Confessions of a Brunch Obsessed Foodie – From Ossington to Bloor West Village: West End Brunch Picks!

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Introducing west end brunch picks!

Maybe it’s the late night munchie cravings talking, but I could really go for some good old fashioned bacon and eggs.  It’s after 10pm on my side of the pond though so I really don’t think it’d be a good idea to haul out the frying pan to soothe that craving right now, so the next best thing?  Counting down another 5 weekend brunch spots on my brunch club hit list!  Lately, and even throughout the summer, I’ve been focusing more heavily on the east end with posts on Joy Bistro and The Commissary in Leslieville, Simple Bistro on Mount Pleasant, and Hammersmith’s in Riverdale, and I realized that I really owe the west end some more love!  From Ossington Village to The Junction, here are 5 eateries I can’t wait to eventually get to!

The Beet Organic Cafe – located at 2945 Dundas Street West, west of Keele St. and east of Pacific Ave. at the corner of Medland St. in The Junction.  One of these days, I will follow through on my plan to go to The Beet after a farmers’ market trek to the Junction Market on a Saturday morning!  It’s only a matter of time.  My first brush with The Beet was when I made my unforgettable first trip to Bunner’s Bake Shop down the road during last year’s Veggielicious.  It was then that I realized what a goldmine of a foodie district I was in – an organic, raw, vegetarian, and vegan one in particular!  I never did get around to re-writing my Junction Foodie District post that got sucked into the internet black hole, but I’m totally committed to doing more food things in the neighbourhood and one of them is brunch at The Beet!

A foodie fixture in The Junction

With a focus and commitment to using as many local, Canadian, seasonal, and organic ingredients, The Beet’s menu has items for both carnivores and veggies alike.  My picks: the Huevos Rancheros ($12) starring two baked eggs with Quebec cheddar, sweet potato mash, sour cream, pico de gallo, and avocado, all on an Ontario corn tortilla; Farmer’s Harvest Salad ($7 sm., $10 lrg.) featuring green and red leaf lettuce, Chef’s selection of seasonal veggies, pumpkin seeds, and a choice of dressing; and the Buenos Dias Wrap ($13, wheat and gluten-free!) stuffed with avocado, spicy black bean spread, quinoa, pico de gallo, and raw Quebec cheddar.  Oh!  And we can’t forget their truckload of fresh fruit, nut, and milk smoothie  options as well!      

Cuban & Latin American Sunday morning munchies await you!

Delux – located at 92 Ossington Ave., between Queen and Dundas Street West.  Name 3 spots in the ciy, off the top of your headd, where you can get Central, South, and/or Latin American-inspired brunch and lunch.  Having a hard time, right?  We can easily tick off our options for vegetarian, Italian, and traditional greasy spoon, but South, Central, and Latin American morning meal options are a little harder to come by.  Which is why Delux is extra special!  I thought their lunch menu during my first visit back in the spring was amazing, with their thick-as-bricks delicious sandwiches and gobsmackingly good coffee crème brûlée, but when I found out they offered Sunday Cuban brunch, I think I stared at my computer in awe and wonder with my mouth gaping open for a good few minutes. 

Their Sunday brunch menu embodies warmth, heartiness, and comfort food with no shortage of sweet and savoury Cuban and South American flavour!  My picks: the dulce de leche smothered French toast with bananas, chantilly cream and maple syrup ($10), the big Cuban breakfast featuring roast pork, poached eggs, rice and beans, tostones (crispy fried plantains), and salad ($14), and the duck confit picadillo ($12) (Cuban style ground beef and veggies) hash with sunnyside up eggs and tostones!

Good morning, guava!

The Good Fork Brunch & Bistro – located at 2432 Bloor Street West and Jane St. in Bloor West Village.  Oh gosh, The Good Fork is the quintessential brunch and breakfast diner with an honest-to-goodness menu to die for!  I urge everyone to go.  I know I haven’t been yet and I’m basing this urgency on, well, nothing really, but seriously, I just have the most fantastical feeling about this place and I cannot wait to go!  C’mon, they have red velvet pancakes.  YES, THAT’S RIGHT.  Red velvet paaaaancakes.  I may not be the biggest fan of red velvet (don’t throw things at me now), but heck, even I know that a dish like that will get people to come in droves.  My picks: the Deep Green Benny ($11.25) boasting fried green tomatoes and cilantro; Lemon Cheese Pancakes ($9.75) bursting with lemon ricotta and blueberry compote; Baleek Omelette ($10) made with bacon and leeks; Bruleed Pound Cake French Toast with Orange Butter ($10.75) – total self-explanatory in yum factor.

