Beef Appreciation & Beef Pies: Marty’s Gourmet, Willetton and Jean Pierre Sancho, St Georges Terrace

The beef pie I had from Marty’s Gourmet was one of the best pies I’ve had this year. On second thoughts given most pies I’ve had have been the reheated frozen kind, a voice, of my subconscious in some American accent I’ve dreamt up, yells out: ‘that’s no yardstick!’

This pie was certainly better than a Four ’n’ Twenty.

It was a pie that could’ve worn proudly a badge reading​ ‘Grandma’s recipe’ or ‘like Grandma used to make’. For any aliens reading this, firstly I’m honoured you’ve stopped by my blog—I’m totally pro-extraterrestrial, in case you were wondering. Secondly, it’s kind of universally understood on our planet that Grandma’s or grandma-level something means amazingly-good. I feel compelled to add to that previous sentence: where baking’s concerned. Not if you’re talking computers. 

Grandmas are good at pie-making. That’s what the stereotypes tell me. Grannies have carved out a reputation for beautiful baking, and isn’t it just the most comforting imagery that comes to mind at the thought? I think hot goods seconds out of the oven and wondrous aromas wafting through the house. I think apple pies, luscious savouries, bellies finding themselves back in the kitchen right after a main meal. I think hot Milos with marshmallows on top. I think contented chatter amidst a backing of the songs playing on Curtin FM 100.1. I think cake crumbs, the only trace left of dessert.

I think it’s a great stereotype. I love the idea. 

I had ended up at Marty’s as I’d been feeling very under the weather. I had made a visit to the doctor’s, right across from the café. Rest and recuperation had unsurprisingly been in the dicta of the doctor’s orders and I’d decided that a pie for lunch might be a great start to meeting that second ‘r’. Wait what am I saying? The pie just looked so very tempting I was like a bee to honey.

The pie arrived. I sat there appreciating the creation in front of me. The elements of a pie and sauce were simple and inviting. 

With the hesitation of a kid at the cinema deciding between a popcorn upsize and an extra large frozen Coke, and eventually going for a pack of Smarties, I cut open the top.

Hidden under that golden pastry was a steaming filling with actual chunks of beef. Manageable, large, hack-sawed pieces of beef. Like pieces originally part of a giant slab of economy beef you’d buy at a place like Spudshed, glowing with unabashed pride at the bargain scored, only to spend a good hour at home, armed with a cleaver, splashing yourself with beef blood, in a mangled attempt to get even, mandibular-ly-agreeable portions, all the while keeping admirable goals of awesome chunky beef dishes in mind. 

A lot to swallow? I’d agree.

The beef sat in a highly viscous sauce, a rich peppery concoction smacking of garlic, onion, a generous splashing of the Worcestershire, gravy cubes—best guess, there was salt from something, and a fair shake of the tomato sauce bottle (a phrase that reminds me of the former Prime Minister responsible for bamboozling us with that beauty: ‘detailed programmatic specificity’). 

The sauce was thick, and held together without soaking through the pastry bottom. 

The crust was a good puff pastry, cooked ’til golden, flakey, and soft. With the chunky beef,  sauce and puffy pastry, let me say this was amazing.

And here she is:

I also went with a mocha; it was so-so. The pie and mocha came to $10.30. 

My journey into pies continued two mornings later. I was running late on my clock—early in another universe, of course—and I was running on empty. I needed a coffee. Spying a coffee and pie deal for $9.95, I stopped and convinced myself I could do with an expensive coffee $9.95, and a bonus pie. 

The pie had employed unscrupulous tactics to make its way into my life. It had coupled itself with coffee. It knew that, like pastry, resistance​ would crumble. 

It was a pie loaded with a free serve of denial and I had lost the fight.

I sculled the coffee; JP’s do a great one. Pie in hand, I finally arrived at my desk. I went to zap my now not-extra-hot-but-still-hot pie.

‘Morning!’ came the unfamiliar voice of a man in a crisp blue uniform. He was from the other Division. The communal kitchen had a not-so-uncanny way of bringing people together and forcing conversation. 

