The Ruby Red Jewel of Drinks – Sweet Strawberry Lemonade & Sippers at Hammersmith’s, Part III

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It’s hot, it’s humid, and we’re capping off this 3-part Hammersmith’s series with a refreshing, juicy sweet drink: a fruity, punchy, thirst-quenching strawberry lemonade!  Hammersmith’s has quite the assortment of beverages and I was actually taken aback – in a good way – when I realized this.  Many places may excel in one particular food and drink category (savoury mains, desserts, wines, and drinks, for example), but it’s a real gem when you can find a place that wows you on all fronts and I love that Hammersmith’s kicks each one (food, dessert, and drink) in the pants with such graceful ease.  Their strawberry lemonade, at $3 a pop, preens from the chalkboard drink menu like the ruby red crown jewel that it is, sitting snuggly between other cold, homemade drinks such as regular lemonade, iced tea, grapefruit juice, and an Arnold Palmer which is half iced tea, half lemonade – you learn something new every day!  

In addition to getting giddy over the grapefruit juice and strawberry lemonade drinks on the chalkboard,  I went into conniptions over their selection of loose leaf tea!  Cream Earl Grey, organic peppermint, honeybush raspberry, and rooibos Canadian blueberry were just some of the ones I was really excited about.  I know it’s ridiculously hot out and I know for a fact I wouldn’t physically drink a hot tea outdoors in this type of weather, but I love loose leaf tea and for a split second, I considered ordering one that morning.  The flavours sounded delicous and having a morning tea has become somewhat of a morning ritual for me now, kind of like coffee to many folks.  And did I also mention that their loose leaf tea comes in a little pot of its own for $3 and perfectly this pairs with their brunch scones?!  No?  Okay, well, there’s that too.  But I stopped myself just before I could take the plunge knowing I’d need something cold to tide me over for the first part of the day.     

The strawberry lemonade packs a fruity punch and you can literally see some of the little strawberry seeds floating around in the glass – it’s that fresh.  It differs from the strawberry lemonade from Butler’s Pantry in that Hammersmith’s leans a little more on the sweet strawberry side than it does on the sour lemon and I love it because it is so fruity, summery, and refreshing.  It still has that lemon tang to it, but it’s not overwhelming and what’s great about it is that the flavour isn’t too concentrated or diluted and watered down.  It truly tastes like lemonade married with a basket of freshly picked strawberries at their peak of natural sweetness and it’s such a wonderful complement to the savoury brunch dishes, as a palate cleanser and as an equalizer when it comes to dishes that err on the side of bitter, like the asparagus and bitter greens.

Even though summer won’t be dying down anytime soon, I’m so looking forward to seeing what Hammersmith’s will have in store in the coming months with their seasonal menu and dishes.  I would love to come back later on in the summer and try their braised beef and goat cheese sandwich, their green beans and watercress, their duck plate, and of course some tea and sweets.  This first visit was amazing and it ended being so much more than I ever could have hoped for – great food, great drink, really nice people, and with my good timing and sheer stroke of luck, a delicious free cupcake!  Here’s to many more anniversaries celebrating amazing food.     

*****

Hammersmith’s is located at 807 Gerrard St. East in Riverdale, at the corner of Gerrard and Logan Ave.  They are a brunch and lunch cafe open from Wednesday to Sunday (10am-3:30pm on Wednesdays, Thursdays, and Fridays, and 9:30am-4pm on Saturdays and Sundays), with a price fixe dinner currently available on Thursdays and Fridays for $35.  Currently, for the summer, they are also now open on Mondays from 10am-3pm!  They accept cash and debit only.

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Back to Cupcake Basics With Sweet Chocolate & Vanilla – Scones, Cupcakes, & Desserts at Hammersmith’s, Part II

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Happy 1st Birthday, Hammersmith’s!

What’s better than a brunch cafe with delicious sandwiches, salads, and breakfast fare?  A brunch cafe with all of those things plus desserts for sweet endings!  I love it when I can plan a meal from beginning to end with either an appetizer and a main or a main and a side, and a dessert to neatly book end the happy experience.  I especially feel this way when I go out for sushi – if there isn’t dessert on the menu, I am one very sad cookie!  While I don’t order appetizers, extra sides, or dessert every time I’m out (I’d say this happens maybe 2 times out of 10 – foreshame!), it’s just nice knowing I can enjoy a variety of sweet and savoury items in one go because it also means an endless amount of mix-and-matching possibilities during future visits.  

