Cuppa Time : Tree of Delights, Belgrave

The Hills are alive with the sound of a brand new cafe!

Sonja Schaeffner is delighting visitors to Belgrave with her homemade German delights inspired from her Oma Gretel’s kitchen. Having moved to Australia in 2000, she discovered a new dream, to open her own cafe where family & friends could feel at home. Read on to discover her Fast Five answers to our Cuppa Time questions.

Why have you chosen Belgrave to open your cafe?

Because Belgrave is my home. When I first started thinking of opening a cafe, I decided that it could only be in Belgrave. My cafe is my second home, the home I invite my customers into.

Tell us what German Cuisine & Food Culture means to you….

The first word that comes to mind is Childhood Memories. My mum used to bake a cake every weekend. Coming together with family & friends & having some nice food together means comfort & enjoyment.

What’s your fondest childhood food memory?

We went to visit my Grandma on the holidays where my sister & I would sleep in a spare room which was also used for storing the cake for the Sunday after baking it on the Saturday. I can still smell the cheesecake I was not allowed to eat until the next day.

Where did the name Tree of Delights come from?

My daughter gave me a mindfulness colouring in book for Christmas. One of the pictures was the tree with the hearts, which I absolutely loved & coloured in my favourite colours, orange & red. I asked my family to come up with a name for the cafe including the word tree. My son, Josh, came up with the Tree of Delights because I serve delightful food.

What can hungry diners expect to find when they come to Tree of Delights in Belgrave?

Yummy homemade cakes & classic German street food such as Curry-wurst, Bavarian Breakfast & German Meatloaf plus authentic German Pretzels & Ice-cream Sundaes which you find in German Ice-cream Parlours. All the sauces & syrups for the ice-creams & milkshakes are homemade using real, natural ingredients. I am trying to make the typical German foods that Germans living in Australia miss & I know that Australians will love them as well.

I’d like to thank Sonja very much for taking the time to let us get to know her better & wish her all the very best with her lovely new cafe. You can check out her website at http://www.treeofdelights.com.au or find her on Facebook & Instagram.

All photographs courtesy of Images By Tanya & are subject to Copyright.

Advertisements

Melbourne’s Country Playground

After so many years spent wandering the nation as somewhat reluctant nomads,

have we finally found our nook of Australia to settle down in?

 13925310_1083194378439124_7756165123945860267_n

We have lived from top to bottom & side to side of this great southern land we call home. We have roamed & loved, tasted & explored every possible climate available in a bid to find where we belong. At every new location, one of the very first things we do is to visit the local information centre.

Although these centre’s are catering to the tourists who arrive, they should never be overlooked by new residents to a region. We have found they are the best place ever to resource everything you need to get started in your new environment. Grab all the flyers & tourist trail maps of everything you’re interested in & then make contact with one of the friendly staff. Tell them you’ve just moved to town & they will fill your head with all the local’s only hot spots! Plus you’ll get bonus information of where the locals meet up to connect & chat about what’s happening. This is absolutely vital when landing yourself into rural or remote Australia.

So, our brand spanking new home is on the absolutely stunning Dandenong Ranges. Quite often overlooked for our iconic Yarra Valley neighbour, we’ve noticed a very clever marketing tactic by the local tourism bureau here, a blending of the names to produce the Yarra Ranges!

The trail map, pictured above, is first on our hit list to explore (we’ve already done some places) so, naturally, will be sharing our family outings with you.

We’re about an hour away from the Melbourne CBD and there are loads of day trips you can take up this way from the tour people, but personally, I would hire a car & really get out to explore all the little farm gate stalls to gather together a fabuliciouz hamper of fresh goodies!

However, let’s get back to the question at hand………..Can we finally settle down to grow some roots of our own?

We are adoring the novelty of 4 defined seasons in the south & the mountain feels like a world away from the city. There is ample work within a reasonable commute whilst we are able to maintain our country lifestyle. We have one of the world’s premier wine regions on our doorstep to compliment the outstanding food bowl produce from the rich soil. The spoils of one of the world’s most cosmopolitan cities are within easy reach for our picking. We are surrounded by an eclectic mix of people who reflect every region we’ve passed through to get here.

Our journey is no longer a destination. 

Driving Miss Milly

A Dream becomes a Goal when you take Action to Achieve it.

IMG_20160815_070622

Yesterday we brought Miss Milly home! She is now resting comfortably beside the holly bush on our Home Farm.

Hitching up in the caravan storage did take a wee bit longer than anticipated. Her jockey wheel latch had completely shattered! This meant we needed to improvise to get her on the road!

Dragging out the jack from the back of our trusty Toyota FJ Cruiser, hubby got his workout with spinning the handle to lift Milly high into the air before I used my eagle eyed judgement to guide him back onto the tow ball. Our hitching up distance calls are rather comical for any onlookers, often producing giggles, but best not written down for posterity 😉

Then it was my turn for some upper body exercise as I spun the handle to gently lower the old girl onto the car as hubby secured her. We were on!

