Roadtrips

A Roundup of My Latest Adventures

It’s been a while since I’ve provided an update on my other articles, including some non-foodie adventures. Life has been a little hectic with the film festival I work for coming up and work being fairly busy.

But this is definitely not a reason to stop writing, it merely just means I’ve written less articles than usual and I have a backlog of places I want to share with you. Check out some of the ones I’ve managed to squeeze in writing about below.

Santina’s Cakes
Here’s a little cake place we discovered in Thomastown. It’s a little hard to find dessert catch-up spots up in the far northern suburbs, especially ones that stay open late, so it was a nice find.

Santina's Cakes on Urbanspoon

Popular Desserts in Melbourne
The Masterchef craze has contributed to the growing popularity of dessert spots in Melbourne. There’s plenty of goodies to discover including the places below. More detailed blogs on the food and experience at these places will be coming in the future.

Om Nom Dessert Bar

Om Nom Dessert Bar on Urbanspoon

Burch and Purchese Sweet Studio

Burch & Purchese Sweet Studio on Urbanspoon

A Day at Lake Mountain Alpine Resort
A day in the snow on a budget – perfect for a day with kids with activities that are a bit more laid-back than your usual snowboarding or skiing.

Coburg Drive-In Food Truck Festival
There are two more Wednesdays to go for this festival, August 27th and September 24th. What’s better than some great dinner from some food trucks before a classic drive-in film?

Lake Wendouree
You may have seen my previous articles from Ballarat, well another spot to definitely check out is the beautiful regional town’s lake. It’s great for a stroll and there are several cafes alongside the lake with a nice view.

Kryal Castle
Last of all, have a little fun and immerse yourself in a medieval experience. See some shows and find yourself in a torture dungeon…it all makes for a fun day in the castle and another great outing suitable for kids.

That’s all from me for now! Don’t forget to look out for my posts later this month in relation to Mon’s Mission #1 and feel free to suggest what my next mission should be!

Insiders & Adventures!

Insiders of the month: June
If you haven’t noticed my Insiders on the right hand side this month, then you better check them out now! Recommendations include my sister’s friend’s new joint in Thornbury, Jerry Joy. She also used to own the Foodrinkery in Burwood.

Something else that seems to be all the rage is the new burger joint in Footscray – Eat8bit. I’ve heard mixed things about this place, that the burgers and buns are amazing but the waiting times are a bit ridiculous, so who knows when I’ll finally decide to make the trip over. Let me know if you’ve tried it in the comments!

Anyway, most of you know I write for a few other websites. If this blog becomes a bit quiet, I’m probably busy with other articles, so here’s a roundup of the articles I’ve churned out recently.

Fitzrovia
You may have read my previous post on this place down by my work and noticed I wasn’t a big fan. However, another trip to this place provided a different experience and some quality food. Read more here.

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Fitzrovia on Urbanspoon

Hoa Tran
A popular place in Springvale, this spot is always busy. They serve a wide range of Asian food but of course specialise in Vietnamese food. The food will come out extremely quickly, so read more here and drop by!

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Hoa Tran on Urbanspoon

A Day in in Ballarat
You may not have seen my recent post on food in Ballarat, but I also did a few other things in this lovely, peaceful town. For a list of things you can do in Ballarat, click here!

Yan Yean Reservoir Park
This place is not too far if you live in the northern suburbs. I was surprised that I had not heard of it before. It’s a lovely place for a picnic, a walk or to take your dogs. Take in the refreshing scenery at Melbourne’s first ever reservoir. Read more.

Altona Dog Beach
Speaking of dogs, if you have some canine friends, the perfect place for them is Altona Dog Beach. It’s enormous and so spacious for dogs to play in, the water is so clear and the views provide a calm atmosphere – until the dogs start wrestling! Read more on Livlicious here.

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Winter Fireworks
What else to do in winter, but enjoy the fireworks by Docklands during July and August. Even better, take a cruise by the Melbourne skylines and get the best view of the show! Read more here.

