Breakfast at Jimmi Jamz East Brunswick

I first met Alby Tomassi at YGAP’s social enterprise café Feast of Merit, in March last year.

With a huge smile, boundless enthusiasm, and a solid pedigree in hospitality (he also owns St Kilda institution The Banff) Alby is all about bringing good, unfussy food to the table and Jimmi Jamz is no exception.

The Lygon Street space is big enough to not have to worry about queuing for a table on a Saturday morning, but still warm and inviting with exposed brickwork, planter boxes full of fresh herbs, comfortable leather banquette seats, and a large airy courtyard which is lovely for brunch and possibly even better for a lazy Sunday afternoon session, or a warm summer evening.

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With the feasting of the festive season over, I’m ready for some food that nourishes whilst still tasting fantastic. Based on what I tried recently at Jimmi Jamz, I’m covered for the rest of summer. The menu boasts something to appeal to everyone from the Istra bacon lover to the gluten free vegan, and everyone in between.

Offering a fresh take on standard breakfasts, at Jimmy Jamz you can get ricotta hotcakes with fro-yo, meringue and mint; almond and cashew granola with coconut yoghurt, blueberry curd and grapefruit; baked eggs with pork belly; and silken chilli tofu with roasted red onions, puffed rice and black sesame oil. I’m not usually a tofu fan, but I found this dish really lovely – so many flavours and textures, and it just screamed healthy!

I loved the ‘Rye Gap’, which was house cured trout, avocado puree, pickled red onion, soft herb salad with preserved lemon dressing and a poached egg (extra) on rye.

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Jimmi Jamz have their own coffee brand which they’ve called ‘Little Green Bean’, (roasted in Brunswick), their milk comes from St David Dairy (hand bottled in Fitzroy), and a huge selection of freshly squeezed juices and delicious-sounding smoothies. I went with the ‘Green Apple’ which was chock full of spirulina, psyllium husk, organic coconut, almond, sultana, cranberry, sunflower seed, pumpkin seed, organic lime essential oil, coconut nectar, green apple, coconut water, fresh mint and ice. Loved it.

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You can view the whole menu here

Add to this the fact that they also have a stack of board and card games including Jenga, Battleships, Scrabble, Backgammon and Chess, you could quite literally settle in here for hours (with or without kids.)

I’m now looking forward to going back for lunch or dinner to check out the rest of the menu!

*I was invited to Jimmi Jamz to try the summer menu. I wrote about it because I loved it.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Feast Of Merit – a YGAP Project

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YGAP stands for Y-Generation Against Poverty. This is a non-profit organisation full of bright young volunteers with a social conscience. They call themselves ‘an incubator for social change’. I just call them bloody awesome.  Their CEO and co-founder is Elliot Costello, social entrepreneur and all-round good bloke.FeastOfMerit4

I first became aware of YGAP through social media posts around their 5 Cent Campaign in 2013, which was successful in raising over $130K for charity projects in Australia, Cambodia and Rwanda.

Their latest undertaking is Feast of Merit,  a ‘communal dining house’ located at 117 Swan St, Richmond, serving breakfast and lunch 7 days a week, and dinner Tuesday to Sunday.

FeastofMerit28 FeastofMerit25 FeastofMerit26 FeastofMerit29It was wonderful to hear that Salvatore Malatesta of  St Ali Coffee Roasters, was happy to share some love for the Feast of Merit cause, and has donated a coffee machine and equipment, plus 2 years’ supply of coffee beans, and a signature espresso blend has been developed. More generosity came from Melbourne-based manufacturer LUUS, who fitted out the kitchen.

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Alby Tomassi, co-founder and no stranger to hospitality (think Café Banff and Jimmi Jamz) notes that the smooth operation of the venue, after being open for such a short time (a little over 2 weeks at time of writing) can be attributed to many of the staff being involved in renovations, painting, cleaning, and setting up in the months and weeks leading up to the opening. Also being part of something they believe in, they have formed strong bonds and friendships based on a mutual passion. Everyone is happy coming to work, including Alby (pictured below with his trademark smile).  Business Manager Shaun Anderson is another YGAP’er whose demeanour is relaxed, friendly and welcoming each time you visit, greeting first-timers like old friends.

