A prize-winning lunch

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Erika won our guest post contest with a wonderful piece of writing that touched people – read it here.

Now she’s done it again, finding that taking her family to Woven to enjoy their prize lunch evokes all sorts of fabulous family foodie memories.

She’s a star!

 

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By Erika Jonsson

When my sisters and I were young, Mum used to let us choose the menu for our birthday dinners.

The options were endless. Would it be pasta, Sichuan-style chicken, oyster beef or tacos?

Roast pork with crackling, chicken with lemongrass or wonton soup?

My mouth still waters thinking about it.

Funnily enough, my younger sister and I always chose the same dish, albeit with different sides.

Trish picked steamed vegetables (which I still find odd) while I chose corn and twice-cooked chips.

The meat was schnitzel – usually veal – that was succulent and tender, crumbed to perfection and fried

just long enough to cook through.

It was heaven.

Year after year our menu remained unchanged.

When I was 14 and nine months old, I started working at a toyshop on Friday nights and Saturday mornings.

My family lived out of town, so my little part-time job meant spending the night at my grandparents’ place.

They had immigrated to Australia from England when my mum was a child, and

Grandma’s cooking was Britain’s finest.

Pork pie, battered fish, Yorkshire pud, roast anything.

The only herbs I remember in her kitchen cupboard were salt, pepper and season-all.

Everything she cooked was simple but so tasty.

On Fridays before I started work, Grandma would cook big fat pork schnitzels with chips and corn – my favourite meal.

While the meat was the star of the show, the chips were really my favourite.

Potato in any form was welcome on my plate – with a combination of English and Swedish heritage, that’s probably no surprise.

My love for potatoes led to disaster when I left home and headed to the big smoke to study.

I’d been led to believe a fast metabolism was the reason for my then slim figure.

Well, my metabolism and I both got lazy at uni – and I put on about a dozen kilos by eating twice-cooked chips for dinner around five nights a week.

The day my knee-high boots wouldn’t zip up properly, I swore off chips, lost most of my potato weight and gave away my deep fryer.

Since then, chips have only been an occasional indulgence – a special return to my youthful addiction.

Last week I came as close as I ever have to ordering chips as a main when my family went to Woven in Yarraville for lunch.

And that was after I had already eaten my main.

My meal was a perfectly modern re-imagining of my favourite childhood dish.

The pork tonkatsu burger was made up of a juicy pork loin crumbed in panko inside a brioche bun with house-pickled daikon, Kewpie mayo sauce and a cabbage and fennel slaw.

Right next door to the burger was a generous serve of hand-cut chips, still in their skins – just like I like them.

Those chips transported me to Friday nights at Grandma’s, to special birthday dinners and to university over-indulgence.

Normally, I share my meals with my kids but not this day.

My husband, who had the bang-up burger with chips, also found his plate was under attack – but I protected my potatoes with a ferocity I didn’t know I possessed.

“Please, Mama? Could I please share your chips?” my son Joe pleaded after he had finished with his crumpets with honey, caramelised pear and mascarpone.

I feigned deafness and kept eating with greedy abandon, using my chips to mop up tasty drips of Kewpie sauce.

There is magic in food.

Smells and tastes can evoke stronger memories than pictures – such was the case for me at Woven.

It was a magical meal – I definitely plan to go back soon, though I’ll have to watch my waist.

Thank you to Dan, Dave and their team for a great meal and a great experience.

Thanks also to Consider The Sauce for offering such a special prize – I’ve never won anything so tasty!

Kiwi connection in Sunshine

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Bro’s Choice Cafe, 250 Hampshire Road, Sunshine. Phone: 9939 7512

You can buy Kiwi-style Ka Pies all over.

But where they are made is at 250 Hampshire Road.

But 250 Hampshire Road is also home to Bro’s Choice, a humble cafe that – naturally – sells Ka Pies!

It’s a straightforward place and about far from hispsterdom and smashed avo as it’s possible to get and still be a cafe.

I’m happy to call it home for half an hour as I sample my choice of pies.

Yes, I have two – at $4.50 a pop each.

Smoked fish pie is delicate, subtle and very nice.

Lamb roast pie is some kind of magic.

Yes, it tastes of lamb.

But more than, it tastes like ROAST lamb!

How cool is that?

With it sheep meat, bits of spud, carrot and corn, and gravy, it’s very, very good.

I take home four cold pies for further exploration with Bennie – two apiece of hangi pie (with smoked pork, kumara and potato) and pork and watercress.

I’m knocked out to find the price of the cold ones is a real fine $3.50.

Bargain!

And significantly less than the prices listed on the Ka Pie website, never mind delivery costs.

So Bro’s Choice would seem to be logical destination to stock up on these goodies.

We’ll be doing so.

Ka Pies may not have the same heft or all-out richness as Pure Pies but they taste just as good and are a whole cheaper.

