Sunshine Mosque – a personal touch

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Open day at Sunshine Mosque, 618 Ballarat Road, Sunshine. Phone: 9363 8245

Consider The Sauce would like to believe our dismay and disgust at the recent weeks’ deliberately inflamed anti-Muslim hysteria is universal across the land.

Sadly, though, having read much in the press of all kinds, on social media and various websites – luckily I am pretty much completely out of the loop when it comes to talkback radio – I know that is simply not the case.

But while these events have been unfolding, a thought bubbled up: “Why have I never been to a mosque?”

At very much the same time, the Cyprus Turkish Community of Victoria started publicising its “everyone welcome” open day – and we are only too happy to accept the invitation.

Predictably and joyfully, our visit is a whole lot of fun, full of friendly people with big smiles.

And, of course, we have our fill of the food on hand.

 

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The cheese-and-spinach gozleme I enjoy is as good as it gets – hot of the hot plate, fresh and wonderful.

But the coolest event of the day has an unexpectedly personal note …

 

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We have been on the mosque grounds just a matter of minutes when I run into my Star Weekly colleague Yasemin.

I’m surprised to see her, and she I.

But we shouldn’t be … after all, I did know she’s a local; and she, in turn, knows of my foodie/multicultural adventurer persona.

Yasemin is very busy selling tickets for the kebab operation but we nevertheless squeeze in some conversation.

For me, this is the western suburbs one-degree of separation at splendid work and a valued opportunity to see a colleague with whom I have in the past year finessed numerous stories as something other than a reporter to my sub-editor.

And for Yasemin, I hope (!), it’s a chance to see me as something other than a cranky, demanding, nitpicking pedant – perhaps as an openminded foodie blogger with untold curiosity and as a father.

That latter description being, you’ll be unsurprised to learn, very much how I see and define myself these days.

This is Yasemin’s mosque.

I ask her if she pretty much grew up here.

Her answer is: “Yes!”

 

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After my savory appetite has been satisfied, I enjoy a super strong and sweet Turkish coffee with a deep-fried dessert called sam isi.

It’s filo pastry encasing semolina, and like so many treasured desserts from that part of the world, is sweet without being overly so.

 

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I stop and have a yarn with Tammy of Stylish Sisters.

Tammy refers to herself as a “convert”, her husband being Somalian.

And, yes, she knows all about our favourite Union Road destination.

I love the name of her business – in my opinion, which in this context is worth no doubt very, very little – many of the “sisters” do indeed have style to burn.

 

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Eventually, the presence at the event of a flagrantly mustachioed dude with a busy camera having been noted, Ekrem Fuldagli introduces himself to us.

Ekrem is the chairman of the Cyprus Turkish Islamic Community of Victoria.

It’s a busy day for a busy man, but he makes time to escort us into the mosque proper and patiently answer my questions.

Ekrem has been in the chairman role for about a year.

He tells me it’s a challenging but rewarding role, involving as it does issues and projects both within the mosque community and its interactions with the wider world.

He describes the mosque community as very mainstream and relationships with the neighbours as just fine

The domed mosque interior itself is truly beautiful and, yes, it has what I would call a “spiritual” vibe.

Ekrem tells me the dome itself has no religious significance.

Rather it is all about acoustics and the oration requirements of the pre-electricity and pre-amplification times.

Sadly, other commitments mean we are unable to linger for the scheduled Q&A session to which I have been eagerly looking.

Maybe next time!

 

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Cafe joy away from the main drags

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Woven Cafe, 175b Stephen Street, Yarraville. Phone: 9973 5926

It was while scoping out the fit-out progress of Woven that I discovered, courtesy of a friendly local, that Stephen Street was once, many moons ago, actually the main drag of Yarraville.

All that changed, apparently, when the train line went through … and the main trading/retailing action switched to Anderson and Ballarat streets.

Makes sense really, as Stephen Street is a wide boulevard … it’s nice to see some activity returning to an area away from the village proper.

It’s sweet, too, for the four of us troupe off to try out the newly-opened Woven.

