The Kind of School You Want to Go to – A Holiday Hashbrown Poutine Brunch at School Restaurant!

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I think everyone will agree that one of the best things about the holidays is/was getting a break from school.  These two beautiful, glorious weeks are like pure gold (unless of course you happen to have homework to do in which case the pure gold becomes more like a lump of coal.  Seriously, that’s just mean, but for the sake of keeping this happy, we’ll go for the homework-free holiday).  So what if I told you that there was a type of school that you’d actually want to attend during the holiday break?  One where you could educate yourself about delicious food and be surrounded by stacks of mouthwatering pancakes and French toast dripping in syrup, hot plates of eggs, bacon, and homefries with all the fixins’, and waffles outfitted with sweet and savoury accessories?  I probably wouldn’t need to twist your arm to haul your tooshie out of bed then, would I?  Because the only ‘school’ worth waking up to attend over the holidays just happens to be one of the city’s favourite breakfast/brunch spots, School Restaurant, located in Liberty Village!

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School Restaurant lives up to its name with their fun chalkboard diagrams (I could totally ace a test based on the anatomy of an ice cream sundae), their wall of clocks with all hands pointing to 3:30pm (quittin’ time!), bills slipped into little report card envelopes, and clipboard menus featuring fun menu items such as “teachers pet” basket of baked goodies, “headmaster omelette”, and “apple-a-day waffle”.  So not your average cafeteria garb.  If you love themed stuff, School is right up your alley.  And if you don’t care for it, you’ll love the food anyway, especially if you’re a breakfast and brunch fanatic like me!  I got the chance to eat from their special, limited time, “12 Days of Christmas” menu (which was available from December 13 – 24) last week and while I know you won’t find the same menu or exact items in their restaurant anymore, at least this gives you an idea of what the style is like and the type of food you can expect off of their regular menu.  And lucky for you guys, my item is actually available on the regular one!

What I love most about brunch places is their mix of sweet and savoury dishes.  While I usually err on the side of savoury, the sweet ones make me salivate just as much and I only wish I had found out about the special menu earlier, that way there might have been a chance of me squeezing in an extra trip.  But no matter, I enjoyed my incredibly delicious breakfast choice and I can still look forward to eating off their regular menu which boasts just as many scrumptious options: black ‘n’ blue flapjacks, $15 (pancake stack with black and blueberry sauce with brown sugar butter), krispy krunchy French toast, $15 (crunchy French toast coated in rice cereal with marmalade), roasted apple-a-day waffle ($15), cheddar-chive biscuits with honey butter ($7), and smoked salmon breakfast salad ($15).

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Their “12 Days of Christmas” limited edition menu featured lots of holiday cocktails and drinks such as mulled wine, bourbon eggnog, and winter rum punch as well as festive candy cane pancakes, eggnog waffles, gingerbread krispy krunch French toast, omelettes, buttermilk chicken and waffles, cheesy bacon French toast, and my dish: the joyeux noel hashbrown poutine!

Like I mentioned above, this is one of the dishes that is actually available on the regular weekend brunch menu as well so if you like what you see, you can enjoy this awesome deliciousness on Saturdays and Sundays too!  I LOVE LOVE LOVE the main components that make up this dish: hashbrowns/homefry potatoes, cheese/cheese curds, and a gorgeous sunny-side up egg.  These three things alone make me a happy camper so have them all together in one dish sitting atop a generous ladle of rosemary gravy (have I told you I freakin’ love gravy nobody’s business?!  Well, if I haven’t, now you know), with tons of yummy leeks, and a side of tomato jam makes it ultra fabulous.

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The potatoes were perfectly diced (not mushy or dry or undercooked) which made forking mouthfuls of potatoes, gravy, and gooey cheese super easy, the cheese was perfectly melted and stringy and delightful (I love me my cheese curds but it takes the fun out of eating them if they’re cold lumps, you know?), the egg was beautiful and runny, and – wait for it – the leeks were awesome.  I know.  You wouldn’t think the leeks would play such a starring role but they did.  They were sliced thick enough so that you could taste them and see them in the dish with no trouble but not so thick that they were awkward to eat.  I’ve had dishes in the past where the leeks just weren’t prominent enough and I love that they were prominent here.  In all honesty, it was such a nice surprise that the leeks weren’t treated like an afterthought and I thoroughly enjoyed them.  I could do without the tomato jam (it didn’t taste bad, tomato jam just isn’t my thing) but I understand why it’s there (a little acidity is needed to break up the flavours) and can appreciate its presence even if it’s not my cup of tea.

