Hot Chocolate at Pacha, Austin, Texas, USA

Hot Chocolate at Pacha, Austin, Texas, USA

Pacha is located in a little house in the popular neighbourhood of Rosedale in Austin, not too far away from downtown. The outside of the building is painted bright yellow, like a ray of sunshine beckoning you in. And it does its job of beckoning well as the place was full each time we visited, full of people there for the incredible home made food, the coffee or in my case (and I suspect many other people’s case) the delicious hot chocolate.

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Pacha is named after Pachamama, a goddess of the Andes often described as a fertility goddess. In Bolivia she is a power of the earth and can cause both natural destruction as well as growth and rebirth. The word Pacha itself is a Quechua word often translated as earth or world. Pacha, the café, started its life in 2000 as a store that sold coffee as well as crafts from South America. Very quickly it was apparent that the coffee and food were more popular than the crafts, and became the focus. But the colours of South America stayed and are part of what makes this little café so unique. The tables are all beautifully painted (one was painted by the first owners). The tables out back are all multi-coloured mosaics. I love colour so there was little chance that I wasn’t going to love Pacha. It is truly a celebration of colour.

But that isn’t all that Pacha celebrates. It also celebrates food, all homemade and judging by the empty plates, delicious. Most of the items were vegetarian with quite a few vegan and gluten free options. The pancakes were very popular (for something a bit different try the pear and bacon with green onions) or the sourdough French toast served with maple espresso pecan butter (is it all three together or three separate, either way I’d combine them!)

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Marjorie and David, the current owners who bought the café in 2008, feel that it is important to compensate those who produce the beautiful products they use to create their foods for their labor. Ninety percent of all the ingredients they use are organic and a lot of them are locally sourced. Their website has a full list of everywhere they source their ingredients from including, but not limited to, honey from Austin Honey Co., eggs from Cayote Creek right in Austin, fruits and vegetables from the farmers market stalls including Johnson’s Backyard Garden, Simmons Family Farms. Rich’s coffee came from Texas Coffee Traders which roasts and supplies organic and fair trade coffee beans.

My hot chocolate had its story too. The milk came from ‘happy grass-fed cows’ from County Linen Farm and Richardson’s Farm both in Texas. It was heated and added to organic and fair-trade chocolate from the Dominican Republic (Mocafe). Two hot chocolates were offered, a dark one and a Mexican one. The Mexican one was really nice, it had a bit of a rustic feel with a mix of spices including cinnamon and vanilla.

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Verdict: A worthy local business to support because it not only practices what it preaches, but also because of all its tasty products. The Mexican hot chocolate is worth a detour regardless of where you are in the city. Pacha, 4618 Burnet Rd, Austin, Texas, USA

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April 20th, 2015|Austin, NORTH AMERICA, Texas, USA|0 Comments

Hot Chocolate at Movida, Melbourne, Australia

Hot Chocolate at Movido, Melbourne, Australia

Just across the street from Federation Square in the center of Melbourne is Hosier Lane. This relatively short, traffic free lane is covered with a constantly changing mixture of beautifully elaborate graffiti pieces as well as tagging. There are layers upon layers upon layers of paint creating an urban rainbow. The lane regularly hosts an event called Paint up where artists can submit a concept for a large scale image to be painted in the lane. Winner street artist Adnate was given the opportunity to paint a 23 metre tall portrait on a windowless wall above the lane of an Indigenous boy. Tourists and locals alike flock to the lane daily to admire, discuss, judge and photograph.

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There isn’t much on Hosier lane other than street art and an unlikely companion, Movida, which has been there since 2003. What better way to accompany ever changing, unique street art than with colourful and creative Spanish tapas. So good is Movida that founders Frank and Vanessa and their business partner Andy have set up Movida Next Door (not surprisingly located right next door to Movida also on Hosier lane), Movida Aqui, Bar Pulpo and a Movido in Sydney. So good is Movido that Melbourne’s The Age Food Guide which awards one, two or three hats to the best restaurants in Melbourne awarded Movido two hats.

