The icing on the biscuits

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


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.





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.




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.




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.




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.




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.




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.




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.




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.




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.



Beautiful food, beautiful place in Seddon




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.




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




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 …




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.




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.




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




… 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.







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:




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




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.




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




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.




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.




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.




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




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.




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.




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.





Class in Seddon



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.



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.



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.




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.




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.




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.



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




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.




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.




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.



Seddon roast lunch – superb




Charles and Gamon, 2 Gamon Street, Seddon. Phone: 9689 0203

When Bennie was a just-born, I made my first property foray to the west with a view to finding somewhere for us to live, as the CBD studio bachelor pad simply wasn’t cutting it any longer.

House-scouting required, of course, a coffee break.

And I distinctly recall there wasn’t a lot of choice.

In fact, I doubt there’s any more than handful of businesses in the Gamon/Charles/Victoria neighbourhood that are now as they were then.

The chicken shop?


But the area has certainly changed – a LOT.

Our coffee stop that day – I may even have had a burger – was made at a joint called the Bowser Cafe, which was housed in a rather ugly brown building that did little to hide its service station heritage.

The Bowser eventually became Sabroso – and I reckon the premises may have at some point before then housed another eatery of some sort.

I trust readers with more reliable memories than mine will tell me if that is the case.

In any case, Sabroso passed us by, our sole visit being a coffee/hot choc stop while out enjoying a late-night amble.




And now Sabroso is gone, replaced by a rebranding exercise called Charles and Gamon.

From what I gather, the same proprietors are still in place with the name change at least partially driven by a desire to distance themselves from the Spanish food that previously was in place.

Now C&G is doing a nice line-up of bistro-style food, including what look like really splendid mid-week meals of comfort food for a very fine $17.

Check out the full menu at the C&G website here.

Not much appears to have changed apart from the name, though there is some vintage wood panelling about the place.

Based on our outstanding Sunday roast lunches, C&G is doing good things.

We’ve been roasting a bit lately – see here and here – but the C&G meals really are the best we’ve had in the west so far.

At $20, they’re a little more pricey than what is available elsewhere but they erase any doubt about getting what we pay for from our first bites.

We consider our lunches a bargain.




Both the roast chicken and …




… the slow-roasted lamb shoulder are abbreviated versions of dishes available at greater length and prices on the C&G menu’s “for the table” section.

The chook is a slightly unappealing yellow-khaki but is a cracker to eat – moist, juicy, delicious, with good gravy and a nice touch of rosemary.

The lamb is gorgeous – crusty, tender and, like the chicken, of good size.

It’s the kind of lamb that wouldn’t be out of place in a really fine Greek eatery or even a barbecue place.

Our spuds are simply wonderful.

No shortchanging in evidence here, with both our plates having plenty of crisp roasted spud chunks that fall into the “moans ‘n’ groans of pleasure” bag.


With Sunday roasts?

Hey, it may not be traditional – and it may even be done as a cost-conscious measure.

But our fresh slaw works incredibly well with the meats and potato.

These have been killer Sunday roast meals.

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Inside Est.1906 + menu

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Est.1906, 81 Charles Street, Seddon. Phone: 9689 1906

When I visit Seddon’s swish new cafe, I’ve already lunched elsewhere.

But I enjoy a good cafe latte and a wonderful, very intense chocolate brownie.

And I have a good look around and, with the management’s blessing, take a bunch of pics.




Proprietor Ken, pictured here with Jordan, tells me business has been good in the few days they’ve been open.

At the moment, it’s a breakfast and lunch proposition (see menu below), closing at about 4pm.

But extended hours and a booze licence are in the works.




It’s a big place and the makeover of what was once the local video store is drastic and spectacular.

It’s has a bit of clinical feel to it at the moment but that’s only to be expected.

The main dining space adjoins the coffee/paying area and the semi-open kitchen.




Next door, and with big windows facing Charles Street, is another area with window seat and a big communal table.




Further back is another, more secluded dining area, while out back and outdoors are more seating, a play space including a sandpit and a fledgling herb garden.

Th outdoor space looks like an outright winner for the bub brigade – it’s big and there is no escape route for wandering toddlers.









A Good Thing for Buckley Street




The retail premises that kicked off the CTS story about Buckley Street is, it turns out, destined for a more interesting and welcome future than the “convenience store” mentioned on the planning application led us to believe.

Thanks to CTS reader Zoe for providing this link to the website/magazine Food Service News.

According to the story, the Buckley Street shop is to become a Melbourne sibling for the Marrickville establishment known as Cornersmith.

Like the Sydney store/cafe, Rhubarb Wholefoods will be a “wholefoods store and vegetarian cafe”.

And an important element of the way Rhubarb operates will involve customers swapping their homegrown vegetables, fruit and more for cafe products.

A bartering business for the west – how cool is that?

Follow the progress of Rhubarb Wholefoods by “liking” their Facebook page.