Beet Hummus, Cabbage Veggie Bowls, and Fish Chowder For Lunch at the ING Direct Cafe Office Market

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I’ve talked about a lot of different food situations on the blog.  Situations and predicaments like food tunnel vision, constant cravings (cue K.D. Lang’s song here), and food snobbery among many others.  I have a new one to add to the hungry mix: food remorse, and not in the sense you’re probably thinking.  I’m talking about the feeling of remorse that washes over you when you pass up something delicious and it ends up haunting you in your dreams.  Well, maybe it’s not that extreme, but definitely enough remorse to have it occupy a good portion of your stomach and brain for days afterward.  It’s when you wish with all your heart that you had taken advantage of the opportunity right in front of you to eat whatever it was you wanted to eat but just didn’t.  I know we all go through those moments (who hasn’t walked by that bakery storefront or burger joint and wished they could stuff their face?), but it’s insult to injury when you mope about passing up something delicious, healthy, and affordable and reasonably priced.  This is the absolute worst and I know the feeling all too well.  

Thus, when I went to last week’s first Lunchtime Office Market at the ING Direct Cafe at Yonge & Shuter, I couldn’t help myself.  I grabbed an edible hummus and veggie bowl (after paying for it, of course!) and devoured it along with my other lunch time goodies.  After seeing these gorgeous, rainbow bright edible cabbage bowls made by Jesse of Luscious Dips at the CSI Lunchtime Market at Spadina my last time there, I couldn’t bear the thought of passing them up a second time.  So I didn’t. 

With a hungry tummy and a happy heart, I enjoyed a bright and fresh, hearty lunch at the ING Direct Cafe courtesy of Luscious Dips and local fish and seafood extraordinaire Hooked Inc.  There were plenty of food choices at the market and it was hard to narrow it down to just two things.  I knew I wanted something hearty to go along with my edible cabbage bowl ($4) and as soon as I saw the hot, steaming pot of fish chowder at Hooked’s station, I knew I had my lunch decided.  The fish chowder ($5) was a savoury, flavourful, spicy (but not too spicy) mix of celery, sweet potatoes, carrots, greens, and big, chunks of flaky fish and it was like winter cabin comfort food in a cup.  It was incredibly filling and satisfying and unlike anything I’d had before.  I really loved the broth and could totally see myself enjoying the chowder with some crusty bread or as filling in a fish taco.  I had been craving fish chowder for weeks prior to the market so it was like my food prayers were being answered!   

My lovely edible cabbage bowl full of bright veggies and vegan dip balanced out the heartiness of the soup and brightened up my palate.  My cabbage bowl was stuffed with cucumber slices, julienned red bell peppers, a big dollop of Luscious Dips’ vegan beet hummus dip, and a handful of delicious corn chips made by Mad Mexican, a business in the west end of Toronto specializing in wholesome, all-natural Mexican food products.  Jesse of Luscious Dips always has Mad Mexican’s fabulous corn chips on hand with her at the markets and depending on the market, you can pick up a bag of them at her table.  The edible cabbage hummus bowls are absolute genius.  It’s healthy and less wasteful save for a napkin that you may or may not end up using.  And it just looks beautiful.

Thanks to my lunch, I have become absolutely obsessed with Jesse’s dips!  They are amazing and I cannot stop thinking about grabbing containers of each and every single flavour she makes!  Knowing how much my mum loves beets, I purchased a container of the beet hummus ($5) to take home and embarrassingly enough, I’ve been chomping at the bit more than she has.  It is so delicious and so versatile.  You can use it as a dip for raw vegetables, for nachos, for tortillas, or as a sandwich spread.  This past weekend, I made myself a vegetarian sandwich using baby spinach, avocado, and mozzarella cheese and spread the beet hummus on my bread and oh my goodness it was absolute heaven.  So much so that I accidentally just typed the word “hummus” in place of heaven, realized my mistake and backspaced to fix it.  Oops.  I’m totally head over heels for the stuff and I am ecstatic to see what Jesse brings to the next market.  

I loved my lunch and I’m so excited to see what other menu items and fresh eats all the vendors will bring in the coming markets.  My sights are set on Earth & City’s nut burgers, more dips, Chocosol’s tortillas, and maybe a pie from Yorktown Pie Company.  The possibilities are looking delicious and endless.

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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.

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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.

Edible Rainbow Veggie Hummus Bowls, Cheese, and Sustainble Fish – A Winter CSI Lunchtime Market

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One of the best things about winter farmers’ markets is its capacity to instantly cheer you up.  While the weather outside is dreadful, dreary, and depressing, everything at the market is alive with freshness, vibrant colour, and vitality.  Going to the market is such a healthy mood booster and it’s been so much fun integrating these visits into my life on a regular basis.  These visits rev up my inspiration, expand my knowledge of food, and make me that much more excited about writing and future blog posts.  Aside from my highly anticipated first trip to the Saturday morning market at Wychwood Barns earlier in the month, my farmers’ marketing has been pretty sparse since the new year and it’s only because of bad timing and lack of opportunity on my part.  I desparately wanted to go to another CSI Lunchtime market, so I made my way over recently to snap some new photos and to scope out the tasty goods!  My last visit to the CSI (Centre for Social Innovation) Lunchtime Market was actually before the Christmas holidays so this post-new year trip was long overdue!

To my delight, there were market vendors at the Spadina market that day that I had never seen before at CSI!  In addition to ChocoSol and Monforte Dairy, Luscious Dips and Toronto’s very own sustainable fish and seafood shop and educational space, Hooked, were there to bring fresh, organic, local, and sustainable food to the table.  THIS is what gets me excited!  Being introduced to new, local businesses and learning about growing food enterprises right here in our city makes me feel like the world is at my fingertips without ever having to leave town.      

What you see here is lunch, courtesy of Jesse’s Luscious Dips and Sara’s Nice Buns!  These are giant “bowls” of red cabbage leaves with cucumber and carrot slices, wedges of Sara’s famous homemade fougasse bread, and generous dollops of Jesse’s homemade vegetable and hummus dips.  Luscious Dips are bright, super colourful spreads and dips that are vegetarian and vegan, and perfect for pitas, chips, crostini, sandwiches, vegetables, crackers, and everything else you could possibly enjoy eating with dip!  I LOVE dips, spreads, and sauces (I mop up sour cream, tzatziki, hummus, and bean spreads like there’s no tomorrow!) so this is right up my alley!  Jesse has previously sold her homemade, vegetarian delights at Leslieville’s farmers’ market and I finally saw her at the CSI during this visit.

Luscious Dips come in reusable containers for $5 each and by golly is there ever a lot of dip in each container!  When I went to the new Maple Leaf Garden Loblaws last weekend with my family, my mum and I picked up a little container of butternut squash and caramelized onion dip along with an arugula pesto.  We only requested half a small container of each and that lasted us for days, so I can only imagine how far the Luscious Dips would go.  At the CSI market, Jesse had two flavours of dip on hand for sale: a bright, fuschia beet dip and a gorgeous sunny yellow, Indian-inspired garam masala spaghetti squash hummus.   

The beet dip was comprised of beets, navy beans, lemon juice, tahini, garlic, sunflower oil, cumin, cayenne, salt, and lemon zest, while the garam masala spaghetti squash hummus was made with roasted spaghetti squash, navy beans, lemon juice, sunflower oil, garlic, garam masala, tumeric, cayenne, and kosher salt.  There were samples of each with slices of cucumber and corn chips for dipping on a wooden serving platter and the whole set-up with the edible hummus bowls was just absolutely gorgeous.  It looked like a beautiful painting with the colours and smooth textures.  You could totally put Luscious Dips into little bowls and make a makeshift food artist’s palette at your next dinner party.  There’s an idea!

The whole premise behind the CSI Lunchtime markets is fresh, healthy, local convenience and that means offering food for lunch that can be enjoyed on the go or in the office setting and environment with no prepartion whatsoever – forget the office microwave!  Furthermore, staying true to the “innovative” aspect is the name of the game at the CSI.  When we think about our food, we can’t just think about it as an isolated entity.  We ultimately have to reflect on our environment, our cooking methods, and our health when we consider questions such as, “how can we minimize damage to the environment?  How can we increase the longevity of our lives in a positive way?  How do my decisions and overall lifestyle influence local foodsystems and vice versa?”  One of the ways businesses strive to be environmentally innovated is to offer products that produce less waste.  LUSH has been doing this for years with their solid shampoos and other products by using less or no packaging at all.  At Luscious Dips, enter the edible bowl!  No paper plates, no styrofoam boxes, not even a utensil!  Colourful, healthy finger food at its finest. 

Finally, I met Kristin of Toronto’s sustainable fish shop, Hooked, for the first time and being a seafood lover, this bodes well for me!  Hooked is a fish store located in Leslieville on Queen Street East that offers fresh, local, sustainble fish and seafood and exciting, educational classes and workshops.  In addition, their shop offers a teaching kitchen, experience, knowledgeable culinary staff that know their craft and are happy and willing to answer questions and explain cooking methods, cleaning methods, and other seafood related concerns and issues.  The shop not only sells fresh catch, but the shop also supplies a selection of cookware to handle the delicacy of fish and seafood.  Kristin, her husband, and the staff at Hooked are completely devoted to the Slow Food movement and believe that the food we eat needs to be handled with care and with the utmost respect, which means buying directly from producers, knowing and developing genuine relationships with the fisherman who catch the fish, knowing exactly when and where the fish were caught, and making sure quality control is maintained at all times. 

In a nutshell, the Slow Food movement is a grassroots movement concerned with moving away from the corporate, fast food model and counteracting the erosion of local, long-standing food tradtions by emphasizing traditional cooking methods, accessibility to fresh and healthy food, and food knowledge.  Hooked is committed to these values and I am so excited to visit their shop on Queen East sometime to learn more!  I’m really happy that I was able to come the CSI market again, especially since it won’t be around for much longer.  Rumour has it that next week will be the last of the bunch before the Lunchtime office markets make their way to ING Direct on Thursday, March 1st!     

   

 

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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-1:30pm.  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.