CTS Feast No.6: La Morenita

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Consider The Sauce Feast No.6: La Morenita

67 Berkshire Rd, Sunshine North. Phone: 9311 2911

From 7pm on Wednesday, May 21.

PLEASE NOTE: THIS EVENT HAS SOLD OUT. CTS AND LA MORENITA ARE IN DISCUSSIONS ABOUT A REPEAT!

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Who doesn’t like hands-on food?

Not we here at CTS HQ, that’s for sure!

Whether it be an injera-based spread or a fabulous Pinoy family feast, we just love getting our hands on the stuff.

And that’s just what we’ll all be doing at CTS Feast No.6.

We know this because La Morenita’s Maria has assured us there’s simply no cutlery to be found in the place.

Maria and her hubby, Marco, are old friends of CTS.

We use their empanadas for out-of-the-freezer light meals and snacks.

We love dropping in for coffee and cake.

We love that this friendly Latin American cafe is right there on Berkshire Road as a warm, tasty contrast to the wall-to-wall panelbeaters and the like.

Most of all, we love their amazing range of sooper-dooper, genuine Latin American sandwiches/burgers, one of which – the fabled churrasco – will be the centrepiece of CTS Feast No.6.

As with the previous Feast, a charge of $20 will apply, with the proceeds being split between CTS and La Morenita.

In this case, though, because of space restrictions, there are only 25 tickets available.

After a feast history that has so far embraced three Indian eateries as well as one each of Vietnamese and Chinese, it’s really cool to be offering CTS readers something different.

Let’s let Maria have the last word: “My aim with this night is to make sure everyone goes home full!”

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Cheese, spicy chicken and beef empanadas

Choripan (chorizo in a roll)

Cocktail hallullas (Chilean bread), pebre (spicy chilli sauce)

Traditional ham and cheese sandwiches de miga

Churrasco (burger with beef, tomato, avocado and mayonnaise)

Custard berlin (doughnut)

Milhoja (“1000 layers”) cake (which Marco will slice on the night)

A Jarrito (Mexican soft drink)

Rickshaw Run 2014

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A whole weekend fuelled by Vietnamese iced coffee, freshly-squeezed sugarcane juice and love …

Last year, I volunteered for a couple of shifts pulling a rickshaws, Bennie joining me for one of them.

This year, we are up for way, way more.

As much as we can get, in fact.

Why?

Well, our continuing adventures with Consider The Sauce and projects such as The Westies: Dishes of Distinction and the CTS Feasts are only strengthening our commitment to and love for the west, its food and its people.

As well, this year the Rickshaw Run is being co-ordinated by our great pal and partner in the Westies, Lauren Wambach of Footscray Food Blog.

We’ve been eagerly anticipating this night and the days ahead for many weeks.

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Getting set for the first night.

Several months before RR14, Lauren had suggested I would be perfectly suited for the role of meeter-and-greeter at our guests’ first stop – D&K Live Fish for fresh oysters.

And so it was agreed.

Turning up at about 5pm after my regular (paying) gig, I take in the scene and then get busy familiarising myself with my job.

Lemons, napkins, time schedule, touching base with David of D&K, oysters … tick, tick, tick, tick tick!

Am I nervous?

Only a little – the simple truth is can’t wait to get into it.

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Maribyrnong mayor Grant Miles gives rickshaw pointers on opening night.

And then it’s on!

I handle my first group, and then another, and then another – and so the night unfolds sweetly and with intense pleasure.

I find I am getting a real kick out of sending our guests on their way with smiles all round.

I develop a spiel that takes in the western suburbs, their many marvels and their incredible food, with plugs for the Westies awards as I go.

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My first group at D&K make short work of their oysters.

I soon discover that in each group of eight, there are some who oyster and some who don’t.

I let them sort it out for themselves.

A week or so before the run, Lauren had tipped me that a group from my NZ hometown of Dunedin would be passing my way.

But that is meant to be on Sunday arvo.

So I am utterly gobsmacked by what happens halfway through Friday night.

There I am, settling into my “welcome to the Rickshaw Run” groove and happily entertaining a wonderful group of gorgeous gals.

Then, with the conversation being focused on oysters, one of them asks me: “Have you ever had Bluff oysters?”

Here’s how the conversation unfolds:

Me: “I’m Dunedin born and bred – of course I’ve had Bluff oysters!”

She: “So are we!”

Me: “What?!”

She: “We’re all from Dunedin!”

Blimey!

Then unfolds a fabulous conversation and gales of laughter.

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From the left, Pip Gardner, Nicole Hesson, Maureen Williams, Sheryl McCammon, Barbara Anderson, Kenny, Alison Glendining and Karen Dalzell.

All of these women are about the same age as me, and the degree of separation between them and myself in terms of connections between friends, family and business is way below six degrees.

Here’s more conversation with the same chick, Barbara, who asked me about Bluff oysters:

Barbara: “So King’s High School – did you know Geoff Anderson?”

Kenny: “Yep – he was pretty much in the same class as me all through high school. His old man was deputy principal. He was a cranky old bugger!”

Barbara: “I married his son!”

Cue more uproarious laughter …

(Confession: My somewhat jaundiced memory of my high school years paints all the King’s High School staff – including those who were young and female – as “cranky old buggers”!)

Thank you, beautiful Dunedinites – I loved meeting you. Where were you in my teenage years?

In the meantime, my newly teenaged son has been having a ball and making himself useful at the same time.

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He’s bonded with Duncan at Toh’s Bakery and is stepping right up in terms of serving the Rickhshaw Run guests banh khot as they listen to the fabulous drummers of Wadaiko Rinko Noriko Tadano.

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As Friday night winds down, we head to Sen for a feed with our similarly ecstatic fellow volunteers.

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Then it’s home for some well-deserved sleep before arising and doing it all over again.

Fronting on Friday, I had been tired from a hard day’s work and wondering how I was going to get through the Rickshaw Run night.

By the end of it, I’m outrageously high on natural love juices.

I struggle to bed down for the night – and I’m not alone.

Lauren texts me in the morning: “I took ages to go to sleep!”

I get there eventually, despite the racket emanating from our next door neighbours’ party and their hideous taste in music.

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It’s fabulous to return to the scene on Saturday morning and watch our wonderful event unfold as the Saturday Footscray street similarly comes to life.

I happily swing into action at the “oyster bar”.

By this time, I am embellishing my spiel with tales of events and people who have already passed my way.

As well, depending on the group, I am finding there is sometimes a lot of interest in food blogging, how it works and my own personal journey.

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Adding to the fun and colour are periodic episodes involving some Footscray locals who think they know a good thing when they see it.

On several occasions I am obliged to explain that, no, the oysters are not for general public consumption and are actually part of a paid, ticketed event!

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Rickshaw passengers Tony and Rosa are offered sweet treats from their own business!

With the lunch rush over, I am able to wander around a bit and take in the greater Rickshaw Run picture.

For a lucky few groups on Saturday afternoon, their journey includes the impromptu generosity of canoli, beignet and biscotti from Cavallaro’s.

