Latin Foods & Wines evening

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Latin Foods & Wines, 809 Ballarat Road, Deer Park. Phone: 8358 5503

Western suburbs food is ALWAYS exciting for Consider The Sauce.

But we reckon there’s nothing that’s been more exciting than the move of Latin Foods & Wines (aka La Morenita) from rather pokey digs in Sunshine to much bigger premises in Deer Park.

The business has grown, there’s a definite buzz and the eat-in options have expanded to include not just the empanadas and dynamite sandwiches still available but also proper, plated meals.

We’ve tried a number of those latter offerings and are so delighted with the whole new deal we are happy to put an extra 10 minutes drive time to get to Deer Park.

 

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A big part of the expanded business is the parrillada – South American barbecue.

It’s been running for a few months – mainly at the weekends.

But this Friday night sees its official launch and a test run for Latin Foods & Wines as a regulation restaurant operation.

I’ve been only too happy to organise a media/blogger table for the occasion; no “consultancy” fee has been paid – this has been just for the fun of it.

We get the same $50 set sample menu on offer to general customers, though in our case the food is complementary.

 

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We start with a trio of fine cocktail empanadas with various fillings.

I am familiar with the style of the two on the left through multiple eatings at LF&W, but the corn-crusted on one on the right – in the Colombian style, I’m told, and filled with mash ‘n’ meat – makes a nice contrast.

 

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Unannounced on the menu are cheesy bread items called pan de bono with mayonesa de ajo.

 

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Next up are (from left) …

Ceviche – in the Chillean style, I’m told, and made from very finely shredded hake; very lemony.

Causa limefia – mashed spud stuffed with chicken and topped with a slice of hardboiled egg.

Anticucho – from the barbecue, two beef cubes on a stick, with a slice of chorizo between them.

 

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It’s worth noting that South American-style barbecue meats are quite different from the US-style that has become so trendy in Melbourne in recent years.

The meat is served mostly unadorned and is, by contrast, well cooked.

But still delicious!

I had rather feared that we’d be served full-on platters of meats from the regular barbecue line-up – on top of all the other components of our set/sample menu.

That’s not the case – instead we get nice sample chunks of costillar (cumin-scented pork), pamplona (rolled chicken stuffed with cheese and ham) and parrillada lamd (scented with rosemary).

A good tomato and onion salad accompanies.

The fully appropriate sample-size portions mean we have plenty of room for desserts …

 

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… which are fabulous and, for several of us, the unexpected highlight of our evening.

Tangy pineapple gelato tipped with a wonderful chewy, caramelised cube of fresh pineapple.

Tres leche – house specialty take on the sponge layer cake popular in various forms throughout South America.

Merengue lucuma – a spectacular mix of merengue and chocolate on a biscuit base.

The when and how of the various components of the Latin Foods & Wines’ line-up – sandwiches/burgers, more substantial plates, barbecue – is far from settled, so I suggest you phone beforehand to make sure what you’re interested in will be available.

I’ve loved not just the food but also the opportunity to rub shoulders – and swap goss – with friends new and old.

 

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Among the former have been Cassandra from Hungry Cookie and Maggie from They Call Me Maggie.

 

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Also on hand have been Susan from the lovely FB page Point Cook Dining and her friend, Saba.

 

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The old pals sharing our table have included Jacqui, The Urban Ma, and hubby Wes.

Sorry, Nat Stockley and Jackie – can’t include a pic of you two as I didn’t nail a usable one!

Consider The Sauce and friends dined at Latin Foods & Wines as guests of management. We did not pay for our food.

Westie barbers No.5: Coffee with your cut?

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AXE Barbers and Baristas, Shop 1/1 Foundry Road, Sunshine: Phone: 0414 427 769

Being a cheapskate, I normally avoid hairdressers or barbershops with a chic look – polished cement floors, like that – as they’re usually ridiculously over-priced for my minimal, buzz-cut needs.

But at new Sunshine outfit AXE Barbers and Baristas I do good.

And I get a fine cafe latte, to boot!

Mind you, “Axe” seems like a rather threatening name for a barbershop …

 

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… but that changes when I meet barista Engin (left) and barber Xavia, and learn that the name is made up of their initials and that of a third partner, Allan, who I don’t meet.

