Weslodge

On Sunday, ask GC and I headed down to King West to have brunch at Weslodge.

We choose Weslodge for a few reasons:

  1. It opens late for brunch and thus, treat you avoid ridiculous brunch lineups without having to wake up ridiculously early. We didn’t get home the night before until 3 in the morning and thus, view our typical weekend efficiency was delayed a few hours. We arrived at around 1 o’clock and the restaurant was half empty.
  2. It is on the constantly referenced Blog T.O. Top 50 Brunch list. As we have worked our way through this list, we give less and less authority to it. 50 is a very ambitious number for a list especially for referencing best brunches in a city that has a constantly changing restaurant scene. However, we have come too far on the list to give up on it now. We only have 9 more restaurants to try and my goal (if my waistline does not protest too much) is finish this list off by the end of January 2015.
  3. The restaurant looks really cool. The signage is marquee style lighting and the inside looks like a mix between an old-Victorian house/hipster saloon/Prohibition bar. We would learn that it was obviously the main focus of the restaurant rather than the food.

WeslodgeWe were seated at a large booth with too deep seating paired with too high of a table. This seems like such a small detail to notice and care about but it makes for awkward dining. When you eat out far too much, you notice these things. The décor is very hipster cool: lots of interesting and vintage elements that have no relationship to one another. The walls are a hunter green, donned with animal busts and small taxidermied birds, and Victorian portraits. The bar has a Prohibition pub vibe to it, with a chalkboard of cocktails. The servers have holsters over the shoulders which I can only assume should hold pads of paper for taking orders but they were empty. Weslodge is suffering from an identity crisis: are you my Victorian grandmother’s house, a saloon in the Wild, Wild West or a speakeasy?

This identity crisis translates into the menu. Given the décor, you would assume the menu would channel British flavours and dishes, like the Queen & Beaver. However, the menu lacks consistency. There are Scotch eggs, house made English muffins and croquettes to start, which are all very British however, then there is fried chicken, schnitzel, and crispy shrimp rolls on the menu. SORT YOUR LIFE OUT. In trying to cover a gamut of flavours and styles, Weslodge fails to do anything particularly well. The execution is okay, but given the price tag of the meal and the attempt at creativity you are obviously expecting and wanting more.

We both started off with a Scotch Egg.

IMG_2484The Scotch Egg with chorizo, tomato jam and black truffle.

This was delicious but when is a Scotch Egg ever not? It was served slightly warm and nestled in a bed of spicy tomato jam. I loved this tomato jam. It would be a welcome addition to my breakfast table. The flavour of the black truffle was unapparent but the salty yolkiness made up for this. The egg was a quail egg and added that little bit of richness that traditionally comes with quail eggs due to the size of the yolk. This Scotch egg is listed as one of Toronto Life’s top 5 Scotch eggs in the city, a list I plan to conquer.

GC ordered the Fried Chicken.

IMG_2486Fried Chicken with jalapeno cheddar biscuit, white gravy and jalapeno hot sauce.

I believe this is on the menu in the attempt to emulate a saloon but it’s not working. The chicken was fried well: it was crispy on the outside but juicy and full-cooked on the inside without being burnt. It was boneless which is an added bonus when one is trying to slice through fried chicken with a fork and a knife. The biscuit was flavourless and dense, two qualities a biscuit, particularly one with jalapeno and cheese, should not be. There was not nearly enough gravy on this, and this is coming from someone who can do without gravy (shocking, yes, I know). The jalapeno hot sauce was more of a chutney and was not spicy.

Overall, stick with fried chicken and waffles elsewhere; Maybe SCHOOL or Stockyard’s just to name a few of my favourites.

GC also had the side order of the Maple Bourbon Bacon.

IMG_2490The menu claims this is supposed to be thick cut but as you can see, it is obviously not. The bacon was crispy, slightly sweet and salty. It was good but I would have preferred slightly thicker bacon, especially when the menu claims this is how it will be served.

I ordered the Eggs Benny (I know there should be an apostrophe there but I am be true to the grammatically incorrect menu).

IMG_2487The Eggs Benny with house English muffin, lamb bacon, hollandaise and mizuna.

Looking at this makes me depressed. When it was brought to the table I pouted a little. This is the smallest, most underwhelmingly sad looking thing I have ever seen. The English muffins were tiny, dense and nearly impossible to cut through. Restaurants should not highlight something being house made if the quality is not great and this was the case with this English muffin. Now, to be fair, the best English muffin I have ever eaten was at Gordon Ramsay’s York and Albany in London (yums) and it probably doesn’t get much better than that but it doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try!

