Where We Ate: Portland Variety

More than ever, Instagram has become a source of new restaurants to try. Portland Variety was one of these finds! Conveniently located at Portland and King (former home of the now-closed KiWe Kitchen), the restaurant offers both indoor and outdoor seating. The drink menu is pretty interesting (they have a proper mixologist and all), and there are plenty of shareables to choose from. We liked pretty much everything we tried!

What We Ate

  • Housemade ricotta with honey, hazelnuts, and pears (soooo good!)
  • Salt cod brandade (loved it!)
  • Roasted bone marrow (the crispy top was a nice touch)
  • Grilled octopus
  • Eggplant confit
  • Beef tenderloin carpacio with Parmesan shavings
  • Patatas Bravas
  • Bite-sized beignets with chocolate sauce (airy, vanilla cream-filled goodness)
Housemade Ricotta

Housemade Ricotta

Salt Cod Brandade

Salt Cod Brandade

Roasted Bone Marrow

Roasted Bone Marrow

Grilled Octopus

Grilled Octopus

Beef Tenderloin Carpaccio

Beef Tenderloin Carpaccio

Eggplant Confit

Eggplant Confit

Mini Beignets

Mini Beignets

Portland Variety Cafe on Urbanspoon

Favourite Spots: Treadwell Farm-to-Table Cuisine (Niagara-on-the-Lake)

The first time I went to Treadwell was in 2009 (Matt and I were celebrating 4 years together… how time flies!), and it was love at first bite. The food was delicious, innovative, and well-executed, which was only made better by the fact that the service was on point. Ever since then, Treadwell has been on the list of our favourite restaurants!

The last few times we’ve been, the restaurant was still in its old Port Dalhousie location, but last year, it relocated to Niagara-on-the-Lake. The dining room is smaller but the restaurant now features bar seating by the kitchen, a large patio space, and a wine bar. I also love that it’s nestled among all of the little shops and restaurants in NOTL, but still tucked away in a nice, cozy space.

A couple of weekends ago, my girlfriends and I decided to take a somewhat spontaneous wine country getaway to celebrate my good friend J’s birthday, which was the perfect opportunity for another meal at Treadwell. As usual, it didn’t disappoint!

True to the name of the restaurant, all of the ingredients used are in season, fresh, and locally sourced. I don’t think I’ve had the same thing twice at Treadwell, but the food is always delicious. My parents are coming to town next week, so we’ll definitely be making a trip to take them there!

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Treadwell’s former location at Port Dalhousie

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On the patio at Treadwell’s new location in Niagara-on-the-Lake

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Treadwell Farm to Table Cuisine on Urbanspoon

Station Cold Brew Coffee Co. Launches at Brunch TUM!

Last week, fellow blogger Mary from Mary’s Happy Belly (who also happens to be a colleague and foodie friend) forwarded me an email about Station Cold Brew Coffee Co.’s official launch at the August TUM event. After contacting Mitchell Stern, the Marketing Director at Station Cold Brew, we were extended an invite to their debut! In my opinion, the brunch-themed TUM event was a big disappointment (more about that later), but we really enjoyed the cold brew coffee!

A little about cold brew coffee…

Cold brewing coffee (which, coincidentally, my friend J was talking to me and Matt about it a couple of weeks ago) involves steeping coffee grinds in cold/room temperature water for about 12 to 24 hours. Eliminating the heating process also results in coffee with lower acidity and a subtly sweet flavour.

Station Cold Brew Coffee Co.: Thumbs Up

Station Cold Brew

The crew at Station Cold Brew was very nice, especially Mitchell, who introduced himself to us. We learned that in addition to BOOM Breakfast & Co. and Cheesewerks, their coffee will soon be available at the various Fresh locations in Toronto. I was super excited to hear that because I’ve been wanting to bring Matt to Fresh ever since I went last time… now we can go for the food and cold brew coffee!

We bought a cup of their coffee, which was really cold and refreshing, especially given how hot it was outside today! We had it with a little bit of milk and agave. And as their guests, we each also got to take home a cute, little personalized 8 oz. stubby of coffee (they’re currently chilling in the fridge as I write, but Matt and I each took a sip before I started this post!) Definitely a must try!

