Ka-ching! Would you like a marshmallow with that?

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When Erika encino3tered the CTS guest post contest, she hinted at “degrees of separation” links between she and I but wisely kept the details to herself. Turns out she is a fellow traveller with myself on the journalism/writer road and we have many overlapping professional and personal connections. I truly loved her contest-winning story and the subsequent review of her family’s prize lunch at Woven. And now that we’ve met face-to-face over lunch, I also know she and her husband (yes, the one that interviewed me for a job about a decade ago …) are determined and even forensic about exploring the many wonderful food options right on their Footscray front door step. So I am very happy to announce that Erika will be writing regularly for CTS. We don’t know quite how this is going to shake out yet – but we figure somewhere between once a week and once a month. I am excited about the contrast Erika will provide to my own ramblings and the small children perspective she will bring to CTS proceedings – that’s important now Bennie is a young man! I hope you enjoy her contributions as much as I know I will!

 

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Brother Nancy, 182 Essex Street, West Footscray. Phone: 0439 318 820

By Erika Jonsson

Babycinos – love them or hate them, they are a part of modern parenthood.

When my son Joe was younger I rarely had to pay for a ’cino.

I would drink my coffee and read the paper while Joe made a happy mess of his froth, a milk moustache always adorning his top lip at the end.

Over time, babycinos have become a happy habit for many families like mine – and the prices have gone up accordingly.

I made the mistake of ordering one without asking the price at a popular Footscray coffee stop and was gobsmacked to pay $2.

Since then I always check, and if it’s more than $1 Joe and I share a hot chocolate.

I have a collection of photos from our babycino dates that shows my son growing too quickly from a toddler into a boy.

 

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In July last year, Joe became a big brother to Hugh.

It’s a role he cherishes and we have all settled into life as a family of four pretty well.

As Hugh has grown, Joe and I have found a chance for regular time together again on Thursday mornings at a garden in Maidstone.

One day a couple of months ago I noticed a café in Essex St, West Footscray, and pulled up without notice.

We headed inside Brother Nancy and I asked the price of a babycino.

“They’re free. And they come with a marshmallow.”

Since that day we’ve stopped almost every week for a decaf latte, a babycino and usually a yo-yo.

It’s a beautiful ritual that doesn’t break the bank.

 

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Owner Leigh is passionate about his free babycinos – he has choice words perhaps not fit for publication about cafes that charge a premium for a bit of froth.

When he opened Brother Nancy six months ago, he wanted to create a place that families could visit regularly for restaurant-quality food in their own neighbourhood.

His chef had trialled at Vue de Monde and Atlantic but embraced the chance to create his own menu without limits in an inner-suburban setting.

At the moment nothing on the menu costs more than $16.50, and every dish I’ve seen is full of quality ingredients generously served.

But it’s the ’cinos and the warm service (and Proud Mary coffee) that keep us going back.

This week Hugh joined us for his first babycino.

Joe stole his marshmallow and most of his froth ended up on the floor, but Hugh wore his milk moustache with glee and a prized new memory was created.

Leigh, your café is the first where we’ve been regulars – and that’s not likely to change any time soon.

 

Brother Nancy on Urbanspoon

Meal of the week No.8: Footscray Best Kebab House

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After the excitement of the Dancing Dog building auction, Bennie, Che and I are up for lunch – a late lunch by our standards.

Footscray Best Kebab House is a long-time fave of Consider The Sauce – see older story here.

The truth is, though, that my couple of visits in the past year or so have had me wondering if this great place has lost its edge.

My solo meals seemed to lack some sparkle and the serves seemed a little on the mean side.

But on this visit, we work out a way to make FBKH really sing again.

For the three of us we order a large lamb kebab meal ($16) and three stuffed vine leaves ($1.50 each).

The stuffed vine leaves are fine but slightly redundant to our purposes.

The ordering of a main kebab meal for the three of us turns out to be a masterstroke.

The chilli dip is as sensational as ever and the yogurt dip (spinach in this case) is also beaut.

The salad is the usual cool and very unique-to-this-place jumble of vegetables.

The lamb is sensational, especially mixed with judiciously with both dips.

But here’s the thing – this single large kebab plate does all three of us just fine.

Much, much more affordable than ordering a small plate apiece at $14 – and it makes much better use of the big serves of the fabulous fresh bread that are routine here.

Brilliant!

Croatian comfort food oozes soul

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Restaurant Katarina Zrinski, 72 Whitehall Street, Footscray. Phone: 9689 5866

It is a wonderfully improvised approach that takes us to Footscray’s Croatian Club this chilly Friday night.

It’s the usual drill – get in the car and seek food with a handful of only vague locations rattling around in our minds.

We’ve enjoyed the food at Restaurant Katarina Zrinski several times but it’s been at least a couple of years since we visited.

(Katarina Zrinski is apparently considered “one of the greatest women in Croatian history” – see wikipedia entry here.)

