The Weekend Brunch Series – Loving Prosciutto & Eggs Benny at La Vecchia at Yonge & Eglinton

Leave a comment

poached eggs benedict weekend brunch with prosciutto and arugula at La Vecchia

Thinly sliced meats, cubes and wedges of cheese, olives and tapenade, honey, mountains of arugula…good god, my mouth is watering just thinking about all of the scrumptious delights!  I think the month of April really changed me.  I’ve always loved things like cheese and crackers and cured meats (one of my favourite guilty pleasures is a herb and garlic cream cheese sandwich with thinly sliced German salami – YUM, YUM and YUM), but after going to dinner with coworkers at Obika Mozzarella Bar in Brookfield Place, having an amazing, wonderful dinner at Hockley Valley’s Cabin restaurant with my FBC friends during FBC 2013 and basically having enough cheese and charcuterie to last me two lifetimes during the month of April alone (I might as well be a walking cheese wedge), I have really begun to appreciate the artistry behind charcuterie platter creation.

I would always eat things in isolation; some cheese cubes on a toothpick at parties, some antipasto, a few slices of meat.  All enjoyable but never really together because, let’s face it, the nagging voices that sternly tell us to stay away from all that sodium will deter us from that fun.  But I am here to say that every so often, I DON’T CARE.  I definitely plan on paying much more attention to charcuterie platters from here on out and to indulge in one of my favourite charcuterie staples, prosciutto, when given the opportunity.  So when eggs benny with prosciutto stared at me in the face from the menu of one of my more recent weekend brunch meals at La Vecchia by Yonge & Eglinton, I had to take advantage!

La Vecchia weekend brunch menu in Yonge and Eglinton

La Vecchia weekend brunch menu in Yonge and Eglinton

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve walked past La Vecchia over the years.  Located on the east side of Yonge Street a few blocks north of Eglinton by Broadway Avenue, it’s sandwiched between so many different eateries, many of which I’ve visited on a regular basis.  But what set La Vecchia apart and what drew me to it in the first place is its ambience.  It exudes that feeling and atmosphere of old world Italy (historical but with plenty of character, and a quiet, easy-breezy sophistication and glamour) and when the patio is set up during the summer, it makes you feel so relaxed just walking by it.  It’s the type of place I feel I can truly soak in a dining experience.  The type of place that gives you more than just delicious food but also a delicious experience – sitting back and taking your time, savouring those bread and olive oil moments, sipping water as you people-watch; all those little details that make those meals so memorable and enjoyable.

La Vecchia dining room in Yonge and Eglinton

La Vecchia has a FABULOUS weekend brunch menu.  Not only do they offer plenty of savoury and sweet options, but they also offer plenty of choices within those options.  You never have to feel like you’re caged in when you’re perusing their menu.  Case in point: 7 frittatas, 6 egg (uova) breakfasts (benedicts, sunny side ups, poached, and style of your choice), 5 sweet brunches, a whole host of veg, salads, and antipasto, fresh focaccia sandwiches,  and – wait for this – 9 (nine!) pasta and risotto brunch dishes!  And lots and lots of yummy things like portobello mushrooms and grilled vegetables, sausage, cured meats, goat cheese, parmesan, bocconcini and Asiago, calamari, and so much more!

Prices are very brunch-typical, hovering around $11 or $12 for most mains and dishes with a few less expensive ones ($8 or $9) and a few more expensive ones ($14 to $16).  This menu makes me think of “Around the World in 80 Days” only more like “Around the Menu 80 Times” because of all the different types of dishes!

