When One Door Closes, Another One Opens – Ate by Ate’s Fresh Start and Baja Tacos & Cod Sliders at The Happy Hooker, Part II!

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Okay, so “tomorrow” ended up being almost 2 months.  I honestly didn’t mean to be away so long.  I was so excited to celebrate Thanksgiving with you guys, posting about fall baked goods, fall harvest goodies and afternoon tea and just reveling in the delicious bounty of my favourite season.  But I just couldn’t post.  I wasn’t ready to tell everyone what was going on and didn’t want to pretend things were normal when they weren’t.  Aside from being just plain tired and sleepy some days, something else happened in my life during my time away that has, well…turned my life upside down a little.

I got laid off and lost my job.

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I can’t even begin to explain everything that I’ve been feeling and thinking since it happened and everything that has happened in relation to it since it happened.  Dealing with very mixed emotions, people, the day-to-day grind of remaining work while I’m still there, the future.  It’s something that you’re never truly prepared for and when it happens your mind just starts running in a million different directions.  It made me so sad not to post for over a month.  Part of me wanted to but the other part just didn’t want to bother with the facade.  I missed my Food Calendars, I missed the majority of the fall season, I missed posting on Ate by Ate’s Facebook page and getting fun tweets from people, I missed Ate by Ate’s 3rd birthday.

Needless to say, I’ve experienced MUCH happier Novembers in my 28 years of life and saying that it’s been a roller coaster would be a gross understatement.  Despite everything that’s happened though, my heart is so full of joy for Christmas, I am soaking in as much holiday happiness as I can and moving on from this chapter in my life will be the best thing for me come the new year.  It’s time for a fresh start, truly, and maybe finally, I can give Ate by Ate the love and attention it needs again because I have floundered this entire year.  Ate by Ate is my baby, it’s my bread and butter and we need to start having fun again.

So, let’s take a deep breath and dive right into the Happy Hook Part II post that never happened in October!

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Ironically enough, The Happy Hooker and I were introduced through work.  Back in May, I went on a fun “Insanewich” culinary tour led by Stephen from Foodies on Foot where the entire food tour was – you guessed it – based on sandwiches!  We noshed our way through numerous neighbourhoods in the city and chomped on sandwiches of all kinds: panini, sliders, grilled cheese, ice cream (SO creative and the best way to end a sandwich tour on a sweet note) and The Happy Hooker’s myriad selection of seafood sandwich bites!  What I love about The Happy Hooker is its playfulness, versatility and culinary creativity.  Seafood is much more than your typical fish ‘n chips, slab of grilled salmon and things you crack and eat out of a shell.  While the familiar is great at times, the menu at The Happy Hooker allows you to try different kinds of fish and seafood in so many different ways.

We have fish that’s grilled, fish that’s fried, seafood on a stick and seafood between buns.  We have shrimp, baja, cod, oysters, lobster, blue marlin, and grouper.  And we have beautiful, delicious side dishes that go with all those scrumptious seafood delights such as a rainbow of salads (check out the arugula and kale, it’s a thing of beauty!), fish fries and other yummies.  Oh!  And pie-in-a-jar desserts from Le Dolci.  And deep fried Oreos.  Ohhh boy.  The Happy Hooker’s menu changes on a regular basis based on the availability of fresh seafood, seasonality and what’s plain delicious and fun.  Prices range from $3.50 to $11 with small tacos coming in at $3.50 each and larger sandwiches coming in at $9-$11 with sliders sitting between the two at $4.

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I’ve had the luxury of trying their seafood tacos and their adorable and delicious sliders.  What we have here are Cali Baja tacos with avocado crema, fresh lettuce and tomatoes served with a little wedge of lime, grilled shrimp tacos with mango salsa and pickled onions and BC cod sliders with tomatoes, slaw and capers, all dressed in their special seafood mayo sauce.  My mouth is watering just looking at these photos again.  I know some may appreciate larger portions more but you all know I’m the type of person who hates having to choose between menu items and generally munches on multiple small portions of things.  It just makes my life (and digestion!) easier.  I get to try numerous things at once and I don’t feel overwhelmed with what’s in front of me.

I would LOVE to eventually try everything on their menu but if I had to recommend something, I’d get the sliders and Cali Baja tacos again in a heartbeat.  The BC cod was so flavourful and moist (and come on, they’re just so damn cute) and the crispy fried goodness of the Cali Baja pairs so well with crema and sauce and fresh veggies.  I love my shrimp too but coming from a person who tries her best not make a hot mess out of herself while eating, it’s not the most graceful of things to eat – I kept dropping shrimp back onto my plate!

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The Happy Hooker exudes fun, hip, and casual and it’s one of those places that brings to mind fun lunches you can enjoy on a park bench on a gorgeous summer day.  Given how we’re deep into the first week of December though, that visual doesn’t really help our cause so I’m super curious to see what their menu looks like during the winter and how their food transforms into hearty comfort food.  No matter the season, it’s a fab place to try lots of different types of seafood and their buttermilk oyster sliders and blue marlin burgers totally have my name on them for a future trip!

It’s good to back everyone and thank you for hanging in there with me.  The support means the world and I am going to make the next 20 days before Christmas (and beyond) the most fun it can be.

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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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“Bee Mine” – Weekend Brunch of Eggs Benny & Buttermilk Cheddar Scones at Oliver & Bonacini Cafe Grill!

