Photo Spotlight: Seduced by Fish & Shrimp Tacos – Meet The Happy Hooker on Dundas West, Part I!

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Photo teaser post of just some of the delicious food at The Happy Hooker!  Fish, shrimp, and yes, even beautiful, scrumptious salads!  I would write the whole post tonight, but I would be up reeeeally late if I did that.  It’s Thanksgiving weekend and I’ve been so busy planning outings for the next few days and editing photos that I could just fall asleep right now while writing this so the full write-up will come tomorrow night when I’m back from my super exciting harvest fall themed food adventure!  Full details on that to come very soon as well!  Tomorrow’s Happy Hooker write-up will introduce us to a number of their mouthwatering fresh seafood offerings as well as a story on how The Happy Hooker and I met in the first place (hint: we were set up and introduced by a third party.  How romantic!).  I’ve also been working really hard on updating Ate by Ate’s Pinterest boards and incorporating more pumpkin yummies in the the blog so in the next week or so, look out for new Pinterest boards, lots of Fall Harvest series posts, some classic comfort food (did someone say mac ‘n cheese?) and brand spankin’ new afternoon tea posts.  So, the in the meantime, enjoy the photos until tomorrow!

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The Happy Hooker is located at 887 Dundas Street West, just west of Manning Ave. between Bathurst St. and Ossington Ave. near Trinity Bellwoods Park.  They are open every day from 12pm-10pm.

“Bee Mine” – Weekend Brunch of Eggs Benny & Buttermilk Cheddar Scones at Oliver & Bonacini Cafe Grill!

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You know what we’ve never discussed here on Ate by Ate?  Food snatching.  Do I have a story behind this discussion point?  Oh you bet your sweet ass I do.  So let’s talk.  You know the kind.  Folks who sneakily spear something off your plate when you’re not paying attention or those who snatch the obligatory fry from your basket or those who just plain eye your leftovers.  For those of you who know F.R.I.E.N.D.S inside and out, we can laugh over Joey’s ridiculousness over not sharing his food with his date at the restaurant and even sweet little baby Emma (“JOEY DOESN’T SHARE FOOD!!!”).  Truth be told, I’ve never really had to deal with that in all my years of living.  I mean, sure, there was the one time my brother and I mixed up our school lunches and I ended up with his and he ended up with mine which left me in conniptions because I totally felt like he’d stolen my entire container of beloved grapes, but aside from that I’ve always been surrounded by pretty  respectful people who don’t overstep their bounds when it comes to my food and in that sense, I’ve been very lucky.  Either that or my boyfriend, friends and family are simply scared of my wrath.  Hmmm.  Point is, life has been pretty much sticky-snatchy-finger free.

Until one fateful morning at weekend brunch.

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It was a beautiful, warm, sunny Sunday morning at Oliver & Bonacini Cafe Grill at Yonge & Front St.  I was beside myself with excitement.  I was out on their patio, I was covered by enough shade to take decent photos, I was finally going to try their weekend brunch menu which I had been wanting to do for months, and I was spending the day with my boyfriend.  It was picture perfect and my appetite was raring to go.  I hungrily scanned their brunch menu, hemming and hawwing over sweet versus savoury dishes like I always do until I finally settled on the eggs benedict; but more about the luscious food in a second.  I desperately felt like some simple but delicious comfort food and the warm, rich, creamy eggs benedict bathed in hollandaise was exactly what I was craving.  My dish came and I sighed in happiness.  My beautiful eggs benny in all its glory.  Gosh did this dish ever make me smile.  My boyfriend and I then proceeded to dig into our respective brunch dishes and thoroughly enjoyed ourselves.

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Until halfway through the meal when chaos ensued:

“Ahhhh!!!” *napkin swat* “Go away go away go away go away!!!” *napkin swat* “Nonononono….damn it, NOOOOOO!!!”

Take a wild stab at what happened.

Answer: a freakin’ BEE flew into my hollandaise and STOLE MY FOOD.  A BEE!  Into MY hollandaise!  In MY brunch!  Like I wasn’t already a nervous wreck seeing the damn thing flying near the bushes by our table, oh no, it had to circle my plate several times like a vulture eyeing its prey and then freakin’ LAND on my food like a helicopter landing pad!  Like, seriously, of all the ways to ruin my food!  I could have dropped it.  I could have been too sick to eat it.  But a bee setting up shop on it?!  ARE YOU FREAKIN’ KIDDING ME?!  I never in a million years thought the first time I would have my food stolen would be by an insect of all things.  Now, you must be wondering how this meal was salvaged.  Because you know I wouldn’t be writing about this if there wasn’t something positive to it.  All I can say is, god bless our server.  He noticed the commotion at our table, rushed over with a linen napkin, smothered the darn thief with it and quickly took the dish away to discard.  Then he said 5 magic words:

“I’ll bring you another one.”

