Sunday, 19 April 2015

Ruckers Hill Cafe and Ukelele Festival

It was the old record player re-purposed as a cafe table that first caught my attention as I walked past Ruckers Hill Cafe.  We had just had a nightmare finding parking in Northcote.  If there was a parking spot we missed it and then it was gone when we returned, or someone took it from under our nose.  Finally we rushed down Northcote High Street to meet E who was volunteering at the Ukelele Festival.  I suggested we backtrack to Ruckers Hill Cafe and was very glad I did.

It is not a huge cafe.  There wasn't much room inside so we saw on a bench outside.  We ordered Zucchini and Carrot Fritters for E (above) and Olive Cream Cheese Slice for me (below) and Cheese Toastie for Sylvia (not pictured).  In keeping with the ambiance of the cafe, everything was presented beautifully with lots of colourful and healthy vegetables.

I am not usually a fan of these eggy slices but was delighted with this one that had interesting add-ins, lots of flavour and a generous pile of salad on the side.  While the salad had a lot of lettuce, it had a great dressing that made me happy to eat my way through it.  My slice had big blobs of mild cream cheese in it which were well balanced by the olives. 

It was a great place to sit.  We saw lots of fellow ukelele players as we watched the passers-by.  Some stopped to chat.  Others gave us a big smile and an entertaining remark as they rushed by.  The waitress was friendly as we talked to her about the Studio Ghibli films.  I even liked that we could go in and look at the old piano as we waited.  If we had had more time we might have stayed for dessert and one of the interesting juices.

We had a ukelele performance to go to and then found ourselves at Yuni's Kitchen for a drink.  Actually E and Sylvia had a drink and I had a wander around the shops.  Before I went I checked out the menu and we agreed we should return to eat there some day.

Yuni's Kitchen has a lovely courtyard with a painting of a dove one one side and the Chalice Church on the other.  I was fascinated by the quinces and pomegranates growing at the side of the church.  Are they for passers-by or does the church or the cafe use them?

Whatever their purpose it added a really nice touch to a leafy courtyard with shade cloth and lots of space for kids to run around.  We could also hear the faint sounds of ukelele performances in the church.

We then went to see E play at the Shellac Gallery.  It was great to see him playing solo and to hear him performs songs I have heard him practicing in the bedroom.  And I had a catch up with my friend Heather.

While at the Shellac Gallery we were also able to check out the ukelele artwork.  I really liked the above black and yellow ukelele which was decorated with pasta.  Then we had promised Sylvia some time browsing the beautiful toys in the Big Dreams shop.

By then I was ready to go home.  E stayed on for more gigs but I was so tired that I took Sylvia to buy some chips from the Fish and Chip shop (Abdul's Halal Takeaway) on Elizabeth Street, Preston to take home for dinner. 

Luckily the staff were kind and honest.  I absent-mindedly left both my purse and Sylvia's dolly behind as we left but someone came out to let us know.  Then we collapsed at home with excellent hot chips and corn jacks.

Ruckers Hill Cafe
212 High Street
Open Tue-Fri: 7:30am-3:30pm, Sat: 8:30am-3:30pm, Sun: :900am-3:30pm

Ruckers Hill Cafe on Urbanspoon

Thursday, 16 April 2015

Vegan salmon pate - for dip or sushi

Isn't it great when the weather is warm and you spend the afternoon in the park under a large shady tree with a crowd of bloggers and heaps of good food!  In March, two of my favourite bloggers, Cindy and Michael of Where's the Beef, had invited us along to a potluck picnic to celebrate their 2000th post.  I took along some vegan salmon sushi and zucchini brownie topped with coconut bacon.

We make sushi quite often in our house.  Sylvia loves it but does not like any filling other than sushi rice.  I decided it would be a good savoury dish to take to the picnic.  I could make some plain for Sylvia and experiment with some vegan salmon filling for those what wanted something different.  And bloggers love trying a new dish.

Salmon is often offered as a filling in the little sushi shops in food halls.  I was never keen on fish and seafood.  In particular, I have disliked the idea of eating salmon ever since a friend had food poisoning from it when I was a university student.  Yet I do love its brilliant orange colour.  So please don't ask me if the pate compares to salmon.  I have no idea.  It wasn't quite as brilliantly orange as I had hoped but was rather pleasing nevertheless.  And it tasted very good in that nutty, carroty, dilly way.

