Joy in a Jar – Layers of Coconut Granola, Yogurt, Seeds, Maple Syrup, & Dried and Fresh Fruit at Joy Bistro!

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Coconut granola, pulled pork eggs benny, and lemon ricotta pancakes with blueberries – what can I say?  With a menu that boasts dishes like these, and after my fabulous first visit to Joy Bistro in Leslieville, I was really happy going back to the sweet and breezy eatery on Queen East for seconds!  Joy Bistro really does make you feel, well, joyous!  Whether you’re out on the airy patio or relaxing inside with the sunlight streaming in through the windows, being here makes you feel like you’re truly enjoying time off during your weekend brunch meal. 

You see everyone else around you sharing plates of food, digging into their large brunch dishes, slicing into pancakes, French toast, and eggs, spearing a piece of peameal onto their fork, and sipping Caesars by the bar and you feel their joy just bursting out.  I’ve been told that I look so happy when I eat.  As funny and silly as that sounds in a way (it makes me snort with giggles) I understand where it’s coming from because I see the enjoyment on people’s faces when I glance at others around me and it’s the joy of being around the people you love and the joy of having great, delicious food right in front of you. 

And if you can believe it, my second meal here was even more fantastic than the first!  Part of me was really leaning toward the lemon ricotta pancakes, but I was also incredibly curious about the coconut granola ($8.50) with sesame, pumpkin, and sunflower seeds with fruit and maple syrup.  I know, I eat yogurt parfaits at home.  But that’s like saying, “hmm, I bake cookies, I’ll never buy another cookie outside again!”  As simplistic a dish may be, I feel it’s always worth checking out because everyone prepares and presents their dishes differently.  And let’s face it, when the professionals do what they do best, it’s second to none and so darn good.

I was absolutely delighted and floored when my coconut granola and yogurt was brought out.  Absolutely in awe.  You should have seen my face.  I probably looked like a little one seeing her birthday cake with candles come out for the first time!  I’m not really sure what I was expecting.  Maybe a glass with yogurt and granola layers.  Maybe a bowl.  Never did I expect my sweet, fruit, crunchy, yummy coconut granola to come in a giant glass jar with snap lid!  It was SO cute and adorable!  Something you’d see from a country kitchen and house out of House on the Prairie or something!  I couldn’t believe how sweet the presentation was! 

Food and treats in jars are all the rage right now.  Remember my sweet little strawberry shortcake custard trifle from Simple Bistro on Mount Pleasant?  And all the layered desserts and cookie and baking mixes that DIYers make as gifts and favours?  Food in jars has definitely come a long way from its sole association with baby food, that’s for sure!  Regardless of the trend factor though, this yogurt and granola brunch scored top-notch points in presentation and in deliciousness.

The coconut granola brunch dish was layered with maple syrup, creamy, mildly sweet vanilla yogurt, granola with oats, various types of seeds, coconut, dried fruit (cranberries and apricots), and tons of fresh fruit including blueberries, sliced bananas, and sliced strawberries.  Not only did the whole dish taste fresh and juicy and wholesome, it really showed off how resourceful Joy Bistro was in their usage of food and their waste management. 

I know, this is supposed to be about delicious food, not waste!  But we all know waste is always part of the equation when we talk about food; it’s not all hearts and daisies.  The volume of fruits, vegetables, and dairy is so difficult to manage because of their short shelf life and it really impressed me seeing them use the strawberries, blueberries, and bananas that were present on my banana bread French toast my first time there in another brunch main.  You’ll never be able to eliminate waste completely, but using all your ingredients in different ways for different dishes shows your resourcefulness and versatility and a willingness to work with the food in more than one manner.

