Committed to Food, Committed to Friendship – A Scrapbook Snapsnot of the Breakfast Club Girls

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Eating breakfast classics, drinking cups upon cups of tea and coffee, and catching up with friends during a weekend or holiday brunch is one of the best feelings in the world and making this breakfast scrapbook layout made me so happy.  I’ve been down in the dumps lately and even though I know how much I love to write, scrapbook, and design, it still catches me by surprise when both of these loving pastimes calm me down and give me a little piece of mind.  Writing and scrapbooking function as both my creative outlets and my stress relievers and they have been so therapeutic for me. 

This scrapbook layout served as yet another reminder of all the reasons why I love food, story-telling, and the time spent with friends.  I feel so lucky to have a sweet boyfriend who humours me, supports me, and is up for anything when it comes to my blogging and photography escapades, and I love having different friends with whom I can enjoy different food activities.  I have friends who love to go on sushi lunch dates, friends who are just as obsessive about cupcakes as I am, and friends who are my vegetarian and vegan partners in crime.  Finally, I have my group of breakfast and brunch girl friends!

Friends since our first year of high school (and beyond for my other three girls who have known one another since sandbox and playground days), the four of us have formed a lifelong bond and tradition over breakfast get-togethers and have coined ourselves Team Commitment as an ode to our friendship and our commitment to delicious food.  This year we celebrated our 5th consecutive year as a group (our 3rd here at T&T Bakery & Cafe!) and each and every single our breakfast club gets together, there’s always fabulous food involved!  Not only have we noshed on waffles, poached eggs, bacon, sandwiches, bagels, and French toast, but we’ve also exchanged food gifts.  I baked cookies for my dear Lindsay over Christmas, Laura surprised us all with chocolatey Tim Tams and hot cocoa two years ago, and Lisa shared some of her fabulous homemade caramel, nut, and white chocolate bark and homemade cinnamon sticky buns!  Even some of our non-edible gifts have been food-related! 

Food has quietly (or maybe not so quietly) played a starring role in our get-togethers over the years.  It has anchored us, giving us a little stability and a lot of excitment and anticipation.  Over tea and coffee and plates of food, we have celebrated graduations, weddings, break-ups and heartbreaks, new loves, new jobs, new schools, and even a new country to temporarily call home.  Every breakfast get-together is, simaltanously, a sign of change and growth on the one hand and comfort and familiarity on the other.  The scrapbook layout is a snapshot of several moments frozen in time of four very different young women who, despite having their own aspirations, dreams, and goals in life, always make the time and effort to eat, laugh, and cry together.  We look forward to our breakfast meals as we reminisce and catch up on each other’s lives and this scrapbook layout is my way of capturing the story of four girls who come together to celebrate food and friendship.

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T&T Bakery and Café is located at 35 Main Street Markham at the intersection of Highway 7 and Markham Rd., just north of Highway.7 and on the east side of Markham Rd.

Scrapbook materials used: Cornflower blue, watermelon pink, pale lemon yellow, and textured beige cardstock (Recollections); breakfast waffle patterned paper (MMMMM Waffles – Mom’s Diner by Recollections); blue journalling tags (Darcy collection by Anna Griffin); glittery breakfast pancake and waffle adhesive embellishments (Waffle Baking stickers by Martha Stewart Crafts); floral and garden gold foil stickers (atd by Momenta); strawberry sticker (Sticko); sapphire alphabet stickers (Recollections); circle paper punch (ek success); deckle edged decorative scissors (Provo Craft).

Golden Brown and Fluffy – The Strawberries and Whipped Cream Waffles at T&T Bakery & Cafe!

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It’s waffle time on the blog!  I raved about T&T Bakery & Cafe’s breakfasts and home fries yesterday so today, I’m shining a spotlight on their wonderful and delicious strawberries and whipped cream waffles!  This works out perfectly because I’ve wanted to feature more waffles on Ate by Ate for some time now, having only Cocoa Latte’s amazing giant banana and nutella waffle and Lady Marmalade’s savoury aged white cheddar and spinach waffles to represent the beloved breakfast and brunch staple. 

