Panda Wedding Fun!

Hey Guys!

So relating to my previous post of being MIA – one of the main reasons was because I was busy planning a wedding and got married back in June 2015. We have been lucky enough to be nominated for Wedding of Year 2015 and would greatly appreciate your support. If you could click on the link below and Vote for Shazrina & Nik – that would be awesome.

I had a really fun time organising and planning all the details of the wedding – from the quote on the bottom of my shoe to the personalised thank you tags for guests, the photo collage in the shape of our initials – I really did love it all. Of course my favourite aspect was the food tasting and selecting of dishes for my guests on the two different nights.

For our Indian reception we had catering done from Topaz Catering – a delicious Sri Lankan banquet.
For the reception at Encore in St Kilda – we had the lovely staff provide our guests with a 3 course meal of dishes we selected.
Entree:
Spanner Crab with Avocado, Apple Puree, Daikon and Puffed Wild Rice
Slow cooked Buttermilk Chicken with Crisp Jerusalem Artichoke, Goats Curd and Figs

Main:
Truffled Chicken Breast with Boudin Blanc, Sweet Corn Polenta and Popcorn
Slow Cooked Salmon with Prawn Colcannon and Pea Puree

Dessert:
Caramel Ice Cream Paddles with Chocolate and Praline Hazelnuts
Passionfruit Tarts with Soft and Crispy Meringue
Wedding Cake

What I also enjoyed was cake tasting – and picking the different flavours for our – not one but TWO wedding cakes. My choices were White Chocolate Raspberry (which was my all time favourite), Caramel, White Chocolate and Chocolate Fudge.
We had the lovely Vinu from Vindya Boutique Cake Studio – https://www.facebook.com/Vindya-102326746613223/ (for the Indian Reception) and Jo from Splendid Servings – http://splendidservings.com.au/ (for the Encore Reception) creating our beautiful cakes.

If that wasn’t enough sweetness – we also had a beautiful blue themed dessert table created by ever talented Ngoc from The Dessert Parlour – http://thedessertparlour.com.au/. Our table was filled with homemade and personalized cookies, marble heart shaped chocolates and meringues – along with a variety of lollies and candies.

Shazrina_Nik_Cultural-Wedding_005
Our Wedding Cake by Vindya Boutique Cake Studio (https://www.facebook.com/Vindya-102326746613223/)
Shazrina_Nik_Cultural-Wedding_SBS_013-600x900
Our Wedding Cake by Splendid Servings (http://splendidservings.com.au/)
Shazrina_Nik_Cultural-Wedding_016-900x600  Shazrina_Nik_Cultural-Wedding_SBS_014-600x900
Our beautiful Dessert Table from The Dessert Parlour (http://thedessertparlour.com.au/)

If you could head to the following link(s) and Vote for Shazrina & Nik – that would be great!

http://www.easyweddings.com.au/real-weddings/competition/december-2015-nominees/

http://www.easyweddings.com.au/real-weddings/traditions-combine-shazrina-niks-three-day-cultural-wedding/

Thank you all so much for the support

Much Love

Grazing Panda xx

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The Grain Store – European Dinner Flair

panda 4 rating

Menu:
The Grain Store Menu for the night

I have been a HUGE fan of The Grain Store ever since its inception (check out my previous blog here for them – https://thegrazingpanda.wordpress.com/2013/05/29/the-grain-store-honest-cooking/ )– initially starting off with trying their breakfast menu (a few times!) and then branching out to try their lunch menu. I loved all of their food, ingredients and plating up of dishes. So naturally I was excited when I received an invite from Zilla & Brook,  to try out their latest dinner offering at an intimate bloggers’ dinner.

On arrival we were all greeted and asked to select from a choice of drinks. I opted for Hepburn Mineral Springs Organic Lemonade which was refreshing and perfect after walking from Southgate to the venue.

As the rest of the bloggers started to arrive, we received small starters which were elegantly presented in clear egg shaped glass cups. You could see the distinction of two layers through the clear glass – a savoury mushroom jelly topped with a layer of pumpkin foam and finished with a crisp triangle of chickpea biscuit. The combination was delicious – the vibrant mushroom flavour paired with the sweetness of the pumpkin. The silky jelly combined with the smooth foam was a texture party for your senses.

Once we had all sampled the starter we were led into an intimate private dining room which had been set up especially for us. It was a cosy group of about 15 of us – which was the perfect size. When we were all seated, head chef Ingo Meissner came out to say hello and gave us some information about the Grain Store – its background, philosophy and ideologies. Meissner himself is from Europe and hence there are many Mediterranean and French influences throughout the menu – that utilise both traditional and new techniques.
The Grain Store sources local produce – for example the Burrata is from Carlton, the duck is from Daylesford. But their main point of difference is that they have their very own Rooftop Garden where they grow seasonal produce – as well as the pretty flowers, petals for that little bit of jazz when plating up – that ends up on your plate. What a great idea!

