A Rainforest Cabana Weekend Brunch – The Tex Mex Tortilla Scramble & The First Visit to Fresh on Crawford!

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To all Fresh enthusiasts: have any of you noticed something missing from my Fresh posts?  I’m serious!  This is truly not a rhetorical question and while I certainly don’t expect any of you to go back and comb through my entire Fresh history, I’m genuinely asking because a glaring, unintentional omission exists and I’m just very curious to know if anybody else has picked up on this!  I’ve featured Fresh bowls, brunch, appetizers, plenty of brown rice, soba noodle, and vegetable goodness and even a burger in between scrapbook layouts.  However, the Fresh party on Ate by Ate will never be complete without this missing puzzle piece and I’m delighted to announce that the missing piece is has been claimed! 

After 10 gloriously delicous posts on Fresh over the course of a year and a half, I finally made my way to their Crawford location!  And that, my dear foodies, was the missing member of the Fresh family.  I know, it took me long enough!  Fresh serves 3 locations in Toronto and after 10 visits, my time at Queen and Crawford finally came and it was wonderful and fantastical and foodgasmic all at the same time.  It also helped that I celebrated this monumental occasion with my favourite meal of the day: brunch!  Before we get to the good eats though, let’s do a little rundown of the Crawford location in all its glory.   

One of the things I love most about Fresh is their decor and aesthetic.  The colours are bright, colourful, and fresh and all 3 locations have their own unique style and atmosphere.  Bright green paint and big mirrors adorn the walls of the Queen and Spadina location while pops of acid bright pink and orange, and beautiful wallpaper reminiscent of pretty scrapbook paper, decorate their Bloor St. spot.  Both locations also have cute restaurant-front awnings patterned in their signature colours of blue and green. 

Fresh on Crawford?  Let’s just say what Fresh on Crawford lacks on the outside is made up for on the inside ten times over.  The inside is beautiful.  It’s sleek and contemporary and it has such a hip yet tranquil spa-like quality.  Being inside makes me feel like I’m eating in a lush green rainforest cabana.  Wooden accents, anthurium plants, exposed brick wall on one side, and lots of green all over beautify the space.  The juice bar is lined with bar stools, brightened up with potlights (and look at the mountains of bright yellow bananas!), and in plain view from the seating area which I absolutely adore.  I really like this location and it’s anyone’s guess as to why it’s taken me so long to come here!  Located at 894 Queen Street West, it’s also the only location out of the three that has a full-fledged outdoor patio.  The Queen & Spadina location does have a tiny one out in the front, but the one at Crawford is the real deal!

Now, onto the foodgasmic moments of brunch!  I made myself a promise after my first weekend brunch at Fresh.  I promised myself I would go back and devour their Tex Mex Tortilla Scramble because in the beginning, I couldn’t decide between their Full Breakfast and their Tex Mex Scramble and actually felt a pang when I opted for the Full Breakfast first.  I know I probably would have felt the same way about the Full Breakfast had I chose the Tex Mex one first, but either way, I made good on my promise and had their Tex Mex Tortilla Scramble ($11) a few weeks ago with aged cheddar cheese and a side of garlic mayo. 

THIS IS THE BREAKFAST OF CHAMPIONS.  OH.MY.GOD.  Imagine eleventy billion exclaimation points inserted here!  Their Tex Mex Tortilla Scramble is comprised of savoury, crunchy melt-in-your-mouth corn tortillas underneath a mountain of tofu scramble, thick wedges of avocado, diced tomato, shredded lettuce, green onions, cilantro, and warm brown rice and creamy, spicy black beans.  The option of adding aged cheddar or vegan cheese is available for an extra $2, so I gladly added some cheddar to my tex mex mountain and had myself a field day stuffing my face with mouthfuls of creaminess, crunchiness, juiciness, and all around amazingness.

