George St. Diner

THE F WORD

A diner in Toronto that Daniel Radcliffe has been to? Yes, case please! Ok, click I shouldn’t act like I have an undying love for Dan Rad because I don’t, drugs but I do try and consciously follow his career and support his films so he doesn’t tragically become they guy who played Harry Potter and did nothing else. And I didn’t go to the George St. Diner because it is featured in The F Word, but because it serves up great brunch.

My experience at George St. Diner was everything Ok Ok wasn’t. It was why I should go to the East end of Toronto. It is why I should go for brunch. It was why I should order huevos rancheros any time it’s on a menu.

The day we went to the George St. Diner, it wasn’t our first choice. We had tried to go to Le Petit Dejeuner but it had an insane line-up and it was January. I don’t wait in line for brunch ever, let alone when it is cold outside. We wandered over to the George St. Diner and were quickly seated at the bar on stools overlooking the open kitchen. This restaurant had a very similar vibe to Ok Ok but for some reason, it seemed more classic and less dated.

There is no menu, just ordering off the ever changing sandwich board which does feature the diner’s staples and favourites like the Irish soda bread. GC ordered the Breakfast Hash on Irish soda bread.

IMG_2998I ordered the Huevos Rancheros.

IMG_2996 IMG_2997YES. Now this is what I am talking about. The eggs were scrambled fluffy and light. The cheese melted over top of the eggs nicely. The chorizo was a house made sausage and it was easily one of the best sausages I have ever eaten. It was spicy and the meat was well-ground. There were no hard or crunchy pieces of meat or fat that can completely ruin a sausage. The guacamole was smooth and had the right kick of cilantro and was not overpowered with a soapy flavour. The beans added a nutty, smoky flavour to the dish. I loved that everything was spread on the plate making it more so a platter style of huevos rancheros and you could vary each bite with the provided pita.

I loved my breakfast at George St. Diner and would definitely go back if I was in the area but I wouldn’t make the trek just for its huevos.

After our brunch, we headed over to do some axe throwing for my friend Ashley’s birthday. It was a great afternoon of beer, pulled pork and axes, followed by some homemade butter tarts for the birthday girl!

IMG_299410906137_10153093160222074_7211436091395471900_nHappy munching!

The Tavern by Trevor

Back when it was bitterly cold in February we went for brunch at The Tavern by Trevor.

Processed with VSCOcam with f2 presetThe Tavern is a contemporary restaurant at Spadina and Queen. There is concrete floors, wooden tables with expansive bench seating and large mirrors making the restaurant seem twice the size it is. We sat near the bar, at a high table with bench seating. As it was a bitterly cold day, we were one of two tables. Apparently not everyone is crazy like me and needs to go for brunch when it is -40 with the windchill.

We ordered coffees and then I ordered the Lobster Benedict.

IMG_3191The Lobster Benedict with double smoked bacon, kale and béarnaise sauce.

This is both a fancy and comforting dish. The lobster brings your standard Benedict up a notch but the use of béarnaise rather than hollandaise gives this dish the rustic, French taste to it. The lobster is buttery and flaky, playing up the butteriness in the béarnaise sauce. The béarnaise is slightly different than hollandaise; it is filled with delicate herb flavours, that taste like a fresh spring day, rather than that hit of lemon.

The kale needed to be cooked slightly longer to give it a bit more tenderness and to remove the acrid, bitter taste. This is why spinach works better on benedicts and breakfast sandwiches: it is naturally tender, sweet and retains a slightly crunch necessary in all sandwiches.

GC ordered the BBLT.IMG_3192The BBLT with Canadian bacon, double smoked bacon, a fried egg, avocado and lemon aioli.

This sandwich is genius. Why limit a BLT to one type of bacon when you can be ridiculous and add two types? It is brunch after all. The sandwich is smoky, fatty, buttery and juicy. The two layers of bacon create a fatty base to the sandwich. The egg is buttery and creamy. The avocado, tomato and arugula add a brightness to the sandwich that on a bitter cold day make you dream of spring. The lemon aioli adds another layer of freshness and tartness.

GC ordered a side of home fries.

IMG_3193

The sage and thyme home fries with red pepper mayo.

The home fries are crispy, sweet and bright with herb flavours. The red pepper mayo adds a bit of spice and is the perfect dipping sauce for these buttery, salty cubes. My criticism is that sandwiches should come with sides and that I shouldn’t have to order them separately.

