With Ballarat Heritage Weekend close at hand, and 20,000 vintage enthusiasts converging on the charming historic city, we’re sharing our best tips for making the most of your visit.
So we’re dedicating part one of our special five-part “Best of Ballarat” series to those most critical biological needs: fine food and coffee.
Whether it’s before, during or after our Vintage Current Fashion Fair, here are our top picks for treating your palette right around the city …
Breakfast Pick: The Unicorn
The Unicorn is my pick for breakfast in Ballarat. The menu is full of unexpected and delicious choices (including vegan) and the artistic vintage vibe gives this venue a feeling of community. Situated in a stunning heritage building, the decor alone with its collectible vinyl is worth the trip. Be prepared to spend an hour or two simply reading the walls and taking it all in.
Verdict: A feast for all the senses! Make sure you take the time to visit the Ladies room, you’ll know why when you get there.
Lunch Picks: The Hop Temple, Golden City Hotel
With warm open fires, delicious craft beer and juicy burgers, The Hop Temple is a no-brainer for me. This is exactly the type of place that you can settle into for lunch and also make a night of (the next day, of course). The selection of craft beer here is something you must take seriously, none of this “just pop in for a pint”, no sir. Carve out some time to exercise your palette, bring your note book and get stuck into some serious tasting.
Verdict: Come for the beer, stay for the food and teach your palette a thing or two about the heady appeal of hops.
Right across the road from the Vintage Current Fashion Fair at St Patrick’s Hall, is the Golden City Hotel. Large, light filled and plenty spacious for big groups, this spot delivers on both the food and drinks menu. I thoroughly enjoyed the lamb wrap, as my partner made short work of the spring rolls. They have an excellent range to please every patron, plus great selections for kids, too. If you get in early you may even get a group spot on the sofa by the open fireplace!
Verdict: Try the warm thai beef salad or lamb wrap for something healthy and hearty.
Afternoon Tea Pick: Little Bird
There’s one cafe that reminds me so much of having afternoon tea with my Nana. Little Bird has become the go-to place for coffee meet ups for vintage fiends in Ballarat. Formica tables and chairs, old school cakes that look like they were lifted directly from the pages of the Australian Women’s Weekly Cookbook circa 1958, and a cozy diner feel set the scene. But the coffees and homemade sweets and delicacies are where you’ll find the most win.
Verdict: Perfect for catching up with coffee, cake and retro selfies.
Dinner Picks: Cafe Merkama, Craig’s Royal Hotel
Cafe Merkama may be one of the best kept secrets in Ballarat. Even many locals I’ve talked with had never heard of this little place. Opened only a couple of years ago by an Ethiopian refugee, Cafe Merkama serves simple, hearty dishes that encourage sharing and introduce your palette to an entirely new range of flavours.
Verdict: Perfect after a long hard day when you want comforting exotic food and a good chat with friends.
A beautiful heritage hotel that you’ll want to do a bit of swanning about in, Craig’s Royal Hotel offers an impressive dining experience. Often a bit of a roulette, gnocchi has never been high on my menu choices when dining out, but this one was so impressive we’re still talking about it a month later! The grilled gnocchi at Craig’s Royal Hotel Restaurant (“The Gallery”) recently took out the title for Best Gnocchi at the Ballarat Rural Lifestyle expo, so there’s even more proof. I highly recommend you put this one on your list.
Verdict: Make a booking for this one and check out the menu ahead of time to give you plenty of time to make a selection, as it’s so hard to pick a favourite. Finish off your meal with what I personally believe may be the best coffee in Ballarat. It’s so good in fact, that I asked the Barista to pose for a photo so you can find her!
Readers’ Choice: Share Your Ballarat Foodie Picks
We’d love to hear about your favorite dining spots as well, while we prepare for the big Ballarat Heritage Weekend 2016 (and many other visits). Where will we see you?
Please share your personal favourites and insider foodie tips in our Vintage Current Fashion Fair Facebook group, and let’s all enjoy and support the local winners!
Last year, I showed you how to make the Scrambled Zombie Brain Halloween dessert. This year, I want to show you how to do a Smurf themed Halloween dessert – “Gargamel’s Scrambled Smurfs”.
With 3 main ingredients – sponge cake, blue jelly and custard, you can make this so easily. Add to this version some blue food colouring and candy eyeballs, to make it gruesome (poor Smurfs!)
