Lady Marmalade

On Tuesday morning we enjoyed brunch at Lady Marmalade. We decided to hit up this popular East-end brunch spot during the week to avoid the notorious crowds. We arrived a little before 10 am and the restaurant was about half full. By the time we left, the restaurant was full – even on a Tuesday morning!

The restaurant has a mix-match of tables and chairs, all looking like they are from the 1960s or your Nonna’s basement. We sat at a large, round table with an enamel flower pattern on top. Each table had a different set of salt and pepper shakers adding to the vintage, Nonna’s basement vibe. The coffee cups were Pyrex mugs with floral patterns. This restaurant is cute, vintage and cozy.

GC ordered the B.A.B. Baguette with the soup of the day.

IMG_0393The B.A.B. Baguette with brie, avocado and bacon topped with spinach, red onion and mango salsa.

The soup of the day: tomato fennel.

GC loved the flavours of this sandwich. It was sweet, salty and creamy. His only complaint was that avocado and mango are both slippery so his toppings were all over the place on his sandwich.

The soup was delicious. The tomatoes were roasted and and sweet. The fennel was bitter, with a licorice taste that worked nicely with the tomato. It was a traditional, Italian combination of flavours and it was tasty in soup form.

I ordered the Huevos Migas.

IMG_0396 IMG_0398The Huevos Migas with 3 soft-scrambled eggs with cheese, sausage, tomatoes and scallions served with brown rice, smashed beans, sour cream, pico de gallo salsa and organic tortilla chips.

Any time I can have Mexican for breakfast I am down. This was an incredibly filling and delicious breakfast. The rice and beans were nutty and slightly sweet. The soft-scrambled eggs were an amazing way to serve the eggs. They were creamy and were folded with cheese, sausage, tomatoes and scallions. The addition of these ingredients took this from being your regular huevos rancheros to being a full-fledged breakfast. This bowl was great eating with a fork or eating with the still-warm tortilla chips.

We both enjoyed our brunches and were filled for an afternoon of hiking around waterfalls in Hamilton. We checked out Devil’s Punchbowl and Albion Falls.

IMG_0402IMG_0404 IMG_0406Would I recommend this place? Yes. Would I wait in stereotypical weekend lineups for over an hour? Probably not. Lady Marmalade is delicious and has a huge variety of breakfast foods. It’s definitely worth checking out but avoid weekend lineups – they easily ruin a brunch experience. If we had had to wait for our brunch I probably wouldn’t have liked my breakfast as much. Week day brunch staycations are the way to go.

Happy munching!

La Cubana

On Sunday we found ourselves enjoying a beautiful day in Ronscevalles and a lovely brunch at La Cubana. When you enter the restaurant, they take your name and number and text when your table is ready. You are then able to leave the restaurant and explore the Roncey strip while you wait. This is perfect. It was a beautiful day and it was nice to not have to wait inside and within earshot of the restaurant. Once in the restaurant, it was nice to not have future brunch goers eying us down while they wait hungrily.

This restaurant has a cute, retro, 1950’s vibe to it which I imagine all of Cuba to have. The walls are tiled with a pale green tile, there is a long bar with stools and the floor tiles have a Spanish vibe to them. We were seated at the bar with a great view of the open kitchen.

IMG_0358We started off with some cocktails since we were having a late brunch at 12 o’clock. GC ordered a Cuba libre and I ordered a mojito.

IMG_0360A mojito is the perfect accompaniment to brunch. It is light, fresh with a hint of time.

GC ordered the Breakfast Sandwich.

IMG_0362 IMG_0363The Breakfast Sandwich with tomato, avocado, queso fresco, and a sunny side up egg with sides of rice, beans, tostones, and slaw.

This sandwich was recommended to us by our server. GC was debating between this sandwich and the Cubano and the server said that he had to go with the breakfast sandwich. This sandwich was ah-mazing. The highlight was the the huge, thick, slab-like piece of queso fresco in the middle of this sandwich. It was creamy, soft and milky. The egg was runny and oozed smoothly over the rest of the sandwich with every bite.

