New tastes at a brilliant temple of boganism

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Flying Elephants and B&K Sarajevski Style Chevapi, Rubble & Riches Market, 8-18 Leakes Rd, Laverton

Mexican food at Lavo Market?

With a name like Flying Elephants?

I’m fully expecting a neo-hippie or utterly whitebread take on … someone’s idea of Mexican food.

What I find is quite different – a smallish operation staffed by a friendly crew of three, each and everyone of them boasting Thai ancestry.

How wonderfully westie is that?

In fact, Lavo Market is pretty much that way all round.

Anyone feeling gloomy about the prospects of the west being strangled by yuppifying gentrification should visit this weekend wonder – in its hardcore, unrepentant untrendiness, it will surely give your spirits a lift.

The Flying Elephants sell a compact range of burritos, flautas and tacos.

My chicken taco ($5) is a real nice surprise.

For starters, there’s two of them – bargain!

On to commercial but OK tortillas are piled good chicken, two kinds of cheese, some simple salsa and lettuce. There’s a variety of hot sauces to round things out.

This may not be up to the sort of standard set by La Tortilleria – but I’m not complaining.

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I haven’t been to this market since first writing about it, so I’m delighted to find the Flying Elephants are just one several new food enterprises up and running.

One of them will not be getting my custom or my money.

People with cameras are potential customers, too.

Stallholders not wishing photographs to be taken should erect signs saying just that.

Or simply saying something like, “Please don’t take photographs – but you’re very welcome to try our food” would do nicely.

Death stares and verbal abuse? No thanks.

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I fare much better at another newie – the bright red B&K Sarajevski Style Chevapi.

As with the Flying Elephants, the B&K team have gone that extra mile by providing some tables and chairs – something that can’t be said of many of the market’s food outlets.

They’re selling chevapi and souvlaki in a range of configurations both plated and stuffed in bread of one kind or another.

My plate of five chevapi, two salads and a bread roll is $6.50 – another bargain!

This a Croatian food, so – knowing the Croatian skill with spuds and cabbage – it’s the potato and cabbage salads I am most interested in.

I’m not disappointed.

While the salads have something rather monotone about them, they are both fresh, zingy and delicious.

The chevapi themselves are OK but need more seasoning.

Flying Elephants on Urbanspoon

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Spotswood Farmers Market

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Spotswood Farmers Market, Spotswood Primary School, Melbourne Rd, Spotswood.

Farmers markets have never been a regular thing for us, but we can see that changing as we enjoy a couple of hours at the Spotswood edition on a sunny Saturday.

Apart from fresh produce, preserves, bread, coffee and so on, we are most impressed with the range and quality of the food to eat right here and now that is available.

There’s kids and dogs of all sizes and descriptions, some live music, displays and many interesting things to see and experience.

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Bennie just loves his popcorn chicken and sausage on a stick from Ghost Kitchen Taiwanese Street Food.

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Ghost Kitchen also serves noodles and spring onion pancake, the latter for $7.

Sounds a bit steep, I opine.

I’m told they’re pretty much dinner plate size and are used as a wrap for various fillings.

One of those fillings is “Asian doughnut”, the mental picture of which has me furrowing my brow and Bennie cackling with glee.

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The Ghost Kitchen folk tell me they’re a relatively new to the game and have even been trying a few music festivals, but the younger punters at such events are allegedly hard to feed, with the discussion usually going something along the following lines:

Ghost Kitchen: “Hello, how can I help you?”

Punter (eyes glazed, swaying slightly): “Water …”

Ghost Kitchen: “Cool! Interested in something to eat?”

Punter: “Water …”

And on like that …

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I am most impressed with the work of a stall called Falafel People.

The falafels are quite coarse in texture but unoily and crispy and fresh.

The eggplant dip I sample is outstanding – smoky and lemony.

The hummus, not so good.

They’re not set up to deliver the platter spread I am familiar with after many visits to upper Sydney Rd, so I make do with a falafel wrap.

It’s a doozy – cucumber AND turnip pickles, good tabouleh and those falafel balls.

Falafel People on Urbanspoon

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Bennie moves on to a cone of Timboon ice cream.

