The Makings of a Summer Vegetable Garden Party – An August Sunday at the Leslieville Farmers’ Market

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Cool evening breezes, trips up north to the cottage and the lake, picnics in the park, garden parties, and dining outdoors with the sun softly setting in the sunset – at its best, this is what summer is all about.  These photos from Leslieville Farmers’ Market were entirely inspired by my latest issue of Vegetarian Times magazine (with huge thanks to my best friend for gifting me a subscription!) and their story on garden fresh vegetables and beautiful garden party and patio dining.  I know I’ve been whimpering about the sweltering heat all summer, but deep down, I do have a soft spot in my heart for summer evenings and delicious meals shared with family and friends outside with just a hint of nip in the air.  The magazine story, titled “Summer’s Last Hurrah”, has such a relaxing, whimsical, bohemian feel to it and it’s the type of meal that I can only dream of having and hosting until the day I have my own home in the future: grilled stuffed peppers with fresh soft cheeses and corn, grilled crostini with rosemary olive oil, and heirloom tomato salad. 

While my appetite seems to sing when spring and fall seasonal cuisine rolls around every year, summer vegetables are my favourite and it’s incredible how lush and delicious some of our crop has turned out this year despite the bad weather and yields that were, and are, well below average.  I have had some of the best corn this summer and I’ve heard from others (because I’m allergic and can’t actually eat raw ones myself) that the peaches this time around are to die-for.  Sometimes you go to the market with an idea of what you want to find and bring home and other times, like this, the market does the planning for you, giving you all the inspiration you need to make a week’s worth of fresh, healthy meals with things like radishes, yams, potatoes, carrots, tofu, summer squash, and more. 

The market was so incredibly busy on this particular day with lineups left and right at many of the hot food vendors  (my boyfriend and I even joined in on the fun, grabbing some sizzling tofu and mushroom rollups from Ying Ying Gourmet Soy Foods that tasted absolutely amazing!) and tiny tots shouting at the tops of their lungs professing their love for popsicles (read: Augie’s Gourmet Ice Pops).  My favourites from this particular August visit: big and bright golden yellow cauliflower; vibrant, round purple Japanese eggplants (I found out they’re a variety called kamonasu!*); lobster mushrooms from Forbes Wild Foods; and a rainbow of tomatoes and baby garlic carrots from the Greenhouse Eatery!

Market vendors and farmers’, for the most part, have been incredibly friendly to me whilst watching me tote my camera around their wares, but there’s always someone who stands out from the bunch with a witty quip or just all-around great conversation.  The nice ladies of the Greenhouse Eatery made me smile and giggle a little after I asked if it would be okay if I snapped a few shots of their beautiful and colourful produce, to which they replied, “Ooo, can we make it look pretty first??” as they started rearranging tomatoes and carrots for me for prettier angles and shot.  I thought that was so cute and sweet.  And it’s a good thing I came to their table when I did because soon enough, a crowd had gathered behind and around me and arms were reaching from all over place grabbing every last bunch of carrots.  No joke.  There were two gentlemen who were jokingly fighting over the carrot bunches as they each wanted the entire table’s worth!  Foodies or not, nothing comes between a person and their delicious food or in this case, market produce!

 

*****

* Source = Just Hungry

Leslieville Farmers’ Market is located at Jonathan Ashbridge Park on Queen Street East and Woodward Ave.  Jonathan Ashbridge Park is located in between Greenwood and Coxwell Ave., and can be accessed via public transit by way of the Queen Street 501 streetcar.  The market is new to the lineup of Toronto markets this year and is held every Sunday from 9am-2pm.  The last market of the year is on October 28, 2012.  Visit their website to sign up to their newsletter, to get involved, and to learn more.

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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.    

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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.

Heirloom Tomatoes, Cherries, & Fresh Homemade Fruit Jams – The Summer Farmers’ Market at Liberty Village!

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The farmers’ market trek goes west this week with a visit to the Liberty Village farmers’ market!  It’s been months since my last visit (we’re talking last fall with pumpkins and cranapples!) and since I gave the east end some love last week with fresh summery posts on the Leslieville farmers’ market, brunch, sweets, and drinks at Hammersmith’s in Riverdale, and sweet tooth treasures at Sweet Bliss Baking Company, it was time to mosey on over in the other direction.  This week we welcome some fresh faces to the lineup from the west side of the tracks including goodies from Parkdale and The Junction.

First up: the Sunday summer market in Liberty Village!  What a difference a year makes.  Liberty Village continues to grow and thrive as a community and as a dining destination with new additions to the neighbourhood including the Softchoice Lunchtime Office Market on Wednesdays and the brand spankin’ new quesadilla cafe, Maizal, on Jefferson Ave. serving fresh corn tortillas, quesadillas, and weekend brunch.  This growth is also apparent in their farmers’ market.  Even though the market itself hasn’t grown larger physically, I felt like there was more to see this time around and I had myself an absolute ball snatching up some goodes and snapping photos!  Along with gorgeous, vibrant heirloom tomatoes, zucchini flowers, carrots, and peppers, the market was bursting with fresh farm fruit: cherries, cantaloupe/musk melon, apples, raspberries, strawberries, baby golden plums, and peaches were all on hand and ripe for the pickin’.

Up and at ’em on a Sunday morning!