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Fort Nepean
Last but not least, a second trip to Point Nepean National Park left me just as amazed as the last. It proved there was still so much more for me to explore, so share the experience with me here.

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The Lane & The Forge Pizzeria

On a completely off note, doesn’t that sound like a dramatic blog post title? Like the name of a fantasy novel, only more like a parody of it…

Anyway, I recently visited Ballarat and explored all there is to do outside of Sovereign Hill. A part of that included wandering the historic town and it led me to the cafe, The Lane.

20140531_111235It’s part of the George Hotel and what drew me in was its spacious layout, its wall of green foliage and its mural at the back.
20140531_122904I sat right in this corner to admire the artwork whilst I waited for my iced coffee. It was quite expensive at $8.50 and I wondered whether it was a result of the tourism of the town or whether the hotel itself was costly.
20140531_103538 copyI like how it was presented in an old fashioned mug. It’s also nice that they give you a proper straw in addition to the striped one for presentation, as it tends to taste a bit like soggy paper.

There wasn’t anything special about it for $8.50 but I enjoyed the serene feeling that emanates from the lovely artwork. You can also get free wi-fi, which is always a plus!

The Lane is located at 27 Lydiard St North, Ballarat. They are open 7am until late on weekdays and 8am until late on weekends.

The Lane on Urbanspoon

Next up was a highly rated and recommended pizza place, The Forge Pizzeria. It appears they have two locations, thus I’ll clarify that I visited the branch on Armstrong St.
20140531_135820It wasn’t extremely busy but seemed steady enough. The seating area is vast and lengthy, so you don’t feel too close to anyone.

20140531_134041Once again the rustic and historic aspects of Ballarat shone through, this time with this music box-like tin for our utensils.
20140531_135829With a fireplace, wood-fired ovens and earthy brown brick walls, this place does not attempt to be something modern, but fits in nicely to Ballarat’s tapestry of vintage spots and its remnants of the mining era.
20140531_140106 20140531_140058 copyThe portraits below were probably the only additional elements to the decor, and they seemed to embrace the multiculturalism of Australia by placing various cultures in a Ballarat background. With the art gallery just a street away, Ballarat seems to be home to quite a bit of historic Australian art.

20140531_140127Service was adequate enough, although with large places sometimes it’s hard to catch the attention of a waitress. They helpfully explained to us the different sizes of pizza and roughly how many pieces they would have.
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Not a fan of pizza, my friend went for a fettuccini carbonara ($14, small) pasta. I’d probably advise against pasta for a place with only three pasta dishes on their menu. The pasta was too cheesy, although I know that’s the nature of the dish, it wasn’t the pleasant sort of flavour. It was difficult to stomach so we didn’t finish it.
20140531_140904The remainder of the menu is, of course, pizza, so we ordered a few to share. The above was the Butchers, with bacon, sausage, shaved ham, salami, mozzarella, tomato and rosemary ($19).

Overall, what I like about the pizza is the soft, doughy crust. No frills such as cheeseburger crusts but not a hard crunchy crust either – just right.

20140531_140955Besides that, the toppings sounded great on paper but nothing really stood out. For some pizzas, such as the pulled pork ($21, above), the cheese had a strong and unique taste that didn’t suit us. It’s possibly because we aren’t accustomed to strong European cheeses.

Upon investigation, the ingredients include sage, mozzarella, gorgonzola dolce, garlic, green apple coleslaw and Flying Brick cider dressing – I suspect we couldn’t appreciate the gorgonzola dolce, a type of blue cheese.

20140531_140940Another was the Blacksmith, with premium pork sausage, mozzarella, mushroom, garlic, parsley ($19, above). The sausage was tasty and the pizza didn’t seem to have any little quirks that we didn’t like.

