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.14: Curry Leaves

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Headed for St Albans with no particular joint or genre in mind for Sunday lunch, I pass a Curry Leaves (463 Ballarat Road, Sunshine) that is full of happy activity so I double back, park and proceed.

It’s busy – a heap of people in the kitchen and even more in the dining room, including one big party of about 30.

I’m told that, among other things, they’ll all be getting lamprais.

I’ve aborted my further west travel plans with just one plan in mind – to have the same kind of biryani I spied another customer having when I dropped in for a mid-week dinner earlier in the week.

This is the first Sri Lankan biryani I’ve had – and I simply love the fact that it’s recognisably the same dish I’ve had countless times at Indian restaurants in the west yet also one that displays marked differences.

The rice is a deeper yellow-going-brown that is studded with onion slices and curry leaves.

The lamb – unlike the on-the-bone version I’ve had almost without exception in Indian eateries – is boneless and cubed.

It is, however, very, very well done – though not to such an extent it affects my enjoyment.

The raita is much creamier than I am used to and packed with finely diced vege (I’m guessing – capsicum, onion, cucumber and, maybe, tomato).

The eggplant moju is a sweet alternative to the usual tart pickle.

The whole boiled egg has been given a grizzled exterior.

This a ripper dish for $12.95.

See earlier story here.

The chook rules

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Miss Katie’s at Rochester Hotel, 202 Johnston Street, Fitzroy. Phone: 9419 0166

Approaching the Rochester Hotel, my mind is full of dark thoughts.

When Consider The Sauce hit Miss Katie’s Crab Shack in its previous carnation in North Melbourne, the pervasive gloom wasn’t just a hindrance to photography – it also lessened the enjoyment of our food.

It was bit a like a food version of Dating In The Dark.

My heart sinks when I enter the bar area of the Rochester – it, too, is gloomy.

Exploring a bit further, my mood lightens when I discover the dining room “out the back” is considerably brighter.

 

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My spirits veritably soar when I receive my bloody mary ($18) as I await my friends.

It’s sensational, delicious and worth every cent of the admission price.

 

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Off we happily troop to the dining room to sort out or collective order.

We go two starters, two star-attraction mains and one light, vegetarian option.

 

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Deep-dried pickles are, initially, a surprise as I have been expecting the heavily battered discs I’ve had in New Orleans.

But these lightly-battered spears are very good.

It seems as if the cooking process has lessened the vinegar factor, as they’re mild of sourness.

 

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Crab dip is, well, very crabby.

And also very rich and yummy.

The accompanying bits and pieces -including biscuits that are more like cookies – fall a little short, however, of being substantial enough to handle all the pot of dip.

 

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I go the seafood boil.

The basic price of $25 includes a blue swimmer crab, kransky pieces, chat spuds and corn.

From there, more crab – or oysters, clams, mussels or prawns – can be added for extra $.

I go with oysters for $10.

I get only three, bathing in seasoned butter, but they’re fabulous.

The hot-dog-style kransky pieces are a highlight.

I have a splendid time extracting sweet, delicate crab meat.

But here’s the rub – despite the high quality of its individual components, my dish is lacking a knockout punch.

I suspect that could only be had, under current arrangements, by adding a lot of extra seafood that would make it prohibitively pricey.

Which means …

 

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… we reckon Miss Katie’s fried chicken ($24), which comes with either mash or waffles, is this establishment’s outstanding dish – and excellent value.

Yes, in a crab shack.

It’s a good thing, then, that one of my companions orders it.

It’s an even better thing that it is so very, very good and such a substantial portion that we all have a good taste.

The coating is light but wonderfully seasoned and the meat itself is perfect.

Could this be Melbourne’s fried chook champ? Or, more accurately, Melbourne’s non-Korean chook champ?

 

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My other pal’s hasselback potatoes with jack cheese and slaw ($15) do the trick for him, though I suspect he’s very appreciative of the couple of chicken pieces that come his way.

 

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Our finale – banana split ($12) – is enjoyable though a bit rich price-wise for an American-style fantasia that is little more than fluff.

 

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Sunshine eats goss

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Regular readers will readily understand that as part of the Consider The Sauce ethos, one of the reasons for our deep love for La Morenita/Latins Foods & Wines in Sunshine – apart from the food and the people! – is that it is in a setting about as far removed from a hipster cafe/food “precinct” as it is possible to get.

Still, we’ve often felt the Berkshire shopping strip of which it is part could do with a bit more livelieness and food.

Well, that will soon be happening.

To the left of La Morenita, Whad (that’s him on the right in the above photograph) and his pals are busy preparing their Afghan joint, which will be known as Berkshire Cafe.

They’ll be doing skewered meats over a charcoal grill, other kebabs and “tandoori chips”.

 

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To right of La Morenita, the premises that housed the short-lived El Parron restaurant has been leased to the people behind Roti Ria, currently situated in Sunshine Plaza.

They expect to be installed and up and running a bit more than a month.

 

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Tomato rice in Footscray

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Thien An, 32 Irving Street, Footscray. Phone: 9687 0398

Bennie’s dining desires are frequently over-ridden by more pressing imperatives in terms of Consider The Sauce.

He always takes this with good grace and a sense of adventure.

This Saturday, however, with his chores satisfactorily and even cheerfully done, I agree to humour his oft-stated plea: “I want tomato rice!”

Off we go, navigating the twists and turns that take us to the top of the Footscray market building.

