The County General

Pre-wedding I was very concerned with eating well and getting fit. I had started running and was looking for ways to become a stronger runner. I was doing leg lifts, sit-ups, crunches and using weights. I was looking to add another type of exercise and yoga seemed like a good choice. In the summer, there were a number of free yoga sessions throughout the city and this was the perfect opportunity to try a new exercise. Our first attempt brought us to a free class at Canoe Landing Park. This is not a good choice of location for your first yoga class. It was a hot August morning, the sun was beating down and we lasted about 20 minutes. We were told by the instructor to listen to our bodies and our bodies said, “Brunch.” It should be noted that the instructor tried to shame us into staying for the whole session but brunch speaks louder than a yogi. We headed over to The County General.

The County General is cute and rustic and the food is similar. We sat on the small side patio. The patio can seat between 5-8 people, and could easily get crammed. But early on a Sunday morning, it was a great place to start the day with a cup of coffee.

IMG_1218I loved these cups and saucers. This cup would conjure thoughts of warm summer days even on the most frigid of days. GC and I had mismatched sets and it made the patio seem cozier. We enjoyed our Americanos and ordered brunch. I ordered the Eggs Benedict.

IMG_1221Eggs Benedict with English muffins, soft poached eggs, maple hollandaise and pulled pork.

Note: the plate is mismatched from the cups = rustic and cozy! This was very good. The English muffin was tender and was easy to slice through. The eggs were vinegary and runny. The hollandaise was buttery, thick and had a hint of sweetness to it. It wasn’t cloyingly sweet, just the perfect amount to bring out the sweetness in the pork. I loved this pulled pork. It was sweet, salty and tender. Yumms.The pickled red cabbage was the perfect kick to help with the richness of the dish.

I would order this again and again. And would recommend you do too.

GC ordered the Fried Chicken Thigh Sandwich.

IMG_1220The Fried Chicken Thigh Sandwich with buttermilk chicken, avocado chutney, cilantro and pickled red onion.

Another mismatched plate! These simple touches of different place settings and plaid napkins added to the subtle country vibe of the restaurant that nicely contrasts with brunch in the city.

This sandwich was delicious! The chicken was tender and moist. Chicken thighs fry perfectly – the meat is almost impossible to dry out. The battering was crispy, flaky and the right amount of greasy. Yes, there is a right amount of greasy. The avocado, cilantro and red onion was the right combination of pepperiness and citrus flavour. They were light flavours that worked with the lightness of chicken. It is easy to overpower chicken with strong flavours but this sandwich was balanced and wonderful.

We thoroughly enjoyed our brunch. It led to the question: if 20 minutes of yoga results in this deliciousness what does a full hour get you?

Happy munching!

Easy Restaurant

The only appropriate way to kick off a cottage weekend is to go for brunch. Back in the summer, ampoule we headed up to Muskoka for some much needed rest and relaxation. Before we hit the road we went for brunch at Easy Restaurant. Nothing makes me feel more relaxed than enjoying some delicious food with my best friend and not in the midst of the usual weekend-brunch craziness.

We went to the College Street location. The restaurant is filled with movie memorabilia, advice retro toys, ailment and heavily features images and posters from Easy Rider. It has a very chilled out, hanging out in your grandparents’ basement vibe to it – I was into it. It was cool without being pretentious and fussy and was accompanied by a great soundtrack.

The menu was a mixture of Mexican flavours with brunch classics. I ordered the Huevos Divorciados.

IMG_1325 IMG_13262 sunny eggs on a corn tortilla with spicy green & red salsa, re-fried black beans with side guacamole, ancho jam, toasted baguette with home fries.

I’ll be honest: when I ordered this I really thought it was going to be your regular huevos rancheros with a different name and maybe more salsa. Don’t be fooled, I actually know nothing about food. So you don’t make the same naïve mistake that I did, here is a description of the dish: Huevos divorciados, or “divorced eggs,” is a Mexican breakfast featuring two fried eggs separated by chilaquiles or tortillas. Refried beans with tortilla chips can also be substituted. One egg is covered in salsa roja and the other is covered in salsa verde.

