Wyndham Cache Cafe

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Wyndham Cache Cafe, 1 K Ave, Werribee South. Phone: 9742 1526

The first official day of spring is supposedly later in the week, but it sure feels like today should be so anointed.

The sky is mostly blue, studded with big, white fluffy clouds.

The sun is shining and for the first time in a long while – too long – I am not rugged up in the heaviest jumper I can lay my hands on.

Perfect, in other words, for a relaxed spin to a location I think of as one of the west’s country sojourn’s when you don’t really want to go bush.

It’s possible to get a country vibe going from the western suburbs with relative ease and in short time – think the wonderful Point Cook Homestead, for instance, or TeaPot Cottage Cafe at Werribee South.

Wyndham Cache is a rather quirky and charming – in its own way – cafe/restaurant about a kilometre past the turnoff for Werribee Mansion.

An outgrowth of a long-established polutry business on the same site, it does breakfast and lunch seven days a week and dinner on Fridays.

The ambiance seems to show the influence of the joint’s association with a small business of another, eggy variety entirely, with two sets of electric doors leading through to a rather clinical canteen-style dining room, its severity leavened by lovely country vibe service and a plentitude of photos depicting historic people, places, buildings and scenes from the area.

The menu ranges from wraps, sandwiches such as BLT ($14.50) and four salads at about $16 up to mains starting at $17.50 for the wagyu burger and going on to the likes of  pan-fried salmon ($22.50) and steaks for $25.

It’s a clever menu.

Unfortunately, in the rolled-dice gamble that is table-for-one dining I come up empty-handed.

There’s reasons why I very rarely order a steak sanger – and this one ($16.50) now joins that list.

Regulation white sliced bread, routine cheese slice, OK caramelised onions, some rocket and a tiny portion of meat – it’s mightily underwhelming.

It’s about what I would expect from a corner takeaway establishment for significantly less.

But the chips are good and hot, and I gobble each and every one.

That I have been lumbered with such a mediocre lunch is galling, because I see other tables with what appear to be fine meals – fish and chips, antipasto platters and even the dreaded and much over-rated wraps all look good.

And it’s hard to believe the burger – at just $1 more – could be so shabby.

Oh well – still worth a return trip with son in tow.

Check out the full menus at the Wyndham Cache website.

Wyndham Cache Cafe on Urbanspoon

Early heads-up: Combined FFB/CTS Spring Picnic …

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In its two years and counting, Team Consider The Sauce has enjoyed eating with, meeting and getting to know a variety of characters.

Inevitably and happily, a goodly number of them have been food bloggers or folks otherwise deeply involved in cyber foodiness.

We’ve even met some of them at a couple of blogger picnics and other outings.

As cherished and revered, though, are the many regular visitors who have left so very many entertaining, supportive and enlightening comments.

We’ve met a few of them, too!

And we love sharing a vision and purpose with Lauren aka Ms Baklover of Footscray Food Blog fame, whose advice and support has been invaluable.

So … we’ve decided to arrange a combined FFB/CTS Spring Picnic.

This will be held to coincide with the Yarraville Farmers Market in Yarraville Gardens on Saturday, October 27.

The market runs from 8am-noon, so we’re provisionally planning on picnic time being 10am until … whenever.

This way, we can all relax and enjoy meeting folks without the hassles and angst that go with arranging a more formal restaurant-based gathering.

And if you don’t want to bring your own eats, there’ll be goodies available from the market, as will coffee.

There’s a barbecue, toilets and a playground for the kids.

Stay tuned for further details, but get it in your diaries!

Biryani House

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Biryani House, 339 King St, West Melbourne. Phone: 9329 4323

Things change, bringing new routines and vistas.

Some work in Media House, requiring a two-minute walk from Southern Cross Station after a breezy 15-minute train ride.

Long may it last …

Another employment prospect requiring visits to the North Melbourne, West Melbourne, Vic Market area.

These may not qualify as western suburbs territory, but getting to them sure feels a lot more like nicking down to the neighbourhood shops than would getting to anywhere near Spring St, so I’m not complaining.

And, of course, there’s a lot of ever-changing foodiness going and worth exploring.

Business beckons, but before I heed its call I head across Flagstaff Gardens for a place on the CTS hit list.

