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!

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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!

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The Fall Harvest Series – A Photo Spotlight on Vegetarian Weekend Brunch at E.L. Ruddy, Part I!

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Theses next two posts are dedicated to all vegetarians and vegans who skip the turkey on Thanksgiving and instead opt for yummy, filling vegetarian dishes full of fall flavour, vegetables, fruits, beans, nuts, and more!  I had one of the best weekend brunches last week and I’m actually surprised at how much I enjoyed it just because it involved a vegetable that I can kind of take or leave most of the time.  I’m so happy to be adding this one to the Veggie Eats category on the blog since it’s fall-inspired and perfect for the Fall Harvest Series!  Up until this point, I don’t think I’ve posted anything particularly fall seasonal as far as vegetarian and vegan brunches go so I’d love to highlight some menu items around the city some of you might be interested in checking out for the season for the next Confessions of a Brunch-Obsessed Foodie segment.  Enjoy the photos – full post and write-up coming tomorrow!

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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.

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.

Confessions of a Brunch Obsessed Foodie – From Ossington to Bloor West Village: West End Brunch Picks!

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Introducing west end brunch picks!

Maybe it’s the late night munchie cravings talking, but I could really go for some good old fashioned bacon and eggs.  It’s after 10pm on my side of the pond though so I really don’t think it’d be a good idea to haul out the frying pan to soothe that craving right now, so the next best thing?  Counting down another 5 weekend brunch spots on my brunch club hit list!  Lately, and even throughout the summer, I’ve been focusing more heavily on the east end with posts on Joy Bistro and The Commissary in Leslieville, Simple Bistro on Mount Pleasant, and Hammersmith’s in Riverdale, and I realized that I really owe the west end some more love!  From Ossington Village to The Junction, here are 5 eateries I can’t wait to eventually get to!

The Beet Organic Cafe – located at 2945 Dundas Street West, west of Keele St. and east of Pacific Ave. at the corner of Medland St. in The Junction.  One of these days, I will follow through on my plan to go to The Beet after a farmers’ market trek to the Junction Market on a Saturday morning!  It’s only a matter of time.  My first brush with The Beet was when I made my unforgettable first trip to Bunner’s Bake Shop down the road during last year’s Veggielicious.  It was then that I realized what a goldmine of a foodie district I was in – an organic, raw, vegetarian, and vegan one in particular!  I never did get around to re-writing my Junction Foodie District post that got sucked into the internet black hole, but I’m totally committed to doing more food things in the neighbourhood and one of them is brunch at The Beet!

A foodie fixture in The Junction

With a focus and commitment to using as many local, Canadian, seasonal, and organic ingredients, The Beet’s menu has items for both carnivores and veggies alike.  My picks: the Huevos Rancheros ($12) starring two baked eggs with Quebec cheddar, sweet potato mash, sour cream, pico de gallo, and avocado, all on an Ontario corn tortilla; Farmer’s Harvest Salad ($7 sm., $10 lrg.) featuring green and red leaf lettuce, Chef’s selection of seasonal veggies, pumpkin seeds, and a choice of dressing; and the Buenos Dias Wrap ($13, wheat and gluten-free!) stuffed with avocado, spicy black bean spread, quinoa, pico de gallo, and raw Quebec cheddar.  Oh!  And we can’t forget their truckload of fresh fruit, nut, and milk smoothie  options as well!      

Cuban & Latin American Sunday morning munchies await you!

Delux – located at 92 Ossington Ave., between Queen and Dundas Street West.  Name 3 spots in the ciy, off the top of your headd, where you can get Central, South, and/or Latin American-inspired brunch and lunch.  Having a hard time, right?  We can easily tick off our options for vegetarian, Italian, and traditional greasy spoon, but South, Central, and Latin American morning meal options are a little harder to come by.  Which is why Delux is extra special!  I thought their lunch menu during my first visit back in the spring was amazing, with their thick-as-bricks delicious sandwiches and gobsmackingly good coffee crème brûlée, but when I found out they offered Sunday Cuban brunch, I think I stared at my computer in awe and wonder with my mouth gaping open for a good few minutes. 