What was Mini Me up to during all this? Well, she had discovered the stash of chocolate bars in mum’s handbag………

Dragging Milly up the steep, narrow mountain road through the National Park rainforest saw us in such high spirits. All of this long awaited, dreamed & multiple planned for lifestyle truly is materialising as reality right before our eyes! As well as the eyes of the extraordinarily long traffic queue stuck behind us, sorry about that.

So what shall become of Miss Milly now that she is finally basking in the lovely sunshine of our mountain Home Farm?

My friends, I have a dream!

It’s been a dream I’ve been boring people with for about 20 years! I have always longingly desired to open my own Teahouse. Whilst I’ve come close to it a few times, for various reasons it never quite got over the line. Clearly, a traditional bricks & mortar establishment is not the right avenue for my glorious Teahouse!

Quite a few years back, we used to enjoy being a part of the market stall community. We loved our time on the market circuit, setting up at a wide array of locations 3 times a week to sell our wares. It was vibrant, exciting & just a whole lot of fun. We remember looking enviously at the stallholders who had converted caravans into their commercial kitchens as they could simply open & close the server hatch each market whilst it took us 2-3 hours of set up & pack down each day.

I can’t believe it took us so very long to see the blatantly obvious solution sitting right in front of us!

Use what you already have!

Miss Milly shall now be transformed into the most stunning Vintage Bohemian Teahouse for the enjoyment of mountain market go-ers serving Gluten Free High Tea for people to be able to relax in eclectic style to truly soak in the alternative vibe of our beautiful Dandenong Ranges.

Friends on the Hill, Monbulk

Once in a while, you’ll stumble across a little gem that surprises you so much you just know you’re gonna become a regular!

13319823_10154451846352345_9001156758713087648_n

We’re currently scouring the Dandenong Ranges, a much overlooked foodie region, in search of our next home. I mean, just take a look at this photo to see our attraction to the region! Yes, those are big kangaroos next to the vineyard!

So, anyhow, we’re driving around in absolutely atrocious weather so we can see what it’s like on the mountain in the abysmal conditions as well as the perfect tourist sunshine. This kind of opportunity is rare for us ahead of a move as we’ve traditionally criss crossed the nation so rely on the internet for information. I must admit, I was becoming a wee bit cranky. I was tired & irritable because I was just simply hungry. We’d tried to have take out dinner the night before, only to get home to discover they’d given us the wrong order! There was nothing I could eat in there. Normally, we’d just brush it off as one of those things I simply have to put up with now as a Celiac, but we were miffed because we’d actually nagged the staff numerous times checking they were getting our order right & I even saw my Gluten Free option sitting on the bench as the girl was packing ours up & asked her isn’t that mine to which she said no! I had then made the mistake of leaving the house the next morning without breakfast! Oops, my bad! So it was little wonder then that by lunch time I was flailing, after all, it had been 24 hours since I’d really had anything to eat.

We found a park in the village of Monbulk, a gorgeous local’s village that is obviously the hub of the region. As we stalked the street in the rain, I made the somewhat ignorant statement that I surely wouldn’t find anything to eat here either. It’s just so difficult to eat out when you have a dietary issue. It has made me change from being such a big part of the vibrant food scene to becoming a virtual recluse eating at home.

The most inviting of cafe’s had a lovely fire going in the corner & I said to hubby, if nothing else I could at least have a cup of tea to warm up while he & Mini Me had some lunch.

Imagine my surprise when the waitress brought over the menu which was absolutely littered with fabuliciouz Gluten Free options!

Normally, if we manage to find anything at all for me to eat on a menu, it’s only 1 or possibly 2 choices, if I’m lucky, & it’s usually not what I want to eat as it’s always the same option everywhere. I can happily report that at Friends on the Hill, every single Gluten Free item was a total breath of fresh air! I want to munch my way through that entire menu! Everything, just bring me everything, was what I fought back saying when placing my order but I tempered my gluttony & chose the Tomato & Basil Soup. Oh good lord, I was not disappointed!

Upon chatting with the chef to express my extreme gratitude for the variety on the menu (I could even have a burger if I want!) I discovered that the Head Chef’s mother is Celiac so that is why he is so sympathetic to the cause!

Friends on the Hill at Monbulk truly are now my mates! I can’t wait to find a home up there & become a regular.

Food Festival Fever!

From ponce to party, Melbourne certainly didn’t disappoint this Labour Day long weekend with Australia’s food capital hosting a Fabuliciouz feast of events!

DSC_0012

 Oh my goodness! What a weekend we’ve just been spoilt with! What an incredible time to be in Melbourne! In case you didn’t know, the annual Melbourne Food & Wine Festival is in full swing & they have an event to suit every taste & every budget. Naturally, we went along to a couple of the family friendly events over the long weekend.