 

Bro's Choice Cafe on Urbanspoon

 

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Phat cats go good

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Phat Milk, 208 Mt Alexander Road, Travancore. Phone: 9376 6643

The FB message from good mate, former colleague and occasional Consider The Sauce lurker Lee was simple: “G‘day, our local cafe – Phat Milk – has ramped up its game and is worthy of a visit from CTS. I’ll even pay!”

And so it is that I venture to Mount Alexander road for a classic, enjoyable catch-up and a fine early lunch/brunch.

I’d noticed a cafe at this end of Mount Alexander Road just in passing on previous visits in the vicinity – usually to grab some biscotti and the like from Pace Biscuits.

Lee tells me the current crew has been on site for about two years and that he and his family have become very happy first-name regulars.

 

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I love our brief time together, swapping tales of our current exploits in the journalism game; that game’s sometimes inexplicable twists and turns; the much-loved, good, bad and utterly indifferent of our various mutual acquaintances; our respective families and children; and food ‘n’ coffee doings in the inner west, especially over their way in Kensington and Moonee Ponds.

And I love the place.

And the food.

And the coffee.

Phat Milk’s front portion is all typical Melbourne inner-city cafe, with wraps and various other goodies on display.

Up and along a few hallways is a nice backroom, where we make ourselves at home, and an adjoining garden space with seating.

I’m intrigued and excited to take note of a pronounced Middle-Eastern slant in the breakfast and lunch menus, and waste no time in going in that direction when ordering.

 

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Middle Eastern breakfast of grilled zaatar, poached eggs, beetroot relish, falafel and hummus is terrific.

The falafels are big, soft and crumbly. The chick pea dip is fresh. And all of it works really well together.

 

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Lee goes for the purple carrot and sweet potato latke with blueberry cured salmon, quark cheese (see wikipedia entry here) and poached egg.

His latke tastes good and funky to me, and that house-cured salmon has me making a mental note: “That’s for me next time!”

And get this – for food so lovingly prepared and presented that is so very lovely to consume, we have paid $15 (me) and $17 (him).

Bargain!

My cafe latte is perfect.

Thanks, Lee, for the company and the hot tip.

My shout next time, when I’ll be sure to bring that Mark Twain foodie book for you.

 

Phat Milk on Urbanspoon

 

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(The above menu pic will be replaced at the first available opportunity!)

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Cafe madness in Seddon

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The Charles Street video store is no more.

And the premises’ windows have had placed in them paperwork for a hospitality industry enterprise.

Normally, I would’ve noted this with interest and awaited further material progress.

But in this case, I have been alerted by CTS pal Tennille and colleague Xavier to the presence of plans for the site on the website of the Maribyrnong council.

See the plans here.

I do not know if all such plans submitted to council are as detailed as these.

For they certainly give a very real idea of just what is proposed.

Included are artist impressions such as the one above, as well as information such as a parking analysis, existing site photos, proposed “colour palette” and floorplans.

 

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Also provided is a montage of “inspirational cafes & images”, including shots of Captains Of Industry, Flip Board Cafe and – quite bizarrely it seems to me – Common Galaxia from just up the road!

 

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Cool cafe in a great ‘hood

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Mr Ed, 285 Racecourse Road, Flemington. Phone: 9376 6444

Consider The Sauce loves Racecourse Road, but coffee and cafes aren’t what come to mind when we head that way.

There is coffee to be had there, including a couple of longstanding businesses that may get the CTS treatment at some stage.

Mr Ed, though is a new place that inhabits what was formerly the premises of an undertaker.

It’s been open since February, and based on the jam-packed crowd on a recent Sunday when is stuck my nose inside for a look-see, it’s doing quite well, thank you very much.

At first blush, it appears Mr Ed could be yet another westie hipster haven.

Cool black-and-white artwork?

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Tick!

Cutting-edge design stools?

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Tick!

But the proof is in the pudding – or, in this case, the pies.

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Take a look at these beauties, which sell for $9.50. (They’re a lot bigger than they appear in the photograph.)

After my lunch, I take one of the veal, bacon and portolbello mushroom specimens home for dinner.

Like everything else in the place, as far as I can tell, they’re made in-house.

For a week-day lunch, I find the staff friendly and obliging.

In addition to breakfasts, Mr Ed does a nice line in creative sandwiches that all cost around the $10 mark.

There’s blackboard lists of specials such as a risotto, pulled chicken sliders and beer-battered flathead with purple congo wedges.

The adjacent list of “usual suspects” includes a “beef and basil burger”, and beyond that are offered about a handful of salads.

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I choose one of the more expensive dishes – smoked trout and warm egg salad with celeriac remoulade with salmon pearls on rye toast ($16.50).

This is way more “plated” and pretty than is normal for CTS, but it’s truly a lovely thing.

It’s mildly flavoured and falls into the light lunch category.

But all the components work together beautifully, celeriac strands almost like noodles and the trout given some added richness thanks to the egg and some just-right poppy texture thanks to the pearls.

Mr. Ed on Urbanspoon

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Greek treats made with love in Kingsville

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Olive Oil & Butter, 196 Somerville Rd, Kingsville. Phone: 9315 1060

There’s an awful lot in the name of this great Greek bakery in Kingsville.

