Friends With Salad – The Fresh Bocconcini & Tomato Caprese Salad with Pesto & Basil at The Commissary

1 Comment

Every time I think of salad, I laugh to myself as I think of the episode of the Simpsons when Lisa becomes a vegetarian and the scene with Bart, Homer, and Marge dancing in a little conga line chanting, “you don’t win friends with sa-lad!  You don’t win friends with sa-lad!”  with Lisa scowling on the couch.  Oh, Simpsons, how you fit into every aspect of my life.  We know the truth though: salads kick butt and some are so much more worthy than their appetizer and side status at the meal table.  One of my all-time favourite salads is a tomato salad with fresh bufala mozzarella or bocconcini cheese with basil or a caprese salad.  Slices of tomato and cheese, cherry tomatoes, grape tomatoes, it doesn’t matter.  All that matters is that there is basil, the tomatoes are juicy and sweet, and the cheese is soft and melt-in-your-mouth delightful.  I love it with a really great olive oil but a sweet and tangy balsamic works just fine too.

Source: the-rivalry.com

I’ll never forget the day I found out about bocconcini cheese.  I was still in university doing my undergrad and I was with a coworker at the flower shop I used to work at and it was dinnertime.  She had brought a whole container of bocconcini to nosh on and I looked over, was curious, and asked her what she was eating.  She told me bocconcini cheese and gushed about how great it was with tomato salad.  And from that day on, I was in love with bocconcini cheese, buying it from the supermarket to have on hand for snacks and salads at home, and looking out for any bocconcini or bufala mozzarella cheese menu items at restaurants.  All that time this wonderful cheese was absent from my life and now I can’t imagine my life without it!  I am such a cheese fanatic and this is definitely one of my favourite varieties.  And here to deliver a fantastic caprese salad bursting with tomatoes and soft fresh cheese is The Commissary!

Their caprese salad is part of all 3 menus (brunch, lunch, and dinner) and comes in both main ($8) and side ($6) portions.  Oh my gosh, trust me when I say that you need to disregard this salad as merely a side and always, ALWAYS order it as a main.  I mean, if you can.  And want to.  You should!  I had mine as a separate side and thought, “holy bejesus I could eat this endlessly!” and vowed that the next time I was there, I would have their caprese salad as a main with a side of The Commissary’s breakfast potatoes to go with it! 

This caprese screams fresh and juicy.  The multicoloured grape tomatoes and bocconcini are covered in delicious pesto, sweet and tangy balsamic, and a fresh as air chiffonade of basil.  What makes this salad is the fresh cheese and, combined with the balsamic and basil, it is over the moon delicious!  I felt like I was having bocconcini for the first time all over again, only 10 times more amazing!  I could not believe how soft and melt-in-your-mouth it was.  I barely even had to chew because it was that soft.  And I loved how they weren’t skimpy on the cheese either!  This is the real deal and while the cheese I’ve had at the supermarket was good, this blows everything out of the water. 

It’s a great variation of the traditional sliced tomatoes and fresh mozzarella salad and if my love for this salad and their baby arugula and mango salad with goat cheese salad is any indication, I’m not just friends with salad, I’m kind of bffs with it.

*****

The Commissary is located at 889 Queen Street East at the southeast corner of Queen and Logan Ave. in Leslieville.  They serve weekend brunch, and lunch and dinner during the week.  Weekend brunch is served from 9am-3pm on Saturdays and Sundays and from Monday to Friday, they are open from 11am-10pm.

Joy in a Jar – Layers of Coconut Granola, Yogurt, Seeds, Maple Syrup, & Dried and Fresh Fruit at Joy Bistro!

Leave a comment

Coconut granola, pulled pork eggs benny, and lemon ricotta pancakes with blueberries – what can I say?  With a menu that boasts dishes like these, and after my fabulous first visit to Joy Bistro in Leslieville, I was really happy going back to the sweet and breezy eatery on Queen East for seconds!  Joy Bistro really does make you feel, well, joyous!  Whether you’re out on the airy patio or relaxing inside with the sunlight streaming in through the windows, being here makes you feel like you’re truly enjoying time off during your weekend brunch meal. 

