Confessions of a Brunch-Obsessed Foodie – Breakfast Thoughts & Ramblings From the Mind of Yours Truly

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Welcome to the first edition of “Confessions of a Brunch-Obsessed Foodie” chock full of breakfast thoughts and ramblings from the mind of yours truly!  The inspiration?  I’ve come to realize that while many of you have been following Ate by Ate for some time now (regularly and every so often), there hasn’t been any way for you any of you to know what to expect aside from the monthly food calendars and the regular weekly farmers’ market and cupcake shop posts.  I admit, I like to keep many blog-related things I’m working on under wraps.  If I revealed everything, all the fun and anticipation (for those who read and even for myself) would be lost and besides, I’m a girl who likes to keep a few tricks hidden up her sleeve! 

Brunch is my favourite meal though and I am constantly researching brunch places around the city, spots that offer weekend brunch, compiling lists of places that serve vegetarian and vegan dishes, French toast, pancakes, certain fruits and vegetables to add to future Flavour Favourites posts, and all-around unique menus worth checking out.  So I thought, why not let everyone in on some of the places on my hit list, dishes I’d like try, breakfast thoughts and ponderings, and menus that I think are totally drool-worthy?  It would be fun just to share these with you guys and to maybe even bounce some ideas off of each other.  Here’s what’s been going on in the back end:

First: brunch in Markham.  Someone please enlighten me.  Maybe I just need to be a little more patient in my search.  Maybe I just need to give it some time.  But seriously folks, it’s slim pickins in my neck of the woods.  I have my beloved T&T Bakery & Cafe and my wonderful Chinese and HK-style diners, yes, but I’d love to try other places (and by places I mean more independent spots as opposed to chains as I avoid posting about chains as best as I can on the blog) and it’d be great to have a little more variety.  After all, if Markham is going to live up to its newly-minted city status, it has to step up in this department! 

I started doing a little research and while I found a few options (hmm, Angus Glen Golf Club!), I have my work cut out for me.  I am looking forward to posting many more HK-style diner posts in the coming months though, just because it’s like comfort food to me.  What you see up top is a rare display of Chinese and HK-style breakfast on the blog (only one post to date, if I remember correctly – how shameful), one showing my favourite diner drink, Ovaltine (hot or cold, doesn’t matter) and the other showing one very tasty waffle with fruit, ice cream, and chocolate fudge drizzle!  Note the honeydew melon on it though – I had to give those to my mum.

In addition to the “where in the world are the great brunch spots in Markham” ramblings running rampant in my head, there are always about 10 different brunch options in the city floating around in my mind come the weekend.  Even though my own indecisiveness drives me crazy, it is SO much fun thinking about where to go for brunch and what place to hit up next.  Here are 5 places I’m dying to try:

  1. Brockton General – Sunday brunch from 10am-3pm.  If the online menu is current and accurate, I am all over their stuffed French toast with stewed rhubarb and creme fraiche, smoked cod cake and eggs, and their grilled cheese and pickles!  (1321 Dundas Street West, west of Dovercourt Rd.)
  2. The Stockyards Smokehouse and Larder – Sunday brunch from 9am-3pm.  My picks for a future visit: smoked trout and scrambled eggs on a Gryfe’s bagel, smoked meat hash, and the biscuits and sausage gravy.  (699 St. Clair Ave. West, west of Pinewood Ave.)
  3. The Drake Hotel – Saturday and Sunday weekend brunch from 9am-4pm.  After having one of the most fab weekend brunches ever at The Gladstone Hotel, it makes sense to head down the road to the Drake to try theirs, yes?  On my radar: the warm scone share plate with cream and preserves, their scrambled burrito stuffed with scrambled eggs, jalapeno jack, avocado, home fries, and all the fixins, and the blueberry and ricotta pancakes.  (1150 Queen Street West, west of Dovercourt Rd.)
  4. Gilead Café & Bistro – Sunday brunch from 10am-3pm.  Jamie Kennedy’s work of culinary art in brunch form!  What I’m eyeing on the menu: the smoked whitefish on red fife pancake, the howdy pard’ner ensemble, the bacon rosti with cheesy scrambled eggs, and the French toast.  I’ve fallen in love with the sweet atmosphere just from looking at the website.  (4 Gilead Place, just off of King Street East, east of Parliament St.)
  5. Cafe Uno – Saturday and Sunday weekend brunch.  My coming to Cafe Uno for brunch has been a loooong time coming and it’s going to happen sooner or later!  They have a big brunch menu with lots of options such as omelettes and frittatas, but what gets my motor running is their stuffed French toast dishes, especially their cranberry apple crumble French toast! (55 Mill St., building 32, suite 102. in the Distillery District).

