Toulouse Petit – Seattle, WA


Toulouse Petit Kitchen & Lounge
601 Queen Anne Ave. N.
Seattle, WA
(206) 432-9069

Booze with breakfast. Sad but true, that was the criteria upon which some research was done as I had a thirsty companion who was riding shotgun on this trip. Trying to get our drink on well before the night game at Safeco Field, this place popped up as the sole option. Surprisingly, it also turned out its a pretty well known joint. Dodging the lineup and delaying our entry into the place with a coffee from down the street, we were able to get a pair of stools at one of the rectangular communal tables – fittingly right in front of the beautifully stocked bar.  As it said on the menu, “daytime drinking has never been so dignified, fun and guilt free…”.

There was a special pricing event going on during the hours we were here, so it did knock a few green bills off the total tally.  With a section devoted to some more uncommon creations, my dining partner and I chose from that area, skipping past the usual eggs/toast combos, that we might have otherwise chosen.  Our picks: the cured pork cheeks confit hash and the smoked salmon and asparagus hash.

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Joe’s Atlantic Grill – Port Moody, BC


Joe’s Atlantic Grill
2410 St. John’s Street
Port Moody, BC
(604) 931-8765

Unfamiliar town.  No map.  One main street.

Sounds like a perfect recipe for either a wonderful random discovery or a tremendous let down.  “Wonder what it will be this time” I thought, after we parked the car and did a quick walk along St. John’s Street.  Passing by the Caribbean-flavoured Rehanah’s Roti, spotting the Filipino Rosario and seeing a ubiquitous Japanese restaurant during our stroll, we quickly nixed the ethnic options for something a little more closer to home.

As we came to Joe’s Atlantic Grill that resides in an older building in this part of Port Moody, on what seems to be the major thoroughfare that cuts through this community, we scanned inside as well as the posted menu by their door and figured it couldn’t hurt.  Some late-morning grub/early lunch was what we wanted and it seemed safe enough.

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Hamersley’s Bistro – Boston, MA


Hamersley’s Bistro
553 Tremont St
Boston, MA 02116-6306
(617) 423-2700

For the most part, I value good food over service. I used to say to people that “food is all that matters – service is irrelevant if the food isn’t good”, but i’ve since backed off such a polarized view.  After all, i realized that great service often colors one’s view of the food (it can be hard to separate the two – since you *want* to like the food more). And really good food with lousy service, sometimes isnt worth it. Depending on the situation of course.

A pricey, well regarded South End bistro with a special Sunday Brunch menu, Hamersley’s Bistro continually draws rave reviews for their food and service. Seemed like a nice place to meet up with family for a tasty meal. Especially when meeting the new “boyfriend” for the first time.

The inside of Hamersley’s Bistro has a nice, though formal feeling to it. White linen, columns, high arching ceilings, there is a tremendous amount of light that makes the space feel comfortable, yet a bit formal for my preference.

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The Front Room – Portland, ME


The Front Room Restaurant and Bar
73 Congress St
Portland, ME 04101-3661
(207) 773-3366

It never hurts to be friendly. One example of this is striking up a conversation with the people next to you at a restaurant or bar.  You meet some of the most amazing people that way. I find smaller towns especially good for this. People just seem to be more open to conversation with strangers.

However, getting recommendations from people you meet in a restaurant is an interesting proposition. On the one hand, you’re both in the same establishment, enjoying the same food, which implies there are some things in common. On the other hand, you really know nothing else about them, other than maybe they are really nice, very friendly, or seem very knowledgeable. However, it will always be an adventure.

When dining at Fore Street, another Portland establishment, we were given a recommendation by a very friendly couple next to us for brunch. Well, after they inquired about our planned dining excursions, and criticized our breakfast choices 🙂  They suggested that the Front Room was the best brunch in town. Seeing as i wasn’t totally committed on my choice, we decided to give it a shot.

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Culina Mill Creek – Edmonton, AB


Culina Mill Creek
9914 – 89 Avenue
Edmonton, AB
(780) 437-5588

Weekend brunch: 10am – 2pm

Set in a small cozy dining room just off 99th Street, this little cafe is a great spot to enjoy a nice weekend brunch.  Weather permitting – they also have a small outdoor patio.  I have visited this restaurant for their Sunday family-style dinners in the past (doesn’t appear as they do this anymore), and we decided to give the brunch a try.

I  love cornbread, and Culina has great cornbread.  Served with a sweet blueberry butter, I want some now…   please?