Personalized Stubbies of Coffee

Personalized Stubbies of Coffee

Brunch TUM: Thumbs Down

We’ve been to TUM events, and I definitely stand by the idea of supporting local eateries and chefs, but this brunch event was a big disappointment for us. As a brunch-themed event (and marketed extensively that way), you’d think that there would be actual brunch food. One vendor had eggs, but that was the closest it came to brunch! There were also only about 8 food vendors, which doesn’t offer much variety. Not worth it, in my opinion.

What We Ate

All of these vendors were hard at work at the event and the food was good, so I definitely want to give credit where credit is due, but at the same time, nothing we tried really blew us away.

Brunch TUM

  • Babi & Co.’s Babi on a Bun (braised pork belly on fried buns with pickled cucumbers): These were nice and crispy—very good!
  • Good Pho U’s Banh Mi: These were okay, but I still really like the ones from Nguyen Huong in Scarborough best!
  • Empanada House’s Empanadas (fried with chipotle shrimp and cheese inside): I wish there was a bit more filling! The chimichurri was good though.
  • Bombay Street Food’s Spicy Beef and Spicy Veggie Pate (served on a bun with a side salad): This was good, as was the side salad, but unfortunately, it made the bun very soggy.

It was a gorgeous summer day in Toronto though, so it was hard not to be happy just being out and about in the city! Hope you all had a happy weekend 🙂

Where We Ate: Taste of Toronto

Me and a group of my friends from Western have been taking turns planning monthly outings. For the month of July, my friend A organized a trip to the Taste of Toronto food festival.

The 4-day event, held at the Fort York National Historic Site, gave visitors an opportunity to try various dishes from a number of Toronto restaurants, shop and sample from different vendors, participate in cooking classes and wine tastings, and listen to live music.

We went on Saturday during the day, which turned out to be pretty good because it wasn’t too crowded and the lines were manageable. The weather also held up, which is awesome because it was almost all outdoors!

What We Ate

  • SplendidoFresh oysters with apple and jalapeño
  • Khao San RoadCrispy rice salad (rice, ginger, cilantro, sour pork sausage, lime leaf, and roasted peanuts)
  • El CaballitoPollo con mole (cemita bread, mole poblano, pulled chicken, white onion, and avocado)
  • Rose & SonsRose and Sons BLT (Dr. Pepper bacon, tomatoes, lettuce, feta, and herb mayo)
  • The McEwan GroupBymark’s lobster poutine
  • Richmond StationCharcuterie with pickles
  • WeslodgeWagyu hot dog (house bun, beet mustard, and beef cheek marmalade)
  • Hopgood’s FoodlinerSmoked mackerel on oatcakes

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What We Bought

  • Philip’s Ice PopsI had to  buy a homemade lemon-ginger rosemary popsicle!
  • Nutra FruitThe vendors were from Québec and super nice. The chocolate-covered cranberries and the cranberry-based vinaigrettes were to die for!
  • A $5 wine tasting: We spent 20 minutes learning about and tasting 2 reds and 2 whites from California and New Zealand—not bad for $5!

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The Good

  • It was pretty well-organized for a first-time event! I guess it helps that it’s been held in other cities and that major sponsors were involved.
  • The number of vendors/restaurants: There were quite a few food & drink vendors and restaurants, which meant that there was lots to see and that we had a good selection of eats to choose from!
  • The free food samples: Highlights include the butter chicken bison from Carmen Creek Gourmet Bison, which was melt-in-your-mouth good, and Woolwich Dairy’s lemon & lime goat cheese.
  • The free drinks: 1L bottles of Bloo juice, Nespresso coffees, San Pellegrino‘s sparkling clementine drinks, and Pure Leaf teas.

