The Fall Harvest Series – A Photo Spotlight on Vegetarian Weekend Brunch at E.L. Ruddy, Part I!

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Theses next two posts are dedicated to all vegetarians and vegans who skip the turkey on Thanksgiving and instead opt for yummy, filling vegetarian dishes full of fall flavour, vegetables, fruits, beans, nuts, and more!  I had one of the best weekend brunches last week and I’m actually surprised at how much I enjoyed it just because it involved a vegetable that I can kind of take or leave most of the time.  I’m so happy to be adding this one to the Veggie Eats category on the blog since it’s fall-inspired and perfect for the Fall Harvest Series!  Up until this point, I don’t think I’ve posted anything particularly fall seasonal as far as vegetarian and vegan brunches go so I’d love to highlight some menu items around the city some of you might be interested in checking out for the season for the next Confessions of a Brunch-Obsessed Foodie segment.  Enjoy the photos – full post and write-up coming tomorrow!

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E.L. Ruddy is a vegetarian and vegan cafe with gluten-free options located at 1371 Dundas Street West between Dufferin Street and Dovercourt Road, at the corner of Rusholme Drive.  They are open 7 days week for weekday dinner and weekend brunch: 5pm-11pm Monday to Friday, 11am-11pm Saturday and Sunday.

The Fall Harvest Series – Bringing Home Kale, Sunflower Sprouts, Sauces & More From the Junction Farmers Market!

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I am smitten.  Absolutely smitten.  I think my visit to the Junction Farmers Market this past Saturday morning was, hands down, my favourite market visit of the season!  It was such a rewarding experience, I had SO much fun, and by the end of it, I walked away with bags of goodies to take home.  It made me so happy and that’s saying a lot considering I was in a very foul mood about 2 hours prior!  Tthe bus I had originally planned on catching never showed up so that set me back a whole half hour.  I was not a happy camper at 7 in the morning.  But then I arrived at the market (when I finally did) and all the frustration and mumbling and grumbling went *POOF!* as I hopped from vendor to vendor in sheer joy.  Pumpkins!  Squash!  Apples!  Kale!  Tomatoes!  Sauces and dips!  FOOOOD!  The whole market was in full-swing fall mode with bushels of apples and pears by the vendors, delicious samples of apple cider, and tables overflowing with orange and golden yellow pumpkins, squashes, and tomatoes.

I couldn’t believe how amazing the market was on Saturday.  I know it sounds kind of weird given how this visit wasn’t my first but let’s face it, the market is in the middle of a parking lot and not exactly surrounded by daisies.  But by golly is it ever a goldmine of brilliant colour, lush fruits and vegetables, savoury nibbles, sweet baked goods, and scrumptious dips and sauces!  The Junction market has grown so much since its debut back in June.  It has grown steadily and organically with the enthusiasm of the community in its corner and I’m so proud of what this market has accomplished in just a matter of a few short months.  This is the Junction market’s first fall season and it’s an exciting time.

I am going to be so sad though when it packs up for the season in a week and a half on the 13th because I really feel like I can do grocery shopping at the Junction market as opposed to just being a passionate market goer and passerby.  I’m going to try my best to get in one last visit before it waves goodbye because it’s just that wonderful.  And I know other people in the commnity feel the exact same way because there were crowds lining up for bread and baked goods from De La Terre, there were discussions about kale left and right, and there was even an eager morning market shopper who came by Eugora’s Fine Foods and asked for 20 veggie samosas!

The selection of food was fantastic and there was a great balance between take-home groceries (fruits, vegetables, sauces, preserves, and pantry items) and “enjoy right away” food like sweet baked goods and bread from De La Terre, vegetarian samosas from Eudora’s Fine Foods, and Hogtown Charcuterie ‘s meats, savoury puff pastries and tarts, empanadas, scotch quail eggs and more!  For the first time, I felt like I was actually bogged down with food goodies and groceries!

