Avenida da Igreja 2, 1700-204, Lisbon, Portugal
On a combined business/vacation trip, I flew into Lisbon around lunchtime on my first ever trip to Portugal. Lisbon’s airport is very close to the city centre, and even closer to my hotel in the Entre Campos neighbourhood north of the city centre. So close that rather than take a taxi or the metro, I decided to walk from the airport to the hotel. The distance was not a problem, but the day was hot and sunny. Before we left, Mrs Snot Block & Roll had suggested that we could stop about half way and have a drink at a cafe. Checking on Google Maps, I had located a likely sounding cafe named Pau de Canela (“Cinnamon Stick” in Portuguese), with good reviews.
Portugal is famous for its traditional custard tarts, the pastéis de nata, but when we arrived at the cafe what caught my eye were some intriguing looking vanilla slices. They were labelled “mil folhas”, which is clearly the Portuguese equivalent of “mille feuille”, so that was a good start. Mrs SB&R ordered a coffee and grabbed a mil folhas for me. No sausage rolls in sight, alas, so it seems we still have a thing or two to teach the Portuguese about baking.
The slice has a traditional looking construction although it is quite flat and the custard is a thin single layer sandwiched between two very thick sheets of flaky pastry. The custard is a very dark yellow colour, darker than almost any other I’ve seen, and there’s not a lot of it. The pastry looks nice and flaky, and is topped with the traditional white icing with brown swirly pattern running across it diagonally. The slice is supplied on a plate with a knife and fork. Being in a foreign country, I’m a bit reluctant to commit a diplomatic faux pas by eating it wth my hands in front of a busy cafe crowd, so I rely on the cutlery.
Continue reading Pau de Canela, Lisbon
Last time I visited the Drummoyne Bakehouse, I reviewed the sausage roll and one of the two different vanilla slices available. Yes, they had two types: one with vanilla icing, and one with iced sugar on top. I chose the vanilla icing, and the slice earned the maximum 10/10 with its combination crisp shard-like pastry, rich vanilla custard, and extra vanilla and sweetness from the icing.
This time, I had to try the second option. After selecting a pie for the savoury part of lunch, I took it and my icing sugar slice over to Drummoyne Park, to sit in the shade of a tree and let our dog play in the grass while eating.
The slice is the same construction as the icing version, with the only difference being the dusting of powdered white sugar on top in lieu of the pale yellow icing. The three layers of pastry looks crisp and well baked, thick and biscuity, with lots of flakes evident. The custard is pale yellow and creamy looking.
As with the previous slice, the first bite threatens to demolish the slice, with shards of pastry going everywhere and soft custard oozing out from between the pastry pressure plates. Blobs of custard drip onto the paper bag and I have to manoeuvre the slice carefully through all three rotational axes to avoid more falling out. It’s a nibble and lick job, as biting the layers just squeezes more custard out.
Continue reading Drummoyne Bakehouse Cafe, Drummoyne, pt. 2
125 Adelaide St, Blayney NSW
Blayney is a small town on the way from Bathurst to Cowra. We had occasion to stop on the way through for lunch, so naturally I sought out a likely looking bakery for a bit of blogging research. We spotted Ryan’s Bakery & Coffee Lounge, and grabbed a table outside despite the 11°C temperature, since we had a newly acquired puppy in tow and couldn’t take advantage of the warm seats indoors.
The place had a rustic, country style menu, with a selection of pies the most exotic of which was “bolognese” and a special “sweet chilli chicken”. The woman behind the counter hovered near me as I eyed the selection of cakes and pastries, even following me along the counter as I did my survey to the far end, where I spied what looked like a couple of trays of vanilla slices… except with hot pink icing! I asked the woman if they were vanilla slices, and she said yes. So I considered my order.
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Shop 2, 130 Hampden Rd, Artarmon, New South Wales
I’ve walked past this place several times on exercise-driven peregrinations, and often been tempted by the luscious looking cakes and pastries on display, but had never been in the right state of hunger to pop in and try something. But on a long Sunday walk I arrived here around lunch time, and decided that now was the time. The cakes looked great, but obviously I had to sample the sausage roll and vanilla slice first.
It was a hot day, with the sun beating down hard outside, so I chose one of the two small inside tables and grabbed some cool water from the jug on the counter, while waiting for the woman behind the counter to bring out the selections. The sausage roll comes on a rectangular white plate, while the vanilla slice is served on a traditional circular one.
Continue reading Inter Desserts, Artarmon
57 Hampden Road, Battery Point, Tasmania
When Mrs SB&R and I were planning our trip to Tasmania, one of her work colleagues gave her a list of place to visit in Hobart. Jackman & McRoss was high on the list, recommended for its bakery products, coffee, and its signature scallop pie – a culinary item peculiar to Tasmania, which is well known for its scallop fisheries. Walking up the hill from Salamanca Place, we discovered the bakery nestled in the historic Battery Point area, which is mostly residential, with only a few shops clustered around one intersection. One of these shops is Jackman & McRoss, and it seems to draw a big crowd as the only eating establishment in the immediate area. Painted underneath the name on the outside of the Federation era building is the slogan “Bakers of fine breads, cakes & pastries”. It’s a shame the word “purveyors” isn’t in there somewhere.
