Actually, better than A1

1 Comment
a1ess21
 A1 Bakery, 18 Napier Street, Essendon. Phone: 9375 7734

After an initial visit – covered here – Consider The Sauce has been eager for a return adventure at A1 in Essendon.

Primarily to partake of one of the more unusual and intriguing options among the more substantial meal platters they offer – samke hara, which features “three flathead tails baked in a spicy tahini sauce”.

Today, it being that time of year when my very good mate Penny is making her annual visit to Melbourne from Wellington, is the day.

Truth is, on previous visits Penny and I have had some really fine face-to-face catch-ups – we talk by phone at least once a fortnight about everything under the sun – but rarely have we enjoyed a really fabulous meal.

I put the blame for that squarely on my own shoulders in the category of “trying too hard”.

Anyway, we rectify that today – and in spectacular fashion.

As it turns out, the samke hara is unavailable.

So boss man Gabby offers to put together for me (and Penny!) a combo set of shish tawook (chicken) and kafta skewers with all the bits and pieces.

The above spread costs us $24; not pictured are an extra salad and a basket containing plenty of zaatar, olives and a couple each of small rice-stuffed peppers and puff-style kibbeh.

The single-meat deals are priced at $14.50, so I’m not sure our price accurately reflects what it would cost to buy all items involved separately.

And Gaby is perfectly aware there’s a blogger in the house …

But add another $10 or even $20 and it would STILL be a bargain.

I know there’s a handful of places around town that do Lebanese food in more formal settings (and at significantly higher prices), but I find it extremely difficult to imagine their food could be any finer.

As I once said of another Lebanese establishment, in the world of Consider The Sauce, this is as good as food gets – at any price.

As our meal arrives at our table, our day gets even better …

 

a1ess22

 

Placing bowls full of wonderful before us, Gaby sighs as he says: “This is when I miss being in Lebanon – all the small dishes!”

Then he introduces us to his mum, Sandra, she being responsible for much of the food we are about to inhale.

And, I’m sure, almost all its heart and soul!

For CTS – which has been known on occasion to mutter, “We revere cooks but chefs don’t impress us that much!” – this is akin to meeting royalty!

Everything we eat rocks our world …

Stuffed vine leaves with a lemony tang and rice still displaying a nice, nutty al dente feel.

Fresh, luscious dips, with the ultra-smoky eggplant number a taste sensation.

Tabouli and fattoush, fresh and zingy.

Two kinds of splendidly crunchy and salty green olives.

And the meat skewers – served at room temperature, juicy, tender, packed with flavour and having the killer chargrilled tang in abundance.

All of the above, of course, can have only one outcome – yes, some time early in the new year and all going as planned, A1 Essendon and Consider The Sauce will co-host the first CTS Feast for 2015.

 

A1 Bakery Essendon on Urbanspoon

 

a1ess23

A Good Thing for Buckley Street

2 Comments

buck1

 

The retail premises that kicked off the CTS story about Buckley Street is, it turns out, destined for a more interesting and welcome future than the “convenience store” mentioned on the planning application led us to believe.

Thanks to CTS reader Zoe for providing this link to the website/magazine Food Service News.

According to the story, the Buckley Street shop is to become a Melbourne sibling for the Marrickville establishment known as Cornersmith.

Like the Sydney store/cafe, Rhubarb Wholefoods will be a “wholefoods store and vegetarian cafe”.

And an important element of the way Rhubarb operates will involve customers swapping their homegrown vegetables, fruit and more for cafe products.

A bartering business for the west – how cool is that?

Follow the progress of Rhubarb Wholefoods by “liking” their Facebook page.

Road trip to Trentham, mind blown

7 Comments
hub15

hub16

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!

 

hub17

 

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.

 

hub18

 

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.

 

hub20

 

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!

 

hub19

 

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!

 

hub13

 

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!

 

hub10

 

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

 

hub22

 

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!

 

hub8

 

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.

 

hub7

 

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.

 

hub6

 

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

 

hub2

 

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?

****

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.

 

 

hub3

hub23

hub5

hub14

hub21

Checking out the new Footscray Coles

3 Comments

coles1

coles2

 

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.

 

coles7

 

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.

 

coles6

 

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.

 

coles8

 

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.

 

coles3

coles4

coles5

coles11

coles12

coles10

coles9

Essendon A1 – FAR OUT!

1 Comment

a1ess1

 

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.

 

a1ess5

 

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!

 

a1ess2

 

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.

 

a1ess3

 

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

 

a1ess4

Pure Pies – oh my!

8 Comments
pie1
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!

 

pie2

 

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.

 

pie4

 

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.

 

pie5

 

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

 

pie3

Chris The Barber

3 Comments

chris2

 

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.

 

chris1

 

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.

 

chris3