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 (because it’s impossible to not be inspired by such a gorgeous country), 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 we found actually looked like it’d be more at home in Fitzroy or Collingwood than a tiny side street in Florence, but the retro decor and feel isn’t just fabricated to be reminiscent of the past. This is actually an old bakery that’s been rescued from certain doom 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 were written up on a chalkboard behind the counter, and assorted baskets were filled with loaves of bread. The front counter’s display case was filled with a mixed bunch of cake trays topped with an assortment of sweet treats, and the air smelt like freshly baked bread. Heaven. Husband and I 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 caffeine 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 nondesctipt façade; the service and atmosohere 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 traditon and new innovation, and that should earn them a visit when you’re next in Florence!

Bream Creek Farmers Market, Tasmania

Bream Creek Farmers Market
Held at the Break Creek Showgrounds, 138 Marion Bay Road, Tasmania
https://breamcreekfarmersmarket.com.au/

If you’re lucky enough to be around Hobart on the first Sunday of the month, you’ll be wanting to hire a car and take a drive, with the Bream Creek Farmers Market somewhere on the itinerary. We discovered it completely by accident when we visited last month, on our drive from Hobart to Port Arthur; I saw a sign for a farmers market, so we turned and followed the arrow and ended up at Bream Creek!

It’s a gorgeous little market, with some of Tasmania’s best produce coming out to play every month. Even more impressive is the fact that it’s run entirely by a volunteer committee with a passion for supporting the local community.

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After a year of successful market (they started back in December 2012), they gained enough popularity and notoriety to produce a cookbook, full of incredible recipes from the growers and locals, which I noticed being sold everywhere in Hobart and Port Arthur- they were even selling copies at the gift shop at the Port Arthur Historic Site!

They also have a wonderful concept of the “community stall,” best explained in their own words:

We are aware that some producers may not have enough stock to require an entire stall at each and every market, so we welcome you to make use of the BCFM Community Stall .  You might have a few bags of lemons or some freshly picked veggies – so bring them along!

All you have to do is bag or bunch your produce, clearly label with a price and pop into the Community Stall on the morning of the Market… Spend the morning shopping, socialising, listening to our great live music, relaxing on the beanbags and having a coffee and some lunch, then pop back into the Community Stall to collect your money and any leftover produce.  So easy!

 

It was pretty hard restraining ourselves, knowing that we only had limited luggage space coming home… Husband took some hot sauce home, and I got a nice big jar or apricot and walnut jam (actually the best jam ever) from Crooked Enterprises), and that most magnificent almond croissant you can see below (which was devoured with tea, coffee, and live music in the background)… soft and fluffy and perfect enough to rival any Melbourne hipster bakery. So happy we stumbled on this little market – it was picture perfect in the most stunning setting, with such a great atmosphere and seriously good food!

Eat here: Dominique Ansel Bakery, Tokyo

Dominique Ansel Bakery
5-7-14 Jingumae, Shibuya, Tokyo
http://dominiqueanseljapan.com/en

A while ago I wrote about my January 2015 visit to Dominique Ansel in New York City; last month saw me visit another of their stores, this time on the other side of the world in Tokyo, Japan. You can read a little more about my New York experience here, but the Reader’s Digest version is that I was met with sass and attitude, sans cronut. Unimpressed, to say the least.

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Like my New York visit, I arrived at the Tokyo store around the same time, 9am-ish in the morning, not long after opening time. Also like New York, I was met with a wall of the most beautiful and colourful looking cakes and cookies and macarons. But, in complete contrast, the lady who served me this time around couldn’t get me my cronut quickly enough, or present it to me with a proud enough smile on her face! What a gem!

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Given that it was breakfast time, I’d already walked Takeshita Street, and had a pretty massive day ahead involving a LOT more walking, I decided to grab a beautiful green matcha cookie, too. I started on that, and it was perfection – a wafer like base filled with something closer to a dense cake than a cookie, the matcha flavour was every bit as incredible as you’d expect here.

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Then, finally, my much anticipated cronut. Which I’d been waiting 10 months for.
Every.
Bit.
Worth.
The.
Wait.

Wow. So, it was a sweet potato number spiked with whiskey and creme fraiche, with nutmeg spiced maple sugar. Rich and creamy with perfectly golden pastry. This is the cronut dreams are made of. This makes walking in the rain worthwhile. This is everything. When you visit, check out their Instagram for flavour of the month!

All in all, way better experience than the New York store, the offerings had a really disting Japanese flavour to them, the cafe itself was beautiful and light and fun, and the non-stop, smiling flow of traffic through the door was testament to how popular they are over there! Great move, Mr Ansel! Now let’s look at making the move to Melbourne!

