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.

*****

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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It’s Good to Be Back at the Market – Fresh Cheese, Vegan Eats, Pies, Sprouts & More at Wychwood Barns!

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The Stop Community Food Centre booklets at Wychwood Barns farmers' market.

My left arm hurts from carrying my heavy load of market groceries.  My shoulder blades and neck are a wee bit sore from being wrapped in a heavy-duty scarf for most of the day.  And I’m just a little sleepy; leave it to me to wake up at 6am in the morning on a Saturday to go to the farmers’ market in the cold blowing snow/sleet/wet crap!  Who needs to walk when you can let the gusty wind push you along?  All I needed was a long coat and hat and I could have passed for the city gal version of Mary Poppins with a pink umbrella!

Despite the less-than-stellar weather, my trip to The Stop Farmers’ Market at Wychwood Barns yesterday morning was SO WORTH IT.  Even though I came home cold with rosy cheeks and just a tad on the wind-whipped side, I came home happy and so full of joy with some of the best food from the market in my grocery bag.

Root vegetables at Wychwood Barns farmers' market

Carrots, potatoes and onions at Wychwood Barns farmers' market

The Stop farmers' market at Wychwood Barns

It’s been months since my last farmers’ market trek.  Not just months since my last post, but literally months since the last time I went to a market at all.  The last time I went to one was back in December and that was to Evergreen Brick Works where I lugged home bags of kale, salad greens, and butternut squash.  I know taking a break from blogging after that was something I had to do but since that last market visit, it’s almost as if a part of me was missing.  A part of me that so desperately wanted to go to the market and do blog-related things but couldn’t because I was tired and because I knew I had to sacrifice some of that precious blog time to take care of other aspects of my life that need my attention.

Going to the market yesterday for first time in nearly 4 months was like a breath of fresh of air.  It felt SO GOOD.  Like that something missing had been fully stored.  I had missed it so much and as sappy as it sounds, it’s stuff like this that makes you appreciate all the good things in your life.  The stuff that puts you in your happy place and makes your life so content, rewarding and satisfying.  I saw market vendors and friends, I took a ridiculous amount of photos (93!), I stuffed my hungry face with samples, learned about food, picked up a bunch of new food literature, and filled my grocery bag with some delicious eats!

vegan desserts by Earth & City at Wychwood Barns farmers' market

chocolate and vanilla macaroons by Earth & City at Wychwood Barns farmers' market

lentil-walnut vegan burgers by Earth & City at Wychwood Barns farmers' market

Yorktown Pie Company at Wychwood Barns farmers' market

butter tarts by Yorktown Pie Company at Wychwood Barns farmers' market

A trip to The Stop Market at Wychwood Barns is never complete without fresh vegan eats from my beloved Earth & City and Yorktown Pie Company!  Cassandra from Earth & City was on hand with spring roll wraps, lentil-walnut burgers with sundried tomato puree, red onion, and collard green leaf “bun”, kale and arugula pesto, and a mountain of mouthwatering vegan sweets including their famous vegan brownies, chocolate and vanilla macaroons and cowgirl cookies, cookies with oats, almonds, banana, honey, dates, cinnamon and sea salt.  And Yorktown?  They had their famous mini butter tarts, chocolate chip cookies, and plenty of meat and vegetarian pies and pastries including spinach and ricotta, spinach and feta, chicken, steak and Guinness, mushroom and leek, and good old fashioned sausage rolls!

I happily picked up a container of a lentil-walnut burger, vegan brownie, and a container of kale and arugula pesto from Earth & City, and a sweet butter tart from Yorktown to bring home.  I cannot wait to come back to see if I can snatch up my favourite apple crumble and apple sour cream pies (what some have referred to as “apple crack”) the next time!

Chocosol coffee and chocolate at Wychwood Barns farmers' market

Chocosol fair trade chocolate at Wychwood Barns farmers' market

Chocosol coffee and chocolate at Wychwood Barns farmers' market

Chocosol fair trade chocolate at Wychwood Barns farmers' market

Between snapping photos and picking up food literature, I also added some walnut-raisin buns to my grocery bag from St. John’s Bakery, some AMAZING fresh-as-a-daisy Black Peppercorn goat cheese from Crosswind Farm who makes, by far, the best goat cheese EVER in the most delicious flavours (feta, maple cream, herb, green and red peppercorn, garlic Italian blend and a brand new creamy brie-style goat cheese), and a GIANT bar of Luscious Coconut chocolate from Chocosol.

