Thanks for having me …

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Like, I’m guessing, neophyte bloggers the world over, when starting Consider The Sauce I simply bumbled along, learning as I went and – or so I thought – making things up as I went along.

As it turns out, almost all the bright ideas I came up with are simply routine fare for bloggers and entrepreneurial types everywhere.

(Aside: I can’t tell you how impressed I am that I was able to spell “entrepreneurial” first time and correctly!)

I came to know this from periodically checking out such sites as Problogger and the more foodie-specific Diane Jacob, Will Write For Food – and even taking in a few likeminded books along the way.

Mind you, I have also learnt there are definite limits to how much of this sort of pep-talking I can take in or even respect.

There comes a time when blogging becomes an end rather than a means, or even (it often seems) something of a self-help cult.

At that point, I yawn and switch off or on to something else.

After getting CTS established, one thing I instinctively pursued were collaborations – and collaborators to join hands with.

I’ve had a few misses along the way, but far more hits – and I’m continuing to find it exhilarating!

It’s simply something that dynamic, creative people – and creative, dynamic bloggers – do.

And now another such “something” – public speaking – has come to be.

Although, in this case, it seems so far that this has sought me out rather than the other way around.

I have been hosting the CTS Feasts – but in all cases to date the verbal aspect has been restricted to a few comments before eating.

The Westies reveal and FFB/CTS picnic was more of a public speaking gig, but even then of brief duration.

But it was at that celebration that CTS pal Pastor Cecil asked me: “Would you come and speak to my Rotary Club?”

My answer was immediate and emphatic: “Yes!”

In the meantime, thanks to the wonderful meet-and-greet oyster bar role assigned me during this year’s Rickshaw Run, I had ample opportunity to see how I felt about this sort of activity.

Chatting up a new group of eight people every 20 minutes for an entire weekend?

I loved every minute of it!

And so Bennie and I front Medway Golf Club in Maidstone to be guests (and, in my case, guest speaker) at a regular meeting of the West Footscray Rotary Club.

The golf club and its course is a revelation for Team CTS – so gorgeous! And yet more proof the west will never cease surprising – often with something, some place or somebody that has been right under our very noses all along.

We enjoy meeting the Rotary members, which I’m guessing number about 30.

There are some ceremonial aspects to the gathering – grace, the national anthem and so on.

And then lunch, as provided by the golf club kitchen staff.

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It’s rather good, too. The delicately-crumbed and tender fish is outstanding. I later ask the kitchen staff about it – they tell me they don’t know the English name of the fish concerned but that our lunch specimens had been purchased this very day at Little Saigon Market.

And then it’s my turn, after being introduced by Pastor Cecil with words along the lines of “Kenny is someone different who really likes different things”!

Off I go, covering the whole CTS story – the death knell of newspapers, the need for a whole new world to be created, the multiple joys of food blogging and much more

Referring only a couple of times to the rough notes I had scribbled before leaving home, I easily fill my allocated 20 minutes – so much so that Pastor Cecil is forced to gently intervene and bring my spiel to a halt.

As far as I have been able to tell, no eyes glazed over and no guest or member has slumped to sleep.

I field several great questions as part of the formal gathering, and several more informally as the meeting winds down. Many CTS business cards are distributed.

Bennie and I are the last to leave.

Thanks for having me!

So there you go – Kenny Weir, public speaker, open for business …

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Yarraville’s new foodie pub

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Hyde Street Hotel, 188 Hyde St, Yarraville. Phone: 9689 2163

As Victoria On Hyde and in our now many years in Yarraville, we’ve had close to no use for these premises.

Sure, an occasional quick-stop for beer and/or wine … but the only time I ever stuck my head inside the pub proper, I promptly fled.

Now, though, oh boy!

The place has been re-branded as The Hyde Street Hotel and given a radical makeover – and we’re very happy to be taking it for a whirl on Easter Eve, about a week after it has opened.

There’s a rather spartan public bar where a limited choice of menu items is available at significantly lowers prices than in the dining room.

There’s a couple of cruisey lounge areas.

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And there’s the dining room itself – airy, bright and attractive. It almost has an outdoor feel about.

