Road trip to Trentham, mind blown

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

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

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

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

Western suburbs?

Sure!

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

 

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

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

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

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

CTS will be heading this way again!

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

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

 

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

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

And, of course, food.

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

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

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

I’m hungry.

 

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

There’s paper napkins.

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

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

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

What a bloody great bargain!

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

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

 

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Roasted Sidonia Hills beef?

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

Who is up for it?

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

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

 

 

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Checking out the new Footscray Coles

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When it comes to supermarkets, Consider The Sauce is most definitely a Sims, smaller-is-generally-better kinda guy.

We’ll shop at the biggies but would never make a habit of it nor hold any of them in any great esteem.

Still, I’m interested to check out the new Footscray Coles on account of it being a significant local happening.

And I have friends who live nearby for whom getting basics such as milk – especially outside of regular hours – is something of a hassle. For them, Footscray Coles is of some significance.

As well, I’m interested in seeing what the manager’s claim to have tried hard to reflect the local cultural demography – spied in an advertorial feature in the local press – actually means in reality.

 

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The truth is, not a whole lot.

Of course, the quantity and range of multicultural products the store boasts is way more extensive than would have been the case, say, 20 years ago.

But I didn’t see anything that would see people switching away from Bharat Traders or India At Home.

And the signage seems to fall into something of “try too hard” category.

 

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I mean, what does “Authentic International Food” actually mean?

All is shiny and new and the deli counters have the sort of coverage routinely seen in big supermarkets these days.

 

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And, yes, the shelves groan with an extensive line-up of that depressingly awful “product”, bottled water.

The retail spaces opposite the checkout area are now occupied solely by Bakers Delight, Liquorland and the pharmacy.

 

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Essendon A1 – FAR OUT!

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A1 Bakery, 18 Napier Street, Essendon. Phone: 9375 7734

Bowling up to the brand, spanking new branch of the A1 Bakery chain, I am fully expecting a duplicate of its slightly older Werribee sibling.

I could hardly be more wrong – the Essendon joint is very, very different, and brilliantly so.

Here there’s a vibe that is 50/50 Middle Eastern and hipster cafe, and seems staffed somewhat along the same lines.

There’s exposed brick and old wood. The place is bustling with happy customers just a few days after opening.

 

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The food?

Oh my, happy days for Kenny!

There’s the expected full complement of pies and pizzas, including zaatar ($2), lamb ($3) and spinach/fetta ($4.50).

But there’s way more of just the kinds of things I like to see in such a place – stuffed vine leaves (three for $2.50) and kibbeh ($2), for instance.

There’s gorgeous-looking mountains of salad, including fattoush, tabouli and “zest salad”.

And for those looking for more than pies ‘n’pizzas or a tight line-up of eggy breakfast dishes, there’s platters – yippee!

 

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These include chicken (shish tawook), a rice and chicken dish called jaj a riz – and even one, samke hara, that features “three flathead tails baked in a spicy tahini sauce”.

As I am only of moderate appetite, I opt for the lighter touch of the falafel platter ($11, top photograph).

It’s simply wonderful.

The plentiful tabouli is as good and fresh and super as any I’ve had – anywhere, anytime.

The hommus is creamy smooth but packed with lemon-infused flavour.

The felafels themselves may have been sourced from the display cabinet and reheated, but are still fine – featherlight, crisp on the outer, fluffy in the inner.

 

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After my lunch, I talk with one of the proprietors, Robert.

He confirms what I suspected – that the proliferating A1 chain is basically a matter of franchising.

So while the Essendon joint may share fully in the A1 ethos and badging, the food is individual – and in this case, strongly guided by an angel I will call The Hand Of Mum.

And that, of course, is a very excellent thing!

I expect to return here in a matter of days and am excited about the prospect of doing so.

I just love a place that offers more substantial Lebanese fare in a cafe setting.

 

A1 Bakery on Urbanspoon

 

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Pure Pies – oh my!

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Pure Pie, 383 Bay Street, Port Melbourne. Phone: 9041 5004

The email offer of a free pie went barely noticed among the usual blizzard of spam and inane, clunky PR approaches.

But then Consider The Sauce spied the handsome pies in the display cabinet at a very groovy and fine Kensington cafe.

Upon hearing of their source, I lose little time in making my way to Port Melbourne to redeem my email offer.

Pure Pie, as well as being a pie factory, is a cool cafe space situated at the city end of Bay Street.

As such, there is a relaxed vibe quite different from the retail/hospitality hubbub further towards the bay.

And there’s heaps of parking capacity!

 

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Along with my free pie – braised beef with red wine and rosemary ($8.90), the most establishment’s most popular I am told – I also get a pork, apple and fennel sausage roll ($5).

The sausage roll is good, with dense, firm sausage meat though – I feel obliged to say – not much by way of apple or fennel.

My pie is something else.

It’s tall, with fabulous pastry.

