Bits and pieces

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What’s in a name?

Consider The Sauce, for instance!

The truth is, CTS was chosen – and the domain name registered – quite some time before this blog made its debut.

There was never any hesitation.

Most people, when they learn of it for the first time, are variously intrigued or appreciative.

By and large, I am very happy with my decision about my blog’s name.

It’s a little clever and classy.

By not tying me down to a specific geographical, it allows me to cross the river without fear of being trolled.

And it allows me to bang on about berets and barbers, son and surgery and a lot more.

But I do sometimes wonder how different things would be, how CTS would have evolved and how different I might be perceived as a blogger, had I chosen a name such as Western Suburbs Food Blog!

No matter – I suspect that in the long run, CTS as a moniker will be an outright winner and one of which I will always be proud.

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Don’t forget the CTS guest post competition – see details here.

As it stands, a week after announcing the competition, there have been no entries at all!

So if you can bash out a few words and/or bang off a couple of pics on your phone, and submit them to CTS, your chances of winning lunch for four at Woven cafe in Yarraville are very, very excellent!

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Our pals at La Morenita/Latin Food & Wines are holding a Feast.

This is not an official collaboration with Consider The Sauce – though yours truly will be playing a hosting role on the night.

But we are happy to endorse what we know for sure will be a great night.

Ribs? MMMmmmmm …

No trybooking set-up this time – book by phone or dropping into the Berskshire Road shop.

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Have you been following the wild and rapidly unravelling saga of “super blogger” Belle Gibson and her blog/foundation The Whole Pantry?

See the latest story here.

I confess that as a journalist, news junkie, blogger, foodie and one of the cancer afflicted, I find this to be a train wreck from which it is impossible to avert my eyes.

I know this:

Consider The Sauce has been involved in running three low-key, small-budget fundraisers – two of them last year.

In each case, and utterly regardless of my own financial situation, the idea that the money raised was somehow “mine” for a period of time never entered my head.

In each case, the money raised – minus, in the two most recent cases, a few minimal dollars in trybooking fees – was transferred to the recipient charities immediately or within a few hours or days.

I purchased tickets for all three events for Bennie and myself.

And this …

In making decisions about my own cancer treatment, I never for a moment entertained what are rather crudely labelled “alternative therapies”, although a couple of people did try to nudge me in that direction.

Like choosing Consider The Sauce as a blog name, that die has well and truly been cast and the surgeons’ scalpels have done their work.

Such decisions are fully personal, of course.

But I do seriously wonder about the harm proponents of such therapies can do – especially one who finds herself in the kind of strife Ms Gibson is now in.

Visiting Helen

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My colleague and pal Helen has been absent our office for a couple of weeks, so I inquire if she’d like a visitor.

I have an ulterior motive – truth is, I miss her wicked.

It feels odd to be driving the same road as took us up this way to acquire the Black Devil but, of course, Helen drives this way and that every working day.

When she is working.

I drive on past Kyneton and, after a few misturns, find the spread with the white picket fence.

My friend’s house is a big, cool thing from the 1880s.

It’s gorgeous.

 

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Bennie and I have been the lucky recipients of Helen’s generosity in recent months in the form of plums and nectarines.

But I am little prepared for the richness or depth of the goodness she has at hand on her amazing spread.

There’s … several varieties of apple, mullberries, strawberries, raspberries, a gazillion herb varieties, tomatoes and much, much more.

 

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Helen’s sister – one of them – Fiona turns up.

I am delighted to learn she also is lovely, mad and funny.

 

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Fiona has brought Middle Eastern-style salads from one of her faves, Cliftons Cafe.

Together with some backyard stuff picked from this spot and some sweet treats I’ve brung from Berkshire Road, we feast.

 

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I’d initially suggested that Helen may have been sick of being house-bound so a visit to one of the local eateries could be the go.

But this is much better – I feel privileged to partake in such a beautiful setting with such fine company.

 

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I take home a box of lovely quinces.

The two poached eggs I have for dinner are as free range and organic as eggs get.

 

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Westie barbers No.2: Aurelio

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Buzz Barbers, 547b Barkly Street, West Footscray.

The CTS story on Chris the barber at the Circle in Altona was well received, giving me the confidence and desire to occasionally profile these fascinating characters scattered across the west.

Next up – Aurelio at Buzz Barbers in West Footscray.