Our friend also recommended the Shearer’s pizza, a lamb and goat’s cheese pizza ($22, below, top left corner), which the boys enjoyed as it tasted “like a kebab on a pizza”. This and the Blacksmith were probably the most agreeable pizzas for us.
20140531_141000They had a special that day, which was a chilli meatball pizza of Habanero chilli meatballs, San Marzano tomato, basil, buffalo mozzarella, Grana Padano & salsa verde (below). The meatballs gave a chilli aftertaste after a few seconds, but we were a bit put off by the fact that the greens (salsa verde?) were not spread out on the pizza, but placed in lazy looking clumps.
20140531_141155This place has a great variety of pizza, however I can’t say it’s amazing as everyone makes it out to be. The pizzas sounded different and interesting but the results tasted a bit odd. Maybe it’s true to Italian culture with its use of various cheeses, but I can’t really say. Let me know your thoughts in the comments if you’ve been here!

The Forge Pizzeria is located at 14 Armstrong St North, Ballarat and is open 12-10pm seven days a week. See their menu here.

For other activities in Ballarat, don’t forget to check out my Weekendnotes article!

The Forge Pizzeria on Urbanspoon

Elsewhere…

Many of you may or may not know that I also write for Weekendnotes, a website featuring articles about events and activities happening in Melbourne.

I’ve also just started writing for a new website called Livlicious. It has a similar concept to Weekendnotes but also has opportunities for businesses to contribute with special offers etc. Check it out and if you have any suggestions, leave it on the Feedback tab, as it’s only just starting out!

Here’s a selected few of my articles but please visit the respective websites to see the rest so you don’t miss out!

 

 

 

Goyogo Frozen Yoghurt

Froyo is all the craze now, so of course the popular and lively nightlife of Lygon St could not miss out! Goyogo is a new frozen yoghurt place on the popular strip and they’re attracting people with their bright, modern decor, and their flavours and toppings that cater to everyone. Read more here.

GOYOGO on Urbanspoon

Top Things to do in Autumn in Melbourne

It’s a common mistake to believe there’s not much to do in Melbourne once summer is over. However there’s plenty of places to explore that radiate a special and unique beauty in autumn. Read more here.

 

 

 

Blue Lotus Water Gardens

The beautiful lotuses and water lilies at Blue Water Lotus Gardens make for spectacular views in this area of Yarra Valley. It’s great for a walk – take in the luscious scenery as you walk on cute bridges in the midst of it all or sit down for a bite in a gazebo. Hurry, the season closes on 6th April. Read more here.

Picknics Cafe

Located along Nepean Highway, the strip right across the beach, this Rye cafe serves some classic breakfast meals with careful presentation. In addition to that you can walk right across to the beach after your meal. Read more here.

Picknics Cafe on Urbanspoon

As Summer Goes By…

As you’ll remember that alongside eating, I also enjoy going on adventures! Here are my recent adventures in summer, as documented on Weekendnotes. In addition to that I also recommend an event for March – when summer will officially be gone. But it’s ok, there’s still plenty to do in Melbourne as always!

Squeaky Beach: article
A three hour drive to Wilson’s Promontory was well worth the beautiful views that this national park provides. We spent most of our time at Squeaky Beach where the sand truly squeaks with every step and the water was breathtakingly clear.

Yarra Valley Day Trip: Cherryhill Orchards & Healesville Sanctuary: article
Yarra Valley never ceases to amaze with its hilly and green scenery. During this adventure I got to pick cherries for the first time at the same time as admiring these famous views. In addition to this we squeezed in a trip to Healeseville Sanctuary, where I got to feed birds and come right up close to native Australian animals.

Moonraker Dolphin & Seal Swims in Sorrento: article
An early morning was well worth my first time snorkelling. Did I mention I can’t swim? So you can imagine how nervous I was, but I’m so glad I got to step out of my comfort zone and come up close to animals such as the Australian Fur Seals. Unfortunately we didn’t get to see dolphins, but the seals were amazing.

