Sunday 30 June 2024

Zero Mode cafe, Box Hill

Today I had lunch at Zero Mode.  It was one of Sylvia's social media discoveries with pretty food and a pannacotta teddy bear in a drink.  We were meeting my friend Yav and her daughter.  They were happy with the choice but we were pretty distracted catching up.  The lunch had been planned earlier in the year but all of us have had our fair share of ill health that caused the meal to be postponed a few times.  It was worth the wait!

Although Sylvia and I both chose another drink, I could not resist ordering the Iced Matcha: with matcha choc panna cotta ($9.90).  Sylvia and I had loved the photos of the teddy bear drinks.  It is not clear on the menu which ones have teddy bears unless you are in the know about the panna cotta drinks.  Fortunately Sylvia had done her homework!

The cute little teddy bear was made out of panna cotta.  I had expected it to be out of frozen drink when I had seen the pictures.  It was served on a lot of ice with a bottle of iced matcha latte on the side. 

Once we had admired the teddy and taken enough pictures (are there ever enough when it is this cute), I poured the latte over the teddy.  I had intended to try and drink some.  One sip was enough.  Milky drinks aren't usually my thing nor is creamy jellied desserts.  Sylvia valiantly had it in lieu of dessert.  She had never had panna cotta before and she was very happy with her matcha choc version.

Meanwhile I loved my purple Butterfly pea lemonade ($8) and Sylvia enjoyed her Fat Boy: iced latte, cheese foam, brown sugar foam ($8.5).  Yav and her daughter had cafe lattes.

Sylvia had her eye on the Nori Chips with seaweed flakes ($14).  These were some of the most flavourful chips I have ever had, with their generous dusting of nori salt.

I ordered the Veggie Mode Poke Bowl which the menu described as avocado, edamame, bean curd, beetroot hummus, pickled radish, and carrot with a sesame dressing.  I chose my bowl be served with the kale and quinoa grain option ($24).  Other options were white rice, brown rice and coleslaw.  My bowl actually had coleslaw but not beetroot hummus.  That was fine.  I loved it.  There was a lot of food but it was delicious with the creamy sesame dressing.  The pickled radish was a lovely addition that cut through the rich dressing.  Yav also had the Veggie Mode Poke Bowl and her daughter had the Chicken Mode Poke Bowl.

Before we left, Sylvia and I went to look at the desserts.  They looked really good but we were too full to try any.  Sylvia has been looking at cream cakes online that have a plastic sleeve to keep the sauce in until it is lifted up to let the cream fall over the cake.  They look impressive but rich.  She particularly liked the look of the Thai Milk Tea Cream Cake but I would have chosen the Ferrero Rocher cream cake.

I could not resist sharing this notice of animal shaped macarons with interesting flavours such as a yuzu pikachu or a sesame koala.  It was not cheap but how cute is it!

Zero Mode was definitely worth the long drive there.  It is in the bottom of a new hotel building and has a modern yet welcoming interior.  Shelves of bottles and plants added to the ambience but I could have done without all the carcasses of some small animal on display.  It seems part of the Asian Australian fusion vibe of the place.  We really loved our visit and would definitely return.

Zero Mode
G03/850 Whitehorse Rd, Box Hill VIC 3128.
On the Ground Floor of Art Series The Chen Hotel.
Open: Mon-Thurs 8am-10pm, Fri-Sat 8am-Late

Monday 24 June 2024

Winter Solstice at CERES 2024

On the weekend we went to a Winter Solstice event at CERES in Brunswick.  There was good food, music and crowds around the fire.  It was a pleasure to celebrate the shortest day of the year in a little oasis of green land in the city.  CERES is a community garden, farm and environmental education centre.

When we arrived it was still light.  It would have been lovely to see the sunset but it was cloudy and I don't think we were in a good location to see it.  Nevertheless it is lovely to watch the darkness fall so early in the evening and know that longer days are ahead.

We wandered around the open spaces and admired the lighting displays.  The neon flowers looked impressive, even in the light.

We admired more flowers by this stone ring of mosaic seats.

Then we checked  out the catering offerings.  We ended up ordering from the Woking Amazing food truck.  It was woking amazing that all the food was vegan - burgers, hotdogs and nuggets with chips.  We placed our order and were given a buzzer to take with us so we didn't need to stand by for 15 minutes until it was ready.

