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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

*****

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

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Sundays Just Got a Whole Lot Sweeter – The $2 Cupcake, Tart, Square, & Cookie Bonanza at Desmond & Beatrice!

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You might think of Sundays as quiet, peaceful, lazy days.  Many shop owners choose Sunday to have their day off, traffic on the road is a little lighter save for the long weekends, and places aren’t open as late as they are during the rest of the week.  At Desmond & Beatrice on Queen Street East in Riverside though, Sundays might as well be the new Friday!  *NEWS BULLENTIN*  Sundays at D&B are $2 bonanza days!  $2 cupcakes, $2 tarts and squares, $2 EVERYTHING!  Everything on their edible display counter anyway; no way are we getting away with cute $2 aprons!  I have no idea how long D&B has had this promotion (*note to self: ask next time!), but boy does it get people extra kooky-crazy for their delectable, delightful desserts!  It sure did that to me.  I passed by their bake shop before they had opened, glanced at the front window, and almost got whiplash when I whipped around to make sure I wasn’t hallucinating.  $2 Sundays?!  No speciality cupcakery with the exception of Dessert Lady in Yorkville, who sells their vanilla and chocolate ones for $2, sells their wares for that price. 

And apparently, I was a little late to the party because when I came back when they were open later on in the day, they had been wiped clean!  The only thing that greeted me was a dish of peanut butter and banana cupcakes.  I should have known better.  Sundays might be a little on the quieter side (although you’d never know it taking the bus; it is crowded and packed early in the morning!  And by “early”, I mean 9am by bus schedule standards), but so many people are out and about in the city, whether it’s for a festival, a sporting event, a concert, or just good old fashioned weekend brunch.  Anyway, lucky for me, D&B had enough sense and hindsight to keep their delicious cupcakes coming and before I knew it, full, fresh, beautiful batches of red velvet, vanilla, and double chocolate were before me, waiting to be chosen like the crown jewel in a treasure chest.  And my precious cupcake of choice this time?  Double chocolate!

If you can believe it, chocolate cupcakes with chocolate frosting are something I don’t have very often.  If you were to go through my eleventy billion cupcake posts on the blog, you’d find less than 5 devoted to chocolate on chocolate.  And it’s not because I don’t like chocolate – I love chocolate!  It’s simply because I want to paint a more diversified portrait of the cupcake flavours available in the city and now that I have a steady foundation of posts (I believe this post here will be Cupcake Chronicles’ 90th!), I can feature more classic flavours here and there to round things out.  This double chocolate cupcake post is inspired and dedicated in part to both my boyfriend and my brother, two chocolate lovers whom I hold very dear to me, and given how my brother can take or leave cupcakes, I’m determined to find him the best of the best to really wow him.  And this one right here from Desmond & Beatrice has to belong on everyone’s Top 3 Most Amazing Chocolate Cupcakes because it is out of this world and RIDONKULOUS.  Yes, that’s right, ridonkulous.

Chocolate cupcakes are either really great or really bad.  Some can fall in the so-so category, but more often than not, they’re love it or hate it.  Some are way too dry, too powdery (a little too much of that cocoa powder taste), or too dense to the point where it just tastes like thick, goopy chocolate muck.  D&B’s amazing double chocolate delight is what EVERY chocolate cupcake should aspire to be like.  I was shocked out of my skirt because I couldn’t believe how damn delicious this was!  It is a fudgy, creamy embodiment of a brownie in cupake form.  It tastes like chocolate brownie fudge with fluffy cake.  It is so moist, so creamy and so decadent.  The frosing is as smooth as it gets and eating it with a fork makes you feel like you’re digging into a special chocolate birthday cake with, quite possibly, some of the best chocolate frosting in the world.  If you’re head over heels over brownies, this cupcake is the answer to your prayers, in addition to D&B’s crazy $2 Sunday sale!  I don’t think anybody needs an incentive to go to D&B, but this promotion sure is a mighty sweet deal so take advantage of it if you’re in the area! 

