A Melbourne, London & Hong Kong dessert blog
So we have traipsed Melbourne for the best doughnuts, lemon tarts, yum cha desserts and souffles - and after a little resting, our blood sugar levels have dropped to comparatively normal levels, and we are resuming dessert reviewing, not only in Melbourne but across the world. In honour of the Thanksgiving season, and because we really must thank the Americans for giving us some of the craziest, wackiest, most delicious desserts in the world, we dedicate this round-up review to…
MELBOURNE’S BEST AMERICAN DESSERTS
[FIRST STOP: US BORDER CONTROL]
PEANUT BUTTER ICE CREAM SANDWICH
We still remember the woo-ha when Trunk Diner first opened in Melbourne – how every Melbournian prayed that it would bring life to the upper east side of the city, how every Melbournian raved about the sun-drenched alfresco courtyard area and oh, of course, that brioche bun burger. Three or so years on and it is a favourite watering hole for after work revellers particularly. While the inside Trunk Restaurant has adopted an Italian slant, the outside Diner is more fun-loving American. You can order milkshakes of the likes such as “Oreo and Cookies,” “Tim Tam Slam” or “Golden Gaytime,” but we recommend you hit the menu for the one item that will prove your truly American soul. Peanut butter. Hence, the “Peanut Butter Ice Cream Sandwich.” A super rich, creamy parfait block. It is almost like eating a frozen pot of peanut butter!
[SECOND STOP: NEW YORK]
FRIED CHALLAH FRENCH TOAST WITH WHIPPED PEANUT BUTTER
One of our favourite memories of New York is crossing the Brooklyn Bridge — it is truly one of the most under-rated tourist attractions. Statue of Liberty? Nah. Brooklyn Bridge all the way. Another bridge running parallel is the Williamsburg Bridge, and inspired by crossing that divide, Bowery to Williamsburg in Melbourne attempts to bridge the trans-Pacific gulf between Melbourne and New York. And boy, does it do it well. There’s a glass counter stuffed full of American-inspired cakes — think, S’mores, brownie, all-American sweet pies. There’s also a Kosher deli-inspired sandwich menu. In our eyes however, all of that pales in comparison to the cafe’s “Fried Challah French Toast” – a gloriously golden tower of buttery challah bread and poached pears, topped with a swirl of whipped peanut butter. The best part? The salted caramelised popcorn. We dare you to bring your dentist to brunch with you here one day.
[THIRD STOP: DETROIT, MICHIGAN]
SOFT SERVE ICE CREAM
In the westside of Melbourne, there’s an up-and-coming area called Spotswood. It still has a rather barren, Detroit feel about it though. In any case, Spotswood is home to a delicious little secret called Candied Bakery, a place that proves how essential clever branding and marketing is in this day and age. Half-American, half-Australian, the best of both worlds. The pastry counter stocks things like custard-filled doughuts, lamingtons, pretzel chocolate brownies, condensed milk tartlets, and apple pie milkshakes. This is our advice to you: log onto Twitter or Facebook and stalk Candied Bakery. Once it announces that “Banoffee Pie Soft Serve” is on the menu for that weekend, run. Catch us if you can, but we are sure to be there before you.
[FOURTH STOP: CHARLESTON, SOUTH CAROLINA]
A WHOOPIE KISS OF RED VELVET
Disclaimer: if ever these Dessert Correspondents demonstrate bias, it will be towards this little cafe-bakery. Our hearts beat to the American anthem sung by Beatrix. We crown it as Melbourne’s best little cake-cafe, a hop and a skip away from Melbourne’s university suburb. With a little Southern cheer, you can’t go wrong with any of the home-made cakes. Would you like a slice of a chiffon cloud? Perhaps the coconut coated cherry cake, or the Snickets cookie crust pie? Or maybe, the elusive sweet potato brioche doughnut that we featured in our “Melbourne’s Best Doughnuts” Guide? We love it all, but we love especially the Beatrix’s “Red Velvet” and its “Chocolate Whoopie.” It’s not textbook perfect — it’s far, far more than that.
