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

Namaste

I was on the search for suitable pre-comedy show eats down the Trades Hall end of Lygon Street and was in a bit of a bind, being that I’m generally not all that up on restaurants in Carlton that aren’t within walking distance of the Nova Cinema (priorities). So I threw a question out on the Twitters in order to try and narrow down to a couple of vegie-friendly suggestions, and those good folks at Where’s the Beef kindly put forward three likely candidates: Hotel Lincoln, Ying Thai 2 and Namaste.

Ultimately the dining destination was in the hands of Rob, who was joining me for dinner and comedy times. As it was Passover, or “no bread for Jews time”, Hotel Lincoln was quickly dismissed, and the thought of curry was too much to resist, so to Namaste we went.

We started with a serving of aloo to share (just cauliflower rather than cauli and potatoes, which is interesting). The spices that the cauliflower florets had been fried with turned them eye-searingly pink, they were quite a sight to see! They were also deliciously more-ish, and we probably could have devoured another plate of them quite happily.

For my main I went with a dhal makhani, a black lentil dhal. It was hearty and tasty, with a deceptive spicy kick to it, which built the more of it I ate. I was just able to manage it, but any higher and it would have been the death of me. It wasn’t even a chilli-marked dish! What a spice weenie I am. Rob is an even worse spice weenie than I am, and his lamb biryani was a lot hotter than he was expecting, though he still seemed to enjoy it, being particularly pleased that as a dish it hit quite a few food groups.

Being terrible, I was completely unfeeling to Rob’s bread exile and ordered myself a serving of garlic naan, because if it’s acceptable for me to eat a dish with bread acting as cutlery, there is no power on earth that will stop me doing so. I tend to judge Indian places on the quality of their naan, and the ones I sampled at Namaste were pretty damn good: properly crisped, with a buttery touch in the hot centre, and sprinkled with crushed garlic which proved to be enhancing rather than overpowering.

Namaste is quite simple and unpretentious, and was certainly busy on a Tuesday night, with plenty of students, couples, groups of friends and even a few comedians crowding its tables and chowing down on quick dinners of dosas and lassis. I’ll certainly be keeping it in mind next time I’m feeling hungry in that part of town.

Namaste

104 Lygon Street, Carlton

Ph: 9654 0550

What About Food

For the first half of last year, I’d been curiously watching the evolution of the shopfront of 330 Cardigan Street, being that it lay between uni and where I parked my car during classes. Towards the end of its renovations, when it became obvious that an eatery was going to appear there, I thought to myself “Well, that’s nice and handy for me, I’ll have to go once it’s opened. Maybe us girls could do a uni lunch there.”

Of course, I didn’t end up there until long after uni had finished for the year! The regular uni lunching crew decided it’d be a good idea to meet for a celebratory “yay! uni’s over for the year” lunch, and were up for venue suggestions once it became apparent that some were a little fatigued with our regular choice of Seven Seeds. As Jess put it, “There’s only so many toasted sandwiches you can eat, no matter how good they are!”

Feeling confident after reading Where’s the Beef’s glowing review that What About Food would be sure to satisfy everyone, we all rolled up one Wednesday afternoon feeling excited and anticipatory. Turns out, my hunch was right! What About Food is absolutely stirling.

Emma and I had one of the blackboard specials, the portobello mushrooms poached in pomegranate and lemon vinegarette, with parmesan, spinach, a poached egg and a sprig of thyme, served on pide and a nice thick spear of asparagus laid on top. This was wonderfully put together, none of the ingredients were out of place, it all complimented each other, and how much to I love the inclusion of thyme in dishes? I love it so much. Emma and I happily nibbled away while sipping tea, and felt highly decadent.

Jess had the goat’s cheese brushetta with avocado, tomato and onion salsa, salad greens and a poached egg. She seemed to enjoy it, although spent a while extracting the salad while muttering “Ergh, too many greens.” This green-aversion seems to be pretty standard when dining with Jess though (anyone remember the Lot 6 pressed sandwich that had too much rocket?).

Kim had the corn fritters with poached eggs, bacon, avocado and salad greens. This looked so pretty!

Andy, Kim’s boyfriend, also joined us and had the baked eggs, which I snaffled a taste of. These were lovely, very tomatoey and peppery. I really want to go back and have a serving of these all to myself!

