Mexican Culinary Delights, Fresh Vegetables, & a Dumpling Bonanza – Día de los Muertos, “Day of the Dead” at Evergreen Brick Works!

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Yesterday was such a terrific day.  Despite the cold, I was out and about soaking in the crisp air, buying food to bring home, enjoying fall comfort food for lunch and at the farmers’ market, drinking tea, taking photos, and taking part in my very first Día de los Muertos, “Day of the Dead” Mexican festival at Evergreen Brick Works!  When I found out about the festival from their monthly calendar, I was so excited.  Mexican food and festivities in addition to the Saturday morning farmer’s market?!  What a goldmine.  And I’m so happy I went because I now have a much better understanding of the holiday’s cultural significance and the philosophy that grounds it.

In a nutshell, Día de los Muertos is a traditional Mexican holiday (also observed by many other cultures around the world) that brings family and friends together to honour those who have died with food and celebration.  While death is often perceived as something negative (understandably so!), Día de los Muertos is about memorializing the lives of those who have passed by praying and remembering them, visiting their graves, and creating settings (ofrendas and altars as they’re often referred to) with their favourite food and drink, spiritually connecting to those who have died and celebrating their life and honouring their memory during this ceremonious occasion.  Instead of fearing death and mortality, the day is about embracing the life cycle and setting aside some time to reflect.  We know all experiences are contextual, but generally speaking, this is the way in which Day of the Dead aims to shed positive light on an otherwise upsetting part of life.

There was a beautiful altar set up with a bright pink fuchsia tablecloth covered in a sea of corn, vegetables, and chocolate and surrounded by candles and Day of the Dead skeletons with chalkboard explaining the festival’s cultural significance.  Even though I didn’t stay long enough to see and taste the goods from the tamales competition, I did get to see ChocoSol’s cacao and coffee bike grinder (a bike that harnesses the energy from pedaling to grind raw cacao which is then used for coffee and Mexican drinking chocolate!), LPK Culinary’s Groove’s booth of vegan tarts, cakes, cookies and cupcakes decked out in “Day of the Dead” decor (check out the sugar skull tablecloth!), seeing vendors adorned with “Day of the Dead” skull makeup, and seeing the Mexican food get fired up in all its fresh tortilla, tostada, and churro glory among many other culinary delights!

And of course, we can’t forget about the farmers’ market.  Oh my goodness was it ever busy!  I actually had to line up for my kale!  I was sampling cheese and sausage, admiring the beautiful rainbow colours of swiss chard, and snatching up vegetables and baked goods to enjoy over the weekend.  I brought home so much great food: 2 giant bunches of beautiful kale (kale has pretty much become a farmers’ market staple for me – can’t leave one without any!), pea shoots, fresh radicchio and bitter salad greens, spinach, and lots of scones including cheddar and black pepper, and wild blueberry ones from St. John’s Bakery, and a white cheddar cranberry from Alli’s Bread.  They are fantastic off the grill and so yummy with a bit of butter or jam, or even plain.

The pea shoots, salad greens, and spinach were all from Grassroot Organics and they are so, so good.  They have these giant bins where you grab as much as you like and then you simply pay by weight.  It’s so easy to go crazy and spend more than you anticipated but I’m telling you, these vegetables are absolutely gorgeous and their freshness factor is just off the chart.  My family and I mixed all three together to make a big salad for lunch today and I would go back for more in a heartbeat.  I don’t have the name of the farmer and vendor who I bought my kale from but I promise I’ll get it the next time I’m there.  That I had for dinner tonight and my leftovers are happily waiting for me in the fridge ready to be eaten for lunch tomorrow!

