3938 Rivermark Plaza, Santa Clara, California, USA
I was on a business trip to Santa Clara in California, to attend meetings at the Intel headquarters there. On the day I arrived, I checked into my hotel, and then went for a walk to find the nearest cluster of shops. This turned out to be Rivermark Village, a new looking outdoor shopping mall in the Californian style, with a bunch of shops surrounded by an expansive area of asphalt dedicated to parking the hundreds of cars that Americans use to get everywhere. I wasn’t particularly intending to get anything to eat, but I passed a bakery called The Prolific Oven, and popped my nose in for a quick peek to see what sort of things they had.
Perusing the cakes and pastries, my eyes were stopped and riveted by what was obviously a vanilla slice, but with a bright red topping! It had the traditional wavy lines of white icing, but decorating a translucent and visually appealing red glaze. There was only one left in the counter, sitting on a large tray with a fresh raspberry next to it. I deduced that this must be a raspberry vanilla slice. I had to have it!
Continue reading The Prolific Oven, Santa Clara, California
142 Malabar Rd, South Coogee, New South Wales
A sunny late autumn morning is perfect for a morning tea, and for exploring new bakeries. We took a drive over to Coogee and continued south to the Bakehouse South Coogee, which sits on a traditional corner store site surrounded by residential properties, and right across the street form the sprawling old Randwick Cemetery, which is situated on a gentle hillside with wonderful views.
The bakehouse is busy, with plenty of locals popping in for a coffee and a croissant or something a bit more substantial. Besides bread and pasties, the bakers do an impressive line in cakes, with a couple of dozen mouth-watering varieties all on display. One is an amazing looking multi-colour iced rainbow cake, which is also available by the slice, sitting right next to the huge vanilla slices.
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930 Old Northern Rd, Glenorie NSW
Glenorie sits an hour or so’s drive from Sydney, in the rural northwestern region that seems to have escaped rampant suburbanisation and remains a haven for people who prefer a slower pace of life, wide open fields, and properties large enough to raise horses on. Amidst the small clusters of villages that exist to support this lifestyle sits the shopping region of Glenorie, with a supermarket and a handful of small stores selling scented soaps, hand made rag dolls, and antiques. And amongst these is the Glenorie Bakery, which seems to be a modern building but constructed in the style of a century old woolshed.
Walking inside reveals an expansive interior space, filled with all manner of antique farming, baking, and retail equipment. The decor is “1900s farmhouse”, and rust appears to be the decorating material of choice. There’s an old… plough or something hanging from the ceiling, wooden wagon wheels reclining against the walls, and sheafs of wheat decorating large rustic wooden shelves containing enough knick-knacks to stock a large antique shop or rural museum. There are some large dough mixing machines which look like they were retired some time before the Second World War.
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9 Oaks Avenue, Dee Why, New South Wales
On a leisurely weekend drive to the beach suburb of Dee Why, we popped into Oaks Patisserie for an afternoon snack and cuppa. This is a small bakery on a somewhat dingy old retail strip just around the corner from the busy Pittwater Road, so the ambience is not great. Inside, however, is a mouth-watering array of cakes and pastries, which look colourful and artfully assembled. I ordered a sausage roll and vanilla slice and they were delivered by staff to one of the two outside tables for us to contemplate.
The sausage roll looks promising enough at first sight, with golden flaky pastry and ever so slightly burnt bits on the ends. However, on the first bite a different experience is revealed. The pastry is a little on the dry side, not greasy or buttery at all. The pastry case has pulled away from the meat filling, leaving a hollow space in between, but pastry is actually middling to okay.
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503 Columbus Avenue, San Francisco, USA
I was visiting San Francisco for a conference, and outside of conference hours I spent some time exploring the city. The North Beach area is famous for its Italian heritage and modern day Italian restaurants. Mixed in with the pizza and pasta places are a few little pastry shops. One is the famous Stella Pastry & Cafe, which I’ve visited before and is so good that I wanted to return for dessert after a dinner nearby. But alas, for the week that I was in town, Stella’s was closed for renovations!
But this being North Beach, fortunately I didn’t have to go far to discover another Italian pastry shop. I was walking down Columbus Avenue when my eyes were drawn to the sugar-laden windows of Mara’s Italian Pastry. This hole-in-the-wall was a tiny cafe with only three small tables inside, and a counter loaded up with biscotti and other baked goodies. The real treat was in the front window, however, which contained succulent looking fruit danishes, poppy seed cakes, slices, rolls, and countless other delicacies. There were also a couple of trays of square dish pizzas, cut into slices, for anyone silly enough to come in here and want something savoury.
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84-90 Atchison Street, Crows Nest, New South Wales
Delitalia is a cafe and Italian delicatessen on the premises of the giant Superfresh greengrocer in Crows Nest. I buy fresh fruit and vegetables here sometimes, and this is also the supplier for the imported Italian pasta that I get for cooking fancy pasta meals. Besides the usual fruit and veges, the deli stocks a wide variety of meats, sausages, cheeses, and Italian groceries, including ready to heat-and-eat items such as arancini and lasagnes. They also have a cake section in the attached cafe, with ricotta cakes, cannoli, biscotti, shortbread, and numerous other delights. And nestled amongst these is the good old Aussie vanilla slice, but with an Italian twist.
