Eatster…I mean Easter.

Koko Black's bunny range

Koko Black’s bunny range

So this month is chocolate month, also known by some as ‘Easter’. Those who read my blog regularly will know that if I could physically manage to eat my own weight in chocolate each day, I probably would. My occasional swearing off chocolate following a depressing bathroom scales reading tends to last hours rather than days, I just can’t go past the stuff. Food wise, therefore, Easter is a much beloved holiday for me, despite my lack of religion.

I actually get a bit spiritual/religious about chocolate, coveting it in shop windows, setting up miniature chocolate ‘shrines’ in my pantry at home or desk drawers at work, referring to it as ‘my precious’ and, well, you get the picture, I’m very into chocolate. This year I thought I’d use my blog as an excuse to do an early scouting trip of all the best chocolate shops in Melbourne, checking out what their Easter offerings are like. So with less than two weeks to go until Easter, for your gift-giving ease and eating pleasure, below is a summary of what is and is not going to make my Easter wish list this year.

Koko Black
I think Koko Black now counts as a Melbourne institution. It’s still my favourite place to go to get boxes of chocolate as gifts (including gifts for myself…) I visited the Royal Arcade store, whose display/offering is almost entirely dedicated to Easter at the moment. To be honest I’m not loving the very bright art deco inspired gift boxes they have gone with this year, but I did get excited about the gorgeous mini ‘quail’ eggs (sugar coated chocolate eggs replete with authentic speckles) and the Surprise Golden Easter egg made from milk and dark chocolate with a salted caramel ‘surprise’ inside. No idea what that surprise is, but I want to find out. It’s like a giant fancy Kinder Surprise! But for $65 I’d want a damn good surprise – it’s definitely not the most post-GFC friendly option for the Easter Bunny’s basket this year.

Koko Black quail eggs - check out the egg cartons!

Koko Black quail eggs – check out the egg cartons!

Koko Black's packaging

Koko Black’s packaging

Haigh’s
I visited Haigh’s in yet another arcade – the Block Arcade. Haigh’s gets the prize for best theming and colour scheme. The entire store was buzzing with shoppers and absolutely jammed with a huge range of Easter stock. The colour palette this year has gone a little retro/hipster – lots of calico, dark brown and blue with polka dots. Gift options include everything from single hollow eggs for under $10 to pre-made Easter hampers for well over $100. Extra points to Haigh’s for promoting the Aussie ‘Bilby’ over the bunny. Apparently a percentage of sales from bilby shaped chocolates goes to the bilby breeding program at Adelaide Zoo too! If you prefer dark chocolate there were a lot of good options, with all their top selling items available in a choice of milk or dark. I also liked the look of their chocolates in the shape of hot cross buns, but my ultimate pick would be the milk chocolate half egg filled with old fashioned freckles for $15.95. Super colourful and what I would want the Big Bunny to bring me at age six or twenty six.

Haigh's display

Haigh’s display

Spot the bilby!

Spot the bilby!

Haigh's freckle eggs

Haigh’s freckle eggs

Lindt
I love Lindt’s store windows year round and Easter is no exception. Their window on Collins Street features a giant gold bunny and big baskets of chocolate perched on top of bright red wooden crates (see – even Lindt has gone a little hipster this year…). To be honest, inside the store most of the Lindt range is a little boring. It’s predominately just gold foil wrapped bunnies of various sizes. There was a large ‘Heavenly Hazelnut’ egg that looked pretty damn good, though I wasn’t so keen on the crazy-bright yellow packaging. Kids get the best deal at Lindt – there’s a fun looking ‘Easter Hunt’ gift pack for $16.50 filled with chocolates in the shape of chickens, bunnies, bugs and bees plus your own basket and set of bunny ears to wear!

Lindt has also introduced a new coconut flavour small filled egg which is awesome. It’s like a posh Bounty Bar, but entirely creamy rather than having any rough coconut texture. I thought the flavour was going to be either sickly sweet or taste really fake, like those biscuits you get filled with coconut essence, but it was neither, it was delicious. I wouldn’t buy a whole box of them as the flavour could get a bit much, but the addition of this flavour to their small egg repertoire is a good one I think.

Lindt's coconut eggs

Lindt’s coconut eggs

Ganache
I popped into Ganache, which is almost next to Lindt on Collins Street. To be honest their large moulded bunnies looked kind of weird and I didn’t like their packaging much. Having said that, they do absolutely beautiful chocolate half eggs filled with their mixed chocolate truffles and filled chocolates. They have a range of sizes from a small egg with just 4 chocolates in it up to eggs the size of your head with 20+ chocolates in them. I know both egg and chocolates are superb because my partner got me one for Easter 2012 and it was a-maz-ing. I think I only shared like one chocolate out of it with him, and it was a coffee flavoured one (’cause I don’t like coffee flavoured anything). Prices are similar to Koko Black, with a half egg filled with six chocolates costing $19.