I bought 4 vegetarian samosas (I know, it pales in comparison to the 20 the other lady snatched up!) and a jar of fresh, fruity, and flavourful mango chutney from Eudora’s Fine Foods, a container of delicious pesto the colour of freshly cut grass, sunflower sprouts from Fresh City Farms, and two of the biggest, fluffiest, most beautiful bunches of curly kale I had ever seen from Sosnicki Organics.  I was thisclose to buying more vegetables and picking up cheese too!  I’ve never shopped a market like this before and it felt terrific because I knew the food was incredibly fresh, I knew I was going to put the food to good use (dinner for me and the family!), and I knew it was money well spent.

I left the Junction market in such high spirits and I think that’s exactly how every farmers’ market should make everyone feel: welcome, loved, more knowledgable, and most importantly, excited for more.  It’s not every day you find your holy grail foods.  When you find a producer, farmer, and/or food shop that you love, you go back to them time and time again because you trust their passion, their integrity, and the greatness of their food.  It’s exactly how I felt when I came home with my beautiful bag of assorted kale from Samsara Fields the other week when I went to Crème Fraîche and I felt (and tasted!) it again when I lugged my giant bag of curly kale home from the Junction market.  The possibilities for wonderful food at the market are endless and I can only hope that one day this market will be a year-round one so I can enjoy it well past October.

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The Junction farmers’ market will be held every Saturday from 8:30am-12:30pm, June 2nd to October 13th.  The farmers’ market is located in the parking lot just off of Dundas Street West and Pacific Ave.  The market is brand new to Toronto and the Junction community, so spread the word, come out, and show your support!  For more info and a list of vendors, visit the official Junction market page HERE.

The Fall Harvest Series – It’s an Orange & Gold, Leafy Green Wonderland at the Junction Farmers Market! Part I

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A photo spotlight of my latest visit to the Junction farmers market and the official return of The Fall Harvest Series!  It’s October and I have some great stuff to share with you guys this week including a fall inspired weekend brunch meal, fall flavour cupcakes, a pumpkin edition of The Cupcake Connection, and hopefully lots of butternut squash and baking pumpkin baked goods!   Even though I won’t be able to repeat last year’s feat of stringing together 2 week’s worth of fall harvest posts in a row, I’m going to try my best to get in as many posts as possible, especially market ones since many of them will be packing up for the year sometime this month.  I’ve compiled a list of all the ones that are ending during the month of October as part of the October Food Calendar, so if there’s a market you adore or one you haven’t been to yet this year, make your visit soon before they’re gone!

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The Junction farmers’ market will be held every Saturday from 8:30am-12:30pm, June 2nd to October 13th.  The farmers’ market is located in the parking lot just off of Dundas Street West and Pacific Ave.  The market is brand new to Toronto and the Junction community, so spread the word, come out, and show your support!  For more info and a list of vendors, visit the official Junction market page HERE.

Pop-Up Farmers’ Markets, Organic Veggies, & Lots of Kale! Samsara Fields at Crème Fraîche Market Cafe

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Sometimes things are just meant to be.  Like when you stop by your favourite shop on a whim and everything is on sale.  Or when you pay a visit to your favourite bakery and oh, what do you know, a fresh batch of goodies have just come out of the oven!  Many wonderful, serendipitous things have happened in my food world (like when I unknowingly went to Hammersmith’s on the day of their 1st birthday and was consequently treated to a yummy cupcake on the house!) and yesterday’s farmers’ market trek to Crème Fraîche Market Cafe on Annette Street was just that, serendipitous. 

I wanted to see what baked goods they had on hand, I wanted to take new photos, and I really just wanted to go for fun.  So I went online bright and early in the morning to double check my bus schedule and thought it would be a good idea to double check Crème Fraîche’s website to map out my route for the afternoon.  And there it was.  Crème Fraîche’s twitter box with the words “pop-up heirloom farmers’ market” embedded in their latest tweet!  I couldn’t believe my good fortune!  I was so excited I literally skipped out of my house!

Even though pop-up markets are out of my grasp most of the time since the concept is rooted in spontaneity and to a large extent, up-to-the-minute social media (hi there, I don’t text or have internet on my phone!  Yes, yes, I might as well be carring a phone with an antenna, blah blah blah), there’s a lot of value to be found in them for both the farmers/producers and those in the community. 