I ordered the Pork Belly.

IMG_0364 IMG_0365 IMG_0367Pork belly with pineapple glaze and sunny side up eggs with sides of rice, beans, tostones, and slaw.

This is one of the best breakfasts I have ever had. I would like every breakfast to come with pork belly rather than bacon. The pork belly was fatty, juicy, pull-apart deliciousness. The pineapple glaze had a sweetness to it, with big chunks of pineapple dotting the pork belly.

The eggs were a thing of beauty. I loved how rich in colour the yolks were: they were a marigold, yellow/orange colour and tasted sweet and creamy. They were done over-medium, the right balance of oozy goodness and thicker, creamy cooked yolk. The yolk oozed over the rice and beans.

The rice and beans were tasty. They had a nutty, slightly spicy flavour to them. The slaw was tangy and crunchy. The tostones were the only thing I wasn’t crazy about. The breading was crunchy and not greasy but I am not one for plantains. I topped my entire plate in a healthy amount of house made hot sauce. It was so tasty. Sweet, spicy, with a little bit of tang and bite. They should sell this so I can buy it.

We finished off our brunch with a dessert of two cafe con leches and donuts.

IMG_0368This was a great cup of coffee. It was light, creamy and sweet. The donuts were warm, and covered in a combination of cinnamon and sugar. How can that not be good? It was the perfect way to finish our meal.

This restaurant is everything I love about food in Toronto: different flavours and cuisines that you would never think of trying in neighbourhoods you don’t necessarily visit often but should. I would highly recommend a brunch here and I plan to return with various people and sample more of the menu. And the best part: they have a patio. I will be spending many summer days and nights at this spot.

Happy munching!

Happy New Year!

Food brings people together. It can create an atmosphere of comfort, viagra nostalgia and family. Food is an essential part of any occasion, look celebration or holiday. This year, for the first time in a long time, I celebrated Chinese New Year.

As a kid, Chinese New Year was always spent ordering take-out from my family’s favourite Chinese restaurant in Newmarket, 4 Seasons. It was not traditional Chinese food by any means but it was as authentic and ethnic as Newmarket used to be back then. 4 Seasons is still some of my favourite comfort food. This food, although greasy and absolutely terrible for us, always brought my family together and is still a staple when someone is returning home after a long time away.

Chinese New Year this year was spent with part of my Toronto family – GC and Cynthia. Cynthia suggested we try to ring in the New Year at Mother’s Dumplings. Unsurprisingly, much of the city had the same idea and the restaurant was packed. Although it is disappointing to arrive at a restaurant and be denied because they are full, there is something that makes me smile to think of a room of people all enjoying and sharing in delicious food.

We wandered down Spadina and found our way into Pho Hung. Yes, we do realize that pho is Vietnamese and not Chinese but it is commonly referred to as Asian New Year and one of Cynthia’s requirements for properly celebrating is having noodles. IMG_5364I had never had pho before. I had avoided Vietnamese food due to their need to sprinkle, dip and fry everything in peanuts (in some form or another). If you have the unfortunate luck like me to have a severe peanut allergy, Pho Hung is a place that you can try Vietnamese food. The menu is clear and explicit about what items feature peanuts and in what capacity. The staff speaks very good, clear English and your allergies and limitations can easily be conveyed. Of course, like all restaurants, there is always the possibility of cross-contamination and traces but as a food lover, this is a risk I take. Note: I am fairly diligent and careful about my allergies but I could definitely but better about it. Unfortunately, I can be cavalier and let my love of food cloud my judgment.

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Blog Crush – Brown Eyed Baker

I have a new blog crush and her name is Brown Eyed Baker. I came across BEB about a year ago when I first made her delicious and ridiculous St. Patrick’s Day cupcakes. Since then, order I have been following her religious, click salivating over her recipes and hoarding them. In the past month, help I have made three of her recipes. I think I can easily say that I am addicted.

First I made her Sesame Chicken.

