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!

Windup Bird Cafe

Months and months ago when we ate brunch every weekend and it was warm and sunny, we went to Windup Bird Cafe. This restaurant is super cute. It is brightly painted, has a wooden bar, exposed brick and sleek metal accents. There is a cute patio facing Borden Street with potted plants and brightly coloured plastic chairs. Although the patio was inviting, we opted for a spacious booth at the back of the restaurants. We were the only ones in the restaurant. We viewed this as intimate but it is always concerning when a restaurant is deserted at brunch.

The menu is very unique, focusing largely on fusion and fresh, seasonal ingredients. The restaurant is very active with its programming – offering cooking classes, talks and seminars.These programs cover a range of topics from making sushi to food literacy. It’s great to see that kind of active fostering of a food community in Toronto.

GC ordered the Fried Chicken and Waffles.

IMG_1398The Chicken and Waffles with deep-fried chicken karage, roast potatoes and seasonal veg.

I’m not going to lie – it’s rather disappointing that the waffles are not perfectly round. The piece of chicken was a little small but it was tasty. Karage is a Japanese cooking technique where meat is marinated soy sauce, garlic and ginger and then coated and fried. There is subtle, underlying umami flavours.

I ordered the Smoked Salmon Benny.IMG_1399The Smoked Salmon Benny with avocado, spinach, and house hollandaise.

I am seldom of the opinion that eggs Benny should be healthy, but this was yummy. It was light and fresh, tasting of spring. The hollandaise was buttery and spicy, with tastes of dijon. This is a very adult take on the Benny and would be perfect for an Easter brunch.

I’m not into kale salad as a side for my brunch. Brunch should be served with potatoes, toast and any other type of carbohydrate. There is no room for salad at brunch.

After a delicious brunch, we headed north to check out the Cheltenham Badlands. The Badlands are easily one of the coolest place in Ontario I’ve had the opportunity to check out and I would highly recommend it if you live in the area. Indie88 (do we view them as an authority on travel?) recently named it one of Canada’s 10 Underrated Landmarks.

IMG_1403 IMG_1405 IMG_1414 IMG_1422IMG_1409IMG_1410IMG_1416 IMG_1423Happy munching and hiking!

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!

Swan Restaurant

After our failed attempt of yoga at Canoe Landing Park, we opted to try a new class. This time we tried yoga at Trinity-Bellwoods Park. This was much better. The class was under a beautifully shaded area of grass, with soft music and was at a much slower, relaxing, stretching pace. And even better: Trinity-Bellwoods is in a prime brunch location. After a full hour of yoga we went for brunch at Swan Restaurant.

Swan Restaurant is your typical retro diner: bar stools, booths and vintage music but with a fancier, slight more upscale menu. The menu was impressive which was intriguing. It went beyond your regular brunch items and even had seafood! I would have never thought I could get freshly shucked oysters at a diner.

I ordered the Hangtown Fry.

IMG_1278The Hangtown Fry with smoked oysters and pancetta egg scramble.

Tip: when ordering a menu item with seafood you should probably look at the price and consider if you will actually receive a substantial amount of seafood. When something is $9.00 and has oysters, you are not going to have a substantial amount of seafood.

This was a disappointment. Obviously there were not a lot of oysters in this scramble. Can we even call this a scramble? It’s more of a sad not fluffy omelet. The pancetta was crispy, salty and the high point of the scramble.

After doing an hour of yoga I think I deserved something a little greaser, a little fattier and a lot yummier.

GC ordered the Monte Cristo.

IMG_1275This was the special of the day and that’s all I have to say about that. It was similar to my scramble in that it was boring, not very flavourful and did not use fresh ingredients in large quantities.

As you can tell we weren’t overly impressed with our experience at Swan Restaurant. It was diner food trying to be a bit too upscale and not succeeding at it. The highlight of that morning was the yoga which for me was truly baffling. The day that I prefer fitness to brunch is a day that should be noted and remembered. I may not have found a new favourite restaurant but I found a new exercise.

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!!

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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!

 

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!