Metro Bakery & Café

A few weeks ago I was down in ‘The Mount’ on the Limestone Coast for a book event and stayed overnight with good friends. Mount Gambier is in the neck of the woods I grew up in – just a short drive from the family farm at Naracoorte, the Coonawarra wine region and the picturesque seaside town of Robe, where I spent childhood summer holidays. The region is filled with world heritage natural sites and the Mount is described as ‘a city of craters, lakes and caves’. If you’re planning a road trip from Adelaide to Melbourne via the spectacular Great Ocean Road, it’s worth a stop to view its greatest attraction, the Blue Lake, which fills the crater of an extinct volcano. The water mysteriously changes colour with the seasons, turning an intense, deep turquoise blue in November and back to steely grey in March.

As we chat into the night, my friend Kathy tells me about Metro Bakery & Café, her favourite café in this small regional city that has tongues wagging for all the right reasons.

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The next morning we arrive early for breakfast. The Mount is renowned for its cold, frosty mornings but we soon push open a door to a room that is warm and inviting: rustic timber floors, dark wood, jazz playing. We could almost be in Melbourne. And, like Melbourne, the coffee is great.

Metro, derived from the Greek word Metrio, means ‘in the middle’ or ‘meeting place’. It’s the idea of community coming together and it certainly seems true to its name as I watch a loyal band of locals stream through the door, stopping to snatch a quick morning coffee & pastry and to read the morning paper. 

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On the counter is a basket of buttery croissants au beurre, made and baked on the premises from a century-old traditional French recipe, and a tray of croissants aux amandes. There seems to be a focus on traditional French baking as well as Greek and Italian and as we wait for our breakfasts I chat to Toni Vorenas – who owns the café with her husband Theo – and find out why.

Photo courtesy of Metro Bakery

Photo courtesy of Metro Bakery

‘A French trained pastry chef literally knocked on our door and asked for a job. He had tried every bakery in Mount Gambier. At that time we did not make anything in-house and had no equipment,’ says Toni. ‘He started the bakery with us from the ground up. He brought over another pastry chef, also French trained, to work with him and he is still with us today. We have since hired three local boys who are all learning the skills.’

What began as a simple coffee and sandwich shop has evolved into a thriving European style bakery, café and bar and among the pastries now made in-house you will find pithiviers, mont blancs, opera cakes, escargots, and little lemon and raspberry tartlets.

Photo courtesy of Metro Bakery

Photo courtesy of Metro Bakery

‘I am Sicilian and my husband is Greek so our café food is also heavily influenced by our cultures,’ says Toni. ‘Our focus is on tradition – as well as using traditional methods of baking we also make our own sugo (passata) once a year. We use a lot of produce from my father’s garden and we have our own substantial herb garden out the back.’

The croissants aux almonds tempt but I decide on something more substantial and my Metro Big Breakfast arrives. Roasted tomatoes, smoked bacon, Spanish chorizo, sautéed mushrooms, mozzarella and herb potato rosti, basil pesto, and poached eggs with sourdough. Enough to keep me going for the entire day!

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Artisan loaves and baguettes are made on the premises, with gluten-free options, and there is traditional baklava, cannoli and tiramisu.

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Metro also does interesting light lunches from soups and salads to pasta. There’s a range of gourmet baguette sandwiches served all day, or you may prefer Chickpea & Haloumi fritters, Braised Pork Belly or a Terra Rossa Beef Burger.

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Two years ago Metro started opening in the evenings as a dessert bar with plated desserts from the kitchen. ‘We still run the dessert bar but we have also added cafe style dinners,’ says Toni.

Oh, and that croissant aux amandes. I took one to go. It was très bon!

 

*For more information on the Limestone Coast click here.

Posted in Rural South Australia & Food Nostalgia | Tagged , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

A Delicious Interview with Paris Perfect

To see my full interview with Paris Perfect, a company that offers hand-picked, luxury holiday rentals with dazzling Paris views, click here.

Jane Paech, Alsace apartment, Paris Perfect 2014. Photo: Vincent Bourdon

Jane Paech, Alsace apartment, Paris Perfect 2014. Photo: Vincent Bourdon

To read a review of Delicious Days by Paris Perfect, click here.

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Jamface by Poh

You just know when you’ve stumbled upon something good.