And effectively, Liberty Village gave me a very delicious out and solution to my raw fruit allergy problem: fresh homemade fruit jam!  Cue me squealing like a 4-year-old!  I love jams and this is the first maket I’ve been to that has had a spread like this.  There were tables set up in a ‘U’ shape and each table carried one type of fruit with a corresponding display of homemade fruit jam and dish of bread and jam samples.  A cluster of raspberry jam jars were surrounded by a moat of raspberry pints, the strawberries with strawberry jam, and the baskets of peaches with bright, juicy peach jam.  It was so pretty to look at and even tastier to eat!  In addition to fruit and jam, there were tarts and shortbread cookies made with jam and jars of pickled vegetables including pickled beets.  I picked up a jar of pickled beets ($3) for my mum (she loves beets the way I love cookes), a jar of the most delicious peach jam ($5), and a sweet shortbread cookie sandwich ($1.75) with a star cutout in the center revealing juicy raspberry jam inside.

I am dying to make peanut butter and jelly cookie sandwiches and this peach jam would be perfect for them, along with the jar of apricot jam sitting pretty in my pantry.  Oh!  And thumbprint cookies!  And accompaniments to pound cake!  All the jams and jellies I’ve come across during market visits have been so yummy and amazing (like the mango chutney at the North York market at Mel Lastman Square) and I only wish I could have some of everything without creating a pantry avalanche in the kitchen.  I’m really happy with my little market purchases though and I’m glad I came back to the Libery Village to see how far its come and how much its grown.

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The Liberty Village farmers’ market takes place every Sunday from 9am-2pm in the Green P parking lot on East Liberty Street between Atlantic and Hanna Ave.  Liberty Village can be accessed from King Street West and Dufferin Street.  You can view Ate by Ate’s very first Liberty Village farmers’ market post HERE.

Sizzling Summer Markets – Summer Squash, Peas, Scallions, and More at the Leslieville Farmers’ Market

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Another summer weekend means another weekend market!  Between Evergreen Brick Works, The Stop at Wychwood Barns, the Junction market, and Liberty Village, there’s plenty of weekend market love to go around.  It’s been a little over a year since I started going to markets on a regular basis and it’s been amazing seeing how they transform between seasons and have they grow and evolve over time.  There are some markets I’ve only ever been to during the summer and some only during the winter so it’s a lot of fun seeing the differences and taking advantage of all the different food that comes along with these changes. 

In addition to visiting markets and seeing in seasonal lights, that are also a handful that I have yet to visit in general.  I have a list of Saturday and Sunday markets that I haven’t been to that I’m itching to scratch off including Withrow Park and most of the markets in Markham and York Region!  I know, I know – I live in Markham!  It was always easier for me to get around in Toronto though because of the day passes so that’s what I often opted for, but I have a strange way of getting around to things so I know I’ll get to them eventually.

For this particular market excursion, I made my way back to Leslieville!  I love the Riverside, Riverdale, Leslieville, and Beaches neighbourhoods along Queen East so planning  a trip to the Leslieville market is like planning an entire day trip because there’s so much to see and do!  It’s been months since my last visit – almost a year, actually, back in September when Jonathan Ashbridge Park was awash with fall colours and the air was chilly and crisp.  Not so much this time!  It was piping hot out, kiddies were running around screaming in the splash pool, and the market was busy and bustling with market goers and park enjoyers despite the sweltering heat.  It was so nice seeing the market so alive with activity.  Augie’s Gourmet Ice Pops had completely sold out (and for good reason!), Hooked Inc. was on site grilling up fish tacos in fresh corn tortillas, and people were snatching up summer vegetables like they were nuggets of gold.    

Even though I’m a self-proclaimed summer wuss, I’m so happy I sucked it up and made the effort to go.  Every season has its own unique beauty and personality and both are evidently manifested and embodied at the market: in the environment, in the atmosphere, and of course, in the gorgeous fruits, vegetables, and bounty of food.  There were mountains of scallions in vibrant greens and purples, beets in shades of plum and bright pink, baskets of beautiful green beans, snow peas, cabbage, and baby Shanghai bok choy, adorable yellow patty pan squashes, crusty baguettes, summer sauces, spreads, and salsas, sweet potato donut holes from LPK Culinary Groove, vegetarian and vegan Indian food from Tiffinday, fresh farm cheese, and spring roll wraps, nut burgers, macaroons, and pesto spreads from my beloved market favourite, Earth & City

My brother and I love condiments, spreads, and sauces (we go through hummus, spicy mustard, and tzatziki like crazy) so I always pay attention to the jarred goodies at the market.  They’re great for sandwiches, vegetables, and things like chicken tenders, sausages, and samosas so we always have a few rotating in our fridge.  I snatched up a sundried tomato pesto spread from Earth & City ($5) this time around, but trust that I’ll give in and take home some chutneys, salsas, and other yummies the next time around! 

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Leslieville Farmers’ Market is located at Jonathan Ashbridge Park on Queen Street East and Woodward Ave.  Jonathan Ashbridge Park is located in between Greenwood and Coxwell Ave., and can be accessed via public transit by way of the Queen Street 501 streetcar.  The market is new to the lineup of Toronto markets this year and is held every Sunday from 9am-2pm.  The last market of the year is on October 28, 2012.  Visit their website to sign up to their newsletter, to get involved, and to learn more.