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.

⭐⭐⭐

Summer Sunset Burger at Grill’d, Brookfield Place

I can’t be the only person to pronounce Grill’d as ‘Grill D’ can I? It’s the pronunciation that I thought of the first time I saw the name of the burger chain and every time since then. I’m not sure why. ‘Grill D’ just seems right. Earlier this week, my obviously strange pronunciation made for a very amusing discussion with a colleague. Humour and a sprinkling of embarrassment came part and parcel, naturally. 

I have since decided to go with it. Where opportune, I’ll include it in conversation with nonchalence. Will more people notice? Time will tell on this little social experiment. 

Grill’d, as it happens, is currently running a promo for the World Cup. Every time the Socceroos score a goal, that’s one free drink with a purchase banked if you’re signed up to the offer. Not bad at all. 

Lunch at Grill’d was decided. I ordered the Summer Sunset ‘Grass fed lean beef, avocado, crispy bacon, charred pineapple, salad, relish & herbed mayo’ for $14, and of course scored my free drink. The drink is any from their chiller. I grabbed a lime bitters.

There was hardly a wait once they’d managed to sort the troubled cash register. 

The first thing I noticed when the burger arrived was how solid it was. The bread bun and ingredients were compact and robust. I kid you not, this burger was assembled with a remarkable level of structural integrity. In all the burgers I’ve had this year, I haven’t had the pleasure of seeing such an exhibition. You could say I was more than impressed.

Tastewise, I couldn’t really have asked for more for the price. The seeded bun was a good quality bread. There was an abundance of fresh avocado and salad in every bite. The pineapple was a juicy addition. The patty was well-salted and grilled. The sauces were adequate. The entire offering was a thoughtful construction. It was simplicity executed well.

The venue was hip enough for the office crowd, cool enough for the cool cats, and loud enough to make lunch lively. The noise was good, a change from the staleness of the quiet office.

Expectation vs Reality: It did look fairly similar to the advertised picture… 

This burger exceeded expectations by a long shot. Grill’d grills a great burger. I’ll be back.

Taste verdict A burger place that is kicking goals.

⭐⭐⭐⭐

Mojo’s Burger and Salt & Pepper Fried Squid at Mojo’s Restaurant, Bunbury

I perused the menu and decided to go for the burger this place had the confidence to put its name to: Mojo’s Burger a ‘local beef patty, lettuce, cucumber, aioli, pickled cucumber’ with a side of ‘hand cut chips’ for $22. 

The phrase ‘hand cut chips’ caught my attention.

Is the specific method utilised to arrive at chips, ‘cut’ chips, from the humble potato a feature worth denouncing in the modern world?

My knowledge on chip cutting methods is admittedly limited. For all I know, there exists a plethora of methods, a range of ways, to achieve the chip. Is ‘hand cut’ a preferred approach? Can a subject expert chip in? At the very least, I suppose ‘hand cut’ is an acceptable method. 

I mean in the alternative there are certainly a million more questionable or downright unacceptable methods. 

Foot cut chips—eww. 

Uncut chips—is an uncut chip a mere potato? 

Santa Claus-cut chips—because this would be an indication of something amiss in the Northpole. It would only birth a snowstorm of questions. Why would Santa have been relegated to the relatively menial task of splitting potatoes, whether by hand or not? Elves revolting? Issues with upper-management? Misaligned organisational goals and priorities? World happiness through gift-giving decried as an outcome unachievable? Percentage of ‘believers’ at an all time low? Boy, I could go on. You get the picture. Santa Claus-cut chips would be all manner of outrageous.

For simplicity’s sake, I’ll assume Mojo’s menu drew attention to the hand cut aspect to rebut, from the outset, any presumption of these being machine cut chips. Because machine cut—while wonderfully engineered for efficiency, and a feat from that point of view—is rather unpreferred from a middle-class dining perspective. I refer of course to connotations, rife attitudes within the populace, that serving up cookie-cutter chips means cheaper, boring and flavourless, lowbrow. Should we really be judging chips on how they are cut? 

While this spiel possibly suggests that I hold some passion about the matter, I can confirm that I do. Where the method of chip cutting is concerned that passion is my declaring ambivalence. I’ll happily stomach all and any of the acceptable methods. 

Mankind advances on many fronts. Indiscriminate and far-reaching are the impacts of technology.  It’s commendable. Technology even impacts the all-important Realm of Potato Chips—now this, I wouldn’t have thunk. There’s comfort also in knowing that the only thing being completely uprooted by technology as far as potato chips are concerned are potatoes. Clearly not the practice of cutting chips by hand.

Machine cut or hand cut, dissected potatoes better be worth their salt. 