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Not only did we receive exceptional service from the second we were seated, but our server really went above and beyond to mend my broken heart (and, quite frankly, my heebie jeebies).  I was halfway through my meal when the chaos happened and after the dish was taken away, one of the other servers promptly brought me a hot and fresh dish that made up for the half that was ruined.  Ahhh.  Happiness restored, crisis averted.

Well, now that I’ve recounted my absurd food snatching story, it’s time to get down to business and talk REAL food.  I adore O&B’s weekend brunch menu.  Available on Saturdays and Sundays starting at 10am, their weekend brunch menu reads like a book of classics with the most fantastical of twists.  You have French toast but in PB & J style (pain au lait, peanut butter, housemade strawberry jam and candied peanuts).  You have breakfast classics on a pizza (roasted maple ham, caramelized onions and a fried egg!).  And the hash?  Beef short ribs with poached eggs and chipotle tomato jam.  Those are just 3 of the 11 brunch dishes that they offer on their menu.  In addition, they make their lunch menu available as well which is great because you can mix and match your food to your heart’s content!  I took advantage of this by ordering a side salad of fresh kale and greens ($5) which was a beautiful, light and fresh mix of dinosaur kale, radishes, swiss chard, baby greens, matchstick beets, and wheatberries.

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The main attraction: O&B’s eggs benedict is by far one of the most delicious I’ve ever had.  I LOVE IT, I LOVE IT, I LOVE IT!  Their eggs benny ($14) incorporates potato home fries, 2 large poached eggs covered in rich, creamy hollandaise sprinkled with chopped green onions and pepper flakes on top of 2 slices of make-me-warm-and-fuzzy honey ham and 2 amazing fluffy, airy, melt-in-your-mouth BUTTERMILK CHEDDAR SCONES!  SCONES PEOPLE!  OH.MY.GOD!  I wasn’t lying when I said they took the classics and twisted them in fantastical ways!

We’re so used to seeing and having eggs benedict on English muffin halves and while I love my toasted English muffins, it was SO delicious having my poached eggs on buttery scones that were honestly like a cross between tea scones and buttery, cheesy biscuits.  Are you guys familiar with the infamous Red Lobster biscuits?  Imagine those in all their soft, buttery glory but in cheesy buttermilk scone form.  It was the perfect accompaniment to the hollandaise because the scones soaked up the sauce so well and everything held it’s flavour, texture and shape throughout the meal without getting soggy which was terrific.

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Despite the food snatching, food ruining kerfluffle, it was truly one of the most enjoyable, scrumptious weekend brunches and I adored my food to pieces and would eat through the weekend brunch menu in a heartbeat.  Sans the uninvited vistor.

*****

Oliver & Bonacini Cafe Grill is located at 33 Yonge Street at the corner of Yonge Street & Front Street E.

Frittata Sandwiches, Edamame with Avocado & Arugula Salads – Fresh Flavours & Fall Comfort at Yorkville Espresso Bar

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This fall is shaping up to be an amazing season so far.  I’ve done some baking, I’ve got my blogging back on, and I can’t even begin to describe how freakin’ excited I am for Thanksgiving this year!  The quintessential “day of turkey” is one week away and I’ve spent most of the weekend sticky-noting recipes and planning the menu for my family’s Thanksgiving dinner, not to mention packing as much foodie goodness as I can into the holiday weekend with my boyfriend, family and friends.

While I do have pumpkins and apples (cooked and baked because of my raw fruit allergy!) and squash on the brain, part of me knows it’s still waaaay too early to be in full comfort food mode.  We have plenty of time for that in the dreaded “w” word in the coming months!  Fall food is so inviting because it incorporates both cozy comfort with bright and fresh flavours: fruit and veg soups, bean and vegetable salads with comforting herbs, fruity vinaigrettes and dressings, and tender meats with root vegetables and juicy cooked fruit.  I love how the weather is cool but still pleasantly balmy on days and how I can still enjoy the lighter fare without sweating to death and hiding from the fierce sun like I do during the summer!