I ordered a slice and sat at the indoor tables – there are also a handful of al fresco tables just outside on the footpath. It’s served on a plate lined with a sheet of paper, with a fork supplied for eating. It’s a very attractive looking slice, with a multifarious layered appearance. From bottom to top, there is a layer of golden brown pastry with plenty of flakiness evident, topped by a layer of dark yellow custard with a slightly moist appearance. This is topped by a second layer of custard, much lighter in colour and more dry looking in texture. Then follows a repeat of these three layers, topped by a third layer of pastry, which is in turn topped by a slab of white icing with the traditional crosswise lines of brown dragged into an alternating zig-zaggy patten by a skewer during the icing process.
Continue reading Delitalia Gourmet Foods, Crows Nest
4 Ennis Rd, Kirribilli, New South Wales
In a first for Snot Block & Roll, this is a re-review! Mr Coker wrote up his original review of The Flaky Tart bakery in Kirribilli some time ago. As the review was very good and the bakery is not too far away, I decided to sample the wares myself. And then I figured why not write up my own conclusions!
A bit of research reveals that The Flaky Tart is not a one-off shop here under the Harbour Bridge at Kirribilli, but is actually a branch of the better known Flaky Tart bakery of Rose Bay, on the south side of the harbour. Perhaps I’ll have to travel over there one day to sample its wares as well.
But on this fine sunny day in Kirribilli, I purchased a sausage roll, vanilla slice, and because I was very hungry, also a chicken and mushroom pie. I found a wooden bench seat nearby, perched on the side of the steeply sloping Ennis Road, overlooking the shops and restaurants of Broughton Street below. As I sat, an inquisitive seagull appeared – perhaps the very same gull that eyed Mr Coker’s samples in the previous review!
Continue reading The Flaky Tart, redux, Kirribilli
Level 2, Westfield Shopping Centre, Chatswood
This bakery lives in a food court in the giant Westfield shopping complex in Chatswood, wedged between a cafe and an Asian noodle place. It sells freshly baked bread and a selection of cakes, tarts, and slices, as well as pies and sausage rolls. I’ve been here a few times before and don’t have a particularly high opinion of their bread items. I once bought a “bagel” here, only to discover that it was nothing more than a fluffy white bread roll in a very rough and ready approximation of a shape with a hole through it.
But being in the area around lunch time, I decided to take the plunge. I procured a sausage roll and a vanilla slice and took a seat at one of the food court tables nearby to examine and taste. An elderly lady and what I presume to be her granddaughter sat at the table with some lunch of their own as well, and the girl looked at me curiously as I photographed and considered my meal.
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298 Willoughby Road, Naremburn, New South Wales
This place looked promising from the outside, with a blend of traditional bakery with just a hint of fanciness in the exterior decoration. Heading inside, there was the odd experience of being served by a swarthy Latino guy in jeans and a white T-shirt and bearing three days’ worth of stubble. He would have looked more suitably placed riding a motorbike to his DJ gig on some Mediterranean island than serving meringues and tarts in a fancy bakery in suburban Sydney.
I didn’t see a vanilla slice, so I asked if they made them, and the Ibiza DJ said in a lilting Spanish accent that they had none at the moment, but would be making a batch that afternoon. So I made do with a sausage roll and a chicken pie and went outside to sit at a sunny table in the late autumn chill and perform at least the first half of the reviewing duties.
Continue reading Delicia, Naremburn
148 Main North Road, Sevenhill, South Australia
I arrived here with Mrs Snot Block & Roll on a cold, rainy morning for an early breakfast, as it was one of the few places in the Clare Valley region open before 9am on a Sunday. We asked if they had a breakfast menu, but received a politely apologetic response in the negative. The place is simply a bakery with a coffee machine – whatever you see on display is what’s available. But since that included good looking sausage rolls and vanilla slices, there was no real decision to be made anyway! The bakery is actually attached to a cafe of the same name which serves meals and acts as a cellar door for one of the local wineries, but the cafe wasn’t open at this time.
The sausage roll is an enigmatic yet ultimately frustrating compilation of excellent meat in a frankly awful pastry blanket. It looks promising, with golden brown flaky pastry on top, wrapped around a plump roll of meat filling. The first bite delivers a pleasant experience as the flavour of the meat explodes in the mouth. It is delightfully savoury, with a hint of herbs and the right amount of saltiness to bring out the savoury umami flavours of the meat. Any additional spices are subdued, but there are huge chunks of onion adding to the taste, which is like a friendly home-cooked stew, cooked well, and simply all round a great flavour experience. The texture is in that perfect zone between too soft and too dry. It’s really very good. It would suit a full flavoured Cabernet Sauvignon.
Continue reading The Little Red Grape Bakery, Sevenhill