Wonderful!

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Then it’s time for us to go on our own Rickshaw Run.

I had been somewhat reluctant about this, seeing as both of us have been having such a swell time in our volunteer roles.

But we’re food bloggers, too, and duty calls … and the truth is we are looking forward to a yummy break and seeing life from the other side of the rickshaw.

We have a real nice time with Kylie, Gee, Sean, Paula, Jenni and Temple.

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We are delighted to be hauled around by our good friend Jane.

As with all other Rickshaw Run punters, our adventure includes making our own rice paper rolls at Sen and hu tieu soup noodles at Phong Dinh.

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As the day’s oyster action winds down, Lauren summons me to Sapa Hills for the dinner shift.

There’s a bottleneck of rickshaws happening.

Sapa Hills is mad busy so there is only one table available for Rickshaw Run purposes.

A suitably assertive marshal is required.

To my surprise, I find I enjoy this role, too!

It’s simple – explain to the guests what the situation is and that they have precisely 20 minutes from the time they are seated to enjoy their bun cha ha noi, charcoal grilled pork with vermicelli and herbs.

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After I’ve done my best to make everyone involved in the flow of what is, after all, a glorified progressive dinner, things move along nicely.

Long and his crew do their bit by making sure the food is on the table pretty much as soon as their guests are seated.

There is one group, though, that is uncomfortable with being given instructions and perhaps even with the whole Rickshaw Run arrangement.

One member of this group gives me a “death stare” of epic proportions.

That’s OK, lady – I love you, too!

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Out on the street and during this logjam, I witness a truly heartwarming scene.

As four rickshaws and their passengers await their tasty time in Sapa Hills, I see all eight guests deeply engaged in conversation with their haulers, who include our friend Georgia.

No way could this be defined as “killing time”!

We give the volunteer meal session at Sen a miss and head for home once more, tired but very, very happy.

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Sunday dawns beautiful, sunny and just right for a whole lot more of the same.

Today the rickshaw haulers are to include a beefy, friendly bunch from the Footscray Rugby Union Club.

At the “oyster bar”, I have long since done away with asking people their names. But I do persist with finding out from whence does every individual customer come.

They come from all over Melbourne – and in terms of the west, I am surprised how many emanate from West Footscray and Williamstown.

They come from all over, actually. From New Zealand, of course, and quite a few from Britain.

But it is only with my second last group that I meet my first North Americans – and even they’re Aussie residents.

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Halfway through our final day, I find my own passion and enthusiasm completely unflagging.

But Bennie is starting to feel a little jaded and bored.

So I am grateful to Lauren’s hubby, Paul, for whipping him away for a few hours to be in another place with other faces.

Hot food at the Croatian Club, if you don’t mind!

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My expected post-oyster Sapa Hills duties fall through on account of there being another ultra-keen volunteer raring to go.

And it’s too early to wait around to enjoy the camaraderie of the Sen volunteer shebang.

So it’s over for us.

Damn.

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A week or so before Rickshaw Run 2014, I became involved in some undignified dickering over the placement of the CTS logo relative to others on the official event T-shirt.

The matter was easily resolved.

But I later reflected on the episode with dismay, horror and revulsion.

It was a glimpse of the sort of ego-driven ambition that sometimes made monsters of myself and my colleagues in our big-time newspaper days.

I don’t want to go down that road again.

So I am profoundly grateful to the Rickshaw Run and all who sailed upon her for a timely reminder of what it should be all about.

I loved every single minute of it and enjoyed meeting with and talking to so many wonderful people from all over the west, Melbourne, Australia and the world.

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The photographs below constitute by far the biggest ever pic spread attempted on Consider The Sauce.

They are published in chronological order as our one night and two days of the run unfolded.

As I actually had a job to do and there were simply so many people and events going on all the time, I unhappily dispensed with the idea of taking names for captions.

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This Sapa Hills vegetarian alternative – eggplant done in the same way as is frequently accorded chicken ribs and calamari – was the best dish of the weekend for me!

Yarraville Festival 2014

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We’re a bit ho-hum about this year’s Yarraville Festival.

Well actually, I am.

Bennie’s pumped.

So it’s a good thing I made him knuckle down yesterday by spending a couple of hours on his first high school project. Said project is going to take several more hours today for it to be completed to our mutual satisfaction.

While he’s been doing that, I’ve been doing blog work (with clothes) and house work (without).

By the time we’re just about ready to roll – going our separate ways to the festival for the first time – the pace outside our home has quickened considerably.

The parking in our street is gone and people are walking to the festival from blocks away.

Sauntering the two blocks to the festival is always a strange sensation.

Turn a corner and – blam! – I’m straight into the intensity of crowds, stalls, music, food aromas and, as always, dogs of all shapes and sizes.

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Perhaps because this the first festival to be held on a Sunday – normally a relatively quiet day in the village – this year’s fest seems even more crowded, even more thronged with people and eats commerce.

The food stalls are doing such hot trade that there are queues everywhere.

So I hit a snag – two of them actually.

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The first comes from a stall under the jurisdiction of the Maribyrnong Swifts Football Club – and it’s perfect in its simplicity.

A superb pork sausage – sourced, I am told, from Footscray Market – on a slice of very good white bread has me sighing with pleasure.

It’s the best food I’ve enjoyed at any Yarraville Festival in any year.

Further along Anderson St, in the mad car park, I hit snag No.2.

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This lamb number ($7) comes from Snagga’s Healthy Sausages and is also perfection – a loosely-filled sausage with top-class greenery.

At this point I run into my good pals Pastor Cecil and his wife Jane.

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I hang with them for about half and hour, enjoying some lively conversation that includes the saucy tale of their courtship and eventual marriage in Bundaberg.

And just for the record, I record once more the fact that my favourite clergyman has once again been seen out and about and in public wearing sandals with red socks.

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Moving on, I hook up with three new friends, two of whom happen to be of the junior human variety.

So it’s a pleasure to spend my remaining festival time in their company, experiencing second-hand the day through young eyes.

This includes a thrilling merry-go-round and faint-painting …

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… and even a remarkably placid but assuredly razor-toothed ferret.

Another notable feature of living so close to the village – I can hear the festival’s last hurrah of amplified music as I complete this post.

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eat.drink.westside – a fab preview

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Heaven forbid Bennie and I should ever, through sheer familiarity, take the riches that surround us for granted.

Heaven forbid, too, we should ever become blase and unappreciative of the marvellous opportunities continuing to be afforded us because we are, by now, well-established food bloggers.

A media/blogger “famil” to promote eat.drink.westside, for instance, is something we could easily blow off as it is to cover ground with which we are very familiar – in a general sense, if not specifically.

But front up we do – and have a brilliant time, seeing ‘Scray central through new eyes.

eat.drink.westside, part of the Melbourne Food and Wine Festival, is a suite of really fine food events in and around Footscray presented by Maribyrnong City Council.

They include the famed and fabulous Rickshaw Run – for which volunteers are still being sought.