*****

Desmond & Beatrice Bake Shop and Cupcakery is located at 750 Queen Street East, just one block east of Broadview Ave. in the Riverside District.  They are open from Tuesday-Sunday (closed Mondays), from 12pm-6pm on Tuesdays and Wednesdays, 11am-7pm on Thursdays and Fridays, 10am-5pm on Saturdays, and 11am-5pm on Sundays.

Grilled Cheese Sandwiches, Bagels & Bread, and Glorious Dips & Spreads at the Leslieville Cheese Market!

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I have a wee bit of an obsession problem at the moment.  Let it be known that I am all over dips and spreads like a bad rash and that because of 1) the scrumptious homemade beet hummus from Luscious Dips (which, to my heartbreak, has relocated to Niagara Falls) during my blogging run at the Toronto Lunchtime Office Markets, 2) the fabulous spinach basil pesto and sprouted chickpea hummuses I purchased from my girls at Earth & City, and 3) the black bean and roasted avocado with tomatillo dips I bought from Mad Mexican at Evergreen Brick Works, I am hunting dips and spreads down the same way I hunt for lip gloss.  Oh yes, it’s THAT bad.  Granted, I don’t have a deep sliding drawer full of the stuff like I do lip gloss, but let’s just say that if these condiments didn’t have a shelf life and if my fridge was bigger, I would have swept Leslieville Cheese Market clean!  And this, my dear friends, is the long-awaited introduction to the Leslieville Cheese Market! 

It’s about darn time.  Considering how much I love cheese it’s any wonder I haven’t been here every week since I found out about its existence last year.  I finally stepped inside this glorious little gourmet food shop and market for the first time this month though, after pining over their grilled cheese sandwiches for months.  And now I almost wish I hadn’t.  Gone to the shop I mean.  There is way too much food I love here!  Not only is the shop teeming with fresh cheese, it also carries Fred’s Bread, St. Urbain bagels, smoked fish and cured meats , jams and jellies, fruit and nut bread loaves, crostini and crackers, a whole menu of grilled cheese sandwiches and soups, and dips!  Loads and loads of fantastical dips!  I’m positive most people come here for the bread, cheese, and grilled cheese sandwiches.  I will come back because I want several containers of dip and spreads.  And a grilled cheese and soup.  But not before I buy a dip.  I can’t help it.  The second I slathered on my beet hummus dip from Luscious Dips onto my veggie sandwich back in March, it was all downhill from there.  I had been bitten by the homemade dip and spread bug and as a result, I have had a bad case of, “I just dip and dunk and spread this stuff on everything!”        

  

Leslieville Cheese Market, located at 891 Queen Street East (with 2 other locations in Toronto and 1 outside of the GTA), has an entire refrigerated section dedicated to spreads brimming with savoury flavours such as smoked salmon, roasted red pepper and white bean, basil pesto, red lentil dahl, baba ganoush, sundried tomato and tapenade, and artichoke blue cheese and walnut among numerous others.  It’s a little pricier than what I normally pay for (most of my spreads and dips have come in at around $5 with a few for $6) with most of the ones at Leslieville Cheese Market priced at $6.75, but the containers are relatively big and many of flavours are really unique so they just might be worth the extra $1 or $2 to check out and try.  My absolute favourite thing to do with my dips and spreads is to spread them on a tortilla, fill it with spinach and other vegetables, shredded cheese, and maybe some smoked turkey or tofu, and fold it over in half to make a quesadilla on the grill.  So, so delicious.

Another highlight of the Leslieville Cheese Market is their fresh bread.  I’m not even that much of a bread head (that would be my mum), but I LOVE fruit and nut breads and I’m a sucker for anything with herbs, so I was super excited to see that they had breads like pecan and fruit, and rosemary and olive oil.  Loaves of bread are also priced around the $5 to $6 range depending on the loaf.      