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In their own words, the ‘Feast of Merit’ is a “community concept inspired by a festive ritual in Nagaland, North Eastern India, whereby a wealthy member of the village will liquidate all their assets to throw a huge celebratory feast for their community. The festival can last for several weeks, bringing together all of the village’s poor and underprivileged members, as everyone feasts and celebrates together through a distribution of wealth that empowers and unifies the community”

The food has a local and sustainable focus – they use Hopkins River Beef, line caught fish, with origin and seasonality being important to chef Ravi Presser (ex Bar Lourinha , Circa, Cumulus Inc and more recently, Fonda).  They have D.O.C wine on tap in kegs, eliminating bottle and left-over waste, as well as some selected local wines, ciders and beers by the glass and bottle. There is also an intriguing range of Ayurvedic Tonics, freshly pressed juices, and ‘enlightened’ smoothies.

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There is a definite Middle Eastern slant to the menu, and ethical, healthy, nourishing dishes are the cornerstone of chef Ravi’s offerings.

Price is also a factor, with the idea being that good food should be accessible and affordable. No dish on the menu is over $23.

The cost of the meals however, belies the beautiful quality and range of options on the menu.  Apart from the Launch event which I attended as a guest, showcasing the dinner menu, and containing such gems as eggplant, lemon and pomegranate dip, fried cauliflower salad with blackened onions, Hopkins River porterhouse with horseradish and garlic paste, and a milk pudding with figs and caramelized sugar, I have visited again since for both breakfast and lunch, and each time the food has been beautifully presented, with gorgeous combinations of flavours and ingredients.

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Highlights have included a dish of backyard fruits – plums, figs and grapes, chia seeds, orange blossom, yoghurt ice and smoked almonds, and harissa toast with kale, silverbeet, ricotta, avocado and egg. Of the range of salads on offer at lunchtimes, my favourite  so far has been the asparagus, green bean,pea, soybean, fennel and verjus.

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I was initially invited to the Launch event as a guest, in the hope that I would spread the word about this worthwhile social enterprise, and share the information provided to me with other people, via social media.  Since that visit I have returned twice to spend my own money there, invited friends to do the same, and will continue to do so in the future.

As with most of what I promote on social media, I’m not being paid to do it – I simply believe in it, I like it and I’m passionate about it.  I started blogging 5 years ago because I was passionate about sharing information about food and travel experiences. I still am.  If I’m working for someone I will disclose that.  If I eat/drink somewhere and it’s an invite I’ll disclose that too.

I choose to be positive, encouraging, supportive. I enjoy helping others share their message where I can.

Live and let live.  Oh, and lighten up.

“Life is short. Live your dream and share your passion.”

The Holstee Manifesto 2009.

The Feast of Merit Cloak, bestowed with great honour upon the villager who shares his wealth with his community
The Feast of Merit Cloak, bestowed with great honour upon the villager who shares his wealth with his community

My picks for Melbourne Food & Wine Festival 2014

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The Melbourne Food and Wine Festival is upon us again, which many of us have been eagerly awaiting since last October, when the program was first announced.

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It’s another fantastic opportunity to showcase the talents of our world-renowned hospitality industry, as well as showing off the beauty of our city, the always elegant Lady Melbourne.

