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.

The Weekend Brunch Club – Neapolitan Eggs in Stewed Tomatoes, Potato Rosti, and Springtime Brunch at Table 17

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I’ll be the first to admit that I am one of the most indecisive people on this plant.  I have had the time of my life writing Ate by Ate, but I’m telling you, I drive myself crazy sometimes with my own waffling.  It takes me days to figure out which places I’d like to visit, what neighbourhoods I want to explore, and what menu items I want to try, and it’s not because I’m bored of my options – quite the opposite.  There are so MANY amazing choices for me to choose from that, as a result, I often find myself wanting to do a gazillion things at once and this in turn makes things harder because I know I have to come to a concrete decision sooner or later. 

This just in: for the first time in goodness knows how long, I had no trouble deciding on where I wanted to have a nice weekend brunch a few weeks ago and shockingly enough, what I wanted to have.  This easy breezy decision even took me by surprise.  My tummy knew exactly where it wanted to be fed: Table 17 on Queen East in Riverside.                

After the great brunch I had my first time there (The Sloppy Giuseppe!  Two fried sunnyside eggs with polenta, bolognese, and greens), I really wanted to go back to try some of their other brunch dishes, especially since I knew how great their variety was in terms of savoury egg breakfasts.  I always tell myself that I’ll get around to trying the French toast and pancake breakfasts, but when I go to places like Table 17, with their rustic, farmers’, local meshed with global atmosphere and menu, I always er on the side of savoury. 

Even though Table 17’s brunch menu isn’t exceptionally large (there are 10 main brunch dishes to choose from), what keeps those of us who thrive on variety coming back is their focus on seasonal ingredients and mixing up their cheeses and vegetables in dishes such as their weekly scramble, which changes every week, and their quiche which also changes on a weekly basis.

I settled on the Neapolitan Eggs with a side of potato rosti and while I do love the Sloppy Giuseppe more between the two, there’s such a brightness and freshness to the Neapolitan Eggs dish with its savoury tomato sauce and greens.  There’s a level of flavour depth in tomato sauce that is just uncomparable to anything else.  Just the thought of a big pot of tomato sauce with a hint of cream and a spattering of fresh herbs makes me feel all warm and fuzzy inside.  Growing up, I was always a fan of the cream sauces like alfredo, white wine, mushroom, and such.  I love them dearly still (spaghetti in white sauce or mushroom sauce will always be a weakness), but tomato sauce has really grown on me and I appreciate its flavour and versatility so much more. 

Neapolitan Eggs (or Eggs in Purgatory) is a classic southern Italian dish, originating in Campania in Naples and while the origins of its alternative name are subject to speculation*, Table 17 does a fabulous job on their menu of integrating these traditional, classic European flavours into their local framework.  Local, seasonal ingredients whenever possible, but globally inspired – that’s the intent and motivation.  Two of Table 17’s brunch dishes tip their hat at classic and traditional Italian favourites, including the Sloppy Giuseppe dish I had my first time and their Neapolitan Eggs.  Neapolitan Eggs can be made in a few different ways – eggs baked in tomato sauce or cracked into the sauce and then simmered – but Table 17 does it poached style. 

The dish ($10), which is also a vegetarian option, consists of two poached eggs in stewed tomatoes and basil on country toast with a green mix salad in olive oil vinaigrette.  My favourite aspects of the dish include the thick, runny yolks of the eggs (the delicious hallmark of an awesome poached egg), the thickness of the egg whites (they tasted so good with the cracked black pepper, oh my goodness), the texture of the tomato sauce (segments of crushed tomatoes strewn throughout tomato sauce juice with sweet onions), and the lightness of the dish as a whole.   

And of course, we can’t forget about the amazing potato rosti on the side!  Table 17 offers several side dishes ($4) in addition to their mains, things like double-smoked bacon, bangers (sausages), frites, and potato rosti.  Made with shredded potatoes and then formed into large patties for pan-frying, potato rostis are a fab alternative to hash browns and homefries.  Their potato rosti side is absolutely fabulous and it is SO DELICIOUSLY GOOD. 

