Celebrating Our Earthly Riches With a Market & a Vegetarian, Vegan Food Fair – Earth Day at Evergreen Brick Works

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Apple jelly at the marketplace!

Happy Earth Day weekend everyone!  Whether you’re spending the weekend gardening, spring cleaning, tree planting, or farmers’ marketing, I hope everyone is having a fabulous weekend!  I’ve been looking forward to Evergreen Brick Works’ special Earth Day farmers’ market and vegan food fair for the past month and even with the threat of impending icky weather (cold wind and rain?  Oh, joy), I wasn’t deterred in the least.  I love markets and food fairs too much to miss out on them because of not-nice weather and I’m so happy I decided to stick to my plan of going because coming back to the Brick Works made me realize how much I missed it.  I hadn’t been back since Thankgiving last October and I was really disappointed when I didn’t get around to making another trip during the Christmas holidays, so a spring market trip was definitely in order! 

Today’s Earth Day festivities was comprised of three fun things: the Evergreen Brick Works gourmet food and merchant marketplace, the Saturday farmers’ market, and the vegan food fair.  The Brick Works’ marketplace is one of my favourite parts of this eco community because there are always new, seasonal goodies and items to see and purchase.  Grainy mustards, olive oils, balsamic vinegars, preserves, jarred and canned foods (check out the pretty jars of apple jelly up top!), kitchen accessories, gifts, food books, and so much more.  The philsophy and mandate behind Evergreen Brick Works is food sustainability and accessibility, eco awareness, and supporting local farmers, food producers, and businesses while providing avenues for learning, growing, and being inspired. 

The beautiful green space at Evergreen

I love ogling the selection of books at the marketplace, especially the ones about the farm-to-table philosphy and ones championing fresh farm ingredients (a book about farm-to-table breakfasts in Prince Edward County by Elizabeth Pulkner?!  OH.MY.GOD) and I guess this is because it’s a topic I honestly haven’t grown up being surrounded by and learning about.  It fascinates me and it makes me want to learn more.  I may never be a locavore and I think I’ll always be a city girl at heart as opposed to a country girl, but there’s certainly nothing stopping me from educating myself about the good food sector and broadening my breadth of knowledge and food options. 

As much as I wanted to pick up a cupcake apron, every single book, and a jar of apple jelly and mustard though, I settled for some kettle chips by Covered Bridge to take home for my mum.  Sweet potato with cinnamon and brown sugar?  Yes, please.  The books, condiments, and cute baking outfit would have to wait for another day because I still had a farmers’ market and vegan food fair to entertain!  While I was excited to see what the Saturday market had in store for me, I was especially excited about the vegan food fair.  I couldn’t wait to see who would be there and what goodies I could pick up. 

And it’s here that I’ll preface the following by saying that the vegan food fair wasn’t, well…exactly what I had in mind.  Partly because I was hoping for a bigger fair (there were about 6 vendors with prepared food ranging from juice to chocolate to soups to crepes) and partly because it wasn’t entirely vegan.  In attendance were Cruda Cafe (a vegetarian and vegan eatery located in the St. Lawrence Market), ChocoSol, Augie’s Gourmet Ice Pops and Soups (she’s often at the Toronto Office Markets and Sorauren farmers’ market), and Clément’s Crépes (who you can find at the Dufferin Grove market on Thursdays from 3pm-7pm!) among others. 

I thought many of the food options were great for vegetarians and non-vegetarians alike, but unfortunately, not everything was entirely vegan.  Even though I know this point may not matter to some people (“well, at least it’s vegetarian…”), I know it matters to many others, especially when the food fair was clearly advertised as being a VEGAN food fair.  I know the principle matters (going to a vegan food fair and knowing there are no animal products at the event), so that’s the place I’m writing from and it’s just unfortunate that it ended up being a slight flop for me.

The bustling, indoor farmers' market!

Hot and fresh apple beignets!

I did enjoy the farmers’ market though and it was my first visit to their indoor one so it was a fun experience.  There was amazing live music (I actually thought the music was filtering through a radio!) and there were so many happy, excited little ones at the market with their families, dancing to the music.  It was impossible not to feed off of the energy of everyone milling about in the venue buying bread, sampling cheese, eating fresh cut herb fries with aioli, carrying around fresh waffles with whipped cream and chocolate sauce…should I go on?  It felt like a market mixed in with the carnival and I had the pleasure of trying some hot and fresh (right out of the vat!) apple beignets tossed in cinnamon sugar!   