Other events include Dancing with the Tides, Malt Hops Yeast and Water, A Trio of Astrological Bites and Melbourne’s Fish Mongrels.

eat.drink.westside runs from February 28 to March 16, and further details can be discovered here.

Of course, much of the intense enjoyment of our several hours in Footscray is down to the food we eat and the people who make it that we meet along the way.

But we take much pleasure, too, from rubbing shoulders with a bunch of fellow food nuts, including a number of familiar faces and friends.

Among those we do the Footscray Boogie with are food scribe Cara Waters, Ros Grundy from Epicure, Sofia Levin of Poppet’s Window, awesome foodie-about-town Nat Stockley, Cindy and Michael from Where’s the Beef, Dan Kuseta of Milk Bar Mag, Charlene Macaulay of the Star newspaper, Benjamin Millar, my colleague at the Maribyrnong and Hobsons Bay Weekly, Claire from Melbourne Gastronome, and last but far from least Lauren Wambach of Footscray Food Blog, who does a typically top-notch job of being our guide and host.

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We start at 1+1 Mandarin Dumpling Restaurant, where Amy and Julia take us through the rudiments of making dumplings.

The restaurant’s food is based around the Xinjiang province of northern China, which has a large Muslim population, so our dumplings will be of the lamb genre. For those among us of vegetarian bent, there is a filling of cabbage, mushrooms, fried tofu and spring onions.

Amy and Julia show us how to carefully roll out the dough balls of plain four and water so there is a lump in the middle for the filling to sit on.

Gloved and aproned, we have a grand time having a go. We’d all hate to be making enough to feed a hungry family, never mind a busy restaurant!

But we do surprisingly well – mostly the results look like dumplings of a suitably rustic (ugly) variety.

Later, we boil ours up as per the instructions. They hold together really well and taste amazing!

Next stop is a few doors’ up and a real treat – a visit to the legendary T. Cavallaro & Sons.

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Here I finally get to meet Tony Cavallaro (pictured with Sarina).

We try some amaretti and – oh my! – some of the joint’s heavenly and freshly-made canoli.

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Even better, Tony takes us out back where he shows how he makes his Sicilian specialty marzipan lambs using 100-year-old plaster casts.

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On our way to inhale the heady sights, sounds and smells of Little Saigon Market, our group ambles to the sugar cane juice/iced coffee stand for beverages of choice.

Then it’s onward and up Barkly Street for our final destination – Dinknesh (Lucy) Restaurant and Bar.

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Here, Mulu has prepared a magnificent Ethiopian feast – I mean, how ridiculously, enticingly superb does this look?

As is unlike the case with many other Ethiopian eateries hereabouts, Mulu makes her own injera, which joins rice, a typically zesty and simple African salad, three pulse stews, four meat dishes and two of vegetables.

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I could be flip and say I happily content myself with a non-meat platter.

But “content” would be a lie – this is simply fabulous Ethiopian tucker.

I particularly like it when African cooks meet beetroot.

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To complete our journey, Mulu prepares traditional Ethiopian coffee – and as Bennie turns teen in a matter of days, I allow him his first serious taste of this forbidden fruit.

It’s strong, hot and sweet.

I’m horrified to note that he lustily knocks it back like pro!

Thanks for having us – we always learn something new in the west!

And it’s always a pleasure doing so.

In tune in Yarraville

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Feedback Cafe, 31 Ballarat Street, Yarraville. Phone: 9689 1955

Bad impressions can linger.

Feedback Cafe has been around for what seems like forever – certainly as long as we’ve been in the west and hanging out in the village, and certainly long before we’d ever heard about food blogs.

Management changed about five years ago but we’ve been slow to re-frequent the place.

We didn’t have what you’d call rotten times at Feedback back then, but a certain charmlessness in both food and service terms meant the place fell into the “prefer others” category.

Following more regular visits in recent times, a beaut lunch Bennie and I enjoy there has us wondering why we haven’t made Feedback Cafe our Yarraville home base all along.

The music really, really helps.

Those recent visits have mostly been made to a soundtrack of greasy, swinging, rocking old-school ’40s and ’50s rhythm and blues.

For our Monday lunch, Bennie and I are serenaded in a different way – by troubadour Michael Hurley.

Hurley is part of a brilliantly crazy musical tribe that also includes the Holy Modal Rounders and Jeffrey Frederick.

Fully embedded in American music traditions, but always standing slightly, hilariously, magically apart, this whacko crew also includes my good Kentucky pal Gary Sisco.

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During our lunch, I Facebook message Sisco to tell him we’re enjoying his mate Hurley while dining and that the music-crazed Feedback crew have even been known to enjoy a Holy Modal Rounders-themed week.

Now THAT’S cool.

Sisco had his own album, Sisco & Pals the End of the Trail, released through the Jeffrey Frederick website a few years back.

The album is still available there, as are heaps of other releases by these folks.

The site is chockers with memorable, incredibly funny hair-raising tales of the tribe’s history by Sisco and others.

And like Sisco, I reckon the 1976 album Have Moicy, featuring Hurley, Frederick and the Rounders, is an outright masterpiece that stands with the very best Duke Ellington, Louis Armstrong, Chuck Berry or any other American genius you can think of has ever come up with.

OK, on with the food!

The feedback lunch menu (below) has a decided American south/south-west slant without getting too precious about it.

That’s a bit like the way the decor and general atmosphere go their own slightly scruffy, comfy lived-in way in a nice contrast to the increasing hipster-sheen of Yarraville and Seddon.

The staff, too, have that slightly scruffy, comfy, lived-in look. (Joke!)

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As I did on my previous visit, Bennie orders the pulled pork po’ boy with slaw and chipotle BBQ sauce ($10).

It’s fresh and crunchy, and he likes it, but hankers for a more robust BBQ flavour.

And he frankly, rudely ogles the popcorn chicken po’ boy a lovely gran is attacking at an adjacent table.

It DOES look real fine!

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My hillbilly chilli of chipotle, stout and puy lentils with corn chips and sour cream ($11) is unlike any chill I’ve ever had.

There’s no red beans, for starters!

But with the sour cream, a lesser amount of cheddar and some salsa, the beautifully cooked lentils make for a satisfying lunch.

The corn chips are the same quality brand we always have around home – that’s a good thing!

After a couple of stupendously fine cafe lattes, I remark to Bennie as we amble up Ballarat Street that my beverages have completely alleviated my back pain.

That’s not true, but they’ve sure made it more bearable!

(PS: I saw the Holy Modal Rounders live on Haight Street, San Francisco, in 1977!)

Feedback Cafe on Urbanspoon

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Ponds gelati scoop

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Mio Dolce, 89 Puckle St, Moonee Ponds. Phone: 9326 0402

Our post about gelati in the western suburbs brought forth a number of responses, both here and on Facebook.

Thanks to those comments we have at least one solid lead to follow-up.

But several things seem plain …

There are people in the western suburbs who love gelati.

There is gelati in the western suburbs for them to thrill over.

But the western suburbs will never be Carlton or even the CBD.

And thank heavens for that!

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In the meantime, having gelati on our minds leads to us checking out a beaut Puckle St business past which we must have walked a gazillion times without taking much notice.

