Flavour Favourites – 5 Great Tofu & Tofu Scramble Vegetarian & Vegan Brunch Dishes!

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Source: photovisi

I’m so happy and excited!  I finally have enough posts to do a Flavour Favourites post for one of my favourite foods: TOFU!  And not just any post devoted to tofu, this is a special tofu and tofu scramble brunch edition post!  Even though I’ve been eating tofu almost all my life, it wasn’t until I started my crazy food exploration 4 years ago that I realized just how versatile it was as a vegetarian brunch main.  I was especially intrigued by tofu scramble and the more I saw it on vegetarian and vegan brunch menus, the more I wanted to try them all.  Tofu scramble with vegan cheddar, tofu scramble with spinach and diced onions, on crispy corn tortillas, with peppers and spices – I totally have a “gotta catch ’em all!” mentality towards it now and it’s been so much fun trying the dishes that I have and discovering new eateries and hot spots along the way.

Oh, and did you notice the snazzy photo collages?!  I love them, they’re so pretty if I do say so myself!  I didn’t actually create the backgrounds, I just picked the template and plugged the photos in.  But it was fun nevertheless!  I’ve been feeling so sad about my lack of scrapbooking that I felt compelled to do something colourful and creative with my photos.  It’s been tough.  Ever since I started working full-time M-F, scrapbooking just hasn’t happened and it certainly hasn’t been because of a lack of desire.  It’s purely a lack of time.  I hate even saying it because it makes me sound like a person who whines and complains about not having enough time, making excuses, and not doing anything to change it.

Source: Ate by Ate’s Facebook page

Believe me, I’ve made an effort.

I’ve bought new materials for projects on my to-do list, I developed some new photos for new layouts.  But with a M-F full-time schedule and weekends jam-packed with getting and preparing blog stories and content and fitting in time with my boyfriend, friends, and family, there has been virtually nothing left for quiet, undisturbed sit-down time with my paper and scissors.  I want to change this so much so here’s to hoping I find a way to do it because this was one of the major reasons why I started Ate by Ate in the first place.

Let’s get this tofu brunch show started!

  1. Vegan Rancheros at Sadie’s Diner (504 Adelaide Street West at Portland Street, just east of Bathurst) – Scrambled tofu on corn tortillas with salsa, refried beans, guacamole, and vegan cheese, $12, daily Welcome to Sadie’s Diner – Rockin’ Robin Huevos Rancheros, Part II || May 4, 2011
  2. Full Breakfast at Fresh (147 Spadina Ave. just south of Queen Street; 326 Bloor Street West just east of Spadina Ave; 894 Queen Street West at Crawford) – Scrambled tofu with grilled spinach, baked beans, grilled vegan sausage or tempeh bacon, toast, and homefries, $11, weekend brunch A Weekend Vegan Brunch of Tofu Scramble, Grilled Spinach, Home Fries, and Tempeh Bacon at Fresh || February 27, 2012
  3. Tex Mex Tortilla Scramble at Fresh (147 Spadina Ave. just south of Queen Street; 326 Bloor Street West just east of Spadina Ave; 894 Queen Street West at Crawford) – Crunchy corn tortillas, scrambled tofu, avocado, cilantro, tomato, lettuce, green onions, avocado chipotle sauce, spicy black beans, and brown basmati rice, $11, weekend brunch (mine served with an additional order ($2) of aged cheddar cheese!) A Rainforest Cabana Weekend Brunch – The Tex Mex Tortilla Scramble & The First Visit to Fresh Crawford || May 11, 2012
  4. Grilled Tofu on Vegan Chili at Niche Coffee & Tea Company (626 Queen Street West) – Grilled tofu steaks on homemade spicy vegan chili topped with tortilla crisps and a choice of homemade foccacia or cornbread, $10.50, daily (depending on the day, the meal can come with either tomato and arugula salad or guacamole cream) The Vegan Chili Series! First Up: Vegan Chili Brunch with Grilled Tofu Steaks at Niche Coffee & Tea on Queen West || September 28, 2011
  5. Tofu Scramble at Disgraceland (965 Bloor Street West between Delaware Ave. and Dovercourt Rd.) – Tofu scramble with sweet bell peppers, onions, garlic, cumin, chili, black beans, corn, and jalapenos with crunchy corn chips and a choice between hash browns (breakfast potatoes) or greens, $9 tax inclusive, weekend brunch Corn Chips, Breakfast Potatoes & Moroccan Flavour in a Tofu Scramble – Weekend Vegan Brunch at Disgraceland || September 7, 2012

AND, if you’re interested in trying tofu brunch dishes that I haven’t blogged about yet, here is my tofu goldmine “to-eat” list!

