Introducing: Haynes&Bruce

truffles

Find the recipe for chocolate caramel truffles on my new website, haynesandbruce.com!

Hello fellow bloggers and blog followers, and Happy New Year!

By now you’ve probably noticed that I’ve been quite absent in the blogosphere. This is because I’ve been working on a new (and very much improved) blog on my soon-to-be-finished website: haynesandbruce.com.

Haynes&Bruce is my venture with photographer/graphic designer Georgia Haynes, and together we’ve been covering foodie, music, design and fashion events as well as doing copywriting, social media, photography and styling work for clients.

We’re having a blast embarking on Haynes&Bruce, and I hope you follow our blog to enjoy our adventures, too!

There are a few things to be sorted out on the new site, but the blog section is well and truly up and running so check it out here.

Haynes&Bruce

Website: haynesandbruce.com

Facebook: facebook.com/haynesandbruce

Instagram: haynesandbruce

Twitter: @haynesandbruce

Pinterest: pinterest.com/haynesandbruce

Taste Air: Sampling some Taste of Melbourne goodies

lucy liu

Images: Georgia Haynes

There are times as a blogger where you might have an existential crisis and think, “What’s it all for? Why do I eat so much and then write about it? Is this the right path for me?”

Last night was not one of those times. Myself and fellow food bloggers Peachwater, Gourmet Chick and Confessions Of A Little Piggy were treated to some serious deliciousness, sampling tastiness from some of Melbourne’s best restaurants ahead of their showcase at the Taste Of Melbourne event in November. Boy were we spoilt as we ate our way around the city, from Brooks of Melbourne, through to Lucy Liu and then Mamasita.

FIRST STOP: BROOKS OF MELBOURNE

Things got moving straight away with a delicious glass of Paul Louis on arrival, and, never one to shy away from boggling the mind of the diner, chef Nic Poelaert didn’t disappoint with the amazing sher wagyu rib with charcoal vegetables, onions and vinegar. That rib was everything I needed it to be in terms of a balance between extremely tender fat and meat, with an intense and complex charcoaled vegetable coating which was unlike anything I’d had before.

Sher beef rib

Sher Wagyu Rib

Challenging our understanding of what food is all about yet again, we were treated to cauliflower ice cream with caramel. Although I wouldn’t say it was my favourite thing in the world, I’m always happy to have my palate stretched to the limits.

Cauliflower Ice Cream

Cauliflower Ice Cream

SECOND STOP: LUCY LIU

I’ve never been to Lucy Liu before and I must say, this part of the night was an absolute highlight. A Chin Chin-esque feel but without the hype-induced stress of “will I get a table, when will I get a table” etc, Lucy Liu is your perfect pan-Asian alternative to the former. I sipped a Lucy Liu house white, clean and crisp, which was the best paired with the amazing food we got our greedy little hands on – oysters dressed with a fish sauce and chilli, Lucy Liu’s signature papaya salad, Asian slaw and the piece de resistance – the grade 7 wagyu with wasabi butter. MY GOD. I couldn’t even make pleasant conversation as every delicious morsel melted in my mouth.

Lucy Liu Oysters

Lucy Liu Oysters

Papaya Salad

Papaya Salad

OMG AMAZING Grade 7 Wagyu

OMG AMAZING Grade 7 Wagyu

THIRD AND FINAL STOP: MAMASITA

Kudos to Mamasita. Being the final stop on our Taste Air journey, we weren’t the most enthusiastic of food consumers, and yet we still enjoyed ourselves. Drinking the delicious and super salty Mamasita margarita on a school night (not for the faint hearted and VERY cheeky on a Tuesday eve), we enjoyed a spot of tortilla-pressing (how novel!) before we started eating ourselves to death again.

Elotes

Elotes

First up: that unbelievable elotes – Mexican corn on the cob – with mayonnaise, cotija cheese (which sort of tastes like pecorino), lime and spices. I think I could’ve stopped there but no, so much more food. So much.

Molote

Molote

A prawn tamale with arbol salsa was next, followed by zucchini-braised molotes – a bit same-samey for me, but to be fair, we were all dying of food coma syndrome by then. But the last dish, Mamasita’s famous pulled pork and fish tacos, were off-chops delicious. I wouldn’t have eaten them if I was normal and ate normal amounts of food, but… DAT CHIPOTLE MAYO.

