Café Neon

My first brunch of 2016 was at Café Neon, health a restaurant listed by BlogTO as one of the best new brunch places of 2015.

Café Neon is a long, case narrow restaurant on West Queen West that is essentially a coffee shop taking it up a notch and serving food beyond scones and pastries. The interior features cozy tables and tiny booths. There is a large counter located near the front of the restaurant to order various coffees and espresso-based drinks from. The restaurant has a very coffee-house vibe to it: cozy, intimate, with eclectic art and design.

There is actual tableside service which is not always the case with restaurants serving more than coffee. Our server was energetic and excited about their menu which in turn, made us very excited. We hemmed and hawed over the menu and then with prodding from the server I ordered the Eggs Benny.

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IMG_5338The Eggs Benny with two poached eggs and smoked pulled pork on a scone with béarnaise sauce, salad greens and potatoes. Continue reading

Lisa Marie

What is the only way to make my favourite meal better? Add some of my favourite people. A few weeks ago we went for brunch to Lisa Marie with Le Faz and Jamie.

Before we arrived, I was already in love. We had stumbled across another brunch place that takes reservations. Squeezing in two people for brunch is no problem but four can get tricky. When it comes to brunch, I like rules, regulations and order. Abiding by these things ensures that I get tasty food quickly. When we arrived, we learned we didn’t need reservations, the restaurant didn’t fill up until we were leaving. Oh well.

The restaurant is hip and simple. The walls are painted with various Elvis murals and of course, there is an Elvis bust behind the bar. The seating is a combination of bar seating, high tables and regular tables with benches. Overall, the restaurant is sleek and modern with the right hint of hipster pretension.

GC ordered the Bacon Explosion Benedict.

IMG_2562Two smoked and grilled bacon explosion patties topped with 2 poached eggs, jalapeño hollandaise sauce and served on brioche bread with a side of Dijon and duck fat home fries.

Obviously someone at the table had to order something that had two types of bacon weaved together into a thick, heart-stopping patty. GC wolfed this down so I did not get a taste but I will take that as a good indication of it’s deliciousness and quality. The only criticism was that the bun was significantly larger than the pork patties but this is probably a good thing. We don’t want GC dying prematurely before 30.

Le Faz ordered the Double Pancake Pork Burger.

IMG_2564Double stacked 4oz pork burgers with pancake buns, lettuce, American cheese and secret sauce with a side of maple syrup.

Jamie and I ordered the Fried Cornish Hen and Corn Bread Waffles.

IMG_2563 IMG_2565Old school battered and fried hen with corn bread jalapeño waffle. Comes with maple syrup and hot sauce. Top with a side of Dijon and duck fat fries, below with a side of pad Thai fries.

Holy yums. Chicken and waffles has become my new favourite brunch item. When I go for brunch I like to order things I won’t make at home and this dish perfectly fits that description.

I loved that instead of the traditional chicken, it was switched up with Cornish hen. It is the perfect size and lends itself so well to being deep fried because it is so tiny and doesn’t take long to crisp up. It was salty, juicy and tender. With a smaller bird, comes more bones which are a slight irritation that can be overlooked when deep fried and smothered in syrup.

The waffle was appropriately sized and didn’t dwarf the already tiny bird. I was happy with the amount of waffle that was included, anything else would have looked ridiculous on the plate and I wouldn’t have been able to finish. This is the best flavoured waffle I have had. The corn bread made the waffle dense and substantial and paired naturally with the jalapeño. The jalapeño added the right amount of spice and flavour without overpowering the waffle and the hen.

This was a delicious brunch and I want to go back for more! Happy munching!

Hey! Restaurant

At the end of July (oh.my.god) I went to Hey! Restaurant with Theresa and GC. Hey! is a cozy, rustic restaurant in Ronscevalles with a farmhouse kitchen vibe to it. It has that annoying trait that Hey! Meatball also has where you order at the counter and then you sit. I’m not into that. I am not at McDonald’s or a high school cafeteria, please take my order at my table. We sat at the back of the restaurant overlooking the kitchen which in the July heat was a terrible idea but I love watching other people cook.

I ordered the Peter Peameal with peameal, lettuce, tomato jam and a fried egg with balsamic mustard on bread.

GC ordered the Sammy Sausage.

IMG_1078The Sammy Sausage with scrambled eggs, sausage, onion and aioli on a bun.

The sandwiches were good but not my favourite. The buns were slightly too firm making it difficult to bite into and get a proper mouthful of sandwich. There was not enough inside the sandwich for how much bread there was. The condiments were good which is not surprising. When you walk into the restaurant there are shelves upon shelves of pickled things which make tasty sandwich toppings.

