Lamb burgers on pita with yogurt sauce and roasted red peppers

La Diva says: "Have a little lamb for dinner tonight!"

Darlings, a few months ago the groovy gals over at the Karmic Kitchen decided to start something fun: a weekly food meme called Dim Sum Sunday. Well, you know La Diva is ALWAYS up for a challenge so participates as often as possible. Last Sunday's theme was "Burgers" and since La Diva has either had company or been out to dinner, has not had the chance to participate. No make-y food, no blog-gy post! But, if you want to see what others have made, you can click on the header below:

Finally, last night I made my entry: Lamb burgers with all the fixin's! (Mediterranean style, that is!) Now, I've already had a dismayed comment about my non-traditional pizza idea, so be forewarned, this ain't your regular burger! If you like to try something different, then darlings, by all means, give it a shot. If it's too far out of your comfort zone, then I'm sure there's a seat waiting for you at McDonald's! Leave now.

La Diva's lamb burgers on pita with yogurt sauce and roasted red peppers

1 lb. ground lamb
2 cloves minced garlic
1/4 c milk
1 egg
1/4 c bread crumbs
salt and pepper to taste
4 small pita bread, toasted

Mix ingredients together and form into four uniform patties. Grill until just done and serve on toasted pita bread topped with yogurt sauce and red peppers.

Yogurt sauce:

1 7 oz. tub of plain Greek style yogurt (fat free or regular)
1/2 cucumber peeled, seeded and diced
1/4 small onion, grated
a few fresh mint sprigs, minced
1 t horseradish sauce
salt to taste

Mix all ingredient together and put aside. May be made the day ahead.

Roasted red peppers:

1 red pepper
olive oil
lemon juice

Take one red pepper and quarter. Put in broiler and blacken, put into brown paper bag and let cool. Take out of bag and peel skins off. Slice into thin strips and dress with lemon juice and olive oil. May be made the day ahead.

Click away darlings, it can't possibly be as scary as how some people dress their children!

Result: DAMN GOOD. Lamb is a fatty meat and fatty meat makes one moist and succulent burger! The yogurt sauce cuts the fat like buttah and the cukes offer a nice crunch. And I lurve the sweet taste of the grilled peppers that is brightened by the lemon juice. To push the meal further into the Mediterranean, I served the burgers with a side salad of arugula, fresh tomatoes and feta!

So GO ON, DARLINGS, "push the boundaries," "think outside the box," "break the rules!" and LIVE A LITTLE!

Ciao mi amores!cooking class, cocktails, parties, cocktail party, Miami, coral gables, events, bartending class, cocktail class, Laura Lafata, Miami Beach, miami cooking classes, bachelorette parties, bachelorette party

Gourmet pizza with arugula, prosciutto, shaved parmigiano and truffle oil!

Either white or black truffle oil will add an earthy and decadent flavor to your gourmet pizza!

Darlings, which camp are you in? If you are in the camp that pizza should never be garnished with rabbit food (lettuce or greens of some sort) and eaten with your hands, STOP READING NOW!!! However, if you are in the camp of enjoying gourmet pizzas with a lovely fresh salad on top, then this is the recipe for YOU!

La Diva was tired of paying almost $30 for delivered pizzas that came to the door limp, soggy and lacking any type of crispness (unlike those FABULOUS New York thin-crust wood-fired pizzas!) so I decided to start making my own. As you well know, La Diva generally does not "do" dough (although I am trying to make more of an effort!) but with the help of some quality key ingredients and store-bought dough, you can make a DEE-LISH gourmet pizza just like at the local Italian pizzeria. No, that's not true. It will be infinitely superior!!! (It's easy, darlings, truly! La Diva will guide you through the whole thing!)

