Potato Pancakes & Sweet Apples – Weekend Brunch at ViVetha Bistro in Yonge Lawrence Village!

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Happy St. Patty’s Day, everyone!  Okay, so today’s weekend brunch post isn’t an Irish one but it does involve potatoes so that’s something!  I’ve missed blogging about weekend brunch so much.  Aside from cupcakes and sushi, it’s my favourite  thing to write about on Ate by Ate and it’s the one series on the blog I’m most passionate to see grow.  I started a fun “Get Cracking – Egg Breakfasts!” photo gallery on Ate by Ate’s Facebook page that I can’t wait to add more to (can you tell I love eggs in all its forms?!) and I’m so happy that I’ve been able to rack up over 20 posts on weekend brunch meals in the city thus far!  And that’s not even counting the non-weekend breakfast posts I’ve done.

I’m especially excited about this particular post though because I’ve been trying to integrate more pancake related material into the series and this totally fits the bill in a non-traditional way – we’re talking pancakes potato-style!

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My family and I love potato pancakes.  I’m obsessed with crispy potato rosti with sour cream, my brother and I love wafer thin, crispy hash browns, my brother has had the potato pancakes from Futures Bakery, and one of my all-time, favourite home-cooked dishes made by my mom is her potato patties with green onions and diced barbecued pork.  She mashes freshly boiled potatoes, mixes the green onions and pork in, shapes them into cute little patties, and throws them into the skillet to get them gorgeously golden brown.  It is such a treat and it’s been a favourite of mine since I was little.  She doesn’t make them often just because they’re a little more time-consuming and labour intensive, but when she does, everyone in the house is over the moon!  One of these days I’ll give it a go and we’ll see if they measure up!

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This post features a potato pancake weekend brunch meal from uptown bistro, ViVetha Bistro in the Yonge & Lawrence neighbourhood!    This spot is AMAZING!  I cannot wait to come back for another round.  Their food is delicious, their menu is varied and big, and their space is sweet, sunny, and cozy.  And how did I discover such a fabulous spot?  By walking around.  Again.  I make my best food discoveries just strolling around on a relaxing day of exploration.  I was in the Yonge & Lawrence neighbourhood months ago and while I was walking, I see their menu taped to the inside of their front window and knew off the bat I had to come back for some delicious eats.

ViVetha weekend brunch menu offers a little bit of everything – plenty of different egg breakfasts (lots of omelettes and eggs benedict), pancakes and French toast, and salads, sandwiches, and pasta.  Yes, pasta!  It wasn’t until I started going to Italian and European-style brunch spots that I became used to seeing pasta on the brunch menu.  You’re talking to a girl who grew up eating congee for breakfast when she was a tiny tot, then Fruit Loops cereal, and eggs and ham as a kid and then dim sum woven in every so often.  I was always used to having noodles for breakfast as well, but pasta is a little different.  It’s like how I had my spinach pappardelle bolognese pasta dish at Terroni Centrale last November .  It was the first time I ordered pasta for brunch and I have to say, I LOVED it.  You think you’re not hungry enough to eat it but trust me, you are.

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Anyway, prices are incredibly average and reasonable.  I’m accustomed to seeing weekend brunch prices hovering around the $11-$15 range but at ViVetha, you can easily order a meal for under $10.  Many meals come in at $8 or $9 with some of the more entree type plates (like pasta and such) averaging $11-$14.

They also offer weekly brunch specials that are separate from their permanent menu.  I love that!  It keeps things exciting, new and fresh that way, especially if you’re a regular.  I had the hardest time choosing between my meal and one of the weekly specials (an eggs benny with beef tenderloin tips, smoked salmon and bocconcini – OH MY GOD).  But I went for my potato pancake meal because I really wanted to have something pancake-related, plus there was PLENTY to make my mouth water in this dish!

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ViVetha actually has two potato pancake menu options, one that is served with bacon and sausage, and the other that’s served with smoked salmon and eggs.  You can probably guess which one I chose.  That’s right, the one with my beloved smoked salmon and eggs!  My potato pancake platter ($11) was comprised of two big potato pancakes (shredded potatoes and green onions fried golden brown), slices of smoked salmon, 2 eggs any style (I had mine fluffy scrambled!) and a generous helping of sweet sauteed apples, sour cream and capers, and some fruit on the side.  EVERYTHING I LOVE!  Potatoes, sour cream, apples I could eat (recall my raw apple allergy!), smoked salmon, eggs, and some nice salty capers.

