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.

Po’ boy in Yarraville

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

Since our first foray to Woven, I have returned for a sandwich and coffee.

Today, though, my visit has a more singular focus – I am responding the lure set by the joint’s Facebook page.

Some eateries really work their Facebook pages hard and well; others not so much.

Woven is definitely among the former, posting what seems like several times a day – muffins du jour, specials and often things a lot more whimsical.

 

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So the shrimp po’ boy it is for me.

It makes me happy.

 

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There’s a heap of delightfully well-cooked, tender and tasty prawns that work oh-so-well with the slaw and its dressing and the all-important pickle slices.

Liberally doused with the red of the two hot sauces brought to my table, it all tastes great.

Even in these days of hot-shot $10+ sandwiches, $19 is a steep asking price.

But given the quality of the ingredients and their preparation, and the hand-cut chips on the side, it’s also value for my money, I reckon.

My only quibble is with the bread.

Po’ boys are perennially described as being prepared using baguettes.

But in New Orleans terms what that means is a broad, pliable loaf that makes for an easily wielded two-handed sanger.

This excellent CBD place, for instance, sources bread of just the right kind from a Vietnamese baker.

Woven, by contrast, has used a genuine French-style baguette that is too dense and too narrow.

I don’t mind at all, as the bread is still good and I happily treat my meal as an open sandwich and use cutlery.

I doubt that this particular item will be a regular feature for Woven so a specific bread supplier is hardly warranted.

My cafe latte is excellent.

 

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As I’d approached Woven for my lunch, it struck me what a boon it must be for the “local” locals, situated as it is away from hyper activity around the Anderson and Ballarat street intersection.

So I was surprised to find that on this Sunday lunchtime it was sparingly occupied, though several of the outside tables were taken.

If we lived on this side of the tracks, I’d be here near daily as I dig the place lots!

You can “like” the Woven Facebook page here.

 

Woven Cafe on Urbanspoon

Fab pizza, great prices, unexpected location

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Pizza d’Asporto, Rifle Range Shopping Centre, 71 Kororoit Creek Road. Phone: 9397 2033

Consider The Sauce likes – and sometimes even loves – those authentic Italian-style pizzas as much as anyone.

But the prices have always been a sticking point for us.

We know some of our reasoning in this regard doesn’t stand up to scrutiny.

For instance, the places that sell such pizzas tend to be located in areas where rents are high.

As well, quality ingredients and preparation come at a price.

And we know, too, that comparing such pizzas with much cheaper but much, much less pleasing Aussie-style pizzas is unfair.

No matter how many low-quality toppings get piled onto a pizza base, the resultant product will always be … low-quality, no matter the price.

And any comparison to our beloved Lebanese pizzas and pies and their ultra-low prices is perhaps even more unfair.

The places that sell them tend to be in low-rent locations, and while the quality is often high I’m happy to accept that to a large degree it’s a matter of apples and oranges.

 

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But still, $20 or $25 or more for a pizza just doesn’t seem good value for money.

I guess what I’ve been looking for is a joint that sells authentic Italian-style pizzas in a more customer-friendly price range.

Well, I’ve found just such a one.

What’s more, it’s in the western suburbs, the place is amazing and the food the CTS party of three enjoys leaves us gobsmacked and grinning from ear to ear.

 

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It’s telling that Pizza d’Asporto is situated in a rather anonymous shopping centre quite some distance from the nearest foodie precinct.

It’s surrounded by a handful of fast-food outlets and is doing a roaring trade at about 8pm on the midweek night we visit.

There’s Italian music playing, there’s a happy vibe in abundance and the staff are smiling and on the ball.

There are no internal tables – just a bunch of stools and benches.

We grab one of the small tables outside.

The menu is split between red and white pizzas.

The least expensive is $13, the most expensive $19.

There are a handful of pastas available, all costing about $15, and a like number of salads.

 

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This broccolini pizza – with its buffalo mozzarella, pecorino, broccolini and white truffle oil – costs $14.

Can you believe it?

It’s insanely good, the flavours melding wonderfully and the green vegetable being superbly al dente but still cooked through.

 

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The San Giorgio – with its San Marzano tomato, sopressa salami, artichoke hearts, roast peppers and olives – is a couple of bucks dearer at $16 and just about as good.

My friends are more familiar with this kind of pizzas than I.

