Coffee

For a long time there was a common misconception that I didn’t like coffee: I don’t drink coffee every morning, I don’t own a coffee maker and my hot beverage of choice is tea.

IMG_3395Latte from Buds Coffee Bar in The Beaches.

IMG_5154Latte from Sorry Coffee Co. in Yorkville.

When I was in high school and everyone was starting to drink coffee, I made a conscious decision to not become a coffee drinker. I didn’t want to become reliant on coffee. I didn’t want to wake up and be a zombie until I had a cup of coffee. I would enjoy the sugar-packed, whipped cream covered coffees from Starbucks on late night coffee dates with the girls but no other coffee.

IMG_3422Flat White from Early Bird Espresso & Brew Bar on Queen West.

IMG_5219Americano from Portland Variety on King West.

In university I spent hours in Second Cup but again, not drinking coffee. Al worked at Second Cup and would fill espresso cups with whipped cream, caramel sauce and chocolate shavings – if and when I get diabetes, I will clearly point to events like this. Coffee was still a vehicle for ridiculous, sugary toppings and not about the coffee itself.

IMG_3435Latte and cranberry scone from I Deal Coffee, uptown.

My love for coffee began with my love of brunch. I switched from orange juice to coffee in order to take advantage of free refills and longer brunches. One cup of coffee slowly turned into two or three and sometimes even coffee before brunches.

IMG_3590Latte and biscotti from Fabricca at Shops at Don Mills.

In 2015 my brunch habits changed. It wasn’t financially viable or healthy to continue with my excessive brunching ways. While I still brunch more than most people, I have taken to going for coffee on weekend mornings with Giancarlo. We are discovering the city, grabbing coffee and visiting different neighbourhoods.

IMG_3920Chai latte from Boxcar Social in Summerhill.

IMG_5388Latte and empanadas from Odin Hus on King East.

Anyone who knows me, knows I don’t go east of Yonge. But lately, you can find me there on weekends. The East side of Toronto has so many more coffee shops and the coffee shops are not all clean, simple and modern. They future coffees brewed with local blends and treats that go beyond your typical scones and croissants. They are big, lofty spaces, conducive to long sits alone or with someone.

IMG_5486Flat white for him and chai latte for me from Boxcar Social in Riverside.

IMG_5430Flat White from Crafted Coffee on Ossington Avenue.

We are working on our coffee game at home. We have the traditional Italian Moka machine and a larger espresso maker. We are making espressos and lattes. I want to take a latte art course and buy a coffee bean grinder to make the freshest coffees. I want to perfect my biscotti recipe (actually, find a biscotti recipe and make it my own) and constantly have some sort of treat to accompany a good cup of coffee. I want our house to be the type of house where people can randomly drop by and there will be coffee and pastries/desserts to be enjoyed.

IMG_5492My relationship with coffee has revealed how great coffee can be. Coffee can be sipped from a huge mug while snuggled on the couch with a good book. An espresso can be enjoyed in the backyard in the summer while looking on to a homegrown tomato garden. A latte can be clutched while strolling in and out of vintage shops on Queen West or Queen East.

The city can be discovered through good cups of coffee.

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!

Pain Perdu

Last Saturday we went with GC’s parents to Pain Perdu on St Clair Avenue West for a birthday brunch – yes, another birthday celebration for me. I promise this is the last post related to my birthday. And soon I will actually start talking about other peoople’s birthdays!

We have been to Pain Perdu countless times and it is a great spot. If you have not yet been after hearing me sing its praises, I suggest you go. It is a cute French-style bistro with baguettes, croissants and other French yums. We sat at a pair of tables right next to the window looking onto St. Clair so all my pictures are sun kissed.

I started off with a bowl of latte.

How much more European can you get than a bowl of milky, frothy latte? This could have a stronger espresso flavour but I’m used to lattes made by Italians. There is something so comforting about having to hug a bowl this big and keep it close to you with every sip. I would like to buy some coffee bowls for my house.

GC’s parents and I order Croque Monsieurs.

A croque monsieur is a French grilled cheese with ham and Gruyere or Emmental. I love croque monsieur and even more, croque madame (with an egg on top) but it can be tricky to find a good one. I have yet to find one in Toronto so if you know a place that can do this successfully, you will have to let me know. This was good, but not great. The problem is this sandwich is made early in the morning, and then is reheated when ordered. This sandwich is loaded with cheese but is not creamy, gooey or moist due to the reheating. The ham was flaky and there was a lot of it. The sandwich did have plenty of crunch to it though. I liked the little gherkins on the side. Their acidity cut the richness of all the cheese.

I would not order this sandwich again.  Next time I would stick to the quiches and the breads.

GC ordered a slice of quiche.

Every day they have approximately 6 different quiches you can buy slices, or halves from and you have the option to buy whole quiches as well. This is a slice of bacon and onion quiche. There is probably more to it then that but quiches are always simple – a few ingredients on a delicious egg base. The quiche is slightly expensive: per slice it is $6 which isn’t too bad but a whole quiche runs you upwards of $30. For a quiche loaded with expensive French cheese that would be a steal but for a quiche with simple, inexpensive ingredients you aren’t always getting your money’s worth. Make sure to get a quiche that would run you more to make at home then it would to buy at Pain Perdu.

GC also ordered a croissant. The croissants have become slightly smaller in the past few months, and the taste is slightly different, but they are still flaky, buttery and delicious. I haven’t tried a croissant in Toronto that I like more then this one, but my comparisons are limited to chains like Starbucks and Tim Hortons (blasphemy, obviously) and Frangipane Patisserie, which I haven’t been to in years. This is clearly needs to change.

When you visit Pain Perdu, stay for a light breakfast or take it to go and enjoy it in a neighbouring park. The options are endless but I would recommend a latte, a slice of quiche and a croissant.

Happy munching!