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.

Baked Omelettes With Asparagus, Roasted Red Pepper & Goat Cheese – Checking into Hotel Gelato for Breakfast!

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I LOVE finding new breakfast, brunch, and lunch places!  The thought of relishing a good meal in a comfortable cafe makes me feel all dreamy and floaty on the inside.  And if you can believe (which I think you all can), I spent a good deal of time last week circling spot after spot in one of my Toronto magazines of all the places that offered breakfast and weekend brunch.  Aside from cupcakes, sushi, and pasta (my three great food loves), nothing gets my engine running more than a great breakfast and lunch cafe. 

I love the vast array of menu items, I love the feeling of freshness during the day (and admittedly, it makes my life easier taking photos in the daytime), and I just love the idea of sitting down to a great sandwich, brunch dish, and/or cafe drink with dessert.  I enjoy dinner, yes, but as Daphne Oz on The Chew reiterated on one of the more recent episodes, “eat breakfast like a king, lunch like a prince, and dinner like a pauper”.  Although in my case, I’d change that to a queen and a princess.  But you get the idea.  And it does, in fact, ring true for me.  I eat dinner almost out of necessity rather than want.  The star of the show is my breakfast and lunch and I sure as hell eat like it.  So, what’s my latest breakfast/brunch escapade?  Hotel Gelato on Eglinton West!

Hotel Gelato is a beautiful sit-down breakfast, lunch, and gelato cafe with an open, airy, inviting atmosphere.  Located on Eglinton West in the Upper Village neighbourhood, iIt’s exactly the type of place you envision yourself relaxing in during an easy Sunday morning or afternoon brunch, a midday coffee break, or a bright and refreshing weekday lunch with your best friend.  With its sleek black and white decor and upholstery, it’s pretty and fancy pants without being overly frou-frou and pretentious. 

In all honesty, I was taken aback when I stepped inside.  I knew it was pretty from the photos I saw on their official website, but I was not expecting it to be THIS pretty.  Chandeliers clothed in sheer black, clear plexi tables and chairs, comfy black upholstered chairs by the cafe’s front window, black and white wall decor, a beautiful fireplace mantel with candles, orchid flowers, and a sleek espresso bar and machine in acid bright turquoise!  In a nutshell, Hotel Gelato is NICE.

I was overjoyed when I viewed their menus online.  In addition to the gelato that makes them famous (and oh boy is there ever a ton of gelato goodness to devour!) and the cafe drinks and desserts that can ordered up at the front, they serve weekday breakfast from 8am-11:30am, weekend brunch, and all day lunch.  Although a number of their daily breakfast items appear on their weekend brunch menu, their weekend brunch menu does have some very special items that are not available from Monday-Friday including their challah French toast and their – wait for this – LEMON RICOTTA PANCAKES!  I almost bounced off the walls when I found out they served this.  Weekend brunch would have to wait though as I decided to stick to their daily breakfast menu first. 

Menu items include breakfast sandwiches with either peameal bacon or smoked salmon with eggs, flavoured mayo, and different cheeses, baked eggs, waffles, breakfast parfait, smoked salmon and cream cheese with bagels, and more.  Prices range from $8-$12 for most items, with a separate set of prices ($3.50-$5) for extra sides including daily scone, basket of mini almond, chocolate, and apricot croissants, peameal bacon, and toasted ciabatta with butter and preserves.  As much as I wanted to inhale a breakfast sandwich or smoked salmon (and, come to think of it, their waffles), I went with their baked omelette because I got to choose my fillings and toppings! 

The baked omelette ($8) is made with three eggs and herbs and comes with crusty bread to go with it.  Filling and toppings ($0.75 each) include aged cheddar, goat cheese, Jarlsberg, portobellos, sauteed spinach, smoked ham, bacon, asparagus, and roasted red peppers.  Wanting to inject some veggies into the meal, I chose asaparagus (how very spring-like!), roasted red peppers, and goat cheese because I love goat cheese like crazy. 

T0 my surprise, my omelette and bread were accompanied by a dish of fresh fruit (how sweet!) and my omelette, just like the menu said, was literally baked!  I don’t know why I forgot about that detail, but I was delighted when my breakfast was brought to my table.  The omelette was baked into a small baking/casserole dish, almost like a skillet or casserole and the fillings dotted my baked eggs like a beautiful mosaic.  It was piping hot and so unique to any egg dish I had ever had.  And I was also pleasantly with how much bread I was given – almost like a little mini sliced loaf of delicious crusty bread!  I know the menu specifically said grilled flatbread as opposed to crusty French baguette, but frankly, I didn’t care because the bread was so good and so darn cute!

The asparagus was crisp and flavourful and the goat cheese in the omelette was to die for.  There were creamy, tangy pockets of goat cheese throughout the entire dish and it truly went a long way in making the omelette burst with flavour and dimension.  The eggs were light as air and so, so fluffy.  Keep in mind though that the eggs for this particular dish are baked and thus well done and thoroughly cooked.  If you’re like me and you like your eggs a little runny, just mention it to your server because the dish is cooked well done by default. 

It’s really just based on preference because my mum, for example, reeeeally doesn’t go for runny eggs and prefers hers cooked from top to bottom.  If you love your eggs the way my mum does, no sweat.  If you like yours the way I do, ask them if they can undercook them just a tad and if they can’t (which I can’t imagine them not being able to do, but for the argument’s sake let’s just throw that our there), just choose another menu item.

I am so, so looking forward to coming back because there’s so much more to try!  There’s the gelato (hello, creamsicle and strawberry shortcake oh my god), the drinks (teas, pumpkin spice lattes, and pot of hot chocolate?!), the lunch paninis and sandwiches, and yes, the multitude of breakfast and weekend brunch items waiting for me!  Like those lemon ricotta pancakes.  It’s only a matter of time.

