Snatching Radishes and Ogling Quinoa Salads and Scones – The Farmers’ Market at Riverdale Farm!

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It was hot yesterday.  Disgustingly hot.  Face flaming, sweat dripping down from my forehead hot.  And yet there I was, walking to the Riverdale Farm farmers’ market yesterday afternoon from the Eaton Centre in the muggy, sticky, gross heat.  Granted, I was wearing my little bucket hat and the sun kept coming and going while I was walking, but when it’s muggy out, it sticks to you and makes you feel all sorts of bleh.  I told myself I would go though so I kept walking, keeping my eye on the prize, and breathing a huge sigh of relief when Riverdale Park’s towering trees came into view, wafting in a light breeze.  THANK GOODNESS FOR NATURE’S LEAFY GREENS! 

The farmers’ market was in full swing and while it wasn’t as big as the one I visited last summer, market goers were snatching up goodies left and right and carrying their wares in  tote bags as they surveyed their possible purchase.  And I mean snatching.  As I was taking photos of the radishes up top, I was literally surrounded on all sides by people buying bunch after bunch.  A few seconds after I took my shot, there were only 2 bunches left on the table.  I kid you not!  One bunch of radishes after another kept disappearing and I thanked my lucky stars I got there when I did because otherwise, I would have been staring at a few remaining scraggly roots. 

The Riverdale Farm farmers’ market just started their 2012 season last week (Tuesdays from 3pm-7pm) so I have no doubt that the market will expand and get a little larger over the course of the summer.  Despite the smaller size though, I still found myself wanting to pick up more than a few items to take home.  What can I say, I’m a shopaholic at heart and that clearly extends to food! 

I saw some familiar vendors and faces at the market yesterday, including St. John’s Bakery, La Fiesta Catering (who appear at both Fresh Wednesdays and Tasty Thursdays at Nathan Phillips Square with some of the meanest cornmeal mashed potatoes and pulled pork in the city!), LKP Culinary Groove, and Best Baa Dairy!  Best Baa Dairy was back with their huge assortment of cheese and goat’s milk ice cream, LPK Culinary Groove had their vegan cupcakes, cookies, cakes, and sweet potato donut holes on hand, La Fiesta Catering was firing up their grill with kabobs and succulent hot food delights, and St. John’s Bakery was dishing up the bread, cookies, and scones! 

I was so tempted to grab an ice cream and some of La Fiesta’s cornmeal mashed potatoes (and, I admit, a smidgen of their amazing pulled pork), but I convinced myself I’d come back for them another time and instead, snatched up two amazing scones from St. John’s Bakery.  At $2.50 a pop, their scones came in a varity of amazing flavours such as apple cinnamon, cranberry pumpkin seed, blueberry, and lemon currant among others.  This was the first time I had come across any of St. John’s Bakery’s scones and I was so excited!  Especially when I found out they had a lemon one.  I took home a lemon currant and a cranberry pumpkin seed and savoured them this morning with my brother.  We popped them in the microwave for 15 seconds and they were good to go.  They were so good!  They were pull apart soft and incredibly flavourful and I only wish I had thought to put some apricot jam because that would have been delightfully amazing.

Familiar faces aside, I also happened upon some new vendors at the market, one of them being Rob and Barry’s Vegan and Vegetarian Foods!  Rob and Barry’s business and cooking operations take place right here in Toronto in a commercial kitchen located in Kensington Market, and they’re hoping to open up a retail shop in the near future so they can further spread the vegetarian and vegan love!

For those of you who love taking advantage of vegetarian and vegan options, the Riverdale farmers’ market has welcomed a new vendor selling everything from veggie pasta and pizza, caponata (a Sicilian eggplant salad or dish typically associated with antipasti), quinoa black bean salad, quinoa mango salad, and quinoa chickpea salad!  Prices range from $3-$4 for salads (sold in reusable containers) and $4-$8 for the heftier items.  The food is perfect for take-away to take back home, for picnics, for lunch, or for an afternoon snack (yes, that’s right, I’d eat this as a snack.  I know how to pack it in) and it’s great knowing there’s another vegetarian and/or vegan option on hand for when you want something lighter.

