Did you press PLAY? You should. To get a better idea of how the day went (from my point of view anyway) allowing the playlist to run through in the background while you read will provide the most optimal experience.
The light of the sun continues to shine through my eyelids as I sit on the streetcar with my face turned up towards the window. I slowly open them, and marvel at the sight before me. The sky is so blue. The sun is so warm. I close my eyelids once again, and a release a slow sigh of contentment. I don’t even notice how long I’ve been sitting on the streetcar as I head to the Junction. I am well rested, my head is clear, and it is a marvellous day.
It occurred to me a couple hours earlier to give Sully a wakeup call. But he’s done that to me, and I wore cranky pants for a while afterwards and thought better of it. He’s a grown man, he can handle himself just fine.
I glance at the time. Almost 11. I shake my head and tell sloppy-pants-McGee to get a move on. The answer is no. Now, I wasn’t being a hard-ass for the sheer joy of it, because if you’ll all recall, Sully has pushed the time every single week and I’ve been most agreeable. But this stop is different.
Weeks ago, an acquaintance of mine had thoughtfully suggested the Farmhouse Tavern, and since I hold her opinion of all things delicious and notable in high regard, I made a mental note to book a visit. After Rock Lobster last Sunday, I sent out a tweet and Darcy (owner of Farmhouse Tavern) responded immediately inquiring whether I’d booked a table. There are only 2 reasons why a restaurant would take reservations several days beforehand.
1. The extreme popularity makes for busy mornings, and no one wants to be disappointed and hungry upon discovering that there aren’t any tables available (lining up to watch people eat can be quite torturous);
2. Someone has severe OCD, and reservations are the easiest method of ensuring order.
I was going to assume a little bit of both, and was grateful to Darcy for taking the time and initiative to book a table for me, for it would not have occurred to me to do so.
If Sully wants to eat an hour later, then he’s going to do the leg work and make another reservation. I tell him so. Ten minutes later, Sully is out the door and on his way.
It’s packed. The patio. The main room. There’s even a dog resting on the sidewalk clearly waiting for it’s person to be finished with brunch. So it was #1 after all. After speaking with the server, my suspicions were confirmed. When I mentioned that I had a reservation for 11:30, she referred to a clipboard, then an iPad. Walk-in customers would be hard pressed to get a table in the main room or the patio I’d wager. Good thing I’m not one of those unlucky ones
“Would the reservation be under any other name?”
I freeze. NO! I think frantically, panic starting to take hold of me as I rake my brain. Gadzooks! What else would I refer to myself as?! Only three possibilities come to mind, and I’d already offered two of them with no results. If Sully gets here and I don’t have a reservation, he’s going to strangle me with his cranky pants.
A man sidles up next to us and asks if he can help. I explain that I’d made my reservation over Twitter, and sigh inwardly as I see recognition register in his eyes and although I can’t be sure, I suspect him to be Darcy and am instantly relieved. “Yes, you have a table. The patio and main room are full. I can seat you in another room that is dark, hot and sweaty…” That sounds about as enticing as being strangled by Sully.
“I’ll wait for a spot on the patio,” I reply. I’m invited to sit at a table facing out the window towards the street, and realize that the table is in fact a glass case. Within are a colourful display of Ontario license plates dating back more than half a century. I have an affinity for old Ontario plates you see. Granted, they’re not nearly as cool as Northwest Territories’ polar bear shaped plate, or speckled with pictures and colour like Manitoba, BC or PEI, but there’s something nostalgic about having the passage of time before me in the form of stamped metal.
As I inspect the main room, I notice key decorative features that give the Farmhouse Tavern its name from cow skin patterned cushions, to wooden barrels, horns and a healthy amount of wood everywhere. I feel as if there should be a tractor lurking about somewhere, it seems only fitting.
Finished with my assessment, I pull Bill Bryson’s A Short History of Nearly Everything from my bag and begin to read as I wait for my table on the patio to be ready, and Sully to arrive. Minutes later, my head shoots up and I sniff the air like my dog used to the moment we started the BBQ.
Bacon. There’s bacon in the air.
I’m drooling. Swiping the side of my mouth with the back of my hand, I inhale and amuse myself with the notion that I”m breathing in bacon particles. What a gloriously mouthwatering concept. Bacon air. Someone should make scented oxygen tanks. Imagine being ushered back from the unconscious world with the essence of peppercorn steak? By jove, I think I’m onto something…
“Your table is ready, right there in the centre,” Darcy says. On my way to the table, I ask a server to bring me a caesar.