It’s good to be back in this big, cheerful room.

As expected on a Friday night, the place is pretty much fully booked – not full yet but working on it.

But we’re early enough to snag one of the undressed table, joining another pair of walk-in non-Croatian types.

On previous visits here we’ve mostly loved the grills – things such as cevapcici and raznjici (grilled pork pieces), served with chips and utterly brilliant cabbage salad of the kind so often found in cuisines of eastern Europe.

Tonight, though, and perhaps feeling the onset of winter in our bones, we go big on old-school Croatian comfort food.

 

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But not before tucking into a massive bowl of girice ($11) as found on the specials blackboard.

“You have got to be joking!” proclaims Bennie as our whitebait arrive at our table.

In New Zealand, I grew up regularly eating whitebait of a much smaller kind, usually mixed in a gloopy batter and fried as fritters.

These whitebait are much, much different – bigger, deep-fried, salty, crunchy and very fishy.

Despite his eye-popping surprise at being presented with so many fishes, Bennie likes them as much as I do.

There’s way too many of them for us, though – we don’t even eat half.

They come across to me as an ideal sort of snacky bar food along the same lines as beer nuts, though the staff tell me that is certainly not the intention.

From there we head into much more familiar and heart-warming territory …

Mains here hover around $18 for smaller serves and $25 for larger portions – more if you’re inclined to seafood.

But we’ve learnt from previous visits that the larger deals – especially of the non-grill meals – are humongously big.

So we get smart by ordering $17.50 serves of sarma (cabbage rolls) and “gulas”.

We do good as this turns out, on top of the whitebait, to be just right for two moderately hungry boys.

 

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The cabbage rolls are both different from any I’ve enjoyed before and as good as any I’ve eaten.

The point of different comes from the filling being less rice and more meat, in this case a tangy mix of both pork and beef.

The dollop of mash belies its plain appearance by being an excellent foil for the meaty rolls.

Until recently, Bennie and his mum enjoyed both our mains as cooked by a now former neighbour of theirs named Draga.

Bennie announces with a lofty voice of authority: “There’s no doubt that Draga’s cabbage rolls are better than these!”

Man, Draga’s cabbage rolls must be to-die-for!

 

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The gulas is a stunner – and very generous for a so-called smaller serve.

Atop gorgeously smooth mash, the beefy stew is rich and has heaps of tender meat.

As far as I can tell, it’s cooked with not much more than onion and seasoned with little more than salt and pepper – but that means it’s sublime in its simplicity and packed with earthy soul.

Free advice: Don’t order the large gulas unless you’re sharing!

 

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I suspect that, for ourselves and many other inner-west residents, Restaurant Katarina Zrinski falls off the radar a little.

That’s a shame as the food is great, it’s a very family-friendly place and the service is fine.

Check out the Restaurant Katarina Zrinski here.

 

Restaurant Katarina Zrinski on Urbanspoon

 

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Westie barbers No.3: Mai Hair Salon

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Mai Hair Salon, 3/119 Hopkins St, Footscray

Barbers of European or Mediterranean extraction are not the only places to obtain a cheap, great and enjoyable haircut in the west.

Far from it.

In the Vietnamese precincts of Footscray and further west, the options are many.

When I enter one of these emporiums in, say, Sunshine or St Albans, my arrival is often greeted with an effusive bubbling of Vietnamese chatter.

This usually translates, I have learnt, as something along the lines of, “OMG check out this dude with the crazy moustache”.

This doesn’t happen at Mai in Footscray, however, on account of me going there so often for so long.

Mai is not a barbershop, of course.

They do all sorts of do’s here, male and female.

But for my purposes, it’s perfect.

A smile, a welcome, “how you want your hair?” is the usual routine.

“Zero, all gone, very shiny.”

No problem – $8 including eyebrows!

Brilliant.

 

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Meal of the week No.6: Dosa Corner

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Consider The Sauce may end up doing a more substantial write-up on Dosa Corner, the new Indian place opposite long-established Dosa Hut on Barkly Street in West Footscray – when there are a tableful of mouths to feed.

In the meantime, here’s the goss.

Dosa Corner has been open about a week, there’s incense burning, the place is bright and cheerful, and the service good considering this is a snack-type joint.

The menu is quite long and super cheap.

There’s dosas aplenty, of course.

But there’s also chaat, uthappams, quite a few Indo-Chinese dishes, biryanis and a trio of sweets.

Get a load of the above-pictured pooris!

The freshly fried breads are a little smaller than usual but very good.

The gloopy dal/vegetable mix is excellent.

The other accompaniments are those that attend your typical dosas.

The price?

$5.

How’s that for a brilliant light lunch?

 

Dosa Corner on Urbanspoon

 

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Our mission? Fried chicken!

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Snow Tree, 119 Hopkins Street, Footscray. Phone: 9689 0871

Consider The Sauce has been to Snow Tree once before when it was mostly a waffle/sweets place.

