Ace cake, minestrone

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Kensington Market, Kensington Town Hall, 30-34 Bellair Street.

From the street, Kensington Market doesn’t appear as if it amounts to much – a handful of stalls, a couple of which doing food: Gozleme, corn, snags.

Once along a hallway and into Kensington Town Hall proper an entirely different picture emerges.

 

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The hall is chockers with a quite diverse range of “maker” goodies – clothing, crafts of many sorts, jam, artwork and much more.

Even better, an adjacent room has a whole of lot of food stuff going on.

There’s nothing too elaborate, mind you – no sit-down meals or the like.

But there’s more than enough for me make myself at home for an hour or so, eat well and meet some lovely folks.

One crew, manning the in-house kitchen, is doing things such as toasties and egg and bacon rolls at extremely low prices.

 

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From them I procure minestrone for a silly cheap $4.

OK, it’s a smallish serve in a polystyrene cup – but gosh it’s the real deal and very good!

 

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I enjoy making friends with Von and her pal Ocea.

Von makes her living cooking for kids so her Von’s Vegan Bake House operation is a weekend thing.

Her range of sweet, baked things is impressive and enticing.

 

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I have a slice of one of her cakes with my coffee.

It seems like a modestly proportioned piece for $6 but this ain’t no airy fairy sponge – it has real heft and is delicious.

 

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From Von I also secure some cookies – don’t they look amazing?

(I find out at home that they indeed are …)

 

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Right next door, I meet Simone and Sam who are here representing St Mary’s Coptic Orthodox Church, also of Kensington, and raising money to help feed the homeless.

 

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From them I get – also for taking home – some luscious-looking rice pud!

Even better, they tell me that in a few weeks their church will be holding its annual fete, at which there will be all sorts of Egyptian food on offer.

Unless unforeseen factors intrude, CTS will be there – I can just about taste it already!

The next Kensington Market will be on Sunday, August 16.

Check out the market’s website here and Facebook page here.

I can understand the allure of food festivals.

But every weekend somewhere near you there’s fairs and markets and fetes that do food, too.

It’s a parallel universe I prefer.

Dandenong road trip

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MKS Spices’n Things, 23 Pultney Street, Dandenong. Phone: 9701 3165

Living in the west means, by definition, living away from Melbourne’s centre.

Yet by other measures the west, or the inner west at least, is very much inner city.

The greater western suburbs may be growing at a prodigious rate but they still have some way to go to match the imposing sprawl of of Melbourne’s east and south.

In fact, such a big spread is Melbourne that getting to those far flung-areas for food adventures requires planning and some significant driving.

The Maroondah Highway is our least favourite!

 

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Dandenong, I know, is packed with many sorts of foodie wonders and I wish we could explore there with more ease.

But with nothing pressing in the west, I’m more than happy to indulge in an overdue catch-up with Nat and a quickie lunch trip to Dandy.

It’s a bleak day and we don’t really explore, for instance, the Indian and Afghan precincts but it’s all good fun.

 

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For lunch we hit MKS Spices’n Things.

Says Nat: “It’s got the best ever bain marie!”

He’s not wrong!

 

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The live food aspects is just part of what is a very big supermarket operation but the area around the bain marie displays is crazy busy this Saturday.

We take our numbers and wait to put in our orders.

The range on hand for this first-time visitor is bamboozling and in the end I feel like I could’ve done better.

 

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Two parathas with goat and okra curries plus chutney costs a fine $8.45.

But all is just adequate and some of it is distinctly not hot or even warm.

The vegetable curry also has onion and capsicum but the okra pieces themselves are splendid and the highlight of my lunch.

 

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A fried chicken maryland is sticky, cold but actually quite good.

 

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Nat, for whom this not a first visit, appears to do way better with his plate of biryani, goat curry, greens and a fab-looking dal.

He cleans his plate.

Yes, all the plastic here is a drag.

But observing the place in operation, I’m pretty sure management figures it’s the only viable way for them to go with their current set-up.

 

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On the way home, we stop at the fabulous establishment known as Oasis Bakery in Murrumbeena so I can happily spend almost $100 stocking up on Lebanese pies for the freezer and much more.

 

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As Nat says, it ain’t the cheapest but for me the quality is terrific.

Sadly, it also is nutty busy, preventing us from stopping awhile for coffee and sweets.

But I do like how one of the Oasis folks at the cash register refers to me as “young man”.

 

Click to add a blog post for MKS Spices'n Things on Zomato

 

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Westie barbers No.4: Sandra

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Sandra’s Barber Shop, 312 Blackshaws Road, Altona North. Phone: 9391 8676

When Sandra was pondering a career, training in hair care was not the way it is today with apprentices learning how to “do” both and female follicles.

She had to choose.

“I thought, ‘You know what? I think I’d like to be a barber’,” she says with a big smile. “I like talking to men!”

Sandra is prepping me for an all-in buzz cut and face shave.

The price she’s quoted me is a bit rich for my blood and more cash than I have on me – but we happily settle on a payment made up of my wallet’s contents.

I’m happy with that.

As she works, Sandra gives me a rundown of her barbering career.

In the city – McKillop Street, the Southern Cross Hotel, the driveway of the Regent Hotel, a side street near the Windsor.

