This would be our first hint: if you want a decent choice at Alimentari, get yo ass down there before 2pm. ‘Can I have the chicken schnitzel wrap, please?’ ‘Sorry, sold out.’ (Possibly a good thing since the day before Stuff had eaten chicken schnitzel on a bagel for lunch and another schnitty with Italian coleslaw at Melbourne Wine Room for dinner. Is there such a thing as too much schnitzel?) ‘Ah, a meatball wrap?’ ‘All gone.’ We look at the measly offerings left over in the deli counter and plump for an old fave: the prosciutto, mozzarella and rocket piadina ($9.50). For those not in the know, a piadina is basically an Italian flat bread. Stuff couldn’t tell to you how many times we’ve had this for lunch. It’s an absolute classic with plenty of salty gorgeous prosciutto to rip into. It’s probably not the best value lunch in all of Melbourne (a big boy might be left wanting after he’d devoured it), but it gets a solid four stars when it comes to taste. Next time, we’re going to get down there a little bit earlier and get the schnitty. And maybe the meatballs, too.

Alimentari, 251 Brunswick Street, Fitzroy.

In the pantheon of stuff Stuff likes, lunch is right up there with seeing people fall over in the street and internet porn. So, in both your interests and ours, we’re going to seek out some of the better spots for lunch in Melbourne. Most likely they’ll be places around the city, but we’ll occasionally deign to jump a tram and head all the way out to Fitzroy, perhaps, or even Carlton. But probably not any further. And we’ll endeavour to spend only 10 bucks. But, again, we’re not going to make any rash budgetary promises.

Stuff knew lunch number one was going to be a doozy. For a start, the girl serving us had the same colour hair and she was smiley and nice. Shouldn’t waiters always be smiley and nice, you ask with good reason. Indeed, it is preferable, but it’s not always the case at Babka, one of the more popular cafés on the Brunswick Street strip. Last time we were there, we waited for 10 minutes for a menu and another 10 for someone to take our order. Thankfully, we weren’t in any hurry and we would have waited for hell to freeze over for a slice of that lemon tart. (Apparently, the staff at Babka can organise that if you request it with your order.)

Last week, we wandered in and ordered a piece of the pumpkin, goats cheese, leek and walnut tart ($7.30) from the takeaway counter. Normally, Stuff doesn’t think a meal counts unless something has died, but we were a little rushed and didn’t have time to think about the meat-loving pies and sausage rolls and other tasty Rusky-inspired morsels. But, you know what, we weren’t disappointed. The pumpkin was sweet and gooey, the walnuts a crunchy counterpoint. All of it sat warm and inviting atop a massive rectangle of flaky puff pastry. Surprisingly, when the final mouthful was masticated, we were completely satisfied. And the other giveaway sign that lunch was great? Our black t-shirt was covered in so many shards of pastry we had to Dustbust ourselves clean.

Babka, 358 Brunswick Street, Fitzroy (not Mondays, though).

Like this freakin’ flu that every mofo in town seems to have and decided to pass on to Stuff. Sore throat, achy ears, painful joints. There was just one thing for it. Make that two. A massive dose of flu drugs and off to bed for a couple of days. Between naps, Stuff caught up on a few DVDs – the sort that cause jeering from much cooler folk when they realise we haven’t seen it before this. First disc in the player, Inglourious Basterds, awesomely made and misspelled by Quentin Tarantino (can understand why people are horrified that we haven’t seen this, considering Stuff’s love of a good scalping), followed by Oli Stone’s triple-crossingly, back-stabbingly brilliant U-Turn. For those who missed it, it was made in 1997 and stars Sean Penn, Nick Nolte, Billy Bob Thornton, Joaquin Phoenix, Claire Danes and Jenny from the Block in a role that was originally supposed to go to Sharon Stone (remember that as you watch it and we dare you not to scoff). Of course, it seems slightly dated now, but there are some classic lines. Such as…

Toby N. Tucker (Phoenix): I don’t think you know who I am. The name’s Toby N. Tucker. People round here call me TNT. You know why?
Bobby (Penn): Because they’re not very imaginative?

