Showing Our Pride – Cookie Style! Flags, Rainbows & Drag Kings & Queens From All the Best Fine Foods

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Happy weekend, everyone!  It’s a crazy one with Pride going on, the first weekend celebrating the end of the school year and the official start to summer vacation, World Cup, and Canada Day weekend!  And if you’re one of the lucky ones who gets or is taking Monday off to make it a long weekend, you must be feeling elated!  Sorry for missing the last few days here though.  I’ve been under the weather and in a lot of pain and discomfort and honestly, I just need some serious TLC for both my mind and body because the stress of everything – finding work, losing sleep over finding work, and then getting sick – took its toll for the greater part of this past week and I’m really looking forward to mindlessly watching tv to calm everything down.  BUT!  I did manage to enjoy a bit of Pride Week/World Pride, foodie-style, before a bout of sickness took over so I’m so excited that I was able to squeeze that in because after getting an e-mail about these babies, I did NOT want to miss out: Pride maple gingerbread cookies from All the Best Fine Foods in the Church-Wellesley village!

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I subscribe to e-mails from All the Best Fine Foods, a gourmet food shop here in the city with two locations (one by Summerhill station and the other by Church & Wellesley; check out my first post on them HERE, featuring their chocolate fudge cupcakes!) and I received one last week with a whole bunch of summer news and goodies, including the news about Pride and the Church & Wellesley location selling special Pride-themed gingerbread cookies.  I saw it and freaked out because the little picture of them looked so darn adorable!  So amidst all the chaos of this week, I managed to make a trip down to grab a bunch of these beautiful cookies to celebrate Pride.  It is SO awesome seeing the community decked out in all its rainbow glory and even just walking through the neighbourhood and buying these cookies for the occasion felt special.  It was like being a tourist in my own city.

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I picked up five cookies ($1 each!) including a set of rainbow maple leafs, a rainbow Pride flag, a rainbow Canadian Pride flag, and a cutie-patootie drag king and queen, ha!  And to round out my purchase, I picked up a few Russian doll Pride keychains because I’m a total sucker for cute accessories and knick-knacks like that.  And you know what?  They taste AMAZING!  The cookies, not the keychains.  Some might dismiss decorated cookies as just that: cookies that are decorated but bland in taste and purely admired for their aesthetic.  Not these.  The maple gingerbread cookies are so soft and delicious and I love them.  The icing wasn’t hard (seriously, there are decorated cookies out there that have the capacity to chip a tooth!), the sweetness was perfect, and they screamed fun and cuteness.  I’ve already eaten four – three maple leaf ones and one of the flags.  My brother and I are totally gorging on the rest of them for the rest of the weekend.

However you’re celebrating this weekend, I hope everyone has a fun one.  Happy Pride and fingers crossed for a rain-free parade tomorrow!

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All the Best Fine Foods is located at 493 on Church Street near Wellesley in the Church-Wellesley Village.  Their 2nd location is south of Summerhill station at 1101 Yonge Street in the Rosedale neighbourhood and area.

Timbits Love! Featuring the New Strawberry Glazed Cuties on The Ate by Ate Daily, Vol. 013

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DSCN2354IT’S TIMBIT TIME!  Has everyone tried the new strawberry and birthday cake sweets yet?!  I don’t know about all of you, but I looooove when Tim Hortons comes out with new Timbit flavours and I looooove when I stumble across flavours that I can’t get at every location, like the cherry ones (which I always see at the Dufferin Mall location along with a few other spots) and the Boston cream ones (which, sadly, I have no idea where to get now since I used to be able to get them at the Tim Hortons inside the Sears at Eaton Centre which is now, you know, no longer there).  So yes, I love me my Timbits and my new flavours and since we’re on the topic, my favourite is the sour cream glazed, my least favourite is the chocolate, and I’m dying for them to come out with some delicious coconut concoction!

Now I know the new limited time line of strawberry pastries and donuts is being promoted and offered pretty much everywhere this summer, but that certainly doesn’t stop me from feeling giddy over the the ‘new’ness of it.  I was so excited to try Tim Hortons’ new strawberry glazed Timbits that I staged a mini photoshoot with them and posed them in a bowl of strawberries that I had just happened to have in the fridge.  Seriously, the timing couldn’t be more impeccable.  They’re so darn cute!  And they taste so yummy.  I would have taken photos of the birthday cake ones too but everyone in the house ate them before I could do anything so I’ll have to go out and get me a 10-pack of them one of these days so that I can get proper photos.  They would look so stylish with my cupcake tablecloth background.