Xavia provides me with an expert buzz-cut for a price not far removed from those charged by the St Albans and Footscray Vietnamese hairdressers I usually use.

 

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These blokes will do well, I reckon.

There’s not a lot by way of service businesses at the Gold Leaf end of Hampshire Road, but there is new apartment activity representing potential customers.

There’s parking close by at both Hampshire Crescent and Sunshine Plaza.

Check out the AXE website here for hours and prices.

 

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Westie eats goss 30/9/16

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Village Cantina in Ballarat Street, Yarraville, is for sale.

The agent’s listing points out that buyers will have the opportunity “to continue current cuisine or redevelop into a hipster cafĂ©”.

 

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A few doors along, and also on Ballarat Street, Naked Egg (in the premises formerly filled by Hausfrau) is now doing dinners, the menu featuring a line-up of solid, old-school Italian dishes at good prices.

 

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At the other end of Ballarat Street in the village, Friend or Pho will soon be licensed.

 

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On Barkly Street in Footscray, right next to Ames, will soon be an bar/emporium of the craft beer variety.

It’ll be called Bar Josephine.

 

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Also on Barkly, right next to Nando’s, the big, new Indian place Sankranti has furniture in the house – but it still looks like a lot of work is to be done.

Nonetheless, one of the chefs told me they’re planning on an October 10 opening.

 

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Big is definitely not better in the world of CTS, of course, but I am looking forward to taking this place – and its massive menu – for a spin.

 

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On Nicholson Street in Footscray, Cafe D’Afrique is a coffee/food stalwart of the African scene.

It is closed for renovations – we’ll be very interested to see what eventuates.

 

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Across the road, at the entrance to the Footscray Hub, Kulan Eatery has opened.

 

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It is a halal place that is offering a line-up of Footscray-themed burgers.

CTS soon try!

 

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At Harrington Square in Altona, Waffee is closed for renovations.

The spot next to the Maltese cakey establishment Borg’s will soon be an ice-cream shop – though CTS has been unable to discover, yet, if it is going to be gelati or regular ice-cream, or whether it will be house-made or of the more commercial and/or brought in variety.

Also opening at Harrington Square, in the premises formerly occupied by Altona Curry House, is Birdcage Altona Cafe.

Footscray soul food

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Somali Star Cafe, Footscray Hub (arcade between Nicholson and Albert streets).

The Footscray Hub arcade mostly seems wonderfully changeless in its lively Africaness.

But it’s only ever had, to the best of our knowledge, a single food outlet among its various hairdressers, clothes shops and more.

These days that shop goes under the moniker Somali Star and is, I reckon, at least the third incarnation of that food space.

It’s a small – there’s two simple booths so seating is restricted.

But most customers are of the takeaway variety and come and happily go for the sambusas.

 

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The sign saying “the sambussa is back” is, we reckon, a bit misleading.

Because we’ve had these African versions of the samosa from here before – but never like this.

 

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Oh no, these are bigger and better by quite some margin …

 

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… and, in the case of our lamb number, absolutely delicious, the flaky pastry generously stuffed with minced meat, onion and herbs.

And at $3.50, they’re a superb, dead-set bargain.

Effectively a light meal all on their own, it’s a sure thing these henceforth will feature at least once a week in CTS work/school lunches.

But while our sambusa is profoundly enjoyable, it is a holding pattern – pretty much – for our more substantial plates.

 

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Unlike its predecessors in this space, Somali Star has a wall-mounted menu, from which we are happy to make our selections.

We’re warned there’ll be a wait time of about 15 minutes. But we don’t mind that as we very much enjoying the moment.

That wait time stretches to more than 20 minutes but we continue to care not – even when one of dishes is forgotten, or did not register in the first place.

What we get is unfussy, very enjoyable Somalian food.

 

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Pasta/beef ($12) displays the Italian influence on north African food.

The noodles go just right with a sauce that is a bit like a Somalian version of spag bol.

Both are excellent.

The salad bits on the side are fresh and zingy and the commercial chilli sauce is added at our request.