poached eggs benedict weekend brunch with prosciutto and arugula at La Vecchia

poached eggs benedict weekend brunch with prosciutto and arugula at La Vecchia

poached eggs benedict weekend brunch with prosciutto and arugula at La Vecchia

My brunch pick for my first visit to La Vecchia: the Semplice Uova (egg) breakfast ($12) featuring 2 poached eggs on a bed of juicy, thick slices of tomato and fluffy arugula topped with thinly sliced mouthwatering prosciutto with a side of home fries, diced roasted red pepper and fruit.  So many of the my favourite things rolled into one!  I love prosciutto and arugula like nobody’s business, the prosciutto imparted so much flavour in the dish, the runny yolks in the poached eggs (which, by the way, were perfectly runny and poached) gave the dish this great, thick, egg yolky “sauce” for me to dip my home fries and tomatoes in, and the fluffy arugula just soaked up every flavour around it, just like an English muffin would in a traditional eggs benny.  There was a great balance of flavours and textures (salty, juicy, starchy, runny, and crunchy) and I didn’t find the prosciutto to be overbearing or overpowering in the dish with its cured salty flavour.

poached eggs benedict weekend brunch with prosciutto and arugula at La Vecchia

I love poached eggs and eggs benny so much and it’s so much fun trying different combinations and variations.  We’re used to seeing the classics (the florentine, the peameal, and the smoked salmon) and while I love them, it’s awesome seeing different meat and veg combinations that also really speak to the Italian cuisine of the eatery.  You can bet I’ll be back to try some of the sweet brunch dishes (they have crepes with strawberries and chocolate sauce!) and their pasta – lots and lots of pasta!  La Vecchia is a fabulous weekend brunch spot and with spring finally here their open front windows and patio will make dining here even sweeter.

*****

La Vecchia is an Italian eatery that serves lunch, dinner, and weekend brunch 7 days a week (11am lunch Monday-Friday, 10:30am-3:30pm brunch and 3:30pm dinner on Saturday, and 10am-3:30pm brunch and 3:30pm dinner on Sunday).  They are located at 2405 Yonge Street on the east side of Yonge Street several blocks north of Eglinton by Broadway Ave. in the Yonge-Eglinton neighbourhood.  You can view their menus and contact info on their website HERE.

Advertisements

Potato Pancakes & Sweet Apples – Weekend Brunch at ViVetha Bistro in Yonge Lawrence Village!

Leave a comment

DSCN9677

Happy St. Patty’s Day, everyone!  Okay, so today’s weekend brunch post isn’t an Irish one but it does involve potatoes so that’s something!  I’ve missed blogging about weekend brunch so much.  Aside from cupcakes and sushi, it’s my favourite  thing to write about on Ate by Ate and it’s the one series on the blog I’m most passionate to see grow.  I started a fun “Get Cracking – Egg Breakfasts!” photo gallery on Ate by Ate’s Facebook page that I can’t wait to add more to (can you tell I love eggs in all its forms?!) and I’m so happy that I’ve been able to rack up over 20 posts on weekend brunch meals in the city thus far!  And that’s not even counting the non-weekend breakfast posts I’ve done.

I’m especially excited about this particular post though because I’ve been trying to integrate more pancake related material into the series and this totally fits the bill in a non-traditional way – we’re talking pancakes potato-style!

DSCN9676

DSCN9688

My family and I love potato pancakes.  I’m obsessed with crispy potato rosti with sour cream, my brother and I love wafer thin, crispy hash browns, my brother has had the potato pancakes from Futures Bakery, and one of my all-time, favourite home-cooked dishes made by my mom is her potato patties with green onions and diced barbecued pork.  She mashes freshly boiled potatoes, mixes the green onions and pork in, shapes them into cute little patties, and throws them into the skillet to get them gorgeously golden brown.  It is such a treat and it’s been a favourite of mine since I was little.  She doesn’t make them often just because they’re a little more time-consuming and labour intensive, but when she does, everyone in the house is over the moon!  One of these days I’ll give it a go and we’ll see if they measure up!

DSCN9675

This post features a potato pancake weekend brunch meal from uptown bistro, ViVetha Bistro in the Yonge & Lawrence neighbourhood!    This spot is AMAZING!  I cannot wait to come back for another round.  Their food is delicious, their menu is varied and big, and their space is sweet, sunny, and cozy.  And how did I discover such a fabulous spot?  By walking around.  Again.  I make my best food discoveries just strolling around on a relaxing day of exploration.  I was in the Yonge & Lawrence neighbourhood months ago and while I was walking, I see their menu taped to the inside of their front window and knew off the bat I had to come back for some delicious eats.

