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.   

*****

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.

Hot Town, Summer in the City! June Outdoor Food Fests, Markets, a Quesadilla Cafe, and Chic Patio Dining

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Enjoy these at the *NEW* Maizal Quesadilla Cafe!

Happy first day of June, everyone!  It’s been one crazy month of May with the return of many farmers’ markets, Mothers’ Day events, and spring time festivals, and the fun doesn’t stop here.  June marks the start of the summer season and we know what that means: cocktails and patio dining, ice cream and frozen desserts, firing up the grill (unless you grill all year round and if that’s the case, this is just old hat), and plenty of outdoor food celebrations!  June will be such an exciting month, so here’s a snapshot of some of delicious things we can expect in the next several weeks!

Gabriela of Chocosol’s Tortilla Project will be setting up shop in Liberty Village next week!  She’ll be opening up her very own corn tortilla and quesdilla cafe, Maizal Quesadilla Cafe, on Tuesday, June 5 at 11am at 133 Jefferson Street and really, with the weather heating up and the need for light meals on the rise, this couldn’t have come at a better time.  I am SO excited about this!  Gabriela has been working her tail off at the Toronto Lunchtime Office Markets, providing the most amazing corn tortillas and vegetarian quesadillas, and I cannot wait to see what the cafe looks like and to sink my teeth into some great food, hot off the grill!

Brownies at Leslieville…

…and a rainbow of tiny peppers at Liberty Village!

And speaking of markets, the first two weeks of June will be exploding with returning (and new!) farmers’ markets all across the city!  The market in the Junction (at Pacific Ave. and Dundas Street West) will be making its first appearance on the circuit tomorrow from 8:30am-12:30pm, the Yonge-Eglinton market will be relocating and starting its summer 2012 season in Mount Pleasant Village at the corner of Mount Pleasant Rd. and Davisville in June Rowlands Park on Tuesday the 5th from 3pm-7pm, and both Leslieville and Liberty Village will be busting out the market goodies this Sunday from 9am-2pm!  No matter where you are in the city, there’s a market either starting, returning, or happily humming along.  Be sure to check out the June Market page in the Food Calendar for the full list details.

June is also the month I like to refer to as “the outdoor food festival gut-buster”.  I think we could feasibly find a food festival to attend every single weekend for the entire month!  We have Luminato’s 1000 Tastes of Toronto (taking place at the Distillery District this year), Toronto’s Raw & Vegan Festival, Bikes, BBQ, and Beer at Evergreen Brick Works, Taste of Asia, Francolicous at the Harbourfront Centre (as well as the return of Harbourfront Centre’s World Cafe and summer food events) and – wait for this – The Stop Night Market!!!

Sliders at last year’s 1000 Tastes of Toronto!

Oh my goodness, for those of you who LOVE, and I mean LOVE, street fests and partying into the wee hours with cocktails, drinks, and amazing food, THIS is right up your alley!  Inspiried by night markets around the world, in Asia in particular, The Stop Community Food Centre will be hosting an electric night of food, culture, and entertainment in the lit-up alleyway by one of the city’s most iconic spaces, Honest Ed’s!  Not to discount any of the other food events, but I think this event is going to be a really big hit just because of the nature of the event itself.  So many foodies in the city are craving things like food trucks and more street food and for Toronto, as a city, to (as cheesy as it sounds) get with the program.  Hopefully this event will be a fantastic one (much like the Taste of Danforth) and be a catalyst for more things to come.

A sneak peek at the upcoming patio dining series!

And we can’t forget about the ice cream, frozen desserts, and patio dining!  I’m hoping to get the ball rolling on the upcoming summer patio dining series to showcase some of the oh-so-chic hot spots around town and to also add a little fire and ice to our collection of summer dessert posts.  Just last week I flagged down my very first ice cream truck by my house!  I was SO incredibly happy and excited!  In all my years on this earth, I’ve never been able to catch an ice cream truck in my neighbourhood but I was either lounging around in my pajamas or just realized it too late.  This time, however, I was already out on my driveway, I heard the infamous ding-a-ling music of an oncoming ice cream, and pounced!  I happily ordered myself a vanilla and chocolate swirled soft serve cone and savoured it out on my front lawn.  It was GREAT.  I didn’t have any hands to take any photos though so I’ll just have to snag another truck downtown, just for kicks. 

Sprimkles, sprinkles, sprinkles!

It’s going to be a great start to the summer and I hope you all find something (oh, what the heck, MULTIPLE somethings!) to look forward to and enjoy this month!  Eat well and be happy, everyone!

*****

View Ate by Ate’s June Food Calendar.

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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The One That (Almost) Got Away – St. John’s Bakery, ChocoSol, & Baked Goods at the Last CBC Indoor Market

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Pretty sugar cookies & chocolate chip shortbread!

Have you ever found out about an event when it was too late or almost too late and it upset you so much because you knew it was an event you would have loved going to?  Hello, my name is Deb and I nearly missed out on an entire series of farmers’ markets this past winter and early spring!  (Cue chorus of voices: “Hi, Deb”).  That’s right.  Yours truly, the self-proclaimed event guru of TO, has let one slip by.  (Cue chours of audible gasps). 

There have been a handful of food events that have happened in the city that I missed out on because I had no idea they were happening, but basically missing out on an ENTIRE series of markets that was happening every month since November in the downtown core right under my nose?!  That is unacceptable!  And even though I made it to the very last market of the indoor season at the CBC broadcasting building  on Wellington this past week, I am fuming because I missed out on everything that happened prior to it!  And to add insult to injury, I found out that this was the indoor version of my beloved farmers’ market at David Pecaut Square outside Roy Thomson Hall.

