Photo Spotlight: Seduced by Fish & Shrimp Tacos – Meet The Happy Hooker on Dundas West, Part I!

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Photo teaser post of just some of the delicious food at The Happy Hooker!  Fish, shrimp, and yes, even beautiful, scrumptious salads!  I would write the whole post tonight, but I would be up reeeeally late if I did that.  It’s Thanksgiving weekend and I’ve been so busy planning outings for the next few days and editing photos that I could just fall asleep right now while writing this so the full write-up will come tomorrow night when I’m back from my super exciting harvest fall themed food adventure!  Full details on that to come very soon as well!  Tomorrow’s Happy Hooker write-up will introduce us to a number of their mouthwatering fresh seafood offerings as well as a story on how The Happy Hooker and I met in the first place (hint: we were set up and introduced by a third party.  How romantic!).  I’ve also been working really hard on updating Ate by Ate’s Pinterest boards and incorporating more pumpkin yummies in the the blog so in the next week or so, look out for new Pinterest boards, lots of Fall Harvest series posts, some classic comfort food (did someone say mac ‘n cheese?) and brand spankin’ new afternoon tea posts.  So, the in the meantime, enjoy the photos until tomorrow!

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The Happy Hooker is located at 887 Dundas Street West, just west of Manning Ave. between Bathurst St. and Ossington Ave. near Trinity Bellwoods Park.  They are open every day from 12pm-10pm.

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The Fall Harvest Series – Sweet Potato & Rosemary Omelettes and Corn Bread at E.L. Ruddy, Part II!

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I feel like such an idiot.  I’ve never had as many food flub-ups as I’ve had over the last two weeks: going to places only to find out when I got there that they were closed for renovation, finding out after I was seated that an a la carte wasn’t available and that apparently, it was only all-you-can-eat (thankfully, I was able to explain the situation and exit as gracefully as I could), and finally, that certain meals were only available during certain parts of the day and unfortunately, not the part of day I was there!

Which brings me to Veggielicious.  I was over the moon excited when I found out about Veggielicious.  I skipped out on both Winterlicious and Summerlicious this past year so I was hell bent on getting in at least two Veggielicious meals.  I pored over all the menus and promotions, made my choices, and was raring to go.  Little did I know that I would end up feeling like an absolute fool over it.  For months now I’ve wanted to try E.L. Ruddy.  Vegetarian brunch?  All over it like peanut butter on jelly!  What better time to try them out than during Veggielicious?  My heart sunk to the soles of my feet though when I found out last week that their Veggielicious special was a dinner-only special.  I was there at 11am when they opened.  And I made the same mistake yesterday when I tried to make up for my Veggielicious booboo at another destination.

I wanted to cry.

Here I was, jibber-jabbering about Veggielicious on the blog, on Ate by Ate’s Facebook page, and to people in general, and in the end?  Nothing to show for it.  I’m so sorry guys.  This will teach me a lesson for the future to cover my bases a little more carefully, that’s for sure.

BUT!  There’s always a but!  Just as I was about to start weeping over my stupidity and rotten luck, I had a light bulb moment.  Here I was feeling so dumb over my oversight that I wasn’t appreciating what was right in front in me.  Sure, I was incredibly disappointed about not being able to do Veggielicious but I had a whole menu of other amazing food choices to take advantage of, ones that would tie into the Fall Harvest Series, Veggie Eats, and Weekend Brunch series perfectly.  And in the end, I’m posting about great, permanent menu items that can be enjoyed any time, not just during a once-a-year food fest.  So, I’m not feeling as heartbroken about it anymore because I have some fabulous food stuff to show you all!

