Uncle Betty’s

Is there anything better than discovering a delicious brunch spot? Yes! Discovering a delicious brunch spot near your house! I love our little house, but it is hard to find a decent brunch spot north of Eglinton (if this comment is offensive, please suggest away). When a friend suggested we check out Uncle Betty’s we jumped at the opportunity. Brunch, less than 10 minutes away from our house and it’s good?! Yes, please!

Uncle Betty’s is a cute diner-style restaurant, with bright walls and lots of windows. There are mustaches painted on the walls and it is very family-friendly. If you aren’t into small children screaming, crying and jostling you while you eat your brunch, don’t come here. Since I can tolerate near-anything if I am eating good food, this isn’t a problem for me.

I ordered The Ultimate Grilled Cheese.

IMG_1643 IMG_1644 IMG_1645White bread with melted white and classic Cheddar cheese, a slab of homemade Mac ‘n Cheese, topped with pulled pork and drizzled with roasted garlic aioli.

This was delicious and ridiculous. Do you need to eat this? Probably not. Should you? Probably yes. It was cheesy, rich and messy. For some reason, messy food always tastes better. I loved the combination of textures from the mac ‘n cheese, slightly spongy, contrasted with the shredded pork and the oozy silkiness of the cheese.

GC ordered The Breakfast in a Bowl.

IMG_1642A breakfast-style poutine with home fries topped with sausage or bacon, two eggs, gravy and Cheddar cheese.

Overall we enjoyed our brunch at Uncle Betty’s. The food was a good solid take on your typical brunch menu. There were a few over-the-top menu items but they were not too ambitious that the execution failed. The rest of the menu was solid, hearty brunch that was at a decent quality for the price. The service was ok, not great, but everyone else seems to enjoy brunch at a bit more of a leisurely pace then I do.

Since we had a good experience when we went to Uncle Betty’s back in October, we decided to go again, especially to try the Dreesen’s donuts. GC ordered The Breakfast in a Bowl, a good indication that it was good and I decided to be decadent and order the Betty’s Benedict.

Betty’s Benedict

2 poached eggs served on a Dreesen’s Donut with a slice of peameal. Topped with a lemon hollandaise and served with home fries.

IMG_2360 IMG_2362I was disappointed. I expected each egg to be on its own donut. I know this is decadent and ridiculous but you are putting my eggs Benedict on a donut, I think it’s a fair assumption that this should be ridiculous. The donut was dry and had no flavour. It didn’t have sourness or sweetness of a plain donut. The Benedict as a whole was also fairly plain and flavourless. There was no zestiness or zip to the hollandaise sauce but my eggs were oozy.

This time the service was much slower as the staff was preparing for a big group. I understand large groups need to be accommodated but do not do this at the expense of your other customers.

We bought a half-dozen donuts to take home even though the donut in my benny wasn’t fantastic. The donuts were delicious. They were fresh, airy and light. My favourite was easily the cinnamon-sugar donut.

Uncle Betty’s isn’t my favourite choice for brunch but if I am looking for something local, it makes the cut. Happy munching!

This End Up

Toronto Life’s Eating and Drinking magazine is my bible. It is leafed through, dog-eared, scribbled in and crinkled as I spend a year constantly referencing it and making choices about food. This year’s cover features “The Better Mac” from This End Up.

Eating & Drinking 2011-2015 Obviously as soon as I saw this, I knew I had to eat it. After a yoga session we ventured to Dundas West to see if this really was a better mac.

The Better Mac features fresh ground chuck patties, special sauce, lettuce, choice of American or cheddar cheese, pickles and sweet onion. There was never a question about the combination of ingredients on a Big Mac and whether or not they work together. They obviously do: secret sauce, cheese, lettuce and the double bun.

Secret Sauce: The best part of a Big Mac is the secret sauce. Anything secret automatically tastes better because there is a forbidden quality to it, a never-again attainable moment when you taste deliciousness that you don’t know if you will ever be able to have again. Then there is that moment where it clicks that Mac sauce is obviously 1000 Island dressing, and yet, that doesn’t make it taste any more simple and basic. Mac sauce makes you realize that burgers do not need to be topped with ketchup and that there is an endless possibility of toppings for your burger. Aiolis, chutneys, and spreads are just the beginning on a whole new burger.

