October 11, 2014.

After 7 and a half years of dating, GC and I tied the knot on October 11th, 2014. The weather was gorgeous: it was sunny, clear and crisp. It was the perfect fall day. Our ceremony took place in the gardens at the Columbus Center, an Italian community center close to our house that GC took various lessons and classes at as a child.

audrey&giancarlo0217I walked down the aisle with both of my parents to “We’re Going to Be Friends” by the White Stripes, a song that encapsulates our relationship as more than just boyfriend and girlfriend but as best friends and falling in love as kids in university.

audrey&giancarlo0198 audrey&giancarlo0216 audrey&giancarlo0233 Continue reading

Me & Mine

In the early days of Fall 2014, we visited Me & Mine for brunch. Me & Mine is a cute, small restaurant on College Street West. The interior is very simple and modern, with touches of mid-century modern art. There is plenty of natural light and the light wood of the tables and floors creates a warm and inviting atmosphere. We were seated at a small table at the back of the restaurant near the bar. Coffees and food were served on vintage camping dishes – another rustic, comfortable touch.

I ordered the Brussels Sprouts & Vintage Cheddar Pie.

IMG_1586The Brussels Sprouts & Vintage Cheddar Pie with pickled beet and sage salad.

The pie was fantastic. I love when brunch is actually a combination of breakfast and lunch foods. The crust was flaky, buttery and light. The filling was creamy and cheesy. The Brussels sprouts were roasted nicely – caramelized and slightly crispy on the outside and moist and juicy on the inside. This pie tasted like a Thanksgiving side dish at breakfast time.

As it was brunch it was necessary to order a poached egg on the side. Although the egg was poached nicely it was an awkward side to have ordered – I regretted this decision even though it only cost $2. The whole purpose of eating a poached egg is to have it explode over toast or eggs Benedict and sop up all the delicious lusciousness into your mouth. Not to have your yolk spill into your salad.

I have said it before and I will say it again: salad is not a side for brunch. This time it at least was a logical side, as having home fries accompany a pie would be a ridiculous carb-indulgence.

GC ordered The Breakfast.The Breakfast with house cured pork belly, pork sausage link two poached eggs, toast and compound butter, roasted potatoes and salad.

This is your standard big-breakfast on another level. All bacon should be house cured pork belly and all breakfast sausages should be this thick, meaty and juicy. If you are looking for something a little different in your brunch, but not too different or unconventional, check out Me & Mine.

My only criticism: while we were settling up our bill they asked if we wanted to take dessert to go. Of course we were tempted. The desserts available were peanut butter cookies (obviously not) and butter tarts. I asked if the butter tarts had nuts and I was told no so we ordered 2 to go. We get home and GC goes for the first bite and of course, there was walnuts in my butter tarts. This is incredibly irresponsible. Obviously, if you have a severe allergy, you should never take any chances and probably never even risk eating out but I also operate under the impression that restaurants are responsible and employee somewhat competent employees. WRONG. That’s ok. I’ll stick with the pies and breakfasts, GC said they were better anyway.

Happy munching!

Smith

On a quiet Sunday in September, we headed down to Church Street to check out Smith. The restaurant is in an old Victorian-row house on Church Street, slightly hidden from view. The only hint of the restaurant is a red marquee sign in the window spelling out the name. There is bar seating just outside the restaurant on the sidewalk. The restaurant is narrow, with twists and turns leading to the back patio which is one of the most romantic, cozy spaces in the city.

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The gate opens to overlook a park off Church Street. The benches are decorated with mismatched pillows of varying sizes and fabrics. The exposed brick wall is painted in sections and natural in others, giving a very industrial feel to the space. The tables are rough and rustic, reminiscent of barn doors. On our table there was an antique porcelain cabinet knob that was turn upside down holding a single sprig of lavender. It is simple and cute.

GC ordered the Benedict.

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The Benedict with poached eggs, parmesan leek fondue and home fries.

Yes. Fondue should always be a topping not a dipping sauce. The parmesan leek fondue is nutty with the garlicky freshness from the leeks. It is thick and rich but does not overwhelm the eggs. This is an adult version of an already adult breakfast item. It is fancy without being stuffy and pretentious. It is fresh and tastes of spring. This would be the perfect addition to an Easter brunch.

I ordered the Huevos Rancheros.IMG_1446 IMG_1447The Huevos Rancheros with tortillas, poached eggs, black beans, guacamole, sour cream and salsa.