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Which brings me to a teeny confession I have to make: this post and these photos were supposed to be on Ate by Ate over a month ago.  Possibly even 2 months ago.  But life happened and this post just never did.  Long story short, Yorkville Espresso Bar owners Rita and Tony invited me to the cafe for return visit to share a meal, to watch chef John Vetere cook and work his magic on the cafe’s many delicious menu items in the kitchen studio, to try some of the cafe’s various gluten-free bakery items from coffee and baking master Drew Randall and to basically talk food, blogging and community.  It was such a fun day and it was such a cool experience seeing the cafe menu items that make us drool come to life right before my eyes.  These photos were taken at Yorkville Espresso Bar during the summer and part of me worried that I wouldn’t be able to make them relevant for fall.  Thankfully for me, their food is just as perfect for fall as it is for summer and I’m just happy I finally get to share with you guys!

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Yorkville Espresso Bar has introduced a number of different breakfast and lunch foods to their ever-expanding menu: frittata sandwiches oozing with eggs, herbs, veggies and cheese (oh and ham!), scrumptious wraps with creamy cheese and fresh vegetables, and a plethora of hearty but bright salads.  Aside from how yummy everything is, what makes the food so enticing to me is the price point.  Being located in Yorkville doesn’t exactly give you the reputation of being inexpensive.  Let’s face it, Yorkville isn’t known as Mink Mile for nothing; its poshness extends to the dining scene too.  But Yorkville Espresso Bar has made their dishes and food so accessible by making it healthy, fresh and affordable.  You have the frittata sandwiches and salads coming in at $4 and $4.50 respectively (under $5!) and their ginourmous wraps and artisan bread sandwiches coming in under $10 at $8.

Their food menu is a reflection of what folks in and around the community have asked for; Rita and Tony and their staff have taken so much of everyone’s feedback to heart and have put an enormous amount of thought and care into their menu, offering healthy food that isn’t run of the mill (nobody needs a limp lettuce and tomato salad that was packaged the day before thank you very much), made the morning of, and perfect for both dine-in and grab-and-go for the work crowd.  Their food menu includes herb roasted chicken wraps with crunchy celery and sunflower seeds, Thai tuna with basmati rice, and shaved carrots dressed in chili sauce, Italian meatball and mozzarella and rapini on toasted artisan bread and even Trinidadian doubles among other savouries alongside the mountain of baked goods and gluten-free items such as biscotti, muffins, pastries, tarts, scones, brownies, loaf cakes, macarons and more.

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What we have here are toasted and grilled English muffin frittata sandwiches stuffed with eggs, mozzarella, provolone and basil along with ham and cheese sandwiches, grilled sun-dried tomato wraps stuffed with creamy goat cheese, roasted red peppers, zucchini, eggplant, greens and mushrooms and two amazing, fantastic salads: white beans infused with fresh sprigs of rosemary with edamame, avocado and red onion vinaigrette and an artichoke salad with grape tomatoes, olives, arugula, Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, finished with a red wine vinaigrette.  I love English muffin sandwiches like nobody’s business.  At home, I toast English muffins and eat them with cream cheese and nothing else at times.  Yorkville Espresso Bar does a special daily frittata sandwich each morning and on this day my tastebuds were treated to two of my favourite things enveloped in eggs: cheese and basil.  It makes my stomach growl just thinking about it.

Next, we have the sun-dried tomato wrap.  This thing is HUGE.  I was watching chef John make it while I was taking photos in the Kitchen Studio and I was all bug-eyed when I saw the size of tortilla he was using!  For those who loooove grilled wraps and vegetarian sandwiches, you need this in your life.  The goat cheese and eggplant totally do it for me and it’s just gorgeous to look at.  It is a thing of beauty and so soft and flavourful with a hint of smokiness from the grilled vegetables and grilled tortilla wrap.

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Finally, the salads.  The scrumptious, mouthwatering salads.  They are perfect as an accompaniment to the sandwiches but also just as perfect on their own.  They are truly top-notch and for $4.50…you really can’t ask for more.  I watched as Chef John cooked the soaked white beans, infusing them with warm rosemary flavour in a giant pot of boiling water with onions and brightening them at the same time with crunchy edamame and soft, creamy avocado in the finished product.  It’s a beautiful fusion of warmth and comfort with lightness and it’s definitely a winning combination you don’t find at other places.  To finish off: the arugula and artichoke salad.  I love arugula so much and the red wine vinaigrette that the salad was tossed in was delicious.  The tomatoes in the salad balance out the briny flavour of the olives and artichokes and peppery bite of the arugula, and parm just elevates the savouriness to another level.  These are the types of salads I always wish for because their hearty with substance but still light and fresh in flavour.