Fish tacos - what you come to Mamasita for.

Fish tacos – what you come to Mamasita for.

So we all left feeling very sated and not a small amount of excited for Taste of Melbourne. Argh, the anticipation! Find out more about Taste of Melbourne, or visit my Instagram to win one of two double passes to the event!

Brooks on Urbanspoon

Lucy Liu Kitchen and Bar on Urbanspoon

Mamasita on Urbanspoon

Taste of Melbourne Giveaway!

Giveaway

Hello fellow bloggers and blog perusers,

Just a quick post to let you know that I’ve got a little giveaway going on instagram – two double passes to Taste of Melbourne are up for grabs!

Taste of Melbourne  showcases a brilliant array of Melbourne’s best restaurants all in one day. So if you’re up for eating about twenty lunches in one hit (who isn’t), this event is for you.

Head to my instagram account for details on how to enter, and chuck us a follow if you feel so inclined (and you DO. You DO feel so inclined).

Have a brilliant Wednesday,

Lauren

West Village Cafe – Blogger’s Dinner

Images: Georgia Haynes

I was recently invited to attend a blogger’s dinner, sampling the newly formed dinner menu at West Village Café. The cafe feeds hungry professionals by day, and is looking to expand their customer base with a dinner service on Thursday and Friday nights.

The night was great – good company among fellow food bloggers, lovely and funny service, and good food. West Village Café was a warm refuge against the cold rain that pelted down outside.

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Chunks of fudge brownie and salted caramel praline in this delicious sundae.

We began with a grazing plate and ended in a luscious dessert of hot chocolate fudge brownie, honey macadamia ice cream & salted caramel praline. Including the latter, there were, of course, some other standouts along the way.

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Flaming saganaki:  a crowd-pleaser

The Pan fried Saganaki, lemon & grilled Turkish bread was a spectacle, in that the saganaki was brought to the table and set aflame in front of us – a bit gimmicky but nonetheless the saganaki was delicious. As our waiter pointed out, it was lovely soft and melty on the inside because it was made with haloumi rather than the standard kefalograviera cheese. I know it’s hard to get wrong, but it’s a crowd, and certainly a me, pleaser. I was also pretty happy with the mozzarella-stuffed veal meatballs with tomato and saffron glaze that followed – meat stuffed with cheese, crumbed and deep fried. Yes please.

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Mozzarella-stuffed veal meatballs with saffron glaze

This is where the chef’s ability really shined, and seemed to step up a notch in terms of sophistication.

The Hanoi duck spring rolls with Asian herbs & chilli caramel dipping sauce were just spot on – the shredded duck cooked to pull-apart perfection, the salt, sweet, sour, spicy flavours as balanced as a Vietnamese dish should be.

IMG_9373

Hanoi duck spring rolls: balanced flavours

But favourites were the slow-roasted pork belly with pan-seared scallops, cauliflower puree & truffle oil and the side of duck fat-roasted kipfler potato. It’s easy to screw up pork belly, and some of the best in the business HAVE – but these morsels were tender and flavoursome, fat rendered down as it should be, skin crispy and cracking in your mouth. Coupled with the sweetness of the seared scallop and the rich smoky truffled cauliflower puree, well, that’s a heavenly combo in my books.

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Pork belly with seared scallops, truffle and cauliflower puree: delicious

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Duck fat-roasted kipflers… yep, can’t go wrong!

West Village obviously has a couple of things to refine – the broccolini and the spinach sides need to be more interesting; they need to strengthen their branding and image (are they a New York-style cafe? Are they Italian? European? Modern fusion with some Asian thrown in? I couldn’t work it out) but I assume that will come if their dinner service expands.

And I hope it does, because, along with a warm atmosphere, reasonable prices and great service, there are some culinary gems here.

http://westvillagecafe.net.au/

West Village Cafe on Urbanspoon

Sampling the menu at Brooks

The delicious and imaginative Vegemite cracker with Vegemite emulsion and dehydrated kale

The delicious and imaginative Vegemite cracker with Vegemite emulsion and dehydrated kale

Hidden away in the depths of Austral House off Collins Street, Brooks is a destination for corporates and foodies alike, boasting modern French food in a historical setting. The site has an interesting culinary background, formerly housing Jamie Oliver’s restaurant Fifteen, Toby Puttock’s The Kitchen Cat and the Middle-Eastern Momo.