This year the Festival theme is WATER and there are many clever and original ideas and events based around this to wet your whistle and whet your appetite.
Following are my picks for the Festival. Not surprisingly they feature a lot of wine.  But wine has lots of water in it, so it’s totally on topic…
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The clever people from Hassell who put together last year’s Urban Coffee Farm and Brew Bar at the Festival, are behind this state of the art structure nestling on the left bank of the Yarra River at Queensbridge Square.
Immerse yourself in foodie delights at the open kitchen from numerous chefs including Daniel Wilson and Adam Liston,  learn about growing your own food, and discover cocktail delights complete with chemistry lessons when the sun goes down and it transforms into a riverside bar.
This one has my interest due to my love of both chefs and photography. A chance to see some of Australia’s top chefs captured in their natural habitat, and out of it, with surprising and amusing results. It’s also FREE.
Sommeliers Long Lunch – Sunday March 2
Hosted by Sommeliers Australia, with a 6 course extravaganza from Pope Joan, and wines expertly paired by top Melbourne Sommeliers from Rockpool, Grossi Florentino and Attica, this is one lunch you won’t want to miss. Held at Ormond Hall, this is a great way to spend a Sunday afternoon, and funds raised help further the education of our local Sommeliers overseas. A fun wine-matching competition will take place across the event with the host sommeliers battling each other for crowd approval.  Just make sure you take the tram home!
Dreamily handsome Chef Luigi Taglienti shares his passion for Italian gastronomy in this Langham Masterclass.  Luigi, executive chef at the Michelin starred Ristorante Trussardi Alla Scala in Milan,  is known for blending traditional Italian flavours and seasonal produce with avant garde techniques, with spectacular results.  Add some fine Italian wine varietals from Dal Zotto in North East Victoria and you have yourself a winner here.
Regional Weekend March 14-16:  a long lunch, lilos and fly-fishing
St Leonards Long Lunch  Friday March 14
What’s not to love about a long lunch – especially in somewhere as gorgeous as Rutherglen in Victoria’s North East?
St Leonards are putting on a four-hour feast of epic proportions, and with a wine history stretching back to the 1860s, the refreshments will be as delicious as the local produce.
Lilos and Prosecco  Saturday March 15
Once you’re done here, stay the night and next morning scoot across to the King Valley and front up at Dal Zotto Wines at 10am for Lilos and Prosecco. A bus takes you to a perfect spot along the King River and after a safety demo you jump aboard a floaty pillow of fun and glide down the crystal waters that run through the picturesque valley of the Kings and home of Prosecco in Australia. Afterwards enjoy a beautiful lunch and plentiful prosecco at the Dal Zotto Trattoria.
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After the excitement of Saturday, you can try Fly-fishing on the King River on Sunday at Pizzini Wines.  Starting off with some fly fishing lessons, and then lunch and wine tasting with Joel Pizzini at the Cellar Door, you’ll head off to the river to try and catch your dinner. If you’re really nice Fred Pizzini might even share his favourite fishing spots with you.
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I’m excited and exhausted just thinking about all the fantastic events on offer this year, but I’ve been in training and my liver is ready and raring to go!
Buon appetito and look out for my Instagram feed for more fun and games from MFWF2014!
Disclaimer: I have not been paid for including any of the events listed here in my blog.  I am not attending any of these ticketed events for free. Any events I am invited to attend over the course of MFWF14 will be fully disclosed.

Bright Delight

We have become regular visitors to Bright in recent years, for a myriad of outdoor pursuits, including cycling along the ‘Rail Trail’, paragliding and mountain biking (those last 2 are Mr GastronoMel’s domain). 3 1/2 hours up the Hume, turning off at Wangaratta, driving through lush green countryside, giving way to rows of vines, Bright is not only stunningly beautiful, but is the epicentre of foodie-heaven, with some of Victoria’s finest food and wine being produced and served in the area.

Breakfast (and lunch):

One of our new discoveries during our last visit was Ginger Baker, without doubt one of the prettiest breakfast locations of my eating career. Run by Tim Walton, with a slew of suburban Melbourne cafes under his belt, his family’s tree change is one I’m grateful for, as we couldn’t get enough of the place, returning 3 mornings in a row for breakfast, and then again for lunch. With plentiful undercover outdoor seating, rough hewn tables and benches, lights in glass jars suspended from the rafters like fireflies, and a playlist of cruisy house music, I would have been happy to move in here. The coffee was perfect every time and Tim has tracked down some of the region’s best quality fruit, dairy and smallgoods to offer up some truly memorable breakfasts. A particular highlight was the bacon sourced from a butcher in Mt Beauty. Lunch was also fabulous, with an interesting range of tapas.