In the ensuing months I have been somewhat aware that the place has been evolving.

But it was only very recently that I noted that it now has a much more fetching interior and a much-extended menu.

Snow Tree has become a full-on Korean restaurant!

So it is that the same Team CTS of four rocks up for a feed.

Fried chicken is very much on our minds.

So at first we are shattered when we discover there is a big red cross drawn right through the fried chook section of the menu proper.

 

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No problem – it’s all on its own laminated card.

But at Snow Tree, it has to be said, the fried chook list, the lunch menu and the menu proper are difficult to navigate, with a confusing range of “sets” and options.

Hard to know just how to do it for a group of four.

We settle on a whole chook to share and a main with condiments each.

Yep, we’re in over-order territory but not by much.

One of our mains is forgotten, but the boo-boo turnaround is admirably swift and in no way detracts from our dinner enjoyment.

 

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Our whole chicken costs $29.

It’s just fine.

It comes with the requested “spicy” sauce and is festooned with chips.

Korean fried chicken has so rapidly become a bit of a craze that there seems to be heap of folks – bloggers and others – who are experts.

I am not one of them.

So I simply do not know if the chips and the masses of sticky sauce are traditional, normal or even acceptable.

For me, the chips seem redundant.

The sauce is spicy but makes for a supremely sticky – but not necessarily unenjoyable – eating experience.

The chicken itself?

Excellent.

 

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My spicy beef “rip” stew ($14.50) is a bit of a mixed bag.

The gravy/soup is not terrifically spicy but has a tremendous depth of flavour.

I love the way it works with the vegetables and some rice.

There’s heaps of beef rib bits with sizable meat chunks (and fat). But the meat itself is chewy to the point of closing in on inedible.

Dang!

 

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Bennie and Eliza both enjoy their “stone” bibimbap ($12), and I note with some envy that the rice bottom of Bennie’s dish is suitably brown and crunchy.

 

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Josh goes for the spicy pork belly on rice ($10.50) and I hear no complaints from him.

The kimchee, slaw, bean sprouts and roast potato cubes (we think that’s what they are) that accompany all our dishes are OK without evincing much finesse.

The above-noted forgotten dish aside, the service is good and the wait times about right for the dishes we have ordered.

All minor quibbles aside, we enjoy our time at Snow Tree.

It strikes us as a winning Footscray spot for Korean food that can cater for a quick ten-buck solo lunch or for more relaxed meals for larger groups.

And the menu is comprehensive!

 

Snowtree on Urbanspoon

 

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Thank you, Footscray!

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Entries for Consider The Sauce Guest Post Competition were slow in arriving but in the end we got a goodly number.

All were good.

A couple were longer and more detailed than the winner.

But in the end, the honours go to Erika Jonsson for her eloquent and soulful homage to Footscray.

Congratulations and we hope you enjoy your lunch at Woven.

And thanks to all who entered!

 

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By Erika Jonsson

My four-year-old son’s fingertips are stained yellow.

He’s licked them clean but the turmeric always lingers in the beds of his nails for a day or two after an Ethiopian feast.

He loves eating with his hands, dipping tangy injera into brightly coloured stews or wrapping it around perfectly cooked meat.

Joe slides down from his seat and heads to the counter to pay – a responsibility he takes seriously.

“Don’t forget your manners,” I remind him as he walks away.

He proffers a $50 note and accepts his change.

“Amesegenallo,” he says.

The faces behind the counter light up – shock quickly becomes delight at the realisation a small, blond boy has just said thank you in Amharic, Ethiopia’s primary language.

“Thank you” is a powerful word in any language, but say it to someone in their native tongue when they are not expecting it and you can open up a conversation in an instant.

My son has spent the entirety of his short life in Footscray.

He loves to talk and he loves to make people happy.

So he says “cảm ơn” when he’s been eating pho; “terima kasih” at Roti Road; “shuk’ran” at Babylon (a favourite that

has now sadly closed); and “grazie” to Joe the barber for a handful of lollies after a hair cut.

He takes diversity for granted.

“How good does Kebab Surra smell?” he exclaims from across the road as he catches a whiff of charcoal and spice emanating from his favourite restaurant. “Can we have Kebab Surra for dinner please, please, please?”

I grew up in a household with plenty of culinary variety, but nothing like the world of choices Joe has on offer within a kilometre of our central Footscray apartment.

When we moved to Footscray, when I was pregnant with Joe, my friends and family were aghast.

Occasionally they still express concerns about safety or doubts over our inner-urban lifestyle.

I just laugh.

I’ve never regretted our decision to move to Footscray.

Every now and then I wish for more space, but the trade-off isn’t worth it.

Joe and I walk everywhere.

We eat out when we feel like it, and a family meal for three plus an increasingly hungry nine-month-old rarely costs more than $40.

We have a world of food right outside our door, and it opens up a world of possibilities when it comes to travel, friendship and cultural awareness.

Life tastes good in Footscray.