My favourite part of the CBC building - green tiles!

When it dawned on me that the market had actually been indoors all this time since November, I wasn’t sure whether I wanted to run into a secluded corner and scream at myself or stand there and cry.  I did neither.  I bought cacao cookies and scones to soothe my wounded ego instead.  I am so, so sorry for not finding out about this market sooner.  I feel like such a doofus, especially since it was located in such an accessible location – right in the downtown core, accessible by the underground PATH, and just a few blocks away from Union station.   

Simcoe Place Park, just outside

I actually found out about the CBC indoor market by accident.  I was exploring the underground PATH one day in March and as I was passing through the CBC building at surface level, I noticed a poster of calendar events taped to one of the poles.  I saw the words, “farmers’ market” for one of the dates in March and was thoroughly confused.  A market?  In the CBC building?!  SINCE WHEN?!  Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to make it to the market in March, so I told myself I would make it to the one in April and that is how I ended up here.  Sigh.  If it’s any consolation, now that we know the market is in operation year-round we can go on a regular basis now!  And it also makes me feel slightly better knowing that I had only missed one market each month since November as opposed to a market each week.

Beautiful portobello mushrooms!

Just so everyone is on the same page, let me sum up: the farmers’ market that took/takes place at David Pecaut Square during the late spring, summer, and fall months moved/moves indoors into the CBC broadcasting building at Wellington and John Street from November to April.  The indoor markets, however, only take place ONCE A MONTH in November, December, January, Febraury, March, and April.  The market then moves back outdoors in May.  Because the Luminato arts festival takes place around David Pecaut Square and the theatre district though, the farmers’ market actually stays close to the CBC building – just outside at the Simcoe Place park and courtyard until Luminato finishes up.  I don’t have exact market dates for the month of May on me right now, but I’ll find out as soon as I can and report back!  All markets run from 8am-2pm though, so definitely accessible to the morning rush hour crowd and the lunch hour crowd!

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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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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!

Getting Warm and Cozy at the Indoor Farmers’ Markets – The Eglinton Market at North Toronto Community Centre

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I love visiting different community centres.  Growing up, I spent a lot of time at my local community centre, and bouncing between different ones around the city to ice skate and swim with my dad.  I spent 3 years swimming like a fishy full-time, winter after winter strapping on ice skates that were way too big for me because my dad bought me skates he thought I would “grow into” (which I obviously didn’t), and almost all my life popping in and out of community centre libraries with stacks of books I would stick my nose in for weeks on end. 

Community centres are so important not only in providing neighbourhoods with lifestyle, sports, and exercise programs, but they’re also vital in creating and maintaining our social relationships.  You meet people, you make friends, you get to know your own neighbourhood better, and you learn about events going on in the city you otherwise wouldn’t have known about.  At the very least, a community centre can function as a physical and mental refuge for some, a home away from home for parts of the day.

The Eglinton Farmers’ Market (in conjunction with Appletree Markets) moved indoors this past November, setting up camp on the main floor of the North Toronto Memorial Community Centre every other week from 3pm-7pm.  I finally got the chance to see the market in its indoor form since its winter move and I was really excited to see what January would bring.  Even though I think I arrived at the market before every single vendor was able to set up, I was still able to snap some photos and I even took away some fabulous new foodie reading material for myself! 

The market was in full-out winter mode, with barrels of cabbage, potatoes, leeks, onions, apples, pears, brussel sprouts, and beans ready for the picking.  I was so amused by the brussel sprouts – they looked like jolly green giant beanstalks with little green nubbies on them!  In its natural form, there they were with brussel sprouts literally still on the stalk!  Brussel sprouts have become one of my family’s favourite vegetables over the past two years and that’s because we don’t do the brussel sprout no-no: we don’t steam them!  For years, my mum hated brussel sprouts because she had an awful dining experience where the cooking method used didn’t do them justice and they ended up being reduced to mush.  Roasting (or in our case, a quick boil) does the trick and sprinkle some olive oil, garlic, sea salt, or cracked black pepper and you have yourself a tasty meal.

The winter markets are all about warmth and comfort and there was plenty of that at the little market.  There were homemade jars of soup, baskets with mounds of Italian beans perfect for making salads and warm soups (it was the first time I had ever seen Italian borlotti beans!), and plenty of fair trade coffee from Chocosol!  I picked up the most recent issue of Edible Toronto and The Golden Horseshoe from Chocosol where they were featured on the cover and in the magazine as the featured cover story, and the most recent issue of Post City magazine: North Toronto from the community centre.

I’m sad that the market is every other week as opposed to every single week, but I feel lucky enough that I have markets to go to and great community centres to visit and explore.  The winter is still young and I’m crossing my fingers I’ll finally be able to visit the market at Wychwood Barns and the 99 MRKT when it comes back later on this month!  No matter what, I’m making it a priority to visit whichever ones I can so I can get the goods on what’s good this winter at the market. 

*****

The Eglinton Appletree Markets are held indoors during the winter season at North Toronto Memorial Community Centre at 200 Eglinton Ave. West from 3pm-7pm.  From November 10th to May, the market is held indoors in the community centre every other Thursday from 3pm-7pm.  Check out the Appletree Market website here for specific dates and for more information.