Chips just better be bloody tasty. 

And so, the burger arrived looking hot and the perfect plate for a cold evening. 

Here we have the stabbed beast and the decidedly hand cut chips. 

The bun was a shiny, sesame seed one. Lovely and soft, toast marks apparent. Unlike the last burger named after its joint I had, this bun was as it should be: fresh and unstale. 

Inside was a heap of meat, sauce, and onions. I realise on writing this now that the lettuce and tomato this was stated to have were non-existent. Dammit, meat-heavy I expressed at the time but it hadn’t registered back to their menu. Oh well. It came with a large patty and crispy bacon. (Bacon for brekky and for dinner was making the day amazing.)

The thick meat patty held its juices. Together with the layered on bacon, and a sizeable portion of very wilted down, fried barbeque-flavoured onions, it was a substantial lot. Joyous to bite through. Flavours of the meaty heap jumped out, violently hitting the palate with enthusiasm and chutzpah. Yum. 

The burger​ was so good. It could have done with the salad elements.

The hand cut chips were good. Better than those I’ve had of late. Perhaps I need to revisit the subject. Perhaps hand cut connotes more than the method: a description of the layer of care applied, the time spent on sculpting perfection… 

We had the ‘salt and pepper spiced squid’ with tartar sauce, $16, as a shareplate. The soft, lightly-battered deep-fried squid tasted delicious. They were the type you’d order a stackload of, munch on, then wonder where it’d all disappeared to. Dipped in the sauce, the squid was a winner.

Taste verdict Great burger. One of the best ones I’ve had this year. Great hand cut chips. Great squid. 

⭐⭐⭐⭐

I Caved: Whiskey Prune and Mascarpone Ice-Cream at Simmos Ice-Creamery, Dunsborough

We visited Yallingup’s Ngilgi caves after brekky. The caves were absolutely fascinating, humid, and they took my breath away. The concentrated CO2 levels within the caves, the tour guide advised us wannabe cave-dwellers, was two-hundred times that of above-ground air. 

Our enthusiastic guide told us about the cave’s spiritual and cultural value. The magical properties our guide alluded to were at work as I explored the cave. I know not how this magic worked. Only that when I emerged from the cave, my love of stalactites and stalagmites was stronger than ever before; peaking, if I may say.  I observed also, on emergence from the cave, that I was gifted with a genuine and new found appreciation of life without claustrophobia.

It was ice-cream time after the caves.

Late in the afternoon, Simmos Ice-creamery was busy. Kids and adults were all sitting around a picnic area in their own worlds, licking their ice-creams. They have the concept right: a bunch of fancy-pants flavours brings everyone comes to the yard.  

I caved and went for two scoops: mascapone fig and a top scoop of the whiskey prune. 

And here we have the lip-smackingly gorgeous full-flavoured duo in a before shot—before things took a turn for the worst. Well, a small turn for the worst.

Seconds after this was taken, the ice-cream decided it didn’t like me and tried to escape. Thankfully I executed a just-in-time-spider-man save off the table. I had been lucky, but my perfect duo was tainted. Its potential enjoyment bruised.

I decided consuming the ice-cream as fast as possible was the best way to move forward without further a mishap. 

My thoughts were of the softness of the ice-cream. Not in a Maccas softserve cone kind of way, more like a Bulla Frozen Custard kind of way—if you haven’t tried Bulla’s Frozen Custard, get to it, because it’s so, so soft; the texture is smoother than a baby’s bottom and for what it’s worth Coles frequently has specials, 40-50% off. 

The whiskey prune was wonderfully strong. The flavour overtook my mascarpone fig dollop. Visible bits of prune throughout had been crushed into sizeable chunks adding texture and another layer of complexity to the ice-cream. The whiskey and prune were well married. 

The second serve, of the mascarpone fig ice-cream, mirrored a tennis service game. Serve two was a weaker and safer option that struggled to wow. As a flavour, it was drowned out and overly plain. The light flavour would work best quenelled against something sweet. A slice or a richer cake, perhaps, an accompaniment to achieve the ‘balance’ so crucial to every dessert. All that said, it was a nice ice-cream—just a little too vanilla for my liking. 

Next time I’ll hopefully pick another flavour to find something that’s interesting in its own right, something that knocks things out of the park. 

There were heaps of flavours that looked great: licorice, salted caramel, orange. I’d have been up for trying them all.

Overall, yummy stuff. There’s a reason they don’t do ice-cream samples!

Taste verdict Quality ice-cream. Texture is divine and the range of flavours could make for a fun, calorie-heavy ice-cream only day.

⭐⭐⭐1/2