It’s Good to Be Back at the Market – Fresh Cheese, Vegan Eats, Pies, Sprouts & More at Wychwood Barns!

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The Stop Community Food Centre booklets at Wychwood Barns farmers' market.

My left arm hurts from carrying my heavy load of market groceries.  My shoulder blades and neck are a wee bit sore from being wrapped in a heavy-duty scarf for most of the day.  And I’m just a little sleepy; leave it to me to wake up at 6am in the morning on a Saturday to go to the farmers’ market in the cold blowing snow/sleet/wet crap!  Who needs to walk when you can let the gusty wind push you along?  All I needed was a long coat and hat and I could have passed for the city gal version of Mary Poppins with a pink umbrella!

Despite the less-than-stellar weather, my trip to The Stop Farmers’ Market at Wychwood Barns yesterday morning was SO WORTH IT.  Even though I came home cold with rosy cheeks and just a tad on the wind-whipped side, I came home happy and so full of joy with some of the best food from the market in my grocery bag.

Root vegetables at Wychwood Barns farmers' market

Carrots, potatoes and onions at Wychwood Barns farmers' market

The Stop farmers' market at Wychwood Barns

It’s been months since my last farmers’ market trek.  Not just months since my last post, but literally months since the last time I went to a market at all.  The last time I went to one was back in December and that was to Evergreen Brick Works where I lugged home bags of kale, salad greens, and butternut squash.  I know taking a break from blogging after that was something I had to do but since that last market visit, it’s almost as if a part of me was missing.  A part of me that so desperately wanted to go to the market and do blog-related things but couldn’t because I was tired and because I knew I had to sacrifice some of that precious blog time to take care of other aspects of my life that need my attention.

Going to the market yesterday for first time in nearly 4 months was like a breath of fresh of air.  It felt SO GOOD.  Like that something missing had been fully stored.  I had missed it so much and as sappy as it sounds, it’s stuff like this that makes you appreciate all the good things in your life.  The stuff that puts you in your happy place and makes your life so content, rewarding and satisfying.  I saw market vendors and friends, I took a ridiculous amount of photos (93!), I stuffed my hungry face with samples, learned about food, picked up a bunch of new food literature, and filled my grocery bag with some delicious eats!

vegan desserts by Earth & City at Wychwood Barns farmers' market

chocolate and vanilla macaroons by Earth & City at Wychwood Barns farmers' market

lentil-walnut vegan burgers by Earth & City at Wychwood Barns farmers' market

Yorktown Pie Company at Wychwood Barns farmers' market

butter tarts by Yorktown Pie Company at Wychwood Barns farmers' market

A trip to The Stop Market at Wychwood Barns is never complete without fresh vegan eats from my beloved Earth & City and Yorktown Pie Company!  Cassandra from Earth & City was on hand with spring roll wraps, lentil-walnut burgers with sundried tomato puree, red onion, and collard green leaf “bun”, kale and arugula pesto, and a mountain of mouthwatering vegan sweets including their famous vegan brownies, chocolate and vanilla macaroons and cowgirl cookies, cookies with oats, almonds, banana, honey, dates, cinnamon and sea salt.  And Yorktown?  They had their famous mini butter tarts, chocolate chip cookies, and plenty of meat and vegetarian pies and pastries including spinach and ricotta, spinach and feta, chicken, steak and Guinness, mushroom and leek, and good old fashioned sausage rolls!

I happily picked up a container of a lentil-walnut burger, vegan brownie, and a container of kale and arugula pesto from Earth & City, and a sweet butter tart from Yorktown to bring home.  I cannot wait to come back to see if I can snatch up my favourite apple crumble and apple sour cream pies (what some have referred to as “apple crack”) the next time!