The night started off with Entrees which was a selection of three small dishes – all plated up on the one plate which I thought was a great idea to showcase a variety of their dishes succinctly. These dishes included:
Green asparagus, burrata, char-grilled orange, black barley, hazelnut, rosemary sablé
Poached veal fillet, avocado, tuna mayonnaise, charred shallots, white anchovies, caper berries
Pan seared scallops, smoked eggplant, butternut boudin noir sandwich, ricotta lemon curd, crisp leeks
As I couldn’t have the Poached Veal Fillet – I was substituted with a salad consisting of a variety of ingredients.

The plating up of this dish was done really well – with the standout definitely being the bright purple cauliflower; everyone was wondering what taste they would have when they took their first bit into it. The cauliflower had been beetroot cured and therefore had a bit of tang to it – really good! Each of the components worked well together and I especially loved the black barley – which not only added texture but a great earthy tone to the dish. I loved the addition of orange to this dish to add an element of sweet and citrus.

The scallop component was definite highlight amongst the other dishes on this Entrée plate – the scallop had been seared to perfection and flavoured well. The butternut boudin noir sandwich was a welcome component adding a sweet touch to combine with the ricotta and lemon curd. I enjoyed the finish of the crisp leek – adding depth to the dish.

Next up was the mains – we were served alternative dishes between a Fish dish and a Duck dish – Free range Aylesbury duck breast, fennel slaw, Nicola potato, crème fraiche, caramelised carrot and pine nuts. There was a resounding “delicious” for the guests in the room that had this dish – with the duck being succulently cooked and the flavours of the fennel furthur enhancing the duck flavour. The Nicola potato component that it came served was glistening and looked divine!

I had the Lakes Entrance Dory fillets, new season asparagus, soft herb spätzle, charred corn salsa. This dish was plated up simply, yet it was a colourful visual spectacle. The star attraction was the fish which front and centre and sat on a green bed of soft herb spätzle (I asked Ingo later how it was made and he told me that it was made much like that of pasta – with flour and eggs, with the addition of herbs to give it that vibrant green colour), and surrounded by the asparagus and the charred corn salsa. Each component added flavour and texture to the dish. The Dory fillets were lightly battered on the outside and cooked well – resulting in soft white kernels of delicious fish on the inside. I loved the look, feel and taste of the spätzle – it was the first time I was eating this and I was highly intrigued – it is the type of dish that you keep going back for more as it is easy to eat and tastes great. The charred corn salsa had the perfect level of smokiness that worked well with the simple flavours of the fish. I would definitely recommend this dish!

Whilst we were eating our mains we were also given polenta chips topped with herbs and salt – which came out stacked like a jenga game. They were really tasty as well – crispy on the outside with a dense softness on the inside. A really great side dish addition to enhance your food experience.

It had been a great night of conversation and simply designed tasty food so far but my favourite part of any meal was still to come. For dessert we lucky enough to be served a selection of desserts which included – Black forest gateau, chocolate ganache, cherries, vanilla kirsch panna cotta, coca nibs together with a Grain Store Soufflé (Strawberry with Goats Cheese sorbet and fresh strawberries).
It was a tough choice of deciding where to begin on this sweet delight. I started with the black forest gateau – dense, rich and with added flavour from the berry centre. The chocolate ganache was the bomb – smooth, silky and full of chocolate goodness – you could seriously eat bucket loads of this ganache. The vanilla panna cotta came in a pyramid bite size piece – it was creamy and yet another delicious component.
The Grain Store Soufflé was delightful – light, soft, melt in your mouth and filled with a strawberry flavour. A truly great dish! I wasn’t a huge fan of the goats cheese sorbet that was its accompaniment and felt soufflé on its own was all that was needed.

The night was a fantastic event to meet new people and exchange stories, compare notes – all in the name of food – and more! The Grain Store should be a place that should be added to your list of restaurants that you must try in Melbourne – be if for breakfast, lunch or dinner. All dishes that I have tried here are delicious and well worth the effort.

Disclaimer: Grazing Panda was invited to dine at The Grain Store as a guest by Zilla & Brook, however, opinions expressed here are purely my own and not influenced by them in any way.

Rating : 4 Pandas
Price: $$
Menu – Refer to
Fullness: 100%
Atmosphere / Ambience: Homely, Elegant and Inviting
Standout Dish:
Service: Friendly and Attentive
Online Booking: Yes via website – http://www.grainstore.com.au/
Restaurant Details and Location:
http://www.grainstore.com.au/
517 Flinders Lane
Tel No: 9972 6993

Opening Hours:
Breakfast & Lunch
Monday to Friday: 7:00 am – 4:00 pm
Saturday to Sunday: 8:00 am – 4:00 pm
Dinner
Wednesday to Saturday: 6:00 pm – 9:30 pm

The Grain Store on Urbanspoon

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/grainstore517
Instagram: GrainStore517
Twitter:@GrainStore517

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

Brooks – Culinary Beauty!