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Asparagus, Pastries, Soaps & More at the Liberty Village Farmers’ Market! The Ate by Ate Daily, Vol. 010

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Hi everyone!  It was a little quiet here over the weekend but that was totally unintentional.  I did take Saturday off but I was all set to post these photos last night when I was suddenly and rudely kicked off my computer in the middle of photo editing.  The internet crapped out on me.  Round and around the little refresh icon went like a never-ending washing machine cycle.  Sigh.  Isn’t technology grand?  Oh well, no matter, everything’s fine now and the weekend was pretty great.  The weather was absolutely gorgeous and for those who were able to spend time with their dads, I hope you had a fun Father’s Day!  Ours was low-key as usual.  My dad isn’t fussy about the frou-frou stuff.  We just make sure he’s well-fed and he’s all smiles.  We had roast chicken for him on Friday and fresh sashimi for him on Saturday.  And a paper baggy of these Chinese red bean sesame balls that he loves so much.  He’s a simpleton.

Ooo, the new and shiny Liberty Village 'welcome' corner at King & Atlantic

Ooo, the new and shiny Liberty Village ‘welcome’ corner at King & Atlantic

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Peas!

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Monforte Dairy cheese, YUM.

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So many yummy-smelling soaps from Opeongo Soaps!

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As for me, I had myself a lovely day out yesterday, enjoying weekend brunch at the Gladstone Hotel on Queen West (new Gladstone post coming soon!), a David’s tea and a cupcake (surprise, surprise), and a quick visit to the farmers’ market in Liberty Village!  For those who’ve never been, the market is located in the Green P lot at East Liberty St. and Atlantic Ave. just off of King Street West and east of Dufferin on Sundays from 9am-2pm.  Organized by MyMarket, it’s a small one that offers a seasonal selection of fruits and vegetables, cheese, meats, honey, and this year, even handcrafted soaps made from either goat’s milk or rainwater from Opeongo Soaps, a local farm and business in Ontario that specializes in skincare products and soapmaking (check out their official site HERE).

Even though the market is small, I know it’ll get bigger as the season goes on (I’ve been to this market a few times over the past 3 years and they were at different points in the market season so I’ve seen the differences) and I always take away something wonderful from it and I feel this way about all farmers’ markets no matter how big or how small they are.  While it is about finding things that you love and personal preferences, it truly is about the quality of product available.

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I didn’t pick up any fruits or vegetables during this visit but I did snatch up some fabulous pastries: half a dozen fresh baked tarts and a ginourmous muffin!  I could kick myself for not remembering (or taking a photo of) the farm/vendor’s name, but I’ve purchased goodies from them before, specifically some homemade peach jam and pickled beets last summer.  This particular vendor not only sells the actual fruit from their farm but also homemade pastries, preserves and jams made with their homegrown product.  This time around I bought an apple pie muffin (there were 3 kinds to choose from: strawberry-rhubarb, chocolate raspberry, and apple pie) and 6 tarts: 3 butter tarts (because who doesn’t love a freakin’ awesome local Canadian butter tart?!) and 3 raspberry lemon meringue tarts!  My brother has already eaten one of the butter tarts and him and my mum shared the apple pie muffin and they loved them.  My tastebuds and tummy will be enjoying a raspberry lemon meringue tomorrow – can’t wait!  But yes, I promise I’ll get their name for you all the next time I’m there.  And trust me, there will be a next time because I also wanted to grab several bars of the handcrafted soap but didn’t because I’m silly and didn’t bring enough cash for the extra purchase.  Total facepalm moment.

(Update June 17: the vendor/farm is Sun Ray Orchards!  Thanks to My Market Toronto for tweeting me the info!)

Soapless visit aside, it was so nice coming back to this market.  I picked up some delicious baked goods and I was able to take some more cool shots of asparagus!  I got so excited when I saw how the asparagus was arranged when I first entered the parking lot that I zipped right to it like a vulture.  It has now, unintentionally, become my THING to photograph asparagus.  I don’t whether to feel happy-geeked or embarrassed.  Maybe I’ll go with happy-geeked.  Because maybe one day I’ll have enough nice photos to make a coffee table book.  Shrugs.  You never know.

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The Liberty Village farmers’ market takes place every Sunday from 9am-2pm in the Green P parking lot on East Liberty Street between Atlantic and Hanna Ave.  The outdoor market season is from June 1st to November 27th.  Liberty Village can be accessed from King Street West and Dufferin Street.  Check out Ate by Ate’s Liberty Village farmers’ market posts HERE!

