Newtown Dessert Crawl: Cow & The Moon Artisan Gelato, Black Star Pastry, Brewtown Newtown, Cookies+Milk Bar, Pastizzi Cafe and Izba Russian Treats

Ah, crazy food jaunts. It takes a very special type of person to keep up with my insatiable appetite for NEW EXCITING EATING EXPERIENCES. Luckily, I have a few friends who are more than game enough…and of course, K doesn’t get a choice in the matter and gets dragged along to everything anyway!

This time, my plan was to explore the inner-city hipster suburb of Newtown and become acquainted with all its sweet offerings. Some I had had before, others would be brand new experiences.

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Our first stop was Cow & Moon Artisan Gelato on Enmore Road – a new crowd favourite ever since it won the World’s Best Gelato award with its affogato creation. I like to say that I used to go to Cow & Moon before everyone else did, even preferring it to Gelato Messina. Now of course, it’s always jam-packed with long queues of people wanting to sample the world’s best gelato. Luckily, the crowd hadn’t yet started to form when we got there at 2pm on a Saturday afternoon.

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We only had a five minute wait, and before long I was standing in front of the beautiful display of gelato, trying to decide what to have. Classic vanilla or chocolate? Something more unusual and exciting? Or should I be sticking to my dairy-free vow and trying one of their many sorbets instead?

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In the end, I opted for a small serve of two flavours combined in a cone – Strawberry, Pannacotta and Balsamic Vinegar, and Lime in the Coconut. K opted for the Cherry Mania and the award-winning Mandorla Affogato in a cup. As someone who doesn’t normally appreciate the flavour of coffee, the award-winning flavour was a bit lost on me. I can definitely appreciate the two I picked out though – the Lime in the Coconut was just like having a pina colada, and the generous globs of pureed strawberries and streaks of balsamic vinegar packed a powerful flavour punch.

I love Cow & Moon Artisan Gelato and it is most definitely in my top two of best gelato shops in Sydney. It’s hard to justify battling the long queues at peak gelato hour after dinner these days though, so I think I’ll keep my visits to mid-morning and mid-afternoon visits.

Cow & The Moon Artisan Gelato on Urbanspoon

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Our next stop was Black Star Pastry for a slice of their famous strawberry watermelon cake. I wanted their cake as one of our (many) wedding cakes, but K was dubious as he had never tried the cake before. What better way to settle the score than to force K to have the cake and eat it too?

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The line wasn’t too long, and we made it inside within ten minutes. My mouth was drooling by that point though, as I saw everyone walk out of the shop with their little takeaway boxes of Black Star cakes. Someone walked out with a slice of this orange and fig cake, which looked an absolute treat.

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But we weren’t to be deterred from our original goal, and we did get a slice of the strawberry watermelon cake to share, as well as a raspberry brulee with a hard caramelised top and creamy custard that gave a satisfying crack as we bit into it.

Taking our purchases to nearby Newtown Park, we sat with our friend (who got a carrot cake) eating our desserts and enjoying the sunshine. Needless to say, as soon as Kieran took a bite of the strawberry watermelon cake, I won the argument. It will most definitely feature on our list of cakes available at our wedding, and I can’t wait!

I’ll always be back to Black Star for their cakes…and come to think of it, K didn’t get me a birthday cake this year! Maybe I could drop a few hints to K about getting the orange and fig cake for a belated birthday cake?

Black Star Pastry on Urbanspoon

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Our next stop was everyone’s favourite Inner West café – Brewtown Newtown. Is it incredibly embarrassing to admit that this was my first time to Brewtown? I’d seen a million and one photos of their menu items on Instagram, but I simply hadn’t gotten around to visiting as I hardly ever visit the Inner West from my North-side home!

It was late in the afternoon by the time we got to Newtown, and the kitchen had just closed. “Sorry, we only have desserts left,” the waitress said as she welcomed us and took us to our table. “That’s what we’re here for!” I replied chirpily. The Brewtown Newtown cronuts (Brewnuts?) were our reason for visiting!

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K ordered a simple cappuccino and found it somewhat lacklustre for a café that brands itself as being “Brewtown”. He found the brew slightly thin and weak, and it definitely didn’t hit that need for a 3pm caffeine pick-me-up.

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My palate-cleansing green tea arrived served in a traditional Japanese cast iron tea pot, with a slightly uneven porcelain tea cup in a wabi-sabi style. I’m amused by the little saucer of honey provided with the tea – I’m accustomed to having strong, bitter tea, and the idea of sweetening my tea is completely foreign to me!

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What of the Brewnuts? K and I ordered two – the chocolate crumble, and a glazed pineapple, and our friend ordered the plain glazed cronut. I was a big fan of the pineapple Brewnut which was filled with custard and topped with a glazed caramelised pineapple ring. The slight tartness and acidity of the pineapple helped to temper the sweetness of the cronut making it a much more interesting dessert choice.

