Eating the city: Berlin, Germany

It’s not all beer, meat and potatoes… well, I mean, there is a lot of that, but there’s other stuff, too.

Potato dishes

Why get it:
Germans do potato particularly well – there’s a lot more to it than mashed potato with meat. Dishes like this one from Zur Rose make it a kind of replacement for pasta, without making it exactly like gnocchi.
We got ours from: Zur Rose, Weinbergsweg 26, Berlin 

Goulash and potato dumplings

Why get it:
When you’re travelling through Germany in winter, you want warm, hearty comfort food. That’s goulash with the aforementioned mashed potato. It may look like dog food, but the meat is fall-apart-in-your-mouth soft, the sauce is rich, the sauerkraut is the perfect food to cut through the richness of the goulash, and mashed potato is always a welcome addition.
We got ours from: Georgbräu, Spreeufer 4, Berlin

 

A cured meat and cheese breakfast spread

Why get it:
It’s not all rich, hearty food – places like Alpenstück are breaking the stereotype with some really basic but delicious options for the modern traveller. Everything is so fresh and simple, it’s the perfect change from the typically heavy meals you’ll eat later in the day.
We got ours from: Alpenstück Bäckerei, Schröderstraße 1, Berlin

 

Pork knuckle

Why get it:
For that heavy meal later in the day, you can’t beat a crispy-skinned pork knuckle. This is the quintessential German plate of meat: juicy, soft pork under a crispy, salty layer, sitting on yet more sauerkraut with a side of yet more mashed potato. Sounds like it’d be getting repetitive, right? Wrong.
We got ours from: Weihenstephaner, Neue Promenade 5, Berlin

 

Traditional German sweets

Why get it:
After all that meat and potato, you’ll be wanting some sugar to balance things out. And Germany does sweets just as well as they do meat and potato. Some delicious options to look for are strudel biscuits – basically a jam covered butter biscuit with ‘crumble’ on top, and nussecken, an absolutely delicious nut/apricot jam/chocolate concoction that you really have to try.
We got ours from: A tiny little café that I can’t remember the name of… sorry!

How to brew different types of tea

Last week I took an awesome class through Laneway Learning called The Art of Tea Brewing, hosted by the lovely Cheryl from  Flag & Spear. It got me thinking that a big reason more people probably don’t enjoy tea is because they haven’t had it made properly. There’s actually a bit more to it than pouring boiled water into a mug and throwing in a tea bag, and there’s a hell of a lot more to it than those stale black tea bags your nanna has in the back of the pantry.

I thought I’d do a quick run through of a few different types of tea this morning, and how to brew them, based not only on some of what I learned last week, but also from what I’ve learned making and drinking tea around the world, so that you get the best tasting cup possible.

 

*** I will preface this guide by saying that you should always check the instructions on your tea first, as they may specify the exact time and temperate for steeping – this guide is more a general rule of thumb for the most popular types of tea. I also generally use one heaped teaspoon of loose-leaf tea to make one cup, 2 heaped teaspoons to make a 500ml pot. ***

 

Black tea

Why drink it: For a great, caffeine-lighter alternative to coffee as a morning or afternoon pick-me-up, and for benefits that include digestive tract health and lower stress levels.
Water temperature:
Boiling water, 100°C. This is the exception to “it’s not all just boiling water” rule.
How long to steep: Depending on how strong you like it, around 3 – 6 minutes.
Favourites: Fortnum & Mason’s Royal BlendClement & Pekoe’s Assam Leaf Corramore, McIver’s Ceylon Broken Orange Pekoe, and English Tea Shop’s Organic English Breakfast tea bags when I can’t use a teapot.

 

White tea

Why drink it: To help with everything from oral health to anti-aging to diabetic symptom relief – it’s a versatile one.
Water temperature:
 Around 80°C.
How long to steep: 2 – 5minutes
Favourites: I’ve actually never gotten into white tea, so if you have any recommendations, I’d love to know!!

 

Green tea


Why drink it: Green tea is packed with antioxidants, will still give you a bit of a caffeine kick, and reputedly has benefits ranging from reducing the risk of cardiovascular disease to improving brain function.
Water temperature: Around 60 – 75°C. A very basic rule of thumb is to fill about a quarter of the cup or pot with cold water, the rest with boiling water.
How long to steep: Again, it can vary so check the specific tea’s instructions, but generally only a minute or two, otherwise it can get quite bitter. You’ll also find some green teas can be infused two or three times, but you’ll only need 10 – 30 seconds for the second infusion.
Favourites: Ippodo’s Genmaicha, Twining’s Lemon Drizzle, Zen Wonders’ Hanae Matcha, and Ippoddo’s Mantoku Gyokuro, for a bit of a special treat splurge.