What About Food’s coffee is apparently VERY strong coffee, according to Andy, but otherwise delicious, so caffeine addicts would be quite well served.

It was good to see that there are acres of vegie options, including a batch of daily salads, although the proliference of eggs means vegans may find the terrain barren of choices.

The space is lovely to sit in, nice and open, and the big communal table we sat at was great for a big-ish group. The staff were exceedingly friendly, and combined with highly excellent food, everyone agreed with the general feeling was that we had found an equal lunching option to Seven Seeds. I can’t wait for uni to start up again so I have an excuse to organise multiple uni lunch dates there!

What About Food

330 Cardigan Street, Carlton

Ph: 9347 5256

http://whataboutfood.squarespace.com/

Edit 12/8/2011: As reported on Where’s the Beef, What About Food has quietly changed owners, and is now trading as 330 Briks.

Trotters

I have already had to learn an important lesson in food blogging: WRITE STUFF DOWN! Particularly what is in dishes. I made this visit back last Monday and am now blearily attempting to remember exactly what occurred and what I ate. HAYLEY YOU ARE USELESS HOW IS THIS GOING TO INFORM ANYONE? (disclaimer: probably not best to rely on me to ever inform you on anything ever)

Anyways, mea cupla, try better next time, moving on. Easter Monday found Hayley on a ladydate with the most wonderous Natalie (aka Muffin). I had with me a bulging notebook scrawled with addresses of foodie places I have yet to try, but of course having thus prepared myself for newness, we ended up eating at an old favourite that I hadn’t been to in quite a while: Trotters.

I have ridiculous amounts of love for Trotters, I won’t lie. I’ve never had anything less than a completely enjoyable meal here, and this visit was no different, complete with THE BEST SPINACH MUFFIN AND I HAVE EACH EVER HAD!

Oh, good spinach, you are so hard to find. So often you are substituted with one of your ragtag cousins, like limp ‘n’ soggy spinach, dry spinach, under-seasoned spinach or, worst of all, oily flavourless spinach (I hate them all! So much!). It makes me giddy to find you included in a dish.

So, what did we order that we were gifted with such green goodness? Well, seeing as the breakfast menu at Trotters runs till 3pm, and I cannot in good conscious turn away from a second (or third) breakfast, I went with the ricotta cake with poached eggs and spinach. Ordinarily this dish comes with smoked salmon, but when I asked the waitress whether I could have it without she cheerfully replied “I don’t see why not!” (yay for being allowed to make changes without being evil-eyed by the staff and treated like you just offered to stab their children with a spork). Muffin, being of my own ken in regards to breakfast, ordered the homemade baked beans on toast, with an extra side of spinach.

I also ordered a pot of tea with the intriguing blend name of ‘Melbourne Breakfast’. The menu description emphasised its vanilla flavour – boy howdy, they weren’t kidding! A lovely brew, though would probably be best served by having it accompanied by something sweet rather than savoury, which is exactly what Muffin did, as you will soon see.

The plates arrived! And we were pleased with the eye-bounty. But what of taste, Hayley, what of it? Well, the ricotta cake was gorgeous both in looks and taste, flavoursome without being too salty, and flecked through with dill, which I assume was originally to compliment the salmon, but was not out of place at all without it. I was a wee bit worried about the poached eggs – I ordinarily don’t order poached eggs when eating out, even though they are my favourite style of egg, as too many places seem to use vinegar in the water in order to set the eggs. There’s little worse, in my book, than having to eat an vinegary-tasting poached egg. But! not a trace of vinegar to be found in these eggy morsels, which were perfectly poached and once popped with my fork dribbled decadently all over the ricotta and toast.

Muffin’s beans equally looked fab, with a multitude of fat cannellini beans and sauce that definitely looked homemade. I was offered a fork-full to taste test, and mmm, they were damn nice (with all my dining companions ordering beans lately, I really should capitulate and order some for myself one of these days).

And let’s not forget the spinach. Oh, THE SPINACH! Such faces of glee Muffin and I made, we must have been hilarious to watch. “What have they DONE to this?” I moaned at one point. “Something with butter, probably.” Muffin replied. It can’t just have been butter, there was something peppery going on as well, and the spinach itself was still bright green having only just been wilted enough to keep it warm… ahhh, bliss!