Mildred’s Temple Kitchen – located at 85 Hanna Ave. off of King Street West, east of Dufferin St. in Liberty Village.  I’ve read about Mildred’s Temple Kitchen.  I’ve heard about it.  I’ve drooled over its famous brunch menu offerings.  Doesn’t it just make sense then to just go and stuff my face?!  I think so.  Famed for her first born restaurant, Mildred Pierce, culinary expertise in both food and cookbook writing, and for her presence in the kitchen, chef Donna Dooher doles out the simple pleasures of brunch and dining in her scrumptious menu: the infamous fluffy blueberry buttermilk pancakes ($13.50); Mildred’s poached eggs on a flakey croissant with either smoked salmon or rosemary bacon smothered in béarnaise sauce with mixed greens; Mildred’s sourdough grilled cheese with pickles and tomato relish ($12); and Green Eggs and Ham!

There are plenty of other brunch spots on my hit list, but these are the ones I wanted to showcase in particular today and if all goes well this weekend with the weather, I just might hit one of them up.

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Spinach Eggs Benny, Fresh Fruit, & a ‘Sour Cream n’ Onion’ Hollandaise! Breakfast at Gayley’s Cafe

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Up, down, left, right, and all around – it was a day to explore part of the west end with good eats, a great market, and plenty of new food discoveries!  I sat myself down to a nice, quiet meal at Gayley’s Cafe on the same day I skipped around Sorauren farmers’ market and the west end of Toronto.  I walked and walked and walked till I pooped out at the library on Roncesvalles.  And then I walked some more. 

But before we give Roncy and the rest of the west end some more love (and trust me, it’s coming!), we’re going to start with a fab breakfast at Gayley’s!  My last visit to this great brunch and lunch cafe was about a year ago and I promised myself I would come back and have a hack at their breakfast menu, chock full of eggs benny dishes, waffles with apple compote, chocolate chip pancakes, and good old fashioned home fries and bacon.  Much like their lunch menu, their breakfasts are all priced around$5-$10 with many different choices to suit both savoury and sweet appetites. 

There were so many things I loved about this particular visit.  For starters, I realized right off the bat that the artwork on the walls had changed.  Instead of the colourful, vibrant paintings of whimsical flowers and fairy-like female portraits, there were beautiful photographs of the Azores islands in the North Atlantic ocean!  They switch up their artwork and I love how they remain committed to giving Canadian and local artists exposure doing this, and how it gives the cafe a sense of freshness and newness and a bit of a different vibe each time.

Next, Gayley’s is so thoughtful when it comes to their food.  I was in the mood for some spinach eggs benny so I ordered their eggs benedict florentine and I was completely taken aback when the nice gentleman who took my order asked me if I wanted my poached eggs well-done, medium, or runny.  OH.MY.GOD.  I have had eggs benny on a number of occasions and I have NEVER, EVER been asked that!  I was floored.  I happily told him I wanted them medium (I looove my eggs a little runny) and I was met with even more jubilance when I asked him if I could have a side of fresh fruit instead of home fries or salad. 

I really wanted some fruit with my breakfast so I asked if it would be okay to substitute (yes, for an additional $1 which I was more than fine with) and since I knew the fruit salad would most likely contain something I was allergic to, I asked him what types of fruit were included in it and he was so nice about listing them and ticking them off his fingers one by one.  After making sure it would also be okay to only have cantaloupe, strawberries, and other berries (and not honeydew, pineapple, and pears), the meal actually became even more fantastic!