I’ve long ago made my peace with the seeming fact that restaurant biryani is not perhaps always – if ever – what biryani should be.

I don’t care about tiresome debates about authenticity, and really like – for instance – the biryani at Indi Hots in Footscray.

And I have high hopes of a good rice meal at a place named after the dish is specialises in.

It’s a cheerful CBD cafe-style eatery that attracts a wide range of workers from nearby offices and workplaces. A lot of them are Indian and the service is brisk.

I’m surprised – maybe even a little shocked and dismayed – to be presented my chicken biryani ($9.90) minus any curry gravy.

It’s explained to me they’ve run out of the gravy specifically made for biryanis, but that I’m welcome to an equivalent pot of sauce from one of the bain marie curries.

That’s cool by me, and in fact the sauce from the chicken madras is just right for the job, with a nice, rich texture and flavour and nowhere near as fiery as its name suggests.

The raita is good, too, in that lovely, runny way that is commonplace with restaurant biryani.

The rice is more of a uniform yellow than is the norm, which is a mix of yellow and white grains. And it’s bit more moist than usual.

But it’s fine, redolent of the expected perfume of cinnamon and cardamon.

The chicken is a single maryland from a very small bird, but happily there’s enough flesh for a satisfying lunch and the meat comes from the bones with ease.

Heat levels in my biryani are typically rather high, but not overly so.

Just as good a bet here seem to be the regular curries served in combos ranging from $6.90 up to $8.50.

For the lower price you can get a single meat curry or two vegetable curries and rice – quite a deal considering the heaping size of the serves I see around me.

The paneer and peas is very popular.

Biryani House on Urbanspoon

Baba ghanouj

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For a year or more, Bennie has been getting cranky about the tiresome state of his school lunches and more particularly the regular inclusion of rolls of various kinds stuffed with all sorts.

Can’t say I blame him – I find them tiresome, too.

So for the best part of this year, I’ve been including dips and pita bread.

I fell out of the habit of making dips a long time ago, so we’ve been shamelessly buying them. That’s down to laziness mostly, but also we’re blenderless.

Our bought dips – hummus and baba ghanouj mainly – have ranged from good to barely passable to really nasty.

Interestingly, the quality of the dip seems to have had little to do with how much or how little we pay for them.

But this pre-bought dip routine is stopping – right here, right now.

It’s ridiculous.

Besides, you don’t need a blender – in fact, in the case of baba ghanouj, you really want that chunky, unblended texture.

And getting back in to the routine of dip-making fits right in with our current fascination with Middle Eastern food.

This recipe – with a few minor tweaks – is straight from the pages of Nawal Nasrallah’s fabulous Iraqi cookbook, Delights From The Garden Of Eden.

It’s easy and hassle-free!

INGREDIENTS

1 large eggplant

1/4 cup tahini

1/4 cup yogurt

1/4 cup lemon juice

2 medium garlic cloves

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon ground cumin

METHOD

1. Pre-heat oven to a hot 225C.

2. Pre-heat skillet under low heat.

3. Puncture eggplant all over several times, so steam can escape and it doesn’t explode.

4. Place eggplant on a foil-lined oven tray and put in hot oven for about 45 minutes.

5. Gently roast cumin seeds in skillet until a deep tan, then grind to a fine powder in mortar and pestle.

6. When eggplant is done – it’ll be all wrinkly – turn off oven and let eggplant cool.

7. When cool enough to handle, discard skin and place pulp in a colander so it can drain.

8. Place eggplant pulp in a bowl and mash with a  fork.

9. Mix in tahini and yogurt.

10. Mix in salt and ground cumin.

11. Mix in lemon juice.

12. Finely grate garlic cloves and mix into baba ghanouj.

13. Store in fridge for at least an hour before using.

Al Sharouk Woodfired Oven

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Al Sharouk Woodfired Oven, 544-546 Mahoneys Rd, Campbellfield. Phone: 9359 5773

On a previous, mid-week visit to Al Sharouk with Bennie and Nat, we’d been greeted by a well-stuffed Middle East-style grocery but little by way of eat-in food – or, at least, none that tempted us sufficiently to linger.

Second time around, and flying solo, my desires are a little different.

Lunch, a meal, for sure – but I’m also seeking some specialised Middle East ingredients.