The sides were underwhelming and in limited quantity.

Theresa ordered the pancakes.

IMG_1081The pancakes with whipped cream, maple syrup and fruit compote.

Theresa said these pancakes were good. They did not fall victim to the misfortune that most big pancakes fall to of being undercooked in the middle. They were fluffy and cooked throughout. The fruit compote was the perfect balance of sweet and tart, the perfect pancake topping.

Hey! specializes in sandwiches and I was less than impressed with their offerings. As The Ace and Cafe Polonez are close to this restuarant I don’t think I will be eating there again any time soon.

Happy munching!

Barque

Over the July long weekend, I went to Barque with GC and my sister Theresa. Theresa told us stories of her recent trip to Washington, D.C. and her role in the June provincial election and we ate and listened. I chose Barque because Theresa had never been and I knew it would more then make up for my recent experience at Wallace & Co.

My only complaint about this visit to Barque was that when we were seated, the hostess said that they needed the table in an hour. My response to her was that the success of that was predicated on their service and speed. An hour is more than enough time to enjoy brunch especially if the servers and kitchen are working well together. I have had a few issues with the hosts at Barque. They always give me attitude while seating me, as if I am an inconvenience because I want to eat there. I am willing to overlook these minor run-ins because the food is so delicious.

Theresa and I ordered the Smoked Duck Pancakes.

IMG_0846 IMG_0847 IMG_0848 IMG_0849The Smoked Duck Pancakes with blueberry compote and chèvre.

This is the dish on the cover of Toronto Life’s 2014 Eating and Drinking issue and therefore, there are huge expectations for the taste and presentation of this dish. When it was brought to the table, I was in awe: a huge stack of piping hot and fluffy pancakes topped with blueberry compote and a generous mess of duck dolloped with a thick, creamy scoop of chevre and then drizzled with syrup. Does it get much better than that? This is one of the more beautiful stacks of pancakes that I have been presented with and I’ll admit it is a daunting stack.

The pancakes were sweet, fluffy and held up to all the intense weight that was stacked on top of them. The blueberry compote was sugary, thick and dotted with fresh, real blueberries.

The duck. It was Theresa’s first taste of duck. I love being with people the first time they try a new food. To see that anticipation, excitement and look of satisfaction makes me so incredibly happy. I just want everyone to eat good food as much as possible and I love when I can facilitate that experience. The duck was tender, pull-apart and extremely juicy. It was smoky and added an intense, over-the-top (in a delicious way) richness to this stack. If you have never had duck, this is a great introduction to it. If you hate duck, this dish will change your mind about it. If you love duck, this dish will make you fall in love all over again.

I love, love, love chèvre. It is creamy, smooth, thick and salty. It is the perfect topping for blueberry pancakes. The chèvre was enough salty contrast to balance the entire dish and ensure that it was not cloyingly sweet. It also complimented the salty, fattiness of the duck. Yums.

GC ordered the McDowell’s Ribwich.

IMG_0845The McDowell’s Ribwich with roast garlic mayo, house relish, romaine, and green apple.

Does it get better than a Ribwich? I didn’t think so. Like our pancakes, this dish delivered in flavour, presentation and overall deliciousness. Another yums from Barque.

We already loved Barque and now Theresa does too! If you don’t have brunch plans this weekend, you should probably visit Barque. And if you are busy all weekend, rearrange your schedule, it’s worth the munch.

Happy munching!

Lemon Ricotta Pancakes

IMG_5558Pancake Tuesday has come and gone and but we never talked about it. On Pancake Tuesday we did your typical big breakfast: chocolate chip pancakes, scrambled eggs, toast, orange juice and breakfast. As I can’t have proper breakfast most days, I usually have either cereal or oatmeal, this was the perfect way to satisfy all my breakfast cravings. This has sparked our trend of having breakfast for dinner. It is simple, fast and filling.

On the following Sunday we took regular pancakes up a notch and I made lemon ricotta pancakes with blueberry compote. I had high hopes for these pancakes and was unfortunately disappointed. The ricotta is moist and heavy and therefore the pancakes aren’t your typical light and fluffy pancakes. I will admit that I used icing sugar instead of baking soda. Yes, that’s right. I made that kind of mistake. A few weeks ago we had issues with mice and now everything is in unmarked plastic containers. I have since tasted everything and written clear labels to avoid more flat pancakes.

The lemon and ricotta work nicely together and would taste delicious together in something else. And it goes without saying, blueberries and lemon are best friends and should always be together.

