Home Made Special: Historical Porridge

In a shameless ploy to get Baby Chino’s History and Live some attention, I agreed to have him make me breakfast in bed. Aren’t I nice?

This morning we were travelling back in space and time to Ancient Greece, through the tried and true portal of porridge. According to the authors of The Classical Cookbook ancient greek women who knew about herbs could use this porridge, or kykeon, for dangerous purposes – like sending men to sleep, or worse!

It is likely a breach of copyright for me to post the actual recipe, so the things that went into this dish are: semolina (soaked, drained), ricotta cheese, honey and some egg. The combination of those ingredients in quantities approximating 1 : 3: 1/2 : 1/2 grams, and heated to almost boiling point, looked like this:

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I had an immediate insight into how the Athenians built the Parthenon, how Pythagoras birthed his theorem and how Sappho had the strength to articulate her passionate poetry: they were all essentially fuelled by cake. I could not contain my delight at having an excuse to eat such a thick, creamy batter for breakfast. There was a pleasing grittiness to this pale, slightly cheesy mass. A hint of honey transported me to the Elysian fields; as if I were lightly traipsing through them, sunlight reflecting dazzlingly off the golden fleece I’d be wearing, as well as off my perfect Grecian curls. That was all in the first mouthful. Subsequent mouthfuls became more and more laborious; indeed, Heracles would have been proud of me for eventually finishing such a task. It was exhausting, luckily I was already in bed so I could comfortably lapse into a food coma. Baby Chino thus truly succeeded in channelling those Ancient Greeks, or at least the women who knew about sleep herbs.

I would not recommend this as an every day food, at least not for anyone who wouldn’t use the subsequent energy to throw a discus or run a marathon.

Solid Porridge, Greece!

– MM

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Miss Muesli in the Sticks: Wimmera Round-Up

For the last month or so I have been living the country life in Horsham, Australia’s tidiest town in 2001. Things really are pretty tidy for me here; I’m living next to my place of work and when I’m not working everything I need is a mere brisk walk away – the gym, the cinema, fried pumpkin cakes at the local fish and chip shop. The sky is tidy too, it is so refreshing to look up at night and be greeted by the Milky Way, wave hello to Orion and chuckle at the Moon. Yep, that old Moon is quite the joker; he keeps me from going stir-crazy while I’m away from Baby Chino and the rest of my life. Ahem.

Anyway, to fully experience life out on the frontier, I have endeavoured to visit some cafes and bravely order the muesli. What follows is my account of the state of Wimmera cereal in 2015.

Café Jas – 37 Robert’s Place, Horsham

 Café Jas is convenient because it is right opposite Coles, a locale that I visit almost daily due to not being disciplined enough to plan to have enough food when I need it. It is deceptively large inside, with a clean, simple dining décor and almost no pretensions. I say almost none, because there is a stock of T2 products at one end that looks suspiciously upmarket, and gives the place not quite an air of sophistication. So what I’m saying is by Horsham standards Café Jas is a bit pretentious. It is accordingly expensive, and table service is not included in that bill, which I shouldn’t complain about but it sure makes ordering stressful. Only joking, ordering is never stressful when you know you want:

The muesli, please.

Here is what that was quite literally translated into:

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Simple fare. No, there were not any fruit hiding under those oats unless you count a few tiny sultana afterthoughts. There were more oats hiding under those oats, some bran for good measure and the obligatory raw nut for crunch. The beige-ness of this meal was startling, there is something to be said for a touch of brown cinnamon, a dash of pink strawberry or green kiwi fruit. The yoghurt was a thick, creamy vanilla which suited the plain muesli well. I would recommend this muesli if you are in the days following a bout of gastroenteritis, and are starting to get sick of buttered toast.

Cafe Jas on Urbanspoon

Natimuk Café – Natimuk

I must admit the visit to this dear little shop along the main street of Natimuk, a tiny town about 20 minutes out of Horsham, was a blur as my night-shift addled brain was screaming for sleep on an impossibly bright and cheery morning. I refrained from screaming in person and was thus able to join waking society and sit for a pleasant breakfast with my colleagues, who at that time were also creatures of the night. Natimuk Café is colourful and eclectic. The computer used to take orders is embedded in a large rock, there are postcards and drawing adorning the walls, as well as corrugated iron in parts. Shelves stacked with nick-nacks are seemingly everywhere and are illuminated by light streaming in from the large front windows. It is a homely institution and the staff are warm and friendly.