Aurelio gives me a superb buzz cut, a real professional job including eyebrows, for $10.

He’s been in the house for about seven years but tells me his corner shop has been home to one barbering operation or another for about 40 years.

He inherited the chairs.

He’s my kind of barber, preferring to keep his prices as low as possible with a view to encouraging return and regular customers.

 

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His place is done out in classic old-school barber style.

As he works, we have a great old chat about the western suburbs, his Italian background, Italian food and the ebbs and flows of the barbering business.

Aurelio was born in Sicily but came with his family to Australia aged two, and was raised in the Moonee Ponds/Ascot Vale area.

He comes from a family of boilermakers.

We both chuckle ruefully when I suggest there has been a long-declining demand for boilermakers in the western suburbs.

He tells me I have a nice, round head that is well suited to the clean-shaven, shiny, bald look.

“If I did that, I’d look like a crim!” he says.

“You already do!” quip I.

“I know,” comes the quick retort. “But imagine how much worse it’d look without hair!”

 

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No more pickled dork

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Bennie and I have used Buckingham Street as a back-street route home from the West Footscray, Sunshine and the likes for years and probably thousands of times.

One time, as we were stopped and waiting to turn right into Victoria Street, Bennie gazed up at the faded lettering of the windows of what used to be a butcher shop.

He struggled to make out the words …

“Pickled … pickled … dork!”

As we turned right and started heading for the underpass, I started laughing.

Then Bennie started laughing, too.

And I started laughing even more – so much so I almost had to pull the car over to let it all out.

That incident has been a running gag at CTS even since.

Somewhat sadly, the “pickled dork” is no more.

The two windows have been superbly brought back to their original glory.

It’s all part of a revamp of the two-storey brick building at 70A Victoria that will see it be auctioned on March 28.

 

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Vendor Dave gives me a rundown on the joint’s history …

He tells me the building went up in 1889.

Butcher John Cashmore signed the property over to his wife before departing to do his bit in World War I.

Upon his return, the property ownership reverted back to his name and stayed in the family until Dave bought it in 1989.

Locals who have passed by many times in the past decade or so will be aware that the corner house has had many, um, colourful tenants.

Dave’s had enough of the landlord lark so under the auctioneer’s hammer it must go!

The real estate listing for the property is here.

 

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Meeting Zomato

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Zomato international operations director Pramod Rao, CTS and Zomato Melbourne community manager Pranav Singh.

As far as I’m aware, there are three kinds of users for restaurant website Urbanspoon.

For many, it is simply somewhere to go for information about places to eat – including details such as phone numbers and opening hours, but also very much including opinions good and bad.

A second group does all of the above but also contributes what are referred to as “diner reviews”.

The third group consists of food bloggers, who stories are listed and linked on the Urbanspoon website in exchange for carrying eatery-specific Urbanspoon dinkii.

For the first named of the above groups, the recent news that the American Urbanspoon had been bought by the Indian company Zomato is probably of only passing interest, and perhaps none at all.

By contrast, for the contributors of Urbanspoon “diner reviews” – and some, such as our friends Nat Stockley and MelbourneMiss are very active indeed – and the food bloggers, the Zomato transaction is very big news.

Like many blogs, CTS derives many visitors from its relationship with Urbanspoon.

That relationship sees bloggers going unpaid for the goodwill and stature they bring to Urbanspoon but the actual work requirements are minimal – simply cutting and pasting a bit of code and making sure the paragraph or sentence that appears with the Urbanspoon link is appropriate.

Should my relationship with Zomato – once Urbanspoon is integrated into it – become any more complex, time-consuming or problematic, I’d seriously have to consider cutting my ties.

It’d be a bugger to lose all those referrals, but the truth is the number who become regular CTS readers is probably quite small – so I’d do it, no problem.

And from all I’ve read, the existing Zomato operation so far has not utilised bloggers anywhere it operates in the world.

Thus for bloggers, the questions surrounding the Zomato buy-out are many.

So I was surprised and delighted even to get an invite from Zomato’s Melbourne community manager Pranav Sigh to meet for coffee and a chat.

(I am just one of quite a few Melbourne food bloggers they are in the process of meeting …)

This in itself is a big change – my technical or procedural issues with Urbanspoon over the years have been minor and dealt with well and quickly, but always via email with Urbanspoon staff in Seattle.