Their coconut granola yogurt parfait was delicious and terrific.  I was floored at how good the vanilla yogurt was.  Much of the time, yogurt can come off as too tangy, too watery, too thick, and admittedly, somewhat tasteless.  I love yogurt but even I can acknowledge its flaws.  Their vanilla yogurt wasn’t any of those things.  The sweetness and vanillaness to it was noticeable enough for me to take note and love it, but also perfectly mild enough to let the granola and fruit shine.  The fruits were juicy and plump, the granola was crunchy and honey sweet, and the maple syrup was bang on what the parfait needed to make it extra special.  I love the dried fruits, I love the seeds, and I loved how the texture of the granola was chunky and crunchy yet also finely crushed and milled in other ways with the coconut and seeds.       

Joy Bistro has really become a favourite of mine in the area and it’s only a matter of time before I tick off the eggs benny and pancakes off my brunch list!

*****

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.

Sampling Cheese, Picking Up Dips & Cornbread, and Seeing Beautiful Food – Summer at Evergreen Brick Works

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Going to Evergreen Brick Works always feels like a special day trip right here in the city.  It’s like a little oasis, combining urban and grassroots with its nature trails, scenic gardens, and historic industrial heritage.  Evergreen Brick Works is a thriving hubbub of activity with so much more than just their Saturday morning farmers’ market to offer.  There are site tours, outdoor fitness activities, gardening and cooking workshops, programs and camps for children, film screenings, family pizza nights, tastings, beer and brewery gardens, a Sunday morning antique market, local food festivals, a lovely cafe and farm-to-table restaurant, a portion of the area dedicated to cycling and hiking with workshops and community events, expos and installations (they’re currently promoting their MOVE: Transportation Expo and let me tell you, it is fantastic!), and of course, the venue and host of some of the city’s most popular food events such as Toronto Underground Market and most recently, Lobster Love. 

My latest visit was my first since Earth Day in April and my first during the summer months in general!  I had never been to the Brick Works in the summer before so I was itching to visit the beautiful and gigantic outdoor market to pick up some delicious food, in addition to checking out the MOVE expo, eating at Cafe Belong (you knew a blog post on Cafe Belong would come eventually!), and walking around the grounds a little bit on a warm summer morning.  It was wonderful.  I was there bright and early, just before it got too hot and being there felt so nice and invigorating.  The farmers’ market was already crawling with a large crowd of people and it was so exciting to see the market in its summer form. 

I drooled over the fresh corn tortillas by Maizal, nibbled on one very delicious pork sausage and cheese roll that my boyfriend had bought (piggy in a cheese blanket!), sampled some amazing cheeses, and picked up some corn bread, two spreads and dips by Mad Mexican (a turtle black bean and jalapeno dip and a roasted tomatillo and avocado salsa!), and a beautiful and delicous fresh fruit tart with kiwi, candied oranges, and tiny bright red gooseberries!  Gooseberries aren’t something you see very often on baked goods and pastries and they were so sweet and cute dangling from their stem, all chubby-like in their cluster.  I wanted to share with you all some of my favourite photos from the market that morning and some of the things I loved the most including garlic scape pesto, gorgeous heirloom and yellow tomatoes, bright and colourful swiss chard stems, pints of blueberries and tomatillo peppers, “rainbow” green, yellow, and purple wax beans (these beans make for fabulous salads!), and lots of cheese!

I also love, love, LOVE that a whole section of the market is dedicated to prepared food.  It makes it so much to fun to eat and grocery shop at the same time!  On hand in the EBW market “food court” were LPK with their vegan baked goods, Chocosol, Mad Mexican chips, salsas, and dips along with Maizal corn tortillas, crepes, grilled cheese and scrambled egg sandwiches, cupcakes, salad plates, scones, waffles, and so much more.  One of these days I will do a market “food court” post and get a bunch of different things to show you all!  This visit was probably my most favourite out of all my trips and it was so much fun seeing Evergreen in all its summer glory.    