 

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Disclosure – Dan, one of the Woven partners, and his family are a long-time CTS buddies and attendees of CTS Feasts.

But as this is an impromptu lunch, not Dan nor anyone else involved knows we’re coming, though we are outed soon after being seated.

Doesn’t matter – as on every other occasion when folks have twigged bloggers are in the house, the food we receive is the same as all the other customers.

So is the fine service.

Woven is a compact space that has been fitted out beautifully.

With its outdoor seating and smartly-chosen location, it’s a hit in the making.

The menu (see below) is tight and right, canvassing breakfast through lunch.

 

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The other two lads opt for the “Bang Up Burger” ($18.50).

Both are really impressed.

Says the Bennie: “The cheese was nice, the salad was dressed, the patty was good, and the bacon and the sauce were good, too. It was all good! It all fitted together!”

The vibe I get from both Bennie and Julian is that this is a very enjoyable, solid burger.

Their meaty handfuls are abetted by “hand-cut twice-cooked chips”.

They’re fine things, indeed.

And with their skins and dimples and imperfections intact, they’re in the same tradition and mindset as the chips we get at this Newport joint.

If this is a trend we say: “Yay!”

 

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I go the salad route with happy results.

The Moroccan chickpea salad with pickled carrots, fennel and tea-soaked currents ($16) comes with chorizo added for an extra $4.

Sometimes chorizo-added dishes – often pasta or salads – can be mean in the sausage department.

That’s certainly not the case here – there’s plenty of it, which is a good thing as it’s a mildly flavoured and seasoned dish and the chorizo adds needed spice and grease.

The carrots are only slightly pickled and I even add some salt.

But it’s all good, crunchy, fresh, wonderful and of very generous size – the chickpeas themselves are a buttery yellow and perfect.

 

 

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The bread for Christine’s “lemon and herb chicken with aioli and rocket sanger” ($10) comes from another of our fave local haunts and my regular morning coffee stop.

The chicken tastes fine to me, and she gets the same chips on the side for an extra $3.

So … $13 all up? That’s a bargain right there!

We go without coffee – though with the other partner, Dave, at the coffee machine helm, I’m betting it’ll be brilliant when I do try it.

We hit the road for home and the other side  of the tracks, stopping by for a sweet, cool treat at yet another local fave – one that is, I’m told, also a supplier to Woven.

Choc orange for him, apple pie for her, lavender and white choc for Bennie and myself …

 

Woven Cafe on Urbanspoon

 

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Southern style in Yarraville

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Fat Thursdays by Bourbon Street @ The Commerical Hotel, 238 Whitehall St, Yarraville. Phone: 9689 9354

All your food trucks and fancy cafes are good and well, but we have to say we are happy and delighted to discover the Commerclal Hotel is up and running once again.

It’s only open three days a week but that’s a win when compared to the sad sight we observed whenever we drove past what seemed to be the abandoned Hyde Street institution.

Inside, all is as much as we recall – a scruffy, lived-in pub ambiance of a sort so hard to find these days that the Commercial almost comes across as a museum piece.

And there’s food – but only on Thursdays.

It is being provided by an outfit called Bourbon Street, which operates a lunch delivery service of southern American-style goodies to the Melbourne CBD and inner suburbs on Wednesdays, Thursdays and Fridays, and to Yarraville, Seddon and Footscray on Wednesdays and Thursdays.

 

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We like it that they’ve called their dine-in project at the Commercial Fat Thursday; we’re rather less impressed with it being called a pop-up – a term much over-used and misused.

As ever with this sort of food, I keep my expectations and hopes in check.

In this case there seems good cause, because despite the use of the names Bourbon Street and Fat Thursday, the in-house menu is studded with items not usually associated with the famously non-BBQ city that is New Orleans – “cajun brown rice” (huh?), pulled pork and jerk chicken among them.

Of course, this is Melbourne, this is the west and in the end I’m oh-so-glad I don’t get hung up on stuffy notions of authenticity – for what Bennie and I have is a fine meal indeed.