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The menu and the people here make the espresso bar such an inviting place for coffee, tea and lunch and I feel so lucky to have been able to enjoy the food and learn about it at the same time, watching Chef John make the food from start to finish and getting to know the people and the cafe from the inside out.  Rita and Tony made me feel just like family.  It’s almost the first anniversary of my first visit (October 21!) and I think it’s high time I went back again to try even more of their delicious menu.

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Yorkville Espresso Bar is located at 3 Yorkville Ave., just west of Yonge Street and north of Cumberland St.  They are open 7 days a week from 7:30am-7pm Monday to Friday, 8am-6pm Saturday, and 9am-5pm Sunday.

It’s Crisp, It’s Fall, It’s a Wonderful Time for a David’s Tea Haul! Fall Tea & Wishlist Goodies

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So I’m just a teensy bit more obsessed with tea since the last time we talked.  Just a teensy bit.  I’ve been daydreaming about all the luxurious things I want to order from Harney & Sons, like the Orange Spice Gift Set with the white polka-dotted orange teapot (how freakin’ adorable is this??), white “knitted tea cozy” mug (even CUTER OMG) and about 6 tins of loose leaf tea (because, you know, I eventually want to swim in all of it).  I’ve been hemming and hawwing over what flavours of tea to order from Tea at the White House (I’ve been putting things in and taking things out of my shopping cart for DAYS now – this is why being an indecisive person is the pits!).  I’ve spent the last 2 weeks researching tea houses all across our beautiful province of Ontario and keeping a run list in a word document on my desktop and freaking out my boyfriend with discussions of GO bus rides to Cambridge (“you’ll come with me, right?  RIGHT??”).  Oh, and I have an order of tea magazines from Tea Times and Victoria Bliss from Hoffman’s Media on route to my magical mail box and I am so darn excited I could burst!

So I’m totally just a teensy bit more obsessed.

I know.  There really is no saving me.  Sigh.

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Tea has become such a passion of mine and I am loving it.  I have such sweet memories of drinking tea with my grandparents and playing with tea sets my aunt gave me as a little girl but I feel like I’ve been introduced to a whole new and exciting world these past few years learning about and experimenting with it (getting the perfect cup each and every single time is quite the task – it’s seriously an art all on its own!), discovering tea houses, looking up events, and just immersing myself in the fun of it all.  Which is why this little David’s Tea haul of mine is only just the beginning!  I had to use every ounce of willpower not to pick up every last thing I wanted from their adorable fall collection because 1) part of me dreaded having to carry the heavier items on the subway and bus rides back home, and 2) I really wanted to be a good friend and wait for my bestie to go crazy tea shopping  with me.  What fun would it be if I bought everything on my wishlist and just stood around the next time we went frolicking?  I think ahead, people.

I am dying to get the so-cute-it-makes-you-squeal forest animals tea mug and the cute-as-a-button bubble tea cups from David’s Tea’s fall collection as well as some loose leaf of Blueberry Jam, Long Life Oolong and Lime Gelato, but I was a good girl and stuck to picking up a bottle of their vanilla agave, 50 g of their new Cocoberry tea and 2 packets of their Mom’s Apple Pie tea along with their snazzy new fall tea menu!  And yes, that is my ultra-cool, super awesome sparkly pumpkin prop in the photo!  Hee!

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I haven’t tried my apple pie one yet but I have tried the Cocoberry one and what attracted me most at first was its chocolate-raspberry scent.  It smelled so luscious and decadent.  Its taste was so much more complex than just a simple chocolate-raspberry combo though.  For those who love the taste of currants with a subtle hint of cocoa and chocolate, this tea is for you.  The currant flavour comes out very strong in this tea and if you find it a little on the tart side, sweeten it up with a little bit of sweetener.  It’s not your typical berry tea as it’s much more earthy in flavour and that’s what I actually appreciate about it.  Berry teas have never sat well with my tastebuds because I’ve always found them to be either too sour or too artificial in taste, but this one is different from anything I’ve ever tried so if you love currants, go for it and try it out!

