Thursday, January 7, 2010
Australia: Cafes, Caffes, Sausage Rolls, and Baked Goods
Ah, flat whites, how do I love thee? Let me count the ways ...
Flat whites are swoon-inducing cups of espresso mixed with steamed milk. They're not cappuccinos or lattes, but something in between. They are velvety, full of coffee flavor, and completely addicting. I had one practically every day.
They originated in Australia and New Zealand, but everyone would be in a better place if flat whites become a world-wide phenomenon.
When I got home, I even went into the attic and pulled out the espresso/cappuccino machine I got for my wedding 16 years ago. You can guarantee I'm going to fire that baby up. After I dust it off, of course.
To learn how to make a flat white, click here or here (video link).
To go with all these coffees (and teas) are the cafes and all the attendant goodies. Cafes and bakeries are everywhere. I wish the US had somewhere besides Starbucks or a diner where one could go and relax, have a coffee and a bite to eat. It's very civilized. The cafe culture in Australia is emblematic to me of the Aussies' ability to value work-life balance and a life that's not going at 100 miles per hour. I don't know if this is true, but that was my perception.
Bread is excellent in Australia as it's easy to find a bakery and buy fresh bread. Here's Christina in front of, you guessed it, bread:
In the US, bread has been commodified and homogenized like so many products here, and I think most Americans buy their bread in the grocery store. Commodification = mass production = no flavor, texture, or character. While sad for us in the US, it's nice to see great bread so widely available in other countries.
As one could guess, British influence is strong in Australia. And we saw it, particularly in the bakeries, with their meat-filled pastries. When I first arrived in the Sydney airport, I saw my first sausage roll and then tried it at three different places. Sausage rolls are ubiquitous in Australia.
This sausage roll is from the Beechwood Bakery in Healesville, Victoria, outside of Melbourne in the Yarra Valley region. We ate there for lunch after going to the Healesville Sanctuary, a small, naturalistic zoo focused on Australian wildlife where we petted kangaroos.
Healesville Sanctuary has kangaroos, koalas, kookaburras, Tasmanian devils, and many other animals native to Australia.
What struck me about the sausage roll was the flavor and texture of the sausage. Unlike American sausage, this sausage was very mild, and most noticeably, softer in texture. It was almost surprising to eat sausage with no resistance or toothiness. It makes me wonder if the sausage has milk or cream mixed in to soften it.
The other pastry we saw all the time in various venues was the meat pie. There were different kinds, but we saw mostly variations of beef meat pies: beef, beef and cheese, beef, bacon, and onion, etc. This one below was just beef, which was very juicy. My daughter Christina was the one who ordered it, and today -- 6 days after we came back from Australia -- said, "I want a meat pie." I have a feeling we'll be cooking this very soon, since you just don't find meat pies to buy where we live.
Of course, there were lots of desserts, including this little meringue critter, whose name I've forgotten in my jet lag fog.
And this giant eclair.
Man, I could use a white coffee right now.
A group of restaurants right near each other in Healesville: Innocent Bystander/Giant Steps winery and bistro, Beechworth Bakery, and White Rabbit Brewery. Funny green sign in the Innocent Bystander.