I’m really looking forward to coming back later on in the summer, seeing the market grow, and hopefully, have myself a nice little picnic out on the park when it’s less gross out!  Muggy weather aside, I’m glad I came because I left with some wonderful scones, was reunited with some old food favourites, and was introduced to new food options for the next time around.

*****

The Riverdale Farm farmers’ market is located at 201 Winchester St. in Riverdale Park.  My way of getting here is to either walk along Carlton St. eastbound from Yonge St., or take the College St. streetcar eastbound to Parliament St. and Carlton.  From there, keep walking eastbound on Carlton until you get to Sumach St. and you’re there!  This year, the market is held every Tuesday from 3pm-7pm from May 22 to October 30.

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Vegan Treats & Baked Goods, Sheep’s Milk Ice Cream, & Lots of Chocolate! The Riverdale Farmers’ Market, Part II

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This is the first time that I’ve ever had to split up a farmers’ market post into two parts because of the number of photos I have of both dessert and non-dessert foods.  I know juicy fruits are sweet and dessert-like as well, but today we’re talking about oodles and oodles of fair-trade chocolate and chocolate baked goods, vegan baked treats, cinnamon rolls bigger than your hand, platters of fresh pastries, and sheep’s milk ice cream.  If you have a sweet tooth and you’re looking for a good variety of things to try (or, you know, to stick your face in), the Riverdale farm farmers’ market in Cabbagetown is really fantastic.  I wanted to take away so much more with than just my baby orange grape tomatoes and giant loaf of poppyseed egg bread but there was simply no way I could do that without 1) dropping everything and 2) squishing everything.  I had a lot of bags on me that day (my canvas tote, mini backpack, and my market groceries!), so my take-home sweets will just have to wait for another day.

BUT, that’s not to say I didn’t grab myself a little something to eat while I was there 😉  Before I get to that though, I want to show you all a bunch of delicious photos of ChocoSol’s table first.  I totally remember seeing them at the Bay-Adelaide farmers’ market last month (blog post forthcoming) and drooling over their vegan baked treats.  The sheer volume of chocolate they have on their table would make any sweet tooth beg for mercy.  ChocoSol is a community group dedicated to creating and maintaining trans-local relationships specifically through chocolate goods.*  They had bars and bars of fair-trade chocolate, as well as many vegan baked goods: gorgeous frosted cupcakes, fresh blueberry tarts, giant cookies (seriously, these cookies were the size of a small pizza), cookie cream sandwiches, and cake loaves. 

Oh!  And they have Mexican-inspired vegan drinking chocolate!  I watched a few girls order some and ohhhh man, did they ever look good.  The drinking chocolate is made by putting two pucks of chocolate and 1 cup of hot water in a blender and serving the drink cold with ice.  There is also an option of putting raw hemp (a protein-rich seed that is unprocessed) and agave sweetener in it as well.  When I looked at the finished product, it looked so creamy and refreshing and I can only imagine how good it tasted.  That Mexican drinking chocolate is going to be mine next time.

In addition to the chocolate and vegan baked goods, there were these delicious cranberry custard cream danishes on the same table I nabbed my poppyseed egg loaf.  While the rational part of me walked away without any because I knew they’d get squished and ruined on the way home, the irrational part said, “I want four!!”  The recognition of good self-control is really no consolation here.  I wanted those danishes! 

I did get myself something sweet though: honey vanilla sheep’s milk ice cream!  They had a number of  flavours that day including blueberry, strawberry, raspberry, coffee, and vanilla chocolate chip.  I got my honey vanilla on a cone (a small for $2.50) and I ate it right in the park on a park bench under a tree.  It was lovely, and really, not small at all!  The ice cream was sweet and creamy, with a noticable difference in texture from regular ice cream.  It was little less thick and dense and it was very good.  I’m really glad I got the ice cream to try, but good grief, I am still thinking about that drinking chocolate and those danishes two days after.

*****

The Riverdale Farm farmers’ market is located at 201 Winchester St. in Riverdale Park.  My way of getting here is to either walk along Carlton St. eastbound from Yonge St., or take the College St. streetcar eastbound to Parliament St. and Carlton.  From there, keep walking eastbound on Carlton until you get to Sumach St. and you’re there!  This year, the market is held every Tuesday from 3pm-7pm from May 17th to October 25th.