‘Hey there, morning,’ I said doing an awkward shuffle past him, hoping I wouldn’t stack myself and send the pie flying. I seem to have greater than average odds when it comes to dropping things, which in my plentiful experience generally makes awkward​ situations worse. Stepping into the small kitchen had increased​ my odds.

‘What’s that? Early lunch?’ he said reaching for the milk. I noticed the tomato sauce in the fridge behind him. It might as well have been unobtainium.

‘Nah, just a snack,’ I said with a twinge of immediate regret. He was having a cuppa and a muesli bar like a normal person. I’d already finished a coffee and I was preparing to stuff my face with pie.

‘You can’t have snacks without bringing us all some!’ he exclaimed with a hearty smile.  

The beeping of the microwave, the half-awkward laughter where I managed to squeeze in a ‘yeah’, ‘sure’, ‘cool’ and multiple other filler words was the rest of our conversation. By the powers of the small kitchen, there will hopefully be future opportunities to undo this trainwreck of a ‘hello’.

For now, it was time to test out this pie.

They had included the complimentary, non-obligatory salad element. Mesclun, straight out of the Woolies pre-packs. It was a nice touch.

Inside the pie was a saucy mince meat that had a more commercial gravy taste to it. I would be mincing my words if I said this wasn’t good and I didn’t enjoy it as much as I did. The pie was very juicy. It made for a very moist experience, and I was sure it wasn’t the microwaving that had done it. I’d picked it up prior and still it had felt like a frail beast. The pastry​ was more a shortcrust than a puff. It was awfully soft. It was also very yellow.

Who reigns supreme? Both were tasty pies. One was just beautiful and chunky and delicious. The Marty’s Pie takes this round.

Taste verdict Pleasing pies aplenty.
1: ⭐⭐⭐⭐
2: ⭐⭐⭐

**

In the midst of composing the above, in the wee hours of the morning, I had this paragraph on beef chunks. I was thinking about the chunky beef in the Marty’s pie and my thoughts meandered, in and out, and over and over, on the whys of beef as a product of deliciousness. (And no, while it would have been a nice excuse for staying up to write prose about beef, I hadn’t been drinking).

Beef, of all types, is wonderful. 

Tearing through it is animalistic and raw. 

Cathartic on a primal level.

Ravenous and impatient are those awaiting steak on the barbie.

Understandably awake and discontent is the bloke who had only salad for dinner.

Voracious are the appetites red meat inspires. 

Flesh makes lions of us all, bringing out pure instinct at the sight. 

It’s evidence​ that maybe we’re all just animals. Well, animals in clothes.

Beef isn’t elitist.

Wagyu, marbled, aged, Porterhouse are desirable attributes​. But in the realm of pies, stews, and everything saucy, it’s chunky beef all the way.

Chunky beef reminds you that you’re not eating beef that’s been stitched together. Or minced to the point of no return. Or that bears a label with its percentage of beef content, because clearly that was considered necessary.

Forgive the beef spiel.

I’m an omnivore with hardcore carnivorous tendencies. 

I’m chewing on starting my own Beef Appreciation Society.

**

enchirist 2018

Sicilian Toastie and Margherita Pizza, The Italian Corner, William Street

I spend way too much on lunch.

Every day I consider going on a diet of Vegemite sangers and Robert Timm’s instant coffee. I also promptly tergiversate on the idea when faced with lunch break and ever-present possibility of happiness being just around the corner.

I also spend way too much on coffees.

I once had a particularly bad streak of buying coffee each morning. I then decided, pledging to make better decisions, that I should probably put a stop to the daylight robberies. 

The first day without my morning coffee, I gained a full appreciation of this quote, commonly but mistakenly attributed to Michael​ Jordan: ‘You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take.’ It was 100% a difficult morning. Sans magical concoction, the withdrawal symptoms began. Said symptoms were notoriously mild, in the scheme of things and given the substance in question: I ate a Cherry Ripe—an unwise choice of appetite suppressant that at best satisfied the wrong craving—following which, I made up a sachet of Moccona’s Peppermint Choc Bliss—which, admittedly, proved to be a substitute relative in deliciousness and enjoyment.

Taking things out of context, the sporting origin of this quote has me wondering about the existence of possible deeper meanings behind it. Dope, just unintended double-entendre. 

