Monday, October 29, 2012

Waffles in Footscray at Snow Tree

Is it a hairdresser?  Is it a chemist?  No - it's a cafe!!!


Snow Tree is a totally awesome addition to Footscray.  Just opened in Leeds Street, this cute-as-a-button store serves six flavours of frozen yoghurt, waffles, espresso coffee and iced tea to the boppy strains of K-pop.

Small frozen yoghurt, $4.50 and short black, $3.30

If you wept for Yoghurt House, weep no longer - Snow Tree serves frozen yoghurt in such varieties as mango, "fourberry" and our choice, pineapple and coconut.  Toppings (fresh fruit, M&Ms and more) are 50 cents each.  And I am thrilled to report that this short black was excellent, carefully extracted with no sugar required.  Great coffee and frozen yoghurt in Footscray - colour me happy!

Snowtree Belgian waffle, $7.50

The lovely folks behind Snow Tree are Korean and there are a few unusual delicacies like bingsu (a "sundae" of red beans, ice, jelly and more, a bit like Korean ais kacang) and Korean rice and cinnamon drinks, as well as "pink lady" and "blue lady" iced tea.  We loved this house special, light-as-a-feather waffles with tasty, really fresh fruit, whipped cream and strawberry froyo.


I am thrilled to the back teeth that such a unique little business has opened in the heart of Footscray.  And we *almost* have the late-night coffee shop we crave - they're open til 8 pm every night!

Snowtree  on Urbanspoon

Snow Tree
Shop 12/119 Hopkins Street, Footscray (entrance on Leeds Street)
Hours:  Daily 7.30am-8pm

PS:  A little something you may be interested in.  If you're not a hospo insider, the big names are: Peter Gunn of Attica, Anna Quayle of the Duchess of Spotswood, Lindsey Fush and Jeremy Shiell of the Royal Mail Hotel, Vanessa Mateus of Pope Joan, and James Kummrow, formerly of the Royal Mail and now of The Bank.  With such an impressive fixture, this will be a most delicious evening!  It's open to the hospitality industry and also the general public.

Friday, October 19, 2012

A gourmet's guide to Highpoint's Fresh Food Market

Disclosure:  I visited Highpoint's Fresh Food Market as part of a media contingent and received a gift pack from Mango PR.  See end of post for full disclosure.


If I told you these darling French Breakfast radishes and friends were found at Highpoint, would you believe me?


How about fresh jalapenos, borlotti beans and new season garlic, perfect for plaiting, for 99 cents a head?  Read on...

Now I know we love to hate Highpoint but I do secretly love having it up the road.  For runners, sunnies, bathers and undies it's my go-to spot.  While I am partial to a sneaky Japanese pancake in the food court, it's never screamed foodie destination to me.  That might be changing, though, with the opening of Highpoint's new Fresh Food Market.  I was invited on a media tour yesterday to check it out.


This new wing of Highpoint has been developed with sustainable principles in mind.  90% of waste materials during construction were diverted from landfill, and a significant amount of rainwater is captured for use such as flushing toilets.  I love these louvred windows in the fresh food area which let in natural light and open to let in fresh air, giving you a sense of connectedness to the outside world.


The seating is much more organic, using lots of curves and bluestone excavated from the original quarry site Highpoint sits on.  Check out the garden beds - the trees are bay trees and you are welcome to grab some leaves for cooking!


Everyone should know where their local rosemary bush is, the one that some kind neighbour has planted so it sticks through the fence, perfect for sidling up to and surreptitiously relieving it of a sprig or two.  I'm loving these herb tubs, where you can help yourself to a frond of dill or a cherry tomato!


What the West needs is more good delis, and the new deli here is awesome.  It's a family-run business by a fellow named Joe and his wife and they've relocated from Brunswick.  I spy with my little eye chickens and pork hocks roasting over charcoal in the corner!


The deli is (somewhat reassuringly) called "Yes, It's Fresh" and their range of cheeses is really awesome (we tried some of the premium Shaw River buffalo mozz - amazing!)


Ditto the antipasti, with unusual things like marinated green tomatoes.  They also sell traditional Polish "Grandmother ham" by Barkly Smallgoods, also seen in Footscray Milking Station's paninis - yum.


Yahweh Asian Grocer have their first store in Carlton and now bring their beautifully organised store to Highpoint as well.  Check out their recipe blog here.


This creamy sesame dressing, made by the Kewpie mayo people, is just delish.  If you haven't discovered it, on the left is kaya which is a pandan-scented coconut jam...  Yes, it is as good as it sounds!  Put it on white toast like you'd use lemon butter.


Don't believe these innocently smiling characters for a second.  This stuff is crack and you will eat the whole can in one sitting!  (They misspelled "INHALED: 180 g" on the front.)


Here's the rather epic Melb Fresh Meats & Poultry.  The store is divided in two, with pork on the right and 100% halal chicken, lamb and beef on the left.  Super-duper imported French rotisserie coming soon!


