Tuesday, October 21, 2014

A Day Trip to Yarra Valley - Innocent Bystander, Yarra Valley Chocolaterie & Ice Creamery, and Yering Station

Can you believe it? I've lived in Melbourne for the past 8.5 years but I've never been to Yarra Valley up until last weekend.

I am embarrassed to admit it considering how close Yarra Valley is to the CBD, but I guess better late than never?

The Boyfriend and I took a short drive down to Yarra Valley and headed straight to Healesville for lunch at the popular Innocent Bystander Restaurant of which I made sure to book a day prior.

We kick started with these beautiful drinks. The Boyfriend had the Moscato & Sipsmith Summer Cocktail ($11) and I, on the other hand, chose the Moscato Granita ($11).

Both the drinks were brilliant! My Moscato Granita was sweet (but not overwhelmingly so) and very refreshing. I also had a sip of The Boyfriend's cocktail and I like how thirst-quenching it was.

To say that I love Innocent Bystander's pink moscato would be an understatement. Even though I've never been to the Yarra Valley, I've had the moscato a few times before and absolutely adore it.

We bought two big bottles home and I can't wait to open them! I may not a big wine drinker, but I do love my moscato and dessert wines. ;)

I've also heard a lot about Innocent Bystander's wood fire pizzas, so The Boyfriend and I decided we'd order one to share.

We opted for the spicy pork sausage, buffalo mozzarella, San Marzano tomato and chilli on organic sourdough base ($24).

It was divine; the base was thin, and the pizza although full of flavour, wasn't too heavy. If you're a big eater, you could easily finish one whole pizza by yourself.

My only complaint would be the lack of buffalo mozzarella. It would have been perfect with just an extra dollop or two of the cheese.

Three slices of pizza later, I was filled up, but The Boyfriend wanted more so we ordered the truffle and parmesan frites to share.

It was fantastic, yes, but I thought $11 was a lot to pay for a bowl of French fries. Plus, I found the fries a tad too salty for my liking.

The Boyfriend on the other hand, thoroughly enjoyed it. I guess if you love your fries, then this is a must-order.

To wrap up, we ordered a canelé ($4) to share. It was my first time trying a canelé and I absolutely LOVED it! I really like how soft and custard-like the inside of the pastry is.

Paired with a thick and dark caramelized crust, I now finally understand why others rave about this little gem. It was also The Boyfriend's first try, and I could tell he was very impressed. ;)

Just as we were walking out the door, I spotted their bread stand and could not resist the organic sourdough loaf.

The Boyfriend and I bought a loaf home for dinner, and he claims it to be one of the best. That's a big claim considering how much he loves his sourdough. One day I will learn to make it for him, so he gets a loaf each week. I should get cracking on my starter soon! ;)

Innocent Bystander Winery on Urbanspoon
All in all, we both had a great experience at Innocent Bystander. Food and drinks were both great, and the wait staff were also very attentive and friendly. We'll definitely be back to try the other items off their menu. I promise it won't be another 8 years before I visit again. ;)


Next stop after lunch was a short 15 minutes drive over to the Yarra Valley Chocolaterie and Ice Creamery. As its name suggest, there were a HUGE variety of chocolate, desserts and ice cream available to have in-store and to take-away.

It was a lot of fun seeing how chocolate was made, and just to see how much one can do with chocolate.

The Boyfriend and I were like kids (we're after all pretty young at heart) as we stood watching bars of chocolates going through their final chocolate coating as they travel along on a long conveyor belt at 8°C before emerging on the other end, all ready to be packaged.

There were also big, gigantic bowls of dark, white and chocolate chocolates to sample. But as I was immersed in all the chocolate, imagining myself in Willy Wonka's world, I've conveniently forgotten to take any other pictures of the chocolaterie.

The Boyfriend and I were still full from lunch, but thought we should at the very least try the ice cream.

We opted for the praline milk chocolate flavour to share and boy, it was one of the biggest scoop of ice cream we've ever been served, but divine, creamy goodness nonetheless.

A group of old ladies about 70-ish in age, were going all "OHHHH MY LORDDDD!!!" at how massive each scoop was. One of them said it at least 10 times and it was very cute of them - bless their little heart.