The crispy, crunchy, waffle-like potato pancake came in a half moon pie shape and was cut into four wedges and was accompanied by a dish of sour cream.  It was perfect for dipping (in the sour cream and in my tomato sauce), it was crunchy and crispy on the outside and soft and potatoey on the inside, and it was so good eating mouthfuls of it with the mix of egg white, egg yolk, green salad, and sour cream.  It was brunch heaven in my mouth and it was a wonderful complement to my eggs and tomatoes because it just sopped up all the flavour and provided that tiny bit of fried crunchiness that makes everything extra awesome.

I’m already looking forward to my next brunch here and given how indecisive I am, it wouldn’t hurt for me to start thinking about what I’d love to try next.  I’m thinking of having either the Farmers’ Breakfast or the Weekly Scramble.  With potato rosti again.  Or maybe a side of bangers.  Or maybe I should just flip a coin.   

*****

Source *= Almost Italian.com

Table 17 is located at 782 Queen Street East in the Riverside district of Toronto in the east end.  They are located on the north side of Queen East, east of Broadview Ave. and west of Boulton Ave.  They are open 7 days a week for dinner at 5:30pm and are open for weekend brunch at 10:30am.  Brunch is served until 2:30pm.  Follow them on Twitter @table17, check out their Facebook page here, and their site here.

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 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.    

Table for Two at Table 17 – Sunny Fried Eggs, Polenta, Bolognese, and The Sloppy Giuseppe Brunch!

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If I asked you what you loved most about your favourite restaurant or what you loved best about a relaxing meal out, how would you answer that?  Maybe you love the variedness of the menu, the relaxing atmosphere, the decor, the hustle and bustle, or being immersed in a dining room full of people abuzz with excitement over their meals and their weekend plans, soaking in the energy.  Or maybe you just love it because the food is delicious and being out and about gives you the opportunity to sit back and enjoy life with a glass of wine.  At Table 17, located on Queen Street East in Riverside, you can enjoy every single one of those qualities while savouring weekend brunch by day and wine and bistro dishes by night. 

While the term bistro is often associated with French cuisine and classic French cafe fare, Table 17’s menu isn’t exclusively devoted to French food.  Table 17 is a wine bar and bistro with a menu that seeks its inspiration from European flavours and techniques such as Italian and British in addition to French, and integrating these influences with North American fare and local ingredients.

Table 17 is the type of restaurant that does dichotomy incredibly well – with their atmosphere and with their menu.  When you eat here, you simaltaneously feel like you’re in a sleek and modern dining establishment and a relaxing country barn kitchen.  It’s contemporary mixed with warm, rustic country chic with its black restaurant front and chairs, and brassy chandeliers that cast a warm glow in the restaurant.  Their dining area is divided into two, where one feels more communal and intimate and the other with a more open and airy vibe with big windows, adjacent from the wine bar. 

Their menu is the perfect mix of local and global: Ontario beef, Ontario cheddar, brie, and mozzarella, and Québécois creton juxtaposed with British scotch eggs, French pain doré, bistro classic steak frites, and Sicilian arancino rice balls.  Some of their dishes have more obvious and transparent European aspects while others, such as the wonderful brunch dish I had, are much more nuanced and subtle.

While their dinner menu is still waiting for me, I finally got the chance to relish in my long-awaited wonderful weekend brunch here and after a fabulous meal, I fully intend to go on a whirlwind brunch tour cycling through the entire brunch menu!  Most of Table 17’s brunch prices come in at $10 with a few breakfasts ringing in at $12.  The brunch menu offers both brunch mains and individual sides, along with drink specials including mimosas, caesars, and more. 

While Table 17’s brunch menu is incredibly varied, the menu itself isn’t sloppy.  The whole menu is made cohesive with a common theme and thread stringing many of the dishes together: eggs!  They do brunch justice by offering all different types of dishes with both North American and European  ingredients and flavours: poached neapolitan eggs, farmer’s breakfast with scotch eggs, weekly egg scramble accompanied with seasonal ingredients, grilled cuban sandwich, nicoise breakfast of Italian tuna, boiled eggs, and nicoise olives, and my pick, The Sloppy Giuseppe!

