Amy, Gifta and Mietta.
Selam Authentic African Restaurant & Bar, 127 Nicholson Street, Footscray. Phone: 8383 2560
Small French Bar, 154 Barkly Street, Footscray. Phone: 9687 8479
A few years ago, Mietta Gibson began what has become a family tradition.
Each year, as Christmas approaches, she takes the sisterhood portion of her family out on a surprise adventure.
One year it was a Middle Eastern cooking class, another it was gift-wrapping for a charity.
And on another occasion, the whole crew attended a filming session of The Project.
This year, she began plotting and scheming many months ago, with no firm ideas in mind other than “western suburbs” and “food”.
Mietta, you see, lives on the Mornington Peninsula, her entire family lives in the eastern suburbs and she was keen to expose them to some different aspects and perspectives of Melbourne.
She was not having much joy in terms of online research – until she stumbled upon Consider The Sauce.
(Frankly, given our substantial online footprint, I’m surprised it took her so long!)
Anyway, in mid-October I received an email with the header “Seeking your help”.
A few emails back and forth, and then we were happily chatting on the phone.
And just like that (sound of fingers snapping), the deal was done – Team Consider The Sauce would proudly show these gals our backyard and we’d all have an absolute blast!
And so it turned out …
As Mietta and her crew exit Footscray station, she has no trouble picking me out of the crowd; we meet up and make the whole round of introductions.
With her are her sisters Eliza and Natalie, her niece Matisse, her mum-in-law Kate and – all the way from France – her friend Iris.
What a happy, garrulous crew they are!
At this early point in our evening, no one involved except Mietta and myself have any idea about what is in store – the happy gasps and grins as our gameplan is explained to them are gratifying!
Then we’re off – first stop Littlefoot, Bennie and I explaining the familiar streets and places and faces as we go.
After “looseners” all round, we pretty much retrace our steps to Selam on Nicholson Street.
There we enjoy a truly fabulous Ethiopian meal.
Nothing edgy or unexpected, mind you – it’s simply beautifully cooked and presented Ethiopian tucker.
Lentils three different ways; terrific salad; cabbage and excellent greens (silverbeet, I think).
And in the centre of our two platters is the dry derek tibs of pan-friend lamb pieces – so good!
Best of all, though, and by general acclaim, is the lamb soup – which I foolishly forget to photograph.
This zingy lamb broth – a bit like an Ethiopian version of the standard Somalian offerings at such places as Deli Afro – is a sensation, each of our bowls liberally studded with wonderful bone-in lamb meat.
Mietta and her friends – for whom the western suburbs, Footscray AND Ethiopian food are all vivid new experiences – take to the Selam fare and non-cutlery eating with gusto and delight.
Truth be told, I chose Selam for our outing pretty much on a whim and because I liked the look of the place.
But chef/proprietor Amy has done us proud and the way she and daughter Gifti have looked after us has been superb.
The cost? Including all that terrific food, some wine, a few beers and sundry soft drinks – just under $20 per head.
But we’re not done yet … dessert is on the menu.
Actually, Footscray at 9pm on a week night is not particularly auspicious for dessert.
But before our evening began, I’d worded up Stefan at Small French Bar that we might descend upon his establishment later in the evening.
It’s a bustling, cheerful scene that greets us as we enter.
It’s crowded, but room is found for us.
Naturally, we ignore the savoury aspects of the menu.
We ignore, too, the sorbet option.
What we do order is three portions apiece of the other three desserts …
… fondant au chocolat …
… creme brulee …
… and profiteroles.
Gosh, they’re beaut – and we’ve ordered just the right amount for us all to have a good taste of each dish.
There is much happy sighing and clinking of spoons on crockery.
For Iris, who has been away from France for two months, this is all a profound treat.
She says the place even smells French!
What a truly memorable evening we’ve enjoyed.
There was something about the nutty randomness of Mietta’s original email approach to us that appealed enormously to CTS.
And that hunch has been vindicated.
We hope to see these folks over our way again!