A World of Lattes

There was a time when meeting up with a friend for coffee gave you the obvious choices – Cappuccino, Latte, Flat White, Espresso etc. But those days are long gone – with the introduction of a number of different varieties. The list of options is growing from strength to strength especially with the increase of the healthier way of living life; together with the increase of dietary requirements such as Gluten Free, Dairy Free etc.

Most recently, some people of Melbourne were outraged by the posting from Jamila Rizvi of her deconstructed coffee.

Deconstructed Coffee

The Deconstructed Coffee

What is deconstructed coffee you ask – it comes served on a paddle, in three separate cups, or test tubes, beakers in some cases — one with espresso, one with milk and one with water. Having the same ideal as a DIY coffee you can put exactly how much water and milk you want – essentially creating your perfect cup of coffee. It is thought that this trend hails from London; with this trend having both its haters and lovers. I myself haven’t tried a deconstructed coffee but seeing as I can just make myself one at home; I am on the not-a-fan bandwagon.

Variety of Lattes

An Array of Lattes [Picture: Courtesy Eugene Hyland]

There are many forms of different lattes and it almost seems like a new version of the latte is being developed every day! Here is a list of the lattes going around Melbourne so far:

Matcha Latte
Beetroot Latte
Tumeric Latte
Mushroom Latte
Rainbow Latte
Blue Algae / Smurf Latte
Red Velvet Latte
Pink Tea Latte
Yellow Tea Latte
Yep there are that many! Let’s delve into a bit of detail about each of these lattes.

Ground Whole-Leaf Matcha Tea

Ground Whole – Leaf Matcha Tea

Matcha Latte from White Mojo

Matcha Latte from White Mojo, Melbourne CBD

 

Matcha Latte and Original Latte from Fourth Chapter

Matcha Latte & Original Latte from Fourth Chapter, Prahran

The Matcha Latte – these have been around for a few years at select cafes; but you are starting to see more and more cafes embracing them.

Matcha tea is the finely ground powder of specially grown and processed green tea. Unlike traditional green tea leaves, which are steeped in water and then discarded, matcha powder contains the whole ground tea leaf, which is ingested whole. The taste and nutritional benefits are vastly different to standard green tea; matcha has a softer, creamier flavour and contains up to 10 times the antioxidant content of standard green tea brews.

Green tea leaves contain high levels of antioxidants known as polyphenols. These help to protect against heart disease and cancer, and are known to have anti-ageing properties. Because matcha tea contains whole leaves it has a significantly higher concentration of antioxidants compared to steeped green tea. It also contains good amounts of healthy compounds such as chlorophyll, which gives it the bright green colour.

Matcha Lattes are an acquired taste – but I personally love them! I am also a huge fan of anything green tea related so that maybe why. It has a very robust taste but coupled with the milkiness of a latte has a creamy undertone. I would highly recommend you try one for yourself.

Matcha Lattes are appearing in quite a few cafes – too many to name – but here are a few that do – White Mojo (Melbourne CBD & Balwyn), Fourth Chapter (Prahran), Serotonin Eatery (Burnley), Too Many Chiefs (Brighton), Eden’s Backyard (Carlton), Street Organic (Malvern), Matcha Mylkbar (St Kilda).

Beetroot Latte from Happy Place

Beetroot Latte from Happy Place, South Melbourne

The Beetroot Latte is something that is quite new – it is created to balance the power of a superfood together with a hit of coffee. Some cafes use organic Beetroot powder mixed with Almond Milk ( Real Food Organic in South Yarra) whereas others use freshly pressed beetroot juice, fresh ginger, original almond mylk (Matcha Mylkbar in St Kilda). Meanwhile at Happy Place in South Melbourne; they do a caffeine-free Beetroot Latte infused with Hibiscus.

The Happy Place Beetroot & Hibiscus Latte was the one I tried – it reminded me of a smoothie but warm – it literally was a nice warm hug on a cold and breezy Melbourne day.
Happy Place is a holistic lifestyle cafe; located at South Melbourne Market- recently opened by Melbourne coffee pioneer Salvatore Malatesta and celebrity nutritionist Lola Berry. The basis of the cafe is it’s gluten-free, dairy-free, refined sugar-free and FODMAP friendly. The cafe is targeted mostly at take away (there are about 8 window seats) – with a mix of Chia Puddings; Mix and Match Salads together with Bone Broth (which is Paleo). Additionally there are Cold Pressed Juices and Smoothies (which are mostly fructose free) as well as the hot drinks (they do Tumeric, Carob and Mushroom Lattes too – all caffeine free). Oh they also have Crystal Infused Water! And if you are looking for something sweet – they do have raw cakes with flavours such as Mint Slice, Key Lime Pie, Cherry Ripe and Snickers Bar to name a few. I am usually not a fan of Cherry Ripes – however I did try Happy Places’ Raw Cherry Ripe which was scrumptious!

Back to the Beetroot Latte – I am interested to try another one – this time one which has the caffeine mixed in with it to see if it does taste any different. It has officially been put on the to-do list!

Tumeric Latte from Matcha Mylkbar

Tumeric Latte from Matcha Mylkbar, St Kilda

Turmeric lattes sounded rather interesting to me. I have always known Tumeric is great for you and has an abundance of health benefits such as incredible anti-inflammatory properties, and has been used medicinally in South Asia for over 4000 years! Tumeric Lattes are also affectionately referred to as Golden Lattes.

There are many different ways to make  Tumeric Latte – most consist of Tumeric, Cinnamon, Ginger and a variety of other spices which could include pepper and even cayenne pepper as the base mixture. This is then combined with either cow’s milk, coconut milk or nut milk. It is believed that some spices such as black pepper, help to absorb the essential nutrients of the tumeric; further enhancing the anti-inflammatory and immune system aiding properties. Coconut Milk is suggested as the best alternative for Tumeric Lattes as it doesnt separate out and enhances the spice flavour.

“Tumeric Lattes” have been around for centuries especially in the Indian culture – it is called haldi doodh in Hindi, which translates to Tumeric Milk. This version of the blend has cardamom, clove, ginger, nutmeg, turmeric, pepper, cinnamon, brahmi and ashwagandha (Indian spices) made together with a coconut-and-almond-milk blend. If you wanted to make it for yourself at home you can buy different Tumeric blends available around Melbourne and Sydney.

