74. Explore the Dandenong Ranges using only public transport

27 06 2012

I can’t remember why they decided to wave like the Queen.

Ever since Uni finished, Lucy and I have been living like tourists. As such, we had been looking at getting out of the city for a day to explore some of the greater Victoria region. We’d hoped to head down the Mornington Peninsula, but it was looking as though we’d need to get the train to Frankston and then a lengthy bus journey to get anywhere near Mornington.

A much easier option, it seemed, was to go an explore the Dandenong Ranges.

Now, when we told people of our plans, we were met with questioning eyebrows – even the lady in Tourist Information thought we were a bit foolish to want to go there without a car, particularly at ‘this time of year’.

You know what? It was the easiest day trip ever. And it was beautiful.

Catching the 9.16am train from Flinders Street to Upper Ferntree Gully (Belgrave Line, Platform 3 in case you’re looking to recreate this trip) we headed out of the city eating Salted Caramel cupcakes that I’d picked up from Little Cupcakes en route.

Once at the station, a women stole 5 cents off Lara which we thought may be a bad omen for the day. This fear continued when we got a bit lost trying to find the correct bus stop and missing our intended bus.

Fortunately we then found the 688 bus stop directly opposite the exit of the station next to the Tourist Information building. Buses are at least two an hour on weekdays so it wasn’t too much of a wait before we got on the bus and headed to our first stop for the day: Sassafras.

Chocolate Tart, Apple and Pear Batter Cake and Lemon Cheesecake. YUM.

We still don’t know how to pronounce Sassafras, but we do know that they love Devonshire Teas. We stopped off for morning cake and had a wander around the small town – finding an amazing produce shop with vast quantities of tasters which we enjoyed before Lucy bought some expensive, but delicious, Goats Cheese.

You see how it could be a little bit creepy?

Next we caught the bus to Olinda. Olinda, as Lara declared, is a great place to bury a body. It’s quiet and creepy-looking forests are in an abundance. We did a circuit of the town (it seems quite a few shops there close on Tuesdays) then headed off to the National Rhododendron Gardens which were a short walk away. Entry to the gardens was free and on a clear winter’s day they were beautiful (even if rather lacking in rhododendrons). There was a lovely lake that provided ample photo opportunities and Lucy declared Olinda to be a very romantic place.

I’m not sure how one place can be both ‘romantic’ and ‘a great place to bury a body’, but seemingly Olinda justifies both those qualities.

Pretty lake, National Rhododendron Gardens.

Look at that blue sky – perfect Melburnian winter day!

After lunch (be warned that everything is much more expensive out there) we got back on the bus and headed up to SkyHigh Mount Dandenong. By this point we were very cold, so after pointing out the city on the horizon (unfortunately it was pretty misty) we went down to the bistro and got three hot chocolates to drink by the fireplace.

We wanted to check out the maze but it was closed and the English Garden had little to explore bar the Wishing Tree which offered some humorous photo opportunities.

We caught a bus back towards Upper Ferntree Gully direct from SkyHigh, but you could’ve equally got back on the 688 heading towards Croydon and continued to see what the other side of the mountain offered.

Lucy and Lara at SkyHigh Mount Dandenong.

So was it worth the effort? Most definitely. And using a concession Myki it cost less than $5 for the whole day’s transport. Perfect for an exchange student’s day out (with a local student joining us for the tourist fun too!)

Unfortunately I’m leaving Melbourne on Saturday, but if anyone has any other daytrip suggestions feel free to suggest away…

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39. Find somewhere that sells amazing breakfasts

25 06 2012
Green Refectory, Sydney Road, Brunswick

YUM.

It’d be fair to say I’ve eaten my fair share of amazing breakfasts in Melbourne. Back in my first week I had strawberry crepes in Degraves Street. Annamiek showed me the wonders of Arcadia on Gertrude Street on a day when my stomach was refusing to cooperate despite the incredible lemon ricotta hotcakes before me. And then there’s the homemade crumpets with marscapone and honey from Di Bella Roasting Warehouse in North Melbourne that have filled my tummy numerous times.

Melbourne is THE best city in the world for breakfast.

