French for sandwich

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Small French Cafe, 157A Barkly Street, Footscray.

For a few years now, Stefan Armentano has been running Small French Bar on Barkly Street in Footscray, bringing a wonderful touch of all sorts of French food and wine to the already wondrously diverse Footscray table.

Now he’s spread his wings – but not very far.

His new cafe/sandwich shop is directly opposite his restaurant.

Fittingly, it’s called Small French Cafe.

Fittingly – but somewhat inaccurately.

Tiny French Cafe might have been more appropriate.

Inside, there’s room for some high stools, a coffee machine and a display cabinet – and that’s about it.

Outside are a couple of tables and chairs.

But who cares about the scale of enterprise?

Let’s feel the quality … which is very fine.

 

 

The substance of the blackboard menu is all about baguette sandwiches, the varied line-up of five all priced at $9.50.

 

 

I go for the saucisson with salami, cheese, cornichons and butter, while …

 

 

… Bennie opts for the canard with duck confit, greens, grain mustard and cornichons.

This is simple and tasty eating that is right up there with the many other cheap lunch options in this neighbourhood.

Best of all is the bread – oh my!

This not your usual crusty baguette.

Stefan tells me it’s what called “pain aux cereals“.

“It is a whole-grain bread, typically the first alternative choice instead of white bread in France for sandwiches,” he says.

It’s wonderful!

Wonderful and chewy.

Sanger champs

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Butcher 128, 128 Roberts Street, Yarraville. Phone: 9318 0975

Yarraville is a big suburb.

For several reasons, much focus falls on the maze-like collection of streets in and around Anderson and Ballarat.

But Yarraville stretches a long way towards Geelong – well, to Cemetery Road anyway.

And certainly to Roberts Road, where Butcher 128 is located.

Perhaps its far-flung location is why it’s been off our radar for so long.

Even now, it’s pure happenstance that takes Bennie and I there for a quick Sunday meal.

Much of the previous tenant’s infrastructure has been kept in place – hence the name – and combined with contemporary cafe gear.

There’s a beaut covered outdoor area and play space down the back.

It’s busy in the brunch/lunch peak hour, but the staff are smiling and efficient.

One side of the menu (see below) is mostly dedicated to breakfast fare; we mine the other.

Bennie’s The Meat Hook ($15.50, top photo) is superb.

Right from the first bite, he’s nodding in enthusiastic acclamation of its braised pork belly, BBQ, Sriracha mayo and cabbage/herb slaw.

My The Baron ($14) is just as good.

The house-made salted beef, tender and thinly sliced, is about an inch thick.

It’s joined by cabbage slaw, Swiss cheese, pickle and house mustard sauce.

The bread is the just the right light, perfectly toasted, to house it all.

There surely can be no matter better argument for positing “mere” sandwiches as bona fide meals than our 10/10 pair.

So impressed by the sandwich department, I return a few days later for a bowl dish from the breakfast side of things.

XO crab ($18) has egg noodles, a fried egg, crispy shallots, house XO sauce and a soft shell crab.

It’s a modest serve and a light meal.

And it’s very dry, though the sauce flavour is happily present.

Best of all is the soft shell crab – easily the best I have had.

Well, in Melbourne anyway.

It’s crisp and sweet, and thus a far cry from the drab specimens that have helped make us un-enamoured of this particular specialty.

Our coffees, over both visits, are crazy good.

Meal of the week No.19: La Delicatezza

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ladeli21

 

Sort of hidden in plain sight – surrounded as it is by high-profile Malaysian eateries and overtly public cafes – it’s easy to not notice La Delicatezza on Pin Oak Crescent in Flemington.

I was last in here several years ago for a ploughman’s lunch.

Not much has changed, though that item no longer seems available and the place appears to be now run by a whole new crew.

But it is the same in terms of being a tranquil spot to hang for a while, with its cool interior and adjacent courtyard.

Lunch here comes down to a long list of toasties and paninis, a couple of soups, canelloni, lasagne (see below).

I roll the dice and make my choice – the chicken schnitzel panini with coleslaw ($8.90) – wondering as I do if these folks know what they’re doing.

The answer, emphatically, is a rousing: Yes!!!

Let me count the ways …

The bread is gorgeous, fresh and wonderfully warmed through.

The coleslaw is just right in substance and flavour.

I’m assured the chicken is of the crumbed variety.

But so meltingly tender and superbly seasoned is it, that it comes across more as roast chook – and I mean that as a compliment.

This is an incredibly ace sandwich – a masterpiece even.

And as such, and at a price below $10, it excels in ways that many hipster joints of the kind that end up on Top 10 lists and charge way more struggle to match.