ViVetha weekend brunch menu offers a little bit of everything – plenty of different egg breakfasts (lots of omelettes and eggs benedict), pancakes and French toast, and salads, sandwiches, and pasta.  Yes, pasta!  It wasn’t until I started going to Italian and European-style brunch spots that I became used to seeing pasta on the brunch menu.  You’re talking to a girl who grew up eating congee for breakfast when she was a tiny tot, then Fruit Loops cereal, and eggs and ham as a kid and then dim sum woven in every so often.  I was always used to having noodles for breakfast as well, but pasta is a little different.  It’s like how I had my spinach pappardelle bolognese pasta dish at Terroni Centrale last November .  It was the first time I ordered pasta for brunch and I have to say, I LOVED it.  You think you’re not hungry enough to eat it but trust me, you are.

DSCN9679

DSCN9678

Anyway, prices are incredibly average and reasonable.  I’m accustomed to seeing weekend brunch prices hovering around the $11-$15 range but at ViVetha, you can easily order a meal for under $10.  Many meals come in at $8 or $9 with some of the more entree type plates (like pasta and such) averaging $11-$14.

They also offer weekly brunch specials that are separate from their permanent menu.  I love that!  It keeps things exciting, new and fresh that way, especially if you’re a regular.  I had the hardest time choosing between my meal and one of the weekly specials (an eggs benny with beef tenderloin tips, smoked salmon and bocconcini – OH MY GOD).  But I went for my potato pancake meal because I really wanted to have something pancake-related, plus there was PLENTY to make my mouth water in this dish!

DSCN9680

ViVetha actually has two potato pancake menu options, one that is served with bacon and sausage, and the other that’s served with smoked salmon and eggs.  You can probably guess which one I chose.  That’s right, the one with my beloved smoked salmon and eggs!  My potato pancake platter ($11) was comprised of two big potato pancakes (shredded potatoes and green onions fried golden brown), slices of smoked salmon, 2 eggs any style (I had mine fluffy scrambled!) and a generous helping of sweet sauteed apples, sour cream and capers, and some fruit on the side.  EVERYTHING I LOVE!  Potatoes, sour cream, apples I could eat (recall my raw apple allergy!), smoked salmon, eggs, and some nice salty capers.

I was so happy.

The meal really plays on eastern European flavours (apples/applesauce with potato patties!) and the whole dish was just really balanced as there were equal portions of everything.  There were lots of different textures and flavours going on that complemented each other: the crispiness of the potato pancakes which was crucial to preventing the meal from being too “soft”, the sweetness of the apples that cut through the saltiness of the capers and smoked salmon, and the sour cream which gave a nice punch of cool tanginess and creaminess to the whole dish.  Truly though, the apples make this dish.  Anybody can say that they had potatoes with their breakfast (hash browns, home fries, whatever), but not many can say that their potato brunch came with a sweet order of apples!

DSCN9684

DSCN9686

ViVetha is truly a gem in the neighbourhood and in the city in general.  I have French toast, pancakes, pasta,  and more eggs benny calling my time for future visits!

*****

ViVetha (or ViPei as it is also known as) serves 4 locations in the city.  This particular location is located in uptown Toronto at 3334 Yonge Street, right by the corner of St. Germain Ave., in the Yonge & Lawrence neighbourhood on the west side of Yonge Street.  Even though it’s somewhat in between York Mills and Lawrence, trust me when I say that it is much easier and faster to get here from Lawrence!

