#48: Hello Darling

Hello Quesadilla

Hello Quesadilla

#48 on blogTO’s 50 Best Brunches: Hello Darling

The Location: Hello Darling (near Wallace and Co. Spoiler Alert: the standards of brunch in Wallace-Emerson are pretty low)

The Time: Saturday afternoon, mid-February

The Company: Chris, Anjali, Aitor, and visiting friend Sophie!

Veggie Menu: poached eggs with butternut squash and dilly chèvre cream on a biscuit (aka no-name eggs benedict), quesadilla with fried eggs, sweet potato, black beans and avocado, standard breakfast with eggs, toast, salad, hash, and fruit, barbecue tofu on a kaiser bun, apple cake french toast, sunflower chickpea scramble, breakfast poutine with hash browns , mushroom gravy (yuck) and poached eggs, blueberry pancakes, chilli and biscuit, and a side of coconut “bacon”

Sophie and Aitor are happy to eat!

Sophie and Aitor are happy to eat!

Hello Darling is a super cute, cozy, and family-friendly restaurant. Upon walking in, you get the impression that you could sit here relaxing for hours on end. One family did just this, and in preparation for their hours at Hello Darling, time-travelled back to 1995 and picked up five rolls of film developed at the local Kodak store, and passed the photos around the table, painstakingly experiencing every moment caught on camera, while our group, stuck in 2015, played on our iPhones while we waited for THAT table.

When the Tanners finally left, and some hot drink orders had been placed, I ordered the poached eggs, Chris and Sophie ordered the breakfast poutine, Aitor ordered the pancakes, and Anjali ordered the quesadilla.

Fast-forward twenty years, and we finally got to eat.

Fast-forward twenty years, and we finally got to eat.

After celebrating the fact that we all ordered vegetarian meals, we waited a LONG time for our drinks and our meals. Unfortunately, the food was not worth the wait. The combination of dill and butternut squash was strange, and my side salad was substantially more appealing than my main (a huge brunch no-no). Chris’ side of coconut bacon added an extra element of bizarre to the meal; it was more like eating nuts out of a dish at a Pat and Mario’s (in 1995). The scones were nice, but not amazing. No one else raved about their meals either. I think we were all just relieved that Hello Darling left the 90’s and finally fed us.

 

Goodbye, Darling

Goodbye, Darling

 

Shari’s Veggie Meter (out of five): 🍅🍅

 

Hello Darling on Urbanspoon

#31: The Drake

#31 on blogTO’s 50 Best Brunches: The Drake

The Location: The Drake Lounge (blogTO lists The Drake Cafe, but the Lounge also has a great vibe and the same menu!)

The Time: Mid-February, on a day of Christian celebration turned Hallmark Holiday (Happy Love Day! …..)

The Company: Liz and Chris

Veggie Menu: Warm Scone plates (with whipped butter, cream and preserves; option of heart-shaped scones for Love Day! …..), yogurt and preserves (fruit, house-made granola, coconut and dark chocolate), Frittata, Mushroom Benny (yuck), Drake Benny (if you’re sensible like me and hate mushrooms, order this one and substitute kale for ham; served on buttermilk biscuit with arugula and root vegetable hash), soup of the day (it was vegetarian on Love Day! …..), quinoa and rye berry salad (also contains barley, feta, yogurt, brussels sprouts, squash, carrot, zucchini, and pickles)

Even though THIS was happening in some households:

Happy Love Day!

Happy Love Day!

…we pretended it was an ordinary Saturday and went to the Drake, where THIS was happening:

Blueberry scones!

Blueberry scones!

The Drake is a lovely place to eat. The scones were served warm, and the toppings appropriately melted on contact. Chris, in an act of defiance against my senses, ordered the mushroom benny:

Mushroom Benny, yuck

Mushroom Benny, yuck

….but I guess he still gets his picture here because it was a vegetarian meal.

Having gone overboard on carbs lately and thereby sacrificing whole grains, fruits and vegetables, the yogurt and preserves was calling my name:

Shari, shari, shari...