Although I had been eating dinner at 5am for the past few days, I thought I’d treat myself and still give the muesli a try:

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Like the muesli of Café Jas, this was quite a plain breakfast with little in the way of garnish or spice. However the Natimuk muesli wins over by virtue of a sliced banana and natural yoghurt mixed with honey on the side. I suppose the bar wasn’t set particularly high, but it also had small slivers of desiccated coconut and prisms of dried fruit so that excited me. There wasn’t much to this muesli, but it tasted fresh and contained some actual fruit so it was the best I had had so far. If you do find yourself in Natimuk, bypass the muesli and grab a big slice of one of their cakes and use it as energy to go on to climb Mt Arapilies (or as a reward for doing so).

Natimuk Cafe on Urbanspoon

Chic Pea – Pysnet Street, Horsham 

You can take the strong, independent woman out of Melbourne but you cannot take the expectation for quaint, homely chic out of the said empowered adult. Basically, Chic Pea is as close to home as it gets; light timber furnishings, water in glass vessels of various shapes and sizes, pastel walls and even a wall papered with simulated raw bricks. There are various locally made jams, chutneys and preserves for sale, and the staff wear a uniform of jeans, casual shoes and country-cool. Like Melbourne, men with beards are frequently spotted lining up for coffee; unlike Melbourne this hair alights the ruddy faces of farmers, whose hands are large and calloused, and whose utes are muddy and filled with tools and whatever else people use to run farms – border collies?

I unashamedly love Chic Pea, and have been known to visit twice in one day, and five times one particular week. The problem is that muesli is not a fixture here! They did, for some reason, make it especially for Mother’s Day which I scoped out when I dropped in, motherless, to grab a coffee. Luckily, Lady Grey came to visit the day after and I eagerly asked after the muesli I saw on display the day before. The staff said they had some left over and, no doubt seeing the look of desperation and longing in my eyes, humoured me:

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Serving it in a jar – why, oh why? This level of impracticality, however only endeared Chic Pea to me further as really going for it in terms of trying to create a hip café vibe, in a place where no such vibe previously existed. This breakfast was packed with juice-soaked oats, bran and puffed rice which created a solid cereal vehicle for cranberries, plump sultanas and pepitas. Finally, fruit, glorious fruit! The strawberries and kiwi fruit quickly disappeared to reveal pear nestled cosily amongst the oats. Alongside this was something that Lady Grey told me was candied citrus peel. Maybe it’s a rural thing, but the peel was just too peely so after a few chews I daintily spit it aside. Apart from the inedible faux-pas, the Chic Pea Mother’s Day muesli leftovers were the best I have had in my two months away from home.

Cafe Chick Pea on Urbanspoon

Comfort Inn – Firebrace Street, Horsham

I have spent an inordinate amount of time at the Comfort Inn during my stay in Horsham. I visited there two consecutive weekends, the first with Lady Grey who I suspect booked a room with two beds to enable me to stay with her so she could hear my night-time “snuffling”. That would be cute, however she also remarked I managed to form the shape of a double-decker bus under the covers. Not a single-decker, but a double one. Thanks for the self-esteem boost, mum. The very next weekend Ms Sourdough happened by and decided to also stay at this motel. No second bed this time, so it was an evening of football, knitting and then a sleepy drive back to my own temporary accommodation with the promise of a continental breakfast to entice me to return the next day.

The Comfort Inn dining room was functional, and had an unnervingly large, well-placed mirror wall that initially succeeded in tricking me into thinking I was in a much larger space. The real space contained an array of pastries, fruits and cereal which included the:

 Home Made Bircher Muesli

Excited to see that the Comfort Inn bother to soak their oats, I bypassed the croissants and eagerly scooped some of the wet breakfast-goop into my bowl, then topped it with pear and the fruit salad that sat nearby.