So people on the ground is a whole new ball game, with Pranav – he’s a Kiwi by the way, having been educated in CTS’ home town of Dunedin – being just one of hundreds of staff being hired by Zomato around the world to manage the transition and the ongoing relationships with bloggers and other contributors.

When I meet Pranav, he has with him Zomato international operations director Pramod Rao.

We have a good frank, discussion.

I am eager to make my point main points – that food bloggers and contributors around the world are feeling a distinct level of unease, and that Zomato would be foolish indeed to discard, meddle with or downgrade in any way the contributions these many people make and the goodwill and stature they lend to their employer.

I can only take what they tell me at face value, but for the record I find them both to be smart operators who are fully aware of the issues and eager to reassure me on every question I have – and hence their pro-active approach to getting out meeting the people concerned.

So …

Branding apart, there will be little or no change in terms of Zomato’s relationship with its contributors, including bloggers.

Links with food bloggers are very much seen by Zomato as an asset.

The various leaderboards will continue, although the exact methodology for determining them has yet to finalised.

Zomato’s Melbourne staff count stands at present at nine but will rise to about 30.

Zomato’s aim is to update the details, including menus, of each and every restaurant every three months.

However, contributors will still be able to “Add Restaurant”.

To much greater extent than Urbanspoon, Zomato will be “social”.

Indeed, what Pramod shows me on his phone looks very much like a “Facebook-for-foodies” and actually very exciting.

Urbanspoon generated income – such as it has been – through the likes of Google AdSense.

Zomato, by contrast, will hopefully derive income by taking a hyper-local approach to advertising.

This throws up a whole new set of questions for me …

“What if,” I ask Pramod, “a potential Melbourne advertiser is prepared to spend big bucks with Zomato – but only with proviso that existing negative reviews be removed or altered?”

“That will never happen,” Pramod tells me.

Black devil

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When choosing a cat, the last thing we wanted was a boring pet.

Well, we got real lucky in that regard.

There is nothing boring about Boris.

He’s settling in now after a few weeks and has become familiar with our various routines.

He is endlessly high-energy and entertaining – as Bennie quipped at one point, it’s like having our Animal Planet channel right in our own home.

He’s a long way from becoming a “lap cat” yet – but that’s OK.

He likes his new companions but is sparing with his intimacies.

Despite reasonably deep experience in living with felines, I’m seeing Boris do things I’ve never seen a cat do before.

Aerobatic hi-jinks and mock battles with his various toys is only to be expected from such a young animal.

Heck, I even owned at one stage long ago a cat that “fetched” – just like Boris does.

But playing chase and tag the length and breath of our house is a first for me.

But all this has a down side.

This high-spiritedness seems to be all he knows.

He scratches and bites at almost every opportunity.

He’s shredding furniture and books.

Sometimes I just want to yell at him: “Geez, mate, take a chill pill!”

Yelling?

Yes, I know.

Counter-productive.

 

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Maybe when we decide it’s time for him to be an outdoor feline, we’ll see the edge come off his manic behaviour.

His psycho behaviour …

He’s ignored the scratching device we first bought, despite it being liberally doused with catnip.

So today we got, on the advice of a pet store employee, a cheap deep-pile rug.

It’s working!

Scratch and sharpen those claws to your heart’s content, little fella.

Thankfully, he IS being a good boy when it comes to his food and litter area.

It’s messy but liveable.

And I guess it’s not just Boris who is need of some attitude adjustment.

We do, too.

We’ve got an animal in the house now.

As such, it’s up to us to ensure there’s nothing lying around within easy claw reach that we value or don’t want to be destroyed.

I know that among regular CTS readers there are a number of Cat People.

Tips, anyone?

How CTS finds food

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Musing on how Woven’s Facebook page had a direct bearing on my choice of Sunday lunch spot has got me thinking about the various and varied methods Consider The Sauce utilises to find cool places to chow down at and write about.

Those methods have become more numerous and, dare I say it, more sophisticated since CTS set sail.

When pondering such things, it’s instinctive for me to immediately wonder how and why our friends and readers do likewise.

The truth is – an amazing truth it still often seems to me – is that for many that means reading CTS!

 

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JUST DRIVING AROUND

This is our default, bedrock method for finding new eats places – and is simply a lot of fun!

