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Schooled

Remember when I proclaimed The Grilled Cheese the coolest restaurant idea in Toronto? I still maintain that proclamation, but that doesn’t mean School Bakery & Cafe doesn’t come pretty darn close.

School Bakery & Cafe

Located just on the outskirts of Liberty Village, School was a bit of an afterthought on my Toronto Bucket List. Reader Joanne suggested it in the comments and I was reminded of reading reviews on it a while back.

School Bakery & Cafe

Being on the other end of the city (it’s way out West, I come from the East), I wasn’t sure if I’d find the time to make it there. My friends and I already had Sunday brunch plans for this week. Which meant I’d have to be motivated enough to get there on my own for a solo weekday brunch.

School Bakery & Cafe

Until we realized that we could brunch on Saturday too. What a novel idea – both days of the weekend! I immediately suggested this place and my friends agreed upon seeing the spectacular menu.

School Bakery & Cafe

We arrived around 12:45pm to a line-up out the door. Waiting for brunch in this city is just the norm. That’s why it’s always best to go with a small group of friends. The smaller the party, the faster you’ll get seated!

School Bakery & Cafe

I loved this place the second we made it inside the door. Unlike other cramped brunch places in the city, School is made up of two large rooms. Including a garage-type door they open up for a patio in the summer. There’s also the open kitchen concept, which I lovelovelove.

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The decor of School is just that – reminiscent of being in a school down to the very last detail. Chalkboards and books line the walls. It’s even inside an institutional looking building that reminds me of an actual school.

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Let’s not forget the projectors playing silent Betty Boop cartoons…

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Or the apple centerpiece on every table…

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But the menu is where School really shines through, not just the loose-leaf it’s printed on.

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It’s divided into two sections. Sweet n’ Fruity:

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Salt n’ Savoury:

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My friends, this was a hard decision. I studied this menu like any good student would. I went back and forth between Super Cheesy French Toast, Smoked Salmon Endive Salad, or maybe the Upstream Benni?

Roommie Megan went for the first choice – Super Cheesy French Toast.

School Bakery & Cafe

With double smoked bacon, maple syrup and greens. This was probably the thickest sliced French toast I’ve ever seen. Still incredibly light and fluffy though. The gooey cheese was actually the perfect compliment to the eggy bread, and the maple syrup made it the perfect blend of sweet & savoury.

School Bakery & Cafe

The boys went for the Melted Gooey Four Cheese Omelet Soufflé. They said it was a lot like a fluffy egg pancake.

School Bakery & Cafe 

And what did I finally decide on?

School Bakery & Cafe

That would be the Spiced Benni on Cheddar Chive Biscuit served with back bacon, chipotle hollandaise and home fries.

School Bakery & Cafe

I asked for the hollandaise on the side as I don’t actually like it. But I spread a little on top just to get the spiciness of it. The eggs came out perfectly poached and runny. The bacon in thick slices. Then there was the biscuit.

School Bakery & Cafe

Hands down, the best part of the meal was the biscuit. It was even a little spicy. The perfect size and shape for the benni, and didn’t turn to mush under the bacon and runny eggs.

School Bakery & Cafe

The home fries were spectacular to boot. Crisp and slightly black on the outside, soft on the inside. Not too greasy and the perfect two-bite size.

Apart from their brunch, I’d also heard good things about School’s bakery. Something I was easily convinced of as soon as I tried their biscuit. So just as we were about to get the bill, I asked for an extra treat to-go. Something I drooled over as we stood waiting to get in earlier.

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That my friends, is a Nutella scone (also pictured earlier in the post). I spent all afternoon walking down Yonge St. with it in my purse. Like, from Lawrence to Bloor stations. Just over four miles. I thought for sure I’d destroyed this thing of beauty during my wanderings, ripping into it immediately when I got home.

