Climate for Change fundraiser at Fig & Walnut: The wrap

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CTS Western Suburbs Food Festival No.3: Climate for Change fundraiser, Fig & Walnut, 11-13 Bellairs Avenue, Seddon,  Wednesday, July 19, 2017.

A swell time was had by all at the CTS/Fig & Walnut fundraiser for Climate for Change.

 

 

The food was, naturally, excellent in every way.

So a big round of applause for Vera and her crew for turning it on for us.

 

 

And it was simply terrific to meet and talk with such a broad range of westies.

The final sums remain to be done, but a nice chunk of cash will soon be headed the way of Climate for Change.

So thank you, thank you, thank you!

 

 

And a final thanks to my partners in this enterprise, Vera and Katerina – it was fun!

Read more about Climate for Change here.

 

Get on board

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Station Hotel, 59 Napier Street, Footscray. Phone: 9810 0085

These days, there are a handful of inner-west pubs that appear to aspire to offering very good pub tucker or fare beyond that.

But in some ways, the Station Hotel is the grand old dame of that scene.

It’s been around a goodly while, has had at least one management change of which I’m aware and – more recently – experienced a fire that closed the joint down for a few months.

We enjoy a lovely Tuesday night there, with good service and a happy atmosphere in the mostly full dining room and more raucous goings on in the bar.

We like it very much that the Station aims high but stays a pub.

It’s a birthday night at CTS HQ, so there’s a sense recklessness in the air – this is one of the very, very rare times in which “cheap eats” does not join “melbourne” and “western suburbs” as an automatic tag for a story.

Wheee!

 

 

Good bread and room-temperature butter are complementary; this is mostly for Bennie’s sake – given the weight of food we plan on enjoying, I leave it alone.

 

 

We love cauliflower so have no hesitation in ordering the cauliflower croquettes with romesco sauce ($14).

And are disappointed.

They are expertly cooked, ungreasy and chockers with gooey rich goodness.

But they are largely tasteless and certainly bereft of cauliflower flavour, according to both of us.

 

 

Much more impressive – and tasty – is the tuna tataki with “miso mayonnaise” and pickled cucumber ($19).

Every mouthful is a zingy, ever-lovin’ jumble of top-notch contrasts.

The mayo is confusing, though, as we taste not miso but do detect a nice wasabi tang.

Not that it matters!

 

 

One of us was always going to order steak – and that turns to be, well, me.

That order being in the form of this knock-out “rib eye, 500g Great Southern, (Vic) British breeds” ($55), cooked medium rare.

Now look, as is no doubt obvious from the now many years of CTS, we are not really steak men.

So this proclamation by both of us may not be based on much.

But …

BEST.

STEAK.

EVER.

The meat is quite heavily seasoned and is quite salty, but that’s fine by both me and he, who also gets quite a good go at it.

The spuds and salad are fine, but are largely superfluous to the carnivore carnival – as are the pepper and bearnaise sauces on hand.

 

 

By comparison, Bennie’s pan-fried pork fillet with apple and apricot stuffing on pearl barley and peas with cider jus ($35) is rather demure.

He enjoys it plenty, however, and the meat is superbly moist and tender.

He’s less impressed with the barley base, which seems like a touch of brilliant to his father.

 

 

“Tastes of chocolate and caramel” ($14) is perhaps a tad too fiddly for the likes us apple pie guys, but we enjoy it anyway.

Underneath that dome of “chocolate mirror glaze” is a globe of caramel parfait – not quite ice-cream, not quite cake, all wonderful.

 

 

More appropriate for us is the luscious vanilla panna cotta with a berry and meringue topping and a fresh berry and cream shortbread off to the side.

This being a once-a-year kind of splash-up meal for CTS, we order cafe lattes to be enjoyed with our desserts even though it’s a mid-week evening.

The barista’s first go is deemed unworthy, with the second attempt missing our long-completed desserts by quite some margin.

They’re good, though, and we are not charged for them.

It’s been a fine night, a special night for the CTS lads.

Check out the Station Hotel website – including menu – here.

 

Phat Chicks taste good

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Julian customises his order; further back in the line, beanie-clad Josh is thinking: “Mmmmm – fried chicken!!!”

 

Phat Chicks, 549A Barkly Street, West Footscray. Phone: 9689 3030

The arrival a specialist fried chicken eatery in West Footscray has generated spectacular interest.