And it’s a great reminder of why you should avoid Superior, Arizona, if you ever happen to be road-tripping through the USA.

On the upside, we’re back in business again, so will be doing some catching up on posts.

Anyone who hangs out in Melbourne on any sort of semi-regular basis will have seen the shiny blue bikes tethered at outposts around the city. Apparently there are a hundred of them at 10 different stations. It’s a grand idea: eco-friendly and seemingly reasonably priced, although whoever devised the pricing structure on the website needs a lesson in user-friendliness. It works in lots of places overseas, but we can see a real problem for visitors to the city. Note the little note displayed near the handlebars of each bike.

Last time Stuff travelled interstate or overseas, we failed to carry bike helmet in our carry-on luggage. Our crystal ball also tells us there’s a new product line now being added to convenience stores all over the city.

There are times we wonder why Melbourne people love football so much. Most days, sure, we get it: the silky skills, the clash of body on body, the chance to sit in the sun, scream obscenities and knock the top off a couple of frosties. Then there are days like today. ‘Stuff’ is a big fan of the Swans. Yes, you read that right: the Swans, even though they are now from Sydney.

Today, ‘Stuff’ headed to the ’G, not really expecting a whole lot from the boys. They’re going through some tough times – lots of retirements last year, a few injuries this year, a week on top of the ladder then a rapid fall from grace – but an afternoon at the footy is still something to cherish. Right? Well, it could be. But this afternoon’s game between the Swans and the Hawks had all the skill and grace of an outing by the local under 12s. And the umpires… Well, to say they had a shocker is being charitable. I’m pretty sure Paul Roos went back to the hotel at half-time. Not that the Hawks were much better, but for most of the day they looked like they were going to have a reasonably comfortable win. Not that you’d know it from the fans, especially the man who went off his noggin when Buddy Franklin was reported and the Swans fans sitting around him had a bit of a chuckle. Dude, if he didn’t do anything he’ll get off, you’re winning, we think it’s a laugh and your kids are with you. Chill out. We’re not going to say, ‘It’s only a game,’ because when people tell us that we want to punch them in the neck*. But, really, seriously, it’s not the end of the world and it was nice to have a laugh at something other than another Swan turning over the ball.

The Swannies, bless ’em, rallied late and about 31 minutes into the final quarter pulled equal with the Hawks. It got exciting for about 90 seconds, but the Hawks kicked two more points before the siren went. Rhys Shaw, if only you kicked that goal. You coulda been a contender!

Footy, you’re a cruel mistress. Now, we’re going to go listen to Songs of Love and Hate a few times to cheer ourselves up.

*Stuff Melbourne People Like in no way condones violence. Unless someone is really fuckin’ annoying. Then you should feel free to smash them.

If you can tell ‘Stuff’ of another city in the world that is home to more festivals than Melbourne, we’ll give you 50 bucks. We won’t actually, but we’re still pretty sure that no other place hosts one festival after another, with some of them overlapping so that the cultured among us just can’t decide what to do, instead pulling the blankets over our heads and pretending there’s nothing happening. At all. Anywhere.

Yesterday, however, ‘Stuff’ donned on our plaid jacket with leather elbow patches to mix it up with literary types at the Emerging Writers’ Festival. The Town Hall was wall-to-wall brainiacs – if we didn’t know better we would have thought we were at a spectacle convention.

There were some interesting discussions on writing for new technologies (is the interweb still new?), failure and including people you know in your musings without having them hate you forever. But the quote of the day came from Dion Kagan, who was chairing a panel on interviewing. He was speaking about his reaction when he first started out and was listening back to his taped interviews: “All I could think was, ‘How ignorant do I sound?’ ‘Why did I try to crack that joke?’ but mostly ‘How gay do I sound?'”

These particular festivities are over for another year, but if talking books, writing and ideas sounds like your cup of chai latte, the Melbourne Writers Festival starts on August 27.

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