First off, it’s a surprise and anybody making a trip to Crème Fraîche would be treated to an added bonus of food to choose from that they never expected!  Second, it affords all those who come to the shop the opportunity to get to know a farmer or a producer they hadn’t known of before.  You learn so much about where the food comes from, different varieities of produce, and the about the producers themselves.  More options for fresh and healthy food is never a bad thing!  And finally, it allows the farmers and producers to engage in a different neighbourhood, a different part of the city, and even a different part of the province.  Many growers may only have the time and resources to sell their wares in one or two parts of town, if they’re lucky.  Farmers’ markets are highly competitive, with guidelines, fees, and red tape every which way.  Pop-up markets don’t require long-term commitment (one day only!) and they foster relationships between people as they get to know the farms, the growers, and even the shop that’s hosting the pop-up.  It keeps everyone engaged and interested, not to mention well-fed!

When I arrived at Crème Fraîche, I was treated to a fabulous, beautiful spread of vegetables from Samsara Fields, a local organic Ontario farm owned by organic growers JP Gural and So Young Lee.  Samsara Fields, located in Waterford, Ontario, aims to provide local food security in the form of organic heirloom vegetables – beans, corn, garlic, potatoes, peppers, peas, squash, the list goes on.  After making my rounds inside the Crème Fraîche cafe (sadly, no cheddar black pepper scones yesterday but plenty of fall squash, herb plants, cheese, oats, beans, and lentils!) and having a great talk with Constance, I came back outside to take a look at what I wanted to bring home.  

I was so happy when I found out So Young Lee had oodles of kale for sale!  Crème Fraîche had a big basket of Scottish/curly kale outside and So Young Lee offered me a huuuge assortment of freshly picked kale (picked the day before!) straight from Samsara Fields.  I was in awe at all the different types!  I knew there was black kale and to a lesser extent, red kale, but I had never tried things like lacinato/dinosaur kale, premier kale, or Siberian kale before and I was delighted that I’d get the chance to take some home, especially since my mum had said she really wanted some.  Fresh kale was priced at $5 a bag and I thought, “why not?” so So Young Lee fished a mountain of beautiful kale leaves out from the water where they were peacefully floating, in all different varieties, and stuffed a bag full for me.  The leaves were s0, so beautiful and quite frankly, I was happy to spend the $5 and not have to chuck out a third of the bunch. 

They were delicious with the spaghettini I had for dinner earlier today and it made me so happy knowing I was eating such yummy vegetables and also supporting a dedicated, loving couple who are passionate about food producing and organic farming and growing.  I can’t wait to experience more pop-up markets at Crème Fraîche  and to get more involved in everything else they have to offer including classes and cafe breakfast and brunch! 

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Crème Fraîche Market Cafe is a cafe and local food shop located in the west end of Toronto in Annette Village/The Junction neighbourhod at 639 Annette Street.  The shop is just several blocks west of Runnymede Road and south of Dundas Street West.  They are open from Tuesday to Sunday (closed on Mondays), from 8am-8pm.  Visit their official website HERE.

Summer Food Throwdown – Southern BBQ, Colombian Dinner & *NEW* Tasting Plates at The Depanneur!

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More food, more yumminess at The Depanneur!

Upcoming Food Events & News at The Depanneur

In addition to The Dep’s fab drop-in dinners, supper clubs, workshops, and classes, the cafe menu has expanded!  Not only can you stop in for their famous frittata breakfast sandwiches and grilled cheese, but now you can also feast on tasting plates full of seasonal, local food!  Each week The Dep will be offering up a handful of dishes that you can pick and choose from for $3 each.  Have one, have two, or have all 5 and create your very own tasting plate masterpiece!  There are plenty of vegetarian and vegan options to go around, and just think, you can combine any one of these tasting dishes with one of their soups and sandwiches to make your meal extra special!  This week: roasted potato salad with a creamy lemon herb dressing; spicy carrot salad with feta; grilled plums with honeyed ricotta; organic mixed greens with apple cider vinaigrette; and homemade oatcakes, grilled sourdough or walnut-raisin toast.