Chocosol coffee and chocolate at Wychwood Barns farmers' market

Chocosol fair trade chocolate at Wychwood Barns farmers' market

Chocosol coffee and chocolate at Wychwood Barns farmers' market

Chocosol fair trade chocolate at Wychwood Barns farmers' market

Between snapping photos and picking up food literature, I also added some walnut-raisin buns to my grocery bag from St. John’s Bakery, some AMAZING fresh-as-a-daisy Black Peppercorn goat cheese from Crosswind Farm who makes, by far, the best goat cheese EVER in the most delicious flavours (feta, maple cream, herb, green and red peppercorn, garlic Italian blend and a brand new creamy brie-style goat cheese), and a GIANT bar of Luscious Coconut chocolate from Chocosol.

It was so awesome seeing Chocosol’s fantastic selection of fresh cacao bars and beans and thanks to Chocosol’s Yanni (I hope I’ve spelled your name right!), my boyfriend and I learned the process behind Chocosol’s fair trade chocolate: cacao beans are roasted; shells from the roasted beans are then removed via fans which blow the shells off; the fresh cacao is then stone-ground into a paste, which is then tempered a number of times before flavourings and seasonings are added to create their famous flavours such as their hemp, spicy chili, dark and more.  Taking it all in was like cacao 101 which was awesome!

Crosswind Farm goat cheese at Wychwood Barns farmers' market

Crosswind Farm goat cheese at Wychwood Barns farmers' market

Crosswind Farm goat cheese at Wychwood Barns farmers' market

During this visit I also discovered some fantastic new vendors!  Now, these vendors aren’t exactly brand new to the market but they’re new to me.  First up, Essa Sprouts!  I love pea sprouts and shoots and sunflower sprouts like nobody’s business and Essa Sprouts grows everything from sunflower sprouts to sprouted chickpea, daikon radish, pea shoots, buckwheat, alfalfa, crunchy bean and more.  They have so many different types of sprouts and microgreens that are perfect for any type of palate (spicy, mild, you name it) and the baggies come in a number of sizes so you can choose what best suits your diet and sprouting eating frequency.  I picked up a small baggie of sunflower sprouts and have already inhaled the whole bag with help from my mum and dad!  You can find them here at The Stop at Wychwood and also at the Richmond Hill market (which I will add to the market list) and Barrie which is interestingly one of the oldest markets in the province!

sunflower greens and sprouts by Essa Sprouts at Wychwood Barns farmers' market

Finally, I saw Delish Kitch at the market for the first time yesterday!  In a nutshell, Delish Kitch specializes in gluten-free, low-starch food with the absence of refined sugars.  They offer vegetarian, vegan and dairy-free options on their impressive menu: veggie pizzas, cookies, muffins, savoury tarts and pies, bread, tons of granola, soups, and their speciality, Bisckers, which are a cross between crackers and biscuits with a hint of scone without the gluten!

Delish Kitch at Wychwood Barns farmers' market

gluten-free baked goods by Delish Kitch at Wychwood Barns farmers' market

mushroom gluten-free pizzas by Delish Kitch at Wychwood Barns farmers' market

This visit was just what I needed to kick start some extra inspiration and I happily got everything I wanted out of it.  It’s almost May and we all know what that means: spring and summer season at the markets!  I just found out all the 2013 dates so in another week I’ll be updating the market list with a rundown of all the ones returning in May and June and all the great market events we can expect this year!  I am so pumped and excited!

*****

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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Earth & City’s Nut Burgers, Vegan Pizza, Brownies & Other Raw, Vegan Delights – Wychwood Farmer’s Market, Part III!

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After several months of Earth & City withdrawal, I got the chance to see Cassandra and Lisa again at Wychwood Barns this past Saturday, and just catching a glimpse of all their fresh and colourful food when I first went into the market made me so happy!  Before and during the holidays, Earth & City were all over Toronto: at the Sorauren farmers’ market, at both CSI Lunchtime Markets, at Kensington Market’s Pedestrian Sundays, and The Stop farmers’ market at Wychwood Barns.  While Pedestrian Sundays bid farewell for the year last October and Earth & City’s presence at Sorauren continued up until December, their food has been flying off the tables everywhere else. 