I had my first Tumeric Latte at Matcha Mylkbar, located in St Kilda. Matcha Mylkbar is a vegan cafe by Nic Davidson, Sarah Holloway and brothers Mark and Attil Filippelli. They are renowned for selling bright-green burger buns, vegan eggs and of course their different types of lattes including Matcha, Tumeric, Mushroom and the newest addition Blue Algae lattes (I will go onto talk about these too!). They also have great Pun-Fully named smoothies which come served in a skull glass – epic!

My first sip of the Tumeric Latte was intense to say the least – it was a massive kick to the back of your throat with spicy richness. It almost felt like I was eating a face mask I have used before (=p ); however as you take more and more sips it really does grow on you. I really enjoyed it after a few more sips and even welcomed the spiciness. A definite must try.

Mushroom Latte

Mushroom Latte

Mushrooms are one of my favourite veggies! However I am a bit apprehensive about how they would go in a latte form. I have yet to try a Mushroom Latte but definitely do want to try one out. What is a Mushroom Latte you ask – it is made with almond milk and sweetened with vanilla spice and agave mixed together with a Chaga Mushroom Blend. Going from the reviews – it apparently doesn’t taste like mushrooms.
Stay tuned – I will update this post once I have tried one!

Rainbow Latte from Too Many Chiefs

Rainbow Latte from Too Many Chiefs, Brighton

Rainbow Flat White from Too Many Chiefs

Rainbow Latte from Too Many Chiefs, Brighton

Moving onto the Rainbow Lattes and Rainbow Coffees – both of these can be found at Too Many Chiefs in Brighton. Rainbow Latte / Flat White / Hot Chocolate is essentially your standard coffee fix with the use of food dye in the milk used to form Latte art.

Rainbow Coffee

Rainbow Coffee from Too Many Chiefs, Brighton [Picture by Eugene Hyland]

Rainbow Coffees however are the healthier alternative and created by the owners of Too Many Chiefs; is free from caffeine and is made out of turmeric, beetroot and matcha. This gives you your Vitamin C fix, fights the flu, boosts immunity and acts as an anti-inflammatory all in one. Wow!
To be quite honest it wasn’t until deciding to write this post did I know there was a difference between a Rainbow Coffee and a Rainbow Latte. When I am in the area I do want to try out what a Rainbow Coffee tastes like!

Blue Algae Latte

Blue Algae Latte from Matcha Mylkbar, St Kilda

Now onto the latest hipster trend taking Melbourne by storm – the Blue Algae Latte / Blue Latte or Smurf Latte. Yep that’s right it is actually Blue in colour. My favourite colour is blue – but having a “latte” that is in that colour I am not so sure about. That and the fact that it has algae in it – what the?

So just what is the Blue Algae Latte made of – it is a concoction of lemon, ginger, coconut, agave and E3 Live Blue Majik – a powdered and super expensive blue algae. It does cost $8 to try – and has no recorded health benefits.

Since I haven’t tried it myself I took to the reviews to find out just what it tastes likes. According to people who have tried it – the first mouthful was prominently sweet, gingery taste before changing to a funky sourness that lingered. Of course this isn’t everyone’s cup of tea (pun intended); but just like with anything you will have your lovers and haters. I am still on the fence if I want to try out the Smurf Latte – but never say never!

Red Velvet Latte

Red Velvet Latte from Local Mbassy, NSW

Another coffee morning brew is the red velvet creation that I found a lot in Sydney cafes – The Locak Mbassy is one such cafe. The Red Velvet Latte tastes exactly like a Red Velvet Pancake along with the cream-cheese-esque butter cream and hints of popcorn. It really is quite rich and delicious all at once. I am yet to see the presence of the Red Velvet Latte in any Melbourne cafe.

Pink Latte

Pink Tea Latte from St Rose, Essendon

Another latte made famous via Instagram is the Pink Tea Latte and Yellow Tea Latte. This craze started all the way from Geelong at a place called Cha Cha Tea (You can find this available at King of the Castle Cafe – Pakington Street, Geelong) – with Sam Manning the girl behind the coloured tea lattes.
Cha Cha Tea mixers is essentially tea without the hassle of boiling or infusing with no added preservatives and unnecessary sugar; and are easy to make by adding sparkling water (or normal water), champagne or even an espresso martini – your choice really!
There are currently two flavours – Strawberry Swoon (Pink!) and Peeling Fantastic (Yellow!) tea lattes available – with more flavours to come.

The Strawberry Swoon Tea Latte aka Pink Tea Latte is a blend of Rosehip, Hibiscus, Strawberry, Beetroot and Apple and is sugar-free, Caffeine-free, Packed with Vitamin A and C and is also vegan friendly. You can purchase one from St Rose Cafe in Essendon or as mentioned above King of the Castle Cafe.
And thus concludes my visibility into the world of lattes – please do comment below if you have tried or know of any different “latte” available in Melbourne. Would love to hear your experiences.
Also follow @simtiaz_grazingpanda on Insta for daily foodie updates, stories and travels!
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Tomboy – Vintage Chic

panda 4 rating

Tomboy is the creation from co-owners Pia Hambour (ex Movida) and Georgina March (Box Brownies) whose initial dream was to create a shopfront to showcase the wholesale baking business Box Brownies – a business all about gluten-free and dairy free sweet treats! Currently these goodies are provided daily to cafes such as Seven Seeds, De Clieu and Brother Baba Budan.

Located in Smith Street, Collingwood, Tomboy has a rustic charm to it with a variety of pieces around the venue sourced from the Adelaide Hills (near where the girls grew up). There are many stylish one-of-a-kind pieces here at Tomboy – you will definitely find something that peaks your interest from any seat you sit at.

As you step inside you will see a vintage milk bar sign that hangs over the front counter which came from an old Collingwood business as well as an old school white scale. The counter itself is quite unique – there are 1970s speakers built into the counter and surrounded by brick. These speakers belong to March’s stepfather. The communal table located at the back of the venue against the brick wall is my favourite – it is reminiscent of a workman’s bench complete with dents, scratches and metal vise’s. The surrounding tables remind me of garden bench tables coupled with seating to match. There are little touches that bring the whole recycled, vintage, relaxed feel together such as jars filled with flowers, a ladder that houses magazines and newspapers, mint green light shades hanging from thick shades and wooden boxes that house vintage books. Most fittings and décor items come from ops shops, antique stores and friends. There is a small courtyard located at the back for those wonderful summer or spring days.
Both the owners are supportive of local artists and have one wall of the café dedicated to rotating exhibitions – the right wall has been plastered and painted white. The current feature comes from local street artist Drab and features a tattooed gangster “baby” with a mopey face and moustache, wearing a beanie – it is quite a feature and adds a great point of difference. I really love the décor and styling of Tomboy! This painting on the wall seems to tie into the front page of the menu and their takeaway coffee cups – which have portraits of the staff & friends illustrated. You then join in the fun of trying to find a portrait that resembles yourself- well at least I did anywhere.