It has booths, widely separated tables and lots of room.

The menu starters are in the $10 to $20 range and display the most diversity of the kitchen’s output, with influences from Asia and the Middle East.

From there the menu diverts to regular pub fare, including “classics”, mains including roasted lamb rump and “bbq’d” kangaroo loin, pizzas and steaks – including a kilogram rib eye for two at $75.

Overall, the prices seem less than at the Mona Castle and more in line with the Plough.

We are served well by young staff dressed uniformly in hipster black and our meals arrive promptly, the wait time spent checking the place out and frankly ogling with much interest the plates bound for the tables of other families and groups.

We go for a couple of the classics.

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My fish and chips ($26) hit the spot.

The salad is a fine thing for this kind of food in this kind of place – fresh greens and some finely cut cucumber, radish and red onion, all well dressed.

The fish is three medium-size pieces of rockling that are sweetish, delicate and add up to a good feed.

Plate aesthetics have dictated the fish is placed atop my chips, so some of the latter are spoiled by oil seep – but the rest are hot, crisp and hastily consumed.

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By contrast, I feel a little sorry for Bennie in regards to his choice of the wagyu beef burger ($24), which comes with the same chips.

It appears to be a good, unfussy burger but it simply doesn’t seem to provide him much of a dinner experience.

It’s gone in about two minutes and is a messy handful.

It has good melted cheese, some greenery, sauce and mayo, caramelised onions and that’s about it.

No bacon; just sayin’ …

But brevity of eating has, in this case, no bearing on quality.

As we walk home, Bennie spends the first block or so expounding with passion and enthusiasm on his burger … the deliciousness of the meat, the “crisp on the outside and soft inside” chargrilled bun, the whole deal.

To the point of saying bacon may have been of nuisance value only.

“Next time, you’ve just gotta try it, dad!” he proclaims.

An obvious winner …

Hyde Street Hotel on Urbanspoon

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Food trucks – Altona, Williamstown readers have your say!

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Disclosure – the two reporters who filed this Maribyrnong/Hobsons Bay Weekly story about food trucks in the west are colleagues of mine; I am quoted in the story and the newspaper has used a photograph provided by CTS.

But I confess to being bemused by the comments in the story by the spokeswomen for both the Altona Village Traders Association and the Williamstown Chamber of Commerce.

Of course, it is the job of such groups to promote and protect the businesses they represent.

But the idea of “running food trucks out of the town” seems a little, um, confrontational.

There are places we like to eat in and shop at in both Williamstown and Altona. We will discover more.

But I can only go with what numerous residents and readers from both suburbs have told me in the years CTS has been operating – that while there is plenty of choice, people in general think there is much that is “average”, over-priced or both.

So Altona and Williamstown readers, what do you think … food trucks, do you want them?

 

 

 

 

 

An Ethiopian welcome to Footscray

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Kokeb Restaurant & Cafe, 247 Barkly Street, Footscray. Phone: 9689 0157
Snowtree, 119 Hopkins St, Footscray

Eliza was one of the many lovely and talented people with whom I worked at the Geelong Advertister.

IIRC, she left not too long after I did … to pursue a gig practising the black arts of PR on St Kilda Road.

As is so often the case these days, we both sort-of followed our respective journeys from Facebook, where – among other things – I monitor with interest the comings and goings of my extended family of media industry brothers and sisters.

That all changed a few weeks back when I received a wonderful tweet from Eliza:

“Hi Kenny, how are you? Am moving to Footscray tomorrow – will need to keep a closer eye on your blog!”

Cool!

My reply was immediate:

“Hi Eliza! Wow that’s great! Will you have dindins with me and Bennie?”

We took our chat into private channels and – bingo! – here we are just a few weeks later having a swell dinner with Eliza and her partner, Josh.

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Kokeb joined the ranks of Footscray’s Ethiopian eateries a few months ago.

It’s a charming space and we are equally charmed by the service offered us by Helen and the music – on a Tuesday night! – of Melaku.

The menu has all the Ethiopian regulars covered, with a few more interesting items.