We take in the amazing views and then head to Thien An.

In its previous carnation, across the road in much smaller premises in a row of now-demolished shopfronts, we once were regulars.

I ask Bennie if remembers those visits.

Nope.

There’s two kinds of tomato rice, we discover – the regular and one on the “Chef Recommended” list (see below).

 

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He goes for the latter ($11), which is a bit of twist on the usual, featuring beef ribs instead of cubed beef.

It’s a very good example of his heart’s desire.

The meat comes away from the bones easily and is a little bit more chewy than the typical melt-in-your-mouth beef served with tomato rice.

The rice is fine, there’s seasoned salt and those yummy, lightly pickled vegetables such as cabbage and carrot.

It’s a winner.

 

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My own rice vermicelli with grilled pork northern style ($13) is good, too, though not as explosively so as a similar dish served at Xuan Banh Cuon in Sunshine.

This one has no dipping sauce accompanying and the mix of pork slices and meatballs are bathing in a sort of broth/soup.

Still, with the assistance of much greenery – including regular mint – it does go down a treat.

Thien An is, it appears, still a good, reliable in Footscray institution – and certainly has one of one of the lovelier dining rooms around here when it comes to Vietnamese eateries.

 

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Littlefoot tastes great

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Littlefoot, 223 Barkly Street, Footscray. Phone: 9396 1282

Consider The Sauce’s gaze was largely elsewhere as Littlefoot was coming together

So it was long after it opened that a happy bunch of CTS regulars hit it after going Indo-Chinese up the road apiece.

We were there only briefly, for post-dinner drinkies and dessert.

But one of those desserts – a foundation menu listing – was so brilliant we vowed to return to take the whole menu for a spin.

In the meantime, yours truly was at Littlefoot for the Letters To The West event that was part of the Emerging Writers Festival.

And a fine night it was, too, with me playing catch-up in terms of just what a very cool additional piece is Littlefoot in the Footscray/inner west scene/jigsaw puzzle.

So it is that the following week the exact same crew of six plus two more great CTS pals front up for a mid-week dinner.

 

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It’s been a chillingly cold day so Littlefoot is almost empty when we arrive.

Thankfully, a more cheery bar vibe evolves as our meal progresses.

The round front table is ours for the night and proves precisely right for the eight of us.

I’d been a little concerned about effective photography but the light proves OK.

Littlefoot really is a fine place to spend time with friends and conversation – with or without food.

I’d thought that with a table of eight we’d pretty much try everything on offer food-wise.

As one of our party enthusiastically quipped when Littlefoot plans were afoot: “Eat everything!!!”

But as it turns out, our collective eyes are drawn to specific menu items at the expense of others, though we try quite a bit.

It’s all good, better than good or really good.

 

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Yep – pork rind chips ($3.50) look just like the trash food that comes from convenience store plastic bags; but they taste way better.

Perhaps it’s for the best that our single bowl provides each of just a nibble or two before we move on to things more robust and (ostensibly) healthy!

 

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Fried chicken spare ribs ($10) with crunchy crumbs and wasabi mayo are terrific.

The coating really is crunchy, but also grease-free.

The ribs are suitably meaty and flavoursome and the wasabi mayo a true delight as a foil.

 

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The chips with beer cheese ($12.50) are fine but it seems I’m the only one unwowed by the beer cheese dip.

I don’t find it to be a bad taste – it simply doesn’t turn me on.

(Going by this wikipedia entry, that I don’t find beer cheese a winner seems surprising – no matter; in this matter, at Littlefoot, I am a minority of one amid a table of eight …)

 

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Several serves of both versions of banh “mini” ($5.50) –  teriyaki tofu and BBQ braised beef – are ordered.

They’re as fresh and tasty as could be desired.

One devil’s advocate wag points out that they are both smaller and more expensive than the regular banh mi to be had just a block away at Nhu Lan and other outlets.

To which my immediate thought is: “Meh … this is a bar …”

 

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Slow-cooked kangaroo on Ethiopian bean ful, topped with hemp seed dukkah ($18) is another outright winner and good value for money given the generous size of the portions.

The photograph here shows the big chunks of roo meat broken up – very tender and toothsome!

The bean mix is a cool blend that reminds me of chilli con carne.

That’s fine by me – Littlefoot’s aim is to embrace and celebrate the surrounding food cultures, not replicate them; best to leave notions of authenticity at the door.

Rolls of injera and excellent greenery complete a fine dish.

I suspect that when it comes to a “main course” concept at Littlefoot, this roo dish is it – there is only one item that costs more, the $25 tasting board.

 

 

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We are presented a duck pizza by the management, an on-the-house gesture that is appreciated.

By this time we’re all getting fullish so it’s just right that there’s a pizza slice each to appreciate.

It’s good, the meaty duck complemented by nice crunchy things.

 

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Dessert time!

And once more, we inhale enjoy the injera and hazelnut chocolate pinwheels with creamy coconut dipping sauce ($9.50) had on our earlier visit.

What a superb and utterly delicious piece of imagination is this, perfectly encapsulating the Littlefoot food philosophy.

The sourness of the injera does a sexy tango with the sweetness of the hazelnut/chocolate, this time even more ooozy and plentiful, all of it lubricated by the coconut sauce.

Totally Yum.

Sign up to the Littlefoot Facebook page, which is regularly updated with forthcoming events, musical and otherwise.

 

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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.