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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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!

Meeting Lorisse

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Dandenong World Fare, Dandenong Market

It’s all a bit confusing.

We’ve been Facebook friends for a while, hooking up there on the basis of our numerous friends and former colleagues.

We’ve had some fun chat and even a few more reflective and personal moments through messages.

I certainly didn’t have Lorisse – or anyone else for that matter – in mind when I posted about not getting stuck in a rut.

But several weeks back, I was gazing rather absentmindedly at my computer screen and Facebook, when I thought: “Now that’s someone I want to meet!”

I mean, what’s not to love – big heart, whacky sense of humor, Stephen King fan, ardent feminist and sports nut without out being humourlessly obsessive about either, fully paid-up member of the sub-editor sub-clan of the journalist fraternity …

Why leave it to chance and some possible future gathering of former staffers of the Sunday Herald Sun, where Lorisse worked for about four years starting – it seems – almost immediately after my own departure?

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My inquiry about meeting up for dinner was greeted with an unequivocal “Yes!” … but a nasty virus intervened and some rescheduling was done.

And then came the big announcement – Lorisse is departing in a matter of weeks for a gig in Abu Dhabi.

So … am I meeting a new friend or bidding farewell to an old one?

It feels like something of both, which seems about right.

Picking up my pal at her Frankston pad, we hit the road for the Dandenong World Fare and proceed to have a swell time – alternatively gobbing some pretty good food and yabbering away about our numerous mutual interests, as well as talking rather briefly with fabulous foodie Nat Stockley.

The Melbourne Food and Wine Festival event is not as big and sprawling as I have been expecting.

But the stalls, numbering about 50 all up I reckon, are well laid out; getting around is easy and the crowd not too overwhelming.

Overall, the food available is quite diverse, seems of uniformly high quality and is all very affordable.

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We start with some crunchy bhel puri that could’ve been a bit more tangy.

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Then it’s on to some pretty good grilled chicken with salad from the Nepalese stall. The mildish chilli sauce is a winner and we wish there was more of it.

Despite the diversity, the one thing we are having difficulty spying is something spicy, something with a real heat hit.

So after a few more bits and pieces, we finish on a high note with Korean popcorn chicken from the Ghost Kitchen crew.

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It’s a true cliche – this is how KFC should be: Tender, slightly peppery, delicious.

The chilli sauce is what we’ve been craving – it’s homemade, hot and divine

We look at the dab they’ve supplied, we look at each other … and then I return to the Ghost Kitchen stall to have ALL our chook bits smothered in the fiery elixir.

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Yarraville Festival 2014

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We’re a bit ho-hum about this year’s Yarraville Festival.

Well actually, I am.

Bennie’s pumped.

So it’s a good thing I made him knuckle down yesterday by spending a couple of hours on his first high school project. Said project is going to take several more hours today for it to be completed to our mutual satisfaction.

While he’s been doing that, I’ve been doing blog work (with clothes) and house work (without).

By the time we’re just about ready to roll – going our separate ways to the festival for the first time – the pace outside our home has quickened considerably.

The parking in our street is gone and people are walking to the festival from blocks away.

Sauntering the two blocks to the festival is always a strange sensation.

Turn a corner and – blam! – I’m straight into the intensity of crowds, stalls, music, food aromas and, as always, dogs of all shapes and sizes.

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Perhaps because this the first festival to be held on a Sunday – normally a relatively quiet day in the village – this year’s fest seems even more crowded, even more thronged with people and eats commerce.

The food stalls are doing such hot trade that there are queues everywhere.

So I hit a snag – two of them actually.

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The first comes from a stall under the jurisdiction of the Maribyrnong Swifts Football Club – and it’s perfect in its simplicity.

A superb pork sausage – sourced, I am told, from Footscray Market – on a slice of very good white bread has me sighing with pleasure.

It’s the best food I’ve enjoyed at any Yarraville Festival in any year.

Further along Anderson St, in the mad car park, I hit snag No.2.

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This lamb number ($7) comes from Snagga’s Healthy Sausages and is also perfection – a loosely-filled sausage with top-class greenery.

At this point I run into my good pals Pastor Cecil and his wife Jane.

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I hang with them for about half and hour, enjoying some lively conversation that includes the saucy tale of their courtship and eventual marriage in Bundaberg.

And just for the record, I record once more the fact that my favourite clergyman has once again been seen out and about and in public wearing sandals with red socks.

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Moving on, I hook up with three new friends, two of whom happen to be of the junior human variety.

So it’s a pleasure to spend my remaining festival time in their company, experiencing second-hand the day through young eyes.

