Friday, November 29, 2013

Wild Horse Cafe - coffee for The Westies!


Remember this picture from Tuesday?

wild horse
Photo by Coffee Supreme Melbourne

Well, with the power of social media, we have sorted coffee for The Westies - and not only that, we reckon we've tipped a winner!  The fantastic Christine and Kat from Wild Horse Cafe will be chomping at the bit tomorrow to serve you beautiful brews made with Coffee Supreme beans and Jonesy's Milk, all from the window of a 1964 vintage caravan!  And for you coffee nerds out there, the machine is a La Marzocco, which is Italian for "great espresso, guaranteed".


Check out FFB's last post here for all the details of the other fantastic food trucks who'll be in attendance.  We are also delighted to have Mayor Grant Miles introducing the 2013 Westies.  And there may be a banjo playing.  (If you'd like it to be duelling - bring your own and play along!)

We can't wait to see you tomorrow...  Those details for the lucky last time:

WHERE:  Yarraville Gardens (cnr Somerville Rd and Hyde St - we'll be nearer to Somerville Rd)
DATE:  Saturday 30 November (tomorrow!)
TIME:  Picnic starts at 11am; winners announced at noon.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Westies awards and FFB/CTS picnic - this weekend!


Kenny and I are so delighted to have the Westies featured in today's Epicure! Feast your eyes here.


It's a timely reminder for you that the announcement of the inaugural Westies winners, combined with our annual Spring Picnic, is THIS WEEKEND! We really sincerely hope you can make it - we love meeting our readers, we know you will love meeting our winners, and we hope you will come and share in this special celebration of the west. We will be presenting our beautiful commemorative awards, which you really need to see to believe - they're gorgeous.

Here are the details again:

WHERE:  Yarraville Gardens (cnr Somerville Rd and Hyde St - we'll be nearer to Somerville Rd)
DATE:  Saturday 30 November (this weekend!)
TIME:  Picnic starts at 11am; winners announced at noon.

You can bring a picnic rug and make a day of it, or you can drop down to say hi...  It's up to you! It's a picnic, so if you would like to bring something for yourself for lunch, or even something to share - that would be lovely. We also have two fantastic food trucks along for the ride.

Photo from with permission.

First up - Happy Camper Pizza is coming along, on only its third official outing. This newie is the baby of WeFo couple Remi and Sonia and runs out of their gorgeous 1965 Airstream camper.

Photo from with permission.

They just had their launch at Post Industrial Design a few weeks ago and although I haven't had a chance to try their wares yet, their pizzas look the bee's knees. Read more at Consider the Sauce.

Photo of Truck
Photo supplied by Mr Burger; photo by @alicat47

We also have the very awesome Mr Burger, who are starting early at 11am just for us. My Chicago-born husband goes completely Easter Island whenever any mention is made of perhaps trying something American in Melbourne. Every burger undergoes two grillings - one by the cook who prepares it, and the next by him, who subsequently launches into a lament about how awful Australian burgers are. (I don't think I'll ever stop hearing about the pub burger on Turkish bread he was forced to choke down six or so years ago.)

Photo supplied by Mr Burger

The only Australian burgers that have the tick of approval are the Station Hotel's (as much for its yum as it is to say its name - "le sandwich" - in a silly French accent)...and...Mr Burger's.


We are missing one essential element - coffee! Despite many attempts, we are yet to secure a coffee truck or cart to be in attendance. Can YOU help? Please get in touch if you can, or if you have any suggestions - Twitter, phone and email deets here.

Lastly, there are even rumours our winners are bringing along some goodies to share! Kenny and I truly hope to see you on Saturday.

Thank you to Footscray Life for your generous donation towards producing our trophies.

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Sunshine Hospital

Reckon the west is getting too fancy schmancy? Posh coffee shops getting you down? Never fear - Sunshine Hospital is keeping it real. In the emergency department, there were two toilet choices - one with no seat and the other fragranced with the fug of furtive ciggies. Sunshine - where you're never too sick to suck down a smoke!