Partly this has been because it’s a novelty in an area that largely – though far from exclusively – is Indian when it comes to food.

As well, there’s been a preview story in CTS and coverage in other media outlets.

Unsurprisingly, the word we heard was that Phat Chicks was extremely busy right from the moment the doors opened.

So the members of Team CTS cooled their heels for a week – and even then, six of us hit the place a couple of hours later on a Friday night than would normally be the case in hopes the rush hour would be over.

That ploy works, but only just, with boss lady Jenny squeezing us all on to a four-seater table.

Thanks!

Our crew places three separate orders – for Bennie and I, ours looks like this:

 

 

Minus drinks and the like, and ignoring for this inaugural visit the only greenery/salad available, we all end up paying about $20 each.

 

 

I’m delighted to find the thighs ($4 each) are of the bone-in variety.

These are beaut, though I suspect better is to come than the sesame soy coating we get with these.

 

 

It’s true!

I’m really impressed by our sole breast ($6.50).

Not just because of the chicken and its admirable non-dryness, but also because the ordered spicy coasting is itself dry – unlike our other selections – and delivers a nice spice wallop.

 

 

Like all our chicken, these ribs ($6) are skillfully cooked, though we find there is little by way of the zing and tingle we are expecting from the vinegar part of the “salt and vinegar” coating.

 

 

Another hit!

These buffalo wings ($5) are tremendous – gloriously sopping wet with a zesty Sriracha-based sauce.

So good are they that we completely ignore the blue cheese sauce with which they are served.

(Just BTW, of the other sauces ordered by our table, we all like the pickle-infused Bear sauce very much …)

 

 

For sides, cajun fries ($6.50) and onion rings ($6.5) do us just great.

The serves are generous and the quality high.

Bennie opines that the onion rings are lacking onion flavour.

I disagree, but in any case retort: “Mate, onion rings are just an excuse to eat deep-fried batter!”

 

 

In our collective book, Phat Chicks is a great, big, phat winner.

It’s not just that it’s all about fried chicken – there’s a heap of places doing that around Melbourne.

It’s more that the range of coatings is innovative and delicious, with details such as sauces and sides also excelling.

We reckon it’ll take a few visits for us to be able to zero in on what works best for us.

The vibe during our visit has been happy and the staff members are dealing with such profound instant popularity very well.

And the wait times were briefer than I had been expecting.

As well, Phat Chicks is doing good for beer drinkers – my pint of 2 Brothers Kung Foo rice lager goes down a treat.

Lebanese heaven aboard the Starship Riviera

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Riviera Cafe & Restaurant, 55 Cumberland Drive, Maribyrnong. Phone: 9317 5534

The beautifully located, enormous restaurant room at Edgewater’s Lakehouse had been empty and unloved for so long that we’d pretty much lost interest in checking up on the place to see if there’d been any activity.

But then, after a hamburger meal further up the hill, I recently swung by once more – and got quite a surprise.

Wow – the place looked like it was all set up and ready to roll.

After parking, in I went – with more surprises awaiting.

The place looks a million bucks!

But it was deserted at a Sunday lunch hour, save for a couple of nattily-dressed waiters.

A greater surprise came upon perusal of the menu (see below).

For Riviera is serving traditional Lebanese food – and not just your dips and kebabs, either, but rather the entire restaurant routine.

Still, I found it easy to restrain my excitement.

I mean, how good could it be?

Full-on Lebanese food in a space that has often seemed like a combo of white elephant and black hole in the western suburbs food scene?

Best, thought I, to return that night by myself to check the food out first-hand before I started getting a group CTS hardliners together for a visit.

 

 

So return I did – and got the biggest surprise of all!

Early on a Sunday evening, Riviera was about half full – and in a room this big, that’s a handy number of people.

There were kids everywhere and going in all directions.

Also in evidence were a heap of hijabs, and there were even hookahs going at some tables.

So while Riviera, which has been going several months, may have – until now – flown under the radar of western suburbs food nuts, it seems the word is well and truly out among Melbourne’s Lebanese community.

And I took that as the best evidence possible – short of eating the food myself – that what is being served here is most excellent.

So it proved to be – my meal was very, very good within the limits of what a single soul can tackle.

On returning home, I hastily organised a CTS get-together and was happy that a bunch of enthusiasts were up for joining Bennie and I the following Sunday.