Happy Love Day, Shari!

And so I ate it!

No scurvy for me!

No scurvy for me on Love Day!

I’m not usually a fan of yogurt and granola dishes, but establishments like Rose and Sons and The Drake have really nailed it; in this instance, the dark chocolate really made this meal memorable. I highly enjoyed my time and food at the Drake, and can’t wait to taste more of their menu.

The memories will last a lifetime.

The memories will last a lifetime.

Shari’s Veggie Meter (out of five): 🍅🍅🍅🍅🍅

The Drake Hotel on Urbanspoon

#40: Smith

See that door behind my friends? That's Smith.

See that nondescript door behind my friends? That’s Smith.

#40 on blogTO’s 50 Best Brunches: Smith

The Location: Smith (not just a nondescript character on Sex and the City, Smith is also a nondescript door on Church street that leads to three floors of brunch goodness)

The Time: Late January

The Company: Best good friends Liz, Anjali, Aitor, Rebecca, and Chris

Veggie Menu: Espresso Caramel doughnut (for those lucky enough to not be allergic to caffeine), Lemon Curd doughnut, Scones, Coffee Cake (for those allergic to caffeine, coffee cake has no caffeine in it!), Crepes (filled with mascarpone, pistachio and grapefruit), Waffles, Huevos Rancheros, Eggs Benedict with a leak fondue (substitute spinach for the meat), with sides of eggs, homefries, tomatoes and fruit available

There aren’t a lot of savoury veggie options at Smith, and, with an upset stomach, I needed savoury and had trouble deciding what to order. Remembering how delicious the leak fondue eggs benedict was at The Ace (and that I passed them up for the huevos), I did the spinach substitute and turned my Benny into a Flory. It was delicious. Leak fondue is the perfect companion for poached eggs, and more satisfying than most hollandaise sauces. Anjali, as she usually does, went with the huevos, and said it wasn’t spicy enough. Nondescript like their front door and Samantha’s boyfriend Smith, I’m sure.

The homefries were some of the best I’ve had in the city. Members of my party said they were too potato-y, but that’s what made them great. Finish your meal off with a package of soda crackers brought from home, and your queasy stomach is rightened.

Eggs Florentine with a side of soda crackers

Eggs Florentine with a side of soda crackers

Too bad a plate of Eggs Benny and a package of soda crackers won’t cure the queasiness I feel when I watch Smith “acting” on SATC.

See that nondescript man behind Samantha? That's Smith.

See that nondescript man behind Samantha? That’s Smith.

Shari’s Veggie Meter (out of five): 🍅🍅🍅🍅

 

 
Smith on Urbanspoon

veggie.brunch.kingston: Morrison’s

The fastest breakfast in the world.

The fastest breakfast in the world.

The Location: Morrison’s (Everything surrounding it has changed since we were at Queen’s, but Morrison’s has been there forever, will outlive us all, and will still be there when nothing but WALL-E roams the earth.)

The Time: Mid January

The Company: Cousin Alex and Husband Chris

Veggie Menu: I didn’t have time to take a photo of the veggie menu because our meal was delivered in this amount of time:

That's just over 5 minutes!

That’s just over 5 minutes!

From memory, I think veggie options include pancakes, omelettes, and combinations of eggs and homefries. There’s no benny, there’s no huevos. Morrison’s ain’t got no time for that!

The french toast was nice and light and was already perfect with a bit of melted butter on it. Chris’ eggs and homefries were brought to him very quickly and were therefore great.

Butter my toast, Morrison's

Butter my toast, Morrison’s

Chris and I talk about Morrison’s at least once a week. We mention their speedy service and longevity every single time we’re at brunch, since I have never met its match.

Morrison’s, Toronto needs fast greasy spoons like you. Please open a branch in the GTA, and on the Axiom as well.

Take good care of Morrison's, WALL-E.

Take good care of Morrison’s, WALL-E.

Shari’s Veggie Meter (out of five): 🍅🍅🍅

Morrison's Restaurant on Urbanspoon

Best Brunches in Toronto (so far!)

