A Weekend Vegan Brunch of Tofu Scramble, Grilled Spinach, Home Fries, and Tempeh Bacon at Fresh!

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I love breakfast and brunch so much.  Even as I write this, I’m daydreaming about tofu scrambles, poached eggs, omelettes, breakfast sausages, and veggie skillets and this is a few hours before bedtime!  Clearly, that doesn’t deter me – I love breakfast food at any point in the day and I’ve been known to eat eggs and hash browns for dinner!  Morning munchies make me happy (especially since I’m ravenous minutes after I roll out of bed) and I go through breakfast phases all the time where I’ll crave different things.  For the longest time it’s been fruit with some bread with cream cheese, but lately I’ve been going out of my mind with peanut butter on toast with almond milk.  I’ve always enjoyed peanut butter okay (more so with jam), but it’s almost as if I can’t go a morning without my PB and toast now!  Needless to say, I am all over the place with my preferences but one thing is for certain: weekend brunch is a treat and totally qualifies as one of the best things in the world. 

It’s been a little over a year since my first visit to Fresh and I have been having the best time eating here.  Their menu constantly inspires me and I can’t imagine ever being bored with the food here.  After building my own custom rice and soba noodle bowls, and having one of their veggie burgers, burritos, appetizers, and soups, the only menu categories I hadn’t yet dipped my tastebuds in were the salads and the weekend brunch.  When my dear friend and vegetarian partner in crime, Wini, wanted get together for some Fresh eats on a Saturday, I was in conniptions.  Weekend brunch at Fresh, finally!  Neither one of us had tried their brunch yet so we were both excited.  It had been months since we had done any vegetarian noshing together, so it felt especially great to catch up with a close friend at one of our favourite spots in the city.  Just as I said in my breakfast scrapbook post yesterday, friends and brunch truly go hand in hand.

Fresh’s weekend brunch is served at all 3 of their locations on Saturdays, Sundays, and holidays from 10:30am-3pm.  With the exception of optional sides of cheeses that you can order with your meal, their brunch menu is entirely vegan so you won’t find any egg breakfasts here!  Instead, Fresh’s brunch menu focuses on tofu scrambles, tempeh bacon, veggie sausage rounds, brunch burritos and tortillas, and pancakes – LOTS of pancakes!  The menu is divided into two parts: pancakes and brunch entrees ($11).  Pancake meals ($6-$10) are served in doubles and triples and come in five varieties including plain, banana, blueberry, banana nut, and blueberry almond.  Even though I ended up choosing a savoury brunch entree (because I do generally enjoy savoury breakfasts more), I can’t help but feel like I need to introduce more pancake breakfasts into my breakfast world after my Mardi Gras & Pancake Tuesday post!

My first brunch of choice at Fresh?  The full monty, full breakfast with tofu scramble, grilled spinach, baked beans, toast, home fries, and a choice of either veggie sausage rounds or tempeh bacon!  As usual, I had a difficult time choosing which brunch menu I wanted to try first but ultimately, the combination of tofu scramble with grilled spinach won me over this time.  I love spinach so to have it with tofu scramble sounded scrumptious.  Wini and I ended up ordering the same thing (great minds think alike!) and decided that we both wanted to try the veggie sausage and the tempeh bacon so each one of us chose one to order so that we could share them between the two of us.  Weekend brunch with friends is not only fun in and of itself, but it is also wonderful when you get to share food!

This brunch meal made me feel so warm and cozy.  It was hearty and delicious and it made me feel as though I was sitting in a winter log cabin by the fire enjoying some good old fashioned breakfast comfort food, veggie style.  My absolute favourite things had to be the tofu scramble, grilled spinach, and the home fries.  I adore tofu and having tofu scramble in my life has just made this love that much greater.  My very first tofu scramble was at Sadie’s Diner and I love both Sadie’s and Fresh’s equally because they’re both delicious, different, and unique in their own way.  While the texture of Sadie’s scramble is reminiscent of fluffy scrambled eggs, Fresh’s scramble is more like a chopped up hash with amazing herb and onion flavour with tiny diced sauteed onions strewn throughout the tofu scramble. 

Between the tempeh bacon and veggie sausage, Wini and I both loved the tempeh more, hands down.  This was my first time eating tempeh and while I knew of tempeh since my foray into vegetarian and vegan eating several years ago, I had to find out what tempeh was first before actually trying it.  In a nutshell, tempeh is made from soybeans and often used as meat substitute.  After careful fermentation, soybeans are binded into what looks like bricks of cake-like SPAM.  I know that isn’t the most appetizing description, but that’s what it reminds me of and it tastes great so that’s all that matters!