Their Sunday brunch menu embodies warmth, heartiness, and comfort food with no shortage of sweet and savoury Cuban and South American flavour!  My picks: the dulce de leche smothered French toast with bananas, chantilly cream and maple syrup ($10), the big Cuban breakfast featuring roast pork, poached eggs, rice and beans, tostones (crispy fried plantains), and salad ($14), and the duck confit picadillo ($12) (Cuban style ground beef and veggies) hash with sunnyside up eggs and tostones!

Good morning, guava!

The Good Fork Brunch & Bistro – located at 2432 Bloor Street West and Jane St. in Bloor West Village.  Oh gosh, The Good Fork is the quintessential brunch and breakfast diner with an honest-to-goodness menu to die for!  I urge everyone to go.  I know I haven’t been yet and I’m basing this urgency on, well, nothing really, but seriously, I just have the most fantastical feeling about this place and I cannot wait to go!  C’mon, they have red velvet pancakes.  YES, THAT’S RIGHT.  Red velvet paaaaancakes.  I may not be the biggest fan of red velvet (don’t throw things at me now), but heck, even I know that a dish like that will get people to come in droves.  My picks: the Deep Green Benny ($11.25) boasting fried green tomatoes and cilantro; Lemon Cheese Pancakes ($9.75) bursting with lemon ricotta and blueberry compote; Baleek Omelette ($10) made with bacon and leeks; Bruleed Pound Cake French Toast with Orange Butter ($10.75) – total self-explanatory in yum factor.

Mildred’s Temple Kitchen – located at 85 Hanna Ave. off of King Street West, east of Dufferin St. in Liberty Village.  I’ve read about Mildred’s Temple Kitchen.  I’ve heard about it.  I’ve drooled over its famous brunch menu offerings.  Doesn’t it just make sense then to just go and stuff my face?!  I think so.  Famed for her first born restaurant, Mildred Pierce, culinary expertise in both food and cookbook writing, and for her presence in the kitchen, chef Donna Dooher doles out the simple pleasures of brunch and dining in her scrumptious menu: the infamous fluffy blueberry buttermilk pancakes ($13.50); Mildred’s poached eggs on a flakey croissant with either smoked salmon or rosemary bacon smothered in béarnaise sauce with mixed greens; Mildred’s sourdough grilled cheese with pickles and tomato relish ($12); and Green Eggs and Ham!

There are plenty of other brunch spots on my hit list, but these are the ones I wanted to showcase in particular today and if all goes well this weekend with the weather, I just might hit one of them up.

Confessions of a Brunch-Obsessed Foodie – Brunch Picks From Leslieville & Brunch-Themed Flavour Favourite Series

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To finish off this mini series of Leslieville posts, I thought it would be fun to compile and share a list of some of the places I think would be great to check out for brunch!  Leslieville is growing community with more and more people raving about the food culture and scene every day, so this list is by no means exhaustive!  These are, however, some of the spots I’ve had my eye on over the past year and I want to share them with you all! 

  • The Commissary – located at 889 Queen Street East, this hip new dining spot is the new kid in town having only taken up residence in the neighbourhood within the past half year.  I literally did a double-take when I walked by it a week and a half ago (“what in the world, when did this place show up?!”) and as soon as I took a quick peek at their menu, I knew I had hit brunch jackpot.  Although the person sitting by the window must not have felt the same as he probably felt the tiniest bit uncomfortable with me somewhat pressing my nose up against the window to read the menu.  I’m kidding!  Sort of.  Anyway, highlights from their weekend brunch menu (Saturdays and Sundays from 10am) include: smoked bacon and gouda eggs benny ($10); ratatouille with fresh herbs ($10); rock lobster tail and mango salsa ($13); 4 different types of French toast (!!!) with sweet and savoury options ($9); and curried shrimp and melon salad ($8 for main, $6 as a side) just to rattle off a bunch.

