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!
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.