Maximum hot pot

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Xiang Yang Cheng, 672 Mount Alexander Road, Moonee Ponds. Phone: 9372 7128

Xiang Yang Cheng is a brand new Moonee Ponds food emporium that sells – and sells only – a singular brand of Sichuan-style hot pot.

It’s been open about a week, and as usual CTS pal Nat has done a super sleuthing job and promptly notified us of its existence, finishing with the simple plea: “When are we going?”

The answer – the only answer – of course is: “As soon as possible!”

Thus it is that Bennie and I join Nat for a most spectacular, enjoyable and tasty Good Friday dinner.

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The place itself is utterly gorgeous.

The upper beams and stonework of the original building are matched below by beautiful wooden furnishings and decorations.

Each table – and there are many, including a couple in semi-private booths – is equipped with a stovetop heater for the soups.

We’ll call what we have Sichuan-style, but the truth is we don’t quite know where the Xiang Yang Chenghuo guo” fit in terms of this apparently well-researched article at Wikipedia.

The young staff are eager to please if a little bemused with our antics, questions and rampant curiosity. But some things remain unexplained.

Including, for instance, the exact ingredients of our “double flavours” brew of “stock soup” and “spicy soup”. We can see the obvious – spring onions, garlic and so on. But there many mysterious Chinese herbs and others bits and pieces about which we’re only guessing.

No matter!

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Our twin-soup base costs $15. We find the slow-grow fire of the spicy soup is perfectly matched with the nicely salty and astringent plain stock.

From there we tick off a number of ingredients – most of which go for about $5 – for dipping into the soups of our choice.

We avoid the more confronting and peculiar (see full menu below), but take a couple of punts as well.

It takes us a little while to find the best cooking times for individual ingredients but it’s all good fun.

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Here’s how our many mixed ingredients stack up for me – the mileage of Bennie and Nat no doubt differs at least a little and maybe by a whole lot!

Frozen beef, frozen lamb: Both arrive at our table pretty as a picture and are very good – though truth to tell, I struggle to tell them apart once they have been briefly submerged and cooked.

Prawns: Average.

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Spinach, Chinese cabbage: The best of our vegetable choices, these seem to really soak up the broths superbly. Even the bigger, whiter stems of the Chinese cabbage are luscious when given enough time in the soups.

Garden chrysantheum: A fail for me – I find the stems too tough even after prolonged bathing. Bennie likes these, though.

Oyster mushroom: Quite nice, with a similar aptitude for flavour retention as the cabbage and spinach.

Potato slices: Another fail for me, though this turns out to be mostly because we don’t allow them nearly enough time. Dropped into the soups and forgotten about for a while, they shape up pretty well – a bit like the spuds in Malaysian or Vietnamese curries.

Bread sticks: Just OK for me, But – again – Bennie likes.

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For $1 or $2, we have been provided three dipping sauces – sesame oil and garlic, chopped coriander and BBQ. The first two are what they are, but the second is a puzzle – a BBQ sauce that just seems a little odd or off.

But the winner is a house sauce, provided without being requested, of fermented soy and broad  beans, chilli, garlic, spring onion, ginger, oil and peanuts.

It tastes strongly of miso to me, is granular and a little crunchy, and we all love it to bits.

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What an absolute ball we have!

Given the hit and miss aspect of our ordering, we figure we’ve done really well.

Next time, we’d probably order a little less in terms of quantity, and some more of that and less of this.

All up, our feast – including a long, tall can of papaya drink for Bennie – costs about $25 each, which we think is an outright bargain.

Even better, the very nature of the ritual involved makes for a relaxed, chatty and deeply engaged dinner experience.

We take about an hour to get ourselves full.

This could hardly be a greater contrast to Bennie’s burger experience of the previous night, in which case – for almost exactly the same admission fee – he had a meal that lasted way less than five minutes.

There may be other eateries doing this style of dining in greater Melbourne, but it’s a rarity in the west.

So we hope they do well.

It’s a unique experience that’s packed with affordable, high-quality ingredients – and it’s great for groups.

Xiang Yang Cheng on Urbanspoon

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Thanks for having me …

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Like, I’m guessing, neophyte bloggers the world over, when starting Consider The Sauce I simply bumbled along, learning as I went and – or so I thought – making things up as I went along.

As it turns out, almost all the bright ideas I came up with are simply routine fare for bloggers and entrepreneurial types everywhere.

(Aside: I can’t tell you how impressed I am that I was able to spell “entrepreneurial” first time and correctly!)

I came to know this from periodically checking out such sites as Problogger and the more foodie-specific Diane Jacob, Will Write For Food – and even taking in a few likeminded books along the way.

Mind you, I have also learnt there are definite limits to how much of this sort of pep-talking I can take in or even respect.

There comes a time when blogging becomes an end rather than a means, or even (it often seems) something of a self-help cult.

At that point, I yawn and switch off or on to something else.

After getting CTS established, one thing I instinctively pursued were collaborations – and collaborators to join hands with.

I’ve had a few misses along the way, but far more hits – and I’m continuing to find it exhilarating!

It’s simply something that dynamic, creative people – and creative, dynamic bloggers – do.

And now another such “something” – public speaking – has come to be.

Although, in this case, it seems so far that this has sought me out rather than the other way around.

I have been hosting the CTS Feasts – but in all cases to date the verbal aspect has been restricted to a few comments before eating.

The Westies reveal and FFB/CTS picnic was more of a public speaking gig, but even then of brief duration.

But it was at that celebration that CTS pal Pastor Cecil asked me: “Would you come and speak to my Rotary Club?”

My answer was immediate and emphatic: “Yes!”

In the meantime, thanks to the wonderful meet-and-greet oyster bar role assigned me during this year’s Rickshaw Run, I had ample opportunity to see how I felt about this sort of activity.

Chatting up a new group of eight people every 20 minutes for an entire weekend?

I loved every minute of it!

And so Bennie and I front Medway Golf Club in Maidstone to be guests (and, in my case, guest speaker) at a regular meeting of the West Footscray Rotary Club.

The golf club and its course is a revelation for Team CTS – so gorgeous! And yet more proof the west will never cease surprising – often with something, some place or somebody that has been right under our very noses all along.

We enjoy meeting the Rotary members, which I’m guessing number about 30.

There are some ceremonial aspects to the gathering – grace, the national anthem and so on.

And then lunch, as provided by the golf club kitchen staff.

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It’s rather good, too. The delicately-crumbed and tender fish is outstanding. I later ask the kitchen staff about it – they tell me they don’t know the English name of the fish concerned but that our lunch specimens had been purchased this very day at Little Saigon Market.