You see everyone else around you sharing plates of food, digging into their large brunch dishes, slicing into pancakes, French toast, and eggs, spearing a piece of peameal onto their fork, and sipping Caesars by the bar and you feel their joy just bursting out.  I’ve been told that I look so happy when I eat.  As funny and silly as that sounds in a way (it makes me snort with giggles) I understand where it’s coming from because I see the enjoyment on people’s faces when I glance at others around me and it’s the joy of being around the people you love and the joy of having great, delicious food right in front of you. 

And if you can believe it, my second meal here was even more fantastic than the first!  Part of me was really leaning toward the lemon ricotta pancakes, but I was also incredibly curious about the coconut granola ($8.50) with sesame, pumpkin, and sunflower seeds with fruit and maple syrup.  I know, I eat yogurt parfaits at home.  But that’s like saying, “hmm, I bake cookies, I’ll never buy another cookie outside again!”  As simplistic a dish may be, I feel it’s always worth checking out because everyone prepares and presents their dishes differently.  And let’s face it, when the professionals do what they do best, it’s second to none and so darn good.

I was absolutely delighted and floored when my coconut granola and yogurt was brought out.  Absolutely in awe.  You should have seen my face.  I probably looked like a little one seeing her birthday cake with candles come out for the first time!  I’m not really sure what I was expecting.  Maybe a glass with yogurt and granola layers.  Maybe a bowl.  Never did I expect my sweet, fruit, crunchy, yummy coconut granola to come in a giant glass jar with snap lid!  It was SO cute and adorable!  Something you’d see from a country kitchen and house out of House on the Prairie or something!  I couldn’t believe how sweet the presentation was! 

Food and treats in jars are all the rage right now.  Remember my sweet little strawberry shortcake custard trifle from Simple Bistro on Mount Pleasant?  And all the layered desserts and cookie and baking mixes that DIYers make as gifts and favours?  Food in jars has definitely come a long way from its sole association with baby food, that’s for sure!  Regardless of the trend factor though, this yogurt and granola brunch scored top-notch points in presentation and in deliciousness.

The coconut granola brunch dish was layered with maple syrup, creamy, mildly sweet vanilla yogurt, granola with oats, various types of seeds, coconut, dried fruit (cranberries and apricots), and tons of fresh fruit including blueberries, sliced bananas, and sliced strawberries.  Not only did the whole dish taste fresh and juicy and wholesome, it really showed off how resourceful Joy Bistro was in their usage of food and their waste management. 

I know, this is supposed to be about delicious food, not waste!  But we all know waste is always part of the equation when we talk about food; it’s not all hearts and daisies.  The volume of fruits, vegetables, and dairy is so difficult to manage because of their short shelf life and it really impressed me seeing them use the strawberries, blueberries, and bananas that were present on my banana bread French toast my first time there in another brunch main.  You’ll never be able to eliminate waste completely, but using all your ingredients in different ways for different dishes shows your resourcefulness and versatility and a willingness to work with the food in more than one manner.

Their coconut granola yogurt parfait was delicious and terrific.  I was floored at how good the vanilla yogurt was.  Much of the time, yogurt can come off as too tangy, too watery, too thick, and admittedly, somewhat tasteless.  I love yogurt but even I can acknowledge its flaws.  Their vanilla yogurt wasn’t any of those things.  The sweetness and vanillaness to it was noticeable enough for me to take note and love it, but also perfectly mild enough to let the granola and fruit shine.  The fruits were juicy and plump, the granola was crunchy and honey sweet, and the maple syrup was bang on what the parfait needed to make it extra special.  I love the dried fruits, I love the seeds, and I loved how the texture of the granola was chunky and crunchy yet also finely crushed and milled in other ways with the coconut and seeds.       

Joy Bistro has really become a favourite of mine in the area and it’s only a matter of time before I tick off the eggs benny and pancakes off my brunch list!