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So moist! It was refreshing find a wet cereal after weeks of the dry stuff. My compliments go to the Comfort Inn for taking the concept of a continental breakfast seriously and giving their oats the Swiss treatment. Juice-soaked and mixed with yoghurt, my teeth tingled with the excitement of having to do little work to transform this mush into something swallowable. Instead I got to enjoy the soft, grainy texture with the rest of my mouth. A pleasant surprise! This did not, however, prevent me from ordering pancakes and then eating a jam crumpet. It was a buffet breakfast, after all.

Final word: There are many reasons to make a tree-change and live in the country, none of which should rationally include the expectation for better breakfast food. Come to Horsham and the surrounds for the long walks in the bush, the climbs up various large rock formations and the unadulterated (unless you count the atmosphere) view of the stars. If you want a warm cafe experience, my recommendations would be Chic Pea or the Natimuk Cafe – both have tasty coffee and cake; if only Chic Pea did regular muesli!

Room for oaty improvement, Wimmera!

-MM

Home Made Special: OMG Granola – Oh My Ginger!

This latest homemade special is fulfilling a reader’s request to review the muesli that her very brave mother has made in a life-change involving the decision to dedicate her days to creating food through her Yarra Valley-based company OMG Cereals. I have the utmost respect for people making hard decisions to follow their dreams – especially if those dreams are oat related.

I was sent a packet of normal granola, gluten free granola and in a very touching gesture, a high-energy biscuit. If you are reading this, OMG-mumma, I cycled with vigour after eating that cookie!

OMG Granola:

Granola is such an easy breakfast as it does not require soaking overnight to unlock the awesome texture of oats, rather it promises a crunch-fest with simply the addition of milk and yoghurt. Here is the granola pre-yoghurt and for some reason pre-milk. I suppose I wanted to capture the essence of dry breakfast, and I feel like I succeeded:

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The first thing that struck me about this granola was the aroma – upon opening the packet I was met with a spiciness that suggested that I was in for an exotic experience. There was an impressive density of almonds and dried fruit that, in the presence of the spices, created an almost savoury flavour. I’ll admit I was in intellectual and gustatory shock given that granola tends to have very sweet connotations. What an original take on muesli! After the first bite, there was a lingering taste that I couldn’t quite place and that was reminding me of travelling on the Spirit of Tasmania as a rowdy teenager. This was a feeling the required further analysis as I tend not to have seafaring flashbacks during breakfast. With the next mouthful I realised that this granola contains ginger – which I did use as a remedy for nausea back in the day. This is quite a polarising ingredient and I might recommend to the creator of this muesli to ease back on the ginger as it is not to everyone’s taste in such quantities. Nevertheless, it did add to this being a truly unique, refreshingly savoury take on granola.

Final Word: OMG Cereals have tried hard to create a spicy granola that departs from the traditional honey-soaked variants that permeate the market. Due to the ginger content I would certainly recommend this to people at sea, and women suffering from morning sickness. Also give it a try if you are feeling like a savoury breakfast adventure.

Good Muesli, Melbourne!

-MM

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

Home Made Special: Lord Marmalade’s (thankfully) Marmalade-Free Muesli

One of the best things about being a muesli-blogger is that family and friends alike suddenly come out of the woodwork as being  muesli-makers. It warms my heart to receive portions of their creations, and so I have acquired a small collection of different muesli packaged in ways that causes me to fondly reflect on some of the donor’s idiosyncrasies: tiny jars (meticulous hoarder), old yoghurt containers (pragmatist) and tupperware (trusting, perhaps too much so as they might not ever see this container again). I feel quite privileged!

