Hollandaise Diner (Danforth East) 

If you’ve seen my Instagram posts over the last few weeks, you’ll know how much I love Toronto’s Hollandaise Diner. After eating there three times in the last six weeks, I figured it was high time to tell all of you what makes this place so great!

Chef Josh prepared a massive feast for us! You can see why I’ve been back twice.

Located just east of Woodbine, this cozy brunch spot opened a little over a year ago. I first heard of it when a fellow Instagrammer (find her awesome page at @reesestdot) invited me to an event for “influencers”, i.e. bloggers/active people on social media who often post about Toronto eateries and are able to reach a large audience. In a nutshell, the influencers show up, take pictures of the dishes the chef has prepared (to later post on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, etc.), and then get to share the food. It’s a win-win: the restaurant gets free advertising, and the influencers get a free meal and great company.

That Thursday evening, after the diner had closed for the day (it’s open daily from 7 AM to 3 PM), owners Josh and Marisa greeted us at the door. A young and friendly couple, Josh is the head chef and Marisa pulls double duty as a waitress and hostess. The influencers were a small group – just five of us – but, during the course of the evening, Josh was busy whipping up seven or eight of the diner’s most popular brunch items. I love brunch food, especially eggs Benedict, so I was in heaven! Their delicious Hollandaise sauce comes in five varieties (original, zesty, coconut, Cajun, and HP-infused) and is made in-house and from scratch, as are their lightly-fried home fries. Of their seven eggs benny combinations on their menu, they served us four of their favourites, listed below.

The Classic ($10.62), an English muffin with peameal bacon, two poached eggs, classic Hollandaise sauce and paprika:

The Coconut ($11.95), bitter greens and grilled tomato topped with two poached eggs, coconut Hollandaise sauce and toasted coconut:


The Cajun ($11.95), two pieces of baked polenta, sautéed Cajun spice peppers, two poached eggs, Cajun Hollandaise sauce and fresh chives:


The Meatloaf ($11.95), two pieces of meatloaf on top of a ketchup glaze with sautéed mushrooms, two poached eggs, HP-infused Hollandaise sauce and fresh parsley:


I’ve also had their Florentine eggs benny ($10.62), which substitutes sautéed spinach for meat:


Of the eggs bennies, Coconut and Florentine are my favourites. The melt-in-your-mouth Coconut benny is a lighter option as it substitutes grilled tomato for English muffins, while the Florentine benny is simple and delicious comfort food. FYI, Marisa and Josh were happy to do whatever they could to accommodate allergies, substitutions, and dietary restrictions. They even have an awesome vegan option called The Mighty Vegan ($12.95) – a tofu-based baked frittata with asparagus, potatoes, tomatoes, onions, and bell peppers, and served with a side of fresh fruit.

Next up were to die for coconut pancakes ($8.85), made with coconut milk and infused with bits of toasted coconut. They’re so good that I couldn’t resist ordering an extra coconut pancake on the side the last time I ate there! Homemade blueberry sauce added to the mouthwatering flavour. Clearly each of us influencers was in the mood for pancakes, because these disappeared in seconds!

Chef Josh also whipped up his original buttermilk pancakes ($8.85), which we were all eager to drizzle with maple syrup! A little magic in the kitchen turned them into colourful “Funfetti” pancakes, which Josh would be serving a few days after the influencer event, as part of a celebration for the diner’s one-year anniversary:


And finally, Josh brought us the Mushroom and Brie Frittata ($12.39) – three large eggs with portobello mushrooms, Brie, asparagus, and a side of sweet and spicy red pepper jelly:

At Hollandaise Diner, the food is delicious, the ingredients are fresh, the creations are unique, and the staff is warm and welcoming. They don’t take reservations, but the space sits 24, so even at peak hours you won’t have to wait more than a few minutes for a table. If you live in or around Toronto, you’ve gotta visit them at least once. Their menu truly has something for everyone, so you won’t be disappointed!

Cluny Bistro (Distillery District)

After dining for the third time at Cluny Bistro today, I can confidently say that I’ll be going back again soon!

Located in the heart of Toronto’s historic Distillery District, Cluny serves “modern French cuisine in a casual bistro setting.” There seems to be some confusion as to whether it’s a casual bistro or an upscale restaurant and boulangerie (bakery), but I digress. The service is always great (though wait times during busy hours are very long when waiting for your meal) and the cuisine and meal presentations always surpass my expectations! The decor is exquisite, with patterned floors, ceilings and plates that almost have a Mediterranean or Middle Eastern feel to them:  Continue reading

Via Cibo (North York) 

I’m writing tonight’s post with a full (and very happy) belly; my parents and I just got back from celebrating my dad’s birthday at Via Cibo in North York, Toronto.