Cornbread with blueberry butter

Cornbread with blueberry butter

Lots of great sounding choices on their menu, but we decided to try the basics on this go-around.   The Eggs Benedict, is stacked with prosciutto, truffle hollandaise, and garnished with basil.  Side of diced potatoes rounds off this dish.   The server didn’t give any warning of the SPICY ketchup, which unfortunately was an unwelcome surprise – but as-is, everything tasted great!

Eggs Benedict

Eggs Benedict

Culina’s ‘Famous Bacon & Eggs’ is described on the menu as:  slow braised bacon, mushroom frittata, potato hash and toast.  When it arrived – the “bacon” was actually a good sized mound of slow-roasted pulled pork-shoulder,  the “hash” was more of a pan-fried mash, and the “mushroom frittata” was really a simple frittata – topped with a mushroom sauce.

Regardless of the description – everything on the plate tasted great – again, minus the lack of warning for the tongue scorching ketchup.

Famous Bacon & Eggs

Famous Bacon & Eggs

At $4 for a glass of OJ,  $5 for cornbread,  and $15 each for the entrees, this may be slightly more of a special-occasion destination – although, you may see me there every morning with a cup of their organic coffee and cornbread…  Mmmmm  cornbread.

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Tonimoes and Shivers at the Mackenzie Hotel – Inuvik, NWT


Tonimoes Restaurant, Shivers Bar @ Mackenzie Hotel
185 Mackenzie Road, Inuvik
Northwest Territories
(867) 777-2861

Sunday Brunch. Nice in theory. Generally over-rated in my personal opinion. You typically pay more than you would pay for breakfast, to eat more than you would, or should, normally eat, with a wider selection of items of a lesser quality. Don’t get me wrong, I do like the “romantic” aspects of brunch. Socialization. A time of gathering. That wonderfully fuzzy time that’s not too early, but still acceptable to be eating breakfast. It’s nice. But the quality can really vary. And then there’s brunch, and there is BRUNCH. At Tonimoes at the MacKenzie Delta Hotel, we’re talking brunch.

The Mackenzie Delta Hotel is the most famous hotel in Inuvik. Which is kind of like saying the Eiffel Tower is the most famous tower in Paris. Not a lot of competition. However, well before venturing to Inuvik, I had heard a lot regarding the Mackenzie. Their “scotch” night. Sunday Brunch. Best meal in Inuvik. Only meal in Inuvik. Really, with a reputation like that, there was only one thing to do – try it myself.

tonimoes_01

Sunday Brunch is a quiet family affair. The room was mostly empty, filled with a few families, and a few couples. It’s a nice room – clean, well appointed if a little spread apart. There is, afterall, spacious, and then there an uncomfortable amount of space between tables.

tonimoes_04

My beef with buffets often comes down to the food. Many dishes  sit around for long periods of time, being gently warmed to well done by the red glow of the heat lamp. Most things lack freshness – or a la minute as many breakfast items (like poached eggs) should be cooked at. At Tonimoes, all my worst buffet nightmares come true. Chafing dishes filled with cooked foods, kept warm for hours. The bacon is crispy-soggy, the eggs, inedible. Most of the hot dishes are in fact barely edible. Hollandaise that has separated. Potatoes that do not taste like potatoes. I tried a little of everything, and ended up sticking to safe things that i would not get sick on. Like bacon and breakfast sausage. Eggs are a bit too adventerous for me.

tonimoes_03

The best thing available? The carrot cake. One of the many previously frozen desserts available, but seemed to withstand freezing much better than some of the other choices. Nothing to write home about, but after biting and spitting out one of the chocolate tarts, this was welcome relief indeed.

tonimoes_02

I didnt go into this experience loving brunch, and i have to admit, this one didnt convert me either. Food? Poor. Price? Average.  If you need a requisite 12,000 calories before heading into the bush, then maybe this is the meal for you. Otherwise? You’d be better off not eating at all. Not really, but pretty close.

Bonus Coverage: Shivers Bar at the Mackenzie Hotel.

So i was told that you’ve not had a true Mackenzie experience until you’ve eaten at Shivers. Im not sure what a Mackenzie experience is, but after my Brunch experience, i should’ve known better. One night, I went in to Shivers to order some food. They have a BBQ half chicken with mashed potatoes and veg as the daily special. Sounds great, so i give it an order. After all, how badly can they mess up roast chicken?