 

Rooibos tea

Why drink it: Because rooibos is caffeine-free, it’s the perfect option to drink at night – it’s also packed full of antioxidants, and helps support strong bones with higher levels of manganese, calcium and fluoride. 
Water temperature:
 90 – 100°C.
How long to steep: 5 – 7 minutes.
Favourites: The Old Tea Shop’s Rooibos Caramel, and T2 Tea’s Red Green Vanilla

 

Oolong tea

Why drink it: Not quite as high in caffeine as black tea, this drop is reported to help increase metabolism (therefore aiding in weight loss), and decreases inflammation. 
Water temperature:
 80 – 100°C.
How long to steep: 3 – 5 minutes – this is another one that can deal with multiple infusions, which are often said to get better as they go.
Favourites: Wall & Keogh’s Milk Oolong and The Spice & Tea Exchange’s Coconut Oolong

 

Herbal tea

Why drink it: Herbal tea benefits are almost unending – it all depends on what kind of herbs you go with! Herbal teas can be used to help in everything from detoxing the body from harmful nasties, helping to de-stress you before bed, assisting in healthy pregnancies and energising you before a big day.
Water temperature:
 100°C.
How long to steep: 5 – 8 minutes. Herbal tea is also great to cold steep for iced tea – just add cold water instead of boiling water, and steep it in the fridge overnight.
Favourites: T2 Tea’s Mint Mix, Yarra Valley Chocolaterie’s Cocoa Tea Relax, and Alem Tea’s Pina Colada.

Eat here: S.Forno Panificio, Florence

S.Forno Panificio
Via Santa Monaca 3r, Florence
http://t.ilsantobevitore.com

My auntie is a wonderful artist; she often travels to Italy to paint, which means she has plenty of opportunities to find some real hidden gems. When I told her we’d be visiting Florence again, she told me I had to go to S.Forno. She was right.

The beautiful little bakery looked like it’d be more at home in Fitzroy or Collingwood than a wonky cobblestoned street in Florence, but the retro decor and feel isn’t just fabricated to be reminiscent of the past. This actually is an old bakery that’s been rescued by an enterprising  group of people…

The space has been a forno (bakery) for over 100 years. For the past 40 years, baker Angelo has walked into the store every morning to prepare freshly baked bread for the local Florentines. But something happened lately. After years of 7-day weeks and 18-hour days Angelo needed time beyond the bakery business and local restaurant team behind the successful Il Santo Bevitore came to the rescue. Partnering with Angelo, they have brought the business, but kept the baker, to ensure its place in the neighbourhood is secure for the future.
                                                                            – Lost in Florence

The daily offerings are written up on a chalkboard behind the counter, and baskets filled with loaves of bread. The front counter’s display case is filled with a mixed bunch of cake trays topped with an assortment of sweet treats, and the air smells like freshly baked bread. Heaven. We were told the food was delicious and it didn’t disappoint; we ate cauliflower quiche and a prosciutto-topped slice of foccacia for lunch, and they were divine. While we ate, we watched customer after customer come through the door and leave with arms full of fresh bread.

We weren’t ready to leave after lunch; the atmosohere and people watching was too good. Sitting in there felt like total immersion in Florentine life, and we couldn’t have been happier to be sitting in the middle of it. Also, the sweets looked too good to leave without sampling.

Just to be clear, this is not a coffee shop. There’s no fancy espresso machine or 2 page coffee menu. The focus is on the dough. But they are kind enough to offer some self-service, stock-standard American coffee and boiling water for tea, so we grabbed some of that and chose two typically Tuscan desserts – a baked rice cake, and a piece of castagnaccio, made from chestnut flour, rosemary, pine nuts and raisins.

Don’t be fooled by the nondescript façade; the service and atmosphere are both so warm and welcoming, and the food is some of the best in the city. It seems that they’ve arrived at the perfect balance between old tradition and new innovation, and that should earn them a visit when you’re next in Florence.

Eating the city: Paris, France

Paris has a great reputation for food, but the city is a labyrinth when it comes to actually finding the best spots. This is by no means an exhaustive list of what to eat there (so if you’ve been to Paris, please add your recommendations, too), but it should give you a pretty solid start to your time in Paris…

 

Pistachio choc chip escargot

Why get it:
Because honestly, it’s probably the best pastry in the city. There was a constant, unrelenting stream of people rolling like tidal waves through the place, and most of them were walking away with an escargot pastry if some variety. But Rachel Khoo said she gets the pistachio, so that’s what we got, and that was absolutely the right choice.
We got ours from: Du Pain et des Idées, 34 Rue Yves Toudic

 

