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.
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.
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.
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.
And the Breakfast Pocket: scrambled eggs, peameal bacon, cheddar, tomato, and carmelized onions with dijon and aioli on focaccia.
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.”
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.
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!
I’ve already gone on about the things I won’t miss about Toronto. But as my time winds down here, I’m realizing there are a lot more things I’ll actually miss.
Of the things I’ll miss the most, is brunch. Obviously.
I mean, technically you can do brunch anywhere. Hell, my unemployment pancakes could be considered “brunch.” But no place brunches like a big city brunches. Going out for eggs benny on a Sunday morning is how the new urbanites worship. Over these past nine months, I’ve become one of them. Sometimes looking forward more to my hungover Sunday brunch than the Saturday night that got me there.
Of all the brunches I’ve had in Toronto, there is one that has stuck out in my memory like a flashing neon light. It was a rainy Saturday back in December when I met up with Kristin and her husband at Mitzi’s on College in Little Italy. Word on the internet was that they had the best pancakes in the city. I just had to try it for myself. I can turn down a lot of things, but I can’t turn down a flapjack loved so dearly by the masses.
I try not to visit the same restaurant twice in Toronto unless there are different dishes on the menu that I really want to go back and try. I’m not the kind of person who regulars a place and orders the same thing over and over. My tastebuds are always demanding something new. Something different.
You see, I’ve been adding all these new experiences to my Toronto bucket list. Things I’ve never experienced but want to before I leave.
All except for this pancake. I decided that I could not leave this city until I had The Pancake one last time.
Mitzi’s Famous Buttermilk Oatmeal Pancake: Topped with tiramisu and lady fingers. Served with home fries, fresh fruit, pure maple syrup & fresh whipped cream.
The toppings always change. Last time it was topped with apple cider caramel and toasted shaved almonds. I didn’t like the tiramasu quite as much. It didn’t mesh with the sweet maple flavours as well as the caramel did. Plus, I’ve never liked mixing chocolate with my pancakes. I’m a bit of a pancake purist.
The rest of the pancake was just as I’d remembered it. Ridiculously large, thick and fluffy. Like an oatmeal cake cooked in a cast iron skillet. Hearty and soft, then saturated with sweet maple syrup. It arrived piping hot, straight from the pan. And didn’t last long.
Like I said last time, when I think back to this moment in time, I won’t worry about how many calories or sugar were on this plate. Rather I’ll remember this particular rainy Saturday in March as the day I enjoyed my favourite brunch as a 25-year-old single girl living in Toronto.
Accompanied by multiple mugs of Mitzi’s own roasted coffee.
And of course, my brunching partners in crime.
Roommie Megan and fellow Leslievillian/J-Schooler Colin. We seem to be the only ones motivated enough to get out for brunch every weekend. Okay, that and we share a deep love for breakfast foods.
Mitzi’s by the way, doesn’t just serve pancakes. They’ve got a stellar brunch menu. If I were staying, this could easily become a place I’d actually regular.
Megan ordered the Omelette: With jerk pork and old cheddar, and a curried banana chutney. Served with home fries, fresh fruit and toast.
I tried a bite and it was awesome. I think I like pulled pork better inside eggs than on a bun. And banana chutney?? Amazing!
The Aquarius drinking from a Sagittarius mug. This was also the day I learned how to shimmy my hair into a barrette with one arm (the other arm still in a cast).
I will definitely miss the brunch options when I move home to Moncton. But I return with an arsenal of brunch recipes and ideas to recreate in my father’s kitchen on weekend mornings for the family. Including the above pancake, which I am determined to make my own version of.
In the meantime, check out my new Restaurant page for a listing of all the restaurants I’ve ever blogged about. It hasn’t all been pancakes!
As all of you know, I fell skating just over a couple weeks ago. I’ve recovered nicely from the surgery, but my arm is still casted up. This leaves me with one working hand and unable to exercise.
Which in turn, has affected the way I eat.
First things first, I’m a sedentary person now. Thankfully, my hunger levels have started reflecting that. But I absolutely cannot eat the way I used to when I was working out at the gym every day. I’m upset enough about my arm as is,I don’t need to get upset about a weight gain on top of that.
Secondly, my body is trying to heal itself. Not only does it have skin and bone to repair, but the risk of infection after surgery is very high. Especially when my arm was open for so long. My body needs nutrients to do this, and my weird food cravings lately are a direct reflection of that.