I hope you guys liked this first edition of Brunch Thoughts because I certainly have a blast talking about it!  Each and every single Brunch Thoughts post will feature 5 spots in the city on my hit list with a run-down of all the dishes I’d love to eventually try.  And if you’re so inclined, head on over to any one of them and give them a try!

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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.

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.

Cherry Yogurt, Granola, Coconut, and Crunchie Munchie Cereal – Yogurt Parfait Mornings and Lunches

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I love breakfast.  I think I’ve said this more times than I can remember.  But it’s my favourite meal of the day and I enjoy celebrating it with good food and nice photos.  Egg breakfasts, waffles, home fries, tofu scrambles, I love it all and I can never get enough, via my tummy and my eyes.  Ever since I stumbled on blogs like {365} Breakfasts and 365 Days of Breakfast, I’ve become even more inspired to capture those early morning “me” moments, mid-morning munchies, and lunchtime food extravaganzas.  Aside from my post and photos of vanilla almond cereal in almond milk, I haven’t posted any more of those quiet, pensive “it’s just me with my thoughts and bowl of cereal” moments and figured it was as good a time as any to start jazzing things up with some photos of my beloved yogurt parfaits! 

I’ve gone through many food phases over the past year (vanilla almond cereal in warm almond milk, Fruit Loops in warm almond milk, and peanut butter on toast with almond milk – can you tell you I like almond milk?!), but the one thing that has managed to stick around has been my fruit and yogurt and I’ve discovered some fabulous tasting combinations because of it. 

I never used to like yogurt when I was little.  I hated it.  It was either too goopy, too watery, or it was just plain awful and tasteless.  Strawberry yogurt my butt.  Then something magically happened when I started university.  Yogurt suddenly tasted great.  It didn’t become my be-all, end-all favourite thing to eat, but it did go from “ew” to “yum” somewhat overnight.  I don’t know if it was just me or the brands I started eating or both, but yogurt finally clicked for me and I found myself getting parfaits every week at school, getting the yogurt & berries from Timmy’s for breakfast, and eating it with my lunch at home on days I didn’t have school.  And so began the Adventures of Yogurt Parfaits.

It was also my foolproof way of getting in some healthy dairy and fruit into my meal without labouring over eating everything separately.  I am a very slow eater so there are times where I just don’t want to eat anymore because I’m just tired of chewing so putting things together makes my life, personally, easier and less labourous.  It’s so easy to blow fruit off at the end of the meal because you’re already full and can’t eat another bite, and the same goes for yogurt.  The idea of sitting around, slowly spooning yogurt the same way you’d spoon baby food into a baby’s mouth is unappealing and unappetizing.  So you put the two together when you know you’re hungry, you add the crunchies munchies and maybe a little sweet treat here and there (dark chocolate chips, anyone?), and you eat it for breakfast or with your lunch (I repeat, with your lunch, not after because that’s the excuse-making danger zone) and have yourself a jolly good time.   

It’s so much fun making them!  I switch things up all the time, accessorizing my different flavours of yogurt (lemon meringue!  Berry berry!  Raspberry crumble!  Mango pineapple!) with fruit, cereal, granola, nuts, seeds, and some sweet additions from time to time.  Since I’m allergic to so many fruits in their raw state, I take advantage of whatever I can.  Bananas, drained canned peaches, blueberries, strawberries, whatever we have on hand.  What we have here: cherry yogurt with sliced bananas, Honey Bunches of Oats cereal in vanilla almond, granola, unsalted sunflower seeds, and shredded coconut to make it look extra pretty!  I love having texture in my food, especially in my yogurt, so the crunchier and munchier the better!  Next up on the list: maybe something with chocolate.  Mmmm.

Lovin’ Flapjacks – A Photo Spotlight on the Juicy, Tart, Monstrous Blueberry Pancakes from T&T Bakery & Cafe

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Shrove and Pancake Tuesday may have come and gone for the year, but that certainly doesn’t mean the love for flapjacks can’t stay in the spotlight.  I know there are many weekend brunch fanatics among my fellow food bloggers and foodie friends, so let’s get this breakfast club started with a classic, big breakfast meal of fluffy blueberry pancakes!  I promised you guys more pancake posts this year, so this is me indulging everyone with pancake food porn.  I’m sure you don’t mind. 

