh straight to your front door!

Rating : 4.5 Pandas
Price: $
Menu – Refer to http://www.littlebertha.com.au/ for a great selection of cakes, tarts, slices, tarts, muffins, slabs, roulades and petit fours
Restaurant Details and Location:
www.littlebertha.com.au
44 Duke Street, Abbotsford
Tel No: 9421 6663
More contact details can be found at http://www.littlebertha.com.au/contact

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/littlebertha1
Twitter: @littlebertha1

8Bit – Burgers, Gaming & Milkshakes!

panda 4 rating

Burgers are still very much the rage in Melbourne town – in fact I think all around the world. 8Bit is the new kid in town and the brainchild of chef Shayne McCallum and Alan Sam (both of Captain Melville) and Sam’s high-school mate, Long Tran.  It is located in Droop Street in Footscray – known for its usual crowds of Vietnamese people.

With the restaurant named after the 8bit video games – the theme follows inside from the décor to the names on the menu – they are named after video game characters – and is completed by the arcade games (which you can play for free) located out the back. What I love as well is the table numbers which are constructed with video game characters – from PacMan to Donkey Kong to Super Mario.

The outside is very different to what you would normally find in that area  -a very modern, new age looking building. There are signs of what used to be with the Vietnamese lettering peeling away and new 8bit patterned black and white burger logo pasted all over the front façade. The modern bi fold doors create the entrance – and you walk in feeling like you are stepping into a  modern day cave – complete with white plaster that peels away to reveal exposed brick work – almost giving it an aged look and yet another reminder of what used to be. I love it.

There are seats available at the main front counter which allows you to look right into the kitchen – where there is a whole barrage of staff (I haven’t seen so many staffing working at the one time in a kitchen ever! You can also sit along the window where you can sit on high coloured stools. As you go further inside the venue towards the back there are a few lower wooden tables, and the back room is once again filled with high seating complete with a wooden  bench tops. The kitchen is stainless steel and has a backdrop of tiles that have a Tetris effect with colourful tiles splattered amongst the white tiles. There are filament lights to complete this modern day look.

The menu consists of Burgers, Hot Dogs, Sides, Desserts and Milkshakes. There are six different burgers to choose from — Beef, Chicken , Beef & Bacon and Portobello Mushrooms burgers. There are four hot dogs to choose from – 8bit Dog (Smoked Frank with onions and pickles), Wonder Boy (Smoked Frank with Bacon and Onions), Fatal Fury (Jalapeno and Cheddar Sausage with Chilli Beef) and 1942 (Grilled Bratwurst with Pickle and Slaw). There are six different sides to choose from – each coming in two different sizes – small and large. Sides include Beer Battered Fries, Onion Rings, Potato Gems, Cheese & Bacon Fries, Chilli Cheese Fries and Loaded ( which is a choice of Fries or Potato gems, Chilli beef, Cheese sauce, Bacon, Pickle relish, Grilled onions,, Jalapeños). Desserts include various flavours of Soft Serves. Milkshake flavours include Salted Caramel, Peanut Butter, Strawberry Cheese Cake Shake and Chocolate Bar Shake – with a different chocolate bar flavour each day.

The only burger that I could get was the 1 Up Mushroom Burger – Crumbed Portobello Mushroom, Cheese, Tomato, Red Onion, Green Tomato Relish, Lettuce, 8BIT Sauce. The burgers are perfectly sized – not as small as a slider but not as large as a oversized burger that you would find at the likes of Grilled. My burger is filled with the crumbed Portobello mushroom along with all the other ingredients that is put between two buttered and toasted organic Lievito brioche buns. You would expect the brioche buns to be sweet of nature, however these ones did not have much sweetness to them which I quite liked. I loved that the mushroom was crumbed – it added more flavour, texture and crunch to the whole burger. The combination of all the elements was fresh and delicious – the 8BIT Sauce was scrumptious as well, however I would have liked a bit more sauce in my burger. Overall – it is one of the best veggie burgers that I have had in Melbourne.

N ordered the After Burner – Beef, Tomato, Red Onion, Lettuce, Cheese, Chilli Sauce, Jalapenos, Chipotle Mayo. N enjoyed his burner but said that the burger could have been a tad bit spicier. The beef burger was crusty on the outside but stayed juicy on the inside – just how you would want your burger to be.

We also ordered two different sides – onion rings and fries. The onion rings I found were mostly batter and not much filling, so I didn’t enjoy them as much. The battering, crunchiness and texture was tasty.

I also ordered a chocolate bar milkshake – the chocolate bar for the day was mars bar. I loved the milkshake – it was literally like a “chocolate milkshake only crunchy”. There were bits of the chocolate bar mixed in with the milk and ice cream and it was beyond delicious. I would definitely recommend trying the milkshake – next time I want to try out the different flavours. I’m sure they are all just as delicious. There is also a range of canned beers and soft drinks such as Dr. Pepper, Mountain Goat and American craft producer Sierra Nevada.

8Bit is a great addition to the Footscray area – and sells some great tasting burgers!  The staff are friendly, helpful and look like they enjoy what they do.  We were lucky when we went and managed to beat the crowds and get a seat by the window – so one thing to be mindful of is that dependent on the time you go you might have to wait a while for your burgers. There is no better place than a place where you can play some old school video games, sip on some delicious crunchy milkshakes and smash down a tasty burger!

Rating : 4 Pandas
Price: $
Menu – Refer to http://www.eat8bit.com.au/ for the list of burgers, hot dogs, milkshakes, sides etc
Fullness: 100%
Atmosphere / Ambience: Fun, Casual and Welcoming
Service:
Friendly and Enthusiastic
Online Booking: No
Restaurant Details and Location:
http://www.eat8bit.com.au/
8 Droop Street, Footscray
Tel No: 9687 8838

Opening Hours:
Monday to Sunday: 11am – 11pm

8bit. on Urbanspoon