Food-spotting adventures can range from driving to or from school or work (in Hoppers Crossing and Keilor West respectively) through to places noted on the way to or from a specific restaurant or food precinct, or just simply aimless tooling around.

Like all locals, including very much our readers, we keep a keen eye out for developments on all the main thoroughfares – Anderson, Ballarat, Gamon, Charles, Victoria, Barkly, Hopkins, Hampshire, Alfrieda, Pier, Racecourse and so on.

But beyond doing that, Bennie has gone from resigned acceptance to enthusiasm about his father’s keenness for avoiding retracing our steps, taking a left turn or right turn when straightahead is the obvious way home, and for checking out even the smallest and most humble neighbourhood retail precincts.

We find new places to try doing all of the above, and also these days find material for the ongoing series of “eats goss” posts that have become a CTS feature this year.

For sure, there will be a heap more of them in 2015.

 

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MAINSTREAM MEDIA

Early on in the CTS piece, I commented upon being “scooped” by The Age.

Since then?

I can’t recall a single instance of the likes of The Age or the Herald Sun or any other organ of the MSM enlightening us in any way in terms of western suburbs food.

Both Melbourne major newspapers do include western suburbs food in their coverage, but that coverage is hardly consistent and often seems tokenistic.

That’s OK – they have their own readership imperatives to address in what is a very tough game.

If anything, it seems more likely these days that western suburbs businesses will get the sort of exposure offered by The Age or the Herald Sun after CTS or one of the several other blogs who cover the western suburbs have already started the ball rolling.

These days, the western suburbs are serviced by only two suburban community newspaper groups – Leader and Star Weekly.

We generally don’t get Leader delivered and I work for Star Weekly.

In either case, the food content – be it editorial, advertorial or even advertising – is minimal.

Where Star Weekly – and, thanks to my sub-editorial role there, I am across the content of not just the Maribyrnong-Hobsons Bay edition but of the entire group – really helps CTS is through stories and “community calendar” inclusions concerning wonderful community events such as this bread jamboree in Lalor.

This is a very fabulous thing!

 

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NICHE MEDIA

As both food blogger and media junkie, I keep an eye on outfits such as Urbanlist and Broadsheet.

Truth is, though, they seem even more constrained by dedication to inner-city trendiness than the major newspapers.

So … no.

 

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TIPS BY READERS, FRIENDS AND FELLOW TRAVELLERS

These are right up there with “just driving around” when it comes determining CTS content!

They can take the form of comments on blog posts.

They can be in the form of suggestions on the CTS Facebook page, private FB or Twitter messages or emails – or even the result of face-to-face encounters.

In all cases, we love them to pieces.

I’ve long been in the habit of chasing down such tips and rumours with alacrity – not because I feel obligated but because I really, really enjoy doing so.

In this way, CTS often seems – wonderfully – to be not simply a matter of a blog and its readers but more like a collective adventure!

Thank you, thank you, thank you!

 

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OTHER BLOGGERS

Yes.

I habitually follow a dozen or so Melbourne blogs and bloggers I admire most and do get post ideas from them.

 

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URBANSPOON

It’s no secret this international food/restaurant site has its faults and many detractors, but for CTS it is an invaluable resource.

We use it not just by scanning the recent blogger and “diner” reviews but by checking out – several times a week – the “recently added” listings for the “western suburbs” and “inner west”.

Often there’s little to catch our eye – but sometimes there most definitely is.

 

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SOCIAL MEDIA

Facebook can seem creepy and has its faults, but it’s a core aspect of the CTS operation.

For starters, as covered here, many readers digest posts on the blog itself but choose to interact with us via the CTS FB page – and that’s fine!

More to the point of this story, CTS “likes” and keeps on “liking” an ever-broadening collection of western suburbs food businesses, community groups and individuals – invaluable and enlightening!

As well, Facebook ads come in handy.

Really!

For instance, it was through my FB activity that FB chose to display an ad for a beaut Avondale Heights bakery that resulted in this post.

And through “liking” that business, I found out about this fantastic Williamstown pizza place!

I remain largely indifferent to Twitter, but continue to post story links there for those readers who rely on that for keeping up to date with CTS.

As for the rest – Yelp, Reddit, Instagram, Stumbleupon, Pinterest and the like – it all remains a mystery!

 

TELEVISION

Hahahaha.