Gargamel’s Scrambled Smurfs
A few handy notes on the ingredients:
- Pre-make the jelly ahead of time – it requires 4 hours to set. Using a fork, break up the jelly into blobby chunks.
- You can either make your own plain sponge cake, or buy it from the supermarket. Cut the sponge cake into bite size pieces (don’t worry about being neat).
Assembly of Gargamel’s Scrambled Smurf Trifle:
1. Scoop a layer of jelly into the bottom of a glass or clear dessert dish.
2. Add the candy eyeballs. Use a teaspoon to hold the eyeball and push the spoon into the jelly, where you want the eye to sit.
3. Add blue food colouring to the custard and mix until marbled through.
4. Scoop a layer of thick vanilla custard next.
5. Then a layer of cut up sponge cake. Adding the layers in this order means that the sponge cake gets scooped up with enough custard so it’s moist to eat.
6. Now, I’m not sure what colour Smurf blood is – but I’m going to go with blue! You could make it red or even purple. Add a drizzle of blue food dye around the rim of the glass and let it ooze down into the cake and custard.
5. Last of all, top with more custard and jelly – half on each side of the glass so you get to see them both when looking into the dessert. And add a couple more candy eyeballs, so they look at you when you go to take the first bite!
Brought to you by Nuffnang and Jura
Let’s not kid ourselves; coffee is a vital ingredient to life as a functioning human being.
Finding the perfect at home coffee maker is therefore high on my list of priorities.
As a born and bred Melbournian, this sweeping statement becomes a little more understandable. For those of you who are not aware, we here in Melbourne take our coffee very, very seriously. It is a rare shopping strip if you can walk down without wafts of freshly ground beans massaging your senses. We eat them, we drink them, we scrub our bodies with them; coffee is the lifeblood of this city.
The innovations in coffee technology and the ensuing competition for our hearts, has been fierce. It seems that every appliance brand has developed a machine that, despite the claims, are not created equal. Yes, I have indeed tested these claims for the taste, convenience and overall coffee magic. Only now do I find myself in a position of waxing lyrical over the king of coffee machines. You can keep your golden eagles; I have found the superior Swiss engineering and design of Jura.
The Good Food and Wine Show on Friday gave me the opportunity to get up close and personal with this range of machines in a coffee master class. I was expecting this class to cover things like heating cups, correct tamping procedure and frothing the perfect foam, not learning how to make the easiest and most delicious Tiramisu ever.
Checking out the Jura A9 and F9 I was simply blown away by the features and functionality. First up, I have an aversion to pod or capsule based machines due to the incredible amount of waste and environmental damage the introduction of these is causing. Jura’s superior Swiss engineering has the beans inside the machine, grinding each cup on demand and to perfection.
As an espresso drinker (hold the sugar), I have a very demanding palette, which all too often is abused by burnt, bitter coffee. The internal temperature control ensures that the water is heated to the optimum level, just below boiling point, releasing the warm natural flavours of the beans. The simple fact that I have no need to intervene in the grinding and tamping process ensures that each cup come with the perfect crème as the water is pushed through the beans with the right level of pressure.
Frothing milk is an activity fraught with problems. From over aerating to steam burns, this is my least favourite activity when making my own coffees. The fully enclosed milk system of the Jura machine means that no special skills are required, and each cup comes as perfectly prepared as the next. So no, my master class did not need to cover any of these elements in creating the perfect cup.
Ever the practical one, there were other elements of the Jura machines that had me highly impressed. A smooth, flat touch screen surface with no crevices to collect dust and no top plate cup warmer. Instead the cups are kept in an internal heated drawer on the side of the machine, keeping them at the ideal temperature, dust free and quiet!
Having owned several DIY coffee machines in the past I am no stranger to the service process. I spent quite some time probing the Jura representative about the quality of the internal seals, replacement parts and just how long one could be expected to cope without their lifeline. I was surprised to hear that not only does their service centre have a “while you wait” option, but ensures that your turn around service time is no more than two days or they will supply you with a fill in machine! Jura clearly understands the seriousness of the situation.
My master class efforts were far more fun than I was expecting. Being able to turn out the perfect and impressive Tiramisu with the addition of a Jura made espresso, gave me hope that dinner parties may not be beyond my abilities. Creating this impressive coffee art right out of the gate has me completely sold on the idea. It looks like a bought one right?