You see, that’s what they use – olive oil and butter.

Oh, of course, there’s other ingredients – but the name nevertheless symbolises a keen dedication to natural products.

No ingredients with numbers rather than names, no premixes … just a righteous determination to make and bake with the simplest and the best in an entirely old-school manner.

This is the kind of place at which the declaration, “Our products have a limited shelf life”, is a proud boast.

Olive Oil & Butter is run by Pelagia, her brother Chris and their mum Martha.

It’s a first restaurant/cafe/bakery outing for the family – and that’s a good thing, as it means the recipes are derived from an inter-generational tradition.

After my lunch is done and paid for (see below), I introduce myself to Pelagia, who is nice enough to set up a display platter of the Greek baking that is available this day. The line-up tends to change, but the prices are mostly in the $4-5 range (less for biscuits).

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 Clockwise from top right:

* Koulouraki – biscuit with vanilla.

* “The best” galaktoboureko – Filo pastry, semolina-based custard, vanilla, syrup with cinnamon and cloves.

* Baklava – roasted almonds and walnuts filling filo pastry with a cinnamon and clove syrup.

* Revani – semolina cake flavoured with lemon and orange sweetened with an orange-zest syrup.

* Another version of koulouraki.

* Paksimadi – a crumbly vegan biscotti flavoured with orange.

As Pelagia explains the ins and outs of the baking before us, we are joined by her mum.

It’s easy to tell from the glint in her eye and the pride in her work that Martha is serious about “olive and oil and butter” and using only the very best ingredients. And no preservatives at all …

I try only a few of the above assortment – they’re delicious.

The rest go home with me – it doesn’t take too long for me to realise my insistence on paying for the lot is going to be rebuffed at every turn, no matter how hard I try or how long I persist.

Olive Oil & Butter does breakfast and lunch, too, though much of what is available in that regard is of non-Greek derivation – pies, muffins, focaccia and so on.

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I do enjoy my pastitsio ($15), though.

It’s a hearty dish that is something of a variation of moussaka, with the good ground beef and tubed pasta melding into the rich bechamel sauce. The accompanying salad is just, fine, too.

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And for dinner, I am also gifted this gorgeous scroll-style spanakopita ($9).

Like the bakalava and its variations (katafi, gianniotiko, saragli), the cheese and spinach scroll is made with filo pastry that is made from scratch in the kitchen.

How good is that?

My two cafe lattes ($3.50) are excellent, BTW!

PS: I will update this post with “tasting notes” as I work my way through my trawl!

The Olive Oil & Butter Facebook page is updated regularly with news and photos of what is available.

Olive Oil & Butter on Urbanspoon

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Garden delight in Kensington

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White Rabbit Record Bar, 176 Bellair St, Kensington. Phone: 9376 5441

Always been music crazy – and always will be.

But have never been much of a record collector, not really.

Sure, I’ve gone through the occasional phase of accumulating a few originals 45s and 78s along the way.

But for me it’s almost always been about the music, not its format.

Hence these days, in a collection of several thousands CDs, the larger part – and certainly the portion I enjoy with most zeal – comprises releases of music originally released on 45s and 78s and even cylinders anywhere from the 1890s to the 1970s.

It’s all digital but it’s all old, too.

So while being sympathetic, I’ve never a been a member of the cult of vinyl.

Which perhaps explains why early on in our westie life I mentally dismissed White Rabbit as a vinyl hangout that offered nothing much more than a cool space and an option for coffee or wine.

What a surprise then to discover there’s much more to the place – a full kitchen and a lovely back garden setting included – and that that’s been the case for a long while.

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As well, in the process of enjoying a lazy mid-week lunch, we’re delighted to find that among the staff members is gentle pooch of a certain age named Jessie, whom we enjoy getting to know while we await our food.

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From the specials board, Bennie chooses the B.L.A.T. ($12.50).

It has all the appropriate bits and pieces and does good for him, even if it doesn’t have him metaphorically clicking his heels with glee.

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Chosen from a trio of antipasto-style plates, my falafel-based outing ($17.50) has winning points and some that I could happily do without.

The Turkish bread, for instance, is regulation but nicely toasted – making the crackers and wafers a tad superfluous.

The falafel balls are warm and quite good, as are the salad bits and mixed olives.

But the oil-drenched bowl of roast capsicum and cheese distracts.

The best aspect of my lunch are the house-made dips.

The houmus and another based on rocket, coriander, garlic and more are mildly flavoured but very tasty.

I suspect we could’ve chosen our lunches more wisely – perhaps the specials board spinach and fetta borek would’ve wowed us, and we’d for sure be interested in checking out the beef burger with “chunky potatoes” I saw listed a few days prior if the opportunity presents in the future.

But in terms of relaxed vibes, lovely setting and warmth of welcome, we consider our belated discovery of the White Rabbit riches within a fine thing indeed.

White Rabbit Record Bar on Urbanspoon

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