Photo Spotlight on Bun-wiches, Grilled Cheese & More Food at Crème Fraîche Market Cafe!

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Crème Fraîche Market Cafe is a cafe and local food shop located in the west end of Toronto in Annette Village/The Junction neighbourhod at 639 Annette Street.  The shop is just several blocks west of Runnymede Road and south of Dundas Street West.  They are open from Tuesday to Sunday (closed on Mondays), from 8am-8pm.  Visit their official website HERE.

The Fall Harvest Series – Bringing Home Kale, Sunflower Sprouts, Sauces & More From the Junction Farmers Market!

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I am smitten.  Absolutely smitten.  I think my visit to the Junction Farmers Market this past Saturday morning was, hands down, my favourite market visit of the season!  It was such a rewarding experience, I had SO much fun, and by the end of it, I walked away with bags of goodies to take home.  It made me so happy and that’s saying a lot considering I was in a very foul mood about 2 hours prior!  Tthe bus I had originally planned on catching never showed up so that set me back a whole half hour.  I was not a happy camper at 7 in the morning.  But then I arrived at the market (when I finally did) and all the frustration and mumbling and grumbling went *POOF!* as I hopped from vendor to vendor in sheer joy.  Pumpkins!  Squash!  Apples!  Kale!  Tomatoes!  Sauces and dips!  FOOOOD!  The whole market was in full-swing fall mode with bushels of apples and pears by the vendors, delicious samples of apple cider, and tables overflowing with orange and golden yellow pumpkins, squashes, and tomatoes.

I couldn’t believe how amazing the market was on Saturday.  I know it sounds kind of weird given how this visit wasn’t my first but let’s face it, the market is in the middle of a parking lot and not exactly surrounded by daisies.  But by golly is it ever a goldmine of brilliant colour, lush fruits and vegetables, savoury nibbles, sweet baked goods, and scrumptious dips and sauces!  The Junction market has grown so much since its debut back in June.  It has grown steadily and organically with the enthusiasm of the community in its corner and I’m so proud of what this market has accomplished in just a matter of a few short months.  This is the Junction market’s first fall season and it’s an exciting time.

I am going to be so sad though when it packs up for the season in a week and a half on the 13th because I really feel like I can do grocery shopping at the Junction market as opposed to just being a passionate market goer and passerby.  I’m going to try my best to get in one last visit before it waves goodbye because it’s just that wonderful.  And I know other people in the commnity feel the exact same way because there were crowds lining up for bread and baked goods from De La Terre, there were discussions about kale left and right, and there was even an eager morning market shopper who came by Eugora’s Fine Foods and asked for 20 veggie samosas!

The selection of food was fantastic and there was a great balance between take-home groceries (fruits, vegetables, sauces, preserves, and pantry items) and “enjoy right away” food like sweet baked goods and bread from De La Terre, vegetarian samosas from Eudora’s Fine Foods, and Hogtown Charcuterie ‘s meats, savoury puff pastries and tarts, empanadas, scotch quail eggs and more!  For the first time, I felt like I was actually bogged down with food goodies and groceries!

I bought 4 vegetarian samosas (I know, it pales in comparison to the 20 the other lady snatched up!) and a jar of fresh, fruity, and flavourful mango chutney from Eudora’s Fine Foods, a container of delicious pesto the colour of freshly cut grass, sunflower sprouts from Fresh City Farms, and two of the biggest, fluffiest, most beautiful bunches of curly kale I had ever seen from Sosnicki Organics.  I was thisclose to buying more vegetables and picking up cheese too!  I’ve never shopped a market like this before and it felt terrific because I knew the food was incredibly fresh, I knew I was going to put the food to good use (dinner for me and the family!), and I knew it was money well spent.

I left the Junction market in such high spirits and I think that’s exactly how every farmers’ market should make everyone feel: welcome, loved, more knowledgable, and most importantly, excited for more.  It’s not every day you find your holy grail foods.  When you find a producer, farmer, and/or food shop that you love, you go back to them time and time again because you trust their passion, their integrity, and the greatness of their food.  It’s exactly how I felt when I came home with my beautiful bag of assorted kale from Samsara Fields the other week when I went to Crème Fraîche and I felt (and tasted!) it again when I lugged my giant bag of curly kale home from the Junction market.  The possibilities for wonderful food at the market are endless and I can only hope that one day this market will be a year-round one so I can enjoy it well past October.

