Who doesn’t love the inner west? With its rockabilly, gritty aesthetic, it’s mostly-gentrified streets, its plethora of ethnic restaurants. There’s always something to do, something to see. Every day is a photo opp for one of those clichéd photographic exhibitions City of Sydney puts on in Hyde Park about the real/dark side of/contrasting Sydney – a nun smiling arm in arm with a drag queen, a beaming Italian man out the front of his bakery next door to a brothel. It’s a Sydney that may or may not exist, depending on where you are and who you talk to.
One place that definitely exists is the Petty Cash Café, a retro marvel on the Marrickville/Enmore border right next to Enmore Park. One Saturday morning Rui and I are just driving around, drinking in the visuals when we spot it on a sun-drenched corner. We pull over next to a couple of drool-worthy vintage cars and high tail it across the road to nab a table. Never mind the fact that we’ve already had a coffee this morning- I’ll break my one-coffee-a-day rule for the chance to try somewhere new.
Petty Cash Cafe is one of those places that just begs to be photographed. Perched on the leafy Victoria road it has the retro/rockabilly vibe that I find so much more comfortable than the bare ligtbulbs, concrete floors and upcycled bicycle seat stools of the hipster aesthetic, although those things have their place as well. I love the clashing green/orange/red/warm timber, the retro furniture, the zany sugar bowls, the clientele and staff in the kind of getup I could never even envisage. It’s a feast for the eye.
We plonk ourselves down at a chessboard table and order our standards. The food is served on mismatched china, although we don’t partake. The cafe offers what you’d expect- all day breakfast, gluten-free baked treats, lunch offerings and delicious coffee. I’d love to come back and have breakky some time but we don’t seem to do that much anymore.
Our coffees arrive and there’s no need to rush. I sit and look out the window at the park which, from this angle actually looks pretty amazing as Rui, true to form, plays with his phone. I people watch inner-west parents weilding SUV-sized prams, goths and hipsters taking their Saturday morning stroll side by side, kids clambering over the newly erected playground and an old lady wheeling her groceries back from the Metro. Now all we need is a nun and a drag queen and we’ll be right to set up in Hyde Park…
Miss Petty Cash
68 Victoria Road
(02) 9557 2377
Ever had an impromptu gathering? Inviting people to stay for dinner seems like a grand idea after a few glasses of wine. As you traipse merrily into what passes for a kitchen at you price point and browse through what could be considered a pantry in the broad sense of the word, it still seems like an ok idea. It isn’t until you open the fridge and you eyes settle on its only contents: a shrivelled bunch of buk choy and half a tub of greek yogurt that you realise there isn’t anything in your house that a normal person would consider dinner. And that’s when you panic. Or have another glass of wine.
It’s in these situations that a well-stocked pantry, although seemingly bereft of food can save the day. Tins of chick peas, oils, spices and some ancient pita bread from the freezer can come together so that you have something resembling those wanky chucky dips and pita chips that cost about $5 a pop in the supermarket.
But the truth is, at impromptu gatherings no one cares what they eat. When people weren’t expecting a meal, anything you give them is a bonus. This recipe has saved me many a time in such situations. It’s a great snack to crunch on while you peruse the takeaway pizza menu and open that next bottle of vino…
2-3 pita bread
Za’atar (use dried oregano if you can’t find za’atar)
Turn on the oven to a reasonable temperature. Spray or brush one side of each pita with oil, sprinkle liberally with salt and za’atar and place, topping side up in the oven. Bake about 5 minutes. When dried but not too brown, turn over, spray/brush and sprinkle again and cook the other side.
Repeat with all pitas. When they are cool, smash them into shards. Store in an airtight container, not that you’ll have any leftovers.
Chunky Three Bean Dip
In a food processor, place:
About ½-1 cup salted cashews (or add some salt if they’re raw). Most nuts will work.
2 cloves of garlic, roughly chopped
A small handful of parsley (optional)
Blend until cashews are fine but still have texture.