And then it’s my turn, after being introduced by Pastor Cecil with words along the lines of “Kenny is someone different who really likes different things”!

Off I go, covering the whole CTS story – the death knell of newspapers, the need for a whole new world to be created, the multiple joys of food blogging and much more

Referring only a couple of times to the rough notes I had scribbled before leaving home, I easily fill my allocated 20 minutes – so much so that Pastor Cecil is forced to gently intervene and bring my spiel to a halt.

As far as I have been able to tell, no eyes glazed over and no guest or member has slumped to sleep.

I field several great questions as part of the formal gathering, and several more informally as the meeting winds down. Many CTS business cards are distributed.

Bennie and I are the last to leave.

Thanks for having me!

So there you go – Kenny Weir, public speaker, open for business …

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Yarraville’s new foodie pub

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Hyde Street Hotel, 188 Hyde St, Yarraville. Phone: 9689 2163

As Victoria On Hyde and in our now many years in Yarraville, we’ve had close to no use for these premises.

Sure, an occasional quick-stop for beer and/or wine … but the only time I ever stuck my head inside the pub proper, I promptly fled.

Now, though, oh boy!

The place has been re-branded as The Hyde Street Hotel and given a radical makeover – and we’re very happy to be taking it for a whirl on Easter Eve, about a week after it has opened.

There’s a rather spartan public bar where a limited choice of menu items is available at significantly lowers prices than in the dining room.

There’s a couple of cruisey lounge areas.

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And there’s the dining room itself – airy, bright and attractive. It almost has an outdoor feel about.

It has booths, widely separated tables and lots of room.

The menu starters are in the $10 to $20 range and display the most diversity of the kitchen’s output, with influences from Asia and the Middle East.

From there the menu diverts to regular pub fare, including “classics”, mains including roasted lamb rump and “bbq’d” kangaroo loin, pizzas and steaks – including a kilogram rib eye for two at $75.

Overall, the prices seem less than at the Mona Castle and more in line with the Plough.

We are served well by young staff dressed uniformly in hipster black and our meals arrive promptly, the wait time spent checking the place out and frankly ogling with much interest the plates bound for the tables of other families and groups.

We go for a couple of the classics.

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My fish and chips ($26) hit the spot.

The salad is a fine thing for this kind of food in this kind of place – fresh greens and some finely cut cucumber, radish and red onion, all well dressed.

The fish is three medium-size pieces of rockling that are sweetish, delicate and add up to a good feed.

Plate aesthetics have dictated the fish is placed atop my chips, so some of the latter are spoiled by oil seep – but the rest are hot, crisp and hastily consumed.

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By contrast, I feel a little sorry for Bennie in regards to his choice of the wagyu beef burger ($24), which comes with the same chips.

It appears to be a good, unfussy burger but it simply doesn’t seem to provide him much of a dinner experience.

It’s gone in about two minutes and is a messy handful.

It has good melted cheese, some greenery, sauce and mayo, caramelised onions and that’s about it.

No bacon; just sayin’ …

But brevity of eating has, in this case, no bearing on quality.

As we walk home, Bennie spends the first block or so expounding with passion and enthusiasm on his burger … the deliciousness of the meat, the “crisp on the outside and soft inside” chargrilled bun, the whole deal.

To the point of saying bacon may have been of nuisance value only.

“Next time, you’ve just gotta try it, dad!” he proclaims.

An obvious winner …

Hyde Street Hotel on Urbanspoon

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Food trucks – Altona, Williamstown readers have your say!

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Disclosure – the two reporters who filed this Maribyrnong/Hobsons Bay Weekly story about food trucks in the west are colleagues of mine; I am quoted in the story and the newspaper has used a photograph provided by CTS.

But I confess to being bemused by the comments in the story by the spokeswomen for both the Altona Village Traders Association and the Williamstown Chamber of Commerce.

Of course, it is the job of such groups to promote and protect the businesses they represent.

But the idea of “running food trucks out of the town” seems a little, um, confrontational.

There are places we like to eat in and shop at in both Williamstown and Altona. We will discover more.

But I can only go with what numerous residents and readers from both suburbs have told me in the years CTS has been operating – that while there is plenty of choice, people in general think there is much that is “average”, over-priced or both.

So Altona and Williamstown readers, what do you think … food trucks, do you want them?

 

 

 

 

 

An Ethiopian welcome to Footscray

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Kokeb Restaurant & Cafe, 247 Barkly Street, Footscray. Phone: 9689 0157
Snowtree, 119 Hopkins St, Footscray

Eliza was one of the many lovely and talented people with whom I worked at the Geelong Advertister.

IIRC, she left not too long after I did … to pursue a gig practising the black arts of PR on St Kilda Road.

As is so often the case these days, we both sort-of followed our respective journeys from Facebook, where – among other things – I monitor with interest the comings and goings of my extended family of media industry brothers and sisters.

That all changed a few weeks back when I received a wonderful tweet from Eliza:

“Hi Kenny, how are you? Am moving to Footscray tomorrow – will need to keep a closer eye on your blog!”

Cool!

My reply was immediate:

“Hi Eliza! Wow that’s great! Will you have dindins with me and Bennie?”

We took our chat into private channels and – bingo! – here we are just a few weeks later having a swell dinner with Eliza and her partner, Josh.

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Kokeb joined the ranks of Footscray’s Ethiopian eateries a few months ago.

It’s a charming space and we are equally charmed by the service offered us by Helen and the music – on a Tuesday night! – of Melaku.

The menu has all the Ethiopian regulars covered, with a few more interesting items.

But we do away with all that – in the interests of easing “catching up” conversation – by going for the $22 a head banquet.

Eliza has us all laughing with stories of how her PR gig came unstuck and we quickly and in some depth swap notes on how we’re both faring these days, she as online editor and social media honcho … back at the Addy.

It’s a great role for her, I reckon.

But Bennie and I are just as delighted to have she and Josh as new neighbours, and excited to introduce them – for the first time – to the delights of Ethiopian food and injera.

They take to them with gusto – and so they should, as the Kobeb banquet spread is top-notch.

All is fresh, hot and tasty.

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We get two kinds of lamb tibs – the regular “white” and the more spicy and red “Kokeb” tibs. Both very good.

There’s the chopped greens of gomen wot and the delicious and chunky carrot, cabbage and potato of cabbage wot.

And, of course, lentils a couple of ways.

Best of all, though, is the shiro, which is served separately from an earthenware pot.