  • Tofu Scramble at Lady Marmalade (898 Queen Street East, just west of Logan Ave.) – Tofu scramble with shitake mushrooms, bok choy, spinach, and scallions in sesame soy dressing with your choice of either brown basmati rice or potatoes, toast, and salad, $11.50, daily all-day breakfast http://www.ladymarmalade.ca/
  • Sesame Tofu Scramble at Sage Cafe (166 McCaul Street at the corner of Elm) – Sesame tofu scramble on a bed of Thai-style rice noodles, $10, weekend brunch http://www.sagecafeandcatering.com/our-menus/weekend-brunch-menu
  • Tofu Omelette at Live Organic Food Bar (264 Dupont Street at Spadina Ave.) – Tofu omelette with tempeh, regular and sundried tomatoes, spinach, peppers, and olives with your choice of either potatoes or salad, $16, weekend brunch http://www.livefoodbar.com/brunch.html
  • Baked Polenta “Bolognese” at the Gladstone Hotel (1214 Queen Street West, east of Dufferin St.) – Vegan polenta cake with roasted heirloom tomato, mushroom and tofu “bolognese” with lentils and broccoli, $9, Fall 2012 weekend brunch (over the summer, the Gladstone had a tofu quesadilla!) http://www.gladstonehotel.com/food/?doing_wp_cron=1351394130.0679988861083984375000

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.

A Rainforest Cabana Weekend Brunch – The Tex Mex Tortilla Scramble & The First Visit to Fresh on Crawford!

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To all Fresh enthusiasts: have any of you noticed something missing from my Fresh posts?  I’m serious!  This is truly not a rhetorical question and while I certainly don’t expect any of you to go back and comb through my entire Fresh history, I’m genuinely asking because a glaring, unintentional omission exists and I’m just very curious to know if anybody else has picked up on this!  I’ve featured Fresh bowls, brunch, appetizers, plenty of brown rice, soba noodle, and vegetable goodness and even a burger in between scrapbook layouts.  However, the Fresh party on Ate by Ate will never be complete without this missing puzzle piece and I’m delighted to announce that the missing piece is has been claimed! 

After 10 gloriously delicous posts on Fresh over the course of a year and a half, I finally made my way to their Crawford location!  And that, my dear foodies, was the missing member of the Fresh family.  I know, it took me long enough!  Fresh serves 3 locations in Toronto and after 10 visits, my time at Queen and Crawford finally came and it was wonderful and fantastical and foodgasmic all at the same time.  It also helped that I celebrated this monumental occasion with my favourite meal of the day: brunch!  Before we get to the good eats though, let’s do a little rundown of the Crawford location in all its glory.   

One of the things I love most about Fresh is their decor and aesthetic.  The colours are bright, colourful, and fresh and all 3 locations have their own unique style and atmosphere.  Bright green paint and big mirrors adorn the walls of the Queen and Spadina location while pops of acid bright pink and orange, and beautiful wallpaper reminiscent of pretty scrapbook paper, decorate their Bloor St. spot.  Both locations also have cute restaurant-front awnings patterned in their signature colours of blue and green. 

Fresh on Crawford?  Let’s just say what Fresh on Crawford lacks on the outside is made up for on the inside ten times over.  The inside is beautiful.  It’s sleek and contemporary and it has such a hip yet tranquil spa-like quality.  Being inside makes me feel like I’m eating in a lush green rainforest cabana.  Wooden accents, anthurium plants, exposed brick wall on one side, and lots of green all over beautify the space.  The juice bar is lined with bar stools, brightened up with potlights (and look at the mountains of bright yellow bananas!), and in plain view from the seating area which I absolutely adore.  I really like this location and it’s anyone’s guess as to why it’s taken me so long to come here!  Located at 894 Queen Street West, it’s also the only location out of the three that has a full-fledged outdoor patio.  The Queen & Spadina location does have a tiny one out in the front, but the one at Crawford is the real deal!

Now, onto the foodgasmic moments of brunch!  I made myself a promise after my first weekend brunch at Fresh.  I promised myself I would go back and devour their Tex Mex Tortilla Scramble because in the beginning, I couldn’t decide between their Full Breakfast and their Tex Mex Scramble and actually felt a pang when I opted for the Full Breakfast first.  I know I probably would have felt the same way about the Full Breakfast had I chose the Tex Mex one first, but either way, I made good on my promise and had their Tex Mex Tortilla Scramble ($11) a few weeks ago with aged cheddar cheese and a side of garlic mayo. 

THIS IS THE BREAKFAST OF CHAMPIONS.  OH.MY.GOD.  Imagine eleventy billion exclaimation points inserted here!  Their Tex Mex Tortilla Scramble is comprised of savoury, crunchy melt-in-your-mouth corn tortillas underneath a mountain of tofu scramble, thick wedges of avocado, diced tomato, shredded lettuce, green onions, cilantro, and warm brown rice and creamy, spicy black beans.  The option of adding aged cheddar or vegan cheese is available for an extra $2, so I gladly added some cheddar to my tex mex mountain and had myself a field day stuffing my face with mouthfuls of creaminess, crunchiness, juiciness, and all around amazingness.

Each and every single part of this brunch dish worked in tandem and there was so much great flavour and texture.  The crunch came from the savoury corn tortillas, lettuce, and green onion, the creaminess came from the avocado and the spicy black beans, the tomatoes brought some juiciness, and the added crumbled aged cheddar just took the entire dish above and beyond with its nutty creaminess.  The scrambled tofu?  Wonderful.  It was smooth, it was super silky, and it had a delicious herb flavour to it.  And the brown rice brought the dish together with warmth, wholesomeness, and heartiness.  It was truly one of the best meals I have EVER had, hands down.  I enjoyed the Full Breakfast the last time, but the Tex Mex Tortilla Scramble blows it out of the water.  If you ever have any doubts as to which brunch meal you should have at Fresh, don’t.  Have this one and enjoy it until you are happy in the tummy and rolling down the road afterward.

*****

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)

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)