Baked Omelettes With Asparagus, Roasted Red Pepper & Goat Cheese – Checking into Hotel Gelato for Breakfast!

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I LOVE finding new breakfast, brunch, and lunch places!  The thought of relishing a good meal in a comfortable cafe makes me feel all dreamy and floaty on the inside.  And if you can believe (which I think you all can), I spent a good deal of time last week circling spot after spot in one of my Toronto magazines of all the places that offered breakfast and weekend brunch.  Aside from cupcakes, sushi, and pasta (my three great food loves), nothing gets my engine running more than a great breakfast and lunch cafe. 

I love the vast array of menu items, I love the feeling of freshness during the day (and admittedly, it makes my life easier taking photos in the daytime), and I just love the idea of sitting down to a great sandwich, brunch dish, and/or cafe drink with dessert.  I enjoy dinner, yes, but as Daphne Oz on The Chew reiterated on one of the more recent episodes, “eat breakfast like a king, lunch like a prince, and dinner like a pauper”.  Although in my case, I’d change that to a queen and a princess.  But you get the idea.  And it does, in fact, ring true for me.  I eat dinner almost out of necessity rather than want.  The star of the show is my breakfast and lunch and I sure as hell eat like it.  So, what’s my latest breakfast/brunch escapade?  Hotel Gelato on Eglinton West!

Hotel Gelato is a beautiful sit-down breakfast, lunch, and gelato cafe with an open, airy, inviting atmosphere.  Located on Eglinton West in the Upper Village neighbourhood, iIt’s exactly the type of place you envision yourself relaxing in during an easy Sunday morning or afternoon brunch, a midday coffee break, or a bright and refreshing weekday lunch with your best friend.  With its sleek black and white decor and upholstery, it’s pretty and fancy pants without being overly frou-frou and pretentious. 

In all honesty, I was taken aback when I stepped inside.  I knew it was pretty from the photos I saw on their official website, but I was not expecting it to be THIS pretty.  Chandeliers clothed in sheer black, clear plexi tables and chairs, comfy black upholstered chairs by the cafe’s front window, black and white wall decor, a beautiful fireplace mantel with candles, orchid flowers, and a sleek espresso bar and machine in acid bright turquoise!  In a nutshell, Hotel Gelato is NICE.

I was overjoyed when I viewed their menus online.  In addition to the gelato that makes them famous (and oh boy is there ever a ton of gelato goodness to devour!) and the cafe drinks and desserts that can ordered up at the front, they serve weekday breakfast from 8am-11:30am, weekend brunch, and all day lunch.  Although a number of their daily breakfast items appear on their weekend brunch menu, their weekend brunch menu does have some very special items that are not available from Monday-Friday including their challah French toast and their – wait for this – LEMON RICOTTA PANCAKES!  I almost bounced off the walls when I found out they served this.  Weekend brunch would have to wait though as I decided to stick to their daily breakfast menu first. 

Menu items include breakfast sandwiches with either peameal bacon or smoked salmon with eggs, flavoured mayo, and different cheeses, baked eggs, waffles, breakfast parfait, smoked salmon and cream cheese with bagels, and more.  Prices range from $8-$12 for most items, with a separate set of prices ($3.50-$5) for extra sides including daily scone, basket of mini almond, chocolate, and apricot croissants, peameal bacon, and toasted ciabatta with butter and preserves.  As much as I wanted to inhale a breakfast sandwich or smoked salmon (and, come to think of it, their waffles), I went with their baked omelette because I got to choose my fillings and toppings! 

The baked omelette ($8) is made with three eggs and herbs and comes with crusty bread to go with it.  Filling and toppings ($0.75 each) include aged cheddar, goat cheese, Jarlsberg, portobellos, sauteed spinach, smoked ham, bacon, asparagus, and roasted red peppers.  Wanting to inject some veggies into the meal, I chose asaparagus (how very spring-like!), roasted red peppers, and goat cheese because I love goat cheese like crazy. 