Inside, the small area in front of the display counters is packed with customers queueing to order coffee or get a croissant or other pastry to take away. The counters are stuffed to the gills with amazing looking cakes and Viennoiserie. And to the right side is an opening beyond which several roms of what obviously used to be a house have been converted into places with cafe tables. We are fortunate to grab a free table at an inside room, and sneakily move over to a window table later on. On the menu are not one, not two, but three different sausage rolls: pork and apple; duck, cranberry, and walnut; and Thai spiced chicken! Also in the display counter is something I’ve never seen before, labelled with a little sign, describing it as: “vanilla slice with crème patisserie, fresh strawberries, & brisee pastry”. All right! Let’s try the highly unusual duck sausage roll, with the vanilla slice for afters.
Continue reading Jackman & McRoss, Hobart
Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery, Dunn Place, Hobart, Tasmania
The Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery is the premier museum of Tasmania, and so a logical choice for spending a few hours when visiting Hobart. As such, I sought out its hallowed halls to peruse the natural history, human history, and art displays, spread over two floors and two different historical buildings.
The interiors of the buildings have been modernised and hold state of the art displays and visitor amenties, including a cafe in the courtyard, aptly named the Courtyard Cafe, complete with Muttaburrasaurus skeleton outside. Sitting here for a rest and to eat the sandwiches we’d brought for lunch, Mrs Snot Block & Roll returned from inspecting the food for sale to report that there was a tray of vanilla slices!
Continue reading Courtyard Cafe, Hobart
11 Murray Street, Hobart, Tasmania
On holiday in Hobart over the Christmas break, I took the opportunity to try some of the local offerings. Walking down to the waterfront near Constitution Dock (where the Sydney to Hobart yachts come in at this time of year), you pass Daci & Daci Bakers, a quality looking French style bakery in a beautifully renovated old sandstone building that is no doubt historical, as are many of the buildings in this part of the old Van Dieman’s Land colony. The interior is smartly presented with brass, wrought iron, and dark wood panelling, and the place is bustling with activity as people pour in through the doors to either sit at the cafe tables or snatch a take-away pastry or two and a baguette for later.
In a suitable nod to its Australian location, they have a silver tray of sausage rolls on display amidst the croissants, galettes, and tarts. The pile of generously stuffed looking rolls bears a label declaring them to be “Moroccan lamb sausage rolls”, and bearing the hefty price tag of $10 if you take one away in a brown paper bag, or $14 if you sit at a cafe table and eat inside.
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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!
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47 Argyle St, The Rocks, Sydney, New South Wales
I’ve reviewed La Renaissance before, testing out their pork and veal sausage roll. But that’s not all they have on their menu, by a long shot. So it was natural that I should return to sample other wares of relevance to this blog.
Checking the shop’s history on their website, I find that this patisserie began in 1974, when a French pastry chef opened a shop in Roseville. The business subsequently moved to The Rocks in 1994, sited in an historical building built in 1842 (by an ex-Irish highway robber!), where it has been ever since. With this venerable history behind it, one would hope that the products have stood the test of time with their quality.
On this fine day, I sat in, and ordered the second type of sausage roll from the hot food menu, a pork, bacon, and fennel roll. And to follow, of course, one of the vanilla slices. The items are plated for me by a woman serving from behind a tall display counter, and I take them to a small cafe table in the flagstoned courtyard that extends out the back of the shop.
Continue reading La Renaissance Cafe Patisserie, The Rocks, part 2
2070 Bells Line of Road, Bilpin, New South Wales
On a lazy Sunday drive into the Blue Mountains west of Sydney, I like to head out on the Great Western Highway, and then return via the more northerly route of Bells Line of Road, which is more scenic and has less traffic. Along the way you pass through the small settlement of Bilpin, which with its cool highland climate, is a great place to grow apples and stone fruits. Lining the road through this area are several roadside stalls where you can stop and buy fresh fruit and vegetables. Some are mere shacks, while a couple are larger and offer tables and cafe refreshments.
On this day we stopped for an afternoon break at The Pines Orchard Cafe, right across the road from the more well known Bilpin Fruit Bowl with its giant colourful fibreglass bowl of fruit out the front. The Fruit Bowl has a small kitchen right in the middle of the shop, where ladies make and bake apple pies seemingly constantly, and you can buy them either hot out of the oven, or cooled down to take home. The Pines Orchard is not quite so fancy, but upon entering and perusing the bakery cabinet I spot something which looks like a vanilla slice. They’re square cut slabs resting in a tray, topped with a delicious looking layer of passionfruit icing. Mrs Snot Block & Roll wants to get a coffee, so I ask her to add a vanilla slice to her order and I head across the room to find a table.
Continue reading The Pines Orchard Cafe, Bilpin