Bringing Great Brunch to the Masses – Baby Arugula & Mango Salsa, Stuffed Croissants, and More at The Commissary

2 Comments

I didn’t waste any time, did I?  Last week I wrote the 2nd edition of Confessions of a Brunch Obsessed Foodie listing several weekend brunch picks from Leslieville, the land of good food, and *BAM!*, here I am reporting back with a mouthwatering account of The Commissary, one of the three spots I featured in that post.  What can I say?  I had eating to do errands to run in the east end and The Commissary, with its corner location and big windows facing the street, becknoned me like a little floating magical fairy holding a cupcake.  I have to say, I have never pounced on a new discovery so fast.  Normally when I find out about a place I’ve never been to, I take a quick photo of it from the outside, “tuck it away” in my mind (or on my computer; these days they might as well be one and the same) and then figure out a good time to make a real visit which often takes me weeks or even months.  This time?  Within 2 weeks.  The menu looked too good to pass up, I wanted to give you all a first-hand look at one of the newer eateries in this part of town, and it just fit into my schedule and my flow of errands.  Done and done.

The Commissary, located at Queen Street East and Logan Ave., has only been in business for about half a year but judging from the great crowds, you’d never know it.  The place was packed the first time I walked by its front window and door and if you can believe it, I was 2nd in line even before they officially opened their doors for weekend brunch at 10am.  It takes a long time for a food business to get its feet wet, especially in a city as food crazy and critical as ours.  Trust Torontonians to get into a debate online about cupcakes and it cultural significance!  But it truly seems to be thriving in Leslieville because it’s attracting different types of people.  You have young-ins, you have girlfriends, you have families with babies, you have the whole kit and caboodle – and everyone is having a great time in a bright, fresh, airy atmosphere. 

Now, everyone who writes about The Commissary will discuss the significance of its name – heck, even The Commissary themselves provide definitions of what a commissary is on their website.  It’s worth noting though because it really plays into the atmosphere and the feel of the bistro.  A commissary can refer to either “a store that sells food and supplies to the personnel or workers in a military post, mining camp, lumber camp, or the like” or “a dining room or cafeteria, especially one in a motion-picture studio”.  

In order for the name to make sense, we’re not supposed to take these definitions literally but rather use them to make sense of the surroundings around us and the feelings we have while we’re here.  Case in point: the reference to the working class in the first definition speaks to the unpretetnious way food is made here.  Read: it’s not fuss and frills.  It’s just damn good food and tap water in glass bottles (you have to read what the bottle says, it’ll make you laugh).  Even the menu items that scream fancier pants (like my arugula salad with mango salsa and goat cheese crumbles, $5 side) are so simple and fresh and down-to-earth.  And the giant side of breakfast potatoes for $3?  Soft, starchy, cute, insanely scrumptious, and something straight out of a local greasy spoon diner only not greasy. 

Finally, while we foodies aren’t surrounded by red carpets, lights, cameras, and action, you definitely feel like a star dining at a hip and happening hot spot.  And it also helps that everyone who passes by will undoubtedly be curious and glance through the windows to take a peek at the hustle and bustle and, you know, your food.  Because I sure did!  As well, if you take a look at their website, it exudes that old-time Hollywood glamour (I’m looking at you, Fred and Ginger), with black and white photos of old town Toronto and what I’m assuming is old town Leslieville.

The Commissary’s weekend brunch menu is full to bursting with egg breakfasts, breakfast sandwiches, salads, meat mains, vegetarian delights, and plenty of cheesy goodness!  The menu is a jack-of-all-trades.  Prices range from $7-$12, with breakfast sides coming in at $3-$5.50.  Their refreshing salads are available as mains or sides (curried shrimp and melon, caprese, watercress with jicama and Granny Smith apple just to name a few), there are 5 different types of eggs benny including peameal, grilled tomatoes, and applewood smoked bacon and smoked gouda *cue my mouth watering here*, stuffed croissants such as apple compote and brie (OH.MY.GOD) and PB & J, hearty meat dishes (roast beef steak and eggs, lobster and mango salsa, and roast beef and sauteed shrimp surf n’ turf), vegetarian dishes (ratatouille and beans and salsa rancheros), and cheese present in about 3/4 of the dishes.  I LOVE IT.  I ordered a ridiculous amount of food because I couldn’t walk away knowing I didn’t try a little bit of everything my heart desired and it paid off because it was delicious and I didn’t even feel bogged down afterward.