 

And of course, no discussion of the shop would be complete without a thorough breakdown of their grilled cheese!  I wanted to feature them during the month of April (read: National Grilled Cheese Month) but just wasn’t able to get around to it.  Even though I don’t have any photos of grilled cheese for you all in this post, I promise I will and in the meantime I figure we can drool over their menu.  Their grilled cheese sandwiches ($7.91 including tax) are made on light rye bread with your choice of the following grilled cheese filling combinations: provolone and beef summer sausage, ham and gruyere, chipotle tuna swiss melt, sundried tomat, artichoke, and chevre (goat cheese), a combo of white cheddar and a cheese called muenster, and cheddar cheese and bacon. 

And, there are dipping sauces!  There are 3 to choose from (balsamic ketchup, sweet thai chili, and piri piri which is a spicy blend) and if that’s not enough to get the motor running, there are also soups to accompany your grilled cheese such as corn chowder and potato leek.  Finally (I know, there’s more!), the cheese market also hosts cheese and wine night classes!  I may not drink, but learning about cheeses and pairings and nuances and regional differences and specifics sounds like a lot of fun and maybe in the future I’ll spring for something like it.  Right now though, I’m just feeling excited at the thought of sitting out on bench in the neighbourhood with a yummy grilled cheese and soup on a nice fall day and I can’t wait to do that sometime soon.

*****

Leslieville Cheese Market in Leslieville is located at 891 Queen Street East, east of Broadview Ave., with 3 other locations including a brand new one on Donlands Ave. just south of O’Connor Dr.

Sizzling Summer Markets – Summer Squash, Peas, Scallions, and More at the Leslieville Farmers’ Market

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Another summer weekend means another weekend market!  Between Evergreen Brick Works, The Stop at Wychwood Barns, the Junction market, and Liberty Village, there’s plenty of weekend market love to go around.  It’s been a little over a year since I started going to markets on a regular basis and it’s been amazing seeing how they transform between seasons and have they grow and evolve over time.  There are some markets I’ve only ever been to during the summer and some only during the winter so it’s a lot of fun seeing the differences and taking advantage of all the different food that comes along with these changes. 

In addition to visiting markets and seeing in seasonal lights, that are also a handful that I have yet to visit in general.  I have a list of Saturday and Sunday markets that I haven’t been to that I’m itching to scratch off including Withrow Park and most of the markets in Markham and York Region!  I know, I know – I live in Markham!  It was always easier for me to get around in Toronto though because of the day passes so that’s what I often opted for, but I have a strange way of getting around to things so I know I’ll get to them eventually.

For this particular market excursion, I made my way back to Leslieville!  I love the Riverside, Riverdale, Leslieville, and Beaches neighbourhoods along Queen East so planning  a trip to the Leslieville market is like planning an entire day trip because there’s so much to see and do!  It’s been months since my last visit – almost a year, actually, back in September when Jonathan Ashbridge Park was awash with fall colours and the air was chilly and crisp.  Not so much this time!  It was piping hot out, kiddies were running around screaming in the splash pool, and the market was busy and bustling with market goers and park enjoyers despite the sweltering heat.  It was so nice seeing the market so alive with activity.  Augie’s Gourmet Ice Pops had completely sold out (and for good reason!), Hooked Inc. was on site grilling up fish tacos in fresh corn tortillas, and people were snatching up summer vegetables like they were nuggets of gold.    

Even though I’m a self-proclaimed summer wuss, I’m so happy I sucked it up and made the effort to go.  Every season has its own unique beauty and personality and both are evidently manifested and embodied at the market: in the environment, in the atmosphere, and of course, in the gorgeous fruits, vegetables, and bounty of food.  There were mountains of scallions in vibrant greens and purples, beets in shades of plum and bright pink, baskets of beautiful green beans, snow peas, cabbage, and baby Shanghai bok choy, adorable yellow patty pan squashes, crusty baguettes, summer sauces, spreads, and salsas, sweet potato donut holes from LPK Culinary Groove, vegetarian and vegan Indian food from Tiffinday, fresh farm cheese, and spring roll wraps, nut burgers, macaroons, and pesto spreads from my beloved market favourite, Earth & City

My brother and I love condiments, spreads, and sauces (we go through hummus, spicy mustard, and tzatziki like crazy) so I always pay attention to the jarred goodies at the market.  They’re great for sandwiches, vegetables, and things like chicken tenders, sausages, and samosas so we always have a few rotating in our fridge.  I snatched up a sundried tomato pesto spread from Earth & City ($5) this time around, but trust that I’ll give in and take home some chutneys, salsas, and other yummies the next time around! 

