The Fall Harvest Series – Getting to the Root of Great Food With Weekend Brunch, Butternut Squash & Beets at Hotel Gelato

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I’ll never forget the moment I felt my mouth start to quiver, my breathing grow shallow, and my eyes tear up.  This could not be happening, I thought.  Not again.  My Veggielicious hopes crushed and my plans for Veggielicious bliss foiled right before my eyes on the last weekend of an event I had been looking forward to for over a year.  The timing couldn’t have been worse.  I was stunned and rendered speechless, sputtering my discontent in sighs of frustration.  I couldn’t believe my rotten luck.  Right then and there, I wanted to throw in the towel on blogging anything altogether.

Melodramatic?  Maybe a little.  Heartbreaking?  To a foodie like myself, positively absolutely.  But!  Let’s remind ourselves though that, like any great drama, there can still be excitement and joy amidst the angst and turmoil.  So get comfortable because this is a story of initial heartbreak gone right, silver linings, the bright side, and new doors opening after others close.  This is the story of the Veggielicious that never happened and, given the circumstances, just wasn’t meant to be.  This is a story of food at Hotel Gelato.

Let’s rewind to last weekend, the last weekend of Veggielicious 2012.  I was so excited I was almost skipping down the street.  After my plans for Veggielicious at E.L. Ruddy had fallen through the weekend prior, all cylinders were raring to go and my sights and tastebuds were set on Hotel Gelato and their Veggielicious menu: spinach and kale salad with chickpeas, sun-dried tomatoes and tahini dressing, quinoa and sweet potato chili, and lentil cakes made with red lentils and zucchini with a root vegetable salad.  I was salivating even before I walked in.  My heart was pumping a bazillion clicks a minute and I was beyond ecstatic.  And then, the world came crashing down around me when I was delivered the news: because of weekend brunch, Veggielicious was only going to be around from 3pm onward over the weekend.  On any other day it would have been available during the day, for lunch, what have you.  But for the weekend?  Not so much.

I wanted to cry.  Again.

On the way to Hotel Gelato…

The unthinkable had happened.  I had messed up both Veggielicious plans and there was nothing I could do about it.  I couldn’t come back for dinner because I had promised my mum I’d come home for a great meal she had in the works.  And I wasn’t going to pack up and leave.  I adored Hotel Gelato and the thought of up and leaving didn’t seem…right.  So I sat down in my seat, moped for all of a few minutes, and snapped out of it.  Okay, so Veggielicious was no longer within my grasp.  But by golly, there were shiny pumpkins on their mantle and I thought, come hell or high water I’m going to enjoy my weekend brunch here and make the best of it!

And I did.  With one of the most fabulous vegetarian fall salads EVER to grace my tastebuds!

Introducing Hotel Gelato’s fluffy fall-inspired quinoa salad ($13) with butternut squash, beets, arugula, roasted shallots, and toasted pine nuts, tossed in a fresh lemon basil dressing and topped with some crispy beet chips on top!  Talk about getting to the “root” of fabulous food!  Fall vegetables with a light as air, crisp and clean dressing with an equally light as air quinoa?  Perfection.  What a fantastic salad and brunch dish.  As part of Hotel Gelato’s permanent weekend brunch menu, it had such an air of lightness to it, like it was only meant to be enjoyed during a peaceful zen moment.  The quinoa was fluffy and the vegetables, which were mostly diced, were beautiful in colour, taste, and texture.  There was crunch from the nuts, juiciness from the squash and beets, air pockets from the quinoa, that great peppery, leafy bite from the delicious arugula, freshness from the dressing, and warmth, coziness, and savouriness from the roasted shallots.

Here’s a very important tidbit to know though about this dish: the online menu says sweet potato in the salad but when you’re dining in, the menu clearly says butternut squash and it is butternut squash that you will receive!  Just by looking at them, sweet potatoes and butternut squash look nearly identical in appearance, especially when the flesh is scooped out and diced.  But, based on taste and texture,  it’s obvious when you eat it which one is being used in the salad.  Sweet potatoes have a much higher content of starch whereas butternut squash is juicier.  I am definitely not complaining about the difference in dine-in and online menu though because butternut squash floats my boat so finally, some good vibes coming my way!

And this was by no means a piddly serving.  This was a ginormous dish!  The salad was served on a huuuge square serving dish with a salad gift that just kept on giving!  I brought home leftovers, shared them with my mum who’s an absolute fiend for beets, and she loved it so much she wishes we had 10 more plates of it!  THAT is how wonderful this brunch salad is.  The colours and flavours scream fall and comfort and it has to be one of the healthiest, most satisfying vegetarian and vegan brunch dishes.  For those who love cheese there’s an option of adding crumbled goat cheese for $3 and grilled chicken for $4 for the meaties.

I was so, so happy and relieved in the end.  A heart-sinking moment of dread turned into a memorable, delicious dish that I would come back for in a heartbeat.  Veggielicious or not, I got the chance to try a vegetarian and vegan dish I had never tried before and I got to eat some butternut squash which is so fitting for fall!  What seems meant to be sometimes isn’t and sometimes, the best things are right under your very nose.

*****

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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The Fall Harvest Series – Sweet Potato & Rosemary Omelettes and Corn Bread at E.L. Ruddy, Part II!

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I feel like such an idiot.  I’ve never had as many food flub-ups as I’ve had over the last two weeks: going to places only to find out when I got there that they were closed for renovation, finding out after I was seated that an a la carte wasn’t available and that apparently, it was only all-you-can-eat (thankfully, I was able to explain the situation and exit as gracefully as I could), and finally, that certain meals were only available during certain parts of the day and unfortunately, not the part of day I was there!

