All Hail the Breakfast Hash! Mushroom Gravy & Fried Eggs – Weekend Brunch at The Gladstone Hotel on Queen/”Queer” Street West

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I was going to save this post for early July but given how I just watched Michael Symon and Daphne Oz make mouthwatering breakfast hashes on The Chew earlier today and how I’m totally smitten with the street name change of Queen Street West to Queer Street West in honour of World Pride and Pride Week here in the city, I decided I would post these photos today instead.  So, to celebrate amazing breakfast hashes and “Queer” Street West (gosh, this is never going to get old), I present to you all weekend brunch at the Gladstone Hotel!  This is Ate by Ate’s 2nd post on weekend brunch at the Gladstone (check out the 1st one HERE) and I’m hoping that I’ll get to post many more in the future because I’ve enjoyed both my experiences here so much.

The Gladstone Hotel’s weekend brunch menu (served on Saturdays and Sundays from 8am-4pm in the Gladstone Cafe) changes every so often with new and different dishes which is why both of my posts are unique from each other.  It’s totally worth it to go back for repeat visits.  Even if the menu was the same, I would still come back (if I love a place, one visit is never enough) but for those of you who enjoy the spice of life and love new things and variety, this fits right into your wheelhouse.  The great thing about the weekend brunch menu is that while the dishes might be different from menu to menu, the selection and variety is just as great because you’ll always have those egg breakfasts, sweet dishes, and savoury plates to choose from.  The menus don’t necessarily favour one brunch category over another so you won’t ever feel like you’re stuck eating only one type of dish.

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The current weekend brunch menu features yummies like the Lumberjack (eggs, bacon, potato hash and a short stack of pancakes, $15), the Queen (and egg white and caramelized onion frittata with arugula, cheddar and multi-grain bread, $12),  the Sweetie (bread pudding French toast served with caramelized apples, maple caramel drizzle, and bacon, $10), the El Completo (fried or scrambled eggs with tomato, onion, lime and feta black beans with chorizo sausage and corn tortillas or toast, $12), and Jerk Chicken Tacos (3 spicy pulled jerk chicken tacos served with mango chutney and crunchy sweet rice and black eyed pea fritters, $13; my boyfriend ordered this one and I sampled some of those fritters with the mango chutney and oh my gosh they are to die for) among others.

I was hemming and hawing between the Sweetie and the Hash ($11), a dish featuring a red-skinned potato and onion hash smothered with vegetarian mushroom gravy and topped with a beautiful fried egg.  In other words, weekend brunch sexiness.  Two entirely different, contrasting dishes vying for my undying love and attention.  Ultimately my savoury craving won out because 1) I am a potato freak, 2) I am also a fried egg freak, and 3) I am a gravy freak.  I was drooling even before my plate came.  THAT is how you get my weekend brunch motor running and THAT is how we get our freak on!

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This dish is truly the epitome of comfort food, brunch style because the crispiness of the hash and the savouriness of the mushroom gravy just takes it to another level.  The hash, which was shaped into a giant potato patty-like pancake, was fantastic because it maintained its texture in spite of it being covered with gravy and the gravy itself was possibly the best gravy I have ever had in my life.  It was thick and so ridiculously flavourful and the actual mushrooms served with it kept the consistency from getting congealed or gummy with its juices and it kept the flavour coming in spades so everything just worked.  The egg and arugula brightened up the dish visually and offered the tastebuds something a little different to latch onto throughout the meal so that the savouriness of the hash and gravy wouldn’t get too heavy or overwhelming, with the egg being a blank canvas so to speak to absorb some of those flavours and the arugula contributing its signature peppery bitterness to break up the saltiness.

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What made this brunch even more fabulous was my drink: tea!  The Cafe offers a bunch of different loose leaf teas from Tealish including their Coconut Chai, Lemon Meringue, and Toasty Almond among other black, green and rooibos tea varieties.  For whatever reason, I didn’t order a tea during my first visit to the Gladstone nearly two years ago so I decided to order one this time.  I went with the Blueberry Lagoon since I hadn’t tried that one yet and oh my gosh, I almost jumped out of my seat when my tea came: a teapot accompanied by an adorable china tea cup!  Ohmygodohmygodohmygod.  I was not expecting that.  I was expecting just a regular cup with my loose leaf in a filter or something.  I was completely taken aback by the cuteness of it all and it made my tea-loving self so incredibly excited and happy!  And the Blueberry Lagoon tea was delicious to boot so that made me even more happy.  I was on cloud nine; a new Tealish favourite to add to my tea scrapbook!

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The Gladstone Hotel Cafe is such a nice and relaxing place to have weekend brunch (or any meal for that matter) and I love that each experience offers something new and exciting, at least for me.  I just might have to make another return visit before the end of the summer to try that Sweetie dish and to be delighted once again by another delicious meal.

