It’s true. I’m in love with Mister Nice Guy.  Sorry Lucas and Deb, I don’t want to freak you out or anything but…

I’d heard about this Vegan Cupcake-making duo along the wires but it wasn’t until last summer when I was spending a lot of time in Brunswick that I actually managed to sample the awesomeness that is a Mister Nice Guy cupcake by way of brunch at Empire Strikes Back. I think the flavour I tried that day was Chai something, but even though I don’t remember the name (it may have been Ginger Snaps now I look at the cupcake menu), I do remember it was absolutely amazing and ended up all over my hands and face.

I had about a million (give or take) Mister Nice Guy mini cupcakes at my birthday party in July and lived off them for 4 days afterward (actually not exaggerating). From memory we had Rosie Robot (pistachio cake & rosewater frosting), Key Lime (coconut cupcake & lime frosting), French Toast (cinnamon & nutmeg cake with walnuts & maple frosting), Boo-berry Lemon (vanilla & blueberry with lemon frosting), Orange Creamsicle (orange cake & orange frosting) and Count Chocula (chocolate & chocolate). Yep, amazeballs. Their branding is awesome, the product is more than awesome and I can’t stress how much I just… think they’re great.

Recently Mister Nice Guy have opened a stall at Prahran Market, just around the corner from my work, but luckily aren’t open two of the three days I’m there so I think I’m safe. I went down on opening day to pick up some cupcakes before going to the football and even though I was so excited and shy to be served by Lucas himself and barely got my order out, I was very happy with my selection. Except for the Bloody Mary cupcake. That was weird. In the picture to the right, clockwise from bottom left are: Rosie Robot, Bloody Mary (Tomato cake with vodka infusion and pepper garnish… I think?), Peppermint Patty (Chocolate cake with peppermint frosting), Beetle Juice (Cookies & cream cake with cookies & cream frosting w/ a cookie), Count Chocula. Can you see why I have fallen so hard?

Mister Nice Guy – Stall 118A Prahran Market, 163 Commercial Road, South Yarra or find a stockist nearer to you via their website.

More about Mister Nice Guy from others:
Vegan About Town
Where’s The Beef?

Uproar

If you could have any flavour of cupcake created just for you, what would you choose? I think I would choose PBJ.

Friday night I had gone out for a friend’s goodbye party and we’d ended up having a few beers and heading into the bar he works at for a few cheap drinks after that. Anyway, we ended up heading across the road to yet another bar once the staff had finished and then playing pool at yet another bar still, before getting junk food and walking home at around 4 o’clock in the morning. I had made the very wise decision of staying at my parents’ place just outside the CBD.

My Mum and I don’t hang out very often and I’ve lived out of home off and on since I was 16, so it’s nice to spend the day with her from time to time. I woke up and made myself avocado on toast and a coffee before heading out on a secret mission whilst she went to Body Balance and the Victoria Markets. Then we headed over to Brunswick Street to one of my favourite restaurants in the whole of Australia, Vegie Bar.


I had a Tempeh Burger and an Asahi. The burgers come with the option of tofu, tempeh or a lentil burger and the choice of a regular bun or a folded piece of roti and chips are extra. All the burgers are heavy on carrot and satay sauce, which is pretty good but not really my thing. I always order the House Salad which I love but I feel like I should venture outside the square sometimes. I love tempeh though. Next time I’m going to try to Mainly Greens, which is exactly what it sounds like.

My Mum got the Moroccan Tagine, as she always orders the Cajun Stew. It was really filling and probably too warm for a hot day but she said it was really tasty. She also got food envy and will probably go back to ordering the Stew next time. Actually I think my Stepdad makes something like this so I’m not sure why she ordered it out.

As I couldn’t decide between the House Salad for the billionth time and ordering something new, my Mum suggested that I get the salad to take away and have it for dinner. Vegie Bar for two meals in one day!? That is actually my idea of fabulous and I was so grateful. The house salad has marinated mushrooms, mixed greens, steamed vegies and whatever they’ve got on special. Plus you can order a side of dim sims, spring rolls, rice balls (which is what I got this time), tofu, tempeh etc. to go with it. I actually took it to a house party, didn’t eat it, took it back to my friend’s house, ate half and then had the rest for lunch on Saturday before going to the beach with my brother. Phew.

Not only did my amazing Mum buy me two meals at Vegie Bar, her sixth sense must have known that I was eyeing off the greatest dessert in Melbourne; the Chocolate Royale. This piece of wonder is Vegan, gluten-free chocolate cake with toasted coconut on top. It is absolutely glorious. I would probably prefer my coconut untoasted to be perfectly honest but it is still amazing. I actually spread it out over 3 afternoon teas, how’s that for discipline!

