Climate for Change fundraiser at Fig & Walnut

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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.

 

Not all eateries, for any number of reasons, fit right with the regular CTS business plan for holding events.

One such is Fig & Walnut in Seddon.

When, while trying the new winter menu there, I put this to Vera, she took the words right out of my mouth.

“Let’s do a fundraiser!”

Truth is, I hadn’t thought much beyond sounding her out about such a project – the details were fuzzy in my mind.

But then she came up with a brilliant idea.

“Let’s do it for Katerina!”

Yes!

It all fits!

I met Katerina – and a whole bunch of other lovely, friendly and spirited people – while involved in the campaign, a few years back now, to save Footscray’s Dancing Dog building.

It was from her that I first learned about a forthcoming cool cafe soon to open in her Seddon neighbourhood – the joint that would be Fig & Walnut.

Back then, Katerina was working very hard on another project – an activist organisation called Climate for Change.

Since then, she and many other have built this into something really special – a righteous grass-roots group doing great work on behalf of our planet and our children.

You can read about their work here.

Climate for Change has just completed a mammoth fundraising exercise – but Vera and I are only too glad to do our bit in topping up that war chest.

We hope you will be, too.

We have tried to keep the ticket price for this event below what is commonly charged for many fundraisers.

At the same, time we hope that – after deduction of Vera’s generous costings and booking fees – to hand Katerina and her crew a handy chunk of change.

This will, we hope, be a grand occasion that will taste great, be a great opportunity to network and a gathering of old friends and new.

Vera and her crew will prepare for the evening a lavish vegan banquet that will include the following and much more:

  • Mediterranean paella
  • House-made vegan dips and breads
  • Amazing salads:
  • Ancient grains with garden herbs nuts and pomegranate
  • Mapled sweet potato and carrots with cumin, coriander
  • Roast eggplants and pumpkin with almond creme dressing
  • A variety of vegan antipasto
  • Chargrilled veggie salad with whipped tahini

Wine will be available by the glass, bottle and case under the auspices of Climate for Change’s Kook’s Labor of Love vino arrangements and glassware will be provided.

TO BOOK FOR THIS EVENT, GO HERE

Fig & Walnut – winter menu

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Fig & Walnut, 11-13 Bellairs Avenue, Seddon. Phone: 0433 574 194

Since its early days, covered by us here, one of the loveliest things to observe about Fig & Walnut in Seddon is what a relaxed and lovely retreat it has become.

It all fits with relaxing ease – including the superb garden area outside.

Fig & Walnut has become one of our regulars, for coffee mostly and sweet treats, with the occasional more hefty meal included.

So we’re only too happy to accept Vera’s invitation (see full disclosure below) to take her new menu for a spin.

 

 

New menu?

Perversely, I ignore it and go for one of the revolving specials – Brazilian seafood soup ($17, top photo).

With its sprigs of coriander, I firstly think this going to be a dish with an Asian bent.

But, no, this seems firmly in the Mediterranean mold despite its South American attribution.

The sensational foundation is a tomato-based broth that is extremely deep in flavour – it’s simply brilliant.

In it are blobs of fresh tomato and red capsicum.

In it, too, is generous bounty of seafood – medium-size prawns of superb, large-size flavour; pipis and mussels; and several nice chunks of barramdundi.

This is high-quality seafood cooking, especially given the price.

 

 

Danya’s vegan bowl ($19) is a bit of an odd choice for us, but we like it a lot anyway.

Somehow, the apparently disparate ingredients come together to create a satisfying whole.

At its base are a heap of cold noodle and a fine house-made satay sauce, abetted by bok choy and eggplant.

Even the pumpkin, normally a no-go area for us, plays a handy role by being so tender that it seems to become part of an extended dressing/sauce, with chilli shavings adding just the right amount of zing.

 

 

Rob is plenty happy with his crushed avo with Meredith goat’s cheese, pomegranate syrup, toasted seeds and two perfectly cooked poached eggs ($19).

