Tall Timber: Felling Breakfast Prejudices

I really should stop ragging on the breakfast institutions South of the Yarra, given the few that I have been to have all pleased my palate. WRONG! What a seductive trap to fall into, that of drawing conclusions from a small sample size. It would be all too easy to relinquish my inborn suspicion of how the other half live, to think that perhaps there is character and heart behind the fripperies of Chapel Street and Toorak Road et al., based on the three or so lovely little South-Side venues I have visited. Yet until I have extensively sampled the offerings over the bridge, I cannot confidently test the hypothesis that perhaps my dismissal of that area as a cultural wasteland is hasty (and bigoted). The selection bias of only going places that my companions know to be “good” isn’t helping with the validity of this study, but who wants to pay for a crummy meal at an inconvenient end of town?

This particular morning I hopped on my bike and cycled a lazy 10km (!!) to meet the industrious Chic Pea before she started work. The effort of this was mitigated by it being a delightful morning for a ride, with the sun prickling my near-translucent skin for the first time in months. We visited Tall Timber, any airy establishment East of the Alfred Hospital on Commercial Road. Communal dining and dogs seemed to be encouraged in the outdoor area, both of which I am a little iffy on. What I have no problems with, however, is going straight for the:

House Bircher Muesli: Vanilla + cinnamon pear, pistacchio crumble + rose syrup

Here is what all of that added up to (because there were a few addition signs in the menu, you see):

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Well, they certainly delivered on the pear part of the equation. In fact, it seems that having a big, throbbing pear centrepiece is a bit trendy at the moment. Anyway, this was an actual feast as well as a visual feast. As I journeyed through this Garden of (about to be) Eaten, I encountered sweet, moist oats balanced by the crunch of savoury pistachio and micro-herbage. I gladly consumed the apple of this garden, not offered whole by a serpent, but Julienned by the equally dangerous South of the Yarra chef. I subsequently cast aside the flowers, placed, no doubt, for my modesty (after eating one, how transgressive) and fully succumbed to this Original Sin, the sin of now considering travelling Southside of my own volition to re-experience this muesli, and of recommending that others do so.

Final Word: Go! Cast aside your prejudice and taste the fruit of Tall Timber, and the muesli while you’re at it.

Good Muesli, Melbourne!

-MM

Tall Timber Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

56 Threads: Sewing Wild, Friendly Oats

For reasons known only to herself, the benevolent Lady Grey decided that this particular morning would be one devoted to “girls” – I prefer to identify as a blossoming young woman, but that might be a delusion in itself. Happily, a girls morning means that the similarly age-bracketed and beloved Madame Phở-pas, Ms Mimosa and I are treated to breakfast and an item (or a sneaky three) of second-hand clothing. After we discovered that the pop-up store in Carlton that Lady Grey had her eye on had distressingly popped-down, I swooped in to save the day by suggesting that we dine out West and move on to Footscray Savers, a much less crowded option for a late Saturday morning.

The venue we descended upon was 56 Threads in Derby Street, Kensington. My interest was piqued by their ethos of providing employment and training for new migrants, which is a heartening initiative given the current political clime. The cafe sits on the ground floor of public housing in Derby Street. The main theme seems to be geometry, with interesting dodecahedral light fixtures and clean lines dominating the bench architecture. Of note, as I have been on an accessibility tirade of late, I observed that 56 Threads has an entranceway wide enough for a patron to enter using a motorised scooter, order coffee, then turn around and leave without hitting furniture or being impeded in any way. If this level of functionality existed more uniformly across the city, Melbourne’s cafe-culture would be more inclusive of the oft forgotten population of people with mobility impairment – which is certainly not insignificant!

Upon perusal of the menu I was excited to order:

56 Threads almond and cranberry muesli: made in house served with strawberries and yoghurt 

In a refreshing twist given my last cafe experience which I will neither forgive nor forget, we did not have to wait even 20 minutes before our breakfast arrived. Here it is:

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This was a simple, hearty muesli that felt like it was prepared by a well-meaning dad: The portion was generous, the oats were plain with nicely-toasted almonds, crunchy hazelnuts, sunflower seeds and cranberries mixed in to provide extra taste and a sensible amount of nutrition. Fresh strawberries and cool, creamy yoghurt combined for a light, Springtime taste. While nothing fancy – not a micro herb, chia seed or labne to be seen – the 56 Threads muesli was homely without pretension and a meal that kept me going until lunch. What more could a “girl” on a girls morning want?

