The west and its food don’t need your validation

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New westie food ventures of the ritzy nature always generate a great deal of speculation, excitement and curiosity – and that is certainly the case at present with regards to the revamp headed our way at Harts Hotel in Middle Foostcray and Harley & Rose, soon to be up and running at the former location of Ovest in West Footscray.

In both cases, CTS has decided not pursue these stories as both establishments have already generated coverage.

So I know what you know.

But that doesn’t stop me and my friends thinking about what is happening and the dynamics at play.

Sometimes that interest becomes amusement and bemusement.

Last week’s story in The Age, for example, started with the words “Footscray: it’s the suburb that just won’t quit its upward trajectory”, while that same opening paragraph concluded with “Now, serious food is coming in hot”.

The story finished with “Upwards the west”.

For goodness sakes, who or what defines, in this context, what “upward trajectory, “serious food” and “upwards the west” mean?

Is it solely down to celebrity foodie names like McConnell, Builders Arms and Cutler and Co?

That often seems to be the case when it comes coverage of westie food happenings in non-western Melbourne media of various levels and varieties.

Or is just about the sleek/chic/hipster/trendy/groovy look and feel of such places that drives such coverage and proclamations of progress? And even if the food is in no way adventurous or new?

A combination of both, I’m guessing.

And the very use of words and concepts such as upwards and trajectory in a food context themselves bespeak a mindset that is narrow and competitive.

I’d argue that, depending on rather different criteria, that there is serious food happening every day of the week in the west – and not just the inner west, either.

Even if it mostly falls outside your world view.

In regards to the same story, two pals have pointed out to me – without prompting – that phrases such as “panzanella with local vinegar” and “a coiffed traditional pub menu” read like hipster parody.

Though that may be attributable to The Age and its writer, rather than those behind these businesses.

As ever with such happenings, I am interested to discover whether these joints will be merely in the west – or OF the west.

Some launches from the recent and not-so-recent past illustrate how some folks have gone about getting the locals onside.

When The Plough was relaunched a few years back, the publicists and management ambled up and down Victoria and Charles streets, inviting the local Seddon businesses and their staff to the opening night party.

Likewise, when the Calombaris empire made its move into Williamstown at Hellenic Hotel, local traders and notables, western suburbs media  – and, yes, this blogger – were well represented at the launch festivities.

Just this week, a new Vietnamese-Chinese restaurant opened in Cairnlea.

Unfortunately, Bennie and I were unable to attend the opening night on Tuesday.

We would love to have been there.

Because the eatery concerned, Kim Huong, did it in style by throwing a full-on banquet involving the likes of roast pork, fish coleslaw, abalone, scallops and barramundi.

At no charge.

For whoever in the community was interested in attending.

Way to go – now THAT’S a good way to build engagement with the locals.

Let’s imagine, in a parallel universe, this scenario …

In which a flash new eatery in the western suburbs is opening, but with a buzz built solely around foodie star power and with publicists/marketing crew with few or no contacts in – or knowledge of – the west.

Opening night sees a parade of the habitual red carpet/bubbly hordes front up for one of their very rare visits to the western suburbs, which are usually only for just such events.

As a friend opined to me: “They’d have a great first week; I’d check to see where they’re at in six months.”

The simple truth is – as it currently stands – drawing people to the west across the Maribyrnong remains a very uphill battle.

So non-celeb, regulation westies will be your bread and butter – whether you like it or not.

And in the inner west, and in West Footscray in particular, that means lots and lots young families.

My guess – informed by speaking with countless people, food industry types in the west and sometimes idiotically forensic analysis of Facebook community pages – is that for many such folk, eating out is a once-a-month deal, and even that’s a stretch for some.

Winning regular, local clientele is a tricky business – but can be done.

Not for a minute am I advocating wall-to-wall karaoke and $15 parmas.

But what won’t wash, either, are high prices, beautiful plating and small serves that leave punters seriously out of pocket and looking for a kebab.

It’s also been put to me this week that apartment arisings in the inner west – including those of the multi-storey kind on the banks of the Maribyrnong, but also others of less magnitude – are creating an instant population with disposable income (some of the DINK variety) ready to burn on flash eating and perhaps even fine dining.

The inner west may get there some day – and maybe quite soon.

But not yet.

See you at Harley & Rose?

Could do!

But we’d need to see the menu – and prices – first.

Is karma real?

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Ah, Sims … our supermarket of choice.

Right outside this West Footscray institution can be an interesting place, too.