*****

Leslieville Farmers’ Market is located at Jonathan Ashbridge Park on Queen Street East and Woodward Ave.  Jonathan Ashbridge Park is located in between Greenwood and Coxwell Ave., and can be accessed via public transit by way of the Queen Street 501 streetcar.  The market is new to the lineup of Toronto markets this year and is held every Sunday from 9am-2pm.  The last market of the year is on October 28, 2012.  Visit their website to sign up to their newsletter, to get involved, and to learn more.

The Ruby Red Jewel of Drinks – Sweet Strawberry Lemonade & Sippers at Hammersmith’s, Part III

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It’s hot, it’s humid, and we’re capping off this 3-part Hammersmith’s series with a refreshing, juicy sweet drink: a fruity, punchy, thirst-quenching strawberry lemonade!  Hammersmith’s has quite the assortment of beverages and I was actually taken aback – in a good way – when I realized this.  Many places may excel in one particular food and drink category (savoury mains, desserts, wines, and drinks, for example), but it’s a real gem when you can find a place that wows you on all fronts and I love that Hammersmith’s kicks each one (food, dessert, and drink) in the pants with such graceful ease.  Their strawberry lemonade, at $3 a pop, preens from the chalkboard drink menu like the ruby red crown jewel that it is, sitting snuggly between other cold, homemade drinks such as regular lemonade, iced tea, grapefruit juice, and an Arnold Palmer which is half iced tea, half lemonade – you learn something new every day!  

In addition to getting giddy over the grapefruit juice and strawberry lemonade drinks on the chalkboard,  I went into conniptions over their selection of loose leaf tea!  Cream Earl Grey, organic peppermint, honeybush raspberry, and rooibos Canadian blueberry were just some of the ones I was really excited about.  I know it’s ridiculously hot out and I know for a fact I wouldn’t physically drink a hot tea outdoors in this type of weather, but I love loose leaf tea and for a split second, I considered ordering one that morning.  The flavours sounded delicous and having a morning tea has become somewhat of a morning ritual for me now, kind of like coffee to many folks.  And did I also mention that their loose leaf tea comes in a little pot of its own for $3 and perfectly this pairs with their brunch scones?!  No?  Okay, well, there’s that too.  But I stopped myself just before I could take the plunge knowing I’d need something cold to tide me over for the first part of the day.     

The strawberry lemonade packs a fruity punch and you can literally see some of the little strawberry seeds floating around in the glass – it’s that fresh.  It differs from the strawberry lemonade from Butler’s Pantry in that Hammersmith’s leans a little more on the sweet strawberry side than it does on the sour lemon and I love it because it is so fruity, summery, and refreshing.  It still has that lemon tang to it, but it’s not overwhelming and what’s great about it is that the flavour isn’t too concentrated or diluted and watered down.  It truly tastes like lemonade married with a basket of freshly picked strawberries at their peak of natural sweetness and it’s such a wonderful complement to the savoury brunch dishes, as a palate cleanser and as an equalizer when it comes to dishes that err on the side of bitter, like the asparagus and bitter greens.

Even though summer won’t be dying down anytime soon, I’m so looking forward to seeing what Hammersmith’s will have in store in the coming months with their seasonal menu and dishes.  I would love to come back later on in the summer and try their braised beef and goat cheese sandwich, their green beans and watercress, their duck plate, and of course some tea and sweets.  This first visit was amazing and it ended being so much more than I ever could have hoped for – great food, great drink, really nice people, and with my good timing and sheer stroke of luck, a delicious free cupcake!  Here’s to many more anniversaries celebrating amazing food.     

*****

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

Back to Cupcake Basics With Sweet Chocolate & Vanilla – Scones, Cupcakes, & Desserts at Hammersmith’s, Part II

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Happy 1st Birthday, Hammersmith’s!