Hammersmith’s delivers on all fronts.  Not only does Hammersmith’s do a mean sandwich and salad brunch plate (I could eat their arugula salad with olive oil and razor-thin radish slices endlessly), they also bake homemade baked goods and desserts on site including fresh scones, giant monster chocolate chunk cookies, and fluffy, mouthwatering cupcakes!  Much like their savoury brunch menu, their selection of sweets will change on a regular basis to reflect the season or pure inspiration.  They will always have scones though.  Their scones are available for purchase individually for $1.25 a piece, or as a scone plate for brunch with jam and cream for $5.  You could totally transform this into a lovely morning tea type of meal with a pot of hot loose leaf tea!

Brunch and afternoon tea scones

The frosted cupcake crown jewels

The showcase of desserts!

I truly believe I was blessed with good fortune on this day.  On Canada Day, Hammersmith’s celebrated their 1st anniversary and birthday!  How exciting it was to be a part of their special day!  And can you take a wild guess as to what made the birthday/anniversary festivities even mor jubiliant?  CUPCAKES!  Every patron was given a free cupcake in honour of this occasion and I was absolutely taken aback and shocked – in a good way!  Can you believe it?!  It’s almost as if the foodie gods wanted me to inhale a fresh cupcake over the weekend! 

They had cake stands full of plump cupcakes in different vanilla and chocolate combinations with the sweetest of decorations (rainbow sprinkles!  Chocolate sprinkles!  Pink sugar sparkles!  Crushed chocolate bits!) and they were all so pretty and so inviting.  Choosing my free cupcake (normally priced at $2.85) was like choosing a crown jewel – giddy but really hard to do!  Part of me was dying to snatch up the vanilla with sweet rainbow sprinkle dots and another part of me was yelling to grab the marble cake with marble frosting.  The “all-things-pink-and-pretty” part of me won over though and I chose the sweet chocolate cupcake with vanilla frosting and pink sugar sparkles.

If you love that fresh cocoa taste combined with moist-out-of-the-oven softness and soft, creamy, whipped buttercream, these are right up your alley.  It’s crazy because even though they’re light, airy, and fluffy in both cake and frosting, their cupcakes are surprisingly filling!  They’re decorated and piped beautifully and they truly have that comfort food, straight from home oven feeling to them and they taste delightful.  They make you feel all warm and fuzzy on the inside because they really exude that “I was baked with love” glow.  It’s good old fashioned cupcake basics at its finest. 

The chocolate cake was fudgy with all sorts of warm cocoa goodness lurking throughout and the frosting was so soft.  The cake wasn’t so soft that the cupcake toppled over, but it wasn’t stiff and dense either and you could enjoy it the way it was meant to be enjoyed – in one piece in your hand (or in my case, with a dainty fork!) as you take bite after bite of fluffy goodness.  What was fantastic about it was how they compared to other buttercreams.  It didn’t leave a greasy film, it didn’t taste like a mouthtful of butetr, it wasn’t too sweet or bland, and the ratio between cake and frosting was perfect.      

Fluffy and soft like marshmallow cream

Happy 1st birthday to Hammersmith’s and happy cupcaking, cookie noshing, and scone nibbling for all the sweet tooths!  Next up tomorrow: Hammersmith and drinks!

*****

Hammersmith’s is located at 807 Gerrard St. East in Riverdale, at the corner of Gerrard and Logan Ave.  They are a brunch and lunch cafe open from Wednesday to Sunday (10am-3:30pm on Wednesdays, Thursdays, and Fridays, and 9:30am-4pm on Saturdays and Sundays), with a price fixe dinner currently available on Thursdays and Fridays for $35.  Currently, for the summer, they are also now open on Mondays from 10am-3pm!  They accept cash and debit only.

Good Food & Brunch Are Knocking at Your Door – Chicken Salad, Watercress, & Asparagus at Hammersmith’s, Part I

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All hail the brunch and lunch in the east end!  Riverdale and Leslieville round up some of the best brunch cafes in the city with the likes of Le Papillon on the the Park, Bonjour Brioche, Table 17, Lady Marmalade, and my latest brunch favourite, Hammersmith’s!  Located smack dab on the corner of Gerrard Street East and Logan Ave. and humbly referred to as Riverdale’s friendly neighbourhood corner brunch spot, Hammersmith’s boasts seasonal, farmhouse style food that is simaltaneously wholesome and simple, yet unique and deliciously complex. 

You’re probably wondering how I found out about Hammersmith’s in the first place.  I know many of you are accustomed to hearing me (or rather, reading me) say that my food discoveries were made during random walks around town or by random sightings on a streetcar.  Not this time.  Let it be known that even the most die-hard of foodies rely on some holy grail food bibles every once in awhile.

