Monday, 29 September 2014

Happy Monday

Stress is a horrible thing. For the last month I have been riding a wave of cortisol, constantly preparing my body for fight or flight, yet I can do neither. I fully anticipate that in the future we will find a way of studying the effects stress has on the body more thoroughly and discover that it is just as bad for you as sugar or even tobacco. I bet it causes cancer. I feel rubbish. I have not been sleeping well and I have lost my appetite. My body is so busy diverting blood flow to my extremities (for the fight/flight) that my digestive system doesn't get a look in. I have been eating at all the right times but only because I know I need to to keep myself strong. I feel light and barely connected to the earth and I hate it.

A couple of weeks ago someone commented on my Happy Monday post that I had obviously had a great week. I hadn't. It had been a horrible week in which much of the source for the current stress had been unearthed (sorry to be cryptic but I'm not ready to talk about it until I know where it's heading). I try not to be a 'sunshine and lollipops' blogger, making my life sound styled and perfect; but constant whining about my (mostly first world) problems is dull and quite frankly is a little toxic. It was interesting that by focussing on the positive I had given the illusion that life was sweet (even with my usual 'disclaimer' at the beginning).

This year I have been focussing on the positive things- I started with #100happydays (here, here and here). It has been a pretty tough year so far but I am coping with it much better than I would have in the past. If you are having a tough time of things I certainly recommend recording the moments of joy in whatever way is convenient for you, it provides a great perspective.

Friday, 26 September 2014

The Melbourne Blogger Meetup

One Saturday morning in July I received an email informing me I was no longer required in my Pharmacy job.* I was crushed. You see, I remember the minutiae of peoples' lives, I care about helping people, and this was one of those rare communities where it is not just about how quickly you can dispense a script (although there was that); people would come in for advice on their child's rash or baby formula. I love that stuff. I didn't care about the loss of the job. I was wounded by the loss of that community.

As I drove to (my other) work it occurred to me that there was a bunch of opportunities for connection around me and I just had to grab hold of one. I had joined a couple of Facebook blogger groups two months earlier and had seen a Sydney meetup occur but nothing in Melbourne. So I created an event and started telling people about it. I ran an online survey to see what people wanted because I had no idea what kind of lives other bloggers lead, and armed with the results I found a venue with the location/pricepoint/timing people wanted and made it happen.
A couple of people had left by this point but you get the idea. Photo by Millicent Nankivell

It was glorious.

Wednesday, 24 September 2014

Beatrix Potty {Beatrix Bakehouse/cafe Review}

My name is Nicole and I am a Beatrix-addict.

I can't help myself, I drop in to pick up a little treat for afternoon tea and leave with a box full and sometimes a ciabatta for lunch!

Owner and cake magician (for that is the correct term) Nat Paull uses locally sourced, in-season produce whenever she possible can and did her apprenticeship with Maggie Beer. It doesn't get much better than that.

This is the crack cocaine of the lunch world.

I have prepared this review over a number of months. I use the term 'review' loosely, let's be honest here, this is a gush, and providing pictures of a large range of tasty treats was really just an opportunity for me to keep going back.
beatrix cafe cake shop

All of these pictures are from takeaway because the cafe is tiny and it can be difficult to get a table (plus gluttony is easier in the comfort of one's own home). Now that spring is here and you can sit outside on a gorgeous day, your chances of nabbing a table are improved.

So without further ado, here is my collection of Beatrix treats:

The Orpheus with spiced slow-roasted lamb shoulder, tzatziki, fennel, potato and radicchio salad and toasted almonds.
beatrix north melbourne cafe bakeshop lamb ciabatta
The lamb was subtly spiced and so so so tender, the ciabatta is light and fluffy in the middle with a gentle chewiness on the crust. Then there was crunchy salad, creamy dressing and toasty little chunks of nuts. I sat at the table and devoured this without pause, licking up the dressing and shovelling fallen pieces of salad into my mouth. Quite primal really.

The Orpheus came home with me after I popped in to get a small dessert for a mini-celebration.

Five minutes later...

Clockwise from top: Rhubarb shag cake, Chocolate caramel slice with walnuts, a witch's tit (dense bittersweet boozy chocolate tart) and Quince and brown butter tart.
beatrix north melbourne shagg cake salted caramel slice

I served it with two forks

There was cake leftover the next day for The Bookworm's morning tea. But not much.

The dangerous thing about Beatrix is that nothing is average. You know how often a piece of cake looks great but it only tastes OK, not really worth the calories, a little dry or just lacking flavour? Not here. The rhubarb shag was creamy and tangy with big fleshy flakes of coconut. The quince and brown butter tart had a rich thick, fruity layer, almost baked custardy in texture and then fluffy cake on top with that nutty intensity that only brown butter can give. The caramel tart had some oaty texture to the base with buttery smooth caramel and thick chocolate on top. And the witch's tit was a proper grown up dessert- liqueur-infused chocolate with a mousse-like texture, on a perfect crumbly base, with a cherry on top.

Another day I needed a lamington to get me through a rough Saturday at work.