Finally, I’m only working with one hand here. I lovelovelove to cook and bake. Being limited to the use of one hand in the kitchen is a big bummer.
I started slowly, frying eggs and making toast. Peeling an orange with one hand is a laborious process. Getting anything out of a pan when you can’t hold on to the handle with the other hand is harder than you’d expect. Thus, my first attempts ended up scrambled.
I moved on to simple sandwiches. The Herb & Spice food market here in Ottawa carries these things called “tofu cutlets.” Sliced tofu smothered in a savoury gravy-like sauce. I’m obsessed.
Then I got risky, attempting to stuff a fragile pita with just one hand. Slow and steady wins the race, and it came out great. My sister had to open the can of tuna for me.
After a week of eating fried eggs on toast every day, I needed to change it up. French toast is actually very simple to make with one hand!
I even got a little experimental, despite my boring palate as of late. I wanted to make iced coffee, but my sister had no ice cubes. Thus, the iced coffee float was born. With dark chocolate frozen yogurt.
One-handed cooking has actually turned into something of a welcome challenge for me. My days are always empty, so trying out something in the kitchen gives me a project for the day.
Like the above jambalaya made with delicious handmade sausages and local organic beef. My sister did all the chopping of the vegetables, I did the assembling and cooking.
I tried to make dinner for my sister one night, using this recipe for Colcannon Mash and frozen fish sticks. I subbed the cream out for yogurt and used a mix of regular and purple cabbage. I had to use the knife like a machete to get through the potatoes, but I was proud of myself when done.
The leftovers made for a great breakfast by cracking in a couple eggs, sprinkling with cayenne, and baking. By this point I’ve become an expert at one-handed egg cracking. Not to mention this was a great way to get veggies and nutrients in first thing.
But my most ambitious work yet has got to be Banana Bread.
Yup! All with one hand! I used this recipe for the best banana bread ever. However I do not think it’s my best loaf. I used two large bananas and it could have used three. Not banana-y enough!
The food part of this story doesn’t end in the kitchen. I’ve been out to eat a few times in Ottawa too! Not only is making food a challenge now, but so is eating it. I can’t use a knife. So anything that requires being cut into pieces is out. Getting the last few bites of something in a bowl is impossible when you can’t hold on to the bowl. Even handheld items can be a challenge depending on their likelihood to fall apart and get messy.
My sister and I made a pit stop at The Atomic Rooster on Bank Street after running some errands. I wanted something light, plain and nutritious, just like all my cravings as of late. I ended up with a mango chicken wrap. It was a close call. Had it been wrapped improperly, there was no supporting it together with my other hand. It could have ended in disaster.
My sister of course had a major hankering for junk food. Our cravings never seem to match up. So she went for a burger with cheese and guac, with a side if poutine and beer. The poutine by the way, was really good.
I may be out of Toronto, but my love for brunch continues. I have a university friend here in Ottawa who I finally got to see over the weekend.
Nicole and I often worked together on broadcast journalism assignments. A lot of running around town lugging camera equipment and trying to convince people to talk to us. Then hours upon hours nitpicking over our digital frames in the editing room. She was awesome to work with, and we’re closer now because of it :)
We’d originally planned for Stoneface Dolly’s in Little Italy, but the wait was unreal. So we ended up at Il Primo across the street. I suspect not as good as our first choice. But I ordered the lemon ricotta pancakes that were on special and they were delicious. I’ve never added citrus to my sweet breakfast concoctions and it was a welcome flavour.
Nicole actually just returned from a trip to Toronto where she picked up this treat from a DIY cookie place called Sweet Flour on Bloor West. For a regular sugar cookie, it tasted anything but boring. I especially liked the thick frosting.
I ate it one little piece after another and before I knew it, it was gone!
Surprisingly, I think I’ve lost a little weight since my accident. My hunger levels have drastically decreased since I stopped exercising. Now that I’m not eating out as much, my belly pouf has deflated.
However, I am still paying special attention to what I eat during this recovery process. For the sake of my self esteem and body’s ability to repair itself. Junk food actually doesn’t cure all. My cravings are now geared towards the plain and boring. So I am now, ahem, kindly asking for “get well” spinach salads only. I know you understand ;)