Fueling Up on Love For Food – A Weekend Brunch of Smoked Trout & Goat Cheese Baby Quiches at Cafe Belong

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“Food is Fuel, Food is Medicine, Food is Love”.  This passage, carved beautifully onto the metal plaque outside Cafe Belong, sums up, guides, and informs every menu creation, every culinary decision, every philosophical perspective, and every loving feeling towards food that Cafe Belong has.  It’s a beautiful way to sum up how I feel about food.  For me, food is my creative fuel.  It makes me excited for things to come, open to new opportunities and experiences.  Learning about food and being completely immersed in all its complexities has enriched my life in ways I never could have imagined and it truly is the fuel that drives my dreams and ambitions. 

And food as medicine?  That too.  Just not in the way you might think.  Being a foodie is therapeutic for me.  Hunkering down and zoning out while I’m scrapbooking my food photos puts me in my happy place.  And when I’m convinced I’m too tired to blog or to go out and get stories, I use that love of food to push myself a little harder and to remind myself that I have so much fun doing it.  When my fingers hit the computer keys, everything’s good.  Food is love.

In the context of Cafe Belong, this passage has to do with the integrity of food in all its facets (preparation, cultivation, presentation) and treating food, and the land it grows on, the people who make it, serve it, grow it, and eat it, with the utmost love and respect.  This is much easier said than done, but that is what makes the joy and experience of eating and cooking that much more rewarding.  It’s the same joy and pride you feel when you pluck a ripe tomato off the wine in your own backyard and when you snip chives off from your herb pots.  This is not to say that the farm-to-table, locavore way of eating and living is without flaw; only that the guiding principles behind this way of eating provides an alternative or at the very least, a way of envisioning one.            

What makes me SO excited about Cafe Belong and its food are their ever-changing menus based on the seasons.  I LOVE seasonal fare and with 3 different main menus to eat from (lunch and dinner, 4 to 6, and weekend brunch), there is so much fabulous, delicious food to go around.  Menus are divided into hot and cold “kitchens” and sides, with each section highlighting seasonal ingredients.  Cold plates include things such as fresh vegetable, cheese, and grain salads (tomato salad and pot barley), cold plates with fish and seafood (cured fish and fennel, tuna ceviche, spring lobster salad with fingerlings), cured meats and cheeses, and yogurt and granola brunch among others.  Hot dishes incorporate fresh herbs, vegetables, and fruits in ways that liven up warm comfort food such as smoked duck with squash, cranberries, and beans, lobster boil with leeks, potatoes, and greens, and cauliflower gratin and squash dumplings. 

The menus are so inspiring and there is so much to explore and try and if I had to choose a seasonal menu to be the most excited about, it would have to be fall.  My heart feels full to bursting at the thought of gorgeous fall colours and leaves outside the cafe windows and fall comfort food.  It’ll take a very long time to cycle through a year’s worth of seasonal menu items, but I am definitely up for the challenge of enjoying one special meal here each and every season to get a well-rounded perspective an overall experience of Cafe Belong. 

My first Cafe Belong experience was a weekend brunch one and I enjoyed it in the lively atmosphere of the dining room and kitchen, where the hustle and bustle of the kitchen was visible and the windows from where natural light streamed in seemed never-ending.  People were ordering summer cocktails (brunch cocktails for those of you who love a tipple in the morning!), heaping mountainous plates of brunch salad, and wooden planks carrying brunch lobster rolls and other mouthwatering entities.  While I’ll admit that it was a warm day in the cafe when I went, everything felt light and airy and relaxing  with the large windows overlooking the lovely outdoor patio.  I know it seems odd that I would give up a chance at dining al fresco (hello, summer patio dining series), but I didn’t feel like donning my hat while I ate so inside beside a window I stayed. 