La Diva's gourmet pizza with arugula, prosciutto, shaved parmigiana and truffle oil

Serves two to four people depending on how hungry they are

1 1lb. fresh pizza dough (I get mine from the bakery department of the grocery store)

1 8 oz. can tomato sauce (I use Hunt's natural sauce with basil, garlic and oregano)

1 1/2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese

1/3 c freshly grated parmigiana cheese + extra to shave on pizza later
garlic salt, dried oregano, Italian herb mix

16 thinly sliced prosciutto pieces

3 cups baby arugula (rocket)

truffle oil, any type
extra virgin olive oil

handful of corn meal or polenta

handful of white flour

Rest dough on counter about an hour and a half before dinner to let dough rise. Once the dough has risen, add a bit of flour to your hands and gently toss dough in a circle, stretching and turning as you go. If you get a few holes, don't worry, you can always patch it up! This recipe is for a rectangular pizza so try and coax the dough into an oblong shape.

On a large cookie sheet, lightly brush extra virgin olive oil on the bottom of the pan. Sprinkle a bit of the polenta or corn meal on the bottom. This will stop the pizza from sticking while adding a lovely crunchy texture to the crust. Push dough into corners and sides, as best as you can, it doesn't have to be perfect, this pizza is rustic! If you get holes, patch it up by pinching together.

Feel free to click on all the photos to enlarge!

Put sauce into a small bowl and add to taste garlic salt, oregano and Italian herbs. Spread sauce over pizza dough with a spoon. Now add the mozzarella and grate the parmigiano cheese over the entire base. Don't over-do it with the cheese, as you'll be adding more rich ingredients later.

Bake pizza in middle of oven for a minimum of 20 minutes. I like my pizza well done for an extra crispy 'za! Once done to your likeness, take out of the oven and slide onto wooden cutting board with the aid of a spatula under the pizza. Cut into 8 pieces and plate. Add a handful of arugula and drizzle a bit of the truffle oil over the greens. Now tear up a bit of the prosciutto and add to the salad and then shave just a few curls of parmigiano cheese on top. Grind some black pepper and MANGIA!!!

Pizza is such a wonderfully versatile food. The crust is a fantastic base for myriad delights, so why just keep doing "old school" pepperoni and mushroom? Another variation La Diva loves is to make the cheese base and add a Greek salad on top with romaine, kalamata olives, a bit of fresh feta, plenty of oregano and then dressed with red wine vinegar and extra virgin olive oil. Make sure you dress the greens before putting on the pizza so as not to make the dough soggy!

Darlings, you KNOW you want to click on the photo to see all it's pizza decadent goodness! yum!

So, go on, darlings, live a little a forgo your old school pizza inclinations and try this gourmet pie this weekend! Ciao!

PS: Thanks for the truffle oil Melony!cooking class, cocktails, parties, cocktail party, Miami, coral gables, events, bartending class, cocktail class, Laura Lafata, Miami Beach, miami cooking classes, bachelorette parties, bachelorette party

Cuckoo for Kookaburras!!

The Australian Laughing Kookaburra

Darlings! Remember when you were a kid and you used to watch Tarzan movies on Saturday morning? If you recall all the jungle sounds from those movies there was one sound in particular that I had always wondered about! Just what kind of animal was making that crazy sound? It was like a mad, cackling monkey but it wasn't until I moved to Australia that I realized that the sound was no monkey but actually a bird: The Australian "laughing" kookaburra!

Now, why is La Diva getting all "Marlin Perkins" on you? Well, darlings, I just love the little critters and was lucky enough to be staying at my dear friend's house on the edge of a national park north of Sydney where I was woken by the kookaburra's laugh every morning (usually at 5:30am!!!) I just had to share their joyous song for you for a fun Friday post! (You'll have to forgive me darlings, as La Diva has not quite mastered the art of podcasts...yet!)


I took this video early in the morning on the edge of Garigal National Park with the sounds of kookaburras, wattle birds and lorikeet parrots. Click to hear them!

The kookaburra is the largest member of the kingfisher family and is a native of south western Australia. The kookaburra's name is actually from the Aboriginal Wiradjuri tribe of New South Wales and their riotous call can be heard from long distances!

The birds are pretty common in many backyards around Sydney and can be the bain of pond owners as they've been known to steal tiny frogs! They mostly live on small reptiles , mice and marsupials in spite of their kingfisher title.

Want to learn more about these beautiful birds? You can click here. And...if you want to hear the call that Hollywood producers stole for their jungle scenes, you can hear it in full force here!

Enjoy, darlings, and take a clue from the kookaburras and have a LAUGH this weekend!