This morning’s home-made special comes from Lord Marmalade who, despite being my inspiration for ordering “The Works” at Shepparton Pizza Hut the other week, has become a real health food and exercise guru these days. I was very excited to try his muesli which contains things like:

Oats, bran, almond, pepitas, sultanas and pistachios

I soaked it overnight in milk and here is what I was greeted with in the morning:

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This was a very raw, earthy muesli which was elevated to gourmet status by a smoky savouriness imparted by the pistachios. The addition of salt is surprisingly pleasing in breakfast dishes, and while I won’t be adding salt to my weetbix any time soon (or will I? Maybe that is what will make weetbix take off as a cafe food!), salt in porridge and muesli (in the form of pistachio) is genius. Despite being soaked overnight, Lord Marmalade’s muesli was resilient to mushiness and instead was densely crunchy, adding a jaw workout to the health benefits of his dish. The only thing I might include in this breakfast next time would be a sprinkle of cinnamon (though would this blend with pistachio?) which would complement the almonds and any added banana.

Final word: If I was giving out stars, this would get 5 gold ones. As I am a star-witholder (anyone who has played Super Mario 64 knows you don’t just hand them out once you find them), I’ll say for those at home: pistachios in your muesli are worth the investment.

Good Muesli, Melbourne!

-MM

Two Short Men: Reaching New Muesli Heights

On this chilly Winter morning I decided to begin my exploration of the breakfast offerings of High Street, Northcote. It lies obscenely close to my temporary ‘hood, an airy family home of which I am the sole human occupant and where I am completely enslaved by the whims of a very persistent cat. Despite living alone for the past fortnight or so, I have not graduated to dining solo and so jumped at the chance to escape my hermitage and meet Captain Cappuccino, who has triumphantly returned from his linguistic secondment to China as a true Scholar of Asian tongues.

High Street is the place to eat, drink and buy over-priced (probably, maybe not for real adults with jobs) but socially conscious wares in Northcote, and it knows it. Shop after trendy shop seem to pop up, ready to siphon off some of the quietly enthusiastic local patronage, and add to the much-more-family-friendly-than-Brunswick-Street vibe of the area. I will always be fond of this street, with its memories of trivia, first date nervousness, and beef with sizzling Mongolian sauce. I am yet, however, to make many breakfast memories and that is where Two Short Men, just off High Street on Mitchell Street (it still counts), comes in. Unfortunately I was too wrapped up in the tales of adventure and debauchery that the Captain was regaling me with as he sipped his chocolatey namesake to take notice of the interior, but I do remember it being deceptively spacious with plenty of natural light. I managed to order:

Home Made Bircher Muesli: with labne and seasonal compote

Here is what I was presented with:

 

Happily, unlike my recent meal-companion, Capt. Cappuccino did not sit on my lap and try to eat my breakfast and so this outing could already be considered a success. The muesli was, in a word,  juicy. It was as if I was eating creamy, crunchy juice – which it turns out is delicious! There were plenty of little poppy seeds and pepitas to get suck in my teeth, but it’s a small price to pay for texture and whatever health benefits these things contain. The labne was cool, dense, and smooth in lovely contrast to the mushy oats. My only criticism would be that there could have been more of a stewed fruit presence, with the bit of pear – while very welcome – left me wanting more. Overall, Two Short Men has delivered a generously portioned muesli that I was very happy to start my day with.

Final Word: If  you have so far measured the merit of an establishment by the height of the owners, now is the time to stop bizarrely discriminating and order the Bircher muesli from Two Short Men.

Good Muesli, Melbourne!

-MM

Two Short Men on Urbanspoon

Lolo and Wren: An Overwhelming Porridge

I am always glad to discover new pockets of Brunswick – the suburb is like the Mandelbrot sequence, it expands and repeats infinitely on closer inspection. The west end of Albion Street forms the particular permutation of Brunswick that I visited recently with Baby Chino. We were meeting Ms Sourdough and the ever-unpredictable Doctor Dessert to see them off before they embarked on a European road trip – with the most important topic of conversation being my upcoming responsibility over a very determined (possibly more perseverative, as in what can occur following a frontal lobe brain injury), food-obsessed cat.

I was surprised to find that Lolo and Wren sits within a sort of super-apartment-shop-cafe complex that suddenly appears out of the surrounding housing and is itself adjacent to large mounds of dirt. What is going on there? Who knows, but I’m sure this little self-sufficient community has it covered. The cafe itself is very tidy, with the stand out feature being a wall with a teal circular pattern surrounding their quaint bird mascot. I have a newfound appreciation for teal, it is a nice choice to lighten a room and complement whites, greys and brown – colours that Lolo and Wren really goes in for.