3 Years in the Making – A Return Visit to the East York Farmers’ Market! The Ate by Ate Daily, Vol. 007

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Time passes by so fast that sometimes, you don’t even notice how long it’s been since you last did something because each and every day comes and goes in a blurry flurry of activity.  You think, “oh, it must have only been a year or so” until you think back real hard or look at photos and realize, “holy jeebus, make that three!”  That was me today after my visit to the East York farmer’s market just outside the East York Civic Centre at the corner of Mortimer and Coxwell.  I haven’t been back to this market in three years.  THREE.  And oddly enough, almost right down to the day: June 14, 2011 when I took those first photos and wrote my post on the market and its baby eggplants.

It’s the strangest feeling in the world when the realization sinks in that while three years have gone by, some things just don’t change.  In some ways I feel like I’ve come full circle to where my life was at three years ago and feeling somewhat…stuck.  And in other ways, everything has changed.  In June 2011, I had just graduated from grad school, I hadn’t yet started my baking adventures with Lisa and Miya at Le Dolci, and Ate by Ate was only 6 and a half months old.  I don’t even think I had a Twitter account for Ate by Ate at that point yet.  The one constant though?  How my routine jaunts to the markets have grounded my blogging, made photography so much fun, and in general, made me happy.  They’ve pushed me to keep positive.  You get out for fresh air.  You walk.  You meet nice people.  You visit neighbourhoods you wouldn’t otherwise visit.  And you get those creative juices going like you wouldn’t believe.  And as a bonus, you get to eat and buy some awesome local food.  Who knew fruits and veggies were good for your health in more ways than one?!

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Today’s morning visit to the East York farmers’ market was so lovely.  The weather was beautiful and it was so nice to get out and clear my head for a bit.  That and I just love taking photos of fruits and vegetables!  I definitely got a lot of amused smiles and stares from vendors and fellow market-goers as I clicked away at tomatoes, asparagus and baby zucchinis.  It happens every time; I’m used to it!  The market is set up in a really great green space outside the civic centre near plenty of benches to sit on, trees and shade to keep cool under, and even some pretty gardens to enjoy.  Despite the generous crowd of people who filter in soon after the market is up and running at 8am, there’s still this beautiful sense of peaceful to it and I love it.

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At the market today: heirloom tomatoes, cherry tomatoes, jams, jellies and honey, bread and pastries, sausages and cured meats, baby eggplant, baby zucchini, wild mushrooms, bell peppers, fresh herbs and herb plants, lettuces and kale, strawberries, rhubarb, and asparagus – lots and lots of asparagus!  I know this sounds weird, but asparagus has truly proven to be one of the most photogenic vegetables.  I’ve photographed asparagus many times over the years and it still amazes me how you can get such cool shots of it time and time again.  Hello total foodie geek moment.

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So, what did I pick up from the market this morning?  Two big bunches of gorgeous green leaf lettuce, $2 a pop.  YES, lettuce.  I know it’s nothing glamourous but I love me my greens and lettuces!  I’ve been going nuts over the arugula at Wychwood Barns as of late so why not throw some more greens into the mix?  The stuff is less expensive AND nicer at the farmers’ market than it is at the supermarket so there’s really no reason to pass on such nice food.  I can’t wait to use it in sandwiches and as the base for lettuce wraps.  I can see it now: green leaf lettuce wrapped around shredded chicken, sprinkled with sesame seeds and drizzled with peanut sauce.  Or wrapped around shredded chicken with black beans, avocado, and shredded cheese.  Or with fish.  Or shrimp.  YUM.

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East York Civic Centre is located at 850 Coxwell Ave. at Mortimer Ave.  The East York farmers’ market takes places on the front terrace of the civic centre every Tuesday from 8am-2pm, May to November

Soaking Up Summer at David’s Tea – The Ate by Ate Daily, Vol. 004

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A recent Sick Kids Hospital & David's Tea collab!

A recent Sick Kids Hospital & David’s Tea collab!

I’m almost positive I’m in the minority on this one: I’ve never been a coffee drinker.  Ever.  While most people line up at Timmy’s or Starbucks or Second Cup for their morning java (or just make it themselves at home), I’m usually either noshing on a breakfast wrap or sipping on a cup of tea.  Or both.  Coffee just hasn’t captured my heart the way it has almost everybody else.  Even so, I know how deeply folks (like my mum!) love their coffee and how the morning jolt or two is crucial to functioning for the rest of the day.  And I’ve always found it amusing.

