My Relationship with Brunch

1Photo Credit: Lovely Lady Sarah Samuel

My relationship with brunch can be summed up by the following interactions with friends:

1. I ran into a friend a couple of months ago and he said “I assume you are always going to or coming from brunch.” This was at 1 o’clock in the afternoon during a workday.

2. I was at a party on Friday night and was asked “Where are you going for brunch tomorrow morning?”

3. I was sent a link to the below shirt saying, “I feel like you may need this.”

0d93ad54a8b024cad0202eb16dffe0e1I love that I am known for my love of brunch. That people ask for suggestions or want to talk about their favourite brunch restaurants in the city and if I’ve been there. But this wasn’t always the case. I used to hate brunch and breakfast foods in general.

2Photo Credit: Ann Street Studio

When I was a kid, there was exactly two breakfast foods I craved: toad in the hole-style eggs and crepes. I would make my own toad in the hole- style eggs, using different cookie cutters to allow my eggs to sit in a nest shaped like hearts or stars. My favourite part was the cutout, buttery and crispy, the perfect piece of toast for breaking into an egg. My dad’s specialty was making crepes. He would use the “Quick & Easy Breads” cookbook because it had step-by-step photos with the instructions. The pages with the crepe recipe were, of course, covered in flour and would stick together with egg because of how often these pages were used.

3Photo Credit: Life Style Asia

As I got older, my parents switched from going to church on Saturday evenings, to going on Sunday mornings at 8:30. Like any good Catholic, I was bribed to attend the early morning mass with the promise of breakfast afterwards. My parents would go to this small restaurant on Main Street called “The New Grenada.” My dad would order the egg’s Benedict (this probably explains where my love for this dish comes from) and my mom would vary her order. I would order chicken fingers and fries at 9:30 in the morning.

4Photo Credit: Martha Stewart

I didn’t start to enjoy breakfast until the summer of 2008. This was my first summer living in Toronto and my first summer dating GC. He lived in the Annex and we most weekend mornings we would go to Mel’s. Mel’s had been around forever and was a neighbourhood institution. It was your standard diner but it had this great patio that was on the side street, just slightly overlooking Bloor. Their toast wasn’t served with your standard strawberry jam, it was an in-house made rhubarb jam that was tart and sweet. It was the perfect little patio to fall in love with brunch and GC.

When I graduated university, I moved back home to live with my parents for 2 years. Every weekend I would come down to the city to spend time with GC. Unfortunately, he worked weekend shifts that were 3-11pm, restricting our time together to weekend mornings. Brunch was the obvious way to spend our mornings together. We would brunch, then discover new neighbourhoods until he had to go to work.

I moved in with GC in March 2012 and the brunch routine was a holdover from our “long-distance” days. Even once GC switched to a regular schedule and no longer worked weekends, it became an unconscious habit to wake up on a Saturday or Sunday morning and reach for my phone to scroll through a list of possible brunch suggestions. We continued to brunch most weekends.

5Photo Credit: ASC Public Relations Toronto

I’ve been brunching at least once a month for the past 5 years, or at least that is what I can remember. I have been working from various lists and because of this, somewhere along the way brunch was no longer about the meal or the company, it was about the lists. I rarely return to a brunch spot, regardless of how much I like it because of this sense of dedication and urgency to “the list.” I’ve tried so many restaurants and spent so much money on food that was good but not great and usually okay, not good because of these lists. I’ve tried a huge number of brunch restaurants in the city and I am sure I will try more, but I am done with brunch as my main focus for food and dining out. The BlogT.O. Top 50 list was too ambitious to be completely solid and despite only having 2 more restaurants left to try, I have decided that I am not going to complete this list. One is Ed Levesque which has somewhat changed since the publishing of this list and more importantly, is in the east end which is a pain to get to. The other is Hogtown Vegan which although I have no problem with vegans, brunch is for pork products and eggs.

7Photo Credit: lindszv Etsy shop

I am not done with brunch completely, just done with being confined to a list and eating at restaurants I have little to no interest in eating at. There are a number of brunches I am eager to try: Big Crow, Colette, and the Ritz Carleton to name a few but I am excited to expand my dining options to lunch and dinner and to perfect my brunch at home. I want to host more brunches and save going out for brunch when it can be a leisurely activity, not some sort of highly militarized mission that I sometimes make brunch into. I want to return to some of my favourite brunch spots in the city and order dishes I’ve had before and remember how good brunch can be. I want to return to enjoying brunch and eating brunch for brunch’s sake.

 

Brunch at Fabbrica

It’s official: the Italians need to come up with a word for brunch. Some might say that Italians don’t actually eat breakfast, they just have an espresso and a cigarette. And this is definitely the impression that my Italian relatives who visited for our wedding gave me. But Italian restaurants in Toronto are changing this idea of what Italian breakfast can and should mean. A few weeks ago, we enjoyed brunch at Fabbrica.FullSizeRender

This is my third visit to Fabbrica and it has always consistently delivered. The interior is modern and simple with classic Italian touches like marble tabletops and a cantina with large windows so guests can view the hanging salamis and prosciuttos. When the beautiful latte pictured above arrived I know that my brunch would deliver.

I ordered the Fabbrica Benny.

IMG_3591The Fabbrica Benny with poached eggs, guanciale and fontina crumpet, prosciutto and hollandaise.

Yum, yum, yum. The hollandaise is incredibly thick. The eggs are runny and gooey. The prosciutto is tender, fatty and the right amount of salt. The crumpet is a nice touch – it is a heftier alternative to your typical light and airy English muffin. It is salty and adds a sharp, nutty undertone throughout the crumpet with the fontina. I would have liked if the portion was slightly bigger but to be fair, I will always want more Benny.

The side of tomatoes is a light and slightly citrus way to clean your palate when you are finished with the richness of the Benny. The balsamic vinegar is sweet and thick and a natural compliment to the tomatoes. This is the Italian spin on the traditional British grilled tomatoes.

GC ordered the Shortrib hash.IMG_3594The short rib hash with poached egg, caramelized onion, braised short rib and potato served with toasted ciabatta.

Oh.mi.gawd. It is an inevitability that when two people dine together, one meal is going to be better than the other. But lucky for GC, that did not happen at our Fabbrica brunch. This is the best hash I have ever eaten. The short rib is incredibly tender, the meat just delicately flakes with every slight pierce of the fork. The veg is tender but retains it’s crunchiness. The onion adds a subtle sweetness and helps cut the richness of the short rib. The egg justifies this dish as a breakfast item and acts like a glue, cementing all the aspects of the hash in each bite.

I know no one wants to go to North York – I get it. I live in North York and don’t even want to travel to Fabbrica, but you should. Everything about Fabbrica is spot on – the service, the decor, the coffee and the food. It is a meal you will not regret traveling for. I will be fantasizing about this brunch until I can it again.

Happy munching!