Porridge was on my mind that morning and happily Lolo and Wren had it on theirs, too:

Banoffe Porridge: which involves things like banana, crumble and dulce de leche

To do justice to this menu item I should have transcribed what was actually in it, perhaps I dropped the ball, or perhaps I am creating an air of mystery around what “Banoffee” means. I had no idea, and this did not make it any clearer:

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What manner of porridge is this? The Greedy-Gert in me rubbed her chubby fingers with glee, while my somewhat artery-conscious brain quivered in horror. This is probably the best example of breakfast dessert I could ever hope to come across. I should have twigged from the name – I was misreading it as “Banhoffe” thinking it was going to be some German twist on porridge (not that I thought Banhoffe meant anything, maybe it was a place?) – “Banoffee”, the internet tells me, is a neologism formed from banana and toffee. Oh boy. The Lolo and Wren porridge was deliciously creamy, with the oats and banana warmly congealed into a delightful chewy mush. The top was a coconutty crumble that was just perfect for reminding me of many a happy dessert-time. Dulche de leche is condensed, sweetened milk and was dolloped on top alongside a date paste. As if this needed more sweetening! Thinking back, it’s rather obscene how much of a comfort food the Banoffee porridge would be – if only I was moping about something at the time! Probably because I was relatively happy I was unable to finish the dish, though not for want of trying. It was overwhelming. I’m feeling full just thinking about it.

Final Word: Burrow your way into the warren that is Brunswick and seek out Lolo and Wren. If you are cold, sad, in need of comfort or just really, really hungry order the Banoffee porridge. Be warned: It will overpower you with comfort if you let it.

Good Porridge, Melbourne!

-MM

Lolo and Wren on Urbanspoon

De Clieu: No Clieu What the Name Means, But the Porridge was Good!

I happened upon De Clieu in response to one of the worst situations that can happen to a person – the cafe that I initially rode to at 8am on a Saturday morning was closed. The sinking feeling that occurs after getting up early on a weekend and expecting, no needing, to be warmly greeted and offered coffee, but instead being confronted with a CLOSED sign and having to find somewhere else must be experienced to be imagined. I shudder with the memory. I was not alone in my plight, happily I was accompanied by Chic Pea, who later dropped the bombshell that she doesn’t even like going out for breakfast. It was a torrid morning.

De Clieu sits on the corner of the trendy Gertrude street, and George Street which I have no comment about except that it reminds me of my second-favourite Beatle. De Clieu has a stark, minimal exterior that belies a warmly lit interior that celebrates foliage. Not always overtly as the artfully arranged flora that adorns the furniture seemed comprised of dry sticks and branches, which is a decor I can certainly support given last year’s Christmas tree was a Eucalyptus branch that Baby Chino and I carefully chose from the Royal Park ground. Anyway, the depictions of old-timey botanical artwork coupled with the clean lines of the timber furnishings  gives De Clieu the air of being in a more quaint, natural environment than in the reality of its bustling inner suburban location.

After listening to Chic Pea painfully grapple with uncertainty I haughtily stated the obvious fact that I would be having muesli, most likely in order to highlight how much stress there is in thinking that breakfast is a time for anything other than cereal (or the odd pancake). Alas, upon glancing at the menu to determine whether I would be asking for “the bircher” or “the fancy name that essentially means “glorified cereal””, I was dismayed to find there was no such thing. The list was not completely bereft of oats, however, as I was thus led to trying my first porridge of the season:

Porridge with labne, star anise and poached fruit

I hoped that when this dish came out that I would find out that start anise is not the same as aniseed and that this was not some sort of horrible liquorice porridge. Here’s what I saw:

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On viewing this I was no closer to figuring out my spice question (always an imperative, as he who controls the spice does control the universe…Dune, anyone?). I was not put off, and was please to find a subtle cinnamon-like flavour that was smoothly communicated by the creamy labne and offset by the tart pear and plum. This is a lovely, warm, homely porridge that was only let down by the paucity of labne; to me it seemed like a second garnish for the fruit, like the capstone of the Great Pyramid of Giza, where it should have been more like the cornerstone of the dish. Yes, I went through an Ancient Egypt phase – who didn’t? Anyway, I really enjoyed de Clieu porridge and would surely eat it again. It would have been a different story, however, if the star anise was something that made things taste like liquorice.