Early last Sunday morning, rain falling, I was moseying about the market when across the way from the muddy potatoes and tangled roots of horseradish I spied Jamface out of the corner of my eye. Here at the Adelaide Showground Farmers’ Market, among the lemon bergamot pears and earthy winter vegetables, this bespoke stall is so gorgeously presented that a magazine stylist may well have waved a wand over it. 

Artfully arranged with a hefty dose of panache and a cheeky, fun logo, I should have known that Poh had something to do with it!

Newcomer Jamface is the latest venture of the enthusiastic and multi-talented Poh Ling Yeow, who finished runner-up in the first season of MasterChef Australia (remember those cake decorating skills!) and went on to have her own cooking show, Poh’s Kitchen. She is also an author and a professional artist, which shows in the creative detail here.

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Iced with style, the whimsical counter is laden with delicious cakes and pastries – at once rustic French provincial and bountiful country-Australian spread. There are glazed madeleines, apricot crumble tartlets and voluptuous clouds of fluffy meringue, the smooth mixture swirled with chocolate. The pastry layers in the Milly Fillys look so crisp that these vanilla mille-feuilles could have been ‘made to order’ in a Paris pâtisserie! Oh, and there are orange melting moments sandwiched with cream cheese and Grand Marnier, chewy Anzac biscuits and gluten-free chocolate hazelnut cake. Homemade with love and local, organic ingredients, it all feels so generous, wholesome and accessible, with a touch of CWA

Looking closer, there is a plum tart, and cheddar crusted apple pies with brandy anglaise, best eaten with the hot custard poured into those dainty little holes. And dark chocolate beetroot cake sandwiched with orange cream cheese frosting and covered in dark chocolate ganache. Shall I go on?

Launched a few weeks ago with Poh’s partners, the delightful stand also sells a range of homemade jams and pasta sauces, pot-set natural yoghurts and pan-fried pizzettas. A quirky sign announces ‘Pizza Fritta, Neapolitan pan-fried pizza with our two timing tomato sauce’. I found myself ogling the golden chaussons, simply named Paris Pasties. These turnovers of cheddar-crusted pastry are filled with savoury delights such as caramelised onion & thyme, potato & parsley, and roasted sweet potato & rosemary – warming parcels of pleasure to tuck into on this cold July morning. 

On Sundays, you’ll find Jamface at both The Adelaide Showground Farmers’ Market and The Market Shed on Holland, the newest food market in Adelaide with an emphasis on organic, vegetarian, vegan and gluten-free fare.

So tuck in with gusto and get some jam on your face!

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A book review by Paris Perfect

‘Ever wish you had that best friend who would share with you all her favorite addresses, not to be missed shopping experiences and hidden spots in Paris? With her new book “Delicious Days in Paris: Walking Tours to Explore the City’s Food and Culture,” Jane Paech has shared all her favorite Paris recommendations and travel tips.’

To read the rest of the review click here.

And to check out Paris Perfect’s dream apartment rentals, sit yourself down with a glass of wine and click here.

Relax on your little balconette; Paris Perfect apartments. Photo: Vincent Bourdon

Relax on your little balconette; Paris Perfect apartments. Photo: Vincent Bourdon

Posted in Delicious Days in Paris | Tagged , , , | 1 Comment

Pot Ready Mussels, alive, a-live-O

One of my fondest memories of mussels is a lunch of moules frites in a cosy restaurant on the Grand Place in Brussels, snug at a window table, snow falling softly outside. I have dug into my fair share in France too, when come September, cafés and brasseries are busy cooking up moules frites and serving fragrant bowls of mussels in a myriad of ways. Add some crusty baguette and a carafe of wine, and it’s an inexpensive and delicious way to spend an evening. In season, the produce markets in Paris are also laden with mussels, noisily scooped into buckets like seashells, and sold by the litre. Look for the superior moules de bouchot. Their full flavour is partly attributed to being underwater at high tide and exposed to the maritime air at low tide.

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France’s mussel-growing is concentrated in Brittany, but some of the most prized mussels are from Normandy. Bouchot mussels from the bay of Mont-St-Michel are nurtured in the waters in front of the Benedictine abbey, and farmers have been using the same growing methods since the ninth century.