I bought some mulled wine from the open air Merri Cafe Bar.  I had been tempted by the kombucha but it was a cold night and I don't get many opportunities to enjoy mulled wine.  This is the area that used to have a cafe before the regular Merri Cafe opened up towards the main entrance and car park.

Finally our orders were ready and I was challenged in finding a place with enough light to take photos!I really enjoyed my Sweet pea and mint burger with lettuce, tomato, onion and smokey aioli on a sesame seed bun.  Sylvia and I shared the Jumbo potato cakes with garlic butter and the Mini churros with chocolate sauce.  It was a lot of fried food but so freshly cooked and crisp that it was a real treat.

While we ate, we sat in the stone ring of mosaic seats.  The mosaics on the seats in stone seats were very charming but also cold.  It was so lovely to listen to the live music: Isabel Rumble.  There were more neon flowers but I was more taken with the gum leaf backdrop.

I loved this pretty gum nut lights installation that lit up the paths from the food trucks and music stage back up to the near the grocery.  They had the gossamer charm of May Gibbs gum nut babies.

We stopped for a bit to watch the hula hoop performance in the market area by the grocery.  There was a little stall selling chai and brownies.  I was surprised we did not see people queuing at a coffee  cart. Maybe it was too late for coffee.

We only stayed for the early fire.  It was described in the program as the "Mini kids fire sculpture" in the Market stage (as opposed to the "Main fire sculpture" at the Village green.  Someone in the crowd commented on the primal instinct to be drawn to fire but an overhead joke about using a fishing rod to get marshmallows to the fire shows how the safety people kept the crowd at quite some distance from it.  When we managed to get to the edge of the barriers we could feel the fierce heat of the fire.  Everyone was fascinated by its crackling dance that rose high in the air letting off puffs of sparks.  When I saw the photo I thought it looked a bit like a giraffe.

It was quite a magical feeling to be watching the fire leap into the dark night and look up at the full moon peeking out from the clouds.  I was glad we went but also happy to go home to our warm loungeroom.

More posts CERES:
When I did a search for CERES I saw how much it has been a part of my life since I started blogging.  These are a selection of posts with CERES spaces in them, even if it is not the focus of all the posts.

Wednesday 19 June 2024

Cheesy broccoli, carrot and corn muffins

Instead of cooking dinner last night I baked a batch of muffins.  Perhaps it is the influence of the book I am reading (All that I Am by Anna Funder).  I loved reading about a character being given a depressing single serve of casserole covered in gladwrap; she had a slice of frozen cheesecake instead.  It sounds worthy of Sister Monica Joan whose wicked sweet tooth we are enjoying in the wonderful Call the Midwife on tv lately.  Our muffins, however, were savoury.

I had not planned to make the muffins for tea.  They were a spur of the moment thing.  One minute I was browsing recent blog entries and the next I realised that I had the ingredients for the recipe on Hungry Happens.  We love planning our week's meals but it is fun to feel inspired enough to leave the laptop and make the recipe.

It is also perfect weather for baking.  This morning the temperature dipped to 0.7 C with frosts predicted.  We rarely have to worry about frosts these days, unlike when I was growing up.  This is a week for blasting the heater and drinking hot cups of tea.  Having the oven on and the smell of muffins baking helps warm us.

I experimented with different flour that the usual white flour.  When I have tried different flours, chickpea flour is one of my favourites.  It tastes pleasant and has lots of protein and nutrients.  I was really pleased it worked with the wholemeal flour.  I find that wholemeal flour is a bit heavy all by itself but I am keen to use less white flour

The end result was a lovely soft muffin with lots of vegetable speckles.  Sylvia was not there when I was inspired to up and bake.  She was very pleasantly surprised when she came in and found there were warm muffins for tea.  We then talked about all the different vegetable combinations we might like to try in this recipe such as zucchini with corn and tofu bacon.  I have quite a few savoury recipes in my recipe index and this one is a fine addition.  We are looking forwards to having these again, maybe with soup next time.