I think I finally know what that feels like now – only with tea.  I don’t feel right unless I get my weekend fix of David’s Tea.  I make myself a cup of tea at home most days but on weekends I’m talking literally walking into a David’s Tea and getting myself a hot or iced cup of whatever flavour I happen to be craving at that particular moment.  I am at odds with myself now if I go a weekend without a visit.  Which is not to say I’ll start exhibiting symptoms of withdrawal like twitching if I don’t get my fix but I will certainly show signs of dissatisfaction like, you know, pouting.  Going to David’s Tea is just too much fun – the window shopping (and of course real shopping when I do my hauls), the sampling, the adorable themes, sets and accessories, the cute chalkboard promos (see the Sick Kids one up top!  This one was from two weeks ago) and the tea drinking.  You should see my tea menu.  So many scribbles and notes on all the teas I’ve drank so far, my favourites, my not-as-favourites, the teas I still need to try, the ones I’ve bought, possible ones my best friend would love, the ones my brother has tried and loved…yeah.  It’s a scribbly mess and I love it.

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So, I’ve been making my weekend/weekly jaunt to David’s Tea and enjoying the lusciousness that is their summer collection.  I am SO in love with this collection and I’ve actually been trying it out for a few weeks now, knocking them down one by one.  The summer packaging and accessories are so bright and punchy and fun (watermelons!  pineapples!  palm trees!) and the seasonal flavours are really great.  I’ve tried 4 so far: Shooting Star Fruit, Just Peachy, Mango Fruit Punch and the June Flavour of the Month, Hot Tropic which I actually tried today (it tastes like a mango pina colada!) and my absolute fave is the Shooting Star Fruit with honourable nods and mentions for the Just Peachy and Hot Tropic for also being awesome.

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You’d think things would get boring for me making a visit once a week but they truly don’t because there are constantly new things being introduced and a slightly different selection to drool over based on the location.  It’s insane.  Along with the slew of new summer seasonal stuff (including the iced teas, pitchers, steepers, mugs, teapots and pitcher packs), there’s the June Flavour of the Month, tea flavoured chocolate bars, end-of-the-school-year teacher’s set, fun new tea blends, and even tea biscuits and cookies by the box!  I absolutely cannot wait until I make my actual summertime haul of goodies.  Until then I’ll be happily drinking, scribbling, and scrapbooking away.

Strawberry Season is Under Way! A Photo Spotlight on the Strawberries n’ Cream from The Cupcake Shoppe

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It’s the first week of June and I think I have full-blown red fever: strawberry season is here!  Call me crazy but for the past few months I’ve been daydreaming about strawberry desserts, strawberry socials, strawberry picking and strawberry themed everything.  Much like apples, lemons, and blueberries, you just can’t go wrong with planning a menu around them.  Strawberry shortcake, strawberry trifle, strawberry mousse, chocolate dipped strawberries – is there anything the awesome strawberry can’t do?!  Generally speaking, our local strawberry season lasts for two months from June through July so I’m excited to see what kinds of strawberry-related goodies I can post about over the next little while.  To kick things off, I’m featuring a photo spotlight on – what else – a strawberry cupcake!  I’m actually surprised that I’ve done 5 posts on strawberry cupcakes from different shops around the city already.  It’s hard to capture the full breadth of what the city has to offer when it comes to a single flavour because some of them are seasonal and/or limited time offerings and some of them exist on rotating menus so it can take a long time to photograph and eat them all!

The Strawberries n’ Cream cupcake ($2.85) from The Cupcake Shoppe is a vanilla cupcake filled with strawberry jam in the centre, topped with vanilla and strawberry swirled buttercream and a dainty and adorable strawberry candy.  It seriously looks like it was plucked straight out of the Strawberry Shortcake cartoon – it’s cute and pink and fluffy!  And the jam-filled centre is a sweet and fruity bonus.

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The Cupcake Shoppe is located in the Yonge and Eglinton neighbourhood at 2417 Yonge St., north of Eglinton on the east side of Yonge St.  Their second location in Vaughan is located by Bathurst St. and Rutherford Road at 9340 Bathurst.  Hurray for more cupcake options in York Region!

They have a rotating menu of cupcake flavours each day and each cupcake is priced at $2.85.  For more Cupcake Shoppe goodness on Ate by Ate, check out The Cupcake Chronicles feature page HERE!  There are write-ups, scrapbook layouts, and tons of photos on The Cupcake Shoppe’s following flavours: Cookie Dough, Eh? (maple), Lemon Drop & Lov’n Lemon (the first one is one of the most amazing lemon cupcakes you will ever eat), Red Velvet, Naughty n’ Spice (fall seasonal), After Ate (mint chocolate), Pretty in Pink (raspberry cupcake with raspberry buttercream), Triple Chocolate Fudge (chocolate cake with chocolate frosting and chocolate chips), Sleepless in Toronto (coffee), Confetti (vanilla cake studded with confetti with gorgeous blue-purple (or in my words, periwinkle) frosting and sprinkles, the holiday seasonal Candy Cane Lane (chocolate cake with candy cane buttercream and candy cane topping), and the delicious summer seasonal Lime n’ Licious.

