Monday, October 05, 2015

Aunt Billies Cafe

Aunt Billie's

How do you guys normally hear about new cafes? Before I started my blog (almost eleven years ago!) it would be from paper-media guides like Cheap Eats or Epicure. Then when food blogs became popular, I'd always hear about the latest and greatest cafes from blogs! (Especially Where's The Beef - those guys are awesome!) These days, it's definitely Instagram. It usually goes like this - see a delicious looking meal at a cafe on someone's Instagram, check the geotag, see if the other dishes from that cafe look nice, check out the cafe's website, then make a beeline for the cafe! That's how we heard about Aunt Billies Cafe - we saw it on the lovely Daisy's Instagram, and thought it would be a great place to bring my parents.

Aunt Billies Cafe
184 Surrey Road
Blackburn, VIC 3130
Ph: (03) 9894-7774

Aunt Billies is out in Blackburn (Eastern suburbs for lyf!), and is bright, cute and spacious. We also found the service to be really friendly and welcoming - hooray!

Aunt Billie's

Cake display

Coffees were very impressive.

Left: Cappuccino, Right: Magic

 2 x lattes

Soft shell crab burger with carrot and coriander salad, chipotle mayo on a brioche bun - $20.50

My dad normally orders beef burgers at cafes, but really wanted to try a soft-shell crab burger as he thought it sounded really unusual. It was a bit tricky to eat, but otherwise he really enjoyed it.

BBQ breakfast roll with crispy bacon, fried eggs, housemade BBQ sauce - $10.50

Sandra's bacon and egg roll was a classic but a goodie - crisp bacon, fried eggs and barbecue sauce in a toasted Turkish roll. Just the kind of thing I'd want to eat when I'm hungover. (Not that I'm ever hungover).

Pumpkin tart

My mum saw the pumpkin tart in the cabinet and had to order it - roast pumpkin, sunflower seeds and feta bound together by an eggy mixture and encased in puff pastry. Delicious!

Billies bowl with cauliflower, freekeh, kale, avocado, seeds, almonds, black pearl barley and currants - $15

I went for the Billies bowl - a healthy mix of grains, vegetables, nuts and currants, with an added poached egg. Overall I enjoyed this (Cauliflower! Avocado! Ding ding ding!), but found my bowl quite heavy on the currants. Even though I love dried fruit in savoury food, the balance was a little off here, and I ended up picking out the currants and leaving about half of them behind.

Aunt Billie's was a great find - my parents loved it and have made a few return visits since! Success. Nice food, good coffee, easy parking and friendly staff. What more could you want?

Saturday, October 03, 2015

The Unblogged Files: September 2015

September Unblogged Files time! September was all about settling back in after our Germany holiday, and catching up with friends and family.

First meal back from Germany was a fab cafe meal at The Counter (96 Auburn Road, Hawthorn VIC, 3122). The coffee was excellent and I loved the mixed salads!

Magic, ham and cheese croissant, mixed salad at The Counter

Speaking of good coffee, in addition to my regular Plantation coffees, I made a special trip to the deeply fabulous Patricia Coffee Brewers (Cnr Little Bourke & Little William St. Melbourne, VIC, 3000) when I was nearby for training.

Patricia Coffee Brewers

Seems like I put quite a bit of effort into breakfasts this month! Lots of açaí bowls...

Açaí bowls

... some avocado on toast...

Avocado on toast

... yogurty fruit and granola concoctions...

Top left: Açaí smoothie w granola
Bottom left: Yogurt, strawberries, banana, cacao-berry granola, matcha
Top right: Yogurt, kiwi, strawberries, choc-açaí granola
Middle right: Yogurt, matcha granola, strawberries
Bottom right: Yogurt, Knusper Schoko & Keks Muesli

... and chia puddings!

Top: Matcha Chia pudding
Bottom: Chocolate raspberry chia pudding

Here are a few weekday lunches! one of the benefits of that one-day train strike - no queues at Din Tai Fung! Steamed dumpling deliciousness.

Din Tai Fung

There was also ramen, the Turkish bakery, Pho Nom, some Malaysian food and Thr1ve!

Top left: Ramen, Little Ramen (5/346 Lt Bourke St, Melbourne VIC 3000)
Top right: Roast chicken and pork w noodles, Coconut House (449 Elizabeth St, Melbourne VIC 3000)
Bottom left: Boreks, The Borek Bakehouse (481 Elizabeth St, Melbourne VIC 3000)
Bottom centre: Roast pork bun, Pho Nom, Emporium
Bottom right: Thr1ve bowl, Thr1ve, Emporium

Here are some homecooked dinners! (Disclaimer: Most of these were cooked by Sandra while I was at the gym!) I think we did pretty well with a good mixture of healthy and tasty meals.

Clockwise from top left: German lentil soup with wieners; Roast beetroot salad with goats curd and walnuts; Grilled lamb chops with chickpeas and eggplant salad Scrambled eggs with spinach and potatoes

Clockwise from top left: Grilled salmon w roast sweet potato, spinach, chickpeas and avocado; Peppers stuffed with rice, cucumber salad, spicy chicken tenders; Penne with eggplant, chilli and feta; Chicken tacos! 