The menu (which tends to have a vegetarian flair) changes seasonally but generally always has the main staples such as fruit toast, multigrain toast, a sweet dish (either brioche French toast or waffles), breakfast bun, Poached eggs with sides, bagels, selection of sandwiches and a Tomboy Tart of the Day served with a Salad, along with additionally dishes that vary with each season. These dishes could include Spicy Red Wine beans with Goats Fetta and a Poached Egg on Toast ( you could add a pork and fennel sausage if you wish), Roasted Swiss Mushroom with Meredith Goats Fetta, Sautéed Kale, Hazelnuts and a Poached Egg or Lentil and Wild Rice Salad with Pistachios, Almonds, Roast Capsicum, Currants and A Lemon Harissa Dressing (you can add Poached Chicken). You can either find the menu located on a giant reel of brown butcher’s paper attached to the wall, as well as a more detailed menu that will be given to you at your table.
The idea is to use vegetables that have been grown from the duos own vegetable patch as well as sourcing local suppliers. The meat dishes will be of the sustainable type which fits in with the healthy living ethos the duo follow.

I order a latte to start whilst deciding on what I want to eat. Coffee is from Seven Seeds pumped out through a Synesso Hydra espresso machine, with a single origin also being. My latte is strong yet smooth with both nutty and fruity hints and was brewed to perfection. A really great tasting coffee.

I was tossing up (once again) between a sweet or savoury dish – Elvis Waffles (Buttermilk Banana Waffles, Whipped Peanut Butter Mascarpone, Maple Syrup and a Peanut Brittle) and Crispy Potato Hash with Parsnip Puree, Grilled Asparagus, Kale Chips and a Poached Egg. In the end the savoury side won.

The dish was well presented with the Parsnip Puree spread as the base of the dish with the grilled Asparagus artfully placed on top with the Crispy Potato Hash in a rectangular shape placed to its side. The Poached Egg sat on top of the Potato Hash with the Kale Chips placed around all the components described. The egg was poached perfectly and the gooey golden yolk drizzled over the crunchy potato hash. The grilled asparagus was perfectly seasoned and flavoured with the creaminess of the parsnip puree adding the perfect complement. The Kale chips added some extra saltiness to the dish and were sublime. All the components on the dish worked well together and overall it was a truly superb dish that I would recommend anyone to try.

Looking for something sweet to eat then look no further than the front counter where the delectable delights from Box Brownie can be found – cakes, brownies and other bakes goods. All treats are gluten-free however you cannot tell by tasting them.

If you needed another reason to come and try out Tomboy – then you should check out the quarterly publication the duo have put together – The Tomboy Paper – which keeps diners up to date on all things to do with Tomboy, Box Brownie and Collingwood. They have enlisted the help of creative directors Emily Gillis and Camille Moir-Smith from Yolk Studio.

Tomboy exudes bucket loads of character and charm. The food displays uniqueness with its combinations of ingredients, the coffee is exceptionally brewed and the staff are friendly. Make Tomboy next on your list to visit.

Rating : 4 Pandas
Price: $$
Menu – Refer to pictures above as well as at their website http://www.tomboymelbourne.com.au/#!food_menu/cl69
Fullness: 100%
Atmosphere / Ambience: Funky, Lively and Chilled Out
Standout Dish:
Service: Friendly
Online Booking: No
Restaurant Details and Location:
www.tomboymelbourne.com.au
356 Smith Street, Collingwood
Tel No: 9486 0162

Opening Hours:
Tuesday to Saturday: 7:00 am – 4:00 pm
Sunday: 8:00 am – 4:00 pm

Tomboy on Urbanspoon

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/tomboymelb?ref=ts&fref=ts
Instagram: tomboymelbourne
Twitter: @tomboymelbourne

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

Dig A Pony – Uniquely Delicious

panda 4 rating

Menu:
Dig A Pony Menu Dessert Menu    halal (1)** ONLY DUCK IS HALAL**

We (there were four of us) had just visited a friend in the Williamstown area and needed to find a place to have early dinner. After a bit of googling dinner places around the area, we stumbled on Dig A Pony. A quick phone call and we found out that they wouldn’t be open for another 30 minutes, but that would be about the time we would take to drive there.

We arrived about 15 minutes before their opening time however since they knew we were coming they saw us hovering around the outside and let us come in early – which was nice of them.

Dig A Pony was opened by owners Mike and Hannah Bacarella in 2009, to create a place that they would enjoy – a place that was welcoming and relaxed to enjoy good food, wine, music with great friends. The name Dig A Pony is inspired by the name of a classic song by The Beatles which was features on their final album “Let It Be” – and was known as a whimsical and eclectic song – which is the vibe that this restaurant and bar is going for.

From the outside Dig A Pony looks like your normal corner bluestone pub, but once you step inside you are greeted with wooden tables, creative lamps and lighting along with a variety of seating – from leather lounges to antique chairs as well as bar stools and armchairs – there is bound to be a seating arrangement that you enjoy. During daylight hours the natural light is let in through the many windows, however once night time hits the only lighting is from the light shades and few down lights around the venue – it can get a tad dark.

The menu initially was based around Mediterranean Tapas with authentic recipes hailing from Spain, Italy, Greece, Morocco and France – keeping firm the concept of food designed to be shared and enjoyed by all at the table. Enter in Mark Briggs (Vue de Monde, Sharing House) who added his touch of elegance and fine dining background to create an exciting menu that consists of delicious snacks, enticing small dishes as well some spectacular combinations for its larger plates. The concept of sharing, enjoying and having a bit of fun still remains.