*****

Hotel Gelato is located at 532 Eglinton Ave. West just west of Heddington Ave. between Avenue Rd. and Bathurst Street.  They serve breakfast and lunch every day from Monday to Friday with a weekend brunch menu on Saturdays and Sundays.  Their breakfast menu is available from 8am-11:30am and lunch all-day.

A Chocolatey Kind of Morning – Hot Chocolate & A Chocolate Ganache Kiss at L’Espresso Bar Mercurio

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While almost everyone is continuing to ransack the grocery stores, drug stores, and candy shops for discounted chocolates and candies (you know who you are), the bombardment of red, pink, and heart printed paraphernalia has come and gone for yet another year.  What hasn’t saluted us goodbye though is our passion for chocolate and the frostiness of winter, which has managed to give us a few nasty surprises over the past two weekends!  How do we remedy the stubborness of winter sleet and snow then?  With chocolate, of course!  The heart-shaped boxes of bon-bons might be gone (or being plucked off the shelves by chocolate bargain hunters as we speak), but in its place now are chocolate bunnies and chocolate Easter eggs, so the presence of chocolate is going to remain at the forefront of our seasonal celebrations for quite some time still. 

I love my chocolate in the form of hot chocolate and chocolate cookies best and L’Espresso Bar Mercurio gave me what I like to call, my “chocolate morning”: a cup of frothy hot chocolate and a rich, fudgy, melt-in-your mouth chocolate ganache kiss!  After walking past this lovely cafe and espresso bar more times than I can remember (I admit, I am on Bloor Street A LOT), I finally came here for a sip and nibble one morning and now I can’t stop daydreaming about what I would eat my next time here!  I’ve wanted to come here for so long and I’ve always loved the air of sweetness and romance I’ve felt from it.  It’s a place that exudes fancy without actually being over the top fancy pants.  L’Espresso Bar Mercurio, located at 321 Bloor Street West, is a bright and fresh brunch and lunch cafe and espresso bar with enough coffee, loose leaf tea, lattes, and warm and cold drinks to quench the thirstiest of sippers. 

         

Sandwiched between the ROM (Royal Ontario Museum) and the Bata Shoe Museum in the University of Toronto neighbourhood, Mercurio’s is the perfect place to have brunch with the girl friends, a light business meeting lunch, and/or a warm drink and dessert with a friend.  With it’s fresh colour palette of white, gray, and green, it’s a lovely coffee date destination that affords casualness with that extra bit of fancy thrown in.  The cafe and espresso bar has big windows, allowing for ample natural light to stream in (perfect for us budding food photographers!) and in the spring and summer, a pretty patio off to the side for that little bit of privacy and romance (let’s not forget from where the name of the cafe is derived!).

Mercurio has a number of different menus to suit all sorts of appetites and tastes: a weekday breakfast menu, a weekend brunch menu, an everyday lunch menu, a vegetarian and vegan menu, and a huge menu of loose leaf teas, coffee drinks, and more.  In addition, the dessert selection is out of this world!  Pies, tarts, tortes, cakes, shortbread, giant cookies, homemade doughnuts, biscotti, dessert croissants, and sweet gluten-free options.  The cafe is both takeout and dine-in, which is great for those who want to quickly hop in for a quick coffee and pastry to go, and for those who want to sit back and relax for a sit-down meal.  As an added bonus, all food items come with a 20% student discount (yes, that most certainly includes university and college students!) with valid student ID.  Given its proximity to the University of Toronto, it makes perfect sense.

Their menus are located right by the front door, allowing everyone the opportunity to ponder their food choices even before being seated.  Conversely, you can also walk in, grab an available table first, and then hem and haw.  The eatery is bar service only, which means that everything is ordered and paid for up at the cash.  Servers and staff bring your food and tea to your table, but there are no menus to flip through and order from when you’re seated.  All of that is done up at the front, which I quite like because it reduces the amount time it takes to flag down a server to order, for the bill, and so on.  

My chocolate morning was comprised of a small hot chocolate (120z, $3.20) and a sweet little chocolate ganache kiss dessert.  In a word, my hot chocolate was frothy.  The chocolate was placed at the bottom of the cup to warm up and melt while hot, frothy milk was poured on top.  The hot chocolate was light and milky without being watery and perfectly chocolatey without being overly sweet, artificial, or overpowering.  It was simple and delicious.

My hot chocolate was totally and completely enhanced by my chocolate ganache kiss.  A thick layer of rich, smooth, and creamy ganache was sandwiched between two soft chocolate cookies.  It was so incredibly good.  So fudgy and so soft; the texture was bang on.  The cookies weren’t hard or crispy and the ganache wasn’t runny, mushy, or overly thick.  Together with the hot chocolate, it was wonderful.  You would think it would end up being chocolate overload (I know, such a thing does exist!), but they balanced each other perfectly.  The chocolate ganache kiss lended a full-bodied richness to the hot chocolate while the hot chocolate lended an airiness.

I am so excited about trying their loose leaf teas and a number of their breakfast and lunch items.  Trust that I will get around to attacking their breakfast sandwiches, vegetarian and vegan items, and other desserts!  In the meantime, I will happily reminisce over my sweet chocolate morning. 

*****

L’Espresso Bar Mercurio is located at 321 Bloor Street West at the corner of St. George Street right across from St. George subway station.  It is sandwiched between the ROM and the Bata Shoe Museum (the shoe museum is literally just steps away) and it is an espresso bar, dessert cafe, and brunch and lunch spot all in one.  They are open 7 days a week from 7am-11pm from Monday-Friday, 10am-4pm on Saturdays and Sundays.  They also offer weekend brunch.