Ganache half egg with filled chocolates

Ganache half egg with filled chocolates

Big W
Ok, sometimes I have tacky chocolate tastes, let’s be honest here. Yes, when it is Easter I normally go for quality chocolate gifts over quantity, but sometimes it’s fun to get a novelty life sized chocolate chicken nestled in 70 bright pink chocolate eggs, even if you don’t eat it. Who doesn’t want the official One Direction Easter egg and novelty mug set? Or the official Barbie Easter egg with bonus lip gloss? Both only $8! Seriously though, Big W does have a big selection of fun Easter stuff, plus, classic gold wrapped 100g Lindt bunnies are on sale for $4, which is cheaper than at Lindt itself.

Max Brenner
Max Brenner’s Easter offering was predominately 40g wrapped Easter eggs of several varieties – milk and dark, plus one with praline pieces, one with nuts and one with ‘marbles’ inside, whatever that means. At between $2.50 and $3 each they were very reasonably priced and I did like the kinda-girly bright patterned foil wrapping. However, the rest of their gift options were just pairings of these eggs with their normal stock, like chocolate drinking powder and hug mugs. I am so over hug mugs. And, by the looks of the store that I visited (Melbourne Central), the rest of Melbourne is possibly over hug mugs too? It’s hard to make a call on Max Brenner, good value and still very yummy chocolate, but I felt a definite lack of imagination and energy here.

So that’s my wrap up for Easter. If you haven’t started shopping, you better hop to it! Sorry, I know it’s a terrible pun but I could not resist, much as I can’t resist a good Easter egg…

Eggs at Max Brenner

Eggs at Max Brenner

So many bunnies at Lindt! I think they were breeding...

So many bunnies at Lindt! I think they were breeding…

The Flour Market

At 7:30am this morning I was awake and out of bed. On a Saturday. There could only be one reason for this very uncharacteristic behaviour: the pursuit of pastry!

This morning I went to the Flour Market, a pop up bakery market in Fitzroy. There was one held late last year which I missed, so I was determined to get in early and go into a cake-induced coma at this one. There were about 12-15 stalls at the indoor market, which was hosted by The Baron Said in Fitzroy, just near the corners of Johnston and Brunswick Streets. All the stallholders were artisan bakers of some description, plus there was a coffee stand and milkshake stand to help wash it all down.

I arrived about 8:40am to a line maybe 80 people deep. The crowd was mostly young locals, foodies, plus quite a few parents with (surprisingly well behaved) kids. Doors opened at 9am, except for people with early bird entry tickets. Given how crowded and crazy the place got, next time I’ll definitely be trying to get my hands on an early entry ticket. I think one issue was that there was no crowd control, so when the doors opened at 9am, everyone poured in rather than say letting 50 people in at a time. The crowd was great though, everyone was polite and really happy to be there. We formed relatively orderly queues at our chosen stands, accidentally elbowed each other and greedily eyed each other’s choice of treats. Traffic flow and direction was a bit of an issue though, with half the crowd going left upon entry and half going right and everyone smooshing together at the central stands!

Anyway, enough about crowd control, on to the important stuff, like salted caramel donuts. So there were so beautiful looking goods at the stalls, I didn’t really know where to start. There were gorgeous solid looking savoury pies by Pure Pie, big stacks of waffles at Waffle Jolie, fresh artisanal breads, vegan cheesecake, homemade donuts of several shapes, sizes and flavours, glossy bagels, homemade oreos at Bakewell & Co, pecan pies and lemon tarts.

flour carry bags

crumpets

I started off by perusing all the stalls and buying a couple of bags of Dr Marty’s Crumpets, as I’d heard of them before but had never tried them. They are currently sitting in my fridge, ready to be toasted and covered in honey and butter, as they conveniently last a couple of days in the fridge. Then I joined the bagel line for 5 & Dime, which was epic! I think it must be the current obsession with American diner style food in Melbourne at the moment, but everyone wanted a bagel. I grabbed myself a plain and a sesame seed bagel. I was tempted by the more unusual sounding white chocolate raspberry bagel, but resisted as there were a lot of sweet options on offer at the Flour Market that I needed to get through. I’ve just had one of the bagels for lunch with a big smear of cream cheese and spinach dip from the Queen Vic markets. Oh baby. There was a reason for the line. Melbournians know their food. 5 & Dime don’t have a store sadly, but do sell at farmer’s markets. They also supply to some very cool cafes across Melbourne, include Pope Joan and Bowery to Williamsburg (which I recently visited, a CBD brunch gem!). The bagels are super soft and just a little yeasty on the inside and have a chewiness on the outside which comes from the traditional boil then bake method. My only criticism was an aesthetic one – the bagels are so generous and puffy that they basically have no hole in the middle, so when you cut them in half, they don’t really look like a bagel to me.