Victorian mini-breaks: How to spend a weekend in Beechworth part 1 (where to stay, eat & shop)

It’s a bit of a catch-22 when you finally realise that you’ve found what you want to do with your life, but it’s not something you can do so easily; I know I want to travel, but I can’t exactly drop what I’m doing and pack my bags and live on the road indefinitely. That costs money, and I need to work to earn enough of it to hit the road again! That said, just because I can’t give my passport a workout every month, doesn’t mean I can’t still explore and take adventures and appreciate what I’ve got in my own backyard; I am SO lucky to live in Melbourne, where , within a few hours, I can be at the beach, on snowy mountains, or in beautiful forests. Victoria is an incredible unique place, where we literally have it all – we just need to get in the car and actually look for it!

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So, over the next few months, I’m going to start to practice what I preach, and cultivate a little more adventure at home as well as abroad – why the hell not?! I’m going to start taking more mini-breaks, more weekends or even just days away, more road trips and local adventures, because “adventure” shouldn’t just be reserved for “vacations.” Living authentically, for me, means have adventures every day, and that’s something I can control.  And on that note, without further ado, let me take you to stop #1: Beechworth 🙂

 

Distance from Melbourne CBD:
It’ll only take around 3 hours to drive to Beechworth from the CBD – depending on which direction you’re coming from, just get yourself onto the Hume Freeway, and keep going until you hit Beechworth! It’s a really, really easy drive!

 

Stay here:
Beechworth on Bridge

38 Bridge Rd, Beechworth
http://www.beechworthonbridge.com.au/

I came across Beechworth on Bridge through a quick Trip Advisor search for accommodation in Beechworth. Being that the race was on, a lot of accommodation was booked early, and this was one that looked nice, but was still reasonably priced. We had two nights accommodation (Saturday and Sunday) for only $250, and it was a hundred times nicer that I could have possibly expected! Brenda runs a tight ship, and is one of the nicest ladies I’ve ever had the pleasure of meeting on my travels 🙂 She welcomed us with a big smile and open arms, and made us feel right at home from the moment we walked through the front door. She gave us menus for breakfast (complimentary and home cooked), invited us to help ourselves to the enormous DVD collection should we need a relaxing evening in instead of heading out, and was happy to help us with anything else we may have needed. She walked us over to our gorgeously appointed room, and it honestly felt just like home (only, a little bit nicer!) – it was the perfect place to spend the weekend!

Features:
* In-ground, solar heated pool
* Rooms have new HD/LCD tvs
* New super quiet Fujitsu AC Split Systems
* Kitchenette with fridge, toaster, microwave, crockery and cutlery
* Tea, coffee, fresh milk and bikkies
* Expresso Coffee Machines
* Electric Blankets and cosy doonas
* Triple sheeted beds to ensure maximum cleanliness with NO recycled bedcovers
* Hair dryers, irons, ironing boards and fresh towels and high quality toiletries
* Beautiful gardens with BBQs on site

Inclusions:
* Complimentary breakfast which you can choose from the a-la-carte menu
* Free WiFi
* Complimentary DVD hire
* Free car parking
* Guest laundry is available at no additional cost

Oh, and Brenda makes some AMAZING pancakes!!! Highly recommend these!

 

Eat here:

Bridge Road Brewers
Old Coach House 50 Ford St, Beechworth, Victoria
http://bridgeroadbrewers.com.au/

Visit for: the beer (apparently) and the pizza. They cater really well for gluten free (gluten free pizza bases, which are actually really good, as well as GF beer and cider), and be sure to check out the specials board, which is where we found the pork knuckle – absolutely phenomenally good!! Really friendly service, gorgeous set up, just be sure to make a reservation because they get super busy!

 

Moments & Memories Tea Room
34 Camp St, Beechworth, Victoria
http://www.moments-memories-tearoom.com.au/

Visit for: The devonshire tea with an insane amount of teas to choose from to go with it. Yes, it’s pink and frilly and girly and just SO pink. Not at all my style, but don’t be fooled; the service is as sweet and sassy as you’ll find in town, and the scones are good enough to brave the bright pink interior for! With around 60 different teas to choose from (and yes, you can take them home with you if you like them enough!), it’s a little tough to select just the one to go with your scones (again, gluten free particularly well catered for with a gluten free Devonshire Tea option also on offer, which I also sampled, and can very much vouch for!), but I ended up going with the Devonshire Cream tea – top choice, and I bought a bag to take home with me! You can also find a gorgeous selection of award winning jams and preserves, tea cups and saucers, cook books and other little tea-related trinkets that are waiting to be taken home, too. Perfect way to spend a winter afternoon 🙂

 

Beechworth Bakery
27 Camp St, Beechworth, Victoria
http://www.beechworthbakery.com.au/