We stopped for lunch and took a table by the window, both to watch the tourists watching the art and because they had already had reservations booked for all the tables in the main area. The place was buzzing with staff confidently and constantly moving around in the kitchen, behind the bar and on the floor. One man with a blue shirt with flamingos on it seemed to be in charge, ensuring that everything stayed crazy but cool and under control. He was everywhere, all the time without every feeling or acting scattered. Watching him coordinating everything was a surprisingly enjoyable part of the lunch.

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The most enjoyable of course being the food. Movida makes, or rather creates bitesized morsels of perfection..really. We turned their tapas menu into an 8 course degustation, ordering two of each of their offerings which were presented to us as they were ready. The Bocadillo, layers of brioche, duck liver pate and PX foam was incredible as was the delicate Queso, a quince paste cigar filled with whipped goats milk cheese. Oh and the Flamenquin, crumbed pressed pork with mahon, thyme and jamon. Delicious. I’ve had great Spanish tapas before. These are Spanish tapas with the twist that Melbourne does so well.

For dessert we each ordered churros with rich drinking chocolate (because why would you ever want to share something like churros and chocolate). The chocolate was made using Callebaut Belgium dark chocolate with a bit of added cream and thickened into a rich, pudding like consistency, similar to how they do it in Spain but a little lighter. You picked up the smells of cinnamon and sugar from the churros as you sipped it. “People either love it or they hate it”, our Flamenco shirted conductor mentioned. I told him I was going to lick the cup even though it was a hatted restaurant. “You wouldn’t be the first” he assured me. Rich did it too so I wasn’t alone.

What is incredible about Hosier Lane (beyond Movida and their creamy hot chocolate) is how ever changing it is. We were in the city twice in a matter of days and in that time many of the pieces had already changed. One wall was even re painted while we were in Movida having lunch. The portrait of a man with a blue hat (strangely resembling Obama) smoking a cigarette was tearless before lunch and by the end of lunch had two small tears coming from his left eye. He was probably overcome with jealousy watching us enjoy our hot chocolate.

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Verdict: A colourful and delicious way to spend the lunch hour. Add this to your must do list in Melbourne. Movida, 1 Hosier Lane, Melbourne, Australia

MoVida Bar de Tapas on Urbanspoon

April 14th, 2015|AUSTRALASIA, Australia, Melbourne, Victoria|0 Comments

Hot Chocolate at the Adelphi Hotel, Melbourne, Australia

 

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We decided to treat ourselves to 24 hours in the CBD, and my first choice of where to stay this time was the Adelphi Hotel. I have heard a lot about this hotel recently and have been splashed by its guests swimming in the incredible rooftop pool as I’ve walked by below more than once. Back in the 1980’s the building was a unique luxury hotel that attracted high profile guests throughout the 90’s. In 2013 it found new owners, a completely new look, and so the Adelphi we walked into was born.

A short flight of steps brings you up to the main level to the reception. The space hits you as soon as you walk in. It is both bright with big windows letting in lots of natural light, and dark and night club like at the same time. A stunning painting of a beautiful woman with black hair and red lips takes up the only wall in the space. Right in front between us and the reception desk is an almost life sized horse made from wire standing on a black and white chevron floor. The reception, like everywhere else in this hotel we would soon find out, was covered in candy.

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We were seated down on seats that look like licorice candies and presented with two glasses of champagne before we were asked to complete the paper work for the check in process. When we arrived in our room there was a message written on the mirror wishing us a happy anniversary as well as a giant heart shaped cookie on the bed with a welcome message signed by at least 10 members of the staff. If the cookie wasn’t enough sweetness the whole room was like a box of modern candy. Two macaroons awaited us, one on either side of the bed, obviously there to help us sleep better and happier. The mini bar was free (there was a really nice ginger beer in there). They also had a large clear glass container on the counter filled with all sorts of different candies to continue fueling our sugar high.

