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, 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!

The Bristol

When we visited The Bristol Yard in May we were actually in a frenzy. It was a restaurant that was serving traditional British breakfast but it was closing. We knew we had to visit it before it was gone forever. However, the restaurant did not close; it simply moved further south which when you live in North York it might as well have closed forever. A few weeks ago we made the trek to Queen and Dovercourt to check out the new restaurant, simply named The Bristol.

It has much more of a British pub-circa World War II vibe to it with tufted booths, checkered floors and Union Jack bunting. I want to drink pints of warm beer with soldiers and cryptologist in this pub. My only complaint with the décor is that the tufted booths are slightly too low for sitting comfortably and eating at the tables. Even as two tall people, me and GC found this awkward and uncomfortable.

A note to soccer hooligans: although this seems like an excellent place to watch a match, it is not that kind of crowd. It is a crowd who want to enjoy a British breakfast without having to deal with British things. The day we went Liverpool was playing and there was a man in a jersey wanting to watch the game. He asked for the volume on the television to be turned on but also to a very high volume. He then proceeded to ignore his girlfriend/wife and her whole family to watch the game. Dude. I get it. You are into the team and would rather be watching with them instead of spending time with your in-laws but you agreed to go to brunch on match day. And really, if you were an actual fan you would know to watch the game at Scallywags with other Liverpool fans.

GC ordered the Full Monty.

IMG_2747IMG_2746aTwo eggs with two rashers or smoked bacon, one large house made sausage, black pudding, sautéed mushrooms, house made baked beans and served with grilled tomato, home fries and toast.

If you husband is willing to try black pudding because you are really into food, that’s love.

I ordered Rajcoe’s Chicken & Waffles.

IMG_2748The Rajcoe’s Chicken & Waffles with crispy fried tandoori chicken in onion bhaji batter served on a light savoury waffle made with chickpea flour, roasted cumin, coriander and fresh green chiles and served with a sweet and tangy mango, tamarind and coconut maple syrup.

This is the most interesting version of fried chicken and waffles I have ever had. The waffle was spicy and warm, but very dry. This can be attributed to the chickpea flour. It wasn’t necessary to use the chickpea flour because this flavour did not come through the waffle. Rice flour or potato flour would have created the same texture and flavour but slight more moist.

The chicken was spicy! But in a subtle way that slowly built while you ate it. It was a very boney piece of chicken which wasn’t easy to maneuver on the plate. I wasn’t into the maple syrup. It wasn’t sweet or thick like syrup. It was thin, with a hint of spice. With it’s texture and flavour I wanted it to be hot but it wasn’t. It was an odd topping.

The fried chicken and waffles were interesting, but not great. I would not order them again but I would go to The Bristol again and again. And you should too.

Happy munching!

 

L’Ouvrier

Two weeks ago we went to L’Ouvrier for brunch.

The inside is sparse, with expansive white walls littered with an assortment of random wall hangings. There are antique white-washed tin ceiling tiles, painted sticks, goody bags and a mural-sized photo of turn-of-the-century cooks? Miners? Random dirty men with various tools to do various things? It was cluttered and chaotic.

Because we are hideous and were wearing hoodies we were seated near the bar at the back of the restaurant at a dimly lit table. I understand servers have tables and there is a method to how customers are seated but it looks bad when the restaurant has a total of 4 tables seated and you are placed near the back.

The menu is varied and has more than your traditional brunch items. It goes beyond bacon and eggs. It is a very adult-brunch menu with oysters, braised rabbit terrines and tuna tartare. It is all very elegant but I associate these items with a late lunch, rather than a brunch. However, this is more a comment on my lack of imagination with menus rather than a criticism on the restaurant.

I ordered the Potato Rosti.

IMG_2901The Potato Rosti with smoked salmon, crème fraîche, arugula, fried shallots and capers.

This came to my table. Please tell my why I am eating brunch and have a huge mountain of arugula in front of me? This is one of the most poorly plated dishes I have ever had. Logic would suggest that there should be a bed of arugula topped with a potato rosti, then crème fraîche, smoked salmon and sprinkled with fried shallots and capers. My rosti was hidden under this ridiculous pile of arugula. It was likely hidden so I couldn’t immediately see how tiny it was. The salmon was scattered over the plate, also to detract from how little salmon there actually was. The crème fraîche was gritty which should never be a thing and is an upsetting texture to discover in your mouth when you are expecting smooth, silkiness.

