Corn Chips, Breakfast Potatoes, & Moroccan Flavour in a Tofu Scramble – Weekend Vegan Brunch at Disgraceland!

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Appearances can be deceiving.  There are some places that are decked out to the nines, but their food?  Nothing particularly special.  And then there are the diamonds in the rough.  The no frills, rough around the edges type of establishment with hidden gems and amazing food just waiting to be discovered.  The spots that completely take you by surprise in the best way possible because you’d never think, just by looking at them, that they would dish out such magnificent culinary brilliance.  And I have my dear friend, Wini, to thank for this latest scumptious epiphany!  With all the recent talk of the Vegetarian Food Festival going on at Harbourfront (this weekend y’all!) and the return of Veggielicious, it’s incredibly timely that I would make this post on vegan breakfast and weekend brunch today!  Yes, vegan brunch!  With veggie brekkie posts on Fresh, Table 17, Lady Marmalade, and Sadie’s Diner, it was due time to add another one to the mix.  And is this ever a fabulous one!  Make way for vegetarian and vegan brunch comfort food at Disgraceland in Bloorcourt Village!

Disgraceland is what I would describe as a dive bar.  If you didn’t see the booths from across the street, you would totally mistake the space for a motorcycle related shop.  I sure did.  And that’s if you see it at all.  It’s easy to miss because you just can’t tell from its exterior that’s a place to gorge on food!  And when you come up closer, all you really see is darkness.  Until it lights up at night according to Wini.  In short, Disgraceland would fit perfectly into Guy Fieri’s Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives in the dive category because they have the look (jukebox, games, bar, booze, booths, diner fare and comfort food!) and they have the food to prove it!  My friend Wini told me about Disgraceland after a great dinner out and I quickly looked them up and was delighted to find that they had the full monty of menus on their site.  Perfect!  I can daydream about what I want to eat when I eventually go!  And there was certainly plenty of options to consider including meat, vegetarian, and vegan dishes.  A triple threat of a weekend brunch and dinner spot!

 

Disgraceland’s weekend brunch serves up 11 different dishes with a copious amount of brunch sides to choose from!  Prices for mains range from $8-$11 (most coming in at $11), additional sides from $2-$4, and the tax already included in all the prices.  They also only accept cash, so keep that in mind if you plan on coming!  Disgraceland is SO PERFECT for groups of friends and family with different tastes, preferences, and diets.  Not only can you customize your meals with different proteins, you can substitute a number of the items for meat or meatless equivalents.  Win-win for everyone!  Meat lovers, vegetarians, and vegans can all dine here without feeling like they’re being left out, without feeling like they need to sacrifice, and without feeling like they need to order something they’re really not into just for the sake of having something meaty or meatless.  

Not only does their menu cater to different diets, it also caters to different sweet and savoury brunch cravings.  We have the savoury English breakfast ($11) with eggs, pork or vegan sausage, baked beans, fried tomato, sauteed mushrooms, potatoes, and toast; brekkie burrito ($11) with vegan and non-vegan cheese, proteins, beans, and veggies; eggs benny with strip or vegan bacon and hollandaise over poutine ($11); cinnamon French toas ($8); and a BLT bagel with sides ($9) in both meat and vegan forms!

Because I’m totally smitten with tofu scramble, I pounced on their tofu scramble dish ($9) complete with a scramble of tofu with peppers, onions, spices, black beans, and jalapenos served with crunchy corn chips, fruit, and a choice of breakfast potatoes or greens.  Ever since that fateful first tofu scramble at Sadie’s Diner last year, I’ve been completely devoted to scoping out every single last tofu brunch item in the city and I think I’ve done a pretty good job so far!  I’m itching to do a tofu brunch post for the Flavour Favourites series, but I’m going to hold off on doing one right now just because I really want to get in a few more dishes before I do a big comprehensive post for it. 

I love tofu and I always have, even as a kid.  Granted, the way I ate it as a child is vastly different from the way I eat it now.  Growing up, my mum would put tofu in our Chinese soup and she would cook it up soft with meat and vegetables.  Now I have tofu “deli” slices that I can slap on the grill, egg tofu that you slice in coins, grilled tofu wedges, tofu scramble, you name it.  I feel so super fortunate that my soy allergy only extends to milk; I’d be so sad if I couldn’t eat tofu anymore!