While it didn’t have the crispy texture of traditional bacon, they were in adorable “strips”, they were soft, and they had this great savoury tomato flavour to it that was very unique.  Not a sour tomato taste, but more like a stewed tomato flavour with warmth and depth to it.  The grilled spinach was just like scrumptious collard greens and I absolutely adored the style and size of the home fry cubes and chunks.  They were crispy and golden on the outside and fluffy with meaty potato and starchiness on the inside.  They were sturdy (not mushy or greasy in the least) and the hold up perfectly to sauce. 

Yes, sauce!  Fresh serves their breakfast toast plain so if you’re cool with that, there’s no need to mess with a good thing.  I, for one, love dipping or having my bread with a spread or sauce though so I took it upon myself to add a side of garlic mayo from Fresh’s regular menu and I had a field day dunking some of my toast and my awesome home fries into my garlic mayo.  With one brunch from Fresh down, I’m revved up and ready for more!  I can’t wait to have their tortilla scramble, the burrito, and the banana nut pancakes in the future.  Brunch is one of the most enjoyable things in my life and while I don’t know how long it will take to cycle through every single amazing breakfast diner and weekend brunch spot in the city, but I’m more than happy savouring every experience for as long as it takes.

*****

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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P is for Pesto-Perfect! Pesto White Beans Brown Rice Bowl and Puree of Green Vegetable & Pesto Soup at Fresh

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I have missed Fresh so much.  Sometimes you don’t even realize just how much you’ve missed something until you come back to it.  After several months of withdrawal, I finally snagged my Fresh fix over the holidays and introduced yet another category of menu items to my happy belly: soups!  After a year of delicious meals here it’s hard to believe my lips never touched even one of Fresh’s vast, amazing menu of vegetarian and vegan soups, but all of that changed when I strolled in for lunch on a chilly winter’s day (which is saying a lot considering our winter has been incredibly mild thus far!) just before the new year. 

I was a girl on a mission: to slurp and spoon my way through a bowl of Fresh soup heaven.  Luck was on my side that day because I had a hankering for pesto (who am I kidding – I always want pesto) and the vegetarian gods answered my prayers with a Puree of Green Vegetable and Pesto soup option!  It couldn’t have worked out more perfectly.

All three Fresh locations in Toronto serve two soups daily.  The selection changes every day and depending on the location, the choices may also slightly vary.  For example, one soup might be present at all three locations on a given day, while the 2nd choice might be different at one or two of the other locations.  All of Fresh’s soups are vegan and they incorporate everything from beans to vegetables to herbs to spices, resulting in a very large breadth of flavour, texture, and colour. 

There are 32 different soups currently presenting on their rotating soup menu (I counted them on their online menu!), and some of these soups include curried red lentil stew with zucchini, baby lima beans, and sage; leek and potato with rosemary; mushroom and eggplant stroganoff with toasted caraway seeds; and puree of curried yam and apple.  Needless to say, it is going to take me a very long time to try even five of their soups, much less all 32!

 

On their own, soups can either be ordered in a cup size like the one I chose ($3.50) or in an entree bowl size ($6), and can either be accessorized with a toasted organic whole wheat pita on the side ($2.50) or with grilled cornbread for $3.  If you’re looking to jazz things up with a salad, Fresh offers a soup, cornbread, and salad combo (small $9, large $11.50) where you can order a cup or bowl of soup alongside two slices of grilled cornbread and an Eat Your Greens! salad, which is chock full of cabbage, sunflower sprouts, edamame, cucumber, parsley, cilantro, Protein Boost crunchy munchines and nuts, and salad greens.

Straight from Fresh’s menu of soups and ingredient list, my Puree of Green Vegetable and Pesto soup consisted of “onions, leeks, garlic, mixed green vegetables (broccoli, kale, bok choy & swiss chard), zucchini, green peas, parsley, basil, black pepper, cayenne, pesto (contains pine nuts & sunflower seeds), sea salt, canola oil & vegetable stock”*, and out of all of those ingredients, the pesto, black pepper, cayenne, garlic, bok choy, and green peas came through the strongest for me.  It was deliciously thick without being goopy and I absolutely loved the crunchy topping of pine nuts and sunflower seeds on top!  The contrast in texture was perfect because the puree was smooth enough that you couldn’t tell which vegetables were floating where but thick enough that you could distinctly taste a mixture, a fusion.

It was a pesto-perfect lunch with my Puree of Green Vegetable and Pesto soup and my next installment of build-a-bowl fun.  I put together a bowl of brown rice with kale slaw, goat cheese, grilled tofu steaks, pesto white beans, and house dressing.  There ought to be a disclaimer or a little warning sign that comes with these ingredients that says, “WARNING: these delicious foods may cause addiction and physical signs and/or symtoms of hunger cravings and extreme enjoyment of food such as drooling and constant exclamations of the word “YUM!” 