I was in the mood for some veggies and cheese so I went all out and had their vegetarian pepper and cheese stuffed grilled croissant ($9) with roasted red peppers, caramelized onions, and warm, creamy goat cheese, which was served with fruit and a side green salad.  You don’t see stuffed croissant breakfast sandwiches much on brunch menus!  And then I added a side baby arugula and mango salsa salad with goat cheese crumbles, grilled red onion, and sunflower seeds.  And then for good measure I ordered a side of breakfast potatoes for my boyfriend and I to share.  I barely had enough room for my camera!  It was fabulous vegetarian brunch feast.  The grilled croissant was buttery and crispy and savoury with my roasted and sauteed veggies, the goat cheese was abundant, and I would have that baby arugula and mango salsa salad over and over again in a heartbeat, only as a main the next time! 

I love how crisp all the flavours were for everything and how bright, casual, and relaxing the whole place was.  The space may not be the biggest, but it’s a sweet place with great food and a happy atmosphere; you can’t ask for more.

*****

The Commissary is located at 889 Queen Street East at the southeast corner of Queen and Logan Ave. in Leslieville.

Confessions of a Brunch-Obsessed Foodie – Brunch Picks From Leslieville & Brunch-Themed Flavour Favourite Series

1 Comment

To finish off this mini series of Leslieville posts, I thought it would be fun to compile and share a list of some of the places I think would be great to check out for brunch!  Leslieville is growing community with more and more people raving about the food culture and scene every day, so this list is by no means exhaustive!  These are, however, some of the spots I’ve had my eye on over the past year and I want to share them with you all! 

  • The Commissary – located at 889 Queen Street East, this hip new dining spot is the new kid in town having only taken up residence in the neighbourhood within the past half year.  I literally did a double-take when I walked by it a week and a half ago (“what in the world, when did this place show up?!”) and as soon as I took a quick peek at their menu, I knew I had hit brunch jackpot.  Although the person sitting by the window must not have felt the same as he probably felt the tiniest bit uncomfortable with me somewhat pressing my nose up against the window to read the menu.  I’m kidding!  Sort of.  Anyway, highlights from their weekend brunch menu (Saturdays and Sundays from 10am) include: smoked bacon and gouda eggs benny ($10); ratatouille with fresh herbs ($10); rock lobster tail and mango salsa ($13); 4 different types of French toast (!!!) with sweet and savoury options ($9); and curried shrimp and melon salad ($8 for main, $6 as a side) just to rattle off a bunch.

*****

  • Le Papillon on the Park – located at 1001 Eastern Ave. directly behind Jonathan Ashbridge Park, home of Leslieville’s farmers’ market, just off a Cam Fella Lane.  Oozing with French appeal and a menu to match, Papillon delivers weekend brunch French fare dishes such as breakfast poutine (4 different kinds!  $9-$14); rolled crepes with baked Quebec brie ($9); Québécois meat pie tourtière with tomato apple relish ($17); plenty of savoury meat and vegetable crepes, pain doré French toast, croque monsieur, and many, many eggs and eggs benny items!  The kicker for me?  Their roof-top patio!  And the fact that they have a patio menu, a price fixe menu, and a dessert menu!  It doesn’t get any better than that.

*****

  • Edward Levesque’s Kitchen – located at 1290 Queen Street East, east of Leslie Street by Hastings Ave.  If you’re looking for all-day breakfast, this spot is here to serve you!  What makes Edward Levesque’s Kitchen even more appealing to me is their special weekend brunch items in addition to their daily breakfast!  I love it when there are different things to look forward to during different parts of the week, especially for brunch (I think the rotating cupcake menus at many of the cupcake bakeries in town have me feeling this way) and their offerings sure don’t disappoint: cinnamon vanilla challah toast with apple butter ($11) and latkes with smoked salmon, sour cream, and chives ($15) on the weekends, and poached eggs with Italian sausage, tomato basil sauce, and cornbread ($16), and poached eggs with curried lentils, lamb sausage, coriander, and toasted cumin ($15) all week long!  Oh, and let’s not forget their ridiculously long list of brunch sides!  I counted 14 items.  No joke.