Up until this point, I had only visited Cassandra and Lisa’s Earth & City at the Centre for Social Innovation locations and it had been months since my last trip.  I was beyond excited to finally go to Wychwood’s saturday market and I was extra excited to get my Earth & City fix.  Their raw vegan food has been nothing short of inspiring and delicious and I always look forward to seeing what the girls have in store each time I see them.  Using fresh vegetables, fruits, nuts, whole grains, and natural sweeteners, their mostly raw, vegan food is a throwback to traditional, classic non-vegan comfort foods like pizzas, burgers, taco wraps, brownies, and so much more.  I feel so good supporting them and eating their food knowing they’ve put all their heart and effort into creating as many menu items as possible from scratch, from seasonal ingredients, and from products made by other local businesses like ChocoSol.

Earth & City had a number of favourites and staples on hand this past Saturday including their peanut butter thumbprints made from red-skinned natural peanut butter, raw cacao powder, and honey dates, and their spring roll wraps, coconut macaroons, and flatbread bundles and sandwiches.  Along with these favourites, Earth & City brought the raw and vegan smackdown to the market with their sprouted veggie buckwheat pizzas and protein-rich nut burgers!  Everything looked so delicious and amazing.  Their sprouted buckwheat pizzas, made with sprouted buckwheat (read this article to learn more about sprouted buckwheat and how to make yoru own), flax seed, and dried oregano and basil are dehydrated overnight* so that they’re ready to be topped and served.  Their pizzas were covered in sundried tomato sauce, red onion, sunflower sprouts, and plenty of mushrooms.  The perfect cheeseless, vegan pizza!

Next to the pizzas were Earth & City’s vegan nut burgers.  They looked so cute and so scrumptious.  The burgers are made with raw almonds, sunflower seeds, and flax seed and are mixed with dried herbs, olive oil, and white balsamic (take a look at this article to learn more about what white balsamic is and how it differs from dark or regular balsamic vinegar).  They are then shaped into patties that sit on a big, leafy collard green “bun”.  Burgers are then topped with sundried tomato sauce and veggies!  This time around, the burgers were piled high with lush green sunflower sprouts and they looked wonderful.

I had already made plans to go out for veggie brunch with my friend Wini after the market so sadly, I didn’t pick up anything savoury to eat.  Trust that I will get around to inhaling everything Earth & City has to offer though.  I did, however, take away one of their ultra fabulous frosted vegan brownies to save for the ride home at the end of my day and if vegan heaven existed (which I’m sure many of my veg friends will attest there is), I certainly went there via this brownie.

The brownies are made with raw, crushed walnuts and almonds, honey dates, organic raw cacao powder, and sweetened with organic raw agave nectar.  The brownies are then frosted with organic coconut butter mixed with vanilla extract and fruit and/or veggie juice flavouring.  This brownie is what sweet dreams are made of.  It was a dense, moist, ridiculously creamy and flavourful explosion of chocolate and coconut with the slightly grainy texture of crushed nuts throughout.  I am a coconut fiend and I was hit with the most glorious combination of cocout, cacao, and nuts.  Chocolate and coconut is one of those underrated sweet combinations.  Mint chocolate and chocolate peanut butter get so much love and this brownie is an ode (and a kick in the pants to the other two) to the heights that raw chocolate and coconut butter can take us.  It was so rich and naturally sweet and just divine.

This was one very wonderful, memorable farmers’ market experience and now that I’ve been to Wychwood once, I’m never going to want to stop going, ever.

*****

Earth and City appear at several farmers’ markets in the city (most notably the market at Wychwood Barns on Saturday and the CSI Lunchtime markets), as well as Pedestrian Sundays at Kensington Market.  They do catering and orders, so visit their site and blog here for more information on their food, mission, and menu.