So thanks to Chris, Catherine, Nat, Justin and Will for doing CTS duty!

****

This time around, we find the room rather sparsely populated – there’s a nifty video on the Riviera Facebook page of the place rocking a pretty much full house.

But the welcome and service are fine.

Even better, the food arrives with such speed that it may have startled us had we all not been in such a lather of happy anticipation to try it all.

For simplicity’s sake, we quickly come to a collective decision to go with banquet option No.1 at a cost of $35 a head for the six adults in our group.

It turns out to be a most memorable Lebanese feast.

It is all good, very good or outstanding.

Here’s what we had/inhaled:

(And please keep in mind that the dishes pictured here represent just half of what is brought to our table – except where noted, two of each dish are provided to us.)

 

 

Crisp, moreish pita chips.

 

 

Also wonderfully crisp – the commercial but delightful pickled cucumbers and turshi.

 

 

Excellent dips – hummus, labneh, baba ghannouj.

 

 

Fattoush.

 

 

Glorious chicken wings – perhaps THE hit of the night.

 

 

Chips – perfectly acceptable, but a little shy of the perfection I expect in such a setting.

 

 

Makanek – Lebanese-style lamb sausages.

Others enjoy these more than I – for me they’re a little too sweet and rich.

And with their dark red colouring, they remind me – somewhat bizarrely – of black pudding!

 

 

Kibbaybat – deep-fried pastries with a filling of lamb and pine kernels.

These, too, are sweetish – and also juicy and very good.

 

 

Excellent meat on sticks – shish tawouk and shish kafta as advertised on the menu, and shish kebab as a surprise.

 

 

A single, big serve of this simple dish of lamb chops on rice is an unannounced addition to our banquet line-up – and is the same dish I tried on my solo exploration the previous weekend.

At first, I suspect this is going to be largely ignored by our lot in favour of the more glam kebab meats at our table.

But, no, in the end we all give this more humble dish a pretty good crack as well.

With its fragrant rice studded with currants, peas, cashews and more serving as a bed for beautifully cooked meat, this reminds me very much of the sort of Somalian meat ‘n’ rice dishes found at places such as this.

But I suspect variations on this theme can be found right across North Africa and the Middle East.

 

 

Finally, our fabulous meal winds down with super slices of chilled watermelon.

Just right!

That Riviera is serving top-notch Lebanese food – at Edgewater’s Lakehouse, of all places – fills me with profound happiness.

There is nothing cutting-edge, hipster or fusionesque about the fare here – and nor would I want there to be.

We all vow to return – and soonish.

It’s an interesting indication of how a place like Riviera can exist and prosper on its own terms and within its own community, yet fly entirely under the radar in the wider world – it has no Zomato listing!

 

Climate for Change fundraiser at Fig & Walnut – food preview

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TO BOOK FOR THIS EVENT, GO HERE
CTS Western Suburbs Food Festival No.3: Climate for Change fundraiser,
Fig & Walnut, 11-13 Bellairs Avenue, Seddon. Phone: 0433 574 194
Date: Wednesday, July 19. Time: 6-10pm. Ticket price: $45.

 

There’s just a week or so now until our very special benefit night for Climate for Change.

 

 

As a teaser, here’s a sneak peek at some of the delicious goodies that will be served for our wonderful guests and supporters.

 

 

Vera and her crew at Fig & Walnut really, really love doing this sort of food.

 

 

It’s obvious!

 

 

Please join us – we’d love to see you!

TO BOOK FOR THIS EVENT, GO HERE

CTS Western Suburbs Food Festival No.2: Sankranti wrap

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CTS Western Suburbs Food Festival 2: Sankranti, Sankranti, 250 Barkly Street, Footscray. Tuesday, June 20, 2017.

Well, the Sankranti crew really tuned it on for Consider The Sauce and guests for the second CTS Western Suburbs Food Festival event.

The food was fabulous.

 

 

So many thanks to Latha, Sree, Prasanth, Laya and the rest of their team – they did themselves proud.

The service was well-timed and the portion sizes just right for such a lengthy affair.

Among the many highlights were …

 

 

… succulent tandoori kebab meats, including beef (a first for many of us) and salmon.

Best of all … juicy, smoky chicken.

Oh my!

 

 

Manchow soup – how do they get such a massive, deep and – let it be said – meaty flavour from a vegetarian-based soup?