There's a full range of halal smallgoods like salamis and hot dogs.  I spied lamb cutlets for $27.99/kg plus tripe, kidneys, rabbits, roo and free-range spatchcocks!


Truly gorgeous seafood at Fish Pier, with big wobbly pieces of fresh tuna like rosy Turkish delight, whole garfish and fresh oysters.


This marinara mix was irresistible - see later on for an "after" pic!

I should mention too that there is a huge new parking garage right at the door of Fresh Food, so it's easy to duck in.  All throughout the centre's parking there is also this brilliant new system of tiny red and green lights above the spots and continually updating signs indicating if a row has any spots or if it's full.  I love love love it - no more circling for hours hunting for a spot.


Did you know that John's Nuts' original store is the one in Paisley Street, Footscray?  From there they now have stores in many shopping centres across Melbourne.


Come to Mama!!!  (That nougat is out of control - I scored a taste.)


As well as two types of halva, they also have lots of savoury options including seasoned cashews that are totally addictive, and various "delights" which are little sugared cubes of apricot or pineapple mixtures.  I have a soft spot for nut shops.  My first job was in one and involved much "quality control" of Newman's chocolate almonds, Vienna peanuts and warm salted macadamias.


The fresh fruit and veg marketplace here is pretty darn awesome.  There are big glossy eggplants, tiny stripy ones...


...even tiny Thai pea eggplants (next to the red chillies)!  Check out the fresh almonds at top left, still in their green furry pods, and tamarillos next to them - they make the best chutney.


Loads of lovely taters, many of which I haven't heard of before, plus kipflers and Dutch creams...


...and an utterly gorgeous spread of colourful capsicums.


Phew, time for a coffee from Jasper.  The beans here are fair trade and they use Demeter biodynamic milk (grrrr to no reusable crockery though!)


Fellow parents, check out the new babies' room, complete with sinks, microwave, breastfeeding cubicles, TELLY and corral, I mean, secure play area.  LOVE.


There's a whole spread of new shops that connect the Fresh Food Market with the existing mall, including Purebaby (100% organic cotton baby clothes) and a bookshop!  Woohoo!  The next stage will open in February next year and will include David Jones and more upmarket fashion stores.


I AM SO EXCITED ABOUT THIS.  Daiso is a Japanese store where everything is $2.80.

Are you ready for death by cute?




AWWW!  (Erasers - fellow mums and dads, can you say "party bags"?  Awesome, right?!)




Remember that irresistible marinara mix?  I made this equally scrumptious spaghetti marinara for lunch, which literally took as long as the pasta took to boil.  (If you would like the recipe, email me and I will post it in the future.)

Gozleme, $10 and manti, $12

Here's my haul at Melb Fresh Meats.  Gozleme is a flat, filled, Turkish bread made with very little oil, while manti are Turkish tortellini, if you like, filled with lamb.  I also went for Bosnian sausages and bastirma, air-dried beef covered with spices.


And here's one I prepared earlier!  The gozleme was unreal - a light dough (not a pastry, so much lower in fat) with lemony parsley and feta inside.  It was a big hit with the kids.  The manti, served here with traditional yoghurt and crushed garlic sauce and a little tomato paste cooked in olive oil, were fantastic.  (I got the recipe off the lovely manager at Melb Fresh Meats.)  The sausages were all right - good flavour, with black pepper and maybe a little red, but I wasn't a fan of the skins that peeled off in patches during cooking.  Fine for a sausage sizzle though!  I made a potato salad with fried bastirma but honestly, just eat it on its own - it has the most delicious chewy texture and rich beefy flavour.  Would be great for antipasti.


Dessert from John's - gorgeous wobbly coconut Turkish delight, with a sliver of rose delight in the middle and a pistachio nut.  These "tiramisu almonds" are deliciously evil, roasted and covered in a coffee and vanilla-scented toffee.  (Loving the little box - would make a lovely "what to bring when you're told not to bring a thing" gift.)


For the last word on the Fresh Food Market, I'll leave it to Daiso, because the Japanese always say it best.  I reckon you will be really pleasantly surprised!

Disclosure:  I attended as part of a media tour, along with other journalists.  I also received a gift pack from Mango PR that contained in part a voucher for Melb Fresh Meats and a Highpoint gift card.  Attendance was NOT contingent on subsequently writing a post, nor was I required to spend any of the voucher or gift card that day, or write about my purchases.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

A fresh look at Sims Supermarket


"West Footscray has jumped the shark," or so I saw on Twitter when it was discovered that Sims, our local independent supermarket, is now home to a coffee machine.  My opinion?  I think it's genius!


This is a satellite, if you like, of West 48 in Essex Street, so you can expect lovely Allpress brews through a La Marzocco.  Jag and Steffan built the cart themselves.  Traditional Sicilian bickies are care of North Melbourne's Dolcetti, with a few Dench salted caramel tarts if you are feeling indulgent.  Takeaway only, with KeepCups to purchase.  (PS:  Sims are now stocking Bonsoy.)


