Brunch in Toronto, Part 2

I have to admit that after compiling a list of my favorite brunch spots in Toronto last year, I reverted back to my kitchen on weekends to make my own omelets and smoothies for quite some time. I was uninspired by a lot of the menus I was seeing and felt that brunch was becoming a pricey endeavor for food I could make at home, and healthier at that.

I’ve chosen wisely lately and have some new brunch recommendations where the food is creative, delicious, fairly healthy and pretty exciting! Most of these places are using local, in-season produce which means that as we dive into fall you can expect decadent squashes and greens to fill your plate and your tummy, prepared in ways you have never imagined or tasted.

Beast: This restaurant has become a staple for me, whether for dinner or for brunch. For coffee lovers, you get to pick your coffee bean and will be brought your own personal Bodum with a timer to ensure your pot is steeped to perfection. Start out your meal with the best doughnut you will ever eat by pastry chef Rachelle (Dough Toronto) – particularly the browned butter doughnut (although, did I just read about coffee icing with salted hazelnuts?!). Your meal can be as adventurous as you’d like it to be, but what Chef and owner Scott Vivian does best is meat, so I recommend getting out of your comfort zone a bit and trying something new, like the corned beef tongue scramble, served with gruyere and garlic scape pesto and house-made buttermilk biscuit.

Gilead Cafe: Jamie Kennedy’s cafe is hidden away down an alley-way off of King St., just east of Parliament and is only open for brunch on Sundays. The menu is eclectic and fancy, and won’t have you spending a fortune to sample the eats of this celebrated Torontonian chef. The seasonal tarts, french toasts, salads, eggs, hashes and sandwiches change week-to-week and everything is made in-house. If you’re looking for bacon and eggs, I’d steer clear, but if you’re open to an unexpected pop of blue cheese in your quiche or had a rough night and a braised beef breakfast poutine is all you can think about, this is the place for you.

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Fall Concerts

Summer is over and it’s nippy out. TIFF is done. Your summer holidays are now a distant memory. Wah Wah.

I know it’s tempting to divide up your week by TV shows. It’s tempting to run home after work and throw on your sweats and commence hibernation a bit early because the grey days make for grey moods. Please don’t! Take a dose of that vitamin D and take advantage of the exciting things going on.  This is prime touring season for your favorite bands, many of which have released new albums. We’ve also got a couple of new venues in the city with state-of-the-art sound systems that are begging for your attention (particularly: Adelaide Music Hall, Black Box Theatre, Montauk Bar).

The list of shows coming to town can be overwhelming for anyone. Below, my top recommendations and I promise there’s something for everyone from broody to danceable:

Austra. Sept. 27, Phoenix, $25. Their latest album has been on repeat in my home. Be prepared to dance and be mesmerized.

DIANA. Sept. 26, Great Hall, $10. This is what I would call their great launch. Fresh of the heels of opening for Tegan & Sara, you’ll never see them for $10 again, I promise you.

Local Natives / Wild Nothing. Sept. 21, Kool Haus, $29. My most anticipated show of the fall – two awesome bands on one bill. Wild Nothing haven’t been in town in ages (except maybe to film the video below featuring indie darling Michelle Williams riding the Maid of the Mist in Niagara Falls!), and Local Natives never disappoint live.

The Weeknd. Oct. 17, 19 & 20, Massey Hall, $45 – $75. As if he wasn’t able to seduce us with his lyrics and voice alone, Abel Tesfaye has got a 3-night engagement at the great Massey Hall. It should be just perfect. Hey, maybe hometown hero Drake will surprise us with an appearance to support his protege?

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Booze month in Toronto

Timed perfectly to coincide with the dropping temperatures and the post TIFF lull, the next 3 weeks or so are boozy ones in Toronto.  Whether you’re a cocktail snob or a brew hound, the city has something on offer for you.  From civilized brunches to pub crawls and cocktail competitions, there’s no shortage of of booze inspired fun to be had.
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Toronto’s 4th annual Beer “Week” (it actually takes place over nine days) kicked off last Friday with a tasting party at the Berkeley Church, but not to worry, the festivities continue this week.  You can find full event listings here (some of which are ticketed and many which are not) but here are a couple highlights worth making note of:

Indie Ale House Homebrew Tap Takeover: This Junction brewery is turning their taps over to 12 DIY beer makers, each selected to brew a signature beer. Reportedly on offer?  A carrot cake beer flavoured with vanilla, nutmeg and cinnamon that alone has me planning to make the trek.