This is so I can roll up my sleeves and get cooking some of the marvellous recipes in Delights From The Garden Of Eden by Nawal Nasrallah, an epic Iraqi cookbook I received in the mail a few days earlier.

This tome – packed with recipes for mostly home-style Iraqi food, countless anecdotes and much food history going back several thousand years – has been secured on the no-doubt righteous recommendation by Annia Ciezadlo in her cool book Day Of Honey.

I feel sure Delights From The Garden Of Eden will be the cause of many, many future years of pleasurable reading and cooking.

But I feel nonplussed as I step through the door of Al Sharouk and discover … that it is now all restaurant and no grocery.

Oh well – I take an upbeat, half-full approach and thoroughly enjoy my lunch and talking with Al Sharouk proprietor Martin.

He’s an Iraqi Christian who moved to Australia more than three decades ago, although his Campbellfield eat shop has been open for just nine months.

It’s no surprise, then, he knows all about the ingredients I seek – baharat, a spice mix that is a sort-of Iraqi equivalent of garam masala; and noomi basrah, which are dried limes.

Martin reckons I should have little trouble securing them from the likes of Al-alamy in Coburg or International Foods in Altona.

As he’s expressed an interest in having a quick look at my new book, I scarper back to my car as he’s knocking my lunch together.

There’s a range of salads and dips on display. Pies and pizzas from the mighty wood-fired oven are available, too.

But I quickly zero in on the two stews available – one a pale number with lamb shanks, the other more of a tomato-based effort with lamb on the bone and chickpeas.

I go for the latter, which turns out to be a variation on Iraqi stews called tashreeb. These are traditionally served on a base of flat bread.

But I’m plenty happy to have mine with Martin’s rice, which he calls an Iraqi biryani.

It’s beaut and studded with peanuts, peas, currants and – most appropriately – the dried limes called noomi basrah, which impart of sublime tartness. Think of something along the lines of a mild Indian lime pickle.

This is very homely food much to my liking – the rice riches work well with the tashreeb chickpeas, and I even get a silky, tender whole onion.

But that’s not all – my single piece of lamb is superbly, predictably tender and toothsome.

Martin has two kinds of chooks getting the heat treatment from his spit pit – the first lot are whole stuffed birds referred to in Delights From The Garden Of Eden as Pregnant Chicken; the second are butterflied birds in lemon and garlic.

I buy a half animal of the latter to take home, but wish I’d gone with a whole of the former – they look so plump and sexy, and are likely a fine bargain at $12.

Other than that, I forget to check prices – suffice to say Al Sharouk is a genuine cheap eats haven, as my lamb rice lunch, a can of soft drink and half a chook to go come to $22.

It’s been cool meet Martin and enjoy some of the kind of food I soon hope to be cooking my own self.

Al Sharouk Woodfired Oven on Urbanspoon

Incident on a train

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Missed this weeks Epicure section in The Age.

No biggie, but still …

Rude as it may seem, I couldn’t help but glance at the copy a passenger next to me on the train from work was reading.

My eye was caught by a long single column of responses by readers to a question about what are the top signs you’ve entered a Bad Restaurant.

Top of the list was … flat-screen televisions.

What?

What kind of parallel universe is that?

In our world, wall-mounted flat-screen TVs are a harbinger of delicious food on the way.

South American soccer games, Viet song and dance extravaganzas, Bollywood epics and – recently for me – even Fox News (sound off, thankfully) in a Foostcray Ethiopian place.

What could be better?

I even had the temerity to voice these opinions to the Epicure lady.

She seemed bemused I’d been surreptitiously reading her newspaper – but that’s better than snarky.

As we neared a station and she prepared to depart the train, she even presented me with her “pre-loved” copy of Epicure, God bless her.

I asked her where she lived; locally, obviously.

So I gave her a Consider The Sauce business card.

I hope she checks us out.

The Shed @ Terindah Estate

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The Shed @ Terindah Estate, 90 McAdams Lane, Bellarine. Phone: 5251 5536

Scooting down the freeway, Geelong-bound, I am almost giggling with the joy of it.

This is quite different from the sometimes frenetic trips that until so very recently saw me making this journey for work purposes.

Because we are not headed specifically for that city, but through it instead for a lunch date on the Bellarine Peninsula.