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Dinner:

Simone’s of Bright is perhaps the best known restaurant in the area, serving up beautiful Italian fare making the most of the local produce. It’s something of a special occasion place, with multiple small dining rooms complete with carpet, mantlepieces and artwork that give the impression that you’re in someone’s (rather lovely) home, rather than a restaurant.
Thoughtful, beautifully presented dishes served by exceptionally professional staff , Simone’s is a delighful, grown up experience, and you can even buy Patrizia Simone’s gorgeous cookbook to take home with you (or better still, enrol in one of her cooking classes at the new cooking school).

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What to drink:

Anyone who follows me on Twitter would be familiar with my obsession with prosecco, in simple terms, Italy’s version of champagne and my very favourite drink in the whole wide world. Already a huge Brown Brothers fan from way back, they made me particularly happy more recently by introducing Prosecco into their extensive line up, and a trip to the Cellar Door in Milawa (near Bright and home to the magnificent Milawa Cheese Factory) meant trying a few different styles of bubbles, as well as the Limited Release prosecco. My tasting notes for this little beauty read: ‘senfreakingsational’. Who are we kidding. I made no notes. I just drank ALL the prosecco and other delights that the lovely Ernie put in front of us. Next time we’ll stay longer and do lunch in the amazing Epicurean Centre.

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Local hero:

Anyone who’s been to a Melbourne Farmer’s Market will be familiar with the Myrtleford Butter Factory‘s wares, but if you are passing through picturesque Myrtleford, it’s worth stopping in to say hi to the very delightful and hospitable Naomi and her mum Bron (I thought they were sisters!) who are not only producing the best butter I’ve ever put in my pie hole, but they do a damn fine coffee and breakfast, and have loads of lovely crockery, artwork and cookbooks to buy whilst you’re there.

They also offer tours of the butter factory itself, which they restored from its neglected state, after continually driving past saying ‘someone should really buy that place and do it up’, so Naomi tells me.
If you’re on Twitter you can find both of them chatting about country life and tasty buttery snacks: @thebutterfactor and @butterbron

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Where we stayed:

The Boathouse, Bright complete with outdoor bath (superb for lying in at night with candles and prosecco looking up at the stars)

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What else we loved:

Lunch at Sam Miranda Wines outside on the terrace, plenty of space for the kids (if you’re dragging them to the wineries with you) to run around, and a truly fabulous spread of share plates

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What we’re doing next time:

Two words. KING VALLEY. The birth place of Australian Prosecco. Home of the Prosecco Road. Dal Zotto, Pizzini, italian varietals, and the Mountain View Hotel in Whitfield. We are coming for you next.

And where to refuel on the way home:

The multi-award-winning Fowles Wines , home to ‘Ladies who shoot their lunch’, and other splendidly named wines, they do a delightful prosecco, and have a great restaurant overlooking the vines, with some fantastic share plates of local goodness.

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A man about Town – Ed Kenney’s Town, Honolulu, Hawaii

When the Gastronomy guide for the 2013 Melbourne Food and Wine Festival arrived in my letter box, the timing could not have been better. We were just about to leave for Hawaii and seeing Ed Kenney’s name featured in the ‘Earth MasterClass’ section, (Huxtable are bringing him out for the event) reminded me that I needed to book dinner at his restaurant ‘Town‘, in Honolulu.

A couple of tweets and a 10 hour plane flight later, we turned up on Town’s doorstep, to a super warm Hawaii welcome from Ed, and settled in to read a menu full of ingredients I’d never heard of. Town, which has multiple accolades and awards to its name, is renowned for utilising local produce and promoting indigenous ingredients. Ed is not only passionate about the food he serves, but where it comes from. He is on the Board of Directors for MA’O Organic Farms, Kokua Hawaii Foundation & Sustain Hawaii. His philosophy is that “Food is the unifying fabric of humanity, connecting us to the earth and each other.” Word.

I quickly decided the way to get the most out of this visit was to ask Ed to feed us his favourite dishes until we fell into a food coma, and he was only too happy to oblige. He started us off with the ahi (Hawaiian tuna) tartare served on a risotto cake, with balsamic vinegar, which was superb, both in texture and flavour, and came at us soon after with the cured opah (Moonfish) with pa’ i’ ai (made from taro root), watercress and persimmon which all worked beautifully together. Our extremely sweet and friendly waitress Randi patiently explained each ingredient to us and answered my incessant questions throughout the meal.