*Upcoming Drop-In Dinners and Supper Clubs*

Friday Night Drop-In Dinner: Colombian Ajiaco with Cookie Martinez, July 27.  6pm-8pm.  1033 College Street.  $12 including tax.  Join South American cuisine and cookie baking guru, Cookie Martinez (you may have tasted her wares at the Liberty Village Soft Choice office markets!), for a summer feast of chicken stew straight from her home of Colombia.  Known as ajicaco, this is a hearty bowl of chicken, corn, capers, creme fraiche, cilantro and creamy yellow potato (papa criolla) distinctive to Colombia’s capitol of Bogota.  This meal becomes even more amazing with a side of rice, avocado, and crispy, melt-in-your-mouth fresh corn arepa.  Grab a seat and enjoy a summer evening at The Dep!

Rusholme Park Supper Club at The Depanneur: Texas vs. Tennessee BBQ Throwdown, August 11.    7:30pm-10:30pm.  1033 College Street.  $40 supper club membership for the night.  Get down and dirty with southern fare as Texas squares off with Tennessee in a BBQ battle like no other at this southern tour supper club!  Savour food the Texan way with slow-cooked, dry rubbed beef brisket and succotash while sinking your teeth in Tennessee style ribs dripping in a smoky, sticky whiskey sauce and sweet molasses baked beans.  End the night on a sweet note with southern pecan pie!  http://www.facebook.com/events/467269889959034/

Rusholme Park Supper Club at The Depanneur: Summer Lovin’ with Emily Zimmerman, August 12.  7:30pm-10:30pm.  1033 College Street.  $4o supper club membership for the night.  Bask in the lazy days of summer with seasonal, local, vegan feast by Chef Emily Zimmerman!  Emily has been cooking up and hosting supper clubs at The Dep for months now and she’s back again for an August evening dinner bash showcasing the beauty of Ontario food.  Enjoy stuffed summer vegetables with arugula pesto, buckwheat crepes with homemade fruit chutney, tomato, and spiced chickpeas bitter greens with strawberry balsamic, and a fabulous cherry-berry cupcake trifle with lemon coconut cream!  http://www.facebook.com/events/439514426070944/  

AND, be sure to check out the mini farmer’s market on Tuesdays from 4:30pm-7:30pm out on the side patio, the truckload of frozen summer treats on hand (Augie’s Ice Pops and Organic Meadow ice cream!), and Pork Ninja drop-in dinners EVERY THURSDAY for the summer!

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The Depannuer is located at 1033 College Street between Dovercourt Rd. and Dufferin Street.  They are open from Tuesday to Sunday (closed on Mondays) with a number of cooking classes, food workshops, drop-in dinners, and supper clubs throughout the month, which you can keep up with on the Food Calendar or on their Twitter @TheDepanneur.  Their cafe operating hours are as follows: Tuesday-Friday 8am-6pm (6pm onward for Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday drop-in dinners), and Saturday-Sunday 9am-6pm for weekend brunch and lunch (6pm onward for supper clubs).  You can view The Depannuer’s Facebook page here.

Tea & Cupcakes for One – Fruity Peach Green Tea, Mango Cupcakes, & Pink Tea Pots at The Wedding Cake Shoppe

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My love of tea has finally reached its peak – and I think it’s going to enjoy its reign up at the top of my “Things I Love Dearly” list for a long time!  I am happy to report that I am now drinking tea 5 days a week (sometimes 6; it varies) and that I’ve developed a nice little routine for myself the same way java fanatics gulp down their coffee in the morning.  I’ve been alternating between coconut green tea, sticky toffee pudding, and my cute little box of Celestial Seasoning fruit flavours in blueberry, raspberry, black cherry, and country peach. 

Never did I think I would love tea this much though.  Growing up, my only brush with tea was at dim sum restaurants.  Then bubble tea and loose leaf tea entered my world and everything changed.  I daydream about the type of tea I’m going to get during my next tea run.  I keep up with all the new seasonal flavours that come out, ready to be sniffed from their canisters and sipped from mugs and tea cups.  And like clothes and accessories, I coordinate and match my tea to my cupcakes.  It’s not an obsession, it’s enthusiasm!