Savoury crepes (galettes)
Why get it: Paris has a tight Nutella crepe game, but did you know their savoury ones are just as amazing? Usually made with buckwheat flour, they can be filled and/or topped with just about anything, but I’d recommend getting some cheese involved; the porous nature of the galette means that when it hits the hot pan, the melty cheese starts o seep through and caramelises on the grill. That’s why you should get it.
We got ours from: Le Comptoir du Commerce, 1 Rue des Petits Carreaux 

 

Deliciously fancy cakes

Why get it:
It’s not all croissants here – there are some ridiculously good cakes, too. You’ll see lots of little individual cakes, because they’re very rich, and more than a few bites could leave you with diabetes. But they’re the ultimate fancy, elegant treat to accompany your tea or coffee.
We got ours from: Le Valentin, 30 Passage Jouffroy

 

A proper, classic French meal


Why get it: French food has a reputation for a reason, but there are a lot of tourist traps in Paris which don’t really live up to the expectations of visitors. If you can get a proper classic French meal, though, you’ll understand why people go so crazy for a real tarte tatin and a beef bourguignon.
We got ours from: Le P’Tit Troquet, 28 Rue de l’Exposition, where a three course meal will cost you around €35.00

 

Steak frittes

Why get it: It’s one of those meals that should be so simple, yet it’s rarely done to perfection. If you’re willing to spend a little money and eat a little further away from the Eiffel Tower, you’ll find some really fantastic steak. Don’t be scared to order it medium-rare; when you’re dealing with high quality beef, anything more than a few minutes each side will take a lot of the flavour away. Oh, and chips.
We got ours from: Le Café du Commerce, 51 Rue du Commerce

 

Perfect, buttery croissants
Why get it:
Because it wouldn’t be a trip to Paris without a truckload of these. Honestly, I didn’t eat a bad one over there, not this time and not the visit before in 2013. It’s always a good idea to take a sight seeing pit stop for a pot of tea or cup of coffee with a croissant in Paris!
We got ours from: Maison Morange Côté Bio, 113 Rue Mouffetard – we ate a lot of croissants, but this was the unanimous favourite for best plain one!

 

Victorian mini-breaks: How to spend a day in Healesville

Founded in the mid 1800s, this sweet little town was born after a rail line was built through it to service the surrounding goldfields. The gold may have long since dried up, but Healesville now lives in some of the state’s best wine country.

Healesville is one of my favourite places to get away to. It’s a little over an hour out of Melbourne’s CBD, making it far enough away to enjoy some peace and quiet, but not so far that it’s a hassle to get to. And now that Victoria is opening up again, it’s the perfect time to go and explore for a night or two.

 

WHERE TO EAT & DRINK:
– Innocent Bystander Winery
Amazing wine, pizzas, cheeses, breads and pastries. It’s not cheap, but it is quality.
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– Mocha & Lime
Gorgeous little café that serves up a tasty brunch, it’s simple food done well. They also cater extremely well for special diets, including gluten free and vegan options. Bonus points for the floor to ceiling bookshelves at the back of the café where you can browse second hand books while you wait for your coffee.

– Healesville Harvest
A personal favourite of mine – incredible sandwiches using the very best ingredients, and a cake cabinet that’ll make your jaw drop. And yes, those lamingtons are as good as they look.

– Beechworth Bakery
Duh. This place is an institution in Victoria, as anyone who’s ever been on a road trip will know. Bottomless cups of tea, freshly baked bread, golden-crusted pastries, and a fireplace for winter visits. Perfect.

 

WHERE TO SHOP:
– Healesville Jewellers
My favourite jewellery shop in the world. They do they most beautiful pieces with precious stones, and they’re very reasonably priced. They also do a lot of one-off pieces, and can adjust ring sizes on site.


– Connection

A gift and homewares boutique where you can find some seriously unique trinkets. Brass globes, antique-style wooden desk sets, leather notebooks, llama jewellery dishes, and everything else in between.

– Verso Books
I’m a sucker for a good independent store. Verso stocks new releases in fiction, beautiful books in arts, gardening and cooking, and a brilliant collection of children’s books.

 

WHAT TO DO:

– Take a drive our to the Redwood Forest in East Warburton
Once you’re done walking and eating your way around Healesville, head out to the Redwoods. It’ll take you around 40 minutes to drive there, but it is more than worth the effort. Just make sure you bring an extra layer of clothes – it’s always quite a bit cooler in there tucked away under the trees.

– Visit the weekend market
Because everyone loves a good market! You can pick up some absolutely brilliant little treasures there, too, if you have time to dig around a little…

– Stop at the Yarra Vallery Chocolaterie on the way home
Because their chocolate is a thing of beauty. You can select a box from their Great Wall of Chocolate (I recommend the Tantalising Toasted Coconut Slice), watch the chocolate artists at work through the giant kitchen windows, grab a light lunch or dessert and enjoy the views from their gardens…