This is by far the most delicious combination I’ve put together through build-a-bowl (my phrase, not theirs just to be clear!) and I would eat it 100 times more.  The kale slaw provides the crunchiness, the goat cheese for the creamy richness, the pesto white beans for that bit of starchy protein and body, and the grilled tofu steaks for that “meaty” savouriness that is just out of this world.  Fresh does grilled tofu so amazing and it drives the tofu lover in me batty because it’s so good.  And like I mentioned in my last Fresh post, the house dressing is to die for.  I order a side of this dressing and splash the entire little bowl of it into my rice bowl and mix it into the brown rice and other ingredients and it just heightens all the other flavours and textures.  It is one of my all-time favourite things at Fresh.

Now that I have a Fresh soup under my belt, I’m almost at the point where I’ve tried every food category on the menu, so we’ll see what the next several amazing meals will bring in 2012!

*****

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)

Don’t Get Fresh With Us…Or Maybe You Can – Black Bean and Vegetarian Deliciousness at Fresh!

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Me and Fresh were finally introduced over the holiday season and I must say, we have become close friends.  We had an instant connection from the beginning and Fresh enjoys my company very much.  Fresh serves me food and I eat it.  It’s win-win for everyone 😀  *laughs*  In all seriousness though, I can’t believe it actually took me so long to eat at Fresh and I was sad that I missed out on my first Fresh dinner with friends from out of town back in November.  My friend Wini raved about the food here and after salivating over everything on their menu online, it was just a matter of time before Fresh and I became acquainted.  But I redeemed myself for my tardiness over the holidays with an awesome lunch and lunch date with my dear friend Katrina from The Demure Muse and it was truly one of my favourites meals EVER, on top of being a really sweet holiday get-together with a friend I don’t get to see often enough ❤

Fresh lives up to its name in food, in decor, and all-around feel.  Everything is bright and cheery and as a nutty scrapbooker, the walls look like patterned scrapbook paper and that makes me happy!  Beautiful colours of green, brown, orange, blue, and magenta burst from the menu and decor and even though the spaces are tighter, it really gives off a warm, communal vibe.  The kind of place where you enjoy the company of friends along with conversation with your next door table and waitress or waiter!  It makes you feel GOOD and it’s a mega popular joint that fills up fast!  And it’s a vegetarian and vegan haven.  Almond, tofu, and veggie burgers, cornbread, curries, soups, noodle bowls, wraps and burritos, and fruit smoothies, protein shakes, and fresh fruit juice are just SOME of the mouth-watering menu items.  Fresh makes it their priority to be socially and environmentally conscious with their food, so they offer wheat and gluten-free options, as well as cheese that is rennet-free (rennet being the digestive enzymes found in the stomaches of cows).

I love me some beans.  I love bean spread, bean salad, bean chili, and especially bean burritos!  The lovely thing about Fresh is that you have the option of enjoying their burritos and wraps in either the grilled whole wheat tortilla or without the tortilla and instead on a bed of greens.  Not don’t get me wrong, I enjoy the grilled goodness of a tortilla as much as the next person, but to have everything IN my burrito ON a bed of leafy green salad for me to fork (or rather chopstick) and stuff in my mouth?!  Inhaling Munching mouthful after mouthful of yummy wrap filling and soft greens, OH.MY.GOD.  And this dish was OH.MY.GOD. ten times over. 

The black bean burrito, with spicy black beans, avocado, lots of alfalfa sprouts, diced cucumber and red onion, freshly chopped cilantro, and slices of tomato on the side as well as Fresh’s signature coleslaw.  Oh!  And I added gorgonzola cheese to it too!  And I munched and washed it down with a yummy glass of lemonade sweetened with agave 🙂  This dish was all sorts of amazing.  It was warm and so wholesome and the black beans had the texture and consistency of soft beans and bean spread and the combination of this with the avocado, gorgonzola, and alfalfa was just yummy and crunchy and creamy…oh gosh, I just want to stuff my face into a whole plate of it now!

I enjoyed my food and eating experience SO MUCH here.  It’s one of those places that I can go back over and over and over and not get bored.  I get excited about going and trying everything I possibly can off their menu.  It makes me all warm and fuzzy knowing that everything is truly delicious and wholesome and full of love and heart.  This outing was special all around, not just with the food but also with the company and it’s food memories like these that I really cherish and keep close to my heart.

*****

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)

Big hugs and thanks to Katrina for the picture of me!

Scrapbooking materials used: blue, lime green, emerald green, and tangerine orange cardstock (Recollections); green pinstriped patterned paper (Recollections); blue striped patterned paper; alphabet stickers (K & Company); chipboard adhesive button embellisments (WT Westrim Crafts); orange butterfly pebble clip (‘M’ Making Memories); snowflake embellisment stickers (Recollections); medium scallop circle paper punch (ek success); circle paper punch (marvy uchida); corner rounder (ek success); scallop edge scissors (Prova Craft).