Which brings me to Veggielicious.  I was over the moon excited when I found out about Veggielicious.  I skipped out on both Winterlicious and Summerlicious this past year so I was hell bent on getting in at least two Veggielicious meals.  I pored over all the menus and promotions, made my choices, and was raring to go.  Little did I know that I would end up feeling like an absolute fool over it.  For months now I’ve wanted to try E.L. Ruddy.  Vegetarian brunch?  All over it like peanut butter on jelly!  What better time to try them out than during Veggielicious?  My heart sunk to the soles of my feet though when I found out last week that their Veggielicious special was a dinner-only special.  I was there at 11am when they opened.  And I made the same mistake yesterday when I tried to make up for my Veggielicious booboo at another destination.

I wanted to cry.

Here I was, jibber-jabbering about Veggielicious on the blog, on Ate by Ate’s Facebook page, and to people in general, and in the end?  Nothing to show for it.  I’m so sorry guys.  This will teach me a lesson for the future to cover my bases a little more carefully, that’s for sure.

BUT!  There’s always a but!  Just as I was about to start weeping over my stupidity and rotten luck, I had a light bulb moment.  Here I was feeling so dumb over my oversight that I wasn’t appreciating what was right in front in me.  Sure, I was incredibly disappointed about not being able to do Veggielicious but I had a whole menu of other amazing food choices to take advantage of, ones that would tie into the Fall Harvest Series, Veggie Eats, and Weekend Brunch series perfectly.  And in the end, I’m posting about great, permanent menu items that can be enjoyed any time, not just during a once-a-year food fest.  So, I’m not feeling as heartbroken about it anymore because I have some fabulous food stuff to show you all!

E.L. Ruddy, located at 1371 Dundas Street West, serves vegetarian and vegan brunch on the weekends with a seasonal item and special introduced to the menu every week.  The cafe is cozy, artistic, and eclectic with its 70s style tables, bright orange paint, exposed brick walls, floor-to-ceiling bookshelves, and cute dining and table accessories like sugar pots with collectible spoons!  It’s a small space (less than 20 people at a time, folks!) with a very dedicated menu that caters to both savoury and sweet tastebuds and cravings: simple scrambled eggs or marinated tofu with home fries, salad, and toast; eggs or tofu with beans, salsa, and homemade corn bread; granola with the works (wheat-free rolled oats, quinoa flakes, dried fruit, and so much more; spelt waffles with sweet marinated strawberries, maple syrup, and whipped cream, and more.

It’s a menu that really speaks to the diversity of vegetarian, vegan, and/or gluten-free food by utilizing seasonal ingredients and wholesome foods.  There’s a real sense of warmth and comfort in their food that just makes you happy when you look at it and when you eat it.  And, menu prices are tax inclusive!  If it says $12, it’s $12 flat.  I have to tell you, that makes everyone’s life a whole lot easier when you’re calculating the bill!  Menu prices are $7-$13 for main dishes, $4 for brunch cocktail specials, and $1 for substitutions and/or additions.

For this brunch meal, I did something pretty unorthodox: I ordered something sweet potato and something rosemary.  Now, I’d like to think of myself as a non picky eater and pretty easy going with my food choices.  I write a food blog after all!  But there are things that I don’t enjoy as much.  And sweet potatoes and rosemary are two such things!  Why did I choose something with both then?!  I saw the omelette with maple-roasted sweet potatoes, rosemary, and aged cheddar with home fries, salad, and toast ($12) and I didn’t want to shy away from it simply because it contained things I normally didn’t love to pieces.  It sounded like such a delicious dish and it was so perfect for the Fall Harvest Series, so I dove into it.  And I was not disappointed in the least!

My green mixed salad was topped with a handful of roasted pumpkin seeds and I substituted the toast with the homemade corn bread.  I fell SO in love with it and it completely made my tastebuds appreciate sweet potato and rosemary in a whole new light.  I always felt like sweet potato and rosemary were both too woody in taste and in some cases, a little bland.  This omelette was delicious though and the egg complemented the flavours so well!  I got savouriness, cheesiness, warmth, comfort, crunch, everything.  I loved the pumpkin seeds with the salad, the home fries (potato coins) were so moist and yummy, and the corn bread?  Out of this world!

I know there are quite a few people who adore the corn bread from Fresh and while Fresh is one of my favourite places to eat, theirs has nothing on the corn bread here at E.L. Ruddy!  The corn bread here is amazing.  It’s moist with that signature crumbly, corn grit texture that makes it so yummy without being too crumbly.  It holds its shape well and together with the salad and pumpkin seeds, it tasted extra fabulous.

While I’m still sad that I missed out on some terrific Veggielicious specials, I’m happy that I was still able to fully enjoy a space and its delicious food for the first time.  I’m excited to come back for more, I’m excited to see what other seasonal yummies they’ll have to offer as the months go on, and I’m definitely looking forward to more of that corn bread!  Vegetarian and vegan brunch is something I love posting and writing about and the fact that it fits into the Fall Harvest Series so nicely is win-win for me, Veggielicious or not.

*****

E.L. Ruddy is a vegetarian and vegan cafe with gluten-free options located at 1371 Dundas Street West between Dufferin Street and Dovercourt Road, at the corner of Rusholme Drive.  They are open 7 days week for weekday dinner and weekend brunch: 5pm-11pm Monday to Friday, 11am-11pm Saturday and Sunday.