A Taste of Spring, A Taste of Summer – Farmers’ Market Season & Ate by Ate Are Back!

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Happy first day of June everyone!  While the season of beaches, sand, and endless sunshine doesn’t officially start until June 21, I think it’s safe to say that June 1st is the unofficial kick-off to the summer season and all the amazing things to come in the coming months.  We got over the May long weekend hump (which, ironically enough, is almost always chilly by our standards!), we’ve been peppered with a few days of muggy weather over the last week or so and now we’re fully immersed in the farmers’ market season!  A number of markets have made their return in May (including Leslieville, Trinity Bellwoods, Fresh Wednesdays at Nathan Phillips Square, East York, Metro Hall at David Pecaut Square just to name a handful) and a long list of others will be joining the market family for the season in June.  Given how I’ve been away for the last little while, I’m obviously behind on my market lists but rest assured, they’ll be up this week with updates and the like for markets in the Toronto and York Region area.

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I am so happy to be back and to put some things behind me.  I needed that time to completely annex myself from the blogging community and from most of the online world with the exception of checking e-mail (unfortunately, there was no running away from that one).  So far, 2014 has been…trying, to say the least.  Looking for work, dealing with winter, and making some revelations about people in and outside of the blogging community has not been fun.  At all.  It’s one thing to know when folks are trying to take advantage of you and giving your best one-two punch in return to stand up for yourself, but it’s a whole other can of worms when it becomes blatantly obvious that many will stoop to the level of scum to get what they want and have no issue pulling the rug out from under you when you’re not expecting it.  And let me be clear that while some of this applies to me, some of it does not.  Some of it is seeing it happen to others.  And it has sickened me.  Stealing content and ideas.  Taking credit where credit isn’t due.  Not being up front and playing people as fools.  Using someone to pimp them for information.  All without shame.

It’s been one hiccup after another and there were times during those low moments when I would think, “what is the goddamn point to all of this?  I’ll just stick to my own craft and scrapbook and not share ANYTHING of mine with anyone because people are freakin’ tools and be done with all of this garbage!”  And then my mum would remind me, “but your blog is your baby.  You gave ‘birth’ to it and you would never give it up.”

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And as much as I hate to admit it when my mother is right, she was right.  I’ve devoted 20 years of my life to a love of art and food; in spite of all that “garbage”, it didn’t make any sense to let any of this go.  It was so important to remind myself why I love doing what I do and the things that make me happiest.  Tune out the numbers game that folks try to play, tune out the one-upping, tune out the negativity and just be strong and focus on the pure love and passion for the craft.

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So while I haven’t blogged, I haven’t stopped photographing, I haven’t stopped exploring (well, except when it was unbearably cold), and I most certainly have not stopped eating!  I started going to the markets again and actually went two weekends in a row at the crack of dawn recently (hopped on a bus at 6:30am!) and shopped and photographed my brains out.  Simply because it made me happy.  The market at Wychwood Barns moved outdoors earlier in May which made for some beautiful shots and I was able to pick up a ridiculous amount of fresh food: gorgeous baby kale, beautiful arugula (if my memory serves me right, I bought 4 bags), amazing local cheese, black bean vegan burgers and navy bean parsley pesto from Earth & City and so much more.  Aside from cupcakeries, tea shops and afternoon tea, markets are truly my happy place because you can tell your story through photos alone.

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Cassandra from Earth & City really tugged at my heartstrings during one of those weekend visits when she introduced me to one of their newer hires: “Deb blogs and she was there with us during our first months years ago and we were so excited because, ahhh, press!”  And there it was right there, why any of this is meaningful.  Because not only can we quietly make a positive impact on others through what we do but along the way we make friends, meet good people that make us believe that the good has a shot at outweighing the bad, and we become special notes and memories in each others’ life stories.

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For all of Ate by Ate’s Wychwood Barns farmers’ market posts, click HERE

For all of Ate by Ate’s farmers’ market posts over the years (84 and counting!), click HERE

For all of Ate by Ate’s posts on vegan food producer Earth & City (and plenty of mouthwateing food porn), click HERE

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

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It’s a Beautiful Day in the Neighbourhood, It’s Beautiful Day for a Market – A Trip to Trinity Bellwoods!

