Heirloom Tomatoes, Cherries, & Fresh Homemade Fruit Jams – The Summer Farmers’ Market at Liberty Village!

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The farmers’ market trek goes west this week with a visit to the Liberty Village farmers’ market!  It’s been months since my last visit (we’re talking last fall with pumpkins and cranapples!) and since I gave the east end some love last week with fresh summery posts on the Leslieville farmers’ market, brunch, sweets, and drinks at Hammersmith’s in Riverdale, and sweet tooth treasures at Sweet Bliss Baking Company, it was time to mosey on over in the other direction.  This week we welcome some fresh faces to the lineup from the west side of the tracks including goodies from Parkdale and The Junction.

First up: the Sunday summer market in Liberty Village!  What a difference a year makes.  Liberty Village continues to grow and thrive as a community and as a dining destination with new additions to the neighbourhood including the Softchoice Lunchtime Office Market on Wednesdays and the brand spankin’ new quesadilla cafe, Maizal, on Jefferson Ave. serving fresh corn tortillas, quesadillas, and weekend brunch.  This growth is also apparent in their farmers’ market.  Even though the market itself hasn’t grown larger physically, I felt like there was more to see this time around and I had myself an absolute ball snatching up some goodes and snapping photos!  Along with gorgeous, vibrant heirloom tomatoes, zucchini flowers, carrots, and peppers, the market was bursting with fresh farm fruit: cherries, cantaloupe/musk melon, apples, raspberries, strawberries, baby golden plums, and peaches were all on hand and ripe for the pickin’.

Up and at ’em on a Sunday morning!

And effectively, Liberty Village gave me a very delicious out and solution to my raw fruit allergy problem: fresh homemade fruit jam!  Cue me squealing like a 4-year-old!  I love jams and this is the first maket I’ve been to that has had a spread like this.  There were tables set up in a ‘U’ shape and each table carried one type of fruit with a corresponding display of homemade fruit jam and dish of bread and jam samples.  A cluster of raspberry jam jars were surrounded by a moat of raspberry pints, the strawberries with strawberry jam, and the baskets of peaches with bright, juicy peach jam.  It was so pretty to look at and even tastier to eat!  In addition to fruit and jam, there were tarts and shortbread cookies made with jam and jars of pickled vegetables including pickled beets.  I picked up a jar of pickled beets ($3) for my mum (she loves beets the way I love cookes), a jar of the most delicious peach jam ($5), and a sweet shortbread cookie sandwich ($1.75) with a star cutout in the center revealing juicy raspberry jam inside.

I am dying to make peanut butter and jelly cookie sandwiches and this peach jam would be perfect for them, along with the jar of apricot jam sitting pretty in my pantry.  Oh!  And thumbprint cookies!  And accompaniments to pound cake!  All the jams and jellies I’ve come across during market visits have been so yummy and amazing (like the mango chutney at the North York market at Mel Lastman Square) and I only wish I could have some of everything without creating a pantry avalanche in the kitchen.  I’m really happy with my little market purchases though and I’m glad I came back to the Libery Village to see how far its come and how much its grown.

*****

The Liberty Village farmers’ market takes place every Sunday from 9am-2pm in the Green P parking lot on East Liberty Street between Atlantic and Hanna Ave.  Liberty Village can be accessed from King Street West and Dufferin Street.  You can view Ate by Ate’s very first Liberty Village farmers’ market post HERE.

The 10th Anniversary of Summer Wining & Dining in the City – My Preliminary Picks for Summerlicious 2012!

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Brace yourself for an onslaught of summer patio dining, hungry crowds, and some of the best price fixe menus the city has been blessed with: Summerlicious is celebrating its 10th anniversary this July!  Given what a special milestone this is, I intend to make a big splash, and that means dishing out a handful of posts chock full of tasty appetizers, succulent mains, and sweet sweets!  Over 100 participating restaurants started accepting reservations last week on the 21st and being the eager beaver that I am, I already started hammering out my very rough, preliminary list of dining spots to visit during this crazy 2-week period from July 6th to the 22nd. 