Each and every single part of this brunch dish worked in tandem and there was so much great flavour and texture.  The crunch came from the savoury corn tortillas, lettuce, and green onion, the creaminess came from the avocado and the spicy black beans, the tomatoes brought some juiciness, and the added crumbled aged cheddar just took the entire dish above and beyond with its nutty creaminess.  The scrambled tofu?  Wonderful.  It was smooth, it was super silky, and it had a delicious herb flavour to it.  And the brown rice brought the dish together with warmth, wholesomeness, and heartiness.  It was truly one of the best meals I have EVER had, hands down.  I enjoyed the Full Breakfast the last time, but the Tex Mex Tortilla Scramble blows it out of the water.  If you ever have any doubts as to which brunch meal you should have at Fresh, don’t.  Have this one and enjoy it until you are happy in the tummy and rolling down the road afterward.

*****

Fresh currently serves 3 locations in downtown Toronto:

  1. 326 Bloor St. West (right off the intersection of Spadina Ave. and Bloor St. West, just east of Spadina)
  2. 894 Queen St. West (at the intersection of Crawford St. and Queen St. West, near Trinity Bellwoods Park)
  3. 147 Spadina Ave. (near the intersection of Spadina Ave. and Queen St. West, a block south of Queen)
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A Mexican Food and Grocery Emporium! Zucchini & Veggie Tacos and the Roasted Taste of Corn at La Tortilleria Market

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I had no idea what I was walking into when I pulled open the door to La Tortilleria.  I should have though.  The storefront clearly said La Tortilleria Market with the words, “convenience” and “Mexican products” right underneath, alongside “fresh tortillas daily”.  I think I was so excited about trying a place I had wanted to try for ages that all logic escaped through my head and into the chilly air.  That and because I was so ready for lunch, I was hungry!

Anyway, I should have had an inkling as to the type of establishment I was about to step into, but it didn’t register at the time.  All I knew I was that I was excited about having Mexican food for lunch and that I would most likely be faced with the hard decision of deciding between quesadillas, tacos, and possibly burritos.  All thoughts of what to feed my hungry stomach momentarily seized though after I stepped inside.  I was expecting giant menu boards, some tables and chairs to sit and eat, and mouthwatering photos of food to entice the Mexican lover in me.  I got much more than I expected.

I had walked right into a Mexican food and grocery emporium!  OH.MY.GOD.  I actually said that out loud as I entered through the swinging entrance barricade.  Sigh.  How graceful of me.  I was in awe though.  I had never been to a Mexican grocery store before!  Chinese supermarkets?  Since the day I was born.  Polish mini market?  Just this past late summer.  I’ve even been to a Filipino grocery mart.  But a Mexican grocery store?  Oh, this was divine.  La Tortilleria is not only a sit-down spot to nosh on Mexican comfort food hot off the press, but the Bloor & Dufferin location is also a Mexican supermarket with everything from Mexican corn chips and tortillas to pantry staples to bulk spices to traditional Mexican pastries and baked goods.

The grocery mart is divided into different aisles and sections and each aisle and section is devoted to a specific type of food.  La Tortilleria has shelves of canned and dry pantry items such as chipotle, jalapeno, and serrano peppers, refried beans, hot sauces, cornmeal and maize, tamale and masa flour, Mexican chocolate mixes and coffee, churro mix, dips, condiments, and many others.  The grocery market also has a bulk section with spices as well as a grab n’ go sweets section with Mexican pastries, cookies, and churros.  Amidst all the Mexican grocery goodness is the hot food counter where you can order La Tortilleria’s hot and fresh corn tacos and tortillas to-go or to enjoy at the sit-down seating area.  Menu items range from $6-$10 and aside from the tortilla bundles, all the menu items are meals, meaning they’re meant to be eaten as a full meal or as sharing plates.  You won’t find single tacos here!  Go big or go home.

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Walking Into a Tex-Mex Saloon – Pulled Pork Taquitos at Tequila Sunrise

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I have a weakness and its names are Tex-Mex and Mexican.  Fajitas, corn tortillas, and empanadas stuffed with the most savoury meats and served with refried beans, rice, sour cream, cheese, and guacamole??  OH.MY.GOD.  Insert hungry rumbling noises from my stomach right here.  We all have our “naughty” foods, things we know are bad for us but are just so damn good.  Things we eat when we allow ourselves that one indulgent day or meal out of our otherwise healthy week.  I LOVE Tex-Mex and when I want to be bad, THIS is my indulgence that satisfies me from top to bottom.  Tequila Sunrise was an unplanned, accidental outing in my foodie repertoire and am I ever ecstatic that I ate here over a month ago!  This meal was delicious, so satisfying, and such a sweet surprise.

