Blaq Piq, Sydney
Get your cameras ready Sydney, the Pandan Buttermilk Pancakes at Blaq Piq, Sydney are almost too beautiful eat!
You know when you see something delicious on Instagram that you just can’t stop thinking about and your mind is just consumed with the very thought of eating it? That’s what happened when I saw the Nutella donut ($4.50) from Blaq Piq, the new cafe that’s next door to Creasion Cafe. And it was just as amazing as it looks, a fluffy sugar coasted donut so stuffed with Nutella that it threatens to ooze out.
And then there’s the pretty as a picture Pandan buttermilk pancakes ($16). All heads turned when this came out towards us, the pancakes are light and fluffy and have a good amount of pandan flavour in them. There’s a perfect scoop of coconut ice cream, fresh berries, nata de coco (super juicy chewy jelly made from coconut water), pecan crumble and salted coconut sugar syrup.
Aaaand pouring shot ooh baby HEAVEN IS A PLACE ON EARTH ♫
Noods ordered the Breakfast plate ($17) because he saw that it had ‘soldiers’ and is immediately convinced he wants it but then always gets surprised that it’s just cut up toast. Every. Single. Time. I always warn him but nope he wants those damn soldiers. I liked the idea that the breakfast plate was filled with things that are lighter in case you don’t want a super oily fry up; there was silky curls of smoked salmon, half an avo, marinated goats cheese, 63° eggs, horseradish cream and lol rye soldiers.
The Rangers Valley Wagyu corned beef ($18) is tender but it’s a tad salty though this is tempered with the pan fried 63° eggs and smothering of hollandaise sauce. I liked the fluffy lotus bun but with the generous amount of sauce there was no way I was picking that bad boy up so cutlery is the way to go.
The Twice cooked pork belly ($17) might not look as purdy as the pancakes but WOAH DAMN IT’S SO DELICIOUS IT’S WORTH THESE CAPS! The strips of pork belly are so meltingly tender that I question how they managed to put the slice on the plate without breaking. The edges are golden and crispy and oh man whatever you do, do not share this! Oh and there’s a schmear of pumpkin puree hiding underneath with perfectly gooey 63° eggs, crunchy pickled vegetables, rocket and cherry tomatoes.
Mmm baked goods! All the desserts are baked in house and they source their bread from the awesome Bread and Butter Project. Oh and for the coffee peeps, they use Single O beans.
Loved how open the space is with plenty of light and a nice chillaxed feel. Will definitely be back to eat that pork belly again and ALL the donuts!
11 Alberta St,
Mon – Fri: 7am – 4pm
Sat: 8am – 2pm
Junee, New South Wales
Visiting Junee, home to the Junee Licorice and Chocolate Factory!
So after our visit to Leeton, we headed to Junee which is about a 30mins drive north of Wagga Wagga and stopped for lunch at the beautiful Cottontail Wines (562 Pattersons Road, Wagga Wagga)
I ordered the Baked Camembert ($16) to share with Noods since my lactose hating gut would have rebelled and caused me much pain the whole day if I had eaten the whole thing by myself. And it was amazing because hey, baking cheese so that its innards are gloriously melty and gooey? Winner. Oh and there was also candied macadamias which were buttery and sweet and house made pita bread which I gleefully dunked into the cheese.
For mains I couldn’t resist the Rack of Junee Lamb ($39) which had a perfect baby pink centre and a thin ribbon of caramelised fat along the edges. There was a minted pea puree and blanched beans in a berry and red wine reduction underneath but honestly I just wanted a pile o mash. So I ordered fries because it’s almost the same…
Noods’ Twice Cooked Pork Belly with Seared Scallops ($39) was just perfect. Like honestly that pork belly was the bomb, super juicy and tender and not overly fatty and with a tile of golden crackling that shattered into a zillion pieces because yes, I’m that kind of messy eater.
Scenery. Side note: Noods totally thought that water fountain was a chocolate fountain and was questioning why it was outside…
We didn’t get dessert because we were in Junee, home to the Junee Licorice and Chocolate Factory!