Actually, as it’s my last week here I’m going to be all sentimental and simply say Melbourne is the best city in the world. It’s my best city in the world.

And these past ten days since handing in my final uni assignments have made me realise how much I’m going to miss it.

I’ve been living like a complete tourist: Taking walks in the Botanical Gardens, going to the Immigration Museum (highly recommended) and tomorrow we’re navigating our way across the Dandenong Ranges by public transport. I’ve also been eating as though I’m on holiday. This has meant many trips to cafes. And in the past ten days, I’ve been to Green Refectory on Sydney Road, Brunswick twice. Once for lunch last week and then today I went there again. This time, for breakfast.

Wow.

I had the pancakes with caramel and banana ($7.95) and it was delicious. It was sweet – but not sickly – and the caramel and banana combo was always going to be a winner. I also had a large fresh fruit juice. I can’t remember how much a large was, but a small is $3.70. In a small you can pick up to three fruits to be juiced together, and up to five in a large. On both trips I’ve opted for apple, pineapple and mango nectar and have not been disappointed.

Sydney Road, Brunswick

Totally unposed picture.

Lucy decided to go for savoury and was narrowly defeated by her huge Breakfast Stack ($10) comprising of a poached egg, tomato, spinach, haloumi, bacon, hash brown (and possibly other bits I’ve forgotten). She also opted for a small orange juice and a flat white; both of which she seemed to enjoy.

So have I found somewhere that sells amazing breakfasts? Most definitely. But more impressively, I’ve found an entire city that does too.

Has anyone got any other Melbourne breakfastories (may have made that word up) they’d like to recommend?





18. Find some Australian chocolate that I actually like

19 06 2012

I’m a chocolate snob.

Ok, that’s actually a lie. I’ll gladly eat a bar of 25p 100g Tesco Value chocolate (Please tell me that still exists?!) What I struggle to consume though, is Australian-made chocolate.

Australia has Cadbury’s chocolate. England has Cadbury’s chocolate. You’d think this would mean they’d taste similar. You’d be very, very wrong. Australian Cadbury’s is not deserving of the Cadbury name. No matter how exciting the chocolate bar sounds (England really needs to get a Top Deck or Duo equivalent) it always disappoints me in the taste stakes.

I don’t know the full science behind it, but I believe it’s something to do with enzymes and melting points and the fact that Australia is supposedly ‘hot’ and England ‘cold’. I think I actually did a project on it in Year 7 or 8 science, but let’s just say that if I did actually learn anything in year 7 or 8 science then it was forgotten a long time ago.

Anyway, this list item has been sitting pretty unticked off for a while and I’ve had many people comment to me that I must go to Haigh’s. I’ve heard everything from “It’s the best chocolate ever” to “The guy who started it trained with the guy from Lindt”. I’m not sure whether either of these are facts, but if the latter is true then unfortunately I feel Mr Lindt may have been a bit better at the training.

Here’s the thing. I bought two squares of Haigh’s chocolate. One milk. One dark. Each cost me 75 cents and I was content with the world. I left the chocolate at room temperature for full effect and this morning I commenced the taste test. Placing a square on my tongue it immediately struck me that it just wouldn’t melt from the warmth of my tongue – room temperature Lindt will normally pass this test after a few seconds. After giving up waiting and biting the chocolate I was impressed with the flavour, but the texture just wasn’t as smooth as it’s European counterparts.

So have I found some Australian chocolate that I actually like? Yes, yes I have. However I still believe that buying Lindt here is a better (and surprisingly more cost-effective) option. Plus, there’s always Aldi chocolate. I’m also pretty excited about returning to England and not having to look at where the chocolate was produced in order for me to determine whether or not to purchase it.





31. Learn to like a new food

17 06 2012

Rose Diner Port MelbourneThe other day I sent out a tweet asking for suggestions of what to do in my last few weeks in Melbourne, the lovely folks over at Time Out Melbourne were quick to respond suggesting I do as a true Melburnian would – eat! To further enhance their loveliness they offered me a double pass to a Melbourne Food and Wine Festival Roast event today at Rose Diner, Port Melbourne.