   


Menu:
      

Brooks Restaurant is a recently opened restaurant which has taken over the site where Jamie Oliver’s restaurant Fifteen was, and Tobie Puttock’s The Kitchen Cat. It is the joint venture between  The venture of Gerald Diffey and Mario di Lenno. After dining here last night, I really do hope that Brooks is around for a long long time. The dining area hasn’t changed much at all since it was The Kitchen Cat, the layout is still the same. You are greeted at the entrance to the stairs with a BB handle on the door. As you walk down the stairs to the left of the stairs is a private dining room for group functions, and to the right is where the bar is located – here you can dine at the bar if you wish or if you keep walking through, it leads you to the formal dining area. From this dining area, you can look into the kitchen as the chefs fine tune your meals before they arrive at your table..

The service was impeccable and could not be faulted. The waiter we had was pleasant and friendly and made great suggestions on what we should and shouldn’t eat. The menu at Brooks is somewhat limited – it is split into three parts In the Beginning (Entree items), Seasonally Visiting (which are items for the season) and Here to Stay (which are items that will be around a while). My friend and I each chose dishes from the Seasonally Visiting menu, and were told by our friendly waiter to try the Meli of Vegetables (pictured above) – which had over 30 different types of vegetables. When he said that, we were intrigued and impressed and wanted to see what the fuss was about.

Our dishes came out and as you can see from the pictures, although the serving sizes are quite small – the dishes were beautifully plated. You could tell that there was a thought process that went into putting the food on the plate and the flavours had been carefully researched and designed. I had the fish of day – which was Rockling – the fish was flavoured and grilled just perfectly. My one gripe would be that the peas that came with it – some of them were hard. My friend had the Rump F1 Beef and she was a bit skeptical of the Hay flavouring and the Burnt Veg. But once she tried the whole dish together she said she almost got a cheeseburger like taste. She also said that the beef was cooked perfectly and tasted amazing.
The Nic’s Sovenir of Bras: Meli of Vegetables – was a very colourful and interesting looking dish. There was indeed a vast array of vegetables and alongside that several different dollops of sauces which we were told by the waiter were made in house. Some of the sauces was a sweet strawberry tasting one, a creamy mayonnaise, a tangy sauce etc. I loved that you had a variety of sauces to taste of which you didn’t really know what flavour to expect. It added a bit of fun to the dish.

Next was the dessert ( I had of course already looked at the dessert menu and knew what I wanted). There are only two desserts to choose from. The Forest Floor, Hazelnut Parfait caught my eye so I ordered that, and my friend was going to order the Lemon Curd but the waiter told us to share the Forest Floor and then he would give us a selection of the Petit Fours. I thought this was really nice of him – to suggest something other than making us pay for a dessert that we might not like.
The Forest Floor dessert was beautifully created and I have had something very similar at Embrasse (located in Carlton). This I later realised was because the head chef is Nic Poelaert of Embrasse. I have dedicated a whole photo set to this dessert above. I love the mushroom which compromises of the Hazelnut Parfait and Meringue Base. The Forest Floor is a combination of Chocolate Ganache, Mint and Sorrell Granita. This is a definite MUST TRY dessert.

The Petit Fours were a Rhubarb Jelly with Sour Dust, Salted Caramel and a Donut with Passionfruit Cream. They all were DIVINE! The Donut with Passionfruit was really tangy when you first bit into it, but the after taste it leaves in your mouth was a creamy glow. The Salted Caramel had just the right quantities of sweet and salt. The Rhubarb Jelly was sour and sweet all at the same time and just as great.

We also enjoyed teas with our dessert, and the pots were Cast Iron and oh so heavy, but really cute. I kind of wanted to take one home with me, hence a whole photo dedicated to it =p. The pot held quite a bit of tea and it almost felt like a never ending pot of tea!

Overall I loved every moment of eating at this restaurant and will definitely be back to try out other things on the menu. The service was fantastic and I really do hope this restaurant sticks around for a long time! I cant wait to see what else Nic Poelaert will have on the Seasonally Changing part of the menu.

Rating : 4 Pandas
Price: $$$
Menu – A la Carte or Degustation (Chef’s Selection of 5 courses for $80) – Refer to pictures above.
Fullness: 80%
Atmosphere / Ambience: Stylish and Comfortable. Great for a catchup dinner with a group of friends or just a one on one.
Standout Dish: Forest Floor, Hazelnut Parfait
Service: Fantastic, Attentive and Friendly. Also gave us some great choices and thoughts.
Online Booking: No
Restaurant Details and Location:
http://www.brooksofmelbourne.com/
Basement, 115 – 117 Collins Street, Melbourne
Tel No: 9001 8755

Opening Hours:
Monday to Wednesday: 11:30pm to Midnight
Thursday to Friday: 11:30pm to 1am
Saturday: 4pm to 1am

Brooks on Urbanspoon