I’ve been thinking about waffles and pancakes more and more as of late and how much fun it would be to do a series of classic breakfast compilation posts, posts that would provide a macro snapshot of what the city has to offer.  We know we can find egg breakfasts up the wazoo, but waffles and pancakes of a more unique nature are a bit of a bigger challenge and I am totally up for it.  Buttermilk, vegan, fruity, savoury, you name it, I’m on it.  If you can believe it, aside from the Aunt Jemima pancake experiments I conducted with my mum at home, the only other pancake post on the blog is the one for the apple cinnamon buckwheat pancakes from Sadie’s Diner.  Clearly, I have my work cut out for me if I want this year to be a big impact year pancake-wise, but at least the journey will be delicious!  We’ll start the first official pancake post of 2012 with a classic: blueberry pancakes with bacon from T&T Bakery & Cafe in Markham.   

You all know how deeply I adore the food, and especially the breakfast, at T&T Bakery.  However, if I’m going to toot my horn about one, and only one, breakfast menu item from here, it would be this one.  You will eat yourself silly and into a food coma after this blueberry pancake party – providing that you actually get through it.  It is HUGE.  Jack and the Beanstalk huge.  King Kong huge.  What you see in these photos is actually half the meal (I shared and split the meal with my boyfriend).  The whole shebang consists of four monstrous, fluffy, puffy, cakey, blueberry pancakes the size of your head with two strips of savoury, crispy, salty bacon and a side of maple syrup for $6.87. 

The pancakes are studded with so many juicy, tart blueberries and combined with the maple syrup, it has that sweet and sour taste that people love so much.  The pancakes themselves are blank canvases; the blueberries completely do the talking and for good reason.  Just look at how many blueberries there are and the size of them!  It’s like someone in the back had a little blueberry gun and said to themselves, “hmm, I think I’ll take some practice shots on the pancakes!”  It is the best bang for your buck and it will seriously feed two people.  I’m no food contest eater, but I can pack it in pretty decently every once in awhile and even I had a hard time finishing my two.  My mum?  I’d call it a gold metal victory if she was able to get through one.  I had forgotten just how amazing this meal was because it had been so long since I last had it.

    

This blueberry meal is a special one because it reminds me of the very first time I took my family to T&T Bakery & Cafe for breakfast years and years ago.  I don’t know about everyone else, but I love the anticipation and excitement of bringing family and friends to new places, places that have been ingrained into my food repertoire and places that hold so much promise for others down the road.  There’s the nervousness and anticipation: “will they like the food?  Will their experience be just as good as mine?”.  And then there’s the elation you feel when everyone has a great time and can’t wait to come back for another meal.  You feel like you did the food community proud and you’re so happy that you were able to share and pass along an experience to remember.  After introducing and leaving this gem multiple times to and with my family, boyfriend, and friends, it’s exactly how I feel about T&T Bakery & Cafe.   

*****

T&T Bakery and Café is located at 35 Main Street Markham at the intersection of Highway 7 and Markham Rd., just north of Highway.7 and on the east side of Markham Rd.  They have a permanent breakfast menu that is available every day and different lunch specials throughout the week.

Perfect Poached Eggs on Smoked Salmon and Mascarpone – Breakfast at L’Espresso Bar Mercurio’s!

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Over the past three years, I have developed a keen sense of what I call my “food instinct”, the little radar and gut feeling that has allowed me to zero in on places that give me good vibes and good eats.  Not necessarily the best and most amazing spots everyone would love (because we all have different preferences and tastes), but the best places for me.  I instinctively know whether or not I’ll enjoy a spot and one of the ways I can tell is by looking at their breakfast and brunch menu, if the place has one.  That, for me, is a tell-tale sign.  If the breakfast menu doesn’t light a fire in me, it’s a no-go.  If it makes me do a happy dance or if it makes me squeal, “oh my goodness, I want this, this, and this!” over and over, it’s a winner. 

