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!

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!

The County General

Pre-wedding I was very concerned with eating well and getting fit. I had started running and was looking for ways to become a stronger runner. I was doing leg lifts, sit-ups, crunches and using weights. I was looking to add another type of exercise and yoga seemed like a good choice. In the summer, there were a number of free yoga sessions throughout the city and this was the perfect opportunity to try a new exercise. Our first attempt brought us to a free class at Canoe Landing Park. This is not a good choice of location for your first yoga class. It was a hot August morning, the sun was beating down and we lasted about 20 minutes. We were told by the instructor to listen to our bodies and our bodies said, “Brunch.” It should be noted that the instructor tried to shame us into staying for the whole session but brunch speaks louder than a yogi. We headed over to The County General.

The County General is cute and rustic and the food is similar. We sat on the small side patio. The patio can seat between 5-8 people, and could easily get crammed. But early on a Sunday morning, it was a great place to start the day with a cup of coffee.

IMG_1218I loved these cups and saucers. This cup would conjure thoughts of warm summer days even on the most frigid of days. GC and I had mismatched sets and it made the patio seem cozier. We enjoyed our Americanos and ordered brunch. I ordered the Eggs Benedict.

IMG_1221Eggs Benedict with English muffins, soft poached eggs, maple hollandaise and pulled pork.

Note: the plate is mismatched from the cups = rustic and cozy! This was very good. The English muffin was tender and was easy to slice through. The eggs were vinegary and runny. The hollandaise was buttery, thick and had a hint of sweetness to it. It wasn’t cloyingly sweet, just the perfect amount to bring out the sweetness in the pork. I loved this pulled pork. It was sweet, salty and tender. Yumms.The pickled red cabbage was the perfect kick to help with the richness of the dish.

I would order this again and again. And would recommend you do too.

GC ordered the Fried Chicken Thigh Sandwich.

IMG_1220The Fried Chicken Thigh Sandwich with buttermilk chicken, avocado chutney, cilantro and pickled red onion.

Another mismatched plate! These simple touches of different place settings and plaid napkins added to the subtle country vibe of the restaurant that nicely contrasts with brunch in the city.

This sandwich was delicious! The chicken was tender and moist. Chicken thighs fry perfectly – the meat is almost impossible to dry out. The battering was crispy, flaky and the right amount of greasy. Yes, there is a right amount of greasy. The avocado, cilantro and red onion was the right combination of pepperiness and citrus flavour. They were light flavours that worked with the lightness of chicken. It is easy to overpower chicken with strong flavours but this sandwich was balanced and wonderful.

We thoroughly enjoyed our brunch. It led to the question: if 20 minutes of yoga results in this deliciousness what does a full hour get you?

Happy munching!

Dutch Dream

It only seems fitting on a freezing cold day to talk about a hot summer day eating ice cream. Back in the summer GC and I FINALLY went to Dutch Dreams. The reason I say finally is Dutch Dreams is about two feet from my sisters’ apartments and has intrigued me for about 7 years.

Dutch Dreams is everything an ice cream parlour should be: its colouful with checkered floors, check neon-lit signs and an assortment of chotskies that add a sense of whimsy and playfulness to the parlour. There are an epic amount of ice cream flavours, toppings, waffle cones and other candies for purchase. The highlight for me was the variety of Oreos that were available. Obviously someone had been to America and raided a grocery store because there was Lemon, Birthday Cake, Berry and a multitude of other delightful flavours you cannot find in Canada.

As I was completely overwhelmed by all the choice, I stuck with your standard double-scoop cone.

IMG_1296Bottom Scoop: Cookie Dough
Top Scoop: Cherry Cheesecake

There is obviously nothing standard about this. If I had realized my ice cream would be decked out in such a manor, I would have gotten one scoop.

Now I’m not super into ice cream. Blasphemy I know, but I am much more into frozen yogurt because it doesn’t make me thirsty. You are probably at this point questioning why I went to an ice cream parlour. It was August. It was hot and ice cream is a logical choice.