The flavours were okay, and the portion was small and unbalanced. I was not impressed.

GC ordered the B.L.T.

IMG_2900The B.L.T. with house made bacon, arugula, aioli, and fries.

The house made bacon was good, and there was plenty of it unlike my BLT at Scratch Kitchen. Much like my rosti, there was a ridiculous amount of arugula on this sandwich. I liked these use of a different type of green rather than your standard iceberg/romaine lettuce but you do not need to pile it on in excess for me to get the point.

I thought the bread was unimpressive and stood is sharp opposition to the rest of the ingredients. If you are going to spend time making house made bacon, it should be sandwiched between two pieces of bread that have been lovingly made in-house, not your standard grocery store-Dempster’s type bread. The plate was overrun with fries which is not a bad thing but it wasn’t necessary to have this many fries.

L’Ouvrier is pretentious and unnecessary. The menu is too ambitious for the atmosphere, clientele and staff. L’Ouvrier greatly missed the mark for me. I have no interest in eating poorly executed lunch foods for brunch. If I want a fancy brunch I will go somewhere like Farmhouse Tavern where the menu is an upscale, elegant interpretation of real breakfast food.

Happy munching!

 

Scratch Kitchen

The first brunch of 2015! As someone who eats brunch a lot, it was important for me to start my Brunches of 2015 on a high note. I know this is a ridiculous notion as the ending of one year isn’t really any more significant than the ending of a regular day, week, month but convention dictates that we must reflect on the past 365 days and makes goals for the next 365 days. My brunch-related resolutions are:

  1. Complete the BlogTO Top 50 Brunch List. I am so close to this goal with only 5 more to go. In 2015, I want to be done this list once and for all.
  2. Create my own Top 10 brunch list. You have all been waiting with baited breath for this list and in 2015 I want to be able to deliver this to you.
  3. Go out for brunch less. And instead, make brunch at home. And even host more brunches. Between Breakfast Central and our epic espresso machine, I should be able to create a breakfast at home to rival any restaurant in Toronto.

My first brunch of 2015 did not fulfill any of these goals but that’s ok. You can’t always be a stickler for the rules. We decided to check our Scratch Kitchen, a new restaurant just north of Lawrence and Yonge, a location we loosely consider our neighbourhood. Since it is “in our neighbourhood” we wanted to check out if it could become our new, go-to brunch spot.

Although it was technically a weekday morning (a Friday, the day after New Year’s Day) the restaurant was about half full. They obviously did not assume a lot of people would have this day off and would want to go for brunch because there was only one server working. To be fair, he was hustling. He was seating people, taking orders, making coffee and lattes and doing kitchen runs.

We were seated at a table near the back of the restaurant, against the giant blackboard wall. This wall had drawings of pigs with cuts of meat, daily special and drinks. It’s a neat focal point however, sitting next to a giant black board results in excessive amounts of dust on everything.

I wasn’t overly impressed with the menu. It had 4 proper breakfast options, 3 of which were variations of your standard egg breakfasts. It was very sandwich heavy which is fine, but sandwiches do not scream brunch to me. I understand brunch is literally a combination of breakfast and lunch menu items but I don’t want to eat a sandwich at 10 o’clock in the morning. Despite this, I wanted to order the pulled pork sandwich. They had run out. This bothered me because they were closed the day before which meant they hadn’t planned ahead and did not make the pork the night before. Fine. I will order a different sandwich.

I ordered the BLT.

IMG_2885In-House 10 day cured bacon, local Ontario tomatoes and seasonal greens with house made Chardonnay mayonnaise.

B is the first letter in BLT and therefore should be the dominate ingredient and flavour. Then why was there this excessive amount of lettuce on my sandwich? When I could finally get to some bacon it was very good. It was fatty and crispy, with the right amount of saltiness to it. The Chardonnay mayo was nice; it added the right amount of tang and zest to the sandwich. There was a little bit too much of it on the sandwich which made it a bit sloppy and difficult to eat. The home fries were good – cooked thoroughly and not too crispy. This was decent but not great. I would not go back to eat it or recommend it.

GC ordered the Steak and Eggs.

