Don’t forget the love!

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I think that most Melbournians will agree with me when I make the claim that Melbourne holds an amazing array of cafes and bars, quite often hidden by small entryways down dark alleys, the harder that a place is to find apparently making it that much trendier (e.g. “Go down this dark alley, then turn left into this darker alley, into this unmarked entrance then up two flights of narrow, dimly lit stairs till you hit the jackpot”).

It was over a year ago that my friends and I made our first visit to Madame Brussels, an extremely adorable and (thankfully) not too difficult to find bar, where we plonked our keesters on the white garden furniture sitting atop the laid astroturf to eat highly overpriced (and kinda average) cupcakes and cocktails by the JUG.

After many jugs, not too many cupcakes (and no cucumber sandwiches) and many many laughs, the last of us left standing eventually stumbled out of the bar into the warm night air, still in high spirits (quite literally – hah!) and not wanting to end the night on that note. We decided that a little caffiene might not be a bad idea to fortify us for our journeys home, so we stumbled across the road to a little cafe called Pellegrini’s.

Note – drunk lasses in high heels, not attractive to watch, but potentially extremely amusing.

We eventually made it to the extremely crowded cafe and collapsed onto some barstools (my head may or may not have landed on the bar at this stage…) where the more sober of us gave a huge grin to an older Italian man in a bright purple print top which brought him right over. We placed our orders for coffees and teas, and once the warm fluid began circulating through our bloodstreams, we got our second wind and started to continue on our previous conversations in quite an animated fashion.

Sitting at the bar, this meant that we were quite difficult for the three waiters to ignore, and pretty soon the six of us were all chatting and giggling quite loudly. Mr Bright Purple Shirt asked us what on earth we’d been doing to be in such good moods, to which we answered that we were high on both alcohol and life.

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“Pfth!” he responded. “You don’t need alcohol! I got something better than alcohol!”

Being the most boisterous of the group, I met his eye and dared him to prove it, upon which he removed a lid from the counter in front of him with a flourish, used a scoop to pour some beautiful, orangey pink icy drink into a tall glass and presented it to me.

Hesitant, I held it to my nose and sniffed. Now, anyone who knows me also knows that watermelon is one of my ultimate weaknesses, so when the first scent of watermelon hit my nose, my eyes rolled back in bliss. I brought the glass down to my lips, readied myself and took a long sip. I can’t say whether it was just the good mood or the remnants of alcohol in my bloodstream or perhaps just the sticky warmth of the night, but the flavor practically burst all my tastebuds and I let out an involuntary whimper as I lay my head on my arm against the bar.

“Girls…I think my mouth just orgasmed” I mumbled, and the glass was immediately taken from my hand and passed down the bar as each of the other girls had a sip. None of the others quite had my first reaction, but all agreed that it was extremely refreshing, and that it was just the thing for this warm summer night, which prompted two more glasses of the magical stuff to appear on the bar top with Mr Purple Shirt winking and telling us that it was “on the house”.

Once the waves of euphoria left my mouth and I was once again able to speak, I asked him what it had in it.

“Well…it has watermelon…sugar…ice…a little lemon juice”

“Is that it? That can’t be it!” I responded.

“Well, there is one other secret ingredient” he replied, with a big grin and eyes twinking.

“And what is it?”

“Love. Lots and lots of love” was the answer I received.

Which, lets admit it, is the secret ingredient to making most things taste good.

We eventually left the cafe and parted ways to traverse home, and once I woke up the next morning and the hangover tamed with lots of water, orange juice and aspirins, I began to think of the granita. With only that many ingredients, surely it could easily be replicated at home, couldn’t it?

I nicked out to buy a watermelon and some lemons and came home and went to work, going to task and trying to recreate the flavours that blinded my memory so. While I haven’t quite recreated the mind-blowingness that I experienced that night, its still tasty, and whenever I make this, it brings back very fond memories of the night my mouth exploded :)

Well, figuratively anyway.

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Watermelon Summer
(Based on the watermelon granita from Pellegrini’s Espresso Bar)

Ingredients (makes approx. 2L)
8 cups ripe watermelon flesh
1/4 – 1/3 cup caster sugar
1/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
Crushed ice, to serve

1. Blend 6 cups of watermelon flesh and run through a fine sieve to remove the chunkier flesh and seed fragments, then pour the remaining liquid into a large jug.

2. Take the remaining 2 cups of watermelon flesh and place into a bowl and lightly crush them with a potato masher till the flesh is mostly pulverised but still has a bit of crunch, then add this to the jug also.
3. Stir in the caster sugar till dissolved, then add half the lemon juice, stir and taste, and add more according to your tastes (this will depend on how sweet your watermelon is).

4. Place the jug in the fridge to chill. Before serving, place crushed ice (or ice cubes, whatever is easy) into glasses and carefully pour the watermelon punch over the top.

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Of course, nothing beats a fresh, ripe watermelon, but sometimes its nice to try new things. Besides, this makes a great drink for barbeques, and has the added bonus of not leaving any sticky juice all over your mouth and chin! :)

[tags]watermelon, summer, fruit, drinks, punch, recipe, Melbourne, Pellegrini’s, Madam Brussels[/tags]

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