Before we left, The Boyfriend also bought me some premium hand-crafted truffles to take home. I love how pretty each individual chocolate looks and the packaging is really beautiful too.

I chose (clockwise from top) the macadamia, strawberry, mango, hazelnut, raspberry sweetheart and apple cider. I've yet to try them yet, but I will dig into them tonight. ;)

Yarra Valley Chocolaterie & Ice Creamery on Urbanspoon


Before we headed home, we made it a point to stop by Yering Station Winery on our way as I remember seeing how beautiful the winery looks in pictures.

I wanted to do a bit of wine tasting, but there were way too many people in queue, so I didn't get a chance. Although I didn't manage to do any wine tasting, I'm glad we stopped by anyway.

Yering Station is beautiful - the view from the restaurant in particular was stunning. I am hoping to return one day to dine here *wink wink at The Boyfriend* hehehe.

We took a slow stroll around the art gallery, digesting that massive ice cream and taking a couple of pictures along the way before we headed back home.

A big thank you to The Boyfriend for taking me on this short day trip - it was loads of fun! We should get out of town a little more often. ;)

As for you, my fellow readers, I hope you enjoyed this post as much as I enjoyed writing it. And if you haven't already been to Yarra Valley, I urge that you plan a visit soon. Maybe this weekend? The weather's looking pretty good with a top of 26°C. ;)

Friday, October 17, 2014

Ik Mis Je :')

My alarm rang at 6.45am, just like any other morning. I turned to my bed side table, and hit the snooze button, with both my eyes still tightly shut.

At 6.54am, the alarm went off again. I was only half awake when I picked up my phone and proceeded with my daily social media routine; I checked my Instagram feed, followed by an automated tap on that familiar blue icon.

It was on Facebook when I first learnt about MH17. I was shocked to find the news of another Malaysia Airlines tragedy flood my newsfeed. I read enough to know what had happened, and hastily got up to get dressed for work.

When my colleague raised the conversation about "the MAS flight that crashed", it tugged at my heartstrings because Malaysia Airlines resonate very well with me; this airline has brought me home numerous times and as a Malaysian, I have grown up flying this airline before Air Asia came about.

This could happen to anyone of us. I thought about the people on board flight MH17 and felt sorry for their family and friends, but I snapped out of it and got on with work just like any other Friday morning.

It was not until about 11.30am when I received a text from my brother that read: Elaine was on that flight.

I read it over and over again, in shock and disbelief.

I don't know what prompted me to do a quick search on Google for updates on MH17 but true enough, I found Elaine's picture on The Age with a caption that read something along the lines of "Melbourne University's student Elaine Teoh, believed to be on flight MH17".

I cupped my mouth in shock, the hair on my arms stood up like soldiers at attention and streams of tears rolled down my cheeks.

I tried to hold it in but it wasn't long before I broke down and started to sob uncontrollably in my seat.

I must have shocked my colleagues with my sudden burst of tears, as they walked over to ask what had happened and if I was okay.

I struggled getting any words out, but when I managed to pull myself together (just barely), I managed a short response, "I just found out... My friend was on the flight that crashed."

The news still hasn't sunk in when I muttered those words. I was still in disbelief. "No way, no way, no way!" I chanted silently to myself. I struggled to come to terms with the news, and honestly I still do.

I trembled in fear and my whole body shook as my boss drove me over to Elaine's apartment where her Mum, her sister and mutual friends were present. We hugged, we cried and we reminisced the good times and memories that we all shared with Elaine.

I won't deny that it was one of the most difficult day of my life. I have never once felt this vulnerable, ever.

It is a day I will never forget. Every Friday, I relive this day in my head. Every Friday, I think of Elaine. Every Friday I hope there are lots and lots of good food up there for her. Every Friday, I ask under my breath, "How are you, Laine? Are you doing all good up there?"

Even though I knew it had happened, but I still could not believe it, up until now even, I still cannot believe that I'll never get to see Elaine again. I refuse to accept that this is true.

Before her body was being identified, I still had this small pang of hope that she managed to survive the crash and that she was alive, somewhere in Ukraine.

It is true when they say, you never truly understand the pain of losing your loved ones (especially in such a tragedy) until you experience it first hand. This pain was indescribable; it felt like a part of me died.