Despite the reservations I had with the food fair not being entirely vegan, I really enjoyed my time at the Brick Works and I love what the space represents in the grand scheme of things: grow it, learn it, make it, eat it.  There’s an organic fludity that flows throughout the community, bringing together how we grow and cultivate our food, how we use the Earth’s riches to create beautiful works of art (both culinary and otherwise), how the emphasis is on preserving, sustaining, and respecting the environment as best as we can while going about these culinary endeavours, and learning to appreciate the diversity and richness of food from our Earth. 

The eco site is like a unified collection of thoughts and processes: learning how to grow food with the least amount of damage to the Earth from their gardens, learning how to cook it via their seminars and classes, how to taste and savour it from their markets, events, and cafe, and finally, finding ways to give back and help the communities that don’t have access to these food luxuries by way of community building, fundraising, and educating.  There’s so much more to explore and I am happy that this space is here for us to enjoy.  Happy Earth Day weekend, everyone.  

*****

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.

The Fall Harvest Series – Today’s Thanksgiving! Enjoying Baked Goodies From Evergreen Brick Works, Part III

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Happy Thansgiving to all my fellow Canadian lovelies!  I hope everyone’s had a fun and relaxing long weekend and I hope you all got the chance to eat some amazing food, with or without the turkey!  I’ve had a fabulous weekend, going to Evergreen Brick Works with my family for the first time, having a delicious Sunday brunch at Cardinal Rule (blog post forthcoming!), visiting two more markets on Sunday, and catching up on some much needed sleep today!  There’s so much that I want to do and see still (I still want to get in an apple orchard visit for starters!), and I feel like the days and weeks go by so quickly I can never get everything I want done actually done.  I will say though that this weekend was fantastic and I’m glad I got to fit in so much of what I wanted to do. 

I am bummed though that I wasn’t able to get out and capture a Thanksgiving meal to the nines for you all though.  There were some amazing Thanksgiving feasts being put on by some really places in the city, but the timing just didn’t work out for me.  No extravagent Thanksgiving meal photos – not for this year anyway!  Even though my family and I fancy the idea of traditional Thanksgiving food (you know, the roast turkey, potatoes, cranberry sauce, that kind of thing), there have been very few times in my life that I’ve actually had that type of meal with all the trimmings.  Just think, the first time I ever had pumpkin pie was last October and the last time our family did the big Thanksgiving dinner with the turkey was five years ago!

Mini pumpkins from Kensington Market. Awww ❤

Amazing mini buns from Evergreen Brick Works!

Do I wish that I had more of those meals to enjoy?  Sure I do, but at the same time, I’ve been really happy just having fun with the season in other ways.  I love fall comfort food and baking, and every year I get excited about the festiveness that surrounds Thanksgiving.  My brother and I love watching the Thanksgiving episodes of F.R.I.E.N.D.S, I adore reading holiday-centric books (the Baby-Sitters Club fan in me is still alive and kicking!), I get inspired by scrapbooking fall themed pages, home decor and kitchen accessories, and flipping through fall food magazines and cookbooks.  I may not have the tradtional meals under my belt, but what I have are sweet memories from Thanksgivings past (I don’t think I’ll ever forget the amazing spread my aunt put out when I was 9!), wonderful, homecooked food, and a family, boyfriend, and friends to go through life with.

    

Pumpkin cranberry scones!

I’m bookending the Evergreen Brick Works fall series today with a look at some of the mouth-watering baked goods at the market!  Bread and baked yummies and sweets are definitely a weakness for both my mum and I.  She’s a breadhead and I have a sweet tooth, so together we basically carry a whole bakery home with us when we decide to purchase things.  The market is amazing for things like this because there’s so much variety.  Different kinds of baguettes, loaves, and buns, muffins, cakes, pies, squares, pastries, and all sorts of other goodies.  We picked up a beautiful and delicious mini vegetable and cheese pizza  for my lunch, a blueberry maple syrup scone (OH.MY.GOD), a raisin muffin, and a grab bag of 8 mini bread buns in all these different flavours!  The grab bag had plain ones, wheat ones, corn bread, pumpkin, and BEET BREAD!!!