Another perfect dish. This huevos rancheros is fresh and light but is packed with protein and flavour. The guacamole is creamy, as if it is blended with sour cream but maintains the lightness of a sauce. The salsa is chunky and fresh, allowing the fruitiness of the tomato shine through, with hints of spice. The tortilla is toasted and a strong support for the pile of food mounded on top but is still tender enough to slice through perfect bites of Mexican yumminess.

The brunch was a bit pricey, but it is definitely worth it as a treat. I returned a few weeks ago for a Winterlicious dinner with a friend and it delivered just as much as the brunch did. I can’t wait for the return of warm weather so that I can return to this patio and enjoy a delicious brunch once again.

Happy munching!

Luna Cafe

On a rainy day at the end summer we went to Luna Cafe. Luna Cafe is a tiny restaurant on the main floor of an old Victorian house on a side street just off on Ossington. The cold rain fogged up the beautiful antique stain glass windows giving the restaurant a very romantic atmosphere. The tables are a mismatch of farmhouse style tables; rustic, worn and comforting. I was very taken in by the decor and atmosphere of this restaurant. It was homey, warm, and inviting. It was absolute perfection.

We ordered coffees and then food. I ordered Egg’s Benedict.

IMG_1538 IMG_1539Poached free run eggs on English muffin with peameal bacon, wine-ripe tomato and chipotle hollandaise with greens and homefries.

Because it was a rainy day, we were one of two tables in the restaurant. The service was SO. OBSCENELY. SLOW. On a cold and moody day, we didn’t mind this. We were allowed to sit and chat with hot coffees in hand and watch the rain drizzle down the windows. We should have known that if service was slow when no one was in the restaurant that on a subsequent visit, with more guests, that it would be even more terrible.

This was delicious. The muffin was soft and airy. The peameal was crispy without being dried out. The chipotle hollandaise was buttery, thick and spicy. I can overlook bad service for good food. Or so I thought. But more on that later.

GC ordered the Smoked Salmon Egg’s Benedict.

IMG_1537Poached free run eggs on English muffin with naturally smoked salmon and fresh dill, hollandaise with greens and homefries.

Fresh, light and delicious. The salmon was velvety soft. The eggs had that hint of vinegar I crave and the dill was fresh. GC loved this take on the traditional Benny.

We loved our experience so much that we returned for a second visit. NEVER AGAIN. No one acknowledged our presence for 15 minutes. We were then seated at a large country table for four. Which we were then asked to move from after about 30 minutes WITHOUT FOOD to accommodate a group of 4. WHICH WAS NOT A GROUP OF 4. It was two couples that did not know each other! This move made no sense and was fueled by the lack of food. It took forever for the server to take our order and then even more forever for us to get our food. When we eventually got our food my order was wrong NOT ONCE. NOT TWICE. BUT THREE FUCKING TIMES. Sort your business out! Gah! Reliving this infuriates me to no end. No food is good enough to live through this. I completely acknowledge that this is the epitome of a first world problem, but do I not attend brunch to be the epitome of a first world problem?

Obviously I would not return to Luna Cafe and I think you should rethink your visit. Happy munching!

Voodoo Child

Voodoo Child is a coffee and cocktail bar, the perfect combination of beverages. And they serve brunch – could this place be any more well suited to my personality? I know what you are thinking, “Coffee? And cocktails? Pick one. There is no way anything can be good.” But it is.

We headed out to brunch on a sunny summer morning. We sat at the bar where we could watch the baristas brew all sorts of magic. We both ordered coffees and then breakfast. Breakfast is cooked based on seasonal ingredients and is listed daily on chalkboards. The kitchen at Voodoo Child is literally just your average kitchen stove. Seeing a kitchen like that inspired and challenged me. If someone can churn out breakfasts to a small restaurant of people using a residential kitchen stove, the possibilities are endless in my own home.

I ordered the Voodoo Breakfast Muffin.

IMG_1381The Voodoo Breakfast Muffin on a toasted English muffin with peameal bacon, fried egg, cheddar and sriracha aioli. Served with Dijon potato salad and greens.

How cute is this plate and bar? It feels like a farmhouse. The sandwich was delicious. It was perfectly balanced between saltiness and sweetness. The bacon was cooked throughout and was not rubbery or tough. The egg was fried over-medium, the perfect way to cook an egg for a sandwich. It maintains ooziness but without creating a mess that spurts out all over your face and table. The sriarcha aioli added a hint of spice and sweetness. It was the final touch that the sandwich needed to bring it beyond comparable to a McDonald’s sandwich.

Potato salad should always accompanying breakfast. This is a revolution. I love the idea of brunch literally having a breakfast component and a lunch component. The perfect balance to ease you into the day.