I was intrigued by lamb bacon because it was something different and therefore should be tried but I shouldn’t have. The bacon leathery, it was almost jerky like. As lamb is lean, why would you use it to make delicious, normally fatty bacon? Fail.

The eggs were not poached the same way. One was poached hard and therefore did not ooze slowly over everything on my plate. The second egg was poached perfectly but I cannot overlook two inconsistently poached eggs. The hollandaise was bland and boring.

The side of greens were good but did I go out for brunch to eat salad? No.

I wasn’t impressed with Weslodge. It is underwhelming food at an expensive price. The menu lacked the substance and creativity it was trying to go for. My suggestion: go for a Scotch egg and a cocktail. I can only assume it will be good because can you really mess up booze?

Happy munching!

Beast

A few weeks ago I went to Beast for brunch with Cynthia. We sat on the patio and drank premium roast coffee from Kenya. Beast’s menu features a rotating assortment of coffees chosen by the chef who is a coffee connoisseur. If you are a coffee drinker, come to Beast. Your coffee won’t be an overlooked part of your brunch menu. As someone who isn’t much of a coffee drinker it was nice to be given a specific type of coffee based on what type of coffee I can handle – light, medium or dark. Although I prefer a lighter roast coffee, I opted for the medium roasted coffee of the day since the other two choices featured pecans and peanuts.

Cynthia ordered the Beastwich. IMG_0768The Beastwich with a buttermilk biscuit, fried chicken thigh, pimento cheese, a fried egg, pork sausage gravy and house potatoes.

The chicken was crispy and juicy. The meal as a whole was very thick and heavy. This is standard for this type of breakfast, they typically sink like a brick in your stomach and you don’t need to eat until late afternoon. We both thought that something zesty or some greens on the side would have been nice for presentation and would have lighten the plate slightly. This dish is not for the faint of heart.

I ordered the Huevos Rancheros.

IMG_0766 IMG_0767The Huevos Rancheros with 2 crispy corn tortillas, Mexican-style chorizo, bean salad, avocado purée, tomato-red chile sauce, sheep’s milk feta and 2 sunny side up eggs served with house potatoes.

I will always be tempted by huevos rancheros when it is on a menu. Although this was good, it is not my favourite huevos rancheros – that I am crediting to the bite I had of Cynthia’s from SCHOOL. It wasn’t the best thing to order off the menu (despite the server’s suggestions) as it did not feature enough of Beast’s specialty: its meat.

The tortillas were very crunchy with an earthy corn taste. The avocado was smooth and silky, topped with an assortment of beans that were nutty and grainy, a lovely contrast in textures. I did not love the taste or texture of the chorizo. I prefer my chorizo to resemble the actual sausage, rather than it having a granular texture. It was mixed with too many vegetables to be appreciated. It did not have the amount of spice and heat that is necessary in a delicious chorizo sausage. If the chorizo sausage had been different, I would have enjoyed this dish as a whole even more. It was the low point for me. However, there was ample heat from the tomato-red chile sauce and I gave my dish a healthy sprinkling of the various hot sauces that were brought to the table. The eggs were runny and creamy, especially when they oozed into the fresh goat’s cheese. Yums.

This was tasty, but not my favourite “meat heavy” restaurant in Toronto. It was worth the visit and was made better by the company but it will not become a regular brunch spot for me.

Happy munching!

Chili Con Carne with Garlic Cheddar Biscuits

Every great cook has their own chili recipe. Growing up chili was a staple in our house. Everyone loves chili. Except for me. I don’t like kidney beans. I don’t like their fleshy, grainy textures, their hard exterior or their slightly woody flavour. Because of this, I rarely eat chili. But, unfortunately, I live with someone who loves with chili.

In flipping through the pages of my trusty Williams-Sonoma Soup of the Day I discovered a recipe for Chili Con Carne which, to my delight, does not have kidney beans!!! I know this is something I should have probably known as I claim to love food but I didn’t.

photo 2This is the best chili ever! Huge chunks of tender, juicy meat, spicy and sweet peppers and a mix of amazing spices: chili powder, cumin, coriander and cilantro. It has a great Tex-Mex flavour to it. This chili has a rich, deep flavour and gives off an amazing aroma. It had such an intense smell that a vegetarian coworker admitted how good it smelt! I think if a meat-based meal can make a vegetarian admit that it smells and looks good, then you have a classic, make-again recipe.