This includes a thrilling merry-go-round and faint-painting …

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… and even a remarkably placid but assuredly razor-toothed ferret.

Another notable feature of living so close to the village – I can hear the festival’s last hurrah of amplified music as I complete this post.

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Ace Thai noodles

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Sukhothai noodles by Soi 38, Indonesian Street Festival, Victoria Market

The Indonesian Street Festival is a typically, happily intense Melbourne multicultural celebration.

There are heaps of stalls and heaps of people.

We see some unusual dishes and we see many on which we could for sure take a punt.

But we maintain our focus.

We are here, primarily, to try out the offerings of the second public appearance by the Soi 38 team of Andy from the Thai-centric blog Krapow.

We were delighted with the boat noodles we had in North Melbourne and are eager for a second helping.

This time out, Andy and his crew are cooking up sukothai noodles.

Andy’s description runs thusly: “A light pork and garlic flavoured broth, various¬†proteins¬†including fish balls, sliced pork, pork balls and dried shrimp served over sen lek rice noodles and topped with sliced snake beans, fried pork crackling and crushed peanuts.”

(For a more detailed description of this dish and its background, see the Krapow post here.)

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The Soi 38 team members are going flat out, as are those of every other stall.

But our noodles are not a bain marie job – they’re made to order for all customers.

So we’re happy to pay, take our numbers and scout out a couple of hard-to-find seats.

It’s all worth the wait and jostling – and then some.

We both go the soup option instead of the dry variety (both $8).

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The broth is tangy, yet at first, such are the quantities of the other ingredients, it seems to act more as a sauce than a soup.

But as we consume the contents of our bowls, the dish takes on a more soupy persona.

The flavours become more intense; so does the spiciness.

We are both very happy chappies.

We sincerely suggest you keep track of Soi 38 through Krapow or its Facebook page – they’re offering a delicious, very affordable, friendly and fun way to enjoy Thai recipes and dishes you are highly unlikely to see listed at your local or favourite Thai joint.

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Brimbank Central Multicultural Festival

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Brimbank Central Multicultural Festival, Errington Reserve, St Albans

While there was some firmness about how and what Consider The Sauce would be when it started, it was also always going to be the case that it would evolve.

One of the really neat things that have become a feature – and one Bennie and I really enjoy – is getting out and about to various festivals and community events.

This has led to a regular routine of keeping tabs on social media, the suburban press (on the very odd occasion when it gets delivered) and other sources for info about forthcoming events.

Inevitably, of course, some slip between the gaps.

So we were delighted to get hipped to this lovely festival by another blogger who also keeps pretty good tabs on these sorts of things, Eve from Conversation With Jenny.

We met Eve while on rickshaw duty and we’re happy to enjoy her company again for this Sunday outing.

After walking from Yarraville to Footscray, where we’d wisely left our car after the previous night’s festivities, we hook up with Eve and tootle on up Ballarat Rd.

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The festival takes up a whole lot more space than any of us have been expecting, although much of that is taken up by your regular sideshow alleys attractions and rides.

The stalls – mostly food, but including others such a funeral director from whose staff we get show bags – are arrayed along a strip about 100 metres long.

The food offerings feature some that you’d normally expect to see at such a bash, but there are a few pleasant surprises as well.

Bennie and Eve are both lusting after those Dutch-style mini-pancakes, so off they go.

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He gets his from a regular-looking fast-food caravan establishment; she gets hers from the faux castle outlet.

Seems like a tie to me, though Bennie claims bragging rights in terms of quantity.

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I go for a serve of fish tikka – it’s mildly spiced, delicate and nice.

Next up for me is a $10 Polish platter from the folks from Eastern Bloc Catering.

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This is a delight … three pierogi stuffed with potato, cheese and onion, and topped with crumbled bacon and sour cream. I’m told the cheese is “farmhouse first hanging”.

Cabbage that looks like it may be sauerkraut but isn’t; it’s more of a slaw, lightly pickled and including both red and white cabbage.

Slices of Polish sausage topped with dill pickle and a mix of beetroot and horseradish.

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Eve shouts Bennie one of those potato tornado thingies.

He opts for the salt and vinegar version.

Looks pretty much like potato cake on a stick to me.

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Eve snags a small bucket of Taiwanese popcorn chicken but us boys to get to try it, too.

It’s fresh, hot and wonderful … not to mention stupendously healthy.

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That’s about it for us in terms of food, though I do wrap things up with a serve of chewy loukaomades and an excellent cafe latte.

We take in the sights and sounds a while more before heading home, beating the afternoon downpour and leaving the festival to roll on well into the night.

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