I love brunch. I love the idea of rolling out of bed late on a Saturday and/or Sunday, and eating “breakfast” in the middle of the day.
Merriem-Webster.com define brunch as:
A meal usually taken late in the morning that combines a late breakfast and an early lunch.
Origin of BRUNCH:
breakfast + lunch
First Known Use: 1896
Wiki’s brunch definition:
Brunch is a combination of breakfast and lunch eaten usually during the late morning but it can extend to as late as 3 pm on Sundays. The word is a portmanteau of breakfast and lunch. Brunch originated in England in the late 1800s, served in a buffet style manner, and became popular in the United States in the 1930s.
The 1896 supplement to the Oxford English Dictionary cites Punch magazine which wrote that the term was coined in Britain in 1895 to describe a Sunday meal for “Saturday-night carousers” in the writer Guy Beringer’s article “Brunch: A Plea” in Hunter’s Weekly’
Saturday-night carousers? And 1896? Why was I under the impression that brunch was a new phenomenon? And I guess it no longer only applies to “Saturday night carousers,” but Friday-night carousers as well?
And while I am at it, what did they mean by carouse?
intr.v. ca•roused, ca•rous•ing, ca•rous•es
1. To engage in boisterous, drunken merrymaking.
2. To drink excessively.
Definitions and history aside, if I am going to eat out, my first meal choice is brunch. I rarely go out for dinner, and I am even less likely to go out for lunch and breakfast (working during the day puts a wrench on day plans). As a result, I do a great deal of research on the best brunch in downtown Toronto (I don’t drive and I am too lazy to travel far). Yet I found myself traveling to Queen East and West on a regular basis. That’s a 45 minutes one-way! So I have taken it upon myself to discover what my hood has to offer. The Church and Wellesley Village has a lot of great bars and restaurants, and I am sure that many of these establishments serve a mean brunch. So I have begun a quest whereby every weekend I will try a different restaurant in the Yonge and Wellesley Village, and record my experience.
My first stop on this adventure is Hair of the Dog, a pub/restaurant located on Church street near Carlton street. I contacted Hair of the Dog over e-mail letting them know about my plan to visit the restaurant during brunch, and inquired about the possibility of asking them some questions about the menu, while also making them aware that I would be taking photos. James (general manager) immediately got back to me, and was very supportive of my plan. So I made a reservation for a Sunday at noon.
My friend and I arrived at the restaurant at noon, and we were escorted to the 2nd floor. The space was bright, and filled with patrons. I can only imagine how busy they must get over the summer (they have an amazing patio).
Immediately after sitting down, we were given banana bread on the house (every patron got some until they ran out). I bake often, and moist bread is a skill that I am trying to master. And you know what? The bread looked delicious, and tasted even better! I particularly loved the kick of cinnamon. Needless to say, I became annoyed when my friend ate the last piece—without asking me if I wanted it!
I had reviewed the menu at home (it is available online), and I had an idea of what I wanted to order. I was dismayed with the lack of sweet options on their menu. For brunch I normally like to order something sweet on the side, such as a pancake or French toast. However, neither one of these options can be found on the menu. So I ordered the ultimate breakfast sandwich, and my friend ordered the curry chicken breakfast poutine. I was also very curious about the Hair of the Dog Caesar since so many reviewers had remarked about how perfect it is. So I ordered a Caesar and my friend ordered her beloved sangria. When our server took our order, I inquired about their missing sweet options. He stated that there have been so many requests for a sweet brunch option, that their special that day was French toast with caramelized apples, whipped cream and maple syrup. Hell if I was not going to try this! So my friend and I ordered the French toast to share.
While we waited for our food, my friend and I tried to figure out what Hair of the Dog meant. And this is what we found:
HAIR OF THE DOG DEFINITION:
It is an alcoholic beverage consumed as a hangover remedy. The phrase comes from the expression “hair of the dog that bit you”, meaning that the best cure for what ails you is to have some more of it. In ancient times it was literally used to say that if a dog were to bite you, putting the dog’s hair into the wound would heal it. “Like cures like”. This hangover remedy is not recommended because a) it leads to a bad habit of drinking during the day and b) it doesn’t really work very well. Still, this method works about as well as most other hangover remedies.