I’m extra excited for this go-around because I feel like I’ll be able to extract so much more out of these experiences to showcase facets I didn’t focus on last year such as summer patio dining, more seasonal fare, and parts of town I haven’t featured yet on the blog.  I am loving the patio dining exploration and I have Eat In, Eat Out magazine to thank for this giant truckload of inspiration.  And as far as seasonal faregoes, I’m hoping that one day I’ll be able to devote entire series and posts to highlight specific seasonal delights all-year round as they come.  I know I have the Fall Harvest series and the Winter Wonderland and such, but I’m talking series solely focused on ONE seasonal ingredient such as strawberries, blueberries, asparagus, and so on.

Ah, memories – my first Summerlicious at Southern Accent

There are SO many fantastic menus available this summer thatit’s going to be painful narrowing the list down, as usual!  My first go-around yielded 15 results.  I knocked out 2 so far.  Sigh.  No one ever said this was going to be easy.  Here are my current 13 picks to choose from:

  1. 5th Element – Indian cuisine, downtown on Queen Street West
  2. Café La Gaffe – French cuisine, downtown in the Grange/Baldwin St. neighbourhood
  3. Earth Bloor West – local, farm-to-table fare, in Bloor West Village
  4. Hot House Cafe – Italian cuisine, downtown on Church St. around the St. Lawrence neighbourhood
  5. La Bruschetta – Italian cuisine, midtown west on St. Clair West
  6. Ocho Hotel – local, farm-to-table fare, downtown Spadina
  7. Peter Pan Bistro – all-rounder bistro, downtown on Queen St. West
  8. Quince – Mediterranean, uptown Yonge & Eglinton
  9. Sambucas on Church – Italian cuisine, downtown Church St. in the gay village
  10. Sarah’s Café and Bar – all-rounder bistro, east end on the Danforth
  11. The Blake House – all-rounder bistro, downtown Jarvis St. near Cabbagetown
  12. The Chefs’ House – all-rounder contemporary, downtown at George Brown College
  13. The Wine Bar – all-rounder bistro, downtown on Church St. around the St. Lawrence neighbourhood

Remember, this is only a preliminary list – I am not planning on eating at all these places!  I’m going to try my hardest to narrow this list of 13 down to 5 and then I’ll be on my way. Visit the links up top to get a taste of what I have in mind, and visit the official Summerlicious site with the whole kit and caboodle HERE!

The Sweet Taste of Strawberries & Lemonade – Summer Sipping at Butler’s Pantry in Roncesvalles

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Cheers to summer!

With the temperatures as high as they are during these hot summer days, everyone is guzzling down bucketfuls of their favourite drinks: iced coffee, ice cold beer, fruity bubble tea, and plenty of water.  One of my preferred summer beverages?  Lemonade!  Aside from yummy iced loose leaf tea in a plethora of flavours, lemonade is my go-to summer drink treat and a number of spots in the city are serving up flavoured lemonades to slurp and cool down with: a brand spankin’ new frozen lemonade slushie from our beloved Tim Hortons, a lemonade and an iced lemon mint from Aroma Espresso Bar, a raspberry lemongrass iced tea from Le Gourmand Cafe,  and a maple lemonade soda seltzer from The Depanneur!

Much like my Winter Wonderland – Hot Chocolate series, this spotlight on lemonade will serve as one of the summer drink counterparts on the blog and I am so excited about finally starting it!  I’ve been looking forward to this for months and trust that one way or another, I am going to get to every single last one of these drinks and report back to you all!  I’ll be waddling around with a water balloon for a tummy because of it, but everything sounds too refreshing and tasty to pass up so water balloon I will be.  Lucky for me, I found myself another fantastic lemonade option to enjoy in the city and to add to that list: the strawberry lemonade from Butler’s Pantry!