The summer brunch menu ($9 on the low end, $25 at its highest end) features dishes such as potato and egg tart wih apple and greens, lobster roll on brioche with cucumber, radish, and spinach, blueberry pancakes with whipped cream and maple syrup, poached eggs with hollandaise, honey-glazed ham, and savoury biscuit, and market flatbread in vegan, vegetarian, and carni form.  My pick?  The smoked trout and chevre quiche with tomato and cucumber salad ($18), a beautiful, colourful dish bursting with juicy, smoky, cheesy flavour!  This was not your typical quiche though.  From the menu, you would think of quiche with trout and chevre (goat cheese) in it with cucumbers and tomatoes on the side.  Oh no, the dish was comprised of two baby goat cheese quiche tarts surrounded by thick wedges of smoked trout fish, sprigs of fresh dill, juicy tomatoes, and sliced cucumbers in a creamy, tangy, scumptious dressing that tasted like a lighter, airier version of a buttermilk thousand island dressing.

 

It was so sweet and adorable because the trout, tomatoes, and cucumber huddled around the baby quiches like a cozy igloo (I know, I know, it’s SUMMER, but that’s what comes to mind!) and the flavours just flowed between each other wonderfully.  I love that the baby quiches had a crispy yet fluffy cornbread taste and texture to them and the sprigs of dill just heightened the flavours of the dish phenomenally.  The tomatoes were ridiculously juicy and tender and basically melted in my mouth and the quiches mopped up the dressing very nicely. 

There was creamy, tangy flavour from the dressing and goat cheese, warmth and comfort from the quiche which balanced out the “cold kitchen”ness of the dish, and insanely savoury delicious smokiness from the trout.  It was like eating mouthfuls of cured fish with flavour that just did not quit.  I really appreciated the amount of fresh fish on my plate and only wish the quiches were larger so I would have more to enjoy!  What was lovely was how each ingredient played off each other.  You could feasibly eat each one on its own and it would still be taste delightful, but together it was wonderful. 

*****

Cafe Belong is located at Evergreen Brick Works at 550 Bayview Ave.  They are open for weekend brunch on Saturdays and Sundays, and lunch and dinner 7 days a week from 11:30am-10pm from Monday-Friday, and 11am-10pm on weekends.  Click HERE to view menus and to read more about this wonderful locavore cafe.

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Food is Fuel, Medicine, and Love – A Photo Spotlight on Cafe Belong at Evergreen Brick Works, Part I

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It’s the first day of August, so let’s start the month off with a bang!  I’ve wanted to dine at Cafe Belong at Evergreen Brick Works for over a year now but never even took a baby step towards doing so because the pricing is definitely more of a special occasions type of range.  But I took the plunge and had my first meal here recently and I can’t wait to tell you all about the darling of locavore, seasonal, farm-to-table cuisine in Toronto.  Even though I had never enjoyed their food or dining experience until now, I was still able to snap some photos throughout many of my visits to the Brick Works, so consider this a mini photo montage of sorts.  They have a beautiful outdoor patio, a fresh and inviting dining room, and a cafe area where all the baked goods, snacks, and java action happens, and a beautiful space with kitchenware and home decor.  It’s a space that grows and thrives on change and seasons and I’m so excited to share my first food experience with you all.   

*****

Cafe Belong is located at Evergreen Brick Works at 550 Bayview Ave.  They are open for weekend brunch on Saturdays and Sundays, and lunch and dinner 7 days a week from 11:30am-10pm from Monday-Friday, and 11am-10pm on weekends.  Click HERE to view menus and to read more about this wonderful locavore cafe.

The Fall Harvest Series: Fresh & Farm-to-Table – The Foodie Emporium That is Evergreen Brick Works, Part II

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When a few friends told me Evergreen Brick Works was big and all sorts of awesome, I had no idea it would be THIS big and awesome.  Are there other farmers’ markets in the city that I love to pieces just as much?  Of course.  But Evergreen Brickworks is a different kind of foodie playground.   There’s a certain rustic quality to it, and a very communal, down-to-earth atmosphere that makes you feel welcome and homey.  At the heart of Evergreen is sustainability: sustaining our environment and our communities while at the same time building new relationships through beautiful community green spaces, classes, workshops, and charitable events.  