*****

Joy Bistro is located at 884 Queen Street East in Leslieville, at the corner of Booth Ave. and Queen East across the street from Jimmie Simpson Park.  They serve weekend brunch, lunch, and dinner as well as plenty of drinks at the bar!  Hours of operation: Monday-Wednesday 11am-12am midnight, Thursday-Friday 11am-1am, Saturday 8am-1am, and Sunday 8am-12am midnight.

Bringing Great Brunch to the Masses – Baby Arugula & Mango Salsa, Stuffed Croissants, and More at The Commissary

2 Comments

I didn’t waste any time, did I?  Last week I wrote the 2nd edition of Confessions of a Brunch Obsessed Foodie listing several weekend brunch picks from Leslieville, the land of good food, and *BAM!*, here I am reporting back with a mouthwatering account of The Commissary, one of the three spots I featured in that post.  What can I say?  I had eating to do errands to run in the east end and The Commissary, with its corner location and big windows facing the street, becknoned me like a little floating magical fairy holding a cupcake.  I have to say, I have never pounced on a new discovery so fast.  Normally when I find out about a place I’ve never been to, I take a quick photo of it from the outside, “tuck it away” in my mind (or on my computer; these days they might as well be one and the same) and then figure out a good time to make a real visit which often takes me weeks or even months.  This time?  Within 2 weeks.  The menu looked too good to pass up, I wanted to give you all a first-hand look at one of the newer eateries in this part of town, and it just fit into my schedule and my flow of errands.  Done and done.

The Commissary, located at Queen Street East and Logan Ave., has only been in business for about half a year but judging from the great crowds, you’d never know it.  The place was packed the first time I walked by its front window and door and if you can believe it, I was 2nd in line even before they officially opened their doors for weekend brunch at 10am.  It takes a long time for a food business to get its feet wet, especially in a city as food crazy and critical as ours.  Trust Torontonians to get into a debate online about cupcakes and it cultural significance!  But it truly seems to be thriving in Leslieville because it’s attracting different types of people.  You have young-ins, you have girlfriends, you have families with babies, you have the whole kit and caboodle – and everyone is having a great time in a bright, fresh, airy atmosphere. 

Now, everyone who writes about The Commissary will discuss the significance of its name – heck, even The Commissary themselves provide definitions of what a commissary is on their website.  It’s worth noting though because it really plays into the atmosphere and the feel of the bistro.  A commissary can refer to either “a store that sells food and supplies to the personnel or workers in a military post, mining camp, lumber camp, or the like” or “a dining room or cafeteria, especially one in a motion-picture studio”.  

In order for the name to make sense, we’re not supposed to take these definitions literally but rather use them to make sense of the surroundings around us and the feelings we have while we’re here.  Case in point: the reference to the working class in the first definition speaks to the unpretetnious way food is made here.  Read: it’s not fuss and frills.  It’s just damn good food and tap water in glass bottles (you have to read what the bottle says, it’ll make you laugh).  Even the menu items that scream fancier pants (like my arugula salad with mango salsa and goat cheese crumbles, $5 side) are so simple and fresh and down-to-earth.  And the giant side of breakfast potatoes for $3?  Soft, starchy, cute, insanely scrumptious, and something straight out of a local greasy spoon diner only not greasy. 

Finally, while we foodies aren’t surrounded by red carpets, lights, cameras, and action, you definitely feel like a star dining at a hip and happening hot spot.  And it also helps that everyone who passes by will undoubtedly be curious and glance through the windows to take a peek at the hustle and bustle and, you know, your food.  Because I sure did!  As well, if you take a look at their website, it exudes that old-time Hollywood glamour (I’m looking at you, Fred and Ginger), with black and white photos of old town Toronto and what I’m assuming is old town Leslieville.