There you go! My dish delivered in all the way it was supposed to. The red salsa was fresh and summery, and the green salsa stood in sharp contrast with its spiciness and heat. I liked that the beans on the eggs were refried but in their original form, rather than a mash but you still had the option of a more dip-style bean on the side of the plate. The eggs were perfectly cooked sunny-side up: the yolk had just started to solidify on the bottom into a creamy thickness but the rest of the yolk was still runny on top. The guacamole was delicious. It did not have tomato, which I prefer because I find tomatoes make the guac watery. It had the right amount of garlic, and zesty citrus flavour.

My favourite touch: that it was served with baguette instead of tortillas or regular bread. Delicious.

GC ordered the Guacamole BLT.

IMG_1323 IMG_1324The Guacamole BLT with crispy bacon, guacamole, tomato, and greens on a whole wheat panini with home fries.

This was a delicious and cozy brunch. The flavours were fresh and summery. This is the perfect brunch for feeling summery and starting a cottage weekend. It would also be the perfect brunch to enjoy on a cold winter day similar to what we are experiencing now. This is not my favourite brunch in the city but it is a solid choice and the price is right. It may not be in my Top 10 but it would grace the Top 20. If you are looking for a relatively greasy, Mexican-ish brunch, Easy Restaurant is the perfect choice.

After we brunched, we drove north and enjoyed a relaxing weekend on Georgian Bay. The weekend was perfect: good food and drinks, a steam, a black bear and even better company. I would recommend that you have a weekend like this too! Happy munching!!

IMG_1332 IMG_1334

Dutch Dream

It only seems fitting on a freezing cold day to talk about a hot summer day eating ice cream. Back in the summer GC and I FINALLY went to Dutch Dreams. The reason I say finally is Dutch Dreams is about two feet from my sisters’ apartments and has intrigued me for about 7 years.

Dutch Dreams is everything an ice cream parlour should be: its colouful with checkered floors, check neon-lit signs and an assortment of chotskies that add a sense of whimsy and playfulness to the parlour. There are an epic amount of ice cream flavours, toppings, waffle cones and other candies for purchase. The highlight for me was the variety of Oreos that were available. Obviously someone had been to America and raided a grocery store because there was Lemon, Birthday Cake, Berry and a multitude of other delightful flavours you cannot find in Canada.

As I was completely overwhelmed by all the choice, I stuck with your standard double-scoop cone.

IMG_1296Bottom Scoop: Cookie Dough
Top Scoop: Cherry Cheesecake

There is obviously nothing standard about this. If I had realized my ice cream would be decked out in such a manor, I would have gotten one scoop.

Now I’m not super into ice cream. Blasphemy I know, but I am much more into frozen yogurt because it doesn’t make me thirsty. You are probably at this point questioning why I went to an ice cream parlour. It was August. It was hot and ice cream is a logical choice.

This ice cream was good but I think the appeal is more the toppings and the theatrical ridiculousness of the ice cream. I preferred the cherry cheesecake to the cookie dough, as there was not enough chunks of cookie dough to justify categorizing this as cookie dough ice cream. The fruit on top of my cone was frozen which on a hot summer night is okay but makes it difficult to chew.

If you are into ice cream, Dutch Dreams is obviously delicious. For your basic ice cream, I prefer Greg’s in the Annex so I think next time I would partake in something a little more ridiculous like the Super Royal Dutch Baked Alaska.

Happy munching!

The Bristol

When we visited The Bristol Yard in May we were actually in a frenzy. It was a restaurant that was serving traditional British breakfast but it was closing. We knew we had to visit it before it was gone forever. However, the restaurant did not close; it simply moved further south which when you live in North York it might as well have closed forever. A few weeks ago we made the trek to Queen and Dovercourt to check out the new restaurant, simply named The Bristol.

