Thursday, March 3, 2011

Balmain Food Tour: Planet Cake, Victoire, Adriano Zumbo

 My Day's Loot

Every term LCB takes its students on a food tour to gain insight into the industry: once was a 2-day sojourn to Zokoko chocolate factory in the Blue Mountains (love the BM!), another time to attend a Chocolate Festival in Hunter Valley. Today's trip was a short bus ride to the hippie food enclave of Balmain to tour the neighborhood shops. Compared to past trips, some of us were disappointed with our agenda, but went anyway hoping to make the most out of it.

Pit Stop 1:  Planet Cake
From Simple To Stunning

Sweet Cupcakes, Not What We're Making...Yet

Planet Cake's gorgeous creations come in all shapes and sizes, from 5-tiered wedding cakes to adorable fairy cupcakes, and we were surprised with a demonstration and a go at making the latter this morning. Nothing fancy, just an easy rubber ducky and rabbit.

Leveling With White Chocolate Ganache, Covering With Fondant

Ducky Head, Body, Beak

Rabbit Tail, Body, Head, Finished Products

My first attempt at food modeling which I found quite easy and fun, not unlike playing with plaster of Paris and Playdoh when I was much younger. This can be a profitable side business, but I still prefer making desserts that is more about the flavor than their sweet appearance.

Pit Stop #2: Victoire

A short walk later, we arrive at Victoire, a proper bakery and patisserie that's more up my alley. They make more artisan breads (such gems they are) and tarts, but not so much cakes. We went on a quick tour around the kitchen, giving us an idea how a small scale business looks and runs, and what sells.

Artisan Breads, French Pastries

Lovely Tarts Come In All Sizes

Funky Bread Slicer

Chef Karen's Shopping Done

Amazing Blueberry Tart, Macadamia Nut Brownie

Their ever-popular blueberry tart had a mascapone filling that was surprisingly light, gently perfumed with lavender and brightened with a hint of lemon - Genius! Hurry if you wanna try one, they are not always in stock and when they are, they sell out real fast.

Pit Stop #3: Adriano Zumbo's "Lab"
Me & Margarita With Chef Luigi-Soprano Talking Business At The Back

The latest darling of the Sydney pastry scene, Adriano Zumbo has been blazing the trail in inventive and unconventional desserts from wasabi cakes to corn meringue, but it's his macarons that defines him best; from classic berry flavors to outrageous hamburger and pig's blood experiments, there is no stopping the man dubbed the next Willy Wonka.

Pouring Filling Into Macaron Machine

When producing macarons by the thousands each day, a piping machine comes in handy, ensuring uniformity throughout the platoon; mix and filling are still and best done by hand.

Macarons & Pastry Production Lines

Touring the kitchen, it felt more like a macaron factory than patisserie to me, which was a pity as they make pretty outstanding desserts which I personally prefer to macarons.

Silicon Molds

Instant Noodle Soup? Nope, Guess Again!

The chef was making a cake for an special event that day, using instant noodles instead of well, cake. Told you they were unconventional.

Chef's Creation: Chinese Noodle Man
Looks More Like A Big- Boobed Owl To Me

Warming Up The Chocolates

Automated Chocolate Tampering Machine!

No pastry kitchen is complete without a chocolate room, and Zumbo's lab had an entire floor dedicated to it. Employing the wonders of automation once again, they use a machine to tamper chocolate: no more tabling or vaccination by hand. What a great toy to have!

More Desserts, Something For The Road

I got a salted-caramel (for the classics) and apricot-rosemary macaron (for the wacky). The former was so-so, but I couldn't taste the apricot in the latter, and the rosemary flavor just didn't work for me.

So it ain't the Blue Mountains or the Hunter, but it was an overall alright tour that gave us some perspective on how different businesses in the industry are run. I would have appreciated a little more hands-on experience to make this a good tour and not feel like another brunch run in the neighbourhood. Next time, maybe?

Fondant In My Special Box


  1. Hmm, just noticed my ducky has an inflated head threatening to explode! Yikes!

  2. you are really courageous girl. I like your thinking and desire. Also you have good pictures of the shop.Thanks

  3. I really enjoy your blog. I feel like I'm in the same boat as you were before you made the big choice. Lcb is soooo what I want to do right now but it's just not practical. Keep up the great blog!
    Ps. I think you spelled temper wrong, I thought chocolate was tempered, not tampered.

  4. Hi Hunter Valley Tours, thanks for your compliment. It has taken me a very long time to arrive at this decision, everyday now is sheer joy with a tiny bit of anxiety thrown in. Fingers crossed it works out!

  5. Hello Kitty! Yes you are right, have always wondered which spelling was correct, though it has never struck me to simply google it to find out!

    P.s. LCB has been my dream for almost 20 years though I have to agree, it can seem unpractical at times, esp given our environment and expectations we grow up with. All the best to you, I hope you find what makes you happy someday too. :)