There was so much to love about the brunch here and about this dish.  You get your money’s worth on fantastic portions, there are so many ways to customize it just the way you like, and the food is just darn good.  I loved my tofu scramble because of it how different (and of course, delicious!) it was from other tofu scrambles.  Disgraceland’s was almost like a tofu stir-fry scramble with their tofu chunky and cubed with their sauteed vegetables chopped and diced and woven in throughout the entire dish.  The flavours were amazing.  Because of the cumin and spices, I felt like I was eating something straight out of a Moroccan place, it was so delicious.  It was unlike anything I had ever had before and it completely epitomized warmth and comfort.  This is definitely a yummy fall and winter type of dish, and combined with the scrumptious corn chips and chunk, starchy, foodgasmic breakfast potatoes, it’s a hearty meal that surprisingly doesn’t leave you feeling like you’re in food coma afterward! 

I’m so happy there’s another fantastic vegetarian and vegan brunch eatery in the city for me (and many others!) to go to and the great food here just proves that you don’t have look red-carpet ready to give a star performance.

*****

Disgraceland is located at 965 Bloor Street West in Bloorcourt Village, between Ossington Ave. and Dufferin St. just west of Delaware Ave.  They are open only for dinner and weekend brunch from Monday-Friday, 4pm-2am and Saturday-Sunday, 11am-2am.  CASH ONLY.  You can view their site HERE.

Sweet Summer Indulgences – Lemon Meringue Ice Cream & Birthday Cookie Sandwiches at Bakerbots, Part II!

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Power on…initiating dessert assembly…all sweet systems go.  Brace yourself because Bakerbots is set to invade and take over your heart and sweet tooth!  Cakes, pies, tarts, macarons, cupcakes, biscotti, cookies, ice cream, ice cream cookie sandwiches; THIS is the place to eat your weight in sugar!  I have wanted to make a Bakerbots post for so long but I wanted to wait until I had something a little more substantial than a bowl of burnt marshmallow ice cream to show you all!  I honestly don’t even remember how I found out about Bakerbots.  All I remember is, I found about this glorious dessert haven soon after it opened a little more than a year ago at the beginning of last summer and was living vicariously through my friend Wini who had already been there several times before I had even made my first visit! 

When Bakerbots first opened its bakery doors last year in 2011 in Bloorcourt Village on Delaware Ave., their hours were strictly weekends only and evening hours during the latter part of the week.  And given how my schedule at the time still followed a very regimented daytime weekday routine, I never got around to trying any of their amazing desserts until many months later.  Now that my schedule has done a complete 180 (weekdays are pretty much a write-off now!), I can skip on over to Bakerbots whenever I want and it feels amazing! 

There is so much to love about Bakerbots Baking: their selection, their quality of desserts, their aesthetic, and their niche.  First off, I think Bakerbots fills a much-needed void in our city.  We have cupcakeries.  We have ice cream parlours.  Heck, we even have some teahouses and dessert sit-down spots.  But aside from Wanda’s Pie in the Sky and Sweet Bliss Baking Company, there aren’t very many spots that offer this type of homemade, from-scratch selection. 

Sometimes you just feel like a slice of pie.  Or a piece of cake with some ice cream.  Sometimes you just want to go to a place where you know there’s going to be something to suit your every mood, your every craving.  A place where you don’t have to dine-in and have a server wait on you.  A place that has a little picnic table out front and a little bench and a table inside in case you do want to stay and enjoy your treat.  A place that’s sunny and bright and fun and happy.  And while they don’t focus on things like donuts or truffles, they cover such a wide spectrum of dessert you don’t even have the heart to care, not when the sweets are as good as theirs and not when the menu and selection are constantly evolving, keeping things fresh and interesting all the time.  

Bakerbots is the place to be if you want to throw caution to the wind and have yourself a dessert meal.  Have you ever blown off the usual savoury lunch or dinner in favour of a dessert meal?  You know, instead of having soup and sandwiches or pasta and veggies or meat and potatoes, you go out and opt for a nice big ice cream sundae or a plate of dessert crepes and waffles or a slice of cake with ice cream and treat it as your meal.  I have and it is always SO MUCH FUN when I do.  As much as I love the idea of it though, I don’t do it often.  I want to, but I just don’t because it’s just not healthy on a regular basis!  But when I do go for it maybe once or twice a year?  Bakerbots is what I would want at my beck and call. 

Their prices are reasonable (very typical for both small and large desserts, coming at around $1.50-$3 for smaller items like single giant cookies and cupcakes, and $3-$5 for larger items like their giant ice cream cookie sandwiches, cake and pie slices, and more), their portions are big (monstrous is the only word that is adequate enough to describe their ice cream cookie sandwiches), and there are so many different flavours of everything!