Photo Credit: Brown Eyed Baker

This was a big milestone for me as a cook because it gave me the opportunity to deep fry for the first time. That’s right: I had never actually deep fried anything because I was absolutely terrified of vats of boiling oil, a valid fear in my opinion. With my trusty thermometer in hand and GC by my side I conquered this fear.

This dish was delicious and has led me to believe that I can make American-style Chinese food at home. The chicken was crispy but not greasy, moist and juicy and smothered in a tangy, sweet sauce that has a slight nuttiness from the sesame oil and seeds. One thing I do need to get better with is making rice. I know, I know. You are probably thinking, “Audrey, you have a food blog. How can you possibly not be able to make rice?” I get impatient and worry about it crusting to the bottom of my pans.

Then I made her Bourbon Slush.

Photo Credit: Brown Eyed Baker

I made this last week for a night in at our friends’ place. This was a citrus, sweet blend that added a nice frosty touch to your traditional cocktail. The bourbon flavor was subtle but present. On a cold winter day this was just the thing to keep us toasty and warm. If you are not a bourbon or hard liquor drinker, you will still enjoy this cocktail. If you have the time and the foresight to plan, you should give this recipe a try.

And lastly, I made her Black Forest Cheesecake.

Holy smokes. This cake is ridiculous, rich, and luscious and everything you could ever want in a cheesecake. I think a little part of me died it was so amazing. It is not a cheesecake for the faint of heart as it is decadent and may induce heart palpitations. This cake should probably only be enjoyed on special occasions and not random Thursday nights.

I loved all three of these recipes and they will definitely be making a regular appearance in my kitchen. I will admit that they are slightly time consuming and may result in your house smelling like the Food Pavilion of the Ex (an actual description of my kitchen by GC after making sesame chicken) but they are worth your time, effort, and calories.

Happy munching!

Meals in Minutes: Rogan Josh

Meals in Minutes: Rogan Josh Curry. Photo courtesy of the cookbook.

1. I have officially come to terms with curry. For the longest time I could not stand it – the spice, the texture, the smell and the foods that are typically curried, particularly chick peas. Since experimenting with my own cooking and food choices I have developed a palate for curry. It is warm, inviting and completely comforting.

2. I love the combination of vegetables in this: onion, butternut squash, cauliflower and chick peas. It is hearty and the perfect recipe for fall. The chick peas were enough protein for me to find this feeling but unfortunately, GC was not satisfied by them. I have to make him curry with actual meat he said. Because of that, I will not be making this again. It is way too much food for me to eat and I don’t think it would freeze well. But if you love curry and you are cooking for someone who also loves vegetarian curry, you should make this recipe!

3. I liked that the basmati rice was infused with the flavour of the cloves. However, basmati rice is not my rice of choice. It’s texture is too granular for me.

4. Curry does not photograph well and I need a new camera.

Recipe below the cut and happy munching!

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Meals in Minutes – Oozy Mushroom Risotto

IMG_3416Meals in Minutes – Oozy Mushroom Risotto

1. Risotto is one of those things I had resigned myself to only eating in restaurants. I was under the impression it was too complicated and time consuming for the average cook to make at home. When I saw it in this cookbook, I was overwhelmed and nervous but I thought to myself, “This is a new challenge and I should give it a shot. If It tastes terribly then I will never make it again.” Not even remotely the case.

2. Risotto, as it turns out, isn’t hard to make, it just takes patience and a lot of stirring. It is a fairly easy recipe to follow that will lead people to believe that you are more talented then you actually are! Sounds like the perfect recipe to me.

3. I love the rich, earthiness of this dish. From the various mushrooms, the broth and the thyme and rosemary it is extremely aromatic. The flavour is so deep and consuming, it just fills you with a warmth that spreads throughout your body. The mushrooms add a fleshy and meaty quality to the dish that replaces the need for actual meat.

4. This is the dish that caused GC’s grandmother, an 83 year old Italian woman to exclaim, “Fuck, where did you learn to cook like this?” If that’s not a good enough reason for you to try it, I won’t be able to find a reason for you.

Recipe is below the cut and happy munching!

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