My plate of beautiful eggs benedict florentine covered in hollandaise with fresh cut fruit on the side came to me with two delicate poached eggs on a bed of baby spinach and crunchy English muffins.  It was so pretty!  My plate looked like a happy rainbow and that, in turn, made me even happier.  I was told that none of my fruit had come into contact with anything I said I was allergic to (how thoughtful, careful, and sweet!) and after that, I dug in!  HOLY MOTHER OF PEARL!  Ladies and gents, you must go to Gayley’s for eggs benny.  Actually, forget that, just come for food!  Aside from the fact that their English muffins are crunchy as opposed to soggy (big turn-off) and their poached eggs are perfect, their hollandaise sauce is to die for! 

I can’t even wrap my head around how insanely delicious, scrumptious, and mouthwatering their hollandaise is.  It smelled divine straight off the plate but having it envelope your tastebuds is a completely different experience.  Their hollandaise tastes like Ruffles sour cream and onion potato chips!!!  Yes, that deserves three exclamation points – and then some!  Just think back to those childhood days when you would chomp on those sour cream and onion chips everyone loved so much, grabbing every last tiny crumb from the bottom of the bag and licking your fingers for that last bit of yumminess.  Okay, so that might be a little gross, but we all know we did it and maybe some of us still do!  I have never had hollandaise that tasted like this and it was so, so good.           

It’s a shame I’ve been missing out on their breakast all this time but I’m glad I finally made my way back here.  I am definitly looking forward to trying their waffles with apple compote (I’m not allergic to preserves, hurray!) as well as some of their other items.  Gayley’s is both dine-in and take-out and with its laid-back atmosphere, its a wonderful cafe in the west end for those lazy mornings and quiet togethers surrounded by nice people and great food.  

*****

Gayley’s Cafe is located at 1424 Dundas St. West, east of Dufferin St. off Gladstone Ave.  They serve all-day breakfast as well as lunch with a number of meat and vegetarian sandwiches, soups, baked goods, and coffee drinks.

The Vegetarian Sandwich Series: Thirteen Veggie Sandwich Choices at Gayley’s Cafe on Dundas Street West

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As promised, here’s the list of vegetarian sandwiches available at Gayley’s Cafe on Dundas Street West!  Like I mentioned yesterday, their sandwiches are served on your choice of calabrese, rye, pita, multigrain, or white bread.  These items are taken straight from the menu which I photographed for my own reference.  They don’t have a website and their menu isn’t accessible online for the time being, so I hope this helps!

  1. Avocado, cucumber, roasted peppers, alfalfa sprouts
  2. Avocado, roasted peppers, alfalfa sprouts
  3. Avocado, melted cheese, sautéed mushrooms
  4. Roasted zucchini, cheese, sundried tomatoes
  5. Avocado, sundried tomatoes, roasted peppers, lettuce
  6. Grilled zucchini, cheese, sundried tomatoes, alfalfa sprouts
  7. Grilled zucchini, cheese, olives, alfalfa sprouts
  8. Roasted peppers, cheese, tomatoes, alfalfa sprouts
  9. Cucumber, cream cheese, sundried tomatoes, alfalfa sprouts
  10. Lettuce, tomatoes, cheese
  11. Hummus, red peppers, alfalfa sprouts
  12. Grilled cheese
  13. Fried egg sandwich

*****

Gayley’s Cafe is located at 1424 Dundas St. West, east of Dufferin St. off Gladstone Ave.  They serve all-day breakfast as well as a number of meat sandwiches and coffee drinks.  The next time I go, I’ll jot down their breakfast dishes, well as their other non-sandwich meals!

The Vegetarian Sandwich Series: Crunchy Calabrese & Veggie Sandwiches at Gayley’s Cafe on Dundas West

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Some of the best discoveries are purely accidental.  Remember that ridiculously long walk I took on Dundas Street West back in April?  The one I took because I was curious and feeling ambitious?  And remember how I said I made a bunch of really great foodie discoveries along the way?  Well, Gayley’s Cafe was one of them!  Thinking back to that long walk I took on that gray, overcast, chilly day, I’m amused.  I remember wearing my knit hat, a scarf, and my fuzzy mulberry purple winter coat and little flurries floating around when I left downtown to go back home.  And when I actually came back to Gayley’s for a meal a month and half later?  I was hot and sweaty in the blazing sun *chuckles* That’s the passing of time for you!