The filling is rich and flavoursome, with lusty beef chunks high in number.

Worth $8.90?

Yes, very much so.

 

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So Impressed am I, that I buy a couple more pies to take home – chicken with corn, bacon and leek; and beef with Guinness and cheddar.

Bennie and I have them for dinner a few night’s later.

 

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Wow!

Served with great green beans dressed with olive oil, lemon juice, salt and pepper, these pies constitute a meal for which we’d happily pay $20+ in a pub or restaurant.

Look at the meatiness of our beef number.

How often does a chook pie seem all glutinous gravy and not much else?

So we’re very happy to eat a chicken pie that has multiple meat chunks packed with flavour.

I like Holly and Michael and their products so much, we’ve tentatively set a date for a Consider The Sauce event early in 2015.

Stay tuned!

Check out the Pure Pie website here.

 

Pure Pie on Urbanspoon

 

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Chris The Barber

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Chris The Barber, The Circle, Altona

It’s a beautifully sunny early spring day.

I breeze in to say hello to Chris The Barber.

I’ve been here for a haircut before, though he doesn’t remember me.

He’s one of the old-school barbers I revere and – sort of – collect.

They’re a dying breed.

I have it in the back of my mind to start a blog one day that will “collect” them. That’s something I may or may not get around to.

I have used the services of such man all over of Melbourne in all my time in the city.

They’re often of Greek or Italian extraction, although this year I’ve had a couple of “zero all over” cuts from an African gent in Flemington.

They recall for me barbers of my New Zealand childhood, it being very memorable that those establishments usually had lying arorund scruffy back copies of racy, slightly risqué mags such as Man.

Chris is the very epitome of his kind – kind, full of good humour and whatever the Greek word is for blarney.

He’s been in the game for 50 years.

He has posters of Bulldog teams of yore plastered on his walls.

 

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I’ve never got the hang of shaving/cutting my own hair, most commonly these days scoring a $9 haircut in Vietnamese Footscray about once a month.

But somehow my grey locks have become what is for me quite shaggy, and as Chris has bugger all customers and I have plenty of time, I opt for something rare in my life these days – a head shave for $20.

What a treat!

I shaved my mush the previous day, but if I so desired I could have that done, too, for a superb extra $2.

After quickly clipping my fuzzy dome, Chris shaves it just once after lathering me up and unsheathing a fresh open blade.

But he’s slow, methodical and very, very good.

The result is as close to a baby’s bottom as any part of me is ever likely to be ever again.

And if it lasts an extra couple of weeks over and above my usual “zero all over” job, it’ll be worth every cent of my $20.

Anyway, that’s what I tell myself as I depart with a smile.

 

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ASRC catering rocks!

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Consider The Sauce is at a family reunion in Northcote.

Actually, it’s more like a combined reunion and 30th, with not just family members but also friends and colleagues of birthday girl Nicole in attendance.

I fit into none of those categories but am being made to feel very welcome nonetheless.

It’s also a fancy dress event – and I have done my bit in that regard by turning up in full-blown ageing hippie regalia.

That’s a bald-faced lie, of course, in that ageing hippie is how I always dress!

And the food?

Oh, yes, that is very fine indeed.

 

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A few weeks before, I had received an email from Nicole.

She’s big fan of Consider The Sauce, is especially digging the recent community-based stories and could I suggest place along those lines to cater for her party?

I fired off suggestions she ignored completely – instead opting for the catering arm of the Asylum Seeker Resource Centre.

That’s great, said I, I’ve been thinking of doing a story about them so let me know how it goes!

In fact … and thinking on my metaphorical feet … why don’t you let me blog your party, and then between us both we can give ASRC catering some well-deserved exposure?

To my delight, Nicole eagerly ran with the whole idea.

When I expressed my appreciation, Nicole said:

“It might be marginally preposterous, but if it helps the ASRC, then I’m all for it!  And anyone who knows me will not be at all surprised at this – you have to take interesting opportunities when they arise!”

Obviously, she’s my kinda gal!

 

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So it was that I spent an hour or so with ASRC sous chef Natasha in the Brunswick kitchen.

(As most readers probably know, the Melbourne base of the ASRC is these days in Footscray, but the catering wing will not be making that move until early in 2015.)

Small world department – Natahsa is a Werribee resident who previously worked at Cornershop in Yarraville and has also worked with Jess of Pod @ P.I.D.

But she really, really likes her ASRC gig, which she has had for a couple of years.

It’s mostly minus the crazy hours of restaurant work and she gets a great deal of satisfaction from working with and helping train asylum seekers from many parts of the world.

In this way, the catering business helps people rebuild their lives and is a source of income for ASRC itself.

 

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The food is all vegetarian – this not only avoids any cultural or religious issues with the asylum seekers but is also increasingly seen as an asset and selling point.

Nicole’s party is at the smaller end of the sorts of events ASRC caters, which include weddings and anniversaries and corporate awards ceremonies.