IMG_2884Certified AAA Angus Ontario beef, served with 2 certified organic farm fresh eggs, home fries and choice of in-house baked bread.

Did you cut up my steak for me to disguise the amount you gave me? To be fair, this was the cheapest steak and eggs I’ve ever seen on a menu – it was $12 – so it is completely reasonable that you are not getting a massive portion of it. The server had said that the serving is supposed to be 4 oz. but the portion typically ends up being 6 oz. 4 oz. is not huge; that’s the size of a Quarter-Pounder hamburger at McDonald’s. On top of which, GC was not asked how he wanted his steak cooked. Steak is something that everyone has a preference on how they want it cooked. GC typically like medium-well and this steak was medium-rare. The in-house baked baguette was a nice touch.

We liked our breakfast but we didn’t love it. Overall, the service was slow, the food was okay and we weren’t spectacularly impressed. In a city that has such a prominent brunch scene it is hard to make an impact, and unfortunately for us, Scratch Kitchen did not. Brunches of 2015 did not get off to a great start but there are 356 more days to fix that!

Happy munching!

The Drake Cafe

When do I visit uber hipster spots? Early on Sunday morning when they are still tucked up in bed. A few months ago we checked out The Drake Cafe on an early Sunday morning.

IMG_2320The Drake serves breakfast until 9 am and brunch after that. We arrived just slightly before 9 so we waited with coffees so we could order brunch ridiculousness.

We were seated by an older couple who were reading newspapers and sipping coffee. They were then joined by their granddaughter and her roommate. This couple personified the vibe of The Drake: cool, hip and eclectic. They are also the perfect example of what I want my life to eventually be: living in Toronto my whole life, keeping current with trends and new restaurants and aging absolutely wonderfully.

The couple on our other side was absolutely everything I don’t want to be, ever: arriving to brunch in sweatpants, and when there is a ridiculous bounty of delicious food you order a bagel. AND NOT EVEN WITH CREAM CHEESE. WHAT IS WRONG WITH YOU??

We ignored other people’s poor choices by making our own great ones. GC ordered the Drake Breakfast.

IMG_2319The Drake Breakfast with 2 eggs, Perth bacon, sage sausage, baked beans, tomato jam, root vegetable hash and rye toast.

GC was disappointed by the toast being slightly burnt. He also wasn’t crazy about the root vegetable hash. It is my firm belief that there is no room for vegetables at brunch especially as a side. Minus these two minor complaints this breakfast was hearty, slightly different and filling.

I ordered the Chicken and Waffles.IMG_2321 IMG_2323The Chicken and Waffles with fried chicken thighs, savoury waffle, Niagara cherry jam, triple thick crème fraîche and maple syrup.

Omigosh. This is everything I love about food. The chicken was crispy, salty and juicy. Thigh meat is rich and juicy and is a great choice for chicken and waffles. The meat was not boneless which does make it slightly difficult to cut into with the waffles. The waffles were savoury, fluffy and light. They were moist and didn’t need to be drenched in syrup but very obviously should always be.

The best part was the cherry jam and the triple thick crème fraîche. The crème fraîche was thick and rich and decadent and ridiculously amazing. I want to eat this all of the time. And the cherries. They were so great. They were sweet and slightly tart. It was such a treat to be able to eat cherries in November. The cherries are reason enough to order this dish.

I really enjoyed our brunch at The Drake. It was different, well-executed and absolutely delicious. I would definitely recommend this restaurant. Happy munching!

A Year in Review: 2014

IMG_1884

Photo Credit: GC – Praia de Luz, Portugal

2014 is over! This has been one of the craziest, busiest, most amazing years of all time. Between the wedding, honeymoon and everything in between, I don’t even know where to begin with a look-back on the year. Below are the resolutions that I set out for myself for 2014 and how I did with them.

Life resolutions.

  1. Knit more. I literally did not knit anything this year but did acquire some lovely homemade knitted pieces from my uber talented sister Liz. This counts right? It obviously doesn’t but I swear, I will knit in 2015.
  2. Exercise more. I did this! I ran a 5K in September and was doing a series of exercises at home. This was working up until the wedding and then two weeks of eating rich, decadent food in Spain and Portugal threw all this by the wayside. Unfortunately, all progress and evidence of fitness has disappeared. New year, new goals, new exercise.
  3. Read more. My reading has picked up but has been mostly limited to biographies by IWs and food-related things. I am currently working through The Omnivore’s Dilemma, Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? and The Trouble with Brunch. The 2015 reading list is shaping up. Any and all suggestions on reading materials are welcome.
  4. Write more. I was writing more but then of course I didn’t write from July until November. Eek. Next year I plan to be more up-to-date on my writings so when you read about a restaurant it hasn’t closed.

