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.

Snatching Radishes and Ogling Quinoa Salads and Scones – The Farmers’ Market at Riverdale Farm!

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It was hot yesterday.  Disgustingly hot.  Face flaming, sweat dripping down from my forehead hot.  And yet there I was, walking to the Riverdale Farm farmers’ market yesterday afternoon from the Eaton Centre in the muggy, sticky, gross heat.  Granted, I was wearing my little bucket hat and the sun kept coming and going while I was walking, but when it’s muggy out, it sticks to you and makes you feel all sorts of bleh.  I told myself I would go though so I kept walking, keeping my eye on the prize, and breathing a huge sigh of relief when Riverdale Park’s towering trees came into view, wafting in a light breeze.  THANK GOODNESS FOR NATURE’S LEAFY GREENS! 

The farmers’ market was in full swing and while it wasn’t as big as the one I visited last summer, market goers were snatching up goodies left and right and carrying their wares in  tote bags as they surveyed their possible purchase.  And I mean snatching.  As I was taking photos of the radishes up top, I was literally surrounded on all sides by people buying bunch after bunch.  A few seconds after I took my shot, there were only 2 bunches left on the table.  I kid you not!  One bunch of radishes after another kept disappearing and I thanked my lucky stars I got there when I did because otherwise, I would have been staring at a few remaining scraggly roots. 

The Riverdale Farm farmers’ market just started their 2012 season last week (Tuesdays from 3pm-7pm) so I have no doubt that the market will expand and get a little larger over the course of the summer.  Despite the smaller size though, I still found myself wanting to pick up more than a few items to take home.  What can I say, I’m a shopaholic at heart and that clearly extends to food! 

I saw some familiar vendors and faces at the market yesterday, including St. John’s Bakery, La Fiesta Catering (who appear at both Fresh Wednesdays and Tasty Thursdays at Nathan Phillips Square with some of the meanest cornmeal mashed potatoes and pulled pork in the city!), LKP Culinary Groove, and Best Baa Dairy!  Best Baa Dairy was back with their huge assortment of cheese and goat’s milk ice cream, LPK Culinary Groove had their vegan cupcakes, cookies, cakes, and sweet potato donut holes on hand, La Fiesta Catering was firing up their grill with kabobs and succulent hot food delights, and St. John’s Bakery was dishing up the bread, cookies, and scones! 

I was so tempted to grab an ice cream and some of La Fiesta’s cornmeal mashed potatoes (and, I admit, a smidgen of their amazing pulled pork), but I convinced myself I’d come back for them another time and instead, snatched up two amazing scones from St. John’s Bakery.  At $2.50 a pop, their scones came in a varity of amazing flavours such as apple cinnamon, cranberry pumpkin seed, blueberry, and lemon currant among others.  This was the first time I had come across any of St. John’s Bakery’s scones and I was so excited!  Especially when I found out they had a lemon one.  I took home a lemon currant and a cranberry pumpkin seed and savoured them this morning with my brother.  We popped them in the microwave for 15 seconds and they were good to go.  They were so good!  They were pull apart soft and incredibly flavourful and I only wish I had thought to put some apricot jam because that would have been delightfully amazing.

Familiar faces aside, I also happened upon some new vendors at the market, one of them being Rob and Barry’s Vegan and Vegetarian Foods!  Rob and Barry’s business and cooking operations take place right here in Toronto in a commercial kitchen located in Kensington Market, and they’re hoping to open up a retail shop in the near future so they can further spread the vegetarian and vegan love!

For those of you who love taking advantage of vegetarian and vegan options, the Riverdale farmers’ market has welcomed a new vendor selling everything from veggie pasta and pizza, caponata (a Sicilian eggplant salad or dish typically associated with antipasti), quinoa black bean salad, quinoa mango salad, and quinoa chickpea salad!  Prices range from $3-$4 for salads (sold in reusable containers) and $4-$8 for the heftier items.  The food is perfect for take-away to take back home, for picnics, for lunch, or for an afternoon snack (yes, that’s right, I’d eat this as a snack.  I know how to pack it in) and it’s great knowing there’s another vegetarian and/or vegan option on hand for when you want something lighter.

I’m really looking forward to coming back later on in the summer, seeing the market grow, and hopefully, have myself a nice little picnic out on the park when it’s less gross out!  Muggy weather aside, I’m glad I came because I left with some wonderful scones, was reunited with some old food favourites, and was introduced to new food options for the next time around.

*****

The Riverdale Farm farmers’ market is located at 201 Winchester St. in Riverdale Park.  My way of getting here is to either walk along Carlton St. eastbound from Yonge St., or take the College St. streetcar eastbound to Parliament St. and Carlton.  From there, keep walking eastbound on Carlton until you get to Sumach St. and you’re there!  This year, the market is held every Tuesday from 3pm-7pm from May 22 to October 30.