African Affair, Footscray Community Arts Centre
Croation Cultural Festival, Australian Croatian Association, 72 Whitehall St, Footscray
We love the idea of the Melbourne Food and Wine Festival, but in a practical sense never have really engaged with it – even this year’s “Feasting In Footscray” segment.
We are very much looking forward, however, to the Sunday arvo African Affair at the Footscray Community Arts Centre – hoping for some great sounds and tastes, and maybe a few familiar faces from our regular African haunts in the neighbourhood, all on the banks of the Maribyrnong River.
It is with some puzzlement then that we ramble around to the amphitheatre to find … nothing.
We subsequently find the above notice stuck to the centre’s office door – and feel a keen disappointment.
According to Only Melbourne, the event’s organisers – Diafrix and Footscray Community Arts Centre – “were unable to attract an event sponsor for 2011”.
No doubt they share our disappointment.
Nevertheless, it’s perplexing that such an event should have been included in the festival program, and widely promoted, only to be cancelled at the last minute – meaning we are surely among several hundred potential punters left with a sense of emptiness.
No matter – this is Melbourne, this is the western subrubs, this is Footscray, so all is never ever lost.
Leaving the car where it is, we simply stroll around the corner to Whitehall St and enter the raucous goings on of the Croation Cultural Festival, wherein we spend a very pleasant hour or so.
It’s a simple affair – a row of tents selling (mostly) food, a central marquee with tables packed families and more than a few blokes getting seriously into the festival spirit, a stage from whence Croatian-style rock pumps at a fairly hefty volume, and the centre’s bar/restaurant also doing grand business. It’s hot and noisy.
We scope out the food offerings before making our choices for what will amount to an early dinner.
This is festival food – lots of grilling going, mostly of bits and pieces of dead pig.
First up is a platter of grilled sardines and four skewers of prawns doused in garlciky olive oil, with a small serve of eastern Euro-style coleslaw and a couple of slices of bread – a mighty bargain for $5.
The prawns are of prime burstiness.
The sardines are rich, oily and very yummo. Rip the heads off and suck up the tender meat, with the spines coming away nicely. Bennie finds them not to his liking, but at least he tries one.
I send him off for a roll of pork neck and he returns with a hot dog – no problem, he likes it.
The pork neck roll ($5) I eventually grab is stuffed with meat strips of profound porkiness, unadorned and much like the meat served in a more formal setting of the adjacent centre’s restaurant, of which we are fans.
Finally, almost sated, we share a small serving of goulas ($5), its sweet and rich gravy packed with tender meat on a bed of plump rice.
That’s it – enough food, enough noise, we’re off home, where a later supper is likely to be of little more substance than a few pieces of fruit.
Before departing, though, we sneak around the back of the food tents to watch the sardines and prawns being cooked.
After a while and a bit of friendly banter with the grill boys, we are presented with yet another plate of their lusty seafood, free of charge.
We down the prawns, but only a few of the small fishes, whereupon we hasten for the gate before we are accosted by yet more friendly souls intent on killing us with their generosity.