Smoking Hot Sunday Brunch – Smoked Trout Cakes, Poached Eggs, & Edamame Fennel Salad at Brockton General!

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I promised you all a weekend brunch post from the west end so I’m here to deliver!  After doing a lot of exploring in Leslieville over the past month, I thought it would be nice to switch things up and have some fun on Dundas West, specifically in Brockton Village!  I still remember that crazy day a year and a half ago in April when I decided to be spontaneous and walk the entire length of Dundas West from Keele to Spadina (um, hello, over 5 km!), stopping at King’s Cafe for lunch, watching snow flurries flying around in the sky from the window, and completely zonking out on the streetcar and subway ride back. 

And since that day, I have loved Dundas West, Brockton Village, and all the neighbouring areas for its aesthetic and character (Dundas West is home to some of the most beautiful graffiti artwork in the city) and of course, for its food!  I know some parts of the strip are a little industrial and “middle of nowhere”, but little gems still sparkle beneath that steely exterior and really, once you hit Lansdowne going eastbound, there is so much to see and explore in terms of specialty food shops, bakeries, and great eateries.  And Brockton General is one of them!

I found out about Brockton General from Where Toronto magazine many moons ago, immediately looked them up online, and kept them on my brunch hitlist for months.  It was their stewed fruit French toast menu item that made me squeal in the beginning!  This month I finally made my way here on a Sunday morning, sat down on one of their sweet wooden chairs at one of their pretty outdoor wooden tables and enjoyed one of the most relaxing, delicious, memorable brunch meals EVER.  With a light breeze, a clear sky, and a peaceful atmosphere, this meal at Brockton General epitomized what a Sunday morning brunch should always be.  Their cafe is so sweet and cute with so much vintage and romantic flair.  Little sugar pots, tiny vases of flowers on the ledge, vintage prints on the exposed brick wall, linen napkins, pretty porcelain dishes with floral prints, and even an antique spoon collection on the wall to boot! 

Even though the space isn’t monstrously big, there’s a decent amount of seating with tables for four and two all over, so as long as you get there not too long after they open, there shouldn’t be an issue with line-ups.  Then again, there was a steady stream of people coming in when I was there on a Sunday morning (couples and groups of friends), so to cover your butt, show up soon after they open to be on the safe side.  The food is so delicious here I wouldn’t be surprised if I was proven wrong about the line-ups!

The wonderfully unique thing about Brockton General is their menu and I’m not even talking about their food or dishes persay here; I’m talking about their constant changing menu.  The menu that changes EVERY WEEK.  No joke!  Brockton General’s brunch menu changes every week, highlighting seasonal ingredients and whatever creative concoctions they might come up with.  I LOVE that.  I know that it can be bad if there’s a menu item you just adore to pieces and you’re not sure if it’ll come back or not, but just think of all the amazing different dishes you can try with an evolving menu like theirs.  The menu might feature similar types of dishes week to week, but with different ingredients or different sides.  And I’m happy to report that there are always vegetarian options!

In addition to classic breakfasts like bacon and eggs (their chalkboard sign out front says “magical bacon forest!”), eggs benny, and French toast with seasonal fruit and maple syrup, Brockton General’s menu specialities include omelettes with yummy seasonal vegetables (cauliflower puree with green beans, salad greens and toast – I have never seen anybody do omelettes with cauliflower!  And green beans?  Amazing!,), breakfast sandwiches (English muffins, fried eggs, pork loin, different cheeses, homefries and salad), and sausage or veggie hash with veggie gravy, fried egg and toast.  On top of that, they have a number of different small meals (rye berry salad, granola with fruit and yogurt) and sides (bacon and/or pork loin, homefries, and so on) that you can pair with your main and a drink for a Brockton General price fixe!  Prices for mains come in at $11-$13, but if you choose a drink, the granola, soup, or salad, and a main, it’s $18 any time and all the time!