Mr. Tea does Halloumi...and very well, indeed!

The usual way many Americans are served Halloumi: Flaming Saganaki

Darlings, La Diva has recently discovered that my very musically-gifted brother-in-law has another talent I knew nothing about: he likes to cook! After our recent reunion in Sydney, I found that Mr. Tea (he drinks it constantly) is a FOODIE and reads my blog! Yay!

One of the food faves we share is our fondness for the Cypriot goat and sheep's milk cheese: halloumi. What is HALLOUMI? I know you've had it before, darlings, but are used to it being called something else.....

You might have had it come to your table in Greek restaurants as SAGANAKI: sizzling hot and flaming in a heavy-bottomed pan, with a squeeze of fresh lemon and the waiter's yell of OPA as you scoop up it's salty, gooey-ness with some fresh Greek bread. Sigh....sooo good!

But, if you live in Sydney, you'll find halloumi served in myriad ways out side of Greek restaurants as well. La Diva has enjoyed it on toast with roasted tomatoes and poached eggs for breakfast, featured in salads with arugula (rocket) and grilled and served as bruschetta, to name a few.

Here, Mr. Tea shows us HIS favorite way to enjoy the salty, mozzarella-like cheese!

Carefully cut the halloumi into thin slices and dredge lightly flour. Shake off excess.

Put halloumi slices into a fry pan with hot olive oil.

Cook over a medium high heat and turn over when one side browns. The cheese is "done" when both sides are browned.

Serve with a squeeze of fresh lemon. Mr. Tea served HIS halloumi with salad, bread and grilled gourmet sausages! The flour coating adds a nice crunch to the texture of this tasty cheese!

Want to try your own halloumi dish? Here's a website where you can not only learn more about halloumi cheese but heck, you can even order some. Click HERE. Luckily, La Diva can get this particular brand just up the street!

O Soundtrack my Heart: latest release from Pivot

Oh, and as for Mr. Tea? He's the drummer extraordinaire for several very popular bands, including Warp Record's Pivot who is currently touring in Europe. You can learn more about Pivot and Mr. Tea here and follow Pivot's tour and get their music here.


(Happy Birthday, Laurence!)cooking class, cocktails, parties, cocktail party, Miami, coral gables, events, bartending class, cocktail class, Laura Lafata, Miami Beach, miami cooking classes, bachelorette parties, bachelorette party

Meyer lemon meringue pie: luxe lemony loveliness!

Meyer lemons make the difference!

Hello Darlings! The other day La Diva told you all about the wonderful meringue pie I made with the lovely Meyer lemon! So, c'mon, MAKE A PIE THIS WEEKEND! It's really quite a simple recipe and you'll be so pleased with your bad self!

The recipe for the filling is from the 1989 edition of the Chicago Tribune Cookbook:

Recipe by Jolene Worthington of Eli's Chicago's Finest Cheesecake: "To increase the lemon flavor of the lemon meringue pie, add more lemon rind rather than increasing the lemon juice; the rind contains the lemon oil and the oil is what contains the flavor, color and aroma." Indeed!

More hints from La Diva for making your perfect pie:
  • Be patient when waiting for the filling to thicken when you cook it. No one wants a soupy pie!
  • Use fresh, room-temperature eggs.
  • Take care when separating your eggs, make sure you don't get any yolk in the white! If you do, the fat in the yolk will prevent the egg whites from becoming whipped and fluffy.
  • Also, when making meringue or whipped cream, I always chill my bowl and beaters in the freezer.

Lemon Meringue Pie

One 10 in. pie, 8 servings Chilling time: 3.5 hours Cooking time: 50 minutes

Pie crust: Make your own from your fave recipe for one 10 inch pie or click here for some recipes!


9 large egg yolks
1/2 c plus 3 T sugar
1 c fresh lemon juice (try and use Meyer lemons!)
2 1/2 t grated lemon rind
1/2 c egg whites
1/2 c plus 1 T sugar

Whisk egg yolks and 1/2 cup plus 3 tablespoons sugar in top of double boiler until light; stir in lemon juice. Put over simmering water; cook, stirring constantly, until mixture thickens and
heavily coats a spoon, about 10 minutes. Stir in 1 1/2 teaspoons of lemon rind. Remove from heat. Remove and reserve 1/3 cup of lemon filling for topping.