It was so awesome seeing Chocosol’s fantastic selection of fresh cacao bars and beans and thanks to Chocosol’s Yanni (I hope I’ve spelled your name right!), my boyfriend and I learned the process behind Chocosol’s fair trade chocolate: cacao beans are roasted; shells from the roasted beans are then removed via fans which blow the shells off; the fresh cacao is then stone-ground into a paste, which is then tempered a number of times before flavourings and seasonings are added to create their famous flavours such as their hemp, spicy chili, dark and more.  Taking it all in was like cacao 101 which was awesome!

Crosswind Farm goat cheese at Wychwood Barns farmers' market

Crosswind Farm goat cheese at Wychwood Barns farmers' market

Crosswind Farm goat cheese at Wychwood Barns farmers' market

During this visit I also discovered some fantastic new vendors!  Now, these vendors aren’t exactly brand new to the market but they’re new to me.  First up, Essa Sprouts!  I love pea sprouts and shoots and sunflower sprouts like nobody’s business and Essa Sprouts grows everything from sunflower sprouts to sprouted chickpea, daikon radish, pea shoots, buckwheat, alfalfa, crunchy bean and more.  They have so many different types of sprouts and microgreens that are perfect for any type of palate (spicy, mild, you name it) and the baggies come in a number of sizes so you can choose what best suits your diet and sprouting eating frequency.  I picked up a small baggie of sunflower sprouts and have already inhaled the whole bag with help from my mum and dad!  You can find them here at The Stop at Wychwood and also at the Richmond Hill market (which I will add to the market list) and Barrie which is interestingly one of the oldest markets in the province!

sunflower greens and sprouts by Essa Sprouts at Wychwood Barns farmers' market

Finally, I saw Delish Kitch at the market for the first time yesterday!  In a nutshell, Delish Kitch specializes in gluten-free, low-starch food with the absence of refined sugars.  They offer vegetarian, vegan and dairy-free options on their impressive menu: veggie pizzas, cookies, muffins, savoury tarts and pies, bread, tons of granola, soups, and their speciality, Bisckers, which are a cross between crackers and biscuits with a hint of scone without the gluten!

Delish Kitch at Wychwood Barns farmers' market

gluten-free baked goods by Delish Kitch at Wychwood Barns farmers' market

mushroom gluten-free pizzas by Delish Kitch at Wychwood Barns farmers' market

This visit was just what I needed to kick start some extra inspiration and I happily got everything I wanted out of it.  It’s almost May and we all know what that means: spring and summer season at the markets!  I just found out all the 2013 dates so in another week I’ll be updating the market list with a rundown of all the ones returning in May and June and all the great market events we can expect this year!  I am so pumped and excited!

*****

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

Sprouted Chickpea Hummus, Sour Cream Apple Pies, and Farm Fresh Carrots – Wychwood Barns, Part III

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Yorktown Pie Company in the house at Wychwood Barns!

I learned a valuable lesson during my visit to Wychwood Barns this past Saturday: you can never have or bring too many tote bags.  I left the house with my large, insulated drawstring lunch tote thinking it would be good enough for the warm (who am I kidding, it was hot) day ahead to carry around any goodies I bought.  I soon found out it was not as I juggled my purse, my camera, promo flyers, the newest issue of Edible Toronto, and many baggies of food as I struck up conversations with market vendors and took photos, all the while struggling to stick said baggies of food into my lunch tote without squishing everything. 

There were not enough hands to go around and, given how amazing this market was on Saturday, there were also not enough tummies to stomach all the wonderful food.  This visit was my favourite out of all the times I’ve went for so many reasons.  Not only did the selection of food blow me away, but also because I learned so much from the vendors about the food and the industry.  I had a great conversation with Mason from Yorktown Pie Company while I was ogling the mountains of small pies they had on Saturday and it talking to him, and others, just opens up your eyes to the ins and outs and highs and lows of farmers’ market and local business entrepreneurs.  You learn about controversial food issues, ethical concerns regarding the genuine certification of local and organic food (let’s just say some business are dishonest and give the impression that they use local food when, in fact, they do not), the difference between produce straight from our local farmers and its non-local counterparts, and about food in general.