And of course, if people are ordering side, then I am going to order a side of chorizo.IMG_3194I have a weakness for chorizo. If I see it on a menu, on it’s own or in a dish, I am that much more likely to order it. It is the perfect side to order with any brunch menu, especially after something light like the lobster Benedict. The chorizo added a spicy punch that my brunch was missing that morning. I loved that the chorizo was topped with fresh cut green onions. The onions add a little crunch and pepperiness.

I enjoyed my brunch at The Tavern. It is slightly upscale without being fussy or pretentious. The menu is full of classic brunch items with new twists that are not too difficult to wrap your hear around. Is it my favourite in the city? No. Will I go back? Probably not but I would recommend it.

Happy munching!

Mata Petisco Bar

My latest list of brunch suggestions I am working from is BlogTO’s Top 25 New Brunch in Toronto by Neighbourhood. There is some overlap between this list and their Best New Brunch Restaurants in Toronto, 2014 but what I like about this list is by organizing it by neighbourhood, you can plan a whole day in a new neighbourhood and start it with brunch. And as we all know, brunch, not breakfast is the most important meal of the day.

A few weeks ago, we headed to Parkdale to check out Mata Petisco Bar.

Processed with VSCOcam with g3 presetMata is a Brazilian restaurant that serves both brunch and dinner, combining the flavours of Brazil with Spanish and Portuguese food. The atmosphere is South American industrial/cozy: natural materials, industrial siding, custom lighting, antique tiles and beer posters. It has the trappings of a dive bar but in stylistic and hipster way.

We were seated at a table with banquette seating on one side and brightly coloured chairs on the other side. Vintage cartoons were being projected on the wall and paired with coffee, this was the perfect grownup Saturday morning.

At the table is an assortment of pickled peppers and hot sauces. Mata orders different varieties of chili peppers from Brazil and South America and then pickle them in house. From the pickled peppers they make their own hot sauces. The hot sauces and peppers range from a touch of pepper to your face will be on fire. Learning that Mata puts the time and attention to detail into their condiments made me very excited to taste what else they had one offer.

We started with an order of Croquettes.

FullSizeRenderCroquettes served with a cumari pepper aioli.

These are delicious! They taste exactly like the croquettes we had in Portugal. The fish was flaky, light and buttery and the outside is fried to give you the most satisfying crunch with every bite. The cumari pepper aioli is slightly sweet with a slow burn that gradually builds as you munch. If you don’t like heat, you will like this aioli.

GC ordered Chorizo Breakfast Sandwich.IMG_3490The Chorizo Breakfast Sandwich with grilled chorizo, scrambled eggs, malagueta pepper aioli, mozzarella, arugula, and served with salad and cassava frites.

This is a delicious sandwich but it is slightly on the small side. The main component of a dish should not be overwhelmed by the sides.

The chorizo is spicy and juicy. The pepper aioli adds another level of spice that compliments the chorizo and rounds out the flavour across the entire sandwich. The mozzarella adds a creamy, buttery taste to the sandwich. The arugula adds a crisp tartiness and freshness to finish off the sandwich.

I ordered the Smoked Beef Cheek Benedict and obviously I ordered a side of chorizo.IMG_3492The Smoked Beef Cheek Benedict with brioche, poached eggs, hollandaise, and served with salad and cassava frites.

The chorizo is great. It is spicy and peppery and completely juicy. Even though it is sliced throughout to aid in the cooking process, it is not dried out. There is the hint of charring on each incision, giving that taste of summer so easily associated with barbeque. It is easily comparable to the sausages we ate in Spain last fall.

This is one of the best Benedicts I have had. The brioche is airy and buttery, but substantially sliced. The beef cheek is tender, moist and has so much flavour with each bite. It is seasoned, peppery and a little sweet. The eggs ooze all over the beautiful pile of meat and bread they sit on and blend with the lemony hollandaise as they pool together over everything.

Cassava frites are a thing of beauty in their own right. Cassava has a grainy texture, similar to a parsnip, creating an earthy, rustic texture that gives the entire dish a more home-cooked feel. The cassava adds a level of authenticity to the dish.

Mata has classic brunch dishes with a South American flare to them. It goes beyond your regular menu adaptation and brings you something truly, unique, something you won’t find at any other restaurant in the city. I would highly recommend going, ordering some coffee and chorizo, and enjoying the vintage cartoons.

Restaurant Tacular

Last week the Mount Pleasant BIA hosted Restaurant Tacular – a tasting event that featured restaurants along Mount Pleasant Road between Davisville and Eglinton. Each restaurant was serving a selection appetizer sized tasting plates for $2, $4, or $6. I checked out Restaurant Tacular with Al.