I made the brownie the night before.  On the day of the picnic I made the ganache, the pate and the sushi.  By the time we arrived the party was in full swing.  I didn't take lots of photos because I was busy eating and chatting with other bloggers.  Fortunately E took the above photo of the picnic so you can see what a lovely location it was.

There was so much food.  I tried to sample bits of it but it seemed there was so much I didn't get to taste.  Cindy and Michael brought along their amazing sausage rolls.  I really loved tasting some myoki vegan cheese (pictured below) and Faye's vegan dill cheese.  There were heaps of salads, banh mi, dips and lots more.  (I didn't take enough note to report more.)

Dessert was every bit as splendid a spread.  I couldn't resist tasting a vegan chocolate ripple cake made with coconut cream (pictured above).  I also loved the chocolate caramel slice and some bounty bites.  Linda and daughter brought some lovely choc chip muffins and Rosalie brought some of her brownie that I regretted not trying.  It was great to taste Faye's Greek no-honey walnut cakes (‘Melomakarona’) - they are really delicious.  I didn't take great notes so I am sure I have left out other delicious dishes.  You can see more photos at Faye's Veganopoulous blog.

Yes it was all very intense and decadent.  Fortunately Ivan brought along some fresh figs from the backyard.  And it was hard to focus on the food when catching up with old friends and meeting some bloggers for the first time.  We talked about chickpea brine meringues, facebook vegan groups, vegans in the airforce, worm farms, and the supreme master at Loving Hut.

I am always a little wary of going along to these bloggers potlucks.  But despite some nerves about if I will know anyone, I always find it is great to meet up with online friends and that everyone is very friendly.  I went home with some figs as well as some leftovers of Faye's dill cheese and walnut biscuits.  We still had more vegan salmon pate in the fridge that taste very nice on fresh bread.

I am sending this vegan salmon pate to
Jac at Tinned Tomatoes for Bookmarked Recipes,
Kimmy of Rock My Vegan Socks for Healthy Vegan Fridays #43, and
Cindy at Gluten Free Mama for Gluten Free Fridays #138.

Previously on Green Gourmet Giraffe:
One year ago: NCR Pumpkin, bean and apple soup for a protest
Two year ago: WSC Chocolate Chip and Honey Scones
Three years ago: Chocolate Rasbperry Almond Cake amid the chaos
Four years ago: Autumn Apple Cake
Five years ago: NCR Very Garlicky Vegetable Soup
Six years ago: Easter Nut Roast and Feasting
Seven years ago: NCR Moody Mushroom Stew

Vegan Salmon Pate
Adapted from Food and Yoga for Life

1/2 cup sunflower seeds, soaked 30 minutes*
1 cup walnuts
1 cup peeled and chopped carrots*
2 tbsp apple cider vinegar
1 1/2 tbsp lemon juice
1 tbsp tamari
1/2 tsp dulse flakes
1/2 tsp salt (I used wild garlic salt)
1 spring onion, finely sliced
scant 1/4 cup chopped fresh dill

Roughly blend drained sunflower seeds, walnuts and 3/4 of the carrots in a blender or food processor*.  Add vinegar, lemon juice, tamari, dulse flakes and salt.  Blend until smooth.  Add spring onion, dill and remaining 1/4 cup of carrots.  Pulse until these are roughly chopped and combined.

*NOTES: The sunflower seeds can be soaked while you gather and chop ingredients for the recipe.  The recipe I used said 1 scant cup of carrots but I used a heaped cup.  I used my high speed blender which was ok but needed a bit of prodding.  A good food processor would probably work better.  

Vegan Salmon Sushi

To make vegan salmon sushi, I simmer 1 cup of sushi rice and 1 1/2 cups water for 20 minutes with lid on and no stirring.  I stir sushi seasoning into the hot cooked rice, cool it and then spread it on sheets of nori.  Spread salmon pate in the middle with some cucumber sticks.  Roll up and slice with a sharp knife.

On the Stereo:
Key: Victoria Vox

Tuesday, 14 April 2015

Dulce de leche choc chip cookies for the end of the holidays

After Easter lunch my mum sorted out the leftovers and told me she was throwing out the remains of the filling she made for the caramel tart.  I couldn't bear to see the luscious creamy dreamy caramel go to waste so I volunteered to take it.  Then, like my mum, I wondered what on earth I would do with it.  We have had enough chocolate and hot cross buns over Easter.  Decadent caramel chocolate concoction seemed just too much.  But perhaps a few choc chip cookies to use up Easter eggs would be alright.