The menu starts off with eight “Small Bites” – consisting of Oysters, Croquettes (Mac and Cheese) – how awesome do these sound! – just to name a few. Next on the menu are “Small Plates” (you can select from a selection of nine dishes – these include the likes of Mushroom Cannelloni (with Parmesan Mousse & Mushroom Ketchup), Moules Mariniere (Mussels in White Wine, Garlic & Cream), Chicken Kiev (with Crispy Kale & Broccoli), Tartare (Classic Beef with Egg Yolk Puree & ‘Chips’). There is only a selection of three “Larger Plates” to choose from – Duck, Goat or Wagyu Brisket. There are “Vegetables and Salads” to choose from as well as a “Charcuterie” section. If you find yourself not wanting to decide dishes on your own there are two Chef’s Selection Menu’s available – Five Plates ($45 per person) or Eight Plates ($55 per person).

Their drinks menu is quite extensive – consisting of wines, international and local boutique craft beers, spirits as well as a selection of intriguing cocktails. They also have unique combinations such as beer and whisky for those wanting a drink with a difference. In fact I think if you ask – you can mix just about any drink! I ordered a mocktail – which had flavours of Apple, Mint and Tang – a combination that quite refreshing on the palate.

There were two of us who had dietary requirements in the form of Dairy Free and Gluten Free and out waiter was very helpful in identifying which dishes could be consumed to suit. I also thought I would try my luck and ask if any of the meat or chicken was Halal – he found out that the Duck was – so of course we had to order it.

There were four of us at dinner so we decided to order a few dishes from each section.
We ordered three dishes from the Small Bites section. The first dish was the Cornetto – Ocean Trout & Granny Smith Apple – which came out looking as the menu read – in a cone shape sitting upright on a wire rack. Inside the cornetto cone was the mix of fresh ocean trout mixed with granny smith apple, capers and lime. I loved the mix of the crunchy cone together with the softness of the trout. The trout itself mixed with the apple was a brilliant combination – a hit of flavours for your tastebuds and a must try dish.

The next dish we received was the Cauliflower Popcorn with Roast Garlic Aioli – which comes served in a jar with the aioli placed on top. The cauliflower was crumbed and fried to create the popcorn effect and was seasoned well. The roast garlic aioli complimented the cauliflower well and tied the whole dish together. My only comment about the dish is to have the aioli in a separate little dish to make it easier for dipping purposes. The way it was with the aioli on top, when you got towards the middle or near the bottom of the jar you had run out of the aioli.

The last dish from the Small Bites section was the Buffalo Wings with Ranch Dressing. I didn’t try this dish; however I did try the Ranch Dressing which was absolutely divine – tangy with a kick of heat of it. Everyone around the table thoroughly enjoyed this dish as well and especially enjoyed the hint of chilli at the end.

From the Small Plates menu section we ordered the Confit Salmon with Clams and Savoy Cabbage and Scallops with Caramelized Cauliflower Puree & Sour Raisins.
The Confit Salmon usually comes with Pancetta, however we ordered this dish sans Panchetta. The dish was plated beautifully with flavours to match. The salmon had great texture and colouring and was cooked perfectly. The clams for me were the hero of this dish – delectable. Each of the elements brought a different flavour and depth to the dish – from the savoy cabbage laced in dressing to the pumpkin puree and finally the fried onions. A great tasting dish.
The Scallop dish was another good dish – the scallops were seared perfectly, the cauliflower puree worked brilliantly with the other elements on the dish and the raisins provided sweetness.

After these Small Plates we were onto our Large Plates of which we ordered two. First up was the Goat Hot Pot – Shoulder of Goat with Fennel and Rosemary. I loved the way this dish was presented – in a clay pot with a ring of scalloped potatoes on top. This was a clear favourite around the table – with the goat being melt-in-your-mouth, with the flavours being infused in the right proportions.
The next Large Plate dish was the Duck A L’Orange – Roasted Breast, Confit Leg & Brussel Sprouts. The duck was a bit on the tough side when you went into cut into it but the crispy skin on the outside was perfect. The velvety citrus sauce was rich yet subtle and really complemented the duck. This was my first experience of Duck A L’Orange and I must say I did quite enjoy it.

We also ordered the Quinoa with Pomegranate, Pistachio & Dates from the Vegetables and Salads section. The elements of tang from the pomegranate and sweetness of the dates, together with the nutty flavours worked well – you really cannot go wrong with this combination.

We were all really full from our meals but everyone needed a coffee for the drive home and so we looked at the dessert menu as well. There are five desserts to choose from and I was stuck in choosing between the Violet Crumble and the Parfait. In the end I went with the Parfait of Honey with Chocolate Mousse & Popcorn Granola. This was a really memorable and divine dessert. The chocolate mousse was rich, the parfait was creamy, the popcorn granola was caramelized and if you take each of these components together in one mouthful you will be heaven! If this dessert was this good – I can imagine just how good the other desserts would be!

Dig A Pony is the type of place that I wish I had stumbled upon a lot earlier as it serves up some great tasting food using simple ideas and a mix of interesting ingredients. The vibe is relaxed and casual – it’s a great place for a catch-up dinner with friends, as well as for a celebration. Staff are friendly and go out of their way to help in any way they can. If I was you I would definitely make a trip to Yarraville.

Rating : 4 Pandas
Price: $$$
Menu – Refer to picture above or http://digapony.com.au/wintermenu.htm
Fullness: 100%
Atmosphere / Ambience: Relaxed, Casual and Welcoming. Great for any occasion.
Standout Dish: Cornetto – Ocean Trout & Granny Smith Apple
Service: Friendly, Knowledgeable and very helpful
Online Booking: Yes via website – http://digapony.com.au/bookings.htm
Restaurant Details and Location:
http://digapony.com.au
58 Ballarat Road, Yarraville
Tel No: 9689 0110

Opening Hours:
Tuesday to Thursday: 5:00pm – 11:00pm
Friday to Sunday: 5:00pm – 12:00am

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Dig-A-Pony/199011662736
Instagram: Dig_A_Pony_
Twitter: @dig_a_pony_

Dig A Pony on Urbanspoon

The Raw Trader – Guilt Free Joy!

panda 3.5 rating

Menu:
Menu

Raw Trader is a newly opened café and specialty dessert that whose main focus is on healthy eating! They offer organic, raw, vegetarian, vegan, dairy-free, sugar-free, gluten-free and Paleo healthy desserts and treats. They make the dream of eating desserts guilt-free come true! It also brings the dreams of people who have food allergies or reactions to particular foods come true as now they too can enjoy and experience the joys of delicious tasting desserts without any reaction.