It’s a hot, spicy split pea soup/stew flavoured with berbere.

There’s plenty of food for our admission fee, and we even take Helen up on her offer to top up our supplies of the vegetable dishes and injera.

Some of the cool, crisp contrast usually offered by the presence of tangily-dressed lettuce, cucumber and tomato would have been a bonus.

As our meal and the eating of it wind down, Bennie gets a case of the restless – so we send him off on the daunting challenge of finding us somewhere that is doing dessert relatively late at night and relatively early in the week in Footscray central.

Success!

So we all troop off to the Korean joint Snowtree.

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To my surprise, they’re still serving what look like pretty acceptable Korean dinners – so maybe this is somewhere to take note of as being (maybe) open when all else is closed hereabouts.

But we make to do with a couple of serves of their “Snowtree Belgium waffle” ($7.50).

The waffles are just OK and the cream, I’m almost certain, comes from a can; but all is wolfed down anyway – including all the fruit and the frozen yogurt.

Welcome to the ‘hood, Eliza and Josh, and – yes – we’ll be making the housewarming!

Kokeb Restaurant & Cafe on Urbanspoon

Snowtree on Urbanspoon

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All change at Werribee South

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If change is a given, then change and its ramifications are a way of life in the western suburbs.

For years now, or so it seem, one or more of the streets surrounding our Yarraville home have been in the process of being worked upon.

In the greater west and in a broader sense, the issues of change are the very substance of much of my weekly, regular newspapering gig, be they concerned with politics and culture or economics and infrastructure.

Transport, be it rail or road, is a particularly knotty and sensitive subject.

But for all the growth and upheaval in the west, there is no change going on quite like what is in the process of happening in hitherto sleepy Werribee South.

There, a project involving more than 100 apartments and an “integrated retail precinct” is rapidly taking shape.

You can see the developer’s website here.

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From all that I’ve read, no one seems at all sure what sort of impact this is going to have on Werribee South.

Added to the mix is the surprising news – well, surprising to me anyway – that plans for a Werribee South-to-Melbourne ferry service seem to be gaining very real traction.

The traffic generated by 100 apartments, their residents and service vehicles is one thing.

Throwing in the daily comings and goings of 3000 ferry commuters is quite another.

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The main routes into Werribee South – Duncans and Diggers roads – are fine two-lane thoroughfares for much of their lengths, even if they are invariably stained dirt brown by market-gardening activity.

But in places, both roads take on a distinctly backwoods feel, with potholes, bumps and dodgy edging to the fore.

As for the food portion of the development’s retail precinct, my expectations are at zero.

“Franchise” and “generic” are terms that spring readily to mind.

Degani, anyone?

Not that we’ve got anything against that particular coffee shop chain.

Indeed, I’ve been told that company behind it is also behind this place, which we like just fine.

But I’ll not be holding my breath hoping that Wyndham Harbour bucks the trend of greater Melbourne generally doing a lousy job of seaside eats.

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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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Is there such a thing as too many food trucks?

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The days when the west seemed forgotten or ignored by Melbourne’s developing food truck industry sure seem like a long time ago and a long way away …

Tonight on Somerville Road there were 14 – that’s right, 14 – food truck in operation!

I’ve liked all the truckers I’ve met.

And I like that they like each other.

But I wonder how they can all make a buck in such an intense environment.

Those that I talked to tonight said business was good without being outstanding.

There was certainly a happy vibe in evidence!

And, no, I didn’t partake, having already eaten in Carlton …

Footscray returns to the Western Oval

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Upon moving to Melbourne about three decades ago, I was quite taken with Australian football – this strange game adored by millions but played only, or mostly, in a single country … and a single city (mostly) at that.

As I established a new life for myself, and being as I knew few people, it was not unusual for me to attend three VFL/AFL games a weekend – imagine the cost of doing that these days!

I never got serious about barracking for any particular team, but usually went for the underdogs in any given game.

All that was long enough ago that I actually made it to some of the old-school suburban grounds – in fact, IIRC, I may have actually attended the final ever seniors game at the Western Oval.

So I am really quite excited to front up for the return of Footscray – in the form of the Western Bulldogs’ stand-alone VFL side – to the Western/Whitten Oval.

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Marley and her family, Maddie, Ruby and Rory.

Even if I have reverted to other football codes in terms of my active sports interests.

I arrive in time for the start of the second quarter, end up staying to the final siren and have a ball.

There’s gratifyingly big crowd on hand, kids and families and dogs everywhere – none of whom have had to pay for their suburban footy fix.

It being after breakfast but too early for lunch, I’d envisaged grabbing a coffee from the Bulldog HQ eatery The Pound …

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… but the queue nixes that idea right off.

However, I am delighted to find that among the array of eats being provided at the train-line end of the ground are Remi and his super-gorgeous Airstream Happy Camper Pizza van.

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Too early for lunch? Nah, time to try a whole Happy Camper Pizza for the first time ever!

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My $12 margherita is perfection in every way – hot, fresh, excellent ingredients in just the right proportions and very, very tasty!

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There are old-school footy traditions going on everywhere, including kids and balls and dads on the ground at half-time and anyone with an interest taking in the three-quarter-time huddle.

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I run into and enjoy the company of CTS readers and footy buffs (from left) Michael, Footy Maths Institute, Sian and The Holy Boot’s Football Emporium.

Also met but unphotographed is Dugald Jellie, whose report on the occasion can be seen here.

I understand there are about five more VFL home games for Footscray this season – it’s a CTS recommended activity!

(BTW, Footscray thrashed Richmond …)

Happy Camper Pizza on Urbanspoon

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Macedonian magnificence

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Zegov Charcoal Grill, 16 Wood Street, Thomastown. Phone:  9078 6811

Nat “The Nose” Stockley has a super-sleuthing way of finding about new joints that fits right fine with the Consider The Sauce ethos.

So when he tips us to the existence of a new eating emporium – or, even better, asks us to join him in checking out – we invariably respond with alacrity.

In this case, the business in question is a newish Macedonian place way over there in Thomastown.

No problem – a sweet drive on the ring road, particularly with a slew of new music to listen to, is a breeze and seems no more “out there” or onerous than some of our more far-fetched westie exploits.

As I drive, I have visions of perfectly grilled meats and fabulous cabbage salad dancing in my head.

That’s precisely what we get – and we get more besides.

A WHOLE lot more.

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As we get comfortable in the typically Euro-appointed eatery, Nat and I are like a couple of giggling schoolboys.

Truth is, we both get an immense rush from finding such out-of-the-way places.