Located east of Dufferin St. near Gladstone Ave. on Dundas Street West, Gayley’s is a beautiful, homey breakfast, brunch, and lunch cafe with enough sandwiches to last us all a lifetime!  Gayley’s is gorgeous with an air of lightness and sunnyness.  It grabbed my attention with its exterior of pale yellow and cornflower blue, and it delighed me with its interior of neutral colour bricks and colourful, whimsical paintings and artwork.  The brick walls are studded with the work of local artists that are actually for sale, and all I could think of was, “what I would give for such beautiful artwork!”  Not only is Gayley’s a feast for the tummy, but it’s a feast for the eyes.

Gayley’s menu speciality is their sandwiches.  And if you’re looking for vegetarian options, boy do they ever have a list!  I’ll write out a list of all their vegetarian sandwiches soon, but a quick count from their menu shows 13 vegetarian sandwich options.  Most of their vegetarian sandwiches have a combination of vegetables such as roasted peppers, roasted zucchini, avocado, alfalfa, olives, cheese, sundried tomatoes, mushrooms, and spreads such as cream cheese and hummus.  There’s also grilled cheese and a fried egg sandwich too. 

Their sandwiches are served on your choice of calabrese, rye, pita, multi-grain, or white bread and all come with a side green salad with vinegar dressing.  It took me forever and a half to narrow down my choices because there were so many, but I finally decided on an avocado, melted cheese, and sautéed mushroom sandwich on crunchy calabrese bread.  If you ask, they’ll put additional ingredients in your sandwich with an additional charge, so I also added roasted red peppers to my sandwich for an extra dollar.  I can’t say for sure exactly what type of cheese was used, but it tasted like a combination of cheddar and jack cheese. 

I loved my sandwich.  It was HUGE!  The bread was nice and crusty and the best part of my sandwich was the way the melted cheese meshed with sautéed mushrooms and roasted peppers, while the avocado provided the sandwich with some fresh creaminess.  The avocado, although not the creamiest I’ve ever had in my life, was very good still and was sliced in cubes in my sandwich.  I also enjoyed my salad which was comprised of romaine lettuce, mixed greens, sliced carrots, and red cabbage.  If you’re not into vingear dressing though, tell them to hold it because they do dress their salad generously.  I don’t mind the vinegar dressing at all because my tastebuds like the slight sour tang to it.  It makes sense considering how I love salt n’ vinegar potato chips!

Even though I didn’t try their all-day breakfast, I did order a side of home fries with my sandwich.  I know, I eat like a horse, and no, I didn’t eat the whole dish of home fries!  I shared them with my boyfriend and we brought the rest to-go with us when we finished our meal.  Anyway, Gayley’s home fries are awesome!  Every place that serves breakfast has a different way of serving home fries; some places will do them beefsteak, potato wedge style (like Futures Bakery), while other places dice them into small cubes, or serve them like scalloped potatoes (coin home fries as I like to call them) among other ways. 

Gayley’s home fries are like half circle (or half moon) wedges of potato and gosh, are they ever good!  I really love my home fries in wedges like these, and they weren’t dry, overly starchy, or overly chewy.  They were delicious meaty potato home fries that I would order again in a heartbeat!

Prices here are well worth it.  Their vegetarian sandwiches are all around $5.95-$6.95 and I was so satisfied after my meal.  I haven’t had any of their breakfast dishes yet, but judging the plates I saw on others customers’ tables they are biiiig.  Their breakfast and lunch menus are together on the same menu, so if you want a sandwich on rye at 10am, you could totally go for it!  The only blip in their menu that I noticed was the very last vegetarian sandwich listing which was, well, not vegetarian, but hey, one minor mistake at the end of the menu isn’t too big of a deal for a place that has over 30 sandwich options.  It’s a bright sunny cafe with a ton of options for both carnivores and vegetarians alike, so I would definitely recommend Gayley’s for those who loves sandwiches, and for those who adore breakfast, brunch, and lunch meals 😀

*****

Gayley’s Cafe is located at 1424 Dundas St. West, east of Dufferin St. off Gladstone Ave. 