Twelve Apostles along the Great Ocean Road: article
I’ve been along the Great Ocean Road before but not as far as Victoria’s iconic Twelve Apostles. There’s a long viewing platform to walk on and take all sorts of photos, as you marvel at the impressive coastal formations. You also get to admire the views along the Great Ocean Road drive itself. A must-do for Victorians!

Round She Goes Market, Coburg: article
This isn’t your typical Sunday trash and treasure market. It’s indoors and it’s all about quality vintage products – nothing shabby here. There will be lots of preloved designer items as well as other items that are in fantastic condition. This market has a $2 entry but it’s well worth the goodies that will be available!

Merry Weekendnotes!

It’s that season where you finally get to have a break and enjoy your time off. In the spirit of spending your time doing fun things and not working, here’s a Weekendnotes update if you haven’t had a chance to see my latest articles.

Host a Charity Dinner for the Philippines: article
To do our part and assist the Philippines in their time of crisis, we held a small charity dinner that managed to raise $1500 in donations. In the midst of trouble, we shared Filipino culture with those who are not as familiar with it and managed to aid those in need, providing a fun night but with sincere thoughts going out to those in need.

Secret Forest Walks in Daylesford: article
If you want an adventure and you’re not usually a hiker, here’s a challenge. Walking in a secluded forest in Daylesford with a GPS to guide you through a scenic walk, Secret Forest Walks will lead you to places that other people don’t really go. You may or may not be physically challenged whilst you can allow nature’s silence to engulf you.

How to Celebrate New Year’s Eve in Melbourne: article
If you’re looking for a relaxing night or a night that isn’t just full of drinking to welcome 2014, here’s a few ideas. As a person who isn’t a heavy drinker, it’s always nice just to spend the night with good friends and appreciate the year that has passed in good company.

Ayomo Frozen Yogurt Cafe: article
Ayomo, standing for “A Yogurt Moment”, is a fairly new place on Clarendon St in South Melbourne. It provides unique flavours of frozen yogurt, their signature flavour being macadamia. In addition to this they make nutritious juices and smoothies, and even serve up some amazing waffles, so check it out for some healthy late-night dessert!

Ayomo on Urbanspoon

Where to Relax, Read and Dine

If you want to know where to dine with some amazing views, what’s a relaxing place to enjoy a read or what’s on next weekend, my latest Weekendnotes articles will tell you all that. Simply click the links below or visit here. You can even show me your support by clicking “Like” or “Subscribe to Monique N” in the left hand corner of that page!

Philippine Fiesta 2013: article//website

If you didn’t get enough of Filo culture in my last post, did you know that each year there is a Philippine Fiesta in Melbourne? You can witness some amazing cultural performances, from singing to dance and wrestling matches. Meanwhile, you can venture through all the food stores and sample their amazing BBQ dishes.

If you look out, some Filipino groceries are selling presale tickets to the event or you can just rock up on the day!

Top Places to Read a Book in Melbourne: article

Need I say more? Sometimes, you just want to enjoy your latest novel and block out everything else. However, it’s always nice to do so in a peaceful atmosphere, whether it’s a beach or a park. Read my article for my favourite spots, including a little sneaky treat at the end.

Melbourne Dining Spots with a View: article

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Here you will find some conventional places that you may have heard of, within the greenery of areas such as the Yarra Valley and the Dandenong Ranges. If you’re wondering what will be nice for someone’s next big occasion, if you want to explore or if you simply just want to treat yourself, these places are perfect to drop by!

Burgers in Melbourne

Before you start telling me what’s the best burger in Melbourne – let me put this straight. I’m not here to debate the BEST burger, I’m merely here to share some of the burgers I have tried. You may have heard of them, you may have not, and there’s plenty more on my to-go-list so please leave your suggestions!

Strange Wolf: Strachan Lane, Melbourne CBD

Introduced to this typically-hidden-in-a-dodgy-alleyway joint by my lovely film festival committee, Strange Wolf is located underground just off Collins St. Or should I say was – I think they’re closed now, as I heard they would be closing towards the end of the year and their Facebook and website has disappeared.