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  • Le Papillon on the Park – located at 1001 Eastern Ave. directly behind Jonathan Ashbridge Park, home of Leslieville’s farmers’ market, just off a Cam Fella Lane.  Oozing with French appeal and a menu to match, Papillon delivers weekend brunch French fare dishes such as breakfast poutine (4 different kinds!  $9-$14); rolled crepes with baked Quebec brie ($9); Québécois meat pie tourtière with tomato apple relish ($17); plenty of savoury meat and vegetable crepes, pain doré French toast, croque monsieur, and many, many eggs and eggs benny items!  The kicker for me?  Their roof-top patio!  And the fact that they have a patio menu, a price fixe menu, and a dessert menu!  It doesn’t get any better than that.

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  • Edward Levesque’s Kitchen – located at 1290 Queen Street East, east of Leslie Street by Hastings Ave.  If you’re looking for all-day breakfast, this spot is here to serve you!  What makes Edward Levesque’s Kitchen even more appealing to me is their special weekend brunch items in addition to their daily breakfast!  I love it when there are different things to look forward to during different parts of the week, especially for brunch (I think the rotating cupcake menus at many of the cupcake bakeries in town have me feeling this way) and their offerings sure don’t disappoint: cinnamon vanilla challah toast with apple butter ($11) and latkes with smoked salmon, sour cream, and chives ($15) on the weekends, and poached eggs with Italian sausage, tomato basil sauce, and cornbread ($16), and poached eggs with curried lentils, lamb sausage, coriander, and toasted cumin ($15) all week long!  Oh, and let’s not forget their ridiculously long list of brunch sides!  I counted 14 items.  No joke.

In addition to drooling over brunch menus, I have a bunch of different brunch themed Flavour Favourites series that I’m working on right now and I’m really excited about them!  It’ll take me awhile to rack up enough posts for each of them, but I’m so looking forward to putting these compilation posts together once I do have enough.  I’ll be putting together Flavour Favourites posts for tofu brunch items, strawberry brunch items, blueberry pancakes, French toast (especially banana bread ones!), and a whole slew of the best eggy benny dishes!  I literally have a running list of places that serve these types of dishes and the list is growing each and every week as I find out about more spots that serve breakfast and brunch on weekends.  Some might find it a little overwhelming but I think it’s so much fun and it feels so nice knocking out a new spot every week.  And with the fall season just around the corner, I’ll be keeping an eye out for fall-inspired menu items too!

Checking In For Weekend Brunch – Banana Bread French Toast, Mango, & Pecan Cream at The Gladstone Hotel!

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It’s Thursday today and we all know what that means: one day closer to the weekend!  I don’t know about everyone else, but I utilize my weekends and free time doing one of the following things: taking photos, attacking blog projects, going through recipes I want to try, planning the next scrapbook layout, and researching fabulous weekend brunch places in the city!  Oh, and going through and organizing my cargo ship of a lip gloss collection among other housekeeping.  But that’s a whole other story for another day! 

Today’s food delights take us to Parkdale on Queen Street West, specifically to the culturally and historically iconic Gladstone Hotel!  As the oldest operating hotel in Toronto, the Gladstone has gone through what any existing institution from the 1800s would go through: boom and bust, revival, reinvention, and resurgence.  Much like the Distillery District, the Gladstone was taken over and restored in the early 2000s, keeping its authentic, historial roots and essence intact, but modernizing the venue to appeal to a different demongraphic; namely, the artistically enriched Queen Street West district.  Much of Toronto’s history was rooted in the business of manufacturing and the Gladstone, being the oldest hotel in Toronto, catered to the working class during its historical heyday, housing railroad and manufacturing workers as well as those who came to Toronto to visit the CNE.           