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The scones had been just pulled out of the oven when the waitress gave this to me. I popped it in the microwave for a few seconds. Long enough to make the chocolate flavour stand out and the nutella on top to melt. It was very soft for a scone without the sweetness of a cake. A little spice in there too. This, and a side of celery may have been my dinner on Saturday…

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Overall, School gets a passing grade. I will say the wait to get our food was longer than acceptable, and they did mess up one of our orders. The price is also a little high for brunch. I don’t normally spend 20 bucks on breakfast (or err, “second breakfast” in this case). Still though, totally worth the trip and price for the one-time experience.

I have one more Toronto brunch review to do, then I plan on doing a post featuring my top brunch spots and dishes. You’ll just have to wait to see how School shaped up compared to the rest of the class ;)

Quest For The Best Brunch

When I first moved to Toronto, I was admittedly confused by the city’s obsession with brunch.

Every restaurant promotes an extensive brunch menu. Weekend plans with friends don’t just revolve around pints at night, but also sharing eggs benny the next morning. Walk down most main drags on a late weekend morning and you’ll find line-ups of hungry brunchers spilling on to the sidewalks. I thought it was all so silly.

But lo and behold, I’ve turned into something of a brunch connoisseur during my time in Toronto. I’ve suddenly found myself searching for the city’s best brunch spot in vain. Through all of my searches, one name keeps coming up.

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Auntie’s & Uncles is this tiny spot just off of College near Bathurst. Walking in, I felt like I was transported to a 1950’s style cottage. Or maybe the diner up the road from a 1950’s farmhouse.

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The place was eclectic to say the least. But I kind of loved it, as I have a thing for country cottages. Especially when I get transported there from midtown Toronto. I also love open kitchens like this one where you can see the cook pumping out heaping plates of pancakes and burgers.

However, to be honest, the place kind of reeked of hipsters. The waiters were very blasé.  Nice, but seemed like they were more there to hang out than actually serve you.

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Of all the brunch items, two consistently got the best reviews. The Chickpea Salad: green thai curry and dried mango, served with potato salad and greens.

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And the Breakfast Pocket: scrambled eggs, peameal bacon, cheddar, tomato, and carmelized onions with dijon and aioli on focaccia.

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Roommie Megan got the above breakfast pocket and to quote, she says “It was fucking loaded with stuff.” In other words, tons of perfectly cooked eggs and peameal bacon. However, not actually a “pocket” but more of a sandwich. She ordered the home fries and they were just “alright.”

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I on the other hand went for the chickpea salad. Holy moly it was good!! A little heavy on the dressing, but the dressing was at least delicious. Tangy and savoury all at once with lots of celery. I can’t express the same excitement for the potato salad, which was way too chunky with too much dijon.

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Overall, I really liked Auntie & Uncles. We went on a Wednesday afternoon to avoid the weekend craziness. Not sure if it would be worth fighting the crowds on a Saturday or Sunday to try it.

So I can’t quite say it’s my favourite brunch place in Toronto. That has yet to be revealed. I’ve got a few more places to try in the next 10 days before I leave to move back home. Then I’ll be able to come up with a comprehensive list ;)

This brunching is serious business!

 

Question of the Day: What’s your favourite brunch? Mine’s French toast!

Pho The First Time

First and foremost I feel the need to acknowledge the earthquake and tsunami in Japan. I have many friends over there right now, thankfully all of which are okay. I hope all of your loved ones there are okay too!! I can’t get over some of the unreal images being shown on the news. After experiencing my first earthquake last summer, I can’t even fathom how terrifying it would be to experience one of that magnitude. Having the earth lurch and shake beneath you is probably one of the scariest things I can think of.

Now if only we as a world could rally support for man made disasters like we do natural disasters. Sigh.

In other news, I got my cast off today!

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I finally got to look at my gnarly incision site for the first time. This is after I cleaned it off. It was way gross before.

As for life now without the cast, I’m instructed to start physio asap. I still can’t flex or extend my elbow or rotate my wrist on my own. So I have to get someone to hold my arm and gently lead me through these motions to get my joints used to moving again.