Puckle St is a bit like that …

But Mio Dolce turns out to be a cosy, homespun and old-school Italian bakery and gelateria.

Sure, they do sandwiches and a few hot things, but the heart of this place are gelati and biscotti.

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We like it that they only do half a dozen or so gelati flavours, with none of them being unusual or particularly exotic.

I enjoy my very big $4.40 cup of caramel, Bennie digs his cone of donatella … sounds like a turtle to me but it’s apparently a mix of chocolate and hazelnut.

My cafe latte, too, is fine.

But Bennie finds his banana milkshake too sweet to handle. Could be a sign this lad is maturing, eh?

We ogle the range of biscotti, slices and other sweet treats.

We see, among others, crostata, almond bread, almond crescents, ameretti, vienesse, romanini and florentines.

We grab a bag of “mini-romanini” to take home.

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As you can see, the $5 price makes this a pretty good deal when compared with the prices of similar products at our local supermarket haunts.

Mio Dolce -Pasticceria and Gelateria on Urbanspoon

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2013 in review

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The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2013 annual report for this blog.

The busiest day of the year - with 2573 views – was when Nina Rousseau’s story on “Zone 2 dining” ran in the Epicure section of The Age. As a precaution against being ribbed over being a western suburbs blogger who just happened to write about non-western suburbs subjects, I posted “Westies abroad …”!

Here’s an excerpt:

The Louvre Museum has 8.5 million visitors per year. This blog was viewed about 200,000 times in 2013. If it were an exhibit at the Louvre Museum, it would take about 9 days for that many people to see it.

Click here to see the complete report.

The Consider The Sauce Top 10 for 2013

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The life of Consider The Sauce is so rich and multi-facted that naming a yearly Top 10 in an attempt to choose and rank our best meals, eateries or experiences of 2013 has proven an impossible task – or maybe I’m just a wuss.

So here is a reflection on our 2013 with a selection of wide-ranging highlights:

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1. The Westies: Dishes of Distinction

A year’s planning culminated in an incredibly intense but enjoyable November, which in turn finished in a picnic and awards presentation that were simply brilliant.

So much hard work did we do but it never really seemed arduous.

Thanks to everyone who supported this Consider The Sauce/Footscray Food Blog initiative.

We’ll be back bigger and better next year!

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2. The Consider The Sauce Feasts

This year CTS hosted three feasts – at Hyderabad Inn, Vanakkam and Dragon Express.

We loved meeting so many fellow food hounds and we especially thank the three retaurants involved for being so generous and welcoming.

There will be more of the same in 2014, though the format and other arrangements may well change.

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3. CTS sigmature dish: Biryani

How much do we love this Indian dish of supercharged rice and its bells and whistles?

Very, very much!

We find it impossible to choose beyween the equally fine versions served by the aforementioned Hyderabad Inn and Vanakkam.

Our firm suggestion is you try them both for yourself.

The biryani at Dosa Hut is a blast, too.

West Footscray rules!

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4. CTS signature dish: Burgers

If biryani is the thing for CTS Senior, burgers are it for CTS Junior – and mostly I’m happy to indulge his passion.

The above rendition, eaten at the Spotiswoode Hotel, was pretty good, but Bennie continues to wistfully reminisce about the jalapeno-inflamed beauty we had at Chase Kitchen, also in Spotswood.

We also enjoyed fine or good burgers at Junction Beer Hall and Wine Room in Newport, Sri Murugan in Werribee and Mama Bear in Flemington, and from food trucks Mr Burger and Dude Food Man.

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5. Rickshaw Run

We had an absolute ball volunteering for this tasty, rolling romp around Footscray central.

And we’ll be fronting up for more of the same at next year’s Rickshaw Run, which will be held on February 7, 8, 9 and 10, when for the first time it will be under the management of our wonderful and wise friend Lauren, of Footscray Food Blog fame.

Volunteers will be required, so why don’t you join us?

Lauren’s contact details are here.

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6. Spicy Corner

Sadly, Bennie and I have visited this lovely Tullamarine Sri Lankan joint just once for a sit down meal.

But I am thrilled that Friday takeaway lunches of their simple, always delicious food have become part of the weekly routine for myself and a goodly group of my colleagues at the Airport West office of my current gig in the journalism world.

I am looking forward to a whole new year of weekly curry hits from this place – especially as, if that situation does indeed eventuate, it will mean I am still employed!

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7. Racecourse Road, Flemington

It may not have the same cache as Melbourne’s other, more famed foodie precincts but we love a trip to Racecourse Road.

It’s not a particularly attractive area and the parking can be tricky.

But it packs a surprising punch when it comes to the quality and variety of its offerings.

Our fave remains the lovely welcome and terrific Malaysian-based food to be found at the Grand Tofu – they do a killer laksa!

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8. Longest Lutheran Lunch at St Matthews, West Footscray

This was a wonderful Sunday event at which CTS was made to feel very wlecome.

Bennie’s more formal association with Pastor Cecil has ended, but we certainly hope we “stay in touch”!

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9. Beyond the west

As ever, CTS enjoyed a number of non-westie eating experiences during the year – even if trips to the CBD have become an outright rarity.

Among the more noteworthy were our brekky on opening day at the swish new Brunetti’s in Carlton and a swell Saturday lunch at Weasel’s Garden Cafe in Richmond.

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10. Best decor

Without  a doubt Afghan Master Kebab in Sunshine!

The meat’s a treat, too!

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11. Bennie

The junior but no less important member of the CTS team has finished primary school and embarks on his high school adventures next year. More pertinently to this summary, he continually throws himself into our foodie adventures with gusto and is a top-rate companion in every way.

Thanks, mate!

Interesting bits …

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Consider The Sauce’s pals at Raw Materials are throwing open their doors at 148 Cowper St, Footscray, for open days on Saturday and Sunday, December 14 and 15, for open days.

Their “shop” will open for business and there will be free tastings, refreshments and a paella for people to sample.

More details here.

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The Fun in the Aussie Sun Festival will celebrate Australian multiculturalism at Flemington Community Centre, 25 Mt Alexander Road, Flemington, on Saturday, 21 December, from 11am 50 3.30pm.

As well as sports and cultural activities, there will be – yes! – food stalls and traditional African coffee.

More details here.

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Some recent online research (meandering) has alerted me to the existence of Anthony Ang’s blog Beautiful Altona

According to this story by my colleague Goya Dmytryshchak, he started his blog as a reaction to a shock jock saying former PM Julia Gillard lived in a “rat hole”.

I have yet to find any foodie coverage on Anthony’s blog, but I did enjoy his post about the pending sale of the former Gillard abode – and particularly his inspired, thoughtful, entrepreneurial but nevertheless slightly whacko list of ideas that could profitaly accompany the real estate action!

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Another of Goya’s stories at the Maribyrnong Hobsons Bay Weekly covers the advent of paid parking at Altona’s new IGA in Pier St, Altona.

As someone who grapples with parking all over the west, this all seems a bit strange to me.