The biscuits were not as indulgent as last year's leftover chocolate easter egg slice.  However I confess that yet again, I stashed away some eggs especially (eggspecially) for baking.  There is something so much more fun about baking with colourful chocolate.  Even better, when I started to chop up the little M and M easter eggs, I found they had crispy insides. 

I looked around at choc chip cookie recipes and ideas for adding dulce de leche.  Most recipes are for biscuits stuffed with dulce de leche in the middle but I really liked the recipe at Mind Over Batter that mixed it into the batter for extra flavour.  I had so many white chocolate melts leftover from the Easter egg chicks that I was generous with the salt in an effort to avoid them being overwhelmingly sweet.

I used a favourite condensed milk choc chip cookies recipe that I have often made with leftover condensed milk.  It was easy, eggless and smelled amazing while the biscuits were baking.

As mentioned at the top of the post, we have feasted on enough Easter chocolate and hot cross buns to last us a lifetime.  Most of these cookies went straight into the freezer to be eaten occasionally when we need a sweet snack.  They last so much longer that way.

The other reason I wanted to bake these biscuits is that I thought they would be good for the school lunchbox.  Sylvia has delighted in hoarding a little stash of Easter eggs that she received.  Yet when I put a cookie in her lunch box on the first day of school term yesterday she told me told me she would much prefer ANZAC biscuits.  Kids!

And with the end of the school holidays I will leave you with some photos and words to sum up the fun we had: the zoo, autumn leaves, Easter, weaving, craft, play dates, cinema, sleepovers, monkey bars, cousins, Phoenix park, bike rides, friends, queues, playgrounds, dolls, swimming, chocolate, baking.

I am sending this recipe that rescued the caramel to Elizabeth's Kitchen for the No Waste Food Challenge.

Previously on Green Gourmet Giraffe:
One year ago: Red peppers: in pasta bake, stuffed and in soup
Two year ago: NCR Smoky spicy tomato soup
Three years ago: Zucchini Layer Cake plus random thoughts
Four years ago: NCR Tricken Rice Soup with Celeriac
Five years ago: Honest soup inspired by a Farmers Market
Six years ago: Tupperware, Arran and Tomato Soup
Seven years ago: Family Favourite: Chocolate Pudding

Chocolate chip cookies with dulce de leche
Adapted from this recipe on Green Gourmet Giraffe
Makes about 48 cookies

180g butter or margarine, softened
1/4 cup maple syrup
1/2 cup dulce de leche
1/2 tsp salt
1 and 1/2 cups self raising flour
300-350g assorted chopped chocolate/Easter eggs/choc chips

Cream butter and maple syrup.  Beat in dulce de leche and salt.  Gently mix in flour then chocolate.  Drop heaped teaspoons on baking paper lined oven trays.  Bake for 10 to 12 minutes until just starting to turn golden brown on the edges.  Rest 5 to 10 minutes before transferring to a wire rack to cool (I keep them on the baking paper while cooling). 

On the Stereo:
Excuses for Travellers: Mojave 3

Sunday, 12 April 2015

Carrot and feta nut roast for Easter lunch

I went to bed on Good Friday night dreaming of the nut roast I would make the next day to take to Easter Sunday lunch at my parents' place in Geelong.  I lay awake with visions of nut roast stuffed with mushrooms and leeks.  Only problem was that this would need a quick trip to the supermarket before a children's party and the drive to Geelong.  I woke to face the reality that I just had to make do with what I had.  A quick Google search found me rearranging my nut roast vision to carrot and feta.

E loves to say that our fridge is full of things he can't eat.  H might well be right but I often find that, when I make do with what is there, our fridge is full of good things to cook.  I was quite impressed with what it could produce.

We always have carrots.  I find them quite boring most of the time.  Necessary but in a background sort of way.  Occasionally I made a dish where their vibrant orange delights me and I really love their flavour.  This was just such a dish.  Which was fitting as I made it on International Carrot Day.  And the Easter Bunny loves carrots.

It was bright flavoured.  If there is such a thing.  Nut roasts are so often heavy in flavour that they need a chutney or sauce to lift them.  This one was brilliant on its own.  The carrot flavour was strong and sweet which worked well with the intense saltiness of the feta.

