Top ten on route 112

So my little tram route blogging project is back, with the route 112 tram. And because it’s almost Christmas, I’ve picked some of these with drinking, gift buying and beach holidays in mind. Yes, I am one of those rare grown ups (sort of) that actually adores Christmas and still loves things like wrapping gifts and sending old fashioned Christmas cards. Seriously, whoever invented e-cards is getting coal from me this Christmas. Not that they would care, since I’m assuming they must now be disgustingly rich, and not that I’m condoning the use of dirty coal…

Anyway, back to my top ten for route 112! Here they are:

1. Hopetoun Tea Rooms (282 Collins Street, Melbourne) has all the things required to make it a Melbourne institution: history, delicious but rather overpriced food and a line, always a line. It has been a tea room for well over 100 years, it’s situated just inside the lovely Block Arcade and the cakes are decadent and yet nostalgic – think strawberry sponge cakes, apple strudels and proper scones with jam and cream.

IMG_0043.JPG
Mmmmm decadent yet nostalgic cakes…

2. Lindt Chocolate Cafe (271 Collins Street, Melbourne) is a great option for a sugar hit, especially if you hate the wait for a table at Hopetoun. The ambience isn’t great but the chocolate infused menu is delicious, especially the Lindt chocolate ice cream sundaes. Plus you can pick up some stocking stuffer gifts for chocoholic family members while you’re there.

3. Naked For Satan (285 Brunswick Street, Fitzroy) and its rooftop bar, Naked in the Sky, are a nice choice for a drink and a catch up just out of the city. The rooftop is pretty glorious on a sunny day, but I personally prefer downstairs, where they serve a great selection of pintxos (little bites, each on a toothpick). It’s $2 a toothpick and you just hold on to your toothpicks, then hand them over and pay up at the end of the night.

4. Vegie Bar (380 Brunswick Street, Fitzroy) is of course a vegetarian’s mecca but it’s also super popular with anyone wanting a cheap delicious meal made with tonnes of vegetables and creativity. Plus, if you have any other dietaries (gluten, dairy, raw, only-eat-green-things-grown-in-organic-hay diet) you will be well catered for here.

5. N2 Extreme Gelato (329 Brunswick Street, Fitzroy), which I’ve written about before on this blog (here) is not really that ‘extreme’ since Heston and Masterchef made using liquid nitrogen a thing, but the ice cream is very good, with cool off-beat flavours and a busy fun vibe.

6. Swimwear Galore (430 Brunswick Street, Fitzroy) is a shop that’s been recommended to me many times. Given my pale skin and aversion to water, I actually haven’t ventured in yet, but it does come well recommended by friends if you’re looking for some new poolside outfits on a tight timeframe.

7. Polly Bar (401 Brunswick Street, Fitzroy) is where you should head after swimwear shopping if, like me, you might want to drown your sorrows and forget the beginnings of cellulite which you are pretty sure you spotted in the change room mirrors. It’s hipster and girly and the cocktails are delicious.

8. Bimbo Deluxe (376 Brunswick Street, Fitzroy) is where you should then head for a good cheap pizza, to soak up a few of those drinks. It’s another Melbourne institution, but for a more college/university crowd. Little Creatures Dining Hall is another good option for drinks and delicious bar food too, at 222 Brunswick Street (yes, I did just sneak in an extra place on to this list).

9. Zetta Florence (197B Brunswick Street, Fitzroy) is rather more highbrow – a gorgeous shop filled with handmade paper, cards, gift wrapping supplies, stamps, calendars, photo albums and anything else you can think of that’s pretty and paper related.

10. Edinburgh Gardens (Fitzroy North) is a lovely park with all the necessary stuff – toilets, BBQs, tennis courts, big shady established trees. It’s potentially the perfect spot to have a lazy Sunday afternoon picnic during your summer holidays. Plus you could pick up an N2 gelato on the way home…

Along Those Lines: Route 86

Regular readers of my blog (i.e. my mum, my partner and my mum’s cats) will have noticed I haven’t been blogging much lately. I’ve got a new blogging project in mind, still in very early stages, but that and lots of travel have kept me away from northmelbournelife for a few months.