E.L. Ruddy, located at 1371 Dundas Street West, serves vegetarian and vegan brunch on the weekends with a seasonal item and special introduced to the menu every week.  The cafe is cozy, artistic, and eclectic with its 70s style tables, bright orange paint, exposed brick walls, floor-to-ceiling bookshelves, and cute dining and table accessories like sugar pots with collectible spoons!  It’s a small space (less than 20 people at a time, folks!) with a very dedicated menu that caters to both savoury and sweet tastebuds and cravings: simple scrambled eggs or marinated tofu with home fries, salad, and toast; eggs or tofu with beans, salsa, and homemade corn bread; granola with the works (wheat-free rolled oats, quinoa flakes, dried fruit, and so much more; spelt waffles with sweet marinated strawberries, maple syrup, and whipped cream, and more.

It’s a menu that really speaks to the diversity of vegetarian, vegan, and/or gluten-free food by utilizing seasonal ingredients and wholesome foods.  There’s a real sense of warmth and comfort in their food that just makes you happy when you look at it and when you eat it.  And, menu prices are tax inclusive!  If it says $12, it’s $12 flat.  I have to tell you, that makes everyone’s life a whole lot easier when you’re calculating the bill!  Menu prices are $7-$13 for main dishes, $4 for brunch cocktail specials, and $1 for substitutions and/or additions.

For this brunch meal, I did something pretty unorthodox: I ordered something sweet potato and something rosemary.  Now, I’d like to think of myself as a non picky eater and pretty easy going with my food choices.  I write a food blog after all!  But there are things that I don’t enjoy as much.  And sweet potatoes and rosemary are two such things!  Why did I choose something with both then?!  I saw the omelette with maple-roasted sweet potatoes, rosemary, and aged cheddar with home fries, salad, and toast ($12) and I didn’t want to shy away from it simply because it contained things I normally didn’t love to pieces.  It sounded like such a delicious dish and it was so perfect for the Fall Harvest Series, so I dove into it.  And I was not disappointed in the least!

My green mixed salad was topped with a handful of roasted pumpkin seeds and I substituted the toast with the homemade corn bread.  I fell SO in love with it and it completely made my tastebuds appreciate sweet potato and rosemary in a whole new light.  I always felt like sweet potato and rosemary were both too woody in taste and in some cases, a little bland.  This omelette was delicious though and the egg complemented the flavours so well!  I got savouriness, cheesiness, warmth, comfort, crunch, everything.  I loved the pumpkin seeds with the salad, the home fries (potato coins) were so moist and yummy, and the corn bread?  Out of this world!

I know there are quite a few people who adore the corn bread from Fresh and while Fresh is one of my favourite places to eat, theirs has nothing on the corn bread here at E.L. Ruddy!  The corn bread here is amazing.  It’s moist with that signature crumbly, corn grit texture that makes it so yummy without being too crumbly.  It holds its shape well and together with the salad and pumpkin seeds, it tasted extra fabulous.

While I’m still sad that I missed out on some terrific Veggielicious specials, I’m happy that I was still able to fully enjoy a space and its delicious food for the first time.  I’m excited to come back for more, I’m excited to see what other seasonal yummies they’ll have to offer as the months go on, and I’m definitely looking forward to more of that corn bread!  Vegetarian and vegan brunch is something I love posting and writing about and the fact that it fits into the Fall Harvest Series so nicely is win-win for me, Veggielicious or not.

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E.L. Ruddy is a vegetarian and vegan cafe with gluten-free options located at 1371 Dundas Street West between Dufferin Street and Dovercourt Road, at the corner of Rusholme Drive.  They are open 7 days week for weekday dinner and weekend brunch: 5pm-11pm Monday to Friday, 11am-11pm Saturday and Sunday.

The Fall Harvest Series – A Photo Spotlight on Vegetarian Weekend Brunch at E.L. Ruddy, Part I!