Here’s what I had for lunch on Thursday and Friday this week. I decided I’d frequent the new, well fairly new, place The Italian Corner.

I went for the Sicilian Toastie, ‘prosciutto, fresh tomato, bocconcini’, $7.50 and the Margherita Pizza ‘mozarella, semi-mature cheese, fresh basil’, also $7.50. How good do they look?

The toastie had a lot going for it. 

It had melty, stringy cheesiness, which I ate all the while mindful of the ease with which I might grow a cheese beard. It had saltiness from the prosciutto and freshness from the self-described ‘fresh’ tomato. It had sufficient crustiness and grillege, an imaginary word which here seems proper and conducive to communicating the requisite grilledness this toasty exhibited. As my one-thirty pm late lunch, it was a well-primed and served lunchbox of happiness.

The pizza, too, was a satisfactory option. The pizza featured a non-floury base of mid-range thickness, with a profusely gooey cheese sitting amidst a moderate backing of tomato sauce that had the slightest detection of onion. It was a stroll through the park on a day with the sun shining and the smell of spring in the air. The limited topping of spinach acted as a garnish on the already-satisactory pizza. I enjoyed it.

Which reigns supreme: the toastie or the pizza? I conclude the result of this cheesy conundrum a confused ‘currently inconclusive’. A determination will demand further visitations.

As an observation, pizzas, coffees and ice-cream earn you a punch on the loyalty card. No love for the toastie.

Taste verdict Classic lunchtime fare. I’m a great fan of cheesy things.

⭐⭐⭐

Katsu Chicken Curry at Zushibento, Brookfield Place

For lunch at the end of the week I decided to go the Katsu chicken curry for $11.90 at Zushibento, Brookfield Place.

Rice with crispy chicken on top and just-poured curry arrived after a productive five minutes—during which my usual donation to charity was made and it was confirmed​ that the coming weekend would unfortunately not be spent at the beach.

This far-hotter-than-your-average dish on a cold day hit the spot. Think actual steaming rice. With visible steam. Think OH&S hazard levels of hotness. 

As a massive fan of eating things right out of the oven, right off the stove, for the burn, this was awesome. 

The chicken and curry were respectively like KFC done without three of the eleven secret herbs and spices, and some strangely kick-ass Kan Tong creation that if mamma was making would not take long for the word to spread around. In other words, it was pretty delicious and beyond average tastiness—and on a scale of boring-desk-job-lunch to showstopper-in-the-communal-office-kitchen, this was more of the latter.

On a musical note, who else thinks Kan Tong had a pretty catchy jingle? No? Just putting the question out there. I… I mean I don’t whistle it from time to time thinking about the 2000s…

Taste verdict Katsu curry that’s lunchtime good.

⭐⭐⭐

Softshell Crab, Wagyu Steak, and Sticky Date Pudding at the Grand Bar and Bistro, CBD St Georges Terrace

The EoFY lunch at the Grand Bar and Bistro came up awfully fast. There was the whole lead up to it: the planning, the phonecalls, the visits, the background to get everything in order for the day and then it was finally here. Overall, it turned out well. 

I had for entrée the softshell crab, for main the Wagyu streak, and for dessert sticky date pudding.

The softshell crab was crispy on the outside and moreish on the inside. With the mayo and a seaweed salad, this was a great tasting Japanese-inspired dish that had the elements down pat. It was a generous serving by comparison to the other entrees at the table. 

The only complaint: it was cold. 

For context, the service was lovely but unfortunately slow.

The entrées came out with some confusion​. Entrees were matched to names rather than tables, which meant extra work for the waitstaff finding who was sat where in a mad scramble as the dishes made it to the service counter. At one point there was a string of five or six dishes on the countertop awaiting direction as to which table they should be sent.

They cottoned on to as much, and for mains decided to bring around the options and ask tables for numbers of takers.

As we soon found, this too proved problematic. All dishes had been pre-ordered against names and the billing for meals set accordingly.

What wasn’t factored in was people being people. When the waitstaff brought around the mains, several from our party forgot what they had ordered, decided to eat what they hadn’t ordered, or simply took someone else’s meal—with no harm intended I thoroughly appreciate, but perhaps also with blissful ignorance of what this meant for others. 

