A Passion For Artistic Cuisine – Food Graffiti Art on Ossington Ave! The Ate by Ate Daily, Vol. 012

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DSCN2465Okay, so I’m going to preface this post by saying that nothing here is edible, but I HAD to show you all these photos I took yesterday during my morning out on the Ossington strip: AWESOME FOOD-THEMED GRAFFITI ART!!  I found this entire spread on Ossington just north of Foxley, I believe, and I went nuts with the camera.  Carrots!  Bananas!  Limes!  Chili peppers!  Considering what a food mecca the Ossington strip has become in the past few years (on my to-eat list: Fishbar!), the presence of the food graffiti art is rather appropriate!

For those of you who don’t know, I LOVE taking photos of graffiti art in the city.  Obviously I’m referring to the gorgeous stuff painted on the sides of buildings all over the city, not the vandalism form of it!  That I don’t support.  But the art?  Can’t get enough of it.  My boyfriend and I have been photographing these amazing works for over 5 years now and I’ve created quite a photo collection for myself, both on my computer and in a real photo album where I’ve chronicled a large portion of my shots.  I’ve even organized my photos by neighbourhood so I can remember where I took them and, up until yesterday, I didn’t even THINK to create a separate set of just food-related ones.  Duh, right?!  New project in the works!

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Being an artist myself, graffiti art ignites such a creative fire and passion in me and I really have my boyfriend to thank for fueling this passion in the beginning.  In addition to taking me to enjoy and photograph flowers on our first date, my boyfriend also took me to the side streets of both Queen West and Richmond to photograph all the graffiti art that was tucked away because he knew the art would make me so happy (quite the keeper, huh?).  I couldn’t believe my eyes.  So much colour, so much personality, so much talent.  I’ve actually seen graffiti artists up close and in person doing their thing with the spray cans a few times and it is so inspiring just to watch them.  It’s mesmerizing.  These are talented folks who are hired by building owners and/or the city to create these artistic masterpieces for everyone else to enjoy and to juice up the visual landscape of the city.  Seeing the focus and drive and artistic wittiness reflected in these works is a beautiful thing.

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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.

Havana Days, Havana Nights – Achiote & Lime Chicken Sandwiches & Cuban Crème Brûlée at Delux, Part II!

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Some foodie districts can only elude you for so long.  For me, Ossington Ave. was one of them.  I’ve walked around it, I’ve walked through it, but I’ve never eaten in one single cafe, bistro, or restaurant on it!  There are so many places on Ossington I’ve heard and read about (and even saw while strolling by several times), but I’ve never tried them.  Whether it was because of money, not being anywhere near the neighbourhood, or just being unsure of the hype and resisting the somewhat annoying “trendy” tag slapped on it, I’ve gone through my entire food journey without an Ossington meal.  All that has changed. 

After hearing and reading about the famed Ossington Ave. eating district for what feels like eternity, I finally made the plunge and went Cuban for lunch at Delux!  I’ve wanted to eat at Delux for a long, long time.  I was absolutely floored, though, when I looked up their menu online and discovered that they served Cuban lunch and brunch!  OH.MY.GOD.  All this time I thought they only served French fare for dinner (which, don’t get me wrong, they do); I had no idea they served lunch and Sunday brunch, much less CUBAN!

Coming to Delux was such a joy because to my recollection, I’ve never had anything Cuban in my life.  I was beyond excited.  I was in conniptions.  I planned this visit an entire two weeks prior, going over the menu and deciding what I wanted to try, and even showing up for lunch outside the restaurant half an hour early and then circling the neighbourhood in twitchy anticipation before they opened.  With the exception of going to Fresh, I’ve never shown up to any restaurant that early.  That’s how giddy I was about eating lunch here.

Delux, located at 92 Ossington Ave., serves up a mean Cuban inspired lunch menu Tuesday to Saturday, and a Cuban brunch menu on Sundays.  I know my post title says “Havana Days, Havana Nights” and I know the Havana Nights part doesn’t make the most sense considering Delux goes French in the evenings, but I thought Havana Nights sounded a lot sexier than Havana Days on its own, so humour me with that one.  Their Cuban inspired lunch menu hits all the marks in terms of selection: appetizers, salads, sides, sandwiches and mains, and desserts.  It’s well-rounded, it fits the bill for any and every type of appetite, and there are vegetarian options for those who go meatless.  