I know it seems like I enjoy pancakes more given how many Aunt Jemima pancake posts I made last year but in all honesty, between pancakes and waffles, I actually love waffles more and get more excited about them in all its forms!  I just discovered Christmas tree waffles this past Christmas thanks to my friend Amanda over at Fake Ginger and my Lady Marmalade brunch was the first savoury waffle meal to make it into my tummy!  Not to mention I just think it’s cute and fun when toppings get stuck in the little waffle squares.  I can’t wait for the day I buy and have my very own waffle iron in my own kitchen because there are so many flavour and topping combinations I want to play around with.  And I am very giddy about the possibility of introducing a Hello Kitty waffle iron to the kitchen crew of appliances and tools as well!

Now, I know I said I preferred savoury breakfast items over sweet ones (which is hard to believe since I have such sweet teeth), but after seeing my dear friend Lindsay order T&T’s strawberries and whipped cream waffle on more than one occasion, I knew it was her favourite and I knew I had to have it.  I loved waffles, I felt like a waffle, and I really wanted to a part of the deliciousness, so I caved and ordered myself one during a recent Sunday morning breakfast outing with a friend and was rewarded with one of the best waffles I have ever had in my life.

The waffle breakfast ($5.89) is comprised of one large fluffy and crispy waffle ladled with juicy and sweet strawberries in syrup, four mountains of fluffy whipped cream, and several thick slices of scrumptious extra crispy bacon.  I go through stages where I truly believe I’m a sausage type of girl (me and breakfast sausage are dear friends and you should see me go to town with Italian, Polish, and Oktoberfest sausages!), but when I get around to eating some great bacon every so often, I’m reminded of how much I enjoy that too and come to the conclusion that I’m just game for either, any time.  T&T’s bacon is fabulous because of the crispyness and thickness and I’d say the taste and texture rivals that of cooked pancetta.  My mouth is watering just thinking about it too.

And then there’s the star of the show, the waffle!  What I love most about the strawberries and whipped cream waffles is how light and fluffy the waffles are on the inside and how they retain their shape and golden crispness on the outside.  We all know it’ll end up a bit messy and soft once you really dig into it mid-meal, but what you don’t want is a waffle that’s too moist and soppy from the get-go.  You can practically taste the golden browness of the waffle and it is just a delight to eat.  There’s lots of fresh strawberry slices and strawberry syrup in the middle and what I appreciate is the actual presence of strawberries as opposed to jam or preserves, and the four big swirls of whipped cream on each waffle quadrant makes the meal more fun and fluffy!

I’m a big lover of breakfast and brunch (I look forward to breakfast and lunch more than I do dinner!) and I’m excited to see what other fabulous waffle breakfasts I find!  I know off the top of my head there are a few great Belgain waffle places in the city so we’ll see how this year pans out waffle and breakfast-wise.  If it’s anything like the three I’ve featured on the blog so far, it’s going to be fantastic.

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T&T Bakery and Café is located at 35 Main Street Markham at the intersection of Highway 7 and Markham Rd., just north of Highway.7 and on the east side of Markham Rd.

Voulez-Vous Coucher Avec Moi? Nah, Let’s Stick to All-Day Brunch at Lady Marmalade in Leslieville

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Leslieville has made it onto the blog and with it, Lady Marmalade!  I promise to do a Foodie District round-up post for Leslieville the same way I did for Kensington Market and no, I haven’t forgotten about our beloved Roncesvalles Village either!  I’m so excited to be posting about all these different neighbourhoods in the city and showcasing the yummiest of the yummiest, at least to me!  I pass by and even frequent certain areas of town on the streetcar fairly often but it’s a totally different story when you hop off and walk east and west, north and south, up and down and all around. 

Queen Street is probably the road I’ve travelled most frequently on via streetcar (almost from one end to the other and back on a number of occasions!) and I’ve passed by breakfast, brunch, and lunch diner Lady Marmalade in Leslieville more times than I can remember.  I had heard fabulous things about Lady Marmalade and I had seen the fabulousity taking place out on the curb.  People weren’t lying when they said the diner faced lineups out the door during weekend brunch!  For the record, I ate here during a weekday morning and I thankfully secured a spot before the real crowds started coming in, which they did at 10:30am no less!

The decor at Lady Marmalade almost makes me giggle because there are aspects of it that are so 70s it hurts!  Think 70s mismatched upholstery, moss green and burnt orange, and salt and pepper shakers.  It’s all in good cuteness and I find it endearing!  I think it’s what makes Lady Marmalade the brunch powerhouse and character that it is.  Aside from the punchy decor, the menu packs a punch like you wouldn’t believe.  They serve all-day breakfast and all-day lunch, and classic breakfast dishes such as eggs benny, crepes, and huevos rancherous are given special touches that make them uniquely Lady Marmalade.  Think miso-scallion cream with crepes, huevos rancheros with basmati brown rice, pesto bennies, tofu scrambles with bok choy, a good morning poutine, and a menu boasting lots of scrumptious avocado!  