So, for the first time ever, I am posting about cupcakes without actually talking about cupcakes.  All I will say is that Wedding Cake Shoppe’s fruity mango cream cupcake on vanilla is delightful and like mango mousse on vanilla clouds.  My dear sweet cupcakes will just have to share the spotlight on this one because the tea is clearly the star of the show!  Make way for the sweet and lovely peach green tea and mango cupcake from The Wedding Cake Shoppe!

My previous Wedding Cake Shoppe posts solely focused on cupcakes, scrapbooking, and beautiful decor and while all of those things still play a huge part in my personal Wedding Cake Shoppe experience, I am absolutely smitten with their loose leaf tea.  I KNOW.  Tea.  And cupcakes.  With cupcakes.  At a wedding cake shop.  I love Toronto.  Given how the shop has ample space and seating, it’s totally feasible to sit down with a cuppa and cupcake (or macaron!  Or all three if you’re feeling adventurous) for a quiet, peaceful afternoon.  Their drink menu is actually pretty awesome as it consists of coffee drinks (americanos for $2, lattes and cappuccinos for $3.25), homemade hot chocolate ($3.50), cold glasses of milk at $2.50 (perfect for the milk and chocolate enthusiasts at heart!), and LOTS of loose leaf tea!  Priced at $2.25, flavours include earl grey, chamomile, green sencha, English breakfast, chai raspberry, fruit explosion, peppermint, jasmine, vanilla rooibos, and my beloved pick, peach green tea.

I love the fact that Cindy and Sarah serve tea and drinks at their shop to go along with their cupcakes and macarons, yes, BUT, what I love even more?  THE TEA PRESENTATION AND ACCESSORIES!  The shop is all colour, freshness, sweetness, and beauty so I shouldn’t have expected any less when it came to their tea and drinks (just look at the gorgeous, dainty pink plate that accompanied my chocolate banana cream pie cupcake the last time!), but I was still taken aback by how fabulous their tea “service” was!  I didn’t get my tea in a paper cup.  I didn’t even get my tea in a mug.  I got my piping hot peach green tea in a freakin’ adorable pink and gold tea pot/teacup set!  You know, the type of tea pot that looks like a whole teapot but is really the kind that has a tea cup for a bottom?  Yes, one of those.  And when I gushed to Sarah about how cute the tea pot was, she told me her and Cindy find great accessories along Queen West so there you go!

It was like getting the 5-star treatment.  And for $2.25?!  Jackpot!  Peach green tea is my favourite cold bubble tea to get when I’m out and this hot loose-leaf version didn’t disappoint.  It was an amazing fruity tea that tasted just like bubble tea but hot.  It didn’t have a gritty aftertaste, it certainly didn’t taste like diluted flavoured hot water, and it was bright, crisp, and delicious with my sweet and creamy mango cupcake.  Even though Cindy and Sarah are up to their eyeballs in wedding orders and cake decorating, they really do a fantastic job with making every visit to their shop a memorable, happy experience and that is what’s so special to me.  I mean, seriously, every single time I’m there new fresh flowers in vases are sitting on every table, the shop is immaculate, and every visit feels like a fresh start.  Cupcakes and tea aren’t just food and drink to me; they mean so much more when you enjoy them in a welcoming atmoshphere that is beautiful on the inside and out.      

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The Wedding Cake Shoppe is located at 859 College Street, just west of Ossington Ave.  They are open 6 days a week (closed on Tuesdays) and their weekday hours are from 11am-7pm, weekend hours from 11am-5pm.  You can check out their official website here, and follow them on Facebook and Twitter.

Monforte Dairy, Cheddar & Black Pepper Scones, Local Food – The *NEW* Crème Fraîche Market Cafe in The Junction!

