Sensory Lab, Melbourne

Sensory Lab 1, Melbourne

I don’t take coffee too seriously. I’m aware that there are more aromatic compounds in your java than in a glass of wine but I don’t personally seek them out even though I draw a good part of my income from describing tastes to other people. Call it a cognitive dissonance reduction strategy wherein I pretend not to care just in case I’m wrong.

Sensory Lab (1) is another coffee vendor in the “third wave” of Melbourne coffee; the wave where people started riding fixed gear bicycles and eschewing milk and sugar in favour of flavour alone, thus swapping calories for the ability to fit into ever tightening jeans. It’s owned by Melbourne coffee god, Salvatore Malatesta, a man whom I used to see on the days when I could afford a coffee at university at his first(?) cafe, Plush Fish. In the mean time, he’s gone on to own at least 30 cafes. I’ve gone on to start a string of poorly-paying food blogs. Maybe I should have started taking coffee seriously earlier in my life.

Apart from the caffeinated beverages, the most entertaining part of Sensory Lab is watching people approach the counter trying to work out what the hell is going on. Is it art or commerce? What senses do they test? The high school science lab schtick seems to be a psychological barrier to the average punter ordering a coffee.

Sensory Lab 1, siphonSiphon coffee (S2 blend)

As for the brew, I’m starting to develop an appreciation for siphon filter coffee (above). Compared to their other methods of production (espresso, pour over and cold drip), the flavours in the coffee come out clean and bright, and intensify as you get to the bottom of the cup. There’s acidity rather than straight bitterness. And there is nowhere for it to hide.

It doesn’t tempt me to forgo my morning latte habit but it does draw me that one step closer to seriousness and a tighter pair of pants.

Location: At the back of David Jones department store (ground floor), 297 Little Collins Street
Melbourne VIC 3000.

Maybe people aren’t drinking it because it tastes like shit

There’s a short article over at The Age mapping the decline of the big Australian beers as a failure of their marketing. Their reason for the fall from grace of VB and Carlton:

Image is also one of the reasons why there has been strong growth in mainstream craft beers such as James Squire, Little Creatures and Matilda Bay.

”Boutique beers tend to be more expensive because it reflects the cost of production, and that tends to be associated with people with higher disposable income. So it’s a badge of wealth, status,” says Kirkegaard. ”But like a niche wine, it also shows a higher level of discernment.”

For The Age, how a beer tastes doesn’t seem to come into it. The failure of big beers in Australia may have less to do with them presenting a credible image of themselves than them presenting a product which does not taste good. Substituting in a faux import like Carlsberg or Heineken for a local trash pilsener because the former has a more positive image does not seem like a long term marketing strategy.

Matt Kirkegaard (quoted above) also blogs over at BeerMatt and even the most cursory read of his work will point out that he knows that there is more to beer than image alone.

Epic Armageddon IPA

If you were going to split beer enthusiasts into two broad churches, one would worship the malt and yeast characters in beers made by actual monks; the other would worship hops and flee to the New World, or more specifically, Portland, Oregon.

As for the site of Armageddon, neither party would have picked New Zealand, from whence this beer came. It is certainly the American, hop-filled vision of the end times rather than one imagined by Trappists.

Epic Armageddon IPA

Epic says: “In the beginning, there was nothing. Then an impish brewer piled a ludicrous amount of hops into a batch of beer. This zymurgical big bang is Epic Armageddon, an apocalyptic assault on your preconceptions and taste buds. It may be too huge for this fragile planet so enjoy this beer like it was the last one on Earth”

I say: Pours a orange-copper color. The aroma is hops, the flavour is hoppy to the point of being oily and resinous; pine forest and orange. No maltiness or any other character, just hops, which amply conceals the 6.66% alcohol punch. The finish is bitter. It’s unbalanced just like a good India pale ale should be.

ABV: 6.66%

The new layout

After deliberating over food blog templates for a good six months, I’ve decided just to make a change to the layout completely on a whim rather than putting in the hard work of redesigning the site. My only gripe with the previous template was the way that it treated short posts – you’d have no idea of the length (or necessarily content) of a post when you hit the home page. This acted as a deterrent to me throwing forth random, short and poorly thought out posts which are the grist for any blogger’s dark satanic mill.

It’s probably still packed full of delicious bugs. Enjoy!

Moving your food blog from Blogspot to WordPress

At the Australian Food Blogger Conference yesterday, Michael from My Aching Head mentioned the process of moving a blog from Blogspot/Blogger to WordPress. I’ve had to do this three times over the past few years for friends.

Here is the step by step process for moving a blog from Blogspot to WordPress. It does require some very basic editing of your blog template and a file in WordPress, but the gigantic bonus is that you get to maintain all of the incoming links to every page from your old blog.

Here is an example of it in action:

  1. Go to
  2. It will redirect to (check the URL bar in your web browser.)

At least she didn’t mention the war.

What is the point of swallowing the last 10 years of Hanoi food writing from U.S. magazines, visiting said city for a holiday-come-assignment, talking to the self same people you’ve read about in those U.S. magazines and spewing 2,129 words of uninspired, unoriginal, factually inaccurate, poop out the orifice of an American printing press at the other end? I dunno, but maybe the editors at The Smithsonian can tell us.

It’s worth taking a look over at Noodlepie as Graham Holliday eviscerates the latest steamy gut-pile of parachute journalism on Hanoian phở. I’m still amazed that there is a market for articles where the journalists interview just the “cultural translators” – those handy English-speaking experts who can be relied on for a pithy quote – rather than the people who cook the dish on a daily basis.