Not my picture – from Urbanspoon, click for link!

Alas, let me reminisce of the burger that was. It was called The Underbelly ($15, above), with free range pork belly, smoked cheese, pickle, apple slaw and BBQ sauce. Unfortunately, from this view you can’t tell the burger’s true size. I found it larger than your average burger, or than burgers from more casual takeaway places such as Huxtaburger, and thus quite filling. The apple slaw goes well with the large pork belly slices and made it stand out from your everyday beef burger. It felt like a fulfilling burger and it wasn’t too messy except for the bits of apple slaw that fall out.

Furthermore, they have large herby hand-cut chips, which is how I like my chips – nice and thick. I would usually prefer a larger serving than the small cone that comes with it – but the burger really filled me up! If this place hasn’t closed, please correct me, but the signs don’t look good.

Strange Wolf on Urbanspoon

Huxtaburger: Fulham Place off Flinders Lane

To be honest – I don’t have that much to say about Huxtaburger. It seems to be a highly rated burger shop amongst Melburnians, indicated by the excitement of CBD dwellers when they opened up Huxtaburger II (the original is in Collingwood).

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Like most burger places, it has a bit of an American diner atmosphere to its decor. This place has more of a take-away feel, rather than dine-in, unless you’re after a quick munch on your work break or with one or two friends. Their menu is very basic, with their staple burgers and their beer/soft drink menus on either side.

As I wasn’t too hungry, I went for the classic Huxtaburger ($8.5) with beef patty, mustard, mayo, tomato sauce, tomato, cheese, lettuce and pickles. To me, this sounds like a typical burger. It was good – but what was so special about it? I’m still not sure. I also tried their chipotle fries ($2.50-$3?), which gives the chips a kind of smoked, Mexican chilli flavour. I probably enjoyed this more than the burger – although as I have mentioned, I’m pretty weak so it was a bit chilli for me towards the end.

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Huxtaburger on Urbanspoon

Hammer & Tong: 412 Brunswick St, Fitzroy

On a bit of a different note, Hammer and Tong are more of a brunch place. One of their specialties is their soft shell crab burger ($16) and my table had 3 out of 4 people order the dish.

Soft shell crab burger

My friend enjoyed the mayonnaise/cheesy sauce, as it complimented and added to the texture of the crab, and seemed to provide the main flavour of the dish. I enjoyed a bite too – but I guess the downside is the price vs the serving size. Hardly enough to fill you up unless you’re after a light meal.

Hammer and Tong on Urbanspoon

Misty’s Diner: 765 Gilbert Rd, Reservoir

This year, Misty’s Diner opened its second branch in the northern suburb of Reservoir. We’ve discovered this place is basically where you go if you want to have a heart attack on a plate…so it’s best not to go too often. Misty’s goes all out with it’s American theme, from its Marilyn Monroe newspaper art, to the American accented cashier at the counter.

ThickshakeThe attraction of Misty’s is its extra goodies from thickshakes, deep fried desserts or American snacks such as Twinkies at the counter. Having enjoyed a white chocolate cookies and cream thickshake last time, I couldn’t resist trying a mixed berries and white chocolate shake this time! I think I still prefer the cookies and cream one (they’re a bit expensive though, can’t remember the price but probably $6 or $8+).

Burger and fries

Another extra, is that they have various fries with topping. Delicious, but fills you with so much guilt after the meal. I ordered the Western & Bacon burger ($14.90, above), mushrooms, BBQ sauce, onion rings, bacon, mayo and Swiss cheese, with a side of wet fries (fries topped with meat gravy).

In complete American style, these meals are oversized but delicious, fatty but mouthwatering.  The menu with its sauces and abundance of ingredients really attempt to pack lots of meat and flavours into your meal. Not for the light-hearted!