It’s entirely possible she cut my hair at the Southern Cross while I was working at Flinders Street.

Being an Altona girl, she eventually made her way to Altona Gate shopping centre and then to Blackshaws Road about 16 years ago.

Until now, this shopping strip on Blackshaws Road has been of little interest to CTS.

But that is unlikely to remain the case now I know there’s such a friendly barber in residence and that the old-school continental butcher a few doors along is the meat source for our fave pizza joint.

 

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West Welcome Wagon party – auction goodies

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The Brother Nancy team gives a cheery thumbs-up to being part of the fun!

 

There’s about a week and half until the West Welcome Wagon/Santorini/CTS Greek fundraising feast in Williamstown.

We have about 10 tickets left – if you’re thinking about attending, and we really, really want you to, I suggest you get your skates on.

For booking information, go here.

In the meantime, a couple of generous businesses have donated goodies for a simple, two-pronged auction on the night I hope will raise even more moolah for West Welcome Wagon.

Brother Nancy in West Footscray – see Erika’s story here and mine here – has donated lunch for two to the value of $50.

We reckon that should see a pair of you right for a cool drink, a main meal and a hot drink.

 

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As well, Maria and Marco of La Morenita/Latin Foods & Wines have donated a lovely half-dozen bottle of primo South American wine.

Meal of the week No.13: A1 Essendon

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Bit by bit, more Lebaneese food and related Middle Eastern goodies have become available in Melbourne’s inner west.

But that doesn’t mean it’s no longer worth a short drive to Essendon for a visit to A1 Bakery (18 Napier Street).

It most certainly is.

I’m sure the pies and pizzas remain the mainstay of this place, but as ever I am irresistably drawn to the glass display cabinet of “mum made it” brilliance.

I have a fabulous smallish plate custom made.

Excellent kibbeh and stuffed vine leaf.

Warmed, incredibly fresh za’atar.

A big dollop of baba ganoush packed with smoky flavour.

And – best of all – zingy, damp, utterly perfect tabouli.

It’s an incredible lunch, the charge for which is $10.

 

 

Meal of the week No.11: Saudagar

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Saudagar has been a Footscray fixture for years.

I’ve had their cholle bhatura and tried some of their sweets.

But it’s never appealed as an obvious or attractive place in which to obtain a nice, cheap feed of Indian tucker.

 

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So I am delighted – thrilled even! – to discover the place has been spruced up a bit with some new furniture and a much more welcoming look that says, “Come and eat here!”

Aside from the sweets, the prices – AFAIK – are the cheapest in the inner west: Vegetarian main courses all about $8, meat mains about $10, chicken biryanai $9.

 

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I enjoy a vegetarian thali priced at $8.

Unbuttered naan – and that’s fine by me.

Excellent, uncreamy daal that has a nice hit of ginger and appears to be made of aduki beans.

Malai kofta – wonderfully delicate and toothsome potato and cheese balls in a creamy cashew nut sauce.

Fluffy rice, pickles, onion slices.

I love my Saudagar lunch but I’m not about to tell you that it’s exceptional in any way – and that’s a profound testament to just how rich we are in the west of terrific Indian food.

 

Saudagar Sweet Shop & Restaurant on Urbanspoon

 

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Bug Boxes and Burmese

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Bug Box party, Footscray Makers Lab, West Footscray

Bug Boxes are very clever self-watering, modular raised garden beds that uses wick technology to water plants from the bottom up.

Bug Boxes are built by a team of former refugee and Australian-born carpenters at the Footscray Maker Lab in West Footscray.

They are being created, using 100% recycled materials, under the auspices of BEAUT – Burmese Enterprise Association for Urban Trading.

As it says on the BEAUT website: “When you buy a Bug Box, you give an ex-refugee tradie a job.”

They are priced from $49 to $119, with delivery with seedlings to suburbs in the west costing $10.

To arrange a Bug Box purchase, visit the BEAUT Facebook store – but be warned: the Facebook store doesn’t load on mobile devices so you will need to order from a laptop or desktop. 

Bennie and I felt very honoured indeed to be invited to the Bug Box party at Fooscray Makers Lab – but we did wonder how many, if any, people we would know there.

We need not have worried in that regard.

Among the cheerful throng were …

 

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… Mia from West Welcome Wagon – you can read about the forthcoming WWW/CTS Greek feast fundraiser at Santorini here.

There are still tickets available but they WILL sell out.

Mia is the one with the very surprised look on her face.

On the right is Liana, one of the wonderful brains behind Footscray bar Littlefoot.

Consider The Sauce has taken its time about getting around to visiting Littlefoot but as it happens we had visited for dessert post-Pandu’s just a few nights before.

So I was happy to tell Liana that I consider Littlefoot’s “injera and hazelnut chocolate pinwheels with creamy coconut dipping sauce” a work of intense genius.

Frankly: We can’t wait to return to try out the entire menu.

Stay tuned!

Liana and her family were just some of the friends I’d made during the Dancing Dog building campaign who were in attendance at the Bug Box shindig.

 

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Some of the teenagers attending were only too happy to display their social deftness.

Crowning the happy gathering was a really fine spread of Burmese tucker.

 

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The lighting situation was challenging to say the least – suffice it to say the food was delicious, even if the photographs fail to convey that fact very well!

 

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