The Commissary’s weekend brunch menu is full to bursting with egg breakfasts, breakfast sandwiches, salads, meat mains, vegetarian delights, and plenty of cheesy goodness!  The menu is a jack-of-all-trades.  Prices range from $7-$12, with breakfast sides coming in at $3-$5.50.  Their refreshing salads are available as mains or sides (curried shrimp and melon, caprese, watercress with jicama and Granny Smith apple just to name a few), there are 5 different types of eggs benny including peameal, grilled tomatoes, and applewood smoked bacon and smoked gouda *cue my mouth watering here*, stuffed croissants such as apple compote and brie (OH.MY.GOD) and PB & J, hearty meat dishes (roast beef steak and eggs, lobster and mango salsa, and roast beef and sauteed shrimp surf n’ turf), vegetarian dishes (ratatouille and beans and salsa rancheros), and cheese present in about 3/4 of the dishes.  I LOVE IT.  I ordered a ridiculous amount of food because I couldn’t walk away knowing I didn’t try a little bit of everything my heart desired and it paid off because it was delicious and I didn’t even feel bogged down afterward.

I was in the mood for some veggies and cheese so I went all out and had their vegetarian pepper and cheese stuffed grilled croissant ($9) with roasted red peppers, caramelized onions, and warm, creamy goat cheese, which was served with fruit and a side green salad.  You don’t see stuffed croissant breakfast sandwiches much on brunch menus!  And then I added a side baby arugula and mango salsa salad with goat cheese crumbles, grilled red onion, and sunflower seeds.  And then for good measure I ordered a side of breakfast potatoes for my boyfriend and I to share.  I barely had enough room for my camera!  It was fabulous vegetarian brunch feast.  The grilled croissant was buttery and crispy and savoury with my roasted and sauteed veggies, the goat cheese was abundant, and I would have that baby arugula and mango salsa salad over and over again in a heartbeat, only as a main the next time! 

I love how crisp all the flavours were for everything and how bright, casual, and relaxing the whole place was.  The space may not be the biggest, but it’s a sweet place with great food and a happy atmosphere; you can’t ask for more.

*****

The Commissary is located at 889 Queen Street East at the southeast corner of Queen and Logan Ave. in Leslieville.

Not Time to Say Goodbye to Leslieville Just Yet – Tea, Chocolate, & the BIG Moving Sale at Steeped & Infused!

Leave a comment

Everyone loves sales.  Who doesn’t love a money-saving opportunity?  But sometimes, even the all-mighty sale is met with a little bit of sadness.  This past weekend I found out to my dismay that my favourite tea shop in the city, Steeped & Infused, was holding a gigantic, blow-out sale because they were packing up shop in Leslieville and moving.  Where to?  We’re not sure yet.  But for those of you who love tea and want to take advantage of a million more “pinkies up!” at half price, Steeped & Infused will still be around at Queen East and Hastings Ave. until September 23rd so mark your calendar, jot it down on a sticky note, do whatever you have to do to remember it so you don’t miss out! 

I know for a fact that I’ll be coming back one more time before they move because while it would be the fantastical thing ever if they stayed in downtown Toronto, who knows, the shop might  end up in Missausauga.  And if it does, I will cry.  So I’m crossing my fingers that wherever the new location will be, it’ll still be accessible.  Because I love this tea shop and refuse to entertain the thought of not having some of my favourite tea flavours in my life. 

This past weekend, I almost had myself a heart attack when I saw their bright red “Moving Sale!  50% Off!” sign in their front window.  Partly because I was ecstatic to buy copious amounts of tea at a discounted rate, but also because I almost mistook the sign as an honest-to-goodnss closing as opposed to a move, but thankfully I calmed down long enough to realize it wasn’t actually dooms day.  Because if I hadn’t, I think I would have have made quite the spectacle out of myself. 

I took some photos of the tea shop and cafe for old times sake to both memorialize a wonderful space that has given me some of the yummiest teas and to show off the shop as a renovated cafe (remember when it was sans the tables, chairs, and treats and instead filled with giftware and tea sets?) with beautiful colours and artwork adorning its walls.  All the loose leaf teas are 50% off and because they’re selling out so quickly from the sale, if they no longer have the flavour you want in stock, it’ll most likely come in a future shipment before the shop packs up and moves.  If I remember correctly, I was told that their next shipment would be this Wednesday, so definitely plan a trip to the cfae this coming long weekend to snatch some stuff up. 