I reheated it in the oven on a pretty green dish - worried it might bread because I had already broken one of my mum's bowls the previous night.  Then I sliced it up, served myself and left it to the family.  No photos because dinner was the usual mayhem with all the family there.

When I came back there was about a quarter of the nut roast left.  While it was less than I had expected, I was happy that others enjoyed it too.  I even had Sylvia taste a little bit (under sufferance).  E was most complementary about the it.  The leftovers were taken home to be eaten in sandwiches with chutney.  Most pleasing.  This is definitely a nut roast I will make again.

I am sending this nut roast to Extra Veg, an event hosted by Jo's Kitchen this month, and coordinated by Fuss Free Flavours and Utterly Scrummy Food for Families.

More cheesy nut roasts from Green Gourmet Giraffe:
Cheesy carrot nut roast
Chocolate nut roast
Cottage cheese and walnut nutloaf 
Smoky cheese and barley nut roast 
Stilton nut roast

More cheesy nut roasts from elsewhere:
Cheese cashew and walnut roast with sherry gravy - The Guardian newspaper
Mary Berry's aubergine five-nut roast recipe - Good To Know
Nut loaf - Umami Girl
Stuffed cashew nut roast - Gluten Free Alchemist
Tofu nut roast with swiss chard and goats’ cheese - Your Natural Health Expert

Carrot and Feta Nut Roast
Adapted from Woolworths website
Serves 4

1 tbsp olive oil
4 medium carrots (approx 350g), peeled and grated
1 tomato, chopped
1/4 cup spring onions, finely chopped
1 tbsp fresh thyme leaves (or other herbs)
1 garlic clove, finely chopped
1 cup fresh breadcrumbs
1 cup ground cashews (other nuts could be used)
1 tbsp chia seeds (optional)
2 eggs
100g feta, crumbled
1/2 tsp salt (or to taste)
freshly ground black pepper

Grease and line a loaf tin.  Preheat oven to 200 C.  Fry carrots in olive oil for about 5 minutes over medium heat or until carrots are changing colour to indicate they are cooked.  Add and cook the tomato for a minute or so until it softens.  Add spring onions, thyme and garlic and fry for a minute until fragrant.  Mix with remaining ingredients.  Check and adjust seasoning to taste.  Spoon into prepared tin and smooth top with the back of the spoon.  Bake for 40 minutes or until golden brown and centre feels firm to touch.  Serve warm or cool in tin.  Can be reheated for 30 minutes in the oven the next day (and will slice better if it sits overnight).

On the stereo
Recurring Dream: The Very Best of Crowded House

Friday, 10 April 2015

Easter egg chicks, Beetroot, raspberry and feta salad, and Chocolate carrots

I was speaking to a friend who told me her mother makes the same old dishes and it is never very exciting.  My mum loves to experiment, I told her.  Why for Easter lunch we had beetroot, raspberry and feta salad.  She also had started on some chocolate carrots when I arrived on Easter Saturday.  I finished them off for her.  And I brought along some Easter egg chicks for my nieces and nephew.  It was a fun meal.  Not at all boring!

I have written about the carrot and feta nut roast I made for the family Easter lunch separately.  Instead I will share the beetroot, raspberry and feta salad.  I think my mum had eaten it in a restaurant.  It is one of those salads that should be tossed about to eat so all the flavours bounce off each other.  However I couldn't resist arranging slices of beetroot and making it a triumph of style over substance.  It looked a mess on the plate but tasted wonderful.  Sweet and salty and a little tart.

The nut roast and salad were served with a rather good cauliflower, pomegranate and rice salad, cauliflower cheese, roast potato and pumpkin and peas (and lots of meat for the carnivores).  I ate very well.

After the mains we had dessert.  My mum was quite restrained.  There were a lot of chocolate eggs and hot cross buns around after all.  So dessert was caramel tart, vanilla cheesecake with strawberries and chocolate carrots.  Lots of fuel for the kids who spent most of the day playing footy and cricket in the backyard.

The chocolate carrots were seen by my mum on the telly.  She had started them when I arrived but I was happy to help out with them while she got on with other dishes.  Mum had only managed to find smaller chocolate wafer sticks than she intended.  (The knife in the photo is like a steak knife to help you get a sense of size.)  The wafers got dipped a few times, and I was making little foil stands for them, even though the recipe said to just dip them once, lie them on baking paper to set and scrap little carrot marks on them.