[FIFTH STOP: MIAMI, FLORIDA]
Grab a window seat and watch the sun streak lurid strokes against the sky as it sets beyond the glistening ocean. Where do you think we are? Some romantic, swanky, moody restaurant? Oh no. We are at Joe’s Diner, that place to be for something easy, casual, fun. Fun, you say? Never, not in a city such as Melbourne where dining-out has become a competition of who visits first and who correctly predicts the year’s best dish of some best category. Oh but it is true. Located just off the super-hip St Kilda Esplanade, we pretend that we are in Miami at Joe’s Diner. The dessert menu rotates but it never switches allegiances. All American love here. A highlight was the Apple Pie Sundae, but one of the most memorable was the house-made Twinkies. Soft sponge fingers with a line of cream and a dusting of icing sugar. Such a tiny dessert, but served out-of-the-oven fresh, it was….oh my. Bring it back please, we say!
[SIXTH STOP: PHOENIX, ARIZONA]
The US is a wonderful country — we love it — but it is, undoubtedly, a country of great contradictions. The US Government is more often than not, more preoccupied with the “Axis-of-Evil” crazies than its own internal crazies (i.e people who believe in a right to bear arms but not a right to affordable healthcare, people who believe in alien-to-human evolution, communities maintaining 17th century living practices etc). Let’s put it this way — Americans never do things half-past six, you are either with them or against them. Right or left, no fence-sitting rubbish. Cue Misty’s Diner — an outrageous, candy-coated diner that puts the phrase “over-the-top” into neon-lit capitals. Your first visit is sure to make you think that you have stepped into a “Grease” movie set. The food is simply dripping with cheese, or chilli beef, or oil, or all of the above. Dare you take Misty’s challenge and consume a burger so tall it contains a small cow? The desserts…the below is probably the signature — the entire contents of a lolly shop smashed and loaded onto an enormous cradle of ice cream. Too much even for these dedicated Dessert Correspondents. Incredible.
[SEVENTH STOP: LAS VEGAS, NEVADA]
The Merrywell is one of those places that can’t quite decides what it wants to be. Part riverside restaurant, another part riverside pub/bar/watering hole, it has nonetheless proven to be one helluva magnetic place. It must be the Vegas feel to it — one doesn’t visit Southbank in any case unless one is willing to part with some greenbacks. The Merrywell has gained a reputation for serving one of the meatiest burgers in town — thicker than the biceps of your American quarterbacks. For sweet-tooths however, come here for the best “Rootbeer Float” outside of the States. We don’t want to start counting the calories that we rake up as we sip through that mountainous top of whipped cream, the candied cherry, the vanilla ice cream, or the supersized glass of rootbeer. Who cares? This, readers, is the American dream.
[EIGHT STOP: PLANNING THE RETURN]
SHOPPING A STORM
Have you had enough of American desserts? No? Never? No worries! Take the car (or a vehicle with a spacious boot) and head out to the south-east of Melbourne. Shop (and eat) your heart out. You want slabs of Doctor Pepper or Cherry Coke? Done. Don’t forget the sweet pies — let’s grab the litres of pumpkin puree, or pecan and brown sugar mixes. How about the lazy cake mixes? Why not, can’t hurt. Oh wait, we must not forget to stock up on bulk buys of Reece Peanut Butter Cups, Hershey Kisses, Wonka’s Nerds, Milk Duds, Peanut Butter and Coconut MM’s…just in case those US-Middle East or US-Korean Peninsula negotiations falter, ya know. And yes, yes, the Hostess Cupcakes and the Ding Dongs, and yes, the Twinkies…okay, they may be very close to the expiry date but hey, deep-fried Twinkies. Best idea e-v-e-r, a.k.a college days! Forever young, they say. That’s what American desserts do to you.
Your turn, readers. We haven’t found our favourite Pecan Pie or NY Cheesecake yet. Where is yours?