T0 my surprise, my omelette and bread were accompanied by a dish of fresh fruit (how sweet!) and my omelette, just like the menu said, was literally baked!  I don’t know why I forgot about that detail, but I was delighted when my breakfast was brought to my table.  The omelette was baked into a small baking/casserole dish, almost like a skillet or casserole and the fillings dotted my baked eggs like a beautiful mosaic.  It was piping hot and so unique to any egg dish I had ever had.  And I was also pleasantly with how much bread I was given – almost like a little mini sliced loaf of delicious crusty bread!  I know the menu specifically said grilled flatbread as opposed to crusty French baguette, but frankly, I didn’t care because the bread was so good and so darn cute!

The asparagus was crisp and flavourful and the goat cheese in the omelette was to die for.  There were creamy, tangy pockets of goat cheese throughout the entire dish and it truly went a long way in making the omelette burst with flavour and dimension.  The eggs were light as air and so, so fluffy.  Keep in mind though that the eggs for this particular dish are baked and thus well done and thoroughly cooked.  If you’re like me and you like your eggs a little runny, just mention it to your server because the dish is cooked well done by default. 

It’s really just based on preference because my mum, for example, reeeeally doesn’t go for runny eggs and prefers hers cooked from top to bottom.  If you love your eggs the way my mum does, no sweat.  If you like yours the way I do, ask them if they can undercook them just a tad and if they can’t (which I can’t imagine them not being able to do, but for the argument’s sake let’s just throw that our there), just choose another menu item.

I am so, so looking forward to coming back because there’s so much more to try!  There’s the gelato (hello, creamsicle and strawberry shortcake oh my god), the drinks (teas, pumpkin spice lattes, and pot of hot chocolate?!), the lunch paninis and sandwiches, and yes, the multitude of breakfast and weekend brunch items waiting for me!  Like those lemon ricotta pancakes.  It’s only a matter of time.

*****

Hotel Gelato is located at 532 Eglinton Ave. West just west of Heddington Ave. between Avenue Rd. and Bathurst Street.  They serve breakfast and lunch every day from Monday to Friday with a weekend brunch menu on Saturdays and Sundays.  Their breakfast menu is available from 8am-11:30am and lunch all-day.

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Sweet, Creamy Hazelnut, Skor Cream, and Cheesecake Gelato – Bang For Your Buck at Arte Gelato and Caffé

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I think I’ve finally found the answer to my indecisiveness when it comes to gelato!  I always have the hardest time choosing ice cream and gelato flavours and every time I go out for some, I either chid myself for being so wishy-washy over my choices or I whine to myself, “why can’t I just have 5 flavours and make myself a pretty little artist’s palette of gelato scoops??”  It’s the reason why I get so excited when I come across places that allow you to choose more than one flavour in a cup or cone. 

There’s almost always a catch though.  More often than not, the extra flavours will mean extra moolah and I find myself back at square one, limiting myself to just a few flavours so I don’t end up making my wallet weep.  If only there was a way to try a host of flavours while at the same time reeling in the total price.  I recently found that “way” and I couldn’t be happier!  Introducing Arte Gelato and Caffé on Bloor West!

Located in the heart of Bloorcourt Village on Bloor Street West at the corner of Delaware Rd., just east of Dovercourt, Arte Gelato is a beautiful, airy, spacious gelato café that serves panini sandwiches, waffles, and coffee drinks in addition to their colourful, delicious array of fresh gelato.  I know there are many gelato cafés in the city and I’m well aware I haven’t even chipped away an ounce of what’s out there, but I’m telling you, Arte Gelato is an absolute gem among the jewels and there are so many reasons why I love it here. 

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The Fall Harvest Series – It’s Time For Pumpkin Sweets! Delicious Pumpkin Pie Gelato at Boreal Gelato Company

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I’m so excited to finally introduce my very first gelato post to the blog!  And I’m so ecstatic I finally got to do some scrapbooking!  It took me forever and a half to get my photos developed.  I had some layout sketches done, but for weeks I could never find the right time to get them developed (I was either at Le Dolci or out with my boyfriend or family, and no where near a Wal-mart, Loblaws, or any other photo developing spot) and my scrapbooking withdrawal was making me seriously cranky.  Moping-in-front-of-the-tv-and-glaring-at-the-supplies-I-couldn’t use-yet cranky.  I’m fine now.  Peeling and slapping stickers on cardstock alleviated my teeth-grinding and now I get to look forward to replenishing my stash of fall and alphabet stickers!  That, and maybe some Hallowe’en goodies too.  It’s going to be great. 