1 can 3 bean mix (drained) – you can really use any can of beans you like
The juice of half a lemon
About a teaspoon of ground sumac
A slosh of extra virgin olive oil
Blend until thick and creamy.
At this point, taste the mixture. It’s probably too garlicky. I would add, while the processor is running:
2 spoonfulls of greek yogurt or sour cream if you don’t have any.
More olive oil
A dash of balsamic vinegar
A pinch of sugar or a teaspoon
Blend for a bit. Just make sure the mix stays thick, almost stiff and all will be dandy.
‘We need to go out and have coffee,’ Senhor R said sternly one morning. I sighed. ‘Fine!’ I said ‘Let’s go!”. Oh wait, that’s right. I like coffee. But when someone tells me to do something, I straight away want to do the opposite.
Not to mention that these last couple of weekends have been like mini coffee tours as we try to drink and photograph as many coffees as possible, preferably on a Saturday. This is because I started falling behind. I got a bit busy, I got a bit lazy. I got a job. I graduated. It was my birthday. These are all good things, but let’s face it, they don’t leave much time for coffee dates. I really need to get my priorities straight.
When Senhor R and I sit down in a cafe, every single time without fail, they give me his coffee and they give him mine. This happens whether the same person who took our order brings us the coffees or not, whether I order or Senhor R orders or whether we both order. Apparently a piccolo latte is a ladies’ drink, while a macchiato is super-machismo. Ah, well. I don’t mind wearing the metaphorical pants for a while.
Crave espresso is a place I’d been meaning to revisit for a while, and Senhor R kept suggesting it. So naturally, like any good girlfriend, I put it at the bottom of my list. After all, it’s not far from home and we could go there anytime. And I do wear the pants.
The cafe part of Crave espresso is located above their warehouse in Alexandria. It’s one of those you’ve-gotta-know-where-to-look places but they do pretty good trade from the surrounding apartments. When we arrived on a Saturday morning they were relatively full, but it soon cleared out. We ordered our usuals, swapped coffees and sipped. Impressive flavour, more so than I remembered. In fact, we liked it so much that Senhor R got them to grind us a 250g bag of whatever we were drinking to take away. I know, I know. I should’ve been taking notes. But frankly I was too caffeinated to care what I was drinking. I was too busy enjoying it.
I recommend checking out crave espresso if you get a chance. The owners are friendly, the coffee is solid and you can take some home if you’re that way inclined. And don’t do what I do when someone tells me to do something. Don’t do the opposite.
Crave Espresso Bar
Unit 72, 20-28 Maddox St
(02) 9516 1217
I know I can’t be tho only one whos’ kitchen experiments sometimes turn out…questionable. Or is it questionably? Whichever is grammatically correct. Anyway, we’ve all had moments where we’re sure the lightning bolt of genius has his us. ‘Mustard éclairs!’ we shout ‘Twice-baked rum-soaked polenta!’ ‘Chocolate steak!’. But, by and large, it is disaster, not genius that has struck.
Personally, my mistakes aren’t usually to do with creativity. I’m not much for crazy fusion projects (Italian sushi, anyone?). Rather, my disasters are the fruit of my impatience. I will drop or undercook or burn myself on things in my haste to prepare food quickly. I’m never going to make a mustard éclair, but I cook the same way I eat…fast. And as a result, sometimes my creations can resemble a kind of indigestion.
I have been putting off posting this recipe because for this very reason; I’m just not sure about it. Something about it just isn’t quite right. It isn’t terrible. It does work, in theory. It tastes ok. It’s good on paper. Nobody died. But I’m not convinced by it.
Maybe it’s because I love panettone, buttered and dunked in coffee so much that it seems a bit redundant, like bread and butter pudding made with croissants – as if there’s any such thing as a leftover or stale croissant. Maybe it’s just not as good as the sum of its parts – all the components are delicious, so you’d expect the finished product to be even more so, but it isn’t. Maybe you can tell my what’s missing, or maybe you can fix it. Either way, here it is: Panettone Trifle.