As well, I am delighted to find that Zegov ticks another CTS box – regular readers will know we get a particular kick from finding great food on industrial estates. This isn’t that precisely, but it’s real close.

I’ve had no lunch, so am hungry – my mouth really does water as we peruse our menus, which feature both the expected and the not so much.

We choose a couple of starters and a couple of mains – in the latter case, choosing different platters from the three mixed grills available.

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Piroshka ($4 each) look like Chiko Rolls and are filled with a mix of cheese, pickled gherkin, ham and mayo. They’re delicate but, for mine, a little on the bland side given the potential pungency of the fillings.

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Makallo ($7) is chargrilled green chillies in oil “for dipping”. This is nice enough, though I could wish for more pronounced spice and flavour.

Sounds a little on the ho-hum side so far, doesn’t it?

Well, hold on – things are about to get very interesting!

Something spurs Tanya and her mum-in-law Lidija to get really serious about having us waddle out of the place.

Whether it be the fact we’re photographing everything that moves (and much that doesn’t) or that we look hungry (it certainly can’t be that we look skinny because we don’t) … out come three more starters we haven’t ordered just for us “to try”!

Wow!

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Nafora ($6) is lightly chargrilled bread with chilli flakes and cheese that we gaily use for dipping in the oil of the above makallo.

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Sarma ($16 for two) are right up there with the very best cabbage rolls I’ve had, regardless of derivation.

They’re smaller than is often the case, but so tender and packed with not rice but instead a gloriously hearty beef mince sauce.

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Grafce ($7) are baked beans – they’re smooth and hearty, but maybe get a little lost in the multitude of food around us.

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Finally we get to our mains – mix char grill 1 for him, mix char grill 2 for me.

Both cost an outrageously cheap $18.50, with the only difference being that Nat gets pork neck pieces and I get lamb chops.

Gosh, they’re fantastic! The only problem is, we’ve already eaten so much we struggle to do our platters justice – I eat only one of my chops, for instance.

But the meats are superb – plain, juicy, expertly cooked and including five “kebapi” and, for variation, a skinny pork snag of sneak-up-on-you spiciness.

And the cabbage salad?

It’s perfection in every way!

Such a simple thing and such a joy, the cabbage is both tender and crunchy, and a little vinegary to boot. As it should be.

It’s pretty much the only thing we both clean our plates of.

We think we’re done – but Tanya and Lidija have other ideas …

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Tulumba, a dessert special not listed on the menu and yet another treat offered us “on the house”, is like a cross between churros and eclair.

Coated in clear, sticky syrup, it’s a plain and not over-rich way to cap off a magnificent eating experience.

There’s some food in the west that is similar to that to be had at Zegov, but not THAT much.

So this wonderful place is well worth a drive the ring road makes easy.

And I just know that Bennie will love the $10 burgers that are “served with chips in burger”!

Thanks, Nat – you’re always on the money!

Zegov Charcoal Grill on Urbanspoon

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The great western suburbs coffee debate

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Regular readers who get their CTS fix via this blog’s Facebook page will be aware that yesterday I posted a link to a list of “Melbourne’s best coffee” as published on Urban List.

As ever with such lists, my beef is with the use of the term “best”.

Look, I’m a journalist – I know how these things work.

And work they did, in this case, with that FB post/link garnering more than 1000 views – way, way more than ever is accorded CTS’s own posts.

Another familiar beef is that in this case, as in so many others, the western suburbs did not score even a solitary mention.

So I reckon it’s worthy of a blog post – let’s have some have some entertaining discussion about your fave western suburbs coffee spots.

As listed on the CTS FB page, I have three that I absolutely swear by for friendliness, service and outstanding coffee – Cup And Bean, Feedback Cafe and Sourdough Kitchen.

 

 

 

 

 

Steppin’ Out In Sunshine

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MaDE in Brimbank is a dance and music bash being held in the car park adjacent to Classic Curry and in which we almost always park when making one of our frequent Sunshine visits.

Now, dance is not really my thing, but I end up being very glad I make the effort.

This is another wonderful westie community event.

I spend quite a few hours enjoying it all – from an hour so after proceedings commence, but departing way before the party winds down.

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While on hand I catch all sorts of dancing and other entertainment, ranging from junior hip-hoppers to traditional styles from Africa and Europe.

And there are food trucks.

Actually, there are a LOT of food trucks – they’re so thick on the ground, I wonder how anyone is going to make a buck. Maybe things pick up after I split.

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Given the plethora of food rucks on hand, it is no surprise I bump into erudite and much-travelled foodie Nat Stockley.

Nor is it any surprise, given her “thing” for dance, food and, more recently, food trucks themselves, that I likewise stumble across the Urban Ma and other members of the wonderful family with which only days earlier I had been utterly privileged to participate in an amazing Pinoy family feast.

Wonderful folks!

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From Amy at Trailer Made Food, I secure a serve of fried potatoes with tomato sauce and Turkish sausage ($10).

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It’s a lovely thing!

The spuds are crisp and salty, the sauce is intense and the sausage just right.

But I’m still hungry.

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So I hit the Souvlaki Cart – and hit souvlaki heaven.

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My $10 souvlaki is wrapped in everyone’s fave Greek-style pita bread.

Internally, the lambs cubes are really, really top class and a cut way above the meat found your average takeaway souvlaki.

The only quibble I would have is that the yogurt/cucumber combo could’ve benefited from quite a bit more garlic.

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Coasting in Yarraville

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Friendly Neighbours Family Day, Beaton Reserve, Yarraville

We know some of our neighbours, one of them very well.

But, like everyone else, we could do better.

So we are happy to embrace the Friendly Neighbours Program, the leaflet of which arrived in our letterbox this week.

Even better, we are happy to check out the local festival being thrown in that spirit at our local park, which we mostly use for one of our favourite past-times.

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We can’t recall there ever being a public event in “our” park before, but we certainly hope this one becomes a regular.

Bennie remarks as we arrive that it’s the most laid-back fest we’ve ever attended – and we’ve been to heaps.

But laid-back has its charms, for sure.

We like the stalls – and we like even more that the stallholders have been charged no fee!

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I especially like talking to Karen, who makes all her hats and caps from recycled materials.

My search for a winter hat is on, but I don’t find quite the right one among her on-hand range.

But I have her details (karenfalting@gmail.com) should I decide a custom-made number is the answer.

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There’s ukeleles …

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… line-dancing …

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… and bluegrass with crowd-sourced percussion.

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We eye food trucks including Dos Diablos and Beatbox Kitchen somewhat warily – after all, our weekend eating-out budget is pretty much shot.

