The dining selections for lunch in the downtown core just became a whole lot more mouthwatering: a new lunchtime market has made its way into the heart of downtown Toronto and they’re serving up hot and fresh, local food that’s ready to eat! The Lunchtime Office Markets by Alimentary Initiatives are expanding beyond their Centre for Social Innovation roots and settling into the hustle and bustle of one of Toronto’s busiest neighbourhoods. With Yonge-Dundas Square to the north, Eaton Centre to the west, Ryerson University to the east, and the financial district to the south, the newest market location has taken residence at the corner of Yonge and Shuter Street, right inside the new ING Direct Cafe. The ING Direct Cafe is a special, multi-purpose retail space that functions as an innovative financial and banking space, a community space, and a kitchen space all in one.
In a nutshell, ING Direct is a Canadian banking and financial institution whose mandate is to provide its clients with financial services and products that are innovative, low-cost, convenient, and in tune with current technologies. The ING Direct Cafe is one of its newest innovations and its goal is to bring community groups and local businesses together, and to present residents in the area with an open-concept banking space to make financial decisions, to learn more about financial alternatives, and to contribute to local charities and causes through partnerships and cafe sales. In addition, all cafes have free wi-fi and mobile devices that allow anyone and everyone to test out new products, and do online and mobile banking on the go.
The partnership between ING Direct and the Lunchtime Office Markets makes so much sense because they possess many of the same values and goals. The Lunchtime Office Markets are expanding to accomodate the growing need for healthy, affordable food options in and around working environments. Let’s face it: not everyone brings a lunch to work. Call it personal preference, call it a lack of resources in the work environment (a lack of refridgerator, microwave, or food storage); either way, many purchase their lunch in and around their place of work. Often, workers are either faced with unhealthy options, unaffordable options, a combination of both, or no options at all. Thus, the premise behind the Lunchtime Office Market is to fill a void and to provide choices for those who otherwise may not have any.
How do the office markets base their decision on where to locate? Let’s be clear about one thing: a worthy working environment is not defined by the number of high-rolling business executives that exist in the area. The office markets were a pilot project that began in October 2011 at both Centre for Social Innovation locations to gauge the level of interest and response to this new food and farmers’ market model. Since, the market has taken on a life of its own and has started expanding.
However, the goal has remained the same: to provide neighbourhoods and institutions with good, wholesome food. The office markets want to target high-traffic areas, schools, office buildings, and many others that have a dispropriate percentage of people who may lack the resources or the time to get their hands on good food. The newest location at Yonge & Shuter targets college and university students who need affordable, healthy options, retail workers in and around the area who want a fresh change from the food court selection, and office workers who need something quick and convenient (trying to nab an elevator from the 25th floor during the busy lunch hour could take 10 minutes in and of itself!).
This past Thursday, the market rolled out its first big appearance at its new location at 11:30am and it did not disappoint! We had Sara’s fresh baked bread from Nice Buns; Earth & City’s savoury raw, vegan delights; vegan dips and organic edible hummus bowls from Luscious Dips; savoury pies and pastries from Yorkton Pies; seafood, samples, and oysters from Hooked; tortillas and raw chocolate from Chocosol; market fruits and vegetables from Fresh City Farms; and Augie’s gourmet soups and stews.
I was ready to roll for lunch and with camera in hand, I captured many of the delicious eats available for lunch that day. Augie’s table had jars and jars of premade soup and stew to go (great for reheating at home!) along with a lunch menu of roast parsnip, beet, and green apple soup, and a hearty Ontario pork and beef winter stew over sticky rice. Fresh City Farms brought bright colour with their crates of oranges, apples, pears, onions, potatoes, kale, tomatoes, shallots, carrots, cranberries, and cauliflower, and Hooked brought the sea with them with a fabulous assortment of packaged seafood, samples, shucked oysters (a buck a shuck!), and a steaming pot of fresh seafood chowder.
Sara’s table was overflowing with her mouthwatering cocoa sourdough buns, herb n’ onion fougasse, fluffy white bread buns, apple walnut cinnamon buns, carrot cake slices with chocolate chips, and gluten-free focaccia, while Jesse had a vibrant display of her edible veggie hummus bowls and vegan hummus dips. Finally, Eric’s Yorktown Pie Company had trays of the most adorable golden mini pies and pastries, and Cassandra and Lisa’s Earth & City had a beautiful, colourful array of their famous spring roll wraps, nut n’ seed burgers, and flatbread sandwiches and bundles.
What did I end up enjoying for lunch? You’ll just have to sit tight and wait for those goods tomorrow 😉
The Lunchtime Office Markets by Alimentary Initiatives take place on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays. The markets are from 11:30am-1:30pm and the newest market is located at the ING Direct Cafe at 221 Yonge Street at the corner of Yonge & Shuter across the street from the Eaton Centre every Thursday.