Beat egg whites and salt in large mixer bowl until soft peaks form. Gradually beat in 1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon sugar until stiff peaks form. Beat in remaining 1 teaspoon lemon rind. GENTLY f old half of the whites into warm lemon filling (do not overfold). Pour into prepared crust, slightly mounding in the center.

Bake at 350 degrees 10 minutes. Remove pie from oven. Filling will be firm to fingertips, but slightly soft in the center.

Increase oven temperature to 400 degrees. Fill large pastry bag fitted with 1/2 star tube with remaining egg whites. Pipe lattice design over baked filling. Bake until meringue browns, about 5 minutes. While hot, spoon reserved lemon filling into lattice diamonds. Cool completely on wire rack.

Result: DEE-LISH!!! Wow, this pie is a stunner, the taste of the Meyer lemon is incredible, tart and with such a depth of flavor not found in regular lemons! La Diva forgot to do the lattice so was left with the extra-lemony sauce, I just dribbled some on the side of the plate and it made the pie that much more spesh!

Share this decadent pie with some friends, they'll love you forever! Ciao!cooking class, cocktails, parties, cocktail party, Miami, coral gables, events, bartending class, cocktail class, Laura Lafata, Miami Beach, miami cooking classes, bachelorette parties, bachelorette party

Meyer lemons: The little fruit that COULD!

Meyer lemons are almost orange in color

Darlings! Well, as you know, La Diva was ALL EXCITED about the blood oranges I found last week and then a few days ago I went again to my local grocery and found....Meyer Lemons! Yay! I've actually NEVER SEEN THEM or even used them but I've heard so many good things about their wonderfully unique flavor so of course I snatched them up straight away with visions of lemon curd and cocktails and lemon meringue pie in my head!

So, what EXACTLY makes a Meyer lemon so good? The flavor. And, I think the unique flavor is due to the fact that it's a cross between a lemon and a mandarin orange. While the typical Eureka lemons have that bright and light citrus taste, the Meyer lemon's flavors go a bit deeper, you can really taste the "orange" part of the lemon. The color of my lemons were certainly indicative of a cross breed, some of them were almost orange in their skin color. If you can, do a taste comparison yourself and you'll notice the difference.

After looking at myriad recipes, my original idea stood firm: a lovely Meyer lemon meringue pie was just the ticket! For the recipe, I went to my old stand-by: The Chicago Tribune Cookbook! Published in 1989, I've had this tome for years and it's chock full of wonderful classics as well as recipes of the time (Remember food from the late 80's? Sun-dried tomato and goat cheese, mesclun and anything Southwestern or Cajun?!)

I call the Meyer lemon "the little fruit that COULD" as I was able to glean SO MUCH out of one little fruit! For the pie, I ended up using the juice of 4.5 of the five lemons I bought. So as not to waste ANY PART of the lemon, I peeled the rind off of the lemons I had not grated for the pie and made a divine lemon sugar syrup for future use in cocktails and cakes. I then took the peels out of the syrup, cut into a julienne, added more white sugar and put into a jar for another time! Now, how many other fruits can you get THAT MUCH mileage out of?!

Did you know you can grow Meyer lemons in containers? Just make sure they are well-drained and in a sunny spot.

Oh, as a postscript note about Florida blood oranges: I met Margie of Bee Heaven Farms this past Sunday at the final farmer's market in Pinecrest (Miami) and asked her about Florida grown blood oranges. She said she doesn't know of anyone in Southern Florida that grows them, the oranges could very well be grown upstate. Also, she stated that there was a bit of a problem with a pest that contributed to the blood orange's rarity down here. If any of you dear readers are aware of any local growers, kindly let La Diva know!

See you back here soon for the recipe of the dee-lish Meyer lemon meringue pie!

Ciao darlings!cooking class, cocktails, parties, cocktail party, Miami, coral gables, events, bartending class, cocktail class, Laura Lafata, Miami Beach, miami cooking classes, bachelorette parties, bachelorette party

Easter Dinner: A Mediterranean Feast!

