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

Altona/Willy eats goss

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Dropping into one of our favoured locals haunts – Altona Fresh at 62-76 Second Avenue – seeking coffee, great pork sausages, even greater lemon zest-marinated green olives, I am delighted to find coffee is now on the menu.

How marvellous!

 

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Now shopping for Altona Fresh’s superb goodies can be accompanied by an excellent caffeine chill-out and maybe even a $3.50 canoli fresh from Cavallaro’s in Footscray.

 

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The sorts of older shopping strips of the kind on which Altona Fresh is situated are our favourite foodie destinations – all this one needs is a bit of street life and it could be really lovely.

Even on a mid-week afternoon, with not many people around, it’s already apparent this coffee breakthrough could play a role in doing just that.

 

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Also talking Italian, but moving over a suburb, Pizza d’Asporto – which has rapidly become one of our very favourite regulars – has extended its trading hours.

It’s now open for lunches on both Thursdays and Sundays, as well as Fridays and Saturdays and seven nights a week.

Yum!

 

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Staying in Williamstown … fine Greek restaurant Santorini is hosting, with Consider The Sauce, a fundraiser to benefit West Welcome Wagon and its work with hundreds of asylum-seeker homes in the west.

It’s going to be a wonderful night!

See story here.

 

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Live in or near Altona North?

Love pho?

Give Window Cafe a try.

See story here.

Altona pho

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Window Cafe, 25 Borrack Square, Altona North. Phone: 9399 2442

Fresh red chilli slices.

There are none.

What kind of pho joint doesn’t have fresh red chilli slices?

Ahhh, the kind that does have raisin toast and ham and cheese croissants and does coffee.

But, heck, I don’t mind – because the pho I am served is very good.

Pho can be had in Altona-by-the-bay.

But Altona is a big suburb, so if you live away from the bay, for pho Footscray, Sunshine or St Albans beckon.

So if we lived hereabouts and had Window Cafe nearby, we’d still go often to Footscray, Sunshine or St Albans – naturally – but maybe a little less often.

 

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This is a simple, small place serving a tight range of Vietnamese and Chinese dishes.

As well as pho you can get the expected rice dishes, mee goreng and char kway teow (see menu below).

As far as pho goes, there’s only one size – big! – as is usual in non-pho specialist places away from the main Viet precincts.

 

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I go straight sliced beef – and am delighted with said meat’s quality and quantity.

Most of it is nicely lean and rare but there is also some good brisket of a slightly more fatty variety.

The broth is mildly flavoured but fine.

 

Window Cafe on Urbanspoon

 

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Indian street food in Laverton

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A-One Sweets, 52 Bladin Street, Laverton. Phone: 8360 7989

Consider The Sauce enjoyed its visit with the Urban Ma to new CBD joint Delhi Streets – the food we had was good.

But I have been bemused, but not surprised, by some subsequent reviews of the place.

More precisely, I’m bemused that the place’s publicity is being bought into to such an extent that it is being put about that Delhi Streets is doing something edgy and adventurous in “bringing Indian street food to Melbourne”.

I feel this is misleading as just about everything Delhi Streets serves has long been available across Melbourne, including West Footscray, Werribee and elsewhere.

The places that do Indian street food can sometimes be businesses of the more regulation Indian variety that have dosas, chaat and the like on their menus – but they’re also often humble shops that do little more than serve snacky Indian treats and have overwhelmingly Indian customers.

A-One Sweets is one such place.

 

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Like so many of its kind, it’s a bare-bones Indian cafe – with lots of sweets of course!

But they do a nice, simple and very cheap line of snacks such as aloo tikki and pani puri.

There’s also a vegetarian thali and paranthas stuffed with gobi, aloo or paneer and served with butter, yogurt and pickle.

I’m actually in Laverton to do some volunteer duty on the West Welcome Wagon sausage sizzle at the market at the Woods Street Arts Space.

But I know that if I turn up for tong duty on an empty stomach, I’ll end up eating about a dozen of those $2.50 suckers.

And while I’m partial to a sausage sizzle snag in white bread, I most certainly do not want to make a meal of them, so to speak.

So I venture to the Bladin Street shops a few blocks away and into A-One Sweets, which has been on my to-do list for a while.

I tell the nice man behind the counter, as I peruse the menu, that I feel like something other than chole bhature – that, indeed, I’ve had that fabulous Indian dish at many places festooned across the west.

“Ah,” he says with a big smile. “But have you had our chole bhature?”

He’s persuasive, I say “Yes!” and I’m ever so glad I do.

 

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My $9 meal is a doozy.