Salted caramel? Blimey – genius at work!

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Then he has his sketch portrait drawn by David from St Marks Anglican Spotswood.

St Marks is also running a snag stall – $3 for Andrews sausages sounds pretty good to us, but by now we’re done with eating … until dinner time.

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The Hobsons Bay City Band has me bopping – sort of – with a medley of Four Seasons hits.

On the way home, having decided as usual to make our way back to the car via back streets, we meet some new friends.

We are lured into a garage sale by a swell-looking lemonade stand.

Off to one side are a plethora of large, deeply green leaves.

Inquiring as to what they are, I express my surprise – despite being a food nut, I’ve never before laid eyes on fresh bay leaves, only ever having used the dried variety for cooking.

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The lady of the garage sale house in turn expresses her surprise at my ignorance.

“I know you guys,” she says. “I follow your blog!”

This turns out to be Kristie, so we spend the next 10 minutes or so – while happily imbibing Ella’s Most Excellent Lemonade – discussing westie food topics at large, including the general uselessness of Williamstown and other subjects addressed too scathingly to go into here!

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Luna 1878 – Vic Market at night

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Luna 1878 Night Market, Victoria Market

A normal school week requires quite a degree of discipline for us to survive with aplomb.

School, work, school and work lunches, homework, two rugby practices, dinners to be cooked, sufficient sleep to be had, alarms to be set, breakfasts to produced – there’s a lot going on.

But it takes only a slight shift in emphasis, especially in winter, for a nice, tidy routine to become bleak drudgery.

So, of course, we are adamant about taking the occasional opportunity to throw off the shackles and hit the town.

Thus it is we find ourselves happily skipping towards Victoria Market with food and fun on our minds.

There’s been night markets going on here for several years, but this is our first outing – well, our first as  a team anyway; Bennie attended a few years back in the company of others.

The night festival setting is superb and lovely.

The lighting, the gloom, the excited chatter of the punters, the rain pounding on the roof – and most of all the swirling of numerous cooking aromas cooped in by the roof – all contribute to a profoundly glamourous, sophisticated vibe.

We know full well that such a dynamic can distort and inflame the appetite adrenaline and that we’ll probably order a lot of stuff that will fall short of outstanding. And that, in some cases, similar and much better food can be had for significantly less just a few blocks away.

But we don’t let that transgress on our fun as we enjoy a couple of hours of what seems like rather naughty pleasure.

There’s a meatball stall with amazing giant woks of bubbling balls. There’s a Polish stall doing pierogi and the like. There’s wine and beer and even mulled wine.

But the dominant theme seems to be overtly carnivorous, what with American-style BBQ, Argentinian BBQ and Spanish, Sicilian and Colombian stalls all cooking up a storm to a meat beat.

The biggest thrill of the night comes as Bennie spies the ribs at the BBQ stand.

“That’s what I want!” he says with enthusiasm.

They’re also doing pulled pork, but ribs it is – in what, AFAIK, is Bennie’s first taste of this style of food.

At a price of $14 for five ribs plus coleslaw, they’re not cheap but they are good and tender and tasty. And we wangle a sixth rib so we can share equally.

Bennie absolutely loves them, just sharpening my anticipation of the pleasure that will be experienced when I eventually take him to the other side of town for a splash-up meal at Big Boy BBQ.

Calling the rather scraggly and mostly undressed cabbage and carrot strips “coleslaw” is a bit of stretch, though.

Our friends from La Morenita are in attendance, doing chorizo and empanadas and more, but we choose to move on to the less familiar.

We have a $5 plate each of Colombian marinated chicken-on-a-skewer, three cassava balls and a dab of whipped avocado.

The chicken is superb, the cassava nicely chewy, a little bit bitter and very filling.

There’s two back-to-back Asian stalls, one with a Viet flavour, the other Malaysian.

From the former, Bennie grabs and gobbles a small serve of chicken ribs – $5 for four.

From the latter, I secure what is called Sarawak laksa for $10.

It’s a thinnish and nicely spicy broth. There’s a heap of goodies, including lots of rolled-up segments of omelette, but sadly the plentiful and handsome-looking prawns are tasteless.