It has much more of a British pub-circa World War II vibe to it with tufted booths, checkered floors and Union Jack bunting. I want to drink pints of warm beer with soldiers and cryptologist in this pub. My only complaint with the décor is that the tufted booths are slightly too low for sitting comfortably and eating at the tables. Even as two tall people, me and GC found this awkward and uncomfortable.

A note to soccer hooligans: although this seems like an excellent place to watch a match, it is not that kind of crowd. It is a crowd who want to enjoy a British breakfast without having to deal with British things. The day we went Liverpool was playing and there was a man in a jersey wanting to watch the game. He asked for the volume on the television to be turned on but also to a very high volume. He then proceeded to ignore his girlfriend/wife and her whole family to watch the game. Dude. I get it. You are into the team and would rather be watching with them instead of spending time with your in-laws but you agreed to go to brunch on match day. And really, if you were an actual fan you would know to watch the game at Scallywags with other Liverpool fans.

GC ordered the Full Monty.

IMG_2747IMG_2746aTwo eggs with two rashers or smoked bacon, one large house made sausage, black pudding, sautéed mushrooms, house made baked beans and served with grilled tomato, home fries and toast.

If you husband is willing to try black pudding because you are really into food, that’s love.

I ordered Rajcoe’s Chicken & Waffles.

IMG_2748The Rajcoe’s Chicken & Waffles with crispy fried tandoori chicken in onion bhaji batter served on a light savoury waffle made with chickpea flour, roasted cumin, coriander and fresh green chiles and served with a sweet and tangy mango, tamarind and coconut maple syrup.

This is the most interesting version of fried chicken and waffles I have ever had. The waffle was spicy and warm, but very dry. This can be attributed to the chickpea flour. It wasn’t necessary to use the chickpea flour because this flavour did not come through the waffle. Rice flour or potato flour would have created the same texture and flavour but slight more moist.

The chicken was spicy! But in a subtle way that slowly built while you ate it. It was a very boney piece of chicken which wasn’t easy to maneuver on the plate. I wasn’t into the maple syrup. It wasn’t sweet or thick like syrup. It was thin, with a hint of spice. With it’s texture and flavour I wanted it to be hot but it wasn’t. It was an odd topping.

The fried chicken and waffles were interesting, but not great. I would not order them again but I would go to The Bristol again and again. And you should too.

Happy munching!

 

L’Ouvrier

Two weeks ago we went to L’Ouvrier for brunch.

The inside is sparse, with expansive white walls littered with an assortment of random wall hangings. There are antique white-washed tin ceiling tiles, painted sticks, goody bags and a mural-sized photo of turn-of-the-century cooks? Miners? Random dirty men with various tools to do various things? It was cluttered and chaotic.

Because we are hideous and were wearing hoodies we were seated near the bar at the back of the restaurant at a dimly lit table. I understand servers have tables and there is a method to how customers are seated but it looks bad when the restaurant has a total of 4 tables seated and you are placed near the back.

The menu is varied and has more than your traditional brunch items. It goes beyond bacon and eggs. It is a very adult-brunch menu with oysters, braised rabbit terrines and tuna tartare. It is all very elegant but I associate these items with a late lunch, rather than a brunch. However, this is more a comment on my lack of imagination with menus rather than a criticism on the restaurant.

I ordered the Potato Rosti.

IMG_2901The Potato Rosti with smoked salmon, crème fraîche, arugula, fried shallots and capers.

This came to my table. Please tell my why I am eating brunch and have a huge mountain of arugula in front of me? This is one of the most poorly plated dishes I have ever had. Logic would suggest that there should be a bed of arugula topped with a potato rosti, then crème fraîche, smoked salmon and sprinkled with fried shallots and capers. My rosti was hidden under this ridiculous pile of arugula. It was likely hidden so I couldn’t immediately see how tiny it was. The salmon was scattered over the plate, also to detract from how little salmon there actually was. The crème fraîche was gritty which should never be a thing and is an upsetting texture to discover in your mouth when you are expecting smooth, silkiness.