Final word: Regardless of your mobility requirements, take yourself out to 56 Threads and enjoy a friendly, inclusive breakfast. While you will not find super specialised on-trend ingredients that will blow your mind and confuse your tastebuds, you will find plenty of community spirit – super food for the soul.

Good Muesli, Melbourne!

-MM

Fifty-Six Threads Cafe on Urbanspoon

John Gorilla: Rolled his oats up and threw them at me…and I liked it.

Spring has sprung and I emerged today from my blog-hibernation squinting warily into the sunlight as Baby Chino and I rode through residential Brunswick at earlier-than-8am for our breakfast appointment. What a time to be able to ride a bike;  the roads are deserted, the air is crisp and the best meal of the day is the reward for our exertion (although I’m not sure  leisurely riding for less than 2km really counts). Also, there is a smug self-satisfaction that comes from watching the less disciplined breakfast crowd that arrives around 9am waiting to be seated, while I sit back in post-muesli bliss chatting happily to my companions. I’m all for a Sunday sleep in, but will trade that for unimpeded access to breakfast in a heart beat.  Anything to avoid brunch territory and the subsequent meal confusion that always follows –  what time should lunch be?! I shudder to think.

This morning’s breakfast took us to John Gorilla, a quaint cafe just North of Hunter Street on Pearson. Upon entering I was transported back to early childhood and this was my playroom; perhaps it was that the main counter was so high that I immediately had the strange experience of actually having to look up to address someone; maybe it was the brightly coloured plastic fruit and trinkets that adorned the main table at the entrance, or perhaps it was the whimsical seaside feel of the section we sat in. Most likely it was the old Snellen chart that adorned the wall opposite me so that whenever I looked up I was reminded of my early optometrist and a time when my prescription did not require super-thin lens technology to avoid the coke-bottle look. What a great place!

With no trepidation I ordered:

Bircher muesli: golden raisin and hazelnut with seasonal fresh fruit

I was then surprised to hear Mr Scrambled Eggs actually order his namesake, even more surprised when Baby Chino ordered porridge (considering how he feels about oats), and not surprised at all when Ms Mimosa ordered B.L.A.T. Back to me:

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It looks like a fantastical landscape at dawn. My inner child sat there imagining the strange beasts that might traverse those strawberry peaks and seek shelter under the grape-boulders. My outer adult quickly stuffed a spoonful of it into my mouth. Citrus-surprise! There were slices of fresh orange buried under the apple and yoghurt-soaked oats, buried so completely that I had no idea what I was tasting, initially cursed Mr Gorilla for overdoing it and started wondering if I would still be able to put off going to the dentist until I can afford health insurance. I found that there was actually no need for that level of catastrophising as the rest of the dish was delightfully creamy and oaty, with the only bursts of sweetness being from the obvious and not-so-obvious fruit within. A quick comment on golden raisins – delicious and translucent – but how are they different from sultanas? Wikipedia says: they’re not. But who can you trust?

Final Word: Set your alarm for early and venture out to John Gorilla for a whimsical breakfast, if you’re in to that sort of thing.

Good Muesli, Melbourne!

-MM

John Gorilla on Urbanspoon

Home Made Special: Carman’s Muesli

I have to open this post with an apology to Carman’s:

I’m sorry this post is a year late. Basically, after my phone met its demise (with my unwitting help) my reviews were lost and I drowned my sorrows in the many varieties of muesli that you generously sent me. This has weighed heavily on my conscience and so recently, when it was on sale at Coles, I bought your muesli to re-review. Hopefully this can smooth over the awkwardness that I imagine exists between us.

Whew. Now I know why people go to confession – conscience clear! Let’s now turn to the muesli:

Carman’s Fruit and Nut:

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Look at it all, nestling snugly within the cool embrace of my second-favourite bowl. This muesli was generously endowed with nuts (ahem, almonds and hazelnuts) which provided big crunches subtly accompanied by smaller crunches of sesame seeds. This textural fiesta was also attended by sultanas and dried fruit pieces which erupted in a satisfying squish of cinnamon and slight sweetness with each bite – flavours that I think were enhanced by the overnight soaking process. I would recommend adding banana to this muesli as the cinnamon tinged oats complement banana perfectly. A great muesli!