To be fair, the next time I passed the toilets, the one with the missing seat had a maintenance sign on the door. And meanwhile, you the reader are probably rather confused as to where this post is going! Without boring you with too many tedious details, last week I spent a few days in Footscray and Sunshine Hospitals with a health problem. Don't worry, there isn't another pork roll scare. (Funny thing - my husband has eaten so many pork rolls, it's a wonder Nhu Lan doesn't have one named after him. It should be "The Bogan", because he always orders a roll with extra meat. Anyway, I thought everyone knew about the dying-from-pork-rolls thing that happened in the 90's, but it turns out he didn't. When I told him he went rather ashen, obviously reliving all the near-death experiences he has had over the last eight years he's lived in the 'scray. Oh, you didn't know about the killer pork rolls either? Oh well. Surely if you had to choose a last meal, a banh mi would be a good choice!)

IMG_20131118_153458 (1)

Anyway, I'm fine now, but in the interests of a fair go, I thought I'd share with you some of Western Health's finest fare in an attempt to tempt you to visit its fair campuses. We begin with the emergency department sandwich. Actually, this is another sandwich from later in my stay, as I wasn't really thinking about food blogging at the time. But let's just say, when a single layer of ham covers the exact surface area of the bread - we're probably not talking Jonai Farms' finest. But we won't look a gift horse in the mouth. (Not to say it was horse. I'm sure it wasn't.)


Another standout meal was beef stroganoff "surprise". (Also not pictured - this is another meal, but I'd rather forget what it was.) Fun Ms Baklover fact:  When I was 18, I worked for a spell in a hospital kitchen. The food would arrive in a van in giant, insulated barrels. You'd take a tray, upon which would have a menu with tick boxes the patient had checked with a little bingo pencil. You would then push each tray along a bench, placing the requested items onto it. Jelly? Check. OJ? Check. Grey broccoli in a lumpy cheese sauce? Oh, if you insist. They would then be taken up to the wards. I didn't get a chance to tick a menu, but I was really happy to see that the default option was beef stroganoff, which I quite like normally. Beef, mushrooms, sour cream sauce...and pickles. Yes, pickles, like the ones you get in a McDonald's burger - in a beef stroganoff. Hashtag hospital food logic.

Times were desperate. Friends brought me Aangan, which, after three days of mystery meat, tasted hallucinogenic. Slowly it dawned on me that there might be life outside the ward. A friend had brought me a coffee from the cafe, so I set off to find it myself. I wasn't sure if patients were meant to leave, and I didn't want to ask in case the nurse said no and I was condemned to another Styrofoam Zinger®-flavoured cup of tea and one of those biscuits with "NICE" printed on them, as if they're trying to convince you they are something other than sawdust. So I took off my hospital gown, put on my trackies, covered up the IV in my arm with my wallet and absconded.


And it was so worth it. I hustled back my contraband egg and bacon muffin to my room and devoured it with much gusto. Yes, I might eat it now and be completely unmoved, but like a teenage summer romance, at the time it felt so, so right. And I reckon they knew I snuck out to buy it. In fact, maybe that's the trigger for them to discharge you. "Matron, Bed 5 was just spotted at Zouki, buying a ten-pack of caramel slices." "Prepare the paperwork - she's cured!"

In all seriousness, though, the food was edible, plentiful, and more importantly, was accompanied by world-class medical care that is 100% free. Thank you to all the wonderful nurses, doctors and support staff at Western Health who were nothing but friendly, professional, and did everything they could do to make my stay as comfortable as possible. And while Sunshine Hospital may not win any prizes for food, Ward 1A did win First Prize at the Pressure Ulcer Expo. (I saw the certificate on the wall.) And I don't reckon there's a posh coffee shop anywhere that can lay claim to that.

Monday, November 11, 2013

Hot Fish at Conway's

A couple of years ago I was interviewing the owner of a wildly successful fish and chip shop in the inner south.  He already had a few branches and I mentioned that the inner west would be right into his concept, rocking as it was fresh salads, gorgeous grilled calamari and a fun and energetic vibe.  Despite hailing from the west himself, he wasn't convinced.  I might be wrong about a lot of things (my trackie habit at school pickup for one) but I reckon this snappy new opening proves that this time, I was right.


Conway's is a western suburbs institution, providing fresh fish from its Wingfield Street location for over 40 years.  They are a wholesaler as well as retail outlet.  Queuing for your oysters and prawns on Christmas Eve is something of a westie tradition.  Their new fish and chip shop, Hot Fish, has just opened and judging by the queues the evening I popped in, is already a smash hit.