My brunch meal: smoked trout cake with a poached egg, remoulade, salad, and toast ($13).  I never say no to fish and seafood cakes!  I love crab cakes and salmon cakes and wish I could eat them more often.  This totally and completely satisfied my desire for fish cakes though and I am still reeling from the wow factor of this brunch meal!  The poached egg was perfect (thin egg white skin with a runny yellow yolk on the inside), the toast was perfect and crunchy (I couldn’t believe how excited I was about how good the toast tasted!), the salad was beyond fresh and bright and delicious, and the smoked trout cake?  Heavenly and mind-blowingly delicious!

Let’s talk about the salad first though.  Now, I loooove green salad with a simple olive oil and vinegar dressing as much as the next perso.  Heck, I could have that every day.  But when you’re in the face of REALLY GOOD salad with more than just greens, it makes you appreciate it that much more.  Brockton General’s salad that day was a mix of baby arugula and mixed greens, sliced red onion, and – wait for this – fennel and edamame!  I love edamame so, so much and was squealing (on the inside) about it througout my meal.  And the fennel!  I think this was the first time I truly tasted fennel.  I have read about its licorice taste more times than I can count and I finally felt like I understood firsthand.  It was a beautiful and definitely unique from other places.

The smoked trout cake was just bang-on fabulous.  First off, as soon as I cut into it, steamed billowed out.  So fresh, so good.  It was wonderfully flaky and soft with the most flavourful, smoky interior of flaked fish and green onion with a golden brown crisp exterior.  You have to eat it to get the full effect of the smoky flavour.  The menu was not lying when it said smoked trout!  It was smoky with a hint of heat and it was almost as if you could taste it straight off the fire.  It was so savoury and the smokiness just envelopes your tastebuds and lingers as you continue eating.  That’s how bold it is.  It was a flavour my tastebuds had never come across before and it paired perfectly with their cool, creamy, delicious remoulade sauce!  I wish I had a whole ramekin of this sauce.  Generally made with mayo, mustard, garlic, and spices (and sometimes hot sauce), the sauce completed the fish cake so well.

From the get-go, all I could think of when I was here was how much I wanted to bring my best friend, my mum, and my boyfriend here to eat.  And all my friends.  And anyone who just loves food and brunch.  My unforgettable brunch on that clear Sunday morning confirmed it.

*****

Brockton General is located at 1321 Dundas Street West between Ossington Ave. and Dufferin Street.  They are open from Wednesday to Sunday (closed Mondays and Tuesdays), with dinner hours Wednesday through Saturday (6pm-10pm on Wednesday, 6pm-11pm Thursday through Saturday), and weekend brunch hours on Sunday from 10:30am-3pm.

Corn Chips, Breakfast Potatoes, & Moroccan Flavour in a Tofu Scramble – Weekend Vegan Brunch at Disgraceland!

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Appearances can be deceiving.  There are some places that are decked out to the nines, but their food?  Nothing particularly special.  And then there are the diamonds in the rough.  The no frills, rough around the edges type of establishment with hidden gems and amazing food just waiting to be discovered.  The spots that completely take you by surprise in the best way possible because you’d never think, just by looking at them, that they would dish out such magnificent culinary brilliance.  And I have my dear friend, Wini, to thank for this latest scumptious epiphany!  With all the recent talk of the Vegetarian Food Festival going on at Harbourfront (this weekend y’all!) and the return of Veggielicious, it’s incredibly timely that I would make this post on vegan breakfast and weekend brunch today!  Yes, vegan brunch!  With veggie brekkie posts on Fresh, Table 17, Lady Marmalade, and Sadie’s Diner, it was due time to add another one to the mix.  And is this ever a fabulous one!  Make way for vegetarian and vegan brunch comfort food at Disgraceland in Bloorcourt Village!