The salad came full of avocado, papaya, butter lettuce, pecans, and cucumber, and was served with a ‘green goddess’ dressing (apparently a West Coast US staple but again something I’d never heard of, typically containing a range of fragrant herbs, spring onions and mayonnaise or similar). I’m offically a fan.

We also tried the hand-cut pasta, which was served with a south shore he’e (octopus) ragu, and it was a knockout. I probably wouldn’t have ordered this if I’d known what it was, simply because I couldn’t imagine how you could execute it – more fool me and lucky I wasn’t in charge of the food selection, because this was one gorgeous, rich, hearty bowl of goodness. Slightly salty, beautifully textured with silken ribbons of perfect pasta.


We then had some more opah, this time served with farro, roasted root vegetables, purslane and salsa verde which was moist, sweet and delicious, as was the mahi mahi dish, served with local veggies, limu (Hawaiian algae) and meyer lemon. Then came the extremely sensational shinsato pork chop, served with an ulu (breadfruit) mash and bitter greens. I was only a little mad with Ed that he’d left this til last when I was already getting full because this was some of the best pork I have ever eaten IN MY LIFE. Juicy, tender, with incredible flavour, and the breadfruit mash was like velvet. Oh my. I needed a little rest, and another glass of wine whilst contemplating how I would finish this plate. (I privately congratulated myself at this point for wearing a loose-fitting dress). But finish it I did (I had help), and then it was on to dessert – obviously utilising my altogether separate ‘dessert stomach’ to fit this in.

The meal lost none of its momentum in the ‘wow’ stakes when it came to the dessert. We were spoiled with 3 different dishes – the beautiful satiny buttermilk pannacotta was first, made with local nalo meli honey and served with fresh tropical fruit, and some figs from the tree right outside the restaurant. We then tried the ‘financier’ (from the friand family of French baked goods) made with browned butter and almond meal, and served with prunes which had been stewed in Earl Grey tea, and some whipped creme fraiche. I’m still dreaming about this fluffy treasure 3 weeks later. The piece de resistance for me however, being a self-confessed chocoholic, was the stunning salted dark chocolate pretzel tart which had wafer-thin slices of candied tumeric on top. The tart base was made up of crushed pretzels, offering its saltiness as the perfect foil to the rich, smooth dark chocolate filling. The tumeric was hot and sweet all at once and it just rocked. This was a flavour explosion of the highest order and one of the best things I have ever put in my cake hole.



I cannot rate this restaurant highly enough, and it was truly one of the highlights of our visit to Hawaii. The hospitality at most of the places we ate was excellent but Town’s waitress Randi took it to a whole new level of awesome, to the point where when we left we were hugging her goodbye. For me, Town feels like that place that no matter who you are, or where you come from, you’ll feel right at home. And I can’t wait for Ed Kenney to come Down Under in March 2013 so we can return the favour, take him out and show him our town.

“Local first, organic whenever possible, with Aloha always”. Amen.

Silo by Joost

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I’ve already outed myself as a card-carrying member of the Joost Bakker fan club, after visiting the Greenhouse in Perth in 2011, and then hanging out daily at its temporary cousin at the Melbourne Food and Wine Fesitval in March this year (see here) so it will come as no surprise that I’ve been waiting eagerly for his latest project ‘Silo by Joost’ to open its doors on Hardware Street. 

Silo is setting the benchmark for a waste-free sustainable cafe model – there are no bins, milk is delivered in bulk, flour is milled on site for all their baking needs, and of course all the suppliers are local, organic and seasonal. 

The kitchen is headed up by Douglas McMaster, who holds the Young British Foodies award for ‘Most Irreverant Chef’, and you can watch him at work as the kitchen and communal table are all part of the same space, giving you an up-close and personal introduction to your meal.   Currently on the breakfast menu are coddled eggs with mushrooms, house-made muesli, porridge, toast, shortbread, and yoghurt, not to mention some sensational chocolate treats (breakfast dessert, anyone?).  Silo are also doing evenings from Thursday to Saturday, with salads, grains and soup, and a nice selection of good local plonk including beer, wine and cider.