Scrapbooking materials used: pale yellow and blue cardstock (Recollections); patterned paper (Green Tea stack by DCWV); bright blue alphabet stickers (Recollections); adhesive flower embellishments (Posies by Autumn Leaves, Creativity Inc.); paper corner rounder (ek success); black felt tip Sharpie marker.

OMG, They’re So Fudgy! Chocolate Vegan Cupcakes at OMG Baked Goodness

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I miss the café at Blue Banana in Kensington Market.  A lot.  When I found out that they packed up their adorable café with some of my favourite chocolate vegan cupcakes, I was crushed.  They had big, soft, moist, and densely chocolatey vegan cupcakes that had thick, amazing frosting in fun colours and edible pearls and sugar crystals.  Not only that, they had carrot cake cupcakes, brownies, giant cookies, and other goodies like Turkish Delight and chocolate covered pretzels.  It was cute and fun and I looked up at the food gods and silently thought, “you are so mean.” 

Thankfully, all of us who adored those cupcakes don’t need to fret because they’re not entirely gone.  Gone from Blue Banana, yes, but not gone from the city.  For those who weren’t aware, Blue Banana’s yummy vegan cupcakes were supplied by the cute and flashy OMG Baked Goodness Ltd. on Dundas Street West and they’re very much alive and kickin’ (and currently supplying to a number of cafés and retailers all over the Toronto) near the intersection of Dundas West and Dufferin St.  I have been meaning to go to OMG for ages, ever since I learned that Blue Banana’s cupcakes came from here.  A cupcake munchie like myself has to visit the mothership, right? 😀  I was so excited to continue my own little personal cupcake tour by coming here because really, the visit was long overdue!

OMG Baked Goodness is beautiful.  If you love pink and colourful brights, it’s it a feast for your eyes.  If you love fluffy cupcakes with frostings in every colour of the rainbow, it will make your cupcake-loving heart swoon.  And if you’re gaga over photo ops, well…be prepared for a few finger spasms!  They have a giant cupcake graffiti painting on their wall!  It makes my heart happy.  OMG isn’t just your resident vegan cupcakery though.  Aside from cupcakes, they bake babycakes (which resemble very large muffins with big tops), brownies (cream cheese ones and walnut ones to name a few), cookies, and savoury eats such as mini quiche pies, spinach and feta turnovers, roasted vegetable turnovers, and stuffed focaccia among many others.  Prices range from $3.25-$4.00 for savoury food items, around $2.15 for babycakes, and $2.75 for brownies. 

 

OMG is totally on the ball with having their baked goods ready to go when they open for business, and even before they actually open!  After getting off the Dundas West streetcar and walking over from College St. (construction in the city = route detours, not to fret), I saw the lights were on and the girls baking inside and got confused because I could have sworn I had arrived there earlier than 10am.  And I did, but there it was with its “Open” sign beckoning me to come in and the nice girls ready to serve me.  Sweet!

Now, I may not be able to describe or comment on any of their baked goods aside from the vegan cupcakes, but give me a month and I’m sure that can be changed 😀  What I love about their chocolate vegan cupcakes is how moist and FUDGY they are.  Oh my goodness, THIS is what chocolate is supposed to taste like.  The chocolate cupcakes taste like fudgy brownies only in cupcake form.  I snatched up two regular-sized cupcakes ($2.75 each, which places them right in the middle price-wise compared to other cupcakeries in Toronto) and two minis with a smattering of rainbow sprinkles!  The minis come in at $1.50 each and the frostings are so cute and colourful.  There was no way in hell that I was going to give up mini cupcakes with rainbow SPRINKLES all over them.  I love sprinkles the way peanut butter loves jelly. 

The minis were awesome.  You know what they tasted like?  A cross between a moist chocolate cupcake and a sprinkled donut with frosted glaze!  Obviously the frosting wasn’t just a glaze, but you get what I mean.  I shoved them in my mouth and loved them dearly.  I do wish though that the frosting on the regular-sized cupcakes was a bit thicker just because it wasn’t as thick as the frosting I remember eating from the ones at Blue Banana.