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Theses next two posts are dedicated to all vegetarians and vegans who skip the turkey on Thanksgiving and instead opt for yummy, filling vegetarian dishes full of fall flavour, vegetables, fruits, beans, nuts, and more!  I had one of the best weekend brunches last week and I’m actually surprised at how much I enjoyed it just because it involved a vegetable that I can kind of take or leave most of the time.  I’m so happy to be adding this one to the Veggie Eats category on the blog since it’s fall-inspired and perfect for the Fall Harvest Series!  Up until this point, I don’t think I’ve posted anything particularly fall seasonal as far as vegetarian and vegan brunches go so I’d love to highlight some menu items around the city some of you might be interested in checking out for the season for the next Confessions of a Brunch-Obsessed Foodie segment.  Enjoy the photos – full post and write-up coming tomorrow!

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E.L. Ruddy is a vegetarian and vegan cafe with gluten-free options located at 1371 Dundas Street West between Dufferin Street and Dovercourt Road, at the corner of Rusholme Drive.  They are open 7 days week for weekday dinner and weekend brunch: 5pm-11pm Monday to Friday, 11am-11pm Saturday and Sunday.

The Fall Harvest Series – Bringing Home Kale, Sunflower Sprouts, Sauces & More From the Junction Farmers Market!

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I am smitten.  Absolutely smitten.  I think my visit to the Junction Farmers Market this past Saturday morning was, hands down, my favourite market visit of the season!  It was such a rewarding experience, I had SO much fun, and by the end of it, I walked away with bags of goodies to take home.  It made me so happy and that’s saying a lot considering I was in a very foul mood about 2 hours prior!  Tthe bus I had originally planned on catching never showed up so that set me back a whole half hour.  I was not a happy camper at 7 in the morning.  But then I arrived at the market (when I finally did) and all the frustration and mumbling and grumbling went *POOF!* as I hopped from vendor to vendor in sheer joy.  Pumpkins!  Squash!  Apples!  Kale!  Tomatoes!  Sauces and dips!  FOOOOD!  The whole market was in full-swing fall mode with bushels of apples and pears by the vendors, delicious samples of apple cider, and tables overflowing with orange and golden yellow pumpkins, squashes, and tomatoes.

I couldn’t believe how amazing the market was on Saturday.  I know it sounds kind of weird given how this visit wasn’t my first but let’s face it, the market is in the middle of a parking lot and not exactly surrounded by daisies.  But by golly is it ever a goldmine of brilliant colour, lush fruits and vegetables, savoury nibbles, sweet baked goods, and scrumptious dips and sauces!  The Junction market has grown so much since its debut back in June.  It has grown steadily and organically with the enthusiasm of the community in its corner and I’m so proud of what this market has accomplished in just a matter of a few short months.  This is the Junction market’s first fall season and it’s an exciting time.

I am going to be so sad though when it packs up for the season in a week and a half on the 13th because I really feel like I can do grocery shopping at the Junction market as opposed to just being a passionate market goer and passerby.  I’m going to try my best to get in one last visit before it waves goodbye because it’s just that wonderful.  And I know other people in the commnity feel the exact same way because there were crowds lining up for bread and baked goods from De La Terre, there were discussions about kale left and right, and there was even an eager morning market shopper who came by Eugora’s Fine Foods and asked for 20 veggie samosas!

The selection of food was fantastic and there was a great balance between take-home groceries (fruits, vegetables, sauces, preserves, and pantry items) and “enjoy right away” food like sweet baked goods and bread from De La Terre, vegetarian samosas from Eudora’s Fine Foods, and Hogtown Charcuterie ‘s meats, savoury puff pastries and tarts, empanadas, scotch quail eggs and more!  For the first time, I felt like I was actually bogged down with food goodies and groceries!

I bought 4 vegetarian samosas (I know, it pales in comparison to the 20 the other lady snatched up!) and a jar of fresh, fruity, and flavourful mango chutney from Eudora’s Fine Foods, a container of delicious pesto the colour of freshly cut grass, sunflower sprouts from Fresh City Farms, and two of the biggest, fluffiest, most beautiful bunches of curly kale I had ever seen from Sosnicki Organics.  I was thisclose to buying more vegetables and picking up cheese too!  I’ve never shopped a market like this before and it felt terrific because I knew the food was incredibly fresh, I knew I was going to put the food to good use (dinner for me and the family!), and I knew it was money well spent.

