Smoked Salmon & Wild Nova Scotia Tuna Sandwiches – Hooked Inc. at the Toronto Office Markets

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Local seafood lovers rejoice!  Hooked Inc. has won the hearts of Leslieville residents and farmers’ market goers alike since its storefront opening on Queen Street East in 2011.  Hooked Inc. is a fish store that attacks food and knowledge with a passion, providing Torontonians with fresh, sustainable, local fish, shellfish, and seafood products in addition to cooking classes, educational workshops, and farmers’ market vending around the city.  I’m beyond excited about their spring workshop schedule and their expanded farmers’ market schedule come spring and summer.  I was in conniptions when I browsed their website and realized that there would be a market at Edwards Garden later on this year for me to go to!  Farmers’ markets, flowers and gardens, and (sea)food – it’s a dream come true. 

Their enterprise really inspires me because even though I love seafood (much more than red meat and poultry, actually), it’s a food group that I know very little about in terms of location, regional specifics, and sustainability and Hooked makes this knowledge accessible.  Their classes and workshops incorporate hands-on cooking techniques (shucking oysters, and learning about poaching, braising, and stewing fish) as well as food knowledge such as teaching workshops on how to select fish, proper preparation methods and tools to use, and more. 

Kristin shucked 20 oysters for a couple last week!

There’s so much to learn and I want to learn all there is to know about different types of fish and the bodies of water and provinces they come from.  That’s the beauty of Hooked – they are so in tune and knowledgable about their products, the fishing industry, and what it takes to maintain a sustainable economy of food that you feel comfortable asking them anything and everything to do with fish.  As part of the Slow Food/Slow Fish movement, they’re committed to building awareness of local food options, maintaining close, transparent relationships with both producers and consumers, and making information as accessible as possible. 

Their weekly appearances at the Lunchtime Office Markets have taken me on a whirlwind seafood tour and it’s so exciting seeing what different foods Kristin and her crew bring to the table every week.  Their table always provides a mix of fresh fish and seafood lunches to enjoy right then and there as well as vacuum sealed fish, jars of soup, containers of seafood salad, and so much more.  Kristin and her team take the opportunity at the markets to show off the versatility of seafood by turning fish into fast and convenient $5 lunches on the go, often utilizing products from other farmers’ market vendors such as Earth & City and Monforte Dairy. 

They do buck-a-shuck oysters (you can learn to shuck at one of their classes!), fish samples, seafood salad bread bite samples, fish chowder (which I inhaled during this market visit), smoked salmon sandwiches with soft cheese on dark bread, and mouthwatering chunks of fresh Nova Scotia wild tuna salad sandwiches with greens on Earth & City’s flatbread.  So far I’ve only had their fish chowder but I’m telling you, it was SO HARD not having something of theirs at every single market I’ve been to. 

And I know I’m not the only one who feels this way!  At the last market I attended, a couple was so distraught over all the amazing lunch options that they agreed to share one of eveything so that they could try everything they wanted!  They tore a page straight out of my book because I’m often faced with the same dilemma every time I come to these markets.  I wouldn’t want it any other way though; this is what makes food exploration so much fun.  I’m so looking forward to making my first Hooked shop visit in the near future and learning more about their business and about the seafood they so lovingly provide to the markets and our city.

*****

Hooked Inc. is located at 888 Queen Street East at the corner of Booth Ave., east of Logan in the Leslieville neighbourhood.  They are currently vending at the Toronto Office Markets on Wednesdays at CSI Spadina and Thursdays at the ING Direct Cafe.  Keep up to date with news, new markets, workshops and more by visiting their website here and following them on Twitter @hookedinc

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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.     

*****

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.