One can sympathise with traders who offer free parking – especially on premises so close to a train station – being frustrated with their spaces being hogged on an all-day basis by non-customers.

But there must surely be a better solution than the one devised here – offering free parking for the first hour but requiring patrons to display tickets – and then slapping them with a fine if they don’t!

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One of our favourite westie food haunts, Vanakkam, has a swish new look.

Vanakkam was the subject of a recent and yummy story by our very good pal Lauren of Footscray Food Blog in the Footscray Life “Signature Dishes of Footscray” series.

As well, Vanakkam was the venue of the rice-laden and in every way delicious second Consider The Sauce Feast.

We love the Vanakkam biryanis – and specially the $10 Tuesday nights – but as Lauren’s post indicates, there’s lots more to be had.

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As time rolls by, the amount of spam, promotional offers and emails from publicists CTS receives continue to increase.

But in terms of misreading what we’re about, they do not come any more comical than a recent approach to do an interview with a celeb foodie “seeing as health & beauty and products are topics of interest to you”!

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Meanwhile, in Yarraville …

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… a substantial revamp is underway at Alfa Bakehouse with, according to the sign, the likely result being a much broader approach than has previously been the case.

Bits and pieces

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So how’s this for an eye-grabbing sign in Racecourse Road, Flemington?

Nope, can’t say I have … tried camel meat, that is.

Right next door, in the Grand Tofu, I ask Suzanne if she has.

Nope.

In fact, she seems surprised there is even such a sign gracing the halal butcher shop right next door.

What the Grand Tofu, Suzanne, Stephen and their crew do do is serve up a sperb chicken laksa.

Look, I’m quite fond of the two more famous Malaysian eateries just around the corner.

But I don’t like queues and they’re always so busy.

The Grand Tofu is frequently busy, too – but the staff always find time for a bit of a chat or at the very least a warm welcome.

Which can’t always be said of the competition.

And then there’s that chicken laksa (oh my!) – and much more besides.

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Providorable is lovely foodie haven in Williamstown – you can read about it here.

Providorable proprietor Kelly recently posted the following on her business’s Fcebook page:

“Good morning everyone, I’m feeling this morning I need to write this post. I think a lot of the local shop keepers this week would say that things are looking brighter for Xmas sales after a very quiet winter. I urge everyone to support local business. Supermarkets are trying to shut down small business, this is where you get the personal service with product knowledge, not in a supermarket. Also, WHY have the council allowed two farmers markets per month in Willy? Do you realise that now there are two it takes business away from your local shops that are the ones that pay the rates & rents to make strip shopping be still available? Have you questioned any of the stall holders at farmers markets about where some of their products come from? There are genuine items being sold but some are not from their own farms being sold direct to public. Yeah, have one a month but why 2 every two weeks … you go and buy fruit and veg, it affects your local fruit shop, same as butcher, dog treats, coffee shop, jams and relishes etc etc. PLEASE SUPPORT LOCAL BUSINESS. By this market being there every two weeks, you are supporting outsiders who don’t pay the huge rents and rates we pay. OK rant over lol and enjoy your day. Williamstown has wonderful shops and fantastic shopkeepers. Keep us all in willy for years to come please.”

What do you think?

We’re quite fond of visiting farmers markets.

But in truth we rarely buy more than a coffee and maybe a snag or other eat-on-the-spot treat.

Fruit, vegetables and other produce?

Hardly ever.

But we do enthusiastically support and enjoy the hell out of our local shops and delis, be they in Williamstown, Altona, Seddon, Footscray, Sunshine or beyond.

Bagels – the hole story in Caroline Springs

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Rosen’s Bagels

Say bagels, and most people would do as we do and think of, say, New York or Philadelphia or Europe.

Yet while Michael Rosen originally hails from Los Angeles, bagels are a big part of his Jewish heritage.

As he says simply on his website: “I grew up eating bagels.”

For many years making his own had been a hobby.

But when he moved to Melbourne with his Australian wife a couple of years back, and settled in Caroline Springs, his bagel-making took on more of a cultural imperative.

There are bagels available in Melbourne, but as far as either of us are aware, none at all in the city’s greater west … save for those being generated by Michael’s new business.

“I wanted good bagels near me,” he says.

As well, he was coming into regular contact with a variety of US expats, Jewish and otherwise, who were likewise feeling profound bagel deficit.

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It took him the best part of a year to get into the righteous swing of bagel-making in a new country – there has been much testing and experimenting to learn how to produce an excellent bagel using different water, flour and oven.

But now he’s flying.

His regular gig is in the IT industry, and of necessity that can and will remain the case for the time being – he’s in no great hurry to go the full bagel.

But he is having a ball, all the while treating his bagel business in a smart and professional manner.

Putting his bagels on a more professional footing is bringing its own challenges.

He has forged a working relationship with his local Caroline Springs bakery, Let’s A Loaf, so has had to get to grips with working with more dough and much grander cooking facilities.

Bennie and I love hanging with him for a while in his Caroline Springs home as he talks bagels and bakes us up a superb batch.

Michael uses nothing but organic flour.

Also into the dough go fresh yeast, malt, salt and water.

Michael shows us how he breaks the dough mound into smaller, weighed segments and then deftly hand-rolls them into fat strands before – hey presto! – joining the ends.

Looks easy, no doubt takes many hours of practice!

It’s this hand-rolling that helps make Michael’s bagels even more magical – each is an individual with its own irregularities.

The bagels Michael will bake for us today, however, have been “maturing” in the fridge overnight.

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In small batches they are boiled for about a minute in water to which about a tablespoon full of barley malt syrup has been added.

It’s the boiling that gives the bagels their sheen, and the syrup that gives them their caramel colour.

From there, the bagels are left plain or dunked in poppy or seasame seeds, or a mixture of both with granulated garlic and onion.

Then they’re baked for about 20 minutes.

Demonstrating bagel versatility, we enjoy the bagel “pizzas” Michael has made for us as a late lunch snack, but we buy some cream cheese and smoked salmon on the way home for a more traditional and lovely bagel dinner.

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It makes us very happy that such an earthy, life-enhancing and ancient tradition is being continued right here in our west.

A list of current stockists of Michael’s bagels can be found on his website – here.

They include a mix of joints that sell bagels unadorned and cafes/eateries that are selling the bagels as prepared sandwiches of various kinds,

In the west, they include Scudela, Pepper Cafe and Wee Jeanie.

Michael is also making and selling cream cheese-based “schmears” to enjoy with his bagels – they come in plain, green onion and dill, and smoked salmon and chive flavours.

Michael will be at Williamstown Farmers Market, at Robertson Reserve, corner Cole and Hanmer streets, Williamstown, next Sunday (October 27) from 9am-1pm.

Rosen's Bagels on Urbanspoon

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Breaking news: Kenny joins modern world, takes notes using mobile device.

On tour with Lauren

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One of the most profound of the many pleasures of bringing you Consider The Sauce has been our friendship with Lauren of Footscray Food Blog.

She’d already had her site up and running for about a year by the time we came along but she was sincerely welcoming right from the outset.