We order a main apiece and then load up on the sides (see menu below).

 

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We rather regret getting our BBQ beef and jerk chicken with the rice rather than in roll form. The rice is OK but rolls would’ve been more in keeping with our dinner’s flavour.

My beef and his chicken are fine.

But it’s the sides that do it for us.

The prices are very cheap – surely the cheapest for this sort of food in Melbourne.

At places around town that serve similar fare, getting the number of sides we split between us would result in a rather hefty bill for what is meant to be blue-collar food.

No such problem at Fat Thursday – it falls comfortably inside the cheap eats realm.

But there’s nothing cheap about the quality and the serves are of a good size.

 

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 Fried okra – whole, freshly battered and yummy.

 

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Potato salad – very nice.

 

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Corn that is just corn but that fits right well with the rest of our meal.

 

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Coleslaw – very nice.

We also get mac ‘n’ cheese, which tastes good but is a little on the dry side, and jalapeno cornbread, which comes in the form of three small muffins – they’re good, studded with corn kernels and have a delicate spice glow going on.

It’s been a cool hoot to sit in the venue of so many previous happy times – all of them pre-CTS – and eat some pretty good southern-style food without feeling in the slightest bit inhibited by the pricing.

 

Bourbon Street @ the Commercial Hotel on Urbanspoon

Commercial Hotel on Urbanspoon

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Gosh

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“You have prostate cancer.”

Not the gladdest of tidings then … but not unexpected given the anxiety and tests of recent months.

It’s surreal hearing that verdict coming from the mouth of someone I have known for less than half an hour.

“It’s low grade …”

That’s good, isn’t it?

“Yes, it’s good …”

My life changes …

I feel very, very grateful to a very good GP who sent me off to a urologist. She may have saved my life.

And so I become a member of the Cancer Club, yet prostate cancer is so common as to be almost banal.

In some ways I feel empowered, with an early diagnosis and a fighting chance.

Like countless souls before me, I am blown away by the way complete strangers open up and tell me their stories, offer their wisdom and friendship.

I am grateful for the support and love of friends, family, colleagues and acquaintances.

The medical and support staff who are already becoming a big part of my life are marvellous – and I am happy to be telling them so whenever the opportunity arises.

Boy, does that make the nurses, doctors, technicians and all the others smile – so giving, but all they often get are cranky grumbles.

But there are downsides …

The waiting rooms and on-hold telephone calls – so time consuming and tedious, and destined to become even more familiar as I become a more full-time player in the health system than I or any of us desire.

The already tangible financial worries – also destined to become more acute.

Presently, the most challenging thing is attempting to get on top of and (hopefully) intelligently filtering an overwhelming amount of information and often contradictory advice.

Some time in coming months, difficult decisions will have to be made regarding treatment.

How all this will impact on Consider The Sauce, I have no way of knowing or even guessing.

Very little, I most fervently hope!

In the meantime, I intend to summon up the courage to continue to live well and laugh often.

 

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Road trip to Trentham, mind blown

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Growers, Cookers & Eaters 2014 – presented by the Trentham Food Hub
Trentham Mechanics Institute, Saturday, October 11

Consider The Sauce has always taken an extremely broad and self-serving approach to what constitutes “western suburbs”.

But still, I procrastinated about whether to attend the Trentham Food Hub’s Growers, Cookers & Eaters bash.

Having taken the plunge and bought my ticket, however, I am oh-so-happy to be hitting the road with some hot music late on a Saturday afternoon with the sun shining.

Western suburbs?

Sure!

Head up the Calder, turn left at Woodend, keep on going – easy!

 

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I’m told this is the third Growers, Cookers & Eaters event.

The party is just one of the activities that make up the Trentham Food Hub, which sees as its vision to create “a vibrant network of informed, passionate and creative people working together within the community to expand the capacity of our local food and fibre industry”.

I’ve never been to Trentham before, so make sure I arrive early enough to introduce myself to Justin, the event’s organiser, and have enough time to have a wander up and down and through the town’s CBD and main drag – such as they are.