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bellwoods collage2Last Tuesday was one of the most topsy-turvy days I’ve experienced all year.  I was taking a vacation day from work as a “me” day and I had my fun day all planned out: lots of yummy food, walking around town, a little bit of shopping, and oh, going to the amazing Taste of PEI and PEI Cooking Challenge event taking place at Mildred’s Temple Kitchen in Liberty Village and MEETING MICHAEL SMITH!  Holy shit on a stick.  Rest assured, you will all see and hear about it once I get my wits together and bang out those posts in the new few days!

But was last Tuesday ever a rollercoaster.  One minute I was in such happy conniptions I was ready to jump out of my skin, the next I wanted to cry because my head was pounding so hard from an oncoming migraine that couldn’t decide if it wanted to just call it a day and leave me alone once and for all or, well, kill me.  I could not believe my rotten luck.  SERIOUSLY.  On the day I was set to immerse myself in PEI cuisine and Michael Smith’s presence.  The sheer coincidence was worthy of an eye-roll and a few choice curse words at the very least.  It really shouldn’t have come as any surprise though.  The weather had been shit: it was cool and overcast, then drizzly, then back to overcast, then sunny and warm, then uncomfortably warm and it’s any wonder I made it through the entire day in one piece.

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Then as soon as I thought the dull pain in my head had subsided, my feet decided to revolt against me.  I mean, I know I was walking around town in Mary Janes but in my defense, they had nice rubber soles and were quite comfortable aside from the fact that the strap on my right shoe was strangling my right foot because my right foot is lame and is slightly bigger than my left.

Even after that, I made it out at the end of the day happy and excited and so full of joy.  And a part of that joy came from making a return visit to the farmers’ market at Trinity Bellwoods!  It was Tuesday, the event didn’t start until 4pm, the market started at 3pm, and I was only a hop, skip, and step away from Ossington which would take me straight into Liberty Village on bus.

IT WAS MEANT TO BE.

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I miss going to weekday markets SO MUCH.  Coming back to this one felt like home.  I snapped photos of beautiful asparagus, granola cookies, the pretty rainbow of colours in Evelyn’s Crackers’ packaging (my boyfriend is quite the fan of their stuff and I’d recommend their lavender shortbread!), the cutest of mushrooms and baked goods among other yummies.  Highlights?  Seeing Apple Mint being sold by Wooler Dale Farm (I didn’t know such a thing existed!), drooling over lemon ricotta croissants and apple, coconut, almond granola from Breadsong, snapping shots of the gorgeous yellow oyster mushrooms from The Mushroom Man from Waymac Farms (can you imagine how awesome these would look on a mixed mushroom pizza or flatbread?!  It’d be gorgeous and most likely delicious), and seeing the giant Trinity Bellwoods market banner strung over the fence by the kids playground in the park.

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Markets are so integral to our communities and woven so tightly into our communal fabric.  It’s a beautiful thing to see and an even more beautiful thing to be a part of regardless of what part of town the market is in or the size of it.  No matter how many times you go to the same market, there will always be something a little different to see, to try, and to explore.  Looking back at my Trinity Bellwoods market posts, with the exception of nice asparagus in the spring posts, nothing is exactly the same and that’s a good thing because while consistency is nice, it’s the new and the different that will keep things fresh and keep everyone engaged.  I’m happy I braved my head pain to make this visit and while I didn’t pick anything up to bring home this time around, I can’t wait to come back later on in the summer during my time off and really take advantage of the market groceries!

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The farmers’ market at Trinity Bellwoods Park is located at Dundas St. West and Shaw St. every Tuesday from 3pm-7pm.

Party the Summer Away – With Food! Upcoming August Food Festivals & Events

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Afternoon tea at Le Dolci!

Just a quick note to let everyone know that the August Food Calendar and all its family members are up and running with all barrels blazing!  I might as well have event listings come out of my ears!  EVERY single Food Calendar page has been updated right down to making a separate page for the Wine, Beer, and Spirits (which should make some of you veeery happy- no more sifting just to get to the good stuff, right?).  Summer may be officially half over, but you’d never be able to tell by looking at the calendar – there are SO MANY fabulous food events and festivals going on this month and I have a handful that I am extra excited about!  I’ll be updating this post with my monthly breakdown, cliff-notes version of the Food Calendar in the next day, highlighting all the amazing things going on this month, so hover over the Food Calendar link on the menu bar to get a taste of what’s to come!