My favourite sample baggies are also on sale for a ridiculous $1 each!  I could gush on and on and on about these sample baggies.  While their coconut almond rooibos is my true blue favourite, I love trying multiple flavours and the sample baggies allow me (and everyone else) to have SO much fun trying different teas and switching things up based on what my tastebuds feel like.  Let me tell you, I was on cloud nine as I splurged on my tea shopping spree.  I picked up 5 different loose leaf tea baggies and I can’t wait to drink to my heart’s content!  My bladder won’t be too amused about the non-stop tea parties, but my tastebuds sure will! 

I picked up a baggie of my favourite coconut almond rooibos, green and white pear cream green tea (this one is also amazing!), green and white mango green tea, Canadian blueberry rooibos, and a strawberry kiwi fruit tisane which smells so heavenly good you want to eat the tea mixture straight out of the tin.  5 teas, $5!  In addition, they have some great tea infused chocolate in 3 or 4 tasty flavours and because I just couldn’t pass it up, I picked up a square of milk Belgian chocolate infused with passionfruit green tea and a square of white Belgian chocolate infused with matcha!

If you haven’t paid a visit to Steeped & Infused before, I urge you to do it before they move and if you’re a current fan like me, take advantage and go one last time.  I’ll keep everyone updated when I know any more information about where their new location will be, but don’t hesitate to dig for a little info yourself.  They’ll be posting updates on their Twitter @steepedinfused and let’s hope that they stay within sipping distance!  

*****

Steeped & Infused is located at 1258 Queen Street East in Leslieville, at the corner of Queen Street East and Hastings Ave.  The shop and cafe will continue to operate at this location until September 23, 2012 at which time they will be move (new location TBD).  They also have a mini location inside a store called Adornments on Queen at 338 Queen Street East.  They are open 6 days a week from 11am-7pm on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays, 11am-6pm on Fridays, 10:30am-6pm on Saturdays, and 11:30am-5pm on Sundays.  The shop is closed on Mondays.  You can visit their website here and follow them on Twitter @steepedinfused.

Strawberry & Banana Bread French Toast and Hot Cheddar & Tomatoes – Brunch on the Patio at Joy Bistro in Leslieville!

2 Comments

After a whirlwind of Swiss Chalet Fresh Impressions Tour fun and sneak peeks, Ate by Ate is back with good eats and brunch straight from the heart of Leslieville on Queen Street East!  We took a bit of a detour last week, but just to recap, we took a closer look at the Leslieville Cheese Market, a summer Sunday at Leslieville Farmers’ Market in August, and a foodie district post highlighting some of the great food and drink along the popular east end strip including Majesteas and the brand spankin’ new donut and chicken shop (I know, it still takes a bit of time to wrap your head around it, doesn’t it?), Pauline’s! 

Today, we celebrate weekend brunch out on the patio at Joy Bistro, located right across the street from Jimmie Simpson Park on Queen East!  Leslieville boasts so many great brunch and lunch spots and it was hard deciding where my next adventure was going to be.  I lucked out and managed to grab a great table at Lady Marmalade during a Monday morning last year (yes, there are line-ups out the door even on weekdays!), but aside from one of Leslieville’s most popular eateries, brunch in Leslieville was still pretty foreign to me.  So I did a little research, read up on some TO food literature, and after seeing a shot of their outdoor patio online, I was sold!

Joy Bistro is such a pretty dining spot and you actually don’t realize just how gorgeous it is until you stand directly in front of it from across the street on the south side of Queen.  It’s a beautiful building with an upper level and lots of flowers and hanging baskets everywhere and when you look at it dead on, you realize just how appropriate the space is for all sorts of dining occasions.  On the inside we have the bar and bistro area on the main floor, perfect for some drinks (you should have seen how quickly Joy’s bartender was whipping up those brunch Caesars!), small bites, and a meal by the window with a newspaper.  Then we have the open outdoor patio, perfect for a casual, easy breezy brunch and lunch with friends and family.  Finally, we have the pretty and romantic and ultra charming patio terrace with cushioned seats, flowers, a canopy, and strings of lights that light up the night.  When I realized just how cute and charming that particular dining area was, I vowed that I would come back for lunch and dinner, just so I could dine there and enjoy the atmosphere.  And you know, eat!

