Sushi roll artwork, vegan coconut brownies sprinkled with edible flowers, sour cream apple pie, and homemade hummus – all in a day’s work at yet another blossoming Saturday morning farmers’ market at Wychwood Barns! Even though I go into many of these markets with a vague, general idea of the types of farmers’, producers, and food vendors that will be there, I can never be entirely prepared for what I see each time I go. In addition to the changing seasons, vendors are always upping their game and wowing market visitors with new and different products, promotions, and samples, so no two markets are ever exactly alike. Last time, I thought discovering the Bread Song Collective was the most exciting thing that had happened during my adventures at Wychwood. Yesterday completely showed that visit up because I was treated to even more surprises!
First up: vegetarian and vegan Japanese food and sushi artwork by CheFe’s Natural Kitchen! I was beside myself when I saw their table. Sushi?! At a farmer’s market?! I know I haven’t been to every single market in the city yet but oh my good gracious, this was the first time I had EVER seen sushi at a market and I was so excited like you would not believe. And to think that CheFe’s Natural Kitchen has been right under my nose this entire time – foreshame!
Upon arriving at CheFe’s table located near the east entrance of the market, I asked Chihiro, co-founder and owner of CheFe’s Natural Kitchen here in Toronto, if she was new to Wychwood Barns. I found out from her that her business was not, in fact, a new vendor at The Stop’s market but instead, a mainstay at every other Saturday market. WHAT! I realize I’ve only been going to the Wychwood market since February, but seriously, I could bang my head against a wall for missing her and her table of sushi delicacies each and every single time I went! Obviously, I had just been going to the market during the weeks she wasn’t there and it took me, oh, nearly FOUR MONTHS to finally get the timing right! And I’m so happy I did. (And, as a side note, now that we know CheFe’s Natural Kitchen was at the market yesterday on May 19, we can do the math and figure out their next market appearnace: June 2nd! And as a treat, CheFe’s Natural Kitchen will actually be at The Stop Market at Wychwood Barns EVERY Saturday during the month of June!)
CheFe’s Natural Kitchen is a local food business here in Toronto that operates as a catering business and a vendor at The Stop’s market. Their focus is on creating nutritious food in compliance with macrobiotic principles, vegetarian and vegan food in particular. In a nutshell, the TVA page on Macrobiotics and the Macrobiotic diet that CheFe’s site links to defines a macrobiotic diet as one that is devoid of additives, artificial flavours, chemicals, and animal products and devoted to whole, unprocessed foods in their natural state.
Their selection at the market includes onigiri, savoury crackers, brown rice cookies and sweet oat cookies, and homemade, healthy vegetarian and vegan sushi made with brown rice, flax seed, tofu, vegetables, Japanese herbs, black sesame seeds, and so much more. My mouth gaped open as my eyes darted back and forth across the table of goodies before me while my mind kept screaming ohmygodohmygodohmygod. This is not your run-of-the-mill, bore-me-to-tears veggie sushi. Chihiro has, simply put, created sushi masterpieces. She makes beautiful and adorable maki: rolls with the middles made to look like pink flowers and – wait for this – ANIMAL sushi! Think sushi bites that look like anime pandas and monkey and birdies. It totally reminds me of the art of the bento box and the relationship between food and art in Japanese cuisine, only in maki form.
The prices are incredibly reasonsable considering how labour intensive it is to make these little works of art. Prices range anywhere from $1.50 to $2.50 per item for most things, with the exception of their sushi/nori logs, which are around $4. There was no way I could leave without picking up a little something so I snatched up a giant pink flower maki roll ($2.25) and a brown rice and edamame onigiri ($1.50) and while I didn’t eat the pink flower maki myself (I saved it for my mum), she loved it and I LOVED my brown rice and edamame onigiri! So much so that there was a large part of me that wished I had bought every single one of them off the platter. I have no shame. It was SO delicious and for $1.50, beyond worth it. The brown rice was so soft and combined with the edamames studded throughout it, it tasted light, wholesome, and healthy because it wasn’t bogged down with seasoning. I am already penciling in a follow-up visit to the market two Saturdays from now, just so I can get my hands and teeth on more sushi!
When I started writing this post, I thought for certain that I’d be writing about yesterday’s market in its entirety, but now I realize that there is no possible way of fitting everything else into this post because there is so much more I want and need to share with you all. The sushi discovery was just one of the wonderful things that happened yesterday and I’ll wrap up tomorrow with yummies from Earth & City, Highmark Farms, and The Yorktown Pie Company! If yesterday’s farmers’ market was any indication of what the summer has in store, it’s going to be one incredibly amazing season from here on out.
The Stop Community Food Centre Farmers’ Market at Artscape Wychwood Barns is held year-round on Saturdays from 8am-12pm. The market will be heading outdoors for the summer season starting next Saturday, May 26! The park and historic community centre complex is located at 76 Wychwood Ave. just off of St. Clair Ave. West, east of Christie St. and west of Bathurst St. http://www.thestop.org/green-barn-market