*Updated August 1st!*

Blueberries at Evergreen Brick Works!

August is here so let’s get this food show on the road!  I can’t believe how many different types of food and cultural festivals are planned for this month, especially the ones celebrating Jamacian, Trindadian and Tobago, and Caribbean history, heritage, and culture, commemorating the 50th anniversary of national independence.  Just to give everyone an idea of the diversity of events we can look forward to in August, here are the specifics in alphabetical order: International Festival (Caribbean, Italian, Portuguese, Latin, and more), Island Soul (Caribbean), Jambana (Jamaican), JerkFest, Planet IndigenUS (Indigenous), Taiwanfest, Taste of Somalia, Taste of the Danforth (Greek), Toronto Mela (South Asian), and the Toronto Turkish Festival

Some people might think of festivals as gimmicky, but I personally love them because 1) who doesn’t love a street party?!, 2) food is ALWAYS involved in a cultural festival, and 3) it gives everyone from every ethnic background the opportunity to learn just a little bit more about an ethnic culture that isn’t their own.  Sure, this experience and knowledge may be bare-bones and superficial at first glance (you’re not going to learn everything there is to know from one festival!), but it’s about celebrating and that’s what matters.  I’m especially excited about the Turkish Festival and I’m hoping I can make it out to the event that day.  All events are listed in the Food Calendar, so check the listings for all the details if these spark your interest.

Stuff your face into some blueberry pie & other blueberry eats!

Aside from the plethora of cultural food festivals, there are quite a few things I’m highly anticipating this month!  First, the Wild Blueberry Festival at Evergreen Brick Works happening August 11 from 8am-3pm!  A day to celebrate and eat all things blueberries?  I’m in!  The Saturday morning farmers’ market will be swarming with special blueberry sweet and savoury goods from market vendors, there will be a blueberry pie bake-off, tasting contest in the Local Food Court (ballots for$2!) where you can vote for best use of star ingredient, sweet dish, savoury dish, and best-looking pie, a wild blueberry garden talk, and lots more!

The Urban Agriculture Summit is also happening this month from August 15 – 18 at Ryerson University which is fabulous for all those who are interested in issues such as food security and accessibility, urban growing, rooftop gardening and greenhouses, and more.  This is a HUUUGE conference with panels, seminars, workshops, tours around the city, keynotes, and special evening receptions.  I can’t even imagine what a wonderful educational opportunity this will turn out to be.  After organizing and hosting an academic conference in grad school with some friends and colleagues myself and gaining insight into what conferences are all about (and boy, did I ever!), it makes me feel all warm and fuzzy knowing how much people will take away from it, both academically and socially.

Now, let’s talk tea.  For those who love tea like me, there are two events that might be of interest to you because they sure are to me!  Le Dolci will be hosting their first ever Prêt-à-Portea – Afternoon Tea on August 26, complete with tea, scones, tea sandwiches, pastries, and beautifully, stylishly decorated haute couture sugar cookies!  On the other side of the pond (specifically, Markham!), the Varley Art Gallery on Main Street Unionville will be hosting a special tea tasting and seminar also on August 26 where participants will have the opportunity to taste different types of loose leaf tea and also engage in a seminar and talk about tea traditions, rituals, and more.

KRAFT Teddy Bears & Peanut Butter are coming to town – food truck style!

Finally, I am in absolute CONNIPTIONS over this next event I’m about to tell you all about: KRAFT Peanut Butter Food Truck Tour!  OH.MY.GOD.  The adorable KRAFT peanut butter teddy bears are touring across Canada in a snazzy green food truck (like the green of the Smooth Peanut Butter jar) and will be coming into town during the Scotiabank Buskerfest on August 25th!!  I am beyond excited!  In a nutshell, times are a changin’ and everyone is on the food truck bandwagon wanting and begging for more.  Shows like Eat St. on Food Network have only worked to make us crave more!  So, in accordance with current food trends, KRAFT will be humming into Toronto (one of  5 stops on their Canadian tour), offering peanut butter eats (peanut butter s’mores, peaut sauce noodles, peanut butter Belgain waffles, and more) AND two custom menu items and creations exclusive to each city sent in by PB fans!  Check out the official food truck tour site HERE for all the delicious details!