I was far too full and content to even contemplate dessert, but Muffin had herself a pot of Melbourne Breakfast and a chocolate and almond muffin (fitting!). It looked decadent, and watching Muffin eat it was better than watching Matt Preston eat on Masterchef, so happy did she look.

We whiled our afternoon away gossiping over Muffin’s tea, soaking in the space, and feeling extraordinarily contented. A fine end to the Easter weekend.

Trotters

400 Lygon Street, Carlton

http://www.trotters.com.au/ (oh goodness, that is one of the most adorable restaurant websites I’ve seen in a while!)

Seven Seeds

A gap in between two buildings, just across the way from Melbourne Uni Law School, and the entrance of Seven Seeds is revealed. I practically skip into the alcove, I’m that excited. “You could have experienced this place weeks ago if you hadn’t skipped out of Tuesday lunches!” admonishes Jess, and she’s right, sickness/laziness has caused me to miss at least two Seven Seeds expeditions (Jess, I promise not to miss any more Tuesday lunches).

The space is brightly lit, airy and very, very crowded. Apparently predominantly with law students, according to Jess. “We go crazy for good coffee anywhere within walking distance of school.” Not that I could tell you if the coffee was any good or not, as I am one of those pansy tea drinkers (incidentally, very weak tea here, even if you leave it be to try to seep for a while – couldn’t get it to raise more than a slight brown tinge. Shallow tea leaf receptacle in the teapot, perhaps?).

Despite the teeming crowd that appeared to be meandering all over the place, we’re lucky and manage to slip onto the edge of a communal table. I’m so hungry I’m tempted to gnaw on the wooden-backed menu. Jess looks grimly at it. “Everything has bread,” she says. I peek. She’s right, everything is distinctly sandwichy or toasty. The kind waitress suggests the spicy homemade baked beans, intimating that they are just as nice and filling without the sourdough toast. Jess acquiesces, while uttering a “Damn Passover.”

Having no restrictions on swellable grains myself, my empty tummy directs me to the most decadently described sweet treat on the menu – french toast with poached pears, marscapone, rose syrup and amaretti crumb thingies. I am a sucker for both french toast and pears. Though I always have a knee-jerk reaction with french toast where it is automatically compared to the dizzyingly amazing example put forward by Las Chicas in Balaclava – so eggy that it’s almost like a bundle of sweet scrambled eggs with suprise bread inside. Okay, so most french toast lovers baulk at that kind of egg-to-bread ratio, but I love it.

Seven Seeds’ version was more bread than egg, but made up for it with delicious toppings. Pears lovely, marscapone which I pretty much popped into my gaping mouth in one go (yes, I could have spread it over my toast and enjoyed it with the other flavours, but that’s the decision I made and now I have to live with it), the rose syrup was plentiful and I tried to mop it all up with the toast yet failed there was so much, and the crumbly amaretti things… I have no idea really what was going on with those, but I wanted MORE.

While I was happily letting crumbly thingies dissolve in my mouth Jess was getting stuck into her beans, which were generous in size and smelt delicious. In fact, she was quite happy with them until the fellow next to us had his meal placed in front of him – the beans. With toast.

Jess looked at it, then back at her wheatless version. Misery was etched on her face. “This would be so much better with toast.”

“Well, let’s plan what you can have when you can have wheat again,” I said, and we snaffled a menu. “They’ve gotten rid of the prosciutto pressed sandwich!” says Jess. “Kim will be devastated.” A message is sent to Kim to convey the bad news; a reply is full of sad “D:” faces. Very devo indeed. “The corned beef and sauerkraut toastie looks good though. If I still ate the meats I’d get excited by that.” I say. “How old school, hot English mustard and all!”

We mosey out (and yes Jess, I know I still owe you fifteen dollars for my meal, it’s in an envelope in my wallet because I am just that anal-retentive). Along with Animal Orchestra, looks like Seven Seeds is to become a regular Tuesday lunches venue for the Melb Uni crew.

Seven Seeds

114 Berkeley Street, Carlton

www.sevenseeds.com.au