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This was my first time coming here and I’m really glad I had the chance to enjoy my food during the holidays as it definitely made the experience fun and festive.  Going to “school” is definitely that much more bearable when the assignments are this yummy and when a perfect attendance record is this easy to achieve.

*****

School Restaurant is located at 70 Fraser Ave. in Liberty Village, east of Dufferin St. and just south of King Street West off the King streetcar.  They are open 7 days a week for breakfast/weekend brunch and lunch from 9am-3pm.  You can follow them on Twitter @schoolresto.

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All Hail the Breakfast Hash! Mushroom Gravy & Fried Eggs – Weekend Brunch at The Gladstone Hotel on Queen/”Queer” Street West

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I was going to save this post for early July but given how I just watched Michael Symon and Daphne Oz make mouthwatering breakfast hashes on The Chew earlier today and how I’m totally smitten with the street name change of Queen Street West to Queer Street West in honour of World Pride and Pride Week here in the city, I decided I would post these photos today instead.  So, to celebrate amazing breakfast hashes and “Queer” Street West (gosh, this is never going to get old), I present to you all weekend brunch at the Gladstone Hotel!  This is Ate by Ate’s 2nd post on weekend brunch at the Gladstone (check out the 1st one HERE) and I’m hoping that I’ll get to post many more in the future because I’ve enjoyed both my experiences here so much.

The Gladstone Hotel’s weekend brunch menu (served on Saturdays and Sundays from 8am-4pm in the Gladstone Cafe) changes every so often with new and different dishes which is why both of my posts are unique from each other.  It’s totally worth it to go back for repeat visits.  Even if the menu was the same, I would still come back (if I love a place, one visit is never enough) but for those of you who enjoy the spice of life and love new things and variety, this fits right into your wheelhouse.  The great thing about the weekend brunch menu is that while the dishes might be different from menu to menu, the selection and variety is just as great because you’ll always have those egg breakfasts, sweet dishes, and savoury plates to choose from.  The menus don’t necessarily favour one brunch category over another so you won’t ever feel like you’re stuck eating only one type of dish.

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The current weekend brunch menu features yummies like the Lumberjack (eggs, bacon, potato hash and a short stack of pancakes, $15), the Queen (and egg white and caramelized onion frittata with arugula, cheddar and multi-grain bread, $12),  the Sweetie (bread pudding French toast served with caramelized apples, maple caramel drizzle, and bacon, $10), the El Completo (fried or scrambled eggs with tomato, onion, lime and feta black beans with chorizo sausage and corn tortillas or toast, $12), and Jerk Chicken Tacos (3 spicy pulled jerk chicken tacos served with mango chutney and crunchy sweet rice and black eyed pea fritters, $13; my boyfriend ordered this one and I sampled some of those fritters with the mango chutney and oh my gosh they are to die for) among others.

I was hemming and hawing between the Sweetie and the Hash ($11), a dish featuring a red-skinned potato and onion hash smothered with vegetarian mushroom gravy and topped with a beautiful fried egg.  In other words, weekend brunch sexiness.  Two entirely different, contrasting dishes vying for my undying love and attention.  Ultimately my savoury craving won out because 1) I am a potato freak, 2) I am also a fried egg freak, and 3) I am a gravy freak.  I was drooling even before my plate came.  THAT is how you get my weekend brunch motor running and THAT is how we get our freak on!

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This dish is truly the epitome of comfort food, brunch style because the crispiness of the hash and the savouriness of the mushroom gravy just takes it to another level.  The hash, which was shaped into a giant potato patty-like pancake, was fantastic because it maintained its texture in spite of it being covered with gravy and the gravy itself was possibly the best gravy I have ever had in my life.  It was thick and so ridiculously flavourful and the actual mushrooms served with it kept the consistency from getting congealed or gummy with its juices and it kept the flavour coming in spades so everything just worked.  The egg and arugula brightened up the dish visually and offered the tastebuds something a little different to latch onto throughout the meal so that the savouriness of the hash and gravy wouldn’t get too heavy or overwhelming, with the egg being a blank canvas so to speak to absorb some of those flavours and the arugula contributing its signature peppery bitterness to break up the saltiness.