But we do away with all that – in the interests of easing “catching up” conversation – by going for the $22 a head banquet.

Eliza has us all laughing with stories of how her PR gig came unstuck and we quickly and in some depth swap notes on how we’re both faring these days, she as online editor and social media honcho … back at the Addy.

It’s a great role for her, I reckon.

But Bennie and I are just as delighted to have she and Josh as new neighbours, and excited to introduce them – for the first time – to the delights of Ethiopian food and injera.

They take to them with gusto – and so they should, as the Kobeb banquet spread is top-notch.

All is fresh, hot and tasty.

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We get two kinds of lamb tibs – the regular “white” and the more spicy and red “Kokeb” tibs. Both very good.

There’s the chopped greens of gomen wot and the delicious and chunky carrot, cabbage and potato of cabbage wot.

And, of course, lentils a couple of ways.

Best of all, though, is the shiro, which is served separately from an earthenware pot.

It’s a hot, spicy split pea soup/stew flavoured with berbere.

There’s plenty of food for our admission fee, and we even take Helen up on her offer to top up our supplies of the vegetable dishes and injera.

Some of the cool, crisp contrast usually offered by the presence of tangily-dressed lettuce, cucumber and tomato would have been a bonus.

As our meal and the eating of it wind down, Bennie gets a case of the restless – so we send him off on the daunting challenge of finding us somewhere that is doing dessert relatively late at night and relatively early in the week in Footscray central.

Success!

So we all troop off to the Korean joint Snowtree.

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To my surprise, they’re still serving what look like pretty acceptable Korean dinners – so maybe this is somewhere to take note of as being (maybe) open when all else is closed hereabouts.

But we make to do with a couple of serves of their “Snowtree Belgium waffle” ($7.50).

The waffles are just OK and the cream, I’m almost certain, comes from a can; but all is wolfed down anyway – including all the fruit and the frozen yogurt.

Welcome to the ‘hood, Eliza and Josh, and – yes – we’ll be making the housewarming!

Kokeb Restaurant & Cafe on Urbanspoon

Snowtree on Urbanspoon

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All change at Werribee South

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If change is a given, then change and its ramifications are a way of life in the western suburbs.

For years now, or so it seem, one or more of the streets surrounding our Yarraville home have been in the process of being worked upon.

In the greater west and in a broader sense, the issues of change are the very substance of much of my weekly, regular newspapering gig, be they concerned with politics and culture or economics and infrastructure.

Transport, be it rail or road, is a particularly knotty and sensitive subject.

But for all the growth and upheaval in the west, there is no change going on quite like what is in the process of happening in hitherto sleepy Werribee South.

There, a project involving more than 100 apartments and an “integrated retail precinct” is rapidly taking shape.

You can see the developer’s website here.

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From all that I’ve read, no one seems at all sure what sort of impact this is going to have on Werribee South.

Added to the mix is the surprising news – well, surprising to me anyway – that plans for a Werribee South-to-Melbourne ferry service seem to be gaining very real traction.

The traffic generated by 100 apartments, their residents and service vehicles is one thing.

Throwing in the daily comings and goings of 3000 ferry commuters is quite another.

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The main routes into Werribee South – Duncans and Diggers roads – are fine two-lane thoroughfares for much of their lengths, even if they are invariably stained dirt brown by market-gardening activity.

But in places, both roads take on a distinctly backwoods feel, with potholes, bumps and dodgy edging to the fore.

As for the food portion of the development’s retail precinct, my expectations are at zero.

“Franchise” and “generic” are terms that spring readily to mind.

Degani, anyone?

Not that we’ve got anything against that particular coffee shop chain.

Indeed, I’ve been told that company behind it is also behind this place, which we like just fine.

But I’ll not be holding my breath hoping that Wyndham Harbour bucks the trend of greater Melbourne generally doing a lousy job of seaside eats.

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Greek treats made with love in Kingsville

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Olive Oil & Butter, 196 Somerville Rd, Kingsville. Phone: 9315 1060

There’s an awful lot in the name of this great Greek bakery in Kingsville.

You see, that’s what they use – olive oil and butter.