I made my first experience at Joy Bistro a weekend brunch one though and I had a great time pairing sweet and savoury together for a yummy and delicious meal!  The great thing about Joy is that their weekend brunch menu incorporates both their breakfast page and their lunch menu, so it fits the bill for parties that either feel more eggs and bacon-y or more salad and sandwich-y.  Their brunch menu was even more fab than I thought it would be though!  The menu they have posted online isn’t their most updated one and let me tell you, the real one is 10 times more awesome! 

 

Prices range from $8.50-$14.50 with most brunch meals coming in at around $9-$11, and some of highlights include their 3-egg omelette with goat cheese, mushrooms, spinach, and red peppers; coconut and oat granola yogurt with sesame, sunflower, and pumpkin seeds (I am over the moon with this one!); Eggs Norweigan (eggs benedict with smoked salmon and spinach); Eggs Willow Grove (eggs benedict with pulled pork – I know, wipe the drool off your chin); lemon ricotta pancakes (oh good god, I need this in my life), and my pick, banana bread French toast with berries and bananas!

After having such a fantastic banana bread French toast meal at The Gladstone Hotel, I thought, “why not give it a whirl and try every French toast brunch menu item there is in the city?  Especially banana bread ones!”  I’ve always wanted to try as many French toasts as possible, but ever since that Gladstone meal, I’ve been paying much more attention to spots with different styles and kinds because the banana bread one was so good.  Joy’s banana bread French toast ($9) is a dish comprised of 3 thick slices of sweet, ultra moist banana bread drizzle with maple syrup, dusted with icing sugar, and sprinkled with blueberries and slices of strawberry and banana.  I thought banana bread couldn’t be any softer, moister, or more flavourful than the ones made at Gladstone, but I was pleasantly surprised by how delicious Joy’s was.  Their French toast matched the Gladstone’s bite for bite and the maple syrup just intensified the flavour even more.  Part of me wishes the whole plate was covered in more fruit so I could have an even bigger field day with it, but the dish as a whole was delicious and so flavourful.

And sides!  We can’t forget sides.  I knew I wanted something savoury to balance out my sweet so I perused their list of brunch sides (priced from $1-$4 for yummies like peameal bacon, home fries, and bacon and sausage) and went with a side of sauteed tomatoes ($1.50) and a side of cheddar cheese ($1).  Holy mother of pearl was this ever GOOD!  The sides came separately on their own, but my intention was to totally sprinkle my aged white cheddar cheese over top my piping hot ramekin filled with the juiciest chopped tomatoes and have it melt over top and was it ever ridiculously foodgasmic!  Cheese and tomato go hand and hand, so if you’re looking for a great savoury side that packs a punch, try this one because it makes you feel all warm and fuzzy and wiggly over how good it is.

After finding out how great and diversified their menu is, I cannot wait to come back and try all the items I listed earlier in the post and to dine in their charming and romantic terrace.  Joy Bistro may not have the powerhouse line-ups out the door that Bonjour Brioche or Lady Marmalade have, but let me tell you, it’s a wonderful spot in Leslieville with so much to offer and I’m looking forward to showcasing as much as I can from here from here on out.          

*****

Joy Bistro is located at 884 Queen Street East in Leslieville, at the corner of Booth Ave. and Queen East across the street from Jimmie Simpson Park.  They serve weekend brunch, lunch, and dinner as well as plenty of drinks at the bar!  Hours of operation: Monday-Wednesday 11am-12am midnight, Thursday-Friday 11am-1am, Saturday 8am-1am, and Sunday 8am-12am midnight.

Grilled Cheese Sandwiches, Bagels & Bread, and Glorious Dips & Spreads at the Leslieville Cheese Market!