Raw Trader is located off Latrobe Street in Melbourne CBD on Sutherland St, conveniently located near Melbourne Central and Emporium. It is run by Emily Samyue who is a former food technologist who left the corporate world to start this great idea!

The fit-out is brilliantly designed by Studio Y – there is a combination of raw wood together with a slick modern warehouse vibe. There are baby blue table tops which contrast well with the feature wooden wall panelling. The metal baby blue stools topped with resin sack covered cushions complete the look. There are also high light wooden tables located towards the back, with baby blue poles running thru the middle to the high ceilinged venue. The space is light and airy. The main attraction of course is the polished concrete counter (brown with touches of baby blue), which houses the La Marzocco coffee machine as well the star of the counter – the desserts display. Each variety of dessert has its own name board and is displayed upon a wooden board.

Raw Trader makes ALL their products on site (even the nut milks), using the best selection of ingredients with bucket loads of love and care used to create the delectable treats. Along with desserts, they also offer organic coffee – Red Star coffee – tea and hot chocolate. There are also a selection of home-made organic whole fruit and vegetables juices and smoothies available such as Immunity (Orange, Carrot, Kale, Spinach, Acai, Ginger) and Calming (Almond, Raw Cacao, Blueberries) – just to name a few.

There is a vast array of desserts to choose from – raw cheesecakes, slices, bliss balls, chocolate bark, muesli bars, chia puddings just to name a few. There are flavours such as Cherry Ripe Slice, Apricot & Mandarin Slice, Chocolate Pudding, Carrot Cake, Tiramisu, Deconstructed Lemon-Mousse Tart, Apple Crumble, White Chocolate and Berry Layer Cake, Chocolate Banana Slice, Black Forest Cake, Kiwi Layer Cheesecake, Choc Orange Bliss Ball. As you can see there are a variety of options available, with the menu changing daily – you never know what you will get when you arrive at Raw Trader – it all adds to the fun!

You can see from the pictures above the selection that was on offer to me when I visited Raw Trader. I decided to order the Deconstructed Orange Mousse Tart. I am not usually a huge fan of orange flavoured desserts – but I really enjoyed this version! The Orange taste was light and airy as was the mousse. The chocolate crumble that was added around the mousse – added a soft texture and further enhanced the orange flavour. Overall, it was a scrumptious treat that I would recommend you try out. The deconstructed lemon mousse will be next on my list to try! I also had a latte – which was strong, intense and full bodied – just what I needed for the perfect pick me up! I didn’t try their almond like but I think I will give it a try next time around.

You can also buy products from Raw Trader – they offer a range of house-made retail products, such as organic raw granolas, organic teas, organic activated and raw fruit and nuts mixes as well as home-made organic raw almond and hazelnut milks. They also make specialty cakes to order so if you are looking for your next celebration cake then look no further than Raw Trader.

Raw Trader is a great addition to the city for what is a growing raw movement and health-conscious trend. It might be a tad on the pricey side however for what it caters for and the quality of ingredients they use it is quite reasonable. What is great as well is that they are open till late from Wednesday to Saturday which allows you to enjoy these sweet treats and great tasting coffee late into the evening. You can either dine in or takeaway – whichever you prefer!

Rating : 3.5 Pandas
Price: $
Menu – Refer to Picture above for list of smoothies and juices. Desserts vary on a daily basis
Fullness: 100%
Atmosphere / Ambience: Casual, Fun, Modern and Relaxed
Restaurant Details and Location:
http://rawtrader.com.au/
10 Sutherland Street, Melbourne
Tel No: 0478 692 008

Opening Hours:
Closed Monday and Tuesday
Wednesday to Thursday: 7:30am – 8:30pm
Friday: 7:30am – 10:00pm
Saturday & Sunday – 10:00am – 10:00pm

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/rawtrader14
Instagram: rawtrader
Twitter: @rawtrader14

Raw Trader on Urbanspoon

The Smith – Knickerbocker Glory

panda 4 rating

A and I were looking for a place where we could have some dessert after dinner and I stumbled across The Smith and its renowned dessert – The Knickerbocker. It was a Friday night and I knew that they would be busy so I called up to see if they would have space for the two of us to have dessert – they were very helpful and said to come and they would find a space for us. How nice of them! So we headed down and literally had the best seats in the house – at the bar counter overlooking the kitchen –we could actually watch as our desserts were being made.

The Smith is located in High Street, Prahran – one of the trendier suburbs in Melbourne and the venue matches. The owner is Scott Borg (former director of Taxi and Circa), and he has created this swanky, sophisticated and fun venue that offers all day dining.

From the outside it looks like a pub, but once you are inside you are welcomed by a fun and casual vibe. To the right is the bar and courtyard and to the right is the main dining area, which travels all along to the back room which is another dining area. Here is where the fantastic open kitchen resides, with the opportunity to sit at the bar overlooking the kitchen – best view in the house! The back dining room has high ceilings together with a combination of round, square and communal wooden tables. The fit out is classy, elegant all whilst staying casual and welcoming.

We were just there for desserts so we were given the dessert menu to peruse. Whilst tossing up what we wanted to have for dessert – we could see the other meals being prepared in the kitchen and being sent out to the diners. They looked amazingly delicious! It made us wish that we had come here for dinner as well! The menu is prepared by Michael Lambie (also ex Taxi and Circa). The Smith offers six-course and eight-course tasting menus at $70 and $85.

The menu is split into six sections – starting off with “Oysters” (there are three to choose from), moving onto “Mouthful”, then “Tastes”, followed by “Fish & Meat”, then “Sides” and ending on dessert dubbed “To End.” Mouthful includes morsels of food that ranges from pork croquettes, to tempura king prawns, soft shell crab, tofu and salmon tartare. There are a number of “Tastes” and “Fish & Meat” dishes to select from as well – the variety ensures that there really is a dish for everyone and every dietary requirement. The menu is a combination of many cuisines – from Mexican to Thai to Japanese and even Modern Australian Country.

There were four different desserts to choose from which included The Smith Carrot Cake with citrus cream cheese, Chocolate dulce de elce with blood orange foam and the two desserts we chose to have. What is great about the desserts here are not only do they sound good, but most of them are Gluten-Free, Nut-Free etc. The menu marks down what each dessert is, as well as suggesting what drink it would go well with. There is also a cheese selection if you are a cheese fan.