Well, my dining companions order as well. And their food comes. 40 minutes later, still no chicken. Finally, my chicken shows up. A little over zealous in the application of bulls eye (actually, after having looked at the local grocery store, it’s more likely Heinz) BBQ sauce, but looks good. I slice into the chicken. It’s a bit firm. But i manage. Take a bite…and then spit it out. It’s frozen on the inside, and still raw.

Now the service is excellent there. The manager came over and rectified it immediately. Brought me a new order of nachos, which were comped, and quite large and excellent to boot. I feel for the manager. He was not surprised my food was raw. He’s handled this situation before…numerous times i would guess.

So, let me sum it up for you. There is no dining experience like the Mackenzie Hotel. When people tell you this, it really means, it’s generally terrible, but, if you stick to safe elements, you’ll be ok.  Nachos, wings, burgers, beer. These were all quite reasonable, and the only things that should be ordered off the menu. The manager is nice, and a decent guy to talk to. If he isnt spending his evening running around trying to fix raw chicken orders. There really is no where like the Mackenzie Hotel!

The Naam Restaurant – Vancouver, BC


The Naam Restaurant
2724 4th Avenue West
Vancouver, BC
(604) 738 7151

Naam on Urbanspoon

As I settled down to write this review, it struck me that it could lead to examining one of the most polarizing Vancouver-area restaurants in Foodosophy‘s brief history.

After a couple of visits to The Naam Restaurant, speaking with folks who live in the neighborhood and/or have eaten there in the past, and a superficial perusing of general online chatter that surrounds this establishment, I strongly sensed that this restaurant generates as much a fierce two-sided debate as say a discussion about the best political party to lead the province through these dire times,  what is the best balance between using tax payer money to promote the 2010 Olympics versus helping fund solutions to remedy the growing homelessness plaguing the city, or even what to do about Coach Vigneault.

Much like the other similar sounding ‘Nam, there is always controversy brewing and plenty of those around who think they have it all figured out and are correct in their judgment.

To begin, a little history and background on Naam.  It proclaims to be vegetarian.  Reporters have noted it to be one of the oldest natural foods restaurants in the city.  It is open 24/7, everyday except for Christmas Day.  And although the sample size is smaller, I’ve found that each time I’ve dined in there is always a lineup out the door especially at mid-day or on weekend brunch.

Once you are able to get a table, the overworked (and I think outnumbered) wait staff might come to your table in a timely manner.  And I’m not saying that to be fescious.  They truly are overwhelmed by the crowds, and given the laid back nature of this restaurant (heck, it has its roots in Vancouver’s hippie culture after all), diners are forewarned not to expect quick, attentive service or responses to any of your usual dining needs.

This could include things as just getting a menu, having your water served, the time it takes for the meal to come out of the kitchen and brought to your table, and hailing them down to receive the bill, etc.  Be patient, as it will come… in time.  As with any restaurant, as long as you know what you can expect, I think you should be willing to bend and adapt to the local customs or way they do things around here.  If not, I recommend you find your vegetarian or 24-hour food needs elsewhere.  The Naam is best left to those who are in no hurry, not pressed to fit their meal into a nice tidy one-hour time frame, and who generally are by nature, more accepting and relaxed.

For the food, there is part of me that welcomes the slightly funky twist that comes with the eclectic offerings at Naam that are different from your regular greasy spoon or neighborhood diner.  As an example, pictured above is the Croissant Witch.  Basically a split-in-half croissant is topped with what is dubbed “tofurella” (a cheese replacement) mixed in with scrambled eggs (of more tofu if you so desire) and veggie sausages.  On first glance, it looks like a regular hot top creation, and although I only had a few bites, I was pleasantly surprised by how much I liked it.  And I am a noted carnivore.

As intriguing as the assorted more healthier options looked, I have never been a fan of whole wheat pancakes.  So I went with the Pancake Sandwich on this visit, which came with some fresh berries, whipped cream and maple syrup.  It felt more home-y to me, and it was a good sized portion, not overwhelming so that I felt stuffed.  I’m finding its not only the ingredients but also the portion control that is key to “eating healthy”.  Sorry for the diet-speak.

For die hards, I am sure The Naam will continue to be a favorite haunt for them.  For those who have heard the talk about this place, I am sure many will try and be satisfied and conversely an equal number will come away wondering what the hype is all about.  For me personally, I’m going to have to go the route of Switzerland here, neither extremely for nor adversely against.  It is what it is, a long standing business on the west side, catering to a specific clientele in a generally health conscious city, with an interesting take on classic breakfast and brunch items served up in a very casual, some would say slow, style.

Naam on Urbanspoon