Helados Jauja

Ice cream, ice cream, nothing is better than ice cream! So was the refrain running through the brains of Jen and I on a sunny Sunday afternoon. We had just stuffed ourselves silly with the Tramway’s delicious quinoa burger in celebration of a mutual friend’s birthday, but being us we were nowhere near satisfied with just making some burgers our bitch.

This is how we found ourselves strolling down Lygon Street dodging the Italian restaurant spruikers in order to find Helados Jauja. Unlike the Italian gelaterias that pepper this length of Lygon Street, Helados Jauja is instead an Argentinean establishment. They seem to be going out of their way to use fresh and seasonal ingredients, and the flavours rotate depending on what’s available to them. Dulce de leche is the dominant flavour, with several varieties of it on offer the day of our visit, but the spectrum is widely varied, refreshingly including a lot of flavours utilising Asian fruits.

Of course I couldn’t go past something with dulce de leche in it, even when my tastes in ice cream run more towards the fruity end of the spectrum. I went with the salted caramel version, and paired it with the pandan (did you know that salted caramel and pandan flavours work AMAZINGLY well together? They totally do!). The consistency of the ice cream was softly elastic and almost unimaginably creamy, with such strongly marked flavours. I was immediately impressed.

Jen also had a variety of the dulce de leche, although hers was studded through with walnuts, and she teamed it with honey popcorn. She ended up being a little perplexed by the honey popcorn; she said that it tasted good but the texture of the soggy pieces of popcorn included in the mix just seemed weird. The walnut dulce de leche was gorgeous though, with the distinct husky taste of walnuts permeated throughout the dulce de leche was well as having noticable nutty chunks.

It was worth it to take some time out of our day to hunt this place down, because it was hella impressive (no I will not apologise for using the word “hella”, no you are destroying English). If you want to treat yourself to some really decadent ice cream, Helados Jauja is the place to be.

Helados Jauja

254 Lygon Street, Carlton

Ph: 9041 2927

www.heladosjauja.com.au

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Garlic Kiss

We’re going further afield with this one, folks, heading all the way to beachside Mornington. My dear old friend Sarah invited me out for a nice calm hens night evening of food, cocktails and chats, which is just the kind of hens night I enjoy (keep your penis straws off of my silky drawers!).

Garlic Kiss is situated just off Mornington’s main street, and it’s rather unfortunate name makes more sense once you realise that it’s a pan-European restaurant. It’s outfitted in a way that suggests comfort rather than style, with nice solid padded chairs and one of those hammy fake fireplaces where it mimics an open wood fire but it’s actually gas powered (those things make me DIE).

We started with a couple of rounds of the dips for the table to share. There were three varieties of dip included: beetroot, sweet potato and one that I could never quite identify – it didn’t really matter in the end as that one in particular was quite tasteless. The sweet potato one was mild and inoffensive, leaving the beetroot as the only one with any flavour kick to it, it was strongly earthy and quite good. The pita bread served with the dips had been sprinkled with paprika, which added a nice smoky overlay to everything.

For my main I had the zucchini and corn fritters, served with a little dressed leaf salad and crusty bread with a little ramekin of diced tomato and salad onion (bonus bruschetta!). The three fritters were big round puffy things, liberally threaded through with cubes of vegetables and corn kernels, but were still doughy enough that they actually got a bit heavy quite quickly, I ended up leaving half of one behind. Therefore it was quite a relief to munch on the side salad and bonus bruschetta (the crusty bread was particularly good, with a touch of sourdough tang to it).

I decided to waive any side dishes. LOLS THAT’S A TOTAL LIE I TOTALLY HAD CHIPS. And glad of it I am too. The ‘Dutch chips’ were big fat crispy chips that were fluffy within, liberally sprinkled with sea salt and rosemary. Served with sour cream, some kind of thick chilli paste and a garlic aioli, the chilli and sour cream was completely ignored in favour of the aioli which was stupidly good.

Sarah also gave me a taste of her vegetable paella, which had been well cooked with a firm bite to the rice, but was it was predominately flavoured with paprika, which I imagine probably would have become a bit overwhelming if you were trying to eat the whole thing.

For dessert there was chocolate fondue with strawberries, marshmallows and orange slices to share between the five of us. The fruit was fresh, the sauce was milk chocolate but tasted smooth with a medium level of richness, with none of the brittle, plastic-y overtones of cheap chocolate. Really though, the appeal of fondue is less how everything tastes and more to do with the shared ritual of eating it.

The real king of the meal, however, was our second dessert choice: the banana and hazelnut pudding with caramel sauce. Served with a ball of quality vanilla ice cream that was ever so creamy, this is the sort of pudding that pays proper respect to bananas. It was chock full of banana chunks with seams of hazelnut pieces yet wasn’t heavy at all – handy because the caramel sauce was intensely rich and sweet, just the way caramel sauce should be! It was very hard not to whip this plate out of everyone’s grasp and just keep it all to myself.

I finished it all off with an earl grey tea that was served with sugar cubes and a slice of lemon. When was the last time you saw lemon slices and sugar cubes in a city-side caf’? Come on, Brunswick, us tea fans love our granny afternoon tea affectations, get on this.

Garlic Kiss was basically the definition of ‘nice’. The more lackluster dishes still had elements that were enjoyable, and the good dishes have stayed large in my memory. The food overall was a lot better than I was expecting from a seaside suburbs restaurant, and my dining companions also assured me that the cocktails on offer were quite delicious. It might not impress the most hard-nosed of city slicker foodies, but for what we required from it Garlic Kiss was perfectly fine.