Chef Nic Poelaert brings his French countryside upbringing to his food, and his training under Michelin star chefs is also evident, particularly when he describes the fish featured in a dish with sour cherries and kohlrabi as having had a nice life “free from stress.”

“You can taste the difference,” he says.

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Fish with kohlrabi and cherries

Poelaert is known as the ‘veggie whisperer’, and like many chefs of the age, has a passion for seasonal, local produce, foraging and sustainability. This organic approach, combined with a personal connection to Brooks’ meat and seafood suppliers, guarantees Brooks’ menu is bursting with freshly grown flavour.

The mushrooms with a farm egg is testament to this. A mushroom soup, fresh wild mushrooms, a sprinkling of dehydrated kale and one of the most delicious eggs I have ever eaten (definitely came from a happy chicken). Following that, the Brooks raison d’etre dish, the meli melo of vegetables, herbs and flowers, and celeriac cream was understated and delicious – although I wouldn’t recommend it on its own if you’re starving. That said, I’m not really a non-meat option kind of gal at the best of times, so don’t take my word for it!

brooks 010

Wild mushrooms with farm egg

The standout for me, however, was the starter – a Vegemite-infused cracker topped delightful drops of a creamy Vegemite emulsion, sprinkled with dehydrated kale. The most imaginative thing on the  table, it stole the show, and really hinted at Poelaert’s potential, to the point where I was slightly sad he didn’t go for it a little more with the other dishes.

brooks 012

Glenora farm vegetables side

Brooks boasts great service, a well-researched wine list and delish food, prepared under the watchful eye of a chef that knows what he’s doing.

But as Poelaert himself said, “We don’t aim to be the best in the world, but we do aim to be well-respected in the industry.” That’s fine, but I feel like Poelaert could better own his obvious talent and push it a little more.

brooksofmelbourne.com

Brooks on Urbanspoon

The baked beans recipe to end them all

10 - finished beans 3

For me, there are few more enjoyable ways to spend a weekend than hitting up bustling markets to buy allllllll the deli meats and cheeses, find the freshest veggies and herbs at the best price, and then head back home to cook up my purchases with a glass of wine in hand.

2- Deli 1

7- SMM - vegetable section

South Melbourne Market is a regular haunt for my fresh food-inspired days for a number of reasons – the proximity to the brilliant design shops that pepper the area, the closeness to the city, its restaurants that boast a warm European atmosphere, and the fabulous Theo’s Deli that sells my favourite King Island Roaring Forties Blue at a bloody good price point.

3- Deli 2

4- Deli - bread

It was my frequent trips to this deli, along with my love of the house made baked beans that have become a staple on brunch menus across Melbourne, that prompted me to create my own baked beans.

This is a very Italian-inspired recipe. There are many incarnations to be found online, but I think this combo of rosemary, spicy pancetta, chilli and anchovies is the absolute best.

6- Rosemary

8 - Tomatoes

Don’t be afraid of the anchovies. They bring a uniquely tasty flavour to the dish that’s not fishy at all, and when you chop them up and chuck them into the mixture, it just melts away into the sauce without a trace.

TIP: Don’t worry if the top of the dish looks a tad overdone when you take it out of the oven. The more cooked the dish is, the more deliciously caremelised and rich the baked beans become.

Baked beans – serves 4-5

Ingredients:

1 can borlotti beans, rinsed, drained

1 can cannellini beans, rinsed, drained

1 can red kidney beans, rinsed, drained

1 can diced tomatoes

2 fresh tomatoes, diced

4 sprigs rosemary, stalks discarded and leaves chopped

3⁄4 cup chopped parsley

4-5 cloves garlic, crushed

1 medium brown onion, diced

Salt and pepper, to taste

1 teaspoon powdered chicken stock

1 tablespoon brown sugar

2-3 tablespoons tomato paste

1 red chilli, seeds discarded (optional)

2 anchovy fillets, chopped

300 grams spicy pancetta, roughly chopped

1 tbsp butter

1 tbsp olive oil

300 grams Bulgarian or Persian fetta (marinated or fresh)

Poached eggs and baguettes with butter to serve (butter, guys. Not margarine)

Parsley or rosemary to garnish

9 - ingredients close up

Method:

1. preheat oven to 180C.