Since then, we’ve enjoyed countless laughs, more than a few meals and been a constant source of advice and support for each other. All the while discovering there can be a lot more to what we are doing than merely running a website full of reviews.

Many of you will be aware Lauren has been running food tours of various kinds in and around Footscray.

At first, these were under the auspices of the CAE, but today’s snack/street food tour of Footscray was part of the council’s Discover Footscray Tours program.

The plan is for Lauren to see out the year in terms of her already scheduled commitments before going out on her own.

And the sharing spirit continues … in some ways we are blogger competitors, yet it never seems that way.

So the idea, as it stands, is for me to inherit her CAE gig come the new year.

She’s done such a grand job for them, they were eager to have a ready-made replacement. And Lauren, bless her, had no hesitation it putting my name forward.

So there you go – early 2014 will likely see us both leading groups of happy food hounds around yummy westie neighbourhoods.

Still, it’s going to be a steep learning curve for me, so I am eager to glom as much information and advice from Lauren as I can.

So as future tour guide, hungry foodie and fervent westie, it was a pleasure to join Lauren’s other punters today.

They included our mutual pal Nat Stockly as well as regular readers of both our blogs, such as Cynthia, Sian and Michael.

Lauren was a lovely and very informative guide, and everyone had a fine old time.

I don’t want to give too much away about the actual stops made and food consumed – except to say that even an old hand such as myself was surprised to find the most glorious burek in the most unlikely of places!

Lauren’s tours are recommended – even to those of you who reckon you’ve got a good handle on our westie food.

New Year post-script: After much contemplation, I have decided against being a tour guide for the CAE. Instead, I will be focus on more and better CTS Feasts, the Westies (of course!) and hopefully other exciting projects! But please do check out Lauren’s tours.

Great $5 pizzas – worth the drive to Tullamarine

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Pasta Al Dente, 18 Assembly Drive, Tullamarine. Phone: 9335 1944

Eiffel Tower, 12 Assembly Drive, Tullamarine. Phone: 9330 2588

Comments are one of the truly great things about blogs – something that sets them apart from regular websites, unless they have active forums incorporated into them, and in most cases regular media, including newspapers and their online versions.

It’s great to get such feedback – and sometimes that feedback is immediate. It’s immensely gratifying to know what you’ve written means something to someone somewhere!

It’s also often fascinating to see how the comments on any particular blog post evolve, the twists and turns they take.

And – this is the really cool part – the comments often come in the form of reader tips.

We love that and often follow up on them.

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So it was when CTS regular Lou commented on the post I knocked out about finding lunch at my new Airport West work venue.

Lou asked: “If you’re in Tulla for a while, a write up on all the wholesale food places near assembly drive would be great. I hear there is a fine deli, a pasta outlet, and cake shop at least, but have never made my (short) way down the ring road to check them out!”

It’s only as I navigate myself towards Assembly Drive, with a few missed turns along the way, that I realise I have been this way before.

But that was long ago – when Bennie was just a baby.

I wear Consider The Sauce goggles these days, so places and people can look quite different.

What I find at Assembly Drive is some really good stuff.

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Pasta Al Dente is somewhat inaccurately named. Oh sure, there’s stacks of dried and frozen stuffed pasta all over the joint, but there’s also regular grocery lines and good deli and bakery sections.

But anytime around lunchtime, as I immediately discover upon entering, Pasta Al Dente is all about pizza.

Lots and lots of pizzas, freshly baked and served at $5 a pop to a neverending stream of customers.

There’s some pretty good-looking rolls/sandwiches, arancini and suchlike, but I don’t observe anyone having anything other pizza.

Some of the pies go straight out the front doors, others stay to be consumed at the single high, long table.

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My wonderfully irregularly shaped pizza (second top photo) is real fine, chosen from a list of about 11.

It’s not heavy on rampant flavours – nor should it be, with the toppings amounting to the basic cheese and tomato joined by mildly flavoured ricotta and spinach – but it’s as fresh as can be, emitting steam when the cardboard box is opened.

Oh dear – those cardboard boxes.

I understand the physical restrictions that probably make these containers an unavoidable business decision on the part of the place’s management, but still … one cardbaord box for every $5 pizza sold; that’s a lot of cardboard boxes!

Finally, the price tag makes me wonder anew why there is such a vast price differences between most classy Italian thin-crust pizzas and, on the other hand, Lebanese pizzas. I know we’re talking different kinds of businesses with different kinds of overheads and pricing.

But still … $20 and $5 – that’s a BIG difference.

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After my terrific pizza, it’s time for some shopping. Nothing heavy duty; just green olives, some biscotti, a few cans of tomatoes – and I’m keen to see how this house brand lasagne shapes up on the plate, given I am way too lazy to make it myself.

When I wander a few doors down the road to an even more inaccurately named house of pure Italian-ness, I realise I should’ve saved my biscotti money.

Eiffel Tower sells pizza and good-looking focaccia, too, but as the intensely pleasurable yeasty, vanilla-laden perfume tells my nostrils as I enter, this is a serious baking house.

They’ve got all the bases covered, too, from epic wedding cakes and lollies to heaps of high-quality biscotti and cream-filled goodies such as canoli.

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Cheap?

Oh yes!

I’m all filled up, so am disinclined to pursue the matter, but I’m told a slice of the cheesecake in the top right of this photo costs $2.50.

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I do, however, pay $2.50 for a fine cafe latte and 50 cents each for two biscotti mouthfuls of joy, one of them an intensely chocolatey semi-gooey flavour bomb.

So what else is there on Assembly Drive?

All within walking distance of the two businesses discussed above are discount liquor and clearance outlets, an OK fruit and vegetable place and a cheese factory and shop. There may be other food-related places in adjacent streets.

But Pasta Al Dente and Eiffel Tower alone guarantee we’ll be back this way soon.

Besides, Consider The Sauce gets a real kick out of finding food on industrial estates!

Pasta Al Dente on Urbanspoon

Eiffel Tower on Urbanspoon

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High points at Highpoint

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Fish Pier, Highpoint Shopping Centre. Phone: 9318 8277

Cupcake Central. Highpoint Shopping Centre. Phone: 9077 4542

Despite the fact we found the array of outlets and services available in Highpoint’s new food court a bit of a mixed bag, we have been enjoying our visits there.

The more recently opened fashion precinct adds a touch of undeniable class, even if the many shops therein are unlikely to ever see any of our money.

In the food section itself, we’ve bought meat and boreks from the rather classy butcher.

And if other chores and purposes take us to Highpoint, we’re more than happy to do our dinner shopping – and even a stock-up shop – at the very well stocked fresh produce store.

My one serious reservation about the new food area has been the lack of interesting places to eat.

There’s now an Italian-style panini/focaccia/sandwich place that looks like it may be worth checking out, although the salads on display look rather shopping-centre dreary.

In this setting, Fish Pier is also well stocked with fresh seafood.

It’s a pity, perhaps, that the place’s eat-in assortment is tucked around on the side, as on the basis of my lunch it’s well worth considering.