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Visit for: A sausage roll and a pie – I like the steak pie and husband like the chicken and leek, but let’s be honest – they’re all good!! The sweets are also amazing, with the beesting being (a sweet, “melt-in-your-mouth” dough bun filled with apricot jam and creamy custard, and topped with toffeed almonds – delicious!) their most popular export, and for good reason! I’m also a huge fan of the flourless orange almond cake, and the snickerdoodles (custard filled pastry tart, topped with fresh raspberries and blueberries) – and don’t forget a bottomless cup of tea to go with these treats! This bakery is the original and the best; we used to travel to Bright most years to spend the Easter holidays when we were kids, and I have the best memories of stopping in here for lunch at the bakery on the way to Bright! While they’ve now expanded to locations in Albury, Bendigo, Healesville, Ballarat & Echuca, this one is the original, and still the best 🙂 Don’t be put off by the long lines – they move pretty fast.

 

The Beechworth Sweet Co.
7 Camp St, Beechworth, Victoria
http://www.beechworthsweetco.com.au/

IMG_7114Visit for: the home made fudge and other home made chocolate and lollies. They’re all delicious – it’s kind of impossible to choose, but the salted caramel fudge is a good place to start! This is another place I have very fond childhood memories of, with many holidays spent eating my weight in musks and chocolate drops from this place 🙂 Their hand made fudge is pretty popular, and they have heaps of amazing flavours to choose from, as well as some pretty delicious peanut brittle. They’ve also got fantastic individual chocolates like the ones below – a little more pricey, but worth it for a special treat!

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Shop here:

Beechworth Honey
31 Ford St, Beechworth, Victoria
http://www.beechworthhoney.com.au/

No doubt you’ve seen this stuff sold in your local supermarket – where better to buy it from that straight from the source?! If you like your honey, this is a must-visit shop in Beechworth, where you can stock up on all things honey; from hand creams and soaps, to honey mead and multiple ranges of honey (everything from the classic original stuff to some fancier orange blossom or creamy honey, fig and ginger), it’s all there.

 

 

Quercus Community Bookshop
Cnr Ford & Church Sts, Beechworth, Victoria

A little heaven of used books, with some very friendly and knowledgeable service to boot 🙂 This is the place to go if you want to browse and/or talk books, with a massive range with new arrivals popping in all the time. If there’s something you’re after and can’t find, just ask – help is at hand and ready to go! With prices starting at only $1.00, you’re bound to walk away with at least a few books.

 

 

Beechworth Antiques
17 Loch St, Beechworth, Victoria
http://www.indigoshire.vic.gov.au/Services/Business_Directory/Beechworth_Antiques

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There are a few little antique shops in town, but this one was particularly beautiful – heads up though, they are genuine antiques and as such, the prices are more for serious shoppers and collectors. There are a few cheaper treasures in there, though, and definitely well worth a look around.

 

 

So, there’s part 1 of my guide to a weekend Beechworth visit, hope you’re enjoying your virtual break so far and have maybe seen something to motivate you to email Brenda and book a room for a weekend away of your own! I’ll be back later in the week with part 2 (what to see and do while you’re there), so I hope you’ll be back for that 🙂 In the mean time, back to reality and back to work for me this morning, already looking forward to the next adventure!

Eat here: Dominique Ansel Bakery, New York City

Dominique Ansel Bakery
189 Spring St, New York
http://www.dominiqueansel.com/

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Thought I’d stick with the tea and cake theme for another day, but move it to the other side of the world, because I just found out these guys have a store in Tokyo not far from the hotel I’ll be staying in come October, so I’m pretty excited! It’s one of those places every sweet tooth feels like they need to try when they visit New York – it’s the home of the cronut, and more recently, the milk and cookie shot. I figured rolling up just after opening on a Sunday morning would give me a good chance of getting my hands on one of each of these bad boys; I was wrong. When I asked at the counter if I could please have 2 of each (this wasn’t something I intended on sharing), the lady looked at me as if I’d asked her for a puppy in a raincoat, and replied very slowly to me as if speaking to a little alien, “We do not do cookie shots until 3pm. And of course the donuts are sold out.” Well then. Guess I should have known they’d be sold out 30 minutes after opening. Thankfully there was an impressive array of other treats in the window, so I picked out the Paris-New York, a gorgeous peanut/caramel/chocolate concoction.

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It was amazing, to be honest. Not cheap (USD$6.50 for a cake not much bigger than the size of my fist), but amazing. These guys have a great rep for a reason, and they were busy for a cold Sunday morning, bright and early. The food impressed me, and I’d absolutely return for another cup of tea and more cake, but the attitude I got didn’t; maybe I should have known better than to expect to be able to purchase a cronut, maybe you should make more of them if you know that’s what people are coming in for! But hey, I wasn’t there to make friends, I was there for cake, and that was worth going for!