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The Junction farmers’ market will be held every Saturday from 8:30am-12:30pm, June 2nd to October 13th.  The farmers’ market is located in the parking lot just off of Dundas Street West and Pacific Ave.  The market is brand new to Toronto and the Junction community, so spread the word, come out, and show your support!  For more info and a list of vendors, visit the official Junction market page HERE.

The Fall Harvest Series – It’s an Orange & Gold, Leafy Green Wonderland at the Junction Farmers Market! Part I

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A photo spotlight of my latest visit to the Junction farmers market and the official return of The Fall Harvest Series!  It’s October and I have some great stuff to share with you guys this week including a fall inspired weekend brunch meal, fall flavour cupcakes, a pumpkin edition of The Cupcake Connection, and hopefully lots of butternut squash and baking pumpkin baked goods!   Even though I won’t be able to repeat last year’s feat of stringing together 2 week’s worth of fall harvest posts in a row, I’m going to try my best to get in as many posts as possible, especially market ones since many of them will be packing up for the year sometime this month.  I’ve compiled a list of all the ones that are ending during the month of October as part of the October Food Calendar, so if there’s a market you adore or one you haven’t been to yet this year, make your visit soon before they’re gone!

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The Junction farmers’ market will be held every Saturday from 8:30am-12:30pm, June 2nd to October 13th.  The farmers’ market is located in the parking lot just off of Dundas Street West and Pacific Ave.  The market is brand new to Toronto and the Junction community, so spread the word, come out, and show your support!  For more info and a list of vendors, visit the official Junction market page HERE.

Pop-Up Farmers’ Markets, Organic Veggies, & Lots of Kale! Samsara Fields at Crème Fraîche Market Cafe

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Sometimes things are just meant to be.  Like when you stop by your favourite shop on a whim and everything is on sale.  Or when you pay a visit to your favourite bakery and oh, what do you know, a fresh batch of goodies have just come out of the oven!  Many wonderful, serendipitous things have happened in my food world (like when I unknowingly went to Hammersmith’s on the day of their 1st birthday and was consequently treated to a yummy cupcake on the house!) and yesterday’s farmers’ market trek to Crème Fraîche Market Cafe on Annette Street was just that, serendipitous. 

I wanted to see what baked goods they had on hand, I wanted to take new photos, and I really just wanted to go for fun.  So I went online bright and early in the morning to double check my bus schedule and thought it would be a good idea to double check Crème Fraîche’s website to map out my route for the afternoon.  And there it was.  Crème Fraîche’s twitter box with the words “pop-up heirloom farmers’ market” embedded in their latest tweet!  I couldn’t believe my good fortune!  I was so excited I literally skipped out of my house!

Even though pop-up markets are out of my grasp most of the time since the concept is rooted in spontaneity and to a large extent, up-to-the-minute social media (hi there, I don’t text or have internet on my phone!  Yes, yes, I might as well be carring a phone with an antenna, blah blah blah), there’s a lot of value to be found in them for both the farmers/producers and those in the community. 

First off, it’s a surprise and anybody making a trip to Crème Fraîche would be treated to an added bonus of food to choose from that they never expected!  Second, it affords all those who come to the shop the opportunity to get to know a farmer or a producer they hadn’t known of before.  You learn so much about where the food comes from, different varieities of produce, and the about the producers themselves.  More options for fresh and healthy food is never a bad thing!  And finally, it allows the farmers and producers to engage in a different neighbourhood, a different part of the city, and even a different part of the province.  Many growers may only have the time and resources to sell their wares in one or two parts of town, if they’re lucky.  Farmers’ markets are highly competitive, with guidelines, fees, and red tape every which way.  Pop-up markets don’t require long-term commitment (one day only!) and they foster relationships between people as they get to know the farms, the growers, and even the shop that’s hosting the pop-up.  It keeps everyone engaged and interested, not to mention well-fed!