It’s a fine variation on a theme that shows no signs whatsoever of fading from the cafe scene.

 

 

Fig & Walnut is a sweet treat haven, though it takes a different tack to most places by putting the accent on an oft-changing range of smaller offerings instead of a line-up of regular cakes.

For example, these almond crescents.

We’ve all had them before – but rarely are they of such crumbly freshness and lemon-scented joy.

(Consider The Sauce dined at Fig & Walnut as guests of management. No money changed hands. Our food was a mix of items chosen by management and mains chosen by CTS and guests. Fig & Walnut management did not seek any editorial input into this story.)

 

I scream, you scream

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Sourdough Kitchen, 172 Victoria Street, Seddon. Phone: 9687 5662

It would be glib and inaccurate to proclaim, for the purposes of this story, “summer’s here and so is ice-cream season”.

Truth is, we eat the stuff all year round and even when the weather is at its most dismal.

But there’s two new kids on the block in the west and we really feel obliged – haha, our sort of obligation! – to give them a spin.

Gelati and/or ice cream?

See here for a handy explanation of the difference.

If anything, we prefer gelati, if only because it’s more likely in our world to mean in-house production by people we dig at places we love – see here, here and here.

But we never get too technical, snobby or hipster about it …

Sourdough Kitchen – long-running and beloved community fixture, source of regular work commute coffees as well as the occasional sandwich and more – and now doing their very own gelati line-up.

 

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Bennie is well pleased with his single scoop cone of chocolate gelati ($4).

It’s soft in the gelati way, with much of it oozing down the cone – so I have no way of gauging value for money in terms of serving size.

There’s no such problems with my cup scoop of Christmas mince pie (top photograph).

This is sensational – a bit like rum-and-raisin or cassata, with plenty of fruit and texture.

It makes me smile.

Lots.

 

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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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Beautiful food, beautiful place in Seddon

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Fig & Walnut, 11-13 Bellairs Avenue, Seddon. Phone: 0433 574 194

Consider The Sauce has long admired the twin rows of old shops on either side of the tracks near Seddon station, on Bellairs Avenue and Pentland Parade.

We’ve often wondered what the street scenes must have been like when those shops were in their heydays.

And we’ve sometimes mused how lovely it would be to see some street life returning to the area.

Of course, almost all the properties concerned have been turned over to purely residential uses in the subsequent decades.

And who could blame those who live there from being sensitive about and protective of their quiet neighbourhood?

Fig & Walnut proprietor Vera told us, as her cafe was coming together, that she did indeed have to put some serious and sincere effort into winning over the locals.

She did so – and I’m betting they’re all rapt about having this business on their collective doorstep.

Because Fig & Walnut is a stunner.

 

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The old shop has been done out in bright and open style, with the wooden ceilings and brickwork retained.

 

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The eating spaces include the front room of the next door shop and the lovely garden out back has a cute-as-a-button cubbie house.

But all that’s just the start …

The vibe here is bustling and cheerful.

And the food, based on our first visit’s meals, is marvellous – and those we eyeball that are headed elsewhere look, some of them, even sexier.

There’s breakfasts and lunches and two soups.

Given a superficial glance, the menu (see below) may seem to be mostly made up of variations on the cafe theme.

But the results bespeak skill, imagination and inspiration way beyond that …

 

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Bennie’s pancakes ($18) are a fantasia of colours and flavours.

The gluten-free pancakes themselves are shaped more like burger patties or fat cookies – and taste kinda grainy yet also marvellous.

They’re attended by maple mascarpone, saffron-poached pear, grilled figs, berries, passionfruit and more.

 

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There’s three salads on the menu, any of which can be supplemented by protein portions such as poached coconut chicken, eye fillet or salmon.

I feel no need to do so when ordering my roasted winter root vegetable salad ($16.90).

How good does it look?

It tastes even better, the perfectly cooked vegetables doing a sensual tango with turmeric yogurt and rocket pesto, both of which are delivered in perfect quantities to lube things along nicely.