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At $10 or thereabouts, my fish and chips would be a perfectly OK lunch; at the special promotional price of $5 it’s an outright bargain.

The chips are fresh and hot but only average.

The flathead fillet is much better – a winner!

The panko-crumbed calamari rings ($1 each) are not freshly fried for me and are thus a bit tired on it, a bit soggy and chewy.

I could do without the salad bits and pieces.

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Like Fish Pier, Cupcake Central is part of a chain.

But forget about that; forget, too, the shopping centre location.

This is a stylish cafe space I’d be happy to spend time in just about anywhere.

Especially as my $3.30 cafe latte is outstanding.

My salted caramel cupcake ($4) is about 30 seconds of sticky decadence, although I do end up scraping off about half of the creamy, cloying topping.

All sorts of other sweeties, especially of the Italian variety, are always going to have bigger place in my heart than cupcakes, but this is a top spot.

See earlier stories about Highpoint here and here.

Cupcake Central on Urbanspoon

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The art of biscuit making in Yarraville

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Miss Biscuit, Yarraville.

Miss Biscuit is Julia.

And Julia is Miss Biscuit.

But the Yarraville baker is a whole lot more – her day gig is as a speech pathologist and she’s mum, along with her husband, to kids aged 13 and nine.

Yet there’s no doubt she’s loving the “other” role she is forging for herself as creator of beautiful, intricately decorated biscuits.

What started as a hobby became a business in November last year.

“As I gave them to people, they started asking, ‘Can I buy some?’ – and I’ve just been taking it from there,” she says.

The timelines between family life, making batches of dough and the icing of biscuits tend to be on the cramped side, but Julia is enjoying every challenge her new gig is throwing her way – even if the business if far from being, as yet, a prolific money generator.

“I love it,” she proclaims with enthusiasm. “I love making and icing the biscuits, dealing with customers – all of it.”

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On the day Consider The Sauce visits, Julia is not icing any of her creations, but you can see plenty more of her incredible handiwork at the Miss Biscuit website or Facebook page.

In the local area, her biscuits are stocked by Cup & Bean on Wembley Avenue and Providorable in Williamstown.

The football jumper biscuits will be on sale at Flemington market on Sunday, May 26.

There’s little profit, Julia says, in wholesale, so that’s mainly a matter of exposure. Most of her sales come from online.

Unsurprisingly, much of those are sales are generated by kids’ activities or parties, but she has also supplied goodies for anniversaries and weddings.

The biscuit bases are created from a simple dough of butter, flour, vanilla, eggs and baking powder.

The dough aspect of her 200 or so biscuits a week is cheap and quick – it’s the icing process that’s more pricey and time-consuming.

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She uses standard food colourings in her icing, having found the more “natural” products simply don’t have the vividness required.

She says it’s not an issue for almost all of her customers.

Incredibly, given the intricacy of her biscuit designs and aside from some skill as a gardener, Julia makes no great claims to being the “creative sort”.

“I can’t draw a circle!” she says with a laugh.

She does use a projector to help with some of her designs.

Meanwhile, you can bet Bennie and I will be springing some cash to try Julia’s forthcoming Jake and Finn Adventure Time biscuits!

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Charcoal Fusion

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Charcoal Fusion, 300 Point Cook Rd, Point Cook (Sanctuary Lakes Shopping Centre). Phone: 9394 8509

Put aside bias against shopping centres and malls in the eternal search for foodiness.

Because outside our truly inner west haunts such as Yarraville, Footscray and Flemington, where there are older neighbourhoods suitable for hosting food enclaves, there ARE no older areas to play that role.

In places such as Point Cook or, say, Caroline Springs, food outlets have to go somewhere and it seems the only place they can go is the local shopping centre.

(Alfrieda St and surrounds in St Albans seems to be a notable exception to this truism.)

That’s what I’ve been telling myself for the past couple of years.

But the simple fact is it’s been more a theory than something I’ve found to be true in adventures that have taken Team Consider The Sauce across wide swathes of the inner and outer west.

But at Sanctuary Lakes Shopping Centre I find, to my delight, vindication for my theory.

Not only do I find the target of today’s outing, a swish, newish Japanese joint called Charcoal Fusion, but also – nearby – not one, but two Malaysian places.

Charcoal Fusion? Sounds like a chicken shop, eh?

It’s not – it IS a full-range Japanese restaurant with skewers at night (that’s where the “Charcoal” bit comes in) and teppanyaki.

But today I’ll be enjoying the much more homely and smaller lunch list that has various don/rice dishes and noodles such as yakisoba (list below).

In a bid to drum up some lunchtime trade, these are being offered at $8 instead of the listed $12.

On the basis of my lovely lunch, I reckon this is a red-hot bargain.

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The lovely and welcoming manager/owner, long-time Point Cook resident Jenny, started her new venture inspired by the lack of eating-out options in the area.

She agrees business people such as herself have little option when it comes to location in such an area.

And with this territory comes myriad challenges and restrictions – Jenny, for instance, must adhere to the general opening hours for the centre as a whole.

Miso soup is not listed but my request for it is cheerfully and agreeably met.

It’s super, especially at $2 – quite dark, deep of flavour and hiding a good amount of seaweed and tofu in its depths.

My curry don with crispy chicken is also very, very fine.

The curry is a deep khaki, sticky and studded with tender potato pieces. It’s a classic curry, Japanese-style, with a chilli hit that manages to be both low-key and pleasingly intense.

The crispy chicken is rather profoundly uncrispy. But it is also unoily, delicate, freshly cooked and delicious.

The salad bits are dressed with a sesame concoction. I discard two rather tired slices of cucumber and find the rest go real swell mixed in with the spuds in the curry gravy.

The accompanying mound of rice is topped with pickled ginger that is red rather than usual pink, and nicely chewy instead of outright crisp.

I love a bargain lunch – and even at the full whack of $12 this would fully qualify.

Charcoal Fusion on Urbanspoon

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Raw Materials – all aglow with foodiness!

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Raw Materials, 138 Cowper St, Footscray. Phone: 1300 305 129

Raw Materials founder Andy Gray is adamant the story – my story – should in no way, shape or form be about him.

“It’s all about the product,” he repeats several times as he shows me about the company’s Footscray premises – warehouses, shop, studio, cooking and demonstration spaces, offices.

Words such as family and community also feature prominently in his running commentary.

He displays a profoundly uncanny knack for crab-walking out of view whenever he senses my camera may be at risk of coming to focus on him.

Nevertheless, it’s impossible not be carried along by his boundless enthusiasm as he brandishes favoured products we pass and extols their virtues with true fervour.

I’m right at home – being here is the Consider The Sauce equivalent of a tour of the Louvre with a true believer as my guide.

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Started in 2002, based at Docklands, Raw Materials these days supplies more than 3500 outlets across Australia, as well as places such as Singapore and Hong Kong.

Andy works on the premise that “small fish taste sweeter”, so Raw Materials specialises in supplying “small, independent groceries nationally”.

You’ll not find Raw Materials-sourced goodies at the likes of Coles or Woolworths, despite approaches having been made from those quarters.