Raspberry Upside-down Panettone Trifle
1 Panettone, sliced into thick rounds (as you would a layer cake, I’d imagine)
About 400g frozen raspberries
1 portion Portuguese custard or any other custard you like
About 300ml fresh coffee, cooled and in a flat dish
Find a container roughly the same size as or a bit smaller than the panettone. Line it with cling wrap.
Dunk a round of panettone in the coffee, press into the container. Scatter a few raspberries and slather on some custard, repeat with all layers – you should have art least 1/3 of the custard left. Cover and refrigerate.
To serve, turn the trifle out onto a plate, cover in custard and sprinkle with raspberries. It will be a mess but maybe you will like it.
So, do you have any questionable kitchen experiments you’d like to share?
You may not know this about me, but I’m a sucker for a striped awning. Anyone clever enough to attach one to the outside of their cake shop/patisserie/boulangerie/espresso bar (because that’s where you always seem to find them) has a good chance of piquing my interest. And if it’s a sunny Saturday morning and I’ve ‘forgotten’ to have breakfast before Senhor R and I go out for coffee, your chances increase exponentially.
Thus ‘La Banette’ has always been referred to by me as ‘the place in Glebe with the yellow striped awning’. I don’t spend much time in Glebe because I find the coffee to be as it is in Newtown – a few brilliant places dotted here and there, but you gotta know where to look. And while in Newtown I have a fairly good idea (Campos, Vargabar Espresso, The Old Fish Cafe, Berkelouw Books), in Glebe I have no clue. And I’m usually too damned lazy to find out.
So I never realised it was a patisserie, boulangerie and café, let alone the second in a series (the other is in Avalon). After visiting, a quick Google reveals that the owners, Vince Luong and Uyen Le, have garnered acclaim all over for their interpretations of French classics. And it’s no surprise.
The interior is small but artfully arranged with bench seats and tables down one side and pastries, cakes and breads wherever they will fit. The selection is impressive and, to my mind, not at all on the expensive side. On our first visit we pick up a rustic sourdough baguette for something like $3 and grab our standard coffees to have in. The baguette isn’t as sourdough-y as I like it, but it have terrific crunch factor. The coffee is good. Very good. Good, rich crema, latte art which I can take or leave in real life but can’t get enough of for blogging. On our next visit we order croissant and a danish and they are divine; so buttery, rich and flaky I could eat ten.
The procedure is to order and pay at the counter before you sit down and the staff will bring your order out to you, or you can get it to go. They purport to be a bakery, not a cafe and thus although all the coffee comes with real saucers, cups and spoons the food comes in bags, boxes and on doilies. They request that you dispose of them yourself (they have bins) and I take no issue with this but if I have one criticism it’s that this policy seems wasteful. However, in the face of some of the best pastries I’ve had in my life and golden delicious coffee, this seems a small thing.
So, what less-than-subtle sign is guaranteed to pique you interest in a place?
18 Glebe Point Road, Glebe 2037
(02) 8095 9688
7:00am – 6:00pm Monday – Friday
A while ago while visiting Don Campos in Alexandria, I noticed a sparkling long black on their menu. I’d always wondered what it was and how it was made, but of course I didn’t do anything as obvious as to ask what it was or better yet, order it. It remained an elusive espresso mystery.
I’d pretty much forgotten about it until I visited the Cupping Room a couple of weeks ago. I asked Todd who was hosting the session what it is and he said it basically a frozen latte glass containing a ristretto topped up with iced mineral water. It’s a cooling summer coffee for those of us who aren’t so fussed on the creamy, milky or sweet iced coffees you usually come across.
I know it’s not warm here right now but it must be somewhere so I decided I’d post it again before I forget. Todd recommended a piccolo/short black glass rather than a latte glass so that’s what I used.