The grilled offerings are particulary enticing and well priced - 200g fillets of fresh tuna or swordfish, grilled with salad and rice for $11.90.


Somewhat surprisingly, there are only two fried choices - "catch of the day" (hake that day) and flake.  A piece of battered flake is steep at $7, but given the environmental issues surrounding shark fishing, maybe that's a price we should start being prepared to pay.


Here's a "little biters" pack (two very generous "fish bites"), on special at the moment for five bucks.  The other is a classic fish and chip pack at $9.  The fish was great, but the chips need work - they were soggy.  (Might have been the drive.)  And yes - they have chicken salt!

Hot Fish (Facebook)
Next to Conway's, 11-21 Wingfield Street, Footscray
Open Mon-Sat 8am-8pm

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Xuan Banh Cuon

I thought it was a friendly coffee, but it turned out to be an intervention.  "Listen here," he said, moustaches waggling.  "I know you are busy with other writing work.  But don't abandon Footscray Food Blog!  We want more posts!"  And much as my tenuously fastened top button admonished me, I knew what had to be done.


So the next day, camera in hand, I went to visit a shiny new spot with the idea of pumping out a post in the next 24 hours.  But here's the problem.  Over the past few weeks I have now been to this new place no less than four times, and every time, like the worst kind of addict I say, "Just one more time...  Just once more before I blog it..." because you see, this little slice of Sunshine is seriously something special.


Xuan Banh Cuon specialise in banh cuon.  These are rice noodle crepes, delicate and almost translucent, lightly filled and rolled up.  Banh cuon aren't that easy to find in Melbourne, and when you do, the noodle sheets are often shop-bought.  XBC make them in house the painstakingly traditional way, by cooking the thin, milk-white batter on fine mesh above a pot of simmering water.


If you order #1 on the menu, each gossamer-thin wrap is sprinkled with a little pork mince, tiny prawns and diced mushroom, rolled up, stacked and sprinkled with savoury (fairy) floss and crisp fried shallots.  They're served with seasoned fish sauce (multi-dimensional, unlike other venues' offerings which can sometimes be too unilaterally sweet) and a pile of the crunchiest, freshest greens and herbs.



To eat, you can ask for a separate bowl to make your own little salad of noodle rolls and veg, or just muddle your way through.  They are served with pork loaf that is a bit like Vietnamese frankfurter (but loads better than that sounds).  These banh cuon are some of the best I have ever had.


Xuan Banh Cuon serve a small menu of northern Vietnamese classics.  This is bun ca with red rice noodles, a traditional northern soup with home-made fish cakes spiked with dill.  It's soothing, homely and delicious.


The red rice noodles have an earthy, brown rice-y flavour that feels far more nourishing than the typical white rice pho-style noodles.


Just some lovely sweet coconut juice, filled with big, soft petals of coconut meat.  If you spy the whiteboard in the background, you can see a few more of Xuan Banh Cuon's northern Vietnamese specialties, like the awesomely named bun thang, a noodle soup topped with pork loaf and omelette, and mien mang ga, chicken and bamboo soup, served with (I believe) gluten-free sweet potato noodles.  So many new tastes to try!


Lovely bun thit nuong, chargrilled pork belly that floats to your table on a cloud of intoxicating sizzling charcoal scent.  Use the supplied bowl to make your own DIY salad with vermicelli, herbs, bean sprouts and all that lovely chargrilled meat.  I do love Sapa Hills' similar bun cha Ha Noi, with pork meatballs among the twirls of pork belly, but this is still a very nice dish.


This is Jen of Xuan Banh Cuon; her mum's in charge of the kitchen.  The menu only has about 10 specific dishes on it, and Jen explains that her family are proud of their unique, regional dishes and keen to do "a few things well".


She was telling me how delighted she was to read a recent positive comment on Urbanspoon.  "My mum just loves it when people like her food," she said.

Jen - get ready for a LOT more of that.

Xuan Banh Cuon on Urbanspoon

Xuan Banh Cuon
232 Hampshire Road, Sunshine (near the buses)
Phone:  9364 8992
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