It’s all gorgeous and there is a good deal of foodie activity of one sort or another that all looks very appealing.

CTS will be heading this way again!

The delights keep on piling up, one atop another, as I survey the venue – the Trentham Mechanics Institute is a cool old-school hall and I’m already smiling.

I choose a table and wait to see, in the lottery that accompanies such events, who my dining companions will be.

 

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I’m very happy to spend the evening in the company of Janine and Alan from Bullarto South (“the Paris end of Bullarto”) and  Robert and Kim from Castlemaine.

Through the course of the night we have many laughs and much lively conversation over a wide range of topics – even canvassing, rather foolishly but with no great mishap, politics and religion.

And, of course, food.

The evening is set up in both a degustation and buffet styles.

I’m usually lousy at buffet eating, always going way too hard too early on the starters and entrees.

Tonight, I nail it by pacing myself. It helps that during the course of the day I’ve skipped breakfast and have eaten only a pair of bananas.

I’m hungry.

 

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Here’s where it’s at - Growers, Cookers & Eaters 2014 turns out to be one of the peak CTS food experiences of this or any other year.

There’s paper napkins.

The plates are cleared either by hard-working volunteers or by us guests ourselves.

But the food is mind-blowingly amazing and the happiness in the room tangible.

Truth is, purchasing what we eat a la carte at the sorts of restaurants and pubs that serve this kind of food would cost much, much more than our $65 ticket price.

What a bloody great bargain!

 

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Warm olives, terrific sourdough bread and potted meats – pork rillette and pate de tete, both from Jonai Farms – make a fine starter.

With the arrival of the chicken salad (pictured at top), I start to realise this going to be a very special evening indeed – such wonderful freshness and flavour!

 

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It’s a testament to the slow-roasted shoulder of lamb that it requires no carving – the serving platters come equipped with forks to pull the meat apart.

Oh boy – it’s wonderful, served with baby carots, a wild tabbouleh and yogurt!

 

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The yearling pig, served with carrot puree and salad, is another juicy delight.

 

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Later in the evening, our table is joined by Tammi from Jonai Farms, which produced the pork. It’s interesting talking with her about her family’s farming and her own journey to becoming a fully-fledged, muscle-bound butcher!

 

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Some folks seem a little nonplussed by the potato gnocchi with flaked, smoked Tuki trout and cannellini beans in a saffron sauce.

I like it as a rustic, austere contrast to the richness that is going on around us.

 

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Roasted Sidonia Hills beef?

Simply, and by quite some distance, the best roast beef I have ever encountered.

So very, very juicy and flavoursome, it’s perfectly joined by roast potatoes and fennel and a beautiful tied bundle of baby leek, carrot and asparagus.

The beef, I’m subsequently told, is scotch fillet cooked for 38 hours at 55 degrees using the sous vide method.

By this time I’m just about bouncing of the ceiling with happy.

 

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The only dish that leaves me less than wowed is the apple and cashew tart – just OK in my book.

 

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But the pear poached in spice pinot noir and served with luscious Inglenook Dairy cream is fab – the still-firm pear really does taste like it’s been cooked in mulled wine.

Well done to Justin and his team – the event has been very well run, and on time.

I’ve managed to make a single bottle of cider go the whole night, so I’m good to drive and have enjoyed a wonderful cafe latte with my dessert.

As I depart, I tell my table friends, in all sincerity, that I hope to see them next year.

And circumstances permitting, that is just what I plan to do – with Bennie along for the ride.

And maybe even with a gang of our CTS foodie pals!

Who is up for it?

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The food has been cooked by: Mark Mills from the Plough, Trentham; Gavin Draper from the Cosmpolitan Hotel, Trentham; John & Al Reid from RedBeard Bakery, Trentham; Gary Thomas from Spade To Spade, Daylesford; Andrew Dennis from the Grande Hotel, Hepburn; Tim Austin from La Bonta, Kyneton; Mand arika Oost from the Village Larder, Woodend.