All the while, Bennie has been agog at the tantalising array of sugary stuff available.

He finally settles on a bretzel from Kingsville’s Bretzel.biz.

His choice is chocolate-filled, topped with nuts and slathered with more chocolate … and he loves every mouthful.

And seemingly every one of those mouthfuls is recorded by a keen photographer who takes a fancy to the spectacle of Boy Eating Dough With Extras.

Appetites finally sated, we wander about for a while enjoying the sights and sounds and smells.

But we head home happy well before the more formal musical entertainment of the evening commences.

After all, it is a school night.

Luna 1878 night markets at Victoria Market will be held on August 22 and 29.

Rubble & Riches Market in Laverton

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Rubble & Riches Market, 8-18 Leakes Rd, Laverton. Phone: 9369 6426

The shock of stumbling upon Rubble & Riches Market in Laverton is intense and pleasurable.

The reason?

Earlier in the day I’d been contemplating an entire day – indeed, an entire weekend – free and clear.

Extremely desirous was I of adventure, an outing, something good to eat and generally having my mind blown.

But not for the first time I was struck by a feeling that after more than a decade in the west, and after two years of full-on blogging activity that has entailed much exploration, I’d tapped our region out, that I’d been everywhere and done pretty much everything.

I even resorted to a slightly panicked perusal of Google maps in order to discover some shopping strip or industrial estate we had yet to examine.

As I say, this nagging feeling has visited previously.

It’s ridiculous. It’s misplaced. It always is.

So off I head, driving west on the freeway and taking the Kororoit Rd off ramp, with only some vague awareness of a Laverton market to steer me.

On Leakes Rd, I am happily stunned to see thousands of people and thousands of cars.

Many people are already departing, even though it’s just on noon, arms laden with market-bought goodies of many kinds.

I park in a vast, muddy parking lot and make my way to one of the market entrances, where I pay my $1 entry fee.

Yes, that’s correct – this is a market that charges an entry fee.

The market is pretty darn amazing – in the range of goods on sale, the diversity of the customers and the varied range of dogs, all of it underscored by amplified, slightly distorted Vietnamese Cheesy Pop Cover Versions such as Hank Williams’ Jambalaya.

The longer I spend in the west, the more I come to believe that Vietnamese Cheesy Pop Cover Versions are a lofty, refined and magical artform.

According to its website, the market has about 1400 stalls set on about 14 hectares, including two large pavilions.

Naturally, the market bears some resemblance to markets Victoria and Footscray.

But it’s also very, very different.

For Rubble & Riches also has elements that make it feel like part swap meet, part garage sale and part op shop.

There’s secondhand small machinery, furniture and brickabrack of a bewildering variety, along with all the usual clothing and knicknacks that are market staples.

There’s a quite nice range of food-to-eat-right-now stalls, but only a very small coverage of fruit and vegetables, and none at all that I could see of fresh meat, poultry or fish.

To my utter delight, there’s an outdoor Vietnamese eatery set up in an old bus and with patrons eating under adjacent canvas.

The food they’re eating looks fine – banh mi, rice and pork chop and even some interesting looking vegetarian soup noodle options.

But after checking out the entire site, I opt first up for a bratwurst from the grill shop set up by Radtke Catering, the intoxicating aromas from which permeate the hall in which it is situated.

As well as a range of snags, they’re cooking up ham and chicken steaks.

My sausage is sold to me under the name German bratwurst, but is quite different texture and even taste to those I am familiar with from the Vic Market. Still, at $5.50 it’s good.

Still, hungry I choose next a chorizo ($7) from a stall run by a lovely, smiling Chilean dude and his friendly staff (top photo).

I go with the green salsa, but soon discover it’s tame, so return for a big dollop of the its red sibling. It’s not red hot either, but spices things up nicely and leaves a tingle on my lips.

At this point, I say to myself: “Righto – enough of this health food stuff … fruit for the rest of the day!”

Accordingly, I purchase a baguette-shaped chocolate brioch loaf ($2.50) from Nikola, who is manning the Noisette baked goodies stall.

His company has been at the market for just three weeks and his verdict is still out on its merits.

On reflection, I have some doubts about the practical utility of this market.

