Tag Archives: macarons

the not-so-humble sandwich

I admit it, foodies on Twitter chirruping incessantly about Earl Canteen, a new cafe in the CBD, led me to check it out. Peer pressure, yep. It was those damn lunchboxes – the offer of a sandwich, a small salad, then a sweet morsel, all for $13.50 and freshly made. I very rarely have lunch out but figured it’d be worth checking out with fellow food blogger Alex from the Melbourne Social Guide.

It’s a bit tricky to find at first – if you enter from the swinging doors at 500 Bourke St, then go through to the back and you’ll get to a courtyard and find it below Movida Aqui. Alternatively, despite its actual address, you can enter from Lt Bourke St, nearest to the corner of William St. Believe me, you’ll thank me for these elaborate directions!

There wasn’t much in the way of seating inside and it was all taken. Thankfully, Melbourne decided to grace us with a gorgeous autumnal day, so we sat outside in the courtyard. While I waited for Alex, I scoffed down two salted caramel macarons, brand new to the macaron line-up. Should’ve bought four more…Damned delicious. Alas, these beauties are no more. For now.

*News flash, Fuku-san! They’re back! Wheeeee!

Earl Canteen macaron, detail

Whilst scoffing down my macarons greedily, I had the very unexpected pleasure of bumping into Claire of Melbourne Gastronome fame. Coincidentally, I finally got to give her a copy of a macaron zine I’d been holding onto for her. Naturally, we gabbed about food, macarons and serendipitous meetings. It was pretty lovely of her to make me not feel like that weirdo from the internet.

Alex then arrived, and serious business could then begin: the eating of the magical lunchbox. On the day we went, there was a salad of sweet pumpkin, a berry friand, and a baguette inspired by the Waldorf salad – chicken with a creamy but light dressing, with walnuts and finely chopped Pink Lady apples. Sadly, I have decided I am hopeless with baguettes. I know they’re supposed to be crusty, but my mouth and jaw has to work far too hard to chew the bread for it to be enjoyable. This makes me a sad foodie. I might ask if they can make up their sandwiches with a softer bread because I’m so lame. The only thing that made me feel better was that Alex couldn’t eat his salad on account of not liking pumpkin or sweet potato. Sorry chum, I outed you. Win for me – the salad was delicious and I love both pumpkin and sweet potato.

Earl Canteen lunchbox

I returned for another ‘research’ trip and to have lunch with good mate Luke. Whilst there, we were joined by Steph (who is a consummate ‘cookie-foodie’ – check out her personal blog for the requisite evidence) and Lindsey who both made me give in to peer pressure – yeah, I had the pork belly sandwich. No, I had no regrets. Led by Jess, Lindsey and Steph all yelled at me for eating it incorrectly. I truly didn’t realise you can eat a baguette incorrectly. My crime? Attempting to use cutlery. The correct method of cramming the porky goodness into your mouth is to: shove the pork deep into the baguette, close baguette tightly and squeeze down, and then place into mouth and NOM (vb. intransitive). Consider me suitably chastised. No more impromptu sandwich parties for me!

pork belly baguette

Luke had the sticky lamb baguette and very kindly let me snap a shot of it. I am sorry to report that there was a sliver of bone in it – apparently due to the fact that lamb neck is bony. Poor Luke had pork belly lust as we all tucked into our sandwiches. There’s always next time, chum!

lamb baguette

Of course I needed more macarons. This time the rose and coffee ones. Thanks Steph for letting me get a quick photo.


There has been some consternation about Earl Canteen’s prices and I have to confess I’m a bit over it. Earl Canteen have explained their philosophy and quite frankly all you haters can suck some (meat)balls. I say meatballs because there’s a wagyu meatball baguette on Earl’s menu (it is alas mythical to me at present but fellow EDSer Ryan has tried it). Yes, Earl is a little pricey. I’m not particularly affluent but am not at all bothered because the prices reflect supporting a specific food philosophy somewhat antithetical to fast food culture (not that I’m above the occasional fast food burger…). Will it work? Ask the horde of regulars Earl have attracted in the short time they’ve been open. When possible, that’ll include me.

EARL Canteen on Urbanspoon

macarons are not macaroons and there’s a whole zine to tell you

Macarons Are Not Macaroons

When Melbourne food blogger matriarch Claire of Melbourne Gastronome egged me on (haha, see what I did there) to purchase a copy of the zine Macarons Are Not Macaroons, this newbie food blogger did so. Sadly, I was once one of those who didn’t really know the difference between a macaron and a macaroon, and had no qualms about admitting it on Claire’s blog via comments a few months ago. Thus, financial damage occurred and zine nirvana Sticky Institute was the richer for it.

You only have to check the Masterchef hashtag on Twitter to see how much ire the show inspires. I haven’t seen all that much of it (somewhat weird given every Tom, Dick and Harriet of the slightest foodie leanings is watching it) but yes, I have noticed that it attracts a lot of critical (as in bitching and moaning -not high-brow analysis) commentary, much of it warranted.

The author of Macarons Are Not Macaroons is no different. On the first page of the zine some of her mission statement reads:

“…And for anyone who watched Master Chef in 2009 that stood up and yelled at the TV as that panel of Professional Chefs and Eaters crunched into burnt macarons and called them macaroons.”

What follows is the author’s part-instructional guide, part-life story bound up in macaron obsession.

She starts off by explaining a bit of her involvement and interest in the Lolita subculture, and how everything has to look doll-like and cute, and sugary. Macarons apparently fit this subculture’s aesthetic perfectly – indeed, they are delicate, morsel-sized and very pretty in their pastel colours. All of these things are also very high-maintenance: macarons are, according to the zine, very fiddly bastards to make. I wouldn’t stand a chance in the Lolita subculture, preferring to be dressed for comfort (read: scruffy). I suspect that macaron-making would also drive me a little batty.

I find there is something quite carnivalesque and sinister about a world made of candies, sweets, ruffles and consummate prettiness – think Sofia Coppola’s film Marie Antoinette. The main protagonist constructs a gorgeous candy-pastel world but she does not have a happy life. If we want to go down an even more grotesque path, I can recommend the Korean film Hansel and Gretel – a modern take on an evil witch seducing and entrapping children using the lure of sweets. At first the kids think it’s fantastic that there’s always cake and all these pretty sweets to eat, but then it becomes a bit weird…even they twig that cake and cupcakes isn’t suitable for every meal.

So…I ask you, is the macaron a delightful being, or a beast designed to bring you to your personal downfall? The zine author would argue the latter. Doctor Faustus turned to Mephistopheles in pain despite all his knowledge. Macaron makers would, I fear, be inspired to do the same – chase the perfect macaron but turn to the dark side in despair…

The bulk of the zine is devoted to educating the reader upon the subtle differences between macarons and macaroons, saving up for expensive equipment to cook these tricky buggers and inadvertently driving the people she lives with mad with her own obsessive hunt to perfect her technique. There’s a lot of different recipes, and she also discusses where to get good macarons in Melbourne, and where to avoid getting substandard ones.

My major gripe with this zine is that…if the macaron is held up as the object of obsession for the length of the zine, then how on earth is it that the author never spells ganache correctly? The ganache is an integral part to the macaron, and it’s not misspelt just once but throughout the entire zine, except where she’s pasted recipes gleaned or ripped out from other books or magazines. The macaron pedant in me rages (the pedant more than the macaron-lover, admittedly). However, if you don’t mind shelling out $4 for a nice, thick zine on macarons, then you can find it at Sticky Institute in the city, or online via their mail order department.

(cheers to the tech guy-monkey for some editorial clarification)