I have Andrew/TOfoodie on Twitter to thank for this delicious snack and post.  He mentioned PUMPKIN PIE GELATO and holy mother of pearl, I couldn’t scribble the details down fast enough if I tried.  I may love cupcakes and cake, but I also loooove ice cream, frozen yogurt, and gelato.  I’m the one who eats frozen dessert treats in the dead of winter while everyone else is hugging their coffee cups for dear life.  I promised myself I’d fatten up the ice cream, frozen yogurt, and gelato categories on here because compared to what I have on cupcakes, it’s paltry.  So here we are with the first gelato post featuring the pumpkin pie gelato from The Boreal Gelato Company in Parkdale!  When I first started doing a little research for the Fall Harvest series, I came across so many sweet pumpkin goodies and options around the city!  Cupcakes, teas, lattes, cookies, tarts, loaves, and yes, GELATO!  I kept them in mind and slowly but surely, I’m going to tick them off one by one.

The Boreal Gelato Company, located on Queen West just west of Dufferin St., is amazing.  Check out the adorable Inuksuk logo!  With an emphasis on homegrown, local Canadian ingredients, Boreal Gelato strives to be ethically sound and as environmentally conscious as possible, using certified fair-trade products and biodegradable packaging, as well as offering patrons a place to dispose their recycables and compostable waste.  Now, obviously, their efforts to use local, Canadian ingredients can only go so far as certain products don’t grow in Canada (cocoa, coconuts, and bananas, for example)*, but their mission is to offer customers the best of the best when it comes to the availability of seasonal, local fare. 

Not only do they have a fab selection of gelato flavours, but they also have a great cafe menu (they serve weekend brunch now too!), and ample seating inside the shop.  I know you can look up their gelato flavours on their website, but not all the flavours are listed and I’m going to throw out a few that I saw that day just to make this post a little more exclusive 😉  Flavours include tiramisu, anise (black licorice), Irish cream, coconut cream, salted caramel, triple chocolate crunch, earl grey, spicy rosemary shortbread, pumpkin pie, and gingerbread.  The sheer volume of flavours is one of the things I love most about gelato shops.  Some of the flavours are just so creaitve and it makes you salivate looking at all the metal bins filled up with colourful, delicious gelato.

I know some people like or find it necessary to take their food to go, but I like having a spot to sit down when I’m in a place and Boreal Gelato has plenty of comfortable seating inside, with tables and chairs and a long seating booth against one wall.  It’s open, it’s airy and spacious, and it’s exactly what I love about shops with seating.  Although their specialty is gelato and sorbet, their menu isn’t exclusive to just those two items.  They have coffee drinks (espressos, cappuccinos, cafe mochas, macchiatos, pumpkin lattes, and hot chocolates), fruit, milk, and soda drinks (think apple cider, smoothies, root beer floats, and milkshakes), cakes, pies, cookies, baked Alaska (I know, oh my gosh), annnd gelato cookie sandwiches!

Their prices are very average and run-of-the-mill in comparision to other gelato places in and around the city (and yes, I’ve eaten at other places but just haven’t blogged about them!  If I don’t like my photos or if I don’t have any, it doesn’t get blogged).  There are 3 tiers: mini scoop ($2.75), regular scoop ($4.00), and double scoop ($5.50), and what’s really fab about their scooping arrangement is that you can choose two flavours to make one scoop!  So if you’re indecisive like me, this is perfect for you!  Oh!  And toppings!  You get free toppings!  Right by the cash, there are canisters of topping goodies and squeeze bottles of sauces to dress up your gelato or sorbet.  That day they had pecan and walnut topping, graham cracker crumbs, cocoa nibs, and chocolate, caramel, and maple syrup. 