For the record, their sour cream apple pie, $5 (aptly nicknamed “apple crack” among Yorktown Pie bakers and team members!) is out of this world!  If you love apple pie and/or sour cream doughnuts, you will be all over this pie like mud on a pig.  The apple pie has a sweet delicious crumble on top with baked apples and a creamy, custard-like filling that is so, so good.  I love the pies because the crusts don’t have the bitter aftertaste that I often find with other pies and this one is such a great dessert because you know it’s a treat that’s decadent, yet it doesn’t come off as too rich or too gluttonous.  A huge part of me wishes I had bought more than one because my family and I shared it.  Sigh.  Now I have to go back for sushi AND pies.  It’s never ending. 

Ooo, edible flowers on Earth & City’s vegan coconut brownies!

Take Earth & City for instance.  I’ve been a huge fan of their food for months now and it’s always hard leaving a market without something delicious from them.  Since the spring season started, Cassandra and Lisa started selling a bunch of different homemade vegan dips and spreads (perfect with their flatbreads, with vegetables, on sandwiches, and just about everything!) for $5 a pop including their sweet walnut sauce, preserved basil pesto, and sprouted chickpea hummus.  

You all know how much I LOVE dips and spreads (remember how crazy I was over Jesse’s Luscious Dips beet hummus from the Toronto Office Markets?  It breaks my heart that she moved to Niagara and that her business is no longer operating in Toronto), so I had to pick one up.  They had their sprouted chickpea hummus for sale and before you ask, “wait, isn’t hummus already made out of chickpeas?  Why the inclusion of the word chickpeas in the name?”, let me explain. 

Ever since I had their sprouted buckwheat pizza, I started reading up on sprouted foods and what the term “sprouted” actually means.  I found a very informative site HERE that contains a truckload of information on what sprouting is (soaking raw seeds, beans, and grains in water to basically “unlock” the stored nutrients and enzymes that are only made available to us through the process of sprouting and germination), the types of foods that can be sprouted aside from the obvious alfalfa (lentils, soybeans, sunflower seeds, chickpeas and/or garbonzo beans, barley, and more), its nutritional and health benefits (great for digestion!), and how to go about making your own raw, sprouted food.  

Earth & City’s sprouted chickpea hummus is – excuse my language – freakin’ unreal.  It is so delicious I could eat the entire container by myself in one day.  Made with tahini, lemon juice, olive oil, and a some sea salt, it has this wonderful savoury garlic flavour, a bit of texture from the chickpeas, and is super thick in consistency.

The amazing carrots and potatoes from Highmark Farms

I tried some with a carrot stick that Cassandra had cut up and I was head over heels in love, with both the hummus AND the carrot stick.  Which is unheard of for me!  I’m not the biggest fan of raw carrots.  I find them tasteless and exceptionally painful to eat (I feel like my teeth are going to snap off every time I try to eat them) and overall, not enjoyable.  However, when I dunked my carrot stick into the hummus I could not believe how soft, juicy, sweet, and flavourful it was and I asked Cassandra where the carrot sticks were from and she pointed behind me and said, “Highmark Farms!” 

I was floored.  Not because the carrots came from a fellow market food producer (many of the vendors swap and use one another’s bounty in an effort to reduce costs and showcase local food), but because of the difference in taste.  I hate the carrots that come from the supermarket but loved the carrot stick I ate from Highmark Farms.  The difference is so apparent and obvious it’s ridiculous.  This just serves as a reminder that it’s so important for us to remain cognizant of the food politics at play when it comes to our accessibility, our selection, and the honest to goodness bounty of great food that exists in and around our city and our province.  Will all of us ever be locavores?  Doubtful.  But it pays to know the difference and the options available to us.

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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 will be heading outdoors for the summer season starting next Saturday, May 26!  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

Nutty For Pesto, Sundried Tomato, & Burger Patties – A Photo Spotlight on Earth & City’s Raw, Vegan Nut Burgers!

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Vegan nut burgers at the ING Direct Cafe...

No matter how healthy many of us eat, everyone has their junk food weakness whether it’s sweet or savoury.  Some feel weak in the knees in the face of pizza, some salivate at the mention of ice cream sundaes, and some will do anything to get their hands on a basket of fries.  I’ll be honest with you guys: I have a weakness for good old fashioned grilled cheeseburgers.  And turkey burgers.  With cheese, relish, pickles, mushrooms, peppers, and garlic mayo.  I don’t eat them often though.  The word “rarely” comes to mind, actually.  Twice a year, tops.  For me, as much as I enjoy it, these type of cravings are just cravings and they come and go. 

