In the realm of foods named after famous people, none may be more famous than the Pavlova, a round meringue cake topped with whipped cream and fruit named after the famed Russian ballerina, Anna Pavlova. The dessert is said to have been specifically created for the wildly-popular ballerina during her tour of Oceania in the 1920s. Though the exact origins of the cake in either Australia or New Zealand are still unknown (I definitely feel unqualified to rule on one vs. the other), the pavlova is deeply ensconced in the cuisine of both countries. Others hold that the cake is actually based on a older German recipe, later making its way to other countries. The structure of the Pavolva can vary somewhat, as can the toppings and flavors, though Pavolva in New Zealand is more likely to be topped with kiwis! Allrecipes has a classic version of the Pavlova, and here is a slightly more unique version topped with lemon curd and blueberries or one with three layers.
In my years of coffee drinking, it is rare that I come across a wholly new espresso drink, however when I heard of a flat white about a year ago, I was intrigued. A flat white is like a latte, however made with two shots and “velvety” milk that is prepared with a micro-foaming technique. The flat white hails from New Zealand, but it has made quite the impression in London, where it is on almost every coffee shop menu, and has even infiltrated Starbucks. We also noticed a smattering of cafes billed as “New Zealand-style.” I decided to go to the pioneer of flat white coffee while in London, the aptly named Flat White cafe in Soho (17 Berwick St, London W1F 0PT). The menu is very simple, consisting of only a few coffee drinks and a pastry or two with a special focus on the eponymous drink. There were expats behind the counter and filling the shop, one particularly pleased grandmum expressed her pleasure at being able to get a proper flat white. The cafe is quite small, and many just pop in for a flat white to-go cup. I placed my order and waited at a small table inside.
After a bit of a wait, the cup was slammed down on my table by a brusque barista. With some expert latte art on top, it looked the part. The flat white was quite good, stronger and smaller than a typical latte. True to advertising, it was topped with particularly “velvety” and smooth milk as opposed to the stiffer foam on a cappuccino. I could definitely tell the difference, though I don’t think it will change my routines. So there you have it – the full flat white experience from the original London pioneers. Maybe this drink will cross the Atlantic (or Pacific) to reach the US soon.
In the latest chronicle of the unusual produce choices we find in Brazilian grocery stores, we came across the feijoa. The feijoa is so unusual that we caused something of a commotion when we asked a worker in the Flamengo, Rio de Janeiro branch of the Pão de Açúcar grocery store how much one of these little (unlabeled) fruits cost. It turned out upwards of 5 employees of the grocery store had simply no idea what it was, but the 6th finally identified it as a feijoa. We figured the taste of the fruit would be something like an avocado due to its green, bumpy appearance, but instead, it had a gelatinous sweet center (shedding more light on this flavor is the fact that feijoa is also known as the pineapple guava). Feijoa had a pleasant, sweet and fragrant taste, but one unpleasant feature is that it is nearly impossible to know when it is ripe. Bizarrely, though they originated in Brazil, feijoas are actually most popular in New Zealand. Typical uses of the feijoa are for making smoothies or simply eating raw, but the adventurous among us can make a feijoa chutney, a feijoa cake or even feijoa wine.
Though only one half of the ETW team is a coffee lover – we’re both always interested in learning about different coffee cultures around the world. Just when we feel like we are getting a handle on the latest trends and variations – we encounter a totally new drink – in this case: The Flat White. Though it is becoming popular worldwide, we were interested to learn it was invented in New Zealand, a country so far not on our coffee radar. The Flat White is a double-shot coffee drink topped with foamed milk, somewhere between a latte and a cappuccino, but with a smaller size than typically expected of a latte. Still sound a little obtuse? There are several definitions on the Coffee Hunter site. Anyone have a place to order a flat white in Chicago?
We have to admit that there is a bit of a blind spot in our repertoire for Australia and New Zealand, perhaps due to their geographic distance and the fact that we don’t have any Aussie / Kiwi restaurants around here. So unfortunately, we don’t often give this area of the world its fair due. We would like to thank our commentor Whitney for writing to us about Australian treats, and we figured we would do a link roundup of some Australian and New Zealander desserts, especially since ANZAC day is coming up on April 25th.