On that day, I had a hankering for burritos and skipped on over (well, more like bussed, subbed, and then skipped) to Burrito Boyz (blog post to come in the near future!), hoping to sink my teeth into either a veggie and cheese burrito or some form of quesadilla.  Burrito Boyz was packed and although I’m not against taking my food to-go, you know how I am with the pictures and all, so my sweetie and I said to hell with it and contemplated Plan B.  I was hungry, it was 1pm in the afternoon, I didn’t want to go far, and I still had that craving for a burrito!  Enter Tequila Sunrise just down the street!  I was aware of Tequila Sunrise but just hadn’t gotten around to trying them out so when Rich suggested it, I shrugged and thought, “why not?”

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I loved this meal SO much.  The decor and atmosphere were adorable.  Okay, so the disco ball hanging from the ceiling is snicker-worthy, but seriously, I felt like I was eating in an old-time Tex-Mex cowboy saloon out in the desert 😀  I half expected men in chaps to walk right in and tip their hat at me.  But the real winner here is the food.  SO EFFING GOOD!  Their menu has a plenty of choice and there are lots of traditional Mexican and Tex-Mex dishes with Spanish and Columbian influences to choose from: chicken mole, tortilla soup, chimichangas, enchiladas, empanadas, pozole stew, chili con carne, huevos rancheros, tostadas, as well as plenty of guacamole and chirizo, and margaritas, mojitos, sangria, and of course, tequila to wash it all down!  I ordered the taquitos dish with pulled pork: 2 crispy fried corn tortillas in the shape of tubes (or flutes), filled with pulled pork and covered in chipotle sauce, shredded cheddar cheese, sour cream, and guacamole, served with rice, refried beans and corn chips, and salad.

This meal was perfection in so many ways.  The refried beans were so smooth and the meat and dish in general wasn’t salty, greasy, or overly seasoned at all.  The corn tortillas had the most delightful crispy texture and corn flavour and they didn’t collapse or get soggy because of the filling.  They maintained their crunchiness and texture and perfectly complemented the sauces and pork.  The flavour of the pulled pork really shined through and it was soft and juicy and SO delicious.  The flavour was subtle and natural because it wasn’t masked or overshadowed by anything; you knew you were eating pork and it was just slow-cooked so perfectly.  You could taste the leanness of the meat and there wasn’t an ounce of gross fat hanging off of it.  Fat doesn’t equal flavour and Tequila Sunrise got their pulled pork bang on.  Quite possibly the BEST pulled pork I’ve ever had.  I inhaled this and I think I said, “oh my god, this is so good” about four times during my meal!  It’s a dish I can envision myself ordering time and time again.

Tequila Sunrise is a gem.  Wonderfully nice staff, delicious food with plenty of choices to boot, and cute decor to match an equally cute atmosphere.  Prices are very reasonable meal-wise.  They have plenty of $9, $10, and $11 meals as well as platters for multiple people to share (such as fajitas and enchiladas, and combo platters).  So if you’re looking for something simple, you can definitely manage with $10-$12 and if you’re looking to go all out (meal, drink, dessert, the whole nine yards), it’ll probably be a $20 meal.  Well worth it for the fan-freakin’-tastic food 😀  I’m so happy I got the chance to eat here and I’m looking forward to my next noshing!

*****

Tequila Sunrise is located at 212 Adelaide Street West, west of University Ave and situated between Simcoe and Duncan St.  Adelaide St. is north of King, south of Richmond St.  They are open for lunch and dinner Monday-Friday, serving lunch at 11:30am.  Dinner only on Saturday and Sunday is served at 4pm.

Scrapbooking materials used: cobalt blue and buttercup yellow cardstock (Recollections); green patterned cardstock (“Green Tea” stack by DCWV); red and blue alphabet stickers (Recollections); journalling card (“Darcy collection” by Anna Griffin); Mexico stickers (Jolee’s); Mexican embellisment stickers (Recollections).