The Junee Licorice and Chocolate Factory is operated by Green Grove Organics, a family run company that has been practicing organic farming since 1962 and is located in the restored Junee Flour Mill.
Hellooo giant slab of licorice! We made it in time for their tours which are $5 per person ($4 for kids, $3 for seniors) which was entertaining and pretty informative but best of all, there’s free samples!
Organic Belgian styled coverture chocolate is used to coat all their products and the smell of the chocolate melting was so freaking intoxicating!
We were lucky enough to meet the lovely Neil Druce, owner of Junee Licorice and Chocolate Factory and scored a lil tasting of some of his favourite products. I’ve never been a fan of licorice, I’d even go so far as to say I loathe licorice. But THIS licorice changed me! Forget about those neon hued cubes of licorice you get at the shops, the licorice here is amazing! The flavour is more subtle, smooth and more aniseed-y and I was quite taken with the dark chocolate coated raspberry licorice and absolutely loved the milk chocolate coated cherries.
But then Neil brought out his own personal bottle of Bruichladdich’s Octomore Futures and urged us to try a dark chocolate coated almond and a sip of the whisky and my world exploded into fireworks. How do I even begin to explain how freaking amazing that combination was??? That smokiness, the smooth, warm caramel sweetness. All other whiskies are now dead to me. Anyone know where I can get my hands on a bottle???
I tried making every drop of that whiskey last but then it was time for us to try our hand at making a chocolate freckle! Hand a fiver over at the front counter and don a hair net before entering the promised land (the kitchen). Melted chocolate is ladled into a plate and then you’re set loose with a shaker filled with 100’s & 1000’s. (Tangent, how do you make fairy bread? Noods is arguing that you should fill a bowl/plate with 100s & 1000s and then dip your buttered bread into it and I’m saying yes that’s clever but generally people will shake the sprinkles onto buttered bread otherwise wastage of sprinkles which will get coated in butter…)
To make your own Rocky Road it’s $8 and there’s a whole bunch of toppings you can choose from like chocolate coated pretzels, hazelnuts, licorice, almonds, coconut and of course, marshmallows. A ladle of melted chocolate goes on top and then mix away until everything’s combined and leave to set!
We amble out of the factory through Graze restaurant- which apparently does a smashing high tea and see Neil on a tractor taking kids (and the young at heart) on a barrel train ride hehe
Dinner was at The Crossing Motel (39 Seignior Street, Junee) for Riverina on a Plate, a 9 course degustation menu featuring produce from the Riverina area. The dinner is $95pp and will run again on Sat 24 Oct and 31 Oct.
We start with warm olives from Wollundry Grove Olives with Pimms fetta served with toasted artesian sourdough.
The Tumut trout timbales were so creamy and rich and deceptively filling!
Next was a pork terrine from Bush Goddess Paddock Pork served on soft polenta and beetroot relish. Apparently Pennie names each and every pig she raises and the pork we were dining on was called Morris. I’m not too sure how I feel about eating an animal that’s been named but he was deeelicious especially with that crackling 😛
I loved the Junee lamb with parsley and a Harefield pistachio crust, the meat was juicy and tender and perfect with the sweet potato puree.
I would’ve liked the tea smoked Dutton Park duck to be heavier on the smoky flavour but that’s just me because I love that flavour profile but the duck was beautifully cooked and the roasted fennel and apple salad refreshed the palate.
And then there was this beautiful eye fillet poached in Poker Face Shiraz spiced mulled wine on a bacon and mushroom ragout. Man, meat out here just tastes incredible!
A sorbet made from Batlow apples was amazing, it was sour but just sweet enough to have us digging for more.
The pannacotta was made with lavender sourced from Kaybunda Lavender Farm, I’m not the biggest fan of lavender but I liked the creaminess of the pannacotta.
Last but not least, a white chocolate cheesecake with a layer of Junee licorice that was pretty intriguing, the licorice in the cheesecake balanced out the sweetness and I loved the vanilla ice cream dusted with a licorice root powder.