Darlings! Did you have a lovely holiday? Whatever holiday you celebrate, even if it's just the coming of Spring, many people had family dinners last week and celebrated with food. La Diva was no exception and made a scrumptious spring dinner for her fave fan, DJ Nevah L8 (for dinnah!)

As you know, La Diva loves her lamb so this holiday dinner was going to focus on Mediterranean flavors as well as utilizing what was in my farm share. If you didn't like garlic, darlings, this was NOT the place for you! Last week's farm share included some lovely white beets, which I thought would fit in nicely with the theme of the meal.

Now, let's get something straight here and now: LA DIVA LOATHES BEETS! I find them to be very earthy, almost muddy in flavor as well as messy. They've never been a favorite of mine and I begrudgingly thought I might use them JUST THIS TIME instead of giving them away. However, seeing as the carrots from my share were so sweet, I figured that farm fresh beets might be too. Perhaps if I roasted them to draw out their natural sugar, I'd manage to like them a bit more? I was willing to give the ol' beets another chance.

Well, darlings, I'm SO GLAD I DID! First course for dinner was a ROASTED WHITE BEET SALAD with Greek feta, toasted pine nuts, baby arugula, balsamic and a quality green fruity olive oil dressing. The beets were super tasty and sweetened even more when they caramelized from the roasting, just as I had imagined. The creamy, pungent cheese and the crunch of the nuts combined with the peppery arugula to create a very MORE-ISH salad and an excellent starter!

Click on the photo, darlings, you'll wish you could eat it!

But now what to do with the beet greens? Funny enough, I had just watched an episode of Gourmet magazine's "Diary of a Foodie" with the topic being "Farm to Fork." What a coincidence that they actually featured a main dish with beet greens! I gave it a shot and it turned out delicious! I loved the combo of the briny olives, the sweetness of the raisins, crunch of the pine nuts and the beet greens were flavorful without any bitterness! You can get the recipe here: Pasta with Beet Greens. The result was divine, so much flavor in the dish and what a great way to use part of a vegetable that many people would throw away!

Click and you can almost taste the lamb!

I served the beet green pasta with grilled double lamb chops that I had marinated with preserved lemon and garlic. On top is a lovely pistachio mint pesto (click here for recipe, just substitute mint for the cilantro!) and a side of braised green beans with tomatoes and garlic! What a DIVALICIOUS holiday dinner! Rich and full of gusto, this meal's flavors are typically Mediterranean and takes one's tastebuds to the Greek Isles! OPA!cooking class, cocktails, parties, cocktail party, Miami, coral gables, events, bartending class, cocktail class, Laura Lafata, Miami Beach, miami cooking classes, bachelorette parties, bachelorette party


Darlings, enjoy a few spring flowers that were my childhood favorites....

Bloody beautiful: Naranjas de sangre

Darlings, you know HOW MUCH LA DIVA TRIES to eat locally grown produce but I spotted some divine blood oranges at the grocery the other day and I just could not resist getting a few! I'd been complaining to the produce manager at my local grocery about a lack of availability of certain seasonal goodies, such as blood oranges. I go away for a couple of weeks and lo and behold, my request is granted (only took three years.)

A few months back, I was told by one of the produce workers the oranges don't grow in Florida and we get them from California. A quick Internet search has proven that false. If the store would have done a bit to support local orange farmers, I could have been eating them back in October, when they are harvested here in Florida! (Anyone know of any local suppliers I can support next season?)

California blood oranges are harvested throughout the winter depending on what region they are grown, early season oranges from November to January and late season from February to May. The sticker on the oranges only says "Sunkist" and USA so I'm not quite sure if they are from California but the timing would make it seem obvious.

In any case, La Diva is thrilled to get her greedy little paws on them again and immediately thought of a wonderful way to enjoy them! (No, Melony, NOT in sangria! You'd believe La Diva was a big ol' lush by the way you think all I do is come up with cocktail recipes!!!)

I found this dish in my cookbook of clipped recipes and I remember making it in the past and
LOVING IT! I'm afraid I can't credit anyone in particular for this but I know I found this recipe online from a magazine when I lived in Australia!