Aside from having a sweet tooth, I shy away from junk food as often as I can.  The last time I had a soda was over 10 years ago in high school (and I can’t remember the time before that), I despise fried chicken with a passion, and I try my best not to put myself in a situation where I have to resort to choosing something to eat from a fast food chain.  Like I said, I allow myself to have a cheeseburger type of day maybe twice a year but that’s about it.  I even carefully think about how to schedule my dessert and sweets eating throughout the day and/or week – what you see on the blog isn’t in real time most of the time!  This lack of burger eating on my part clearly explains why my Burger Book catgory has been 1) relatively devoid of burger bliss (if I may quote the latest A&W commercial), and 2) more focused on vegetarian and vegan burgers! 

Sundried tomato goodness at Wychwood Barns

Looking for a delicious raw, vegan lunch?

I am LOVING the versatility and deliciousness of vegetarian and vegan burgers in all its different forms: soy, grain, tofu, potato, you name it.  The veggie burgers I’ve had in the last year have all been delicious and they’ve all been so different.  There’s the juicy, breaded tofu burger from Kale and the potato-like mushroom onion burger from Fresh.  Another veggie burger to add to the mix?  Earth & City’s raw, vegan nut burgers!

I approach Earth & City’s food the same way I approach the menu at Fresh: try everything!  Or at the very least, something from every food category on the menu.  So far I’ve had the pleasure of having Earth & City’s spring roll wraps, vegan pizza, nori rolls, macaroons, tarts, raw and vegan brownies, and even a raw peanut butter date square.  I can now say with absolute conviction that their vegan nut burgers are my favourite of all favourites.  I cannot get over how much I love them!  My favourite foods from Earth & City then are as follows (in no particular order): nut burgers, nori rolls, and brownies. 

Their nut burgers ($6, tax inclusive) are amazing and to me, they’re more delicious than any meat burger could ever be!  The vegan nut burgers are giant round patties made of raw, almonds, sunflower seeds, honey dates, and flax seed that have been pulsed and pulverized, mixed with dried basil and oregano, organic olive oil and lemon juice, white balsamic vinegar and sea salt, and topped with either a sundried tomato or creamy pesto sauce, and sunflower sprouts with slices of local organic tomatoes at times.  The heavenly burgers sit on a giant collard green leaf  “lily pad bun” and are then munched on and inhaled by people like me.

I had one of their pesto nut burgers at a Lunchtime Office Market at the ING Direct Cafe and I could not stop thinking about it for days, even weeks, afterward.  I was most surprised by the texture – it was simaltaneously smooth and slightly crunchy!  The smoothness comes from how well the ingredients are thoroughly incorporated throughout the burger patty and the slight crunch comes from the ground up sunflower seeds and almonds.  It’s not crunchy like a potato chip.  It’s more like if you were to grab a handful of rolled oats and stuffed them in your mouth.  They’re smooth and flat so you’re not actually crunching on them persay, but you can feel that texture as you chew.  THAT’s what eating the nut burgers are like, only with a million times more flavour.  The ground almonds and sunflower seeds in the burger give it body and bite.  The burgers are SO incredibly soft and moist (the moistest burger I’ve ever had!) and the flavour is phenomenal.  It’s savoury without being salty, the pesto is creamy and heavenly, and the sunflower sprouts and collared green give it leafy crunch and a burst of garden freshness.

The vegan nut burger finally in my hands!

I love that my nut burger experience was so fantastic, but I’m in a really bad predicament now because all I want to do is go to every market that Earth & City are at so I can pick up another burger!  Just think, you’re getting a burger that’s rich in protein, calcium, and fibre, AND it’s delicious beyond comprehension.  I guess my obsession with these burgers isn’t the worst thing that could happen.  It leaves me naughty room in my diet and belly to gorge on their raw vegan brownies.

*****

Earth & City is a local raw and vegan food business operating at farmers’ markets across Toronto year-round.  They are currently at 3 markets, with more during the late spring and summer months.  You can find them at the Centre for Social Innovation (Bathurst location at 720 Bathurst Street south of Bloor) on Tuesdays from 11:30am-1:30pm, the ING Direct Cafe (at Yonge & Shuter street just north of Queen Street) on Thursdays from 11:30am-1:30pm, and at The Stop market at Wychwood Barns (76 Wychwood Ave. near St. Clair Ave. West and Christie Street) on Saturdays from 8am-1pm.