Only 19 Left!

TIED FOR #1:

1. Bonjour Brioche (blogTO’s #27) – Many veggie options and they’re all mind-blowing

1. Mildred’s Temple Kitchen (blogTO’s #7) – The best Huevos in the city

The Rest:

3. Aunties and Uncles (blogTO’s #1) – A classic, and it’s the same guy who does Choir! Choir! Choir!

4. The Queen and Beaver (blogTO’s #47) – Going for the third time this weekend, at my mom’s request.

5. Rose and Sons (blogTO’s #4) – Poached pears and avocados. Heaven.

6. The White Brick Kitchen (blogTO’s #39) – Very rich, amazing, vegetarian foods.

7: Mitzi’s Cafe (blogTO’s #11) – Good food, good location

8: Grapefruit Moon (blogTO’s #21) – The morning poutine is awesome. Many vegan options too.

9: La Cubana (blogTO’s #32) – Plantains for breakfast. Yes.

10: The Ace (blogTO’s #33) – I suspect it hosts the best eggs benedict. A revisit will confirm.

11: Harvest Kitchen (blogTO’s #50)

12. Easy Restaurant (blogTO’s #2) – Many Mexican-inspired veggie options

13: The Federal Reserve (blogTO’s #24) – Daily veggie omelette!

14: Okay Okay (blogTO’s #17) – McDonald’s Hash Browns meets OK2′s Benedict.

15. Universal Grill (blogTO’s #20)

16. Lady Marmalade (blogTO’s #5) – Overhyped, and they wouldn’t serve me the miso breakfast poutine.

17. Little Fish (blogTO’s #14) – If you love custards and jams, you likely love this place more than I do.

18: Farmhouse Tavern (blogTO’s #18) – Inventive dishes, great ambiance, slow service, cold tea

19: Wallace & Co. (blogTO’s #50) – Tempeh substitutions are remarkable but not much else is.

20: The Stockyards (blogTO’s #15) – Stocky yards has great emergency vegetarian meals. Go with your carnivorous partner.

21: Voodoo Child (blogTO’s #25) – Very few menu options, period. Hopefully one of the three will always be a veggie meal.

22: The Westerly (blogTO’s #28) – Huevos Rancher-NOs (I can get a bit more mileage out of that joke, can’t I?)

23: Hogtown Vegan (blogTO’s #48) – Oh chicken and waffles, a dish I’d never tried before becoming a vegetarian, how I’ve missed you.

24: Weslodge (blogTO’s #46) – Decorated by Gaston (who uses antlers in all of his decorating). Gaston is not a vegetarian.

25: Emma’s Country Kitchen (blogTO’s #22) – The pig shelf says it all

26: Starving Artist (blogTO’s #37) – Their new location was not up to their usual standards. And their usual standards include WASPS.

27: Saving Grace (blogTO’s #3) – #3 blogTO? Really? I had a flavourless Indian-inspired meal.

28: Fanny Chadwick’s (blogTO’s #19) – The food was as nondescript as the fake lawn on the patio

29: Parts and Labour (blogTO’s #30) – If you LOVE tofu and LOVE cilantro, go here for sure.   …..

30: School (blogTO’s #6) – I’m not sure why blogTO moved School up to #6. They ran out of half of their menu at their all-day brunch, and the items they had were dull and over-priced. LAME.

31: Lazy Daisy’s Cafe (blogTO’s #29) – Daisy is out of her league

Other:

Camp (blogTO’s #40) – Camp has been toying with my heart. First, they closed for three months. Then they reopened as a seafood restaurant and called themselves Fish Camp. Then they decided to close all together. I will miss you, Camp, and treasure the memories. May you rest in peace with my other favourite brunch spot, Kingston’s Epicure.