The Sloppy Giuseppe is a dish comprised of 2 fried eggs served overtop Bolognese sauce and friend polenta alongside a green salad.  Have I ever professed my love of eggs?  If I haven’t, I will now: I love eggs.  So much.  While I often err on the side of overeasy, there is just nothing like fried eggs with their beautiful bright sunny yolks, bubbly egg whites, and groan-inducing crispy edges.  Weekend brunch is made sunnier with beauitful eggs like these.  My eggs were sprinkled with chives and cracked black pepper and they daintily sat atop wedges of fried polenta and traditional Bolognese sauce (absolutely no tomato in this) alongside a bright, fresh, crisp green salad of arugula and red leaf lettuce. 

The polenta and Bolognese were delightful.  The exterior of the polenta was golden and crispy and inside was a creamy smooth mixture of cornmeal that meshed deliciously with the ground beef Bolognese.  The ground beef was wonderful because it wasn’t ground to the point where it was mush, but it still had that distinctive ground meat texture.  The dish was incredibly savoury in the best way possible.  The yolks from the eggs paired easily with the creaminess of the polenta while the salad lended a brightness and crispness that cut through the fun greasy spoon style dish.

The Sloppy Giuseppe is the perfect example of how Table 17 executes the juxtaposition of North American and European.  I can’t help but marvel at the cleverness and creativity of the dish, not only in composition but also in name.  If we break it down, you see exactly how Italian and American are fused together into this one dish: the name Giuseppe is the Italian name for Joseph, Bolognese sauce is a traditional Italian pasta sauce originating in Bologna, and the Bolognese itself is a play on an American classic, the ground beef sloppy joe.  I don’t know if anyone else finds the complexity and nuances as fascinating, but I just love it.  I loved the dish, I adore their brunch menu, and the atmosphere is wonderful.  Judging by the hustle and bustle of the crowds, I know I’m not the only one who feels this way.  

*****

Table 17 is located at 782 Queen Street East in the Riverside district of Toronto in the east end.  They are located on the north side of Queen East, east of Broadview Ave. and west of Boulton Ave.  They are open 7 days a week for dinner at 5:30pm and are open for weekend brunch at 10:30am.  Brunch is served until 2:30pm.  Follow them on Twitter @table17, check out their Facebook page here, and their site here.

Spotlight on the Flaky, Buttery, Melt-in-Your-Mouth Ham, Cheese, and Mushroom Pasqualina at La Merceria

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Over the years I’ve come to realize the type of breakfast and brunch eater I really am.  Some people love sweet breakfast foods (think pancakes, waffles, French toast, that sort of thing) while others salivate at the thought of egg breakfasts, breakfast burritos and sandwiches, and all things savoury.  Having the sweet teeth that I do, one would safely assume that my breakfast tastes lean more toward the sugar n’ spice n’ all things nice category.  But they don’t.  Oh, I enjoy an amazing French toast or waffle breakfast every once in awhile (I chomped on this thing of beauty, didn’t I?), but what really buzzes my biscuits is a full out savoury breakfast with all the works!  I love home fries, eggs (hello eggs benny!), tofu scrambles, huevos rancheros, sausage rounds, green salads with my brunch, the whole nine yards. 

Thus, I went into La Merceria one chilly morning ready for something warm and yummy and savoury and they did not disappoint with their selection of torta pasqualinas and mini empanadas.  They had three kinds of pasqualinas (spinach and egg, ham and cheese, and veggie) and three kinds of mini empanadas (beef, chicken, and veggie) waiting for me for that morning, and since  I was in the mood for something smoky and gooey the ham and cheese pasqualina fit the bill!

The spinach and egg pasqualina I had the last time was great, but this ham, cheese, and mushroom pasqualina was 100 times more amazing!  OH.MY.GOD.  For those of you who are vegetarian, I know, this doesn’t do anything for you, but for those of you who aren’t, you have to try this!  It is SO scrumtiously delicious and I promise you that once you start eating it, you will want to stuff the whole shebang in your mouth.  Because that’s sort of what I did.  And this even took me by surprise. 

