Just to expand my repertoire from writing about food, an article that I wrote back in early June is up at Wall Street Journal on my bike ride across the Mornington Peninsula and the Red Hill Rail Trail, south east of Melbourne. I, of course, ate and drank my fill as I went – beers from Red Hill Brewery, various pinots and shiraz, wild mushrooms from Merrick’s General Store, local bread and cheese. No pics from me, just words.
Yes, I’m going a bit nuts on the Vina diacritics.
The equation that can’t be avoided when you travel for food is the one where you compare Third World prices to First World and try to account for the differences, offseting rent, ingredient quality and labour. It is a fun but fruitless diversion. The above bánh xèo from Quan Đình Sơn, next to Saigon Supermarket in Footscray is $10 for a crepe the size of your forearm. A full cubit of bánh xèo.
$10 would buy 16 plates of bánh xèo from my local market in Cambodia but it wouldn’t buy one this good. Once again, my weekend phở trip gets derailed.
Đình Sơn’s is packed with shelled prawns and slices of fatty pork. The crepe skirts the border of crispy and chewy. It’s rich and coconut-y. The side plate of cos and butter lettuce, used for rolling up chunks of the crepe and dipping in the sweet dipping sauce nước chấm, is generous and refilled as I plough through it. There isn’t much else in the way of distraction in the restaurant: the obligatory TV is on the blink; there’s barely enough mirrored tiles to form an entrancing hall of mirrors; their shrine is perfunctory. Shoppers pass on the way into Saigon Supermarket and pick up meals to go from the bain marie.
The menu boasts about a hundred Chinese and Vietnamese dishes but the key here is to order from the corkboard just below the plastic menu board which contains a few kho dishes, dry fried noodles and the bánh xèo, written up in permanent marker.
Location: Shop 1, 63 Nicholson Street (cnr Byron St), Footscray VIC 3011
It’s probably no great surprise that I’m a sucker for seasonal beers: they’re a key diversion for the neophiliac drinker. They give brewers the chance to bring their wilder experiments to market without the threat of destroying the good name of a brewery. If they’re a disastrous mistake, at least it is fleeting. If the beer is a success, you’ll have an excruciating wait until next year.
Monteith’s Doppelbock Winter Ale is back in season; it is a rich, malty and alcoholic ale that is out of style, if you’re a beer purist. It is not a doppelbock by any stretch of the imagination (a “A very strong and rich lager” according to the BJCP style guidelines), so I’m not sure why the doppelbock deception made its way onto the diminutive 330ml bottle. Frankly, I can’t say the word “doppelbock” often enough, armed with the knowledge that it translates as double-goat from German, so I can understand their conceit.
Monteith’s say: “A profound enveloping winter beer. Monteith’s Doppelbock Winter Ale is a smoothly rich beer with a dense head, a powerful aroma, and chocolatey malt notes ñ the perfect way to cheer yourself up this winter. ”
I say: Is it legal to say that beer cures seasonal affective disorder? In the glass, this faux-doppelbock bears a striking resemblance to Coca-Cola, brownish-black and thin. Dull aroma and a fading head, like an elderly uncle. The flavour is heavy on the malt with a touch of allspice. In previous seasons, Monteith’s was producing a more intriguing and richer brew than this from their New Zealand brewery. They can do better in the coming seasons.