GC ordered the Butternut Squash Omelet.

IMG_1380The Butternut Squash Omelet with roasted garlic and goat cheese. Served with toast and apple/walnut and arugala salad.

This is the ultimate in brunch food. A breakfast item so standard and typically plain, but taken to a whole new level with squash, roasted garlic and goat cheese. It was so rich and savory. The squash and garlic created a creamy rich base with the goat cheese. Yums.

Our brunch was delicious and has made us big fans of this spot. GC has made Voodoo Child his go-to for coffee before work and we have also tried cocktails here. The cocktail menu is bourbon based and has a very classic feel to it with egg whites, bitters and hard alcohol. When we went, I sipped on the V Beckham with Jim Beam, brown sugar simple syrup, lime, bitters, and sparkling wine. It was classy, elegant and different, much like it’s namesake.

I would definitely recommend dropping by at any point in the day to enjoy either a coffee or a cocktail – both are perfection. Happy munching!

A Year in Review: 2014

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Photo Credit: GC – Praia de Luz, Portugal

2014 is over! This has been one of the craziest, busiest, most amazing year of all time. Between the wedding, honeymoon and everything in between, I don’t even know where to begin with a look-back on the year. Below are the resolutions that I set out for myself for 2014 and how I did with them.

Life resolutions.

  1. Knit more. I literally did not knit anything this year but did acquire some lovely homemade knitted pieces from my uber talented sister Liz. This counts right? It obviously doesn’t but I swear, I will knit in 2015.
  2. Exercise more. I did this! I ran a 5K in September and was doing a series of exercises at home. This was working up until the wedding and then two weeks of eating rich, decadent food in Spain and Portugal threw all this by the wayside. Unfortunately, all progress and evidence of fitness has disappeared. New year, new goals, new exercise.
  3. Read more. My reading has picked up but has been mostly limited to biographies by IWs and food-related things. I am currently working through The Omnivore’s Dilemma, Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? and The Trouble with Brunch. The 2015 reading list is shaping up. Any and all suggestions on reading materials are welcome.
  4. Write more. I was writing more but then of course I didn’t write from July until November. Eek. Next year I plan to be more up-to-date on my writings so when you read about a restaurant it hasn’t closed.

Food resolutions.

  1. Bake more. I did not do this. My Christmas baking was limited to 3 types of cookies instead of the traditional 5 (at least!). Given that I am trying to be slightly healthier in 2015, I will likely be refraining from excessive baking.
  2. Use cookbooks more. Pinterest is a dangerous, dangerous thing. Instead of referencing the dozens of cookbooks I have, I refer to Pinterest. I am placing a moratorium on the cookbook-buying so please, gift me cookbooks. Or suggest pins from Pinterest.
  3. Host more. We hosted our own rehearsal dinner (horrible idea, I would not recommend this to anyone), our first annual-Christmas party and 2 Christmas brunches. 2015 promises more cocktail parties, craft beer nights and brunches.
  4. Try more. I ate urchin this year. That’s as weird as it gets unfortunately.
  5. Read more. In keeping with food-related reading, a new list I will be working off is the James Beard award-winners list for Best Book: Food and Literature.
  6. Master more. I have made ice cream but haven’t mastered it, I did not make jam and I haven’t made a mint julep. I have however, mastered the homemade brunch, macaroni and cheese and your 15-minute weeknight dinner. Going forward, I have deemed 2015 the year of the cocktail. I recently fell in absolute envy with a bartender at 416 Snack Bar who was able to make any drink on demand with elegance and simplicity. My goal is to master the gimlet, the Manhattan, the Old-Fashioned and the martini in 2015.

Have a safe and happy New Year’s Eve and all the best food, drink and celebrations for 2015!

2014 – Halfway Through…

IMG_0745IMG_0552 IMG_0554 IMG_0565It’s July and we are halfway through the year. I don’t know where the year has gone and it feels like I haven’t accomplished as much as I would have liked. Here are the resolutions I set out for myself back in January:

Life resolutions.