More savoury muffin recipes on Green Gourmet Giraffe:

Cheddar, kale and facon muffins
Pumpkin miso muffins (v)
Savoury beetroot, carrot, chocolate and goats cheese muffins
Savoury carrot turmeric muffins (v) 
Smoky parsnip muffins
Sweet potato, 'feta' and sauerkraut muffins (v) 

Cheesey broccoli, carrot and corn muffins
Slightly adapted from Hungry Happens
Makes 12

Wet ingredients:

1 generous cup of finely chopped broccoli
1 medium carrot, grated (almost 1 cup)
1 cob of fresh corn kernels (about 1/2 cup)
1 and 1/2 cups grated cheddar cheese
1/3 cup milk (I used soy)
1/3 cup Greek yogurt
1/4 cup olive oil
2 eggs

Dry ingredients:

1 cup wholemeal plain flour
1 cup besan (chickpea flour)
2 tsp baking powder
1 tbsp dried parsley
1 tsp mustard powder
3/4 tsp salt

Grease or line 12 hole muffin tin.  Preheat oven to 180 C.
(NOTE: I baked mine at 190 C because my oven always bakes cooler than the average oven.)

Mix the wet ingredients in a large mixing bowl.  Stir in the dry ingredients.  The batter is quite thick but as the vegetables cook they release some liquid.  Bake for 20-25 minutes or until golden brown and a skewer inserted in the middle will come out clean. 

On the Stereo:
Mermaids in the Well: Kavisha Mazzella

Tuesday 18 June 2024

Sirens Kiosk, St Leonards and the National Celtic Festival, Portarlington

On the King's Birthday weekend, when we went to stay the night with my parents in Geelong, our first destination was the Bellarine Peninsula, first to the lovely Sirens Kiosk in St Leonards for lunch and then to the National Celtic Festival in Portarlington to enjoy some Celtic music and crafts.  It was a drizzling as we drove there and then as we entered St Leonard's the sun came out.  This was welcome when we arrived at the Sirens Kiosk with its outdoor seating.

When I told my mum we were going to St Leonards she said there was not much there.  Sylvia had other ideas after reading about this cute little kiosk.  It is a small booth at the start of the pier with some simple tables and chairs and a great view of the sea.

Sylvia prefers plant based milks so she was happy that there are no extra charges for this option.  The display cabinet has lots of tempting treats: Caramel Anzac Slice, Banana Danish, Lemon Butter Berry Cookie, Brownie Boy Cookie Pie, Raspberry Rosewater White Chocolate Meringues and more.  I also saw someone giving their dogs very cute paw shaped biscuits.

Sylvia had been looking forward to the iced strawberry matcha latte; they also have a warm variation of this drink.  It came with freeze-dried strawberries sprinkled on top.  I had a hot chocolate which came with a huge marshmallow on top.  Sylvia enjoyed her strawberry matcha but noted it was sweeter than her favourite one in Melbourne.  The Sirens drink was more like a strawberry milk with a bit of matcha than a matcha latte with some strawberry puree.  I liked my hot chocolate.  It was lovely to have a hot drink on a cool day.

She also had the toasted and buttered banana bread.  It was very nice but not fully toasted as we had hoped and parts of it were cold.

Far more pleasing were the jaffles.  I ordered a spaghetti jaffle.  We always called them jaffles when I was a kid and I remember toasting them in a jaffle iron over the fire at a holiday house.  (My dad also remembers jaffles fondly but think they should be round!)  It seems more common to call them toasties these days.  I now rarely have tinned spaghetti with tomato sauce but it was something we loved as kids.  Tinned spaghetti in a jaffle is a childhood comfort food for me.  And it was the right time of year for a hot lunch.

Sylvia loved my jaffle so much that she ordered the cheese and baked beans jaffle.  Did I mention that the jaffles came with salted crisps.  This one was also great and warming. Sylvia rated it very highly.

Then we had a walk along the pier where I bumped into a former colleague.  Sylvia and I didn't have time for a walk on the sand but if we hadn't had other plans perhaps we would have done so.

As we drove back through St Leonards I saw this nostalgic street art that harked back to old milkbars.  I loved the kid climbing over the wall (top left on above photo) and the coloured fly strips on the doorway.  The pelican on the rubbish tin below is also a lovely bit of artwork.