The patio has several large red umbrellas to shield around 10 tables of customers from the sun, however I hardly notice the heat or the brightness as my senses are bombarded with the sights and smells of plates piled high with food. Hamburgers, steaks, eggs benedict…ye gods I’m famished.
“Are you drinking water by choice?” I glance up and find a server sporting a wrist brace standing before me, and I explain that I’ve ordered a caesar. Before he walks away, I mention that I’m waiting for someone, and when that someone arrives, perhaps he could be greeted with a booming, “SULLY! YOU MADE IT!” followed by a clap on the shoulder. For hospitality sake and all. My server laughs, and several minutes later I enjoy a chuckle as it all plays out, although if I’m not mistaken, Sully leaned a touch too far into that “bro-shoulder-hug” suggesting that he needed something or someone to brace himself.
Sully lumbers towards the table, and orders a coke immediately. Not ‘with the meal,’ either. Right.Now. “They get a 5/5 just for having Coke,” he grumbles. After surveying around himself, he confesses “I love this place!” Wow…the power of persuasion via Coca-Cola is strong today.
I wait for him to seat himself (which takes a tad longer than normal) before pushing the tall glass mug towards him. “That,” I say pointing, “is for you.”
He pauses, staring at me, clearly unsure whether I’m serious or not. “You’re kidding.”
I shake my head and say, “Nope. You have to chug that.”
He’s still in disbelief. Removing his sunglasses, he squints painfully at me through the light, “You didn’t seriously order that for me did you?!” I can see it, Sully’s contemplating whether to outright refuse, but if I’d bought it for him, then he can’t because it would be rude and generally speaking he’s anything but.
A grin spreads across my face. “Yes.”
The expression on his face resembles one who had just been informed that the gates of hell have been opened and the world will soon be swallowed by a horrible tidal wave of darkness and flesh eating beatles. Defeat and resignation pass over Sully’s face as he reluctantly reaches for the glass handle and slowly lifts so I can no longer see his face. When he lowers the glass, the pained reaction that crosses his face upon swallowing the first gulp is priceless. Sully’s hand flies to his mouth, and I recognize the effort put forth not to vomit all over the table. Guilt washes over me, and I’m immediately contrite. Sully doesn’t know me, he doesn’t realize that he can tell me to shove the drink where the sun don’t shine, or water the grass with it for all he cares. I spare him the pain of having to drink anymore, which he probably would have, “you don’t have to drink that Sull. Give it to me.”
The glass is set down in front of me, and Sully proceeds to rub his eyes with such vigor that it almost appears as if the source of pain and discomfort are his eyeballs themselves. Gouging those out probably isn’t going to help bud, I want to say. But it might be that he’s trying to squeeze out any remnants of the caesar from his eyes. Either way, I didn’t help.
Our server, Antonio arrives with Sully’s Coke which he slurps like a man recently rescued from the desert, and I order the eggs benny. Apparently though, there is more than just 1 eggs benedict. Choices include: the standard bacon, chard or gravlax. From my Chasing Benny experience, I’ve learned to go with the standard.
“I had to pull over and stop on my way here. Next to a family too.” Don’t laugh, you almost made him throw up. But I burst out laughing anyway.
Darcy sweeps out onto the patio and in his hands, two plates filled with a beautiful eggs benedict if ever I saw one, and a colourful yet peculiar looking salad. I inspect the red and yellow ribbon on my plate and am about to ask Sully what sort of bacon he thinks this is when he catches Antonio, “What is this?”
Cool! “Fancy carrots,” I muse as I zigzag one onto my fork.
“We’ve got all kinds of fancy carrots up in here,” Antonio says. Apparently! I’m delighted by the fancy carrots in my salad and continue to munch away, happy as a rabbit. Sully on the other hand sniffs as he turns his plate so that the salad is farthest from him.
“I know what they’re trying to do. My mom did that. Nice try.” I’m confused. I’ve seen Sully eat salad before, he’s even remarked on how tasty and delicious salad has been, I don’t understand why this salad is any different. “They’re sneaky.” Wow. Who knew a person could have such a deeply rooted mistrust of vegetables.