2. Add garlic and onions to a large saucepan with butter and oil and a little salt and pepper. On a low heat, cook, stirring, until onion is translucent and golden brown. Add brown sugar and continue stirring until dissolved and onion/garlic mixture is caramelised.

3. Add pancetta to saucepan and cook until fat renders down and crisps up a bit.

4. Add fresh and canned tomatoes, tomato paste, parsley, rosemary, powdered stock and anchovies to the saucepan. Cook on a simmer, covered, for at least 20 minutes or until sauce thickens, flavours intensify and the consistency is that of ragu.

5. Add beans to the mixture and stir. Cook for a further five minutes.

6. Pour into a small (approximately 7cm by 10 cm) ovenproof dish and bake in the oven for 30-40 minutes, or until the top becomes darker in colour and the mixture is bubbling.

7. Ladle beans into shallow serving bowls. Top with poached eggs and crumbled fetta. Serve with warm baguette drenched in butter and anything else that takes your fancy.

1 - finished beans 1

Visit the South Melbourne Market site

 Visit the Gram Magazine site

 

Artusi Opening

Artusi opening

Image: Georgia Haynes

The strip between the City and Docklands hosts often tired cuisine – with this area around the Arts Precinct often struggling to remain relevant in a post-90s Melbourne.

The recent Hamer Hall facelift, however, has injected some life into Southbank, and being the central area for pre-and-post-performance dining, Southgate has been required to up its game. Enter Artusi, which opened this week, promising all things Italian tapas and fine European wine.

Owners of the much-loved Tutto Benne, Luis Pampliega and Tamara Volkoff, are heading up the new venture, so it’s hardly surprising Artusi was packed with Melbourne’s Italian glitterati along with other colourful characters – Big Brother’s Tully Smith and Matt Mitchell of Con the Fruiterer fame among them. In light of recent dwindling numbers, it was heartening to head to a restaurant opening at Southgate that was absolutely full to the brim.

Sure, there were your standard Italian clichés – an old crooner singing Volare followed by a Soprano trilling O Mio Babbino Caro and Libiamo ne’lieti calici – the only two Italian operatic pieces that anyone actually knows. The schmaltz is to be expected of this area of Melbourne, and the night’s entertainment picked up during a fantastic demonstration by Head Chef (and executive chef of Tutto Benne) Leandro Panza demonstrating how to whip up some tortellini magic.

I don’t think the event managers had anticipated the turnout, and battling it out with the feisty Italian mammas to snaffle a gorgonzola canapé or a pumpkin cappeloni was a little dramatic. This was somewhat redeemed by the gift bags we were handed as we left which were filled with risotto, Tutto Benne olive oil and praline goodness.

They may have been hammered by hoards at the opening, but that didn’t deter from the overwhelmingly warm and happy atmosphere at Artusi – and if his performance on opening night was anything to go by, Leandro Panza knows his stuff and Artusi is definitely one to watch in the coming months.

Black Toro

Image

Images: Georgia Haynes

In Glen Waverley, a place far away from the enthusiastic food-consuming fervour of inner city hipsterville, lies Kingsway, a bustling strip lined with delicious, but predominantly Asian restaurants. Bang-smack in the middle of the Vietnamese and Chinese eateries is the slightly out of place but extremely palatable Hispanic offering, The Black Toro.

Glen Waverley locals Garen Maskal, Aret Arzadian and Sasoon Arzadian come from Armenian backgrounds, the cuisine manifestation of which can be found at The Black Toro’s sister restaurant, Sezar. These experienced foodies began the Spanish fusion establishment after travel inspired them to bring a high-end dining experience to their area.

Black Toro boasts friendly, helpful staff at a time when more weight is placed on a good restaurant fit-out and a trendy postcode than on superior customer service. With a happy buzz coming from surrounding tables and Booker T Jones playing in the background, I was in the mood to enjoy good food.