These are solid, good chocolate vegan cupcakes though and the prices are very reasonable in comparison to other cupcakeries.  At the lower end price-wise, there are a handful of places that sell them for $2.50 (Sweet Escape Patisserie, For the Love of Cake) and $2.65 (The Cupcake Shoppe).  At mid-range we have Short & Sweet Cupcakes coming in at $2.90, Prairie Girl Bakery at $2.95, and of course, OMG Baked Goodness at $2.75.  Rounding out the higher end are Bunner’s Bake Shop ($3.25) and Lollicakes ($3.00).  Granted, there are MANY cupcakeries in Toronto that I haven’t listed here, but you get the idea.  I’m not vegan and I really enjoy their chocolate cupcakes.  When I try out some of their other goodies (I saw a babycake that looked like it has marshmallow in it OMG), I’ll be sure to share some more!  I hope you all like the photos and the scrap layout and if you’re wondering about those cupcakeries that I listed but didn’t link…well, let’s just say some more cupcake blog posts are in order in the near future 😉

*****

OMG Baked Goodness is located at 1561 Dundas Street West, west of Dufferin St. at the corner of Sheridan and Dundas West.  They are open from 10am-7pm Monday-Saturday and from 12pm-5pm on Sunday.  You can view their products on their website here.

Scrapbooking materials used: eggplant purple, lilac, dark pink, buttercup yellow, and mint green cardstock (Recollections, Choco-Mod Patterns by DCWV); pink, green, and brown patterned alphabet stickers (Choco-Mod Patterns by DCWV); “Lollipop” alphabet stickers (Autumn Leaves, Creativity Inc.); baking stickers (Sticko, Jolee’s Boutique); cake and cupcake adhesive embellishments (Michaels); medium scallop circle paper punch (ek success).     

Desserts & Sweet Treats – The Brazil Bakery & Pastry Ltd. Discovery on My Dundas West Trek

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It’s for this reason that I have my camera with me every day 😀  I never know what I’m going to come across on when I explore neighbourhoods I’ve never been to, so having my camera on me allows me to capture photos of delicious treats and to remind myself of places I absolutely have to revisit.  Three weeks ago I told you all about my insanely long Dundas West trek and this was just one of my foodie discoveries along the way: Brazil Bakery & Pastry Ltd. located at 1566 Dundas Street West at Sheridan Ave., just east of Dufferin St.  Considering that it boasts many European-style desserts, the name of the bakery and deli is a bit of a misnomer but still a delight and feast for the eyes and tummy!  I’m looking forward to going back sometime (and bringing my mum and brother with me, they’ll go nuts over the bread and pastries!) and when I do I’ll be sure to share more photos.  I have lots to do for the blog over the weekend including some new scrapbook pages as well as a new “Calendar of Events” feature that I’ll be introducing soon, so I hope you’ll enjoy these dessert photos in the meantime!

*****

Brazil Bakery & Pastry Ltd. is located at 1566 Dundas Street West, east of Dufferin St. on the south side of Dundas.  The bakery makes wedding cakes, desserts, pastries, and bread, and also boasts a café and deli.

Foodie Discoveries on Dundas West!

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Two weeks ago I told you all about my crazy long Dundas West trek from Bunner’s Bake Shop just west of Keele St. all the way back east to Spadina and Kensington Market!  I’m one ambitious little lady!  Along the way I made some fabulous foodie discoveries and with my trusty camera by my side, I captured several places of interest to show you all!  I’m really looking forward to exploring each little neighbourhood along Dundas West and coming back to these places to try out some of the food.  With vegan cupcakeries (OMG Baked Goodness), brunch restaurants (Lula), bakeries (Brazil Bakery & Pastries and She Takes the Cake), vegetarian eats (Cafe 668 and Greens Vegetarian), and everything in between,  I don’t think there’s ever going to be a moment where I think, “there’s nothing to do and there’s nothing to see”.  I am inspired every day and even though this trek tired out my little legs, it was mega fun and I’m SO glad I did it.  If any of you get to any one of these places before I do, let me know how you like them!  In the meantime, enjoy the photos.  It’s Friday tomorrow and the beginning of another whirlwind weekend of scrapbooking and of course, mum’s day!  See y’all tomorrow 😀