Recipe is below the cut – happy munching!

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Birthday Brunch – Café Polonez

To celebrate my birthday with my family, healing we went for brunch. We tried to go to Barque but of course, being Sunday brunch it was packed. The hostess was extremely rude – when we entered we were blatantly ignored for several minutes. When we asked if we could have a table for six, she looked around and said with attitude that they did not have a table for that many. I had to prompt her to tell us how long the wait time would be, which was 45 minutes to an hour. No thanks. GC and I will brave the Barque crowd for Sunday brunch when it is just the two of us.

Since we were in Ronscevalles, we headed down the street to enjoy some food at Café Polonez.

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Dad enjoying a bottle of Zywiec.IMG_4747Potato Pancake.

IMG_4748 Pierogies.IMG_4749Beet root soup with dumplings.

IMG_4750Sweet cheese crepes.

IMG_4751Chicken schnitzel.

IMG_4752Cabbage roll.IMG_4753The platter for one – 4 pierogi, bigos – Hunter’s Stew, Polonez Schnitzel and salad bouquet.

Happy munching!

Mildred’s Temple Kitchen

For my sister Liz’s birthday we went for brunch at Mildred’s Temple Kitchen. We went right when it opened to avoid waiting in excessive but typical brunch line ups and only had to wait about 5 minutes. We were seated inside because although there is a patio, it doesn’t get much sunlight and was a little cool in the morning. The interior is spacious but slightly cavernous and cold – not the warm and cozy atmosphere you look for in a restaurant at brunch time.

I was the only one who got a cocktail with brunch (typical) and I ordered the Bungalow Island Caesar.

IMG_4159The Bungalow Island Caesar: vodka, clamato juice, signature rim, curly celery and fresh horseradish.

The presentation of this cocktail was slightly ridiculous – the curly celery was overwhelming and I didn’t know if I was supposed to eat it, so I just mashed it into my drink. The chopsticks were cute but again, I didn’t know what to do with them so I took them out of my drink. I assume the idea is you eat the celery curls with the chopsticks but I don’t know why you would want to do that and what it would add to your cocktail experience. I have since found out from a coworker that when you eat the celery curls they are infused with the taste of the Caesar. Once I got over the garnish I was able to taste this cocktail – it was spicy and zesty. It was a decent Caesar but not my favourite by far. Also, someone please remind me to stop ordering Caesars when I am eating food! It just results in me feeling stuffed like a beached whale.

Liz, Theresa and I ordered the Mrs. Biederhof’s Legendary Light & Fluffy Blueberry Buttermilk Pancakes. served with Lanark County maple syrup & whipped cream.  I ordered a side of house made fennel sausage and Theresa ordered a side of crispy rosemary potatoes. IMG_4161

Mrs. Biederhof’s Legendary Light & Fluffy Blueberry Buttermilk Pancakes: served with Lanark County maple syrup & whipped cream.

As far as buttermilk pancakes go, these are good. Fluffy and light but still dense and filling with hints of sourness from the buttermilk, these are tasty pancakes. I was extremely disappointed by the amount of blueberries in my pancakes. There was not nearly enough and they tasted as if they were from frozen. All the blueberries sank to the bottom of the pancakes rather than dotting the pancake throughout. These are good for buttermilk pancakes, not good for blueberry pancakes and definitely not worth close to $15.00. Sorry!

Our server later told us that the recipe is online and that people try to recreate them but can’t – CHALLENGE ACCEPTED. When I eventually get around to making these (add it to the list of the other 80 million recipes I want to try) I will let you know how it goes. I think I should be able to recreate them; the recipe is fairly straight forward and similar to other buttermilk pancake recipes I have tried and mastered.

GC ordered the Little Kay’s Favourite Grilled Cheese Sandwich.

IMG_4162Little Kay’s Favourite Grilled Cheese Sandwich: grilled sourdough bread with apple tomato relish, aged cheddar and mozzarella with side salad and a side of crispy rosemary potatoes.

GC liked his sandwich but it wasn’t the best grilled cheese he had ever had (that obviously goes to Cheesewerks). From the bite I had I couldn’t taste the apple tomato relish which is unfortunate because I think that would have tasted insteresting. The combination of cheese was good but cheddar overpowers most things it is paired with.
Overall Mildred’s is good for brunch but not great. Our bill was close to $100.00 which is excessive for brunch especially when it is not great. I would suggest a visit to Mildred’s for dinner or cocktails but maybe skip the brunch!
Happy munching!