- The Ultimate Breakfast Sandwich: fried egg, tomato, crispy bacon, cheddar & swiss cheese, on toast, garnished with pesto mayo & dijon, home fries (I substituted the home fries for sweet potato for an extra $2). $11+2=13
- Chicken curry breakfast poutine (it is not on their online menu): Chicken curry with fries topped by a poached egg and hollandaise sauce. $13
- Hair of the Dog Caesar $8.50
- Sangria $8 (one made with rosé and one with red wine)
- French toast $11
So how was it?
The Ultimate Breakfast Sandwich
- I was ecstatic to learn that they used Challah for the sandwich. I absolutely LOVE challah bread because it is soft, thick and sweet
- I loved the saltiness of the bacon
- The fries were perfectly crispy on the outside and pillowy soft in the inside
- You could taste every ingredient, though every bite was different, which I like (e.g., one bite was all bacon, and the other was tomato—it kept it interesting)
- The portion was great
The Not So Good
- The sandwich lost its shape because there were too many wet elements
- The ingredients lost their texture (tomato, bacon and became soft)
- Lacking in texture contrast
Overall: The sandwich was delicious, don’t get me wrong. But I think that next time I will ask to omit the tomato (I realized that I am not a fan of soft wet tomato), and get the mayo on the side, rather than in the sandwich (oh, believe me, I will be dipping my sandwich into that delicious mayo!)
Chicken Curry Breakfast Poutine
- Egg was perfectly poached
- The fries were crispy and golden with just the right amount of seasoning
- Cheese curds were squeaky (if you love the real deal you will know that the cheese in a poutine should be “squeaky”)
- The curry was light and did not overpower the other ingredients
The Not So Good
- The curry should have been thicker. Because it was runny, the fries ended up absorbing a lot of it, and they lost their texture
- Because the curry was runny, the hollandaise got lost and you could not taste it (the two blended together)
- The portion was different from what other patrons received. We were thrown off when the person next to us ordered the same item, and theirs was filled till the top of the bowl (almost overflowing), and my friend’s was not. My friend was still happy with her portion, but it just felt odd to see.
Overall: My friend cleared her plate and did not share! If the curry had been thicker, I think it would have made the dish close to perfect.
My friend and I loved the French toast. In fact, I knew better than to let my friend free range at it—I was getting my share dammit! The only thing that I did not understand was why the bread was so thin, when I knew for a fact that it was challah bread. What happened? Well, apparently the bread was deep-fried and this resulted in the bread losing air and well, having the “pancake” look. Mmm, I do wonder what the result would have been if the bread was not tampered with? And by tampered, I mean deep fried.
What about the drinks?
Reviewers were not kidding. The drinks at Hair of the Dog are amazing! I am not a cocktail drinker by any means, and limit drinking them at events, but I would not be able to visit Hair of the Dog and not get a cocktail. They really know their shit.
On a side, but very cool note, my friend was disappointed that she did not get to taste the hollandaise sauce in her dish. What can I say, the girl loves her hollandaise sauce, and I shared this piece of information with our waiter. So what did the waiter do? He got my friend not only hollandaise to try, but the kitchen made her a mini Benedict on a crab cake! OMG! How cool is that?! My friend was so happy that she devoured it—and again, did not share! I really need to set some ground rules with my friends.
My friend remarked that the hollandaise, crab cake and egg were perfect! So much so, that we had to come back next weekend so she could order the full size. Sigh. “Thanks buddy, now I have to get one too!”
(**Click on image to enlarge)
I can’t believe that I have lived around the corner from Hair of the Dog for years, and have only now visited them for brunch. And I call myself a brunch connoisseur? So sad.
Thank you to the staff at Hair of the Dog for the wonderful service, warm ambiance, and the delicious introduction to your menu. I can’t wait to return and try your dinner menu.