I have wanted to visit Butler’s Pantry for ages.  With 2 locations in Toronto (one in Mirvish Village and the other on Roncesvalles in the west end), it is a great cafe for both carnivores and vegetarians alike.  Their menu, especially their main entree portion ($10-$14), is to die-for.  Butler’s Pantry takes its cue from a variety of different countries and cuisines to recreate those authentic cultural flavours and meals in dishes such as their Korean bulgogi, Indian biryani, Southern jambalaya, Greek moussaka, Moroccan vegetable tagine, and SO much more.  Even though this post is devoted to their strawberry lemonade, you can definitely expect many future food posts from Butler’s Pantry!  In addition to their main course items, Butler’s Pantry also has a selection of sandwiches and appetizers (say hello to crab cakes!) as well as a brunch menu with French toast, omelettes, and eggs benny among other favourites.

Their strawberry lemonade ($3.50) comes in a nice tall glass (around 16 oz., I believe) with a wedge of lemon slice and is one of the most refreshing fruit drinks ever.  First off, it’s gorgeous.  It’s a beautiful ruby red grapefruit shade and when you look at it from top to bottom, you’ll notice a lovely eye-catching colour gradient which just makes it all the more fun to drink and look it.  And of course, it tastes cold, refreshing, and delicious.  I love lemonade, but even I can acknowledge the fact that when it isn’t made well, it can either taste too mouth-pucker sour, too cavity-inducing sweet, or just plain artificial, powdery, or rubbery.

A fruity kind of day! Strawberries and cantaloupe with yogurt, along with a strawberry lemonade.

Not this one.  The strawberry lemonade actually tastes like fresh, juicy, sweet strawberries with the citrus tang of lemons and the flavours are so bright, crisp, and clean.  It is a beautiful marriage of the two flavours and fruits and it isn’t too sweet or sour at all.  Unless I’m actually out at a coffee shop or teahouse, I don’t normally get special drinks when I’m out for a meal, just because I’m of the mindset that I would rather spend the money on the food.  However, there are always exceptions and if there are drinks on the menu that catch my eye and that are unique enough to warrant the extra few bucks, I go for it.  This strawberry lemonade is truly a great drink for spring and summer, so if you happen to nosh at Butler’s Pantry sometime in the near future (or anytime for that matter), give it a whirl!

*****

Butler’s Pantry serves 2 locations in Toronto: 1) 591 Markham St. in Mirvish Village, just off of Bloor Street West and Bathurst St. and 2) 371 Roncesvalles Ave. in Roncesvalles Village, south of Dundas Street West in the west end.  They are open for brunch, lunch, and dinner 7 days a week from 11am-10pm Monday-Thursday, 10am-11:30pm Friday-Saturday, and 10am-10pm on Sundays.  Visit their official website for more info and menus HERE.

Art Imitating Food Imitating…More Food! Sweets & The Neapolitan Ice Cream Cone Sugar Cookie at Yummy Stuff

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Ice cream cupcakes, cake and pie cupcake flavours, cupcakes made to look like ice cream cones, candy sushi, and cakes made to look like sandwiches and candy bars (read Food Network magazine, you’ll totally get what I mean with those two last ones!); it’s art imitating food imitating…more food!  It is so darn cute and clever when dessert and food themes criss-cross all over the place to create culinary masterpieces and awe-inspiring works of sweet, edible art.  Now, before I unleash the 2nd installment of the Cupcake Connection featuring a very summer appropriate cupcake from Yummy Stuff among other specials, news, and updates from Toronto’s cupcake scene, let’s talk sugar cookies!  And more specifically, cute as a button decorated sugar cookies that look like food!

Everyone knows I love baking cookies.  However, when it comes to eating them, I am veeeery ambivalent towards certain varieties.  And one of them just happens to be sugar cookies.  I KNOW.  How could I possibly feel that way about one of the world’s most basic, simplest cookies?  They’re blank canvases that beg to be decorated, they don’t complicate things with a whole bunch of wacky, out-of-left-field flavours, and while everyone’s method might be a little different, ingredients are fairly similar across the board.  What’s not to love?  The answer: half the time, they’re just not executed well.