As a true coffee aficionado I can honestly say that the coffee produced by the Jura A9 and F9 (the two models I trialled), is far superior to many of those $4.50 cups I’ve bought in cafes around Australia. With the engineering, quality, service and overall results of these machines, this is an easy investment to justify in a coffee obsessed city.
While I’m on my great big USA Tour extravaganza, I have asked my fellow Bloggerati buddies to share very special American themed guest posts with you!
Today I’d like to introduce you to Kelly from Be a Fun Mum. I met Kelly on our trip to Dubai, where we road in vintage Land Rovers and watched the sunset over the Dubai desert. Her colourful blog is all about embracing your own style of motherhood and having a fun time with it. Her simple recipes are great go to’s when you don’t have a lot of time up your sleeve but had people to impress.
Kelly’s Pretzel S’Mores are quick, easy and highly addictive! The perfect addition to your weekend agenda and the beginning of those chilly Australian autumn days.
S’mores are one of those right kinds of wrongs. So bad, it’s good.
This traditional American campfire treat consisting of chocolate and marshmallow sandwiched between Graham crackers is perfect combination of salty, and bitter, and sweet. Yes please!
The beloved s’more is adopted in many different forms, and my favourite way to serve the combo is in a pretzel sandwich because it gives you that extra kick of salt in the mix. They can be made ahead of time and served after dinner as a sticky treat with hot chocolate, coffee or wine.
Wind swept desert plains, the delicate softness of a muslin wrap around your face and the sweet stickiness of fresh dates; these are the sensations that I dream of when I imagine trekking into Egypt, Agatha Christie style.
Always on my “Must Visit” list, I have not yet taken that adventure, and so it lives on in a romantic fantasy inside my mind.
In one small afternoon visit, who’s purpose was entirely different, I caught a glimpse of a place I am longing to visit again; The Raffles Hotel in Dubai. Ostensibly our visit was for the purpose of a Christmas themed afternoon High Tea, but as our bus drew along side the portico I felt the bitter sweetness of anticipation and the desire for time to stretch itself, allowing me to bask in the splendour of this building.
Through the etched wings of Isis we entered a foyer of grand proportions. Polished sandstone and marble, the scent of lemon grass trailing behind us as our hostess greeted us with a wave of her hand and a motion towards a most sumptuous setting.
There amongst the lofty ceilings, pillars rising like creamy asparagus spears, was our table set with a decadent and delicate array of treats.
The care and attention in each create evident by the placement of individual petals, Tendrils of snow peas placed, no doubt, with a surgical precision. The perfect geometry of pumpernickel bread sandwiching smoked salmon and cream cheese curls. Slices of fig atop circles of creamed chicken and cranberries, cresting toasted discs of light white bread.
Chocolate creations of Christmas cheer, gleaming like polished plastic, the scent of gingerbread rising from tarts and men alike. The Raffles Festive Collection High Tea was both a spectacle of perfection and indulgence. I’d recommend allowing yourself a few solid hours to full appreciate and enjoy this experience, there is so much to take in and like me, you’ll also want to capture each morsel for your photo brag book.
With only a minute to spare before we needed to head to our next engagement, I grabbed my camera and tried to capture the magnificence of the setting. All I really wanted to do was grab a gin and tonic, and lounge in the foyer soaking in the ambience of ancient glamour.
I’d love to be able to host a big blog meet up here and have you all around for drinks and tales of your own grand adventures. Perhaps one day, I shall be able to do just that. Even as I write this, I’m planning more trips for this year, especially to the USA. If you’re interested in arranging a meet up, please let me know. I’ll be headed to quite a number of cities and am considering hosting both meet ups and workshops, so any feedback you can offer would be wonderful.
Stay glamorous my friends!
Time for your tastebuds to feel the light and the dark side with this new cocktail recipe.
Here’s my new Christmas Cocktail Recipie creation; The Ginger Swinger!
You will need
- Martini glass
- 1Tbsp Nutella
- 1 measure of ginger cordial
- 2 measures vodka
- crushed ice
- coconut water
- 1 tsp lime juice
- Coat the bottom half of your glass with the tbsp of Nutella or other hazelnut chocolate spread
- Add 1 measure of ginger cordial
- Add 2 measures vodka
- Crushed Ice and lime juice
- Serve separated, stir before drinking
Having Christmas in Summer means that entertaining takes on a different twist and we need to come up with catering ideas that help us cope with the heat.
This Christmas cocktail recipie has both the sweetness and freshness that gives it a decadent, yet light finish.
Perfect for impressing your guests in no time at all!