 

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The rice/lamb ($13) comes without adornments – maybe because it has been rushed once the friendly realised our order for it had gone awol.

We’re familiar with Somalian rice being cooked in stock, seasoned with the likes of pepper and cardamom and served with slivers of onion.

This rice is quite different, pan fried (I think) with onion and small meat chunks.

The lamb is something else.

Normally, when eating lamb in neigbourhood/street food places, be they Indian, African or other, we are used to getting lovely meat that is nevertheless sporting its fair share of bone, fat and/or gristle.

We don’t mind that at all, as the quality cooking of the meat itself invariably outweighs the extraneous bits.

We admire the cooking skill that makes such delicious food out of the cheapest cuts of meat.

In the case of this here Somali Star lamb, we get all the cooking skill and none of the rest – save for the single, visible bone piece.

The meat is very simply cooked/grilled, and – as far as I can tell – unseasoned.

But it is so wonderful, tender and yummy that I reckon a heap of much flasher eateries/pubs/cafes would be happy to serve it and charge a whole bunch more in the process.

Soul food is a term bandied about a bit these days, often in tandem or alongside BBQ food of the American variety.

Given my interest in American roots music and culture, I find that appealing.

But when such food is served in trendy places and the prices hurt, it can seem like something of a pose.

Let’s think, instead, of Footscray soul food, western suburbs soul food as a bowl of pho.

Or a WeFo biryani or dosa.

Or a couple of plates of cheap, delicious Somalian food at Somali Star.

 

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Yarraville eats goss 12/8/16

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Pizza d’Asporto is coming to Yarraville.

The crew behind the cool Williamstown pizza/pasta/good vibes eatery and Kiosk by d’Asporto is opening a second store in the old post office next to the Sun Theatre.

A full-on fit-out is in progress.

This lovely old brick building has been the location of several unsuccessful businesses in recent years, most recently – in the space to be inhabited by Pizza d’Asporto – by a frozen yogurt joint.

But I reckon this new venture will rock, especially given the big, inviting raised patio area.

 

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Cafe Fidama is no more.

After being bought by the crew from Seddon Japanese gem Ajitoya a few months back, the new owners have decided it’s time to move on.

A fit-out is under way that will see the premises become what is described on the Ajitoya FB page as “Japanese Bar Dining”.

More details as they come to hand but expect a launch in about a month with a spring/summer menu.

 

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The Anderson Street venue that was home for many years to the boutique Marita’s is becoming Yarraville’s first dedicated kebab shop.

OK, this is at the fast-food end of the spectrum, but we reckon it’s welcome news nevertheless – rounding out the village’s eating options in the same way the arrival of two very good Vietnamese restaurants has done.

I understand those behind the new business have Greek roots.

 

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Meanwhile, we can now officially stop speculating about what kind of cafe and/or eatery is eventually going  to move into the ground-floor premises of the St George Theatre apartment complex.

That space is now home to a pilates outfit.

The icing on the biscuits

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Julia’s work – how they’re meant to look.

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My beginner class efforts.

 

Consider The Sauce loves rabbit holes and those who gleefully scamper down them – people who are devoted with joy and passion to their “thing”.

Julia – Miss Biscuit – certainly qualifies.

Since CTS first write about her biscuit decorating pursuits more than three years ago, her dedication has paid dividends.

She’s found the desire for knowledge about her “thing” is so wide and deep that she’s been able to make it her main gig, moving her operations from her Yarraville home to a two-storey headquarters in Seddon.

 

 

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As well, she has become an employer, has embarked on a teaching tour of the Middle East, is bringing specialists from overseas to teach here and has taught many thousands of students and fans herself.

Decorating cookies is never going to something I’ll pursue, but I’m nevertheless extremely grateful for the opportunity to sit in on one of Julia’s beginner classes.

 

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She’s a fine teacher – in this regard, she draws on her background as a speech pathologist. Our class is a mix of information and hands-on practice in the form of decorating nine cookies ourselves.

The information comes in the form of making the base cookies; we are provided three different recipes – Miss Biscuit Vanilla Sugar Biscuits, Gingerbread (Adapted from Bake at 350) and Decadent Chocolate Roll Out Cookies.