I’ll be adding more events to The Depanneur and Cooking Classes pages as I get them, and as usual, if there’s anything you would like me to add to the calendar, just give me leave me a note here.  With great events happening, both sweet and savoury, August will surely be one very delicious month!

Lime Mint Jelly, Bread Baskets, and Market Fruits – Between Seasons at Dufferin Grove Farmers’ Market

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Everyone has a running list of things they would hypothetically do if they won the lottery or had all the money in the world.  Actually, let’s not even say all the money in the world – just more than what you already have.  While one of my goals in life is to go on a cupcake shop tour across the country, the states, and the world, there is one other food-related thing I wish I could do, and that is to buy everything that strikes my fancy at every single farmers’ market I go to.  And I mean EVERYTHING. 

It’s a little embarrassing to admit this, but if money wasn’t a concern, I would and could have easily blown $30 at the newest and latest Lunchtime Office market I recently wrote about, at the ING Direct Cafe.  Some raw vegan food from Earth & City (vegan pizza and a raw brownie), a pie from Yorktown Pie Company, another edible veggie bowl and container of dip from Luscious Dips, some seafood from Hooked Inc. and some tortillas from ChocoSol.  Can I eat all of it at once?  Goodness, no.  I might be a food tank, but even I couldn’t down all of that in one go.  I would take half of it home.  But $30!  That is an absurd amount to even think about spending for lunch at one market.  But there it is.  If I didn’t have to watch my wallet or think about budgeting, I would bring the markets home with me.  There has never been one market I have been to where I didn’t want to leave with a wheelbarrow full of fresh bread, fruits and vegetables, and pantry items.      

I think these market visits have really challenged me to be creative with my meal-planning over the last year.  It’s easy to come to the false conclusion that going to the markets time and time again would yield the same foods and products during the same season, thus resulting in boredom.  After all, many of the same businesses and vendors are present each time.  Far from it is the way I see it.  My knowledge, tastebuds, and exposure to different food products have grown with these markets and in turn, many vendors have reciprocated by bringing new and creative things to the table each week for their customers and market-goers.  I find myself discovering new things every time and I get excited about things all over again. 

My last visit to Dufferin Grove was back in December before the holidays so I paid another visit to the indoor winter market recently to see what goodies I could get nice photographs of and – surprise, surprise – I left wanting half the market!  It’s so interesting to see how a farmers’ market evolves over the course of a year and watching it move along in transition between seasons.  You can tell that while the winter vegetables and comfort foods are still making its rounds, spring is waiting in the wings to break out full force.  Just look at the sunny lemons and oranges.  Spring is definitely going to be one very exciting season this year because I’ll get to see many of the markets that were hibernating over the winter come back and I’m looking forward to that.  My favourite discoveries this time around were the cornmeal sourdough bread loaves, the artisan pumpkin seed loaves, and – get this – lime mint jelly in a jar!  As of late, I have been on the biggest toast and _____ (insert some form of spread, dip, or condiment here) kick lately.  

I know that sounds kind of ho-hum (really, Deb?  Toast is your food adventure?), but it makes a world of difference when you start experimenting with different kinds of bread and spreads.  I’ve been having a field day with my peanut butter on Texas toast with almond milk, sesame seed bread with beet hummus, and 12-grain rye with garlic spread.  And now to find out there is such a thing as lime mint jelly?!  That makes me all sorts of excited.  I think it would taste fantastic with a turkey sandwich on some French bread.  Once I finish off my container of beet hummus (I actually bought the beet hummus for my mum, but I kind of polished off half the container myself, oops)  I just might pick up a jar.  Or maybe just another container of veggie hummus.  We’ll see.

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Dufferin Grove Park is located at the intersection of Dufferin St. and Bloor St. West.  The Dufferin Grove farmers’ market is held year-round at the northwest corner of the park every Thursday from 3pm-7pm.  For more info on the farmers’ market and its vendors, click here.