I left the Junction market in such high spirits and I think that’s exactly how every farmers’ market should make everyone feel: welcome, loved, more knowledgable, and most importantly, excited for more.  It’s not every day you find your holy grail foods.  When you find a producer, farmer, and/or food shop that you love, you go back to them time and time again because you trust their passion, their integrity, and the greatness of their food.  It’s exactly how I felt when I came home with my beautiful bag of assorted kale from Samsara Fields the other week when I went to Crème Fraîche and I felt (and tasted!) it again when I lugged my giant bag of curly kale home from the Junction market.  The possibilities for wonderful food at the market are endless and I can only hope that one day this market will be a year-round one so I can enjoy it well past October.

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The Junction farmers’ market will be held every Saturday from 8:30am-12:30pm, June 2nd to October 13th.  The farmers’ market is located in the parking lot just off of Dundas Street West and Pacific Ave.  The market is brand new to Toronto and the Junction community, so spread the word, come out, and show your support!  For more info and a list of vendors, visit the official Junction market page HERE.

The Fall Harvest Series – It’s an Orange & Gold, Leafy Green Wonderland at the Junction Farmers Market! Part I

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A photo spotlight of my latest visit to the Junction farmers market and the official return of The Fall Harvest Series!  It’s October and I have some great stuff to share with you guys this week including a fall inspired weekend brunch meal, fall flavour cupcakes, a pumpkin edition of The Cupcake Connection, and hopefully lots of butternut squash and baking pumpkin baked goods!   Even though I won’t be able to repeat last year’s feat of stringing together 2 week’s worth of fall harvest posts in a row, I’m going to try my best to get in as many posts as possible, especially market ones since many of them will be packing up for the year sometime this month.  I’ve compiled a list of all the ones that are ending during the month of October as part of the October Food Calendar, so if there’s a market you adore or one you haven’t been to yet this year, make your visit soon before they’re gone!

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The Junction farmers’ market will be held every Saturday from 8:30am-12:30pm, June 2nd to October 13th.  The farmers’ market is located in the parking lot just off of Dundas Street West and Pacific Ave.  The market is brand new to Toronto and the Junction community, so spread the word, come out, and show your support!  For more info and a list of vendors, visit the official Junction market page HERE.

A Year in Review – New Classes & Studio, New Sweets, & Memories of Being an Icing Sugar Queen at Le Dolci!

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I don’t think any of us ever need a reason or a celebration to have cupcakes or cake; they are morsels of happiness in and of themselves!  But there is a special sort of anniversary I’m commemorating with these two sweet and decadent posts!  It all began with a cupcake studio, baking pans upon pans of vanilla and chocolate cupcakes, tinting mounds of yummy vanilla frosting in sweet pastels, and working with fondant for the very first time.  The trek to the old studio on King West and Portland, the smell of warm sugar, and the sounds of the oven timer chiming and the Kitchenaid mixer whirring at full speed.  I remember it like it was yesterday: my very first day as an icing sugar queen at Le Dolci! 

It has already been a year since that fateful first day of cupcake baking and frosting making with Lisa and Miya and so much has changed within that time including the introduction of new classes to the lineup and a brand spankin’ new studio across the street from Trinity Bellwoods Park!  I have so many fond memories and I took away so much from my time at the studio with Lisa and the other girls.  I learned how to make cake pops, I learned how to work with fondant, I watched Lisa grow her business from the ground up, and I celebrated Le Dolci’s first Christmas and Valentine’s Day among many other special milestones.  Can you believe that it’s already been a year?  It’s crazy!  Even though it’s been months since my days as Le Dolci icing sugar queen, it holds a special part of my sweet tooth and heart and I love being in the loop and staying up-to-date on all the yummy news.