I could never see us choosing it over our other favourites for stocking up the house with food or anything else.

But for a weekend visit of high entertainment value, it’s all class.

Having assumed that the folks who are collecting the $1 entry fee are doing so on behalf of some local community or sports group, I ask if that is the case as I am departing.

Not so, I’m, told – this is weekend work for them, they get paid and the fee dosh goes to the market operators.

The market, which I gather has been running for at least 15 years, is open from 7am-4pm on Saturdays and Sundays.

Tasman Market Fresh Meats

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Tasman Market Fresh Meats, 26-30 McDonald Rd, Brooklyn. Phone: 9318 9077

The last time we hit Tasman Market Fresh Meats in Brooklyn, it was a warm/hot summer day and we pretty much froze in the chilly interior.

It was just like shopping in a freezer.

In fact, doing business here IS shopping in a freezer, such is the quantity of chilled and frozen produce on hand.

On that day, we couldn’t muster enough of a shopping list to breach the $20 EFTPOS limit, so left empty-handed.

We suspect this is the sort of place more suited to larger family units than our two-person show.

Nevertheless, today Tasman happens to be on our route home from that morning’s rugby match and we are happy to stop and shop.

As well, the snag stand outside does fine duty in providing Bennie’s post-match snag – with onions, BBQ sauce, $2.50, thank you very much.

It’s a sunny Saturday morning but still very chilly, so the temperature seems the same inside and out!

We wonder if we’ll see any meat derived from the notorious “it’s raining sheep” incident of a day or so earlier and a few kilometres up the road!

Our meat-eating tends to be a matter of moderation and spontaneity inspired by both temperament and restricted fridge and freezer space.

So unlike most Tasman customers, we’re not here for the meat – though there is a whole lot of it.

There’s even a fairly extensive range of offal, but how the prices compare overall to other outlets and markets is difficult to gauge.

The lamb shanks, for instance, don’t seem any cheaper than anywhere else.

While there is a vast amount of plastic used in packaging here, the signage and the butchers on hand make it clear the service can be more customised and flexible than may at first appear to be the case.

We know someone who loves this stuff, and we no doubt eat enough of it ourselves on our periodic visits to charcoal chicken shops, fish and chip joints and the like.

But ours is not a mindset that would see us actually toting bags of the stuff home.

The best bargains we spy – and those that go in our basket – are of the dry goods variety.

Three cans of Mediterranea canned tomatoes for $2.

The big 700g bag of Le Serenate biscotti provides low-rent crumbly cookies, but still fine for school/work lunches.

Two packs of pasta for 88 cents each; some cheap olive oil for cooking so we don’t use the good stuff for same; some hot chilli pate just for fun.

Bennie and I have struck deal about the breakfast standoff – he’ll give the bought cereals away and eat the same as dad, just so long as dad does away with the white sultanas (“white maggots”) and uses other dried fruit instead for the muesli.

So we grab almonds, dried apricots and dates to join the oats already waiting at home.

We don’t recall – from previous visits – there being fresh produce here.

Truth be told, the Tasman range is not much more than basic, but does the trick I dare say for those wanting to cover their bases without making another stop on the way home.

We pick up an armful of bananas, some sweet potatoes, a $1 bag of mandarins.

It’s a little out of the way for us, so Tasman is unlikely to become a regular haunt.

But it’s been just the ticket today for us in a $37 shop that has set us up for the rest of the week.

As we leave, Bennie opines that it still seems more like a butcher than a supermarket.

And they don’t stock coffee.

South Melboune Market

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South Melbourne Market, 322-326 Coventry St, South Melbourne.

Having mused on the mindset that allows us to treat a suburb as far distant as Coburg as part of own backyard yet finds South and Port Melbourne – just over the bridge – pretty much out of sight and mind, it seems a fine time to make a relatively rare visit to South Melbourne Market.

Any hopes the shocking weather will ease the car-parking situation are confirmed as forlorn as I ascend to the roof-top and several patience-taxing delays.

There’s a lot of folks looking spaces.

The first two hours of parking are free, which is good.

All the ATMs appear to be of the $2.50 variety, which is bad.

It’s obviously been a while as many changes to the market are noted.