When I arrived at Crème Fraîche, I was treated to a fabulous, beautiful spread of vegetables from Samsara Fields, a local organic Ontario farm owned by organic growers JP Gural and So Young Lee.  Samsara Fields, located in Waterford, Ontario, aims to provide local food security in the form of organic heirloom vegetables – beans, corn, garlic, potatoes, peppers, peas, squash, the list goes on.  After making my rounds inside the Crème Fraîche cafe (sadly, no cheddar black pepper scones yesterday but plenty of fall squash, herb plants, cheese, oats, beans, and lentils!) and having a great talk with Constance, I came back outside to take a look at what I wanted to bring home.  

I was so happy when I found out So Young Lee had oodles of kale for sale!  Crème Fraîche had a big basket of Scottish/curly kale outside and So Young Lee offered me a huuuge assortment of freshly picked kale (picked the day before!) straight from Samsara Fields.  I was in awe at all the different types!  I knew there was black kale and to a lesser extent, red kale, but I had never tried things like lacinato/dinosaur kale, premier kale, or Siberian kale before and I was delighted that I’d get the chance to take some home, especially since my mum had said she really wanted some.  Fresh kale was priced at $5 a bag and I thought, “why not?” so So Young Lee fished a mountain of beautiful kale leaves out from the water where they were peacefully floating, in all different varieties, and stuffed a bag full for me.  The leaves were s0, so beautiful and quite frankly, I was happy to spend the $5 and not have to chuck out a third of the bunch. 

They were delicious with the spaghettini I had for dinner earlier today and it made me so happy knowing I was eating such yummy vegetables and also supporting a dedicated, loving couple who are passionate about food producing and organic farming and growing.  I can’t wait to experience more pop-up markets at Crème Fraîche  and to get more involved in everything else they have to offer including classes and cafe breakfast and brunch! 

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Crème Fraîche Market Cafe is a cafe and local food shop located in the west end of Toronto in Annette Village/The Junction neighbourhod at 639 Annette Street.  The shop is just several blocks west of Runnymede Road and south of Dundas Street West.  They are open from Tuesday to Sunday (closed on Mondays), from 8am-8pm.  Visit their official website HERE.

Confessions of a Brunch Obsessed Foodie – From Ossington to Bloor West Village: West End Brunch Picks!

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Introducing west end brunch picks!

Maybe it’s the late night munchie cravings talking, but I could really go for some good old fashioned bacon and eggs.  It’s after 10pm on my side of the pond though so I really don’t think it’d be a good idea to haul out the frying pan to soothe that craving right now, so the next best thing?  Counting down another 5 weekend brunch spots on my brunch club hit list!  Lately, and even throughout the summer, I’ve been focusing more heavily on the east end with posts on Joy Bistro and The Commissary in Leslieville, Simple Bistro on Mount Pleasant, and Hammersmith’s in Riverdale, and I realized that I really owe the west end some more love!  From Ossington Village to The Junction, here are 5 eateries I can’t wait to eventually get to!

The Beet Organic Cafe – located at 2945 Dundas Street West, west of Keele St. and east of Pacific Ave. at the corner of Medland St. in The Junction.  One of these days, I will follow through on my plan to go to The Beet after a farmers’ market trek to the Junction Market on a Saturday morning!  It’s only a matter of time.  My first brush with The Beet was when I made my unforgettable first trip to Bunner’s Bake Shop down the road during last year’s Veggielicious.  It was then that I realized what a goldmine of a foodie district I was in – an organic, raw, vegetarian, and vegan one in particular!  I never did get around to re-writing my Junction Foodie District post that got sucked into the internet black hole, but I’m totally committed to doing more food things in the neighbourhood and one of them is brunch at The Beet!