The flavour was mild and refreshing and actually, it makes a lot of sense when you think about it when I think back to the terrible espressos I had in Argentina and how they always came with a tiny glass of mineral water to soften the blow. The sparkling long black is no longer on Campos’ official menu so ordering it is likely to elicit some raised barista brows…
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Sparkling Long Black
An espresso machine
A frozen cup/glass
Freshly ground coffee
Sparkling mineral water, chilled
Run a shot of about 15 ml of espresso into the cup or glass. Top with chilled mineral water. Serve.
So, is there a drink you’ve been dying to try?
In my household, I do most of the cooking, because I’m speedy, pragmatic, and an absolute control freak. Everything I make is geared towards minimum effort for maximum results. As such I don’t prepare many of what I perceive to be ‘high risk’ foods.
So on Sunday when my boyfriend, Senhor R, offered to whip up a Pudim Flan (Crème Caramel) this week, I was all for it, even though neither of us have ever attempted to make such a thing. It turned out to be remarkably simple, which is in no way a reflection on his culinary skills. And it was so delicious that he actually made another one on Wednesday! I could get used to this…
Growing up, every Portuguese restaurant I ever went to had three staple deserts; Mousse Chocolate, Arroz Doce (Sweet Rice) and Pudim Flan (Crème Caramel), to be washed down with as many ‘bicas’ (espressos) as possible. Although there were occasional surprises such as Baba de Camelo (camel’s dribble) or the potentially explosive Molotov Pudding, you could always find these three.
My Mum had the monopoly on the Mousse Chocolate market and was not averse to making her own custard for other desserts, but she never attempted a Pudim Flan. It remained an elusive delicacy that other peoples’ mums brought to feast-like gatherings, or something made in restaurants by people who understood such things.
The closest we ever got to Pudim Flan was a packet of this dried stuff sitting in our pantry for many years. It’s possibly still hiding there somewhere. I have a dim memory of a packet being attempted once, but clearly with poor results as it was never spoken of again.
Then in Argentina Lau discovered her love for flan, mostly through her delight of dulce de leche which is always offered with it. The Flan was an excellent excuse to eat the giant dollop of dulce, much in the way few people actually add more than a token amount of milk to their Milo to legitimise the ‘drink’ status of it.
Last weekend as I was idly flipping through a Portuguese cookbook, and I came across this recipe and, armed with an abundance of fresh eggs I went to work. The question was – would Lau like it without the dulce de leche?
Pudim Flan from The Taste of Portugal by Edite Vieira
3 Tablespoons of water
Preheat the oven to 180° C.
Pour the 100g sugar into the pan with the water and rapidly heat until all the mixture has ‘foamed’ and becomes a golden liquid caramel. Pour the caramel into the bottom of a round dish- I used a 7 cup pyrex storage dish. Turn the dish quickly to spread the caramel around the base. It doesn’t matter if it’s uneven, it will melt later.
In a saucepan, bring the milk up to body temperature. Whisk in the eggs and the 90g of sugar until well mixed. Pour into the dish.
Place the dish in a bain marie – basically a much larger oven proof dish with boiling water coming halfway up the side of the flan. Bake for 45 minutes to an hour. If it starts to brown too much, cover it with foil.
When you remove the flan from the oven, it will still be a bit jiggly – it will cool as it sets. When it is almost completely cool, run a knife around its edge, put a plate on top and turn it upside down. Serves 6.
Do you have a dessert you’ve never been game to prepare?
While it might be a common occurrence for other food bloggers, it’s not usual for me to receive invitations to, well, anything. So when the folks at Campos asked me if I’d like to come check out The Cupping Room above their flagship store in Newtown, it’d be an understatement to say I was excited, especially since it had been on my to-do list since forever.
When I arrive at 5 to 3 on a Saturday, it’s hot and crowded and I can’t move for the customers. I’m not surprised, it’s one of the reasons I don’t come here that often, but when my partner in crime arrives, she’s shocked. ‘It’s as if there aren’t any other coffee shops in Newtown,’ she marvels. Well, for some, that may be true. We elect to wait outside. 10 or so minutes later we’re led through the crowd to the back of the store, up the steep stairs lit by a single dangling light bulb. Like an old-time speakeasy, a panel in the door slides open and a pair of eyes peer out. ‘Two?’ Asks a voice. We nod. We enter.