Silo is run by the irrepressibly enthusiastic Danny Colls (ex Cafe Racer, Postal Hall, Liaison, Federal Coffee Palace etc). If you happen to catch Danny at Silo he’s more than happy to give you a tour, and the passion he has for this latest venture is infectious.  It was also lovely to see the same staff who worked so happily at the Greenhouse at MFWF this year, serving up breakfast at Silo the morning we visited, every bit as excited about this beautiful new venture as I certainly am.

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Out and about in Radelaide

I worked out whilst mid-flight to Adelaide (henceforth knows as Radelaide) that this was my first trip back to the City of Churches in over 10 years, so basically when we arrived it was like having never been there at all. I could remember little from my previous trip apart from Rundle Mall and Glenelg, neither of which was on the itinerary this time.

First stop was dinner – we chose Assaggio, because it was located at the end of the street we were staying in, off King William Road in Hyde Park/Unley (and it was recommended by the gorgeous lady at Vincenzo Cucina Vera which we’re hitting on our next trip). The staff at Assaggio (and now that I come to think of it, everywhere we went in Adelaide) were EXCEPTIONALLY nice. I mean, super friendly, accomodating, and helpful.

We started off with some breaded scallops, which were excellent – plump and juicy, and served with a spumante zabalione, which was well executed, but perhaps just a little too sweet for my taste. The stuffed zucchini flowers with gorgonzola and pinenut ricotta mousse were HEAVEN, the ricotta a perfect foil for its bitey cheese counterpart.

We also tried the grilled salmon wrapped in speck, served with asparagus, and a spinach, pine nut and pea pesto, and the ragu of pork, fennel and chilli sausage with persian lentils. Beautifully presented, bursting with flavour, perfectly cooked and simply delicious.

Finishing off with dessert, Assagio hit a home run with the ‘fiore di latte cream with white chocolate and crushed pistachios, espresso and hazelnut syrup. Bellissimo.

We visited The The Pantry on Egmont for breakfast the next morning. You’ll find this quaint yet hip little place on Egmont Terrace, which runs along the railway line in Hawthorn. Filled with the sort of knick-knacks your nana would have treasured in 1973, it’s homely and funky at the same time, and our waiter was one supremely cool cat, freshly-inked and full of morning pep. Coffee was excellent, and the french toast was a work of art. Lovely vibe and great service.

After breakfast we had to make a detour to Bar 9, since I’d heard great things (from an Adelaide ex-pat buddy in Melbourne). The place was packed with people waiting for a table, and for takeaways. Good sign. We ordered some coffees to go, and returned the next morning for breakfast. Again, the joint was pumping, but we were seated quickly and the staff were delightful. I had the breakfast special of home-cooked baked beans with chorizo and a side of avocado. These were quite easily the best baked beans I have eaten in my life. Spicy, tasty goodness. The coffees were consistently fabulous. Definitely on the return list!

An unexpected gem we stumbled across on the way to elsewhere was Cafe Troppo. Apparently newly-opened, sitting across from a large expanse of green on Whitmore Square, this place was so inviting with its recycled timbers, flowerboxes full of orange blooms and outdoor seating that we pulled over and stopped for lunch. A more gorgeous roasted pumpkin, spinach and risoni salad I’ve never tasted, and the coffee, if a little weak for my taste, had a great flavour.

Radelaide was full of delicious and delightful surprises. The Central Market is a haven for great local organic produce, the beautiful sandstone architecture everywhere is ridiculously photogenic, and we encountered great coffee and service everywhere we went. Can’t wait to come back!

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Sweet little mystery – Sarah Wilson’s ‘I Quit Sugar’ Cookbook

I have a confession to make. My name’s Melissa and I’m a sweet tooth. I always look at the dessert menu first in a restaurant, and I am a self-confessed, card-carrying chocoholic. And I love a drink. Or three.