We’ve passed by this casual Italian restaurant many times. We live less than five minutes away, and for some reason we decided tonight was the night to try it. Clearly, we made the right decision! Although the service wasn’t quite up to par (it almost felt like we were in a cafeteria – more on that later), the food was excellent and the location can’t be beat for those of us in North York.

Google informed us that Via Cibo serves Italian street food, so their menu was much fancier than we expected. Ossobuco ragu, gnocchi, stracciatella soup, rosé pasta, Tuscan kale salad, pollo parmigiana…the list goes on! (By the way, if you don’t recognize any of the items on that list, don’t worry. I don’t, either. 🙂 ) Continue reading

Thanksgiving 2016: What Are You Thankful For? 

As its name suggests, Thanksgiving is a time to gather with friends and family and give thanks for what we have. It’s also a time for turkey, sweet potatoes, stuffing and pumpkin pie, though unfortunately the excitement over these seasonal foods often overshadows the real purpose of this holiday!

My family’s tradition is a simple one: we either cook a turkey dinner from scratch or order one from Summerhill Market in Toronto and spend the day talking and laughing as we share a delicious meal together. Today’s dinner from Summerhill was, as always, very tasty; dessert was a creamy cheesecake baked by yours truly (recipe courtesy of my aunt). I took pictures but was salivating (okay, drooling) in a most unladylike fashion at the sight of the meal and couldn’t spare the time to snap better ones. Continue reading

I Made Almond Butter for the First Time, and Here’s What Happened

Here’s the first thing you should know about almond butter: if you’re going to make it yourself, you need to be patient. It is not a short process. It took me a good 25 minutes to make a smooth butter out of just 1 cup of almonds, and although it was worth it, I started to get a little frustrated towards the end! I wish I had documented the process for you all, but since I didn’t, here is a step-by-step process of what to do and how to do it. The best part is that you don’t need to add salt, sugar, oil or any of the other ingredients that you may find in prepackaged nut butters. Homemade almond butter is a simple, healthy spread – literally just blended almonds!

The second thing to know about almond butter is that it’s a great alternative to peanut butter if you have certain allergies or taste aversions. In terms of nutrition, they both offer tons of protein and fibre, but almonds provide a slightly higher dose of heart-healthy monounsaturated fat. They also have quite a different taste to peanuts, which was why, after hearing about it so often, I really wanted to try it. Continue reading

Try This: Healthy & Creamy Vegan Pasta Sauce!

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The pasta sauce tastes like cashews and potatoes – a winning combo.

I’m not vegan, but my body thanks me when I eat like one.

Veganism (refraining from consuming animal products such as meat as well as animal by-products such as dairy and eggs) has become quite trendy over the past few years. Many clothing stores now sell graphic shirts containing quotes about being vegan, while some restaurants seem to advertise their vegan food options in order to attract more customers, rather than because they believe in those principles. But for those who sincerely follow the vegan lifestyle, their drastic diet changes have appeared to make noticeable differences to their health, weight, skin, hair and even mood. This, combined with my mild lactose intolerance to things such as cheesy pasta sauces, is why I decided to try out my very first vegan recipe: vegetable- and potato-based pasta sauce. Continue reading

Friday Favourites: Easy Chocolate Chip Cookies 

Sometimes we all crave homemade comfort food, am I right? Today I woke up itching for freshly-baked chocolate chip cookies and decided to, as usual, try out a random online recipe. Luckily, today’s was a winner! It called for five simple ingredients, all of which you probably already have at home: flour, egg, sugar, chocolate chips, and either butter or margarine.

 

You have no idea how hard it was to resist eating these while I took the picture…

Since the recipe isn’t mine, I’ll link it for you here. FYI, I substituted margarine for butter, which I think made the cookies less soft than expected – the consistency is closer to shortbread, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing! You’ll always get varied results even if your measurements differ to the recipe by just a teaspoon or two, so be prepared for a slightly different batch every time.

They needed about 9 minutes to rise and brown slightly; at 11, the edges started to lightly burn. The result was a doughy yet moist cookie, and the chocolate chips gave them the sweetness they needed. If you have ten minutes, go test the recipe out for yourself! Happy baking 🙂