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You know what we’ve never discussed here on Ate by Ate?  Food snatching.  Do I have a story behind this discussion point?  Oh you bet your sweet ass I do.  So let’s talk.  You know the kind.  Folks who sneakily spear something off your plate when you’re not paying attention or those who snatch the obligatory fry from your basket or those who just plain eye your leftovers.  For those of you who know F.R.I.E.N.D.S inside and out, we can laugh over Joey’s ridiculousness over not sharing his food with his date at the restaurant and even sweet little baby Emma (“JOEY DOESN’T SHARE FOOD!!!”).  Truth be told, I’ve never really had to deal with that in all my years of living.  I mean, sure, there was the one time my brother and I mixed up our school lunches and I ended up with his and he ended up with mine which left me in conniptions because I totally felt like he’d stolen my entire container of beloved grapes, but aside from that I’ve always been surrounded by pretty  respectful people who don’t overstep their bounds when it comes to my food and in that sense, I’ve been very lucky.  Either that or my boyfriend, friends and family are simply scared of my wrath.  Hmmm.  Point is, life has been pretty much sticky-snatchy-finger free.

Until one fateful morning at weekend brunch.

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It was a beautiful, warm, sunny Sunday morning at Oliver & Bonacini Cafe Grill at Yonge & Front St.  I was beside myself with excitement.  I was out on their patio, I was covered by enough shade to take decent photos, I was finally going to try their weekend brunch menu which I had been wanting to do for months, and I was spending the day with my boyfriend.  It was picture perfect and my appetite was raring to go.  I hungrily scanned their brunch menu, hemming and hawwing over sweet versus savoury dishes like I always do until I finally settled on the eggs benedict; but more about the luscious food in a second.  I desperately felt like some simple but delicious comfort food and the warm, rich, creamy eggs benedict bathed in hollandaise was exactly what I was craving.  My dish came and I sighed in happiness.  My beautiful eggs benny in all its glory.  Gosh did this dish ever make me smile.  My boyfriend and I then proceeded to dig into our respective brunch dishes and thoroughly enjoyed ourselves.

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Until halfway through the meal when chaos ensued:

“Ahhhh!!!” *napkin swat* “Go away go away go away go away!!!” *napkin swat* “Nonononono….damn it, NOOOOOO!!!”

Take a wild stab at what happened.

Answer: a freakin’ BEE flew into my hollandaise and STOLE MY FOOD.  A BEE!  Into MY hollandaise!  In MY brunch!  Like I wasn’t already a nervous wreck seeing the damn thing flying near the bushes by our table, oh no, it had to circle my plate several times like a vulture eyeing its prey and then freakin’ LAND on my food like a helicopter landing pad!  Like, seriously, of all the ways to ruin my food!  I could have dropped it.  I could have been too sick to eat it.  But a bee setting up shop on it?!  ARE YOU FREAKIN’ KIDDING ME?!  I never in a million years thought the first time I would have my food stolen would be by an insect of all things.  Now, you must be wondering how this meal was salvaged.  Because you know I wouldn’t be writing about this if there wasn’t something positive to it.  All I can say is, god bless our server.  He noticed the commotion at our table, rushed over with a linen napkin, smothered the darn thief with it and quickly took the dish away to discard.  Then he said 5 magic words:

“I’ll bring you another one.”

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Not only did we receive exceptional service from the second we were seated, but our server really went above and beyond to mend my broken heart (and, quite frankly, my heebie jeebies).  I was halfway through my meal when the chaos happened and after the dish was taken away, one of the other servers promptly brought me a hot and fresh dish that made up for the half that was ruined.  Ahhh.  Happiness restored, crisis averted.

Well, now that I’ve recounted my absurd food snatching story, it’s time to get down to business and talk REAL food.  I adore O&B’s weekend brunch menu.  Available on Saturdays and Sundays starting at 10am, their weekend brunch menu reads like a book of classics with the most fantastical of twists.  You have French toast but in PB & J style (pain au lait, peanut butter, housemade strawberry jam and candied peanuts).  You have breakfast classics on a pizza (roasted maple ham, caramelized onions and a fried egg!).  And the hash?  Beef short ribs with poached eggs and chipotle tomato jam.  Those are just 3 of the 11 brunch dishes that they offer on their menu.  In addition, they make their lunch menu available as well which is great because you can mix and match your food to your heart’s content!  I took advantage of this by ordering a side salad of fresh kale and greens ($5) which was a beautiful, light and fresh mix of dinosaur kale, radishes, swiss chard, baby greens, matchstick beets, and wheatberries.

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The main attraction: O&B’s eggs benedict is by far one of the most delicious I’ve ever had.  I LOVE IT, I LOVE IT, I LOVE IT!  Their eggs benny ($14) incorporates potato home fries, 2 large poached eggs covered in rich, creamy hollandaise sprinkled with chopped green onions and pepper flakes on top of 2 slices of make-me-warm-and-fuzzy honey ham and 2 amazing fluffy, airy, melt-in-your-mouth BUTTERMILK CHEDDAR SCONES!  SCONES PEOPLE!  OH.MY.GOD!  I wasn’t lying when I said they took the classics and twisted them in fantastical ways!

We’re so used to seeing and having eggs benedict on English muffin halves and while I love my toasted English muffins, it was SO delicious having my poached eggs on buttery scones that were honestly like a cross between tea scones and buttery, cheesy biscuits.  Are you guys familiar with the infamous Red Lobster biscuits?  Imagine those in all their soft, buttery glory but in cheesy buttermilk scone form.  It was the perfect accompaniment to the hollandaise because the scones soaked up the sauce so well and everything held it’s flavour, texture and shape throughout the meal without getting soggy which was terrific.

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Despite the food snatching, food ruining kerfluffle, it was truly one of the most enjoyable, scrumptious weekend brunches and I adored my food to pieces and would eat through the weekend brunch menu in a heartbeat.  Sans the uninvited vistor.

*****

Oliver & Bonacini Cafe Grill is located at 33 Yonge Street at the corner of Yonge Street & Front Street E.