Check out the adorable hamburger!

My beloved Neapolitan ice cream cone cookie!

Pretty ribbon, a takeout box container, and creamy sandwich cookies? I’m sold.

I love the idea of enjoying a sugar cookie but I find sugar cookies to be one of the most difficult things to enjoy because there are so many things that can be wrong with them.  More often that not, they come out chalky, dry, crumbly, tasteless, and uncomfortably hard on your teeth.  And while the aesthetic is often beautiful (the artwork that many cookie decorators do is truly breathtaking), the total sum of the cookie’s yum almost never lives up to its beauty on the surface which is unfortunate because it should taste as good as it looks!

And this is where Yummy Stuff comes in!  I promised you all in my first Yummy Stuff post back in April I would report back on their sugar cookies and I got the chance to go back to their shop on Queen West in Parkdale earlier this month to grab myself one.  They always have an in-store selection ($3 to $4 each), as well as an option of having custom designed ones for special occasions like baby showers, wedding favours, birthdays, and more.  Remember how gaga I was over their cupcake and ice cream shaped and decorated cookies?!

Never a dull cookie or sweet on the Yummy Stuff shelves

This time around, they had some different designs on hand and I was absolutely in conniptions when I saw their new Neapolitan ice cream sugar cookies!  (Hint: this has a little something to do with the upcoming Cupcake Connection!).  They were so, so pretty and really, who can resist anything Neapolitan?  I don’t know about everyone else, but I’ve never separated the flavours or favoured one “section” for another (don’t innocently whistle and pretend like you don’t know what I’m talking about; we all know what I mean) and I kind of liken it to spumoni ice cream.  Anyway, I eagerly snatched a Neapolitan decorated sugar cookie ($4) and vowed to save it for a moment when I could truly savour it and enjoy it’s prettiness.  Even though I was still a tiny bit wary of it delivering on yumminess (they certainly had the appearance down pat, so that wasn’t a concern), I felt confident that Yummy Stuff wouldn’t let me down with their sugar cookies.

And they didn’t.  I will never eat another sugar cookie from another place ever again.  Okay, so maybe that’s a little bit of an exaggeration, but OH.MY.GOD.  This sugar cookie was the BEST sugar cookie I have EVER had.  It was everything a sugar cookie should be and the exact opposite of all the negative traits I listed earlier.  Their sugar cookies weren’t difficult to bite into (I actually broke mine into small pieces to eat, but regardless, my teeth and mouth didn’t hurt from trying to eat them), they melted in your mouth, the icing was delicious, and the cookie!  Oh my lordy, the cookie whipped the hair-tie off my ponytail and sent me to cookie heaven.  Pure vanilla excellence.  Keep in mind, unless there’s a note that indicates the icing is of a particular flavour, the cookie is expected to be vanilla.  Their vanilla is top-notch and the flavour made their sugar cookie taste incredible.  I was actually sad when I finished it because it was so good.

Sneak peek at the upcoming Cupcake Connection, Vol. 002!

It’s a shame cookies can’t keep forever because these are lovely little works of art that would look so fab sitting on a display case in all their foodie glory.  Considering how delicious they are though, it’s not too bad of a trade-off at all.

*****

Yummy Stuff is located at 1660 Queen Street West in the west end Parkdale neighbourhood, east of Roncesvalles Ave.  They are open Tuesday-Sunday, from 10am-7pm from Tuesday-Friday, 9am-6pm on Saturdays, and 12pm noon-5pm on Sundays.  They are closed on Mondays.  Visit their official website here.

The Amazing Feta & Ontario Asparagus Egg Frittata Sandwich, and Upcoming Food Events at The Depanneur!

