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Wendy Hargreaves: 12 drool-worthy days of Christmas

By WENDY HARGREAVES

On the second day of Christmas, my true love gave to me… a mince pie gelato cone. Seriously. It’s a thing. Here are my 12 drool-worthy days of Christmas. Make sure you’re wearing your stretchy pants.

RED BEARD BAKERY’S MINCE PIE

Wolff Lane, Trentham (opposite the Town Square),  03 5424 1002

The old-school mince pies at Trentham’s Red Beard Bakery have the perfect balance of brandy-soaked vine fruit (grown and sun-dried by Murray View Organics) and not-too-sweet but very short pastry. Baker John Reid turns over his historic Trentham Scotch oven to his sister Jude, a well-schooled apprentice chef in Stephanie Alexander’s kitchen back in the ‘80s. These generous tarts are also a bargain at $18 for four, but you have to take the drive into Victoria’s Central Highlands to buy’m. SO worth the trip.

PHILLIPPA’S GINGERBREAD TREE

1030 High St, Armadale + locations across Victoria

If Melbourne was to crown a Queen of Christmas, it would have to be Phillippa Grogan and her eponymous bakery. Tapping into recipes from her mum and grandmother, Phillippa nails every festive sweet treat, from the Christmas pud to the brandy sauce. It’s all about top notch ingredients, particularly the freshly ground spices, and that’s exactly what hits you when you open the Gingerbread Tree box. It’s fun to put together with the kids (or be a big kid and do it all yourself). Priced at $37.50, these edible trees are a great table centrepiece or Christmas present. And while you’re at the Armadale bakery/cafe, pick up half a dozen of Phillippa’s limited edition mince pies, following Buckingham Palace’s recipe.

GELATO PAPA’S MINCE PIE ICE CREAM

14A Gilbert Rd, Preston,  (03) 9480 5776

When it comes to silly season flavour bombs, Gelato Papa’s Lilly Stuckings has taken the reindeer by the antlers with limited edition custard and marsala gelato studded with chunks of mince pie from the Northcote Bakehouse. Available until December 24, this super-rich combo is one of several Christmas flavours, including gingerbread and vegan chocolate candy cane, available by the cone or take-home 500ml and 1500ml tubs. Lilly has strong gelato heritage, as a second generation gelato maker with roots tracing back to the birthplace of gelato in Sicily.

PICCOLINA’S GELATO BRIOCHE

269 Smith St, Collingwood + 802 Glenferrie Rd, Hawthorn + 137C Acland St, St Kilda

Piccolina Gelateria has come up with a panettone/gelato love child. Italy’s traditional Christmas brioche is the perfect, buttery case for freshly-churned gelato, with a choice of choc/hazelnut called Better Than Nutella or a creamy classic vanilla. The Nutella version has a dark chocolate glaze around the gelato, with roasted hazelnuts and a hazelnut truffle on top. When you crack open the vanilla version, you get white chocolate with gold pearl crisps, candied orange and a golden cherry on top. Sold in a hand-printed limited-edition canvas bags ($85), each loaf provides 12-14 generous serves.

HEY TIGER CHOCOLATE

Shop online here

There are three reasons to buy this chocolate for Christmas. Firstly (and most importantly) it’s delicious, with festive choc-combos like mulled wine jelly, candy cane and rum-soaked currants. Secondly, every block is hand-made in Melbourne and already wrapped in gorgeous Christmassy paper (sorted!). And thirdly, Hey Tiger is a social enterprise on a mission to help cocoa farming communities in Ghana, one choc block at a time. Each block costs $15, or splurge on a gift box for $137.

ANDREW’S CHOICE HAM ON THE BONE

2/74 William Angliss Drive, Laverton North, 03 8360 8686

Christmas ham is a controversial subject. Everyone has faves, but the Australian PorkMark Ham Award experts have spoken. Victoria’s best traditional bone-in leg ham comes from Andrew’s Choice (also the national runner up). Glazed with a sticky, sweet spice mix or sliced with a side of green tomato pickles, this leg ham ($21.95/kg) is perfect for Christmas and the lazy leftover days that follow. Head online to find your nearest stockist, or buy direct from Andrew’s smokehouse in Laverton North.

LUXBITE’S EDIBLE BAUBLES

38 Toorak Rd, South Yarra + 28 Katherine Place, Melbourne

Christmas trees are so much better with edible decorations, and Luxbite’s cookie baubles are beyond cute. With flavours like honey, butter, cinnamon, almond and traditional Graham cookies, there’s a flavour for everyone, with obligatory sprinkles. Each $10 bauble has four little cookies to smash open on Christmas day.

CHRISTMAS GIN

Four Pillars, 2A Lilydale Rd, Healesville, 03 5962 2791

Every year, Four Pillars sells out of Cameron Mackenzie’s Christmas Gin. Inspired by his mum’s Christmas pudd recipe (from the 1968 Australian Women’s Weekly recipe book), Cameron’s tipple is a festive flavour bomb with cinnamon, star anise, juniper, coriander and angelica, blended with some aged gin from 80-year-old muscat barrels. Then it gets a big splash of Rutherglen muscat. How Christmassy is that? Sip it neat, or with ginger ale. There are still bottles for sale at Four Pillar’s Healesville home base, along with a pop-up store at Myer and independent retailers. Four Pillars also make Christmas Gin Puddings, made with Christmas Gin and gin-steamed oranges.

MELBOURNE’S GINGERBREAD VILLAGE

St. Collins Lane, Level 1, 260 Collins Street

Pastry chefs from Epicure catering have a big reputation for creating a miniature Melbourne every December, but this year’s festive wonderland is the biggest yet, with 600kg of gingerbread, 460kg of royal icing and 200kg of marzipan. Open 9am to 8.15pm daily, entry costs a gold coin donation and all funds raised go to the Royal Children’s Hospital. Look out for landmarks like Luna Park, Young & Jacksons and the Flemington Racecourse… just don’t eat them. There’s a stall to buy your own gingerbread and other treats to take home.

PRESTON MARKET’S AWKWARD PORTRAITS

Preston Market, 30A The Centreway, Preston, from 11am-3pm on Thursday, December 12

This one’s not particularly delicious, but it’s oh-so-Christmassy. While you’re at the Preston Market stocking up on festive goodies, grab your family and friends and get a free Awkward Portrait photo. Pick from a range of ugly sweaters and Christmas props to get the ultimate awkward Christmas portrait. Preston Market is also hosting Christmas carollers, kids’ activities and appearances from Santa.

PASTA AND A SHOW

Argyle Square, 153 Lygon St, Carlton

Who can resist a schmaltzy Christmas movie in the countdown to December 25?  Carlton’s Argyle Square transforms into a Christmas cinema every Saturday night until Christmas, with The Holiday playing on December 14 and How the Grinch Stole Christmas on December 21. Take a leisurely stroll on Lygon Street and grab dinner before the sun sets, then settle in for a FREE movie from 8.30pm.

QUEENSCLIFF SANTA TRAINS

Queenscliff Station, 20 Symonds St, Queenscliff 

Join Santa, Mrs Klaus and the carolling elf on-board the Queenscliff Santa Train on December 14 and 15. The old steam train departs Queenscliff Station on the hour from 10am, traveling around beautiful Swan Bay for 45 minutes. Every child receives a gift from Santa, with plenty of photo opportunities, face painting and Christmas carolling. Tickets cost $27 for adults, $24 concession, $37 for children and $22 for toddlers (1-3 years). Book your tickets online.

Wendy writes online at fiveofthebest.com

 

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