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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A Vegetable Garden Party on Sprouted Buckwheat Pizza – Photo Spotlight on Raw, Vegan Pizza by Earth & City!

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Oh, pizza, how we love thee.  You’re the center of attention at sleepovers and childhood school lunch parties, you’re the one thing most people with differing tastes can agree on ordering, and you rank pretty high on the list of ultimate comfort foods.  However, as delicious as you are, you can pose quite a few food problems for some people!  Sure, vegetarians can be ready and willing to consume infinite slices of veggie pizza full of roasted, grilled, and sauteed vegetables with melted cheesy goodness, but where does that leave the lactose intolerant and vegans?  So where does that leave us?  Earth & City‘s cheeseless, raw vegan pizza to the rescue! 

After sadly passing on it during my first farmers’ visit to Wychwood Barns, I was lucky enough to snatch a jolly big slice at the newest Lunchtime Office Market at the ING Direct Cafe earlier this month.  Cassandra and Lisa of Earth & City don’t make the pizzas for every single market they do (it’s a rotating menu item as opposed to a permanent fixture), so my timing felt extra special this time around!  I was so excited I literally threw my coat and bag on the table by the window and scampered back to Earth & City’s spot to claim my lunch before it disappeared.  Their vegan pizzas are perfect for those who face food allergies and intolerances left and right because they’re gluten and wheat free, dairy-free, and nut-free.  If you have a soy allergy, I’d be cautious just because Earth & City lists wheat-free tamari on their list of ingredients, but I’d ask just to make sure as it really depends on the amount and levels.   

Earth & City’s raw vegan pizza changes throughout the year based on seasonal ingredients and whatever vegetables are fresh, but the one thing that is always constant is the pizza base.  Made with sprouted buckwheat, soaked flax seed, and dried herbs, the crusts are dehydrated overnight* and they firm up into thin, sturdy crusts.  My big slice was covered with sweet sundried tomato sauce (think tomato paste in consistency), raw mushrooms and grape tomatoes, and a generous helping of bright green sunflower sprouts.  I know soy cheese and Daiya cheese are also both viable options to use in vegan pizza-making, but this pizza truly gives new meaning to veggie pizza – it’s like having a garden on your pizza pie!          

The flavours and methods are totally and completely different because for one, it’s a raw pizza and second, the flavours are much more of a mix of sweet and savoury.  The sweetness from the honey dates in the flatbread crust, as well as from the tomato sauce, hits you full force and it gives the rest of the raw vegetables more complexity in flavour.  It envelopes and anchors everything while allowing the freshness of the vegetables to shine.  The pizza is incredibly hearty and so full of nutrients and healthy things for the body including dietary fiber and antioxidants straight from the soaked flax seed and honey dates. 

This was truly the healthiest pizza I had ever seen and eaten and the abundance of mushrooms and sunflower sprouts made me so happy.  Vegan pizza is hard to come by so I’m really happy Earth & City makes it on a regular basis, even if it’s not for every single market that they do.  If you want to know which markets will have it, just pop them a message on their Facebook page or on their Twitter @earthandcity, and ask to be included on their weekly newsletter. 

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* source = Earth & City’s official website. 

Earth & City is a local raw and vegan food business operating at farmers’ markets across Toronto year-round.  They are currently at 3 markets, with more during the late spring and summer months.  You can find them at the Centre for Social Innovation (Bathurst location at 720 Bathurst Street south of Bloor) on Tuesdays from 11:30am-1:30pm, the ING Direct Cafe (at Yonge & Shuter street just north of Queen Street) on Thursdays from 11:30am-1:30pm, and at The Stop market at Wychwood Barns (76 Wychwood Ave. near St. Clair Ave. West and Christie Street) on Saturdays from 8am-1pm.

Lunch Just Became A Whole Lot More Delicious Downtown – Lunchtime Office Markets at ING Direct Cafe!

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The dining selections for lunch in the downtown core just became a whole lot more mouthwatering: a new lunchtime market has made its way into the heart of downtown Toronto and they’re serving up hot and fresh, local food that’s ready to eat!  The Lunchtime Office Markets by Alimentary Initiatives are expanding beyond their Centre for Social Innovation roots and settling into the hustle and bustle of one of Toronto’s busiest neighbourhoods.  With Yonge-Dundas Square to the north, Eaton Centre to the west, Ryerson University to the east, and the financial district to the south, the newest market location has taken residence at the corner of Yonge and Shuter Street, right inside the new ING Direct Cafe.  The ING Direct Cafe is a special, multi-purpose retail space that functions as an innovative financial and banking space, a community space, and a kitchen space all in one.   