*****

Evergreen Brick Works is located at 550 Bayview Ave.  The farmers’ market takes place year-round every Saturday from 8am-1pm.  If taking public transit, there is a free shuttle bus that operates 7 days a week beside Broadview subway station, as well as the 28A Davisville TTC bus that runs on Saturdays from 8am-3pm between Evergreen Brick Works and Davisville subway station.  Click here to learn more the site, their events and programs, and how to get here by bus, bike, car, or foot.

The Weekend Brunch Club – Sweet Challah French Toast With Blueberries & Caramelized Bananas at Wish Cafe!

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The weekend is upon us and we know what that means: happy weekend brunch times all around!  Thus far, I’ve only had weekend brunch at Table 17 and while I love coming here, I’m looking forward to introducing new and yummy members to the weekend breakfast club throughout the summer and giving them their rightful spots on the blog.  There is so much weekend brunch goodness in the city I might as well create a completely separate filing system just for this! 

I am having an absolute field day researching and looking up weekend brunch menus and special seasonal dishes, especially French toast and waffle ones.  I always seem to err on the side of savoury but I wanted to start switching things up on the blog or at the very least start featuring more sweet breakfast dishes because 1) I’m a big fan of waffles and 2) French toast is my mum’s favourite brunch meal so I’ve been looking up and jotting down every single French toast menu item I come across, just for fun and for future reference.   

I figured there was no time like the present to start my French toast and waffle mission, so I have a delightfully scrumptious stack of challah French toast from Wish Cafe to post about today!  I loved Wish so much I came back for weekend brunch and their brunch menu is just as impressive as their lunch and dinner ones.  Much like the lunch menu, many dishes are priced between $10-$15 and there’s a perfect balance between savoury and sweet breakfast dishes, as well as ones with and without meat for vegetarians. 

Some of my favourites include a grilled nutella sandwich with raspberry compote (calling all nutella lovers!), 3 types of eggs benedict with leek and parmesan fondue, creamy oatmeal with cranberry apricot preserves and maple syrup, spinach with caramelized apples, pecans, and stilton cheese, and for the meat-lovers, a pulled pork sandwich with fried egg and cheddar!  They have a great list of accompanying side dishes that you can choose from to complement your main (the grilled tomatoes and the grapefruit and apricot marmalade have my name on them!), and if the weather is nice, the beloved patio of theirs that I love so much is open for brunch too. 

My decision to have French toast was totally guided by my nagging sweet tooth.  I’ll be honest: I wanted a cupcake but knew I wouldn’t have the time to get to a cupcake shop after brunch so I knew a sweeter brunch dish would soothe that craving and fulfill my French toast mission on the blog!  Wish Cafe’s thick, sweet, mouthwatering challah French toast brunch meal ($12) is served with caramelized bananas, blueberries, maple syrup, and dusted with powdered sugar.  The 4 thick, moist-on-the-inside, crispy-on-the-outside slices of French toast with stack one on top of each other and they were absolutely divine.  I felt like I was eating French toast for the first time and discovering this insanely tasty dish all over again!  The French toast was cooked perfectly with crispy edges and moist and thick middles (no one wants thin and soggy French toast!), and the caramelized bananas were amazing because it was like having bananas foster all over my French toast with warm caramel-like sauce all over it!

I know for a fact that I’ll be coming back to Wish for many meals to come, brunch included.  While I was eating my French toast and “mmming” throughout the entire meal, I snuck a peek at the neighbouring table’s dishes, saw their mouthwatering florentine eggs benedict, and said, “well, I guess I know what I’ll be having next time!”  With so much great food on their menu, they almost make my blogging too easy.  

*****

Wish Cafe and Restaurant is located at 3 Charles Street East at the corner of Charles and Yonge Street in downtown Toronto.  They offer lunch and dinner, as well as weekend brunch, and their patio is currently available for spring and summer wining and dining!  They are open from Tuesday to Sunday (closed on Mondays).  Hours of operation are 11am-11pm from Tuesday to Saturday, and 10am-4pm on Sundays.  View their official website and menus HERE.