The connections made between the environment, the people, and the food is just one of Evergreen’s pride and joys.  As the menu at Cafe Belong reads, “Food is fuel, food is medicine, and food is love”.  The food culture connects the global with the local – and vice versa – with its farm-to-table philosophy, bringing some of the best of what other countries have to offer and integrating these transnational and transglobal relationships into our local ones in the marketplace.  You learn so much just by being here.

I was literally standing by the olive oil table talking to the sweet lady for 10-15 minutes, as I sampled some bread, olive oil, and balsamic and took notes in my notebook while she explained all these wonderful things about olive oil and balsamics.  Things like what to look for on a bottle’s label to determine authenticity (“made in” versus “product of”, import information, etc.), what colour of bottle to look for (dark!), the names of the oils depending on how many varieties of olives are used (one olive variety = monocultivar), and how the age of the olives affects the notes and taste of the oil (the older the more grassier). 

I have never been so informed about olive oil in my life and it was amazing because I came away with so much more knowledge than I came in with.  And I think that’s the beauty of being here.  You take a little something with you every time you come and go and you open yourself up to a world of foodie exploration.

There are so many different components that make it a wonderland to explore and play in and its sheer size, alone, makes it unique and special.  The Saturday farmers’ market (which, in my humble opinion, should be renamed to “giant food mansion barn paradise thing”) emphasizes homegrown Ontario farming and food, and local food businesses with farmers and producers of fruits, vegetables, herbs, and cheese, local bakers and bakeries, butchers, fishmongers, and restaurant business owners coming together under one barn roof.  This market was open and spacious and just plain HUGE.  It was like a fresh food flea market in a barn!  Not only were there tables upon tables of farmers selling their produce, but there were samples to try, grills being fired up for hot lunch food, and live music.  You could literally outfit your entire refrigerator and kitchen after a day here.

The menu of fresh, local food and produce draws hungry foodies to Cafe Belong, a beautiful, airy cafe and rustic dining hall.  Sit down with a coffee, baked good, or meal where the food is fresh and seasonal.  Menu items include dishes such as tomato salad with barley ($12), cured fish with grilled fennel ($14), summer squash with smoked duckand seasonal berries ($15), steamed lake fish ($18), braised lamb ($19), sweet and sticky pork with apples ($17), vegetarian pot barley with mushrooms and rainbow chard ($16), and vegan moroccan chick pea stew ($15).  End (or begin!) your meal with something sweet from the cafe, like a spiced heirloom pumpkin tart, a fresh baked apple pie, a blueberry scone, or one of Cafe Belongs many cookies, muffins, and oat bars. 

The gardening and planting area encourages and provides us with the tools to be our own farmers and producers of food and finally, the marketplace, with its local and global gourmet eats, reads, and gadgets, is a mecca of food and shopping goodness.  There are shelves and tables with cookbooks (local, sustainable food, vegetarian and vegan food, raw food, preserves and canning, baking cookbooks, and so much more), olive oils and balsalmic vinaigrettes, jams and preserves, mustards, curries, pickled vegetables, coffees, teas, local artwork, handmade craft items, and kitchen accessories.

The cookbook junkie in me was going craaazy and everything was so festive with all the seasonal decorations sitting on the tables and hanging on the walls.  I can’t even imagine what the marketplace is going to look like when the holidays roll around in December!  And that’s another thing I love about Evergreen, that it’s cyclical, relevant, and timely.  When you’re here, you feel like you’re in the thick of everything important that’s happening in local food culture and you grow with them as you see and learn more.

This first visit was a fabulous one and I am so excited about making another one closer to the holidays in the winter.  I’m happily enjoying fall while it lasts (it feels like the shortest season out of the four sometimes!), but a big part of me cannot wait to see what’s in store later on this year.  Enjoy the photos and I’ll have Part III for you guys tomorrow.  Baked goods ahoy!

*****

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