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What made this brunch even more fabulous was my drink: tea!  The Cafe offers a bunch of different loose leaf teas from Tealish including their Coconut Chai, Lemon Meringue, and Toasty Almond among other black, green and rooibos tea varieties.  For whatever reason, I didn’t order a tea during my first visit to the Gladstone nearly two years ago so I decided to order one this time.  I went with the Blueberry Lagoon since I hadn’t tried that one yet and oh my gosh, I almost jumped out of my seat when my tea came: a teapot accompanied by an adorable china tea cup!  Ohmygodohmygodohmygod.  I was not expecting that.  I was expecting just a regular cup with my loose leaf in a filter or something.  I was completely taken aback by the cuteness of it all and it made my tea-loving self so incredibly excited and happy!  And the Blueberry Lagoon tea was delicious to boot so that made me even more happy.  I was on cloud nine; a new Tealish favourite to add to my tea scrapbook!

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The Gladstone Hotel Cafe is such a nice and relaxing place to have weekend brunch (or any meal for that matter) and I love that each experience offers something new and exciting, at least for me.  I just might have to make another return visit before the end of the summer to try that Sweetie dish and to be delighted once again by another delicious meal.

*****

The Gladstone Hotel is located at 1214 Queen Street West (or Queer Street West during Pride Week!).

 

I’ve Never Met a Potato I Didn’t Love! Potato Pancakes & Sour Cream at Futures Bakery & Cafe – The Ate by Ate Daily, Vol. 008

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DSCN2323Sunshine, a street-side table by an open window, and potatoes and sour cream – nothing like a yummy breakfast at Futures Bakery & Cafe to start a day off!  It just made sense coming here for breakfast given the plans I had for the day: staying on the Bloor-Danforth subway line, picking up a few scones at Cobs Bread in the Annex and just being out and about early in the morning.  It was so nice coming back and bring reminded of all the fun times I had here during grad school just hanging out with friends while we planned our conference at school (and eating pierogies while doing so), having breakfast with my mum and brother in the summer, and having lunch with my boyfriend during those crazy, agonizing days of thesis-writing.

I had been meaning to try Futures’ potato pancake breakfast ($6.95) for a long time now so I finally hunkered down, went back (aside from getting a few cake slices to go during the winter, it’s been a long time since I actually sat down for a real meal here), and ordered myself a plate: 3 big potato pancakes made with grated potatoes, carrots and plenty of herbs served with lots of tangy sour cream on the side!  I looove sour cream so of course I had a field day dolloping it onto my pancakes but truthfully, they taste fabulous all on their own.  They’re moist, savoury, herby and a scrumptious vegetarian option.  Next up on my to-eat list: blueberry crepes, the chicken salad sandwich, the pesto, mozzarella and tomato sandwich, and the knackwurst and sauerkraut!

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*****

Futures Bakery and Cafe is located at 483 Bloor St. West, in between the main intersections and subway stations of Spadina Ave. and Bathurst St.  It sits right at the corner of Bloor St. and Brunswick Ave. on the south side of Bloor.  They are open from 7:30am to 2am 7 days a week.

Rise & Shine to a Mexican Fiesta! Weekend Brunch in the Beaches at Xola

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Rise and shine to a Mexican fiesta!  If you’re looking for a weekend brunch spot to add to your list of foodie escapades, head to Xola in the Beaches.  Located in the east end of the city on Queen Street East, Xola is a fun and colourful cantina serving up delicious weekend brunch, lunch, and dinner options with Mexican flair and flavour.  Truth be told, I stumbled on Xola last summer during a day out in the Beaches neighbourhood but didn’t get around to eating here until I did an assignment for Eat In Eat Out magazine for their feature on Mexican restaurants earlier in the year but because I’ve been so on and off with blogging for the last little while I haven’t gotten the chance to post about them here on Ate by Ate until now.  Phew!  It’s actually not such a bad thing now that I think about it because the weather is beautiful now which makes Xola’s fun and fiery interior and menu pop that much more.  It screams summer more than it screams winter in January!  Before I dive right into divulging the yummy details of my first meal here though, let me rewind and talk a little bit about the assignment I took on that led me back to Xola in the first place.