Along with the retail cupcake space selling accessories and freshly baked cupcakes with a selection of new flavours (lemon, salted caramel, and coffee in addition to the classic Sicilian vanilla and chocoalte cocoa), Lisa and the Le Dolci team have launched a whole rotating menu of sweets available every day including Augie’s gourmet ice pops, and in-house crafted butter tarts, biscotti, eclairs, macarons, cannoli, and more!  And if that’s not enough squee, Lisa has also added a slew of new foodie classes and events to Le Dolci’s offerings!   

Le Dolci has joined forces with Rosewood Estates for wine and cupcakes, and wine, honey, and cheese tastingsLisa Kates (aka. A Food Gypsy) for drop-in soup evenings for soup, fresh bread, and sweets; traditional afternoon tea with sweets, savoury nibbles, and plenty of tea and adorable accessories; Chef Ramza for Lebanese cooking (tabbouleh, fattoush, makloubit chicken and rice and more!); Heather from Knead Bakery for bread and croissant making classes; and pie-making with the Parkdale Pie Princess!  Oh, and did I mention that Le Dolci is hosting their 2nd foodie trip in 2013, this time in San Francisco and Napa Valley, California?!  Sigh.  If only I could attend everything.

Here is Le Dolci’s October line-up of classes and yummies to look forward to!

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Smoking Hot Sunday Brunch – Smoked Trout Cakes, Poached Eggs, & Edamame Fennel Salad at Brockton General!

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I promised you all a weekend brunch post from the west end so I’m here to deliver!  After doing a lot of exploring in Leslieville over the past month, I thought it would be nice to switch things up and have some fun on Dundas West, specifically in Brockton Village!  I still remember that crazy day a year and a half ago in April when I decided to be spontaneous and walk the entire length of Dundas West from Keele to Spadina (um, hello, over 5 km!), stopping at King’s Cafe for lunch, watching snow flurries flying around in the sky from the window, and completely zonking out on the streetcar and subway ride back. 

And since that day, I have loved Dundas West, Brockton Village, and all the neighbouring areas for its aesthetic and character (Dundas West is home to some of the most beautiful graffiti artwork in the city) and of course, for its food!  I know some parts of the strip are a little industrial and “middle of nowhere”, but little gems still sparkle beneath that steely exterior and really, once you hit Lansdowne going eastbound, there is so much to see and explore in terms of specialty food shops, bakeries, and great eateries.  And Brockton General is one of them!

I found out about Brockton General from Where Toronto magazine many moons ago, immediately looked them up online, and kept them on my brunch hitlist for months.  It was their stewed fruit French toast menu item that made me squeal in the beginning!  This month I finally made my way here on a Sunday morning, sat down on one of their sweet wooden chairs at one of their pretty outdoor wooden tables and enjoyed one of the most relaxing, delicious, memorable brunch meals EVER.  With a light breeze, a clear sky, and a peaceful atmosphere, this meal at Brockton General epitomized what a Sunday morning brunch should always be.  Their cafe is so sweet and cute with so much vintage and romantic flair.  Little sugar pots, tiny vases of flowers on the ledge, vintage prints on the exposed brick wall, linen napkins, pretty porcelain dishes with floral prints, and even an antique spoon collection on the wall to boot! 

Even though the space isn’t monstrously big, there’s a decent amount of seating with tables for four and two all over, so as long as you get there not too long after they open, there shouldn’t be an issue with line-ups.  Then again, there was a steady stream of people coming in when I was there on a Sunday morning (couples and groups of friends), so to cover your butt, show up soon after they open to be on the safe side.  The food is so delicious here I wouldn’t be surprised if I was proven wrong about the line-ups!