#30: Parts and Labour

#30 on blogTO’s 50 Best Brunches: Parts and Labour

The Location: Parts and Labour (east of all the antique stores at the base of Queen and Roncy)

The Time: Early January

The Company: Musical Theatre buffs Rhonda and Alain

Veggie Menu: Pancakes with whipped maple butter and fruit, and spicy tofu served with jalapeños, black beans, tomatoes, home fries and cilantro. Yep, that’s the veggie menu. A substitution can be made in the “full breakfast”: tofu in place of sausage and bacon and black beans instead of baked beans, but this menu item had mushrooms in it too, and I didn’t want to be that princess who asks to sub out three items in one dish.

Sometimes I wonder if two people’s clashing dietary restrictions (i.e.: being a vegetarian) ever causes a break up. If Parts and Labour were a person, we would have never even begun to date. They love their meat WAY too much, and are just way too hipster for me.

Garlic sausage. Pork belly. Flat iron steak. Country ham. Canadian brisket. Meat does not need so many descriptive words. Canadian or country, country or flatiron, it’s all murder, amiright? Just kidding. The real murder was of my tastebuds when the chef put cilantro and tofu in the same bowl.

.

Tofu deserves a descriptive word too. Pungent tofu.

Once I pushed the cilantro aside, I ate my tofu like a good girl.

Done.

Done.

It was as good as tofu can taste I suppose, but really, when a restaurant only has one or two veggie options, they’d better be amazing, in the style of The Queen and Beaver or The Stockyards. Not so at P&L.

Also, this restaurant looks like a theatre from the outside.

This place is hipster and I don't understand it.

This restaurant is so hipster that it gives adjectives to all of its meats and is also a music venue. Fetch.

On the upside, at a nearby antique store Al and I discovered that we are destined to be travelling companions.

Thems our initials!

Thems our initials!

And that’s how I feel about that restaurant.

Shari’s Veggie Meter (out of five): 🍅

Parts and Labour on Urbanspoon

#50: Harvest Kitchen

This photo brought to you by CANON and by the creepy spoon ghosts of Joy and Shari

This photo brought to you by CANON and by the creepy spoon ghosts of Joy and Shari

#50 on blogTO’s 50 Best Brunches: Harvest Kitchen

The Location: Harvest Kitchen (After 10 years in Toronto, seven of those living in the Annex, Harbord Street is still a mystery to me. I’m not even sure how I got there.)

The Time: The New Year! January 3rd, 2015!

The Company: Lock and Keynote royalty Chris and Joy

This photo brought to you by cup of peanut soup

This photo brought to you by cup of peanut soup

Veggie Menu: Oatmeal made with coconut milk and a fruit compote, Corn and Millet Pancakes, Baked Niagara French Toast, the Power Breakfast (two eggs, twice-baked beans, guac, tomato, an english muffin, and a substitution of smoked tofu instead of bacon), Eggs Benedict served with a side of celery root slaw (I almost wrote celery toot slaw, hehe) and a choice of soup, salad, fries or home fries, Mushroom French Fry salad (yuck, I hate the mush), African Peanut Soup, Kale salad, Breakfast Burrito with scrambled eggs or tofu, grilled cheese, and a selection of smoothies

Veggie Specials: There was a soup special, but all I remember is that the daily omelette had butternut squash in it.

This photo brought to you by Joy's thumb and Chris' argyle

This photo brought to you by Joy’s thumb and Chris’ argyle

There are many perks that come with keeping a blog about food. First of all, it’s a great excuse to see friends old and new. Secondly, I get to document fabulous reunions, like the one we had with Joy today! And last but not least, I get to eat good food all the time.

When I heard the words “omelette” and “butternut squash” said in the same sentence, my mind drifted back to the buttercup squash at Farmhouse Tavern, and I briefly daydreamed about how great squash is in a brunch dish. But, my mind was already made up, so I ordered the “Benni’.”

It was a respectable dish. The hollandaise sauce was homemade, and while not inventive, did the job well. The novelty was found in the side of African Peanut soup, which was a little too tomato-y for me, but I was still excited since I’d never eaten soup with peanuts in it before. And rounding off the meal was the amazing celery root-toot slaw.

