Very Well Bread

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Well Bread Festival, Barry Road Community Centre, Lalor; Sunday, August 24

“Go north, young man, go north …”

These were the words of wisdom proffered by my Star Weekly colleague Helen a few weeks back.

Her point being that while Consider The Sauce is up to its neck in western suburbs food, it may as well occasionally turn its attention, enjoyably and profitably, to what is happening in Melbourne’s north and north-west.

She’s right … indeed, that process and mind-shift has already started, as detailed in this celebration of the ring road, my current employ in Airport West and a marvellous visit to Meadow Heights.

Whole new vistas of of people and their food – easily accessed.

Wonderful!

Thus it is that I find myself exiting on Elgars Road, turning left on to Barry Road and parking at the Barry Road Community Centre for the City of Whittlesea’s Well Bread Festival.

While I’m busy getting a handle on the slightly different dynamics and demographics of Melbourne’s north, there is no mistaking the vibe, the people, the whole deal of the festival as I enter the hall – it’s all very, very familiar in the best possible way.

Having been unsure of just how the festival will unfold, I am thrilled to discover – via the day’s running sheet – just how full-on and intensely bready it will be:

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And so begins a thoroughly enjoyable, enlightening and delicious day.

To take in the colourful bread wisdom and lore of so many diverse part of the world in a single sitting is a superb experience.

 

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First up is Luba, who makes a Macedonian bread called lep.

 

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Grace cooks Ghanaian meat pies, here being handed around by her pal Esther.

They’re buttery rich, a bit like a meat pastie and, according to Grace, a legacy of colonisation.

 

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Then it’s Esther’s turn … to prepare beignets de mais (corn doughnuts) from Cameroon.

She’s an entertaining hoot!

Also including banana, the beignets are starkly different to the beignets of New Orleans with which I am familiar.

These are chewy nuggets that Esther serves with a red bean stew.

 

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The stew looks dodgy to me – positively ugly, in fact.

But, oh boy, it tastes marvellous.

Just another example of ugly food tasting great, I tell Esther and her friends afterwards amid much laughter.

 

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Salma, with help from son Ahmed, prepares chewy Iraqi flatbread.

 

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The big star here is the family’s wonderful home-made tandoor oven that blazes away right there in the hall!

 

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Then it’s time for lunch …

 

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… which consists of Turkish bread with yogurt/cucumber dip, cheese and spinach gozleme and a tangy vegetable soup.

It’s all excellent.

 

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Zahra prepares noon shirmal, a plain sweetbread from Iran.

 

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Then it’s the turn of Whittlesea councillor Kris Pavlidis and daughter Zoe and their spanikopita.

 

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Ali Fael’s contribution is nan barbari (Turkish flatbread), which …

 

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… is served with fresh mint and salty fetta cheese.

 

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Finally, it’s the turn of Deepali and her tawa parathas.

Despite having eaten countless parathas and chapatis in my life, I’ve never really understood the difference between the two.

Now I do!

The former are folded many times – sometimes with the inclusion of, say, potato or cauliflower. The latter are simply rolled and pan-fried.

 

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What a great day it’s been.

Much kudos to MC James Liotta and council staff Caitlin, Helen and Julie.

Despite the packed schedule and numerous unpredictable variables, it’s all run like clockwork – and on schedule!

 

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Food truck weather

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Big Cook Litle Cook. Phone: 0450 395 344

Food truck.

I reckon there’s ground for considering that phrase as a food style.

You know … Vietnamese, Ethiopian, fish ‘n’ chips, burgers, Indo-Chinese, pizza, food truck.

Like that.

Take, for instance, my rather nice Saturday lunch from a new arrival in the ranks of  Yarraville Gardens truck squadron … Big Cook Little Cook.

 

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Big Cook’s Classic has tandoori chicken pieces, rice, hummus, Big Cook’s salad and roti.

It’s a good feed and I’ve been more than happy to pay $12 for it.

The chicken has good tandoori flavour, the hummus is fresh-as, the roti hot and flaky.

And there’s nothing at all incongruous about various elements of my meal deriving from various parts of the planet.

But it does seem like a food truck meal!

 

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Same goes for my friend’s Smoky Chilli Jam Chicken, also costing $12, with its sticky Indo-Chinese vibe.

I get talking to Conan, the offspring part of the father-and-son duo of Big Cook Little Cook, the name of which was chosen to give them flexibility in terms of not being tied down to a single style of food.

Conan and Raymond are much-travelled and passionate about what they are doing.

Conan asks me what I think about the pricing of the food trucks in general.

The prices of the regular Yarraville truck gang actually seem remarkably consistent.

 

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I tell him I’m sure the trucks are setting their prices very scientifically and where they must – any cheaper and they’d not be in business.

Our $12 meals have been fairly priced.

But the truth is a fully satisfying truck meal of main, a little something extra for, say, $5 or so plus a drink can run to about $20.

Many people, I suspect, compare that with the plethora of nearby regular eatery options that are cheaper and also involve tables and table service.