Given how much travel I have been doing (I wrote most of this blog on my new iPad in Ho Chi Minh City) and plan to do in the next year or two, and the fact that I may not be a North Melbournian for much longer (scary but exciting!), my new blogging project is going to focus on life outside the north side of the Yarra. There’s going to be a lot more travel reviews and probably a lot less baking. But more on that in later posts.

On a recent weekend in Sydney, I had a conversation with a Sydneysider where I bragged about the benefits of the grid layout in Melbourne. But, as they pointed out, it does get messier when you venture beyond Spring, Flinders, Spencer and La Trobe streets. How do locals like me divide up Melbourne? Of course, there’s a north side versus south side of the river thing happening, but really, when a suburb, street, restaurant or attraction is mentioned, the way I normally think about it is in terms of which tram line(s) it is located on.

Trams are pretty unique to Melbourne. Other cities, such as Vienna, New Orleans and San Fransisco do have trams, but they’re really a tourist novelty, rather than a legitimate means for locals to commute to work or get around on the weekend. According to Yarra Trams, we have the largest operating tram network in the world, consisting of 1700+ tram stops.

Since I don’t drive, I love the trams and I use them a lot. So I’ve decided to do some blogs with reviews of tram lines. First stop: the route 86 tram from Docklands, through the city, up Smith Street and north to Bundoora.

According to Yarra Trams, ‘attractions’ on this line include Melbourne Assessment Prison, Costco and the Eye and Ear Hospital. Errrrrrrr…well, to be fair, they are on the route 86 line. But for those not needing an ophthalmologist or to visit a relative in remand, here’s my top ten attractions along route 86:

1. Panama Dining Room (Level 3/231 Smith Street in Fitzroy) has a great buzzy feel most nights. There’s a delicious dinner menu (book a table) with items like lemon potato gnocchi with (optional) spanner crab or tarte tatin with Calvados ice-cream, or just go for drinks and enjoy a view through ceiling-to-floor arched windows to the hipsters in the street below.

2. Messina Gelato (237 Smith Street, Fitzroy) because I love gelato and there’s a reason there’s almost always a line at this place. Apparently their white chocolate and salted caramel gelato is their best seller, and it is excellent, but I’d recommend the banana split (caramelly banana goodness with little hits of peanut) or, if it’s on the specials list, their No. 2 gelato, which has a salted caramel base and big chewy chunks of chocolate brownie throughout.

3. Saint Crispin (300 Smith Street, Collingwood) – I had a bit of a fancy girls’ night dinner there recently and it’s very slick with beautifully presented dishes, though maybe a little overpriced (we had the $90 tasting menu) given there’s limited wow factor. The mandarine cheesecake in a jar (it is in hipster-central after all) was very special though and meat lovers will appreciate dishes like the fresh oysters, charcuterie board and Flinders Island lamb.

4. Trippy Taco (234 Gertrude Street, Fitzroy) is cheap and fun and a good place to grab a quick Mexican inspired lunch. Obviously they sell tacos, but also have a fairly extensive range of quesadillas, burritos, tamales, nachos and sweets. You order at the counter and are not out of place if you want to just eat on your own at the bar stools which overlook Gertrude Street and Little Smith Street.

5. Books for Cooks (233 Gertrude Street, Fitzroy) is what is says on the packet – they sell books for cooks. It’s a cute and inviting little store that looks a little jumbled but actually has an amazing array of cookbooks. They also have an online store, but the shop itself is worth a visit on a lazy Sunday afternoon.

6. Mud Australia (181 Gertrude Street, Fitzroy) sells pretty ceramics in shades and shapes that make you go ‘ooooohh’! I’m always a little scared I’ll break something in the store, but I still love going in. It’s all handmade in Sydney, so if you’re a visitor to Australia, a few carefully wrapped pieces would make a nice gift or souvenir.