Oh, of course, there’s other ingredients – but the name nevertheless symbolises a keen dedication to natural products.

No ingredients with numbers rather than names, no premixes … just a righteous determination to make and bake with the simplest and the best in an entirely old-school manner.

This is the kind of place at which the declaration, “Our products have a limited shelf life”, is a proud boast.

Olive Oil & Butter is run by Pelagia, her brother Chris and their mum Martha.

It’s a first restaurant/cafe/bakery outing for the family – and that’s a good thing, as it means the recipes are derived from an inter-generational tradition.

After my lunch is done and paid for (see below), I introduce myself to Pelagia, who is nice enough to set up a display platter of the Greek baking that is available this day. The line-up tends to change, but the prices are mostly in the $4-5 range (less for biscuits).

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 Clockwise from top right:

* Koulouraki – biscuit with vanilla.

* “The best” galaktoboureko – Filo pastry, semolina-based custard, vanilla, syrup with cinnamon and cloves.

* Baklava – roasted almonds and walnuts filling filo pastry with a cinnamon and clove syrup.

* Revani – semolina cake flavoured with lemon and orange sweetened with an orange-zest syrup.

* Another version of koulouraki.

* Paksimadi – a crumbly vegan biscotti flavoured with orange.

As Pelagia explains the ins and outs of the baking before us, we are joined by her mum.

It’s easy to tell from the glint in her eye and the pride in her work that Martha is serious about “olive and oil and butter” and using only the very best ingredients. And no preservatives at all …

I try only a few of the above assortment – they’re delicious.

The rest go home with me – it doesn’t take too long for me to realise my insistence on paying for the lot is going to be rebuffed at every turn, no matter how hard I try or how long I persist.

Olive Oil & Butter does breakfast and lunch, too, though much of what is available in that regard is of non-Greek derivation – pies, muffins, focaccia and so on.

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I do enjoy my pastitsio ($15), though.

It’s a hearty dish that is something of a variation of moussaka, with the good ground beef and tubed pasta melding into the rich bechamel sauce. The accompanying salad is just, fine, too.

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And for dinner, I am also gifted this gorgeous scroll-style spanakopita ($9).

Like the bakalava and its variations (katafi, gianniotiko, saragli), the cheese and spinach scroll is made with filo pastry that is made from scratch in the kitchen.

How good is that?

My two cafe lattes ($3.50) are excellent, BTW!

PS: I will update this post with “tasting notes” as I work my way through my trawl!

The Olive Oil & Butter Facebook page is updated regularly with news and photos of what is available.

Olive Oil & Butter on Urbanspoon

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Random bits

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Consider The Sauce revisited one of its fave places at the weekend.

MiHub Cafe is just our sort of establishment, and I was looking forward to reconnecting with its great community vibe.

(See earlier stories here and here.)

So my visit wasn’t so much about blogging – I didn’t even get my camera out – as it was about beaut food and people.

I had my fill of both, even running into a fellow Rickshaw Run volunteer, and comparing notes on the wonders of Werribee with she and her friend.

Sadly, I didn’t get to talk to MiHub stalwart Nora, as she was attending some sort of event in the city.

Since hooking up with her on Facebook, I have been enjoying her near-daily gifts of Koran-inspired pithy wisdom and love.

But I did come away from my Werribee visit with the latest edition of JOM – Journal Of Malaysians Down Under.

Yep, that’s Nora on the cover … and reading the interview with her inside, I had confirmed what I already suspected – she is a wonderful woman!

You can read the interview here.

And get ye down to MiHub!

From what I could gather during my most recent visit, the best action there is taking place on Friday nights.

Bennie and I will check it out soon and a report will be forthcoming.

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Oh dear!

I was surprised to discover, during a footy sojourn, that a regular CTS reader was harbouring a misunderstanding about the new, ticketed and paid-for format of the CTS Feasts.

He was under the impression that the fee – $20 at this point – is being split between CTS and the participating eateries, but that punters are still expected to pay for their food on top of that.

It’s not so! Your ticket payment covers everything bar drinks.

There are still a handful of tickets unsold to our repeat session at La Morenita on Sunday, June 8. See story here.