Leave a comment

I have a wee bit of an obsession problem at the moment.  Let it be known that I am all over dips and spreads like a bad rash and that because of 1) the scrumptious homemade beet hummus from Luscious Dips (which, to my heartbreak, has relocated to Niagara Falls) during my blogging run at the Toronto Lunchtime Office Markets, 2) the fabulous spinach basil pesto and sprouted chickpea hummuses I purchased from my girls at Earth & City, and 3) the black bean and roasted avocado with tomatillo dips I bought from Mad Mexican at Evergreen Brick Works, I am hunting dips and spreads down the same way I hunt for lip gloss.  Oh yes, it’s THAT bad.  Granted, I don’t have a deep sliding drawer full of the stuff like I do lip gloss, but let’s just say that if these condiments didn’t have a shelf life and if my fridge was bigger, I would have swept Leslieville Cheese Market clean!  And this, my dear friends, is the long-awaited introduction to the Leslieville Cheese Market! 

It’s about darn time.  Considering how much I love cheese it’s any wonder I haven’t been here every week since I found out about its existence last year.  I finally stepped inside this glorious little gourmet food shop and market for the first time this month though, after pining over their grilled cheese sandwiches for months.  And now I almost wish I hadn’t.  Gone to the shop I mean.  There is way too much food I love here!  Not only is the shop teeming with fresh cheese, it also carries Fred’s Bread, St. Urbain bagels, smoked fish and cured meats , jams and jellies, fruit and nut bread loaves, crostini and crackers, a whole menu of grilled cheese sandwiches and soups, and dips!  Loads and loads of fantastical dips!  I’m positive most people come here for the bread, cheese, and grilled cheese sandwiches.  I will come back because I want several containers of dip and spreads.  And a grilled cheese and soup.  But not before I buy a dip.  I can’t help it.  The second I slathered on my beet hummus dip from Luscious Dips onto my veggie sandwich back in March, it was all downhill from there.  I had been bitten by the homemade dip and spread bug and as a result, I have had a bad case of, “I just dip and dunk and spread this stuff on everything!”        

  

Leslieville Cheese Market, located at 891 Queen Street East (with 2 other locations in Toronto and 1 outside of the GTA), has an entire refrigerated section dedicated to spreads brimming with savoury flavours such as smoked salmon, roasted red pepper and white bean, basil pesto, red lentil dahl, baba ganoush, sundried tomato and tapenade, and artichoke blue cheese and walnut among numerous others.  It’s a little pricier than what I normally pay for (most of my spreads and dips have come in at around $5 with a few for $6) with most of the ones at Leslieville Cheese Market priced at $6.75, but the containers are relatively big and many of flavours are really unique so they just might be worth the extra $1 or $2 to check out and try.  My absolute favourite thing to do with my dips and spreads is to spread them on a tortilla, fill it with spinach and other vegetables, shredded cheese, and maybe some smoked turkey or tofu, and fold it over in half to make a quesadilla on the grill.  So, so delicious.

Another highlight of the Leslieville Cheese Market is their fresh bread.  I’m not even that much of a bread head (that would be my mum), but I LOVE fruit and nut breads and I’m a sucker for anything with herbs, so I was super excited to see that they had breads like pecan and fruit, and rosemary and olive oil.  Loaves of bread are also priced around the $5 to $6 range depending on the loaf.      

 

And of course, no discussion of the shop would be complete without a thorough breakdown of their grilled cheese!  I wanted to feature them during the month of April (read: National Grilled Cheese Month) but just wasn’t able to get around to it.  Even though I don’t have any photos of grilled cheese for you all in this post, I promise I will and in the meantime I figure we can drool over their menu.  Their grilled cheese sandwiches ($7.91 including tax) are made on light rye bread with your choice of the following grilled cheese filling combinations: provolone and beef summer sausage, ham and gruyere, chipotle tuna swiss melt, sundried tomat, artichoke, and chevre (goat cheese), a combo of white cheddar and a cheese called muenster, and cheddar cheese and bacon. 

And, there are dipping sauces!  There are 3 to choose from (balsamic ketchup, sweet thai chili, and piri piri which is a spicy blend) and if that’s not enough to get the motor running, there are also soups to accompany your grilled cheese such as corn chowder and potato leek.  Finally (I know, there’s more!), the cheese market also hosts cheese and wine night classes!  I may not drink, but learning about cheeses and pairings and nuances and regional differences and specifics sounds like a lot of fun and maybe in the future I’ll spring for something like it.  Right now though, I’m just feeling excited at the thought of sitting out on bench in the neighbourhood with a yummy grilled cheese and soup on a nice fall day and I can’t wait to do that sometime soon.