In a nutshell, ING Direct is a Canadian banking and financial institution whose mandate is to provide its clients with financial services and products that are innovative, low-cost, convenient, and in tune with current technologies.  The ING Direct Cafe is one of its newest innovations and its goal is to bring community groups and local businesses together, and to present residents in the area with an open-concept banking space to make financial decisions, to learn more about financial alternatives, and to contribute to local charities and causes through partnerships and cafe sales.  In addition, all cafes have free wi-fi and mobile devices that allow anyone and everyone to test out new products, and do online and mobile banking on the go.

The partnership between ING Direct and the Lunchtime Office Markets makes so much sense because they possess many of the same values and goals.  The Lunchtime Office Markets are expanding to accomodate the growing need for healthy, affordable food options in and around working environments.  Let’s face it: not everyone brings a lunch to work.  Call it personal preference, call it a lack of resources in the work environment (a lack of refridgerator, microwave, or food storage); either way, many purchase their lunch in and around their place of work.  Often, workers are either faced with unhealthy options, unaffordable options, a combination of both, or no options at all.  Thus, the premise behind the Lunchtime Office Market is to fill a void and to provide choices for those who otherwise may not have any. 

How do the office markets base their decision on where to locate?  Let’s be clear about one thing: a worthy working environment is not defined by the number of high-rolling business executives that exist in the area.  The office markets were a pilot project that began in October 2011 at both Centre for Social Innovation locations to gauge the level of interest and response to this new food and farmers’ market model.  Since, the market has taken on a life of its own and has started expanding.  

However, the goal has remained the same: to provide neighbourhoods and institutions with good, wholesome food.  The office markets want to target high-traffic areas, schools, office buildings, and many others that have a dispropriate percentage of people who may lack the resources or the time to get their hands on good food.  The newest location at Yonge & Shuter targets college and university students who need affordable, healthy options, retail workers in and around the area who want a fresh change from the food court selection, and office workers who need something quick and convenient (trying to nab an elevator from the 25th floor during the busy lunch hour could take 10 minutes in and of itself!).

This past Thursday, the market rolled out its first big appearance at its new location at 11:30am and it did not disappoint!  We had Sara’s fresh baked bread from Nice Buns; Earth & City’s savoury raw, vegan delights; vegan dips and organic edible hummus bowls from Luscious Dips; savoury pies and pastries from Yorkton Pies; seafood, samples, and oysters from Hooked; tortillas and raw chocolate from Chocosol; market fruits and vegetables from Fresh City Farms; and Augie’s gourmet soups and stews. 

I was ready to roll for lunch and with camera in hand, I captured many of the delicious eats available for lunch that day.  Augie’s table had jars and jars of premade soup and stew to go (great for reheating at home!) along with a lunch menu of roast parsnip, beet, and green apple soup, and a hearty Ontario pork and beef winter stew over sticky rice.  Fresh City Farms brought bright colour with their crates of oranges, apples, pears, onions, potatoes, kale, tomatoes, shallots, carrots, cranberries, and cauliflower, and Hooked brought the sea with them with a fabulous assortment of packaged seafood, samples, shucked oysters (a buck a shuck!), and a steaming pot of fresh seafood chowder.

Sara’s table was overflowing with her mouthwatering cocoa sourdough buns, herb n’ onion fougasse, fluffy white bread buns, apple walnut cinnamon buns, carrot cake slices with chocolate chips, and gluten-free focaccia, while Jesse had a vibrant display of her edible veggie hummus bowls and vegan hummus dips.  Finally, Eric’s Yorktown Pie Company had trays of the most adorable golden mini pies and pastries, and Cassandra and Lisa’s Earth & City had a beautiful, colourful array of their famous spring roll wraps, nut n’ seed burgers, and flatbread sandwiches and bundles.

What did I end up enjoying for lunch?  You’ll just have to sit tight and wait for those goods tomorrow 😉

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The Lunchtime Office Markets by Alimentary Initiatives take place on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays.  The markets are from 11:30am-1:30pm and the newest market is located at the ING Direct Cafe at 221 Yonge Street at the corner of Yonge & Shuter across the street from the Eaton Centre every Thursday.