Eleventh Annual Golden Tap Awards at Beerbistro: This year’s craft beer awards gala is being held at the Beerbistro on King street.  Even if beer awards (or King street) aren’t your thing, this event is worth checking out: $25 buys you a six-course tasting menu with sample pairings from Bellwoods, Amsterdam, Great Lakes, Indie Alehouse, Black Oak and Muskoka.

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Next up, Bourbon Week!  Starting September 27th and running until October 3rd, this event is more streamlined than Beer Week with one event taking place each evening over the course of the week.  The week kicks off back at the Indie Alehouse with Fingers and Bones, a carnivorous tasting event pairing bourbon (fingers) with ribs (bones).  For a slightly more civilized event, check out the Bourbon Brunch at Acadia Restaurant or kick it old school styles at the Monarch Tavern with an evening featuring classic bourbon based cocktails.  Wrapping up the week is the Bourbon Derby at 3030 Dundas west featuring a 20 brand bourbon “field” where you can choose what you’d like to taste, along with live Bluegrass from The Barrel Boys.  Note that several of these events require tickets, which are already available online, so if you’ve got your heart (and your liver) set on anything in particular, don’t wait! Continue reading

3 day Getaway: St. Jacobs & Stratford

This post is way overdue (like, exactly a year overdue), but it’s finally the perfect time of year again to share one of my favourite late summer / early fall getaways: St. Jacob’s County and Stratford.  Although most popularly known for their respective market and play festival, St. Jacob’s and Stratford make equally wonderful getaways for the beautiful scenery and serenity.  If you’re looking for an inexpensive two night break from the city this fall, pack your picnic basket and camera and head south west.  You won’t regret it, I promise.

Day 1: Food shopping and feasting at St. Jacob’s Market

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St. Jacob’s Market is Canada’s biggest year-round farmer’s market and offers everything from food trucks, produce, preserves, arts & crafts, antiques and the most incredible blue cheese I’ve ever tasted.  The market is open from 7am-3:00pm Tuesdays to Saturdays and if you’re heading to Stratford, this should definitely be your first stop.  We nibbled our way through the market, but also stocked up on goodies to make dinner in Stratford that evening.  Sadly, the main market building was destroyed in a fire this labour day weekend, devastating many vendors.  Although this means that there is less on offer than when I visited, the outdoor portion and side buildings are open, and your business is now more important than ever.  If you’re driving in from the city don’t stress about arriving early – the market was still in full swing in the afternoon and when we were heading out around 2pm, we were able to score some amazing deals as vendors started closing up shop.

photo(101)Although we stuffed ourselves with prepared food (like those beautiful shrimp rolls!) and baked goods (eccles cakes!) while shopping, we stocked up on produce to take with us and whipped our spoils into a delicious stir fry later that evening.

Wherever you’re heading, resist the urge to hurry and take the scenic route.  The country side in and around Perth is breathtaking and well worth the additional time.

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En route, we stumbled upon this tiny market in what appeared to be the middle of nowhere, stocked up on some more supplies and sampled some incredible ice cream.  Turns out Organic Oasis Farm Store has been open for well over a decade, offering up certified organic produce, dairy products, meats and grains to the local community (and the occasional yuppie from the city). photo(102)If you’re going to continue your voyage into Stratford, you have a wide array of beautiful old inns and B&B’s to choose from, but I’m pretty confident that we found the most overlooked gem in town: the Stratford White House.  We decided to make this trip at the last minute and were having difficulty finding accommodation when I discovered this place.  Advertised as a “banquet and accommodation facility”, the White House contains three fully furnished private suites in addition to a large dining room, lounge and other shared spaces.  The grounds are stunning, the front porch had me channeling Scarlet O’Hara, and our suite was the perfect combination of modern amenities and old world charm.

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New App: My City Muse

This summer has been ridiculously busy for both Kelly and I.  We capped off the end of the season with an amazing, debaucherous weekend with our friends at Two Islands Weekend (and for future years, this is an event not to be missed!). After a week of TIFF films, things may settle down a little come next week (well.. maybe not for Kelly who’s knee deep in wedding planning). I am excited to start having some downtime in the city again and start exploring and sharing my new-found awesomeness.

My explorations in the art world will start with the help of My City Muse. The newly launched app for your iPhone (coming soon for Androids) is a dream for fine art lovers in Toronto, Montreal, San Francisco and New York, with more cities to be added. The app was created by Sean Green, a University of Toronto Engineering alum and self-professed newbie to the art world.

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