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Imagine products from almost all of your favourite farmers’ market vendors and producers under one roof.  Then, imagine this one roof being available to you 6 days a week.  Guess what?  You don’t have to imagine.  This is the real deal: introducing the new Crème Fraîche Market Cafe in The Junction!  Founded and run by “Monforte Dairy ladies” Constance Dykun and Rachel Silva, Crème Fraîche is a local food lover’s dream!  The cafe and local food shop located on Annette Street several blocks west of Runnymede Road in the west end takes everything wonderful and delicious about Toronto’s small food business and local food scene (and some non-Toronto), rolls it into one big ball of food happiness, and presents it all back in a sweet and sunny cafe outfitted in yellow and blue decor with baked goods, bread, cheeses, coffee drinks, ice cream, and so much more.  

At Crème Fraîche you’ll find bread and baked goods from Sara Lapell’s Nice Buns and St. John’s Bakery, sweets and baked goods from More Than Pies Baking Co. Ltd., Evelyn’s Crackers, Mapleton’s ice cream, chocolate and Mayan drinking chocolate from ChocoSol, jarred pickled vegetables, salsa, and preserves from From These Roots, sweets from DeFloured, and of course, LOTS of Monforte Dairy cheese and products!  They have a selection of prepared food and drink (iced teas, yogurt parfaits, and breakfast tarts for example), and they also have a sweet little breakfast, lunch, and midday snack menu that you can order from. 

Now, keep in mind that while Crème Fraîche is a market cafe, it’s a “stop-by-and-pick-up-goodies” type of shop, so their menu items are definitely grab and go fare.  Their menu includes items such as toast and cheese (fresh cheese and jam, $2), grilled cheese and tomato ($5.25), cacciatore and arugula “bun-wich” ($4), and grilled halloumi (fresh cheese with arugula, radish, and tomato salsa, $7.50) among others.  They also serve plenty of fair-trade, organic coffee (americanos, espressos, cappuccinos, and lattes), tea, and Organic Meadow soy and almond milk.

What I love about Crème Fraîche, aside from the great food I can pick up here, is what the shop itself represents.  It’s easy to think, “oh, well, if I want these market products, I can just go to the different farmers’ markets to get them” or “I can just go to the producer’s main shop and location in the city”, but what Crème Fraîche affords everyone in the surrounding neighbourhood and community is an alternative, a place where people can come in the mornings and afternoons to grab a cuppa, a chance to get to learn about some of the local food that’s available in the city and their makers, an opportunity to form new friendships and relationships with locals, and a sweet shop to grab some great eats.  

I may go all over town to visit all the markets I can, but not everyone has the ability or even the desire to do so.  A farmers’ market in one’s area only takes place once a week and they may not be available year-round; Crème Fraîche is open 6 days a week from Tuesday-Sunday from 8am-8pm.  Even though its location certainly caters to those in the west end and in The Junction area in particular, it’s the concept that I am completely in love with.  There should be a Crème Fraîche in EVERY neighbourhood.  This shop is wonderful and I LOVE that so many of my favourite producers and vendors such as More Than Pies Baking Co. Ltd. and St. John’s Bakery sell their products here.

During this first visit, I picked up a giant cheddar and black pepper scone from St. John’s Bakery ($3) to take home, sliced it in half, and slapped it on my little George Foreman grill (don’t laugh, this thing is all sorts of awesome!) to heat up.  OH.MY.GOD.  One of the best, most delicious scones EVER!  You all know love cheese and black pepper so this scone had my name written all over it.  I am telling you, put the scones on the grill and you will be “mmm”ing the entire time you’re eating it.  It was so fluffy and moist and buttery without actually having to put butter on it and I am so happy I bought it because from here on out I’ll be looking out for these cheddar black pepper scones!

I’ve totally fallen in love with this sweet shop and you can bet I’ll be coming back to check up on what eats are available and to try something off their food menu!  It’s a fabulous concept and I’m glad for the vendors, producers, and to those who eat and work here because they truly get to be a part of something special in the community.   

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Crème Fraîche Market Cafe is a cafe and local food shop located in the west end of Toronto in The Junction neighbourhod at 639 Annette Street.  The shop is just several blocks west of Runnymede Road and south of Dundas Street West.  They are open from Tuesday to Sunday (closed on Mondays), from 8am-8pm.  Visit their official website HERE.