Once we got all dressed up all we had to do was walk down to the basement to the two hatted Ezard restaurant where we had a reservation. This was the second time we had been to Ezard and the food was even better than I remember it being a few years ago (when they only had one hat). I remember the highlight of the last meal we had there was their oyster shooter. This time it was a beautiful fish plate with a delicate lemongrass broth. Beautiful meal, incredible service. Three hours later we walked out but unfortunately had missed our chance to try the desserts at Om Nom upstairs.

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I have wanted to try one of Chef Christy Tania desserts for a while now. With training from many of the big names in France, she creates stunning desserts that look like playful works of art at the restaurant that shares space with the reception lobby. The restaurant/dessert bar is called Om Nom. Yes Om Nom from the cookie monster on Sesame Street or as they define it, the sound of eating something absolutely delicious.

We did spend quite some time in Om Nom the morning after for breakfast and then coffee with friends, or rather hot chocolate with friends. I had some high expectations for their hot chocolate, as they must have some good chocolate back there in the kitchen. I know very little about this hot chocolate (I tried to get more info with no luck) but I did enjoy it. It wasn’t as decadent as I expected, it was very light and creamy with a smooth chocolate taste. Beautifully presented in pink and yellow china.

Flinders lane, where the hotel is situated, is right in the middle of everything, just a few blocks from Federation Square, shopping, bars, restaurants and all that makes the city of Melbourne fantastic. But I’d suggest just staying here and taking it all in. It is a small space but there is plenty to do.

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Verdict: Already planning our 24 hours back at the Adelphi for 2016…this time we will start with dessert at Om Nom and an evening hot chocolate, see if Chef Tania does it better. Adelphi Hotel, 187 Flinders Lane, Melbourne, Australia 

 

April 6th, 2015|AUSTRALASIA, Australia, Melbourne, Victoria|0 Comments

Hot Chocolate at Wines Patisserie (Great Ocean Road), Warrnambool, Victoria, Australia

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The Great Ocean Road is one of the most scenic drives in Australia. This 243 kilometer stretch of road between Torquay and Allansford provides absolutely stunning views. There are many many highlights along this coast but most visitors will make their way to a stop along the drive called the Twelve Apostles. This point provides an incredible view along the coast of a series of massive limestone structures, 45 metres high, that sit just off the 70metre high cliffs along the coast here. There used to be, as you can imagine, 12 such structures but slowly over time they have fallen and at the same time new structures are constantly being developed.

There are many other must see stops along the road. At each you park your car and can take a short walk to the coast. What seems like a short stretch of road can easily take a full day to visit with all of these beautiful stops. Most people start the drive from the east starting at Torquay but you can also drive up to Warrnambool and start from here which is what we did.

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When we got to Warrnambool we were starving and desperately needed some lunch before making our way to the Great Ocean Road. We stopped literally at the first café we could find which had a parking spot nearby, and could not believe how lucky we were.  

Wines Patisserie is a jewel and I wish I could take this bakery with me everywhere on all my travels. We had lunch here, then got food to take out for dinner and then went back again the next day again for lunch and only stopped going because needed to make our way back to Melbourne.

This family run business makes the most incredible food. For lunch we ordered their mini roast vegetable quiches as well as some of their meat pies. For dessert we tried their tiny cupcakes which were worth every penny we paid. We picked up a lasagna for dinner which tasted better than anything I had ever made at home. Service was fantastic and the staff are so friendly. Of course with all this good food, I had to try their hot chocolate.  They use Beraldo for their coffee so I am assuming they also get their hot chocolate from the same company. The hot chocolate was fine – it wasn’t as good as their food, but it was a good offering.

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Verdict: I am a huge fan of Wines Patisserie’s food. This week I’m going to try to make their roast veggie quiches here at home. Regardless of whether I succeed or fail, I’ll have to plan a trip back soon. Wines Patisserie, 162-164 Timor Street, Warnambool, Victoria, Australia

 

 

 

 

 

March 30th, 2015|AUSTRALASIA, Australia, Victoria, Warrnambool|1 Comment