Still, as the several hundred folks out and about and busily trucking on what feels like the first day of spring attest, the food trucks have certainly found a place in the collective heart of the inner west.

It’s a happy scene indeed!

 

Big Cook Little Cook on Urbanspoon

 

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CTS Feast No.9: Xiang Yang Cheng – the wrap

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CTS Feast No.9: Xiang Yang Cheng, 672 Mount Alexander Road, Moonee Ponds. Phone: 9372 7128

Our CTS Feast at Xiang Yang Cheng was a truly memorable occasion.

I remain surprised that only just over the allocated seating was booked – this was and is, it seems to be, just the kind of food that is ideal for such an event.

No matter … no matter at all.

Because those of us who did indulge had a thoroughly grand time.

And with a smaller group, it was all very relaxed and rather intimate.

I really enjoyed getting around our four tables and having chats with everyone.

 

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And that was made easier by the very nature of the food an its preparation – what may have taken a half-hour so to consume if brought plated to our tables ended up taking more than two hours of rambling indulgence.

Many thanks to the XYC staff, including Larry, Zi and Alicia, for taking such good care of us.

Thanks, also, to Nat, Marc, Paul, Marketa, Jenni, Bronwyn, Adam, Philippa, Milena, Paul, Christine, Lisa and Julian for making it.

 

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But perhaps the most thanks should go to someone who was absent.

One of my first contacts at XYC was Peggy.

Peggy is off being a new mum but it was she who devised the broad and representative menu selections that graced each of our tables.

A lot of thought obviously went into it – and thus was vindicated my decision to leave our meal up to the staff and not bother cherry-picking it myself.

Wow!

What a spread we had.

 

Xiang Yang Cheng on Urbanspoon

 

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Saj revisited

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Saj Mediterranean Grill, Shop 27 320-380 Epsom Road, Ascot Vale. Phone: 9078 2633

After a happy first-up visit to Saj, I was always keen for a prompt return.

Mostly to see if I could talk the staff into serving their marinated, skewered meats on a plate with accessories – my preferred option and delight.

Perusal of their menu – which can be seen in the story of that debut visit here – seemed to have the meats only available in wrap form.

As luck would have it, a return visit comes to be much more quickly than I had foreseen – five minutes after Nat Stockley and I arrange a quickie impromptu dinner, I’m in the car and headed for Ascot Vale.

And as it turns out, Nat’s eyes prove a lot sharper than mine – what I want is right there on the menu, he points out, under the heading of “Eat in deals”.

Oh happy day!

This is the sort of Lebanese platter I have been yearning for, and wanting in the west, for years.

We both order identical $14.50 plates with one skewer each of lamb, chicken and kofta.

The hommus and baba ghannouj are as on that first visit – excellent.

So is the tabouli, our plates graced with quite large serves of it in cabbage leave cups.

A special word of praise for this Saj salad effort – not only is it sublimely moist and lemony, it also includes the all-important fresh mint, something often omitted from eatery versions.

The meats are fine, especially the nicely seasoned kofta.

We both reckon, though, the meats have all spent about a couple of minutes too long on the grill, the lamb cubes in particular being overcooked – not to the point of being unenjoyable, mind you.

We mention this to the staff as we are paying and leaving, and are told of one customer earlier in the day who expressed distaste for having her lamb pieces “pink in the middle”.

So CTS advises open and frank meat discourse with the Saj folks!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Happy Camper delivers

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A cold Monday night after a hard day’s work.

Nothing much to look forward to except thawed out soup, an NRL game I don’t really care about and a good night’s sleep.

And another solid day at work when I awake.

Then I see the Happy Camper Pizza Facebook post about how they’re all set up and ready to go at Yarraville Gardens.

It’s way too cold for that sort of carry on, IMO.

But home delivery?

Oh yeah, that sounds real good.

I last spoke with Remi at a Footscray game at the Western Oval, him mentioning then that delivery service was in the works.

So I phone up … and get the man himself taking my order.

From the menu at the  Happy Camper website, I choose the Playing With Fire with tomato, mozzarella, hot salami, olives and red onion.

 

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No more than about 15 minutes later, it’s Remi who cheerfully hand delivers my pizza, with which I get a cute fridge magnet and a one-off $10 off offer if, next time, I order through Delivery Hero.

I pay $14 for my pizza plus a $3 delivery fee – not really economical for solo dining, but pretty good for two or more.

As for my pizza … well I really am a happy camper.

It’s not particularly fiery but it IS a whole heap better than your typical home-delivered pizza.

It’s delicious, with a beaut crust.

I wonder if I am the only home delivery this night that involves a customer clad in Spongebob pyjamas …

 

Happy Camper Pizza on Urbanspoon

 

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Back with the classic cars

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garazi22
Garazi, 107 Gamon St, Yarraville. Phone: 9689 2677

It’s been more than a year since we’ve set foot in Garazi – back then, soon after it opened, it was once for a write-up and then on another closely following occasion.