But I am also an avid fan of Sarah Wilson and have been following her blog for some time. I love her positive, honest messages, and the whimsical, beautiful imagery of her posts. I watched with interest months ago as she invited countless people to follow her ‘I Quit Sugar’ program via Twitter and Facebook. It was like a science experiment that I was observing, waiting to see what happened. And what happened was people started raving about how delicious everything was and how they lost weight and felt amazing and wait…did I mention they GAVE UP SUGAR? Wahhhhh….

I didn’t wanting to have to commit to anything as drastic as cutting sugar out of my diet forever because quite obviously I WOULD DIE, but it had sparked my interest enough to give it a bit of a crack. I wanted to try and incorporate some Sarah’s ideas into my daily life, slowly and gently – after all, my New Year’s resolution this year was to stop eating processed foods, which I’ve been doing (mostly) quite well with.

When Sarah announced the ‘I Quit Sugar’ cookbook I was super excited, and as soon as it was available I printed it all off, as well as using the handy tool on the PDF version to create a shopping list, and got in the kitchen with my pile of new supplies, alongside some of my staples, like coconut oil, LSA, and chia seeds.

I went straight to the sweet section of the book, and started with the choc berry mud, made using frozen berries, ice cubes, avocado, spinach and raw cacao powder and a tiny bit of stevia powder all whizzed together in the blender. The first spoonful was a shock, as clearly my tastebuds were expecting something super-sweet and went into cardiac arrest, but after that it was just plain delicious, very smooth and creamy.

The second little treat I whipped up was for breakfast, using almond milk, chia seeds and some cinnamon. I also added some vanilla, and some raw cacao powder again, because the chocolate taste makes it feel a bit naughty and the end result is something like ridiculously satisfying adult Coco Pops but with NO SUGAR. This is my new work desk-breakfast for ever. Until I try one of Sarah’s other recipes for something else as easy and delicious anyway.

Next was the recipe for chocolate nut balls (are you sensing a theme yet?): I used a mix of walnuts, cashews and almonds, crushed in the food processor, and mixed with butter, coconut oil, almond spread, LSA, shredded cocunut, raw cacao powder (obviously I am going to have to start buying this in 10kg bags) vanilla and cinnamon. After a spell in the fridge, these little babies come out tasting like nutty chocolate crackles. The 7 year old has 2 of them in his lunchbox today and he’s pretty excited about it.

I also took the pumpkin porridge breakfast recipe and turned it into dinner, using pumpkin puree, coconut milk, some galangal, lemongrass, chilli, kaffir lime leaves, fish sauce and lime juice and stirring through some cooked quinoa. This was sensational.

This entire experiment has let me experience the true flavours of all the ingredients I’m cooking with, without having everything tinted with a sugary glow. It’s made me think alot more about how much sugar is in just about everything we eat. And best of all it’s given me a huge range of super-healthy options for making snacks at home out of ingredients I now have as standard in my pantry, and every single bite is doing my body the world of good. You’ve got to be happy with that!

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Green Smoothies – local and delicious!

I’ve been banging on about green smoothie goodness for a while now, and here by popular demand is a post dedicated to the what, why, how and where of it all.

Green smoothies are quite simply the result of blending ripe fruit and raw leafy greens together with water.
I like to add lots of other good things to my smoothies, like chia seeds, LSA mix, coconut oil and flaxseed oil, gubinge and maca powder. These collectively do great things for your system like help lower cholesterol, increase metabolism, maximise nutrient absorption, balance hormones, enhance memory function and much more.

The health benefits of green smoothies have been well documented, but Victoria Boutenko’s book ‘Green for Life’ (and subsequent  Raw Family website) is perhaps the definitive guide on the subject.

In Victoria’s own words, green smoothies are good for you because “greens are the most nutritionally dense food available on the planet. They are loaded with vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, proteins, and phytonutrients. What better way to consume them than in a delicious green smoothie? The fresh ripe fruits dominate the flavor of the greens and the absence of any fats maximize the absorption of the nutrients. These two factors make the green smoothie the most epic nutritious concoction the world has seen to date. Adding even one cup of green smoothie a day to one’s existing diet can dramatically improve anyone’s health. And the best part is, nearly everyone already has what they need to make a green smoothie sitting around in their kitchen right now!’