The Bad

  • Crowns: Like many food & beverage festivals, they had their own currency, cards that you could load with Crowns (1 CAD  = 1 Crown). I guess it’s easier to manage than change/credit/debit, but it’s a hassle for patrons!
  • The prices were still a bit steep—not unlike events from Toronto Underground Market, SLURP Noodlefest, the Food & Wine Expo, and the like. We paid for $50 for 2 people (which included 2 general admission tickets plus $12 worth of Crowns), but dishes ranged from $6 to $8 each, which is pretty pricey!
  • While we were fine during the day, I heard from others who went to the night events that the lines were very long!
  • Port-a-potties: Fortunately, they weren’t too bad during the day, but they definitely aren’t my favourite!

Overall though, it was good food with good friends, so I can’t complain too much! 🙂

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Where We Ate: Jacobs & Co. Steakhouse

To celebrate Matt’s birthday a couple of weeks ago, I treated him to dinner at Jacobs & Co. The restaurant is housed in a very large and sleek space, but I personally found the atmosphere to be a bit pretentious. The drinks were also really expensive, which was expected, but there were beers we normally get for half the price elsewhere, which is ROBBERY to me!

The service, however, was impeccable. All levels of staff were attentive and knowledgeable, especially our main server. We were definitely well attended to, which made it a good experience!

What We Ate

Jacobs Jacobs

  • Oysters: We opted for a mixed selection of east coast oysters, but we liked the Lucky Limes from PEI best!
  • Jacobs Caesar Salad with White Anchovy: This was prepared (perfectly) tableside—so much fun to watch and absolutely delicious. A must!
  • Duck Fat French Fried Potatoes + Potato Gratin: The sides come in half portions, which is great because you can try a couple of things. I really wanted their Brussels sprouts, but they were out that day!
  • USDA Prime Black Angus T-Bone Steak, Dry-Aged 125 days: 25 oz. of melt-in-your-mouth goodness! The server noted that the 125-day dry-aged steaks weren’t for everyone because it has a mushroom, Parmesan-like quality to it, but we loved it! Bonus: if you want, they can carve it up for you. Makes for easy sharing!

We even had a bit of surprise at the end! In another post about Auberge, I had mentioned how the restaurant had paid attention to a note I’d added in the Special Requests box of my Open Table reservation. This time, I included a request for a table in a quieter spot (if possible) because we were celebrating my husband’s birthday. Not only was this request granted, but they also came out with a little birthday dessert at the end of our meal! Very nice touch.

The overall verdict? The steak was perfection, and the service was on point, so we’ll definitely be back again!

Jacobs & Co. Steakhouse on Urbanspoon

Where We Ate: Nashville Edition!

Last week, I had the opportunity to visit Nashville for work, so Matt flew in a couple of days later for a mini vacation. I got a few incredulous reactions to this—and to be fair, I guess it’s not the most conventional vacay spot for 2 Asians—but why not explore a new city? And like all good trips, wherever Our Happy Jar goes, good food follows…

Where We Ate

Etch

Our experience at Etch was great. Impeccable service and really delicious food! The restaurant is also right across from the Country Music Hall of Fame 🙂

What We Ate: 

  • Butter tasting (prosciutto truffle, smoked parmesan black pepper, ginger cashew, and malt vinegar butter): It’s really just bread and butter, but the butter is amazing! Mixing them together was even more awesome!
  • Tempura catfish with watermelon and blueberries: Yummy, but the least memorable.
  • Roasted cauliflower with truffled pea pesto, almonds, and feta crema: Delish!
  • Pork chop with gnocchi, trio of mushrooms, asparagus, basil, frisee, smoked ham jus potato, and chorizo: The pork was really tender… to die for!
  • Orange creamsicle (white chocolate vanilla bean ganache, orange sorbet, white chocolate crumble, mango orange sauce, lemon macarons): This was really light and so yummy, which was a perfect way to end the meal!