And that is certainly how I felt after perusing Mecurio’s breakfast and brunch menu over a month ago!  Not only do they serve weekend brunch, but their every day breakfast menu contains a whole slew of adorable Italian tramezzini sandwiches and a very delicious sounding French toast among other items!  Add to that an extensive and impressive list of loose leaf tea and you have yourself a menu with endless delicious possibilities.  Tramezzini sandwiches are a cross between tea sandwiches and the traditional club sandwich.  If you frequent Hong Kong style diners especially, you’ll know exactly the type of club sandwich I’m referring to.  Think of the adorable white bread sandwiches that are cut into triangles with their crusts cut off, but in brunch fashion.  I was in conniptions.  Even though I was going gaga over the menu of Italian breakfast sandwiches, I went for something else during this first time breakfast adventure at Mercurio’s. 

I promised you all a breakfast post from L’Espresso Bar Mercurio when I wrote about their hot chocolate and chocolate ganache kisses last month, so here it is in all its poached egg and smoked salmon glory!  I have come to the conclusion that I love poached eggs just as much as overeasy ones.  I get so excited when I see poached eggs on a menu.  I don’t know which aspect I love more: the delicate dome shape or the runniness of the eggs after you poke them.  Poached eggs and smoked salmon are two of my favourite things and I will take them in every shape and form (remember the delicious smoked salmon eggs benny from Futures Bakery?) because every place has their own unique interpretation and style of presentation.

Mercurio’s is in the form of a bruschetta, just not in the traditional sense.  Most of the time, we think of diced tomatoes, garlic, olive oil, and onions when we think of bruschetta, but in this case, it’s a cured meat and cheese type of bruschetta on toasts.  Their salmon bruschetta breakfast ($7.95) comes with two servings of multigrain toast smothered in creamy mascarpone cheese, slices of cured smoked salmon, and two giant poached eggs, with a healthy sprinkling of freshly cracked black pepper for me!    

These eggs were perfectly and beautifully poached with runny yolks (runny yolks are a must!  I’ve read stories of people having poached eggs that weren’t really poached because they were literally hard-boiled!) and the smoked salmon was sliced in that perfect, “I’m thick enough to give you that great meaty scrumptiousness but also not so thick I look like sashimi” style.  These were some of the best poached eggs I’ve ever had and I think it was the combination of thick, runny yolks and that perfect, bubbly egg white exterior that’s thick around the bottoms and edges but paper thin around the dome that really made them great.   

After having yet another delicious poached egg (and smoked salmon) breakfast tucked under my hat, I am beyond excited to eventually try their French toast and their tramezzini sandwiches!  My stomach is already grumbling at the thought of breakfast sandwiches with scrambled eggs, bocconcini cheese, brie cheese, roasted peppers, turkey, spinach, and more.  And best of all?  Mercurio’s offers a 20% discount on all food items with student ID.  Delicious food and a discount; it doesn’t get any better than that.

*****

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.

A Weekend Vegan Brunch of Tofu Scramble, Grilled Spinach, Home Fries, and Tempeh Bacon at Fresh!

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I love breakfast and brunch so much.  Even as I write this, I’m daydreaming about tofu scrambles, poached eggs, omelettes, breakfast sausages, and veggie skillets and this is a few hours before bedtime!  Clearly, that doesn’t deter me – I love breakfast food at any point in the day and I’ve been known to eat eggs and hash browns for dinner!  Morning munchies make me happy (especially since I’m ravenous minutes after I roll out of bed) and I go through breakfast phases all the time where I’ll crave different things.  For the longest time it’s been fruit with some bread with cream cheese, but lately I’ve been going out of my mind with peanut butter on toast with almond milk.  I’ve always enjoyed peanut butter okay (more so with jam), but it’s almost as if I can’t go a morning without my PB and toast now!  Needless to say, I am all over the place with my preferences but one thing is for certain: weekend brunch is a treat and totally qualifies as one of the best things in the world. 

It’s been a little over a year since my first visit to Fresh and I have been having the best time eating here.  Their menu constantly inspires me and I can’t imagine ever being bored with the food here.  After building my own custom rice and soba noodle bowls, and having one of their veggie burgers, burritos, appetizers, and soups, the only menu categories I hadn’t yet dipped my tastebuds in were the salads and the weekend brunch.  When my dear friend and vegetarian partner in crime, Wini, wanted get together for some Fresh eats on a Saturday, I was in conniptions.  Weekend brunch at Fresh, finally!  Neither one of us had tried their brunch yet so we were both excited.  It had been months since we had done any vegetarian noshing together, so it felt especially great to catch up with a close friend at one of our favourite spots in the city.  Just as I said in my breakfast scrapbook post yesterday, friends and brunch truly go hand in hand.