Clutching our stomaches we roll home to Gryphon Lodge (130 Waterworks Rd, Junee), a b&b run by the lovely Fran & Keith and yes I know you can’t seem them but there’s super fluffy alpacas out there!
We woke to piping hot pots of tea, freshly baked sourdough, brioche and rye bread with home made jams and a plate of butter curls! Argh so cute I die. Butter just won’t taste the same if they’re not in curls now. It’s been great Junee! I can’t wait to come back!
ChocolateSuze travelled to Wagga Wagga, Leeton and Junee as a guest of Destination NSW.
Leeton, New South Wales
Visiting Leeton and exploring the Hillview Citrus farm, wine tasting at Lillypilly Estate and seeing the Big Tennis Racquet.
So continuing on from my trip to Wagga Wagga, the boy and I drove 1 and a half hours north to Leeton, a small town near Griffith in the Riverina region. We dropped our bags off at the Kindred Studio Apartments before meeting Michael Fondacaro for a Juice’d Up Tour of their family owned and run Hillview Citrus farm.
We start off in the fruit packing plant where I’m immediately hypnotised by the sheer amounts of fruit stacked in the warehouse.
The fruit are cleaned, waxed, inspected, then sorted by size before being packed into cartons.
There’s a secondary line on the opposite side of the warehouse where giant pallets of oranges await delivery to Sydney’s Paddy’s Markets in Flemington.
Did you know limes start off green and then turn yellow the longer they stay on the tree? Whenever I’ve seen limes and see a yellow one in the pile I’d just always assumed someone had mixed in a lemon!
We venture out into the orchards and Michael explains the different techniques they use from irrigation methods to pruning.
We head over to La Fresco La Fresco Caffè (Shop 15, 1 Acacia Ave, Leeton Market Plaza) which is run by Michael’s brother Joseph, and down a ginormous glass of freshly picked and squeezed orange juice.
Feeling peckish and wanting a protein hit I order a steak sandwich and it’s everything I had hoped with a super juicy slab of steak, grilled onions, fried egg, tomatoes, tasty cheese and good ol beetroot.
Noods gets the chicken parmigiana and I immediately experience food envy. The parmy is a beaut- juicy chicken in a golden crumb, oozy melty cheese, eggplant, olives and capsicum.
The servings were pretty generous but we just had to make room for the lemon cheesecake made by Michael’s aunt! The buttery biscuit base and light as clouds cheesecake filling had the perfect balance of sweetness to acidity, can I please get the recipe Michael???
We head over to Lillypilly Estate (47 Lillypilly Rd, Leeton), a family owned boutique winery.
Loved that Lillypilly stocks locally made goods like the marinated garlic green olives from Koala Gourmet Foods in Griffith, tomato relish from Riverina Grove and the Gusto chilli salsa.
We had a lil tasting with winemaker Robert Fiumara where I promptly fell in love with the 2014 Tramillon®, a medium dry white wine that had notes of lychee. Noods gave the thumbs up to the 2012 Cabernet Sauvignon, a dry red that he reckons would’ve been perfect with a good steak.
Back on the road and we find ourselves in awe at the vivid yellows of the canola fields. Leeton is home to the SunRice headquarters as well as Freedom Foods, Berri Juices, Riverina Beef and Murrumbidgee Irrigation and is one of the most productive farming regions in the state.
And then we just had to stop by Barellan where there’s a Big Tennis Racquet created as a tribute to the former Barellan local and great Australian tennis player, Evonne Goolagong Cawley. Stay tuned for my visit to Junee!
ChocolateSuze travelled to Wagga Wagga, Leeton and Junee as a guest of Destination NSW.
Wagga Wagga, New South Wales
Visiting Wagga Wagga aka the Garden City of the South for the Taste Riverina Festival.