7. Builders Arms Hotel (211 Gertrude Street) is the definition of gastro-pub, with the funky, polished floor board bistro serving up sophisticated meals and plenty of beers on tap. For something a bit special, try Moon Under Water, their upstairs dining room.

8. Spring Street Grocer (157 Spring Street, City) – is another great spot for late night gelato, including vegan varieties and a few off-beat combinations. They sell cheese and select groceries there too, during the day. And yes, I’m aware there is a lot of gelato featuring in this list…

9. The Melbourne Supper Club (Level 1/ 161 Spring Street) is one of my favourite post dinner drink spots. It’s all very dignified with chesterfield type couches and wood panelling and a very long wine list. If you ask, they’ll make you almost any cocktail you like. The cheese boards, chocolate coated almonds and other snacks are definitely worth squeezing in, even after a delicious dinner.

10. Movida Aqui (Level 1, 500 Bourke Street) is upstairs, tucked away opposite Pacos Tacos (also great, but the service is sometimes rude…). It’s business-lunch style Spanish – hearty flavours with sexy plating. The potato tortilla with caramelised onion ($5.50) will leave you wishing it came in mains size and while the menu is pretty meat-heavy they can fairly happily accommodate vegetarians.

Review: B’Stilla

Like many a good Melbourne restaurant, B’Stilla is tucked away in a small semi residential street behind Chapel St. It’s unlikely to stay an in-the-know secret for long though, with it winning this year’s Best Restaurant in the Good Food Guide under $30 awards. The award was my motivation for wanting to try it out, though the prospect of Moroccan food done by the person who bought trendy Mexican (Mamasita) to Melbourne was also appealing! It’s also not technically north of the river, but I feel a little adventuring over to the dark side is allowed…

With two gorgeous girlfriends, Miss Pony and Dr S (as we decided they should be called in my blog after a cocktail or so) we worked our way through the $65 banquet. For $65 you get a really good sample of what B’Stilla has to offer. It was distinctly North African flavours, but very approachable, with slick plating, lots of colour and a friendly level of spiciness for sooks (not souks…sorry that was lame!) like me. As a vegetarian, I was well catered for with no fuss from the friendly staff.

The menu says $65 will get you 4 a course banquet including dessert, but those 4 courses are made up of several dishes, meaning the option did live up to its ‘banquet’ name. The very first dish was a winner – a little pile of artichoke and pumpkin covered in some sort of delicious sweet/spicy sauce. This also came with grilled ‘batbout’ bread and a spicy (but not too spicy) tomato jam. The batbout, which I later googled, was like a chewy rich pita bread with gorgeous chargrilled iron marks on it.

The first dish - a little pile of tasty goodness

The first dish – a little pile of tasty goodness

These first small dishes were followed by a second round of slightly larger small dishes. The lentil filled semolina crepe (very much like a fine flat bread) which I received in lieu of lamb ribs was very tasty, with something (not sure what, possibly zucchini?) which was pickled and zingy on the top of a creamy lentil mix and fresh flatleaf parsley. The ribs were well received by Miss Pony and Dr S, who were able to literally nudge the super soft meat off the bone with the pack of their forks. They also had the signature ‘B’Stilla’ dish, which was a parcel of duck and chicken meat dusted in spices, whereas I had super delicious cauliflower with pine nuts and spices. I’m not sure what they do to the cauliflower, possibly deep fry it, but I’ve had it this way once or twice when eating out before, including at both Anada and Coda. It takes on a whole different texture from your standard steamed cauliflower, it’s a little bit crispy, like a big hot chip, while still retaining its juiciness.

My kind of coleslaw: Moroccan style!

My kind of coleslaw: Moroccan style!

The main course was a large shared vegetable tagine, which looked fab piled high with fresh herbs and figs. There was also a duck sausage on the side for non-vegetarians to add, as well as a cabbage salad and couscous. The couscous was really nice and fluffy, but filled with large pieces of orange rind which were very overpowering I thought.