Their ice cream is courtesy of Ed’s Real Scoop and they rotate what they have on hand on a regular basis, based on the types of desserts they bake every day, seasonal flavours, and the types of flavours that mesh really well together.  The big ticket at Bakerbots is the giant ice cream cookie sandwiches ($4-$6 based on whether you get a half or a whole) and on their big menu chalkboard, they always list the ice cream flavours that are available for the day (espresso,dark chocolate, French mint, cinnamon, burnt marshmallow, raspberry, sweet cream, burnt toffee, and lemon meringue just to rattle off a handful!), the types of cookies that are figuratively in the cookie jar (The Evertything Birthday, ginger molasses, peanut butter, fudgy cocoa), and the pairings that the staff thinks would kick butt. 

  The great thing about the ice cream cookie sandwiches at Bakerbots is that you can either have a whole one or a half and you can also choose a staff-pick combination or go all out and combine whatever ice cream you want with whatever cookie you want!  I opted for a half (and no, I wasn’t being a dessert wimp – I was here after weekend brunch!) using an Everything Birthday cookie (nothing wrong with continuing the birthday festivities in my book!) with lemon meringue-a-tang ice cream!              

Holy mother of pearl.  I now know why everyone goes bat apeing crazy over Bakerbots’ ice cream cookie sandwiches; they are beyond huge and they are fantastic!  My half sandwich was the size of a brick, it was so super thick, and it was so, so yummy.  The lemon meringue ice cream is so fruity and citrusy and creamy with a hint of vanilla with lots of punchy lemon flavour and the Evertything Birthday is such a fun cookie.  It’s sweet like warm vanilla and it’s exactly what you would expect of an aweome chewy sugar cookie with sprinkles!

And the other amazing thing about the ice cream cookie sandwich?  It doesn’t melt into a goopy mess!  I mean, yes, it’s ice cream and it does melt eventually, but it’s made in such a way that it stays frozen for a good portion of time so that you can actually enjoy the body of it and the taste of cookie with ice cream without having to rush through it for fear of it melting all over the place.  The cookies, while chewy, are so nice and sturdy so you don’t have to worry about it crumbling or getting soggy because of the ice cream.  It’s remarkable!  And this is only the beginning, everyone.  I have a scrapbook layout all planned out for Bakerbots, I’m already looking forward to my next visit, and we’ll see how many different types of dessert I’ll have posted from here by the end of the year! 

*****

Bakerbots is located at 205 Delaware Ave by Ossington subway station, nearest major intersection being Bloor Street West and Ossington Ave. in Bloorcourt Village.  Bakerbots specializes in all things sweet with desserts and baked goods being churned out by the truckload!  They are part bakery, part design studio, part ice cream parlour, and full on dessert emporium!  Their hours of operation: Tuesday-Thursday, 6pm-10pm (ice cream treats only); Friday, 4pm-11pm; Saturday, 11am-11pm; Sunday, 11am-10pm.  You can visit their site HERE.

The Cupcakes, Cookies, & Cakes in the Hat – A Photo Spotlight on Dessert Oasis, Bakerbots, in Bloorcourt Village, Part I!

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*****

Bakerbots is located at 205 Delaware Ave by Ossington subway station, nearest major intersection being Bloor Street West and Ossington Ave. in Bloorcourt Village.  Bakerbots specializes in all things sweet with desserts and baked goods being churned out by the truckload!  They are part bakery, part design studio, part ice cream parlour, and full on dessert emporium!  Their hours of operation: Tuesday-Thursday, 6pm-10pm (ice cream treats only); Friday, 4pm-11pm; Saturday, 11am-11pm; Sunday, 11am-10pm.  You can visit their site HERE.  Part II full write-up post coming tomorrow!

Turkey Sandwiches, Scalloped Potatoes & Fish, and LOTS of Sweet Treats! Courense Bakery on Bloor Street West

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You know what’s better than a bakery that has cakes, donuts, pastries, tarts, mousse cups, cupcakes, and meringues?  A bakery that has cakes, donuts, pastries, tarts, mousse cups, cupcakes, meringues AND fresh baked bread, sandwiches, breakfast, pasta, hot food and plenty of space to sit and eat!  With Christmas decorations!  And a Christmas tree by the window!  Can you tell I’m excited?!  I absolutely lovelovelove bakeries that double as cafés and I happened across a fabulous one in Bloorcourt Village on Bloor Street West, sandwiched between Ossington and Dufferin just west of Dovercourt Rd. 

Courense Bakery is a pretty bakery that lights up from the inside out.  Its dark chocolate brown and frosted gold exterior beckons you inside like a homey Christmas gingerbread house and when I passed by it for the first time a week and a half ago, there was something warm, welcoming, and cozy about the way the lights from the inside shone through the front windows.  It felt like a place I could enjoy some hot cocoa in while inhaling the smell of warm bread and sugary spun desserts.