Cheese: Despite loving food and my favourite food being cheese, I still eat Kraft Singles. I can’t help it. They are delicious and nostalgic. When I make my own burgers I usually top them with this terrible product. Because of my love for this fake cheese, this has never been a problem for me while eating fast food. The low quality of cheese has never been my sticking point or issue.

Lettuce: My love for Kraft Singles is similar to my love for iceberg lettuce. Although there is almost no flavour or nutrition from iceberg lettuce, I love it. I like how crunchy it is and how refreshing it is to eat. I love it on burgers, tacos and salad. It is the only lettuce I would eat solo. Iceberg lettuce is the only choice for a burger. Everything else has too much vegetable flavour and takes away from the fatty, greasy deliciousness that is a burger.

Double Bun: The double bun truly is a thing of genius. You are essentially eating two burgers but because there is only 1 ½ buns you don’t feel as guilty or glutinous. It doesn’t overwhelm the burger and its topping but serves as a platform for them. It helps create the balance between burger and topping, giving structure and support to the heaviness.

If the above is my love sonnet for the Big Mac, a burger I have eaten on less than 5 occasions, then obviously the Better Mac was going to be just that, better. The science behind the Big Mac is flawless and when you recreate it using high quality, real ingredients the result will be better. The above statements on the ingredients prove truer for the Better Mac. The sauce is better, a homemade style secret sauce, the cheese doesn’t perfectly crease when folded as it is not mostly plastic, the lettuce is as high quality as you can get with iceberg and the bun is actually a bun, not something that has been smushed into bread-shaped submission. However, while eating this, I slightly missed my Big Mac. When I eat a gourmet burger, I want something different; I don’t want to recreate something I can get in almost every country in the world. This is not a slight to the burger. It was delicious but it wasn’t special. I won’t crave it. I won’t want to eat it again. All there is to it is that it is a better Big Mac.One thing I will give it credit for, unlike a Big Mac, the Better Mac does look like it’s photo:

IMG_2431Please no one try and recreate my beloved Chicken McNuggets. Happy munching!

Weslodge

On Sunday, GC and I headed down to King West to have brunch at Weslodge.

We choose Weslodge for a few reasons:

  1. It opens late for brunch and thus, you avoid ridiculous brunch lineups without having to wake up ridiculously early. We didn’t get home the night before until 3 in the morning and thus, our typical weekend efficiency was delayed a few hours. We arrived at around 1 o’clock and the restaurant was half empty.
  2. It is on the constantly referenced Blog T.O. Top 50 Brunch list. As we have worked our way through this list, we give less and less authority to it. 50 is a very ambitious number for a list especially for referencing best brunches in a city that has a constantly changing restaurant scene. However, we have come too far on the list to give up on it now. We only have 9 more restaurants to try and my goal (if my waistline does not protest too much) is finish this list off by the end of January 2015.
  3. The restaurant looks really cool. The signage is marquee style lighting and the inside looks like a mix between an old-Victorian house/hipster saloon/Prohibition bar. We would learn that it was obviously the main focus of the restaurant rather than the food.

WeslodgeWe were seated at a large booth with too deep seating paired with too high of a table. This seems like such a small detail to notice and care about but it makes for awkward dining. When you eat out far too much, you notice these things. The décor is very hipster cool: lots of interesting and vintage elements that have no relationship to one another. The walls are a hunter green, donned with animal busts and small taxidermied birds, and Victorian portraits. The bar has a Prohibition pub vibe to it, with a chalkboard of cocktails. The servers have holsters over the shoulders which I can only assume should hold pads of paper for taking orders but they were empty. Weslodge is suffering from an identity crisis: are you my Victorian grandmother’s house, a saloon in the Wild, Wild West or a speakeasy?