Nowadays, the Gladstone is a hubbub of art and cultural activity, hosting galleries and events, great dining and music, and of course, hospitality.  The very first time I set foot in the Gladstone was over a year ago during Doors Open Toronto.  The museum and art lover in me was absolutely taken by the beautiful art and paintings as well as each uniquely designed, art and gallery inspired hotel room.  And don’t even get me started on how in awe I was over the manual operating elevator!  Beautiful art and history aside, I was totally smitten with the dining and the menus I pored over during that first visit.  Weekday breakfast, weekend brunch, daily lunch, dinner, and dessert, culinary tasting “tours”, a commitment to fair trade, and the love and support of a number of  local food producers – they do it all and weekend brunch was the first order of business on my list!  Gladstone loves food and it shows. 

Weekend brunch, held in the Gladstone Cafe, is served from 8am-4pm on Saturdays and Sundays with one of the best brunch menus I’ve seen yet.  Their menu, in my opinion, is so fresh and creative.  To me, it breathes new life into brunch as a meal.  We’re all accustomed to the eggs and bacon and pancakes, and while we love those mainstay options at times, I know there are so many people who think, “I want to be wowed”.  You want to feel excited, you want to feel inspired – the worst thing is looking at a menu feeling lackluster over what’s before you and half-heartedly thinking, “hmmm…I guess I’ll have this”.  I love looking at a brunch menu knowing there are multiple wonderful options to choose from, things that will force me to come back a second time, and a third, and a fourth. 

On the menu: breakfast poutine with chicken gravy, cheese curds, and an egg on top (for the hearty lovers!); fig cream yogurt parfait; huevos Carlito (sunny side eggs with tomatillo salad, avocado aioli, and – this is for the pork lovers – pork belly!; kimchi reuben (I can see this being veeeery popular); salmon scramble, mushroom quiche, and a variety of others.  They have a huuuge list of wines and beers written up on the wall as well as a generous selection of Tealish teas to choose from.  And in comparison, brunch prices are very much in line with other weekend brunch sit-down spots, hovering between the $9-$14 for most dishes

My pick?  The banana bread French toast!  I was hemming and hawing over the French toast, the tofu quesadilla (OH YES), the salmon scramble, and a few others, but ultimately, the homemade banana bread French toast ($11) won this time, with the tofu quesadilla begging me to come back for it the next time.  No need to twist my arm!

The banana bread French toast came in nice, thick, sweet triangular wedges with blueberries and mango, pecan cream and pecans, butterscotch, and – to my surprise – two links of pork sausage!  I wanted to put that out there because the sausage isn’t listed on the menu under the description of the dish, so vegetarians, steer clear; carnivores, rejoice!  Oh how I loved this dish.  Here’s the thing though: I was never a fan of banana bread.  I KNOW.  How could I not love banana bread?  It smells divine, it screams homemade baking goodness, and it’s more interesting than plain pound cake.  But it never struck my fancy.  It was always either a little too dry, a little too oily, a little too crumbly, or just SOMETHING.  But the French toast sounded so lovely on the menu I threw caution to the wind and gave the dish a shot.  And I am SO happy I did! 

I have never had banana bread so moist in my life.  The insides were soft and so flavourful while the outsides had that beautiful French toast crust to it that prevented the butterscotch, light at air pecan cream, and fruit from sogging the banana bread up.  The flavours and textures in this dish worked so well together, and this is coming from a girl who typically doesn’t eat savoury with sweet on the same plate!  But somehow, it worked and it was absolutely delicious.  The savoury pork sausage was juicy and not the least bit dry or fatty, the blueberries weren’t too tart or sour, the mango amped up the freshness and lightened up the dish, and pecans provided the dish with toastiness and crunch.  The butterscotch with banana bread was perfect and I honestly couldn’t have been happier – I cleaned off my plate!

The Gladstone Cafe is a lovely spot for weekend brunch with a bright and airy atmosphere that’s great for both socializing with friends and sipping a morning cuppa with the paper on your own.  I have plenty of art photos from the rest of the hotel that I’d love to show you guys sometime so I’ll save them for the next post.  The tofu quesadilla is still calling my name so you can bet I’ll be back for a follow-up and then some! 

