Chocolab Custom Made Chocolate

Scrolling through my Instagram feed one Sunday morning, I came across a post about custom made chocolate by Chocolab. I slammed the brakes on my scrolling finger and decided to stop and take a look.

Yes, my eyes were not deceiving me, I could order chocolate with various mix in’s based on whatever my heart desired. And I certainly desired some things!

Whilst I was on holiday in Hawaii recently, my first stop upon clearing customs was to find some U.S. chocolate! I’m a sucker for anything peanut butter based and I had plenty to choose from. After diligent research, I eventually awarded the Take 5 chocolate my favourite US chocolate. It had peanut butter, but also caramel, pretzels and peanuts and was a delicious mix of salty and sweet, soft but crunchy.

On my last day in Hawaii I headed to Walmart and Foodland to stock up on treats to bring home. I had to throw out a lot of clothes to bring about 5kg of chocolate home in my luggage! This included 16 Take 5 bars, which I admit to eating many of them, but I also gave a few out to my peanut butter fan friends.  I now have only one left and I’m saving it for a really special (unknown) occasion.

So when I saw that Chocolab can make me something with similar ingredients, I knew that I was definitely placing an order.  When you log on to their website, you pick from milk, white or dark chocolate and from there you can add a number of treats to mix in and they have a lot of variety to choose from.

To somewhat replicate the Take 5, I picked milk choc, with pretzels, peanut butter cups and peanut butter drops.

Another chocolate I love is a Whittaker’s chocolate that we don’t have here in Australia, which is White Raspberry. A Kiwi friend gave me some once which was a big mistake for her as she now needs to supply me with a fix every time she goes home.

To replicate this choc, I picked the white choc and looked for freeze dried raspberries, but the site only referenced ‘raspberries’ so I wasn’t sure if they were freeze dried and crisp like the Whittaker’s block. Instead I picked ‘freeze dried strawberries’ and then freestyled it a bit adding Nice biscuit pieces and toasted coconut chips.

Both blocks were about $10 each and I also added a double dipped choc coated Oreo for $1.50 and a white choc coated strawberry Oreo for $1.00. Postage was $7. Which to others that I told about my order seemed extreme, but to a foodie I think price is often not an issue…unless there are issues.

And so I waited. Eagerly. And waited. And waited… Toward the end of the week that I placed the order, I received an email apologising for the delay saying that they were swamped with orders and were gearing up with staff to manage the workload. They promised extra chocolate in my delivery to compensate. Ok, I’m cool with that. But then I waited some more.

After two weeks passed I was getting annoyed seeing all their posts on Instagram and Facebook of their creations when mine still hadn’t arrived. How about less photo taking and more chocolate making guys!!! I enquired about the delay and was told that my order was going out the next day.

Three days later my order arrived and as I walked out of the post office with it, I couldn’t help but think that the box looked smaller and was lighter than I imagined +$20 worth of chocolate would be. Then I realised in my absolute excitement about the concept that I hadn’t even looked at the weight of the chocolate block I would be getting before ordering. I get home and bust the package open and I’m disappointed. After waiting so long, my parcel was underwhelming.

The blocks were small. I weighed both of them and the white one was just 93 grams including packaging despite the label indicating 119 grams. The milk one was 113 grams, but again the label said higher at 152 grams.

 

My free ‘compensation’ chocolate was those 3.5 little squares of cookies and cream chocolate pictured. I was not impressed. Chocolate is an impulse purchase, you don’t want to be waiting close to 3 weeks for it. Nothing I order online these days takes more than a week to get here, often from overseas too.

I opened it all up and cut it up to try a little bit of everything and I have to say it was amazing! The Belgium chocolate is great quality and the combinations that I had picked worked really well.

I have noticed people commenting on some of Chocolab’s Facebook posts about the choc being too expensive and that ‘you could do it yourself’ much cheaper. Yes, you could but do you really want to buy all those ingredients for a little chocolate fix?

I also know that if I saw those blocks out at a market or an event like the good food and wine show, I wouldn’t hesitate to pay $10 for a block that was totally different to something I can get in Woolworths. But whilst waiting for my order, I happened to see choc coated Oreos for $2.50 a packet. This aggravated me more!