So we are profoundly grateful to the nice folks from the Ethiopian Youth & Parents Association who are offering, at no cost, snacks that do us just right.

They include injera rolled up like roti rolls and including dal, a sort-of bolognese and a spicy cheese-and-green number – all absolutely delicious!

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CTS Feast No.6: La Morenita

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Consider The Sauce Feast No.6: La Morenita

67 Berkshire Rd, Sunshine North. Phone: 9311 2911

From 7pm on Wednesday, May 21.

PLEASE NOTE: THIS EVENT HAS SOLD OUT. CTS AND LA MORENITA ARE IN DISCUSSIONS ABOUT A REPEAT!

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Who doesn’t like hands-on food?

Not we here at CTS HQ, that’s for sure!

Whether it be an injera-based spread or a fabulous Pinoy family feast, we just love getting our hands on the stuff.

And that’s just what we’ll all be doing at CTS Feast No.6.

We know this because La Morenita’s Maria has assured us there’s simply no cutlery to be found in the place.

Maria and her hubby, Marco, are old friends of CTS.

We use their empanadas for out-of-the-freezer light meals and snacks.

We love dropping in for coffee and cake.

We love that this friendly Latin American cafe is right there on Berkshire Road as a warm, tasty contrast to the wall-to-wall panelbeaters and the like.

Most of all, we love their amazing range of sooper-dooper, genuine Latin American sandwiches/burgers, one of which – the fabled churrasco – will be the centrepiece of CTS Feast No.6.

As with the previous Feast, a charge of $20 will apply, with the proceeds being split between CTS and La Morenita.

In this case, though, because of space restrictions, there are only 25 tickets available.

After a feast history that has so far embraced three Indian eateries as well as one each of Vietnamese and Chinese, it’s really cool to be offering CTS readers something different.

Let’s let Maria have the last word: “My aim with this night is to make sure everyone goes home full!”

MENU

Cheese, spicy chicken and beef empanadas

Choripan (chorizo in a roll)

Cocktail hallullas (Chilean bread), pebre (spicy chilli sauce)

Traditional ham and cheese sandwiches de miga

Churrasco (burger with beef, tomato, avocado and mayonnaise)

Custard berlin (doughnut)

Milhoja (“1000 layers”) cake (which Marco will slice on the night)

A Jarrito (Mexican soft drink)

Dinner delight in Yarraville

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Alpha Bakehouse, 42 Anderson St, Yarraville. Phone: 9687 6111

The weight of opinion would seem to be overwhelming.

It doesn’t take a lot of looking to find accolades for the coffee served at Yarraville stalwart Alpha Bakehouse.

As well, hordes of commuters get their “roadies” here despite there now being two alternatives that are actually closer to the station.

In my city commute days, I did likewise – but always found the coffee mediocre. But as I say, I am in the minority.

More broadly, we have never really warmed to Alpha. The occasional pie, but that’s about it.

Besides, at lunchtime, the place is so very, very busy.

Always.

Again, we are in the minority.

We’ve been aware for a while the place is now open for dinner – and are open-minded enough to give it a go.

What we find and are provided makes us converts.

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The joint’s daytime role as a bakery/cafe/sandwich place remains apparent at night.

But the Alpha crew has otherwise done a fine job of fostering a real restaurant ambiance.

In the long room, there are many small tables, a larger one of the communal variety and a broad bench at the front.

Wowee – all are set with real-deal napkins! We appreciate that.

We lover our pozzie at the front bench. It’s a fine place to await our meals on a balmy Indian summer’s eve as we watch the commuters heading home in an endless parade.

The Alpha’s dinner mains mostly range through the $15 to $25 mark and can be described as being in the family bistro or local pub tradition (see menu below).

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For once, I pull parental rank on Bennie and choose the “Alpha wagyu burger” ($18).

It’s good, with a nice, hefty patty that perhaps – by our usual standards – could use a bit more zing in the seasoning department.

The bun is excellent, and the greenery and tomato are respectively crisp and fresh.

A nice, crisp slice of bacon would have been appreciated, though.

The chunky “hand-cut” chips are beaut, and I even like them dipped in the generic tomato sauce.

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As luck would have it, Bennie’s meal trumps mine – ironic, given his chicken parma ($18) is what I would have ended up with had he been allowed his burger druthers.

As he motors though his dinner, I venture that it is probably the best parma he’s ever had.

He nods in the affirmative.

Based on my sample taste, I reckon it’d be in the vicinity of that category for myself.

It’s really good. And the meat is served mostly beside – rather than on – the chips. Hurrah!

The parma itself is fine, non-reconstituted chook.

Even better, the topping provides a beautifully finessed harmony between cheese, ham, tomato and sage – something that is, in our experience, far from common.

His chips are the same good deal as mine, while his salad is way better than the mere garnish that has attended my own burger plate.

It’s a winner!

Alpha’s dinner offerings are unlikely to become regulars for us, but we love that it’s there – based on our two meals, Alpha is a classy, viable alternative to similar offerings nearby.

And the early-evening service has been attentive and friendly.

Alfa Bakehouse on Urbanspoon

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CTS Feast No.5: Indian Palette

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Indian Palette, 140 Victoria Street, Seddon. Phone: 9689 8776

Consider The Sauce Feast No.5 at Indian Palette in Seddon was a rip-roaring winner.

Thanks to Francis, Sue and their kitchen crew and staff, the food was wonderful and there was plenty of it.

As I’d hoped, everyone was knocked out by the wonderful eggplant dish andhra kodikura with its utterly distinctive flavour generated by peanuts, sesame seeds and tamarind.

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This being the first paid and ticketed CTS Feast made the whole vibe quite different.

Fours tables of eight made for a happy, bubbly atmosphere as fellow foodies and westies got down to it.

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I managed to speak to most of our guests at some point during the course of the night.

Among the happy throng were …

* Serial Feast attendees Michael and Sian, and Daniel and Richelle.

* New friends met for the first time such as Michelle, of Good Day, Scumshine, and Jenni, who I missed out on talking music with – such is the burden of being host!

* Jill and Patrick of Spice Bazaar.

* Marco and Maria of La Morenita in Sunshine – one of our fave places. Stand by for a forthcoming announcement of a joint CTS venture with them!

* Tom, principal of Bennie’s old school Sunshine Christian, his wife Robyn and their friends Adrian and Emma.

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Thanks for coming everyone – I had a ball.

And thanks for so eagerly embracing the new CTS Feast model – more is definitely better, and I’m absolutely thrilled that between us all we made it work so well.