Clockwise from top left: Spicy steak, veggies & mushrooms; Lamb chops, yogurt and salad; Spicy roast chicken with roast carrots, potato and eggplant; Omelette with mushrooms and cheese; Honey-soy chicken with veggies & rice noodles

One weekend afternoon we were shopping at Prahran Market, and saw they were doing a pop-up street food market! I couldn't resist some Brazilian food for lunch from the Tapioca Brazil stall - beef stew, rice, beans, farofa and a salad. I was also very easily upsold to an açaí smoothie.

Beef stew, beans, rice, farofa and salad. Plus an açaí smoothie!

One sunny arvo, our friends Jenni and Jimbo had us over for brunch. Toasted croissants and brioche, asparagus and mushrooms, scrambled eggs and haloumi. Delicious! It was funny, when Jimbo was cooking, he was all like: "I know you guys are going to a barbecue afterwards, so I'll just fry half the haloumi", to which I responded: "No no, you just go ahead and cook all the haloumi". Hehe.

Jenni & Jimbo Brunch!

One night when we were on that side of town, we decided to pop into Mankoushe (323 Lygon St, Brunswick East, VIC 3057) for dinner. They've really changed since our last visit eight years ago - back then they were more of a casual, takeaway kinda place, and now they're a proper sit-down restaurant. I enjoyed my chawirma pizza - a crisp spelt base with slow-cooked spiced lamb, and tahini sauce. We weren't super hungry and just had a (small) pizza each, but I'd love to go back to try more from the menu!

Back: Maglouta - tomato sauce, minced lamb, in-house Turkish sausage, fresh onion & ashawen cheese - $14.50
Front: Chawirma - tomato sauce, marinated lamb shoulder, tahini, fresh onion & parsley - $16

In September, I hit 6000 followers on Instagram! Woo-hoo! (I'm sarahcooksblog, follow me!)


We did a pre-theatre dinner one night at Gazi (2 Exhibition Street Melbourne, VIC 3000). Hot tip - the duck souvlakis are seriously delicious! But the cucumber and feta salad, espresso martini and dessert special were also very impressive. I can't remember everything that was in the dessert, but I'm fairly certain there was a banana parfait with popping candy dipped in chocolate glaze (like a Magnum), with biscuit crumbs, a vanilla-bean ice-cream dome dipped in chocolate, and a date-and-chocolate caramel sauce. Ridic!

Clockwise from top left: Souvas! Cucumber salad; fried chicken wings; Dessert special; Cocktails

One night we caught up with some friends for ramen and sake at Mensousai Mugen (11 Blight Place, Melbourne VIC 3000). Woo! This was my first time trying tsukumen-style ramen (i.e. noodles and sauce are served separately), and I really liked it! After you've finished the noodles they come around with stock so you can thin out the remaining sauce and drink it from the bowl. Oishii~!

Goma Tsukemen – Sesame Soy sauce broth, House made thick noodles served with Slow Cooked Pork (Chashu), Bamboo Shoots and Seaweed - $13

We also took a little trip to Sydney for a weekend! This was a birthday gift from our friend An! We had dinner at Quay (and yes, we ate the famous snow egg!) I'll do a full blogpost on the weekend, but for now I wanted to show you the view from our table. Swoon!

View from our table

My lovely friend Jess had a birthday party afternoon tea at her house, catered by her awesome parents. There was more food than I could believe! But the highlight was definitely her mother's homemade cheese blintzes - gluten-free crepes (Jess and her mum are both coeliac) filled with a lemony cheesecakey filling. Just give me the whole tray!

Cheese Blintzes

Last week, we went to Dainty Sichuan Hotpot (2a Cambridge Street, Box Hill VIC 3128) with my parents for a hotpot feast! So much spicy tasty goodness!

Dainty Sichuan

And that was September, woo-hoo! Plans for October are to enjoy the (finally) warmer weather, a couple of events and a few catchups with friends!

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Eggplant and Feta Salad

Eggplant Salad

Hey hey! September Unblogged Files will be coming soon, but for today I wanted to share a quick recipe post with you! You may remember that when I made the spring green salad, I served it with some roast sweet potato (recipe to come), and an eggplant salad. Vegetarian deliciousness overload!

The eggplant salad comes by way of the fabulous Deb from Smitten Kitchen - she reposted the recipe on her Facebook page, I saw it and immediately went into eggplant-crazed meltdown and Had To Make It. Cubes of eggplant are roasted in olive oil until softened and golden brown, then tossed through with spring onions, sharp red wine vinegar and salty creamy feta. Boom boom, that's it. I couldn't believe how such a simple recipe could taste sooooo good!

Deb serves it on toast, but I like it on its own, served as a salad. Make a big batch on the weekend and eat it throughout the week, serve it when friends come over as part of a larger spread. (You can serve it cold so it's easy to make ahead of time). However you choose to eat it, just make it! And enjoy!

Eggplant Salad

Eggplant Salad
Recipe from Smitten Kitchen, with some minor adaptations from myself

2 large eggplants
4 tablespoons olive oil
2 teaspoons red wine vinegar
1 spring onion, finely sliced
75 grams feta, crumbled

Preheat the oven to 200C.
Chop the eggplants into 2-cm squares, and mix together with the olive oil. Season generously with salt and pepper.
Place the eggplant pieces on a baking tray and roast for 20-30 minutes, or until lightly golden brown and softened all the way through. Remove the tray from the oven and allow to cool slightly.
Meanwhile, mix the spring onion and the red wine vinegar in a small bowl and allow to steep.
Mix together the eggplant pieces, red wine vinegar, spring onion and crumbled feta. Taste for seasoning and serve.