When I first moved here, Sims still had the old-school registers that emitted a skinny paper strip for a receipt instead of the snappy laser-printed ones everyone else was doing.  If a coffee machine here is not a giant neon sign in the story the inner west's evolution, I don't know what is.  But in fact, Sims has been evolving for a long time.  I wanted to find out more behind the decision to serve lattes next to the Tatts counter so I got in touch with David Cotter, the co-owner/director of Sims, to find out more.


If you're not a WeFo local, Sims is a completely independent supermarket with two branches in West Footscray and Werribee.  What you might not know is that it's been around since the 1930s, including at the same Barkly Street/Warleigh Road corner.


Check out inside, with jaunty wicker baskets instead of shopping trolleys!  The Sims family are still involved in the supermarket - that's three generations of the same family until present day.

David's been a partner for 21 years.  He's vivacious, enthusiastic and speaks a mile a minute, and is genuinely keen to please his customers.  He can sense the changes happening in the area.  "For 20 years I couldn't sell nappies here," he says.  Now they unload pallet after pallet.  "We used to sell one box a week of free range eggs," he says.  "Now we sell twenty!"


One new initiative of David's is fresh seafood.  Local flake, fresh (not frozen) Tasmanian salmon and more come in daily from a local western suburbs supplier.  Check it out next to the tub of baccala - traditional Italian salted fish.


Sims have tried to introduce free range chicken a couple of times over the last few years, but it hasn't taken.  Now suddenly some sort of tipping point has been reached and it's apparently viable for the first time ever.  James, the butcher, reports that free range Otway pork will be coming back very soon as well.


The Sims meat department is awesome - from lamb shanks to lamb brains, and everything in between!  I love this continuing connection to the older generation who are the main buyers of this range.


David's trying to increase the range in the fruit and veg section and make the layout more like a market. I'm digging the yellow wax beans, broad beans...


...and loads of different potatoes.  I have to say I've been disappointed with the fruit and veg at Sims in the past, but this looks super inviting and delicious.


When asked about organics, David says, "We could do it but we wouldn't do it well.  Go to that little place in Seddon - Pompello, I think it's called.  Why hurt his business?"

Um, legendary attitude or what?


This is Irma who runs the deli.  She manages all the buying and does so through her own network of small-scale manufacturers and suppliers - no buying from a warehouse or wholesale aggregator here.  I'm already a Sims deli believer but wanted to discover some of Irma's own personal favourites.


Italian prosciutto, calabrese salami and more, all sliced to order.  (You're welcome to ask to taste anything.)  Irma suggests trying the Ventricina for something different.  It's a salami that's a little bit spicy and lovely to eat on its own.  PS:  Free range ham, which made a brief appearance in the last couple of months, will be back soon and hopefully to stay.


This little-known cheese is fresh ricotta that's been salted and pressed so that instead of being soft and wobbly, it's hard and crumbly.  Try it instead of Parmesan - the taste and texture is halfway between Parmesan and feta.  Irma recommends making a very simple sauce of tomato and onion for pasta, grating loads of ricotta salata over and tossing through.  Yum.


Next time you're reaching for the triple cream brie, Irma recommend you try the Fontina instead.  It's a lovely, mild table cheese that also melts well.


Another deli hot tip is the range of roast meats, from chickens to pork hocks to gorgeous, mahogany-coloured turkey marylands.  Sims also sell quivering hunks of roast pork neck, of which you can have as little as one (warm, juicy) slice.


Halva is a love it or hate it deal, and I adore it.  It's a thick sweet made with sesame seed paste, almost like a fudge but with a slight graininess that reminds me of fibreglass.  I love the way it makes my tongue stick to the roof of my mouth....and right now you will either be nodding vigorously in agreement or furrowing your eyebrows in bewilderment!


I also love Sims' fresh Turkish delight, rose and lemon pieces nestled in icing sugar (also try orange blossom Turkish delight from Pompello)...


...and check out this new super-soft, flavoured nougat!!!


There are more sweets care of local Polish bakery Erik's - the vanilla slices come highly recommended, but only if you have a fresh shirt on hand for when you've finished trying to manoevre it between your jaws.  Nick's in Altona provide cannoli, rock cakes, rustic continental bread and more.


A hot tip - a second bakery delivers "wood oven" bread on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, containing only flour, salt, water and yeast.  (You can also buy Sourdough Kitchen bread from Rocco's fruit shop, a little further down Barkly Village.)


When I saw the new development going in behind Sims, I did really worry that our local supermarket might get bought out and become a big, sterile Coles.  It seems, though, that Sims is responsive and keen to continue evolving.  We are so lucky to have a truly independent grocer, one that has strong cultural roots but is also willing to adapt to the changing demographics.  And really, where else can you get a proper coffee, buy a jumbo jar of sauerkraut and groove in the aisles to Fleetwood Mac?  Only at Sims...and long may it stay that way!

511 Barkly Street, West Footscray
Hours:  Mon-Fri 7am-10pm, Sat-Sun 8am-10pm
Coffee cart open Mon-Sat 7am-4pm, Sun 8am-4pm
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