In addition to drooling over brunch menus, I have a bunch of different brunch themed Flavour Favourites series that I’m working on right now and I’m really excited about them!  It’ll take me awhile to rack up enough posts for each of them, but I’m so looking forward to putting these compilation posts together once I do have enough.  I’ll be putting together Flavour Favourites posts for tofu brunch items, strawberry brunch items, blueberry pancakes, French toast (especially banana bread ones!), and a whole slew of the best eggy benny dishes!  I literally have a running list of places that serve these types of dishes and the list is growing each and every week as I find out about more spots that serve breakfast and brunch on weekends.  Some might find it a little overwhelming but I think it’s so much fun and it feels so nice knocking out a new spot every week.  And with the fall season just around the corner, I’ll be keeping an eye out for fall-inspired menu items too!

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

5 Comments

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!

Vegetarian Brunch Crêpes, Mushrooms, & Goat Cheese – Lazy Summer Sunday Brunch Mornings at Simple Bistro, Part I

1 Comment

You’re strolling down the street feeling the light morning breeze through your hair and the warm sun gently beaming down on you.  It’s peaceful, it’s relaxing, and you look forward to what the day will bring as you pass by sweet bakeries, cafes, and gift shops.  And then you reach your dining destination.  You’re here, you’re hungry, and you’re ready to sit back and enjoy a delicious meal.  Ah, there’s nothing like a lazy Sunday summer morning brunch on Mount Pleasant Rd. 

Sunday brunch (or weekend brunch in general for that matter) is, in my opinion, one of life’s most luxurious treats and one of my favourite things in life to enjoy in the company of friends, my sweetheart, and nice people.  Aside from afternoon tea, it’s my favourite type of meal and food occasion.  There’s a certain air of tranquility and freshness about weekend brunch that makes it so special.  Different menus, different atmosphere – it’s all in the little things.  It’s a time to slow things down, to savour all the sights, tastes, and aromas, and to soak in every precious moment.  Our lives are so full of hustle and bustle every day what with work, school, home, family, friends, children; weekend brunch affords us that little nugget of time to do something fun and out of the ordinary and everyday.  And Simple Bistro on Mount Pleasant Rd. is one of the many weekend brunch spots in the city that make the weekends feel extra special.

Simple Bistro is the quinessential sweet and simple French cafe.  It’s small, quaint, and intimate, with sweet vases of flowers on every table and a hefty wine list to boot.  In addition to weekend brunch, they serve lunch from Wednesday to Friday from 11:30am-2:30pm, and dinner daily from 5:30pm-10pm.  Brunch is the highlight for me though.  Because of the bistro’s fold out ceiling to floor front windows, weekend brunch is made all the more fabulous with fresh air, gentle breezes, and soft sunlight filtering in.  Simple Bistro and summer work beautifully together and I took it upon myself to experience this lovely treat on a gorgeous Sunday morning. 

Known for its fresh and simple French cuisine, Simple Bistro offers a weekend brunch menu on Saturdays and Sundays, serving a mix of both French classics and brunch staples with the majority of main dishes priced from $11-$16.  Here you’ll find the popular Croque Monsieur grilled sandwich served with bechamel on the side, the classic Vichyssoise creamy soup of leek and potato, heirloom tomato salad, duck confit hash, French toast with blueberry compote, and my pick for the morning, Crêpe aux Champignons! 

Simple’s mushroom “crepe of champions” (I know it doesn’t actually mean champions, but it looks like it and it might as well be because it’s so yummy) ($14) incorporates soft scrambled eggs, spinach, leek, sauteed mushrooms, and goat cheese, all encased in big egg sheet crepe folded over top.  A number of brunch items include frites on the side, but I lucked out and had spring mix green salad tossed with a light vinaigrette as a side to my mouthwatering vegetarian crepe.

Their Crêpe aux Champignons brunch dish is wonderful in so many ways.  Let it be known that this crepe was chosen waaaay advance of this first visit.  Being the excited day planner, meal planner, and foodie that I am, I had previously looked Simple Bistro up online and perused through their weekend brunch menu first.  Because their menu is sweet and simple (one page!), it was so much less difficult for me to narrow down my choices.  It was between the French toast with blueberry compote, the heirloom tomato salad, and the Crêpe aux Champignons and the crepe dish held on to win this round because my weakness for spinach, goat cheese, and mushrooms got the best of me. 