We then headed to the National Celtic Festival.  (Only a 10 minute drive away.)  This is a festival we have visited quite a few times over the years.  This year I put my name down to volunteer but a cold and cough in the week or two before meant that it did not seem wise to stand around for a hours in the cold.  It was disappointing that I had to pull out.  Instead we had a quick visit to look around the festival.

When we arrived, we heard the poignant strains of the bagpipes.  We walked up the hill and stopped to listen to the Geelong RSL Pipes and Drums play on a patch of land overlooking the sea.  Then, with the Scottish vibe, we headed to Mowatts Scottish food truck and had a tattie scone each.  It was nice but not as freshly crisp as we have had.  

We would have liked to have some of the other food but were full from our jaffles.  If I had had more space in my tummy, I would have loved to have tried the special festival toastie at the Splatters food truck.  It had potatoes, caramelised onions and a blue cheese.  Splatters has a cheese train (like a sushi train) in Pakington Street in Geelong that I would love to visit one day!

This piper scarecrow was on display to promote a scarecrow from the Great Australian Scarecrow Competition.  Apparently some people do not like bagpipes!  Maybe birds don't either.

As we weren't hungry, we had a look around the craft market.  It is one of the nice places to visit when we don't purchase a ticket.  We could also hear the occasional tune from one of the performance tents or a busker.  The grass was damp and I heard someone say they were tired of all the rain.

This collage gives a glimpse of the creativity and gorgeousness on show.  Garden gnomes dressed as members of the band Kiss, macrame, knitting, warm beanies, shamrock baby shoes, clothes, jewellery, artwork and honey bears.

We were quite taken by the crochet stall.  Sylvia really loved the positive potatoes, especially the one at the back with the top hat.  Seeing all these beautiful crochet flowers makes me wish I could crochet.  I tried it last winter and did not get far but maybe some day I will get the hang of it.

Likewise I wished I could make such beautiful small fairy houses like the ones of display at this lovely stall.  This was the stall with garden gnomes and fairies among other things.  A little girl came up with a $5 note and asked to buy a fairy well but the stall holder graciously told her she needed more money.  Last I saw the little girl was looking at the tiny bottles of fairy dust.

The last stall we looked at was the honey stall.  This is where the honey was sold in tiny bear bottles.  The range of flavoured honey was amazing.  The straws of honey with different fruit flavours were tempting.  Instead of purchasing we went to the honey tasting.  I had to taste the chocolate honey.  It was very good.  Sylvia really liked the creamed honey.  I was surprised as I have always found the idea of creamed honey quite odd.

We sat for a bit watching some Irish dancing.  The discipline and stamina of the dancers is amazing.

On our way back to the car, we walked past the playground where Sylvia used to play when she was younger.  I am not sure they had all those sculptures at that time.  This dolphin sculpture is quire lovely and kids enjoy climbing it.  If you look closely you will see a head of a little boy who is making his way up it.

As we left we had a lovely view of the You Yangs mountain ranges and the sun struggling to shine through the grey clouds.  We decided the patch of the light on the water looked like some sort of alien activity.  After all we have seen enough tv shows where everyone enjoys a village event while something odd happens nearby unseen by almost all.  We were in the right place as observers to see what was going on at the festival and around.

Sirens (Miss Buzz) Kiosk
The Foreshore (entrance to pier)
St Leonards, Bellarine Peninsula
Open: Mon, Thurs, Fri 8.30am-2pm, Sat, Sun 8.30am-2.30pm

National Celtic Festival
Friday 7th - Monday 10th June 2024

Thursday 13 June 2024

Van Loons Nursery Cafe, Wallington, Geelong

On the weekend we had lunch at Van Loons Nursery Cafe in the outer east of Geelong.  It was a delicious lunch in the glassed in verandah surrounded by plants both inside and out.  I had a good choice of meals with both vegetarian options on the specials board and a separate plant based menu.  After lunch we enjoyed perusing the plants in the the nursery.

We were glad we booked when we arrived and the person in front of us was told she had to wait for a table.  Our booking was for an indoors table but we were between inside and out in the glassed in verandah.  We were protected from sun and rain overhead and from the winds but there were it was not totally enclosed.  You can see in the above photo that there is a green blanket on the back of chair.  I appreciated placing my blanket over my knees because there were some cool drafts.  I was near one of the stand headers so I was warm up top.