I ordered the The Smith Knickerbocker Glory (GF, EF, NF) – which was essentially like a trifle – it had layers and layers of sweet goodness. There are layers of macerated sweet tart fruit including pomegranate molasses, berries, strawberries topped with whipped cream, chocolate buttons, jelly squares and chunky bits of honeycomb. There were so many textures and flavours going on and it really was a fun dessert to have. I loved the combination of cream and berries any day so this dessert worked really well for me and was just what I craved and wanted.

A ordered the Raspberry Souffle with White Chocolate Ice Cream (GF) which was mighty impressive when it was placed in front of us. The overflow of the soufflé looked delightful and was topped with icing sugar; to the side was the white chocolate ice cream. The soufflé was literally melt in your mouth and the tanginess worked extremely well in contrast to the sweetness of the white chocolate ice cream. A winner!

Whilst we were eating our desserts we watched as The Smith Carrot cake was being made and boy did it look impressive! There were so many elements that were added – as you watch you think that it would be the last ingredient placed – but wait there’s more – more and more elements added – and the end result: spectacular. The dish was finished with petals, flowers and reminded me of a swan. Definitely wanting to try this out next time!

We also ordered tea to go with our dessert – and I tried the Russian Caravan tea for the first time! I have previously not heard of this flavour and was intrigued to try it out. This tea is a blended oolong, keemun and lapsang souchong tea and has a vibrant and strong aroma to match a nutty, malty and smoky flavouring. I might actually consider purchasing some of my own Russian Caravan tea!

The staff were really helpful and our waiter especially was really friendly! Customer service was really good and the staff looked like they were having a good time.

The Smith is great place be it for a casual catch up dinner or a celebration. The atmosphere is lively, fun and very friendly. The Smith also has two function rooms upstairs, with a separate bar and kitchen. One of the rooms is called “Mr Smith” which is the more masculine version complete with leather seats and can seat up to 40 people. The other room is aptly named “Mrs Smith” – complete with white walls and can seat up to 24 people. There is a wall between the two that can be opened up to create one larger space if needed.

The Smith serves a large variety of food in a venue that is stylish, elegant yet casual and relaxed – the staff are friendly and helpful and the food dishes not only look spectacular but taste great too! What more could you ask for really?

Rating : 4 Pandas
Price: $$$
Menu – Refer to http://www.thesmithprahran.com.au/the-food/ The drinks menu can be found here – http://www.thesmithprahran.com.au/the-drinks/
Fullness: 100%
Atmosphere / Ambience: Elegant, Stylish, Casual and Fun. There is an area for dining and an area for drinks, as well as a courtyard. There are also function rooms.
Service: Fantastic – very friendly and helpful!
Online Booking: No
Restaurant Details and Location:
www.thesmithprahran.com.au
213 High St, Prahran
Tel No: 9514 2444

Opening Hours
Monday to Sunday: 12:00 pm – 11:30 pm

The Smith on Urbanspoon

Good Food & Wine Show – Thanks Rachel’s Gourmet Yoghurt

I was invited to check out the Good Food & Wine Show in Melbourne by Rachel’s Gourmet Yoghurt. I must say this year’s show was the best show put on than any of the other previous years I have attended. There were lots of interesting food and drink stalls, and in keeping with the times lots of products that were tailored to the growing need for Gluten-Free, Dairy Free, Lactose Free etc.

Rachel's Stand

Rachel’s Stand

Rachel's Stand

Rachel’s Stand

rachels

Rachel’s was launched in the early 90s and has grown onto becoming one of the UK’s favourite yoghurts. With that market secured they have transitioned to Australia to make the same indentation in the market. Rachel’s yoghurt is a low fat product that combines fresh Australian Milk together with a unique fusion of fruits resulting in creamy, delicious yoghurt. They use a traditional recipe and quality ingredients. There are currently 4 different flavours:
Mango & Madagascan Vanilla
Black Plum & Roasted Fig
Wild Strawberry & Rhubarb
Peaches & Vine Ripened Passionfruit
They can be purchased at Woolworths, Coles or favourite independent supermarket. And another fantastic fact to note is that they are Gluten Free! For more information check out their website at http://www.rachelsyoghurts.com.au/

It was quite ironic that I received this invite from Rachel’s as it was only the previous couple of weeks that I felt like yoghurt and went to Woolworths and ended up purchasing Rachel’s yoghurts as the flavour combination really interested me. I tried the Mango & Madagascan Vanilla, as well as the Black Plum & Roasted Fig. I loved and enjoyed both the flavours – they both had a smooth and creamy texture paired together with nice big fresh chunks of fruit! Perfect! What is even handier is that under the lid, there is a foldable spoon that you can use! Briiliant! They do really follow their tag line – Combining passion and care with premium ingredients.

I am just going to point of some of my highlights and stalls that I thought were pretty amazing. We started off with trying out some nuts (I don’t have any pictures, as I think I was too busy trying out the samples) – I ended up buying Chilli Macadamias and Chilli & Lime Cashews – both of which were delicious! They also had some sweet flavoured nuts – such as honey and caramel macadamias and cashews.

The Ginger People
Ginger People Product

The Ginger People were another stall that was exciting – we tried some lollies that contained ginger as well trying the ginger sweets – in the form of chewies and candies, as well trying out some of the beverages on offer. We found the crystallised ginger a bit too overpowering but enjoyed the ginger sweets and the beverages. One of their products that caught my eye was the Organic Ginger Syrup – their version of the honey maple syrup – unfortunately I didn’t get a chance to try this out.

The Ginger People have been around for around 30 years and source premier quality ginger to create innovative ginger products that are healthy for you. They are Australian owned and operate dand the most award winning ginger brand. The Ginger People’s products can be purchased at Go Vita, Healthy Life, Natural & Organic Supermarket, Great Earth Super Discount Health Shop and select IGA stores. You can also order online from their e0tail partners – Kombu Wholefoods and Aussie Health Products. For more information check out their website at http://gingerpeople.com.au/. For Australia stockists you can visit http://www.aulifeproducts.com.au/stockists1.html

Bruce Cost Ginger Ale

One of my favourite stalls of the day would have to be the Bruce Cost Ginger Ale – where we got to sample ginger ale with a difference. I am the first to admit that I am not a huge fan of ginger beer or ginger ale, but I had a look at the flavours and they really tweaked my interest. The Jasmine Tea and Pomegranate with Hibiscus that caught my eye. There is also a Passionfruit with Yellow Ginger (Tumeric) flavour as well as the Original and ^66”. I tried the Jasmine Tea flavour first and loved the jasmine notes mixed together with the refreshing ginger. Next up I sampled the Pomegranate with Hisbiscus – the pomegranate was subtle and once again it was a refreshing drink. I did prefer the Jasmine Tea flavour so I decided to purchase some.

