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!    

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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.

The Market Is Here to Stay! Vegan Nori Rolls, Raw Pumpkin Tarts, Fresh Spring Roll Wraps and More at the CSI

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It’s official: the Lunchtime Office Markets at both Centre for Social Innovation locations are here to stay!  The office markets have been wildly successful with hungry workers and students, curious passerby, and dedicated market goers like yours truly!  What started out as a biweekly, fall market pilot project has now blossomed into a weekly extravaganza of fresh baked bread, organic and local produce, fresh farm cheeses, fair trade chocolate, and plenty of raw, vegan food lovingly made and sold by local businesses around the city and province.  I’ll be honest, I am absolutely ecstatic that the lunchtime markets are now a weekly occurrence –  twice a week no less!   

Back in October, I was hoping so much for the pilot to continue on well through the anticipated 4-week stint and for the market to become a weekly one as opposed to the biweekly one it started off as during its humble beginnings.  My wish was granted and my market-loving heart is so excited for the many future markets to come.  The market has plans to stay well into December but truthfully, I’m hoping for well into the new year 😉

Up until this point I had only purchased a few bits and bobs here and there including some bread from Nice Buns (I suggest you all try Sara’s cocoa sourdough and white bread buns) and St. Johns Bakery, as well as one of Earth & City‘s creamy coconut macaroons.  This time around though, I wanted a full out lunch and the spread didn’t disappoint!  I picked up a spring roll wrap, a vegan sushi/nori roll, and a pumpkin seasonal fruit tart, all from Earth & City‘s colourful and delicious selection of vegan food.  If you enjoy crunchy fruits and vegetables with a hint of sweetness, you need to try the spring roll wraps.  Made with apples, beets, carrots, red onions, walnuts, almonds, lemon juice, apple cider vinegar, honey dates, sesame oil, and ginger, they’re all wrapped in rice paper and fresh, raw collard greens and they are so incredibly packed with nutrition and texture and sweet flavour because you get a mixture of fruit, vegetables, protein, fibre, and all that good stuff.  You get that sweet and spikey bite from the beets and plenty of crunch from the vegetables.

Now, you’re probably wondering how in the world I managed to eat this spring roll wrap without blowing up like a blowfish because there’s raw apple in it!  There isn’t too much in it so I managed to avoid a major allergic reaction.  I think the worst I got was a tiny red welt on my lip which went away fairly quickly, but no swollen tongue and mouth, no fire in my throat, and no excruitiating pain.  I know I was taking a chance eating something with raw apple in it, but I wanted to try one so bad I threw caution to the wind and figured I could always pick the apple out if the pieces were too big or if the amount was too much to handle.  Sigh.  The things I do for food.

The pumpkin tart was so incredibly smooth and creamy and it was great because it wasn’t overladen with spice.  It tasted fresh and natural, the way it’s supposed to.  The base of Earth & City’s seasonal fruit dessert tarts are made with a raw mixture of organic rolled oats and honey dates and filled with whatever fruit is seasonal and fresh.  For the fall months, Cassandra and Lisa have been filling them with apples, pears, and pumpkin and come winter, they’ll be using storage apples and peach preserves canned during the late summer in August.  The base is chewy as opposed to crumby, cakey, or flaky, similar to a granola and honey mixture, only naturally sweeter because of the honey dates.  I have to tell you, I actually prefer this type of base because for whatever reason, tart crusts and pie crusts don’t work with my tastebuds.  There’s always this bitter, dry aftertaste that I really don’t care for, so this oat and honey date tart base works for me!

And now, my personal favourite: the nori roll!  Earth & City’s vegan sushi is made with thin seaweed sheets rolled with cooked brown rice (one of the only food items of theirs that isn’t raw!) and stuffed with a variety of vegetables.  I LOVED the sushi so much, oh my goodness.  I had shittake mushrooms, red bell pepper, and sunflower sprouts and it was refreshing, juicy, and hearty because of the thick grains of brown rice.  Next time, I am getting myself an entire nori roll log!  Each nori roll is $2 and a nori roll log is $6 which translates into 4 rolls when cut.

The markets at both locations have done really remarkable things and by remarkable I mean getting people involved and getting people engaged in the food and the market itself.  When I go to these markets, I know it seems like all I’m there for is the food and the photos, but I’m also there to learn, to observe, and to listen.  Little do people know that while I’m snapping away and ogling all the yummies, I’m also listening to the conversations that go on between those who make the food and those who make the market possible by buying from these local businesses.  

There have been conversations about ingredients, about new and upcoming products, and about suggestions to make the market even more amazing than it already is.  It’s an awesome feeling being here in the hubbub of lunch hour when people are grabbing piping hot bowls of soup left and right, snatching up buns and loaves of bread, and taking the food they’ve bought and enjoying it for lunch.  You know a market means something to people when they bother to strike up these conversations in the first place because it means they’re invested and that they want to see the market continue and do well.  I can only see it getting stronger and I can’t wait to see what’s in store come December.     

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The Lunchtime Markets at the Centre for Social Innovation in the Annex and on Spadina take place on Tuesdays and Wednesdays respectively from 11:30am-1pm.  The Centre for Social Innovation (Annex) is located at 720 Bathurst Street, just south of Bloor Street West and Lennox.  They also have a location on Spadina at 215 Spadina Ave., 4th floor.