Disgraceland is what I would describe as a dive bar.  If you didn’t see the booths from across the street, you would totally mistake the space for a motorcycle related shop.  I sure did.  And that’s if you see it at all.  It’s easy to miss because you just can’t tell from its exterior that’s a place to gorge on food!  And when you come up closer, all you really see is darkness.  Until it lights up at night according to Wini.  In short, Disgraceland would fit perfectly into Guy Fieri’s Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives in the dive category because they have the look (jukebox, games, bar, booze, booths, diner fare and comfort food!) and they have the food to prove it!  My friend Wini told me about Disgraceland after a great dinner out and I quickly looked them up and was delighted to find that they had the full monty of menus on their site.  Perfect!  I can daydream about what I want to eat when I eventually go!  And there was certainly plenty of options to consider including meat, vegetarian, and vegan dishes.  A triple threat of a weekend brunch and dinner spot!

 

Disgraceland’s weekend brunch serves up 11 different dishes with a copious amount of brunch sides to choose from!  Prices for mains range from $8-$11 (most coming in at $11), additional sides from $2-$4, and the tax already included in all the prices.  They also only accept cash, so keep that in mind if you plan on coming!  Disgraceland is SO PERFECT for groups of friends and family with different tastes, preferences, and diets.  Not only can you customize your meals with different proteins, you can substitute a number of the items for meat or meatless equivalents.  Win-win for everyone!  Meat lovers, vegetarians, and vegans can all dine here without feeling like they’re being left out, without feeling like they need to sacrifice, and without feeling like they need to order something they’re really not into just for the sake of having something meaty or meatless.  

Not only does their menu cater to different diets, it also caters to different sweet and savoury brunch cravings.  We have the savoury English breakfast ($11) with eggs, pork or vegan sausage, baked beans, fried tomato, sauteed mushrooms, potatoes, and toast; brekkie burrito ($11) with vegan and non-vegan cheese, proteins, beans, and veggies; eggs benny with strip or vegan bacon and hollandaise over poutine ($11); cinnamon French toas ($8); and a BLT bagel with sides ($9) in both meat and vegan forms!

Because I’m totally smitten with tofu scramble, I pounced on their tofu scramble dish ($9) complete with a scramble of tofu with peppers, onions, spices, black beans, and jalapenos served with crunchy corn chips, fruit, and a choice of breakfast potatoes or greens.  Ever since that fateful first tofu scramble at Sadie’s Diner last year, I’ve been completely devoted to scoping out every single last tofu brunch item in the city and I think I’ve done a pretty good job so far!  I’m itching to do a tofu brunch post for the Flavour Favourites series, but I’m going to hold off on doing one right now just because I really want to get in a few more dishes before I do a big comprehensive post for it. 

I love tofu and I always have, even as a kid.  Granted, the way I ate it as a child is vastly different from the way I eat it now.  Growing up, my mum would put tofu in our Chinese soup and she would cook it up soft with meat and vegetables.  Now I have tofu “deli” slices that I can slap on the grill, egg tofu that you slice in coins, grilled tofu wedges, tofu scramble, you name it.  I feel so super fortunate that my soy allergy only extends to milk; I’d be so sad if I couldn’t eat tofu anymore!

There was so much to love about the brunch here and about this dish.  You get your money’s worth on fantastic portions, there are so many ways to customize it just the way you like, and the food is just darn good.  I loved my tofu scramble because of it how different (and of course, delicious!) it was from other tofu scrambles.  Disgraceland’s was almost like a tofu stir-fry scramble with their tofu chunky and cubed with their sauteed vegetables chopped and diced and woven in throughout the entire dish.  The flavours were amazing.  Because of the cumin and spices, I felt like I was eating something straight out of a Moroccan place, it was so delicious.  It was unlike anything I had ever had before and it completely epitomized warmth and comfort.  This is definitely a yummy fall and winter type of dish, and combined with the scrumptious corn chips and chunk, starchy, foodgasmic breakfast potatoes, it’s a hearty meal that surprisingly doesn’t leave you feeling like you’re in food coma afterward! 

I’m so happy there’s another fantastic vegetarian and vegan brunch eatery in the city for me (and many others!) to go to and the great food here just proves that you don’t have look red-carpet ready to give a star performance.