Here’s what he thought of his Power Breakfast:

Would

And Toronto’s special guest, Joy, had the pancakes, and here’s what she has to say about them:

Harvest Kitchen

Harvest Kitchen is a cute and spacious restaurant – plenty of room for the Saturday brunching crowd. And while their food was good, I was equally impressed with their gender neutral washrooms. It’s time all restaurants followed suit and stopped assigning gender to generic onesie washrooms.

For when you need to celery root toot

This washroom brought to you by the celery root-toot slaw, and by people like you

Harvest Kitchen, thanks for being forward thinking, not only about your washrooms, but also about putting peanuts in soup and making a slaw out of celery root (….toot).

 

Shari’s Veggie Meter (out of five): 🍅🍅🍅🍅

 

Harvest Kitchen on Urbanspoon

#32: La Cubana

Afternoon brunch at La Cubana!

Afternoon brunch at La Cubana!

#32 on blogTO’s 50 Best Brunches: La Cubana

The Location: La Cubana (across the street from The Westerly)

The Time: Mid December, late afternoon

The Company: Matt and Jacqueline

Veggie Menu: Baked Eggs with Sofrito and Yuca, Breakfast Sandwich (tomato, avocado, fried egg, and queso fresco), french toast with banana and dulce de leche. Sides include grilled corn, rice and beans, sweet plantains, tostones, french fries, and yuca frita. Most dishes also come with a side of beet slaw.

First, a lesson in Spanish:

Sofrito is a sauce that consists of garlic, onion, paprika, peppers and tomatoes cooked in olive oil.

Yuca is similar to a sweet potato, native to South America.

Queso Fresco is a mild, unaged white cheese, often used in Latin American countries.

Dulce de Leche is slowly heated, sweetened milk.

Plantains are bananas that I will actually eat (cooked).

Tostones are fried plantain slices.

Thank you, Wikipedia and La Cubana, for the lesson.

La Cubana is a great brunch place for carnivorous eaters and vegetarians alike. From eating similar dishes at The Queen and Beaver, The Stockyards, and The Good Fork, I knew I could count on La Cubana’s baked eggs. Here they are in all their Yuca, Avocado and Tostones glory.

Baked Eggs

Baked Eggs

And here is my side of sweet plantains.

Sweet Plantains

Plantain-ful

Jacqueline had the breakfast sandwich. Here it is in all its egg and cheese glory.

Breakfast Sandwich

Breakfast Sandwich

I really love Cuban food and I love this place. If you’ve never had a plantain before, visit La Cubana this weekend, and learn some Spanish while you’re there.

Shari’s Veggie Meter (out of five): 🍅🍅🍅🍅 

 

La Cubana on Urbanspoon

veggie.brunch.toronto: The Good Fork

The Good Fork

The Good Fork

The Location: The Good Fork (right at Jane Station. Resist the urge to go to Booster Juice instead)

The Time: Friday afternoon, early December

The Company: Chris, and new returns to Toronto Sarah and Matt!

Veggie Menu: two eggs with homefries and bread, spinach benedict on a polenta cake, four veggie omelettes with an option of egg white only, huevos rancheros, menemen (baked eggs with tomato sauce, with a side of focaccia and arugula salad), red velvet pancakes, blueberry pancakes, lavender and semisweet chocolate chip pancakes (with sea salt), homemade granola, and four smoothie options (see? No need to go to the Booster after all!)

Let’s get one thing out of the way: I’ve had some disappointing experiences at Good Fork before. The service is notoriously slow and the huevos are, like most huevos, overhyped. This visit, things were different. Friday afternoons are less hectic than Saturday mornings, so food delivery was fairly fast. And even while manoeuvring around the pot lights perplexingly hanging at head level, the waitress was very pleasant.

Red Velvet Pancakes = Dessert

Red Velvet Pancakes = Dessert

From previous visits to the Fork, I’ve learned that eating a full order of red velvet pancakes is like having four giant chocolate bunnies while watching the entire first two seasons of LOST over Easter weekend: a great, delicious and necessary endeavour at the time, but leaves you dopey with ill-fitting pants. Having learned my lesson (regarding red velvet pancakes, chocolate bunnies, and my emotional investment in LOST), I opted for two poached eggs with homefries and a side of the RV pancakes for the table to share. Perfect combo.