They rate their Pizza d’Asporto pies as significantly better than those they’ve had in West Footscray and Seddon, and “as good as if not better” than those they’ve loved at Motorino in Kingsville.

And keep in mind – those prices!

 

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A few days before our visit, I’d taken note of a post on the eatery’s Facebook page about a really good-looking pansanella bread salad.

Tonight I’m told it’s unavailable; then we’re told they’ll knock one up for us anyway!

Our $13 salad is a treat to share, the plentiful, rustic chunks of bread a beaut mix of dressed sogginess and crunch.

 

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My pasta gamberetti ($17) of linguini with king prawns, zucchini and fresh mint is a good ‘un.

It’s a much more generous serve than the impression given by the above photo indicates.

There’s a heap of very good prawns.

The only quibble I have is maybe wanting a bit more zing from chilli or salt or – perhaps – lemon.

On an earlier solo visit by myself for reconnaissance purposes, I’d enjoyed the ortolana pizza ($16, top photo) of San Marzano tomato, mozzarella, grilled eggplant, roasted peppers, mushroom and olives.

Another winner!

There is nothing I do not love about doing Consider The Sauce.

But it’s relatively rare that I enjoy a meal that involves a full house of …

  • Spectacular food.
  • Fantastic prices.
  • Great company.
  • At a place in a surprising location, offering a great atmosphere and super-friendly service.

Claudio, Antoinette and their team are doing a great job and tonight has been one of those occasions.

For a full menu including prices check out the Pizza d’Asporto website here.

 

Pizza D'asporto on Urbanspoon

 

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The Heights of baking excellence

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Impasto Forno Antico, 157 Military Road, Avondale Heights. Phone: 9331 1111

Here’s a quirk of the western suburbs …

It’s possible for a resident of Sunshine North to stand on one side of the Maribyrnong River and hold a conversation with a friend or neighbour standing on the other side in Avondale Heights – without either of them having to raise their voices.

But if one of them wants to drive to the other’s home, well the quickest route is pretty much via Highpoint!

Avondale Heights seems sort of stranded.

It’s bisected by its only main road, the arterial thoroughfare known as Military Road.

I’m told much of the suburb’s population derives from post-war immigration of the Italian variety.

 

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Certainly, at one of Military Road’s shopping precincts there is an emporium of things most excellently Italian.

Recently, this bakery being on one of my routes to work, I picked up a panini for in-office lunch purposes that was a $7.50 just right – fresh roll filled on the spot with mortadella, roasted capsicum and artichoke.

Yum!

Today, I go the strictly sweet route.

 

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The pear and almond tart ($4.50) and a slice ($3) that is a full-on flat version of a Christmas-style mince pie are wonderful and classy – and a lot more filling than they appear at first blush.

I rather wish I’d gone for one of the lighter things – such as the cannoli.

My $3.50 cafe latte is excellent.

Before my sugary lunch I’d felt all spruced up and looking good after a superb “hot-towel shave” and mo’ trim thanks to Matt at Matt’s Men’s Room.

Excellent, professional and friendly, he did me this fine service for a charge of $15.

How good is that?

 

Impasto Forno Antico on Urbanspoon

 

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New Indian joint in WeFo

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Amrutha Authentic Indian Cuisine, 552 Barkly Street,West Footscray. Phone: 9913 3794

Team Consider The Sauce tonight numbers four for the purposes of checking out the newest addition to West Footscray’s line-up of Indian restaurants.

As the restaurant was being put together behind papered windows, two of us had wondered if the new place would specialise in some way to provide it a point of difference from its many competitors.

The answer is – no.

Amrutha’s menu is long a covers all the expected bases.

Go to the joint’s website here for a looking at the full list, including prices.

 

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The place has scrubbed up a treat – quite a lot of money has been spent.

And the main room is a good deal larger than we were expecting to be the case given the hair salon it replaces.

The furniture and fittings are pure Franco Cozzo.

We admire with interest the breakfast list, which includes all your dosas and a lot more.

But we go a la carte from the body of the menu.

Among our choices are a couple of Indo-Chinese selections …

 

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Gobi manchurian ($7.99) and …

 

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… chicken 65 ($8.99) are enjoyable but wet where we have been expecting dry.

 

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My eyes invariably light up whenever I see a menu that features eggplant, so eggplant curry ($10.99) has been ordered at my instigation.