*****

For a list of all David’s Tea locations in and around Toronto, check out their store locator HERE (they are constantly expanding!).  So far I’ve been to these locations:

  • 336 Queen St. W (just east of Spadina)
  • 2389 Yonge St. (intersection of Yonge & Eglinton; north of Eglinton)
  • 10 Dundas Street E. (Yonge & Dundas; it’s actually just north of Dundas facing Yonge St.)
  • 100 King Street West (First Canadian Place in the underground PATH)
  • 424 Bloor Street West (in the Annex, between Spadina and Bathurst)
  • Yorkdale Shopping Centre (Dufferin & Hwy 401)
  • Dufferin Mall (intersection of Dufferin Street and Bloor Street West, just south of Bloor)
  • Scarborough Town Centre (between McCowan and Brimley Rd. off Hwy 401)
  • Promenade Mall, Thornhill (Bathurst and Centre St.) 

All Aboard! Fall Fruits & Vegetables & Lineups for Baked Goods & Pork at the Junction Market Train Platform!

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“Oh my goodness, what in the world are people lining up for??”

I stopped dead in my tracks and gaped incredulously at the crowd of people gathered before me on the sidewalk just up the street.  Was there a sidewalk sale?  No.  Were folks handing out free stuff?  Nope.  Did Hugh Jackman return to TO for post-TIFF shenanigans?  I wish.  No, the line of people spilling out onto the street curb was in fact lining up for bread.  And cinnamon rolls.  And pork.  And croissants.  And pork.  And tacos.

Did I mention pork?

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This was the scene before me as I walked into the Junction Market’s brand spankin’ new home on the Junction Train Platform, a hubbub of community activity near and dear to the Junction community’s heart.  And when I say hubbub, I mean HUBBUB.  I was shocked at the sheer volume of market goers milling around every inch of space on the market grounds.  The Train Platform is such a cool space.  There’s train station graffiti art on the brick wall to the west, a raised wooden platform stage and a roof awning over top.  The market vendors were set up in a square shape around the perimeter of the space with more vendors filling in a portion of the centre.  I was surprised I was able to get as many clean shots as I did.  I mean, I know I didn’t arrive right when the market started at 8am (I did due diligence and got there just before 10:30am – give me a break, I live in Markham and wanted the extra hour of sleep!) but my goodness I have never been to a market where I had to strategically figure out how to just get IN.  And I LOVED it.

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The Junction Market had great turnouts at their old location down the road in the Green P parking lot but this was the first market season at the Train Platform and you can tell that the market is just more…alive.  There’s a buzz in the air, the crowd is bigger, and there’s this feeling and sense of community, grassroots, and togetherness.  That we’re all there to pick up delicious food, support our farmers and food producers and to simply be surrounded by people who love market food.

It’s a wonderful feeling and I have missed this so much.  This past summer I really dropped the ball on making visits to the market and I feel like I missed out on so much.  Fall is here though and I am determined to make the most of the season and that means breathing in the beautiful bounty of fresh food all the markets have to offer.  The Junction Market has been one of my favourites since it’s beginnings in 2012.  It may not be the biggest, but by golly do I ever find fantastic stuff whenever I go.  I’ve picked up bunches upon bunches of kale, sprouts, pesto, chutney and baked goods and coming out here gives me the opportunity to explore the west end more which I love.

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This past Saturday, there were gorgeous bunches of swiss chard, adorable baskets of wild blueberries (they’re so tiny and cute!), pretty plump pears, huge bunches of kale (my go-to market veg!), scotch eggs, empanadas and more from Hogtown Charcuterie, house-cured peameal on a bun, jerk pork, and eleventy billion kinds of ribs from When the Pig Came Home Smokehouse and Larder (gotta love the name!), squash, tomatoes, beans and so much more.  I was so excited and focused on taking photos I backed up and crashed right into a parked bike which left unattractive dusty tire marks on my leggings which I furiously tried to rub off whilst balancing my camera.

Real smooth, Debra.  Real smooth.

Not bad for my first market visit of the 2013 fall season though!  I discovered some yummy new vendors (that peameal on a bun and kale salad will be MINE next time!  Oh, and maybe a scotch egg.  And maybe some tacos too), got to visit them at their new location, and happily walked away with new photos and the beautiful, newest issue of Edible Toronto magazine featuring Sosnicki Organic Farm, a Junction market vendor, on the cover!  This is just the beginning of a scrumptious fall season.

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The Junction Market takes place Saturdays from 9am-1pm (May 25 to November 9) at the Junction Train Platform at 2960 Dundas Street West by Pacific Ave.  You can follow them on Twitter @JunctionMarket!