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Etch on Urbanspoon

The Pharmacy Burger Parlour and Beer Garden

The Pharmacy was really out of the way for us and hard to get to without a car, but it was definitely worth the trip. I know burgers are a dime a dozen, but the burgers at this place are out of this world (the photo below doesn’t do them justice)! I would go back again just for those burgers… the large selection of beers doesn’t hurt either! It was also like eating in someone’s large backyard—plants, picnic tables, strings of lights—which I absolutely loved. What We Ate

  • Farm burger: Tennessee beef, country ham, applewood-smoked bacon, egg, and maple mustard
  • Stroganoff burger: Tennessee beef, mushroom stroganoff bechamel, sour cream, caramelized onion, and swiss cheese
  • Black bean and corn salad and hand-cut sweet potato fries

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The Pharmacy Burger Parlor and Beer Garden on Urbanspoon

Husk

Husk was also a little out of the way, but not too far of a walk from downtown. It was a really cute restaurant set up in a house, with a herb and veggie garden out front. What We Ate

  • Deviled eggs with pickled ramps
  • Ember “grilled” pimento cheese sandwich
  • Shrimp and grits with mushrooms, ham, and egg: This was one of the best parts of the meal!
  • Buttermilk chess pie with Georgia peaches and cream: SO good… it reminded me of the basque cake from Bar Isabel!

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Husk on Urbanspoon

Rolf and Daughters

Another restaurant that was pretty out of the way for us (are you seeing a theme here?) Also, Rolf and Daughters has been written up extensively, so it was understandably busy. We were told that it’d be an hour wait, but fortunately, it was much shorter, and we got to hang out with drinks outside for a bit. The restaurant is located in an old warehouse, which was cool. What We Ate

  • Chicken liver pate with green tomato marmalade and cacao: YUM.
  • Dry-aged beef tartare with salsa verde and toast
  • Polenta with charred and pickled eggplant and bonito
  • Squid ink trofie,with shrimp, squid, pancetta, and lemon: Really, really good, but wasn’t quite like Joso’s squid ink pasta.
  • Mixed roast of pork with corn, squash, okra, and bay laurel: This was pretty awesome too.

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Rolf and Daughters on Urbanspoon

The Southern

Live music, oysters, and blood orange mimosas for brunch? Hell yeah! Matt’s fried chicken and waffles was pretty darn good too.

What We Ate

  • Oysters!
  • The Highway (fried chicken breast on a waffle with maple syrup): Crunchy, just the right amount of heat, and perfect with the syrup!
  • Steak & Biscuit Benedict (grilled beef tenderloin, poached eggs, and hollandaise on a blue cheese biscuit): Meh.

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The Southern Steak & Oyster on Urbanspoon

Mason Bar

Mason Bar was located in our hotel, the Loews Vanderbilt. We decided to go for happy hour (4 to 6 pm), which was awesome: $3 for all draught beers and half-priced appetizers! The bar is also really cool… all decked out in mason jars! The theme of the bar is especially cute to me because 1) so many happy jars! and 2) if Matt and I ever have a son, we want to name him Mason 🙂

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What We Ate

  • Crab corn dogs: These were surprisingly good. We expected mini corn dogs, but they were generous portions and stuffed full of crab meat! Definitely worth getting, especially at half the price.
  • Truffle fries

Mason's on Urbanspoon

Merchants

The restaurant is located in a beautiful building (which has a long history), and it’s right in the middle of Broadway, nestled among all the surrounding honky-tonks. Unfortunately, we were really full, so we only had a bunch of apps.

What We Ate

  • Duck fat tater tots with chipotle mayo, bearnaise, ketchup: So bad for you, but they are made perfectly crispy!
  • Fried green tomatoes with spicy pepper jam and house pimento cheese: This was only okay.
  • Shrimp corn chowder: Nothing special.

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Merchants Restaurant on Urbanspoon

Hattie B’s Hot Chicken

This is a good bang-for-your-buck place (their fried chicken plates range from $8.50 to $11.50 and are served with 2 sides), but I didn’t think the chicken was overly amazing. We waited in a long line though, so it’s obviously very popular!

What We Ate

  • Small white (breast and wing)
  • Large dark (2 thighs and 2 legs)
  • French fries, mac and cheese, southern greens, and potato salad

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Hattie B's Hot Chicken on Urbanspoon

Other Eating and Drinking

Nashville Farmers’ Market and Legato Gelato

We did a lot of walking on this trip, which was probably good because we needed to burn those calories. One of those long walks was to the Nashville Farmers’ Market, which was really fun! We obviously couldn’t buy any fresh produce, but we did get to hit up the Legato Gelato stand.