This is blasphemy, but I don’t think I’ll be back to Brewtown Newtown anytime soon – at least, not for the cronuts. I’d prefer to go back to the Grumpy Barista in Petersham for their cronuts which were far superior. Maybe their savoury brunches will be more impressive?

Brewtown Newtown on Urbanspoon

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Our next stop was Cookies + Milk, and we had to rush there after our visit to Brewtown in order to get there before they closed. As it was, the guys were already starting to stack the stools on tables and package up all the leftover cookies by the time we arrived. We got there in just enough time to buy an end-of-day takeaway treat.

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We walked away with a brownie, and a cookie called a “Calamity Jane” that looked like a childhood classic, the Wagon Wheel. The brownie was particularly rich, and K who was reaching a sugar coma by this point took one bite and declared he couldn’t have any more. That didn’t stop me and our friend A from enjoying it though!

I was a big fan of the Calamity Jane – somewhat unwieldy to eat as the buttery choc-coated cookies slided and separated from the marshmallow filling, but it was just the perfect blend of chocolate, buttery cookie, berries, and sweet gooey marshmallow. Definitely better than a standard Wagon Wheel!

I’m keen to return to Cookies + Milk and try more of their offerings. Next time, I’ll even go before they close, and check out a larger variety of their baked goods!

Cookies+Milk Bar on Urbanspoon

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After our rush to Cookies + Milk, we needed to sit down and rest. Pastizzi Café, just a few doors up was the natural choice. I first visited Pastizzi Café years ago when I was still living in Melbourne. On a visit to Sydney, my friend M (who will be K’s best man for our wedding!) took me to Pastizzi Café, swearing it to be one of his favourite places in Sydney. I was convinced then, and it’s remained one of my favourite places to visit for a quick snack when in the Inner West.

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We got two pastizzi – one savoury chicken and chorizo, and one sweet apple cinnamon. K devoured the savoury chicken and chorizo, allowing me just a single bite to enjoy its slightly spicy tomato-based mix. “I’m in a sugar coma, I need something savoury instead!” he insisted.

I enjoyed the apple cinnamon pastizzi with its super crispy flaky pastry but I have to be honest – Pastizzi Café are best with savoury fillings, and the sweet pastizzi lack a certain oomph that you get with their savoury offerings. While I’ll be back, it’ll be for another chicken and chorizo or maybe a beef pot pie – not a sweet apple and cinnamon.

Pastizzi Cafe on Urbanspoon

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Our very last stop on the dessert crawl was Izba Russian Treats, located more towards the St Peters end of King Street. With pairs of older people sitting down enjoying a slice of Izba’s famous honey cake and a hot drink, you immediately get the feeling that the pace is a lot more relaxed down this end of town. Customers here are allowed the luxury of sitting and lingering over their cup of coffee, rather than being hustled out of the café to make room for the next paying customer.

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I deliberated at the cake counter for nearly ten minutes before finally settling on a slice of their apple pie – a super soft sponge cake with chunks of spiced apple throughout. It was particularly appealing lighter choice as I was feeling more than a little dizzy from the amount of sugar I had already ingested that day! While it was a tad on the dry side, I think that may be a result of us arriving late that evening, as opposed to having it earlier in the day when it was fresh out of the oven.

I was very tempted to order their signature honey cake, but I think I will have to save that for my next visit…and trust me, there will be a next visit! I think I’d also like to try some of their blinis next time as well.

IZBA Russian Treats on Urbanspoon

And there you have it – a particularly elaborate long afternoon/early evening of decadent sweet indulgence. If I learned anything that day, it’s that even I apparently have my limitations when it comes to eating desserts – apparently six desserts in six hours will leave me in an exhausted heap when I come down from the sugar high!

I guess it’s lucky that my next planned food crawl is a hot dog crawl…at least it’s savoury right?

A Cronut Extravaganza

The latest addition to the “crazy food things that I make my friends do” (see: fried chicken crawl, dumpling crawl) was an idea conceived in a moment of pure fantasy that we turned into reality. A cronut extravaganza, where we taste-test a variety of the delicious baked sugary snack that Dominique Ansel first conceived which has now spread across the globe.

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Four of us gathered one afternoon at my apartment with boxes of baked goodies from different bakeries around Sydney. Variety is the spice of life! With mugs of palate-cleansing green tea in hand, we settled in for three hours of cronuts, chatter and chuckling.