The food has been supplied by: Ngelica Organics, Wombat Forest Organics, Daylesford Organics, Mt Franklin Organics, Duck Puddle Farm, Thomas Walsh, Trewhella Farm, Blackwood Orchards, Inglenook Dairy, Meredith Dairt, Holy Goat Cheese, Jonai Farms, Milking Yard Farm, Tuki, Mt Zero Olives, Barfold Olives and Flowerdale Farm.

 

 

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Yarraville/Seddon paid parking protest – a super effort

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When news first broke about Maribyrnong council’s intention of instigating paid parking in the villages of Yarraville and Seddon, Consider The Sauce initially assumed a somewhat uncharacteristic half-empty outlook.

OK, I figured, there’ll be some grumbling … but what council wants, council will surely get.

These days, I’m not sure about that … at all.

Truth is, the campaign against paid parking – and the community anger that fuels it – is gaining impressive momentum.

It’s well organised, too, with social media activity, a petition and an online survey.

 

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Today’s protest and march from Yarraville to Seddon was also an impressive display – a lot of people and many, many dogs (far more than covered in the pooch gallery below).

What I reckon were a couple of good points were made during the speechifying.

Namely …

That traders have a legitimate fear that many of their customers will shun paid parking and go where parking does not cost – particularly, though not entirely restricted to, Highpoint and Yarraville Square.

And secondly, if Yarraville and Seddon, then why not West Footscray?

On the rare occasions we have difficulty finding a car space, it’s just as likely to be in West Footscray as anywhere closer to home.

By contrast, the council’s case for paid parking – and I’ve read a lot – seems utterly wishy washy.

 

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Of course, you’ll be unsurprised that have yet to encounter a resident or trader actually in favour of paid parking.

Yet the council, it seems to me, has as yet fallen way sort of being in any way persuasive in demonstrating the desirability or the need for its plans.

We shall see …

In the meantime, and once more donning my half-empty hat, I see a possible outcome being the shelving of the paid parking plans – only for them to be rolled out again a few years down the track.

 

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The bloke on the right appears to have been partaking in the Koolaid …

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Nice vibes in Moonee Ponds

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320 Ascot Vale Road, Moonee Ponds. Phone: 9370 2649

For many years, these Ascot Vale Road premises housed a corner store that was a bit of a secret – it stocked products and groceries of the South American/Latin American variety, including Jamon.

Alas that opportunity for CTS story has now gone, and in the store’s place is lovely cafe.

Ascot Food Store appears to be ideally place midway between the Puckle Street area and the eats region of upper Mount Alexander Road.

There’s heaps of residential blocks around here and I bet there’s plenty of locals who really, really loving having this new place so handy.

 

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I could be the world-weary scribe and say Ascot Food Store is just like so many cafes all over the place, including the west.

But that would be silly of me.

And it would be to deny the expertise and good cheer of the staff, the white-centric fit-out that confers a relaxed, tranquil vibe on the front room and two further inside, and the quality of the food.

It’s a very breakfast/lunch place, and – based on our meals (see menu below) – I’d describe the serves as light eating.

A hungry table of two who throw in a couple of sides and coffees will find themselves paying between $25 to $30 per person – the going rate these days for this kind of food in this kind of place.

And no complaints from us.

 

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My companion – Karma of alergicinmelbourne – likes her “Benedict” ($17) of poached eggs on top of an English muffin and shaved pork belly, all topped with bearnaise.

As far as I can tell, in this case anyway, “shaved pork belly” = “crackling” by any other name, so I can’t help but admire the sheer artery-clogging chutzpah of it.

 

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My “Apple Wood Smoked Ocean Trout, Freekeh, Roasted Caluliflower, Coriander, Cress, Shredded Kale” ($18) is fine, too.

The fish is a nicely hefty slab and beautifully cooked, though there is precious little smoky flavour.

The freekeh and cauliflower are indistinguishable, but the fish’s base is nicely most.

With the kale and salad bits, it all makes for a lovely, light lunch.

My cafe latte is very good.

Check out Karma’s take on our lunch here.

 

Ascot Food Store on Urbanspoon

 

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