If you haven’t been to Vegie Bar yet, I really recommend you go, it’s got Vegetarian, Vegan and Gluten-free options on the menu including burgers, juices, wraps, pasta, stir-fries, curry & pizza plus they do breakfast on the weekends. Not to mention drinks and cakes as well. Watch out for hipsters though, it tends to be quite populated with them.

I freaking hate Winter. Seriously. I hate it with a passion. It’s cold, the days are shorter, it’s windy, rainy, overcast and so many people get the winter blues. Winter makes me homesick for Perth and makes me miss Summer. But there are a few things that I do like that help me get through the cold months. Like my birthday! Smack bang in the middle of July and guaranteed to be cold. But also things like red and mulled wine, warm blankets and TV series DVD nights, warm soups, hot chocolate, open fireplaces, cuddles with someone special and all the rest of that romantic stuff.

This year I have also discovered Mountain Goat’s Surefoot Stout, White Rabbit Dark Ale and Monteith’s Doppelbock Winter Ale. Heavier beers in Winter are more filling, more warming and are very different to consume than the Summer Ales, Pale Ale’s, Wheat beers and so on enjoyed in the warmer months. They go really well with hearty pies, stews, chocolate puddings and even gingerbread. Beer and food matching is always exciting. After one or two, you’re kind of done though, so it conveniently keeps you within reasonable drinking!

I also made up batches of soup and froze them ready to have for lunches at work. My two favourites so far are ludicrously simple. I made a Carrot & Ginger soup which basically was half an onion – diced and softened in a little oil, 6-8 carrots – diced and cooked in 2 cups of vegetable stock with a teaspoon of grated ginger and then all together blended and seasoned to taste. Then I made a Vegetable, Lentil & Barley soup which was again half an onion softened in a little oil, then one of those diced vegetable packs you get in the salad bag section cooked in 2 cups of vegetable stock and I added a cup of lentil & barley soup mix (which I had soaked overnight). Basically just two very simple, very tasty soups. Served piping hot with some tasty wholegrain bread, they are a great lunch and a great way to get extra vegetables.

Stay warm in Melbourne
At the moment, Cabinet Bar & Balcony have mulled wine as a special and make a mean pumpkin soup, you could order both and get change from $20. They also have a fondue served over a tea light candle, so cute. How about catching a few movies at the Melbourne International Film Festival, there’s documentaries, animations, short films and more. Check out the Tim Burton exhibition at ACMI and then enjoy a Young’s Double Chocolate Stout at Beer DeLuxe ($11 for 500mL). If you feel like something a bit heartier then try my favourite noodle shop, Momotaro Rahmen for a cheap and hearty meal. You could even just pick up some Chai from T2 and make in a saucepan with soy/milk and honey, throw on some ugg boots and tracksuit pants and stay in.

I freakin’ love breakfast. What could possibly be greater than a breakfast degustation  at a specialist coffee and tea house that specializes in sustainable healing food. I shared the very first Monk Bodhi Dharma breakfast degustation with two lovely foodie ladies (Gem from Eat, Drink, Stagger and Tresna from TresnaLee.com) for $30 it was an absolute steal! I’m pretty much going to let the pictures speak for themselves.

In the interests of page formatting I have slightly changed the order of the dishes, so I will list them for you in order of arrival as stated on the menu (keep in mind I had the Vegan option with dairy replacements);

1. Algerian Citrus Cleanser paired with Tunisian Apple and Celery Salad
2. Moroccan Mushroom Harvest on Flatbread with Sumac & Goats Cheese
2b. Coffee Syphon
3. Tomato extract palate cleanser with baby basil - we agreed a drop or two of tabasco and a little vodka would go well!
4. Butterbean and Baby Asparagus Tart with Heirloom Salad and Pomegranate Lime dressing
5. North African Rice Pudding with Apple & Rhubarb Crumble.
6. A selection of truffles including chocolate, chocolate & pistachio and chocolate & candy-coated fennel (not pictured)

Breakfast degustation is available Thursday & Friday mornings 7:30-11:00am (allow 90mins).
Bookings recommended as this is too good not to get into work late for!
Monk Bodhi Dharma – Rear 202 Carlisle St, Balaclava VIC 3183 – www.monkbd.com.au

I know I’m supposed to be on a budget, but when the opportunity came up to have dinner at Attica on their half-price Experimental Tuesdays, one of my besties and I made good on our promise to each other for a fancy meal adventure and booked a table. Five courses for $80 is much friendlier on the wallet than the usual $140 for 8 courses and we got to sample their new seasonal creations.