A Berry, Berry Fruity Yogurt Parfait! Cranberries, Blueberries, & Blackberries on Cereal & Vanilla Yogurt

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I have 3 names for this fruity tutti berry parfait: the “perfect-for-Deb-because-she’s-not-allergic-to-any-of-it” yogurt parfait, the “this-might-as-well-be-a-berry-pie-or-cheesecake” yogurt parfait, or the “my-brother-won’t-touch-this-with a-stick-so-I-don’t-have-to-share” parfait.  I like all three 😀 

Berries are a godsend because they don’t give me hives or make me swell up like a water balloon, they taste great in both dried and fresh forms, I don’t have to fight with anyone over them (my brother hates berries with a passion – oh shucks, more for me), and they’re a yummy alternative to the daily banana fruit I normally eat for breakfast. 

For the past year or two I’ve been relying on bananas to fill part of my daily fruit quota simply because they have a longer shelf life than berries and also because they’re one of the few fruits that are available all-year round.  I kind of overdid it with the dried cranberries though.  I had to scoop half of them out because I went a little sprinkle happy for the photos, oops!  I switched up the granola and used my vanilla almond honey bunches of oats flake cereal in its place over vanilla yogurt, and sprinkled shredded coconut on top again because I love coconut and think it’s cute that it looks like snow on my parfait.

All Dressed Up and Only One Place to Go: My Tummy! Berries and The Yogurt Parfait Breakfast Cocktail Party

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I call this concoction the Yogurt Parfait Cocktail Party!  For those of you who know me by my online pseudonym, you get the significance.  On the menu for yogurt parfait breakfast number two: peaches n’ cream yogurt topped with diced fruit cocktail of pears, peaches, pineapple, and maraschino cherries, drained (remember, I can only eat these particular fruits canned or cooked!), strawberries, blueberries, crunchy honey vanilla granola, and shredded coconut.  Words of wisdom: if the parfait is not colourful, it’s not good enough, and there is no such thing as too much granola and coconut.  The combination soaks up any excess moisture (nobody likes a soggy parfait) and they just taste good together.  I went back for multiple fistfuls throughout the meal – like my yogurt mountain wasn’t big enough as it was!  In the end, all dressed up and only one place to go: in my tummy.

A Berry Good Morning! Strawberry Blueberry Aunt Jemima Pancakes

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Another edition of Aunt Jemima pancakes!  This time with lots of strawberries and blueberries for a very fruit pancake 😀  It’s been so much fun experimenting with different fruits and fillings and there is a lot more I want to try.  My mum and I had ourselves a field day on Saturday at Bulk Barn, picking up almonds, walnuts, granola mix, and lots of other goodies for baking!  It’s going to be a fun next few weeks, yay.  So far I’ve done plain banana with some sliced bananas and strawberries on top, and banana with dried fruit and nuts mixed in with the batter and sprinkled on top (dried cranberries with golden raisins, pumpkin seeds, and cashews).  This time we wanted to try a berry pancake so we mashed up about a pint of strawberries (yes, again with my beloved potato masher.  This thing is a godsend) and used around half a pint of blueberries.  We added the mashed strawberries to the pancake batter and gently folded in the blueberries.  The result was a sweet, fluffy, fruit pancake!

The pancakes were fluffier and had that tart sweetness from the juicy fruits!  These cook differently from the ones with banana in them though.  There’s more moisture from the fruit and it takes more time for the pancake batter to be completely cooked through so as a note, definitely let them hang out in the pan longer so they have a bit more time to crisp up and brown.  You don’t want soggy pancakes!  I had myself two large pancakes with powdered sugar dusted on top and lots of sliced strawberries, blueberries, sliced almonds, and honey!  I love fruit for breakfast and I’m warming up to different kinds of nuts so I really enjoyed these.  I’m thinkin’ tropical for next week 😀