Heaven forbid Bennie and I should ever, through sheer familiarity, take the riches that surround us for granted.
Heaven forbid, too, we should ever become blase and unappreciative of the marvellous opportunities continuing to be afforded us because we are, by now, well-established food bloggers.
A media/blogger “famil” to promote eat.drink.westside, for instance, is something we could easily blow off as it is to cover ground with which we are very familiar – in a general sense, if not specifically.
But front up we do – and have a brilliant time, seeing ‘Scray central through new eyes.
eat.drink.westside, part of the Melbourne Food and Wine Festival, is a suite of really fine food events in and around Footscray presented by Maribyrnong City Council.
They include the famed and fabulous Rickshaw Run – for which volunteers are still being sought.
Other events include Dancing with the Tides, Malt Hops Yeast and Water, A Trio of Astrological Bites and Melbourne’s Fish Mongrels.
eat.drink.westside runs from February 28 to March 16, and further details can be discovered here.
Of course, much of the intense enjoyment of our several hours in Footscray is down to the food we eat and the people who make it that we meet along the way.
But we take much pleasure, too, from rubbing shoulders with a bunch of fellow food nuts, including a number of familiar faces and friends.
Among those we do the Footscray Boogie with are food scribe Cara Waters, Ros Grundy from Epicure, Sofia Levin of Poppet’s Window, awesome foodie-about-town Nat Stockley, Cindy and Michael from Where’s the Beef, Dan Kuseta of Milk Bar Mag, Charlene Macaulay of the Star newspaper, Benjamin Millar, my colleague at the Maribyrnong and Hobsons Bay Weekly, Claire from Melbourne Gastronome, and last but far from least Lauren Wambach of Footscray Food Blog, who does a typically top-notch job of being our guide and host.
We start at 1+1 Mandarin Dumpling Restaurant, where Amy and Julia take us through the rudiments of making dumplings.
The restaurant’s food is based around the Xinjiang province of northern China, which has a large Muslim population, so our dumplings will be of the lamb genre. For those among us of vegetarian bent, there is a filling of cabbage, mushrooms, fried tofu and spring onions.
Amy and Julia show us how to carefully roll out the dough balls of plain four and water so there is a lump in the middle for the filling to sit on.
Gloved and aproned, we have a grand time having a go. We’d all hate to be making enough to feed a hungry family, never mind a busy restaurant!
But we do surprisingly well – mostly the results look like dumplings of a suitably rustic (ugly) variety.
Later, we boil ours up as per the instructions. They hold together really well and taste amazing!
Next stop is a few doors’ up and a real treat – a visit to the legendary T. Cavallaro & Sons.
Here I finally get to meet Tony Cavallaro (pictured with Sarina).
We try some amaretti and – oh my! – some of the joint’s heavenly and freshly-made canoli.
Even better, Tony takes us out back where he shows how he makes his Sicilian specialty marzipan lambs using 100-year-old plaster casts.
On our way to inhale the heady sights, sounds and smells of Little Saigon Market, our group ambles to the sugar cane juice/iced coffee stand for beverages of choice.
Then it’s onward and up Barkly Street for our final destination – Dinknesh (Lucy) Restaurant and Bar.
Here, Mulu has prepared a magnificent Ethiopian feast – I mean, how ridiculously, enticingly superb does this look?
As is unlike the case with many other Ethiopian eateries hereabouts, Mulu makes her own injera, which joins rice, a typically zesty and simple African salad, three pulse stews, four meat dishes and two of vegetables.
I could be flip and say I happily content myself with a non-meat platter.
But “content” would be a lie – this is simply fabulous Ethiopian tucker.
I particularly like it when African cooks meet beetroot.
To complete our journey, Mulu prepares traditional Ethiopian coffee – and as Bennie turns teen in a matter of days, I allow him his first serious taste of this forbidden fruit.
It’s strong, hot and sweet.
I’m horrified to note that he lustily knocks it back like pro!
Thanks for having us – we always learn something new in the west!
And it’s always a pleasure doing so.