The Spanish feast began with fresh guac and crisp tortilla chips, and a delicious cocktail aptly named “El Matador” – a heady mix of Canadian Club, peach puree, fresh mint, lemon and apple juice.

To set a higher brow tone to the meal, the smoked kingfish tostada with avocado-yoghurt, chives and avruga appeared. The smokiness of the kingfish was paired well with the rich avruga caviar, the creamy avocado and crunchy tostada. Chives brought freshness to this dish. The combo of flavours was spot on.

Following this, the grilled octopus was a very Spanish dish that rivalled my best-ever summer tapas experiences in Barcelona. This was business-end Spanish – crispy pieces of hash brown much like the patatas bravas seen all over Spain, very tender barbecued octopus, morcilla sausage (a blood and pork combination) bringing some creamy, slightly musky richness to the dish, and a tangy garlic aioli. Even if you think blood sausage isn’t for you, this dish will change your mind.

From here on out, the dishes became a bit more American diner-ish, and less Spanish, but they were so delicious that you wouldn’t hear complaints about the deviation from the theme. The braised lamb ribs were cooked for 12 hours overnight, the result being a tender meat that fell off the bone and melted in the mouth, the fat rendered down perfectly. The beef brisket sliders – the brisket in which had been cooked the same amount of time as the ribs – were a revelation.

The achiote spice used in the meat was musky like a Spanish-spiced brisket should be, and the Japanese kewpie mayonnaise a delicious and brave twist.

What followed was a dessert platter that consisted of five indulgent treats. I advise you to get this baby to share, unless you’re greedy like me. The platter’s three standouts were the vanilla sponge, caramelized pineapple and coconut and lime trifle, the deconstructed peanut butter cheesecake and the banana sandwich.

The trifle was a light combo of citrusy lime tang, meringue, dehydrated crunchy pineapple, toasted coconut and creamy coconut gelato. I snaffled that down and swiftly moved onto the cheesecake, which consisted of peanut butter and chocolate gelato, chocolate cookie biscuit crumbs, peanut brittle honeycomb and peanut butter fudge. I’ve noticed incarnations of frozen peanut butter desserts have been popping up on menus everywhere in the last few years, and with good reason – they’re bloody delicious. The banana sandwich was a beautiful caramelly combo of aerated bread, dulce de leche, cream cheese gelato and a hint of cinnamon. It was just like a frozen banoffee pie. I could have had ten more, but that would have been embarrassing.

Black Toro is the full dining experience – great food, good service and a warm atmosphere. I wouldn’t hesitate to venture out to Glen Waverley to experience it again.

www.theblacktoro.com.au

The Black Toro on Urbanspoon

Recipe: Pho

Making pho at home isn't as daunting a prospect as you might think.

Making pho at home isn’t as daunting a prospect as you might think.

Phó is a fragrant Vietnamese noodle soup that originated in northern Vietnam and was popularised in the French colonial period. A versatile, cleansing dish with steaming, clear broth, it has since become a staple dish throughout Vietnam and made its mark on the rest of the world.

My love of phó developed when I was a kid. My parents used to take me to Victoria Street on a Sunday afternoon for a noodle soup with all the delicious trimmings. Even as a kid, there was nothing so appealing to me than this huge bowl of broth (I have always been a big soup person), and the freedom to add as many garnishes and condiments as I pleased.

For me, Victoria Street is the heart of Melbourne’s Vietnamese food culture (although there is some amazing phó in Footscray and other places scattered throughout our city). This colourful corner of Melbourne was the inspiration for this dish.

Don’t be afraid like I was initially to create phó at home – just use a HUGE pot to get the most out of your stock components, and hit up the Vietnamese supermarket or grocery store nearest to you and you’ll find everything you need for this recipe.

Also, don’t be afraid to change it up – I’ve only loosely stuck to a traditional phó and tailored it to suit my own tastes. For example, you could dry roast all the spice pouch ingredients before adding the pouch to the stock if you wanted to. Just as long as you cook the broth for at least an hour with lots of different things to flavour the broth in the pot, you’ll be good to go.

