Strawberry & Banana Bread French Toast and Hot Cheddar & Tomatoes – Brunch on the Patio at Joy Bistro in Leslieville!

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After a whirlwind of Swiss Chalet Fresh Impressions Tour fun and sneak peeks, Ate by Ate is back with good eats and brunch straight from the heart of Leslieville on Queen Street East!  We took a bit of a detour last week, but just to recap, we took a closer look at the Leslieville Cheese Market, a summer Sunday at Leslieville Farmers’ Market in August, and a foodie district post highlighting some of the great food and drink along the popular east end strip including Majesteas and the brand spankin’ new donut and chicken shop (I know, it still takes a bit of time to wrap your head around it, doesn’t it?), Pauline’s! 

Today, we celebrate weekend brunch out on the patio at Joy Bistro, located right across the street from Jimmie Simpson Park on Queen East!  Leslieville boasts so many great brunch and lunch spots and it was hard deciding where my next adventure was going to be.  I lucked out and managed to grab a great table at Lady Marmalade during a Monday morning last year (yes, there are line-ups out the door even on weekdays!), but aside from one of Leslieville’s most popular eateries, brunch in Leslieville was still pretty foreign to me.  So I did a little research, read up on some TO food literature, and after seeing a shot of their outdoor patio online, I was sold!

Joy Bistro is such a pretty dining spot and you actually don’t realize just how gorgeous it is until you stand directly in front of it from across the street on the south side of Queen.  It’s a beautiful building with an upper level and lots of flowers and hanging baskets everywhere and when you look at it dead on, you realize just how appropriate the space is for all sorts of dining occasions.  On the inside we have the bar and bistro area on the main floor, perfect for some drinks (you should have seen how quickly Joy’s bartender was whipping up those brunch Caesars!), small bites, and a meal by the window with a newspaper.  Then we have the open outdoor patio, perfect for a casual, easy breezy brunch and lunch with friends and family.  Finally, we have the pretty and romantic and ultra charming patio terrace with cushioned seats, flowers, a canopy, and strings of lights that light up the night.  When I realized just how cute and charming that particular dining area was, I vowed that I would come back for lunch and dinner, just so I could dine there and enjoy the atmosphere.  And you know, eat!

I made my first experience at Joy Bistro a weekend brunch one though and I had a great time pairing sweet and savoury together for a yummy and delicious meal!  The great thing about Joy is that their weekend brunch menu incorporates both their breakfast page and their lunch menu, so it fits the bill for parties that either feel more eggs and bacon-y or more salad and sandwich-y.  Their brunch menu was even more fab than I thought it would be though!  The menu they have posted online isn’t their most updated one and let me tell you, the real one is 10 times more awesome! 

 

Prices range from $8.50-$14.50 with most brunch meals coming in at around $9-$11, and some of highlights include their 3-egg omelette with goat cheese, mushrooms, spinach, and red peppers; coconut and oat granola yogurt with sesame, sunflower, and pumpkin seeds (I am over the moon with this one!); Eggs Norweigan (eggs benedict with smoked salmon and spinach); Eggs Willow Grove (eggs benedict with pulled pork – I know, wipe the drool off your chin); lemon ricotta pancakes (oh good god, I need this in my life), and my pick, banana bread French toast with berries and bananas!

After having such a fantastic banana bread French toast meal at The Gladstone Hotel, I thought, “why not give it a whirl and try every French toast brunch menu item there is in the city?  Especially banana bread ones!”  I’ve always wanted to try as many French toasts as possible, but ever since that Gladstone meal, I’ve been paying much more attention to spots with different styles and kinds because the banana bread one was so good.  Joy’s banana bread French toast ($9) is a dish comprised of 3 thick slices of sweet, ultra moist banana bread drizzle with maple syrup, dusted with icing sugar, and sprinkled with blueberries and slices of strawberry and banana.  I thought banana bread couldn’t be any softer, moister, or more flavourful than the ones made at Gladstone, but I was pleasantly surprised by how delicious Joy’s was.  Their French toast matched the Gladstone’s bite for bite and the maple syrup just intensified the flavour even more.  Part of me wishes the whole plate was covered in more fruit so I could have an even bigger field day with it, but the dish as a whole was delicious and so flavourful.