It remains a mystery!

(Chicken had been added but the base is meat-free, so the question remains legitimate …)

 

 

The curries were all fine, too, particularly the gonkura chicken with its tangy sorrel gravy.

Are they sprinkles – or hundreds and thousands?

Whatever – the topping of the “Sankranti special naan” variously bemused and delighted, usually at the same time.

 

 

The chutneys served with the mini-idlys were fresh and zesty.

 

 

Thanks to all who attended – I couldn’t have been happier.

 

MENU

Kebab platter – tandoori lamb, tandoori chicken, stone-cooked beef, fish tikka.

Spcial manchow soup.

Mini idly shots with assorted chutneys.

 

Three varieties of naan – garlic, sesame, Sankranti special naan.

Four varieties of Sankranti special curries:

Gutti vankay (stuffed eggplant).

Gonkura chicken (Sankranti’s signature dish).

Tomato dal.

Goan fish curry/beef saagwala.

Choice of one biryani – vegetable, chicken or goat.

 

Sankranti dessert platter:

Paan kulfi.

Mini-chocolate brownie.

Sticky date pudding

 

Brewhouse feeds us good

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Two Birds Brewing, 136 Hall Street, Spotswood. Phone: 9762 0000

It’s taken us ages to check out Two Birds Brewing.

As soon as we amble through the doors of this Spotswood brew emporium, we regret that has been the case as we take to the place with alacrity.

There’s a bar/servery at the front and an attendant and cosy drinking/eating area.

 

 

A nice, happy mid-week buzz is going on and there’s quite a good crowd.

It’s warm, but also busy and way too dark for comfortable photography.

So we are very happy to keep on marching through to the brewery proper, which has another area with tables, chairs – and heating.

 

 

It’s all very cavernous and industrial, but we love it – what a place to enjoy a meal and a drink!

CTS doesn’t normally do booze, but this being a brewery it would seem somewhat inappropriate to go without, so I have a very nice schooner of the Two Birds Taco ale, while Bennie is happy to go with his usual Coke stuff.

We are very interested to see how the food will shape up, having checked out the menu before we departed home.

On the one hand, we are delighted to see a list that is so deeply into hipster food of the American style yet unlike anything else we’ve seen in Melbourne.

On the other, we wonder if this will be bar food that is really snack food – we fret, just a little, that we will spend a packet yet nevertheless leave without feeling fully satisfied.

There prove to be so no such problems for us at Two Birds – we enjoy a fine meal and consider the pricing just right.

 

 

House-made pickles ($8) are superb.

Carrot, green beans, celery, zucchini, onion – here is a wonderful fantasia of colours and textures, with each of the vegetables evincing different flavours.

Croquettes ($10 for four, top photograph) present as gorgeous-looking crisp orbs – we can’t wait to grab them.

Their promise is fully realised – inside each of them is lipsmackingly good and gooey mix of macaroni, cheese and pimento, all with just the right level of spice heat.

 

 

We move on to the “bigs” portion of the menu …

By this time we are happy and relaxed in the sure knowledge that the Two Birds experience will leave us well fed.

The one remaining issue to be resolved surrounds what was always going to be Bennie’s main choice – the smoked pork hot dog.

As Bennie himself puts it: “How good can a hot dog be for $17?”

With its fine sausage and dressings of bacon, paprika mustard and ketchup, it hits nice heights in terms of flavour and eating pleasure.

Bennie enjoys the heck out of it, but he does make unfavourable comparisons to the $5 versions to be had at the Wiener Wednesdays at Littlefoot in Footscray.

I tell him that’s harsh and very much a case of comparing apples and oranges.

As he wraps up his meal and licks his fingers, he ponders this.

“I’d happily pay $12 for that,” he says.

Fair call, I reckon.

The kipfler potato salad that accompanies his hot dog is very fine.

 

 

The only problem with my chicken schnitzel “on brioche” is that there is, so far as I can tell, nothing even remotely “schnitzel” about it.

Instead, this a regal, sooper dooper chicken burger that makes me very, very happy.

Around a nice slab of chook are, according to the menu, nothing more than “special sauce, American cheese and lettuce”, yet the flavour impact is way greater than that suggests.

With a lovely dob of that same potato salad, I enjoy my meal and consider it good value for $17.

Check out the Two Birds Brewing website – including menu – here.