*source = ChocoSol website and blog

The Closest I’ll Ever Get to the Moo-Moos and Oink-Oinks – The Fabulous Riverdale Park Farmers’ Market, Part I!

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Good morning everyone!  The skies are bit overcast and cloudy right now (and as I am writing this, the rain has just started coming down), but I’m hoping that this fabulous selection of farmers’ market photos will lift your spirits.  After how the beginning of the week started off, I think we could all use a bit of good cheer.  I’m actually splitting up this week’s market post into two parts because it’s THAT big!  I’m going to save the sweet stuff for tomorrow’s post and just focus on the fruits, vegetables, and other goods today.  And there is plenty to show you all. 

I went camera snap-happy yesterday and for good reason: the Riverdale Park and Farm farmers’ market in Cabbagetown is absolutely incredible.  Week after week, my socks (or rather, my flats.  I haven’t worn socks in weeks!) have been knocked off by the sheer calibur of these markets.  I thought the market outside the East York Civic Centre on Coxwell was amazing.  Then I thought it couldn’t get any better after I went to the one in Mel Lastman Square.  And we all know what happened after that.  I couldn’t stop raving about the market at David Pecaut Square by Roy Thomson Hall.  My lovelies, my shoes have been knocked off once more.

The park itself is a wonderful green space, the type of space perfect for picnicking, sitting out on a bench with a book, walking and playing with your dog, and splashing around in the wading pool with your little ones.  The farmers’ market at Riverdale Park in Cabbagetown is remarkable.  It is HUGE, stretching from one side of the park to the other with white tent after white tent offering pints and baskets bursting with fresh fruits and vegetables, herbs, baked goods, jars upon jars of jellies and preserves, ice cream (yes, ice cream!), and vegan chocolate sweets among other things.  The market is located at the north end of the park, where the park meets the street all the way to the entrance of the animal farm. 

Speaking of which, I’m really sorry for not being able to show you any photos of farm animals.  Just as the post title says, the market is the closest I’ll ever get to an actual farm because I am, unfortunately, allergic.  To hay, specifically.  And how did I come to find out about this allergy you ask?  The hard way.  Long story short, on a school field trip to the farm at the age of 6 in 1st grade, I began to choke and weeze so severely the teachers and chaperones had to remove me from the premises and from the other kids, and stick me in a porta-potty so my reaction would calm down.  I was taken to the doctor shortly after where I was told, “hey, you’re allergic to hay!  Oh, and you have asthma”.  Not in those exact words, but you get my drift.  Needless to say, farms and I don’t mix.  I may have outgrown my asthma, but sadly not the allergies.

Anyway, the market was chock full of sights, smells, and sounds yesterday.  The smell of fresh pizza, the sight of juicy, fuzzy peaches (which I am also allergic to, but that’s beside the point), tiny colourful bell peppers, the tiniest and purplest of eggplants (and I thought the ones I bought at East York were cute and small!), and the sounds of kids laughing and asking their parents were ice cream.  After purusing the market and jogging back and forth between vendors, I walked away with some amazing goodies: a large pint of baby orange cherry tomatoes and a hulking huge loaf of poppyseed egg bread! 

Oh my goodness, you have no idea how excited I was to get my hands on these two things.  For one, the orange cherry tomatoes were a steal.  While a number of other markets were selling them for $4 or $5, I got mine for $3 yesterday!  I was doing a happy dance.  Or as my boyfriend likes to call them, happy fists.  I tried one of the little orange tomatoes last week and I have never in my entire life tasted a tomato so sweet.  It tasted like a peach!  Everyone, you must get your hands on these.  They will make you wiggle with happiness.  Oh, and the bread.  Jeebus, I could not stop smelling my loaf of bread on the way home.  And I cannot wait to sink my teeth into it.  I am a big fan of poppyseed bread.  Really, I must have looked like a pothead on the bus, sticking my nose into a paper bag every so often.  It’s bread, y’all.  Very good bread.  And one very amazing farmers’ market.

*****

The Riverdale Farm farmers’ market is located at 201 Winchester St. in Riverdale Park.  My way of getting here is to either walk along Carlton St. eastbound from Yonge St., or take the College St. streetcar eastbound to Parliament St. and Carlton.  From there, keep walking eastbound on Carlton until you get to Sumach St. and you’re there!  This year, the market is held every Tuesday from 3pm-7pm from May 17th to October 25th.