*****

Disgraceland is located at 965 Bloor Street West in Bloorcourt Village, between Ossington Ave. and Dufferin St. just west of Delaware Ave.  They are open only for dinner and weekend brunch from Monday-Friday, 4pm-2am and Saturday-Sunday, 11am-2am.  CASH ONLY.  You can view their site HERE.

The Cupcakes, Cookies, & Cakes in the Hat – A Photo Spotlight on Dessert Oasis, Bakerbots, in Bloorcourt Village, Part I!

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*****

Bakerbots is located at 205 Delaware Ave by Ossington subway station, nearest major intersection being Bloor Street West and Ossington Ave. in Bloorcourt Village.  Bakerbots specializes in all things sweet with desserts and baked goods being churned out by the truckload!  They are part bakery, part design studio, part ice cream parlour, and full on dessert emporium!  Their hours of operation: Tuesday-Thursday, 6pm-10pm (ice cream treats only); Friday, 4pm-11pm; Saturday, 11am-11pm; Sunday, 11am-10pm.  You can visit their site HERE.  Part II full write-up post coming tomorrow!

Havana Days, Havana Nights – Achiote & Lime Chicken Sandwiches & Cuban Crème Brûlée at Delux, Part II!

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Some foodie districts can only elude you for so long.  For me, Ossington Ave. was one of them.  I’ve walked around it, I’ve walked through it, but I’ve never eaten in one single cafe, bistro, or restaurant on it!  There are so many places on Ossington I’ve heard and read about (and even saw while strolling by several times), but I’ve never tried them.  Whether it was because of money, not being anywhere near the neighbourhood, or just being unsure of the hype and resisting the somewhat annoying “trendy” tag slapped on it, I’ve gone through my entire food journey without an Ossington meal.  All that has changed. 

After hearing and reading about the famed Ossington Ave. eating district for what feels like eternity, I finally made the plunge and went Cuban for lunch at Delux!  I’ve wanted to eat at Delux for a long, long time.  I was absolutely floored, though, when I looked up their menu online and discovered that they served Cuban lunch and brunch!  OH.MY.GOD.  All this time I thought they only served French fare for dinner (which, don’t get me wrong, they do); I had no idea they served lunch and Sunday brunch, much less CUBAN!

Coming to Delux was such a joy because to my recollection, I’ve never had anything Cuban in my life.  I was beyond excited.  I was in conniptions.  I planned this visit an entire two weeks prior, going over the menu and deciding what I wanted to try, and even showing up for lunch outside the restaurant half an hour early and then circling the neighbourhood in twitchy anticipation before they opened.  With the exception of going to Fresh, I’ve never shown up to any restaurant that early.  That’s how giddy I was about eating lunch here.

Delux, located at 92 Ossington Ave., serves up a mean Cuban inspired lunch menu Tuesday to Saturday, and a Cuban brunch menu on Sundays.  I know my post title says “Havana Days, Havana Nights” and I know the Havana Nights part doesn’t make the most sense considering Delux goes French in the evenings, but I thought Havana Nights sounded a lot sexier than Havana Days on its own, so humour me with that one.  Their Cuban inspired lunch menu hits all the marks in terms of selection: appetizers, salads, sides, sandwiches and mains, and desserts.  It’s well-rounded, it fits the bill for any and every type of appetite, and there are vegetarian options for those who go meatless.  

The menu, while Cuban inspired, has a number of Caribbean, Mexican, and South American flavours and influences within it.  Menu items include conch fritters (a type of shellfish and dish typically found in the Bahamas), empanadas, jicama salad with cucumbers, radishes, and apples, fried green plantains, roast pork with rice and beans, the famous Cuban sandwich, and so much more.  Their prices, ranging from $6-$15 for appetizers, salads, and mains, and $3 for sides, are incredibly reasonable and I’d even say more reasonable than many other places around the neighbourhood and city. 

I’ll be honest with you, I’ve always thought of Delux as one of those places in the city that was fancy and inaccessible to me, a place I’d only be able to go to when I truly had the money to splurge.  I was so wrong.  While it’s true that I based this judgment on incomplete knowledge, it was a still a misguided perception nonetheless.  And I am SO happy that I was proven wrong.  Delux is as accessible as they come.  I didn’t feel like I was eating in a place that oozed pretentiousness, or that I was dealing with that pesky “trendy” label at all.  It felt like a place that I could come back to again and again for the amazing food and reasonable lunch prices.

