Dining Al Fresco – Mushroom Quesadillas, Grilled Cheese, Pies, & Sweets at the Soft Choice Office Market!

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After nearly two months satiating the appetites of office workers and hungry, dedicted foodies, I finally made it out to the Toronto Lunchtime Office Market at the Soft Choice building in Liberty Village!  Yesterday was one of the most glorious, beautiful days so far this year and after missing out on so many great Soft Choice lunchtime markets since its launch back in April, I wasn’t about to pass up the golden opportunity to catch some sunshine and mouthwatering eats.  I had such a fun time snapping photos of the gorgeous outdoor courtyard behind the building where the food market was being held, eating fantastic food, and enjoying a hidden gem of a space for the very first time.  

I couldn’t believe how amazing this outdoor courtyard was.  I was floored.  I felt like I was walking into some secret paradise, separated from the rest of the world and surrounded by food!  The courtyard is beautiful and I’ll be the first to admit that I was completely taken aback by it.  We’re talking about Liberty Village here, an up and coming neighbourhood that continues to grow and thrive as a community, but still very much industrial.  The courtyard is lovely and peaceful, perfect for an outdoor lunch and party and just as perfect for some quiet reading in the shade.  All I could think of was, “boy, this place would look like something out of a fairy tale with some lit up lanterns and tea lights at night!”  Beautiful brick walls surround the space, making it very private and cozy and while much of the space is “open concept”, there are pockets here and there that make the space fun to weave in and out of – it is so much more than just a slab of concrete!

In attendance at the food market: Sara’s Nice Buns (fresh baked bread, buns, and sweet baked goods), The Nut Bakery (gluten-free nut cookies and granola bars), Cookie Martinez (sweets and fruity thirst quenchers), Yorktown Pie Company, Cheesewerks grilled cheese and artisan food shop, and finally, in association with ChocoSol, Gabriela’s Maizal fresh corn tortillas and quesadillas! 

First, let’s do a rundown of some of the baked goods on site.  Sara had her famous herb and onion fougasse on hand as well as her tasty cacao sourdough, white loaf, herb focaccia, and giant apple cinnamon buns; The Nut Bakery with tons of gluten-free samples and cookie jars filled with pecan walnut chocolate macaroons, dark chocolate nut chunk, almond almond, and chocolate pecan macadamia brownie cookies, among others; Cookie Martinez with giant chocolate an dulche de leche brownies and refreshing blended fruit juice made with passionfruit and local Ontario strawberries; and Yorktown Pies with a truckload of sweet and savoury pies including their collard greens and mushroom, chili beef, chicken, apple sour cream, and plenty of turnovers and flaky tarts.

Cheesewerks was firing up their grill with their special Charleston (brie cheese, caramelized onions, and apricot chutney on walnut raisin) and Beijing (asiago cheese, BBQ pork, hoisin sauce, and slivered green onions) grilled cheese varieties hot, buttered, and gooey right off the grill with a selection of cheeses and condiments on hand to purchase and take home.  Finally, Gabriela’s tortilla project gone full-blown quesadilla cafe (her new cafe, Maizal, is now open for business at 133 Jefferson Ave. in Liberty Village!) was bursting with fresh ground corn quesadillas stuffed with mushrooms, spicy guacamole, mashed black beans, shredded, stringy, mouthwatering and to-die-for Oaxaca cheese, and more.             

After picking up a coconut butter tart from Yorktown Pies and inhaling savouring one of Gabriela’s best-in-the-city, fresh ground corn mushroom quesadillas for lunch (and I mean FRESH – her and her team ground the corn in the morning!), I couldn’t have asked for a better way to spend my lunch time.  I grabbed a copy of Maizal’s menu and I can’t wait to visit her quesadilla cafe and report back to you all with more goods.  It was so exciting for me to finally get to come to this office market (and of course, eat!) and soak in the atmosphere, great company, and beautiful space on such a picture-perfect day.

*****

The Office Markets currently serve 2 locations in Toronto: CSI Annex at 720 Bathurst Street (just south of Bloor Street) on Tuesdays from 11:30am-1:30pm, and Soft Choice IT Soultions at 173 Dufferin Street (south of King Street) in Liberty Village on Wednesdays from 11:30am-1:30pm.  The outdoor local food market is held behind the Soft Choice office in the beautiful outdoor courtyard with patio tables, chairs, and umbrellas.  Perfect for enjoying that lunch in the warm sunshine (or shade) and fresh air!

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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.