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Brunch at The Hoof Cafe

2009/12/24

Owners of The Black Hoof, Jen Agg and Grant Van Gameren recently opened a second location, The Hoof Cafe. Located just across the street from the original, the Hoof Cafe serves brunch in addition to a selection of plates in the evening and has a similarly fantastic beer and cocktail list. It would also be a great place to have a snack and a beverage while waiting for a table to open up the Hoof proper!

My buddy Manny and I popped in for brunch last Sunday and ate more than two people probably should. Way more. The Cafe is quite small with ten seats at the bar and enough room for 15-20 more at tables. No reservations, but it’s one of the few places I would take no issue with waiting in the cold for. The food is just that damn good.

Brioche french toast with seared foie gras, apricot compote

Brioche french toast with seared foie gras, apricot compote

Our first flight of food started with an excellent brioche french toast. As was the common theme for the day, that’s simply not enough. Eggs, butter and cream? Lots of it? Let’s take the next step. Why not top it with a slab of seared foie gras? Finished with an apricot compote, the flavour combination completely makes sense. Foie with warm brioche and some sort of fruit accompaniment – a classic combination. Presented like this for breakfast and there’s no doubt it’s a winner.

Suckling pig Benny

Suckling pig Benny

Next up was the suckling pig Benny. I liked the fact that it was served on a biscuit and not an English muffin which often results in soggy bread. Probably the least “challenging”/out there dish we ordered, it was still very, very good. The perfectly poached eggs were topped with a very light Hollandaise that had a good citrus tang to it. Not to mention it didn’t turn into a hard yellow lacquer like at many other places that serve a Benny. Chicharron seasoned with what tasted like Lowry’s seasoned salt and chile powder offered a nice textural contrast to the soft egg and pork.

Pork belly pastrami

Pork belly pastrami

We ordered a side of pork belly pastrami to go with the first dishes and holy crap was it ever fantastic. I probably could have eaten a couple plates of it myself. Amazingly tender, the bacon/pastrami cross was drizzled with a  maple syrup-based sauce that was sweet, porky, and delicious!

Tongue grilled sandwich

Tongue grilled sandwich

Round two started with the tongue grilled sandwich. It’s the same thinly-sliced tongue that I ate previously at Hoof proper (on brioche and drizzled with tarragon mayonnaise), but this rendition adds brie and gouda resulting in gooey goodness.

Boudin noir crepe, roasted pears, walnuts

Boudin noir crepe, roasted pears, walnuts

Next up was a special not on the menu. House-made boudin rolled in a crepe served with walnuts, roasted pears, and their reduced cooking liquid. I wasn’t quite sure how this was going to be presented when we ordered, but a play on pigs in a blanket is humorous. Not sure if that’s what Grant intended but that’s what I thought of regardless!

Cherry and bone marrow beignets

Cherry and bone marrow beignets

After four very healthy plates of food, we were still in the mood for something else but didn’t want anything starch-heavy. To be honest, the pasta looked amazing and the Hoof hash was also very tempting, but reason kicked in and we went for another special that is only made on weekends – beignets! Rolled in sugar, the crunchy beignets were filled with a delectable cherry compote and bits of bone marrow. Honestly, I couldn’t really taste the bone marrow, but it definitely added a richness/meatiness to the cherries. I could probably walk around with a bag of these and eat them all day.

To round out things, Jen poured us a bit of her house-made limoncello which was excellent. Not too sweet or syrupy, it had great depth of flavour. As an experiment, she added some saffron threads to our glasses. After allowing the saffron to steep for a few minutes, the aromas and flavours it added to the limoncello were very interesting. I liked it a lot. The saffron was more prevalent on the nose, but the subtle hints on the palate added just that extra little bit of complexity. I hope a cocktail with these two ingredients ends up on their list soon!

I have to say that the food (and drinks) at both Hoof locations are spot on. It may be overlooked, but the techniques used to execute each dish is solid. In a year where I have had many partly (or completely) disappointing meals in Toronto, the Hoof is the one place that gets it right every time and makes me want to go back again and again. I can’t wait for next time!

Have a safe and happy Christmas everyone!

2 Comments leave one →
  1. The Economist permalink
    2010/01/08 2:35 PM

    That Prok belly pastrami looks illegal – very nice! As a self-proclaimed charcuterie fan long before I even knew of that term, it’s a damn oversight and personal shame that I’ve yet to visit the Hoof… but these pictures are really motivating.

    • futronic permalink*
      2010/01/10 5:44 PM

      The pork belly pastrami was ridiculous in its amazingness. You really need to check out both The Black Hoof and The Hoof Cafe. They’re both excellent.

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