I got myself some pumpkin pie and vanilla bean gelato and sprinkled graham cracker crumbs onto it and oh my goodness, this was even BETTER than actual pumpkin pie!  I could have eaten triple scoops of this.  So refreshing, so smooth and creamy, and sweet!  I have friends who always wish pumpkin desserts were just a tad sweeter and this gelato delivers.  The sweet flavour and cool refreshingness does it for me.  I wouldn’t say that pie itself is necessarily drying, but when you eat this, you just feel it melt in your mouth the way pie never could.  The pumpkin pie gelato was amazing, with the perfect balance of sweetness and earthiness with a hint of spice, and combined with the vanilla bean and graham cracker crumbs it was like eating creamy, sweet, scrumptious pumpkin pie with a graham cracker crust and vanilla ice cream on top.    

I have something embarrassing to admit right now though.  I was SO excited about stuffing my face into the pumpkin pie gelato that the rest of the menu was completely lost on me.  And I feel so silly because of it.  I went in with the intention of eating the amazing pumpkin pie gelato and although I got what I wanted (which I’m thankful for – they sold out of their first batch and JUST had another one ready for me when I came in!), I would have ordered a gelato cookie sandwich and pumpkin latte had I realized they had something like that!  It was only after I finished my gelato that I realized how much other stuff they had and I almost groaned out loud at my stupidity.  Sigh.  Well, that just means I’m going to have to go back again.  And again.  And again.

*****

The Boreal Gelato Company is located at 1312 Queen Street West in Parkdale, just west of Dufferin St. between Noble St. and Elm Grove Ave.  They serve weekend brunch and are open from Tuesday to Sunday.  Their hours from Tuesday to Thursday are 1pm-10pm, 1pm-midnight on Fridays, 10am-midnight on Saturdays, and 10am-10pm on Sundays.  Click here to visit their website.

Source*= Boreal Gelato website

Scrapbooking materials used: to be added!

Skipping Down Chocolate & Candy Lane – The Nutty Chocolatier on Queen St. East in the Beaches, Part I

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My trip to The Nutty Chocolatier in the Beaches area on Queen St. East was well worth the wait.  I waited A YEAR to come back to this sweet morsel of confectionary to finally take the photos I wanted to take.  You all know how anal I am about my photos.  If I don’t like them, I retake until I’m satisfied.  And if it takes me a year to go back to a place, I will mumble and grumble but patiently wait till the day I get to come back.  I know it sounds so silly considering that all it takes is a subway and streetcar ride.  But the weather doesn’t always cooperate when you make plans to go, sometimes you just feel like exploring another neighbourhood, and other times you run out of bus tokens and tickets and feel too cheap to buy more, and thus the trip is prolonged for another chunk of time.  Sigh.  Tis the life of a foodie. 

I went to the Beaches area for the first time last summer and I was so, so excited to go back to revisit some places and to explore a bit more this past month.  The Beaches area is beautiful.  It’s quaint, it’s peaceful, and it has that lovely mom-and-pop feel.  Added bonus?  It’s just a hop, skip, step away from Woodbine beach!  When you walk along Queen St. E, it feels so nice because you can feel the balmy air coming in from the shore.  When I spend a day in the Beaches, my plan of action involves getting off the Queen streetcar at Woodbine Ave. and walking east till I’m too tired to keep walking, ha! 

Even though I may not buy things in every candy shop I go into (what self-control I have!), I looove looking and The Nutty Chocolatier is a BIG shop that offers candy, chocolate, British imports and memorabilia (there were plenty of William and Kate mugs among other things when I was there this past month, haha), gelato and icecream, imported chips and savoury snacks, and lots and lots of fudge!  So here’s a teaser post with photos of The Nutty Chocolatier, the resident neighbourhood candy store, fudge shop, and cavity-inducing sugar emporium with plenty of local and imported sweets and treats 😀

*****

The Nutty Chocolatier is located in the Beaches neighbourhood at 2179 Queen Street East, east of Woodbine Ave. and in between Lee and Hambly Ave.