The recipe suggested bagging up the 'carrots' with some crushed up biscuits to make 'dirt' and giving them as presents.  We wanted them in a dish for people to eat.  They didn't look bad without the chocolate dirt but it sounded like fun.  We made it by placing the rest of the wafers in a ziplock bag and rolling with a rolling pin.  Actually Sylvia and her cousin Ashy did it.  I wanted them to have the fun of bashing the wafers but remembered the dents in our table from crushing candy canes.

We tried to plant the carrots in the dirt in a small bowl but they would not stand up.  Then I just ended up putting them around the edge of a bowl of dirt with a few in the middle.  The kids loved them.  When they asked why carrots I told them because it was International Carrot Day on Easter Saturday.  Much talk ensued with the kids about what other international days might be celebrated.  I will spare you the scatological details but I can assure you they made me laugh.  And they loved telling me they were eating their vegies while they ate chocolate!

Even more fun was the Easter egg hunt.  You may remember last year that my dad orchestrated a colour coded egg hunt where each child had a different coloured egg.  This year he surpassed himself and had a different flavoured egg for each child and drew their names out of a hat.

The children had great fun hunting the eggs between main course and dessert.  Not only did they help each other find eggs but they also had a great time swapping eggs at the end of the hunt so each kid had a variety of eggs.  The hiding was rather tricky and two eggs were still unaccounted for at the end of the hunt.  I must remember to check if they have been found yet.  Perhaps they will be discovered by an archeologist many years from now!

But let us return to the home made chocolate goodies.  Did I mention that my mum played me a video clip of the chocolate carrots being made on the telly.  It looked far easier than it was.  The same might be said for the Easter egg chicks that Sylvia and I made for her cousins.  Both used coloured chocolate buttons, which neither my mum nor I had.

My mum did ok with colouring the white chocolate but I think I was a bit heavy handed with the food dye and the chocolate seized.  It was no longer for dipping or pouring but worked well if you wanted to play with it like playdough.  Which is what I did.  I made flat tongues of orange chocolate that I could chop into beaks and feet.  I had planned to pour the coloured chocolate onto baking paper and chopping it when just set so in a way this was easier and quicker.

Making the chicks was much easier once we had worked on the white chocolate.  The recipe called for Creme Eggs.  There were none to be found in the supermarket when I looked so we bought Cadbury's Marvellous Creations eggs because I thought they were roughly the same size and might be sturdier than other eggs (having popping candy and smarties in the chocolate).

It was only towards the end that I realised I had misunderstood the instructions and hence put the eggs on an upturned bowl.  Having the baking paper meant I didn't really need the bowl.

Sylvia helped me make the chicks so I gave up having them perfect.  However I can't blame her for all the imperfections because I didn't do a great job either.  Using melted milk chocolate and white chocolate buttons was a recipe for smudgy milk chocolate fingerprints on the eyes.  At one point I just removed some smudgy eggs before they set but I didn't manage it for others.

My other great failing was drawing on eyes with an icing pen.  I could blame the pen but I suspect my technique could do with some improvement.  I found it hard to draw a black dot on the eyes without the pen dragging black icing everywhere.  Honestly it would be easier to stick down a tiny lolly like a Junior Mint or some chopped liquorice.

I had meant to wrap each egg in cellophane to give out but they looked so cute.  So I just put them out on a plate.  Then I put them in ziplock bags when the kids were going home.  They received a lot of excited exclamations and Sylvia was very proud of her handywork.

I am sending the Easter egg chicks to Choclette at Tin and Thyme for We Should Cocoa.  The theme is No Bake.  I am sending the chocolate carrots to Kat at Baking Explorer (and Stuart at CakeyBoi) for Treat Petite.  This month the theme is Hello Spring.  And finally I am sending the salad to Deb at Kahakai Kitchen for Souper Sundays and Karen at Lavender and Lovage for Cooking with Herbs.

Previously on Green Gourmet Giraffe:
One year ago: Gwyneth's Apple Muffins and the rainy school holidays
Two year ago: Couscous salad and reflections on the week
Three years ago: PPN Holiday cooking - Nut Roast and Pasta Napoletana
Four years ago: PPN Carrot Pesto Pasta Bake
Five years ago: Butterscotch Bounty from Ricki
Six years ago: Wholemeal Chocolate Cake
Seven years ago: Posh chocolate orange biscuits

Beetroot, raspberry and feta salad
From my mum

250g cooked and peeled baby beetroot (vacuum sealed)
125g raspberries
50g creamy feta
1-3 tsp mint leaves
caramelised balsamic vinegar

Thinly slice wedges of beetroot and arrange on serving plate.  Arrange raspberries and crumble feta over beetroot.  Scatter with mint leaves.  Drizzle with vinegar and serve.