The end result was wasted paid-for dishes, the kitchen having to conjure up replacement dishes, and, needless to say, long waiting times and cold mains.

All that said, my main course when it arrived was cooked beautifully. My blue steak was a raging dish; it showed off a deep purple inside and a scorched outer crust. Justice had been done to the Wagyu. It was tender, juicy, full-flavoured, and left as natural as possible. The beef was bloody good. This blue steak was a textbook example of less is more and letting ingredients speak for themselves. Being the only blue steak order in our party, I really had been spoilt.  

The sides of carrot and potato added to the appeal of the dish and were favourably warm. The medley of potato was particularly delicious; crispy potato atopped more mashed counterparts and was layered with butter and cheese. As I sliced through the beef, piling on the carrot puree, and the potato, enjoyment on a plate was all I could think of.

Writing this up now I feel incredibly lucky and fortunate to have in my life wonderful days and times and food. Good times such as this. It’s embarrassing that hashtags instead of reasonable prose come to mind thinking of how I might put it into words. I suppose I could say that if, perchance, I were part of the uber hip, Gen Y Twitter crowd, I’d be all over the tags: #blessed, #thankful, #Aussie and #luckycountry. Seriously though, good and great times put the less-good patches into perspective. 

Two courses down and things were now back on track for dessert.

I had the sticky date pudding. It was aesthetically​ beautiful. That’s where my praise for this dish ended. The sticky date pudding was very cakey. It was mild in a flavour I couldn’t pinpoint—sticky date related, maybe, but not dates. If there were real dates somewhere on this dish they must’ve been miniscule amounts, or completely pureed away into the sauce and cake. To the palate it was a sweet sauce on a sponge. The addition of an ordinary vanilla ice-cream, that was melting from the heat of the plate evidently lifted right out of the dishwasher, pulled no punches. The caustic taste of unincorporated baking soda as I bit into the bottom of the pudding underscored everything wrong with the dish. Perhaps it’d just been my sticky date pudding; it was the most popular dessert had on the day and I did hear later that others liked theirs. The lack of actual date content, now that can’t have been a one-off.

All in all, it worked out. 

On the food, my entree and main were fabulous, the main in particular. 

The process for service does need work. The staff were great with us and made a real effort to make things work despite the initial confusion. The management were accommodating with our requirements for the function. I’d not hesitate to get in contact again. 

The Grand has a great space. It has a large enough restaurant area and the space carries a certain intimacy about it. Courtesy of the dark and neutral tones throughout the restaurant, closely placed seating, and the use of largely ambient lighting, the space is personal and cosy, more dine and wine than grub and pub. The venue would work nicely for a smaller function.

Considering everything I think it went pretty darned well overall. 

Taste verdict What can I say on the food? I’ll leave it at the beef was most agreeable.

⭐⭐⭐

Key Lime Pie and Chai Latte at Riverside Cafe, Elizabeth Quay

I wandered about the Quay on this Friday afternoon, taking a stroll for fresh air and in search of a sugar hit—a pick-me-up, after what had been an energy depleting day. I’d been feeling poorly and the day had done its bit to add to it. For the first in a long time, the feeling was one of constriction: of being completely spent.

I sat outside; the café’s quayside view was wonderful and unfettered. The minimal patronage made it all the better. As for the cold, it fell away to serenity and calmness. Peacefulness seemed to drown out other thoughts. 

My chai latte, $5.50, and key lime pie, $9, arrived. They did a brilliant job at helping me reclaim my chi. The chai was a good fragrant one. The last third of the mug was the texture of sand. The slice of pie was a pleasant choice. Dense, creamy, cheesecake-ish, with a teensy bit of tang from the lime, and a good biscuit crust. While I’m far bigger a fan of bold flavours in pies—higher acidity and the harsh zinginess of lime for a key lime pie—I’d get this again. 

Life always seems a little better with good food and a good view.

img_20180706_1436351317332971716904856.jpgimg_20180706_143507149406744297181662.jpgimg_20180706_1458335201065913285632473.jpg

Taste verdict A lovely spot.

⭐⭐⭐1/2