Hot Apple Cider, Christmas Desserts, and Hot Food – The 2011 Toronto Christmas Market at the Distillery District!

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It’s that time of year again: the Toronto Christmas Market at the Distillery District!  It’s crazy to think that exactly one year ago today I posted my very first Foodie Districts post devoted to the Distillery District.  Knowing the Christmas Market would be back again for another round of holiday fun (and for two weeks instead of just one), I knew I had to go again and a huge part of me wants to get in at least another visit!  You all know how dearly I love Kensington Market and the Distillery District and I always feel like I can’t get enough of both neighbourhoods. 

The Distillery during the Christmas season is really special to me because the art, the studios, and the workshops make me feel so inspired and so at home.  I know I don’t talk about it all that much on the blog, but the only other thing I love as much as food is art and although food is in and of itself an art (a culinary art, a photography art, and hey, check out my food scrapbooking!), a very large part of me will always be in love with visual and crafting art because I always envisioned myself as an artist since the age of 13.  One of the very first times I visited the Distillery was during the Christmas season, specifically for the Christmas artisans fair and it was just amazing.  I remember it like it was yesterday.  There were art prints, handmade knitted woolies, and lots and lots of gorgeous handmade jewelery!  Handcut sterling silver pieces, crystal bracelets, earrings, everything.  It’s one of my fondest Christmas memories ever.

I didn’t pay a visit to the artists’ galleries and studios this time, but I did have a fabulous time scoping out the wonderful booths full of yummy food and food-related goodness!  I arrived at the Distillery grounds bright and early and there were plenty of people already milling around, taking photos, and enjoying the cold, but nice weather.  The market was even more amazing than last year!  Nearly every nook and cranny was occupied by a wooden house market booth, selling everything from scarves, hats, Christmas gifts, and of course, food!

There were booths devoted to maple syrup goodies, chocolates, cookies and baked goods, tea, pies and pastries, Christmas fudge, toffee, Tiny Tom Donuts (yes, that’s right, for those of you who looove Tiny Tom, the mini donut extradinaire is at the market this year!) and delicioys savoury hot food!  There was a booth for Oktoberfest sausages, piping hot poutine with fresh cheese curds and fries smothered in gravy, soft pretzels, meatballs bathed in rich tomato sauce, grilled cheese, and mac n’ cheese in addition to all the cafés, coffee shops, bakeries, and restaurants in the Distillery District.

I enjoyed an amazing hot apple cider from Balzac’s Coffee (blog post forthcoming!), ogled all the amazing desserts from Sweet Escape Pâtisserie, and shared giant, savoury, delicious, meatballs and herbed mac n’ cheese with my brother as I walked through the grounds and oohed and ahhed at the decorations, booths, carolers, and beautiful Christmas tree.  Oh!  And my brother and I sampled some fruit mince tarts from Hansells Food Group and I made a beeline for Steeped & Infused‘s booth where I snatched up 3 baggies of loose leaf tea. 

It was here that I first discovered Steeped & Infused and I was so happy when I found out a few weeks ago that they would be back again this year.  I adore their 10g baggy carousel.  Each 10g bag is good for about 4 cups of tea and they’re only $1.75.  It’s so perfect because you can try out a bunch of different flavours without having to feel obligated to finish off an entire tin.  I picked up chocolate cappuccino tea, cinnamon apple yogurt tea, and pear and fruit cream tea.  I’m so excited to try them out!

I plan on doing a huuuge blog post (or maybe even a two-parter) on Balzac’s, but I will say for now that Balzac’s is amazing.  I had no doubt Balzac’s was fab given their popularity but since I had never actually been inside or ordered anything, I had no idea what their drinks were like until now.  My apple cider was so fruity and delicious and my family all loved their drinks.  My mum, the coffee lover, adored their coffee with the sugar-free vanilla shot, and my dad and brother slurped up their hot chocolates even before I could settle in and take my hat and muffins off!  Okay, maybe that was just my dad, but my brother still finished his drink before I did!

No visit to the Distillery District is complete without a visit to Sweet Escape and I was especially excited to see what they were serving up this year for the holidays.  Even though Sweet Escape didn’t have their ridiculously amazing life-size gingerbread house on display this year, they really outdid themselves with the Christmas desserts!  There were little shelves of Christmas sugar cookies and shortbread and there were lots of holiday inspired desserts in their display case!  There were red, white, and green macarons, gingerbread cupcakes (check out the one I enjoyed last year!), vanilla and chocolate cupcakes with vanilla frosting and Christmas sprinkles, mint Nanaimo bars, and mint brownie cheesecakes among many others.

Macarons from Sweet Escape

Fresh bread from Brick Street Bakery

One of the things the Christmas Market has really done for the neighbourhood is boost sales for all the surrounding establishments.  You should have seen the never-ending lineup at Balzac’s, the hustle and bustle in Brick Street Bakery (oh my lord, I need to eat everything here), and the area surrounding Sweet Escape and Bergo.  Every table and chair was taken and there mums and dads sharing sweets with their little ones, people sipping coffee and eating pastries, and just grabbing bites and warming up. 

The market was really great and it although it was cold (there was an adorable sweet pea of a little boy no older than 3 bundled up in winter gear who cried out, “I’m too cold, mummy!”  I wanted to hug and squish him for being so darn CUTE!), it was a beautiful sunshiney day and I couldn’t have asked for a nicer day to go.  The Christmas Market at the Distillery District is going to be my personal Christmas tradition here on out.

*****

Lowe’s Toronto Christmas Market at the Distillery District runs from December 2nd-18th this year.  Their hours of operation are 12pm-9pm from Monday-Friday, and 10am-9pm on Saturday and Sunday.  The Distillery District is east of The St. Lawrence Market neighbourhood, sitting south of Front St.E, and sandwiched between Parliament and Cherry St.  Click here for event schedules, vendor information, shuttle bus and public transit information, and more.  

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