White chocolate carrots
From Better Homes and Gardens

Chocolate wafer sticks
White chocolate buttons
Orange and green food colouring

Melt some white chocolate and colour orange with some drops of food colouring.  Place above a small saucepan of hot water to keep the chocolate warm and melted.  Spoon melted chocolate over three quarters of wafers.  Place on baking paper to set.

NOTES: If desired dip again once set.  I found that the chocolate was rather thick and swirling the sticks against the side of the bowl ensured not too much chocolate on it and left rather carroty horizontal lines.  I also found it better to cool the chocolate with the uncoated part of the wafers stuck upside in a little pocket made in a piece of foil.  They didn't take long to be set enough to be able to place on baking paper so that that they were still round.

Melt some white chocolate and colour green with drops of food colouring.  Place above hot water as with orange chocolate.  Dip remaining ends of wafers in green chocolate (or spoon chocolate over it) and set in either foil pockets or on baking paper.

NOTES: the chocolate was quite thick and I found it good to use a spoon to drizzle chocolate over ends and then scrape it off so there were vertical lines like carrot tops.

Easter egg chicks
From A Mummy Too

Medium Easter eggs
Milk chocolate melts
White chocolate melts
Orange chocolate melts or yellow and red food colouring
Icing pen

If you don't have orange melts, mix some white chocolate with red and yellow food colouring to make orange chocolate.  Cut triangles out of the white chocolate.  (Mine seized which made it easy to mould but if yours behaves then you may need to spread it on baking paper and let it mostly set before chopping.)

Melt a handful of the milk chocolate melts.  Place the bowl over hot water to keep it melted.  
Place a piece of baking paper on a tray. Dab a blob of chocolate on the paper.  Place an egg in the blob.  Arrange two orange melts or triangles in the melted chocolate at the base and hold the egg until the chocolate firms up.

Dab some melted chocolate on two white melts and arrange on the eggs towards the top like eyes.  Hold until the chocolate holds it there.  Repeat with two milk chocolate melts and arrange as wings on the side, a triangle between the white chocolate eyes to be the beak and a triangle at the top to be the comb.

Draw black dots on the eyes with an icing pen.

Leave chicks so the chocolate sets firmly before sharing with your friends and family.

On the Stereo:
Chants, Hymns and Dances: Gurdjieff and Tsabropoulos

Wednesday, 8 April 2015

City Trip: Raw Trader, Shopping and Yo-Art

Yesterday we had a school holidays trip to the city.  It was a cold rainy Melbourne day that was perfect for spending in shopping centres.  I ate raw Snickers slice at Raw Trader, had a Snag Stand hotdog, bought new shoes, shopped in Uniqlo and shared some frozen yoghurt with E and Sylvia.  We were also accompanied to Sylvia's doll called Rosie.

E and Sylvia were off to see the Sponge Bob Square Pants movie but I couldn't bear to waste my precious movie hours on the little twerp (Spongebob not Sylvia).  As there was nothing else on at the movies to interest me I set off to enjoy myself in the city.  

First sight of interest was this old Argus building.  I took a photo of it when it was derelict a couple of years ago (see insert) and so I was interested to see it is now looking like it has a lease of new life.  It has been renovated by a private education institution.  I am pleased to see it is being looked after because the now defunct Argus newspaper which was housed there, has an important place in the history of Australia.

Then on the corner of La Trobe Street and Sutherland Street, I looked in fascination at a steam shovel that reminded me of a childhood story and Bill on Mr Squiggle.  Where one building is saved, another is demolished to make way to for new developments.

My first destination however was Raw Trader.  I have been curious about this raw cafe for some time.  It is not that I am a big raw food enthusiast but I love vegan desserts and am always interested to see raw food on other blogs.

I really loved the ambiance of the place.  The old packing crates lining one wall gave it a sense of heritage chic and the cake display was just gorgeous.  The drinks menu had great smoothies but the teas weren't my kind of cuppa.  I was there for cakes and slices anyway.  Looking at all those beautiful slices, cheezecakes and bliss balls made me want to eat raw food forever.