 

Dominique Ansel Bakery on Urbanspoon

Eat here: Tartine Bakery, San Francisco

Tartine Bakery
600 Guerrero St, San Francisco
http://www.tartinebakery.com/

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There actually weren’t a heap of food places I had on my “to eat” list in San Francisco, but Tartine was number 1. As a sugar fiend, I’d heard all about it; it topped just about every “sweets to eat in America” list I’d seen online, it appeared in the guide books, on travel TV shows, and peppered my social media feeds.

We rolled up not too long after opening time on a very overcast and rainy weekend morning, hoping that we wouldn’t be in for much of a fight for seating – we half swam there it was raining so hard!! Anyway, much like Melbourne, the rain doesn’t put anyone off a good coffee and pastry at their favourite café; the place was packed to the rafters! I guess we got lucky – as we walked in, a small table for two vacated, and I dove on it! Once we were settled, I left husband to hold the fort while I joined the line. It was long, like out the door long, but it actually moved pretty quickly!

One of the things I noticed that really impressed me were the number of people placing large orders (I’m talking a few cakes, loaves of bread, cases of croissants) being told they’d be ready in an hour or so – “no worries, I’ve got a few other things to do, I’ll be back!” No frustration at the wait, apparently the food was good enough to warrant it!

As I edged closer to the counter, I was still a little undecided about what I wanted to try, but it seemed every second person at least was walking away with a croissant, so I took a frangipane almond cream croissant (USD$5.00), tea for me, coffee for husband.

I was pretty stoked to see that I had options of both soy AND almond milk rather than the coffee and lactose laden full cream stuff everywhere else offered, so the tea was great! Husband’s coffee came out in a “cup” the size of a small fish bowl, which had him buzzing all afternoon, but he said it was amazing – if it wasn’t, I don’t think he’d have finished it all! The croissant was worth the wait, the walk in the rain and the sardine-tin seating situation. It was perfect – golden and buttery, light and flaky, and the almond frangipane business was incredible… best croissant I’ve ever had, easily!

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If you’re in San Francisco, it’s worth the trip out to the Mission District – aim for earlier in the morning near opening time when you have the best chance of getting a seat and your pick of the fresh pastries. It’s a gorgeous café, I loved the wooden floorboards and furniture, and the staff were actually super friendly considering how under the pump they were. I’d also recommend taking something home with you – wish I’d thought of that when I’d ordered, the line was wayyyy too long (out the door and onto the sidewalk) by the time we’d finished!

 

Tartine Bakery on Urbanspoon

Eat here: Sullivan Street Bakery, New York City

Sullivan Street Bakery
533 W 47th St, New York
http://www.sullivanstreetbakery.com/

Happy Monday! Or, as happy as a Monday can be hehe  : ) Monday mornings always seem to be the most common time for me to think about the travels I’ve taken, and particularly, the tea and cake time outs I’ve taken in beautiful, new cities; those are the times I could reflect on the journey so far, plan the next steps, and just enjoy the moment. This morning, I thought about the Sullivan Street Bakery in New York…

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For a bakery that originally didn’t really deal in sweets, the Sullivan Street Bakery has an amazing reputation for some of the best donuts (bomboloni, actually) in the city. I’d heard this was the bakery to visit for some of the best pastry in New York, and the smell that hit me when I walked through the nondescript front door on a particularly cold New York winter morning in January certainly made me feel like visiting was a good decision!

Established back in 1994, the Sullivan Street Bakery is still going strong, supplying their baked goodness to over 250 New York restaurants. Magnificent arrays of breads and pizzas and pastries are the first things you see when you walk in, and I found that it became increasingly difficult to concentrate… I knew I wanted to bomboloni, but there were croissants. And squares of pizza. And other little slices of cake. Damn…

What I wasn’t expecting was just how big an influence the Italian aspect would be there; it was pretty obvious from the flavours, shapes and types of breads and other baked goods that the Italians had been a huge influence here. That made me even more excited.

We ended up getting one of each bomboloni, a vanilla cream and a chocolate, and they were every single little bit as good as everyone says. The lightest, airiest dough, incredible tasting creams, even the powdered sugar on top fit perfectly. It was absurdly hard to say no to another few to eat on the walk, but we resisted. Only to be met at the door by a lovely gentleman with a sample of the day’s special, a dough + Nutella + berry something-or-other… he said he couldn’t let us two young kids out onto the cold streets without something warm and chocolatey to eat, and who where we to not accept?! That, too, was spectacular.

Extra friendly service, completely delicious donuts, beautiful savouries as well as sweets.  Make sure you visit Sullivan Street Bakery for a quick tea and bomboloni pit stop when you’re visiting New York. It’s a necessity.

 

Sullivan Street Bakery on Urbanspoon