Five minutes later...
From Instagram

I know I have a lot of non-Aussie readers so I had better explain lamingtons. They are a cube of cake, normally sponge, dipped in a thin chocolate icing which absorbs into the outer layer of the cake and then coated in coconut. They are amazing when they are good, but finding a good one is getting bloody hard nowadays. Beatrix's lamington is victorious with a slightly denser sponge, a good layer of icing soak, toasted coconut and jam in the middle. And not that sickly sweet boring jam, oh no, this is tangy and fruity. I may have made a little happy noise as I bit in. Fortunately I didn't have any customers at the time.
beatrix cafe bakehouse North melbourne

I was terribly restrained and took the whoopee pie and vanilla slice home to share

There is a magnificent blog post about vanilla slice here debating what it should be. Duncan doesn't seem to write his blog anymore but I think perhaps I should contact him to inform him of my find. 

beatrix bakehouse north melbourne vanilla passionfruit pastry
The flakiest of pastry, rich creamy custard (not at all gelatinous) flecked with vanilla bean seeds and topped with tangy passionfruit glaze.

beatrix north melbourne raspberry whoopee pie

My first whoopee pie was from a cafe in Warnambool in 2011 and it is one of life's great tragedies that this was only the second because they are a fabulous creation (thank you America). This one had rich chocolate cake with just a hint of crunch on the outside, fluffy buttercream and juicy homemade raspberry preserve with a sprinkling of raspberry dust for zest.

I nearly published this post at this point but then I realised it would be a crime not to mention the Chiffon cake. Nat is known for this freak of cakture- a cake made with stiff egg whites is poured into an ungreased cake tin and baked before hanging it upside down overnight "If it doesn't hold, you'll hear a terrible plop. It's very nerve-racking. The next day, you take it out of the special mould and it's ready - an incredibly light, fragrant cake that's absolutely delicious."
beatrix north melbourne cafe cake chiffon
It certainly is delicious; zesty and moist but so so fluffy with creamy citrus icing. A range of flavours are made but this one is a mandarin chiffon cake.

Of course I couldn't leave without a ciabatta
beatrix north melbourne cafe that's amore buffalo mozzarella
The rocky- That's Amore buffalo mozzarella (superlative), Leo's tender ham, rough chopped basil pesto and balsamic roquette. 

And, you guessed it, more cake...
beatrix north melbourne cafe cheesecake gingerbread crust
Rhubarb crumble cheesecake- none of that gritty bland baked cheesecake here- silky smooth and rich with a layer of tangy rhubarb and crunchy crumble on top of a gingerbread cookie crumb crust.

beatrix north melbourne cafe sticky date caramel chocolate peanut tart
Moroccan Snickers Tart- a bittersweet chocolate tart with oozy sticky date caramel and a peanutty base.

I had to include this picture to show you the size of the slabs of cake. 
beatrix north melbourne cafe
That cake is pre-sliced- the slice is so huge you can only just see the edge behind the sign.

Most slices are 8-9 cm and could easily be shared between two but don't be stingy, just use the enormous slabs as a chance to chop them in half and try two things.

I take no responsibility for the increase of your sugar intake after this discovery.

You're welcome.

PS. Follow Beatrix on Facebook for the ciabatta of the day and lots of drool-worthy food porn.

Beatrix on Urbanspoon

Monday, 22 September 2014

Happy Monday

It has been a big week. There has been a lot of worry, a bit of busyness, very little business and a few exquisite moments that remind me why we keep battling on day after day. So, without further ado...

Things that made me happy this week:

:: A new word by one of the Shakespeares of our time: Conundrumified. If you have never read Eden's blog you just gotta. It can be hard-going, her younger brother committed suicide almost a year ago and she is grieving hard, but the way she writes cuts through so much of the fluffy fakeness in the world and deals the the stuff that matters. And she creates new words, or at least is influential enough that new words she uses may just become part of the Oxford dictionary. In the same post I saw this awesome new word, she shared this extraordinary little film by Shane Koyczan, spoken word poet, writer and performer. Another Shakespeare. Extraordinary people.

:: Warm jackets and cold nights and heading out when you really don't want to do anything more than curl into a foetal position and cry, but being glad you did leave the house because you are part of something, a new little fledgling group of like-minds and it makes you feel so bloody special.

:: The dog cave
By Michelle of Life Outside London

Isn't it exquisite!

She ripped off the door of a Harry Potter cupboard and created one of my favourite rooms ever.
I would give it a go except I store wine under the stairs, and Ted believes he is a 'people' so would probably just sniff derisively at the cave before heading upstairs to his dog-shaped groove on the bed.

:: Cupcakes. The definition of cupcakes should be "happy making cakes". Completely impractical, too high to eat easily and with an odd icing to cake ratio; yet they can make even middle-aged, cynical men (with a man-cold on board!) smile and reach for another. I made these for a co-worker about to go on maternity leave. Once they (the cupcakes) had finished cheering up the lunchroom (and curing man-colds), she took the rest home to her three-year old who was so delighted by them. One of the problems with this world we live in is that there are not enough cupcakes topped with shiny balls. The problems of the world can be helped by fandangled cakes people! Lets get onto it.

Happy Monday.

What made you happy this week?