Dessert was a highlight for me, of course! It was an ice-cream cone each, topped with Persian (or Moroccan perhaps?) style fairy floss. The ice-cream was, wait for it, tahini flavour! It has to be tasted to be believed. It was sweet, not savoury. The balancing act to make it delicious and not disgusting is an impressive one. It was so unusual but really creamy and had just the right level of sweetness. Plus, hiding right at the bottom of the cone was a big dollop of dulche de leche – yuuuuum!

Tahini ice-cream cones

Tahini ice-cream cones

B'Stilla on Urbanspoon

My top ten restaurant dislikes

Ok, so I’m going to sound snobby when I list all these, but well, I’m going to do it anyway. On the strength of the popularity of my post about the top ten baked goods I just don’t understand, here’s the top ten things restaurants and cafes do which drive me crazy!

1. Fake or overly ambitious menu descriptions. For example, when ‘a medley of seasonal vegetables’ is peas, corn and carrot clearly ‘freshly picked’ from a frozen bag. Or, as happened recently at The Lab Nitrogen Gelato, ice-cream claimed to be topped with brownie pieces (note the plural) and what I received was ice-cream with one single brownie piece approximately one centimetre by one centimetre in size. Fake or dubious location descriptions also annoy me – for instance Po River Calamari? I’m pretty sure that’s a freshwater river in Europe, meaning any calamari in it are very very lost!

2. Risotto arriving in under 10 minutes. You can’t make a risotto that quickly unless it’s precooked and you’re just heating it up. In which case it’s going to be claggy and/or full of cream and I could make something better at home, for half the cost.

3. When the dessert menu is separate from the main menu so you can’t strategise. I’ve written on this one before – see last week’s post on this very issue.

4. Staff who discriminate because you look young and/or casually dressed. I like to eat at some fancy places. I’m willing to spend a fair bit of money on a special meal. And my money is exactly as good as anyone else’s, however, there’s been a few posh places I’ve walked into with other young(ish) people and gotten cold or neglectful service because we look young and like we don’t know any better. There’s also been cases where waiters have reacted with surprise and/or changed their attitude very quickly when we’ve ordered a bottle or two of nice (expensive) wine.

A like rather than a dislike: tomato, asparagus and ricotta brioche at Dolcetti, with super friendly service as well.

A like rather than a dislike: tomato, asparagus and ricotta brioche at Dolcetti, with super friendly service as well.

5. Staff not telling you when items on the menu are unavailable until after you go to order them. It’s just disappointing and it requires you to make a snap decision about what you’ll have instead.

6. A lack of signals on the menu indicating what’s vegetarian (or gf for the glutards out there). Yes, I can just check with the staff, but it feels a little annoying on my part. I’d much rather just know what my options are. In this same category is putting a ‘V’ next to things that are clearly not vegetarian. What does this mean? Is there a veggie version available? Or do they just think anchovies are vegetarian?

7. Beautiful restaurant fit outs with dingy/dirty/outside/cold bathrooms. There’s a lot of culprits here. Twenty&Six Espresso is light and bright and hip, but they have a shed-like outdoor toilet. Similarly The Estelle in Northcote is great, but their toilets are below par. Ditto several places on Lygon Street with great pasta and poor plumbing.

8. Being told you have to be off the table by a certain time, but then getting slow service so that you don’t have time for dessert. By contrast, if there’s no time limit and not a whole lot of people waiting for tables, I hate being rushed off my table. Sometimes I just want to sit, digest and talk for half an hour after the meal, thank you very much.

Very mainstream muesli cleverly disguised by (admittedly delicious) fruit on Hastings Street, Noosa

Very mainstream muesli cleverly disguised by (admittedly delicious) fruit on Hastings Street, Noosa

9. No split bills and/or cash only places. Group dining is hard enough to organise sometimes, splitting the bill and/or allowing people to pay on cards doesn’t take that much extra effort on the restaurant’s part. Unless they are an absolutely tiny operation with a clearly signed policy on cash, they should have card facilities.

