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restaurants

photo: Darrol Hofmeister
photo: Darrol Hofmeister

One For The Rotation

Because we all need hollandaise after Friday nights

by Aidan Morgan

FRESH & SWEET
2500 VICTORIA AVENUE
751-2233

Here is a story from a dark and terrible time in history. The year was 1993. Kim Campbell was our Prime Minister, Mrs. Doubtfire inexplicably made over $400 million at the box office, and Kurt Cobain had less than a year to live. I moved out of my parents' house and went to Calgary, where I befriended a mix of schizophrenics, fundamentalists and Amway salesmen.

There I learned some important life lessons that would inform and shape the adult self I'll one day become. Don't accept a dinner invitation from a bipolar junkie, for example. Refuse the offer of money from the man with the Jheri-curl perm and acid-wash jeans who hangs out in front of the hostel.

But most of all, establish a restaurant rotation. Even if it's Husky House in the morning and Denny's at night (given my income and the hours I kept, those were my most reliable choices).

Your most important default restaurant is the weekend breakfast/brunch joint. The idea for breakfast invariably comes up the night before, when you can barely see your friends over the pile of empty pint glasses. The next morning, squinty and sluggish with a head full of bees, it's time to head out and face the hateful sun over a plate of eggs.

That's when you need a default choice the most. May I recommend Fresh & Sweet?

Even if you're a civilized person who wakes up with a clear head and an empty belly, Fresh & Sweet would still be your jam. Just ignore the likes of me at the next table, asleep on my pancakes ($8.25, y'all!).

Owned by Valley Girls Catering (the entrepreneurial quintet of Beata Thompson, Tania Fraser, Mary McCusker, Gerda Klyne and Allison Sweet), Fresh & Sweet is located just next to City Hall on Victoria Avenue. It's more than just a breakfast place - it has a full lunch menu and the noon rush quickly fills up the available tables. The place is lined with windows that let in lots of light. Racks of candy apples and cupcakes wait to plunge you into a diabetic coma.

On my first visit I tried out their Peachy Bacon panini, which is exactly what it sounds like. The menu promised a taste sensation. Did it keep that promise? Read on to the next paragraph to find out!

Yes, the Peachy Bacon panini delivered on its taste sensation related promise. Warm peach and crispy bacon go amazingly well together. I also ordered the turkey vegetable soup, which came out lukewarm. A pickier diner might have sent it back, but the sunshine had put me in a good mood.

Fresh & Sweet also boasts the most charming method of order placement in the city. When it's busy and you're ordering your food at the till, the cashier hands you a playing card. When your food's ready, a server calls out your card, and you hand it over like a mark at a magic show. It's an endearing gimmick.

I had a difficult time with the cupcakes, though.

ME: Tell me about your cupcakes.

BRENAN (a server): Certainly, sir. This one is Cream Cheese Dream... and this one is Pink Deliciousness... that one there is The Blue One...

OTHER SERVER: No. Those aren't even close to the actual names of our cupcakes.

BRENAN: (already on the other side of the room) You took your chances when you asked me!

See? The servers lie to you without remorse. Brenan does, at least. The rest of the bunch look trustworthy. I bought four cupcakes to go ($3.25 each) and took them home to share with my wife. The red velvet cupcake won Best In Show.

For my slightly hung-over breakfast excursion I brought along a crowd of seasoned eaters. My editor wanted to call them the Eats Posse, but it was clear that he hadn't thought that one through. I decided to dub them the Knights of Appetite. And so mote it was.

We went for a bit of variety to get a handle on Fresh & Sweet's divided menu (one side is savoury, the other is sweet). I ordered the Mexican Squarito ($9.75), a classic Mexican-inflected breakfast burrito of scrambled eggs, green peppers, mushroom and cheese, served in a cheese tortilla with genuine shredded potatoes on the side.

One Knight had the Buffalo Benny Wrap ($9.75) without the wrap, which transformed the item into a "benny bowl" - an off-menu item that consisted of potatoes and eggs with hollandaise and a dash of hot sauce. Another tried a straightforward ham and eggs with hash browns and toast ($6). The toast was a very, very buttery marbled bread. It looked delicious. But everyone else ate the toast while I was looking out the window. What ever happened to chivalry, Knights?

We also tried the Smoked Salmon Buffalo Benny ($9.75), which is A.) eggs benedict on thin bagel slices with smoked salmon, and B.) the greatest breakfast thing I've eaten in years. That dish bypassed my critical judgment lobe and latched on fast to my hollandaise receptors. If you're reading this column on a Friday, there's a good chance I'll be ordering the salmon benny within the next 24 hours.

Our sole selection from the sweet side of the menu was the red velvet pancakes: two plate-sized discs of dark red chocolate pancakes capped with cream cheese icing. It was like a cupcake on growth hormones. They're delicious, but a few bites were more than enough for me. I have no idea how anyone could finish an entire order.

Fresh & Sweet have a deceptively big menu. We didn't get to try any of their waffles, from the Maple Glazed Bacon Waffle ($9.75) to the Chicken Waffle ($9.75), or the monstrous "I Don't Need Lunch" Breakfast ($12), which combines the fresh and sweet sides of the menu. Maybe next time? Yes, definitely.

Fresh & Sweet is open 7 a.m.-6 p.m. Monday-Friday and 9 a.m.-3 p.m. Saturday and Sunday.