Reads like cafe food, priced like cafe food – but delivering like a flash re$taurant.

 

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Vera “shouts” us flourless orange cake ($6.90) and …

 

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… chocolate brownie ($4.90) to go with our excellent coffees.

They, too, are wonderful, the brownie seeming to have some choc pudding DNA in its make-up.

Next time for me?

The insanely gorgeous-looking zucchini-and-haloumi skewers I see heading for another table.

Or maybe the Greek lentil soup with apple cider vinegar Vera tells me is her fave …

The cool Fig & Walnut logo was designed by local creative Liana Lucca-Pope from Hello Idea, also responsible for Littlefoot Bar’s brand identity. See the Hello Idea website here.

 

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Taking Luxsmith for a spin

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Luxsmith, 5 Gamon Street, Seddon. Phone: 9362 7333

This Gamon Street address encapsulates the recent history of Seddon – and our own history in the west.

When we moved to Seddon, 14 years ago, there was not a lot of coffee stops so Le Chien became a regular.

It was a friendly place with basic food served and – to my delight – Blue Note jazz albums festooning the walls and on the sound system.

It changed hands and got bigger, taking over the TAB next door.

As the area – and the inner west – developed, it became just a very occasional stop for coffee.

We never did dinner there so have no idea how that was.

Now it’s changed again, having undergone a very zippy makeover and becoming a purveyor of what can accurately be called Asian fusion.

We do well do be served at all.

After all, seven of us have bowled up two nights before Christmas and the place is very busy.

But it’s a lovely night so we’re happy to take an outside table.

Things start slowly for us, with the our various drinks taking a while to arrive.

But once the food starts arriving, it does so in a steady flow.

There’s so many of us, we take something of an expansive approach, ordering all the mains and quite of a few of the small, medium and side plates as well (see menu below).

And happily and successfully, we put in double orders of some of the more appealing items.

Here’s what we enjoyed:

 

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Tofu glazed in pepper sauce with crispy shallots, chilli ($10) – nice enough but we quickly move on.

 

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Korean fried chicken wings with Asian slaw and red dragon sauce ($8) are excellent.

They’re hot and crisp and sauce is of just the right quantity and piquancy.

 

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Crispy pigs ears with five spice and hoisin ($10) are delightful nibbles that are both chewy and crunchy.

 

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Sichuan pepper lamb ribs with spring onion and ginger ($18) are outstanding.

They’re fatty, as ribs are, but the lamb flavour is a powerful kick.

 

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Miso-braised eggplant with smoked tofu, shiso (perilla leaves) and sesame ($27) is one of our larger serves.

It’s a sweet, slithery delight with grand eggplant flavour.

 

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Vietnamese lamb curry with potato, chilli and mixed herbs ($29) is nice, with plenty of lamb submerged in that gravy.

But it strikes me as being so mildly spiced as to be bland – and that’s even taking on board that Vietnamese curries are often of a mild bent.

 

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Snake beans and Asian mushrooms in oyster sauce, ginger, onion ($14) are a crunchy/slippery wonder.

 

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Whole fried baby snapper with, coconut caramel, crispy garlic and Asian herbs ($37) is OK but could use more sauce/lubrication as it comes across as quite dry, and that includes the herby covering.

 

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Rare-grilled hanger steak with kimchi puree, ssam sauce, butter lettuce and mixed herbs ($29.50) works a treat, with the beef beautifully cooked and having wonderfully charry flavour.

 

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Soft shell crabs with “traditional Singapore sauce” and grilled lime ($28.50), like the tofu we began with, fails our table’s sharing approach.

Soft shell crabs are ephemeral enough at the best of times; there’s simply not enough crabiness here to register among seven eaters.

The sauce inspires very little by way of comments one way or another from the two Singaporeans at our table, nor another who has lived on the island.

Every single member of our group regularly eats the cheap and cheerful western suburbs variations of the Asian food that inspires what Luxsmith provides.