“You’re going to Wagga Wagga? But why, what will you do there?” I heard that a lot from friends and family in the lead up to my long weekend visit to the Garden City of the South. And yes to be honest, at first I had absolutely no idea until I did some research as my trip coincided with the Taste Riverina Festival, a month-long ‘menu of events’ celebrating the year’s harvest, showcasing food, wine, beer and agricultural produce and experiences across the 17 shires in the Riverina. Wagga Wagga is 450km south-west of Sydney, about a 5hr drive or a 1 hour flight away and it’s the perfect getaway for the weekend!
We’ll start off with the Gears and Beers Festival, now in its second year of running (or should I say cycling…) and is dedicated to the bike riding culture in Wagga Wagga.
The event started early in the morning and entrants could choose from a range of cycling routes varying from 15km to 105km allowing riders of all ages and experiences to participate. It’s been several years since I last rode a bike so I opted out of the riding part and headed straight for the beverages 😀
There were stalls set up around the Victory Memorial Gardens with everything from pressure checks for your tyres to buying helmets and merchandise.
Our first stop is at Bridge Road Brewers, who are based in Beechworth just south of Albury. The Beechworth Pale Ale has the boys running flat out to keep up with the thirsty crowd. The ale is refreshing, light and totally a winner.
Next stop is Tumut River Brewing Co with the greatest tag line- ‘Because two mates wanted to make great beer.’ And great beer it is! Sadly they didn’t have the Squealing Pig IPA on tap so we chose the J.W. Pilsner which was a perfect mid strength beer with just a hint of bitterness.
And while there was ciders from Pink Lady Ciders, I was super keen to try the Double Decker Apple Cider from the Wagga Wagga Winery and loved how the cider wasn’t too sweet and just perfect in the 31C weather.
There were some food stalls from MG Gourmet Kranskis, burgers from The Blessed Bean, pancakes from Cafe Nest of Tumbarumba and a beer and cheese box from Knights Meats and Deli.
We escaped the heat by heading into the Thirsty Crow Brewing Co (31 Kincaid St, Wagga Wagga), who will be moving to a bigger location shortly.
And of course we had to try a paddle of their very finest beers! Our paddle contained: Sporting Ale, Red Light Ale, Murder Pilsner, Vanilla Milk Stout and Cascade Hop Ale. I’m not the biggest fan of stouts but absolutely loved the Sporting Ale which founder and head brewer Craig Wealands calls the ‘gateway beer’ hahaha
We managed to make it in time for the brewery tour which is $5/person or $15 with the paddle and runs for about 20mins with a head brewer taking us around the brewery and talking through the craft brewing process.
To soak up all the alcohol we ordered some foods, starting with the Pig and Fig Pizza ($23), which had a tangle of caramelised onion, shaved prosciutto, fig jam, blue cheese, mozzarella and rocket.
Noods wanted meat and stared at the generous serving of the Rack of Pork Ribs ($29) which were tender and marinated in a juicy BBQ sauce and came with a basket of shoestring fries.
I couldn’t resist ordering the Corn Dogs ($2/$10). The chilli and cheese kransky was fried in a Vanilla Stout batter and while the chilli level did kick me in the mouth, I absolutely loved the bursts of cheese!
How could I resist the Deep Fried Oreos ($10)? Resistance is pretty much futile whenever I see any dessert that’s been deep fried! The Oreos were fried to order so the icing within the biscuit are just on the point of melting and are sinfully delicious.
The Doughnuts ($10) were also on the heavy side, the crust was a little golden so it might have spent too much time bathing in oil but thankfully the innards are light and fluffy and my god that rich dulce de leche sauce was amazing.
Needing a snooze after all that food and beer we walked to Wagga Beach on the banks of the Murrumbidgee River. It’s super peaceful out there, I loved how non frenzied it was and just the perfect spot to chillax.
An absolutely must visit in Wagga Wagga is Knights Meats & Deli (187 Fitzmaurice St, Wagga Wagga), a family owned business sourcing the best produce from the Riverina area.
We met up with Deanna McNaughton, owner and CEO of Knights Meats & Deli who had prepared a lil tasting board for us with plump Wollundry Grove Olives, Knights own cheese kransky, a mild Griffith sopressa, a creamy Milawa Brie, bresaola and Knights own Pump House jerky.