Garlic Kiss 

1C Albert Street, Mornington

Ph: (03) 5976 1444

Gardiner and Field

Sometimes you just get wowed by the pretty pictures.

Gardiner and Field started off the blocks amazingly, with blog posts and online articles springing up in droves during their first week of business. And accompanying these posts were all these beautiful photos featuring silky flat whites in cute sea green crockery, shelves of jams, and floral arrangements bursting with new spring contrasted against honeyed wood tables. It was all a bit too much to take in, and I lingered over these posts and articles like little visual treasures.

But what always must be asked when viewing beautiful cafe photos is that while everything may be aesthetically pleasing, photos don’t tell you the most important thing: WHAT ABOUT FOOD? So, in the stalwart company of Rob, Bennett and Sophie, I endeavoured to find out whether the foodie blogosphere had been right to flood us all with such tempting images.

This cafe definitely is as pretty as the photos suggest, and is not only a comforting and pleasant space to be in, it is also complemented by some very lovely staff members who are all kinds of friendly. So, tick in the box for ambiance, Gardiner and Field. Now, the food.

I went with the breakfast bun (which is conveniently, along with the rest of the breakfast menu, available all day. Another tick!) with the standard ham kindly omitted, otherwise containing fried eggs, goats cheese and tomato relish all on a lovely crusty toasted pide roll. I’d be pretty happy to have this for every breakfast for the rest of my life. Beautifully orange yolks on the eggs that fair made you gasp to see, incredibly flavoursome relish (I ordinarily don’t even like relish that much) and salty, melty goats cheese all combined into a flavour-punch of satisfaction. So simple yet so good!

I also tried a mocha, given that Gardiner and Field produce their own house blend, and it is a very smooth blend indeed, not at all bitter, which is feat that I almost find miraculous.

Rob had the breaky bun too, but with no cheese, and was equally well pleased with it. And may I just state that as always it’s lovely when a cafe is happy for you to omit certain ingredients in dishes. My memory is a little hazy on what Sophie and Bennett had; I’m pretty sure that Soph had the broad bean, pea and feta mash with proscuitto and poached eggs, as I have this vague memory of a plate bright with green. Whatever Bennett had (maybe the lamb burger?) came with a shiny little metal basket of crispy chips that looked fiendishly good, I kept a shifty eye out for any that might become wayward and find themselves journeying to my face, but Bennett was too wily for me.

While there were plenty of little cakes and pastries on offer that were definitely tempting, there was one sweet treat in particular I wanted to claim as my own – the giant bounty milkshake! I was so overexcited by the appearance of a range of chocolate bar themed milkshakes on the menu that I conveniently forgot that adult human beings are totally not supposed to consume that much milk in one sitting, and ended up with the dreaded Milk Belly. But it was still deliciously worth it.

For once, the pretty pictures spoke the truth, Gardiner and Field is just lovely inside and out. Indeed, the food is worth coming for much more than the aesthetics, but sometimes it’s just nice to be somewhere that looks good and be conscious of yourself feeling good in it as a result. Spacial foodie soul yoga, if you will!

Gardiner and Field

43 Union Street, Armadale

Ph: 9078 1125

gardinerandfield.com

Spout

Muffin and I were long overdue for a cafe-based catch up, which was very distressing as this is our very favourite method of socialising. I gave her the reins in choosing where to go, and in among her suggestions was a relative newcomer to cafe-quiet Ripponlea, Spout. I gave it a Google, and once I saw that there were dukkah-encrusted eggs on the menu I was completely in – even though Muffin HATES it when I look up menus online before visiting places. “Why would you want to give yourself a preconceived notion of what you want before you even go there?” she raged, not unreasonably.

Because of course I ended up wanting something else by the time I got there! My mind was comprehensively swayed away from eggs by the pan-fried challah with spiced poached pears and vanilla mascarpone. Come on, FRIED BREAD, like this was anything but a no-brainer (here Hayley’s cholesterol levels start crying).

This was a ridiculously sweet treat, with soaked spicy pears drowning in the strongly-flavoured mascarpone – such strong vanilla notes! I do like it when infused creams and cheeses actually have a good strong kick of their advertised infusion present (otherwise what’s the point, right?). The poached pears almost melted to the touch, and as I expected fried bread was more than enough to my liking, particularly when it happens to be my best bready love, challah. Although it looks like they may have replaced this dish on their brand new spring menu with a pan-fried coconut bread with bananas, go have it and tell me if it’s as good.

But my satisfaction in my totally acceptable, delicious choice was completely overshadowed by my rapacious, overwhelming food envy for Muffin’s chosen dish. Ladies and gentlemen, let me introduce you to Spout’s shakshuka.

Bask in this vision: two eggs poached in acres of tomato and capsicum sauce in a wide, fat pan, topped with dukkah and a veritable mountain of grilled haloumi, and with a couple of pieces of oil-drizzled pide on the side to mop up the gorgeous mess with. All these strong flavours were beautifully balanced, the eggs still drizzly without negatively impacting on the heat of the rest of the dish, and any place that is overly generous with its haloumi (the high god king of cheeses) wins my heart forever. I WAS SO JEALOUS. It took all of my self-control not to just launch myself across the table and plunge my face straight into it.

Spout do Middle Eastern-leaning food very well, and you’ll find across its menu a variety of intriguing dishes that stray away from your standard cafe fare. But next time I’m back there I won’t even be giving the menu a look – it’ll be all about the shakshuka.

Spout

48 Glen Eira Road, Ripponlea

Ph: 9523 8155

www.spoutcafe.com.au