I had no idea Courense was a bakery and a sit down café!  I was so delighted when I walked in and saw all the tables and chairs to sit and eat on and I was even more delighted when my eyes landed on the trays and trays of beautiful white meringues with Christmas sprinkles!  The dessert and pastry display cases curved around in a J shape – like a candy cane – and carried everything from whole cakes, jelly roll cake slices, frosted cake slices, sweet puff pastries, vanilla cupcakes, donuts, tarts, meringues with Christmas sprinkles and chocolate sprinkles, custards, eclairs, cannolis, chocolate mousse, and more. 

It was so cute how some of the dessert were also decorated for Christmas.  The meringues and chocolate mousse had Christmas sprinkles and some of the pastries were coated in melted chocolate and/or powdered sugar with chocolate cigar biscuits and adorned with a little rainbow candy cane!  The dessert selection is AMAZING.  I can’t imagine anyone not being able to find something that strikes their fancy here!

Courense Bakery isn’t just a place to tickle your sweet teeth though.  They serve sandwiches, pasta, hot food, and breakfast!  Behind the display cases sits a wooden wall rack of fresh baked bread in the form of buns, kaisers, and giant loaves.  When you walk further into the bakery, closer to the back, you’ll find their selection of deli meat, cheeses, and hot food selections for the day.  Here’s the thing though: they don’t have a menu.  Which would probably confuse first-timers big time.  I’m here to the rescue though!  Once you figure out how their portions and pricing works the first time, you’re set for life. 

I know not having a menu with prices to look at might irritate some people (or at the very least cause a little confusion), but for me, it’s okay.  Of course I would prefer a menu to look at.  I can look over something slowly, consider my options, and order my food accordingly.  But the way I see it is that I have no qualms asking the nice girls who work here about the food and pricing.  I have vocal cords.  I am capable of asking questions to find out whatever information I want to find out.  It may not be the most ideal situation, but the food is great and I personally don’t mind because their food falls into 3 categories (sandwiches, hot food, and breakfast), making the situation manageable.  Some might counter back and say that one shouldn’t have to ask about food menu items and pricing and that’s fair.  I’m here to give you the good though, so this is just fair warning!

Courense Bakery serves sandwiches with their deli meats, lettuce, tomato, cheese, mayo, and mustard.  The flat price of a sandwich starts at $4 and lettuce and tomato are an extra $.50.  Their deli meats for sandwiches probably change on a regular basis depending on what they have on hand, but they have turkey, salami, and ham among others, and their selection of provolone and havarti cheese is delicious! 

Their hot food includes pasta, meats, and potato dishes and they serve them on large square plates fit for a hearty meal.  Each hot food plate entree comes in at $8.50 and you can mix and match your mains to fill your plate.  For example, you can have half a plate of pasta and half a plate of one of the other selections.  On this particular day, they had penne pasta with olives, feta cheese, red onions, tomatoes, and red pepper in olive oil dressing and herbs, roast beef in a marinara sauce, and a fabulous hot food dish of scalloped potatoes, tuna, flaky cod fish, and herbs.  I shared a plate of penne pasta and potatoes and fish with my mum and brother and shared a turkey sandwich with my mum while my brother enjoyed a whole turkey sandwich on his own.

The food is delicious.  We were especially over the moon with the scalloped potatoes and flaked tuna and cod!  I love scalloped potatoes and don’t eat them often enough so this was a scrumptious, shovel-the-food-off-the-plate-and-into-my-mouth treat!  The cod fish was white, meaty, soft, and flavourful and it was just all-around yumminess.  It was a warm meal that really packed a punch and it was great that we were given an ample portion of food on our plate.  I love potatoes and I love both flaky and meaty white fish so I was so excited to see a dish like this here! 

And their sandwiches?  SO.DARN.AWESOME!  Aside from grilled cheese, and vegetarian and cheese sandwiches, turkey sandwiches are my favourite.  You all know how much I love my turkey sandwiches from Raymerville Deli & Bakery and I’ve always tooted my horn that nothing would ever come close to those scrumptious sandwiches.  I think I’ve found an almost tie for my favourite turkey sandwich!  Courense Bakery uses this amazing soft-on-the-inside, crunchy-on-the-outside bread (I was enjoying my half of the turkey sandwich so much I forgot to ask what kind of bread they used!  I’ll remember to ask next time!) and the havarti cheese was deliciously rich and combined with the turkey breast deli meat, lettuce, tomato, mayo, and mustard (just the way I like it!), it was a heavenly sandwich.