The wonderfully unique thing about Brockton General is their menu and I’m not even talking about their food or dishes persay here; I’m talking about their constant changing menu.  The menu that changes EVERY WEEK.  No joke!  Brockton General’s brunch menu changes every week, highlighting seasonal ingredients and whatever creative concoctions they might come up with.  I LOVE that.  I know that it can be bad if there’s a menu item you just adore to pieces and you’re not sure if it’ll come back or not, but just think of all the amazing different dishes you can try with an evolving menu like theirs.  The menu might feature similar types of dishes week to week, but with different ingredients or different sides.  And I’m happy to report that there are always vegetarian options!

In addition to classic breakfasts like bacon and eggs (their chalkboard sign out front says “magical bacon forest!”), eggs benny, and French toast with seasonal fruit and maple syrup, Brockton General’s menu specialities include omelettes with yummy seasonal vegetables (cauliflower puree with green beans, salad greens and toast – I have never seen anybody do omelettes with cauliflower!  And green beans?  Amazing!,), breakfast sandwiches (English muffins, fried eggs, pork loin, different cheeses, homefries and salad), and sausage or veggie hash with veggie gravy, fried egg and toast.  On top of that, they have a number of different small meals (rye berry salad, granola with fruit and yogurt) and sides (bacon and/or pork loin, homefries, and so on) that you can pair with your main and a drink for a Brockton General price fixe!  Prices for mains come in at $11-$13, but if you choose a drink, the granola, soup, or salad, and a main, it’s $18 any time and all the time!

My brunch meal: smoked trout cake with a poached egg, remoulade, salad, and toast ($13).  I never say no to fish and seafood cakes!  I love crab cakes and salmon cakes and wish I could eat them more often.  This totally and completely satisfied my desire for fish cakes though and I am still reeling from the wow factor of this brunch meal!  The poached egg was perfect (thin egg white skin with a runny yellow yolk on the inside), the toast was perfect and crunchy (I couldn’t believe how excited I was about how good the toast tasted!), the salad was beyond fresh and bright and delicious, and the smoked trout cake?  Heavenly and mind-blowingly delicious!

Let’s talk about the salad first though.  Now, I loooove green salad with a simple olive oil and vinegar dressing as much as the next perso.  Heck, I could have that every day.  But when you’re in the face of REALLY GOOD salad with more than just greens, it makes you appreciate it that much more.  Brockton General’s salad that day was a mix of baby arugula and mixed greens, sliced red onion, and – wait for this – fennel and edamame!  I love edamame so, so much and was squealing (on the inside) about it througout my meal.  And the fennel!  I think this was the first time I truly tasted fennel.  I have read about its licorice taste more times than I can count and I finally felt like I understood firsthand.  It was a beautiful and definitely unique from other places.

The smoked trout cake was just bang-on fabulous.  First off, as soon as I cut into it, steamed billowed out.  So fresh, so good.  It was wonderfully flaky and soft with the most flavourful, smoky interior of flaked fish and green onion with a golden brown crisp exterior.  You have to eat it to get the full effect of the smoky flavour.  The menu was not lying when it said smoked trout!  It was smoky with a hint of heat and it was almost as if you could taste it straight off the fire.  It was so savoury and the smokiness just envelopes your tastebuds and lingers as you continue eating.  That’s how bold it is.  It was a flavour my tastebuds had never come across before and it paired perfectly with their cool, creamy, delicious remoulade sauce!  I wish I had a whole ramekin of this sauce.  Generally made with mayo, mustard, garlic, and spices (and sometimes hot sauce), the sauce completed the fish cake so well.

From the get-go, all I could think of when I was here was how much I wanted to bring my best friend, my mum, and my boyfriend here to eat.  And all my friends.  And anyone who just loves food and brunch.  My unforgettable brunch on that clear Sunday morning confirmed it.

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Brockton General is located at 1321 Dundas Street West between Ossington Ave. and Dufferin Street.  They are open from Wednesday to Sunday (closed Mondays and Tuesdays), with dinner hours Wednesday through Saturday (6pm-10pm on Wednesday, 6pm-11pm Thursday through Saturday), and weekend brunch hours on Sunday from 10:30am-3pm.