Dreaming of slurping up some good mussels in rich broth, my interest was piqued last week when I read that Kinkawooka Shellfish was celebrating their new season Petit Bouchot Mussels with a traditional cook up at both the Adelaide Central Market and the Adelaide Showground Farmers’ Market. Riding on a wave of success following their 2011 Delicious Magazine ‘Product of the Year’ award, Kinkawooka (an Aboriginal word meaning clear water) has again produced a small, seasonal crop of the classic French style petit bouchot mussels, adopting methods used in the traditional farming of mussels in France.

And so, last Sunday morning I rugged up and headed for the Farmers’ Market. I grabbed a strong, creamy latte from the Abbots & Kinney caravan at the entrance just as the bell ‘rang in’ the market, and made a beeline for the Kinkawooka stall.

Photo courtesy of Kinkawooka Shellfish

Photo courtesy of Kinkawooka Shellfish

Soon I was talking mussels with Kinkawooka’s Andrew Puglisi, a fifth generation fisherman. I discovered that their petit bouchot mussels are only available from the beginning of June to the end of September, in limited quantity, before the launch of the mussel season. Characterised by their small size, soft and tender texture and sweet flavour they are one of the most prized eating mussels in Australia, and snapped up by chefs.

The revered shellfish company has developed a genius vacuum-packing system called sea-sure that re-creates the briny environment the mussels are plucked from, helping to reduce stress on the live mussels and preserve their natural sweetness and softness, resulting in a mussel that is far superior in freshness and flavour. It also means that live mussels can be whisked to domestic and overseas retailers within 48 hours of harvesting.

The Kinkawooka mussel farms are located in the deep, cold, pristine waters of the Great Southern Ocean on the West Coast of South Australia, with sites across Port Lincoln’s Boston Bay. A leader in the aquaculture industry in Australia, the company surpasses the most rigorous standards of quality assurance and is a standout in sustainable aquaculture, ensuring minimal impact on the environment. Like all of Kinkawooka’s mussel crops, les petits bouchots are seeded using spat harvested from the wild.

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For me, the real drawcard is that these fresh-as-a-daisy mussels are pot ready; scrubbed clean, de-bearded and ready to go in 1 kg bags. Take away the usual prep time, and a meal of mussels is incredibly quick and easy to cook and plate up. Andrew also tells me that they are rich in omega 3, iodine, potassium, zinc and selenium, and have more iron than a fillet steak! Oh, and that old wives tale about throwing away any that are unopened after cooking – simply not true. Prise open and eat. Do, however, throw away any that don’t smell fresh and sweet.

After picking up a recipe with my mussels, a kind of moules marinières with cider, I gather a few other goodies called for in the recipe and head home for a cook up.

I melt a walnut-sized knob of butter, add a sliced shallot and a fat clove of tangy Bull Creek organic garlic.

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Next, I glug in 100ml of apple cider from McLaren Vale Orchards, pour in my 1 kg bag of mussels and cook with the lid on for around 3 -4 minutes. Et Voilà! The mussels open. I throw in a handful of chopped flat-leaf parsley and stir in a tablespoon or so of incredibly thick and luscious crème fraîche from the Alexandrina Cheese Company, made from pure Jersey cream.

My recipe recommends Pepe Saya crème fraîche, a cultured cream made the authentic way. This Sydney company also creates a creamy cultured butter, so good that the hand churned, hand cut artisan pats are supplied to Qantas first class and business passengers on international flights. (South Australians can purchase Pepe Saya products from Say Cheese in the Adelaide Central Market.).

Photo courtesy of Kinkawooka Shellfish

Photo courtesy of Kinkawooka Shellfish

I ladle the rowdy, clanging mussels into bowls and serve with rustic bread and cider. They are sweetly perfumed and soft, the broth wonderfully intense and as I slurp it up I am transported, for a moment, to France.

N.B. Kinkawooka mussels are also available at Foodland and Romeo IGAs around Adelaide, Samtass Seafoods in Keswick and at the Willunga Farmers’ Market on Saturdays.

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Paris by Mouth – A Taste of the Left Bank

It’s just after eleven on a Sunday morning and a long line of clued-up locals curls from the door of la boulangerie. The smell of fresh bread teases on the footpath. Our tour guide Phyllis joins the queue and soon emerges with a traditional baguette, known as une tradi. She explains that there has been a renaissance in authentic, hand-shaped baguettes in France over the past few years and that une tradi can only be made from four ingredients: flour, salt, yeast and water. It takes longer to make a traditional baguette so it will cost you slightly more, but you are guaranteed the real thing.