Tuesday Night Chef’s Table
Ben and his kitchen team use Tuesday nights as an opportunity to test and develop new menu ideas.  Our Chef’s Table menu is a five course degustation priced at $80 per head. Chef’s table is a great night for diners who are willing to trial some of the latest cooking ideas from the attica kitchen.  Wine matches are also available on Tuesdays for an additional $45 per head.

We sat down at our table by the window and were presented with a warm roll (seeded or sourdough) with creamy butter, pink salt and what turned out after much deliberation and a pinky-dip-and-taste to be a little dish of whipped olive oil. The wine list is limited by the glass, but they have a fasntastic selection of Australian and international wines by the bottle, or you can add matched wines to your 5 course degustation for $45. I elected for two glasses and B elected for the matchings.

The first course was minature brussels sprouts with almond butter, clover and hay salt. The pink rings are shallot and the tiny clover leaves in their little hearts were an adorable finish. Paired with a Sorenberg sauvignon semillion blanc from Beechworth, Victoria, it was a very pleasant start to the meal and a different take on everyone’s least favourite vegetable. The sommelier was very knowledgable and had the most endearing Keira Knightley-esque accent.

The next course was a cos lettuce heart lightly poached in a pork glaze containing prawn mince. Not the best value course considering the ingredients  but it was cooked so lightly as to render the inner core just soft and the outer leaves still crisp enough to have bite. The prawn mince with the pork flavour was divine, like the insides of a dumpling. Paired with my first choice of wine, Larry cherubino reisling from Mount Barker, WA. I think it could have used a crouton and a parmesan wafer to make some kind of caeser salad style dish which would have been a little more substantial given the starkness of the heart against the plate left it looking a little lonely.

After a bit of a break in the great service, allowing the other diners around us to catch up on their courses in the now fairly full restaurant, we were presented with our third course. I had asked for the wine list to select my next glass and it was quite some time before the sommelier returned to take my order. However, once the wine and new dish arrived, I was much less bothered by the wait. The pork jowl with spring onion in a yeast broth with tiny tubers was absolutely divine. It was cooked so perfectly that the meat pulled apart like a goulash, giving it an almost fish-like flakiness. The skin, salted, was full of flavour and the flesh so moist that I couldn’t help but feel a little guilt in my enjoyment of a rare meat-eating. The matched wine was Domaine du vissoux ‘Les Griottes’ Gamay from Beaujolais, France.

The last savoury course was presented with my second choice of wine, Domaine Luci ‘red’ from Adelaide Hills, SA. Two slices of tender beef rib with grilled pepper, a spear of dill cucumber and what we figured out was almost definitely a potato and apple slaw in a light dressing. Again, the meat was tender and moist, the flavour of the crust full yet not overpowering. By this stage I was pleasantly sated but I knew there was one final course in store.

Whilst I didn’t manage to get a picture of the final course as I was visiting the ladies room, it was fun to be able to walk through the passageway in between the main kitchen and the dessert preparation area, a clear room that allowed you to see the young man hard at work sending out this eclectic arrangement of flavours. White chocolate and green tea sorbet on a white balsamic and greek yoghurt bed with a hazelnut crust base and teensy chocolate bits. I think. It was all very refeshing and a lovely palate cleanse at the end of the meal but it was almost overworked with spots of chocolate on top of the base as well. The wine matching was a La Spinetta moscato diasti from Piedmont, Italy and whilst I thought it might be too sweet, it balanced the tartness of the dessert quite well.

Three hours after sitting down, we left Attica with pleasantly full but not overstuffed bellies and lighter but not devastated wallets. If it wasn’t for the fairly annoying pause in the middle, I don’t think I could have had much to say about it negatively. To know that a chef and his team are actively foraging (literally) for ingredients and presenting a display that may change week to week allowing you to witness the creative process, is something quite spectacular. Ben Shewry and his team are well deserving of their place in the Top 100 and I can’t wait until my budget is a little more relaxed so I can experience the full degustation.

From the website:
We are thrilled to announce that on Tuesday 27th April we received the sensational news that Attica has been listed as the 73rd Best Restaurant in the world in the San Pellegrino World’s Best Restaurants List.  This list is often referred to as the ‘Oscars’ of the hospitality world, so you can imagine how excited and humbled we are to receive this recognition – www.theworlds50best.com

Attica: 74 Glen Eira Road, Ripponlea  – www.attica.com.au