This identity crisis translates into the menu. Given the décor, you would assume the menu would channel British flavours and dishes, like the Queen & Beaver. However, the menu lacks consistency. There are Scotch eggs, house made English muffins and croquettes to start, which are all very British however, then there is fried chicken, schnitzel, and crispy shrimp rolls on the menu. SORT YOUR LIFE OUT. In trying to cover a gamut of flavours and styles, Weslodge fails to do anything particularly well. The execution is okay, but given the price tag of the meal and the attempt at creativity you are obviously expecting and wanting more.

We both started off with a Scotch Egg.

IMG_2484The Scotch Egg with chorizo, tomato jam and black truffle.

This was delicious but when is a Scotch Egg ever not? It was served slightly warm and nestled in a bed of spicy tomato jam. I loved this tomato jam. It would be a welcome addition to my breakfast table. The flavour of the black truffle was unapparent but the salty yolkiness made up for this. The egg was a quail egg and added that little bit of richness that traditionally comes with quail eggs due to the size of the yolk. This Scotch egg is listed as one of Toronto Life’s top 5 Scotch eggs in the city, a list I plan to conquer.

GC ordered the Fried Chicken.

IMG_2486Fried Chicken with jalapeno cheddar biscuit, white gravy and jalapeno hot sauce.

I believe this is on the menu in the attempt to emulate a saloon but it’s not working. The chicken was fried well: it was crispy on the outside but juicy and full-cooked on the inside without being burnt. It was boneless which is an added bonus when one is trying to slice through fried chicken with a fork and a knife. The biscuit was flavourless and dense, two qualities a biscuit, particularly one with jalapeno and cheese, should not be. There was not nearly enough gravy on this, and this is coming from someone who can do without gravy (shocking, yes, I know). The jalapeno hot sauce was more of a chutney and was not spicy.

Overall, stick with fried chicken and waffles elsewhere; Maybe SCHOOL or Stockyard’s just to name a few of my favourites.

GC also had the side order of the Maple Bourbon Bacon.

IMG_2490The menu claims this is supposed to be thick cut but as you can see, it is obviously not. The bacon was crispy, slightly sweet and salty. It was good but I would have preferred slightly thicker bacon, especially when the menu claims this is how it will be served.

I ordered the Eggs Benny (I know there should be an apostrophe there but I am be true to the grammatically incorrect menu).

IMG_2487The Eggs Benny with house English muffin, lamb bacon, hollandaise and mizuna.

Looking at this makes me depressed. When it was brought to the table I pouted a little. This is the smallest, most underwhelmingly sad looking thing I have ever seen. The English muffins were tiny, dense and nearly impossible to cut through. Restaurants should not highlight something being house made if the quality is not great and this was the case with this English muffin. Now, to be fair, the best English muffin I have ever eaten was at Gordon Ramsay’s York and Albany in London (yums) and it probably doesn’t get much better than that but it doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try!

I was intrigued by lamb bacon because it was something different and therefore should be tried but I shouldn’t have. The bacon leathery, it was almost jerky like. As lamb is lean, why would you use it to make delicious, normally fatty bacon? Fail.

The eggs were not poached the same way. One was poached hard and therefore did not ooze slowly over everything on my plate. The second egg was poached perfectly but I cannot overlook two inconsistently poached eggs. The hollandaise was bland and boring.

The side of greens were good but did I go out for brunch to eat salad? No.

I wasn’t impressed with Weslodge. It is underwhelming food at an expensive price. The menu lacked the substance and creativity it was trying to go for. My suggestion: go for a Scotch egg and a cocktail. I can only assume it will be good because can you really mess up booze?

Happy munching!

Christmas 2014

I’m back! And it’s Christmas time! After a three month hiatus you get to read about what I am eating and cooking again. I know, contain your excitement. We have entered into that magical time that GC and I have been looking forward to for months: AFTER THE WEDDING. Yes, the wedding was magical, beautiful and everything we had dreamed of and we are so happy to be married but it was also all-consuming. So bear with me, you will be seeing foods I ate three months ago when it was warm and beautiful outside. But for now: Christmas!