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The first cronuts were from Bonjour Patisserie in Wahroonga – a chocolate cronut with chocolate cream, and a custard donut with vanilla icing. The pastry is excellent – sugary sweet and crispy. However, I think the chocolate cream and custard leaves a little to be desired as it tasted a little too pre-made rather than freshly made. While I’d go back for these cronuts if I was in the area, I wouldn’t make a special trip!

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The second lot of cronuts were the simple cinnamon sugar cronuts from Bakerie@ in Gordon, which has been previously reviewed on this blog. They’re as delicious as always, however I do note that one of them is sadly lopsided. Quality control is clearly an issue at Bakerie@ – however, that won’t stop me from returning for further cronut hits as it’s really just up the road!

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Our next cronut was from Sweet Belem in Petersham, more commonly known for their amazing “Sydney’s Best!” Portugese tarts. This was a simpler style cinnamon sugar cronut with no cream fillings, not unlike Bakerie@’s version. However, this is a far superior ‘plain’ cronut, and really leaves Bakerie@’s cronut in the dust – the cronut is taller, the pastry is crispier but more melt-in-your-mouth at the same time, and it doesn’t leave an overly oily aftertaste in your mouth either. I’ll be adding these cronuts to my Portugese tarts order the next time I’m at Sweet Belem.

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By far the standout cronut of the day were the ones from the Grumpy Barista in Petersham though. It’s truly what you would call a ‘full package’ – the pastry is both soft like a donut, and crispy like a fresh croissant. The icing on top and inside is generous, and the sprinkle of chocolate crumble on the top adds some wonderful texture. It’s the plastic syringes of extra icing that make it really special though – just in case there wasn’t enough sweet stickiness in the cronut, you can DIY and add some more! I think I’ll need to try the Grumpy Barista’s cafe offerings soon, and make the excuse to have more of their cronuts too!

The Grumpy Barista on Urbanspoon

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And just for laughs and a baseline comparison, a friend brought some croissants and some donuts…

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…unfortunately K got the brief of ‘cronut’ wrong and experimented with putting a cinnamon donut inside a croissant! The effect was interesting (you’ll love it if you love doughy breads and baked goods), but nothing like an actual cronut.

And yes, I know that we missed out a few essential cronuts around Sydney – Adriano Zumbo’s zonut for one (which I’ve tried in the past) and Brewtown Newtown’s cronuts as well. Our group’s next planned food adventure is a self-guided tour of Newtown’s dessert offerings though, so no doubt Brewtown Newtown will make an appearance then!

Unblogged Files: July to September 2014

I can hardly believe that it’s already October. This is going to sound like a cliche, but the year has just flown by. It’s been an absolute whirlwind of eating, a month-long overseas holiday, getting engaged, planning a wedding, going on a diet and exercise regime, and some new and exciting projects at work.

There’s some good news – the wedding plans are going off without a hitch (22 November is looming!), and I’ve lost 22kgs since I first embarked on this new healthier lifestyle journey! With those lifestyle changes, it’s quite incredible how many of the photos in this blog entry are actually of dessert. I clearly haven’t lost my sweet tooth despite an overall healthier lifestyle.

There are some things that happened in July to September that you won’t see mentioned in this post as I have longer blog entries planned for publication later – an anniversary lunch at Ormeggio at the Spit, my hens weekend on the Mornington Peninsula, and a weekend away in the Hunter Valley for a friend’s 30th birthday. Keep your eye out for those entries over the next few weeks!

Finally, I started a Facebook page last month, and I would love more Likers!

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I can remember the first time I tried soy-based ice-cream…let’s just say that it didn’t quite live up to its name of being “So Good”. I think I was scarred by that experience, and it’s only recently that I’ve been brave enough to try soy ice-cream again. This black sesame soy ice-cream from Green Gourmet in Newtown (read my review of the St Leonards branch) hit the spot though – surprisingly creamy in texture, the black sesame gave a strong nutty flavour that really satisfied. The next test would be whether or not Green Gourmet’s soy ice-cream tastes as nice with a more subtle flavour – how would a regular vanilla bean soy ice-cream stack up for example?

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One of my best girl friends from high school got married in July (read my review of her hens dinner at Melba at the Langham Hotel), and I was a bridesmaid! The wedding was brought forward a year because of a surprise bun in the oven that came along a bit sooner than anyone expected, and amazingly, was planned in less than two months! They chose to go with a slightly less traditional wedding cake setup, with tiers of chocolate cupcakes for second dessert and take-home treats for guests. If you’re interested, they used Jaycee’s Partee World for their cake (based in Caroline Springs, Melbourne).

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The morning after the wedding, K and I dragged ourselves from our hotel near Queen Victoria Market in Melbourne, and headed off in search for breakfast. We weren’t prepared to wait for hours at a funkier and more hip breakfast joint as we were both working that day in our companies’ respective Melbourne offices, so quick and efficient was what we were looking for.