Chris adventurously ordered an egg-white omelette, which was surprisingly moist and delicious (the word moist? His choice, not mine).

This egg white omelette is MOIST, man.

This egg white omelette is MOIST, man.

Sarah got the menemen, which was similar to The Stockyard‘s shirred eggs and the Queen and Beaver‘s baked eggs, and was equally as delicious. Also, special mention to Matt’s burger, which was not vegetarian but proved to be a beautiful subject for a beautiful photo (that I don’t feel right posting on my vegetarian blog).

So what have we learned?

-If you’re going to eat your weight in milk chocolate (in bunny form), spread it out over a week, not just four days.
-Burgers make good photo subjects, and I miss them in my life, but I still won’t eat one.
-The word moist makes the whole Jackman clan shudder, but they will still use the word to describe an omelette.
-There are many names to call an egg baked in a dish.
-Go to The Good Fork on a weekday, not a weekend.
-I still went to Booster Juice later that day.

And most importantly:

-If you get emotionally invested in LOST, stop at the end of Season 5. That ending will be more satisfying, and you can wrap things up in your imagination if you need to. This should also be done for Friends (end of season six), The Office (Michael Scott’s last episode), and the Anne of Green Gables movies (three and four never happened). And limit yourself to only ONE chocolate bunny while you watch all these.

A menemen? Shirred eggs? Baked in a ramekin? You decide! And then decide your own ending of LOST.

A menemen? Shirred eggs? Baked in a ramekin? You decide! And then decide your own ending of LOST.

 

Shari’s Veggie Meter (out of five): 🍅🍅🍅🍅

 

The Good Fork on Urbanspoon

 

 

veggie.brunch.toronto: Sadie’s Diner

Typical Sadie's Diner meal

Typical Sadie’s Diner meal

The Location: Sadie’s Diner (head south towards Antarctica. When you enter a building colder than Antarctica, you’ve reached the diner)

The Time: Late November, which is apparently the dead of winter in Sadie’s Diner

The Company: Chris

Veggie Menu: This is a vegetarian restaurant, so everything is either veggie or vegan. On their menu is huevos (veggie or vegan), daily omelette, tofu scramble, breakfast burrito (veggie or vegan), traditional breakfast with eggs and veggie bacon or sausage, french toast, pancakes, organic cereals, fruit

We used to frequent Sadie’s Diner, even before I became a vegetarian. It is super cute, has lots of seating, and is compatible with all dietary restrictions of our group of friends. Then Sadie’s fell off our radar, and when we returned today, I remembered why: It is SO cold in this restaurant, and the food isn’t great.

Good thing it was toque day.

Good thing it was toque day.

Having already decided it was a toque kind of day, Chris betrayed a hint of desperation while ordering his coffee. As he hugged the mug to his chest, we quickly dove into our burrito and french toast. The prospect of food warming us up quickly dissolved into disappointment as I took a bite of the worst homefries I’ve ever had. The french toast was thin and rubbery. At least the veggie bacon tasted somewhat like turkey bacon, but looked even more like cardboard. The burrito was fine but reminded me of sweet mornings sitting in my warm and toasty CAMP RESTAURANT and eating their breakfast burrito.  (RIP Camp – today I miss your toasty temperature most of all).

Even the Santa's are succumbing to the cold, and quickly.

Even the Santa’s are succumbing to the cold, and quickly.

I get that Sadie’s is in an old building, and that’s part of the charm. But serious insulating has to happen before I ever return. And please, reinvent your menu. Us veggies and vegans deserve a warm place and a delicious brunch just as much as our carnivorous peers. Reader, for your own health and safety, if you must go to Sadie’s, don’t go until at least April or May. You don’t want to end up like one of these Santa’s, do you?

 

Shari’s Veggie Meter (out of five): 🍅

 

Sadie's Diner on Urbanspoon