MENU

Entrees

Cut mirchi (fresh green chillies cut and dipped in gram flour batter and deep fried)

Lamp pepper fry (boneless lamb pieces cooked with pepper and Indian spices)

Mains

Gutti vanakaya kura (mini eggplant seasoned with ground nut, tamarind pulp, finished with South Indian spices)

Andhra kodikura (a favourite homestyle Southern Indian spicy chicken dish with garam masala, caramom, green chilli, cloves and cinnamon)

Dal fry (yellow split lentils cooked and fried with onions, ghee and coriander)

Other

Butter naan

Saffron rice

Dessert

Badam kheer (ground almonds cooked in milk and sugar, flavoured with cardamom)

The Indian Palette on Urbanspoon

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A bleak night in Brunswick

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Rezah Afghan Kebab, 595 Sydney Rd, Brunswick. Phone: 9387 3730

It’s a very odd few hours that end in sheer delight.

Good pal Nat Stockley and I have fronted for the launch of a new food truck, one that excites us both.

As he points out, whenever we tee up a foodie excursion, neither of us arrive at the appointed location early – but we are ALWAYS on time.

In this case, that is bad timing indeed.

The scene in a Brunswick back street is bleak.

It’s pissing down with rain and the dub music issuing forth from the venue is doing strange, unpleasant things to my internal organs.

Now look, I’m someone who has always fully embraced volume as a music asset – but this is just no good and no fun.

About three-quarters of an hour after the announced starting time, and with food seemingly no closer to appearing, we give it up and head for Sydney Road.

Our first stop, a perennially popular Lebanese joint, is chockers like I’ve never see it before – and will require a 15-minute wait for a table. If we’re lucky …

So we amble on up the Sydney Road hill and settle on Rezah.

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I’ve been here before, so know what I’m getting into. Nat has his reservations, but is soon won over.

We have a really, really fine meal in a restaurant that has now climbed onto the list of Melbourne places I most warmly regard.

Perhaps the love that unfolds is because of my previous visit. Or, more likely, the folks who run this joint are just extremely lovely people.

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Whatever … I soon start a dialogue with Firoz.

Firoz tells me the restaurant has been running for nine years and that he and wife Aasiah have lived in Australia for 16.

I’m even invited into the kitchen to see our dinner being prepared – so cool!

Nat and I, being of robust hungriness, go for the mixed kebab set menu that’ll cost us $20 each.

It’s terrific!

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The rudiments of our feast are the same as on my previous visit …

Wonderfully vinegary pickles of carrot, onion, cauliflower and even a plump, round chilli.

A minty chilli dip of only mild hotness and a stiff, tasty yogurt dip.

Chewy, hot Afghan naan – so different from the Indian variety.

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Our chicken one way and lamb two are fab, especially the lamb and chicken pieces – tender and extremely tasty, with that charcoal thing really going on.

The minced lamb sausage is nicely chewy but I find it a bit bitter in the garlic manner.

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The rice, festooned with currants and carrot strands, is every bit as good as that we love eating at this Westies winner.

It’s made, Firoz tells me, with stock made from long-simmered lamb bones and spices including two kinds of cardamom, cinnamon and cumin, as well as salt and pepper.

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In a testament to what kind of restaurant this is, Aasiah provides us with a complementary serve of aushak.

The green onion dumplings, smothered in yogurt and a pulse stew of some sort, are wonderful.

As we are wrapping things up, smiling Firoz several times places his hands over his heart to demonstrate his appreciation of our enjoyment of his family’s food and cooking.

He does so again when he makes clear his desire that we not pay for our dinner.

With gentle determination, we eventually persuade him that there’s no way we’re going to allow that to happen.

After a shaky start to our evening, Nat and I have had a fine old time.

And I even got to hear previously unheard – by me – details of my friend’s sordid rock ‘n’ roll past.

What do you reckon?

Would it be completely out of order for Consider The Sauce to arrange a CTS Feast in such a non-western suburb of Melbourne?

Rezah Afghan Kebab on Urbanspoon

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Pho Fever in Sunshine

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Like the wonderful and somewhat similar Rickshaw Run in Footscray, Pho Fever is a great enterprise – in this case, throwing a tasty spotlight on the Vietnamese food of Sunshine.

I didn’t make the previous year’s event, so am delighted to accept a complementary invitation from the Sunshine Business Association to attend in 2014.

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After being welcomed by Simon and Phong, it’s up the red carpet for tonight’s punters.

Oooh, funky glamour in Sunshine!

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As we enjoy a drink of iced coffee, I love chatting to CTS reader Loren (on the right) and her sister, Kate.

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And chatting, too, to my good pal Jacqui of Urban Ma and her hubby, Wes.

It’s been far too long between drinks, so to speak, for Jacqui and I … so a good thing it is that later on in the night, and from our respective homes, we tee up not just a lunch but a dinner, too!

After introductory words, the punters split into two groups to visit three different restaurants each.

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Our first stop in a CTS favourite – Pho Hien Saigon. (See most recent story here).

Cung explains how his restaurant’s pho is the result of experimenting with his father’s “too strong” recipe.

He talks, too, of the various condiments and how they are used.

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I have a simple pho of sliced chicken. It is superb, with the broth having that coveted “crisp and clean” thing going on.

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Then it’s across the road to Thuan An, where Julie and her team have set out a beautiful table featuring candles and pho spices and condiments.

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Here I switch to equally simply sliced beef – and it, too, is very good, the broth having a robust but not overpowering flavour.

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I really enjoy meeting and talking to fellow westies Le Yen, Peter, Tracey and Malcolm. That latter pair are actually from Woodend, but as always I am keen to cast the westies boundaries net wide!

Besides, Tracey is the brand new marquee manager for the Sunshine Business Association.

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Before departing, we are invited into the kitchen to gaze admiringly at the stockpots already hard at work for the next’s day’s brew.

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Then we’re off for a minute stroll to right next door and Nhi Nuong 2 Sister Restaurant, where we are greeted – and entertained – by the sisters, Yen and Elizabeth, themselves.

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Here the food and drink goes in another tack in the form of wonderfully chewy and delicious bo la lot (beef in vine leaves), spring rolls, freshly-squeezed sugarcane juice and Nhi Nuong’s signature tra moc tien tea with its subtle flavour of pandan.

Thanks for having me!

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Rickshaw Run 2014

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A whole weekend fuelled by Vietnamese iced coffee, freshly-squeezed sugarcane juice and love …

Last year, I volunteered for a couple of shifts pulling a rickshaws, Bennie joining me for one of them.