And sides!  We can’t forget sides.  I knew I wanted something savoury to balance out my sweet so I perused their list of brunch sides (priced from $1-$4 for yummies like peameal bacon, home fries, and bacon and sausage) and went with a side of sauteed tomatoes ($1.50) and a side of cheddar cheese ($1).  Holy mother of pearl was this ever GOOD!  The sides came separately on their own, but my intention was to totally sprinkle my aged white cheddar cheese over top my piping hot ramekin filled with the juiciest chopped tomatoes and have it melt over top and was it ever ridiculously foodgasmic!  Cheese and tomato go hand and hand, so if you’re looking for a great savoury side that packs a punch, try this one because it makes you feel all warm and fuzzy and wiggly over how good it is.

After finding out how great and diversified their menu is, I cannot wait to come back and try all the items I listed earlier in the post and to dine in their charming and romantic terrace.  Joy Bistro may not have the powerhouse line-ups out the door that Bonjour Brioche or Lady Marmalade have, but let me tell you, it’s a wonderful spot in Leslieville with so much to offer and I’m looking forward to showcasing as much as I can from here from here on out.          

*****

Joy Bistro is located at 884 Queen Street East in Leslieville, at the corner of Booth Ave. and Queen East across the street from Jimmie Simpson Park.  They serve weekend brunch, lunch, and dinner as well as plenty of drinks at the bar!  Hours of operation: Monday-Wednesday 11am-12am midnight, Thursday-Friday 11am-1am, Saturday 8am-1am, and Sunday 8am-12am midnight.

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Checking In For Weekend Brunch – Banana Bread French Toast, Mango, & Pecan Cream at The Gladstone Hotel!

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It’s Thursday today and we all know what that means: one day closer to the weekend!  I don’t know about everyone else, but I utilize my weekends and free time doing one of the following things: taking photos, attacking blog projects, going through recipes I want to try, planning the next scrapbook layout, and researching fabulous weekend brunch places in the city!  Oh, and going through and organizing my cargo ship of a lip gloss collection among other housekeeping.  But that’s a whole other story for another day! 

Today’s food delights take us to Parkdale on Queen Street West, specifically to the culturally and historically iconic Gladstone Hotel!  As the oldest operating hotel in Toronto, the Gladstone has gone through what any existing institution from the 1800s would go through: boom and bust, revival, reinvention, and resurgence.  Much like the Distillery District, the Gladstone was taken over and restored in the early 2000s, keeping its authentic, historial roots and essence intact, but modernizing the venue to appeal to a different demongraphic; namely, the artistically enriched Queen Street West district.  Much of Toronto’s history was rooted in the business of manufacturing and the Gladstone, being the oldest hotel in Toronto, catered to the working class during its historical heyday, housing railroad and manufacturing workers as well as those who came to Toronto to visit the CNE.           

Nowadays, the Gladstone is a hubbub of art and cultural activity, hosting galleries and events, great dining and music, and of course, hospitality.  The very first time I set foot in the Gladstone was over a year ago during Doors Open Toronto.  The museum and art lover in me was absolutely taken by the beautiful art and paintings as well as each uniquely designed, art and gallery inspired hotel room.  And don’t even get me started on how in awe I was over the manual operating elevator!  Beautiful art and history aside, I was totally smitten with the dining and the menus I pored over during that first visit.  Weekday breakfast, weekend brunch, daily lunch, dinner, and dessert, culinary tasting “tours”, a commitment to fair trade, and the love and support of a number of  local food producers – they do it all and weekend brunch was the first order of business on my list!  Gladstone loves food and it shows. 