Lemon Vanilla Panna Cotta & Lemon Macarons: The Gourmet Delights at Daniel et Daniel in Cabbagetown – Part II

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Have you ever had the experience of making a fabulous foodie discovery only to reluctantly tear yourself away because you found it after you already ate?  Or because the weather wasn’t nice and you couldn’t be bothered to take your food to go in the rain?  Or because you already had other plans in mind and you were too stubborn at the time to change them for something else?  I’ve had all three experiences. 

Daniel et Daniel has been mocking me for a year.  I feel kind of foolish that it’s taken me this long to eat their delicious desserts because it was a little over a year ago (last March to be exact) that my hun and I found this Cabbagetown gem.  For one reason or another, we just never got around to getting food from here.  Last month though, I dug my heels into the ground and finally went back for those desserts that I had been longingly staring at through the shop window for ages and I am SO glad I did.   You stare at their glass displays of beautiful tarts, pies, macarons, chocolate truffles and bark and a little squeal slips out because you can’t believe what’s in front of you.  The desserts here are delicious and sweet and decadent and everything your sweet tooth could possibly desire.

Daniel et Daniel is a gourmet food shop and event catering business that serves not only desserts, but plenty of gourmet jams and jellies, chocolates, sauces, vinegars and oils, and antipasto among other things.  Along with desserts and great pantry style items, they have a fantastic selection of lunch foods that are priced by weight – think stuffed peppers, salmon, chicken parmesan and lots of cold picnic salads like tomato and bocconcini; asparagus, snap pea, and cherry tomatoes; long string green beans and mushrooms; beets and orange fennel; and chick pea and corn salad.  It’s a gourmet food, grab-and-go kind of shop.  It’s SO perfect if you’re looking to have a picnic at Riverdale Park West which isn’t too far of a walk from the shop – just several blocks east of Parliament St. which you can get to if you walking on Carlton St.

There were so many amazing desserts staring back at me.  I can never resist a lemon dessert though, so I bought – get this – a lemon vanilla panna cotta (!!!) and a lemon cream macaron!!!  OH.MY.GOD.  The lemon loving part of me was going berserk!  In a nutshell, panna cotta is a firm, Italian gelatin dessert that is made with milk, cream, sugar, and gelatin and is similar to a custard and pudding.  Panna cottas are incredibly soft, silky, and smooth and the lemon vanilla panna cotta was delicious in both taste and texture.  

The body of the panna cotta  was so nice and firm yet it still had that beautiful milky silkiness to it which was important.  Too jelly means too delicate and it’ll up end flopping around and losing its shape (basically making a mess of itself).  Too firm and it’ll end up tasting like a flavourless blob.  To me, the texture was great because the firmness was just right and it allowed the lemon glaze and citrus peel to stand out without overwhelming the body of the dessert.  It had a delicious lemon glaze on top along with a scrumptious piece of soft, chewy, lemony candied citrus peel that was all sorts of amazing.  It had that amazing mix of sour and sweet and ugh, it was just SO good.  Not to mention the price was fab: $3.  So worth it and I am whimpering for another one just looking back the photos now. 

And the macaron!  Oh man.  Thumbs up.  There are a number of places around the city that make the beautiful, delicate French macarons, including Petit Thuet (which I blogged about and liked), Nadège Patisserie (with locations on West Queen West and most recently, Rosedale), Pusateri’s, and Whole Foods Market.  I’ll tell you why I enjoyed the lemon macaron from Daniel et Daniel so much and why I would recommend their macarons.  The lemon flavour was absolutely phenomenal.  Even though lemon is a single fruit flavour, it’s often a very difficult  flavour to execute well.  Often times it comes across too strong in its sourness and other times, it’s tamed too much by sugar and it ends up being sickly sweet and artificial.  Their lemon macarons have the PERFECT balance of sour and sweet.  Creamy, fruity, tart, and sweet, they nail the lemon flavour and the macaron itself is delicate, airy, and crispy without being too chewy. 