This ice cream was good but I think the appeal is more the toppings and the theatrical ridiculousness of the ice cream. I preferred the cherry cheesecake to the cookie dough, as there was not enough chunks of cookie dough to justify categorizing this as cookie dough ice cream. The fruit on top of my cone was frozen which on a hot summer night is okay but makes it difficult to chew.

If you are into ice cream, Dutch Dreams is obviously delicious. For your basic ice cream, I prefer Greg’s in the Annex so I think next time I would partake in something a little more ridiculous like the Super Royal Dutch Baked Alaska.

Happy munching!

2014 – Halfway Through…

IMG_0745IMG_0552 IMG_0554 IMG_0565It’s July and we are halfway through the year. I don’t know where the year has gone and it feels like I haven’t accomplished as much as I would have liked. Here are the resolutions I set out for myself back in January:

Life resolutions.

  1. Knit more. I haven’t knit anything. The only time this year I have touched yarn is to make a wreath. When it is already winter it seems silly to start any projects and now that it is hot outside it seems ridiculous to knit. As we get into September, October I will start knitting. I swear. GC’s neck warmer still sits unraveled in a basket somewhere.
  2. Exercise more. Surprisingly enough, this is the one resolution I have been very successful with. I started Couch to 5K and I am currently on week 5 of the program. I have signed up for a run in September at the Toronto Zoo with GC and my friend Claire and I am very excited about it. This is the most active I’ve been in almost 10 years. Grade 9 gym is really the last time I was remotely physical and I use that term very loosely as my high mark in that class is attributed to the health portion of the class. I have been doing a series of ab work outs too: sit-ups, crunches, planks and leg lifts. All of these exercises have made our newest hobby, hiking, easier and much more enjoyable. We are slowly discovering all the trails and waterfalls in the area. In a few weeks, we will be going camping in Bon Echo Park. I am very physically different then I was at the start of the year and I love it.
  3. Read more. I suffered through Sense & Sensibility, trekked through Orenda and now I’m reading something a little lighter, The Phantom Tollbooth. My reading this year hasn’t been great but with the warm weather comes more reading outside on my lunch hour. If you have some book suggestions, please let me know!
  4. Write more. Looking through my old posts it would appear that I have been writing more. I have been including the fun parts of my life (i.e. wedding plan, hiking and city adventures) and writing more generally about food rather then just what I eat. In the immediate future, I have a few posts inspired by summer and I’m already looking forward to the numerous posts related the wedding and our honeymoon. Hopefully you are too!

Food resolutions.

  1. Bake more. I have been baking slightly more. Now that is summer I plan to make tarts and pies on a regular basis and the people who are closest to me will benefit from this.
  2. Use cookbooks more. Most of my cookbooks are still collecting dust on my shelf and have new neighbours… I am going to have to go on a cookbook cooking spree in the second half of the year.
  3. Host more. I have mostly been hosting family but as summer goes on, I hope to have people over more regularly for barbeques, sangria and pops. We are currently debating the idea of hosting our rehearsal dinner in the backyard but keep flipping back and forth due to the fact that October doesn’t always have the nicest weather. And with the wedding comes wedding china and I will be looking for excuses to use that as we approach the holidays at the end of the year.
  4. Try more. So far this year I have tried Cuban food, modern cocktails, proper afternoon tea, blood pudding, kale chips and a Scotch egg. I hope to try some interesting meats (summer is the perfect time to try emu and kangeroo in the form of burgers), infusing my own alcohols and all the delicious foods of Spain and Portugal when we are on our honeymoon.
  5. Read more. Again, I haven’t been reading. I have started reading Food & Drink for the articles and that’s as far as I’ve gotten.
  6. Master more. I have my burger recipe down. I learned how to make Ninni’s pasta sauce this past week. I can make a mean big batch cocktail. I can whip you up a feast for beakfast in bed. And I can make a pie crust comparable to my mom’s. As the summer goes on I want to master the following things: ice cream, jam (even if it is just freezer jam) and the mint julep.