  1. Knit more. I haven’t knit anything. The only time this year I have touched yarn is to make a wreath. When it is already winter it seems silly to start any projects and now that it is hot outside it seems ridiculous to knit. As we get into September, October I will start knitting. I swear. GC’s neck warmer still sits unraveled in a basket somewhere.
  2. Exercise more. Surprisingly enough, this is the one resolution I have been very successful with. I started Couch to 5K and I am currently on week 5 of the program. I have signed up for a run in September at the Toronto Zoo with GC and my friend Claire and I am very excited about it. This is the most active I’ve been in almost 10 years. Grade 9 gym is really the last time I was remotely physical and I use that term very loosely as my high mark in that class is attributed to the health portion of the class. I have been doing a series of ab work outs too: sit-ups, crunches, planks and leg lifts. All of these exercises have made our newest hobby, hiking, easier and much more enjoyable. We are slowly discovering all the trails and waterfalls in the area. In a few weeks, we will be going camping in Bon Echo Park. I am very physically different then I was at the start of the year and I love it.
  3. Read more. I suffered through Sense & Sensibility, trekked through Orenda and now I’m reading something a little lighter, The Phantom Tollbooth. My reading this year hasn’t been great but with the warm weather comes more reading outside on my lunch hour. If you have some book suggestions, please let me know!
  4. Write more. Looking through my old posts it would appear that I have been writing more. I have been including the fun parts of my life (i.e. wedding plan, hiking and city adventures) and writing more generally about food rather then just what I eat. In the immediate future, I have a few posts inspired by summer and I’m already looking forward to the numerous posts related the wedding and our honeymoon. Hopefully you are too!

Food resolutions.

  1. Bake more. I have been baking slightly more. Now that is summer I plan to make tarts and pies on a regular basis and the people who are closest to me will benefit from this.
  2. Use cookbooks more. Most of my cookbooks are still collecting dust on my shelf and have new neighbours… I am going to have to go on a cookbook cooking spree in the second half of the year.
  3. Host more. I have mostly been hosting family but as summer goes on, I hope to have people over more regularly for barbeques, sangria and pops. We are currently debating the idea of hosting our rehearsal dinner in the backyard but keep flipping back and forth due to the fact that October doesn’t always have the nicest weather. And with the wedding comes wedding china and I will be looking for excuses to use that as we approach the holidays at the end of the year.
  4. Try more. So far this year I have tried Cuban food, modern cocktails, proper afternoon tea, blood pudding, kale chips and a Scotch egg. I hope to try some interesting meats (summer is the perfect time to try emu and kangeroo in the form of burgers), infusing my own alcohols and all the delicious foods of Spain and Portugal when we are on our honeymoon.
  5. Read more. Again, I haven’t been reading. I have started reading Food & Drink for the articles and that’s as far as I’ve gotten.
  6. Master more. I have my burger recipe down. I learned how to make Ninni’s pasta sauce this past week. I can make a mean big batch cocktail. I can whip you up a feast for beakfast in bed. And I can make a pie crust comparable to my mom’s. As the summer goes on I want to master the following things: ice cream, jam (even if it is just freezer jam) and the mint julep.

Reviewing your goals and resolutions halfway through the year is a great way to refocus and reflect on how much you really have achieved. My cooking, baking and exercising are on track to where I want them to be and I just have to shift some of my efforts on reading and knitting. I think I can do that. Take time to remember what you set out to achieve this year and remember, you are only halfway through.

Happy munching!

Parts & Labour

Sunday = Brunchday. On June 8th we ventured all the way to West Queen West to munch at Parts & Labour. We had been to Parts & Labour once before, for the Le Faz‘s birthday and fell in love. We had cocktails with bite and danced the night away in the simple, industrial interior. We knew we had to come back for brunch.

GC ordered the P&L Burger.

IMG_0674 The P&L Burger with 7oz of Canadian brisket, dill mayo, bacon-onion jam, Monterey-jack, iceberg lettuce, on a toasted egg bun and served with fries.

I ordered the P&L Full Monte.

IMG_0675 IMG_0676IMG_0678The P&L Full Monte on an egg bun, with country ham, turkey, onion jam, aged cheddar, and a fried egg, served home fries.

When I ordered this, it didn’t occur to me that this was a breakfast sandwich. I thought it was going to be a big-breakfast style meal with a side bun. In retrospect, that makes no sense. A breakfast sandwich makes more sense and was better.

The bun was soft and sweet, almost donut-like. The meats were fresh, thick and salty. All sandwiches should have at least two types of meat, this gives them substance and richness. The country ham tasted as if it had been roasted over a fire at a local fair. The onion jam added a slight sweetness but wasn’t overly apparent. The egg oozed and poured over the bun and the meats. I love, loved, loved the fresh onion on top of the sandwich. It added to fresh, crispness that tasted like spring. It was delicious.

Parts & Labour, although basically in the middle of nowhere Toronto, is worth the hike. And they take reservations, so you know you won’t be wasting your time. Definitely come here for a munch and a cocktail.

Happy munching!