On a side note, Chic Pea insisted that I temper this positive review with her thoughts on how De Clieu serves tea. To be fair, this place touts itself as a coffee-house and I think Chic Pea was asking for trouble ordering tea, however it was a bit heinous that it did not come with a teapot. The glass vessel was pretty cool though.

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Final Word: On a grey Winter morning, venture to De Clieu and surround yourself in its warm, green illusion of foliage. Give the porridge a try as long as you aren’t craving lots of yoghurt-stuff. Also, do yourself a favour and order coffee – it’s what the place does best.

Good Porridge, Melbourne!

-MM

De Clieu 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

Mixed Business: Muesli Good Enough to Buy Shares In

My return to the Melbourne breakfast scene took me to a part of Clifton Hill that was both familiar and strange to me, depending on which side of Queens Parade we look at. The familiar aspect of this northern arterial road lies to the East in the form of the bizarrely architectural Clifton Hill McDonalds (I do love art deco, and a sneaky caramel sundae). The Clifton Hill Mac drive-thru and car park has served as the setting for at least two firsts for me – my first desperate car-knock for jumper leads to start a flat battery caused by eating sundaes with the headlights and radio on; and my first encounter with a brothel (to eat, we always park out the front of Scarlet Lady or “Scarly”, the other den of iniquity apart from the McDonalds). I had so far overlooked the West side of Queens Parade as it tends to go by in a blur of frantic U-turning across this busy road in order to make it back home. Having the opportunity to actually walk on this side of the road revealed a pleasant strip characterised by many bikes, a quaint little florist and Mixed Business, the cafe where I was meeting the world-beating Madame Macchiato for a final breakfast before she jets off to study disease in a foreign land.

Mixed Business has a clean, raw retro feel. The decor appealed to the obsessive in me with a pervasive neatness in the arrangement of the crockery, baskets and cafe knick-knacks on the simple timber shelving adorning the wall behind the counter. Even the plants had a simple neatness of growth and arrangement that made my brain very pleased to look at (and some people call me highly strung – I don’t see it). Finally, and I don’t often mention this, but the staff were as warm and friendly as a sunflower tablecloth (which was not present here, probably for the best – too much of a good thing etc etc).

Excited by the prospect of breakfast in friendly surrounds I ordered:

House muesli with strawberries in rose water syrup, honey yoghurt and pistachios

My hopes high, and with the promise of a quality dish by Mme Macchiato from past experience, I eagerly received this menu-reality:

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The almost UFO-sighting quality of this image belies the excellence of what my eyes actually registered (though this is less blurry than what my unaided vision would have picked up so let’s just say I was trying to convey “frustration of myopia” with this one). You don’t need 20/20 vision, however, to appreciate the deliciousness of this muesli. Mixed Business have got it right, from the creamy yoghurt used as a medium to convey a subtle hint of rosewater and honey sweetness into the power combination of pistachios, coconut and oats. The strawberries add a refreshing coolness and berry-ness to the mix that complimented the heavier smokiness of the nuts. And as you can see, Mixed Business did not skimp on the nuts which to me conveys a customer-care at a level beyond friendly service. The staff can be as accommodating as can be, but if at the end of the day my mouth has been largely devoid of nuts, I will be going home disappointed (a mentality that surely must be shared by patrons of one of the above-mentioned establishments).  To top it off, having the liberty of tailoring the viscosity of the muesli with a separate milk jug is a thoughtful addition to this breakfast experience.

Final Word: Queens Parade has much more to offer than the late night Maccas run. Wake up, walk to the other side of the road and have the good people at Mixed Business fix you this muesli. Caution: they do not have a drive-thru, so you will have to wear pants.

Good Muesli, Melbourne!

-MM
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