Another health benefit of the green smoothie is that unlike juicing, you actually retain and consume the fibre which is essential for a good digestive system and helps eliminate toxins from the colon.

A really handy tool recommended to me by a mate is the iPhone app from Raw Family, which gives you ideas for green smoothie combinations, as well as the nutritional value of each of the ingredients – you can get the app here.

So down the the basics – how do you make a green smoothie?

You’ll need a blender, some water, and whatever (preferably seasonal) fruit and fresh leafy greens you fancy.

The types of greens we eat at home (and grow ourselves) are: spinach, lettuce, bok choy, choy sum, kale, and silverbeet (chard). And if we don’t grow it, we buy it from the lovely folk at Ceres, or at one of our local farmers’ markets – see here for your nearest one. We also like to shop at Organic Gertrude in Fairfield, who are kind enough to provide information on where all their fruit and veg comes from, and you can see how many food miles your goodies travelled to get to you!

You don’t need a big garden to grown your own vegies – friends of ours have built an amazing greenhouse on the balcony of their apartment, and we’ve gone down the permaculture route, using existing wine barrels containing our lime and lemon trees, and have planted all our greens around the base of the citrus plants.

<Insert local produce rant here> I’m passionate about supporting local business and farmers, and avoid buying fruit, vegetables, meat (or dairy if I can help it) from the supermarkets. I’d rather know where my food comes from, and thanks to the most excellent work from the good folk at the Victorian Farmers Market Association, as well as the Locavore Edition with their Field Guide to Victorian Produce, it has never been easier or more enjoyable to connect with your local producers and get your food on the the day it was harvested. There’s also the added bonus of being able to sleep at night, knowing the wonderful people who spent their time growing your food are being fairly paid for doing so. <end rant>

Which fruit you select is entirely up to you, but the ones we have had the best results with include bananas, pineapple, mangoes, blueberries, strawberries, apples, pears, peaches, nectarines, watermelon, and some dates for extra creaminess. We try at all times to utilise what’s in season, with the exception of pineapples and bananas which we use year round.

It’s important not to overdo it on the fruit, since fructose is still sugar – but a few well chosen pieces will have your smoothie tasting super-delicious, and you won’t even realise you’ve just drunk a cupful of spinach. And take it from me, if my 7 year old is happy to drink one of these bad boys every single day, then you won’t have a problem downing some of this green goodness!

It’s usual to start with the fruit, so roughy chop your fruit, only peel the obvious ones like bananas etc, core your apples and pineapple etc, take out pips from peaches and so on. Add fruit to the blender jug with at least 1 cup of water. Now is the time to throw in all your awesome additions like the chia seeds, coconut oil etc. Start blending, and once it’s nice and smooth start adding your spinach, lettuce etc. Cucumber is also a fantastic smoothie ingredient. Again, don’t peel it.

Listed below are some ‘beginner’ combinations to get you started – once you get a feel for it, you’ll know what works and what you like, so just experiment and have fun with it. Just remember to rotate your greens and don’t eat the same ones every day. There are many to choose from, so it isn’t hard to do.

1 cup berries (any kind), 2 cups fresh spinach, 1/4 inch fresh ginger, water

1/2 bunch lettuce, 1 cup strawberries, 2 bananas, water

2 big handfuls mixed baby greens, 1 pears, 1 mango, 1 cup fresh or frozen blueberries

1 handful of spinach, 2 bananas, 1 apple, 1 cup water

1 cup spinach and 1 pear, 1 cup water

Once you’ve cut your teeth on these, start getting stuck into the chard, kale, choy sum, etc. You’ll love it!

Some more great recipes from Victoria Boutenko, can be found here.  There are literally hundreds of websites dedicated to green smoothie goodness, and everyone has recipes to share so get googling!

Here are a few to get you started:

http://www.veryediblegardens.com/iveg/green-smoothies

http://greensmoothiegirl.com/

http://www.vitamix.com/household/Health/green_smoothie.asp

http://rawfoodhealthwatch.com/raw-food/green-smoothies-recipe/

http://cheekychimpsmoothies.com/green-smoothie-recipis/green-smoothie-recipes/