Saturday kicked off our fabuliciouz foodie adventure at the 10th anniversary of Ventana Fiesta in the beachside suburb of Frankston. It’s a full on South American street party & in this, the Brazilian Olympic year, it was just perfect to get our groovy out!

DSC_0017

We were treated to Mexican wrestling along the main street as the crowd cheered & a true carnival atmosphere of music, singing, dancing & an explosion of colour!

But, of course, we were there for the food! What an incredible array of stalls filling the air with such sumptuous aromas our mouths were left salivating as we were totally confused by which of these amazing cuisines to try first!

DSC_0007

We eventually settled upon a selection of Patagonian BBQ (pictured), Argentinian Chicken & Colombian Arepa’s. What a feast we had as the parade sauntered past us, truly an experience to satisfy both cultural & tummy cravings.

On the Sunday we were at it again! You know, another day, another food festival……it’s a dirty job but somebody has to do it, right?!

DSC_0039

The Dandenong World Fare was in one word – EPIC! This is the cultural melting pot suburb of Melbourne. Any kind of cuisine you want to try from anywhere on the planet, I reckon can be found in Dandenong!

The crowd was immense, the food trucks numerous, the entertainment unforgettable & the atmosphere electric!

This is what a festival should be! Free entry for all so the community can come together to celebrate & bond over a fantastically good time. Free entertainment of the highest quality to ensure harmony & understanding between the various cultures. Cheap rides for the kids to be thrilled on balanced out by Free faceprinting, balloons & crafts. I know I’ve said a lot of Free there, but I’m seriously impressed by what the organisers of this festival were able to pull together for everyone to come out & enjoy. In this greedy world, it is a very rare jewel of community happiness gaining the upper hand.

DSC_0044

There was an incredible array of diversity on offer in the culinary department, as you’d expect of such a culturally rich area. But when I saw that big black & beautiful food truck with a roaring fire inside which boasted boldly on it’s menu board “GLUTEN FREE WOOD FIRED PIZZA” I knew I could walk no further. Despite the many fabuliciouz offerings of cuisines from around the globe, it is quite often, the simple foods we grew up on ourselves which we can no longer indulge in that we fantasise over. After a lifetime of pasta & pizza, to go ‘cold turkey’ has been really hard, but what do you do when gluten makes you really sick?! So to be able to gorge myself on pizza was an opportunity too good to refuse!

And that is why it’s called Comfort Food.

Cuckoo Restaurant

Nestled amoung lush forest perched upon Mt Dandenong,

you will find Australia’s very first smorgasbord restaurant.

Let the lederhosen loose & the good times soar!

11928744_10153802837377345_1904660762547661487_n

I always like to look for the quirky, slightly off the beaten path, kinda places for my Foodie Adventures. When I heard about an ‘absolute madhouse’ up in the hills of Melbourne, I knew I just had to check it out!

Now I know, a lot of people out there find theme restaurants a wee bit tacky, however, I am not one of those people! I think they’re brilliant for a rip roaring good time that you can completely & utterly forget about your own pretentiousness for a while.

As soon as we arrived at The Cuckoo Restaurant, it was apparent that our informants had been correct in their labelling of the joint. A man in full Bavarian traditional dress was enthusiastically directing traffic to park in a hilarious slap stick comedy. Right away, we liked the place.

11902286_10153802837657345_7982136032987485523_n

Naturally, one simply must stick one’s head through the stereotyped timber cutout for a picture as a buxom wench or drunken yodeller before entering the very pretty building to be transported to the other side of the world!

The decor of this place is so uber spot on! It isn’t very difficult at all to fully embrace your imagination & get carried away with the ambience of Bavarian Germany. The timber carvings are exquisite & they even boast the World’s Largest Cuckoo Clock! Oh, and the walls are adorned with every imaginable kind of smaller Cuckoo Clocks, all for sale, which I believe add an enormous amount of feel good factor with the wee birdies distinctive calling.

But, what we really came for was the promise of authentic European food! The instant you are seated, steaming hot pumpkin soup is plopped down on the table as the waitress awaits your drink orders. Let me just say they have a fabuliciouz mocktail menu! After greedily devouring the soup, our eyes were drawn by the rich array of dishes on offer & we discreetly slunk our way over so as not to draw too much attention that we were the first to attack the smorgasbord!

11899976_10153802838682345_1962933509356544371_n

With most diners now happily chomping through a gastronomic delight of culinary offerings, The Cuckoo ramped it up a notch in the party department by striking up the live band & entertaining with interactive audience comedy & some beautiful singing from The Sound of Music movie score. Throw in a few good PROST toasts into the mix & you have the makings of a seriously jovial experience!

I must admit to a guilty little secret here though, I did sneak back for seconds on the dessert! That Chocolate Mousse was just too irresistible not too!