I was so happy.

The meal really plays on eastern European flavours (apples/applesauce with potato patties!) and the whole dish was just really balanced as there were equal portions of everything.  There were lots of different textures and flavours going on that complemented each other: the crispiness of the potato pancakes which was crucial to preventing the meal from being too “soft”, the sweetness of the apples that cut through the saltiness of the capers and smoked salmon, and the sour cream which gave a nice punch of cool tanginess and creaminess to the whole dish.  Truly though, the apples make this dish.  Anybody can say that they had potatoes with their breakfast (hash browns, home fries, whatever), but not many can say that their potato brunch came with a sweet order of apples!

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ViVetha is truly a gem in the neighbourhood and in the city in general.  I have French toast, pancakes, pasta,  and more eggs benny calling my time for future visits!

*****

ViVetha (or ViPei as it is also known as) serves 4 locations in the city.  This particular location is located in uptown Toronto at 3334 Yonge Street, right by the corner of St. Germain Ave., in the Yonge & Lawrence neighbourhood on the west side of Yonge Street.  Even though it’s somewhat in between York Mills and Lawrence, trust me when I say that it is much easier and faster to get here from Lawrence!

Vegetarian Brunch Crêpes, Mushrooms, & Goat Cheese – Lazy Summer Sunday Brunch Mornings at Simple Bistro, Part I

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You’re strolling down the street feeling the light morning breeze through your hair and the warm sun gently beaming down on you.  It’s peaceful, it’s relaxing, and you look forward to what the day will bring as you pass by sweet bakeries, cafes, and gift shops.  And then you reach your dining destination.  You’re here, you’re hungry, and you’re ready to sit back and enjoy a delicious meal.  Ah, there’s nothing like a lazy Sunday summer morning brunch on Mount Pleasant Rd. 

Sunday brunch (or weekend brunch in general for that matter) is, in my opinion, one of life’s most luxurious treats and one of my favourite things in life to enjoy in the company of friends, my sweetheart, and nice people.  Aside from afternoon tea, it’s my favourite type of meal and food occasion.  There’s a certain air of tranquility and freshness about weekend brunch that makes it so special.  Different menus, different atmosphere – it’s all in the little things.  It’s a time to slow things down, to savour all the sights, tastes, and aromas, and to soak in every precious moment.  Our lives are so full of hustle and bustle every day what with work, school, home, family, friends, children; weekend brunch affords us that little nugget of time to do something fun and out of the ordinary and everyday.  And Simple Bistro on Mount Pleasant Rd. is one of the many weekend brunch spots in the city that make the weekends feel extra special.

Simple Bistro is the quinessential sweet and simple French cafe.  It’s small, quaint, and intimate, with sweet vases of flowers on every table and a hefty wine list to boot.  In addition to weekend brunch, they serve lunch from Wednesday to Friday from 11:30am-2:30pm, and dinner daily from 5:30pm-10pm.  Brunch is the highlight for me though.  Because of the bistro’s fold out ceiling to floor front windows, weekend brunch is made all the more fabulous with fresh air, gentle breezes, and soft sunlight filtering in.  Simple Bistro and summer work beautifully together and I took it upon myself to experience this lovely treat on a gorgeous Sunday morning. 

Known for its fresh and simple French cuisine, Simple Bistro offers a weekend brunch menu on Saturdays and Sundays, serving a mix of both French classics and brunch staples with the majority of main dishes priced from $11-$16.  Here you’ll find the popular Croque Monsieur grilled sandwich served with bechamel on the side, the classic Vichyssoise creamy soup of leek and potato, heirloom tomato salad, duck confit hash, French toast with blueberry compote, and my pick for the morning, Crêpe aux Champignons! 

Simple’s mushroom “crepe of champions” (I know it doesn’t actually mean champions, but it looks like it and it might as well be because it’s so yummy) ($14) incorporates soft scrambled eggs, spinach, leek, sauteed mushrooms, and goat cheese, all encased in big egg sheet crepe folded over top.  A number of brunch items include frites on the side, but I lucked out and had spring mix green salad tossed with a light vinaigrette as a side to my mouthwatering vegetarian crepe.