A foodie fixture in The Junction

With a focus and commitment to using as many local, Canadian, seasonal, and organic ingredients, The Beet’s menu has items for both carnivores and veggies alike.  My picks: the Huevos Rancheros ($12) starring two baked eggs with Quebec cheddar, sweet potato mash, sour cream, pico de gallo, and avocado, all on an Ontario corn tortilla; Farmer’s Harvest Salad ($7 sm., $10 lrg.) featuring green and red leaf lettuce, Chef’s selection of seasonal veggies, pumpkin seeds, and a choice of dressing; and the Buenos Dias Wrap ($13, wheat and gluten-free!) stuffed with avocado, spicy black bean spread, quinoa, pico de gallo, and raw Quebec cheddar.  Oh!  And we can’t forget their truckload of fresh fruit, nut, and milk smoothie  options as well!      

Cuban & Latin American Sunday morning munchies await you!

Delux – located at 92 Ossington Ave., between Queen and Dundas Street West.  Name 3 spots in the ciy, off the top of your headd, where you can get Central, South, and/or Latin American-inspired brunch and lunch.  Having a hard time, right?  We can easily tick off our options for vegetarian, Italian, and traditional greasy spoon, but South, Central, and Latin American morning meal options are a little harder to come by.  Which is why Delux is extra special!  I thought their lunch menu during my first visit back in the spring was amazing, with their thick-as-bricks delicious sandwiches and gobsmackingly good coffee crème brûlée, but when I found out they offered Sunday Cuban brunch, I think I stared at my computer in awe and wonder with my mouth gaping open for a good few minutes. 

Their Sunday brunch menu embodies warmth, heartiness, and comfort food with no shortage of sweet and savoury Cuban and South American flavour!  My picks: the dulce de leche smothered French toast with bananas, chantilly cream and maple syrup ($10), the big Cuban breakfast featuring roast pork, poached eggs, rice and beans, tostones (crispy fried plantains), and salad ($14), and the duck confit picadillo ($12) (Cuban style ground beef and veggies) hash with sunnyside up eggs and tostones!

Good morning, guava!

The Good Fork Brunch & Bistro – located at 2432 Bloor Street West and Jane St. in Bloor West Village.  Oh gosh, The Good Fork is the quintessential brunch and breakfast diner with an honest-to-goodness menu to die for!  I urge everyone to go.  I know I haven’t been yet and I’m basing this urgency on, well, nothing really, but seriously, I just have the most fantastical feeling about this place and I cannot wait to go!  C’mon, they have red velvet pancakes.  YES, THAT’S RIGHT.  Red velvet paaaaancakes.  I may not be the biggest fan of red velvet (don’t throw things at me now), but heck, even I know that a dish like that will get people to come in droves.  My picks: the Deep Green Benny ($11.25) boasting fried green tomatoes and cilantro; Lemon Cheese Pancakes ($9.75) bursting with lemon ricotta and blueberry compote; Baleek Omelette ($10) made with bacon and leeks; Bruleed Pound Cake French Toast with Orange Butter ($10.75) – total self-explanatory in yum factor.

Mildred’s Temple Kitchen – located at 85 Hanna Ave. off of King Street West, east of Dufferin St. in Liberty Village.  I’ve read about Mildred’s Temple Kitchen.  I’ve heard about it.  I’ve drooled over its famous brunch menu offerings.  Doesn’t it just make sense then to just go and stuff my face?!  I think so.  Famed for her first born restaurant, Mildred Pierce, culinary expertise in both food and cookbook writing, and for her presence in the kitchen, chef Donna Dooher doles out the simple pleasures of brunch and dining in her scrumptious menu: the infamous fluffy blueberry buttermilk pancakes ($13.50); Mildred’s poached eggs on a flakey croissant with either smoked salmon or rosemary bacon smothered in béarnaise sauce with mixed greens; Mildred’s sourdough grilled cheese with pickles and tomato relish ($12); and Green Eggs and Ham!

There are plenty of other brunch spots on my hit list, but these are the ones I wanted to showcase in particular today and if all goes well this weekend with the weather, I just might hit one of them up.

Monforte Dairy, Cheddar & Black Pepper Scones, Local Food – The *NEW* Crème Fraîche Market Cafe in The Junction!