Food resolutions.

  1. Bake more. I did not do this. My Christmas baking was limited to 3 types of cookies instead of the traditional 5 (at least!). Given that I am trying to be slightly healthier in 2015, I will likely be refraining from excessive baking.
  2. Use cookbooks more. Pinterest is a dangerous, dangerous thing. Instead of referencing the dozens of cookbooks I have, I refer to Pinterest. I am placing a moratorium on the cookbook-buying so please, gift me cookbooks. Or suggest pins from Pinterest.
  3. Host more. We hosted our own rehearsal dinner (horrible idea, I would not recommend this to anyone), our first annual-Christmas party and 2 Christmas brunches. 2015 promises more cocktail parties, craft beer nights and brunches.
  4. Try more. I ate urchin this year. That’s as weird as it gets unfortunately.
  5. Read more. In keeping with food-related reading, a new list I will be working off is the James Beard award-winners list for Best Book: Food and Literature.
  6. Master more. I have made ice cream but haven’t mastered it, I did not make jam and I haven’t made a mint julep. I have however, mastered the homemade brunch, macaroni and cheese and your 15-minute weeknight dinner. Going forward, I have deemed 2015 the year of the cocktail. I recently fell in absolute envy with a bartender at 416 Snack Bar who was able to make any drink on demand with elegance and simplicity. My goal is to master the gimlet, the Manhattan, the Old-Fashioned and the martini in 2015.

Have a safe and happy New Year’s Eve and all the best food, drink and celebrations for 2015!

Mitzi’s Cafe

In October we headed down to Mitzi’s Cafe. Mitzi’s is located in the residential neighbourhood near Roncesvalles. It is surrounded by homes and parks which means tons of young parents and children. The more brunches I have, the more I realize that this is a young family pursuit that is trying to ruin my leisurely start to the weekend. I like children, I swear, but I do not like screaming, strollers and having Cheerios thrown at me.

It is a cute cafe/art gallery that is homey and quaint. I was immediately taken in by the chalkboard filled with the daily specials. A restaurant focusing on specials means fresh ingredients and creative dishes. We both decided to order daily specials.

GC ordered the omelet special of the day.

IMG_2270The daily omelet: a fluffy omelet stuffed with sausage, roasted peppers and topped with a caramelized onion aioli.

This was a hearty omelet. The peppers brought out the natural sweetness of the sausage. The omelet with filled with all these amazing, fresh ingredients. The caramelized onion aioli was sweet and salty.

I ordered the scrambled special of the day.

IMG_2271 IMG_2273The daily scramble: fluffy scrambled eggs with slow oven roasted cherry tomatoes and spinach topped with fresh oregano infused whipped feta cheese.

Holy healthy deliciousness. I love, love, loved this scramble. It was light, flavourful and filling. The eggs were fluffy, airy and light. The combination of vegetables was very reminiscent of warmer months and back gardens. The highlight of this scramble was definitely the oregano infused whipped feta cheese. I didn’t even consider whipping feta cheese let alone infusing it with herbs. The cheese became sauce-like as it smothered my eggs. This sauce should be on everything.

I really loved Mitzi’s. It was homey, simple and had delicious comfort food. It is worth a visit but keep in mind that as it is full of young families you should show up early!

Happy munching!

Universal Grill

As 2014 winds down, the BlogTO Top 50 is slowing being crossed off and whittled down. I have 6 more restaurants to go and 8 more to write about – not bad for a list that was released in August 2013. The yet-to-visit list consists of East-end spots and one vegan restaurant – no surprise there that I haven’t eaten a vegan brunch yet.

A few weeks ago we visited Universal Grill. We pass this spot constantly as we drive along Dupont and its brightly coloured exterior has always appealed to me. The inside is your typical retro diner, with stools at the bar and lots of booths. When we arrived on a Saturday morning the restaurant was full but not packed. Given this, I was disappointed that we were shoved in the corner. The spot was tight and awkward. GC and I are not obese or huge, but we are also not small people. This was not a nice fit for us.