Finger food is the most popular option and plain, no-frills the most common form of delivery, though that can range right up to delivery accompanied by full service and staff

Nicole has chosen two dishes from the ASRC catering “lunch box options” – caramalised onion polenta baked in a rich tomato herb sauce, roasted mushrooms and mozzarella; and chick pea and vegetable coconut curry served with jasmine rice.

 

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Other menu selections that caught my eye include …

Baya kyaw – Burmese split pea fritters, served with sweet chilli.

Dal kachori – a spicy snack popular throughout India and Pakistan. Golden
fried bread filled with spiced dal (black gram) and served with raita.

Akaree – a typical snack eaten throughout Africa, black eyed bean fritters with onion, chilli and ginger, fried to perfection with a red capsicum and peanut sauce.

Fattoush – fresh cucumber, tomato, cos lettuce, feta cheese, and olives, tossed in lemon, garlic and olive oil topped with crispy sumac pita croutons.

Sudanese curry – a delicious stew of cannellini beans, tomato, eggplant and potatoes. Seasoned with cumin, cardamom and cinnamon, and served with our homemade yellow spice bread.

Tandoori vegetables – chunky, seasonal vegetables and paneer marinated in yoghurt and spice and roasted to perfection. Served with basmati rice.

ASRC cater can also provide beverages, including beer and wine.

For more information about ASRC catering go here, and for a full and extensive menu go here.

 

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Natasha and I make the brief journey from Brunswick to Nicole’s Northcote joint to find the party already in full swing.

Nicole grins when she tells me that she has evolved a simple way of avoiding any misgivings the assembled guests may have about the vegetarian fare she is offering them – she is simply not going to tell them.

She’s going to feed them instead – and it works a treat!

I really like the chick pea curry, which is packed with a variety of vegetables and has a rich gravy not unlike that of a massaman curry.

The trick there is the use of coconut milk – something I’ll be sure to try next time a cook with chick peas. It’s a nice alternative to the usual tomatoes/onions/spices combo.

There’s more food here, mind you, than just the fine ASRC offerings – there’s birthday cake, a tardis full of lollies and more.

Thanks to Nicole and her extended family for making me feel so welcome and to Simone and Natasha at the Asylum Seeker Resource Centre for helping make this story happen.

 

 

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So good in Meadow Heights

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Meadow Heights Classic Lebanese Bakery, 19/A Meadow Heights Shopping Centre, 55 Paringa Boulevard, Meadow Heights. Phone: 9309 8206
Sweet World, Shop 20, Meadow Heights Shopping Centre, 55 Paringa Boulevard, Meadow Heights. Phone: 9309 2552

Working at Airport West has changed the way I think about the Ring Road.

So, too, has the cessation of the long-running works that made the road a sometimes stressful route.

Instead of ploughing my way across the city, it now seems like a breezy avenue to foodie riches in the northern suburbs, especially on a sunny if cold Saturday with light, free-flowing traffic.

Take the Pascoe Vale Road exit, a few clicks past Broadmeadows central, turn left on Paringa Boulevard and I’m at Meadow Heights Shopping Centre.

It’s a mid-sized centre with a nice, relaxed vibe as folks go about their business.

Inside, there’s an Asian grocer, an IGA, a halal butcher and so on.

Outside to the left, there’s what looks to a pretty good Turkish kebab place and, right next door, a halal pizza joint.

On the right are the two businesses a colleague has given me a great tip about.

 

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Meadow Heights Classic Lebanese Bakery has, I’m told, been on these premises for about four years.

But it’s got a lovely, warm, lived-in vibe and the staff are super.

The range of pies and pizzas is mostly regulation, superbly and cheaply priced, and attracting a steady stream of hungry customers.

I choose for my lunch, though, a pizza I have never come across before.

The zayban ($5, top picture) has tangy yogurt, fresh mint, olives, cucumber and tomato.

Right here, right now its seems like a brilliant contender for my meal of the year.

It’s perfect!

I grab four spinach and cheese pies for home use. They’re $3 apiece, also outstanding and more heftily filled than is often the case.

Then it’s time to switch from savoury to sweet and Lebanese to Turkish with a stroll right next door to Sweet World.

 

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The baklava, as fully expected, is excellent and full of dusky flavour.

I like it that it is served in a modest, $1.50 size, too.

Coffee can be a bit of a lottery in such places, so I am happy to report that my $3 cafe latte is expertly done.

 

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I get a modest package of take-aways here, too.

But not of the baklava or the other syrupy items; instead I get lovely looking, and buttery, cookies.

I know not the Turkish name for them, but they look awfully similar to Italian biscotti!

The wikipedia entry on this suburb is blunt: “Meadow Heights offers little in the way of attractions …”

Consider The Sauce disagrees!

 

Meadow Heights Classic Lebanese Bakery on Urbanspoon

Sweet World on Urbanspoon

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