bagels 01

bagel stand

Then it was on to the sweet stuff, starting with a milkshake at MilkBar. I went with the ‘Choc Haze’ milkshake, essentially a nutella flavoured milkshake. The ingredients were delicious but the texture wasn’t brilliant, it lacked bubbles and volume because they were using dinky little blenders with hardly any power. But I do love a good milkshake and expect a lot from them, so perhaps I’m being too tough.

I think the highlight of the morning was the salted caramel donut from Cobb Lane Bakery. It was just unreasonably soft and delicious. So light and doughy and then the salted caramel filling was very salty, very sweet and very smooth. It wasn’t the easiest thing to eat out of a paper bag, but hey, it was worth getting powdered sugar on my nose for! Cobb Lane Bakery is based out in Yarraville, but Twenty & Six Espresso on Queensberry Street stock their donuts, so they could become a regular and extremely dangerous habit of mine.

We left around 10am and things were already starting to sell out, including Cobb Lane’s donuts. I noticed La Belle Miette’s macaroons weren’t selling as quickly though, suggesting to me that the Melbourne love affair with macaroons is well and truly over. They are still very beautiful though, and great if you’re wanting gluten free. If you haven’t been, their shop in Hardware Lane is super cute and their pastel coloured gift boxes elevate their macaroons into a very stylish little gift I think!

pecan pie from Bakewell & Co

pecan pie from Bakewell & Co

It was great to be reminded of what a wonderful foodie city Melbourne is with such passionate producers and purveyors. And the best part? I was back on my couch, bagel at the ready and air conditioning on by 12 o’clock today, the time when I’m normally just emerging from the doona covers!

Cobb Lane on Urbanspoon

La Belle Miette on Urbanspoon

Review: Hard Rubbish

hard rubbish pic

Last week I saw Hard Rubbish at The Malthouse with one of my girlfriends. The show is puppetry, but it’s not the old-school Pinocchio on strings type of puppetry, not even close. Hard Rubbish left on the curb – from a goofy washing machine to loved-up couch cushions – comes to life. Each piece has its own little cameo as they emerge from the pile, explore their surrounds, interact with each other and, sometimes, with the audience.

The hero of the show is a pink rocking horse, a cute little fella who falls in love with a tiny chest of drawers. He gallops around the stage, puppeteer pressing his ear to elicit a comical pre-recorded neighing sound. Things start to get a little serious, however, when a glowing white chest of drawers arrives on stage. This ominous creature just seems out of place at first, but it soon emerges that the drawers are a vicious psycho bent on destroying the moulding, olding odd-ball hard rubbish.

Mr pink pony gets rather upset when the shiny new drawers take his beloved baby chest of drawers hostage and turn them into a shiny white mini-clone. The hard rubbish all team up to try to take down the evil Ikea drawers, Mr pink pony leading the charge. The show culminates in an amazing all out war between the new and the old furniture, with everything from plastic spoons, bowling balls and fake poo being flung around the stage.
It’s a dirty, messy and very funny show. I had a pillow thrown at me. I cheered on toilet bowls racing each other and I watched, terrified, as Mr pink pony got vacuum sealed into a plastic bag (don’t worry, he was ok in the end and no animals were harmed in the making of…).

I laughed so much. It was a Tuesday night, an early 6:30pm show and during the school holidays, so the audience was packed out with kids. I felt like one of them, in a good way. At first I was worried, thinking I’d sat down for an hour of cutesy (or worse, moralistic) puppetry for children. But within ten minutes, I was so into it! And I think I developed a crush on the hero, Mr pink pony puppet…

This show has a nice message about recycling and our throw-away culture, but it’s not really going to make you think deeply. It’s creative and entertaining and involves treasure-hunting toilet brushes. It’s just plain fun and it reminded me how good it can be to just go to a show that makes you smile for an hour and a half. On until 6 October, go see it for a giggle with a girlfriend and a guilt-free dose of theatre.