Misty's Diner on Urbanspoon

Beatbox Kitchen: various locations

Lucky last, and lucky for me, Beatbox Kitchen often stops by the front of my work building. Eager to try, I left my lunch at work in order to try burgers from this cutely designed truck. There were only two options, the Raph Burger ($11, beef) and the Shroom Burger ($10, portobello mushroom).

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Never content to leave it at that, we asked if we could add a beef patty to the shroom burger. Of course, it was possible, but for a price of $15. This meant my burger had a whole marinated portobello mushroom, beef, lettuce, gouda cheese, tomato, onion and stereo sauce (tangy mayo).

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Out of all the burgers, I enjoyed this one the most. It seemed to have just the right amount of everything, including sauce. That means you still get to a messy stage, with sauce dripping out, after you get about halfway. It was so good, I didn’t even need to take my tomato out (I don’t like tomato) as the other ingredients and sauce still made it taste rich and flavoursome.

The excellent flavour might have something to do with the stereo sauce, but the beef patty was juicy and tasty too. We also ordered chips with stereo sauce (at that time, I still wasn’t sure what stereo sauce was but it sounded interesting), but didn’t realise the serving was so big. The burgers were incredibly filling with the extra beef, and the chips were too similar to McDonald’s fries for me to enjoy so I didn’t finish them.

UPDATE:
To add to an already very long post, I couldn’t help but try Beatbox Kitchen again whilst pondering what I should have for lunch the other day. Spying the truck across the road, I thought this could only be a sign! I thought I would try the Raph Burger and see how it stands on its own. This included the 170gm grass-fed beef patty (medium-rare), cos lettuce, tomato, cheese, onion and stereo sauce.

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So the difference from last time was no gouda cheese or mushroom. As I was looking for something less filling, I still enjoyed the burger immensely and can deduct that the actual beef patty is cooked just right. Without the gouda cheese, it’s evidently less saucy/cheesy but the stereo sauce was still great and tangy. It also meant that this time, I could notice the buttery bun a lot more and the bun’s texture was slightly crisp and crunchy today. Goes to show what different experiences you can have with the same place!

Beatbox Kitchen on Urbanspoon

In addition to these places, I have been to Andrew’s Hamburgers in Albert Park and The Bottle of Milk in Lorne, but due to my lack of photos and memory, I can’t comment too accurately. I do however remember I wasn’t completely amazed by Andrew’s Hamburgers after all the hype, and that I enjoyed a good messy burger from The Bottle of Milk by the nearby beach! Perhaps it’s better to try it yourself rather than trusting my bad recollections.

I am still eager to try Ribs and Burgers, Top Paddock’s soft shell crab burger and anything else you guys recommend. Let me know what burgers you liked or where I should go in the comment section below!

Great Ocean Road

erskine-falls31The Great Ocean Road is something that everyone has to do. It fits perfectly into the cliche, that says that the journey is more important than the destination.

Along the scenic drive, you can embrace your spontaneous side and decide to take a stop wherever you find a breathtaking view.

You’ll find that these will be mainly beach views as you take in the turbulent ocean and the small hills and cliffs around the coast.

I haven’t travelled the full road but even travelling for a part of it will give you scenic views that you can’t find in Melbourne. The left picture is of Erskine Falls in Lorne, a popular destination about 20 minutes from the famous ocean road. It’s a short walk from the carpark to a platform where you can observe the 30 metre drop from above.

The bottom right picture, is part of our first spontaneous stop to admire the foggy, mysterious and empty coast around the beginning of the drive. Despite the gloomy weather, having a whole beach to yourself to walk on and enjoy the air outside city life can be quite a reality-check.

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If you want to read my full story in detail about my Great Ocean Road trip, complete with a good burger spot and bonus dolphin show, visit this link and feel free to leave me some comments on where to go next time!

Weekendnotes: http://www.weekendnotes.com/the-great-ocean-road-victoria/