So I am sad to tell you that while the almond Snickers slice I tasted was interesting, it didn't blow my mind.  It just confirmed my wariness of raw desserts.  Though I have loved a few raw desserts that I have made at home, I have never warmed to coconut oil in large amounts.  I found the caramel layer tasted too much of dates and the fudge layer tasted too much of coconut oil.  

Yet I am still fascinated by raw food.  I found the slice interesting.  (In fact I would return to Raw Trader to try other non-bakes.)  I ate in an inquiring frame of mind as I read an article about Heston Blumenthal and all his weird and wonderful culinary experiments.  I ate slowly and curiously.  I mulled over what was in each layer.  I compared it to a Snickers bar.  I had to ask about what was in the fudge layer but was given a list of ingredients for the whole bar rather than the layers.  So I gave it back to the woman behind the counter who farewelled me with "thanks Angel".  I love a place that is not only warm and welcoming but can send you on your way feeling happy.  Even if I am not a raw food type!

Despite the temptation to just sit in Raw Trader and enjoy the ambiance, I had much to enjoy in my rare childfree time in the city.  And I also really wanted a bar of chocolate or a packet of crisps after such healthy food.  (I feel terrible for admitting it but the coconut oil left a weird taste in my mouth that demanded to be overwhelmed by junk food.)  Fortunately I had some slices of apple in my bag to snack on.

Sutherland Street where Raw Trader resides, is a narrow little back street with heritage bluestone walls and a critical mass of interesting cafes.  I made a mental note to return there as I wandered away past the street art and back into the bustle of Elizabeth Street.

I had a quirky shopping list of shoes (check), handkerchiefs (check), barbie doll clothes (fail), girls knee high socks (fail).  I thought that knee high socks for little girls wouldn't be that hard to find but they seem as rare as potato starch (another hard to find item on my shopping list).  Once I had purchased some shoes for winter, I wandered the shops.  This life size lego Cinderella amused me in Myer.  Such a shame Sylvia wasn't with me to see it.

She was with her baby doll, Rosie, at the cinema.  I met her and her dad for lunch at the end of the movie.  We had hot dogs from Snag Stand.  They had seven options for the vegetarian hot dog which was impressive and seems more than when I wrote about Snag Stand three years ago.  I had Australia Fare and E had the American Classic.  Sylvia had The Kid (vegetarianised).  And we shared chips.  It was very nice (albeit lacking in vegetables).

Sylvia didn't want to hold Rosie so I let her put her in the kids highchair.  Because you need two hands to eat a hot dog.  I just hope no children had to sit on their parent's lap because Rosie hogged the highchair.

Next we wandered off to browse some shops in Melbourne Central.  While E and Sylvia were in the cinema the rain came on.  It was a delight to sit in the walkway between the Emporium and watched the rain fall on the city.  You can see Sylvia at the window in the top picture.  (Doesn't my little girl look so grown up!)  I particularly love the views from walkways between department stores and shopping centres in the part of the city.

E's great desire was to have a look at the relatively new Uniqlo department store in the Emporium.  I was sure I was going to find girls knee high socks in a Japanese department store.  Not even there!  At least Rosie had fun snuggling in among the men's t-shirts.  And would you believe that Sylvia and I ended up spending more than E!

Before heading home we stopped for a frozen yoghurt at Yo Art (in the Emporium).  Well E and Sylvia had a frozen yoghurt and I just had a little taste.  They both chose salted caramel flavour and it was rather good with the sweet, salty, and slightly sour flavours.  E just had a few pieces of biscuit in his but Sylvia had lollies and sprinkles and a wafer.

Then it was time for the train home.  We just missed our train and had to wait 20 minutes for the next one.  Curse the Upfield line with its single track in the last part of the line that prevents frequent trains.

We had fun waiting.  Sylvia is very interesting in reading anything that stands still and Rosie looks so real that another passenger struck up a conversation with us about believing that Rosie was my tiny baby.

By then the trains were in their busy peak and we had to stand for half the trip (someone did offer Sylvia a seat but she was happy on the floor so I declined).  After digging out a pair of Doc Martens I hadn't worn for some time, I was very glad to rest my weary feet at home.

Raw Trader
10 Sutherland Street, Melbourne CBD
0478 692 008
Open: Mon-Thu: 7am-6pm, Fri: 7am-10pm, Sat: 10am-10pm and Sun: 10am-6pm