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When I took on the assignment for Eat In Eat Out magazine knowing that it was for a feature on Mexican restaurants across Canada, I wanted to approach it in a non-traditional way.  I didn’t particularly want to choose any old Mexican restaurant in Toronto for lunch.  So I racked my brain for something different, something special.  The light blub came on and Xola came to mind.  I quickly searched through my photos from last summer for the photo I took of Xola’s menu taped to their front window, did a little digging online, and found out to my utter delight that they served weekend brunch on Saturdays!  Seeing as how Mexican weekend brunch is a pretty neat and unique thing in Toronto (it’s not like the city is crawling with places that serve it.  Not yet anyway), I knew it was the perfect place to write about.  And it totally and wholeheartedly was.

Xola is barely a year old but I’ve seen and heard folks talk about lineups out the door some nights!  Thankfully for me I was planning on having my meal during the day and arriving right when they opened at 12 noon so I wasn’t too fussed or worried about that.  I was much more interested in what I was going to stuff my face in.  Xola’s weekend brunch menu, served on Saturdays from 12pm-2pm, serves everything from burritos with slow braised beef and slow braised pork to fish tacos, omelettes with goat cheese, and THREE kinds of huevos rancheros with fresh corn tortillas, eggs, chorizo sausage, potatoes, different salsas, sour cream, fresco, and black beans among other dishes.  Prices range from $8-$15, making it an incredibly affordable weekend brunch spot.  NOTE: Xola accepts CASH ONLY.  They are a CASH ONLY establishment much like Lady Marmalade in Leslieville.

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When I think back to this meal and this visit, I smile because everything about Xola is just so fun and vibrant.  They have this gorgeous, colourful mural on one wall that I love to pieces and while the place is small, they more than make up for it in flair, food, and personality.  For weekend brunch that day I enjoyed a handful of yummy things: a cold and delicious glass of horchata ($3.50), a Mexican drink made with rice, milk and cinnamon; a ridiculously large dish of chilaquiles ($9): homemade tortilla chips covered in creamy red salsa, drizzled with sour cream and sprinkled queso fresco cheese; trio de gorditas ($8.95), my meal of corn masa patties topped with an assortment of refried beans, red salsa, and green salsa with sour cream and queso fresco cheese and served with guacamole and scrambled eggs; and last, but not least, a freshly made Mexican margarita!

I can honestly say that I enjoyed everything so much because they were all delicious in their own way and because all this food was so new to me, I was seeing it with fresh eyes and tasting it with fresh tastebuds.  The horchata drink was so unbelievably delicious.  It was like dessert in drink form.  It had just enough sweetness from the cinnamon and the milk and rice gave it substance while the ice kept it cold and refreshing throughout the meal.

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The chilaquiles?  Out of this freakin’ world.  This is like the appetizer to end all appetizers.  So messy but so fun!  The red salsa (which is the consistency of a sauce, not to be mistaken with the pico de gallo style of salsa) is thick and creamy and with the sour cream and queso fresco, there was savouriness, there was tanginess and of course there was fun and crunch from the tortilla chips.  My trio de gorditas dish makes my weekend brunch and breakfast-loving heart all warm and fuzzy because the inclusion of scrambled eggs just screams happy breakfast to me.  It makes me think of warm sun streaming in through windows, hot eggs coming out of sizzling pan, and enjoying that first meal of the day on those wonderful weekend mornings where the remainder of the day stretches out in front of you and the possibilities for loveliness are endless.

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And finally, the margarita!  I know, I know, I don’t drink!  But my server was so sweet and so gracious that the drink was on the house so I did what any good patron would do: I thanked her profusely and enjoyed it.  Not all of it because I’m such a lightweight when it comes to alcohol (drinking is honestly not my thing) but enough to know that heck, it was REALLY good!  The lime just made it so juicy and refreshing and for me, it helped to tame the strength of the tequila.  At the very least, you all know now that you can certainly raise a happy glass here!

So, if you’re looking to enjoy Mexican food in a fun and different way, Xola in the Beaches is just the ticket.  Happy Friday and early weekend, everyone!