A part of the market interior now has several stalls of a more upmarket variety – manchester, clothes, shoes and even flash bicycles.

The whole of the Cecil St side of the market has acquired a series of more-or-less bona fide restaurants – Chinese dumplings/roast meats, Italian, Spanish, seafood – to join the familiar SMM dimmies.

The street stall paella sure looks and smells a whole heap better than is usually the case with such ricey enterprises.

Perversely if somewhat predictably, I still prefer the old-school food hall on the other side of the market.

More room, cheaper prices, proximity to the fabulous deli, meat and seafood stalls …

Equally predictably and perversely, I am lured to the Vietnamese stall called BaBa.

They have banh mi makings on display and you can get soup noodles and vermicelli dishes here.

But my eye is drawn to the stall’s Indian dishes.

Indian and Vietnamese?

I’ve seen Indian and kebabs, Indian and pizza, but this is a first.

My plate of vegetable curry, dal and rice, a can of soft drink and a meat samosa costs $12.50.

The samosa is on the oily side, but the filling is good and meaty. The parcel as a whole could only loosely be described as Indian food, though. No matter!

It has a nice chilli kick, as do my two plate courses.

The curry of carrot, beans, onion and more starts at a nice clip but fades off the pace a bit.

The dal is much better – yellow split peas with a nice touch of firmness left in them, the whole having a plain but very appealing flavour.

That’s down to, I subsequently discover, crushed tomatoes, tamarind, turmeric, salt and water.

While in the food hall, I grab a bag of Turkish rolls from Aroma Bakery.

These may be just right for lunches for the forthcoming week, feeling as they do a bit fresher and lighter than the supermarket variety or their ciabatta cousins.

We usually find both too heavy, stale and/or large, so the balance of bread to filling is way out of whack.

I get my post-lunch coffee from Padre, which seems to be one of those new-school cool coffee chains staffed exclusively by young hipsters.

My cafe latte is perfect, outstanding and puts a smile on my dial.

I have an interesting conversation with Ida from Ida’s Alterations.

Me, pointing at the sign: “Ida’s such lovely old-fashioned name – are you Ida?”

Ida: “My son, my son …”

Me: “Your son’s name is Ida?”

Ida: “No, the sign, the sign!”

Right – she’s Ida, he did the sign …

I grab onions, silverbeet and apples from one of the fresh stalls.

South Melbourne Market?

Nice for a visit every now and then.

But I still had to stop in Anderson St for milk, yogurt and dishwash liquid.

Padre Coffee on Urbanspoon

Big Sam’s St Albans Market

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Big Sam’s St Albans Market, 3 St Albans Rd, St Albans. Phone: 9366 2237

Despite becoming quite familiar with the many wonders of the shopping and fun precinct that surround Alfrieda St in St Albans, Big Sam’s has until now escaped our attention.

For one thing, it’s often been closed when we’re in the neighbourhood.

For another, I heard – somewhere, somehow – that it’s nothing special.

A single, quick glance about as I enter amply demonstrates that latter point is untrue.

Instead of being just a single business, this appears to be many under the same roof and inhabiting quite a large space.

I don’t see any ordinary supermarket items such as loo paper or detergent, but between them the many stalls appear to have just about all the other bases covered. Certainly this is much more than a fruit and vegetable place.

There’s even a florist!

In that way, it’s a sort of multi-purpose market along the same lines as Sunshine Fresh Food Market – only a lot more meatier and a lot less halal.

There’s only a single seafood stall but a handful of butchers, each with a slightly different emphasis.

The prices are pretty keen.

I see several lots of tomatoes under the $2 mark. These are all very ripe – which is how I always buy them. Some are spoilt – but I have no problem at all finding some good still-firm ones to take home.

These bargain basement red capsicums are blemished – each one has what looks like some sort of frost burn the size of a 20 cent piece. But that aside, they are firm and fabulous. If the freezer at home didn’t have plenty of roasted and peeled ready to go, I’d be on them in a flash.

The market cafe has an Elvis thing going on … note the bongos.

I can see this place getting some handy usage from us when lunch adventures take us to St Albans.

It’s our kind of place with a really nice vibe.