Fresh’s weekend brunch is served at all 3 of their locations on Saturdays, Sundays, and holidays from 10:30am-3pm.  With the exception of optional sides of cheeses that you can order with your meal, their brunch menu is entirely vegan so you won’t find any egg breakfasts here!  Instead, Fresh’s brunch menu focuses on tofu scrambles, tempeh bacon, veggie sausage rounds, brunch burritos and tortillas, and pancakes – LOTS of pancakes!  The menu is divided into two parts: pancakes and brunch entrees ($11).  Pancake meals ($6-$10) are served in doubles and triples and come in five varieties including plain, banana, blueberry, banana nut, and blueberry almond.  Even though I ended up choosing a savoury brunch entree (because I do generally enjoy savoury breakfasts more), I can’t help but feel like I need to introduce more pancake breakfasts into my breakfast world after my Mardi Gras & Pancake Tuesday post!

My first brunch of choice at Fresh?  The full monty, full breakfast with tofu scramble, grilled spinach, baked beans, toast, home fries, and a choice of either veggie sausage rounds or tempeh bacon!  As usual, I had a difficult time choosing which brunch menu I wanted to try first but ultimately, the combination of tofu scramble with grilled spinach won me over this time.  I love spinach so to have it with tofu scramble sounded scrumptious.  Wini and I ended up ordering the same thing (great minds think alike!) and decided that we both wanted to try the veggie sausage and the tempeh bacon so each one of us chose one to order so that we could share them between the two of us.  Weekend brunch with friends is not only fun in and of itself, but it is also wonderful when you get to share food!

This brunch meal made me feel so warm and cozy.  It was hearty and delicious and it made me feel as though I was sitting in a winter log cabin by the fire enjoying some good old fashioned breakfast comfort food, veggie style.  My absolute favourite things had to be the tofu scramble, grilled spinach, and the home fries.  I adore tofu and having tofu scramble in my life has just made this love that much greater.  My very first tofu scramble was at Sadie’s Diner and I love both Sadie’s and Fresh’s equally because they’re both delicious, different, and unique in their own way.  While the texture of Sadie’s scramble is reminiscent of fluffy scrambled eggs, Fresh’s scramble is more like a chopped up hash with amazing herb and onion flavour with tiny diced sauteed onions strewn throughout the tofu scramble. 

Between the tempeh bacon and veggie sausage, Wini and I both loved the tempeh more, hands down.  This was my first time eating tempeh and while I knew of tempeh since my foray into vegetarian and vegan eating several years ago, I had to find out what tempeh was first before actually trying it.  In a nutshell, tempeh is made from soybeans and often used as meat substitute.  After careful fermentation, soybeans are binded into what looks like bricks of cake-like SPAM.  I know that isn’t the most appetizing description, but that’s what it reminds me of and it tastes great so that’s all that matters!

While it didn’t have the crispy texture of traditional bacon, they were in adorable “strips”, they were soft, and they had this great savoury tomato flavour to it that was very unique.  Not a sour tomato taste, but more like a stewed tomato flavour with warmth and depth to it.  The grilled spinach was just like scrumptious collard greens and I absolutely adored the style and size of the home fry cubes and chunks.  They were crispy and golden on the outside and fluffy with meaty potato and starchiness on the inside.  They were sturdy (not mushy or greasy in the least) and the hold up perfectly to sauce. 

Yes, sauce!  Fresh serves their breakfast toast plain so if you’re cool with that, there’s no need to mess with a good thing.  I, for one, love dipping or having my bread with a spread or sauce though so I took it upon myself to add a side of garlic mayo from Fresh’s regular menu and I had a field day dunking some of my toast and my awesome home fries into my garlic mayo.  With one brunch from Fresh down, I’m revved up and ready for more!  I can’t wait to have their tortilla scramble, the burrito, and the banana nut pancakes in the future.  Brunch is one of the most enjoyable things in my life and while I don’t know how long it will take to cycle through every single amazing breakfast diner and weekend brunch spot in the city, but I’m more than happy savouring every experience for as long as it takes.

*****

Fresh currently serves 3 locations in downtown Toronto:

  1. 326 Bloor St. West (right off the intersection of Spadina Ave. and Bloor St. West, just east of Spadina)
  2. 894 Queen St. West (at the intersection of Crawford St. and Queen St. West, near Trinity Bellwoods Park)
  3. 147 Spadina Ave. (near the intersection of Spadina Ave. and Queen St. West, a block south of Queen)