1. We walked up Mount Pleasant to check out what restaurants were available to us. This event was very poorly advertised – most of the businesses along Mount Pleasant had signs for the event but not all were participating. This was the only information regarding the event. I think there should have been representatives from the BIA giving information/maps out so people could tell which restaurants were participating. There also should have been a list of the tasting plates that would be available at each of the restaurants. This would have required more organization and volunteers but it would have created a more successful event.

2. The first store we went to was Cheese Emporium. This is a cheese shop I have always wanted to visit but just have never gotten around to. They have a huge selection of cheeses and they were offering a chunk of stinky French cheese for $6. We didn’t get the cheese because it would have melted in our purses and that wouldn’t have been enjoyable. I can also go here any time and buy myself some cheese. Despite this, I think it’s great that the BIA got stores involved as well – see where your fresh product comes from before a restaurant turns it into tasty dinner.

3. Our second stop was Granite Brewery.

Granite Brewery has been in Toronto for 20 years. We both ordered 3 chicken wings with Granite BBQ sauce and a 3 oz taster of Ringwood Ale.

The BBQ sauce was spicy and sweet, with a hint of beer. The wings weren’t meaty and plump but these were wings that were actually more about the sauce than the wings themselves. The beer was light and sweet, it was similar to Alexander Keith’s. This little taste was enough to make me want to go back. This brewery has quality beer and tasty food – the perfect combination.

4. Our next stop was The Flaky Tart. I ordered the vanilla custard tart topped with strawberries and Al ordered two chocolate cupcakes with vanilla icing. The custard was creamy and light, with a strong vanilla flavour. The strawberries were fresh and bright. I plan to go back and try some more of their tasty desserts.

5. Next was Culinarium. Culinarium was one of the few restaurants that actually had someone outside serving the food and had balloons to draw foot traffic into the restaurant. They were serving a deconstructed salad comprised of peas, strawberries, and mint topped with a toasted crostini and a slice of Parmesan cheese.

I don’t know how I feel about this. It wasn’t really in a format that was convenient for eating by hand. The flavours were fresh and tasted like summer but it was slightly too sweet. The strawberries and the peas were nice compliments to one another but I hate peas. This was unique, fresh and different and it got me curious for what else Culinarium has to offer.

6. Next was Spanish style tapas from Pimenton. This restaurant was a cross between a grocery store, a caterer and a restaurant – one-stop shop for Spanish and Mediterranean food.

We each got three individual tasters – leek flatbread (this is how I am referring to it, there was a beautiful Spanish name associated with them that I have promptly forgotten), a chorizo flatbread and croquettes. The flat breads were crispy and a perfect combination between fresh, summer flavours, and fat, meaty goodness. The croquette was crispy and was potato based. As we were leaving the store there was a huge pot outside the store where they were making fresh paella.

Seeing this being made killed me – it was going to be ready in an hour but we didn’t wait. Everything in the skillet looked gorgeous and fresh and THOSE WHOLE LOBSTER BODIES. I should have waited the hour for this. I could have stood near the skillet and just absorbed all the smells and colours of the skillet. Great Spanish style food, the place had so much personality and the staff was friendly and excited about everything to do with food. I’m craving this food again, particularly the paella, which I didn’t even try. I didn’t realize you could crave food you’ve never eaten before.

7. Our last stop for Restaurant Tacular was some palete cleansing gelato from Il Gelatiere.

I got two flavours – peach and of course, lemon. The peach had all the real flavour of a perfect, August peach but did not have the feeling of licking a sweater. And lemon is always perfection. This is another one of the city’s great gelato places and is worth checking out.

8. On the way back to the subway we passed through the Apple Tree Market at June Rowlands Park. This farmers’ market had an assortment of fresh produce, honeys, jams, baked goods and meat. This is a fantastic farmers market. I bought fresh cherries and rhubarb – the rhubarb was literally picked 6 hours before I bought it. The great thing about Toronto is there are so many different farmers’ markets throughout the city on all days of the week so you can buy fresh, local, organic produce constantly.

This was a great opportunity to discover an area of Toronto that I wouldn’t be immediately drawn to. I got to try a few different restaurants and a farmers’ market that has beautiful produce and other goods. Do not be deterred by location – this area of Mount Pleasant is a five minute walk from Davisville Station. Another neighbourhood to discover, taste and love.

Happy munching!