Another reason why the macarons are great?  The price.  All other places charge around $2 for their macarons.  Daniel et Daniel charges $1.50.  And if you’re trying several at a time, it makes a BIG difference, especially when others are the same size.  With the exception of Whole Foods Market who makes theirs a little bit bigger for $2, I would totally give everyone the push to try the macarons here.  Obviously I’m only taking into consideration the traditional French-style macaron and not the jumbo-sized ones at Metro supermarkets.  I LOVED the lemon macaron and could honestly eat a dozen of them.  I am so incredibly happy with the desserts I got from here and I can’t wait to try some of the more savoury stuff.  And you know, some chocolate and dried fruit bark.  But that’s for another time.  Enjoy the scrap pages and photos!

*****

Daniel et Daniel is a gourmet food shop in Cabbagetown that does event catering.  They are located at 248 Carlton St. near the intersection of Carlton and Parliament St.

Scrapbooking materials used: beige and buttercup yellow cardstock (Recollections); patterned cardstock (The Sweet Stack by DCWV); pink and lime green argyle patterned paper (Making Memories); lime green daisy vine felt borders (Forever in Time Scrapbook Collection); alphabet stickers (Make It Special Crafts); black and floral epoxy stickers (Horizon Group).

The Old-Town Victorian Feel of Cabbagetown and the Gourmet Delights at Daniel et Daniel: Part I

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When I recommend good eats to friends and tell them about my fun walks and exploration days in the city, my friends will often ask, “how in the world do you find these places??”  I know my brother has asked me that very question on more than one occasion and the only answer I can give everyone is that I walk.  A lot.  And I look at maps of the city.  A lot.  I have a hunger and a thirst to see and do as much as I can and to learn about my surroundings.  I’m fascinated by the different neighbourhoods and enclaves in the city and their histories.  Every part of town has a story and exploring it all on foot (or bus or streetcar) is like experiencing a visual playbook.  Finding food gems in every Toronto neighbourhood is one of the best – and most rewarding – parts of exploring and discovering Cabbagetown has been no different.  Walking east from my favourite indoor garden conservatory in the city, Allan Gardens, seemed like a no-brainer for me and this “just keep walking” mentality of mine led me to one of my favourite foodie discoveries last year.

The cheerful “Welcome to Old Cabbagetown” billboard sign sits right at the intersection of Carlton & Parliament St. and it beckons you to take a stroll and to take a look at what is now one of the largest areas of restored and preseved Victorian housing and architecture in the city.  And you feel it and see it when you walk around.  You see the historial significance of the neighbourhood’s name when you pass by a house donning an old green-and-white Cabbagetown flag, indicative of the Irish immigrants who settled into this neighbourhood in the 1800s.  You feel as though you’ve entered some parallel universe where the contemporary and the old have fused into one.  You see where the old has been retained and at the same time, you see where the gentrification has happened.

On the one hand, Cabbagetown makes you envision old school general stores and barber shops with the iconic striped twirly outside along with vintage bicycles and horse-drawn carriages roaming through the streets.  You envision men in tweed and women carrying parisols.  But on the other hand you have hip home decor stores and cafés amongst buildings reminiscent of the early 1900s.  There’s so much history; from Cabbagetown being dubbed by media outlets as an impoverished slum from the effects of WWII and the neighbourhood’s proximity to low-income social housing by Regent Park to the gentrification of the area in past decades, you can’t help but get immersed in it when you get to know the neighbourhood. 

Visually, gourmet haunt Daniel et Daniel near the corner of Carlton and Parliament St. tips their hat to this history with its old-fashioned lamp posts and their logo of a man riding a vintage pennyfarthing bike carrying French baguettes.  Daniel et Daniel is a foodie’s gourmet dream.  With walls of gourmet jams, jellies, mustards, antipasto, and chocolates, along with glass displays featuring mouth-watering picnic salads and fresh baked desserts, it would take a lifetime to feast on everything the shop has to offer.  So, consider this post as a little intro into my exploration of Cabbagetown and its good eats as well as a teaser to tomorrow’s thorough Daniel et Daniel post, complete with scrapbook layout and food porn of tarts, chocolate bark, and lemon luscious desserts.  It’s going to be good 😉    

*****

Daniel et Daniel is a gourmet food shop in Cabbagetown that does event catering.  They are located at 248 Carlton St. near the intersection of Carlton and Parliament St.