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*****

Xola is located at 2222A Queen Street East in the Beaches neighbourhood in Toronto. Weekend brunch is served on Saturdays from 12pm to 2pm. Operating hours all other days: Monday (5pm-9pm), Tuesday (closed); Wednesday to Friday (12pm-3pm for lunch, 5pm-closing for dinner); Saturday (12pm-closing); Sunday (4pm-closing).  CASH ONLY.

A Quiet Morning of Apple Tea & Golden Brioche with Jam at Terroni Bar Centrale

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Sometimes it’s the tiny things that bring us the most joy.  A little over a month ago I decided to take a random vacation day off from work to be alone with my thoughts and to be out and about on my own.  I wanted to walk around, I wanted some fresh air and most of all, I wanted to eat yummy things and get a head start on my Christmas shopping!  Truthfully, I’ve really missed the days when I had the flexibility of being out during the week and not just on the weekends.  The pace and atmosphere is just different and it’s something I can appreciate more now that I’ve been a full-time working girl.  I have such great memories from my days in grad school just exploring the city during the week (and working my tail off every other moment!) and growing as a person.  I knew taking a day for myself would do me some good and in true Deb fashion, I had a super fun day planned out for myself: tea and breakfast at a cafe, walking, window shopping, lunch with a friend, and more walking and window shopping.

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I’m nothing if not prepared!  So prepared that I woke up at the exact same time I would have woken up had I gone to work.  My alarm woke me up at 5:30am, it was pitch black out and no, I am not a crazy banana.  Even though I mumble and grumble every morning when my dreaded alarm clock wakes me up, quiet, peaceful mornings in the city are moments I really cherish.  I love sitting back and relaxing with a magazine, a cozy pot of tea and a plate of  warm comfort food like bacon and eggs or fresh bread hot out of the oven.  Having quiet breakfast to myself just makes me happy and it makes me look forward to the rest of my day that much more because I know I’ve taken advantage of every possible moment.

I hopped on the bus, headed to the subway, got off at Summerhill station and skipped on over to Terroni Bar Centrale for some hot tea and sweet breakfast nibbles.  After going to Terroni for weekend brunch last fall, I remembered their menu well and knew that they had sweet breakfast options and of course, darling little pots of loose leaf tea.  After choosing a pot of their Torta Di Mele black tea with apple ($4) to start, I hemmed and hawwed over my food: did I want biscotti?  Or maybe the yogurt and granola parfait with fruit?  Or their special Pandolci, Scandinavian-style pancakes with Nutella and jam?!  After some careful thought, I chose the Brioche con Burro e Marmellata: housemade brioche with housemade jam ($6).

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Believe it or not, good ol’ fashioned toast and jam is a weakness of mine and truly one of my favourite things in the world.  It’s a total comfort thing.  Peanut butter and jelly sandwiches cut into quarters was my go-to lunch as a little kindergardener.  Toast and jam is the only thing I will touch when I’m not feeling well.  And there is nothing like the feeling of warm, crispy toasty golden bread crunching between your teeth with the sweet, fruitiness of jam or jelly lingering on your tastebuds.  It’s like a cozy hug from your favourite childhood teddy bear and I love it.  Terroni laid their golden slices of brioche on an adorable wooden platter with some butter and a VERY generous amount of jam!  It was warm and soft and buttery and oh so delicious.  Coupled with my pot of loose leaf tea, it made for the perfect way to start my day.  The wonderful thing about brioche is how it stands up to things like jam.  It doesn’t get soggy, it retains its shape and it has this lovely mix of thickness and lightness that just works.

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Mission quiet, peaceful, delicious morning to myself accomplished.

*****

Terroni Bar Central is located at 1095 Yonge Street on the corner of Price St. between Summerhill and Rosedale subway stations in midtown Toronto.  They’re open 7 days a week: 11:30am-10pm Sunday to Wednesday, 11:30am-11pm Thursday to Saturday.

“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.