Gee, I want to try them all …

 

ladeli23

ladeli22

Sandwich culture in the west

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Thanks to Jill Rowe of Spice Bazaar for letting us publish her entry in our guest post contest – it may not have won but we love it anyway!

Check out the Spice Bazaar website – and their wonderful cooking courses – here.

BTW, Consider The Sauce is also a big fan of the Sourdough Kitchen sangers – they’ve regular work lunch fare this tear.

*****

I remember my school lunch sandwiches with disdain.

My evil step mum would work her magic on creating something that couldn’t be eaten.

By the time lunchtime arrived, the filling of warm plastic cheese, wilted lettuce, congealed chicken slice and soggy tomatoes had turned the white bread into jelly – nobody was surprised to see it in the bin.

Oh mum, you tried!

Sometimes I would buy a bread roll and a packet of chips from the canteen – definitely no discernible health benefits but at least it was crunchy.

More satisfying were the after school versions we made ourselves.

Fresh white bread, with exactly the right amount of butter and Vegemite

It was a science.

 

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Food is memory and I bet many South Americans remember their version with mother love.

It’s fresh white bread, a single slice of cheese with a slathering of mayonnaise – I’m sure this is their version of our Vegemite variety.

This humble looking, but tasty, sandwich was enjoyed at La Morenita and it did remind me of those Vegemite days.

 

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Nuevo Latino’s “midnight sandwich” is full of delicious pulled pork, crunchy pickled vegetables and mustard – totally addictive.

Think – delicious weekend roast leftovers, and after watching the soccer on a Sunday evening you start to get peckish.

Of course, you want  a midnight sandwich. It’s enough to carry you through to the next morning.

 

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Then there are the “sandwich-like” papusas, also served at Nuevo Latino.

These crafted corn discs ooze the meltingly delicious cheeses that make up the filling.

Peel one apart (it’s how you tell a good one), fill with a little curtido and sauce, fold together and eat like a Salvadoran.

Forget that diet for today!

 

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Inside Little Saigon market hides a Vietnamese treasure (well there are lots of treasures here but here we are talking about bread and sandwiches).

IMHO this is the best version of banh mi.

At Nhu Ngoc bakery, ask for the “combination on a tiger roll” and you’ll know what I’m talking about.

 

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So I was searching for the “perfect sandwich” – and I found it at the Sourdough Kitchen in Seddon.

One made with fresh sliced sourdough bread, highest quality sliced ham, perfect pickles, bitter fresh rocket and a home-made chutney.

Wow!

If my mum could have made me a sandwich like this, I would have eaten lunch every day.

An American Sandwich Bar

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mason4

 

Mason Dixon American Sandwich Bar, 480 Collins Street, Melbourne. Phone: 8610 6316

Up this end of Collins Street, as well as there being some good lunch action going on in various laneways, there are also several swish food courts, all of which offer something interesting and good.

Mason Dixon is tucked into one of them.

They’ve been operating, IIRC, since about Christmas times and, by all accounts I’ve laid eyes on, are going gangbusters.

I’m keen to check out their sangers in the company the Urban Ma, Jacqui, and her hubby, Wes.

By the time Jacqui and I locate the joint following much confusion and consultation of device maps, the crowd is substantial – but Wes has been doing patient queue duty so our wait time is minimal.

Two of us go the cubano (pictured at top, $9.50) of roast pork, smoked ham, dill pickle, swiss cheese and “citrus mojo” on a pressed roll.

 

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Our third sandwich is the reuben ($9.50) of corned beef, sauerkraut, swiss cheese and russian dressing.

Both are served with a handful of mini-pretzels and a couple of plastic-wrapped Mentos.

Both our sandwiches are good and constructed right for the $9.50 price tags.

But there’s the rub … I do find both of them a bit bland and lacking in real oomph.

But for the kind of sandwich dynamite for which I have been hoping, $15 would be a more likely price demand.

And Mason Dixon, being pitched directly at the office lunch crowd, is nailing it in spades.

Jacqui passes by the next day and subsequently reports the queue is nearly out the door and on to the street!

 

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If I our adjudge our sandwiches to have been slightly off target – for me anyway! – the cheeky slice of peanut butter cheesecake ($5) Jac and I consume after Wes has split is a direct hit of glorious gooey richness.

Pan-toasted ham and cheese sandwich

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Because toasted sandwiches are merely an irregular snack/meal for us, when we do them we like to do them right.

That usually means a good loaf of bread – most commonly some sort of ciabatta loaf.

Good cheddar, too, and ham – but not too good of either.