Weekend brunch, held in the Gladstone Cafe, is served from 8am-4pm on Saturdays and Sundays with one of the best brunch menus I’ve seen yet.  Their menu, in my opinion, is so fresh and creative.  To me, it breathes new life into brunch as a meal.  We’re all accustomed to the eggs and bacon and pancakes, and while we love those mainstay options at times, I know there are so many people who think, “I want to be wowed”.  You want to feel excited, you want to feel inspired – the worst thing is looking at a menu feeling lackluster over what’s before you and half-heartedly thinking, “hmmm…I guess I’ll have this”.  I love looking at a brunch menu knowing there are multiple wonderful options to choose from, things that will force me to come back a second time, and a third, and a fourth. 

On the menu: breakfast poutine with chicken gravy, cheese curds, and an egg on top (for the hearty lovers!); fig cream yogurt parfait; huevos Carlito (sunny side eggs with tomatillo salad, avocado aioli, and – this is for the pork lovers – pork belly!; kimchi reuben (I can see this being veeeery popular); salmon scramble, mushroom quiche, and a variety of others.  They have a huuuge list of wines and beers written up on the wall as well as a generous selection of Tealish teas to choose from.  And in comparison, brunch prices are very much in line with other weekend brunch sit-down spots, hovering between the $9-$14 for most dishes

My pick?  The banana bread French toast!  I was hemming and hawing over the French toast, the tofu quesadilla (OH YES), the salmon scramble, and a few others, but ultimately, the homemade banana bread French toast ($11) won this time, with the tofu quesadilla begging me to come back for it the next time.  No need to twist my arm!

The banana bread French toast came in nice, thick, sweet triangular wedges with blueberries and mango, pecan cream and pecans, butterscotch, and – to my surprise – two links of pork sausage!  I wanted to put that out there because the sausage isn’t listed on the menu under the description of the dish, so vegetarians, steer clear; carnivores, rejoice!  Oh how I loved this dish.  Here’s the thing though: I was never a fan of banana bread.  I KNOW.  How could I not love banana bread?  It smells divine, it screams homemade baking goodness, and it’s more interesting than plain pound cake.  But it never struck my fancy.  It was always either a little too dry, a little too oily, a little too crumbly, or just SOMETHING.  But the French toast sounded so lovely on the menu I threw caution to the wind and gave the dish a shot.  And I am SO happy I did! 

I have never had banana bread so moist in my life.  The insides were soft and so flavourful while the outsides had that beautiful French toast crust to it that prevented the butterscotch, light at air pecan cream, and fruit from sogging the banana bread up.  The flavours and textures in this dish worked so well together, and this is coming from a girl who typically doesn’t eat savoury with sweet on the same plate!  But somehow, it worked and it was absolutely delicious.  The savoury pork sausage was juicy and not the least bit dry or fatty, the blueberries weren’t too tart or sour, the mango amped up the freshness and lightened up the dish, and pecans provided the dish with toastiness and crunch.  The butterscotch with banana bread was perfect and I honestly couldn’t have been happier – I cleaned off my plate!

The Gladstone Cafe is a lovely spot for weekend brunch with a bright and airy atmosphere that’s great for both socializing with friends and sipping a morning cuppa with the paper on your own.  I have plenty of art photos from the rest of the hotel that I’d love to show you guys sometime so I’ll save them for the next post.  The tofu quesadilla is still calling my name so you can bet I’ll be back for a follow-up and then some! 

*****

The Gladstone Hotel is located at 1214 Queen Street West, just east of Dufferin Street in the Parkdale neighbourhood.  In addition to their breakfast, brunch, lunch, and dinner menu, the Gladstone hosts culinary “tours” whereby chef Michael G. Smith creates a different ethnic inspired menu taking guests on whirlwind tour of tastes, flavours, and food.  Visit their dining website HERE to find out more!  Events will be added to upcoming August Food Calendar and future food calendars from here on out.