I had myself some guava juice ($2), their achiote and lime chicken sandwich with avocado, tomato, and aioli on fresh bread ($9), and for dessert, their Cuban crème brûlée ($4).  First off, let me mention the service.  I know this is an aspect that I don’t talk about at all on the Ate by Ate and it’s because if a place was truly bad, I simply don’t write about it at all.  So you know by default that the service is fine (to me, let’s be clear about that) if it shows up on the blog.  Thus, my mentioning it at all means something special.  The service is awesome.  So friendly and so FAST.  I wasn’t waiting around for my food at all and I was actually taken aback by how fast my food came to me.  I don’t mean 5 seconds after the nice waitress took my order, but definitely quick enough for me to notice! 

Second, let’s talk about the marinade of the meat: achiote.  I have never had this in life.  Prior to seeing Delux’s menu, I had never heard of it in my life.  Achiote, commonly used in Latin Americna, Mexican, and Filipino cuisine, is created by grinding the seeds of the inedible annatto plant/fruit and transforming it into a powder and/or paste with other spices and herbs.  From there, it is either used as a dry rub for meat or combined with liquid to form a marinade. 

In this case, it was used as a marinade for the chicken and it was out of this world.  I will even be so bold as to say that you have not eaten chicken until you have eaten this sandwich!  The flavour had depth, warmth, a bit of kick, a bit of tang, and a hint of smokiness.  It was like the much awesome sister of BBQ sauce (sorry, BBQ sauce, but you lose this contest hands down).

This sandwich was all sorts of amazing.  Amazing doesn’t even do it justice.  The bread was as soft as you can imagine with delicious crust and surprisingly sturdy!  This sandwich was stuffed to nines with fresh chicken chunks, thick wedges of avocado, tomato, and one very amazing herb aioli spread, and the bread didn’t give or fall apart.  It was able to contain everything and boy was everything delicious.  One of the BEST sandwiches EVER.

And the crème brûlée!  I would seriously come back to Delux JUST for the Cuban crème brûlée.  The flavours were like a punch in the mouth, but a happy, dizzying good way with a bold coffee, espresso flavour and sweet, creamy caramel undertones, wrapped in a rich custard whipped like mousse on the inside and a hard, crackled caramel shell on the outside.  Perfectly executed and bang on on what a crème brûlée should be.

I absolutely cannot wait to come back to Delux to try their other sandwiches, their conch fritters and empanadas, and definitely their Sunday brunch!  After realizing just how wonderful their food and menu are and how affordable their items are, I no longer have any apprehensions about those preconceived thoughts of Delux being out of my reach.  I am coming back and making myself right at home.  

*****

Delux is located at 92 Ossington Ave. at the corner of Ossington Ave. and Humbert St. between Dundas Street West to the north and Queen Street West to the south.  Delux serves both lunch and dinner from Tuesday-Saturday, and brunch and dinner on Sundays.  Lunch is served from 11:30am-3pm from Tuesday-Saturday, and dinner is served from 6pm from Tuesday-Sunday.  Click HERE to view their website, and HERE to follow them on Twitter @DeluxRestaurant

Havana Days, Havana Nights – Cuban Sandwiches and Sweets at Delux on Ossington, Photo Spotlight Part I

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My first foray into the Ossington foodie district!  Big write-up set for tomorrow.

*****

Delux is located at 92 Ossington Ave. at the corner of Ossington Ave. and Humbert St. between Dundas Street West to the north and Queen Street West to the south.  Delux serves both lunch and dinner from Tuesday-Saturday, and brunch and dinner on Sundays.  Lunch is served from 11:30am-3pm from Tuesday-Saturday, and dinner is served from 6pm from Tuesday-Sunday.  Click HERE to view their website, and HERE to follow them on Twitter @DeluxRestaurant