*****

Leslieville Cheese Market in Leslieville is located at 891 Queen Street East, east of Broadview Ave., with 3 other locations including a brand new one on Donlands Ave. just south of O’Connor Dr.

The Makings of a Summer Vegetable Garden Party – An August Sunday at the Leslieville Farmers’ Market

1 Comment

Cool evening breezes, trips up north to the cottage and the lake, picnics in the park, garden parties, and dining outdoors with the sun softly setting in the sunset – at its best, this is what summer is all about.  These photos from Leslieville Farmers’ Market were entirely inspired by my latest issue of Vegetarian Times magazine (with huge thanks to my best friend for gifting me a subscription!) and their story on garden fresh vegetables and beautiful garden party and patio dining.  I know I’ve been whimpering about the sweltering heat all summer, but deep down, I do have a soft spot in my heart for summer evenings and delicious meals shared with family and friends outside with just a hint of nip in the air.  The magazine story, titled “Summer’s Last Hurrah”, has such a relaxing, whimsical, bohemian feel to it and it’s the type of meal that I can only dream of having and hosting until the day I have my own home in the future: grilled stuffed peppers with fresh soft cheeses and corn, grilled crostini with rosemary olive oil, and heirloom tomato salad. 

While my appetite seems to sing when spring and fall seasonal cuisine rolls around every year, summer vegetables are my favourite and it’s incredible how lush and delicious some of our crop has turned out this year despite the bad weather and yields that were, and are, well below average.  I have had some of the best corn this summer and I’ve heard from others (because I’m allergic and can’t actually eat raw ones myself) that the peaches this time around are to die-for.  Sometimes you go to the market with an idea of what you want to find and bring home and other times, like this, the market does the planning for you, giving you all the inspiration you need to make a week’s worth of fresh, healthy meals with things like radishes, yams, potatoes, carrots, tofu, summer squash, and more. 

The market was so incredibly busy on this particular day with lineups left and right at many of the hot food vendors  (my boyfriend and I even joined in on the fun, grabbing some sizzling tofu and mushroom rollups from Ying Ying Gourmet Soy Foods that tasted absolutely amazing!) and tiny tots shouting at the tops of their lungs professing their love for popsicles (read: Augie’s Gourmet Ice Pops).  My favourites from this particular August visit: big and bright golden yellow cauliflower; vibrant, round purple Japanese eggplants (I found out they’re a variety called kamonasu!*); lobster mushrooms from Forbes Wild Foods; and a rainbow of tomatoes and baby garlic carrots from the Greenhouse Eatery!

Market vendors and farmers’, for the most part, have been incredibly friendly to me whilst watching me tote my camera around their wares, but there’s always someone who stands out from the bunch with a witty quip or just all-around great conversation.  The nice ladies of the Greenhouse Eatery made me smile and giggle a little after I asked if it would be okay if I snapped a few shots of their beautiful and colourful produce, to which they replied, “Ooo, can we make it look pretty first??” as they started rearranging tomatoes and carrots for me for prettier angles and shot.  I thought that was so cute and sweet.  And it’s a good thing I came to their table when I did because soon enough, a crowd had gathered behind and around me and arms were reaching from all over place grabbing every last bunch of carrots.  No joke.  There were two gentlemen who were jokingly fighting over the carrot bunches as they each wanted the entire table’s worth!  Foodies or not, nothing comes between a person and their delicious food or in this case, market produce!

 

*****

* Source = Just Hungry

Leslieville Farmers’ Market is located at Jonathan Ashbridge Park on Queen Street East and Woodward Ave.  Jonathan Ashbridge Park is located in between Greenwood and Coxwell Ave., and can be accessed via public transit by way of the Queen Street 501 streetcar.  The market is new to the lineup of Toronto markets this year and is held every Sunday from 9am-2pm.  The last market of the year is on October 28, 2012.  Visit their website to sign up to their newsletter, to get involved, and to learn more.