Maybe it’s because, situated as it is on Gamon Street, our minds are already on foodie pastures further afield when we pass it.

So it is today.

Bennie’s copped a full-on meat-free, dairy-free vegan dinner on Friday and a healthy Lebanese lunch with pals on Saturday, so I’m very happy to let him have his way with Sunday lunch.

“Burger, masala dosa, fish and chips, roast lunch, laksa, Mexican …”

I tick off this list as we motor up Gamon and turn into Charles Street, without any noticeable enthusiasm being forthcoming from my CTS Partner.

By this time I begin to realise he simply may not be hungry.

Weird! Well, weird for a 13-year-old …

 

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So I do a U-turn and head for home, happy to call it quits.

But as we pass Garazi he becomes more animated – so in we go.

It’s a treat!

The seating area has been expanded into the real-deal garage of classic cars, among which it’s a hoot to sit with late-breafasters and friendly pooches.

The service is grand and it dawns upon us that we should treat Garazi with more mindfulness for coffees and quick bites. (We don’t do breakfast, not while out and about anyway …)

 

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For all his lack of interest to this point, Bennie makes short work of his burger with the lot ($18) from the specials board.

It’s a good, hearty cafe-style burger and the pattie tastes good and meaty to me.

 

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It’s a good thing his meal comes with stacks of OK shoestring fries, as my reuben sanger ($13) is completely unadorned and even looks a little on the mean side in terms of size versus price.

But in its simplicity, it’s a ripper.

The bread is just right – not too light, not too heavy, toasted and buttered to perfection.

The thick-sliced corned beef is tasty, as is the Swiss cheese, while the plentiful pickles provide plenty of salty, piquant tang.

 

Garazi on Urbanspoon

Zing! Lebanese in the ‘hood

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Many thanks to Josh, Christine, Julian, You Know Who and Eliza for helping CTS check out the west’s new Lebanese eatery!

Saj Mediterranean Grill, Shop 27 320-380 Epsom Road, Ascot Vale. Phone: 9078 2633

Saj Mediterranean Grill replaces a short-lived Turkish establishment in the showgrounds’ shopping precinct, which has never held much allure for us.

It’s a terrific new arrival – and Consider The Sauce makes the most of our first visit by rocking up with a nice bunch of our regular dining companions.

It’s done out in stark fast-food style, but the food on offer – see menu below – goes quite a bit further than the bakeries our western Lebanese experiences have thus far been restricted to.

We get real plates and cutlery – and cheerful service.

Saj is named after the saj grills, rounded dome plates used to grill the flatbread.

CTS has only ever seen these before at this Coburg institution.

Between us all, we try a good-sized chunk of the menu – but without any intent to do so, we mostly veer away from the more substantial sharwarma and mashawi (grill) wraps.

Even Bennie – given complete freedom to order whatever he pleases (i.e. hamburger) – dines elsewhere.

The skewered meats in the display cabinet look the goods but will have await a follow-up visit.

What we have ranges from good to very good and we’re all very impressed.

Having a new Lebanese eatery in the neighbourhood is a clicking-heels event around here!

Beyond basic descriptions and prices, my assessments and comments are to do with those dishes I personally taste.

 

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Kibbeh ($2) are hot, a little bit spicy, juicy and very fine. Some of my companions find pine nuts, but not so I.

 

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Warak-arreesh (stuffed vine leaves, $1.50 each) are smallish, plain and just right.

 

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Hommus ($5) is fresh and smooth but of only mildish taste.

 

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Baba ghannouj ($5.50) is fantastic – it hasn’t got that prized smokiness but it IS fresh, lemony and full of eggplant flavour.

Both dips are served with the same flatbread used to make the saj pizzas, and more of it is brought to our table without being requested.

 

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Did I say fresh?

Everything here is fresh-as – including this fattoush ($4.50), its joyful jumble of veggies beautifully dressed and anointed with crisp, fried bread.

 

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The tabouli ($4.50) is just as CTS likes it – wet and lemony. It’s a generous serve for the price, too.

 

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The cheese and turkey saj costs $7.50.

 

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Bennie describes his chicken fajita sanger ($10.50) with chook, caramelised onion, capsicum, mushrooms, avocado and cheese with “fajita sauce” as “nice”.

 

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The chicken mashawi ($9) is skewered chicken with lettuce, tomato, onion, pickles and sauce.

 

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A couple of us order the lahm bi ajin ($6) – saj of “mince meat, onion, tomato and spices”.

It’s nice enough but turns out the description is rather more lavish than what is pretty much the stock-standard “meat” pizza we get at other bakeries.

 

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Mediterranean salad ($6.50) has the same fresh vegetables seen elsewhere with wonderfully chewy, salty chunks of grilled haloumi.

 

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We finish off with a couple of choc banana sajs ($6.50) – a sweet delight with nutty extras!

We’re already looking forward to our next visit.

How can this place not be a hit?

 

Saj Mediterranean Grill on Urbanspoon

 

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