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The Gladstone Hotel is located at 1214 Queen Street West, just east of Dufferin Street in the Parkdale neighbourhood.  In addition to their breakfast, brunch, lunch, and dinner menu, the Gladstone hosts culinary “tours” whereby chef Michael G. Smith creates a different ethnic inspired menu taking guests on whirlwind tour of tastes, flavours, and food.  Visit their dining website HERE to find out more!  Events will be added to upcoming August Food Calendar and future food calendars from here on out.

The Weekend Brunch Club – Sweet Challah French Toast With Blueberries & Caramelized Bananas at Wish Cafe!

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The weekend is upon us and we know what that means: happy weekend brunch times all around!  Thus far, I’ve only had weekend brunch at Table 17 and while I love coming here, I’m looking forward to introducing new and yummy members to the weekend breakfast club throughout the summer and giving them their rightful spots on the blog.  There is so much weekend brunch goodness in the city I might as well create a completely separate filing system just for this! 

I am having an absolute field day researching and looking up weekend brunch menus and special seasonal dishes, especially French toast and waffle ones.  I always seem to err on the side of savoury but I wanted to start switching things up on the blog or at the very least start featuring more sweet breakfast dishes because 1) I’m a big fan of waffles and 2) French toast is my mum’s favourite brunch meal so I’ve been looking up and jotting down every single French toast menu item I come across, just for fun and for future reference.   

I figured there was no time like the present to start my French toast and waffle mission, so I have a delightfully scrumptious stack of challah French toast from Wish Cafe to post about today!  I loved Wish so much I came back for weekend brunch and their brunch menu is just as impressive as their lunch and dinner ones.  Much like the lunch menu, many dishes are priced between $10-$15 and there’s a perfect balance between savoury and sweet breakfast dishes, as well as ones with and without meat for vegetarians. 

Some of my favourites include a grilled nutella sandwich with raspberry compote (calling all nutella lovers!), 3 types of eggs benedict with leek and parmesan fondue, creamy oatmeal with cranberry apricot preserves and maple syrup, spinach with caramelized apples, pecans, and stilton cheese, and for the meat-lovers, a pulled pork sandwich with fried egg and cheddar!  They have a great list of accompanying side dishes that you can choose from to complement your main (the grilled tomatoes and the grapefruit and apricot marmalade have my name on them!), and if the weather is nice, the beloved patio of theirs that I love so much is open for brunch too. 

My decision to have French toast was totally guided by my nagging sweet tooth.  I’ll be honest: I wanted a cupcake but knew I wouldn’t have the time to get to a cupcake shop after brunch so I knew a sweeter brunch dish would soothe that craving and fulfill my French toast mission on the blog!  Wish Cafe’s thick, sweet, mouthwatering challah French toast brunch meal ($12) is served with caramelized bananas, blueberries, maple syrup, and dusted with powdered sugar.  The 4 thick, moist-on-the-inside, crispy-on-the-outside slices of French toast with stack one on top of each other and they were absolutely divine.  I felt like I was eating French toast for the first time and discovering this insanely tasty dish all over again!  The French toast was cooked perfectly with crispy edges and moist and thick middles (no one wants thin and soggy French toast!), and the caramelized bananas were amazing because it was like having bananas foster all over my French toast with warm caramel-like sauce all over it!

I know for a fact that I’ll be coming back to Wish for many meals to come, brunch included.  While I was eating my French toast and “mmming” throughout the entire meal, I snuck a peek at the neighbouring table’s dishes, saw their mouthwatering florentine eggs benedict, and said, “well, I guess I know what I’ll be having next time!”  With so much great food on their menu, they almost make my blogging too easy.  

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Wish Cafe and Restaurant is located at 3 Charles Street East at the corner of Charles and Yonge Street in downtown Toronto.  They offer lunch and dinner, as well as weekend brunch, and their patio is currently available for spring and summer wining and dining!  They are open from Tuesday to Sunday (closed on Mondays).  Hours of operation are 11am-11pm from Tuesday to Saturday, and 10am-4pm on Sundays.  View their official website and menus HERE.