I've also learnt that everybody deals with death and pain in many different ways. Some manage it better than others, but I for one, do not handle death well.

Time heals, as many would say; I agree it does get better and easier over time. At least I no longer break out in sudden tears at the thought of Elaine, but deep down inside, it still hurts. This pain will never heal, time simply numbs the wound.

It has been 3 months now since Elaine left us, and whilst I've managed to come to terms with the fact that she has passed away and is now in a better place, I still cannot help but hope that she was still around.

Elaine was one of the most genuine and kind-hearted person I've met and her presence is very sorely missed.

I miss hanging out with her, I miss teasing her, I miss pulling tricks on this rather gullible friend of mine, I miss sharing my baked goodies with her, I miss her goofiness, I miss having girly talks with her over good food and I really, really miss her laughters.

I miss you, Elaine.

I have so much to tell you and I know it is now too late to say this, but I wish we had caught up more often. I'm sorry we didn't get the chance to see each other before you left for Amsterdam.

Friday, 18th July 2014 - this day is forever embossed in my heart. It was the day I lost a good friend. But this is not goodbye, Elaine.

Till I see you again, my friend. :')

Friday, October 3, 2014

Fat Friday #3 - Yebisu & Yochi

TGIF! I'm back again with yet another Fat Friday post for you. ;)

Today I am sharing with you one of my absolute new go-to-place for when I've got no leftovers to pack to work for lunch.

*jeng jeng jeng*

I hereby introduce to you, Yebisu, a small Jap eatery on Carlisle Street with only 6 seats cramped together.

I could not wait to share this little Balaclava gem that I found, but I made sure I visited a couple of times to try more items off the menu before I did. Actually that's just an excuse. :P

I just simply love this place. In fact, I was quite ecstatic when Shell and I first discovered Yebisu.

They have a simple menu, but everything that we've tried thus far has been pretty amazing! Having just returned from Japan a few months ago, I am glad to report that Yebisu offers good authentic Jap food.

This was one of the most authentic chicken katsu don I've had in Melbourne in my 8 years I've been here. This donburi was not only hearty and filling, it was also very tasty.

Such a comforting dish with every mouthful a delight. That's how Japanese food is meant to be - leave you walking away satisfied.

Shell has never had katsu don before, so I offered her a bite of mine. I think it blew her mind away, because the next time we returned, she ordered this and finished it all up with a big smile.

I also loved the crumbed prawn sushi - it was so good. The sushi is made fresh to order on the spot, and served with the prawn still warm. Absolutely DIVINE. Shell actually ordered this two times in a row, over two weeks. That's how good it was. ;)

I found myself back again at Yebisu on another occasion, and tried the Kitsune Udon. It was so comforting and was what I really needed that arvo as I wasn't feeling too well. I loved the great umami taste of the broth and the smooth udon noodles which I happily slurped away.

As for the days when I am super duper hungry, I opt for the Bento Box with my usual choice of beef teriyaki.

The beef was tender, and reminds me very much of the amazing beef yakiniku bowl that I had at Yoshinoya in Japan.

The Bento Box also comes served with a handful of edamame, salad, tofu, gyoza, croquette, tamago, a piece of karaage chicken and crumbed fried prawn. Everything was delish and filled me up so well.

What can I say about Yebisu? Reasonably priced tasty and fresh food, paired with friendly service, I cannot recommend Yebisu enough.

Yebisu on Urbanspoon
Definitely give Yebisu a go if you're around the area and you'll find yourself returning again and again. At least Shell and I will. ;)

And with Yochi just sitting right across to Yebisu, it is really hard to just go by without popping in for a treat! So more often than not, I find myself at Yochi pumping away at those machines.

My favourite combo? A mix of salted peanut butter and salted butterscotch froyo, topped with crumble and caramelised banana. So satisfyingly good! Perfect way to wrap up Friday lunch! ;)

Yo-Chi Frozen Yogurt on Urbanspoon


I hope you're all having a fantastic Friday afternoon. Have a good weekend ahead and I hope you guys have got something fun planned!

As for me, I'm off to see award-winning Once the musical courtesy of Nuffnang - my first time to a musical wheeeee! :D
Click on 'OLDER POSTS' for more! :)