One thing in particular that I have head-over-heels fallen in love with is My Little Dumplings, a local business that churns out amazingly delicious dumplings along with soups and other yummies using seasonal, local ingredients to create a fusion of global, ethnic flavours!  Owner and chef, Bashir Munye (pictured), was cooking up cauliflower soup with fresh garlic, chicken dumplings, and edamame falafel dumplings, all served with this delicious spicy dipping sauce (3 for $5 or 6 for $9).  Yes, edamame falafel.  Edamame beans ground into the texture of falafel and then fried crispy in dumplings.  With spicy sauce.  And utterly scrumptious.  OH.MY.GOD.  I should have had 6.  Heck, I should have had 20 and taken some home.  I have NEVER had anything like it before.  And I’ve had many dumplings in my time!

I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE dumplings and I’m so happy Bashir has created this business devoted to them.  And what he says on his My Little Dumplings website is very true: “no matter what culinary culture you come from, there’s probably a dumpling in your background.  A folded littel morsel of comforting goodness.”  There’s chicken and dumplings.  Italian gnocchi.  Wontons.  The list goes on.  Different ingredients, different execution and interpretation, but all with a common characteristic: folded pockets of deliciousness and comfort.  And I will be so happy to come back for more!  And next time, I’m not just having three.  I’m having eleventy billion.  Or maybe 12.  Baby steps and all.

Oh, and did I mention that it wasn’t raining yesterday, finally?  It wasn’t raining.  It was one of the happiest days ever.

*****

Evergreen Brick Works is located at 550 Bayview Ave.  The farmers’ market takes place year-round every Saturday from 8am-1pm during the summer and fall months (May to November) and from 9am-1pm during the winter months (November to April).  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.

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A Day of Kale & Lettuce – Leafy Greens, Jarred Sauces, and Fall Pastries & Vegetables at Wychwood Barns

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My arms are killing me, especially my left one.  When I woke up this morning, I could have sworn I slept on it funny.  Why else would it feel so sore?  Then it dawned on me: my arms were sore from carrying bags of market vegetables and groceries all around town yesterday!  Up, down, and all around I went, lugging bags of fresh beautiful green curly kale, red kale, leafy romaine lettuce, red leaf lettuce, and a delicious fall inspired apple-cranberry crumble pie from Yorktown Pie Company.  And leftover beet risotto from my beloved Mela Cafe.  And a giant loaf of honey wheat bread from Panera Bread.  Oh, and some macarons.  Needless to say, I was out like a light on the subway and bus ride back home!

Part of me really, really wanted to take it easy this weekend.  As in, stay at home, watch tv, and catch up on sleep.  Then the blogging workaholic in me shook her head and tsked.  There were so many things I wanted to do.  I wanted to grab some vegetables to take home.  I wanted to pay a visit to the market at Wychwood Barns during the fall season, something I had never done before.  And I wanted some warm fall comfort food, a nice walk outside, and some more macarons, even if I meant I’d have to get up at 6:30 in the morning to started on my day.  So to the market I went!  And even though I was one very sleepy girl when I came home (I was dozing in front of my laptop as I was editing photos!), I was real happy I pushed myself to go out because I had so much fun yesterday, bulging grocery bags and all!

Wychwood Barns was hopping with market goers, not to mention folks who were there to check out the Pottery Glass show happening inside!  Despite the chilly weather (scarf and mitten weather for me), everyone was in good spirits, snatching up vegetables like there was no tomorrow.  I couldn’t believe all the great stuff I picked up.  My family and I gobbled up all of our romaine and red leaf lettuce today for both lunch and dinner, and my beautiful leafy kale is waiting to be sauteed with garlic and olive oil for tomorrow’s dinner.  The markets are just amazing and I love knowing that everyone in my family is enjoying the goodies I bring home every week.

This week at the market I noticed an abundance of leafy greens, Chinese vegetables, snow peas, radishes, jarred sauces and condiments (pesto and mustard, yum!), and seasonal fall fruit and veggie pastries and baked goods.  It was my first time buying red kale and I’m so excited to have it for dinner tomorrow!  It wasn’t until my visit to Crème Fraîche last month during Samsara Fields’ pop-up market that I realized just how many different types of kale there were, so it’s been great learning about and seeing (and obviously eating!) all the different kinds.  So far we’ve just sauteed it and had it with rice, but I’d love to try making kale chips sometime because so many rave about it.  That, and mixing it in with pasta.  YUM!