The small but fascinating shop area is open to the public, but the gist of the company is to be found on the shelves of small businesses all over the country.

If you loyally shop at a good local deli or providore, then you are almost certainly buying some products supplied by Raw Materials.

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Raw Materials stays clear of the coffee field on the fully understandable grounds (!) that there are many fine specialists in that area doing a fine job.

That aside, the Raw Materials repertoire is as stunning in its range as it is in its dedication to quality.

The split between imported and Australian products is about 50/50.

They range from pulses, luscious candies and chocolate, oils and Spanish ham to smoked and cured Yarra Valley Charcuterie meats, and sauces, condiments and beverages of a bewildering and colourful array.

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Among them are beautiful hand-crafted knives by Peter Lorimer, some made using bones from “found” dead bush animals.

These knives are so special, so individual that Raw Materials does not sell them online – a personal, hands-on familiarity is a requirement of purchase.

According to the Raw Materials website: “The handles are made from recycled pieces of native New Zealand timbers, and decorated with brass, paua or black pearl, which means each knife is unique. Peter uses Austrian D2 steel, a high-carbon steel with a low chromium content, which means that the blades can be very hard without being brittle.”

Check out the Raw Materials website here.

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Sourdough Kitchen

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Sourdough Kitchen, 172 Victoria St, Seddon. Phone: 9687 5662

Writing about Sourdough Kitchen quite soon after it opened, it was observed with pleasure here on Consider The Sauce how quickly the bakery/cafe had become a fixture in the neighbourhood.

That seems so much more true today, almost two years’ later.

Especially on a day on which the first real taste of winter has arrived; the chill outside puts an extra glow to the companionable warmth inside.

As ever, there is congestion around the serving counter as those waiting to order, those waiting to pay and those arriving or departing mingle.

Equally as ever, the always terrific staff handle it all with grace and aplomb.

I feel a little guilty at monopolising a table for two when the place is so busy. But only a little, as two other tables are likewise occupied.

We’ve become regulars here – though not as regular as many, I suspect.

But we’ve learnt to keep in mind the laudable sourdough ethos.

The pizza slices were our faves for a long while. But sometimes it seems the toppings are overwhelmed by bases that can be hard work.

Likewise, the quality fillings of the various sandwiches can seem to stand in the robust shadows of their bready bookends.

We still enjoy these things, but sometimes a lighter touch is desired.

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Happily that is no problem at all, as Sourdough Kitchen has long since expanded its repertoire to encompass not just sandwiches but also breakfasts and more.

There’s always a salad and a soup on, along with various other lunchy items.

Today, for instance, the blackboard menu offers a steak sanger and a meatball dish, both for $15.

I opt for a serving that could be brekky, could be lunch – sardines on toast with olive tapenade, tomato salsa and Meredith fetta.

I’m familiar with the matching of sardines and tapenade, but I can’t recall previously experiencing salsa and/or fetta being thrown into the equation.

How does it work?

Blimey, it’s an unreal flavour explosion – tangy, oily, salty, brilliant.

Perhaps it could be argued my lunch is a mite light on for $15.

But sardines are so rich, be they canned or fresh, that even a fan such as I can easily appreciate restraint in terms of quantity.

My cafe latte is perfection.

What are your favourites and regulars at Sourdough Kitchen?

Sourdough Kitchen on Urbanspoon

Brunetti

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Brunetti, 380 Lygon St, Carlton. Phone: 9347 2801

If there had been a red carpet and VIP list involved, we wouldn’t be up the first or on the second.

Nevertheless, we reckon we’re smack bang in the middle of a bona fide Melbourne event – a happening packed with buzz and delight.

It’s the opening day of the ultra-swish new Brunetti and we’ve fronted for breakfast.

So have a lot of other people; everyone, staff and customers alike, is revelling in the moment.

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We know there are those who never had much or any time for the previous Brunetti incarnation in Faraday St, finding it too slick, flash and imposing.

For them, the new premises are likely to be even more problematic – because the new Brunetti is huge, taking up almost the entire space of what used to be Borders and running from the Lygon St entrance to the more formal restaurant space at the Drummond St end.

In between there is everything you’d expect – gelati, pizza oven, biscotti, pastries, cakes and more.

And a raised caffeine hub with two gleaming monster machines already doing grand business.

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Our semi-regular Brunetti visits have almost always been about mid-week gelati treats, takeaway biscotti or breakfast, and doubtless that will continue to be the case.

We’ve never had much truck with the more substantial fare, though it seems it may possible to pursue those avenues in the new place with more ease and perhaps even greater quality.

Because there is a lot of comfortable seating spread along the length of the premises.

The place will still be a madhouse at peak times – in our experience, that means any weekend after about noon in spring or summer.

But there is no denying the spaciousness and style of the new place – it’s like the old Brunetti on steroids.

If you loved Faraday St, you’ll likely love Lygon St. If not … run!

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It’s a special adventure so I let Bennie off the leash – he enjoys not one but two apricot Danish pastries at $4.10 each. They’re fresh and hit the spot.

His two hot chocolates are slightly better than good but don’t send him into raptures. Same thing goes for my two cafe lattes.

My toasted ham, cheese and tomato is a $9.50 dream that has me issuing moans of delight.

Really, it’s hard to imagine how a toasted sandwich could be better – excellent bread uniformly, perfectly toasted; great tasting ham; gooey melted cheese.

When Bennie has a taste, the cheese strands stretch from his sandwich-holding hand to his gob until they snap and bounce happily off his chin.

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The Rusty Fox

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All smiles on opening day – (from left) Rusty Fox crew members Jennifer Galea, Kim Scott, Rebecca Creighton and Manuel Santeiro.

The Rusty Fox, 501 Macaulay Road, Kensington. Phone: 9372 1218

It’s very early on opening day for the Rust Fox, a brand new and ultra-chic “old-style provedore and locally driven deli” on Macaulay Rd.

As such, we’re happy to leave a closer examination of the food available – both eat-in and take-home – for another day.

Which isn’t to say we’re not tempted by the list we spy that includes, among other lunchy and brunchy items, Vietnamese chicken coleslaw and a simple sandwich of leg ham, cos lettuce, cheddar and Dijon mustard.

But we make more than do with a very excellent cafe latte, a hot chocolate and a couple of crunchy, buttery chocolate and walnut cookies.

Bennie’s hot chokkie adventures can range, often within a single week, from magnificent to thoroughly unmemorable. So we’re happy to report the Rusty Fox is very definitely of the former category.

The Rusty Fox fit-out is a true delight, capped off by a number of murals by street artist Kaff-eine.

We enjoy our beverages and munchies in the back garden space.

Front of house has a single table in the window area and a number of stools cuddling up to the servery/bar area.

Between the eat-in menu, the blackboard list of available meats and cheeses, a refrigerated area containing soups and the like, and a wall adorned with house-made condiments and other tasty items, it seems the Rusty Fox crew have put a lot of thought into making the best use of the space available to feature a lot off high-class foodiness.

The Rusty Fox on Urbanspoon

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