And a dessert tasting board of Bertoldo Nougat (Griffith), Knights own Toffee Apples, biscuits, Junee Licorice and Chocolate Factory’s chocolate covered raspberry licorice and a pile of crisp pistachio bread.
Knights has over 30 suppliers from within a 100 mile radius of Wagga Wagga which is pretty impressive. They love supporting the local farmers- the lamb is sourced from the Riverina region sometimes from the weekly Wagga Wagga Lamb Markets, sometimes directly from farmers or abattoirs. Pork is sourced from Yanco to the North West or Wombat to the North East and the beef is sourced primarily from local abattoirs and other well established quality meat brokers in NSW.
Knights only buys Yearling or Young Beef due to its superior quality and age their beef to maximise the tenderness, flavour and eating quality. They have the largest range of whole cryovaced beef cuts in the region and are the sole stockists of Certified Australian Angus Beef (CAAB) a premium quality beef in the region.
I just love how perfectly presented everything is on display!
Mmm antipasto heaven
A lot of the cheeses aren’t local (the nearest commercially made cheese is over the Victorian boarder at Milawa) but Knights is hoping that will change soon with local cheese maker Barry Lillywhite. Barry was the cheese maker at the Charles Sturt University before it closed and has been working with his son in-law Anton and Neil Druce from the Junee Licorice Factory to start a Cheese Factory at Coolamon later this year.
The Deli section has a full time chef to create salads, pies, and pastries on offer in the feature cabinet. Knights has also recently introduced a Gourmet to Go menu with hot meals available to take home with a rotating menu from lasagnes to roast pork, BBQ chicken with coleslaw and Shepherd’s Pie.
The shelves are bursting with a wide range of pantry essentials and gourmet items made locally.
Knights own Pump House jerky is a hit with Noods and although we were warned about the Knights Pump House Explosive Jerky ($84/kg), he can’t resist buying some for the flight back. It’s not super explosively spicy but then, he can handle chilli so sadly there’s no video of him in tears of pain 😛
We check into our hotel at Mantra Pavilion Hotel before heading to Mercure Wagga Wagga for the World Whisky Appreciation class with the super knowledgable Ari who explains everything from the origin of the whiskys to the production and styles available.
That’s a pretty sexy lineup of whiskys! Ari wanted to showcase the different types of whiskys and not just the Scottish whisky so there was: the sweet Kavalan from Taiwan, the smooth Hibiki 17 years from Japan, the Australian Starward that’s matured in Shiraz casks, the spicy Amrut from India, the buttery Irish Teeling Single Malt, then American bourbon Eagle Rare, a Rittenhouse Rye and Jack Daniels whisky and lastly the smoky Scottish Whiskys of Glenmorangie, Oban and Lagavulin.
Haha Noods was in his happy place. It was a great class and one I’d love to do again- Ari knew his stuff and was super down to earth and answered all our questions patiently and may have given us top ups at the end of the class… Oh Hibiki, you sweet sweet thing…
I slipped out to see the tail end of the Cork & Fork Fest held on Wagga Beach where it had been transformed with a whole sky of fairy lights across the edges of the river. I couldn’t get over how family friendly all the events had been, everyone was just so perfectly behaved and it felt like such a safe environment with everyone just happy to see each other and share a beer or two.
There were stalls selling sushi, stir frys, pizzas and even a chocolate fountain fruit dip but because the temperature had dropped everyone was lining up waiting for these grilled sticks of tender meats at Al Sultan’s or buying a beverage or two from Borambola Winery.
How cute is this flower stall! There was also live music and acrobatic acts and people had brought their dogs so I spent the night making friends with strangers so I could pat their dogs haha
ChocolateSuze travelled to Wagga Wagga as a guest of Destination NSW.
Spice Alley on Kensington Street @ Central Park, Chippendale
Missing the hawker centres from Malaysia/Singapore? Visit Spice Alley on Kensington Street at Central Park and get your fill of roti, laksas, curry puffs, CKT, ice kacang aaaand durian roti!