Lunch items include sandwiches, rice bowls, and meal size salads, and the large drink menu offers fruit smoothies, loose leaf teas, coffee, juices, and different types of soda drinks.  Brunch prices come in at around $7.50-$12.50 with most dishes at $11.50.  The only down side?  Lady Marmalade only accepts cash.  No credit cards or debit cards, much to the chagrin of many hungry brunch goers.  You know everyone brushes off that little bit of nose wrinkling though because no matter what,  this place is popular and packed.

One of the best things about their menu?  You can easily make many of the breakfast dishes vegetarian and vegan which makes Lady Marmalade the perfect brunch spot for meat-lovers, vegetarians, and vegans alike.  A number of their dishes are already vegetarian to begin with, but we all know breakfast options can be laden with eggs and butter and cream, so Lady Marmalade’s menu offers plenty of opportunities to turn meat or vegetarian meals into vegan ones with little lists of “a, b, or c” choices that accompany said menu items.  Even though some meals offer bacon, sausage, and ham, as meat choices, I find Lady Marmalade’s menu to be pretty darn healthy in general!  I mean, breakfast diners are breakfast diners; you’re going to have some level of indulgence and decadence no matter what.  You can tell though that Lady Marmalade’s menu was, and is, well-thought out for the healthy and hearty in mind because there are lots of vegetables in all different forms all over the menu in the breakfast portion and in the lunch portion. 

Everything on the menu sounded delicious, but I wanted to go for something a little different.  There were many options I would have normally pounced on (tofu scramble and huevos rancherous, I’m looking at both of you!), but I wanted to show you all a dish unlike anything else I had previously blogged about so I chose the mouthwatering aged white cheddar and spinach savoury waffles!  The waffles, which come Belgian style and sliced in half diagonally into perfect triangles, are served with melted aged white cheddar cheese and creamy orange sauce on the tops, spinach cooked right into the waffles, and roasted tomatoes, salad, and a choice of bacon or avocado.  I could live off of avocado, so that choice was a no brainer for me!

There were so many amazing dimensions to this meal and they were all delicious for completely different reasons.  I loved each and every part of the dish, but what I loved and appreciated the most was the complexity of flavours and the cohesiveness of the dish in its entirety.  Every single thing had a flavour role to play and they played off each other so well.  Before I get into the deliciousness, I want to explain what I mean by cohesiveness.  We’re talking about savoury waffles with cheese on them, a rather strong cheese that’s been melted on spinach waffles.  When we think waffles, more often than not, we associate them with sweet flavours.  Thus, if the waffles had been served on their own, they would have been too rich and too savoury because dishes like these need other textures and flavours to break up the richness. 

Alongside the roasted tomatoes, salad, and avocado, everything worked because all of these functioned as palate cleansers.  The tomatoes were warm, juicy, and slightly acidic, the giant avocado (they gave me half an avocado, oh my goodness!) was cool, thick, and creamy with no distinctive sweet or salty taste, the orange cream added a zing of fruitiness, and the green salad was crunchy (which contrasted with the chewier texture of the cheese waffles) and extremely refreshing with an amazing sesame dressing with white and black sesame seeds to boot!

Here’s another very important thing to point out: the waffles taste 100x more fabulous when they’re cold!  I don’t mean refrigerator cold, but just no longer warm.  I KNOW.  No, I am not nuts.  I don’t know what it is about certain foods tasting a thousand times more foodgasmic when they’re cold, but I’m dead serious about this.  It could be that the flavours have time to settle in and intensify over time, or maybe heat just alters the way certain things taste.  We all know how disgusting French fries taste when they get cold, but we also know how some people are gaga over cold pizza.  This is one of those delicious cold pizza or spaghetti examples.  I know, when you eat out you’re most likely ravenous, but trust me on this one.  If you have the willpower, take a bite when it’s hot, chat with a friend for about 10-15 minutes before digging in again, and you’ll notice the difference and thank me for it.        

