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

Potato Leek Soup with Grano Padano Cheese & a Smoked Salmon, Potato Rosti Brunch Dish at Caren’s Wine & Cheese Bar, Part II!

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All you need is cheese.

It’s more than just the name of a magazine to me – they’re words to live by!  I know cheese isn’t the healthiest of foods (yes, yes, sodium and fat content and all that jazz), but as a foodie and lifelong lover of cheese, I can’t imagine life without it.  I sample fresh Ontario cheeses from the farmers’ markets.  A burger just isn’t the same if a melty, gooey slice hasn’t been melted in it.  I’ve been known to eat cream cheese-and-nothing-else sandwiches.  And don’t even get me started on the extra shreds I sprinkle onto my tacos, enchiladas, burritos, omelettes, and pasta.  We don’t have enough space in this post for that novel!  So it makes complete and perfect sense why a wine and cheese bar would be my dining dream come true.  Sure, I may not drink wine but I make up for it in cheese consumption!  How Caren’s Wine & Cheese Bar on Cumberland Street in Yorkville alluded me for so long is beyond me.

Housed in a tall, beautiful Victorian style home bathed in shades of gray and charcoal with stone accents and warm pops of green and orange, Caren’s is quaint and sophisticated and yet completely accessible and I don’t just mean physically accessible by public transit!  I know many of the eateries and establishments in Yorkville (and the neighbourhood itself) may come across as upscale and out-of-reach to us average folk, but I’m telling you, appearances can be deceiving and I’ve certainly allowed my preconceived notions inform my decisions about places before I got the chance to know them in the past.  Behind the chic, polished exterior is warmth, comfort, and homeyness oozing with wonderful food and drink, a peaceful, inviting atmosphere, and one of the nicest places to dine in the city.  It’s romantic, it’s inviting, and it’s SO PERFECT for relaxing weekend brunch meals, intimate dinner evenings, and get-togethers and cocktail parties.

So, how did I find out about Caren’s?  While I would love to say that I “stumbled” on it during a beautiful walk through the neighbourhood, I can’t.  I owe this one to my sweet coworker, Pat.  While she and I were discussing yummies and fun things in Yorkville (I was raving about Mela and she was raving about stationery – great minds think alike!), she mentioned Caren’s and how she was cheese classmates with Tiffany MacIssac, Caren’s master of cheese.  Curious beyond belief, I looked up the Yorkville gem online and immediately fell in love.  Cheese!  Weekend brunch!  Yorkville!  That was certainly all the convincing I needed!  And what impeccable timing.  I wanted to take a stroll through Yorkville anyway so I made it my mission to go to Caren’s for weekend brunch this past weekend and the plan went out without a hitch (fter all my flub-ups, fall-throughs and disappointments as of late it was about time something went my way!).  Weekend brunch, 11:30 am sharp!

Caren’s menus focus on French cuisine with some Italian and European influences in conjunction with local, Canadian fare – after all, it is a wine and cheese bar!  Their extensive brunch menu incorporates a number of brunch classics (French toast, omelettes, pancakes, eggs benny and more) as well as plenty of savoury soups, salads, and sandwiches, and featured items that highlight their wonderful selection and offering of cheeses.  Brunch prices are $10 on the low-end and $20 on the highest end, with most menu items coming in between $12-$16.  Their menu offers 19 dishes with additional sides at extra charge including parsley home fries, apple wood smoked bacon, chorizo sausage, house cured gravlox, and more.

You can enjoy your meal in the comforts of their ground floor dining area and bar, their outdoor front patio, their intimate 2nd floor dining room, OR – wait for this – their ridiculously gorgeous back patio courtyard that might as well be a cabana oasis!  I was shocked out of my leggings when I stepped into their back courtyard to snap a few photos.  It is breathtaking.  Cushions, lanterns, soft glows, palms – THIS is where an amazing cocktail party takes place!  Caren’s will rent out their dining areas for private functions so this is definitely something to keep in mind for everyone!

I had myself my own little food party in the form of weekend brunch yesterday.  I’m not kidding.  I ordered a ridiculous amount of food and by the end, I was truly stuffed!  On Deb’s plate: Caren’s soup of the day ($12), creamy roasted potato and leek with tomatoes and Italian grano padano cheese (like I would have a meal here without any cheese – pish!) and their eggs pacific ($13), a dish of potato rosti, salmon, truffled eggs (insanely fluffy scrambled!), fruit and greens, and creme fraiche.  Their meal-size soup was monstrous!  I should have known better.  I was expecting a side bowl, maybe a medium-sized bowl.  Nope, meal-sized.  But I have no regrets.  Because it was mouthwateringly delicious.

Creamy, smooth, and velvety, I had freshly cracked black pepper sprinkled on, and the olive oil, tomatoes, and cheese made the soup so flavourful and savoury.  The texture was perfect and the tomatoes gave it that hint of freshness and juiciness.  It wasn’t heavy at all and the cheese?  I could eat it by the spoonful.  Similar to Parmigianno Reggiano, it was grated onto the soup and it gave the soup that extra hit of savouriness and meatiness to make it really feel like a meal-size soup.

And my eggs pacific.  OH.MY.GOD.  Smoked salmon lovers, you need this in your life.  I have NEVER had a meal that gave me so much thick, savoury, slices of smoked cured salmon in my life.  Half the time, meals will often fall short of the desirable amount.  But this?  Fit for two meals.  Slice after slice of amazing, scrumptious salmon filled my plate with a fluffy mountain of eggs, potato rosti rounds underneath, and a huuuuge dollop of red onion capered creme fraiche.  I’m telling you, the salmon and creme fraiche MAKES this dish.  If there was anything I’d change, I’d make the potato rosti a little thicker, but that’s about it.  It was truly delicious and the creme fraiche just brings everything together as you can use it for the potato rosti, the smoked salmon, and the eggs.  It breaks up the salty, cured flavour of the salmon and keeps it from becoming too overwhelming.  And the soup, a spontaneous choice in the beginning, proved to be a great complement to the meal!

Even though I never feel like I have enough time to enjoy everything I want to enjoy during my days out, I feel fulfilled that I got to try this wonderful dining spot out and you can bet that I’ll be back for more weekend brunch.

*****

Caren’s Wine & Cheese Bar is located at 158 Cumberland St. in Yorkville, just east of Avenue Rd.  They are open for lunch (11:30am-5pm from Monday to Friday), dinner (5pm-10pm Sunday to Tuesday and 5pm-11pm Wednesday to Saturday), and weekend brunch (11:30am-4pm Saturdays and Sundays).

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.

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.

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!

*****

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.