This year, we are up for way, way more.

As much as we can get, in fact.

Why?

Well, our continuing adventures with Consider The Sauce and projects such as The Westies: Dishes of Distinction and the CTS Feasts are only strengthening our commitment to and love for the west, its food and its people.

As well, this year the Rickshaw Run is being co-ordinated by our great pal and partner in the Westies, Lauren Wambach of Footscray Food Blog.

We’ve been eagerly anticipating this night and the days ahead for many weeks.

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Getting set for the first night.

Several months before RR14, Lauren had suggested I would be perfectly suited for the role of meeter-and-greeter at our guests’ first stop – D&K Live Fish for fresh oysters.

And so it was agreed.

Turning up at about 5pm after my regular (paying) gig, I take in the scene and then get busy familiarising myself with my job.

Lemons, napkins, time schedule, touching base with David of D&K, oysters … tick, tick, tick, tick tick!

Am I nervous?

Only a little – the simple truth is can’t wait to get into it.

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Maribyrnong mayor Grant Miles gives rickshaw pointers on opening night.

And then it’s on!

I handle my first group, and then another, and then another – and so the night unfolds sweetly and with intense pleasure.

I find I am getting a real kick out of sending our guests on their way with smiles all round.

I develop a spiel that takes in the western suburbs, their many marvels and their incredible food, with plugs for the Westies awards as I go.

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My first group at D&K make short work of their oysters.

I soon discover that in each group of eight, there are some who oyster and some who don’t.

I let them sort it out for themselves.

A week or so before the run, Lauren had tipped me that a group from my NZ hometown of Dunedin would be passing my way.

But that is meant to be on Sunday arvo.

So I am utterly gobsmacked by what happens halfway through Friday night.

There I am, settling into my “welcome to the Rickshaw Run” groove and happily entertaining a wonderful group of gorgeous gals.

Then, with the conversation being focused on oysters, one of them asks me: “Have you ever had Bluff oysters?”

Here’s how the conversation unfolds:

Me: “I’m Dunedin born and bred – of course I’ve had Bluff oysters!”

She: “So are we!”

Me: “What?!”

She: “We’re all from Dunedin!”

Blimey!

Then unfolds a fabulous conversation and gales of laughter.

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From the left, Pip Gardner, Nicole Hesson, Maureen Williams, Sheryl McCammon, Barbara Anderson, Kenny, Alison Glendining and Karen Dalzell.

All of these women are about the same age as me, and the degree of separation between them and myself in terms of connections between friends, family and business is way below six degrees.

Here’s more conversation with the same chick, Barbara, who asked me about Bluff oysters:

Barbara: “So King’s High School – did you know Geoff Anderson?”

Kenny: “Yep – he was pretty much in the same class as me all through high school. His old man was deputy principal. He was a cranky old bugger!”

Barbara: “I married his son!”

Cue more uproarious laughter …

(Confession: My somewhat jaundiced memory of my high school years paints all the King’s High School staff – including those who were young and female – as “cranky old buggers”!)

Thank you, beautiful Dunedinites – I loved meeting you. Where were you in my teenage years?

In the meantime, my newly teenaged son has been having a ball and making himself useful at the same time.

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He’s bonded with Duncan at Toh’s Bakery and is stepping right up in terms of serving the Rickhshaw Run guests banh khot as they listen to the fabulous drummers of Wadaiko Rinko Noriko Tadano.

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As Friday night winds down, we head to Sen for a feed with our similarly ecstatic fellow volunteers.

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Then it’s home for some well-deserved sleep before arising and doing it all over again.

Fronting on Friday, I had been tired from a hard day’s work and wondering how I was going to get through the Rickshaw Run night.

By the end of it, I’m outrageously high on natural love juices.

I struggle to bed down for the night – and I’m not alone.

Lauren texts me in the morning: “I took ages to go to sleep!”

I get there eventually, despite the racket emanating from our next door neighbours’ party and their hideous taste in music.

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It’s fabulous to return to the scene on Saturday morning and watch our wonderful event unfold as the Saturday Footscray street similarly comes to life.

I happily swing into action at the “oyster bar”.

By this time, I am embellishing my spiel with tales of events and people who have already passed my way.

As well, depending on the group, I am finding there is sometimes a lot of interest in food blogging, how it works and my own personal journey.

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Adding to the fun and colour are periodic episodes involving some Footscray locals who think they know a good thing when they see it.

On several occasions I am obliged to explain that, no, the oysters are not for general public consumption and are actually part of a paid, ticketed event!

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Rickshaw passengers Tony and Rosa are offered sweet treats from their own business!

With the lunch rush over, I am able to wander around a bit and take in the greater Rickshaw Run picture.

For a lucky few groups on Saturday afternoon, their journey includes the impromptu generosity of canoli, beignet and biscotti from Cavallaro’s.

Wonderful!

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Then it’s time for us to go on our own Rickshaw Run.

I had been somewhat reluctant about this, seeing as both of us have been having such a swell time in our volunteer roles.

But we’re food bloggers, too, and duty calls … and the truth is we are looking forward to a yummy break and seeing life from the other side of the rickshaw.

We have a real nice time with Kylie, Gee, Sean, Paula, Jenni and Temple.

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We are delighted to be hauled around by our good friend Jane.

As with all other Rickshaw Run punters, our adventure includes making our own rice paper rolls at Sen and hu tieu soup noodles at Phong Dinh.

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As the day’s oyster action winds down, Lauren summons me to Sapa Hills for the dinner shift.

There’s a bottleneck of rickshaws happening.

Sapa Hills is mad busy so there is only one table available for Rickshaw Run purposes.

A suitably assertive marshal is required.

To my surprise, I find I enjoy this role, too!

It’s simple – explain to the guests what the situation is and that they have precisely 20 minutes from the time they are seated to enjoy their bun cha ha noi, charcoal grilled pork with vermicelli and herbs.

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After I’ve done my best to make everyone involved in the flow of what is, after all, a glorified progressive dinner, things move along nicely.

Long and his crew do their bit by making sure the food is on the table pretty much as soon as their guests are seated.

There is one group, though, that is uncomfortable with being given instructions and perhaps even with the whole Rickshaw Run arrangement.

One member of this group gives me a “death stare” of epic proportions.

That’s OK, lady – I love you, too!

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Out on the street and during this logjam, I witness a truly heartwarming scene.

As four rickshaws and their passengers await their tasty time in Sapa Hills, I see all eight guests deeply engaged in conversation with their haulers, who include our friend Georgia.

No way could this be defined as “killing time”!

