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

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Spring Has Sprung! Baby Potatoes, Empanadas, and Food, Food, Food at the Farmers’ Market at Wychwood Barns

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In just a few more weeks, the amazing market at Wychwood Barns will be heading outdoors during the May long weekend into what we all hope will be a happy summer market season for 2012.  I wanted to make one more indoor market visit though, so I took advantage of the pretty weather and made a day out of it, complete with brunch, window shopping, and LOTS of walking!  I walked from the Wychwood Barns neighbourhood on St. Clair West down to the Queen West and Trinity Bellwoods area, then proceeded to stroll along Ossington back up to Bloor and then to Dufferin.  It felt invigorating while I was doing it but I realized just how tired I was from all the fancy footwork when I nearly fell asleep on my laptop after I came home. 

It was so worth it though!  It never ceases to amaze me how I can make these trips to the farmers’ markets and come away just wanting everything.  I was waffling on whether or not it was smarter to go this week or to wait for the first outdoor market later on this month, but my craving for Earth & City’s raw, vegan nut burgers with pesto pushed me out the door at the crack of dawn.  So there you have it.

$8 for a dozen beautiful gerbera daisies!

My beloved baby potatoes, especially the blue ones!

You might be inclined to think that going to these farmers’ markets means seeing and eating the same things over and over again (especially when you make multiple visits during the same season), but that couldn’t be further from the truth.  I was actually surprised at all the new things I saw at this week’s market.  Sure, I saw ChocoSol, Earth & City, and Yorktown Pie Company there among other familiar vendors, but everything felt new and vibrant, like everyone was itching for the new season to take hold and couldn’t wait to dish out new and delicious items to try.  The place was absolutely buzzing (it was actually very difficult to take photos this time because of the sheer volume of people grabbing things in front of me and don’t even get me started on the line-ups and crowding!) and people were picking up goodies and beautiful spring daisies and flowers left and right.  It’s a buzz that you’d only get at an early morning farmers’ market.

Earth & City had containers of some brand new savoury dips and spreads (sweet walnut sauce and preserved basil pesto, $5 each), the Yorktown Pie Company had brand apple cheddar mini pies that looked amazing, Allis Fresh Baked busted out a basket of mac n’ cheese corn muffins (seriously, they need to stop tempting me with all these cheesy, savoury muffins!), and Primeridge Pure Dairy had some of the most delicious soft cheese I have ever had melt in my mouth! 

Peanut butter chocolate thumbprints!

Earth & City's dips and vegan burgers

If it wasn’t for the brand new package of cheese I had sitting in the fridge at home I would have been all around their cheese like mud on a pig.  They had a BLACK PEPPERCORN SOFT CHEESE.  I LOVE freshly cracked black pepper and peppercorns like nobody’s business.  Ask anybody who has eaten in my company, I put the stuff on almost everything.  The fresh cheese was creamy, melt-in-your-mouth, and hella peppery and spicy.  And SO GOOD.  I imagined this on a crusty wedge of French bread and baguette.  I imagined this on a bit of pasta.  Hell, I even imagined it on my raw, vegan nut burger but then I felt bad because that would have made it unvegan.  But you get the idea.

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Peach & Ginger, and Spinach & Blue Cheese Scones, Easter Fun, and More at the Wychwood Barns Market!

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I’ve always felt bad about the summer market oopsie and mix-up I made last July.  The oopsie that resulted in mass confusion amongst the rest of my family and the one that will always make me face palm and mentally roll my eyes at myself.  The mistake I made?  Mixing up my market hour times.  After going on and on about how the farmer’s market at Wychwood Barns was one of the best in the city, my family and I made plans to go one Saturday last July.  Only there was a slight snafu. 

For whatever reason, I thought in my heart of hearts that the market went on until 4pm (which it didn’t and doesn’t), so the family and I frollicked about, eating brunch first.  When we arrived at the market we found the vendors packing up and it was then that I realized what a big boo-boo I had made.  It was 12:30pm.  I was so embarrassed.  Disappointed and embarrassed.  What an awful combination.  BUT!  I made it up to my mum this past weekend by finally taking her there and to my delight, we brought home a bevy of market goodies!

This little piggy went to the market...

and found jalapeno & cheese cornbread muffins...

...and Earth & City's vegan nut burgers!

It was busy, it was bustling, and Easter fun abounded throughout the market with dark chocolate bunnies preening from Chocosol’s table, honey egg-shaped candles from the honeycomb and wax candles table, and tiny tots dying Easter eggs in a rainbow of pastel colours.  What I love about the market at Wychwood Barns, aside from its size, is how there’s a balance between fresh fruits, vegetables, and cheese and prepared foods and baked goods.  Forget inviting friends and family out to a sit-down place – I say we all have a scrumptious and delicious meal right inside the market and barn!  It’s SO easy to shop and eat at the same time here and it would take me weeks upon weeks just to get through all the wonderful food.

As I munched on cheese and pretzel sample and a smoky root vegetable appetizer, I admired the barrels of potatoes (I cannot wait to start buying blue and purple potatoes again this summer!), the gluten-free brownies and chocolate chip cookies (it took all of my willpower not to make a dive for the table), the jalapeno and cheese cornbread muffins (I wanted to stick my face in the basket and inhale them), the vegan nut burgers and coconut brownies from my beloved Earth & City, and the giant sweet and sticky whole grain cinnamon rolls.

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The Stop Community Food Centre and Wychwood Barns – Farmers’ Market, Food Programs, and Accessibility, Part II

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One of the most rewarding things about food exploration is the infinite number of ways we can engage in it.  It’s about cooking from the heart, cooking at home, with family, with friends, for survival, passing down cultural traditions, dining out, experimentation, food cultivation, food history, economic and environmental stability and sustainability, and most of all, accessibility.  When we immerse ourselves in food culture, we essentially investigate the question, “how does a community feed itself?” 