“So I almost got into a fight with a homeless man on my way here…”
Of course he did. He’s cranky, it was probably over nothing too.
“There was this hotdog guy parking his truck in the bike lane and I told him to move it because it’s illegal!…” uh-huh? “…then this homeless man comes over and defends the hotdog guy and I wanted to fight him so bad!…” hmmm. “…then I realized he was carrying a bucket, with a stick in it! He grabs the stick and then I got scared…” ooookay? “…then I felt bad for yelling at the hotdog guy, then making a homeless guy feel he had to defend him.”
“Why didn’t you just go around them Sull?”
“‘Cause I’m cranky, mean, hungover and he was in the bike lane!…after that I was nice to everyone.”
I don’t know why, but I immediately envision Uma Thurman’s sifu master from Kill Bill 2 as the homeless man carrying a bucket with a huge wooden staff in it, at the ready to defend the hotdog vender. I’d be scared too.
Despite Sully’s aversion to the salad, I cleaned my plate. The eggs benedict was amazing! The biscuit was perfectly toasted yet soft enough to soak in the yolk and hollandaise. I would have preferred to have more bacon underneath the poached egg (a second order of bacon was called for) but for those of you who aren’t fans of bacon, then this eggs benedict is right up your alley. The hollandaise was decadent and creamy, and in Sully’s words “Now this is a hollandaise. Not like buddy boy’s” referring to Rock Lobster’s version which I thoroughly enjoyed…probably because it didn’t taste quite like hollandaise. But this eggs benedict is most definitely better than last week’s. The extra bacon that’s brought to the table is slightly crispy, and the bacon grease is just divine.
“Next Sunday I’m at a cottage. So you’re not going to go next week.”
I pause mid-chew. He’s not asking me a question, Sully is making a statement. Unwise though, I might add. The altercation with homeless sifu master should have sorted him out. “Hmmm?” I don’t look up.
“You’re not going to go without me. I think I’ve proven how dedicated I am.”
I look up and think aloud, “Go without you? To eat?” I contemplate this. I have so many people who have been waiting for Sully to be away.
“You can’t go without me!” True, he can boast a perfect attendance record albeit slightly on the tardy side (for those who know me…this is definitely something considering my issue with being on time. Sully makes me look punctual! Stop gawking. I know several of you are). That’s some type of loyalty I suppose. I concede.
“Fine,” I say. Before I can ask where we should go for the next location, he replies with “Good girl,” and I bristle. Pat me on the head why dontcha? But I let it go, I was an ass today. The previous two Sundays were a bit of a struggle for me and Sully was his usual chipper self, but not an ass.
Antonio approaches with a glass jar in his hands. I perk up, anticipating a spectacle of some sort. “Is that a jar of butterflies?”
Antonio laughs, “No it’s the receipt. But that would be amazing!” and he pretends to release imaginary butterflies into the air with flare and then drops our receipt onto the table.
“Whoa expensive,” Sully says. I was just about to bring up what score we were going to give the Farmhouse Tavern when my eyes fastened onto the total and my jaw almost hit the tabletop. At a couple dollars shy of $60 before tip, this was definitely the priciest brunch we’ve had, despite being a most delicious one. The extra bacon amounted to a whopping $8, the caesar was $10 (serves me right) and 2 glasses of Coke was $6. The eggs benedict came in at $14 each which is on par with all of the other restaurants. But wow…note to self: the extra 2 pieces of bacon aren’t necessary.
The Farmhouse Tavern is neck and neck with Lady Marmalade which sits at a 4.5/5 for the best eggs benedict in Toronto. Although quite the trek out to the West side (long even on a bike), it’s worth the journey and in the words of Olena, “You won’t be disappointed.” This is the third summer for Darcy McDonell’s restaurant, and he’s doing a fantastic job. The serving staff is friendly, attentive and extremely personable, the food well presented and mouthwateringly good. I will definitely be back to try another eggs benny because at this point, it’s looking like a tiebreaker.
The quest for the best Eggs Benedict in Toronto continues two weeks from now (next week I’ll eat a different breakfast item keeping my promise) back on the East side in Riverside at Bonjour Brioche. Thanks Darcy, if you need any chocolate, white chocolate, and Reese Peanut Butter chip cookies you be sure to let me know. 🙂
Until next time Benny…