First off, the crepe is huuuge.  Folded over, it covers half an entire large dinner plate.  Second, it is stuffed.  The crepe was so fat and plump the warm spinach, melted goat cheese, leeks, soft, slightly runny scrambled eggs with herbs, and shittake mushrooms were brimming out of it when I cut the crepe open and lifted up part of the top half to snap a few photos.  This was no flimsy, flat crepe.  Now I know we’d all expect the best from a French bistro type of establishment but if something is poorly made or executed, it is what it is.        

And finally, the yumminess.  Oh my lordy.  I think I murmured, “this is so good!” about 10 times throughout the entire meal.  The spinach was perfectly cooked (not overdone and mushy), the scrambled eggs were done just the way I loved them (silky and slightly runny), and the mushrooms were divine.  They were so flavourful, juicy, and plump and the entire crepe just screamed with creaminess, savouriness, and warmth.  It was such a happy, spring-like meal.  The crepe itself was beautiful; a sunny yellow egg sheet that wasn’t the least bit dry and it reminded me of Japanese tamago a little bit, only obviously much thinner.  I loved it not only because it was scrumptious but also because it was easy on the palate and on the stomach.  You’d think a crepe of this size would leave me keeled over in a food coma but it was surprisingly airy and light and it left me feeling so good and satisfied afterward.     

No meal for me is quite complete without a little something sweet though, so the story isn’t over just yet!  Tomorrow I’ll be featuring a special summer dessert from Simple Bistro – in a jar!  My first brunch here was wonderful and judging by the people who also came by for some brunch love right when they opened their doors/windows at 11am, it’s a well-loved neighbourhood spot that is truly a gem in the Mount Pleasant area.

*****

Simple Bistro is located at 618 Mount Pleasant Rd between Eglinton Ave. East and Davisville Ave. in Mount Pleasant Village.  They serve lunch from Wednesday-Friday from 11:30am-2:30pm, dinner daily from 5:30pm-10pm, and weekend brunch on Saturdays and Sundays from 11am-2:30pm.  Click HERE for more info and to view their menus.

Good Food & Brunch Are Knocking at Your Door – Chicken Salad, Watercress, & Asparagus at Hammersmith’s, Part I

Leave a comment

All hail the brunch and lunch in the east end!  Riverdale and Leslieville round up some of the best brunch cafes in the city with the likes of Le Papillon on the the Park, Bonjour Brioche, Table 17, Lady Marmalade, and my latest brunch favourite, Hammersmith’s!  Located smack dab on the corner of Gerrard Street East and Logan Ave. and humbly referred to as Riverdale’s friendly neighbourhood corner brunch spot, Hammersmith’s boasts seasonal, farmhouse style food that is simaltaneously wholesome and simple, yet unique and deliciously complex. 

You’re probably wondering how I found out about Hammersmith’s in the first place.  I know many of you are accustomed to hearing me (or rather, reading me) say that my food discoveries were made during random walks around town or by random sightings on a streetcar.  Not this time.  Let it be known that even the most die-hard of foodies rely on some holy grail food bibles every once in awhile.

 

I found out about Hammersmith’s in one of my issues of Where magazine Toronto!  Yes, that’s right, a free tourist magazine made available at hotels, the Eaton Centre, and in Union Station.  I will always and forever see myself as a tourist in my own city because there is always something new to explore and learn about and food is at the top of this list.  Where magazine Toronto has been one of the best things in my life for over 2 years now and I digilently pick up my free monthly copy at the Eaton Centre at the beginning of every month to flip through throughout the month.  And once I read about Hammersmith’s within the magazine’s sea of restaurant listings, I knew it was only a matter of time before I made my way here.