Maybe it was because we were hidden in a corner, but we waited too long to be served. Tables that arrived and were seated after us were served before us. When we did finally order, it took FOREVER to get our food. I’m not speaking in hyperbole here: we waited at least 45 minutes to get our order. Ok. I guess this would fall under hyperbole but still a ridiculous amount of time to wait. This is a ridiculous amount of time to wait for any meal let alone brunch which heavily features eggs which take hardly any time to cook.

GC ordered The Ultimate Grilled Cheese Sandwich. IMG_2516

The Ultimate Grilled Cheese Sandwich with spinach, bacon, farmer’s Swiss, cheddar, goat cheese and tomato on challah with spuds.

GC was apprehensive at first that the combination of cheese would be too much and would create too much contrast. Instead, the various cheeses added depth of flavour and texture that worked in harmony together. It was oozy and gooey. Despite all the cheese, it wasn’t overly salty. The spinach and tomato added the perfect amount fresh, crispness to cut the richness of all the cheese.

I ordered the Huevos Rancheros.

IMG_2518The Huevos Rancheros with grilled tortilla, spicy red beans, fried egg, cheddar, guacamole and sour cream.

This was a tasty huevos. The crispy tortilla spears were a great garnish, giving a balance of tortilla crunch through the dish rather than just supporting it. Often the tortilla supporting the whole tower will become crispy and soggy, this ensured you would still enjoy a crunch with every bite. The beans were the right amount of spy. The egg was a little too fried for my liking: there was no oozy, running egg all over my rancheros. The guacamole was too thick and I prefer mine without tomatoes. It allows the guac to be smooth and creamy with the occasional chunk.

This place is cute and is obviously a neighbourhood hot spot. If I lived down the street, and this was my local brunch spot, I might be able to tolerate the service since the food was fairly decent. Since I have to trek out this way, I won’t become a regular.

Happy munching!

The First Married Brunch – La Cubana

After 2 beautiful weeks in Spain and Portugal for our honeymoon, eating delicious foods and drinking wine, you would think my appetite would be satiated for a long time. And for certain foods, it still is. I have not craved oysters since the ones I ate at Mercado de San Miguel and I won’t be eating foie gras any time soon. However, one thing was missing from this trip food-wise: brunch.

Europeans do not do brunch or breakfast. The only legitimate breakfast we ate while on our honeymoon was in Lagos, which is a haven for British tourists. There, we were able to enjoy a traditional English breakfast. So of course, when we arrived home, one of the first things we did was go for brunch. We decided for our first brunch as husband and wife we would go to one of our favourites, La Cubana.

IMG_2201Since we hadn’t had brunch in over two weeks (yes, I acknowledge that all my problems are #firstworldproblems) we decided to go big. We started with the corn frituras.

IMG_2198All meals, including brunch, should have appetizers. GC liked these more than me. I’m not super into corn flavours; for example, I don’t like corn bread. But how can you say no to anything deep fried? These were crispy on the outside and tender on the inside. They were a combination of sweet and savoury with hints of fresh herbs dotting the fritura. The dipping sauce was great. It was creamy and the perfect amount of heat.

GC ordered the Steak and Eggs. IMG_2199

The Steak and Eggs with chimichurri steak and sunny side up eggs.

I am not in to chumichurri. This is the second occasion I have had it (the first being at Big Crow) and it does nothing for me. It tastes like slightly-off spinach. I wish it was more spicy, citrusy or fresh.

The steak was also way over done. GC likes his steak medium to medium-well but this was a little charred. You should never have to saw through a steak, especially one that is ordered out at a restaurant. Unless you’re into that.

I ordered the Cuban Breakfast. IMG_2200

The Cuban Breakfast with slow roast pork and poached eggs.

The first time we went, I ordered the pork belly and it was delicious. This is essentially the same dish without pineapple, with poached eggs instead of sunny side up and more expensive. This was tasty, but I would say go with the pork belly. The combination of pork and pineapple bumps this dish up to the next level and has a more dynamic combination of flavours. Although adding poached eggs to anything makes life better.

During our first visit to La Cubana, we made better choices but this visit does not disparage us against this restaurant. Any menu that so heavily features pork is delicious in my books. Happy munching!