I’m not sure what’s going on with Sydney’s weather this Spring, wet and windy one week and then hot and humid the next! But I much prefer when the sun’s out because Sydney has some great spots for eating outside and the newest place to eat outdoors is at Spice Alley on Kensington St, just next door to Central Park and with an entrance directly opposite Automata.
Spice Alley has that hawker centre vibe but with the bonus of being much cleaner lol. There’s four permanent Spice Alley stalls, rock up to a counter and order your food and then wait for your order ticket number to be called before grabbing a seat in the courtyard. Oh and keep in mind you can only pay using Paywave or you take your cash to the little window to the far left of the stalls and get a Spice Alley credit card.
I’d brought the family and we start off at Alex Lee Kitchen. I’m impressed with the super flaky Roti Canai ($6), it’s light and fluffy and comes with two puddles of chicken curry and dahl sauce plus a fiery red sambal sauce that has me sneakily swiping more than my share. The roti is definitely on par with Mamak and best of all there’s no queues (yet)…
Katong Laksa ($10) is bang on in flavour, rich from the coconut and just the right amount of spice to set the tastebuds a-tingle. Noods opted for the rice vermicelli noodles but you can choose egg noodles or flat rice noodles to fraternise with slices of juicy chicken, ribbons of fish cake, beapsprouts and squishy cubes of tofu.
Next stop is Old Jim Kee with a plate of deep fried goodness. The Curry Puff ($3/each) is a nice fat specimen, stuffed with curried chicken and cubes of potato and wrapped in the flakiest pastry that has a gazillion layers. The Salt and Pepper Chicken Wings ($1/each) blew our minds, especially at only one smackerooney each! There was this savoury, umami flavour and the batter was super light and not at all oily and super tender and juicy meat oh man so good! And we also got a Pork Bun (Char Siew Bao) ($4) for good measure which the parentals loved, the bun was absolutely packed with juicy bbq pork and the pastry was ridiculously flaky.
The Penang Char Kway Teoh ($10) has a good amount of smoky wok hei flavour and is studded with slices of lap cheong sausage and my favourite crispy pork fat.
Over at Hong Kong Diner I ordered the Braised Beef Brisket with dry noodles which ($10) was so massive, I barely made a dent in it and had to get the rest packed for takeaway! The beef is meltingly soft with gloriously fatty striations and the mound of leafy green veg was much needed to cut through the fat. Oh and it came with a complimentary peppery soup too.
Dessert time! We headed back to Old Jim Kee for Ice Kacang ($6) which is served in a bowl the same size used for noodles so it’s a pretty generous serve! There’s the usual grass jelly, creamed corn, Atap Chee (palm seeds) and jelly worms on top of a mountain of shaved ice but there’s also crushed peanuts and sultanas which I wasn’t a fan of. But it’s cold and refreshing and the only thing that stops us from melting in the heat.
I of course couldn’t resist trying Alex Lee Kitchen’s Durian Roti ($9) and it was pretty awesome. Someone correct me if I’m wrong but I don’t think anywhere else in Sydney does durian roti? The durian was wrapped inside the buttery and flaky roti and comes with a scoop of vanilla ice cream and seriously if you’re a durian lover, GET THIS!
Aaaand visited Bang Luck for Mango Sticky Rice ($7). It’s a bit steep compared to the rest of the stalls prices on food but eh I really wanted this and it’s tasty. On a previous visit I tried the Crispy Pork Belly ($10) and watch out the spice levels are pretty cray for someone who can’t handle the heat! The pork is awesome though, crispy and deliciously fatty with stir fried veg on a bed of rice.
There’ll be a rotation of popup stalls on the far end of Spice Alley, currently it’s Pok Lol with their salads, tacos and Banh Mi pork rolls. Masterchef 2015 alum Reynold Poernomo will be opening up a dessert bar in the Alley later this year too and Bar Chinois is hoping their liquor license will kick in shortly.
Chippendale (look for the red signage in the alleyways between the restored houses)
Open daily: 11am – 10pm