I looooove mushrooms and cheese and every so often smoky ham hits the spot, but I was hesitant to dig into the pasqualina so ferociously just because anything cheesy has its enjoyable limits.  I’m a lover of cheese but even I know it can get too rich at times.  A lot of the time you end up needing something to cleanse your palate so the richness of the cheese doesn’t start overwhelming or overpowering your tastebuds, but that didn’t happen with this meal at all.  I didn’t have to stop in the middle of eating to take a break from the cheese and I didn’t feel icky.  It was truly one of the most enjoyable things I’ve ever eaten.     

The pasqualina was so incredibly moist, buttery, and flaky and the exterior was crispy while the layer right underneath the flaky golden-brown outer later was moist and chewy.  The spinach and egg one is closer in taste and appearance to a breakfast quiche whereas the heavenly ham, cheese, and mushroom one is reminscent of a flaky, buttery, melt-in-your-mouth breakfast biscuit with all the goodness of smoky ham, cheddar cheese, and soft, juicy cremini mushrooms.  This pasqualia was so honking delicious I finished the entire thing in one sitting.  No doggy bag for the doggy bag queen!  Now that’s a feat! 

La Merceria’s pasqualina’s are priced around $4-$5 and they are worth it for their portion size and yumminess.  If you’re in the market for something savoury but feel a little overwhelmed by big breakfasts, this would be right up your alley.  And while you’re at it, sip some hot tea or coffee drink and admire the wonderful cafe as you eat your yummy brunch. 

*****

La Merceria is located at 506 Adelaide Street West by the northwest corner of Adelaide and Portland Street, east of Bathurst.  La Merceria is located beside Sadie’s Diner and Juice Bar.  Visit their website and blog here for updates, info, promos, events, pictures, and contact information and visit their Facebook page here.

Voulez-Vous Coucher Avec Moi? Nah, Let’s Stick to All-Day Brunch at Lady Marmalade in Leslieville

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Leslieville has made it onto the blog and with it, Lady Marmalade!  I promise to do a Foodie District round-up post for Leslieville the same way I did for Kensington Market and no, I haven’t forgotten about our beloved Roncesvalles Village either!  I’m so excited to be posting about all these different neighbourhoods in the city and showcasing the yummiest of the yummiest, at least to me!  I pass by and even frequent certain areas of town on the streetcar fairly often but it’s a totally different story when you hop off and walk east and west, north and south, up and down and all around. 

Queen Street is probably the road I’ve travelled most frequently on via streetcar (almost from one end to the other and back on a number of occasions!) and I’ve passed by breakfast, brunch, and lunch diner Lady Marmalade in Leslieville more times than I can remember.  I had heard fabulous things about Lady Marmalade and I had seen the fabulousity taking place out on the curb.  People weren’t lying when they said the diner faced lineups out the door during weekend brunch!  For the record, I ate here during a weekday morning and I thankfully secured a spot before the real crowds started coming in, which they did at 10:30am no less!

The decor at Lady Marmalade almost makes me giggle because there are aspects of it that are so 70s it hurts!  Think 70s mismatched upholstery, moss green and burnt orange, and salt and pepper shakers.  It’s all in good cuteness and I find it endearing!  I think it’s what makes Lady Marmalade the brunch powerhouse and character that it is.  Aside from the punchy decor, the menu packs a punch like you wouldn’t believe.  They serve all-day breakfast and all-day lunch, and classic breakfast dishes such as eggs benny, crepes, and huevos rancherous are given special touches that make them uniquely Lady Marmalade.  Think miso-scallion cream with crepes, huevos rancheros with basmati brown rice, pesto bennies, tofu scrambles with bok choy, a good morning poutine, and a menu boasting lots of scrumptious avocado!  