As my family and I were waiting for the Evergreen Brick Works shuttle bus, there was this nice woman who we chatted with who told us about the famous beet bread at the market and we totally lucked out finding the vendor and bakers who made it.  I’m a weenie though because in my giddy haste over cute buns I didn’t take a photo of the booth itself or get the name of the lovely people behind it.  All I can tell you is that it’s one of the first tables you see on the left when you come into the farmers’ market barn.  I promise I’ll get the name for you guys next time!  The bread was absolutely delicious and I loved it because we were able to try so many different kinds in the grab bag.  We popped them in the oven for our Thanksgiving brunch this morning and they were crispy on the outside and mega soft on the inside.  Every farmers’ market has its own draw and for me, this would have me coming back for more all on its own.

I’ve enjoyed doing the Fall Harvest series so much over the past week and there’s so much more that I want to show you guys that I’m going to continue the series intermittenly for the rest of the month!  I would keep it going every day for the next two weeks or so, but if I’m going to be honest, I am so behind on my scrapbooking that there are certain posts I don’t want to post because I want to do my scrapbook pages for them first.  I’m having a lot fun with the series though, so I’m not going to stop it until winter hits.  There’s still too much pumpkin fall fun and delicious food I have yet to unleash 😀

*****

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.

The Fall Harvest Series: Fresh & Farm-to-Table – The Foodie Emporium That is Evergreen Brick Works, Part II

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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.

The Fall Harvest Series: The “Pumpkin Patch” at the Market – Fall in Love at Evergreen Brick Works, Part I

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I finally made it, everyone!  After months and months of wanting to go, I finally made my way to Evergreen Brick Works for their amazing Saturday farmers’ market and marketplace and it was everything I imagined it would be and more.  And I don’t think I could have planned the trip out more perfectly – during a long weekend with gorgeous weather to boot!  I don’t even remember how or where I first learned about the Evergreen Brick Works site (or Don Valley Brick Works as it is/was otherwise known as); all I know is that once I knew about it, I had to go.  It bummed me out enough over the summer knowing I hadn’t been able to make the trip all those months; there was no way I was going to miss out on one of the city’s largest weekend markets on one of the most beautiful fall weekends. 

The Evergreen Brick Works site is so rich with history and so thoroughly woven into Toronto’s social fabric.  After all, as the city’s chief brickmaking factory in the 1900s, it contributed much to Toronto’s architecture, infrastructure, economy, and community.  Just like The Distillery District though, the industrial shutdown of the factory led to years of quiet site abandonment before its restoration, revitalization, and development in the late 1990s and early 2000.

The development of Evergreen Brick Works has done wonders for the city in so many ways.  Not only does the space serve as one of the city’s most beautiful green spaces for biking, hiking, gardening, and nature conservation, but it has also transformed into a gathering space and cultural heritage site for artists, teachers, farmers, and community groups.  Art studios and children’s programs have been created, workshops, classes, demos, and site tours take place every week, hundreds are drawn to the antiques market, marketplace, and farmers’ market every weekend, and charitable community events such as Picnic at the Brick Works and Toronto Underground Market have found turned the site into their home.

When you learn about Evergreen Brickworks, you learn so much about the local communities and about Toronto as a whole.  For those of you who are 1) history buffs or 2) just interested in knowing more and seeing cool photos, definitely check out the St. Lawrence Market Gallery on the 2nd floor of the St. Lawrence Market.  It’s free, there’s beautiful photos and artwork, and there’s plenty of articles and info to read about the Don River and the heritage site itself.  In my opinion, much nicer than your school days history class 😉 

My visit today was wonderful and coming here just makes me want to explore that much more.  I want to take photos of all the gorgeous colourful trees and gardens in the area.  I want to have a picnic lunch.  I want to buy cookbooks from the marketplace.  And because I enjoy being driven around in a cute, chubby bus, I want to ride the free shuttle bus from Broadview station again.  I took a LOT of photos today, so I’ll be splitting up the posts over the next few days!  Today’s collection of market photos: the pumpkin patch! 😀  Okay, so it’s not exactly a real pumpkin patch, but there were pumpkins everywhere so this is my compilation.  Enjoy!

*****

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.