 

I found out about Hammersmith’s in one of my issues of Where magazine Toronto!  Yes, that’s right, a free tourist magazine made available at hotels, the Eaton Centre, and in Union Station.  I will always and forever see myself as a tourist in my own city because there is always something new to explore and learn about and food is at the top of this list.  Where magazine Toronto has been one of the best things in my life for over 2 years now and I digilently pick up my free monthly copy at the Eaton Centre at the beginning of every month to flip through throughout the month.  And once I read about Hammersmith’s within the magazine’s sea of restaurant listings, I knew it was only a matter of time before I made my way here.

One of the things I love about Hammersmith’s is their menu focus.  They have one blackboard menu for the season as oppsoed to pages upon pages of items that may or may not garner any interest on a regular basis.  It’s about quality here, not quantity and they keep it simple, fresh, and mouthwateringly delicious with their mix of meat and vegetarian dishes.  What you might find on the menu on any given day?  A duck plate (hello duck confit hash!), a smoked bacon omelette, a mushroom omelette, a braised beef and goat cheese sandwich, a smokey bacon sandwich with tomato and arugula, chicken sandwiches with different fixin’s and fillings, an asparagus plate, and plenty of fresh sides to go along with these mains including a scone plate, bacon hash, a watercress and green bean salad, and asparagus with miso and scallions.   

Their menu changes based on what’s in season and they build a menu that flows from one item to the next, in the sense that they utilize their ingredients in more than capacity and in more than one dish.  Nothing goes to waste and they find scrumptious ways of using “leftovers”, so to speak, and you’ll see what I mean later on in the post.

Open from Wednesday to Sunday (10am-3:30pm on Wednesdays, Thursdays, an Fridays, and 9:30am-4pm on Saturdays and Sundays), Hammersmith serves brunch and lunch all 5 days, with a new special $35 price fixe dinner promotion currently in place from 6pm-9pm on Thursdays and Fridays.  Prices for brunch mains range from $9-$13, with sides coming in at $5 each.  In addition to their farmhouse stye food, Hammersmith’s also serves up a mean, decadent selection of baked goods and sweets along with an entire blackboard menu full of drinks!  This Part I post is specifically focused on the food, but if you have a hankering for sweets and drinks, don’t fret because Part II and III will soothe those cravings with strawberry lemonade and cupcakes!

Back to the food though.  I knew right off the bat that I wanted to try both a main and a side and since I’m a huuuge lover of watercress and asparagus (can you tell by all the asparagus photos I post in the blog’s Facebook  farmers’ market photo gallery?), I went with the chicken salad and watercress sammy ($10) and the asparagus with miso and scallions ($5) will a cool glass of strawberry lemonade, which I’ll rave about tomorrow. 

Their sandwiches are served on a crusty baguette with an amazing side salad of mixed bitter greens and arugula and razor thin slices of radish, tossed in a mouthwatering olive oil dressing.  Their chicken salad is so moist and so fresh, and deliciously creamy without being soggy or laden with mayo.  The chicken breast was shredded and piled onto the baguette and topped with watercress and it’s moments like these where you just know you’re eating some of the best chicken out there.  Much like my experience at Delux with their achiote and lime chicken sandwich, I thought the chicken salad was pure fantastic.  Combined with the salad, I cleaned off my plate till it was shiny.

And the asparagus!  Oh my goodness.  Spears of crisp asparagus were bathed in miso butter and special hot sauce and it was unlike anything that I had ever had before.  The miso butter was savoury and toned down the slight bitterness of the asparagus while the special hot sauce gave every bite that amazing bit of kick.  And to really kick things up a notch, I was given a special little “extra” to go with my meal.  Rememeber how I said Hammersmith’s doesn’t waste anything and utilizes all their food and ingredients in different ways?  Well, when you make chicken salad without the skin, it has to go somewhere.  And that somewhere was on little plate.  That’s right, folks – crispy chicken skin partnered with dollops of hot sauce and spicy grainy mustard!  A little like peking duck only with crispy chicken skin.  Now THIS was different – and delightfully delicious!

I love it here so much and now that I’ve come here once, I’m determined to come back and eat my way through their blackboard menu, season after season.  Part II and III, we go sweet and fruity fresh with Hammersmith’s cupcakes and drinks!

*****

Hammersmith’s is located at 807 Gerrard St. East in Riverdale, at the corner of Gerrard and Logan Ave.  They are a brunch and lunch cafe open from Wednesday to Sunday (10am-3:30pm on Wednesdays, Thursdays, and Fridays, and 9:30am-4pm on Saturdays and Sundays), with a price fixe dinner currently available on Thursdays and Fridays for $35.  Currently, for the summer, they are also now open on Mondays from 10am-3pm!  They accept cash and debit only.