The event was titled ‘Pork, Cider and Chardonnay’ and whilst my “My body hates alcohol” attitude didn’t entice me to the booze, my love of meat drew me to the former. Pork has always been my least favourite roast (I’d say it goes Beef, Duck, Chicken/Lamb, Pork) but when cooked and flavoured well I know it can become a real contender.

Starting the mammoth meal (Three appetisers, an entree, the main roast and dessert!) with Pork Scratchings I quickly threw one into my mouth before I had time to think about what a pork scratching actually was. I’ve never tried a pork scratching before but these were inoffensive and obviously of a high quality.

This photo doesn’t do it justice. I’m sure it was a lovely terrine!

Admission: I am a terrineophobe. Yes, that newly coined term can be defined as ‘One who has a phobia of terrine’. This is me. And unfortunately the homemade Pig’s Head Terrine here was not going to shake me out of my life-long phobia. I did, however, try it and flavourwise it was lovely but I simply cannot fathom the texture.

Now onto the good stuff…

The Pork, Apple and Cider sausages were delicious. I’m sometimes a bit iffy on sausages but these definitely had a high meat content and a lovely flavour.

The slow-cooked pork belly with a king prawn and cider vinegar onions was simply amazing. My favourite dish of the meal, everything complimented each other perfectly and it was faultless.

The main of the Roast pork was possibly the best roast pork I’ve ever eaten with some beautiful heirloom carrots finishing the dish.

After all the pork, I was very full by the time it came to dessert but the Apple and Pear ice cream with cinnamon crumble was a perfect, light way to end the meal.

As for the alcohol, the locally sourced Pear Cider was up there as one of the few alcoholic drinks I’ve ever managed more than five mouthfuls of and I’m sure the Apple Cider and two vintage chardonnays were also of the highest calibre however my brief sips didn’t do them justice. Fortunately Lara was on hand to polish them all off!

Read the badge, kids.

As the badge we were greeted with states, I definitely now love pork.

The event was a great way to showcase the amazing food and drink on offer in Victoria and the local producers’ hard work over a couple of tough years through diverse weather has certainly paid off.

I cannot thank everyone at Time Out Melbourne and Rose Diner and Bar enough for this. The staff were wonderful (and very understanding of our terrinephobia) and it was definitely one of the best ways to spend a Sunday lunchtime in Melbourne.





48. Eat some Tiny Teddies biscuits

9 06 2012

I pretty much at the whole box in one day.

Thanks to my friend Katrina kindly buying me these for my birthday I can assure you these were as good as I remembered. They’re basically the same as Cadbury Animals – only cuter.





52. Go to South Melbourne Market

14 05 2012

Tell me you’ve never seen a more stylish potato shop…

On Saturday morning the sun was shining (which came as quite a surprise) so Lara and I thought there was no better way to spend the morning than to pick a market and go there.

Knowing it was on my list, I took the opportunity to suggest South Melbourne market so we jumped on the 112 and headed south of the Yarra.

South Melbourne market isn’t as big as Queen Vic but it still houses the expected mix of toot and quality produce. There were some cute homeware stores but they were a bit out of my budget so I quickly found myself at home towards the Food Hall.

Having seen the Fritz Gelato buzz around the net I treated myself to a kids cone of Chocolate Indulgence ($3) whilst Lara had the Blood Orange sorbet which she certainly seemed to enjoy.

Did I tell you about that time my family banned me from eating chocolate ice cream?

I also bought myself a beautiful baton of chocolate brioche ($3.50) from a bakery with an incredible array of macarons towards the fresh pasta stool.

Despite the fact I’d already consumed an ice cream, several bread samples and a third of a loaf of chocolate brioche it felt only appropriate that we further explored the suburb with a stop in a local cafe for drinks.

Well, we’d intended just to stop for juice, but when I saw Fruit Toast with Honey Ricottta on the menu at Gas I changed my mind.

Sat in the window of Gas with the sun shining through and one annoying fly trying to eat my ricotta, I decided that I rather like South Melbourne. It’s a very cute suburb and definitely worth crossing the river for.