Snag Stand – it is frankly a wiener!

Who doesn’t like sausages? I love them! If someone causally told me that they didn’t like sausages, I would very seriously reconsider our friendship compatibility. That is how much I like sausages – it is on my friendship check-list. “Must love sausages” is pretty high up there with normality. You know the saying, “man cannot live by bread alone”? The genius was clearly a sausage lover who probably didn’t mind some ketchup or mustard to go along with it.

Imagine my delight then, when I found out about Snag Stand – the home of heavenly “haute dogs”. Times that by three when I discovered that it was at Melbourne Central and opposite the State Library. Score one for easy access! This meant that I could jump on the tram, grab the deliciousness and head back within 20 minutes give or take. Perfect. Know what is even more perfect? Their marketing skills –  which is cleverly littered with puns. I love puns (can you tell from the title?) and I love sausages – clearly this was a match made in hot dog heaven.

The first thing that I noticed about Snag Stand was how prime the location was. Traffic was heavy and almost everyone had noticed the stand. And even if you somehow MISSED seeing the stand, you could not possibly miss/resist smelling the aroma of sausages sizzling on the grill (unless you are down with the cold/flu and have a block nose). The striking yellow colour of Snag Stand makes a play for the New York atmosphere. They are 2 (I think) high tables and chairs which you could sit on and munch the hot dog while people watching – if that is your thing. The term people watching is kind of creepy, I know. Another way of saying it is “watch the world go by” – which sounds comparatively less stalkerish… Anyway, you walk up to the counter to place your order and in return, you get a buzzer which sounds and vibrates when your hot dog is ready for collection. Easy peasy. The times that I was there, I saw students, construction workers, and people attired in suits lining up to place their order. The humble sausage brings together people from all walks of life.

Snag Stand menu caters for a range of tastebuds – even if you are vegetarian (potato, smoked apple and sage). I suppose it is the equivalent of tofu burgers although I never got use to their appeal. Each item on the menu is displayed on a square black  cardboard with fancy writing and their description. They include, wagyu beef, pork and fennel (italian), weisswurst (veal, parsley and onion), chicken and rocket, beef and horseradish, spicy spanish chorizo, greek (lamb, rosemary and oregano), chillidog, backyarder, toulouse, australian fare, american classic, german bratwurst, and my all-time favourite: spicy cheese kransky. On top of that, they pair their artisan sausages with fancy accompaniments such as sauteed onions, house-made sauerkraut, creamy coleslaw, coopers ale BBQ sauce, cheddar cheese, and different kinds of mustards (ranging between meh and so hot it’ll make you cry). Did I also mention that most hot dogs come served with a toasted brioche roll? Brioche always gets me. If you are a fussypot who don’t fancy the above options, you can design your own hot dog  – how awesome is that?

Between the two of us and three visits, we sampled the (1) chicken and rocket, (2) spicy spanish chorizo, (3) chillidog, (4) american classic, and (5) spicy cheese kransky and (6) toulouse. To top off our greediness, we couldn’t resist ordering their chips with house-gravy dipping sauce. Across the board, all sausages were top quality, packed with flavour and the right amount of juiciness. They are well seasoned and tasty without being overly salty for the health conscious – but then you do not eat hot dogs if you are worried about health. The only sausage that I found to be a bit “meh” was the american classic. If you prefer milder flavours, go with the chicken and rocket or the toulouse. On the other hand, you should totally order the chillidog or spicy spanish chorizo if you like your lunch to pack a punch. The chilli on the chillidog seriously high-fived my tastebuds. For me, I would be forever faithful to the spicy cheese kransky (even if it wasn’t spicy) because I absolutely love the combination of cheese and sausage. The only advice I would give is to eat the hot dog carefully because Snag Stand is generous with their toppings (not that I am complaining). You do not want the juices to dribble down your chin, sriracha/chipotle mayo or truffle/wasabi aioli to smudge your expensive suit – especially if there is going to be a board meeting afterward.

In summary, Snag Stand sets a pretty high bar for quality sausages in Melbourne. Yes, it is pricey but then again, it is not your average sausage sizzle. I foresee a long relationship with Snag Stand as long as it continues to stock my spicy cheese kransky!

Snag Stand on Urbanspoon


La Belle Miette – move over cupcakes

A few years ago, there was a cupcake frenzy rampaging throughout Melbourne. No one seemed to be able to get enough of a little cake that is covered with swirls of frosting and decorated with little red heart candies/sprinkles/other sugary goodness. This observation is evidently well-supported if you were to google “melbourne cupcake stores” – which I did do; since googling is a favourite, frivolous pastime of mine. 639,000 results appeared in an instant, or 0.48 seconds to be exact. There were the usual suspects such as the Cupcake Bakery, Little Cupcakes, the Cupcake Queens, Cupcake Central, and The Cupcake Family. Outside of Melbourne, someone by the name of Paolo (or who likes the name of Paolo) had opened his very own cupcake store, affectionately called Cupcakes by Paolo.