We tart ours up with onion rings and Dijon mustard, but others’ mileage will vary.

We’ve tried other ingredients, such as tomato, but enough is enough. The tomato was a soggy overload.

In this case, we used a Zeally Bay hightop loaf.

So because the rectangular slices had less surface area than we’re familiar with AND because these sandwiches were going to be the mainstay of our evening meal, I sliced the bread quite thick.

The pan heat is a very variable matter and all down to the kind of bread, its thickness and the depth and number of ingredients.

You want it hot enough to cook your sangers a toasty brown and melt the cheese to goo without taking all night about it.

And without burning the bread.

It’s a balancing act.

Such is life …

Because we don’t have one of those fancy toasted-sanger machines, and we actually like doing them by hand, the layering process becomes important – cheese on last so it gets the heat treatment first.

These sandwiches were a lot more filling than they looked.

 INGREDIENTS

1 loaf of good bread

2 slices of good ham per sandwich

good cheddar

onion slices (optional)

Dijon or other mustard (optional)

METHOD

1. Pre-heat pan on low-medium heat.

2. Slice four slices of bread.

3. Arrange ham on two slices, then the onion slices.

4. Slather mustard on the other slices.

5. Place cheese slices on the onion.

6. Place mustard-slathered bread on the cheese.

7. Butter top of sandwiches.

8. Holding sandwiches firmly so innards don’t cascade to the floor, put them in the pre-hated pan buttered side down.

9. Toast sandwiches, checking regularly to make sure they’re not burning.

10. When nice and toasty on the bottom, butter the top slices of bread and flip the sandwiches with care.

11. Cook and check until done, giving them a blast of higher heat right at the end.

12. Cut sandwiches in half and serve with garnish such as pickled onion, pickled cucumbers or olives.

Beatrix

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Beatrix, 688 Queensberry St, North Melbourne. Phone: 9090 7301

Like so many people, I have mixed feelings about Facebook.

On a macro level, some of the politics, ethics and sneakiness just plain creep me out.

On a micro level, I’d have to say it’s a fabulous tool.

Tool being the operative word.

It’s there to be used, in my book. If you want to use it, that is.

If you don’t … um, then don’t.

And please, let’s have no more lame-o opinion pieces about FB, social media and the end of the world as we know it … written by people, I’m pretty sure, who are as fixated and rude in the use of their mobile devices as those they criticise.

I’m delighted with the way my use of Facebook has evolved into a multi-pronged, life-enhancing … tool.

I’ve “liked” a slew of western suburbs organisations that hip me to all sorts of events, festivals and happenings that I would otherwise be blissfully unaware of.

Likewise, I’m always up to speed on the special events, menu changes, specials, news and sometimes whacko humour (Hi, Adam!) from a wide range of eateries and food suppliers.

Thus, while the initial inspiration for a visit to North Melbourne cafe Beatrix has most certainly been a drool-encrusted post by Ms Bakover at Footscray Food Blog, what gets me in the car and headed that way is the joint’s fabulous Facebook activity.

Each day, the Beatrix folks post details of that day’s goodies, particularly their sandwiches. This is Facebook newsfeed of seriously seductive proportions.

The sandwiches are small in number – just two a day – but packed with allure.

As I joyfully discover, that allure is of real and magnificent substance.

It’s a tiny but chic place, but as I am reliably early, finding a seat at the window counter is no problem. By the time I leave, it’s considerably more crowded.

The day’s heavier, richer offering involves sardines. Tempting for sure, but I go for the lighter, cheaper and unmeated option.

The Ricotta (large $12, small $10.50) is described as “Simply warmed That’s Amore ricotta, caramelised onion, radicicchio and black olive”.

My large sandwich is perfection is every way.

The bread is fresh and warm, yet happily minus the sometimes gum-shredding factor that often comes with ciabatta loaves.

The sweet onions are the perfect foil for the astringency of the sparingly used olives and the bitterness of the leaves.

The ricotta is smooth and creamy – more about texture than flavour, and given the other protagonists, that’s perfection, too.

It’s a super sandwich and experience.

If this is taking the science and craft of sandwich-making, and doing so with a small but rotating list of superb ingredients, and turning them into an artform, then all I can say is: Bravo!

The cakes here looking killing, too. Maybe next time with Bennie for company – he’ll love the place for sure.

And maybe the go here for paired-up dining is what I’ve seen a couple do today – a large sandwich and a slice of cake, shared.

Meanwhile, tomorrow there’ll be another unrelenting Facebook missive from Beatrix; and another one the day after that; and so on.

There is, it seems, no escape.

Except maybe clicking on “unlike”.

As if …

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