Emma’s Country Kitchen

Last weekend we went for brunch to a small spot on St. Clair West called Emma’s Country Kitchen. This spot was suggested to us by our friend, Rachel.

This is probably one of the cutest and most comforting restaurants I have ever been in. It is warm, sunny, and country cute. There are vintage housewares all through the restaurant, making the restaurant slightly kitschy but not to a nauseating level. In the washroom the mirror was decorated with a border of antique mini tart tins, alternating between diamond and square shaped = cute.

IMG_3780Just an example of the country cuteness at ECK – fresh daisies in a mason jar, tied with a gingham ribbon. Simple but cute. Daisies are just one of those flowers that are simple and slightly ordinary but whenever you see them, you can’t help but smile.

IMG_3782 GC ordered the I Know What You Did Last Night Burger AKA The Hangover Helper. 5 oz sage and onion sausage burger, topped with house cured bacon, and cheddar. served on a house made bun with all the fixings. Served with frites tossed with sea salt and herbs.

This burger was juicy and had so much intense flavour. The sage and onion brought a garden freshness that is typically not found in burgers. And now I know what you are thinking, and no, this won’t make you think you are eating a veggie burger. It’s just a burger that is a little different, and a little fresh. The sausage meat allowed the burger to be moist, juicy and adds a little spicy.

I love the fact that they cure their own bacon in house. It is something that most restaurants wouldn’t take the time to do but it makes a different. It was smoky, salt and perfectly crispy.

These fries were amazing! They were reminiscent of hobo chips which were my love affair last summer. Salty, crispy and with hints of rosemary – these are the perfect fries. If you are a lover of french fries you should probably give these a try. And if you are not the biggest fan of french fries, much like myself, you need to try these.IMG_3783I ordered the Banoffee Pie Pancakes. Light and fluffy pancakes, studded with chocolate chips and toffee pieces. Topped with whipped chantilly cream and dulce de leche. Served with orange scented maple syrup. And an order of sage and onion sausage.

THESE ARE THE BEST PANCAKES I HAVE EVER EATEN. They are the perfect size which ensures that they are fluffy, but crispy along the outside. They were dotted with the best quality chocolate chips. I can’t even believe how good these chocolate chips were. They were creamy, milky and rich. The toffee added hints of caramel. Despite all chocolate and toffee they were not overly sweet, just the perfect hints of sugar for a morning pick-me-up.

The chantilly cream was light and creamy and the dulce de leche with the perfect bit of sweetness to top it all off. The orange flavour of the maple syrup did not stand out but it wasn’t necessary: these pancakes were perfection.

And of course, the side of sausage was the same as the burger – moist, fresh and a perfect dash of spice.

I would highly recommend this place for brunch or just a quick coffee and donut. The day we went in they were serving pina colada, root beer float, maple bacon and cinnamon sugar donuts that all looked so tantalising. We are planning on going again (and again and again) for coffee and donuts.

If you are looking for a brunch date and place, me and this place will work!

Happy munching!

Thompson Diner

Two weeks ago Saturday brunch found us at Thompson Diner.

Brunch that Saturday was an ordeal – we had tried to go to Farmhouse Tavern, Beast and Cheesewerks. Apparently 10 AM is too early to go for brunch in the city. Our last stop was Cheesewerks which left us in the area of Bathurst and King so we checked out the Thompson Diner.

It has a very retro, classic 1950s diner vibe, complete with deep booths with patent leather seats and velvety upholstery.  The menu matches the decor – classic, diner comfort food.

IMG_3675GC ordered the All Day Breakfast.

IMG_3676A diner classic with peameal bacon rather than your regular, old bacon. Simple, but delicious. The presentation of a mini cast iron skillet was a nice touch.

I ordered the Fat American.

IMG_3678 IMG_3679Turkey sausage and bacon stuffed pancakes, topped with crispy battered onions and a fried egg.

The pancakes were incredibly fluffy, light and had a slight sweetness from the buttermilk. There was four pancakes which is a ridiculous serving and will keep you full for hours. I wouldn’t really call the pancakes stuffed, but rather had chunks of bacon and sausage in them. There was not nearly enough sausage or bacon for the amount of pancake there was, but really, is there ever enough bacon? The egg was perfectly fried but the best part of this breakfast was the crispy battered onions. I wish I could put those onions on everything.

I wouldn’t order this again but I would order the regular pancakes which is saying a lot because I typically only eat pancakes if they are silver dollar sized.

A classic diner that is open 24-hours. If you live in the area it’s worth checking out for some early morning brunch or some late night drunken eats.

Happy munching!

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