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Imagine products from almost all of your favourite farmers’ market vendors and producers under one roof.  Then, imagine this one roof being available to you 6 days a week.  Guess what?  You don’t have to imagine.  This is the real deal: introducing the new Crème Fraîche Market Cafe in The Junction!  Founded and run by “Monforte Dairy ladies” Constance Dykun and Rachel Silva, Crème Fraîche is a local food lover’s dream!  The cafe and local food shop located on Annette Street several blocks west of Runnymede Road in the west end takes everything wonderful and delicious about Toronto’s small food business and local food scene (and some non-Toronto), rolls it into one big ball of food happiness, and presents it all back in a sweet and sunny cafe outfitted in yellow and blue decor with baked goods, bread, cheeses, coffee drinks, ice cream, and so much more.  

At Crème Fraîche you’ll find bread and baked goods from Sara Lapell’s Nice Buns and St. John’s Bakery, sweets and baked goods from More Than Pies Baking Co. Ltd., Evelyn’s Crackers, Mapleton’s ice cream, chocolate and Mayan drinking chocolate from ChocoSol, jarred pickled vegetables, salsa, and preserves from From These Roots, sweets from DeFloured, and of course, LOTS of Monforte Dairy cheese and products!  They have a selection of prepared food and drink (iced teas, yogurt parfaits, and breakfast tarts for example), and they also have a sweet little breakfast, lunch, and midday snack menu that you can order from. 

Now, keep in mind that while Crème Fraîche is a market cafe, it’s a “stop-by-and-pick-up-goodies” type of shop, so their menu items are definitely grab and go fare.  Their menu includes items such as toast and cheese (fresh cheese and jam, $2), grilled cheese and tomato ($5.25), cacciatore and arugula “bun-wich” ($4), and grilled halloumi (fresh cheese with arugula, radish, and tomato salsa, $7.50) among others.  They also serve plenty of fair-trade, organic coffee (americanos, espressos, cappuccinos, and lattes), tea, and Organic Meadow soy and almond milk.

What I love about Crème Fraîche, aside from the great food I can pick up here, is what the shop itself represents.  It’s easy to think, “oh, well, if I want these market products, I can just go to the different farmers’ markets to get them” or “I can just go to the producer’s main shop and location in the city”, but what Crème Fraîche affords everyone in the surrounding neighbourhood and community is an alternative, a place where people can come in the mornings and afternoons to grab a cuppa, a chance to get to learn about some of the local food that’s available in the city and their makers, an opportunity to form new friendships and relationships with locals, and a sweet shop to grab some great eats.  

I may go all over town to visit all the markets I can, but not everyone has the ability or even the desire to do so.  A farmers’ market in one’s area only takes place once a week and they may not be available year-round; Crème Fraîche is open 6 days a week from Tuesday-Sunday from 8am-8pm.  Even though its location certainly caters to those in the west end and in The Junction area in particular, it’s the concept that I am completely in love with.  There should be a Crème Fraîche in EVERY neighbourhood.  This shop is wonderful and I LOVE that so many of my favourite producers and vendors such as More Than Pies Baking Co. Ltd. and St. John’s Bakery sell their products here.

During this first visit, I picked up a giant cheddar and black pepper scone from St. John’s Bakery ($3) to take home, sliced it in half, and slapped it on my little George Foreman grill (don’t laugh, this thing is all sorts of awesome!) to heat up.  OH.MY.GOD.  One of the best, most delicious scones EVER!  You all know love cheese and black pepper so this scone had my name written all over it.  I am telling you, put the scones on the grill and you will be “mmm”ing the entire time you’re eating it.  It was so fluffy and moist and buttery without actually having to put butter on it and I am so happy I bought it because from here on out I’ll be looking out for these cheddar black pepper scones!

I’ve totally fallen in love with this sweet shop and you can bet I’ll be coming back to check up on what eats are available and to try something off their food menu!  It’s a fabulous concept and I’m glad for the vendors, producers, and to those who eat and work here because they truly get to be a part of something special in the community.   

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Crème Fraîche Market Cafe is a cafe and local food shop located in the west end of Toronto in The Junction neighbourhod at 639 Annette Street.  The shop is just several blocks west of Runnymede Road and south of Dundas Street West.  They are open from Tuesday to Sunday (closed on Mondays), from 8am-8pm.  Visit their official website HERE.