One of the things I love about Hammersmith’s is their menu focus.  They have one blackboard menu for the season as oppsoed to pages upon pages of items that may or may not garner any interest on a regular basis.  It’s about quality here, not quantity and they keep it simple, fresh, and mouthwateringly delicious with their mix of meat and vegetarian dishes.  What you might find on the menu on any given day?  A duck plate (hello duck confit hash!), a smoked bacon omelette, a mushroom omelette, a braised beef and goat cheese sandwich, a smokey bacon sandwich with tomato and arugula, chicken sandwiches with different fixin’s and fillings, an asparagus plate, and plenty of fresh sides to go along with these mains including a scone plate, bacon hash, a watercress and green bean salad, and asparagus with miso and scallions.   

Their menu changes based on what’s in season and they build a menu that flows from one item to the next, in the sense that they utilize their ingredients in more than capacity and in more than one dish.  Nothing goes to waste and they find scrumptious ways of using “leftovers”, so to speak, and you’ll see what I mean later on in the post.

Open from Wednesday to Sunday (10am-3:30pm on Wednesdays, Thursdays, an Fridays, and 9:30am-4pm on Saturdays and Sundays), Hammersmith serves brunch and lunch all 5 days, with a new special $35 price fixe dinner promotion currently in place from 6pm-9pm on Thursdays and Fridays.  Prices for brunch mains range from $9-$13, with sides coming in at $5 each.  In addition to their farmhouse stye food, Hammersmith’s also serves up a mean, decadent selection of baked goods and sweets along with an entire blackboard menu full of drinks!  This Part I post is specifically focused on the food, but if you have a hankering for sweets and drinks, don’t fret because Part II and III will soothe those cravings with strawberry lemonade and cupcakes!

Back to the food though.  I knew right off the bat that I wanted to try both a main and a side and since I’m a huuuge lover of watercress and asparagus (can you tell by all the asparagus photos I post in the blog’s Facebook  farmers’ market photo gallery?), I went with the chicken salad and watercress sammy ($10) and the asparagus with miso and scallions ($5) will a cool glass of strawberry lemonade, which I’ll rave about tomorrow. 

Their sandwiches are served on a crusty baguette with an amazing side salad of mixed bitter greens and arugula and razor thin slices of radish, tossed in a mouthwatering olive oil dressing.  Their chicken salad is so moist and so fresh, and deliciously creamy without being soggy or laden with mayo.  The chicken breast was shredded and piled onto the baguette and topped with watercress and it’s moments like these where you just know you’re eating some of the best chicken out there.  Much like my experience at Delux with their achiote and lime chicken sandwich, I thought the chicken salad was pure fantastic.  Combined with the salad, I cleaned off my plate till it was shiny.

And the asparagus!  Oh my goodness.  Spears of crisp asparagus were bathed in miso butter and special hot sauce and it was unlike anything that I had ever had before.  The miso butter was savoury and toned down the slight bitterness of the asparagus while the special hot sauce gave every bite that amazing bit of kick.  And to really kick things up a notch, I was given a special little “extra” to go with my meal.  Rememeber how I said Hammersmith’s doesn’t waste anything and utilizes all their food and ingredients in different ways?  Well, when you make chicken salad without the skin, it has to go somewhere.  And that somewhere was on little plate.  That’s right, folks – crispy chicken skin partnered with dollops of hot sauce and spicy grainy mustard!  A little like peking duck only with crispy chicken skin.  Now THIS was different – and delightfully delicious!

I love it here so much and now that I’ve come here once, I’m determined to come back and eat my way through their blackboard menu, season after season.  Part II and III, we go sweet and fruity fresh with Hammersmith’s cupcakes and drinks!

*****

Hammersmith’s is located at 807 Gerrard St. East in Riverdale, at the corner of Gerrard and Logan Ave.  They are a brunch and lunch cafe open from Wednesday to Sunday (10am-3:30pm on Wednesdays, Thursdays, and Fridays, and 9:30am-4pm on Saturdays and Sundays), with a price fixe dinner currently available on Thursdays and Fridays for $35.  Currently, for the summer, they are also now open on Mondays from 10am-3pm!  They accept cash and debit only.