Reviewing your goals and resolutions halfway through the year is a great way to refocus and reflect on how much you really have achieved. My cooking, baking and exercising are on track to where I want them to be and I just have to shift some of my efforts on reading and knitting. I think I can do that. Take time to remember what you set out to achieve this year and remember, you are only halfway through.

Happy munching!

Canada Day 2014

Oh, Canada! Here is a round up of delicious Canadian-inspired cookies and other treats!

DSC_0220-300x300 Sugar cookies byBrant Cookies.Kodomo Cookies I Kodomo Cookies IIKodomo Cookies IIISugar cookies by by Kodomo Cookies.

Beaver CupcakesBeaver cupcakes from Canadian Living.

Sweet Treats N Healthy EatsSugar cookies by Sweet Treats ‘n Healthy Eats.

maple-bacon-cupcakes-plainMaple bacon cupcakes by Make Fabulous Cakes.

Buffet-decor-image

Red and white tablescape from Savvy Mom.decorations3-canadaParty buffet table from Luxury Homes.party-idea-of-the-month-stylish-canada-day-party-0Canada Day outdoor barbeque from HGTV.

Summer 2014

We are officially into summer 2014. The days are longer, hotter and spent outside. With the intense humidity, warm air and stickiness I try to keep it simple and basic. Here are my top three inspirations for summer 2014.

Summer Inspiration1. Picnics – Photo Credit: Your Intrinstic Beauty – when in doubt, eat outside. This is going to be my mantra this summer. I will be taking to parks, backyards and curbs munching on foods thoughtfully prepared at home. A picnic doesn’t require a basket or a gingham blanket, just some good food shared with even better company. Hiking, beaching, and parking (meaning to sit in a park not to sit in a stationary car) are just some of the places you will find me this summer with good food. What picnics am I most looking forward to? I still owe a friend a birthday picnic and I plan to indulge in some appetizers and cocktails at one of Toronto’s many outdoor films this summer.

2. Barbeques – Photo Credit: Abu Dhabi Confidential – Why turn on your stove, let alone your oven to cook in the summer? Whether it is propane, charcoal or gas, food just tastes better from the barbeque. Hot dogs, burgers and steaks are the favourites of my grill but this year, I have more ambitious plans. I want to use my barbeque as a smoker, an oven to bake something sweet, a grill for sweet pineapple and peaches and of course, the way to cook epic amounts of August sweet corn. Yummms.

3. Popsicles and Iced Treats – Photo Credit: Endless Simmer – There is no better way to cool down on a hot, sticky summer day than enjoying a cold, iced treat. Ok, maybe a beer is the best way to cool down but I don’t plan to get in brewing. Yet. I plan to keep my freezer stocked with homemade popsicles and to venture into the land of sinful booze pops. If that wasn’t enough to cool me off, I want to FINALLY (yes, I’ve said that before) use my ice cream maker and this might just be the recipe to try. And if I have homemade ice cream in the house why not making my own cookies and have ice cream sandwiches?

What are you inspirations for summer 2014? Happy munching!

The Westerly

An old friend visiting is the perfect excuse to try somewhere new for brunch. Last weekend my friend Caitlin paid a visit to Toronto. Friday night was spent drinking cocktails at Montauk and Saturday morning was spent at The Westerly eating brunch.

The Westerly is located in Roncesvalles. It is a spacious restaurant, with exposed brick walls, a wall of subway tiles and beautiful hardwood floors. And the best part about it: they take reservations for brunch! Add it to the ist of restaurants to frequent with large groups of people on Sunday mornings. GC and I shared a pot of French-press coffee and moved on to food.

I ordered the Créme Brulee French Toast.