The Stop Community Food Centre is one of Toronto’s culinary cornerstones, offering food programs in an effort to increase accessibility to healthy food.  These food programs take into account the very different lifestyles, family structures and situations, incomes, and aspirations of Torontonians, and are tailored to different age groups and levels of culinary experience.  Its mission is to build awareness and accessibility to nutritious food and food pathways.  It’s about knowing and understanding the different socioeconomic positions people occupy in our societyand finding ways to lessen the burden, to increase the knowledge of food systems, to spark a new-found interest, and to nurture those who take pleasure in cooking and food exploration.

 

Food programs offered by The Stop include a food bank; an after school cooking and learning workshop for elementary school children; a drop-in program for those who need a healthy meal, food counselling, and access to information and resources around the city; an urban agriculture program that is comprised of several community gardens in and around the community, all of which produce fresh fruits, vegetables, and herbs for The Stop’s food events, kitchen, and cooking workshops; food and cooking programs for both new parents and seniors; a community cooking program which strives to increase accessibility and awareness of healthy living and eating habits, build cooking and social skills, and to bring people together through food and cooking.  Finally, The Stop offers a weekly farmers’ market year-round, every Saturday from 8am-12pm, in conjunction with the Wychwood community and Artscape Wychwood Barns.

The Stop and Wychwood Barns are a fusion of culture and art, bringing together local businesses, farmers, entrepreneurs, and artists (culinary and otherwise) under one common goal and umbrella.  We may not all be locavores, but the The Stop Farmers’ Market at Wychwood Barns emphasizes the importance of providing support for local, Ontario growers, producers, farmers, retailers, and independent food businesses who strive to grow, create, and prepare organic, sustainable, healthy food.  The market fully endorses market vendors that provide food that is gluten-free, vegan, raw, dairy, meat-centric, and organic, so long as the food has been cultivated through ethical and sustainable practices.  Market vendors have information plaques attached to their booths informing market goers of the business’ history, mission, goals, and information.

The mission behind The Stop Farmers’ Market isn’t to necessarily “convert” our community into becoming a locavore one or to “push” the locavore doctrine onto people.  We know the benefits of using seasonal ingredients and buying local, but we also know that many of us don’t wish to subscribe to these principles and/or face limitations, so we need ways to negotiate through the various foodpaths that are made available to us.  And one of these ways is through a community market like this one.   

Its goal is to show support for local businesses while at the same time building awareness in and around Toronto (and beyond!) concerning the food options we have in our cities and province.  The concept of accessibility is based upon the notion of choice.  Without choices and without options, accessibility cannot exist so it is through accessibility that we can begin to make informed purchasing decisions and healthy lifestyle choices.

The Stop Community Food Centre and Artscape Wychwood Barns provides our city with so many opportunties to engage with food and I’m so looking forward to being more involved in this community and taking advantage of the many food programs that are offered.  I hope you’ve all enjoyed the first two parts of the Wychwood farmers’ market series because the third and last will be featuring the raw and vegan delights of Earth & City tomorrow!

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The Stop Community Food Centre Farmers’ Market at Artscape Wychwood Barns is held year-round on Saturdays from 8am-12pm.  The market is currently being held indoors for the winter.  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

Root Vegetables, Cheeses, Pot Pies, Chocolate & More! The Farmers’ Market at Wychwood Barns, Part I

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After months and months of farmers’ market visits, I have finally made my way to Wychwood Barns for The Stop Community Food Centre Farmers’ Market!  I’ve been looking forward to my first Wychwood farmers’ market visit for so long, especially after I mixed up the market times the first time I tried to go last summer and ended up showing up after the party!  For whatever reason, I mixed up the times and thought the market went on until 4pm when it actually went on until 12 noon.  I learned from my mistake and knew better this time.  I knew the market would be amazing given the size and scope and all the wonderful things I had heard from others; my going was only a matter of time.  I woke up at the crack of dawn, bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, ready to get an early start to my day.  Today was absolutely beautiful out and it was the perfect day to go to the market.  The air felt fresh and comfortable with just a tiny bit of nip in it. 
 
The market, held indoors in Artscape’s barn #2 on Wychwood Ave., is arranged in a rectangular shaped “O” offering everything from local Ontario winter squash, fruits, and root vegetables, fresh cheeses, pickled vegetables, loaves of bread and giant scones from city bakeries, meats and meat spreads, breakfast food, roti, vegan delights, savoury pot pies, chocolate, and so much more.  Coming here felt simaltaneously brand new and familiar.  I was seeing the market in all its glory for the first time, and yet there I was excitedly saying hello to market vendors I had met over the summer and friends I had made along the way on this market journey.
 
 
 
 
Going to Wychwood today made me realize everything I had been missing out on and it made me appreciate the experience so much more.  I want to come here every Saturday now.  I want to integrate this market into my weekly schedule so I can take photos, buy vegetables, eat breakfast, eat pot pies and vegan food, and sneak in a sweet dessert here and there.  I think I could feasibly feed myself for an entire day here!  In hindsight I really should have picked up some kale to take home, but I didn’t leave the market empty-handed!  I ate some samples and took away two giant scones (one spinach and blue cheese and one orange and chocolate chip!) and a heavenly frosted brownie from Earth & City which I couldn’t wait to sink my teeth into.
 
 
I’m so happy to finally feature the Wychwood market on the blog and I have a ton of photos to post and so much to write about, so I’m making this into a 3-part Wychwood farmers’ market series: a post full of photos for today, a full write-up about The Stop Community Food Centre in conjunction with Artscape Wychwood Barns, and a delightful new vegan foodie post of Earth & City!