Carman’s Gluten Free: 

Unlike those of  an increasingly visible subset of the population, the immune cells in my small intestine have no problem with the proteins that make up gluten and so I exist mostly in a bubble of my wheat-enriched existence. Sometimes, however, I am enticed to try the offerings of the gluten free world (the little muffins they give you at the blood bank are great!), such as Carman’s gluten free muesli. The best part of this muesli were the chewy bursts of sweetness provided by the sultanas imbued with the vanilla-cinnamon flavour that I feel is a Carman’s hallmark. The rest was a little stodgy to be honest; I’m not sure that the barely or corn puffs hold up well being soaked overnight. It must be difficult making a gluten free cereal and I think there is still a little bit of work to be done here.

Carman’s Fruit Free:

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Why would anyone want to exclude fruit from muesli?! This is a strange concept, however my inquisitive mind would not let me pass this by (also it was initially free). To stay true to the theme I excluded grated apple and the berries or banana that would normally perch atop my yoghurt. The abundance of hazelnuts and sesame seeds gave this muesli an impressive crunchiness, and the cinnamon overtones added an autumnal feel to the breakfast. While I enjoyed the richness of the flavoured oats, in the end I could not get over the lack of fruit – it’s like driving without music, enjoyable but no one is singing and taking it to next-level happiness. What I would like to do instead is use this muesli to make muffins, or stuff some in an apple and bake it. Actually, being fruit-free might make this a very versatile muesli!

Carman’s Bircher:

The bircher offering was surprisingly light on the Carman’s vanilla-cinnamonness, which actually made for a refreshing breakfast. The almonds, sultanas and apricots in particular added the majority of the non-oat component of taste. I enjoyed the raw oatiness of this muesli, however, as it is nice to revel in clean simplicity once in a while. I realised that I was enjoying the fruit that I added more, which could have something to do with me daringly adding both banana and frozen blueberries. Sometimes I surprise myself with how edgy my breakfasts can get. Carman’s bircher is a basic, utility muesli to be eaten on a regular day (or perhaps after a bout of tummy-trouble, as a means to wean off dry toast).

Final word: Carman’s provides a wide range of muesli that aims to suit everyone from fruit-haters to wheat-avoiders. Do not follow my example and wait until you find yourself in a perfect storm of guilt and thriftiness to try the fruit and nut muesli (in particular) as it is a store-muesli marvel.

Good Muesli, Melbourne!

-MM

The Elk and Pea: Muesli Worth Enduring the Current Government For

This weekend I found myself driving to Canberra with Madam Macchiato to visit the beautiful (but deadly) Kommandant Kale, who has left Melbourne to answer the noble call of public service. Initially, while I was very happy for my dear friend, I not-so-secretly thought that she was in for a boring and depressing year in our nation’s capital. This was based on nothing but the general disdain that Melbournians tend to have for anywhere more than 15km out from the CBD (unless we are talking about “the beach”, which we just loooove with a self-righteous air of ownership). My view changed on Saturday morning, however, as seeing the capital for the first time in the light (the drive was awfully long – we arrived in the dark) I realised that it is a gorgeous garden city! With the impending upheaval of Royal Park to make way for the East-West link, this was a revelation as I have now found a city that is a essentially giant park with buildings scattered amongst it all to escape to. I could live in Canberra! Whew, I said it.

We chose The Elk and Pea on the safely-named Lonsdale Street in somewhere called Braddon for our first venture – which was, I’m ashamed to say, a brunch. The intermediary meal of brunch throws me off-kilter for the day, punishment for waking up after 9am I suppose. We arrived and were shocked to be asked if we had a booking. Booking for brunch? What did they think they were, the Langham Hotel? The wait staff apologetically asked us to share a table with others outside, which was an unnecessary sentiment as there was an abundance of space on said table – if this was Melbourne there would have been four tables crammed into the space allocated for this one. Refreshing. In terms of decor, I can only comment on the table cloth, which made me quite happy as it carried a cheery sunflower pattern. Otherwise, it was nice to have a quiet, unhurried meal in the middle of a capital city.