We give the volunteer meal session at Sen a miss and head for home once more, tired but very, very happy.

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Sunday dawns beautiful, sunny and just right for a whole lot more of the same.

Today the rickshaw haulers are to include a beefy, friendly bunch from the Footscray Rugby Union Club.

At the “oyster bar”, I have long since done away with asking people their names. But I do persist with finding out from whence does every individual customer come.

They come from all over Melbourne – and in terms of the west, I am surprised how many emanate from West Footscray and Williamstown.

They come from all over, actually. From New Zealand, of course, and quite a few from Britain.

But it is only with my second last group that I meet my first North Americans – and even they’re Aussie residents.

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Halfway through our final day, I find my own passion and enthusiasm completely unflagging.

But Bennie is starting to feel a little jaded and bored.

So I am grateful to Lauren’s hubby, Paul, for whipping him away for a few hours to be in another place with other faces.

Hot food at the Croatian Club, if you don’t mind!

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My expected post-oyster Sapa Hills duties fall through on account of there being another ultra-keen volunteer raring to go.

And it’s too early to wait around to enjoy the camaraderie of the Sen volunteer shebang.

So it’s over for us.

Damn.

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A week or so before Rickshaw Run 2014, I became involved in some undignified dickering over the placement of the CTS logo relative to others on the official event T-shirt.

The matter was easily resolved.

But I later reflected on the episode with dismay, horror and revulsion.

It was a glimpse of the sort of ego-driven ambition that sometimes made monsters of myself and my colleagues in our big-time newspaper days.

I don’t want to go down that road again.

So I am profoundly grateful to the Rickshaw Run and all who sailed upon her for a timely reminder of what it should be all about.

I loved every single minute of it and enjoyed meeting with and talking to so many wonderful people from all over the west, Melbourne, Australia and the world.

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The photographs below constitute by far the biggest ever pic spread attempted on Consider The Sauce.

They are published in chronological order as our one night and two days of the run unfolded.

As I actually had a job to do and there were simply so many people and events going on all the time, I unhappily dispensed with the idea of taking names for captions.

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This Sapa Hills vegetarian alternative – eggplant done in the same way as is frequently accorded chicken ribs and calamari – was the best dish of the weekend for me!

South India in Werribee

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Padma’s Kitchen, 96 Watton St, Werribee. Phone: 8742 6756

One of the great joys of moving to Melbourne so many years ago was discovering the joy of being able to walk a few blocks, or hop on a train or tram, then enter a restaurant and proceed to eat Indian food or food of related genres.

For me, that was all so sophisticated!

But it wasn’t too long after that I started reading and hearing the oft-repeated lament that if only Melbourne’s Indian restaurants served more than the rich, heavier food of north India.

I hesitate to call this demand an incessant clamour, but nevertheless there was obviously a desire shared by many for the lighter, runnier and more coconutty food styles of southern India.

Well, that revolution is truly upon us.

First it was dosas – and then came dosas in West Footscray.

These days, almost all the West Footscray eateries – and those in equally Indo-happy Werribee – offer some form of south Indian food on their menus.

And to that we say: “Yay!!!”

There is still plenty of scope and potential, we reckon, for potential restaurateurs to go even further in exploring regional Indian food, but for now we’re happy to enjoy Werribee’s very own dedicated south Indian restaurant.

The story behind Padma’s Kitchen is an intriguing and romantic one that involves two Indian restaurant dynasties.

Both Ayyappan Ramasubbu and Padma Balakrishnan are from restaurant backgrounds with groups of hotels across Tamilnadu, India, where the original Padma Hotel originated in Trichy.

The couple are planning a vego-only place for the CBD, but in the meantime are working hard on their new Werribee enterprise, helped by Padma’s brother, Sreeram, and a chef and three assistants extracted from the combined family business in India.

Ayyappan tells me the immigration aspects – including accommodation issues and potential family re-unifications – are among the trickiest he and his wife are facing.

Their restaurant is plain but sparkling. Perhaps a little more of a lived-in vibe will come with time.

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The Padma’s Kitchen website is one of the more functional we’ve come across – there’s some shockers out there!

So it’s easy to see what sorts of bases they have covered – heaps of dosas, idlis and vadas; regional curries; biryanis … and quite a lot more.

But we choose to visit on Wednesday night, when the restaurant offers a $23 buffet.

This costs more than had we rocked up on a regular night and ordered more modestly and strictly according to appetite requirements.

But we really appreciate the broad range of food the buffet offers us.

The $23 deal comes with the choice of plain or masala dosa, which are cooked to order.

Given the quantity and choice of food open to us, we found our plain dosas superfluous – we reckon ditching them and offering the buffet at, say, $20 would be a winning move.

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Here’s how our starters shape up:

Bennie and I each take a single bite of our idlis and immediately think: “This is the best idli I’ve ever had!”

Where idlis are frequently tough and doughy, these are petite, gently crisp on the outside and featherlight inside – excellent dunked in the accompanying sambar!

By contrast, the idli 65 is a on the plain side.

The chicken pakora we are really looking forward to – it’s OK but tastes a whole lot like any kind of pakora and not at all of chicken.

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And here’s how our buffets mains work out (clockwise from top):

Curd rice – steamed rice tossed with yogurt and seasoned with curry leaves – sounds so appealing, but I find the literally cold reality uappetising.

But I’m happy to admit that’s most likely down to my own expectations – same goes for the cabbage poriyal. I lust for an Indian cabbage dish that is zingy and crunchy, and more in the flash-fried east Asia styles – but like every cabbage serve I’ve ever had in Indian eateries, this seems to me limp and overcooked. As it is no doubt meant to be!

The mutton milagu curry is a winner – towards the upper limits of what could be called mild and featuring wonderfully tender meat free of fat and gristle in a home-style gravy peppered with peppercorns.

The mixed vegetable kurma is a treat, too, its tender beans, peas and carrot residing in a creamy coconut gravy.

Sambar rice – “steamed rice tossed with lentil curry” – is another good one that illustrates why folks like us are gravitating towards this lighter style of Indian food. This is the sort of thing we make at home!

Our meals are completed with biryani rice (sort of like a damp fried rice), lime pickle and a very good layered flat bread call parotta.

For dessert there’s kesari – and I love it!

As one who finds most Indian sweets simple too rich, this is the go – a semolina-based sweet treat that is subtle and laced with cashew nuts.

We’ve loved our first visit to Padma’s Kitchen, and have appreciated the zeal with which Ayyappan and Padma are going about their business and the eagerness with which they discussed their food, restaurant and stories.

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