Yesterday was also the Junction market’s last day of the year and season and while I really wanted to be there to see their last one, I just couldn’t go out that far west.  It wasn’t practical given how the other things I wanted to do kept me closer to midtown and the downtown core.  I’m so sad that I won’t have that market to go to anymore until next year, providing they come back for their sophomore year, which I really hope they do!  Lucky for me, Wychwood, Evergreen Brick Works, and Crème Fraîche Market Cafe operate year round and I still have a few more weeks to squeak out a visit to other weekend markets such as Liberty Village, Leslieville, Withrow, Weston, and Montgomery Inn.  Some of them are a little far for me to get to, but hey, I always make my market visits worthwhile so we’ll see!

*****

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

Sampling Cheese, Picking Up Dips & Cornbread, and Seeing Beautiful Food – Summer at Evergreen Brick Works

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Going to Evergreen Brick Works always feels like a special day trip right here in the city.  It’s like a little oasis, combining urban and grassroots with its nature trails, scenic gardens, and historic industrial heritage.  Evergreen Brick Works is a thriving hubbub of activity with so much more than just their Saturday morning farmers’ market to offer.  There are site tours, outdoor fitness activities, gardening and cooking workshops, programs and camps for children, film screenings, family pizza nights, tastings, beer and brewery gardens, a Sunday morning antique market, local food festivals, a lovely cafe and farm-to-table restaurant, a portion of the area dedicated to cycling and hiking with workshops and community events, expos and installations (they’re currently promoting their MOVE: Transportation Expo and let me tell you, it is fantastic!), and of course, the venue and host of some of the city’s most popular food events such as Toronto Underground Market and most recently, Lobster Love. 

My latest visit was my first since Earth Day in April and my first during the summer months in general!  I had never been to the Brick Works in the summer before so I was itching to visit the beautiful and gigantic outdoor market to pick up some delicious food, in addition to checking out the MOVE expo, eating at Cafe Belong (you knew a blog post on Cafe Belong would come eventually!), and walking around the grounds a little bit on a warm summer morning.  It was wonderful.  I was there bright and early, just before it got too hot and being there felt so nice and invigorating.  The farmers’ market was already crawling with a large crowd of people and it was so exciting to see the market in its summer form. 

I drooled over the fresh corn tortillas by Maizal, nibbled on one very delicious pork sausage and cheese roll that my boyfriend had bought (piggy in a cheese blanket!), sampled some amazing cheeses, and picked up some corn bread, two spreads and dips by Mad Mexican (a turtle black bean and jalapeno dip and a roasted tomatillo and avocado salsa!), and a beautiful and delicous fresh fruit tart with kiwi, candied oranges, and tiny bright red gooseberries!  Gooseberries aren’t something you see very often on baked goods and pastries and they were so sweet and cute dangling from their stem, all chubby-like in their cluster.  I wanted to share with you all some of my favourite photos from the market that morning and some of the things I loved the most including garlic scape pesto, gorgeous heirloom and yellow tomatoes, bright and colourful swiss chard stems, pints of blueberries and tomatillo peppers, “rainbow” green, yellow, and purple wax beans (these beans make for fabulous salads!), and lots of cheese!

I also love, love, LOVE that a whole section of the market is dedicated to prepared food.  It makes it so much to fun to eat and grocery shop at the same time!  On hand in the EBW market “food court” were LPK with their vegan baked goods, Chocosol, Mad Mexican chips, salsas, and dips along with Maizal corn tortillas, crepes, grilled cheese and scrambled egg sandwiches, cupcakes, salad plates, scones, waffles, and so much more.  One of these days I will do a market “food court” post and get a bunch of different things to show you all!  This visit was probably my most favourite out of all my trips and it was so much fun seeing Evergreen in all its summer glory.    

*****

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.