The guy there was very nice—he let us sample as much as we wanted—and the gelato was so good! We opted to try the donut gelato since that was something different, and it was surprisingly light-tasting but still sufficiently donut-y. I wish we had time to go visit their storefront location!

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The Breweries: Yazoo, Jackalope, and Tennessee Brew Works

These were all within walking distance of one another, so Matt and I decided to do a little brewery-hopping before our dinner at Etch. Yazoo had the best selection and a good sampler for us to try, I liked the picnic tables at Jackalope, and Tennessee Brew Works had a big patio, nice indoor space, and live music. Hitting up these breweries was so much fun, and I had a really nice buzz by the end!

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Phew… looks like we crammed a lot of eating and drinking in during our trip to Nashville! Our next trip is to Boston in September, so we’re looking forward to more good eats (and past favourites)… stay tuned 😉

Where We Ate: Gusto 101

This past month, Matt got shingles. It was the first time in almost a decade together that I’ve ever seen him that unwell. For him, it was debilitating in the form of extreme headaches and discomfort, so he was in bed for a good week. During that time, it really made me miss and appreciate all the things he does at home and to take care of me.

With all that said, I was ecstatic (and relieved) when he was finally feeling better this week, so we went out to celebrate at Gusto 101. The restaurant only takes a limited number of reservations each day, but we managed to grab a couple of skylight bar seats on the rooftop patio.

Source: Gusto 101

Rooftop Patio (Source: Gusto 101)

It was perfect weather for patio dining (and for sangria and beer), and the food definitely hit the spot… so yummy!

What We Ate:

Arancini (green pea risotto and buffalo mozzarella with red pepper sauce)

Arancini

Arancini

Rigatoni Lucani (rigatoni with braised lamb, tomato, and green olives topped with pecorino and gremolata)

Rigatoni Lucani

Rigatoni Lucani

Diavola Pizza (pizza with spicy sundried tomato pesto, calabrese salami, 
smoked provolone, and roasted peppers)

Diavola Pizza

Diavola Pizza

Gusto 101 hasn’t disappointed yet!

Gusto 101 on Urbanspoon

Sushi-Making at Wabora: Fun, but Not Worth It

This past Saturday, Matt and I headed to the Thompson Hotel to try a buytopia deal: $40 for a 2-hour sushi-making class at Wabora. The verdict? Meh. Don’t get me wrong—it was a fun date activity, the chefs were friendly, and we learned some basic sushi-making tips, but I personally don’t think it was worth the $40.

In any case, we still had a good time. Matt is definitely more creative than I am when it comes to (his are the two on the top in the photo below)! I was pretty preoccupied with not slicing all my fingers off with the sharp sushi knife, so thankfully, I came out with all 10 intact. ^^’

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What We Made

  • Chicken Teriyaki Roll: A grilled chicken, cucumber, carrot, and avocado roll topped with miso sauce and teriyaki sauce
  • Crispy Crunch Roll: A crabmeat, cucumber, and avocado roll topped with spicy salmon, crispy shredded potato, spicy mayo, and sweet-spicy sauce

Would I go again or recommend it to others? Maybe not. But I’ll end with this: it reignited my appreciation for sushi chefs because I got to witness first hand that it’s not as easy as it looks. Sushi-making requires practice and skill, and for those who’ve watched Jiro Dreams of Sushi, it can be an art. It’s something I’ll have to remember the next time we go out and have amazing sushi!

Wabora on Urbanspoon

Where We Ate: The Happy Hooker, Moo Milk Bar, Fishbar, and 416 Snack Bar

The Victoria Day long weekend + our 2nd wedding anniversary have made this weekend a downright splurge-on-food long weekend… we’ll really need to be on our best behaviour this coming week! We kicked off the weekend with dinner at Auberge du Pommier, one of our faves. Some of our other eats:

The Happy Hooker

Small space with a simple menu, but affordable and perfect for grabbing a quick bite! The lobster roll was good, but I think the hot lobster roll with butter at Neptune Oyster in Boston has set the bar really high for all the lobster rolls in our future. The fish in both the tacos were by far the highlight of our meal at The Happy Hooker.