Now, if you can get your hands on some wild salmon (in season) and fresh asparagus, you'll have all the makings of a lovely SPRING dinner! Enjoy, darlings!

The debate over eating wild salmon vs. farmed salmon....a topic for a future blog! You can learn more about sustainable fish here.

Char-grilled Salmon with Blood Orange Hollandaise Sauce


3 T white wine vinegar
3 T white wine
1 green onion, chopped
1 sprig of thyme
3 black peppercorns
2 egg yolks
7 oz. butter, melted
3 blood oranges, squeezed

2 bunches of asparagus, trimmed
4 salmon fillets (wild if you can afford it!)
sea salt and pepper


Pour the wine and vinegar into a small saucepan with the green onion, thyme and peppercorns and simmer until reduced by half. Strain and place in a bowl.

Beat the egg yolks into the reduction one at a time and drizzle in the butter gradually whisking constantly until the mixture becomes thick.

Missing : Squeeze the juice of the oranges and put in a saucepan. Reduce the orange juice to 1/3 of its original quantity and stir into the hollandaise. Keep warm. (which I did by leaving the bowl on the stove top)

Bring a separate saucepan of lightly salted water to the boil and blanch the asparagus for 5 minutes until tender crisp.

Heat a char-grill pan over medium heat. Season the salmon and cook for 2-3 minutes on each side or until cooked to your liking. Serve with the blood orange hollandaise and asparagus spears.

Click on the photo to see all its lusciousness!

Result: Pretty darn good but not as stellar as I would have thought. First of all, something is missing from the recipe and I had to adjust. The recipe said to put the "orange in a bowl until reduced to a third." I guess they meant to heat the juice in a pan until reduced.

I must admit, with the reductions, this sauce is a bit fiddly and La Diva certainly prefers cooking simply and does not usually make many sauces for that reason. But, it is worth it, calories and all, every once in a while!

Though very tasty and silky, my sauce came out a tad too thin for a proper hollandaise sauce. Perhaps its because the main method of making traditional hollandaise sauce is missing: the cooking over the double boiler. To thicken, I did put the sauce in a bowl over the potatoes I was boiling to mash, but it didn't work. I think I just didn't reduce the initial vinegar mixture enough and should have measured out the three tablespoons! Oh well, we'll try this one again to perfect the recipe, fo' sho'!

Enjoy the weekend, darlings! Remember to stop and smell the springtime flowers! Click to see the lovely Waterhouse painting in all its beauty!

However, La Diva is being a bit picky as this sauce really tasted delicious! Not as much of a tang as using lemon and the sauce comes out a light pinkish color. Instead of asparagus, I did a steamed vegetable medley of zucchini, green beans and the best, sweetest carrots from my farm share. DJ Nevah L8 loves his mash and since there was already such richness in the sauce and the salmon, I mashed the potatoes with a tiny bit of olive oil, milk and non-fat yogurt. All in all, a DIVALICIOUS spring time supper!
cooking class, cocktails, parties, cocktail party, Miami, coral gables, events, bartending class, cocktail class, Laura Lafata, Miami Beach, miami cooking classes, bachelorette parties, bachelorette party

Purple haze

Just another Miami sunset...

Sydney has gone caffé loco!

This post is dedicated to Java Junkie, natch.

Darlings! Did you know that La Diva only became a true coffee drinker since moving to Miami three years ago? Since I am already a hyper and highly energetic person, DJ Nevah L8 frowned upon La Diva partaking in any sort of concentrated caffeine blast, it made me edgy and easily agitated.

However, that changed when I learned to only take coffee with breakfast and NEVER in the afternoon. (though Nevah L8 still disapproves!) Now, I truly enjoy a good hot cup of java and was happy to partake in the delightful drink when returning to Sydney, Australia recently.

Typical La Diva look after drinking too much caffeine

It wasn't too long ago when a weary Sydney-sider would go to a café and order a coffee called a long black and get a fairly decent cup of joe. ("Long black" meaning a double espresso coffee without milk while a "short black" would mean an espresso.)

If you wanted something as fancy as a caffelatte or a macchiato, you would have to go to inner west suburb of Leichhardt, Sydney's "Little Italy," to get a "real" coffee. (Drip coffee was, and still is, virtually non-existent in restaurants and establishments outside of domestic use in Sydney, thank God.)