The Great Outdoors – Sweet Gardens, Green Space, and Food at the The Stop’s Outdoor Market, Wychwood Barns

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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

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.

*****

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

It’s Beginning to Feel a Lot Like Summer – The Almost-Outdoor Farmers’ Market at Wychwood Barns, Part I

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Happy Food Revolution Day, and Victoria and Memorial Day long weekend everyone!  I know it’s been a bit quieter here over the last few days and that’s only because I’ve been working on SO MANY things for the blog for the upcoming month and season!  I have huge and exciting news to share with you all soon (I can barely contain myself, but I have to wait just a little bit longer to tell you all about it) and there are a number of things I’ll be doling out over the next month including the June Food Calendar, the June Markets, and two new series that are in the works: the patio dining series and the vegan brunch series!  I’m working away at the Cookie & Baking Scrapbook Project and I’m also hard at work gathering up news and update goodies for the next installment of the Cupcake Connection.  I’m crazy busy, but I wouldn’t want it any other way.  

Not only are things heating up here, but the weather is starting to get mighty fiery as well and that definitely makes for some very eventful outdoor farmers’ marketing!  I went to the market at Wychwood Barns again today and I can honestly say that since I started going back in February, today’s was the best its ever been.  I cannot wait to share my huge write-up with you all tomorrow featuring pies, hummus, sweets, and some very adorable and delicious sushi (yes, that’s right, CUTE sushi!), so enjoy the market veggies photos that were taken today – it doesn’t get any fresher than that! 

*****

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

Root Vegetables, Cheeses, Pot Pies, Chocolate & More! The Farmers’ Market at Wychwood Barns, Part I

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After months and months of farmers’ market visits, I have finally made my way to Wychwood Barns for The Stop Community Food Centre Farmers’ Market!  I’ve been looking forward to my first Wychwood farmers’ market visit for so long, especially after I mixed up the market times the first time I tried to go last summer and ended up showing up after the party!  For whatever reason, I mixed up the times and thought the market went on until 4pm when it actually went on until 12 noon.  I learned from my mistake and knew better this time.  I knew the market would be amazing given the size and scope and all the wonderful things I had heard from others; my going was only a matter of time.  I woke up at the crack of dawn, bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, ready to get an early start to my day.  Today was absolutely beautiful out and it was the perfect day to go to the market.  The air felt fresh and comfortable with just a tiny bit of nip in it. 
 
The market, held indoors in Artscape’s barn #2 on Wychwood Ave., is arranged in a rectangular shaped “O” offering everything from local Ontario winter squash, fruits, and root vegetables, fresh cheeses, pickled vegetables, loaves of bread and giant scones from city bakeries, meats and meat spreads, breakfast food, roti, vegan delights, savoury pot pies, chocolate, and so much more.  Coming here felt simaltaneously brand new and familiar.  I was seeing the market in all its glory for the first time, and yet there I was excitedly saying hello to market vendors I had met over the summer and friends I had made along the way on this market journey.
 
 
 
 
Going to Wychwood today made me realize everything I had been missing out on and it made me appreciate the experience so much more.  I want to come here every Saturday now.  I want to integrate this market into my weekly schedule so I can take photos, buy vegetables, eat breakfast, eat pot pies and vegan food, and sneak in a sweet dessert here and there.  I think I could feasibly feed myself for an entire day here!  In hindsight I really should have picked up some kale to take home, but I didn’t leave the market empty-handed!  I ate some samples and took away two giant scones (one spinach and blue cheese and one orange and chocolate chip!) and a heavenly frosted brownie from Earth & City which I couldn’t wait to sink my teeth into.
 
 
I’m so happy to finally feature the Wychwood market on the blog and I have a ton of photos to post and so much to write about, so I’m making this into a 3-part Wychwood farmers’ market series: a post full of photos for today, a full write-up about The Stop Community Food Centre in conjunction with Artscape Wychwood Barns, and a delightful new vegan foodie post of Earth & City!