10. Places avoiding providing tap water and then upselling/charging for bottled water. The water in Melbourne is perfectly drinkable. I don’t even like mineral water. I know there’s no mark-up on free tap water, but restaurants should just suck it up and provide it automatically.

Review: Rosa’s Kitchen

I am embarrassed to say that Tuesday night was my first visit to Rosa’s Kitchen, a gorgeous little Italian restaurant on Punch Lane in the city. For starters, it’s in a hard-to-find laneway location, which always appeals to Melbournians. There were eight or nine of us out for an impromptu dinner. When we arrived to a fairly full restaurant, staff quickly made room for us, dragging in chairs and setting extra places.

The menu is written up on blackboards around the room, which is big and bright and features a few kitsch Italian decorations without it feeling too daggy. The menu is small and authentic. Pastas dominate the selection, with items like pecorino and ricotta ravioli with a fresh tomato sugo, squid-ink spaghetti with calamari or giant meatballs served simply with tasty green beans. The whole feel is family friendly and foodie friendly. Pastas are made fresh daily, bread and green salads are complementary with the main meals and there’s a decent Italian-focused wine list with wines by the glass or bottle.

Rosa's interior

Rosa’s interior

I love Italian food, so Rosa’s started on a strong footing with me, but it did really deliver. The flavours were fresh and simple. Nothing was particularly fancy or ingenious, but everything tasted like it had been made with care. I don’t think there was anything left on anyone’s plates at the end of our dinner. It’s the perfect place for a relaxed mid-week meal.

Rosa’s Kitchen has been well reviewed in professional reviews and Rosa Mitchell is, apparently, something of a legend. Hence the embarrassment of never having heard of the place, let alone eaten there, until Tuesday. I was surprised, however, on reading up on Rosa’s Kitchen, about the number of negative customer reviews. There were many complaining about the rude staff, expensive prices and small size of meals. Normally I tend to respect Melbournian’s reviews and ratings and side with fellow bloggers, but I think, on this occasion, I have to go out on a limb and write some of them off as, well, bogans. It was the last comment, about meal sizes, that really led me to this conclusion. Because the meals at Rosa’s were in no way small. They were average if not generous portion sizes. There was also a comment about there being ‘no cream or anything’ with the desserts that sounded decidedly bogan to me. There’s nothing I hate more than a very average piece of mud cake or something like that dressed up with mountains of fake whipped cream, twizzly bits of fruit and sickly amounts of chocolate syrup. I’m not saying some desserts don’t need cream or ice-cream (I don’t even consider sticky date pudding unless it comes with ice-cream), but quality Italian style cakes do not need fussy plating to be delicious. The desserts at Rosa’s were very simply served, but they needed no accompaniment. I had a pear, pistachio and chocolate cake which was tasty and rich without being sickly. My partner had the lemon and mascarpone tart which was a standout – very tangy and yet the mascarpone ensured it was creamy almost to the point of fluffiness.

I also felt the prices were quite reasonable. We had mains with sides, dessert and three bottles of wine, which ended up being about $60 each. The staff were varied in their approach and I can see how a reviewer who got the wrong staff might think them rude. A few were chatty and warm, others did their job and nothing more. Having said that, a table was procured very quickly for us, meals were a little slow but came out in a co-ordinated fashion and when we asked for one of the broccoli side dishes to come without anchovies (for me, the veggie) this was not a problem.

Simple yet delicious chocolate pear and pistachio cake at Rosa's

Simple yet delicious chocolate pear and pistachio cake at Rosa’s

I left Rosa’s warm, full and smiling – a genuine Italian experience I’d go back for many times.

P.S. – I’m also excited to let you know that I own northmelbournelife.com, so you can now find my blog at this much simpler domain name. Yay!

Rosa's Kitchen on Urbanspoon

Choco-ma-holic

I love Melbourne (quite obviously). I love lists. I also LOVE chocolate. So it was quite clear to me that today’s post was long overdue for my blog. Below are my top ten chocolate experiences in Melbourne, in no particular order. And yes, I am eating chocolate while I write this, it’s the only way.