The menu had a note to ask for a plant based menu, which we did.  These days, plant based menus are great, especially for me because I don't like eggs but I sometimes wish for the option of cheese without paying for extras.  The plant based menu gave options for many of the dishes on the main menu without the meat, eggs and dairy: porridge, smashed avo, nourish bowl, vegie burger and paella.  The plant based meals are slightly cheaper but had less proteins.

I ordered the Plant Based Breakfast ($26): Seeded toast, roasted tomato, hash browns, mushrooms, baby spinach, avocado, baked beans, red onion & tomato salsa, tomato relish.  It was a big and beautiful plate.  So much good food!  I feel bad to criticise such a lovely big meal but I have quibbles.  While I am not generally a fan of mock meat, I would have liked some vegie sausages (after I had so many with fry ups in the UK recently).  I found the tomatoes a little under ripe.  The seeded toast was lovely but I would prefer it served on the side so I don't feel obliged to try and cut it with a knife and fork.  (This seems a trend in cafes lately and I must be developing a lot of muscles sawing through the crusts.)  Despite all of this, it was delicious with lots of nice vegies and crisp hash browns, all brought together with the beans. 

Sylvia was pleased with her Potato and Herb Rosti ($27): with poached egg, smashed avocado and goats cheese.  Her plate looks a bit lacking, which I assume is because she asked for it without bacon.  She was pleased to add some vegies from my plate, especially the mushrooms.  There was a vegan version on the Plant Based Menu but it had baby spinach and roasted tomato instead of the bacon, poached egg, and goats cheese.  Sylvia decided that two out of three aint bad!  She raved about how good it was with a crispy unseasoned rosti, lots of avocado and the runny egg yolk all brought together by the wonderful soft salty goats cheese.  I was surprised that hers cost one dollar more than mine. 

The soup on the specials blackboard was called Bread Soup ($20): it had roasted red peppers and tomatoes with croutons, served with toasted ciabatta and herb & garlic butter.  I had a mouthful of the bowl that my parents ordered to share.  It was chunky and full of flavour.

My parents also shared a sweet waffle ($27) with fresh berries, sweet dukkah, maple syrup in a little jug, lemon curd and fresh whipped cream in pretty swirls.  It looked beautiful and was enjoyed.  I didn't taste it but Sylvia sampled the cream and says it was delicious.

We resisted the rocky road hot chocolate on the specials board.  Instead we drank apple juice, kombucha and coffees.

When it was time to pay, I had a look at the indoor space.  It seemed more crowded that the verandah but was cosy with hanging plants and vases of flowers.

Most of the sweet food is inside.  The sweets cabinet had a great variety including cheesecakes, friands, slices, banana bread, roulade, macarons and lemon meringue pie.  Many of these would be part of the high teas.  For those wanting a larger dessert, the specials blackboard offered rocky road waffles.

For those who wanted to take food home, there were local and gourmet groceries to purchase.  You can also see the pile of scones to the right of the above photo.  It would be great to return to have tea and scones because they looked huge and fluffy.

Here is a peek of the outdoors area where meals in the finer weather would be lovely among all the plants.  Despite the sun in the photo, it was not a warm day when we visited.

Once we had eaten our lunch, we had a wander around the nursery.  It is not the cheapest place to buy plants and pots but they are very beautiful to peruse.

Despite it being winter, there were colourful flowers to admire.

There were lots of large pots on sale around this fountain.

Nearby are more pots by a rather impressive wrought iron pergola.

On the other side of herb and vegetables seedlings shed are these purple pots so beautiful arranged in curved rows.

We looked at the native plants, chose a correa for our back yard and headed past the indoor displays.  Inside we found more plants and garden decorations including a bunch of wonderful large metal poppies on sticks.

We were ready to go by now and had very little time to admire the succulents in these cute pots before making out purchases and heading home.  It was quite a trip from home for us so it might be some time before we are able to visit again but I am glad to have been there.

Van Loons Nursery Cafe
405 Grubb Road, Wallington, Geelong
9am – 4:30pm Monday to Friday. 9am – 5pm weekends