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Phyllis cuts the baguette open and we each rip off a piece to sample. It’s ever-so-crisp on the outside, tasty and chewy. Inside it’s cream in colour with large holes.

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As contented customers push past with their luscious fruit tarts and Sunday morning bread, our knowledgeable guide produces another baguette of much poorer quality, in order for us to compare the two. This one is limp and squishy with a cotton wool centre. It is also tasteless from being over processed. ‘There are no nutrients left,’ says Phyllis as she turns the baguette over to show us a pattern imprinted on the dough. A red flag that the dough has been frozen.

These are the kinds of invaluable food tips that participants learn when they join a Paris by Mouth tour. Our small group is standing outside the original store of Maison Kayser, one the best boulangeries in the city, and this is our first stop on a three-hour walk enticingly named Taste of the Left Bank.

Tours by Paris by Mouth are a relatively new venture, run by contributors to the wonderful website Paris by Mouth, a great source of information for food and wine lovers. Reviews are gathered from a stable of established writers who spend their days tucking in their serviettes and tasting, and the site is edited by professional food writers. With a collection of exceptional addresses at their fingertips it makes sense that these contributors also use their local knowledge to lead food and wine tours through some of the most delicious neighbourhoods in town. Participants are introduced to a trail of treats from artisan bread, cheese, wine and charcuterie to mouth-watering gateaux, chocolate and ice cream. The most difficult decision is which food crawl to choose.

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Our next stop is just around the corner at one of the most reputable cheesemongers in France, Laurent Dubois. ‘He is also an affineur,’ says Phyllis. ‘Look for the sign affineur on the façade of a fromagerie.’ This means that it is a serious enterprise, she explains. Cheeses are sourced from the countryside and the ageing process is finished in cellars beneath the shop, giving control over the final product.

We learn a little about artisan and farmhouse French cheese before an assortment is wrapped for us to try later with more good bread and some wine. ‘Trust the cheesemonger and rely on them to suggest a selection,’ says Phyllis. ‘They know exactly what’s in season and ripe.’ Being a cheese lover, I can hardly wait to taste our stash. We have a Tomme d’Oudry, a new season goat cheese from Burgundy; a soft Brie de Melun; an Ossau Irraty sheep milk cheese from the Basque country; a washed rind Langres from Champagne and a Carles Roquefort, a sheep milk cheese from Midi-Pyrénées. Oh, and a Comté AOC – a hard, pressed cheese that comes from the Swiss border. Most Comtés are aged for 5 months or so but this one has been aged for 3 years! 

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Next, we ooh and aah over our samples of chocolate from one of the most reputable chocolatiers in the country, then head towards a boutique devoted to the olive oils of Provence. Along the way we talk about the word maison (house/homemade) on menus, a word that is bandied around with far too much liberty.

We taste tiny spoonfuls of olive oil from micro producers and learn what to look for in an authentic olive oil, before sampling an extraordinarily good caramel macaron at a store nearby.

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The maze of ancient streets lures us like lollies, but we push on to arrive at Place de Furstenberg. One of the most romantic little squares in Paris, it’s magical at night, lit by a central, antique candelabra.

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By day, you can buy a great cream puff or choux à la crème, a trend in the city with bite-sized shops popping up like mushrooms. Here, the puffs are filled to order so they don’t go soggy, and offered in just three flavours: natural, coffee and chocolate. Phyllis orders a little box-full and we hoe in. They are light and fluffy and not too sweet.

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Our last stop is the most adorable little wine shop in Paris, where we make ourselves comfortable and sample our cheeses with more beautiful bread and boutique French wines.

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We sip and swirl, talk and learn. I leave, satisfied and stimulated, and yearning to know more about cheese. Perhaps I’ll sign up for the Tour de Fromage!

 The Taste of the Left Bank tour was taken in the spring, courtesy of Paris by Mouth.

 

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10 Favourite Sweet Spots in Paris

Click here to read Jane Paech’s Sweet Spots in Paris, written for the AAP wires.

Photo courtesy of Un Dimanche à Paris

Photo courtesy of Un Dimanche à Paris

Posted in Paris | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments