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.

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Photo Spotlight on Mushroom and Collard Green Mini Pies by Yorktown Pie Company

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It’s time for me to divulge yet another food confession: throughout my almost 27 years of life, I have never been a pie lover.  Ice cream, yes.  Cookies, yes.  Cupcakes, OH YES.  But never pie.  I know, it sounds absurd considering how much I adore Wanda’s Pie in the Sky and my dear Raymerville Bakery & Deli up in my neck of the woods; but it’s true.  I once read in one of my Martha Stewart Living magazines that Martha herself thought that the best dessert was a piece of pie.  And I rememeber reading that sentence and thinking, “really?!”  I just couldn’t wrap my head around that.  My mum and brother would share an entire 8-inch between the two of them and I’d stare at them quizzically and wonder what the heck was wrong with me – or maybe what the heck was wrong with them.  I’ve always thought pies were beautiful.  And at times I would even salivate over varieties such as lemon meringue and cherry and the occasional cream pie.  But, truth be told, if I saw an ice cream truck passing by, I’d leave the pies in the dust and chase the truck down the street. 

There’s always a place and time to for preferences and tastebuds to evolve though, and our beloved hometown Yorktown Pie Company has carved a little pastry wedge into my heart with their adorable sweet and savoury mini pies, tarts, and turnovers.  I always internally squeal over how cute they are and I marvel at how so much amazing food and flavour can be tucked away in such a little package.  The aesthetic makes my heart melt and all the different fillings and flavour combinations have me coming back for more.  Everything is baked and handmade with so much love and care, with family recipes spanning decades and generations coming to fruition at farmers’ markets across the city.  All of Yorktown Pie Company’s little pie gems are priced between $2-$6 and their savoury pies are great to have for lunch alongside a salad while their sweet ones are fantastic all on their own as a full-blown, foodgasmic dessert.  There’s a reason why their apple sour cream is nicknamed “apple crack”! 

I am all over their sweet pastries and pies (their butter tarts are delicious and anything apple of theirs needs to be inhaled) and their vegetarian offerings such as their spinach and goat cheese and this little guy over here: the mushroom and collard greens pie with soy egg base!  I love mushrooms like PB loves J and anything with collard greens piques my interest since it’s not something you see in baked goods very often.  And the soy egg base!  It’s like silky egg tofu and savoury custard all in one.  What makes the pie even more terrific is how great it tastes both warm and cold and how it’s literally studded from top to bottom with veggies and filling. 

It’s the kind of food that would be great as part of a brunch or light lunch and if you’re looking for something a little heartier, Yorktown has a number meat pies including a chicken pot and a stout steak mushroom!  I haven’t had anything of theirs in weeks (I know, what a lengthy period of time!) and I would love to get my hands on another one of their coconut butter tarts, their apple sour cream, their apple crumble, and anything with cheese in it.  It’s going to be one heck of a warm and sunny Canada Day long weekend this weekend, so head out to Wychwood tomorrow if you’re looking to enjoy some great eats and adorable pies at a great market.  Happy weekend, everyone!

*****

Yorktown Pie Company is a local food business here in Toronto specializing in everything pie!  From pot pies to tarts to turnovers, they churn out the sweet and savoury baked goods and pastries on a weekly basis at farmers’ markets across the city.  You can find their vast array of good eats at The Stop Farmers’ Market at Wychwood Barns on Saturdays and the Toronto Office Market at the Soft Choice courtyard on Wednesdays.

The Amazing Feta & Ontario Asparagus Egg Frittata Sandwich, and Upcoming Food Events at The Depanneur!

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In less than a week, we’ll be kicking off the official first day of summer (although if you ask me, summer came knocking on our door two months ago and I’ve been sweating it out and being wimpy about it ever since) and things are certainly heating up at The Depanneur!  With new supper clubs, workshops, and more drop-in dinners than ever before, the dogs days of summer are looking mighty tasty and promising!  Not only has The Depanneur upped the ante on their weekly drop-in dinners from once a week to 3 times a week, but they’ve also opened up a sweet little terrace out front on the side for more good food action.  Kawartha farms and ecological growers have teamed up with The Depanneur to host a market on the terrace every Tuesday from 4pm-7pm.  It’s the perfect combo: a farmers’ market straight from the source AND a drop-in dinner (6pm) to enjoy at the same time!  Here’s what we have to look forward to in the next little while:

  • Paleo Dinner with Summer Innanen of Haute Life – Rusholme Park Supper Club, June 24.  7:30pm-10:30pm.  1033 College Street.  $40 supper club membership for the night.  Sit back and relax with fellow supper club members at this easy, breezy Paleo-inspired meal prepared by holistic nutritionist and owner of Haute Life, Summer Innanen.  The Paleo diet is comprised of meat, fish, eggs, fruits and vegetables, and fats such as coconut and avocado, while at the same time excluding processed and refined sugars, grains, dairy, and legumes.  Summer’s menu will include dishes such as 100% grass-fed braised blade roast with roasted seasonal vegetables and a seasonal berry tart with whipped cream among great food spreads.  It’s a great chance to explore a different diet and that could very well impact your habits and lifestyle, so c0me on out for a fab ‘Summer’ meal!  http://www.facebook.com/events/481088045249968/

  • Make Your Own Condiments with Kate Leinweber – Workshop, July 11.  6pm-9pm.  1033 College Street.  $67 +HST/person.  Let’s face it – some of our favourite store-bought sauces and condiments are, unfortunately, loaded with excess sodium, sugars, and preservatives.  We love them, but wouldn’t it be fabulous to learn and explore the art of making your own spreads and dips?  Join holistic nutritionist and microbiologist, Kate Leinweber, at this do-it-yourself workshop solely devoted to fermenting and whipping up delicious condiments such as mustards, mayos, ketchups, and more.  This workshop is comprised of an educational and learning component and sit-down dinner and social hour where everyone will have the opportunity to try their homemade creations alongside a delicious slow-cooked tagine.  http://www.facebook.com/events/378207642216568/ 

In addition to the drop-in dinners, supper clubs, workshops, and Kawartha partneship,the frittata breakfast sandwiches just keep getting better and better!  I’ve had their breakfast sandwiches 3 times now ($4 for half, $7 for a whole) and the latest was their best EVER: feta and Ontario asparagus egg frittata with greens, smothered in a thyme and paprika flavoured mayo, sandwiched between two slice of grilled sourdough bread.  The bread was so toasty and crunchy and it tasted just like crostini with olive oil, and the egg frittata was AMAZING.  It was so super thick and the asparagus and feta made it crunchy and creamy all at the same time and the mayo, with its slight kick from the paprika, was just foodgasmic.  I would have eaten this sauce by the spoonful, slathered it on everything, and dipped everything in it.  Just thinking about the sandwich now makes me hungry for more.  This was my favourite egg frittata sandwich so far and I’m mighty curious to see if any future sandwiches can top this one!  Hands down, the best $4 I ever spent on breakfast.

Upcoming drop-in dinners for this week, and supper clubs and workshops happening later on in the month and early July will be posted soon!  I’ll be updating this post and The Depanneur’s Food Calendar page as soon as I get the weekly news.  And if you happen to stop by, pick up the latest issue of City Bites magazine while you’re at it too!  I hope everyone’s enjoying their weekend!

*****

The Depannuer is located at 1033 College Street between Dovercourt Rd. and Dufferin Street.  They are open from Tuesday to Sunday (closed on Mondays) with a number of cooking classes, food workshops, drop-in dinners, and supper clubs throughout the month, which you can keep up with on the Food Calendar or on their Twitter @TheDepanneur.  You can view The Depannuer’s Facebook page here.

Toronto Lunchtime Office Markets Are Heading West – The Yorktown Pie Company and Lunch in Liberty Village!

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*BREAKING NEWS* everyone!  Or maybe not so breaking if you already know this.  But humour me if you do: the Toronto Lunchtime Office Markets are setting up shop out west in Liberty Village TOMORROW from 11:30am-1:30pm!  And it’ll be an outdoor courtyard market!  This is so exciting!  You know how there are people who track storms and tornadoes and are known as Storm Chasers?  I like to think of myself as a farmers’ market chaser, following amazing markets wherever they go around the city.  Sadly, I won’t be able to attend the Office Market’s first official market in Liberty Village tomorrow, but I wanted you all to know in case any of you work around the area or decide to head out in that direction tomorrow.  And if you end up seeing this too late, don’t fret: this market is going to be a permanent fixture on the farmers’ market circuit, so you can always make a visit on Wednesdays from here on out. 

It feels so surreal in a way because several weeks to a month ago, I was enjoying lunch, taking photos, and talking to Eric from Yorktown Pies at the ING Direct Cafe when a fellow lunch market goer approached me and told me he recognized me from Ate by Ate (can you say oh my lordy?!).  We chatted for a bit and I learned that he actually wasn’t dining on home turf so to speak, but was rather taking in the scene (and eating) because he wanted the market to head on over to his work area in Liberty Village.  And lo and behold, here we are!  I knew Aruna (head honcho of Alimentary Initiatives and the Toronto Office Market initiative) was planning on taking the markets to Liberty Village (I know, I know, I keep a good secret!), but I had no idea it would happen so soon!

This is wonderful because this market experience has become so important to those in the community who want and need these types of food options.  My boyfriend and I brought two friends to an ING Direct Cafe market one time for lunch, one who was vegan and who was a self-proclaimed carni.  There were fun, healthy options for my vegan friend, Sarah, courtesy of Earth & City and my meat-loving friend, Nav, enjoyed his meatless lunch (courtesy of ChocoSol) so much he wanted to come back for to the market for lunch another time. 

I was so, so happy they loved it.  And interestingly enough, my friend Nav made a very poignant statement as we were discussing how I found out about the markets and about food in general.  He said, “this makes me WANT to eat healthier.  This is awesome.  If these options are made available, people will come and people will take advantage and choose better food”.  And that, my dear lovelies, is food accessibility in action and in motion.  My friends enjoyed their experience and were introduced to something new and in turn, it made me feel hopeful that many of the food initiatives being spearheaded across the city by different organizations and local businesses are, in many ways, touching lives and creating and spurring change for the better.

Yorktown Pies will be at the market tomorrow, along with Cheesewerks (they’ve started vending at the Office Markets, how exciting!), The Bumper Crop (charcuterie and condiments), Hope Farms and Eggy Wegs with fresh farm eggs, and Cookie Martinez with Fair Trade and gluten-free cookies in the line-up among others.  It’s going to be a beautiful day tomorrow, so grab a yummy Yorktown Pie and enjoy the local food and market for me!    

*****

The Office Markets will now currently serve 3 locations in Toronto: CSI Annex at 720 Bathurst Street (just south of Bloor Street) on Tuesdays from 11:30am-1:30pm, ING Direct Cafe at 221 Yonge Street (at the corner of Shuter Street by the Eaton Centre) on Thursdays from 11:30am-1:30pm, and now at Soft Choice IT Soultions at 173 Dufferin Street (south of King Street) in Liberty Village.

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.

The Market Is Here to Stay! Vegan Nori Rolls, Raw Pumpkin Tarts, Fresh Spring Roll Wraps and More at the CSI

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It’s official: the Lunchtime Office Markets at both Centre for Social Innovation locations are here to stay!  The office markets have been wildly successful with hungry workers and students, curious passerby, and dedicated market goers like yours truly!  What started out as a biweekly, fall market pilot project has now blossomed into a weekly extravaganza of fresh baked bread, organic and local produce, fresh farm cheeses, fair trade chocolate, and plenty of raw, vegan food lovingly made and sold by local businesses around the city and province.  I’ll be honest, I am absolutely ecstatic that the lunchtime markets are now a weekly occurrence –  twice a week no less!   

Back in October, I was hoping so much for the pilot to continue on well through the anticipated 4-week stint and for the market to become a weekly one as opposed to the biweekly one it started off as during its humble beginnings.  My wish was granted and my market-loving heart is so excited for the many future markets to come.  The market has plans to stay well into December but truthfully, I’m hoping for well into the new year 😉

Up until this point I had only purchased a few bits and bobs here and there including some bread from Nice Buns (I suggest you all try Sara’s cocoa sourdough and white bread buns) and St. Johns Bakery, as well as one of Earth & City‘s creamy coconut macaroons.  This time around though, I wanted a full out lunch and the spread didn’t disappoint!  I picked up a spring roll wrap, a vegan sushi/nori roll, and a pumpkin seasonal fruit tart, all from Earth & City‘s colourful and delicious selection of vegan food.  If you enjoy crunchy fruits and vegetables with a hint of sweetness, you need to try the spring roll wraps.  Made with apples, beets, carrots, red onions, walnuts, almonds, lemon juice, apple cider vinegar, honey dates, sesame oil, and ginger, they’re all wrapped in rice paper and fresh, raw collard greens and they are so incredibly packed with nutrition and texture and sweet flavour because you get a mixture of fruit, vegetables, protein, fibre, and all that good stuff.  You get that sweet and spikey bite from the beets and plenty of crunch from the vegetables.

Now, you’re probably wondering how in the world I managed to eat this spring roll wrap without blowing up like a blowfish because there’s raw apple in it!  There isn’t too much in it so I managed to avoid a major allergic reaction.  I think the worst I got was a tiny red welt on my lip which went away fairly quickly, but no swollen tongue and mouth, no fire in my throat, and no excruitiating pain.  I know I was taking a chance eating something with raw apple in it, but I wanted to try one so bad I threw caution to the wind and figured I could always pick the apple out if the pieces were too big or if the amount was too much to handle.  Sigh.  The things I do for food.

The pumpkin tart was so incredibly smooth and creamy and it was great because it wasn’t overladen with spice.  It tasted fresh and natural, the way it’s supposed to.  The base of Earth & City’s seasonal fruit dessert tarts are made with a raw mixture of organic rolled oats and honey dates and filled with whatever fruit is seasonal and fresh.  For the fall months, Cassandra and Lisa have been filling them with apples, pears, and pumpkin and come winter, they’ll be using storage apples and peach preserves canned during the late summer in August.  The base is chewy as opposed to crumby, cakey, or flaky, similar to a granola and honey mixture, only naturally sweeter because of the honey dates.  I have to tell you, I actually prefer this type of base because for whatever reason, tart crusts and pie crusts don’t work with my tastebuds.  There’s always this bitter, dry aftertaste that I really don’t care for, so this oat and honey date tart base works for me!

And now, my personal favourite: the nori roll!  Earth & City’s vegan sushi is made with thin seaweed sheets rolled with cooked brown rice (one of the only food items of theirs that isn’t raw!) and stuffed with a variety of vegetables.  I LOVED the sushi so much, oh my goodness.  I had shittake mushrooms, red bell pepper, and sunflower sprouts and it was refreshing, juicy, and hearty because of the thick grains of brown rice.  Next time, I am getting myself an entire nori roll log!  Each nori roll is $2 and a nori roll log is $6 which translates into 4 rolls when cut.

The markets at both locations have done really remarkable things and by remarkable I mean getting people involved and getting people engaged in the food and the market itself.  When I go to these markets, I know it seems like all I’m there for is the food and the photos, but I’m also there to learn, to observe, and to listen.  Little do people know that while I’m snapping away and ogling all the yummies, I’m also listening to the conversations that go on between those who make the food and those who make the market possible by buying from these local businesses.  

There have been conversations about ingredients, about new and upcoming products, and about suggestions to make the market even more amazing than it already is.  It’s an awesome feeling being here in the hubbub of lunch hour when people are grabbing piping hot bowls of soup left and right, snatching up buns and loaves of bread, and taking the food they’ve bought and enjoying it for lunch.  You know a market means something to people when they bother to strike up these conversations in the first place because it means they’re invested and that they want to see the market continue and do well.  I can only see it getting stronger and I can’t wait to see what’s in store come December.     

*****

The Lunchtime Markets at the Centre for Social Innovation in the Annex and on Spadina take place on Tuesdays and Wednesdays respectively from 11:30am-1pm.  The Centre for Social Innovation (Annex) is located at 720 Bathurst Street, just south of Bloor Street West and Lennox.  They also have a location on Spadina at 215 Spadina Ave., 4th floor.

The Fall Harvest Series: Fresh & Farm-to-Table – The Foodie Emporium That is Evergreen Brick Works, Part II

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When a few friends told me Evergreen Brick Works was big and all sorts of awesome, I had no idea it would be THIS big and awesome.  Are there other farmers’ markets in the city that I love to pieces just as much?  Of course.  But Evergreen Brickworks is a different kind of foodie playground.   There’s a certain rustic quality to it, and a very communal, down-to-earth atmosphere that makes you feel welcome and homey.  At the heart of Evergreen is sustainability: sustaining our environment and our communities while at the same time building new relationships through beautiful community green spaces, classes, workshops, and charitable events.  

The connections made between the environment, the people, and the food is just one of Evergreen’s pride and joys.  As the menu at Cafe Belong reads, “Food is fuel, food is medicine, and food is love”.  The food culture connects the global with the local – and vice versa – with its farm-to-table philosophy, bringing some of the best of what other countries have to offer and integrating these transnational and transglobal relationships into our local ones in the marketplace.  You learn so much just by being here.

I was literally standing by the olive oil table talking to the sweet lady for 10-15 minutes, as I sampled some bread, olive oil, and balsamic and took notes in my notebook while she explained all these wonderful things about olive oil and balsamics.  Things like what to look for on a bottle’s label to determine authenticity (“made in” versus “product of”, import information, etc.), what colour of bottle to look for (dark!), the names of the oils depending on how many varieties of olives are used (one olive variety = monocultivar), and how the age of the olives affects the notes and taste of the oil (the older the more grassier). 

I have never been so informed about olive oil in my life and it was amazing because I came away with so much more knowledge than I came in with.  And I think that’s the beauty of being here.  You take a little something with you every time you come and go and you open yourself up to a world of foodie exploration.

There are so many different components that make it a wonderland to explore and play in and its sheer size, alone, makes it unique and special.  The Saturday farmers’ market (which, in my humble opinion, should be renamed to “giant food mansion barn paradise thing”) emphasizes homegrown Ontario farming and food, and local food businesses with farmers and producers of fruits, vegetables, herbs, and cheese, local bakers and bakeries, butchers, fishmongers, and restaurant business owners coming together under one barn roof.  This market was open and spacious and just plain HUGE.  It was like a fresh food flea market in a barn!  Not only were there tables upon tables of farmers selling their produce, but there were samples to try, grills being fired up for hot lunch food, and live music.  You could literally outfit your entire refrigerator and kitchen after a day here.

The menu of fresh, local food and produce draws hungry foodies to Cafe Belong, a beautiful, airy cafe and rustic dining hall.  Sit down with a coffee, baked good, or meal where the food is fresh and seasonal.  Menu items include dishes such as tomato salad with barley ($12), cured fish with grilled fennel ($14), summer squash with smoked duckand seasonal berries ($15), steamed lake fish ($18), braised lamb ($19), sweet and sticky pork with apples ($17), vegetarian pot barley with mushrooms and rainbow chard ($16), and vegan moroccan chick pea stew ($15).  End (or begin!) your meal with something sweet from the cafe, like a spiced heirloom pumpkin tart, a fresh baked apple pie, a blueberry scone, or one of Cafe Belongs many cookies, muffins, and oat bars. 

The gardening and planting area encourages and provides us with the tools to be our own farmers and producers of food and finally, the marketplace, with its local and global gourmet eats, reads, and gadgets, is a mecca of food and shopping goodness.  There are shelves and tables with cookbooks (local, sustainable food, vegetarian and vegan food, raw food, preserves and canning, baking cookbooks, and so much more), olive oils and balsalmic vinaigrettes, jams and preserves, mustards, curries, pickled vegetables, coffees, teas, local artwork, handmade craft items, and kitchen accessories.

The cookbook junkie in me was going craaazy and everything was so festive with all the seasonal decorations sitting on the tables and hanging on the walls.  I can’t even imagine what the marketplace is going to look like when the holidays roll around in December!  And that’s another thing I love about Evergreen, that it’s cyclical, relevant, and timely.  When you’re here, you feel like you’re in the thick of everything important that’s happening in local food culture and you grow with them as you see and learn more.

This first visit was a fabulous one and I am so excited about making another one closer to the holidays in the winter.  I’m happily enjoying fall while it lasts (it feels like the shortest season out of the four sometimes!), but a big part of me cannot wait to see what’s in store later on this year.  Enjoy the photos and I’ll have Part III for you guys tomorrow.  Baked goods ahoy!

*****

Evergreen Brick Works is located at 550 Bayview Ave.  The farmers’ market takes place year-round every Saturday from 8am-1pm.  If taking public transit, there is a free shuttle bus that operates 7 days a week beside Broadview subway station, as well as the 28A Davisville TTC bus that runs on Saturdays from 8am-3pm between Evergreen Brick Works and Davisville subway station.  Click here to learn more the site, their events and programs, and how to get here by bus, bike, car, or foot.