But all in all, I loved the choc and everyone that tried it did too, but the delivery delay overshadowed the experience. They obviously got too popular too fast. Who would have thought that would be a bad thing for a new business?!

Would I try them again, probably not, but if you are curious and have a choc combination craving that needs to be satisfied, perhaps you should give it a go as it truly was delicious. Hopefully they have their supply issues ironed out by now.

 

Sandy’s Gourmet Kitchen

I have a sneaky little underground restaurant that I have been frequenting quite regularly lately. The food is always delicious, plentiful and certainly made with love.

You can’t get a reservation though, it’s very, very exclusive. The restaurant is called Sandy’s Gourmet Kitchen and it’s located at my folk’s place.

Yep, that’s right. It’s my mum’s home cooking. Every Thursday night she cooks up a three course meal for the family that always delights.

I didn’t cook it, so I’m not going to be posting recipes or anything, but those that like food porn will enjoy seeing what we ate! Perhaps it will even serve as some inspiration for an upcoming meal.

My mum, Sandy, loves cooking and has always fed us gourmet feasts. I can remember back at school opening my lunch box to sandwiches with about 18 ingredients and stupidly often wanting to swap with someone that had a plastic cheese and butter sandwich with hard bread. My lunches would generally be wrapped in paper towel to absorb moisture, followed by cling wrap, then aluminium foil folded with the precision of hospital corners to ensure the sandwich remained in optimum condition by lunchtime. And if tomato was involved, that of course was wrapped separately for just-in-time assembly.

Mum’s meals are never disappointing. Never. I actually commented last week that if I ever find a decent man (another story entirely….) that I couldn’t bring him home for family dinner night as he may expect that this talent is genetic. It is not.

But last week’s dinner was exceptional! It was Asian themed and when I arrived mum had set the table with fortune cookies, orchids and birds of paradise. Yes, even though it’s just the immediate family and we do this every week, she always makes it a special occasion.

Entree that night was Chicken and Corn Soup with Fried Noodle Cake, topped with both fresh and fried shallots.

My mum freely admits to taking short cuts here and there (she tells me Donna Hay is an advocate of this…) and the soup was a premade one by Woolworths Select, but it was so good. None of that grey looking chicken you sometimes see in the bought stuff. The noodle cakes she whipped up and they were a simple mix of egg noodles, egg and fresh shallots fried quickly in a fry pan. Easy, but so delicious. I would be happy have this as a light meal on a Sunday night.

Chicken & Corn Soup with Fried Noodle Cake

Main knocked our socks off as mum had started prep the day before slow cooking the pork for 5 hours. She shredded this and then made the pork bun dough herself with the recipe on the flour box! On advice from my sister in law who grew up eating her mum’s authentic pork buns, next time we might try it with rice flour.

I ate mine with honey & soy dressing (bought) on top of a crispy Asian salad. I had two….

Steamed Pork Buns with Crispy Asian Salad


Inside the Pork Buns

I am a real dessert fan and just when we thought dinner couldn’t get any better, this arrived on the table and it was just the accompaniments to the main event!

Dessert – Choose your own adventure!

Dad got involved at this stage doing the man’s job of blow torching the sugar of our Coconut & Lime Brûlée. I’ve rarely seen my dad in the kitchen. That’s not to say he doesn’t cook, he is a gourmet BBQer, but he and mum rarely pair up on a dish. I suggested to dad that he may have a new career in cooking. He replied saying welding felt more likely…

Mum’s top tip for brûlée is to always use demerara sugar and to use much more than the recipe says. She kind of says that second part about a lot of things though. She freestyles with most recipes!

Dad blow torching the brûlées.

And this was the end result! We assembled our desserts ourselves and I chose to have my Coconut and Lime Brûlée topped with fresh passionfruit and toasted coconut chips, the Coconut Tuiles on the side, a scoop of vanilla ice cream and I squeezed the fresh lime juice into the brûlée.

Delicious!!