A Taste of Spring, A Taste of Summer – Farmers’ Market Season & Ate by Ate Are Back!

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Happy first day of June everyone!  While the season of beaches, sand, and endless sunshine doesn’t officially start until June 21, I think it’s safe to say that June 1st is the unofficial kick-off to the summer season and all the amazing things to come in the coming months.  We got over the May long weekend hump (which, ironically enough, is almost always chilly by our standards!), we’ve been peppered with a few days of muggy weather over the last week or so and now we’re fully immersed in the farmers’ market season!  A number of markets have made their return in May (including Leslieville, Trinity Bellwoods, Fresh Wednesdays at Nathan Phillips Square, East York, Metro Hall at David Pecaut Square just to name a handful) and a long list of others will be joining the market family for the season in June.  Given how I’ve been away for the last little while, I’m obviously behind on my market lists but rest assured, they’ll be up this week with updates and the like for markets in the Toronto and York Region area.

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I am so happy to be back and to put some things behind me.  I needed that time to completely annex myself from the blogging community and from most of the online world with the exception of checking e-mail (unfortunately, there was no running away from that one).  So far, 2014 has been…trying, to say the least.  Looking for work, dealing with winter, and making some revelations about people in and outside of the blogging community has not been fun.  At all.  It’s one thing to know when folks are trying to take advantage of you and giving your best one-two punch in return to stand up for yourself, but it’s a whole other can of worms when it becomes blatantly obvious that many will stoop to the level of scum to get what they want and have no issue pulling the rug out from under you when you’re not expecting it.  And let me be clear that while some of this applies to me, some of it does not.  Some of it is seeing it happen to others.  And it has sickened me.  Stealing content and ideas.  Taking credit where credit isn’t due.  Not being up front and playing people as fools.  Using someone to pimp them for information.  All without shame.

It’s been one hiccup after another and there were times during those low moments when I would think, “what is the goddamn point to all of this?  I’ll just stick to my own craft and scrapbook and not share ANYTHING of mine with anyone because people are freakin’ tools and be done with all of this garbage!”  And then my mum would remind me, “but your blog is your baby.  You gave ‘birth’ to it and you would never give it up.”

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And as much as I hate to admit it when my mother is right, she was right.  I’ve devoted 20 years of my life to a love of art and food; in spite of all that “garbage”, it didn’t make any sense to let any of this go.  It was so important to remind myself why I love doing what I do and the things that make me happiest.  Tune out the numbers game that folks try to play, tune out the one-upping, tune out the negativity and just be strong and focus on the pure love and passion for the craft.

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So while I haven’t blogged, I haven’t stopped photographing, I haven’t stopped exploring (well, except when it was unbearably cold), and I most certainly have not stopped eating!  I started going to the markets again and actually went two weekends in a row at the crack of dawn recently (hopped on a bus at 6:30am!) and shopped and photographed my brains out.  Simply because it made me happy.  The market at Wychwood Barns moved outdoors earlier in May which made for some beautiful shots and I was able to pick up a ridiculous amount of fresh food: gorgeous baby kale, beautiful arugula (if my memory serves me right, I bought 4 bags), amazing local cheese, black bean vegan burgers and navy bean parsley pesto from Earth & City and so much more.  Aside from cupcakeries, tea shops and afternoon tea, markets are truly my happy place because you can tell your story through photos alone.

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Cassandra from Earth & City really tugged at my heartstrings during one of those weekend visits when she introduced me to one of their newer hires: “Deb blogs and she was there with us during our first months years ago and we were so excited because, ahhh, press!”  And there it was right there, why any of this is meaningful.  Because not only can we quietly make a positive impact on others through what we do but along the way we make friends, meet good people that make us believe that the good has a shot at outweighing the bad, and we become special notes and memories in each others’ life stories.

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For all of Ate by Ate’s Wychwood Barns farmers’ market posts, click HERE

For all of Ate by Ate’s farmers’ market posts over the years (84 and counting!), click HERE

For all of Ate by Ate’s posts on vegan food producer Earth & City (and plenty of mouthwateing food porn), click HERE

The Stop Community Food Centre Farmers’ Market at Artscape Wychwood Barns is held year-round on Saturdays from 8am-12pm.  The park and historic community centre complex is located at 76 Wychwood Ave. just off of St. Clair Ave. West, east of Christie St. and west of Bathurst St.  http://www.thestop.org/green-barn-market