*****

Lady Marmalade is located at 898 Queen Street East in the Leslieville neighbourhood just west of Logan Ave.  They are open 7 days a week for all-day breakfast and all-day lunch.  From Monday-Friday, the diner is open from 8am-4pm, and from 8am-3pm on the weekends.

The Fall Harvest Series – Waffles, Beignets, and a Garlic Closet at the Leslieville Farmers’ Market!

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In another few weeks, the summer and fall farmers’ markets will be packing up and making way for the indoor markets that will roll out just in time for the winter season and holidays, so I want to post as many fall markets as I can before bidding goodbye.  The past summer was so memorable and amazing because of all the farmers’ market visits I made.  Before this past spring and summer, I had never been to a farmers’ market before.  Bake sales, yes.  Street markets and food fests, yes.  But weekly outdoor markets in eleventy billion different neighbourhoods around the city?  Never. 

I learned so much, met so many sweet people, and even got my mum hooked!  I bought vegetables, bread, and baked goods and made many fresh meals from scratch using all the delicious goodies I brought home from the markets.  Even though summer is over, fall is alive and kicking and there’s plenty of life left in these farmers’ markets!  Many of them are dishing out the apples, plums, apricots, crabapples, broccoli, cauliflower, beans, potatoes, beets, pumpkins, and squash while they still can and some of them are even planning Hallowe’en activities!

I made my first visit to Leslieville market at Jonathan Ashbridge Park on Queen East last Sunday, and after subscribing to their newsletter since the summer, the trek out was a long time coming.  The Leslieville Farmers’ Market is new to the Toronto market circuit this year and I think they’ve done such a great job  of getting the community involved and making sure there are inclusive activities for everyone. 

The market is full of volunteers, live music is provided and performed by local artists and bands, there are kiddie corner activities every Sunday for the wee ones (think reading and books and food crafts!), and there’s always a group event that brings everyone together.  Whether it’s a book sale or free yoga sessions in the park, the market organizers make an effort to encourage everyone in and outside of the neighbourhood to enjoy everything it has to offer.  Just recently, Leslieville market even hosted a jar swap where everyone brought their homemade sauces, pickled vegetables, jams, jellies, compotes, and preserves and swapped with fellow market-goers!

Highlights of the market: 1) the waffle and beignet table!!  I’m not talking about the frozen Eggo-type kind.  Imagine thick cut, fresh waffles that are like Belgian waffles married with funnel cakes alongside hot, deep-fried beignets tossed in powdered sugar.  Can you say breakfast at the market?!  I love it!  I had already eaten brunch by the time I made my way over, but I’m telling you, those waffles looked to die for.  Highlight two: the baked goods table!  You know I can’t go to a market without ogling this section.  There was a basket of long, crunchy baguettes, carrot cake squares with vanilla icing, chocolate cake muffins with powdered sugar, and the moistest looking chocolate brownies I have ever since.  I didn’t even have to taste one to know it would melt in my mouth.  All I had to do was look at it.  Pillow soft and fudgy.

Highlight numero three: the vegan hot food table!  Not only can you enjoy breakfast at Leslieville, but you can also sit down to a picnic of warm, vegan food provided by Tiffinday Inc., a vegan catering company in Toronto dedicated to delivering fresh and healthy vegan lunches to the city crowd in reuseable, stainless steel containers.  I picked up some delicious lentil samosas to bring back home for my brother, the samosa king and lover of the house, and we shared them and adored them.  Highlight number four: the garlic bulb closet!  No, I’m serious, there was this table that sold mouthwatering homemade hummus dips along with garlic, and the bulbs were categorized and organized by country of origin and type in what looked like a wooden closet, cubbyhole thing on an easel.  It was adorable!

It was a great market to go to and I’m glad I finally did after all these months.  Their last market of the year is on October 30th (the day before Hallowe’en!) so everyone, you have two weeks left to enjoy it!  Take in as much of the fall harvest as you can because winter is nipping at our heels.

 

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Leslieville Farmers’ Market is located at Jonathan Ashbridge Park on Queen Street East and Woodward Ave.  Jonathan Ashbridge Park is located in between Greenwood and Coxwell Ave., and can be accessed via public transit by way of the Queen Street 501 streetcar.  The market is new to the lineup of Toronto markets this year and is held every Sunday from 9am-2pm.  The last market of the year is on October 30, 2011.  Visit their website to sign up to their newsletter, to get involved, and to learn more.