Again, our expectations come into play – maybe unfairly.

The menu does mention a “rich cashew nut and special sauce”, but this seems to me more of an unbearably creamy spread with eggplant flavour.

It’s something I’d be happy spreading on toast.

But otherwise?

Nah.

 

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Moving right along, we start to get into things more hearty and flavoursome of the kind we have been seeking.

Lamb Madras ($11.99) is very nice, its rich gravy hiding lots of fine meat chunks.

 

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Chicken chettinad ($12.99) is likewise very good, with its gravy of “yogurt sauce with crushed black peppercorn, herbs and spices”.

 

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Palak paneer ($9.99) is a doozy, its silky cheese pieces swimming in a wonderfully almost-smoky gravy.

Another high point for us are the $1.99 naan that avoid photographic scrutiny – sorry!

These are super, and appear to have been made – as one of my tablemates points out –  using “wholemeal flour with all the bran removed”.

The result is like a cross between a regular naan and a roti.

We’ve enjoyed our meal but are left wondering about the wisdom of our choosing, what sort of wonders Amrutha has hiding in its menu – and whether the more snacky or one-person dishes may be the go here.

So I sneak back a few nights later for an early dinner by myself – biryani.

 

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My default choice of chicken is unavailable, so I’m happy to go with the lamb ($11.99).

Even though the lamb almost always used in biryanis – you’ll see it in the markets labelled as “lamb curry” – is often more bone than meat.

No such problem here – the plentiful meat comes easily from the bones and is flavoursome and surprisingly tender.

The rice is somewhat darker than usual, and the fried onions are more than a garnish here – there’s lots of them and they’re fully integrated into the rice.

The biryani picture is completed by a fine gravy that is salty and peanutty and a raita chunky with cubed carrot.

My biryani is very good and fully up there with those available elsewhere in Footscray.

Maybe for me next time the chole bhature ($11.99).

Or perhaps the puri ($8.99), which – according to the in-house printed menu – are served thali-style with a handful of small accompanying bowls of goodness.

 

Amrutha on Urbanspoon

 

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Our fave taverna

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

Olive Oil And Butter has become a “regular” for us.

We love that it’s doing its own thing away from the cafe culture of both Yarraville and Seddon.

The geography also means parking is never a hassle.

The coffee is reliably very good.

We love the syrupy sweet treats such as baklava, the custardy galaktoboureko and the more austere biscotti-style of paksimadia and koulouraki.

 

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But it is the plain cake-iness of the semolina revani that we have cone to love most – at first because it goes home in better nick but eventually just because it so good.

Especially when its syrupy richness is cut with a big dollop of high-class organic yogurt.

 

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We take the spanakopita and its meaty cohort the kreatopita home often, too.

These cost what seems a rather hefty $8.50.

But one look, feel, smell or taste of the incredible quality of the pastry involved soon dispels such misguided views.

 

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For in-house savoury treats, best bet is the tight blackboard list of rustic Greek dishes – just the sort of thing you might find at a roadside taverna.

Horiatiki salad with loukaniko (sausages) is a treat for $16.50 (top photo).

The serve is significantly more generous than the picture suggests.

Best of all, there are multiple discs of superb, sweet, tangy, smoky sausage.

The grilled, seasoned Greek-style pita bread – perhaps from this place? – does good mopping up the juices and a rather miserly serve of a nicely spicy pepper dip.

See earlier story here.

 

Olive Oil & Butter on Urbanspoon

Sirens leased

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The prime real estate that is the former Sirens at Williamstown Beach has been leased.

The windows are shielded with blue tarpaulins and something is afoot … though, despite my best efforts, I’m not quite sure what.

In a friendly fashion, I squeezed the young bloke I found there doing some renovations for the new proprietors but he remained admirably loyal and discreet.

But from what I did gather …

It seems the property will continue to operate under the Sirens name, it is open for event bookings and an open-to-the-public date is expected to be in late January.

The family/business moving into the space has a track record in the hospitality industry, one that makes them “quite capable” of doing a fine job at Willy Beach.

“Are they famous?” I asked.

“No,” came the reply.

That snuffs out the goss I’d heard just minutes before elsewhere in Williamstown – that Shannon Bennett was moving in.

Nothing to it, apparently.

But, boy, that’s some rumour …