The flavours were okay, and the portion was small and unbalanced. I was not impressed.

GC ordered the B.L.T.

IMG_2900The B.L.T. with house made bacon, arugula, aioli, and fries.

The house made bacon was good, and there was plenty of it unlike my BLT at Scratch Kitchen. Much like my rosti, there was a ridiculous amount of arugula on this sandwich. I liked these use of a different type of green rather than your standard iceberg/romaine lettuce but you do not need to pile it on in excess for me to get the point.

I thought the bread was unimpressive and stood is sharp opposition to the rest of the ingredients. If you are going to spend time making house made bacon, it should be sandwiched between two pieces of bread that have been lovingly made in-house, not your standard grocery store-Dempster’s type bread. The plate was overrun with fries which is not a bad thing but it wasn’t necessary to have this many fries.

L’Ouvrier is pretentious and unnecessary. The menu is too ambitious for the atmosphere, clientele and staff. L’Ouvrier greatly missed the mark for me. I have no interest in eating poorly executed lunch foods for brunch. If I want a fancy brunch I will go somewhere like Farmhouse Tavern where the menu is an upscale, elegant interpretation of real breakfast food.

Happy munching!

 

Scratch Kitchen

The first brunch of 2015! As someone who eats brunch a lot, it was important for me to start my Brunches of 2015 on a high note. I know this is a ridiculous notion as the ending of one year isn’t really any more significant than the ending of a regular day, week, month but convention dictates that we must reflect on the past 365 days and makes goals for the next 365 days. My brunch-related resolutions are:

  1. Complete the BlogTO Top 50 Brunch List. I am so close to this goal with only 5 more to go. In 2015, I want to be done this list once and for all.
  2. Create my own Top 10 brunch list. You have all been waiting with baited breath for this list and in 2015 I want to be able to deliver this to you.
  3. Go out for brunch less. And instead, make brunch at home. And even host more brunches. Between Breakfast Central and our epic espresso machine, I should be able to create a breakfast at home to rival any restaurant in Toronto.

My first brunch of 2015 did not fulfill any of these goals but that’s ok. You can’t always be a stickler for the rules. We decided to check our Scratch Kitchen, a new restaurant just north of Lawrence and Yonge, a location we loosely consider our neighbourhood. Since it is “in our neighbourhood” we wanted to check out if it could become our new, go-to brunch spot.

Although it was technically a weekday morning (a Friday, the day after New Year’s Day) the restaurant was about half full. They obviously did not assume a lot of people would have this day off and would want to go for brunch because there was only one server working. To be fair, he was hustling. He was seating people, taking orders, making coffee and lattes and doing kitchen runs.

We were seated at a table near the back of the restaurant, against the giant blackboard wall. This wall had drawings of pigs with cuts of meat, daily special and drinks. It’s a neat focal point however, sitting next to a giant black board results in excessive amounts of dust on everything.

I wasn’t overly impressed with the menu. It had 4 proper breakfast options, 3 of which were variations of your standard egg breakfasts. It was very sandwich heavy which is fine, but sandwiches do not scream brunch to me. I understand brunch is literally a combination of breakfast and lunch menu items but I don’t want to eat a sandwich at 10 o’clock in the morning. Despite this, I wanted to order the pulled pork sandwich. They had run out. This bothered me because they were closed the day before which meant they hadn’t planned ahead and did not make the pork the night before. Fine. I will order a different sandwich.

I ordered the BLT.

IMG_2885In-House 10 day cured bacon, local Ontario tomatoes and seasonal greens with house made Chardonnay mayonnaise.