The space is pitch black save for a long wooden table, stainless-steel edged and lit by a line of spotlights. Our host, Todd has laid out 6 small bowls of coarsely ground coffee for each of us to ‘cup’ or taste. Cupping, he explains, is standard practice for roasters all over the world. The idea of cupping is that because you’re removing all the variables inherent in brewing coffee, you’re leveling the playing field and you really are just tasting the coffee. Each step of the cupping is usually given a score and that’s how a coffee is chosen by buyers.
Latte glasses of water and metal spoon glint in the light as Todd explains the process. The first step, he says, is smelling each grind. We inhale each cup (well, not literally, but you know what I mean) and leave the descriptions to the expert. Next, Todd lets the coffee steep in 93° water for 7 to 15 minutes. We then break the ‘crust’ of grounds that has formed on the top, careful to expose rather than destroy the crema. Once we’ve ‘crusted’ each cup we are to taste each one in turn without speaking – this is the time to form our initial impression. Each coffee must be taken with a single, sharp sip from our spoon. Todd makes a loud definitive ‘slurp’ with his, practically inhaling the brew but we’re more timid.
Afterwards we take our time though the 6 grinds, which have been set up in a very deliberate order, and we discuss the flavour profiles of each one. Todd says there’s no wrong answer here and encourages us to describe the coffees. I find this very difficult to do, but as soon as he mentions a flavour, for example ‘citrus’ or ‘earthy’, I find his description fits what I’m tasting, and it’s more than just the power of suggestion.
The coffees we taste are:
Indonesian Toarco Jaya – a solid, well rounded base.
The Ethiopian Lekempti – fruity, lemony. Yum!
Panama Emporium – I’m not sure how to explain this, but I don’t like it. It reminds me of that nauseous feeling of having had 5 or 6 coffees.
Colombian el tiestro –I liked it but I don’t remember much else about it.
Kenya Gethumbbwini – Very strong and zesty, like lemon peel.
Supermarket coffee – tastes like nothing.
Campos cups a variety of beans every day in their warehouse to maintain the consistency of their signature blend, ‘Superior’. They will roast on a Monday, cup in a Tuesday and adjust the ratios accordingly on a Wednesday, and this cycle continues each day. Visiting coffee plantations and tasting their crops has been recreated in a much more pristine and theatrical setting here at the cupping room. I ask what coffee producers would think of their gleaming setup and he admits they’d probably find it pretty bizarre.
The Cupping Room
193 Missenden Road,
Newtown NSW 2042
(02) 9690 0294
Sessions Tuesday to Friday at 7:30 and 2.00pm
Saturday’s at 8:30am, 1:00pm and 3:00pm
Popular posts this month…
- 3 great hole-in-the-wall CBD Cafes posted on April 13, 2012
- Review – Philips Saeco Intelia posted on January 10, 2012
- Lau’s Ultimate Corn Fritters and the four fritter truths posted on March 1, 2013
- Kosher Whole Orange Cake posted on July 5, 2011
- Café Review – The Grounds of Alexandria posted on April 4, 2012
- SMH Good Café Guide 2013
- Smokey O’s Popup, The Rag Land, 13-14 May 2013
- Eggplant Parma and Family Recipes
- Pigeonhole Gatherings
- On Healthy Eating – 5 tips from a food blogger
- The National Multicultural Festival 2013, Canberra
- Black Coffee Revolution – Get Brewing!
- Lau’s Ultimate Corn Fritters and the four fritter truths
- Café Review – Naked Espresso, Melbourne CBD
- Black Coffee Revolution – Aeropress
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Disclaimer:All opinions in this blog are mine, an everyday, real-life person. I do not claim to be an expert on anything. I do not accept payment for reviews and nor do I write sponsored posts. From time to time I give away products and experiences to my readers, all competitions have completely arbitrary rules, all decisions are final and all prizes awarded as I see fit.