A Power Breakfast of Eggs, Tomatoes, and Creamy Tahini! The Shakshouka at Aroma Espresso Bar

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I really have to hand it to my boyfriend for humouring me while I noshed on my warm, saucy, eggy, tomatoey Shakshouka power breakfast at Aroma Espresso Bar.  He didn’t make faces, he didn’t make gagging noises and he also didn’t make any sarcastic “I’m-so-disgusted” comments at me while I was enjoying my meal.  I know what you’re thinking.  “Look how pretty this dish is, why on earth would anyone make comments about it not tasting good?!  And why would it come from your significant other?!”  Because my boyfriend hates tomatoes.  HATES tomatoes.  With a fiery passion.  I have never met anyone who despises them as much as he does.  Sauce on pizza….hmm, okay.  Anything else he vehemently declines.

And he’s really on the fence about eggs.  Loves them boiled, hates them runny.  Doesn’t prefer them scrambled, would never order them poached, and is really only into the egg whites.  Sigh.  Sometimes it’s remarkable how our palates are polar opposites in some ways.  But we love each other, we’ve grown so much together and it’s our quirks and eccentricities that make us who we are as individuals and as a couple.  So I really appreciated how he didn’t ask me how I could eat THAT and concentrated on his own sandwich instead.  He’s my honey after all and he just shakes his head amusingly as I eat.

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This Tunisian and Israeli style breakfast is truly a breakfast of champions!  It really packs a protein punch with a ton of contrasting flavours and it’s quite a fun dish to eat.  Aroma’s Shakshouka, a dish of warm tomatoes and tomato sauce with 2 eggs, tahini sauce and a basket of baked-in-house bread, is part of their every day breakfast menu and it’s one of those dishes that warms you up from the inside out.  I know it seems a little odd to be talking about warm dishes in the summer,  but there are those days when it’s real chilly in the morning and you just want something a little on the heartier side for breakfast to get rid of those goosebumps.  Either that or you’re just freezing from the blasting air conditioning.  Either way, it’s a dish that fills you and it’s fun dunking the bread in the tomato sauce, poking the eggs so the yolks run, dipping the bread in the yolks (can you tell I love dipping my bread in egg yolks?), treating the tomato sauce as both a food and somewhat of a soup, and dabbing tahini sauce on everything as you eat.

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I have to say, the tahini sauce REALLY made the dish for me.  Sure, I love my eggs and the bread-dunking is fun, but there is just something so delicious about the creamy nuttiness of their tahini that is unlike any sauce I have ever had and it’s wonderful because it breaks up that acidicity from the tomatoes.  It completely changes the dish and grounds it, keeping it from being too savoury and too tomato heavy.  I mean, I know the dish is meant to be about the eggs and tomatoes, but I think it was a smart move to include the tahini because it prevents the tomatoes from being too overpowering.

And the bread!  So soft and yummy.  I chose their multigrain to accompany my breakfast (it comes with the dish but you get to choose what kind of bread you want when you order) and I was actually taken aback but how much of it there was.  I know it was technically 2 big slices cut in half to make 4, but goodness did it ever look like a mountain in my little basket!

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Over the last year I’ve become such a huge fan of Aroma Espresso Bar.  Several years ago I felt ambivalent about them and it was only because I always feel that way about chains.  Are you really in love with their food or are you only buying into the popularity, the hype?  Do they really deliver on quality and truthfully, is the food good?  And with chains it’s especially touch and go because we all know some locations just do a better job than others.  My mum feels that way about her coffee.  If she dislikes the cup she got, it’s not necessarily a reflection on the company but possibly on the person who made it (sorry!).

I love Aroma’s food and drinks more and more though and I’m finding it so much fun learning about different foods and different cuisines done Aroma style (a Bulgarian Bureka sandwich!  Spanish and Latin American alfajores cookies!  Turkish coffee!) and trying their salads and sandwiches.  I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE the smoked salmon sandwich (I just had a half sandwich of this yesterday for my afternoon snack.  Yes, that’s right, I have sandwiches for snacks when I’m super hungry!) and quinoa salad (there’s grilled eggplant in it, YUM!) and we already know I’m a fan of their hot chocolate.

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New locations are popping up all over the place so I’m hoping to add lots of new posts for sandwiches and breakfast and drinks!

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Aroma Espresso Bar is an Israeli espresso and coffee chain with over 100 locations worldwide.  There are 8 branches in and around Toronto, with shops in Thornhill and Vaughan.  Click here to view the list of Toronto and GTA locations.