Yet we all know that making direct comparisons between the two is like comparing apples and oranges.

But because of the pricing, it is unlikely to be the sort of place we’ll head simply upon discovering the fridge is bare.

Our next visit is likely to be to try the congees on the lunch menu!

Many thanks to CTS pals for allowing a social occasion to be photographed!

Check out the Luxsmith website here.

 

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Class in Seddon

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Moda Kitchen and Bar, 1/140 Victoria Street, Seddon. Phone: 9078 4310

Indian Palette closed quite a while ago – we hope Francis and Sue pop up somewhere new!

The same Victoria Street premises is now occupied by Moda Kitchen and Bar.

The contrast could hardly be greater – and a delight it is, too.

The Moda fitout is heavy on white – white walls, white tablecoths, white (real linen) napkins.

There’s a heap of space and the whole deal reeks of casual elegance.

 

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Goat’s cheese and pistachio-stuffed piquillo peppers, romesco dip and eggplant crisps ($12).

 

The presence of a tapas list on the menu (see the full, regular menu at the Moda website here) might lead to expectations of pronounced Spanish flavours – and, indeed, there is also Jamon among the fare.

But Moda roams more widely than a single country, with a result that could be loosely described Euro-Mediterranean.

Team CTS missed the opening weekend three-course set-up but we’re happy to be here a little more than a week later to the tune of a table for seven.

 

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Slow-roasted crispy skin pork belly, plum glaze, apple compote and chipotle aioli ($12).

 

For our mid-week visit something more than half of the tables are occupied – and so they should be, as Moda seemingly offers top-notch tucker at very affordable prices.

Only one main crosses the $30 barrier and I like the fact that there are no sides offered to bulk up the bill.

The mains come with sufficient vegetables and accompaniments to constitute a good meal though the serves aren’t ginormous or anything like that.

But OTOH, when meat mains are in the mid-$20s mark, a complete three-course meal at Moda will not cause credit card vertigo.

 

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The specials board is joined by one offering wines and other beverages to match various food courses.

The impression is strongly given that these folks know what they’re about.

There’s some overlap in our ordering but even then I do not taste everything our group enjoys and have just a nibble of some dishes – readers will no doubt be able to ascertain which is which in this post.

 

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From the specials list, caprese salad ($16) is a magic mix of flavours in harmony – so simple, such fine ingredients: Terrific buffalo mozzarella, basil, peeled toms and roast peppers, olive oil, seasonings.

 

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Bennie loves his hot-seared spicy lamb shank terrine with red onion and shaved fennel salad and coriander labneh ($16).

Cool trick – it really does taste of lamb shank rather than just merely lamb.

 

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Salt and pepper calamari with herb salad and caper aoili ($14).

 

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How is this for a pasta dish?

It’s squid-ink gnocchi with prawns, asparagus and crayfish bisque ($28).

Thanks to the generosity of its orderer, we all get a taste of the pasta parcels – soft, delicate and tasting of the sea and fresh air.

 

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Bennie is developing a taste for game and non-chook poultry and also is fostering a liking for the pricier items on any given menu.

So he likes, without being really impressed by, his pan-seared partridge with roasted purple congos, cider braised pork belly, roasted apple and pan jus ($32) – Moda’s most expensive dish.

The bird tastes plenty good to me.

 

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Several of us order, from the specials board, the chargrilled veal cutlet with parsnip puree, roasted root vegetables and red wine jus.

It’s a superb chop.

I’ve had bigger – but then again, this one costs $24, making it an outright bargain.

The bits and pieces are fine, though the fact the parsnip puree is not hot, not even luke warm, but instead stone cold is, at first, a bit of a bracing shock.

We call it quits after entrees and mains.

Meaning the tempting desserts – Catalane cream with pear, crackers and berries; warm chocolate fondant, candied chilli and ice-cream; and panna cotta with pistachio – will have to wait for another day.

Or night.

 

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