B is the first letter in BLT and therefore should be the dominate ingredient and flavour. Then why was there this excessive amount of lettuce on my sandwich? When I could finally get to some bacon it was very good. It was fatty and crispy, with the right amount of saltiness to it. The Chardonnay mayo was nice; it added the right amount of tang and zest to the sandwich. There was a little bit too much of it on the sandwich which made it a bit sloppy and difficult to eat. The home fries were good – cooked thoroughly and not too crispy. This was decent but not great. I would not go back to eat it or recommend it.

GC ordered the Steak and Eggs.

IMG_2884Certified AAA Angus Ontario beef, served with 2 certified organic farm fresh eggs, home fries and choice of in-house baked bread.

Did you cut up my steak for me to disguise the amount you gave me? To be fair, this was the cheapest steak and eggs I’ve ever seen on a menu – it was $12 – so it is completely reasonable that you are not getting a massive portion of it. The server had said that the serving is supposed to be 4 oz. but the portion typically ends up being 6 oz. 4 oz. is not huge; that’s the size of a Quarter-Pounder hamburger at McDonald’s. On top of which, GC was not asked how he wanted his steak cooked. Steak is something that everyone has a preference on how they want it cooked. GC typically like medium-well and this steak was medium-rare. The in-house baked baguette was a nice touch.

We liked our breakfast but we didn’t love it. Overall, the service was slow, the food was okay and we weren’t spectacularly impressed. In a city that has such a prominent brunch scene it is hard to make an impact, and unfortunately for us, Scratch Kitchen did not. Brunches of 2015 did not get off to a great start but there are 356 more days to fix that!

Happy munching!

The Drake Cafe

When do I visit uber hipster spots? Early on Sunday morning when they are still tucked up in bed. A few months ago we checked out The Drake Cafe on an early Sunday morning.

IMG_2320The Drake serves breakfast until 9 am and brunch after that. We arrived just slightly before 9 so we waited with coffees so we could order brunch ridiculousness.

We were seated by an older couple who were reading newspapers and sipping coffee. They were then joined by their granddaughter and her roommate. This couple personified the vibe of The Drake: cool, hip and eclectic. They are also the perfect example of what I want my life to eventually be: living in Toronto my whole life, keeping current with trends and new restaurants and aging absolutely wonderfully.

The couple on our other side was absolutely everything I don’t want to be, ever: arriving to brunch in sweatpants, and when there is a ridiculous bounty of delicious food you order a bagel. AND NOT EVEN WITH CREAM CHEESE. WHAT IS WRONG WITH YOU??

We ignored other people’s poor choices by making our own great ones. GC ordered the Drake Breakfast.

IMG_2319The Drake Breakfast with 2 eggs, Perth bacon, sage sausage, baked beans, tomato jam, root vegetable hash and rye toast.

GC was disappointed by the toast being slightly burnt. He also wasn’t crazy about the root vegetable hash. It is my firm belief that there is no room for vegetables at brunch especially as a side. Minus these two minor complaints this breakfast was hearty, slightly different and filling.

I ordered the Chicken and Waffles.IMG_2321 IMG_2323The Chicken and Waffles with fried chicken thighs, savoury waffle, Niagara cherry jam, triple thick crème fraîche and maple syrup.

Omigosh. This is everything I love about food. The chicken was crispy, salty and juicy. Thigh meat is rich and juicy and is a great choice for chicken and waffles. The meat was not boneless which does make it slightly difficult to cut into with the waffles. The waffles were savoury, fluffy and light. They were moist and didn’t need to be drenched in syrup but very obviously should always be.

The best part was the cherry jam and the triple thick crème fraîche. The crème fraîche was thick and rich and decadent and ridiculously amazing. I want to eat this all of the time. And the cherries. They were so great. They were sweet and slightly tart. It was such a treat to be able to eat cherries in November. The cherries are reason enough to order this dish.

I really enjoyed our brunch at The Drake. It was different, well-executed and absolutely delicious. I would definitely recommend this restaurant. Happy munching!