There’s racks for bikes; often enough, these are also used for tethering interesting dogs while their owners are inside shopping.

There’s always interesting people, too, coming and going.

We’re well used to running into friends and readers right here.

But in all our years shopping at Sims, I have never experienced an event as surreal as that of this week.

Pulling in for a typical mid-week, post-work top up of cat food and a few others bits and pieces, I amble towards the ATM to make a withdrawal.

Shockingly, as I get there I find a fistful of $50 notes hanging out of it.

Now, I confess to being guilty of having, in the past, absendmindedly left money – $50 one time, $100 on another – at ATMs.

But this is a first – finding “free” money at a money machine.

And in considerable quantity.

I deftly grab the cash and stuff it in my pocket, before going about the business of my own transaction.

And all the while I’m wondering about just how to handle this …

After all, I suspect that for whoever left this money here, this will constitute a cataclysmic event.

I know it would be for me!

I glance over my shoulder, seeing an old bloke shuffling with his shopping across the road to his car.

Maybe it’s him?

As I continue to ponder this dilemma, all the while going through the process of my own (much more modest) withdrawal, a young bloke comes out of the supermarket, approaches me and the ATM and asks:

“Did you find $400 here?”

Reply I: “Stand back a bit, mate, while I finish my business.”

Once done, I stroll a few paces away, followed by my new friend.

He tries a variation on his theme:

“Was there $400 there?”

I reach into my pocket, pull out the money – and count it.

One, two, three, four, five, six, seven – sure enough, I have eight $50 dollar notes.

I hand it over to the young man, saying:

“Mate, this sure as hell is your lucky day”

He mumbles some not particularly gracious thanks and heads straight back into Sims.

I follow him, so see him head straight into the bottle shop.

Hell, that’s precisely what I’d do, too!

So my ethical conundrum has been short-circuited by the arrival of the money’s rightful owner.

I’m not quite sure how I would’ve handled it had the bloke not arrived.

The Sims staff subsequently tell me they’re well used to customers leaving all sorts of stuff in the aisles – including sums of money a lot bigger than $400.

In any case, IF there is any such thing as karma, I fully expect that when I go to check on my modest Powerball quick pick, the machine will cheerfully emit that tinkly winner’s tune.

Just kidding – I don’t believe in karma, and particularly not any tit-for-tat variety that sways lottery tickets!

Trugo thrills

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yugo6

 

Footscray Summer Cup, Footscray Park Bowling Club, 1 Hoadley Court, Footscray.

This was the second social play day of the revived Footscray Trugo Club I attended.

 

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As with the first, it was held at the Ballarat Road home of the Footscray City Bowling Club – the trugo club’s temporary HQ while the club’s proper home at Buckley Street moves through the red-tape process.

 

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It was a hot day, so I was by no means sure I’d be up for anything approaching serious competition or socialising.

But settle in we all did, for a most enjoyable afternoon.

 

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Some temporary shelter helped – a lot!

 

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The bowls club bar was operating, which gave me a chance to check out the gorgeous old-school decor.

 

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After the set-up, practice hits and a few people coming and going, four teams of four players each got down to it.

 

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The gripping, nail-biting final was won 18-17 by the Olympic Doughnuts over the Go Ruts! line-up.

 

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The Footscray Trugo Club will be holding social days on the fourth Sunday of every month.

It’s good fun – and no previous experience is necessary!

Check out the Facebook page here and the blog/website here.

 

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Digital valium? Cold turkey!

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paytv1

 

After nine years, our Foxtel pay TV service has been disconnected.

There are a number of reasons …

One is, I simply grew weary of haggling several times a year with Foxtel staff on the phone – quite often after extended wait times – in order to get our fees down.

Our wants were simple – your basic service + sport.

No, no, no – I do not want IQ, HD, an AFL package or any other of your bells and whistles.

We have an old-school television that cannot handle HD and we have no interest in recording programs for later viewing.

For years, even though it’s been a pain in the you know where, I have been able to talk our monthy payments down from $55 or $60 to $45 or even (late last year) $35 – which we figure is about what we should’ve been paying.

But such arrangements have only ever run for a few months – after which I have had to repeat the whole tiresome process.

Every time I got on the phone to Foxtel, I was aware that I should not be merely be playing a game of bluff – that I really did need to have the determination to disconnect if a suitable pricing arrangement could not agreed upon.

And so it came to pass … when the Foxtel employee with whom I was dealing could not, even after consultation with his supervisor and then with the supervisor’s supervisor, offer me any deal at ll.

That’s it – disconnect!