IMG_0481 IMG_0482Créme Brulee French Toast.with vanilla bean custard soaked fresh bread baked golden and finished with brulee, fresh cream, and fruit compote.

This was literally like eating créme brulee for breakfast. It was sweet, creamy and rich. The top of the French toast was my favourite part. It was thick, and fruity; it tasted as if it was topped with apples. My only complaint was that the portion was small and should have been accompanied with something else, either salad or home fries.

GC ordered the Monte Cristo.

IMG_0480The Monte Cristo with fresh bread layered with delicate, smoked ham and gruyere, free run egg dipped and perfectly pan fried. Complimented with brunch potatoes.

Caitlin ordered the Frittata.IMG_0479Frittata with sauteed fresh spinach, grape tomatoes, fresh basil pesto, Woolwich Dairy goat’s cheese, pan fried potatoes, and toast.

As soon as Caitlin’s frittata came, I was jealous. The smell of basil was intoxicating. The aroma was strong, like stepping into an Italian garden. It was fresh, fragrant and the perfect glimpse of summer. I plan to make my own version of this with the haul we are going to pull from our own garden.

The Westerly is a casual and relaxing place to enjoy brunch. It was not my favourite of the brunch places we have been to but it is definitely a good option when trying to plan a brunch around a large group of people or specifically in Roncesvalles.

Happy munching!

Lasagna Grilled Cheese

As March comes to a close we can finally look forward to April: warmer weather, Easter, and of course, National Grilled Cheese Month. I plan to fully embrace this month-long celebration of one of my favourite foods. In preparation of April I have to look back to a sandwich I made a few weeks ago: the Lasagna Grilled Cheese.

IMG_5541 IMG_5544Recipe: Joy the Baker

I think this sandwich, while delicious, is misnamed. There is no tomato sauce, and more importantly, there is no meat and real lasagna has to have meat. Sorry vegetarians, I love you but real lasagna needs and should have meat. A more appropriate name would be a cannelloni grilled cheese. But really, what’s in a name? The important thing is delicious, simple and amazing.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe combination of cheese is a perfect blend of creamy, salty and sweet. The ricotta is creamy and smooth but at the same time has a coarse, saltiness to it. The mozzarella is milky, thick and rich. The use of two cheeses in this sandwich brings it to the next level – from snack to full-on meal.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe cheeses are both mellowed out and complimented by the basil and the tomatoes. Both are sweet but salty and taste like an Italian backyard in July. This recipe was fresh, simple and makes me yearn for summer. I will be making this grilled cheese again and again this summer using fresh ingredients from the garden.

Check out the recipe on Joy the Baker’s site and maybe check out this recipe too – it’s what I will be making next.

Happy munching!

Steak Salad

In our house, we can be accused of not eating enough vegetables. We are carnivores and proud of it. We will never give up red meat, avoid salty, fatty deli meats like prosciutto and I will never substitute tofu/veggie-something where meat is meant to be. All of that being said I am making an honest effort to get us slightly more healthy and fit.

A few weeks ago I started this effort by making Giada De Laurentiis’ Steak Salad.

Food Credit: Food Network

I’m sorry, I had to work meat in there somehow.

In theory this is an easy meal to make. However, because I don’t know how to cook (apparently) I sliced deep into my thumb with a serrated knife while cutting up the lettuce for this salad. Yes, that’s right: I did not injure myself while cutting steak but while cutting lettuce. In retrospect, I should have gotten stitches as one should do with all deep, serrated cuts but now I will proudly sport my first cooking scar.

I absolutely loved this salad. The flavours worked together nicely, from the subtle blend of greens (romaine, endive and arugula) to the kick of blue cheese and the juiciness from the steak. The dressing added a nice tang and citrus taste to the salad. I can’t wait to make this in the summer and enjoy it in the backyard with a nice cold beer.

The perfect salad to make you dream of summer and forget how bloody cold it has been lately! Recipe from the Food Network is below the cut and happy munching!

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