My surgeon said it looks like my bones are settling well. He said my elbow was so pulverized that he’s impressed with any progress at this point. I get the feeling that in any other case he would have immediately inserted a prosthetic radial head. But for some reason he feels my arm can heal on its own. He told me that apart from screws, he also used some kind of glue to piece my shattered elbow back together, which is apparently “unconventional.” There’s also an abnormally large screw in there that may give me problems further down the road and have to be removed.

My next follow up is two weeks from today back in Ottawa. I’m going to see a physiotherapist in Toronto until then. I’ll fly back to New Brunswick from Ottawa after my next appointment in a couple weeks – where I’ll stay to live!! I’ll have to find another orthopaedic surgeon and physiotherapist back home.

Oh, and I asked my surgeon about running. He said no. He doesn’t want me doing anything where I might accidently over extend my elbow. Moving it past it’s current range of motion (which is just a couple inches) can release unwanted fluids and re-injure the joint. Soooo walking it is! I still have to wear my sling when out and about. And he specifically instructed me to wear it on the TTC so assholes don’t jerk my arm around :P

I have to admit, it’s also kind of nice being back in Ottawa with my sis. My sister welcomed me back Thursday night with a dish the city is known for.

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I had no idea Ottawa was so pho obsessed. I’d been planning on trying my first bowl of pho in Toronto before I leave. But Sara said that was silly, seeing as Ottawa is a city that runs on this hot soupy dish.

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After reading a few reviews online, we ended up at New Pho Bo Ga La on Somerset. Not to be confused with Pho Bo Ga, Pho Bo Ga King and Pho Bo Ga La, all within 100 metres of one another.

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I was pleased to see it was a nice sit down restaurant and not some run down take-out joint. We immediately poured ourselves a cup of hot jasmine tea that was already on the table.

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The menu was giant, offering every combination imaginable for pho. Different kinds of noodles, meats and levels of spiciness.

Sara and I started with a shrimp rice roll. 

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Neither of us are fans of the deep-fried spring rolls. I love the sticky texture of the rice wrap!

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Stuffed with whole shrimp, rice noodles, mint and lettuce, dipped in a sweet peanut sauce. Very simple and incredibly tasty.

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The waiter brought us a plate of bean sprouts, thai basil, thai peppers and lime wedges. I knew the soup was next!!

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Sara, a pho expert by this point, went with something a little fancier. A pho with spicy tomato broth, peanuts and rare beef.

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I tried a taste and it was awesome! The peanuts were a perfect addition.

I on the other hand wanted to try something a little more traditional for my first pho experience. We both ordered large bowls and they were giant!

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With rice noodles, rare beef, chicken, green onion, bean sprouts, basil, and a few sprinkles of sriracha. I’ve never tried sriracha before and I think I should finally buy some since I put hot sauce on everything!

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For pho newbies such as myself, it’s a traditional Vietnamese dish made with a flavourful beef broth, rice noodles and thin slices of rare beef. The soup is served so hot that the beef cooks into tender sheets of meat in no time.

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When it comes to soup, I can take it or leave it. I’m usually pretty picky. But I loved this bowl! The broth was unlike any I’ve ever tasted. Not too salty, a little oily (in a good way!) and very bright tasting. The addition of lime, mint and coriander give it a very unique taste. The piles of noodles of course didn’t hurt.

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I only ended up eating half my bowl and brought the rest home for lunch the next day!

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I added an egg to the mix at home and it was oh-so-good. Also cheap considering I got two meals out of it.

I also want to thank you for the continued support from all of you over the past month as I recover from this injury. I’ve always been a hopeless optimist, but the comments and words of encouragement I get from you on a daily basis has played a large part in keeping me so upbeat. I sometimes feel silly yammering about my trivial woes on here when real trauma is happening elsewhere. But I at least hope my relentless optimism is contagious, and leaves you feeling hopeful at the end of the day too.

Have a great weekend!!

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