This weekend I kicked off my Christmas 2014: Saturday was spent in Newmarket at the Santa Claus Parade, then in Bradford at the greenhouse followed by fondue which always makes me feel festive. Sunday was a lazy day of brunch,  another Santa Claus parade and then yoga.

Below are my photos from the Bradford Greenhouse. If you live in the area you have to check it out. It is a magical winter wonderland!

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22

The Huntsman

A few weeks ago, when it was actually warm and felt like summer, we had brunch on the patio of The Huntsman.

This was our second attempt to go to The Huntsman. Our first attempt was denied because the kitchen was being worked on during brunch hours. WHAT. Both us and the staff agreed this was terrible timing. We didn’t let this get us down, we just went the next weekend.

The inside of the restaurat has the British-pub vibe to it: navy subway tiles, leather booths and chairs, dark wood and of course, pictures of Winston Churchill decorating the walls. We were seated on the cozy patio – off facing a side street but with access to watch the hustle and bustle of College. It is a great little patio and would be a great spot to waste away summer nights with beers and good friends.

I ordered the Fried Chicken and Waffles.

IMG_0900 IMG_0901The Fried Chicken and Waffles with whipped butter and maple syrup.

I was debating between the Gather and this. I asked our server which one she preferred and she said that I should get the waffles; she said that they do something special with them. If doing something special refers to burning my chicken into an unfortunate crisp then I’m not interested. This was obviously burnt. The skin was dried out, too crunchy and bitter tasting. The chicken was not as juicy as it should be. Ever since I have had friend chicken and waffles at SCHOOL as boneless chicken, I can’t go back to bone-in. It is too much effort to enjoy the combination of the chicken and the waffles. Brunch is for lazy times, not picking meat off of bones.

Once you got through the chicken, the waffle underneath were perfection. They were buttery, fluffy, and light. The whipped buttery was creamy and rich, it spread smoothly across the waffles. My only complaint: I was not given side syrup. Do not suppose how much maple syrup I need with my breakfast because the answer is always more.

I should have stuck with my original though and got The Gather. Oh well. Next time.

GC ordered The Hunter.

IMG_0899The Hunter with house made corned beef, baked beans, cheddar, 2 poached eggs and Hollandaise.

Although my food was a miss, GC’s was a hit. At least one person’s breakfast worked out.

I loved the patio and the ambiance of the restaurant and based on GC’s food, the menu has promise. It may be worth a second look.

Happy munching!

Aunties & Uncles

We all have those restaurants that we pass on a daily or weekly basis that look interesting and cause us to think, “I really should try that place.” My place like that was Aunties & Uncles.

Aunties & Uncles is around the corner from GC’s work so I have been seeing it regularly for the past 6 years. Every time I pass it, whether it be morning or afternoon, during the week or a weekend, it is packed. Finally, after 6 years, we decided to see what all the fuss was about. The first time we tried to go, we arrived about half an hour after it opened and the place was packed with a lineup about 6 people deep. We decided to move along. Our second attempt was a success. We arrived right as the restaurant opened and were immediately seat.

IMG_1025This restaurant is kistchy and cute. It has an assortment retro kitchenware, memorabilia and vintage furniture. It is cozy, nostalgic and comfortable. This comfort translates into the food and makes for food that warms your belly and your soul.

GC ordered the Breakfast Pocket.

IMG_1026 IMG_1027The Breakfast Pocket with scrambled eggs, peameal bacon, cheddar, tomato and caramelized onions with dijon and aioli on a foccacia.

I ordered the Breakfast Tacos.

IMG_1028 IMG_1029The Breakfast Tacos with scrambled eggs, pinto beans, cheddar, house-made chorizo sausage and cilantro sour cream on soft corn tortillas.

Tacos should be eaten at every meal of the day. This is the best breakfast taco I have had. It perfectly combines breakfast items with taco awesomeness. The eggs and cheddar are breakfast items that meld wonderfully with all the Mexican-taco goodness. My favourite part was how the cilantro was incorporated into the sour cream. It makes for a creamy, citrus sauce. I would drizzle, dip and coat everything in this sauce. These are delicious and I want to eat them again and again.