La Diva got this lovely cappuccino at Bacio at the Queen Victoria Building in Sydney central business district

As little as 15 years ago if one traveled too far out of Sydney (or Melbourne,) the choices for a decent cup of coffee would be limited to non-existent. Seriously, darlings, if you ordered a cappuccino in the Queensland town of Brisbane, most likely the vendor would stare at you with vacant cow eyes and say: "Sorry, love, we don't serve foreign coffee here. Bloody Sydney-siders, always asking for something to be different."


After being away from my beloved Sydney for almost seven years, I can honestly say:


And, they are a picky lot too. Starbucks is sadly lagging in the local market share as REAL coffee served in REAL cafés, freshly roasted and made properly by a barista with MILK, NOT "half and bloody half", is the stuff that Aussie urbanites crave daily. Whipped cream and caramel topping is left to dessert (as it should be) and coffee houses are bursting out of every nook, cranny, corner and kiosk of Sydney! La Diva was very impressed and eager to indulge!

Over in the northern Sydney suburb of Manly Vale, once a no-man's land for anything "trendy," is the thriving and ever-popular Belaroma Coffee Centre: "We are passionate about providing the freshest coffee!" Indeed, they certainly DO take coffee seriously.

Off the parking lot, one sees a small warehouse stocked and stacked with bags of coffee beans from Costa Rica, Papua New Guinea, Kenya and any other part of the world that produces high-quality coffee.

So, WHAT EXACTLY makes Belaroma so darn special? A LOT. Besides the huge variety of quality and freshly roasted coffees from all over the world, a customer may choose their own bean blend and have it roasted right then and there on the premises! The entire process take about 30 minutes, just enough time to leisurely read the paper, have a nosh and enjoy a steaming cup of joe.

Click to read, darlings! Wouldn't it be nice to see this kind of coffee service in Miami? Or anywhere outside of Seattle?!

Freshly baked pastry, biscotti, sandwiches and wraps are available to eat there or take away and great to imbibe in while you wait for your coffee to roast.

The retail section with tables to the side as well as outdoor seating, naturally. You can even compare different Belaroma blends with a tasting flight!

The back wall is mounted with dispensers for the coffee bar for creating unique and special blends. The window behind is the classroom where coffee academy courses are offered for professional and domestic barista training.

The "domestic" classes are for the home barista as well as a "coffee appreciation" course to learn about how coffee is grown, growing regions, types of coffee as well as blending and learning the subtleties about coffees from Africa, Asia and South America.

Click on this, darling, you can almost TASTE the deliciousness and SMELL the aroma!

The "professional" courses are hardcore and include a barista and advanced barista course covering basic machine operation to "milk texturing" to coffee art and even cafe operations! La Diva SO WISHES she had more time to partake in one of these courses.

When I worked as a bartender at an upscale restaurant in the trendy Sydney suburb of Balmain on Saturday nights, I used to make myriad coffees and made a mean cappuccino. The night would start off with La Diva making cocktails, then onto serving copious bottles of Australian wine and then everyone would go mad for coffees at the end of their meal.

If you make enough coffee continuously, you can get pretty good. I did get some informal training on the art of coffee making, but La Diva would LOVE to take a professional course to know all the barista secrets to making the perfect cup of coffee, crema and all!

Click to see the baristas working hard! Notice the coffee cups on top of the coffee makers, keeping them warm and ready!

Mossimo, owner and barista extraodinaire!

Of course, La Diva can't go anywhere without asking curious questions and my Yankee accent initiated some smart alec comments from the barista boys and some witty repartee ensued! The boys weren't sure what exactly "hit" them after a dose of La Diva!

In the end, Mossimo, the owner, ended up chatting with us about a recent visit to Miami, pressed his business card and some pistachio biscotti into our hands with promises of a stateside visit! We were only in the joint for 15 minutes and La Diva left with a coffee education, sweets and another friend!

The Belaroma website is chock full of fascinating coffee facts, you can click here to read more!

What's YOUR coffee story? Do you have a local café that roasts their own beans or offers any thing truly special? Tell Diva your story here!

Ciao, darlings!