1. Chocolate soufflé at Bistro Vue (see pic below). They bring this baby out on its own little purpose made dish. The waiter picks up a pot of melted dark chocolate, cuts a cross in the top of your soufflé and pours the molten chocolate into your soufflé. It’s just so light in texture, yet that sauce is so deeply dark.

2. Iced chocolate donut at Crumbs Bakery. This one is dangerously close to me, on Errol Street. The donut is super crispy on the outside and fluffy on the inside, with tonnes of sweet sticky chocolate icing on top. And, as an added bonus, it’s vegan and organic. Nice!

3. Pear and chocolate tart at Dolcetti. I could eat everything at Dolcetti. The baked caramel cheesecake is crazy-good. But this chocolate pear tart is something really special, a great combination made with love by beautiful Italian women.

4. Handmade chocolates at Koko Black. I’m sorry, I can’t choose just one flavour as my favourite (and neither should you).

5. Giant chocolate chip marshmallow cookie at Patricia. The coffee is a bit too cool for school (though apparently very good), but this giant cookie is chewy, gooey goodness with very large milk chocolate chips.

6. Chocolate passionfruit brownie at Le Petit Gateau. There’s brownie, there’s some sort of hazelnut crispy layer, there’s passionfruit mousse, there’s chocolate mousse, there’s dark chocolate ganache and there’s passionfruit gel. Not for the faint hearted. Definitely for me.

7. Cherry ripe bar at Haigh’s. Not very sophisticated, but so delicious and nostalgic.

8. Death by TimTam cocktail at The Carlton Yacht Club. I don’t even know if they make these any more. But they were amazing. Think of an alcoholic chocolate milkshake with a whole TimTam floating on the top, all served in a martini glass to make it feel a little bit classy. I was certainty not very classy after a couple of these!

9. Chocolate coated almonds at the Lindt Café. Personally I don’t like the ambience or the service much at the Lindt Café, but you can eat these delicious little morsels on the go.

10. Ferrero Rocher ice-cream at Seven Apples. Sweltering 40 degree days are totally worth it for this St Kilda gem. The ice-cream is thick and creamy and full of crunchy Ferrero pieces. I’d also recommend their Turkish Delight flavoured ice-cream, which won a silver medal at the 2011 Sydney Royal Cheese & Dairy Show. Wouldn’t you just love to be a judge at that show…

Bistro Vue's chocolate souffle

Bistro Vue’s chocolate souffle

Turtle cookies in California

While this is normally a blog on North Melbourne, this week I’ve jetted off to California for a week’s holiday. San Francisco and North Melbourne actually have a fair few parallels. For starters, they are both overflowing with hipsters and really great places to eat. It’s a much more international city than many others in the USA. Of course there is amazing Mexican food (we ate at a fab vegan Mexican place in the Mission on my first night here called Gracias Madre), but there’s also authentic Thai, super cheap and delicious Indian, all you can eat brunch from the Deep South and just about everything in between. They also have trams (or ‘cable cars’) here, though the system is much more limited than in Melbourne. The weather is currently sunny and gorgeous, but normally it’s pretty changeable here, like Melbourne. Plus the politics in San Fran are probably the closest to the inner city small ‘L’ liberalism you find in North Melbourne. Sadly though, the coffee isn’t really on par, with only a few places offering coffee which meets the strict standards of my coffee-snob partner.

Yesterday though I headed out of San Fran to Palo Alto. It’s a cute little town based around Stanford University. It’s sunny around 80 percent of the time there apparently and there’s definitely a clean affluent feel to it, with the student population from the University giving it just enough edge to make it a pretty cool little place.

We got the Caltrain to Palo Alto, which, by the way, seems to be pronounced something like ‘Paul-o All-toe’ by the locals, a pronunciation I still can’t get right. We hit the main drag, which is called, rather unimaginatively, University Ave.

