Monday, November 5, 2012

Multiple happy endings, of the sweet variety.

If you've been reading this blog for longer than 30 seconds (and if you haven't, hi, and welcome!) you'd know I'm a sweet tooth. Teeth. Mouth. Face. Do you get my point? Right now I'm eating choc chips and already my mind is wandering over to the lemon tart sitting on the kitchen bench. That I've already had a slice of. In the past half hour.

So anyway, you know Cafe Rosamond? By day, cute little cafe just off Smith Street in Fitzroy. By (Thursday) night, Rosamond becomes the vehicle of dessert-wielding chef de patisserie, Pierre Roelofs and his degustation of happy endings.

Now in its third year, these Thursday dessert evenings are quite popular. Indeed, the night we planned on going, our friend was very anxious that we wouldn't score a table, having been disappointed in the past. For sure, Cafe Rosemond is not flush on space, but when we arrived around 8:30 en route for a drink at Josie Bones, we put our name on a list, gave an indicative time on when we'd be ready and the rest is history.

Despite its size, Rosamond transforms itself in the evening, with tea-candles casting flattering shadows, and making food bloggers all the more conspicuous.

Now, I'm not sure about you, but I quite often like to have a warm drink with my sweets. If it's an afternoon catch-up with a girlfriend, I tend to opt for chai; if I've overindulged in the previous two of the three dinner courses, peppermint tea it is. Having eaten my dinner some hours earlier, I opted for a chai, which was a little slow to arrive. It was, however, worth the wait, as it arrived in a dainty tea pot with the sweetest little saucer of honey, its own honey dipper, and an equally quaint tea cup. CUTE!

But on to the desserts.

We opted to go the full three-course dessert menu, beginning with a 'tube'. It doesn't sound great, but trust me here, you want the tube.

Cola spider tubes, complete with beaker of warm water

Two tubes arrived, crossed like cigars, and a beaker of warm water by its side. The instruction: dip the transparent end in the warm water for a few seconds, then suck. It's not elegant, but the effect is really quite cool. On the evening we were there, we had Cola Spiders: cola jelly, ice cream and cola sherbet. Amazingly, once all ingredients were mingling in my mouth, it really tasted like a cola spider. Surprising that!

With our minds somewhat already blown (it's a great way to start!) the next course was more refined. The waitress set down our plates, and announced 'guava, musk and strawberry'. Now, I can't really remember the way this was presented (I ate it before I photographed it. Tends to happen with desserts) but I've written down 'dehydrated stawbs, musk marshmallow and meringue, guava puree jelly'. I do remember having a moment with texture. Oh, people, I really love texture, and this dessert got it. Dehydrated berries take on a crisp, spongy consistency (er, bit of an oxymoron, but...) and are very light, but with an intensified flavour. In this case, very tangy. Combined with the chewy marshmallow and the crunchy meringue, both musk, which dissipates the tang from the strawberries, the final hit comes from the zing of guava puree, which was almost overwhelming.

After a bit of a breather (chai finally in hand!) our next course arrived looking much like a parfait. Starting on the bottom: apricot compote, pannacotta, rhubarb granita , passionfruit *mumble* (can't remember), and puffed millet.

Bloody food bloggers and their bloody flashes (oops, iPhone)

This certainly isn't your typical sticky date pudding or crème brulee dessert choice. While sometimes these traditional desserts can go down a treat, occasionally they can be cloying, even for me. But rhubarb granita? Puffed millet? While it's a strange combination, it works. And while it may work, I would have to say this was my least favourite course. I don't generally go for sorbets and other icy desserts, but I appreciated what was going on there with the granita, which I originally thought may have been beetroot, not rhubarb, due to its dark crimson colour. Being icy, the taste was muted, hence my confusion.

The final course was more down my ally. Presented in a little heap, it looked sandy and rugged, like a little beach. Dehydrated green tea was the sandy substance, which, powder-like on first contact, dissolved in the mouth with a very subtle green tea flavour. Chunks of green apple added acidity and crunch, while puffed rice added lightness. Sticky, sweet molasses held it all together, with cardamom-roasted salted cashews adding the buzz flavour combo of the minute – salty/sweet. The cardamom was a beautiful, fragrant addition to an already delicately flavoured dish.

Much tastier than an actual beach.

And that rounded out our evening at Rosamond. I didn't spy the master in my sweet-induced haze, and I wondered if he was actually there. It was a nice experience, and the courses were certainly not your typical desserts. The complexity, texture, and clever use of flavours all demonstrate some real thought. I'm looking forward to returning again and seeing what the master concocts next time.


Monday, October 1, 2012

Lying low & Lilo

This post has been a long time coming. In fact, it's nearing the end of September the start of October and this is my first post for the year. And the fact that I began writing this post in May? Well, yeah.

I’ve joked with people about putting my university assignments on my blog, because they are the only writing I seem to do these days not associated with my job. Although there was a short story I wrote in around June, but that is perhaps a tale for another day.

I may have mentioned before that my mum lives down on the Mornington Peninsula, which means I'm down that way at least a couple of times a month. I've been to many of the wineries, the Long Table, and the Brewery in Red Hill (when it still operated its restaurant), but a little cafe located opposite Fisherman’s Beach has been the inspiration for me to write again.

One Christmas when I was a kid, my parents bought my brother and I lilos for our annual trip to northern NSW. They were navy blue on one side, red on the other and made of a heavy-duty, canvas-like fabric. We floated in the pool or bobbed up and down in the ocean for many years on our lilos, occasionally re-purposing them as inflatable mattresses. The term lilo is, I think, is rather old-fashioned these days, but has been revived as the name of a lovely corner cafe a little down the Esplanade in Mornington.


I sighed with relief when I walked in and saw a 50s style bathing beauty on a lilo on the wall of the cafe, and not a little Hawaiian girl and her alien dog. As I mentioned, Lilo is located on a corner, in the place where once a local milk bar stood. My friend’s beach house was in the street the cafe corners, and I remember summers walking down to get mixed lollies or an icy-pole.

Lady Lilo, and thankfully not Lilo & Stitch
Just as then, Lilo seems to be an easy walk for the locals, where they can still get their papers, but enjoy something a little more sophisticated than a Four'N Twenty.

Enjoying a corner perspective, the owners have wisely made great use of natural light, with windows galore on the cafe's street-facing sides. Dark wood and antique touches make diners feel comfortable, at home, and the signature colour of the green lilo is highlighted throughout.

A daily specials board changes often, and the couple of times I've been there, have been tempted by the seasonal offerings.

Lilo's specials change often and are very tempting!
On one particular occasion it was a veal schnitzel with sauerkraut, another it was a beetroot salad with goats cheese, rocket and walnuts. They also do tasty sandwiches (they're so big you can share them) and the dessert fridge looks VERY tempting.

It's a good, reliable little local spot, where you can always grab a seat. I'm looking forward to the day I venture there for breakfast as they offer a distinctly German breakfast 'extra' Weisswurst – veal sausage! I can only hope it comes with the traditional sweet mustard.

Lilo Cafe
1/725 Esplanade, Mornington

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