*****

The Gladstone Hotel is located at 1214 Queen Street West (or Queer Street West during Pride Week!).

 

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A Power Breakfast of Eggs, Tomatoes, and Creamy Tahini! The Shakshouka at Aroma Espresso Bar

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I really have to hand it to my boyfriend for humouring me while I noshed on my warm, saucy, eggy, tomatoey Shakshouka power breakfast at Aroma Espresso Bar.  He didn’t make faces, he didn’t make gagging noises and he also didn’t make any sarcastic “I’m-so-disgusted” comments at me while I was enjoying my meal.  I know what you’re thinking.  “Look how pretty this dish is, why on earth would anyone make comments about it not tasting good?!  And why would it come from your significant other?!”  Because my boyfriend hates tomatoes.  HATES tomatoes.  With a fiery passion.  I have never met anyone who despises them as much as he does.  Sauce on pizza….hmm, okay.  Anything else he vehemently declines.

And he’s really on the fence about eggs.  Loves them boiled, hates them runny.  Doesn’t prefer them scrambled, would never order them poached, and is really only into the egg whites.  Sigh.  Sometimes it’s remarkable how our palates are polar opposites in some ways.  But we love each other, we’ve grown so much together and it’s our quirks and eccentricities that make us who we are as individuals and as a couple.  So I really appreciated how he didn’t ask me how I could eat THAT and concentrated on his own sandwich instead.  He’s my honey after all and he just shakes his head amusingly as I eat.

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This Tunisian and Israeli style breakfast is truly a breakfast of champions!  It really packs a protein punch with a ton of contrasting flavours and it’s quite a fun dish to eat.  Aroma’s Shakshouka, a dish of warm tomatoes and tomato sauce with 2 eggs, tahini sauce and a basket of baked-in-house bread, is part of their every day breakfast menu and it’s one of those dishes that warms you up from the inside out.  I know it seems a little odd to be talking about warm dishes in the summer,  but there are those days when it’s real chilly in the morning and you just want something a little on the heartier side for breakfast to get rid of those goosebumps.  Either that or you’re just freezing from the blasting air conditioning.  Either way, it’s a dish that fills you and it’s fun dunking the bread in the tomato sauce, poking the eggs so the yolks run, dipping the bread in the yolks (can you tell I love dipping my bread in egg yolks?), treating the tomato sauce as both a food and somewhat of a soup, and dabbing tahini sauce on everything as you eat.

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I have to say, the tahini sauce REALLY made the dish for me.  Sure, I love my eggs and the bread-dunking is fun, but there is just something so delicious about the creamy nuttiness of their tahini that is unlike any sauce I have ever had and it’s wonderful because it breaks up that acidicity from the tomatoes.  It completely changes the dish and grounds it, keeping it from being too savoury and too tomato heavy.  I mean, I know the dish is meant to be about the eggs and tomatoes, but I think it was a smart move to include the tahini because it prevents the tomatoes from being too overpowering.

And the bread!  So soft and yummy.  I chose their multigrain to accompany my breakfast (it comes with the dish but you get to choose what kind of bread you want when you order) and I was actually taken aback but how much of it there was.  I know it was technically 2 big slices cut in half to make 4, but goodness did it ever look like a mountain in my little basket!

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Over the last year I’ve become such a huge fan of Aroma Espresso Bar.  Several years ago I felt ambivalent about them and it was only because I always feel that way about chains.  Are you really in love with their food or are you only buying into the popularity, the hype?  Do they really deliver on quality and truthfully, is the food good?  And with chains it’s especially touch and go because we all know some locations just do a better job than others.  My mum feels that way about her coffee.  If she dislikes the cup she got, it’s not necessarily a reflection on the company but possibly on the person who made it (sorry!).

I love Aroma’s food and drinks more and more though and I’m finding it so much fun learning about different foods and different cuisines done Aroma style (a Bulgarian Bureka sandwich!  Spanish and Latin American alfajores cookies!  Turkish coffee!) and trying their salads and sandwiches.  I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE the smoked salmon sandwich (I just had a half sandwich of this yesterday for my afternoon snack.  Yes, that’s right, I have sandwiches for snacks when I’m super hungry!) and quinoa salad (there’s grilled eggplant in it, YUM!) and we already know I’m a fan of their hot chocolate.

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New locations are popping up all over the place so I’m hoping to add lots of new posts for sandwiches and breakfast and drinks!

*****

Aroma Espresso Bar is an Israeli espresso and coffee chain with over 100 locations worldwide.  There are 8 branches in and around Toronto, with shops in Thornhill and Vaughan.  Click here to view the list of Toronto and GTA locations.