With so many stores located just within the Melbourne Central radius, I started to view cupcakes as sneaky little things. It did not help when someone in my lab stuck up a funny Weight Watchers poster that showed a pink cupcake holding up a white flag with the words: “I come in peace”. Whilst it amused me, the poster didn’t quite convince me of the cupcake’s innocence. To paraphrase from Shakespeare, that cupcake doth protest too much. Whilst I did try a few cupcakes from different stores, I didn’t understand the fascination surrounding them. Suffice to say, I wasn’t a cupcake kind of person, and I didn’t score well in the “what cupcake flavour are you?” quiz in my honours lab either.

So, imagine my panic when macarons started to gain popularity in Melbourne, boosted possibly due to its guest appearance in MasterChef. I termed it the macaron movement. Oh no! I thought, soon there will be macaron stores sprouting the streets just like those cupcakes. It turns out that I was half right. There wasn’t an overwhelming increase in the number of stores that specialised in macarons. Rather, there was an increase in the number of existing stores that started to sell their own macarons. For a period of time, there was heated debate between friends as to what constituted a macaron, and what size it should be. This was largely based on confusion between macarons and macaroons – and how to pronounce each one correctly. For a small little round biscuit, it sure courted quite a bit of controversy.

The first macaron that I bought was the black and white macaron from the chocolate store, Shocolate, which had apparently won an award. It looked good in a zen kind of way, and it tasted very good. Long story short, I was hooked on macarons. That’s when I created the macaron expedition which involved creative logistics such as how-long-can-I-disappear-to-cover-all-these-shops-without-anyone-missing-me? In reality, the macaron expedition took place over several weeks as experiments and reports joustled successfully for my attention. Slowly, my friend and I ate our way from Shocolate to Cacao to Ganache Chocolate to LuxBite and macarons by someone else called Duncan. Apart from one very disappointing experience which sent me on a macaron hiatus, I enjoyed the sugary expedition.

It was by chance that I came across La Belle Miette. Some would even say it’s fate. One day, a friend and I had trooped off to Hardware Lane to eat the crepes at Le Triskel as we were in our francophile mood. That’s when we notice a cute little shop that sold macarons. Naturally, we detoured and popped in to have a closer look. Round little perfections sitting atop a marbled table gleamed happily behind a glass barrier. They were all pastel shades ranging from a light lemony yellow to intense raspberry red. I was sold, and when I looked at the pretty boxes, I was smitten. The design of those boxes tell a beautiful story which you can read on La Belle Miette’s website. This is very similar to a thesis, which is meant to relay a story too, albeit a less tasty one.

How many should we get? 2 or 3? In the end, we got 6……….That is to say, 6 utterly scrumptious macarons that should individually win macaron the year award. We devoured in no particular order:

  1. 72% Cocoa Single Origin Chocolate (Venezuela)
  2. Caramel a la Fleur de Sel
  3. Hazelnut Belle Miette
  4. Pimm’s & Pomegranate
  5. Strawberry & Vanilla
  6. Lemon

I loved them all, no matter what flavour they were, all had a wonderful egg-shell crunch when you first bit into them. Then your teeth sinks into the the sweet moistness of an impeccably rich ganache that can only leave you in an exuberant sugar-high mood. The single origin chocolate macaron is sin in a box, and the delightful chewiness of the salted caramel macaron has caused my mind to wander many a time during lab meetings. I noticed that La Belle Miette also dabbles in cheeky flavours such as Pimm’s & Pomegranate. Although I have not tasted Pimm’s before, I can assure you that people who prefer tart flavours would very much enjoy it. Although some might consider lemon or strawberry and vanilla fairly boring , their lightness provides a welcome contrast after eating the heavier flavours. Sometimes, the best things are the simplest.

With the spectrum of flavours like theirs, La Belle Miette captures a range of clientele – those who like to play it safe and conventional, as well as who are adventurous enough to try exotic combinations. What La Belle Miette does even better is her ability to strike the right balance between textures and sweetness. One does not overwhelm but complements the other. Within the patisserie circle, it is safe to declare that Pierre Hermé and Ladurée are giants in the field of macaron creation. Melbourne may not have either of these outlets, but we have our own giant in the making – La Belle Miette.
La Belle Miette on Urbanspoon