But there are other factors …

As much I’ve enjoyed endless, low-cost access to an endless parade of of NRL, Super Rugby, A-League, cricket and much more, for the past year or so having pay TV has started to feel a bit like a prison.

I’ve felt tethered to the sofa.

On one night last week, for instance, there were four games on at once – yet I can hardly claim to have enjoyed the evening as I was channel surfing the whole time.

All this, of course, means big changes in our household.

No pay TV means no TV at all.

One of the most attractive things about having a pay TV package is never having to have any truck with the banalities of the laughably self-described free-to-air channels.

So – no, no, no, a millions times no – we will not be buying a set-top box or a new telly simply so we can have the privilege of watching A Current Affair or reality TV BS.

Books – oh yes, there is going to be a lot of reading.

And music – which, to quote Duke Ellington, has always been my mistress, above and a long ways beyond anything on a TV screen, including sport.

There will be a lot of music – a lot more music.

I’ve always felt that regardless of its ownership status, that Sky News in Australia plays a straight bat on political matters.

But the signing up Andrew Bolt for a nightly show, joining the equally Rightist Chris Kenny and Paul Murray, is another very good reason to pull the plug.

What are they thinking? They can, of course, have on their channel whoever they please – but I’m not sure pushing the commentary team so far to the Right is a smart move.

I have some big plans for Consider The Sauce formulating in my brain – hopefully now I will stop dreaming and start doing.

It’s never been about the money – in fact, even $60 seems pretty reasonable for the service we received.

And now it’s gone, Bennie and I may step out for the occasional Socceroos or Victory game – any one of which will cost more than an entire month of pay TV.

As well, we may also step out to see vintage movies and the like that turn us on, at ACMI or the Astor.

It remains to be seen how we will cope without pay TV … but for the moment not having it feels liberating.

Wait – what’s going on?

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supa3

 

A few years back, Consider The Sauce was bemused to note the rise of the Deliberate Wait.

This involves certain eateries in the CBD and elsewhere deliberately and on purpose running their no-booking operations with built-in waiting time for incoming customers.

This way, the reasoning seems to go, the punters can spend some time cooling their heels – in the bar spending money, on the stairway and even out on the street – in such a way as to sharpen their appreciation for just how lucky they will be when they eventually get to eat in such fabulously fashionable establishments.

Whacko stuff.

Or so it’s always seemed to me.

But nothing to do with us, our friends, our readers and eating in the west.

Lately, though, I’m not so sure.

Stories of extended wait times and queuing, many of them provided first-hand to CTS or witnessed by ourselves, continue to arise.

Mostly, though, they’re concerned with different kinds of delay than the “make ’em wait – we’ll build hipster cache” school of thought.

Though I suspect the hour-and-more wait times to get into a certain new CBD dumpling joint certainly fall into that category.

I have a friend who waited more than hour for food at a barbecue festival.

More recently I’ve been told that wait times for the new Willy Friday night food trucks extended, in some cases, beyond 40 minutes.

Surely anything beyond 10 minutes for a bowl of noodles or some such from a food truck defeats the very purpose and ethos and fun of food trucks?

On a more prosaic level, I regularly spy weekend groups of people waiting on the street for tables at a groovy inner west cafe, the coffee of which I find undrinkable.

And over in Kensington, I regularly see a dozen or more people waiting in the foyer or on the street for a table at Laksa King – early evening and early in the week.

Terrific food, indeed, but …

As Bennie has pointed out, we do indeed sometimes wait for a table – but only very, very rarely does that extend beyond waiting for a recently vacated table to be cleared.

Mostly, we’re very happy for ourselves and our fellow westies that waiting – be it for five minutes or five days – is simply uncalled for.

“If one place is busy, go next door” is our default rule of thumb.

Last weekend, I visited one of my very favourite places only to find it more crowded than I had ever before witnessed.

“Uh oh,” I thought. “I’m going to be waiting forever …”

However the staff assured me I’d get my lunch within 15 minutes – that’s OK then, I can live with that!

As things eventuated, I got my goodies in 10 minutes.

Later, I asked the co-proprietor – a man with much experience not only in running this particular cafe/shop but also of coping with the demands of markets and festivals – about long wait times.

For him it’s simple: It’s all about prep work – or lack of it.

And he stressed how important it is – he wants customers to return.

So while this kind of madness continues to pass us by, I still do wonder about whether punters who cop it have some sort of masochistic streak and whether some operators simply haven’t got their act together.

Either in terms of getting customers seated or in providing them food in a timely manner …