Dessert – Coconut & Lime Brûlée

Our Big Day Out with Anna Polyviou

The morning after Mum and I attended Katherine Sabbath’s cooking class at the Cake Bake and Sweets show in Sydney, I was scrolling through Instagram when I see a post by Anna Polyviou promoting an upcoming cake demo with Katherine as MC. It was to be held at Peter’s of Kensington and as Katherine’s demo has sold out in no time, I jumped straight on to buy two tickets. Surely mum will be available, if not she’ll HAVE to make herself free!

The demo was advertised as a 3 hour class learning to cook Anna’s award winning (2014 Dish of the Year Best Dessert) Carrot Cake that had recently featured as a challenge on Masterchef. I knew from the show that the cake was very involved, but the tickets were only $50 each and included a glass of champers and a mini carrot cake to take home. Surely it won’t really go for 3 hours, it seems too cheap I thought!

But I’m glad I found unmetered parking in a street behind Peter’s as it certainly did go for 3 hours and it was certainly good value!

Anna and Katherine are both seriously cool and funny people and with her two chefs from the Shangri-La who she brought along as well, it all combined for a great show. Yes, there was plenty of cooking advice and discussion about the recipe, but mostly it was just great entertainment.

When we arrived we were greeted with a glass of Moët which was rather unexpected. I thought we’d be given some form of cheap sparkling for sure. We also got a recipe card to follow along with and take home and half way through we got to make our own verrine of the carrot cake which was great as it was lunchtime by then and I was starving.

Carrot Cake verrines and recipe card

Although our verrines looked a bit bodgy (because we made them quickly ourselves) they were delicious! The Praline Cremeux (mousse) was so creamy and had a delicious hazelnut flavour and the caramelised walnuts were sweet and added a great crunch.

Throughout the class samples of Anna’s chef Jess’ carrot cake macarons which featured the bright yellow graffiti as per the actual cake were passed around, as well as some freshly made loukamades with honey and caramel popcorn.

Jess' Carrot Cake Macarons

Jess’ Carrot Cake Macarons

The final part of the demo is the funnest part of making the cake according to Anna, which is splattering the yellow graffiti onto the cake. Her chef Giovana shielded the crowd from becoming part of the artwork.

Anna and Giovana getting their graffiti on.

Anna and Giovana getting their graffiti on.

At the end of the demo we all get to graffiti our our take home mini carrot cake and decorate it with the chocolate discs. Afterwards we stopped by to thank Anna for an awesome day and get a photo. She gave my Mum a big hug and kiss on the cheek and she was just ridiculously funny and lovely. Now I want her AND Katherine Sabbath to be my best friends…

Mum and I head home to have a coffee and try the actual cake. It is so delicious with all the different layers, but I must say it doesn’t have much carrot ‘cake’ in it!

The beautiful take home mini Carrot Cake.

The beautiful take home mini Carrot Cake.


Inside the Carrot Cake.

Inside the Carrot Cake.

I really enjoyed the Carrot Cake but I’m too impatient with my sweet treats to spend 3 hours (more likely 3 days for me) making this very involved recipe!

If you want to try it though, you can get the Carrot Cake recipe from the Masterchef website here http://tenplay.com.au/channel-ten/masterchef/recipes/carrot-cake.

And if you are keen for a fun day out, Anna said she is likely returning to Peter’s of Kensington to do another demo in September. Keep an eye out on Instagram and on the Peter’s website for when it goes on sale.

I Want Katherine Sabbath to be my New Best Friend

Way back in late Feb / early March, I was scrolling through Instagram whilst at my desk at work and saw that the Instagram cake sensation Katherine Sabbath (seriously check her out if you don’t know who she is…and shame on you if you don’t) was conducting some cake decorating classes at the Cake, Bake and Sweets show in Sydney in June.

I had recently tried to get tickets to her demo at Peters of Kensington but they sold out too quickly. I wasn’t prepared to let that happen again and there were only 15 places available for each of the 3 days of the event, so I furiously logged on to see if there were any left.

Yes, I’m in luck! Hmmm almost $200 a ticket?

Oh whatevs, it’s Mum’s birthday next week and I can get us both tickets – there, easily justified.