This ginger ale is sparkling and refreshing is made with only fresh ginger and pure cane sugar. To that they add the full leaf of jasmine or fruit pulp to get the flavouring just right. The end result is unfiltered, which has tiny ginger particles through it that need to be shaken before drinking and enjoying. It also provides a source of iron, calcium, vitamin A and C. For more information about their products and to find out where you can purchase their products from refer to their website at www.brucecostgingerale.com

Walker Foods
Carribean Sauces

Walkerswood Carribean Foods was another stall that caught my eye – as I LOVEE SPICY foods and sauces! I am always on the lookout for the next spiciest sauce that I can add to my food for that extra oomph! The Jamaican Scotch Bonnet Pepper Sauce was my favourite and rather spicy! A clear runner up in terms of both flavouring and spice was the Jaimaican Jonkanoo Pepper Sauce.

Walkerswood Carribean Foods is named after a rural village in Jamaica hidden in the green hills of St Ann – there a factory produces these wonderful spicy tasting sauces, seasoning and condiments from the freshly harvested produce from the area. For more information about their beginning, their products and where you can purchase their products – visit their website at www.walkerswood.com

Boss Man Jamaican Jerk Boss Man Jamaican Jerk Cassowara Chips

 There was also the Jamaincan Boss Jerk Food stand and this is where we decided to get some food for lunch. There was corn on the cob for sale, as well as their famous Jerk Chicken, but we both decided to get the Cassava chips. They were so popular that we had to wait in line a good 10 minutes to get them. Cassava is a woody shrub and is a major source of carbohydrates and is also called manioc, yucca, mogo or tapioca root. The chips came in a cone shaped banana leave style paper with seasoning. I added some of the spicy sauces. The chips tasted great and were worth the wait – they had a sweetness to them and were soft on the inside.

Noshu Donuts Noshu Donuts
Noshu Donuts Close up of Noshu Donuts

Noshu (which literally means No Sugar) is an Australian owned company and strive to achieve their philosophy “All Love, No Sugar” – and I think they do this really well. When chatting to the girl working at the stall she mentioned that just because there are people out there with allergies, intolerances or even diabetes – they shouldn’t have to give up on proper tasting food and eat products that taste like cardboard – this is where Noshu steps in. Noshu is 100% sugar free and the sweetness that they do have in their products come from ingredients such as pumpkin, coconut and gluten free flours. What really caught my attention was when the girl mentioned that their baked donuts have less sugar, less carbs and more fibre than a medium apple! Amazing! Currently their products consist of donuts – there are three different flavours to choose from – however in the near future they are looking to extend these to include chocolate brownies and ANZAC biscuits.

The three flavours of donuts are – Dark Chocolate and Raspberry, Caramel Spice and Banana and Coconut. My favourite would have to be the Dark chocolate and raspberry and caramel spice. They have denseness to them, yet it feels and tastes really smooth. They really do taste good and you don’t have to feel guilty eating them! Double win!

You can store these donuts in the fridge for up to 4 weeks and up to 5 months in the freezer. You can purchase these products via their website www.noshu.com.au and they offer next day deliver to most post codes (no PO Boxes).

Coconut Essence Coconut Essence Product List Coconut Chips and Nutella

JT’s Coconut Essence was another stall that had some great products – their coconut chips in a variety of flavours as well as their version of nutella – cocotella were a hit. Their cocotella is sugar, gluten and nut free! The girl at the stall recommended eating the cocotella with banana – apparently they made for a great mix.

I really enjoyed their coconut chips – there is original, chocolate and salt & vinegar – especially the chocolate flavour. The Salt & Vinegar flavour I wasn’t a huge fan of, and the original was quite tasty as well. The coconut chips are baked not fried, and have the perfect crispness to them. They are high in antioxidants, minerals, caprylic and beneficial lauric acids, all whilst being vegan, dairy and gluten free together with having no cholesterol and trans fat. They are really addictive (in fact I am snacking on some whilst I write this post!)

JT’s Coconut Essence is an Austrlaian owned company and produce products that are pure, natural and healthy from fresh green coconuts that are harvested and canned on the same day. Other products they have are coconut water, coconut oil, coconut oil gel capsules and coconut sorbet! For more information on where to purchase these products and for recipes and other products refer to their website at http://www.coconutessence.com.au

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As well as visiting a number of other stalls, we also took a break from walking around carrying all the things we bought to watch Jacques Reymond Live at the Good Food Theatre. He was making a lamb dish, a pork belly dish and a dessert dish of balsamic strawberries and cream. It was great to watch a chef of his experience and talent in action, as well as listening to his helpful tips and secrets. He has a great character and exudes enthusiasm about cooking and food – and he is quite funny too!

Chorizo on a Stick Chorizo on a Stick Chorizo on a Stick

Another interesting find was seeing people eat this – Chorizo on a stick proudly supplied by Salumi Australia! They were a sure hit with many people at the show! Great idea! Check out their website for more information on their products and stockists at http://www.salumi.com.au/

Live Honey Bees

Live Bees were on show as well – this was wine made using honey!

Cheese from Boosey
Boosey Creek Cheese was one of the cheese we got to sample in a very busy and crowded Cheese Alley. Quite tasty I must say!

Great Offer for Cured Meats
This show-bag of Cured Meats from Barossa Fine Foods was fantastic – it came with 5 different types of cured meats as well as small cleaver which was not only a handy size but had a very sharp blade.

Overall A and I had a great time at the Good Food and Wine Show and walked away with many heavy bags of our purchases! So much so that we had to tram it to meet the boys to carry the heavy weights to the car!

Natvia and Cupcake Central Workshop – 100% Natural Sweetner

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Natvia was founded after the realisation there was a gap in the market for a 100% natural sweetener. Founded in 2008 by Mark and Sam, and having gone through over 600 trials and 10 months of work they finally reached the perfect blend and taste combination.

