This month, get acquainted with the decadent creations of eight of Melbourne’s best babka makers; trade in Zoom knock-offs for a virtual dance party hosted by the Avalanches and Ben Shewry; and stock your pantry with everything from fancy tinned fish to small-batch hot sauce at four excellent new spots, IRL and online. Here’s what Broadsheet Melbourne editor Tomas Telegramma thinks you should check out in September.
You can’t beat a babka
Broadsheet’s resident braided-bread expert, Elissa Goldstein, reckons that if lasagne is Australia’s national crisis dish, then babka might just be Melbourne’s lockdown dessert.
She recently took to the babka belt to bring you a round-up of some of the city’s finest – dense, mesmerisingly braided and often chocolatey versions of the traditional Jewish dessert.
Some highlights? A decadent, Nutella-slathered babka that weighs in at almost 900 grams (and, luckily, freezes well); a brown-butter pecan number with cinnamon and brown sugar; and a savoury cheese and potato version (with mashed potato rolled into the dough) from a snazzy new patisserie.
A (virtual) party for Melbourne
After being cooped-up for what feels like forever, Zoom fatigue is real. But if there’s only one virtual event you “attend” in September, let it be this one. Pioneering Aussie electro act the Avalanches, local DJ Soju Gang, and Attica head honcho (and sometime vinyl-spinner) Ben Shewry are throwing a live-streamed dance party on the 12th to help lift the lockdown mood. (It’s free, just register here in advance.) Best of all: Shewry’s put together a series of “How to Party” videos with tips for turning your lounge room into a bona fide disco, and some sure-fire party-snack recipes. Expect kitschy classics such as prawn cocktails and cheese-and-pineapple hedgehogs, plus his intriguingly named “better than sausage” sausage rolls.
An honourable mention on this month’s virtual-event calendar goes to Say Cheese Festival. It might have gone online, but you can still taste-test Aussie and international cheeses, cook a cheesy Greek feast, and cheer on your fave local chef in Melbourne’s foremost cheese-toastie competition.
Pimp your pantry
My longtime tinned-fish obsession started with Sirena tuna, progressed to Ortiz anchovies, and will undoubtedly burgeon at Zsa’s, a new European-style deli and bistro in Northcote. Go for a very decent, mostly imported selection of fancy anchovies, sardines, sprats, mejillones (Spanish tinned mussels) and zamburinas (small scallops). Plus, a well-stocked charcuterie fridge, fresh gnocchi, cavatelli and fettucine daily, and vino to go.
In Carlton North, Turkish cafe Babajan has ditched dine-in for good and added a little retail shop. The shelves are lined with jars of house-made harissa and pickled veggies, including the essential ingredient for recreating the cheesy, dearly departed Aleppo toastie at home – spicy pickled eggplant.
Two non-IRL options are virtual grocer Co-Lab Pantry, with souped-up staples from some of Melbourne’s best (think Chotto Motto’s crispy chilli oil, Ides peanut butter, and St Ali’s gin-spiked mayo); and Mat’s Hot Shop, a new online hot-sauce store with 120 small-batch bottles, including a fiery chilli-honey that’s my kinda pizza topping.
Late last month we brought you some very important news: one of the dashing Collins Street peregrine falcons had laid an egg in its 33-storey-high, famously live-streamed nesting box. It’s since laid two more. And if our expert-informed calculations are correct, a trio of chirpy chicks will be hatching towards the end of the month. I’ll be keeping an eye on the webcam.
Not a falcon fan? Try this animal sanctuary “lamb cam”, where each member of the fleecy flock is named after an Elton John song (I still can’t get over the fact there’s a lamb called Daniel); or tune in nightly as these parading penguins scurry back into their burrows on Phillip Island.
Add to cookbook collection
If your five-recipe rotation is wearing dangerously thin, you’re not alone.
While we still can’t dine out, Cartilage is a new, vintage-inspired recipe journal with dishes from top restaurants and cafes across town. I’ve got Bar Saracen’s wildly good hummus, Capitano’s fennel-y meatballs, and Very Good Falafel’s halva-and-walnut brownies on my to-make list.
Want to level up your Asian-cooking skills? A former Ezard, Lee Ho Fook and Dinner by Heston chef has created The Isol(Asian) Cookbook, complete with recipes for classic wontons, easy-to-assemble noodle dishes and “completely unauthentic dim sum crispy prawn toast”.