We waited for June to come and over this period Katherine Sabbath’s profile continued to grow and grow. She was posting amazing looking cakes to Instagram and we couldn’t wait to do the class.

On the day, we arrive at the show early to peruse the stands before our 4 hour cooking class. To be fair, I was far more interested in eating than looking at baking supplies, so when we came across the Zumbo stand I called it time for morning tea.

Mum had never had the pleasure of trying a Zumbo offering before so she was in for a real treat! As we stood at the cabinet trying to decide what to pick, I was disappointed to see only an empty space behind the Salted Caramel Chouxmaca sign.

The person in front of us in queue was being a right twat taking their time changing their mind about what to order every 3 seconds, but this turned out to be an act of fate! As they continued to faff about, someone came to replenish the cabinet with Salted Caramel Chouxmacas!

So we get one of those and the Lemon Meringue Pie, plus some coffees and head off to find somewhere to sit down and relax / do an Instagram photo shoot.

IMG_8294

We cut up the two desserts to make for easy sharing and I tried the lemon meringue pie first. It looked very cute and the pastry crust was crisp and tasty, the lemon nice and tart, but I would have preferred more crispness to the meringue top

Then I moved on to the Salted Caramel Chouxmaca. You know that game ‘if you could only eat one thing for the rest of your life, what would it be?’ Pick this. ALWAYS pick this. I don’t care that you’ve never tried it. You will not regret your choice. Truuuuuuuusssssst me.

This thing was amazing. A chouxmaca pastry bun, filled with choc mousse on top of a chewy rich gooey caramel layer, topped with salted caramel cream and half a caramel macaron.

When I grow up, I’m going to marry it. Zumbo, you complete me.

Anyhoo, after that we head over to watch Katherine Sabbath demo on stage her Unicorn Hamburger Mini Cake and we are blown away by how funny and lovely she is. Definitely a genuine person and she even had her folks there supporting her that day.

In our class we are being taught how to make her famous upside down ice cream cake. I really didn’t think that the class could go for 4 hours, but making the delicious bubblegum flavoured green buttercream frosting took some serious mixing on behalf of the Kitchenaids (I fell in love with them whilst I was there…#wantone). Also, Katherine is a really fun character and had lots of funny stories to tell about being an ‘Instagram celebrity’.

After that was done we spent a long time troweling it onto the cake and smoothing it out like we were plastering a wall. Mum and I got quite behind at this point as were being perfectionists and just as we thought we got one part smooth, we’d stuff up another part. From across the room everyone looked like they had nailed it much easier than us, but later on when I looked at them up close, it was clear they were just less particular about bumps and gaps than we were.

We continued to be behind for the rest of the class. Once the buttercream was on we decorated the bottom of the cake with sprinkles, then dipped a waffle cone in white chocolate and then sprinkles, then coated the ‘ice cream’ ball in white chocolate and attached it on an angle to the top of the cake. After this we applied the fluorescent pink ganache to the ice cream to get the the melted effect, drizzled it down the sides of the cake and threw sprinkles at it. One can NEVER have too many sprinkles.

Mum and I were the last to finish and the helpers were trying to clean up the room and get us out of here. Katherine’s mum even helped me pack up our cakes to speed us along (she is lovely too).

All in all it was a fun day and I can’t wait to try and recreate that cake at home. I also can’t wait to have another Chouxmaca. Be still my beating heart…IMG_8382

Welcome

Hello and welcome to my site!

I finally decided to set up a blog about my foodie adventures after becoming obsessed with taking photos of my meals for Instagram.

Yes, I am one of those annoying people to eat out with that won’t let you touch your meal until I’ve taken a shot of it (sometimes 10 or 20….). I’m also the one drawing attention to us in dark restaurants by using the flash. Sorry.

I don’t profess to be a culinary expert, but I enjoy trying new things and in particular the visual aspect of food. This is what draws me in with desserts. I often decide I want to try a restaurant solely due to their dessert menu. I have my priorities right…

So join me here on my foodie adventures. I will post about restaurants, cafes, bars, home cooking (especially my mum’s, she is amazing), cooking classes and foodie events.

Bon appétit.