I can’t report back on the breakfast because I didn’t have any, but I know they serve breakfast because I saw egg breakfasts being brought to some people’s tables!  Courense is a great bakery with a ton of sweet options at very reasonable prices (we picked up huge jelly roll cake slices for $1.65 each!), and I can’t wait to come back for the breakfast, another turkey sandwich, more hot food, and those chocolate mousses!

*****

Courense Bakery is located at 1014 Bloor Street West between Ossington Ave. and Dufferin St.  The bakery is located just one block west of Dovercourt Rd.  In addition to the dizzying array of desserts and fresh bread, they serve breakfast, coffee drinks, hot food, and deli sandwiches.

Sweet, Creamy Hazelnut, Skor Cream, and Cheesecake Gelato – Bang For Your Buck at Arte Gelato and Caffé

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I think I’ve finally found the answer to my indecisiveness when it comes to gelato!  I always have the hardest time choosing ice cream and gelato flavours and every time I go out for some, I either chid myself for being so wishy-washy over my choices or I whine to myself, “why can’t I just have 5 flavours and make myself a pretty little artist’s palette of gelato scoops??”  It’s the reason why I get so excited when I come across places that allow you to choose more than one flavour in a cup or cone. 

There’s almost always a catch though.  More often than not, the extra flavours will mean extra moolah and I find myself back at square one, limiting myself to just a few flavours so I don’t end up making my wallet weep.  If only there was a way to try a host of flavours while at the same time reeling in the total price.  I recently found that “way” and I couldn’t be happier!  Introducing Arte Gelato and Caffé on Bloor West!

Located in the heart of Bloorcourt Village on Bloor Street West at the corner of Delaware Rd., just east of Dovercourt, Arte Gelato is a beautiful, airy, spacious gelato café that serves panini sandwiches, waffles, and coffee drinks in addition to their colourful, delicious array of fresh gelato.  I know there are many gelato cafés in the city and I’m well aware I haven’t even chipped away an ounce of what’s out there, but I’m telling you, Arte Gelato is an absolute gem among the jewels and there are so many reasons why I love it here. 

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A Mexican Food and Grocery Emporium! Zucchini & Veggie Tacos and the Roasted Taste of Corn at La Tortilleria Market

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I had no idea what I was walking into when I pulled open the door to La Tortilleria.  I should have though.  The storefront clearly said La Tortilleria Market with the words, “convenience” and “Mexican products” right underneath, alongside “fresh tortillas daily”.  I think I was so excited about trying a place I had wanted to try for ages that all logic escaped through my head and into the chilly air.  That and because I was so ready for lunch, I was hungry!

Anyway, I should have had an inkling as to the type of establishment I was about to step into, but it didn’t register at the time.  All I knew I was that I was excited about having Mexican food for lunch and that I would most likely be faced with the hard decision of deciding between quesadillas, tacos, and possibly burritos.  All thoughts of what to feed my hungry stomach momentarily seized though after I stepped inside.  I was expecting giant menu boards, some tables and chairs to sit and eat, and mouthwatering photos of food to entice the Mexican lover in me.  I got much more than I expected.

I had walked right into a Mexican food and grocery emporium!  OH.MY.GOD.  I actually said that out loud as I entered through the swinging entrance barricade.  Sigh.  How graceful of me.  I was in awe though.  I had never been to a Mexican grocery store before!  Chinese supermarkets?  Since the day I was born.  Polish mini market?  Just this past late summer.  I’ve even been to a Filipino grocery mart.  But a Mexican grocery store?  Oh, this was divine.  La Tortilleria is not only a sit-down spot to nosh on Mexican comfort food hot off the press, but the Bloor & Dufferin location is also a Mexican supermarket with everything from Mexican corn chips and tortillas to pantry staples to bulk spices to traditional Mexican pastries and baked goods.

The grocery mart is divided into different aisles and sections and each aisle and section is devoted to a specific type of food.  La Tortilleria has shelves of canned and dry pantry items such as chipotle, jalapeno, and serrano peppers, refried beans, hot sauces, cornmeal and maize, tamale and masa flour, Mexican chocolate mixes and coffee, churro mix, dips, condiments, and many others.  The grocery market also has a bulk section with spices as well as a grab n’ go sweets section with Mexican pastries, cookies, and churros.  Amidst all the Mexican grocery goodness is the hot food counter where you can order La Tortilleria’s hot and fresh corn tacos and tortillas to-go or to enjoy at the sit-down seating area.  Menu items range from $6-$10 and aside from the tortilla bundles, all the menu items are meals, meaning they’re meant to be eaten as a full meal or as sharing plates.  You won’t find single tacos here!  Go big or go home.

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