Ingredients

1 kg chicken or beef bones (I use chicken, but you can use what you like, even a combo of both), washed
500g beef brisket
2 chicken breast fillets
400g dried rice stick noodles
1 large onion, chopped
8 cloves garlic, peeled and crushed
1 6cm piece of ginger, peeled and grated
½ cup fish sauce
2 teaspoons beef or chicken powder stock
Cracked pepper and salt, to taste

Spice pouch:
(You can use an oversized tea strainer or a square of muslin cloth for this)
3 star anise
3 4 cm sticks cassia bark
2 cardamom pods
2 teaspoons fennel seeds
2 teaspoons peppercorns

For the garnish (measurements to taste):
Spring onions, chopped
Vietnamese mint
Bean sprouts
Red chillies, sliced
Hoi sin
Fish sauce
Soy sauce
Sriracha
Coriander
Lime wedges (at least one wedge per bowl of phó)

Method

Rinse the beef/chicken bones and brisket in cold water. In a large pot, cover the bones and brisket with water and add the ginger, garlic, onion, stock, fish sauce, brisket, a bit of salt and pepper and bring to the boil. Skim off any impurities that rise to the surface of the liquid, and do this throughout the cooking of the broth to ensure the broth is clear.

Lower the heat so the broth is simmering. Add the spice pouch to the broth and cook for at least an hour (can be up to two hours, or even longer if you adjust the heat).

Remove the bones from the stock and discard. Take the brisket out of the broth, cut off any fat. Thinly slice and add back to the stock.

Add the chicken breast fillets to the broth, cook until no longer pink and translucent in the middle.

While the chicken is poaching in the broth, add the noodles to boiling water and cook until soft and no longer chewy. Drain and divide the noodles between four large soup bowls. Remove the chicken from the broth and shred.

Top the noodles with the broth, and then the chicken. Sprinkle phó with the spring onions, sprouts, mint, chilli and coriander, and add any or all of the condiments listed above along with a squeeze of lime. Enjoy!

Touchwood

Image The breakfast salad at Touchwood – delish

It is often in Melbourne that a new brunch spot will emerge, hype will spread and suddenly you’ll find yourself perched like a massive hipster on a milk crate, waiting half an hour to be seated because you couldn’t possibly go anywhere else, and neither could the rest of your suburb.

Touchwood in Richmond is one of those places – it also has the advantage of being in an area that is in dire need of a food culture makeover. As such, Touchwood is currently enjoying a popularity on Bridge Rd that is bordering on the hysterical.

Being five metres from my abode, Touchwood has become somewhat of an institution for me, and as a result, I have sampled many of the breakfast dishes served there. The three standouts for me are as follows.

The tequila and citrus cured salmon, poached eggs, smashed peas,
dill, lemon creme fraiche, sauteed endive and sourdough toast is a really fresh way to start your lazy Sunday. The combination is great and I have very little to say that is bad about this dish – the house-cured salmon is always fresh, light and delicious without being like the overly fishy, salty standard smoked salmon that you might finding in its place at other breakfast joints. You can’t go wrong with cured salmon and herbed creme fraiche as a combination, either – and the smashed peas are an ingenious addition. I always hold the bread, though – I feel it’s an unnecessary addition to the smashed peas.

The morning grain salad of quinoa, freekeh, wild rice, rocket,
toasted almonds, chai-soaked raisins, cumin yoghurt,poached egg and grilled bacon is a really great dish that I would like to see an equivalent of at many more cafes – the salad reminded me of the freekeh salad served at Cumulus, but the raisins in the Touchwood incarnation make it a bit sweeter. I am normally wary of the addition of dried fruit to food in any capacity, but the sweetness and tartness of the raisins offset the salty, smoky grilled bacon and the creamy egg yolk really well here.

But the piece de resistance for me at Touchwood is definitely the braised mixed spiced beans, lentils, cotechino sausage, basil,poached eggs and marinated feta and flat bread. This is a Spanish-flavoured dish with really authentic-tasting sausage so if you have been to Spain and loved the food, you’ll most certainly love this.

Some might complain that on busy days, the service at Touchwood can be a bit on the slow side – but the staff are friendly, the poached eggs and coffee consistently good, and the environment a pleasure to inhabit. I don’t know about you, but those are really my weekend breakfast priorities, even if I have to wait a little longer than the average for my food/coffee fix.

http://touchwoodcafe.com/

Touchwood on Urbanspoon