I’ve roped in Brother Kurt for the experience and we’ll be meeting my pal and former Geelong Advertiser colleague Jane at Terindah Estate.

The catering, food and function aspects of the property have recently been assumed by Rue Cler Market, and it is as that outfit’s guests that we will be having lunch (full disclosure below).

Kurt and I are so busy playing catch-ups that carefully selected CD choices barely register and in what seems like mere minutes we are trundling down bumpy, rustic McAdams Lane, turning right into the grounds of Terindah Estate instead of left into Jack Rabbit Winery.

Unsurprisingly, the place is beautiful, the centre’s buildings looking out on vines and fields rolling gently down to the bay, the Melbourne CBD skyline visible on one side of the panorama, the You Yangs peeking through the trees on the other.

The place undeniably has an air of new business arrangements being bedded down.

So much so, we wonder if these folks have been a bit hasty in inviting a blogger and his mates down for a feed, especially when we lay eyes on the very succinct blackboard men.

Happily, our lunch more than makes up for menu brevity with class and quality.

We three make ourselves at home in a corner table of the vast, bright and airy dining area before mulling our lunch choices as sourdough, focaccia and olive oil are placed before us. 

Our first foray into Shed tucker is a sublime delight and triumph – the produce plate is not your typical antipasto platter.

That they sell it for $14 makes it a preposterous bargain.

Its contents are all locally sourced, fresh as can be and uniformly superb.

Smoky, tangy discs of Otways chorizo.

Tomato relish.

Creamy chevre.

Sweet, oh-so-tender steamed mussels.

Baby vegetables – spring onions, carrots, turnips – that manage the lovely trick of being both profoundly and lightly pickled, meaning the original flavour of the vegetables can be enjoyed.

Calamari strips, supremely unchewy and tender, and equally skillfully pickled.

Brilliant!

An adjacent table for two has received an identical plate of goodies, so it’s not like we have been given favourable treatment. Just saying …

As we await our main course, unbidden we are presented with a lovely blue cheese and potato pizza ($14).

This simple affair goes a long way toward blunting my cynicism about the cost/benefits of thin-crust Italian-style pizzas.

Blue cheese very flavoursome but not overbearing, slices of purple congo spud evincing real potato taste, base not particularly thin but fresh, crusty and easy on the fang.

Kurt and I both choose the bay whiting with fennel salad ($22).

The fish is delicate of texture and taste, and very good.

The whiting works well with the fennel, but I am less convinced about the somewhat strident addition of grapefruit segments.

It’s a very spartan meal – another element or some more obvious salad dressing would’ve been welcome.

Jane likes her mushroom gnocchi ($18) – they’re roly poly, tanned and slightly crispy on the exterior, almost molten inside, and the way is smoothed with more of the chevre that graced our entree plate.

Kurt gleefully works his way through much of the wine list – he expresses fondness most of all for the chardonnay – with details provided by property owner Peter Slattery.

Jane enjoys her sticky date pudding ($6).

By this point, I’m fully full, so opt out of the dessert stakes – but I do nick a spoonful, just for review purposes.

The pudding is light and fresh, and the sauce is, well, super sticky.

The Shed @ Terindah Estate shapes as a handy, relaxing and affordable option in the fiercely competitive Bellarine winery scene.

The September 2 Father’s Day deal – $40 for adults, $10 for kids – looks like a great deal, for instance. Check out the Terindah Facebook page for details.

And certainly, I’d return in a heartbeat for another shot at the terrific $14 produce platter.

It’s been a hoot to catch up on the goss with Jane, but she’s off on other business.

Kurt’s happy to kick back, enjoy the moment and talk with the staff.

After a good cafe latte, I go for a ramble around the grounds, even making it right down to the bay beach.

Eventually, to the strains of the Flying Burrito Brothers’ classic third album, we zip across the peninsula to Point Lonsdale, where we dwell for a while watching a ship enter through the heads and seals frolicking in the surf.

After swinging through Ocean Grove, we head home with some raunchy, classic and wisecracking southern soul from Joe Tex for company.

What a cracking day we’ve had – thanks to all concerned!

Our meal at The Shed @ Terindah Estate was provided free of charge by the owner in return for a story on Consider The Sauce. With the exception of pizza noted above, neither staff nor management knew what we were going to order. The Shed @ Terindah Estate has not been given any editorial control of this post.