Natvia uses the very best parts of the Stevia plant, combined with naturally occurring nectar known as Erythritol. Stevia is a sweet leafed plant which is part of the Chrysanthemum family.

Both Mark and Sam are passionate about the product and you can tell they really do care not only about the product but about the people as well. Some of their core values include educating people about the food and bringing love back to cooking, as well as trying to spark bit of a health revolution. Natvia has 97% fewer calories, contains no Aspartame or saccharin and has nothing artificial – it is all natural with no bitter aftertaste.

The Natvia Icing sugar we were told took around 2 years to make and is a world first! The idea was that the sugar was milled down further which makes it easier to pipe with. Tasty and making life easier – what a great combination!

Another plus point of Natvia is that it can be easily substituted in a 1:1 ratio with sugar. So there is no need for complicated calculations to try and convert measurements.

Natvia can be currently be found in drinking mixes, tomato sauces and in the future thanks to their product innovation could be found in many more products to meet the growing market needs – so keep a lookout for their products. Natvia is available at Coles, Woolworths and Independent Groceries – IGA, Foodworks, Aussie Health, as well in many countries around the world!

If you want copies of the Natvia Sugar Free Baking Recipe Book – feel free to contact me via email (thegrazingpanda@gmail.com) and I can email you a copy. I have PDF versions.

Visit their website for more information – www.natvia.com.au
_________________________________________________________________________________

I had the pleasure of being invited to a Cupcake Workshop by Natvia who worked in conjunction with Cupcake Central (stores in Melbourne Central, Hawthorn and Highpoint). Cupcake Central now stocks sugar-free cupcakes as part of their range which of course has been sweetened by Natvia.

I was greeted by a Natvia representative who welcomed me to the event, and handed me my very own Natvia apron, Natvia Sugar Free Baking Recipe Book and name tag. There were nibbles and drinks provided, as well Bar-Narnie cupcakes from Cupcake Central. These cupcakes were protein packed and gluten free as well as being sugar-free and actually tasted really good! Healthy and tasty what more could you ask for!

After some time to mingle with fellow bloggers of the world we gathered around the bench for an official welcome from the founders of Natvia – Mark and Sam – and then Sheryl (owner of Cupcake Central) showed us how to create a Not-So-Devilish-Chocolate Cupcake. For the recipe of this cupcake please refer to the bottom of the page.

Sheryl walked us through the process of how they would create their cupcakes in store – they bake over 1000 cupcakes fresh every morning – as well as handing out some handy and useful tips throughout the whole process. Sheryl was really excited to be working with Natvia and the use of this sweetener at Cupcake Central – as she had many customers asking her if there were sugar free cupcakes available.

Each of us also learnt how to put in the cupcake mixture into a cupcake papers in an easier manner – the trick is to use an ice-cream scoop (preferably a size 16). She also showed us a trick on an easy way to separate the cupcake papers when they come all bundled together – you have to slightly wet your index finger with a Chux towel, and using your thumb and your index finger separate the cupcake papers into the tray. Easy!

Once we were through the making of the mixture and putting the mixture into cupcake papers – it was time to get them baked and learn how to use a piping bag and decorate our cupcakes! There were three different piping nozzles – Star Nozzle, French Tip Nozzle and the Wilton 1M Nozzle – to use, and fresh fruit (Strawberries, Banana, Bluberries and Raspberries) as well. It was a lot of fun to get to pipe out our own designs and top them however we wanted.

Before leaving the event, we were given Natvia Goodie bags – which came with a box of Icing Mix, a box of Baking Pack, Cinnamon Splash Cluster Bars, as well as a premix from Cupcake Central for their Not-So-Devilish-Chocolate Cupcakes.

Thanks Natvia for the invite to try out your new products and also to Cupcake Central for teaching us some tricks and tips about baking, icing and piping! I look forward to seeing what other great products Natvia produces as well as the different flavours of cupcakes that Cupcake Central can produce in the Sugar Free range.

Cupcakes I decorated =)

Not-So-Devilish-Chocolate Cupcakes (makes 12 cupcakes)

1 ½ cups Plain Flour

½ cup Cocoa (Cupcake Central uses Callebaut Cocoa) 1 cup Natvia Baking Pack

1 tsp Bicarbonate Soda

¼ tsp Salt

2 Large Free Range Eggs (59 grams)

½ cup Regular Oil

1 cup Cold Water

2 tsp White Vinegar

1 tsp Vanilla Extract (Cupcake Central uses Neillson Massey Madagascan Vanilla)

  1. Pre heat oven to 165 degrees for a fan forced oven, or 170 degrees for a Gas Oven
  2. Sift all dry ingredients directly into mixing bowl
  3. Add to dry mixture, the free range eggs (TIP: Add one egg yolk at a time to create a smoother mixture as you are allowing for the enzymes to break down in order to aerate the mixture) Oil, Water, Vinegar (TIP: When mixed together with the bicarbonate soda will help the cupcake rise) and Vanilla Extract. Beat by hand until smooth (If you are using a automatic hand beater – start off on low speed and then blitz for 30 seconds on medium to high speed)
  4. Fill cupcake papers with batter TIP: Use an ice cream scoop (size 16) to fill the cupcake papers
  5. Bake for 18-21 minutes (or until a cake skewer comes out clean)
  6. Decorate with Icing and ENJOY!

VANILLA FROSTING (for 12 cupcakes)

125 grams Unsalted NZ Butter

225grams of Natvia Icing Mix

1 tsp Vanilla Extract

Pinch of Salt

  1. Add Icing Mix to Butter and mix for 3 – 5 mins until light and fluffy
  2. Add the Vanilla Extract and a Pinch of salt and mix again
  3. Put into piping and you are ready to ice your cupcakes!

 

Other TIPS and FACTS: 

–           If you are using an automatic mixer – use the paddle attachment

–           Using oil will keep the moisture in the cupcake

–          Mixing and adding all your dry ingredients first will help you to avoid over mixing the product, and therefore will result in less dense cupcakes

–          Whenever you use Bicarbonate Soda – you always need to mix it with something acidic – i.e. cocoa or vinegar

–          If your resulting cupcake mixture is runnier than a normal cupcake batter they will come out fluffier

–          Occasionally when mixing, scrape down the mixture to ensure all the ingredients are being mixed evenly