What We Ate
  • Mahi mahi and Cali baja tacos
  • Lobster roll
  • Baja fries

The Happy Hooker
Happy Hooker on Urbanspoon

Moo Milk Bar

Not to be confused with Momofuku Milk Bar (which we still haven’t tried yet, here or in NYC), Moo Milk Bar is located in The Beaches and is a cute little bakery with fresh cookies, flavored milk, and other sweet treats. Matt and I headed there after seeing this Toronto’s Finest Instagram post on Moo Milk Bar’s ice cream sammies. Their cookies are pretty darn good, but the flavoured milk was a bit disappointing (the banana chocolate milk mostly tasted like banana).

What We Ate
  • Ice cream sandwich (red velvet cookie with chocolate chip cookie dough ice cream)
  • Cookies (cookies & cream and caramel ganache)
  • Banana chocolate milk

Ice Cream Sammy!Milk and Cookies

Moo Milk Bar on Urbanspoon

Fishbar

The last time we went to Fishbar, we only had oysters and drinks because we’d already eaten dinner. This time, we got to try a few other dishes, which were really yummy! They were offering oysters at happy hour prices, which was great, but the fried smelts and mussels were our picks.

The only downsides to the meal were the slow service (which some reviews on Yelp have echoed)—some of our orders were mixed up or forgotten, and our empty water glasses were never refilled throughout the meal—and the couple next to us. The guy was clearly a person who thought he knew everything about everything and was not afraid to voice it… constantly. He also kept getting out of his seat, walking across to the other side of the table, and cuddling his date (Matt was convinced that he was doing it just to cop a feel). It was so bad that at the end of the meal, Matt practically ran out of the restaurant!

What We Ate
  • PEI mussels in a tomato chorizo sauce
  • Fried lake smelts with sea salt and lemon
  • Oysters (Malpeque and Acadian Gold)
  • Crab cakes with an apple and jalapeño slaw

Fishbar

Fishbar on Urbanspoon

416 Snack Bar

After dinner, we decided to head out for drinks. This was only our 2nd time going to 416 Snack Bar, but both times, we had the luck of sitting at the bar right where we could see the food being prepared. It’s almost mesmerizing! That and the good service, solid music, and casual vibe made it a good way to end the night!

What We Ate
  • Foie torchon with mini toasts
  • The mini Reuben sandwich
  • Korean fried chicken
  • The small board (which, this time, consisted of a lettuce wrap, battered shrimp, sausage, cheese, and taro chips)

416 Snack Bar
416 Snack Bar on Urbanspoon

 

A TON of good eats this weekend, but as I said, we’re going to have to pay for it! We don’t want to forget our commitment to being healthy, so we’re getting back on the squat challenge and trying to head outdoors again if the weather cooperates. Time to work all of this food off! ^^’

Where We Ate: Bonjour Brioche

There are plenty of great brunch places in Toronto, but most of them don’t take reservations (why can’t they all just be on OpenTable?) and seating is always limited. This means that you’re pretty much guaranteed a long wait if you A) don’t go early enough, B) don’t have everyone in your party there, and/or C) have more than a group of 4.

Bonjour Brioche is no exception, but to echo some of the reviews I’ve read, it was worth the wait. I could have done without the attitude from the lady who seemed like the manager/owner, but I had a great time with the girls, the food was delicious, and our server was really nice and attentive.

What We Ate

Latte Bowls: Clearly the best way to start a Sunday morning!

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Half Peameal Bacon and Half Avocado-Tomato Eggs Benedict: I loved that our server suggest that we do the half meat, half veggie option. The benny was served on croissant, with a side of greens and a yummy baguette. Delicious!

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Croque Madame: I would’ve gotten this in a heartbeat if I didn’t want to their famous croissant… ham, Gruyère, egg, and brioche? What’s not to love?

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Tarts: I bought two of their amazing tarts (crème brûlée and lemon curd) to take home, and they did not disappoint!

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Bonjour Brioche on Urbanspoon

All in all, a perfect way to spend Sunday. It would have been even better if the Raptors didn’t have that heartbreaking loss in Game 7, but our boys still did good this year… there’s always next year!