The breads are puffed up like footballs and ungreasy.

There’s plenty of yogurt to join the regulation raw onion slices and commercial, tangy pickle.

Best of all, the chick pea curry is very nice indeed.

I love it and pretty much leave my thali tray clean.

 

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From there it’s back to Woods Street to join my fellow WWW sausage sizzle volunteers.

It’s great to meet and swap notes with some fellow westies.

We sell a heap of snags and make some good cash money for West Welcome Wagon.

Everything I am wearing, though, will be going straight into the laundry basket!

A-One Sweets is one of those gems of places away from the main drags and shopping centres that are an outright pleasure and thrill to stumble upon.

 

A-One Sweets on Urbanspoon

 

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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!

Moonee Valley eats goss

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Big changes are afoot at Italian restaurant Vicolo, the Young Street venue for a memorable 2014 Consider The Sauce Feast.

Come early June, Maria will be closing the joint down for a couple of weeks for a major overhaul – this place is most definitely going to look very different.

Some time at the end of June, she will be reopening as Harry’s Bar, named after the Venice institution of the same.

And she will, of course, be serving that famous bar’s signature drink, the bellini (Prosecco sparkling wine and peach nectar).

Maria will retain some of the current and longstanding food, but the famed risotto list, for instance, will be cut to the lunch offering of 10 varieties.

Coming in will be an increased emphasis on pizzas and things such as goat and porchetta roasted in a stone oven.

As well, there will be breakfast and brunch offered at weekends.

Consider The Sauce will have a great reader giveaway for the Harry’s Bar opening night party so stay tuned!

 

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Moonee Ponds has a brand new dumpling place.

Dumpling House is at 2A Everage Street (phone 9372 9188).

Becky and Joseph have been up and running for only four days when I visit.

The room is bare-bones cafe style but the service is grand, and Becky is very keen to get customer feedback.

They have a longer, regulation-style Chinese menu (mainly for nights) but the lunchtime gist of it is two lists – one of “with rice” dishes and another of dumplings (see menus below).

 

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I just love the chicken and mushroom wontons in “peanut, chilli and spice sauce” (15 for $10.50).

There’s not much evidence of peanuttiness but that’s OK – if the descripition had been “with chilli-infused soup”, I would’ve ordered it anyway.

As is evident from the above picture, it’s fiery – in fact, at the upper limit of my spice threshold.

Yummy, though!

The wontons are fabulous – small, lovely of texture and with a nice, hefty hit of ginger.

And I love, too, the chopped bok choi.

Often such dishes are served with whole leaves, which can be both hard to handle and bitter.

These are neither and really lovely to eat.

They’re the best “dumplings” I’ve had this year – and that’s saying quite a lot!

Dumpling House on Urbanspoon

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On the other side of Puckle Street, in Pratt Street, what was until recently a Brown’s Bakery is in the process of being transformed, according to one of the builders I quiz, into “a fancy fish and chip place”.

Cool!

 

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Yarraville Mexican better

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Village Cantina, 30 Ballarat Street, Yarraville. Phone: 9689 8000

It’s been six months since Consider The Sauce’s first visit to the then newly opened Village Cantina in Yarraville.

I’m happy to return, especially as Bennie has yet to do so and it fits right in with our mid-week nothing-planned-for-dinner situation.

Without intending to make such a direct comparison to that first visit, we end up ordering two items had on that occasion – and it’s something of a revelation.

 

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First though we start with “street style chargrilled corn” with chipotle mayo, queso fresco and lime ($5).

Our single serve cut in two lasts all of about five seconds.

It’s yummy but oh-so-very small!

 

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Bennie’s beef burito ($14) is a big step up from the same item ordered by me on that initial visit.

This is much more deftly done with none of the solid if enjoyable stodginess I experienced.

The filling has very nice shredded beef and there’s salsa, sour cream and guacamole on the side.

 

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But the real eye-opener is the nachos ($13).

I’m not sure why I order this, as nachos can so often veer between acceptable bar/snack food for sharing and a gloopy, unappetising mess.

The new-look Village Cantina nachos has real good melted cheese, guacamole, black beans and salsa in great profusion atop a big mound of good corn chips.

But this nachos is lifted to a whole ‘nuther level by the fabulous strips of grilled chicken that have tremendous flavour and a bit of a cajun thing going on.

It’s the best nachos I’ve ever had.

There’s so much of it – and its tastes so good – I’m happy to fully share with Bennie once he’s done with his burrito.

Heck, it’d make a fine light meal for two!

 

Village Cantina on Urbanspoon

 

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