Their Crêpe aux Champignons brunch dish is wonderful in so many ways.  Let it be known that this crepe was chosen waaaay advance of this first visit.  Being the excited day planner, meal planner, and foodie that I am, I had previously looked Simple Bistro up online and perused through their weekend brunch menu first.  Because their menu is sweet and simple (one page!), it was so much less difficult for me to narrow down my choices.  It was between the French toast with blueberry compote, the heirloom tomato salad, and the Crêpe aux Champignons and the crepe dish held on to win this round because my weakness for spinach, goat cheese, and mushrooms got the best of me. 

First off, the crepe is huuuge.  Folded over, it covers half an entire large dinner plate.  Second, it is stuffed.  The crepe was so fat and plump the warm spinach, melted goat cheese, leeks, soft, slightly runny scrambled eggs with herbs, and shittake mushrooms were brimming out of it when I cut the crepe open and lifted up part of the top half to snap a few photos.  This was no flimsy, flat crepe.  Now I know we’d all expect the best from a French bistro type of establishment but if something is poorly made or executed, it is what it is.        

And finally, the yumminess.  Oh my lordy.  I think I murmured, “this is so good!” about 10 times throughout the entire meal.  The spinach was perfectly cooked (not overdone and mushy), the scrambled eggs were done just the way I loved them (silky and slightly runny), and the mushrooms were divine.  They were so flavourful, juicy, and plump and the entire crepe just screamed with creaminess, savouriness, and warmth.  It was such a happy, spring-like meal.  The crepe itself was beautiful; a sunny yellow egg sheet that wasn’t the least bit dry and it reminded me of Japanese tamago a little bit, only obviously much thinner.  I loved it not only because it was scrumptious but also because it was easy on the palate and on the stomach.  You’d think a crepe of this size would leave me keeled over in a food coma but it was surprisingly airy and light and it left me feeling so good and satisfied afterward.     

No meal for me is quite complete without a little something sweet though, so the story isn’t over just yet!  Tomorrow I’ll be featuring a special summer dessert from Simple Bistro – in a jar!  My first brunch here was wonderful and judging by the people who also came by for some brunch love right when they opened their doors/windows at 11am, it’s a well-loved neighbourhood spot that is truly a gem in the Mount Pleasant area.

*****

Simple Bistro is located at 618 Mount Pleasant Rd between Eglinton Ave. East and Davisville Ave. in Mount Pleasant Village.  They serve lunch from Wednesday-Friday from 11:30am-2:30pm, dinner daily from 5:30pm-10pm, and weekend brunch on Saturdays and Sundays from 11am-2:30pm.  Click HERE for more info and to view their menus.

Who Says Breakfast Food is Only Yummy at the Break of Dawn? Scrambled Eggs & Sausage for Dinner!

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Okay, I’m just going to be upfront about this: I watched footage of Prince William and Kate’s royal wedding 3 times today.  I was on the brink of happy tears all day long and I was absolutely entranced by the whole procession and string of events, from the ceremony to the carriage ride to Buckingham Palace to the balcony kiss.  I even prolonged eating lunch in favour of gluing myself to the television.  I even surprised myself with that move!  I witnessed a very special, beautiful thing today and my heart is filled with joy for both William and Kate.    So my head is a little up in the clouds at the moment with visions of pretty wedding dresses and smiles and Union Jack flags. 

Forgive me then for only posting some pictures of my “breakfast for dinner” dish that I love so dearly!  Given how a number of people around the city woke up in the middle of the night to watch and celebrate the royal wedding, it’s quite possible everyone’s eating schedules have been thrown off a bit.  Tea parties in the wee hours of the morning, lunch for breakfast, and who knows what else!  To celebrate my head-in-the-clouds, mildly disoriented state of mind, I present to you, scrambled eggs and sausage for dinner.  I loooove eating eggs for dinner and I have a weakness for breakfast sausage, so this goes hand-in-hand for me.  A yummy dish of fluffy scrambled eggs with ground breakfast sausage and chopped green onions, seasoned with a little black pepper.  I know I’m not the only one out there who jumps at the chance to eat all-day breakfast at diners and eats “breakfast food” for dinner!  Happy royal wedding day, and happy weekend!  I have LOTS to share with you guys 😀