Lunch items include sandwiches, rice bowls, and meal size salads, and the large drink menu offers fruit smoothies, loose leaf teas, coffee, juices, and different types of soda drinks.  Brunch prices come in at around $7.50-$12.50 with most dishes at $11.50.  The only down side?  Lady Marmalade only accepts cash.  No credit cards or debit cards, much to the chagrin of many hungry brunch goers.  You know everyone brushes off that little bit of nose wrinkling though because no matter what,  this place is popular and packed.

One of the best things about their menu?  You can easily make many of the breakfast dishes vegetarian and vegan which makes Lady Marmalade the perfect brunch spot for meat-lovers, vegetarians, and vegans alike.  A number of their dishes are already vegetarian to begin with, but we all know breakfast options can be laden with eggs and butter and cream, so Lady Marmalade’s menu offers plenty of opportunities to turn meat or vegetarian meals into vegan ones with little lists of “a, b, or c” choices that accompany said menu items.  Even though some meals offer bacon, sausage, and ham, as meat choices, I find Lady Marmalade’s menu to be pretty darn healthy in general!  I mean, breakfast diners are breakfast diners; you’re going to have some level of indulgence and decadence no matter what.  You can tell though that Lady Marmalade’s menu was, and is, well-thought out for the healthy and hearty in mind because there are lots of vegetables in all different forms all over the menu in the breakfast portion and in the lunch portion. 

Everything on the menu sounded delicious, but I wanted to go for something a little different.  There were many options I would have normally pounced on (tofu scramble and huevos rancherous, I’m looking at both of you!), but I wanted to show you all a dish unlike anything else I had previously blogged about so I chose the mouthwatering aged white cheddar and spinach savoury waffles!  The waffles, which come Belgian style and sliced in half diagonally into perfect triangles, are served with melted aged white cheddar cheese and creamy orange sauce on the tops, spinach cooked right into the waffles, and roasted tomatoes, salad, and a choice of bacon or avocado.  I could live off of avocado, so that choice was a no brainer for me!

There were so many amazing dimensions to this meal and they were all delicious for completely different reasons.  I loved each and every part of the dish, but what I loved and appreciated the most was the complexity of flavours and the cohesiveness of the dish in its entirety.  Every single thing had a flavour role to play and they played off each other so well.  Before I get into the deliciousness, I want to explain what I mean by cohesiveness.  We’re talking about savoury waffles with cheese on them, a rather strong cheese that’s been melted on spinach waffles.  When we think waffles, more often than not, we associate them with sweet flavours.  Thus, if the waffles had been served on their own, they would have been too rich and too savoury because dishes like these need other textures and flavours to break up the richness. 

Alongside the roasted tomatoes, salad, and avocado, everything worked because all of these functioned as palate cleansers.  The tomatoes were warm, juicy, and slightly acidic, the giant avocado (they gave me half an avocado, oh my goodness!) was cool, thick, and creamy with no distinctive sweet or salty taste, the orange cream added a zing of fruitiness, and the green salad was crunchy (which contrasted with the chewier texture of the cheese waffles) and extremely refreshing with an amazing sesame dressing with white and black sesame seeds to boot!

Here’s another very important thing to point out: the waffles taste 100x more fabulous when they’re cold!  I don’t mean refrigerator cold, but just no longer warm.  I KNOW.  No, I am not nuts.  I don’t know what it is about certain foods tasting a thousand times more foodgasmic when they’re cold, but I’m dead serious about this.  It could be that the flavours have time to settle in and intensify over time, or maybe heat just alters the way certain things taste.  We all know how disgusting French fries taste when they get cold, but we also know how some people are gaga over cold pizza.  This is one of those delicious cold pizza or spaghetti examples.  I know, when you eat out you’re most likely ravenous, but trust me on this one.  If you have the willpower, take a bite when it’s hot, chat with a friend for about 10-15 minutes before digging in again, and you’ll notice the difference and thank me for it.        

*****

Lady Marmalade is located at 898 Queen Street East in the Leslieville neighbourhood just west of Logan Ave.  They are open 7 days a week for all-day breakfast and all-day lunch.  From Monday-Friday, the diner is open from 8am-4pm, and from 8am-3pm on the weekends.