When a few friends told me Evergreen Brick Works was big and all sorts of awesome, I had no idea it would be THIS big and awesome. Are there other farmers’ markets in the city that I love to pieces just as much? Of course. But Evergreen Brickworks is a different kind of foodie playground. There’s a certain rustic quality to it, and a very communal, down-to-earth atmosphere that makes you feel welcome and homey. At the heart of Evergreen is sustainability: sustaining our environment and our communities while at the same time building new relationships through beautiful community green spaces, classes, workshops, and charitable events.
The connections made between the environment, the people, and the food is just one of Evergreen’s pride and joys. As the menu at Cafe Belong reads, “Food is fuel, food is medicine, and food is love”. The food culture connects the global with the local – and vice versa – with its farm-to-table philosophy, bringing some of the best of what other countries have to offer and integrating these transnational and transglobal relationships into our local ones in the marketplace. You learn so much just by being here.
I was literally standing by the olive oil table talking to the sweet lady for 10-15 minutes, as I sampled some bread, olive oil, and balsamic and took notes in my notebook while she explained all these wonderful things about olive oil and balsamics. Things like what to look for on a bottle’s label to determine authenticity (“made in” versus “product of”, import information, etc.), what colour of bottle to look for (dark!), the names of the oils depending on how many varieties of olives are used (one olive variety = monocultivar), and how the age of the olives affects the notes and taste of the oil (the older the more grassier).
I have never been so informed about olive oil in my life and it was amazing because I came away with so much more knowledge than I came in with. And I think that’s the beauty of being here. You take a little something with you every time you come and go and you open yourself up to a world of foodie exploration.
There are so many different components that make it a wonderland to explore and play in and its sheer size, alone, makes it unique and special. The Saturday farmers’ market (which, in my humble opinion, should be renamed to “giant food mansion barn paradise thing”) emphasizes homegrown Ontario farming and food, and local food businesses with farmers and producers of fruits, vegetables, herbs, and cheese, local bakers and bakeries, butchers, fishmongers, and restaurant business owners coming together under one barn roof. This market was open and spacious and just plain HUGE. It was like a fresh food flea market in a barn! Not only were there tables upon tables of farmers selling their produce, but there were samples to try, grills being fired up for hot lunch food, and live music. You could literally outfit your entire refrigerator and kitchen after a day here.
The menu of fresh, local food and produce draws hungry foodies to Cafe Belong, a beautiful, airy cafe and rustic dining hall. Sit down with a coffee, baked good, or meal where the food is fresh and seasonal. Menu items include dishes such as tomato salad with barley ($12), cured fish with grilled fennel ($14), summer squash with smoked duckand seasonal berries ($15), steamed lake fish ($18), braised lamb ($19), sweet and sticky pork with apples ($17), vegetarian pot barley with mushrooms and rainbow chard ($16), and vegan moroccan chick pea stew ($15). End (or begin!) your meal with something sweet from the cafe, like a spiced heirloom pumpkin tart, a fresh baked apple pie, a blueberry scone, or one of Cafe Belongs many cookies, muffins, and oat bars.
The gardening and planting area encourages and provides us with the tools to be our own farmers and producers of food and finally, the marketplace, with its local and global gourmet eats, reads, and gadgets, is a mecca of food and shopping goodness. There are shelves and tables with cookbooks (local, sustainable food, vegetarian and vegan food, raw food, preserves and canning, baking cookbooks, and so much more), olive oils and balsalmic vinaigrettes, jams and preserves, mustards, curries, pickled vegetables, coffees, teas, local artwork, handmade craft items, and kitchen accessories.
The cookbook junkie in me was going craaazy and everything was so festive with all the seasonal decorations sitting on the tables and hanging on the walls. I can’t even imagine what the marketplace is going to look like when the holidays roll around in December! And that’s another thing I love about Evergreen, that it’s cyclical, relevant, and timely. When you’re here, you feel like you’re in the thick of everything important that’s happening in local food culture and you grow with them as you see and learn more.
This first visit was a fabulous one and I am so excited about making another one closer to the holidays in the winter. I’m happily enjoying fall while it lasts (it feels like the shortest season out of the four sometimes!), but a big part of me cannot wait to see what’s in store later on this year. Enjoy the photos and I’ll have Part III for you guys tomorrow. Baked goods ahoy!
Evergreen Brick Works is located at 550 Bayview Ave. The farmers’ market takes place year-round every Saturday from 8am-1pm. If taking public transit, there is a free shuttle bus that operates 7 days a week beside Broadview subway station, as well as the 28A Davisville TTC bus that runs on Saturdays from 8am-3pm between Evergreen Brick Works and Davisville subway station. Click here to learn more the site, their events and programs, and how to get here by bus, bike, car, or foot.