The important thing here is that the recipes result in cookies that don’t lose their shape once they’re cut and baked.

 

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Then there is the royal icing itself.

We are led through the basic recipe, then the various consistencies and colours and their uses, as well as the use of piping bags and squeeze bottles.

 

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Finally, there is the matter of piping-bag tips, with some brands being much more favoured than others, and some (the narrow ones) being used for outlining and the wider ones being utilised for flooding, the all-over icing technique that covers whole – or whole parts – of cookies, creating a sort of blank canvas for more ornate artwork and detail.

 

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After demonstrations by Julia of the techniques involved, it’s time to give it a crack ourselves, firstly by trying outling on patterns on paper.

They key to outlining, we’ve been told, is to have tip about inch from the cookie.

 

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I’m surprised at how easy to work the royal icing is.

Mind you, as a rank beginner I do struggle – I try to concentrate on a certain fluidity, a steady hand, some momentum.

Flooding is something quite different – apparently a little easier to do, but I soon find out I have been too sparing in my icing applications.

As we finish the early stages of each cookie, they are set aside so the icing can dry and we move on to the next.

 

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During the lunch break, various of my classmates avail themselves of the cookie cutters and much more available in the shop downstairs.

After lunch, we get back to work by adding details to our cookies.

 

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It’s at this point my outlining technique gets well and truly found out – the lattice-work on my ice-cream cone and cupcake is squiggly where it should be straight!

Still, in the end I am delighted and surprised that all my cookie artwork actually looks recognisably as it is meant to.

 

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The concentration levels have been nothing unusual for me, but the subject of that concentration has been very different – so I am pretty tired by the end of the five-hour class.

But I’ve had a ball.

Check out the Miss Biscuit website here for details of classes, products and more.

 

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Wonderful impromptu Italian

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pier719

 

Pier 71 Bar e Cucina, 71 Pier Street, Altona. Phone: 9398 8598

Bennie and I have an engagement in Altona – the launch party for a new place.

In truth, we’re not sure how – or if – this will work for us.

It’s a week night with school and work the next day, and it remains to be seen whether CTS will get enough of a look-see at the food to generate a story.

We get through the security cordon, stride up the stairs and find that, nope, this isn’t for us – it’s all about people standing around drinking, Bennie’s in his school uniform and we just don’t feel comfortable.

This place will have to wait for another day.

So around the corner we go, still chasing a dinner feed, to throw our lot in with Pier 71 Bar e Cucina.

This turns out to be an ace move on our part, as this very cool Italian has until now escaped our notice, even though it’s been around for a couple of years.

It’s all about casual Italian – something along the lines of Ovest in West Footscray or Mascalzone in Williamstown: Big on pizzas, pasta and salads, not so gung-ho about steaks and pricey seafood.

 

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The place is roughly split into three areas – a communal table at front, what amounts to a long hallway of both booth and table seating adjacent the kitchen/serving areas, and a flexible alfresco area out back.

We eat very well and find the service and timing fine for a busy mid-week night.

 

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Pizza Napoletana ($17.90) is as good as we could hope for – simple, very fine and expertly done.

There’s stacks of anchovies – good for me, not so good for Bennie!

 

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The chips that accompany our “hamburger (Italian style)” ($18.90) are superb – hot, crisp, plentiful.

The fried discs of chorizo atop seem something of an affectation to us, though, and our first conclusion is that we’d be happier if that effort had been put into putting more heft into our burger, which seems rather smallish for the price.

Bennie makes rude comparisons with the burgers we get elsewhere, but after eating I conclude he’s being unfair – because, as is so often the case, this eats bigger than it looks.

 

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And it is indeed in the “Italian style” – the meat is much more finely minced than is the case with burgers generally, be they old-school Aussie or the American style.

It’s a delight with its capsicum, onion, mozzarella and sauce.

We go for it in terms of indulgence by sharing the tiramisu ($10.90, top photograph).

It’s a dreamy, rich fantasy – much stiffer in terms of consistency than we’re used to, the booze-tinged cream a thing of grinning decadence.

Check out the Pier 71 Bar e Cucina website, including menu, here.

 

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