Without further ado I will get to the main event which involved me ordering:

Bircher Muesli: Coconut and cinnamon infused muesli, poached pear compote, toasted nuts

Wondering in error how one solid (oats) could be physically be infused with another (coconut), I eagerly received this dish as an answer:

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The pear is arranged like Parliament! Sort of – they probably realised that they couldn’t get away with only having four slices of pear as a garnish. And by probably realised, I mean that I have concocted that story about this muesli with a tourist’s excitement. The first mouthful of this dish revealed a deliciously tart puree that tasted more like passionfruit than pear, but I’m not picky as it was excellent. The cinnamon was generously present here, complimenting the stately, crisp pear perfectly and giving the plump, moist oats a comfort kick. The crunchy toasted almonds and coconut contrasted nicely with the oats and chewy sultanas strewn throughout this dish. This is a powerful breakfast, one that could win elections, pass bills and do other confident political acts. Basically, I enjoyed this muesli so much that I would let it brainwash me – how dangerously alluring and absurd!

Final word: The Elk and Pea have defied all expectations and delivered one of the best muesli that I have eaten so far. For those that live in Canberra, make a booking (weird) and demand this dish. For those in Melbourne, don’t drive up to Canberra, fly, then brave your disdain for all places ‘other’ and just order the muesli.

Good Muesli, Canberra!

-MM

The Elk & Pea on Urbanspoon

The Old Paper Shop Deli: South of the Yarra (*sniff*) Showing How It’s Done

Last Sunday morning I found myself in South Melbourne. I know how I got there – this isn’t one of those stories – it was in the course of doing a fun-run around Albert Park in aid of ovarian cancer research. And what better way to celebrate running 5km than a high-society bowl of muesli? Yes, I’ll launch right into it: being a Northern suburbs Miss I have an innate wariness of the land over the bridge(s) so get ready for lots of “South-side” this and “snooty” that. That’s how I was brought up, I suppose.

The Old Paper Shop Deli is, according to Ms SourDough who was one of my company on this occasion, a South Melbourne institution. It is located just North of the corner of Clarendon and Dorcas (malorcas) streets and is pretty un-inspriring in terms of its interior. That is, until the hungry eye rests upon the selection of cakes – which almost made me consider breaking my “cereal is breakfast, cake is not” rule. Almost, but I’m occasionally practising self control these days.

The procedure at the Old Paper Shop Deli is to take a seat and then go up and order when you have considered the menu. How empowering/inconvenient! After taking mere seconds to scan the menu for muesli (I was on an endorphin high so everything was done quickly and with gusto) I went up and ordered:

The muesli, thank you”

I’ll be honest, I’m paraphrasing again because I had to order for my two breakfast companions which was easy due to endorphins and their memory-enhancing properties. In fact, the only thing that was not enhanced that morning was my appearance, which was decidedly dishevelled and a bit damp. Lucky there were no paparazzi about.

After not very long, this arrived (ignore the bacon, Baby Chino doesn’t like muesli for some reason):

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You know you are on the wrong side of town (that’s right, the South side) when your muesli comes with a mint garnish! Despite this, the dish was glorious. Firstly, it was cold which is the sort of refreshment I am after when I eat any sort of dairy product (except tasty cheese, which is best melted). Honey was drizzled on top giving it an initial sweetness that was not overbearing and happily diminished as I made my way through the meal. The real revelations here, however, were the fruit and nuts. Call me old-fashioned, but I love a good prune and this meal had at least three of them which added a soft, waxy texture that was truly lovely. Additionally there was a very high density of freshly-grated, cold granny smith apple throughout the muesli that added a welcome crunch and tartness. Finally, I was surprised to discover that hazelnuts were the nut of choice for this meal, something I have not tasted anywhere else which is a shame because it turns out that hazelnuts are great. To be honest, the only thing that was wrong with the Old Paper Shop Deli muesli was that it seemed served in gourmet (read: small) portions but that could have been a misperception induced by those nefarious endorphins.

Overall: Run to this muesli. I sort of did and it was amazing. I will be coming back here for the cakes also, but you will have to leave my eventual thoughts on those to your imagination as this is a muesli blog.

Good Muesli, Melbourne!

MM

The Old Paper Shop Deli on Urbanspoon