We both loved this restaurant. It is simple, cozy and has delicious food – the great way to spend a weekend morning. After our brunch we headed over to the Evergreen Brick Works for the Junction Flea, the farmer’s market and a walk.

IMG_1032 IMG_1035Happy munching!

 

Happy Birthday GC!!!!

Happy, happy birthday to my best friend in the world, GC! Ok, so his birthday was July 3rd and that is when we did celebrate, I am just slightly delayed on the internet celebrations.

My struggle with birthday dinners as someone who loves food is picking a place out of the ordinary, but still with the food and style that I like and with a price tag that shows whoever I am taking out that I love them. Yes, money buys love especially when it is buying fancy food. This year’s restaurant that satisfied all of these requirements: Farmer’s Daughter.

Farmer’s Daughter is latest addition to the Farmhouse Tavern family. As the name suggests, it is more modern, focusing on seafood and is less Ontario-centric. The menus are still seasonal and fresh, but not geographically limited. I absolutely love Farmhouse Tavern (I credit it to having my favourite brunch in the city) so I was eager to try it and so was GC!

We were first seated on the patio but as this summer has been unseasonably cold we moved inside to stay nice and toasty as we enjoyed our meal. The inside is sleek, modern and very simple. My favourite touches: the neon “Fried Shrimp & Friendship” sign, the various food related books on each table and the white board-style bar menu.

Throughout the course of our meal, we each tried two cocktails. I ordered the Tell Tale Heart and the Bruce Banner. GC ordered the Old Cuban and the Summer Sangria.

CocktailsTop left, clockwise: the Tell Tale Heart, the Old Cuban, the Summer Sangria and the Bruce Banner.

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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!

Wallace & Co.

Oh, right! I’m supposed to write about the food I’ve been eating, not just continue to eat and cook and not tell you about it. Things have been a little hectic lately: work is all over the place, GC started a new position with new hours (yay!) and we have been crazy busy with hiking, camping and wedding planning. Because of all of these things, Taste Buddies has been ignored and you have no idea where I have been eating lately! Tragic, I know.

A few weeks ago we went to Wallace & Co. in the Junction. It wasn’t our first choice for brunch that morning (more on that failed attempt later) but we were able to grab a seat on the patio at a picnic table. The patio is open and airy with views of the street and the neighbouring houses. Be warned that some of the neighbours, while friendly, are not the most appetizing addition to your brunch. There was one house that had it’s occupants sitting outside, chain smoking and drinking at 10 o’clock in the morning. Given that these are the neighbours, it would be a smart idea to build a privacy fence along the back of the patio.

There were two servers that day: one with a lot of energy, a great attitude and who was actually interested in working and then there was our server. She was slow, inattentive, and bored with us and her job in general. We repeatedly had to ask for coffee refills. When our food was ready she didn’t bring us cutlery which we had to wait several minutes for as our food got cold.

I ordered the Breakfast Sandwich.

IMG_0820 IMG_0821The Breakfast Sandwich with a maple sausage patty, bacon, a fried egg, cheddar cheese and onion aioli.

This sandwich was tasty. It was rich, fatty and greasy, everything I like my breakfast to be. The sausage was sweet, with a rich maple taste. The bacon had beautiful, thick ribbons of fat, oozing flavour throughout the bacon and the sandwich. The cheese was thick and sharp. The egg was oozy, but not too runny, just slowly flowing over the other ingredients in the sandwich. The onion aioli added a slight spicy sweetness to the sandwich to round out the whole thing.

The homefries were too crispy and slightly burnt. This was the real low point of my dish. Overall I enjoyed my breakfast sandwich and would recommend it to anyone who loves a good sandwich to start their day.

GC order the All Day Breakfast.

IMG_0819The All Day Breakfast with two eggs, peameal bacon, potato, beans, tomato and toast.

GC was not into his breakfast. His peameal was rubbery, the potatoes were burnt, and the beans were watery. This meal left a bad taste in his mouth and he did not enjoy his experience there.

Between the alcoholic neighbours, bad service and GC’s breakfast we liked this place, didn’t love it and won’t be revisiting it. Sorry!

Happy munching!