Emily’s Place in Melbourne Central ticked that box and their hearty baked eggs, while not an attractively presented dish, helped to satisfy that morning-after-a-big-night craving for comfort food. While I won’t rush back any time soon, I can see myself dropping in quickly for one of their grab-n-go options the next time I need a quick snack.

Emily's Place on Urbanspoon

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While I have a fantastic cohort of friends and colleagues here in Sydney, the fact still remains that most of my closest girl friends are based in Melbourne. That’s why it’s so exciting whenever any of them come to visit me, and I can share all my favourite Sydney haunts with them! My friend Beth came to visit for a weekend in July, and we spent the time market-ing. This shot is of the breakfast we had at the Billy Kwong stall at Eveleigh Markets, one of my favourite fresh food markets in Sydney. My friend was very impressed that Kylie Kwong herself was on the stall that morning, assembling our breakfasts!

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I picked up these dips from Yalla while we were at Eveleigh Markets, and honestly found a million uses for them. I didn’t just have them as dips with crackers and cut vegetables – as nice as that was, I found that these dips were actually best used when stir-throughed other dishes. A mere heaped tablespoon of the eggplant kasaundi really added an extra richness to a curry that I made one night. The same amount of Moroccan matbucha gave a kick to a simple tomato-based pasta meal. Their website shows that they also do a range of desserts, so I may have to try some of those as I was so impressed with the dips.

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Sometimes, you have cravings that you just can’t satiate. After a less than impressive clam chowder in a bread bowl at Blue Fish, I decided to make my own clam chowder at home. This first time, I kept it very simple for myself by using a Pitango potato and leek soup as my chowder base rather than making it from scratch myself. I’m a pragmatist in that way I guess – I didn’t want to spend too long on cooking the meal if it wasn’t going to turn out well! Now that I know it works though, I might splash out and get a proper sourdough cob, some good quality seafood, and make everything from scratch.

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I went back again this year to try the Magnum Pleasure Pop-Up Store for the second time (read my account of the first time). The line was as long as last time, and it wasn’t helped by the fact that four of the six staff working on that night were just standing around chatting rather than actually serving customers. The Magnum itself had improved marginally on last year – while the chocolate shell was still much too chewy and still lacked that ‘snap’ of coated chocolate, they’ve at least learned to put the toppings on both sides allowing for an easier eating experience.

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A much more exciting and impressive ice-cream pop-up store happened was the Gelato Messina pop-up stall at Chatswood Chase in August. The one-day-only pop up offered four different dessert options, with each option designed to represent new stores at the Chase shopping centre – Williams Sonoma, Pottery Barn, Pottery Barn Kids and West Elm. I arrived early and was amongst the first in line to choose my dessert – a “Fairy Bread Popsicle” designed for Pottery Barn Kids. It was like going back in time and being a child again – the hundreds and thousands on a white chocolate shell with sugary sweet ice-cream inside…how do I even begin to explain the absolute joyfulness of this experience?

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K and I are at the time of our lives where our friendship group are hitting milestones. We’re getting married, my friends are having babies, his friends are turning 30…there’s a lot of different reasons to celebrate! One of these celebrations was an impromptu night out for our friend N’s 30th birthday where we started off with drinks at the Stoned Crow, and ended with dinner at the Bavarian Bier Cafe. It may seem like a low-key celebration, but we did go away for a weekend in the Hunter just a few weeks later as a belated birthday celebration.

Anyway, while the Bavarian is best known for their litre beers and schnitzels, they also do a great range of other dishes. This side dish of blackened corn with jalapeno butter ($6), was just delicious with a great slow burn and smoked flavour. I would go back just for this corn side dish!

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I spent a long weekend in Melbourne in September as well – mostly for my hens weekend in the Mornington Peninsula, but I also got to spend some evenings with my dad. As much as I love eating out and trying new places, there’s something very comforting about home cooking. While my mum always used to be the cook in our house, my dad has really stepped up since my mum passed away. He’s cooking a lot more, and trying to recreate some of the dishes that my mum used to make. This dinner featured a large pot of chicken curry (Malaysian style) and roti – similar to a dish that they used to make a decade ago when they owned a takeaway shop.

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Finally, I always feel like Black Star Pastry’s strawberry and watermelon cake deserves a bit of praise! This large cake was for a colleague’s birthday, and believe me when I say it was devoured in absolutely no time at all! K and I are actually thinking of having one of these cakes at our wedding…we’ll see!

Coming up in the next three months – our wedding! Our honeymoon in the Byron Bay rainforest hinterland! Our Chinese banquet! There’ll be lots of celebrations with friends and family – and you can keep up with my food and life adventures on Instagram or Facebook!