The Long Awaited Opening Day – Ontario Strawberries, Swiss Chard, & the *NEW* Farmers’ Market in The Junction!

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Today really wasn’t the nicest of days.  It was a gazillion steps up from yesterday’s torrential downpour, but on a scale of 1 to 10, 1 being god awful and 10 being gloriously beautiful, today ranked at around 4: cloudy, chilly, and windy.  I admit, the recent heat wave had me whimpering, but for the sake of The Junction farmers’ market opening day, I wanted it to be pretty!  But less than ideal weather aside, I stumbled out of bed at quarter to 6 in the morning (read: I live in Markham and no where near The Junction in the west) and made it out to The Junction’s FIRST EVER farmers’ market! 

I wanted to be one of the first on the scene to grab some photos and to see what the market had in store and surprisingly enough, the market was already crawling with eager morning birds ready to swoop in on all the fresh market food at 8:30 in the morning!  I really shouldn’t be that surprised though; the neighbourhood and community has been looking forward to this and rallying for this market for ages.  This market has been in the works since last year and I think it’s the perfect fit for the community and surrounding area.  The closest farmers’ markets are either out in Etobicoke or Royal York, so this new market truly caters to the growing, thriving Junction food community that’s developed over the years.

Given how this is the Junction farmers’ market first day, I don’t know if there will be additional vendors, farmers’, and producers present later on in the summer.  What I can tell you though is how committed everyone is to bringing local food to the tables of everyone in the community and how excited everyone at the market was!  It was early in the morning, the weather wasn’t the nicest, and yet market goers were just grabbing things left and right.  I started on the west end of the market, working my way to the other end, and by the time I went back to where I started, by de la terre baked goods and bakery, a third of what I originally saw was gone.  ONLY 20 MINUTES HAD ELAPSED!  Fruit galettes?  Gone.  Chocolate fudge brownies?  A chunk of those were missing.  Monkey buns?  People were buying them as I was taking photos.  Amazing. 

Monforte Dairy was there along with Evelyn’s Crackers, Ying Ying Soy Food (hurray for tofu!), North Gate Ogranics (rhubarb and white turnip photos), and Fresh City Farms among a number of other farmers’ and food producers.  In addition to fish and seafood, tofu, crackers and shortbread, and fresh meats and cheeses, there were lots of bright and beautiful fruits and vegetables on hand for the market’s first day today: organic Ontario strawberries, apples, beets, rhubarb, kale, swiss chard, butter lettuce, arugula, and even bright white Japanese Hakurei turnips!  I was so excited about how pretty everything looked I even accidentally dropped my camera in a basket of lettuce! 

Despite the wet lens, the gorgeous colours and textures make for great photos so I was really lucky to get some nice shots before everything was gone!  I read on my Twitter feed that someone came to the market later on in the morning and was greeted by apple and honey leftovers – and nothing else.  Not so great for latecomers but wonderful news for the market organizers and vendors!  My favourite part of the market, apart from the photographing and mmming over baked goods and ahhing over the gorgeous swiss chard?  An exchange between a market goer and a local farmer vendor where a woman asked, “are these apples from Ontario?” to which the farmer smiled and replied, “if anything from this market isn’t from Ontario, it shouldn’t be here.”  Hashtag WIN.      

The first day was fantastic and I can only see this market growing and flourishing with the support of the community and market lovers like us!  And think of it this way: even if you don’t live in the area, coming to the market early in the morning means you get to spend the rest of the day exploring the neighbourhood?  My suggestion?  Grab some tea or coffee afterward at Crema and head on over to Bunners Bake Shop when they open up shop at 10!  And if the day is nice, walk south to High Park and have a picnic!  Or indulge in some delicious ice cream at Delight during the summer.  Ah, market mornings.  The possibilities for great days ahead are endless.   

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The Junction farmers’ market will be held every Saturday from 8:30am-12:30pm, June 2nd to October 13th.  The farmers’ market is located in the parking lot just off of Dundas Street West and Pacific Ave.  The market is brand new to Toronto and the Junction community, so spread the word, come out, and show your support!  For more info and a list of vendors, visit the official Junction market page HERE.