The menu, while Cuban inspired, has a number of Caribbean, Mexican, and South American flavours and influences within it.  Menu items include conch fritters (a type of shellfish and dish typically found in the Bahamas), empanadas, jicama salad with cucumbers, radishes, and apples, fried green plantains, roast pork with rice and beans, the famous Cuban sandwich, and so much more.  Their prices, ranging from $6-$15 for appetizers, salads, and mains, and $3 for sides, are incredibly reasonable and I’d even say more reasonable than many other places around the neighbourhood and city. 

I’ll be honest with you, I’ve always thought of Delux as one of those places in the city that was fancy and inaccessible to me, a place I’d only be able to go to when I truly had the money to splurge.  I was so wrong.  While it’s true that I based this judgment on incomplete knowledge, it was a still a misguided perception nonetheless.  And I am SO happy that I was proven wrong.  Delux is as accessible as they come.  I didn’t feel like I was eating in a place that oozed pretentiousness, or that I was dealing with that pesky “trendy” label at all.  It felt like a place that I could come back to again and again for the amazing food and reasonable lunch prices.

I had myself some guava juice ($2), their achiote and lime chicken sandwich with avocado, tomato, and aioli on fresh bread ($9), and for dessert, their Cuban crème brûlée ($4).  First off, let me mention the service.  I know this is an aspect that I don’t talk about at all on the Ate by Ate and it’s because if a place was truly bad, I simply don’t write about it at all.  So you know by default that the service is fine (to me, let’s be clear about that) if it shows up on the blog.  Thus, my mentioning it at all means something special.  The service is awesome.  So friendly and so FAST.  I wasn’t waiting around for my food at all and I was actually taken aback by how fast my food came to me.  I don’t mean 5 seconds after the nice waitress took my order, but definitely quick enough for me to notice! 

Second, let’s talk about the marinade of the meat: achiote.  I have never had this in life.  Prior to seeing Delux’s menu, I had never heard of it in my life.  Achiote, commonly used in Latin Americna, Mexican, and Filipino cuisine, is created by grinding the seeds of the inedible annatto plant/fruit and transforming it into a powder and/or paste with other spices and herbs.  From there, it is either used as a dry rub for meat or combined with liquid to form a marinade. 

In this case, it was used as a marinade for the chicken and it was out of this world.  I will even be so bold as to say that you have not eaten chicken until you have eaten this sandwich!  The flavour had depth, warmth, a bit of kick, a bit of tang, and a hint of smokiness.  It was like the much awesome sister of BBQ sauce (sorry, BBQ sauce, but you lose this contest hands down).

This sandwich was all sorts of amazing.  Amazing doesn’t even do it justice.  The bread was as soft as you can imagine with delicious crust and surprisingly sturdy!  This sandwich was stuffed to nines with fresh chicken chunks, thick wedges of avocado, tomato, and one very amazing herb aioli spread, and the bread didn’t give or fall apart.  It was able to contain everything and boy was everything delicious.  One of the BEST sandwiches EVER.

And the crème brûlée!  I would seriously come back to Delux JUST for the Cuban crème brûlée.  The flavours were like a punch in the mouth, but a happy, dizzying good way with a bold coffee, espresso flavour and sweet, creamy caramel undertones, wrapped in a rich custard whipped like mousse on the inside and a hard, crackled caramel shell on the outside.  Perfectly executed and bang on on what a crème brûlée should be.

I absolutely cannot wait to come back to Delux to try their other sandwiches, their conch fritters and empanadas, and definitely their Sunday brunch!  After realizing just how wonderful their food and menu are and how affordable their items are, I no longer have any apprehensions about those preconceived thoughts of Delux being out of my reach.  I am coming back and making myself right at home.  

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Delux is located at 92 Ossington Ave. at the corner of Ossington Ave. and Humbert St. between Dundas Street West to the north and Queen Street West to the south.  Delux serves both lunch and dinner from Tuesday-Saturday, and brunch and dinner on Sundays.  Lunch is served from 11:30am-3pm from Tuesday-Saturday, and dinner is served from 6pm from Tuesday-Sunday.  Click HERE to view their website, and HERE to follow them on Twitter @DeluxRestaurant

Havana Days, Havana Nights – Cuban Sandwiches and Sweets at Delux on Ossington, Photo Spotlight Part I

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My first foray into the Ossington foodie district!  Big write-up set for tomorrow.

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Delux is located at 92 Ossington Ave. at the corner of Ossington Ave. and Humbert St. between Dundas Street West to the north and Queen Street West to the south.  Delux serves both lunch and dinner from Tuesday-Saturday, and brunch and dinner on Sundays.  Lunch is served from 11:30am-3pm from Tuesday-Saturday, and dinner is served from 6pm from Tuesday-Sunday.  Click HERE to view their website, and HERE to follow them on Twitter @DeluxRestaurant