My partner, having been here a few times before, suggested Orens Hummus for lunch. Being a life-long vegetarian basically guarantees you’re a hummus fan I think. And that’s what they do, hummus. Hummus with just about everything. Technically they call themselves Israeli cuisine, but it’s a sort of middle eastern mix of options on the menu, plus a few Americanised items.

I ordered The Hummus Triangle, which was a serve of their classic hummus, plus spicy garbanzo  beans (chickpeas), fava beans and tahini. My partner had the Hummus Beef, which is what it sounds like – a whole lotta hummus and a whole lotta spicy beef.

Pita bread from Orens Hummus

Pita bread from Orens Hummus

Hummus Triangle at Orens Hummus

Hummus Triangle at Orens Hummus

Both dishes come with a never ending supply of homemade white and wholemeal pita bread. That’s one very American thing I think, everything either comes in a giant portion or with free refills. Drinks are free to refill, bread is free to refill and at the movies, popcorn is free to refill.  The meals are so huge, I don’t think I’ve actually finished one yet. On the first night, at the end of the meal the waitress looked at our half eaten plates and said ‘Can I get you a box?’. I looked at her a little strangely before remembering that, unlike in Melbourne, it’s perfectly ok to take-away your meal from a restaurant and eat it the next day. I think a lot of people do, making dinner their lunch at work the next day and saving a few dollars in the process.  That’s the other thing – menu items appear quite cheap compared to Australia, but once you add in the taxes and a decent tip, I think San Fran dining is about on par with prices in Melbourne.Anyway, back to the hummus. The hummus itself was pretty good – it was rich, creamy and there was a lot of it! It didn’t have as much flavour as I would like, but the pita bread that went with it was so fluffy and delicious that that made up for it. My only disappointment really is that I thought fava beans were what Americans called broad beans. Subsequent googling (because I’m pedantic like that) suggests I’m right. What I got on top of my hummus, however, was kidney beans. They were ok, but you know, not those big fat lemon-y  baby broad beans I was hoping for. Overall though, Orens Hummus was a hit for me. I actually think there is a market for that kind of place in Melbourne.  I actually think I’d like to open one myself…

Following hummus, it being me, dessert was required. For this we headed straight to Cream. It was recommended to me by my sister, who lived and studied in Berkeley for a semester. Cream has an outlet there and recently opened up one in Palo Alto. They do one thing. Ice-cream sandwiches. Very big ones!

The line for Cream was about 40 people deep, out the store and along the footpath past two other stores. I’m not sure if it is always like that, since it was a warm day, but I can understand why it’s so popular. For just $2.99 ($2.50 if you pay cash) you can choose two cookies (two different flavours if you like) and a scoop of icecream and have them sandwiched together in front of your very eyes. Like dessert magic!

The cookie flavours included classics like chocolate chip and oatmeal as well as more unusual ones like ‘Turtle’ which was chocolate, caramel and peanuts, Snickerdoodle (cinnamon) and Cappuccino. The icecream flavours were similarly variable, including decadent sounding things like banana walnut fudge, chocolate chip cookie dough (in case you didn’t have enough cookie in your sandwich!?), royal caramel swirl and strawberry cheesecake. It being California they also had vegan options such as vegan chocolate cookies with soy mint chocolate chip icecream.

I opted for one chocolate chip cookie and one Turtle cookie with salted caramel icecream. The cookies are still a little warm and soft in the middle, which makes them extra good. The sandwich is created in a wedge shape, to make it easier to hold and then squeezed into a small paper bag to make it easier to eat in bites. The cookies were excellent, especially the chocolate chip one which had lots of milk chocolate chunks that were still warm and gooey. The salted caramel icecream was a little disappointing, in that it wasn’t very salty or caramelly and just tasted like sweet creaminess. Wedged between two delicious cookies though, it was more than acceptable and I polished off that thing in record time.

Cream's icecream sandwich

Cream’s icecream sandwich

Cream on Urbanspoon

Oren's Hummus Shop on Urbanspoon