What’s better than a brunch cafe with delicious sandwiches, salads, and breakfast fare?  A brunch cafe with all of those things plus desserts for sweet endings!  I love it when I can plan a meal from beginning to end with either an appetizer and a main or a main and a side, and a dessert to neatly book end the happy experience.  I especially feel this way when I go out for sushi – if there isn’t dessert on the menu, I am one very sad cookie!  While I don’t order appetizers, extra sides, or dessert every time I’m out (I’d say this happens maybe 2 times out of 10 – foreshame!), it’s just nice knowing I can enjoy a variety of sweet and savoury items in one go because it also means an endless amount of mix-and-matching possibilities during future visits.  

Hammersmith’s delivers on all fronts.  Not only does Hammersmith’s do a mean sandwich and salad brunch plate (I could eat their arugula salad with olive oil and razor-thin radish slices endlessly), they also bake homemade baked goods and desserts on site including fresh scones, giant monster chocolate chunk cookies, and fluffy, mouthwatering cupcakes!  Much like their savoury brunch menu, their selection of sweets will change on a regular basis to reflect the season or pure inspiration.  They will always have scones though.  Their scones are available for purchase individually for $1.25 a piece, or as a scone plate for brunch with jam and cream for $5.  You could totally transform this into a lovely morning tea type of meal with a pot of hot loose leaf tea!

Brunch and afternoon tea scones

The frosted cupcake crown jewels

The showcase of desserts!

I truly believe I was blessed with good fortune on this day.  On Canada Day, Hammersmith’s celebrated their 1st anniversary and birthday!  How exciting it was to be a part of their special day!  And can you take a wild guess as to what made the birthday/anniversary festivities even mor jubiliant?  CUPCAKES!  Every patron was given a free cupcake in honour of this occasion and I was absolutely taken aback and shocked – in a good way!  Can you believe it?!  It’s almost as if the foodie gods wanted me to inhale a fresh cupcake over the weekend! 

They had cake stands full of plump cupcakes in different vanilla and chocolate combinations with the sweetest of decorations (rainbow sprinkles!  Chocolate sprinkles!  Pink sugar sparkles!  Crushed chocolate bits!) and they were all so pretty and so inviting.  Choosing my free cupcake (normally priced at $2.85) was like choosing a crown jewel – giddy but really hard to do!  Part of me was dying to snatch up the vanilla with sweet rainbow sprinkle dots and another part of me was yelling to grab the marble cake with marble frosting.  The “all-things-pink-and-pretty” part of me won over though and I chose the sweet chocolate cupcake with vanilla frosting and pink sugar sparkles.

If you love that fresh cocoa taste combined with moist-out-of-the-oven softness and soft, creamy, whipped buttercream, these are right up your alley.  It’s crazy because even though they’re light, airy, and fluffy in both cake and frosting, their cupcakes are surprisingly filling!  They’re decorated and piped beautifully and they truly have that comfort food, straight from home oven feeling to them and they taste delightful.  They make you feel all warm and fuzzy on the inside because they really exude that “I was baked with love” glow.  It’s good old fashioned cupcake basics at its finest. 

The chocolate cake was fudgy with all sorts of warm cocoa goodness lurking throughout and the frosting was so soft.  The cake wasn’t so soft that the cupcake toppled over, but it wasn’t stiff and dense either and you could enjoy it the way it was meant to be enjoyed – in one piece in your hand (or in my case, with a dainty fork!) as you take bite after bite of fluffy goodness.  What was fantastic about it was how they compared to other buttercreams.  It didn’t leave a greasy film, it didn’t taste like a mouthtful of butetr, it wasn’t too sweet or bland, and the ratio between cake and frosting was perfect.      

Fluffy and soft like marshmallow cream

Happy 1st birthday to Hammersmith’s and happy cupcaking, cookie noshing, and scone nibbling for all the sweet tooths!  Next up tomorrow: Hammersmith and drinks!

*****

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

*****

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