And of course, what is chili without biscuits?

photo 1(2)photo 5(1)I made these biscuits as a Sunday morning, stay-in brunch, served with my fluffy scrambled eggs and prosciutto. They are best eaten day of, warm and flaky from the oven. The combination of cheddar, butter and green onion cannot be matched. This is another classic, make-again recipe.

I stumbled across two recipes that are easy and work perfectly together. Both are below the cut – happy munching!

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#16 – Barque

A few weekends ago we went for brunch at #16 on BlogTO’s brunch list, buy cialis Barque. We arrived before the doors opened at 10 am and were quickly seated at a roomy, medicine high table for 4; this was a much better brunch experience then our first failed attempt to eat here.

We had wanted to start off with an herbed cheddar biscuit each, but unfortunately, the biscuits were not ready yet. We would have to enjoy the biscuits after our meals would come. I had no problem with this because it meant we got to enjoy our biscuits fresh and piping from the oven. However, if you are a smokehouse/Southern- style restaurant that serves brunch, people are going to want biscuits and these should be ready before your doors open.

IMG_4955The biscuits, when they did come, were delicious and I highly recommend them to everyone. It was buttery, and flaky but still dense. It had perfect dots of herbs and cheddar throughout. The butter was a thing onto itself: it was sweet but savoury and had citrus flavours to it. I would like to spread this butter onto everything I eat.

GC ordered the Fried Chicken Thigh sandwich, and I ordered the Barque Benedict.

Barque - BrunchTop: Fried Chicken Thigh sandwich with baconnaise, cheddar, romaine, and pickled fennel.
Bottom: Barque Benedict with smoked brisket.

This eggs Benedict was ridiculous and incredible. Instead of a traditional base of an English muffin, the eggs sat on a firm, moist bed of cornbread. I have never been one for cornbread, finding the texture too gritty, but this was not your average cornbread. It was smooth, moist and dense. The eggs were poached with oozing, runny centers and had a slight vinegar taste to them, the way good poached eggs should taste. The hollandaise sauce was lemony but had hints of sweetness from barbeque sauce, bringing this hollandaise to an unparalleled level. This is easily one of the best and most unique Benedicts I have ever had.

GC liked his sandwich, but wasn’t as in awe as I was with my breakfast. He said the chicken was a little too crispy, being burnt in some parts but was still good.

Another Sunday, another brunch, another restaurant off the list.

Happy munching!

Stockyards Brunch

Today for brunch GC and I went to Stockyards.

Deciding where to go for breakfast/lunch/brunch was a challenge today. I had to be downtown by 12:30 to meet up with some friends for a Blue Jays game and we didn’t want to go to the old standard places. We looked to Toronto Life and BlogTO for brunch suggestions but the problem with that was it seems like a large number of the suggestions are in Roncesvalles or Leslieville. This is a problem for us because we don’t live anywhere near all these delicious places in these emerging neighbourhoods. Eventually we decided on an old standard which is en route to downtown – Stockyards.

GC ordered the Biscuits with Sausage Gravy.

House baked buttermilk biscuits, smothered with house sage sausage black pepper pan gravy and soft scrambled eggs. I didn’t get a picture of the sausage gravy – it came in a separate container and to be honest, looked slightly disgusting. The scrambled eggs were like how I make my scrambled eggs – creamy and not overdone, with a touch of herbs. The biscuit was light, airy and full of pockets of butter. I would like to eat about 6 of these biscuits in a row. The sausage gravy. Why is this a thing? And by why is this thing I mean I am glad that this is a thing. Huge pieces of sausage and the gravy was thick, so thick that it was almost not even a gravy.

I ordered the Fried Chicken and Waffles.

Fried chicken over Belgian waffles with chili maple molasses citrus glaze. O. My. God. Stockyards found a way to make their amazing fried chicken even better. I don’t know how I didn’t know about fried chicken and waffles. My first introduction to the concept of chicken and waffle was when I watched Kate Winslet’s Mildred Pierce. I thought the idea was so strange and I couldn’t understand how this was even a thing. But strangely enough, today when I was looking at the menu I just had to order it. And thank god I did. This is one of the best things I have ever eaten. The chicken was sweet, salty and crispy. The waffles had herbs in them which made them more savoury than sweet. I think these waffles would be great with sour cream. The molasses tied the entire meal together. It was sweet but not overpowering, the chili added a subtle spice to the dish and everything was fresh and citrus. There was rosemary sprinkled on top of everything.

We got our food as take out and we ate at the picnic tables at Wychwood Barns. A perfect Sunday brunch.