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In less than a week, we’ll be kicking off the official first day of summer (although if you ask me, summer came knocking on our door two months ago and I’ve been sweating it out and being wimpy about it ever since) and things are certainly heating up at The Depanneur!  With new supper clubs, workshops, and more drop-in dinners than ever before, the dogs days of summer are looking mighty tasty and promising!  Not only has The Depanneur upped the ante on their weekly drop-in dinners from once a week to 3 times a week, but they’ve also opened up a sweet little terrace out front on the side for more good food action.  Kawartha farms and ecological growers have teamed up with The Depanneur to host a market on the terrace every Tuesday from 4pm-7pm.  It’s the perfect combo: a farmers’ market straight from the source AND a drop-in dinner (6pm) to enjoy at the same time!  Here’s what we have to look forward to in the next little while:

  • Paleo Dinner with Summer Innanen of Haute Life – Rusholme Park Supper Club, June 24.  7:30pm-10:30pm.  1033 College Street.  $40 supper club membership for the night.  Sit back and relax with fellow supper club members at this easy, breezy Paleo-inspired meal prepared by holistic nutritionist and owner of Haute Life, Summer Innanen.  The Paleo diet is comprised of meat, fish, eggs, fruits and vegetables, and fats such as coconut and avocado, while at the same time excluding processed and refined sugars, grains, dairy, and legumes.  Summer’s menu will include dishes such as 100% grass-fed braised blade roast with roasted seasonal vegetables and a seasonal berry tart with whipped cream among great food spreads.  It’s a great chance to explore a different diet and that could very well impact your habits and lifestyle, so c0me on out for a fab ‘Summer’ meal!  http://www.facebook.com/events/481088045249968/

  • Make Your Own Condiments with Kate Leinweber – Workshop, July 11.  6pm-9pm.  1033 College Street.  $67 +HST/person.  Let’s face it – some of our favourite store-bought sauces and condiments are, unfortunately, loaded with excess sodium, sugars, and preservatives.  We love them, but wouldn’t it be fabulous to learn and explore the art of making your own spreads and dips?  Join holistic nutritionist and microbiologist, Kate Leinweber, at this do-it-yourself workshop solely devoted to fermenting and whipping up delicious condiments such as mustards, mayos, ketchups, and more.  This workshop is comprised of an educational and learning component and sit-down dinner and social hour where everyone will have the opportunity to try their homemade creations alongside a delicious slow-cooked tagine.  http://www.facebook.com/events/378207642216568/ 

In addition to the drop-in dinners, supper clubs, workshops, and Kawartha partneship,the frittata breakfast sandwiches just keep getting better and better!  I’ve had their breakfast sandwiches 3 times now ($4 for half, $7 for a whole) and the latest was their best EVER: feta and Ontario asparagus egg frittata with greens, smothered in a thyme and paprika flavoured mayo, sandwiched between two slice of grilled sourdough bread.  The bread was so toasty and crunchy and it tasted just like crostini with olive oil, and the egg frittata was AMAZING.  It was so super thick and the asparagus and feta made it crunchy and creamy all at the same time and the mayo, with its slight kick from the paprika, was just foodgasmic.  I would have eaten this sauce by the spoonful, slathered it on everything, and dipped everything in it.  Just thinking about the sandwich now makes me hungry for more.  This was my favourite egg frittata sandwich so far and I’m mighty curious to see if any future sandwiches can top this one!  Hands down, the best $4 I ever spent on breakfast.

Upcoming drop-in dinners for this week, and supper clubs and workshops happening later on in the month and early July will be posted soon!  I’ll be updating this post and The Depanneur’s Food Calendar page as soon as I get the weekly news.  And if you happen to stop by, pick up the latest issue of City Bites magazine while you’re at it too!  I hope everyone’s enjoying their weekend!

*****

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.  You can view The Depannuer’s Facebook page here.

Spinach Eggs Benny, Fresh Fruit, & a ‘Sour Cream n’ Onion’ Hollandaise! Breakfast at Gayley’s Cafe

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Up, down, left, right, and all around – it was a day to explore part of the west end with good eats, a great market, and plenty of new food discoveries!  I sat myself down to a nice, quiet meal at Gayley’s Cafe on the same day I skipped around Sorauren farmers’ market and the west end of Toronto.  I walked and walked and walked till I pooped out at the library on Roncesvalles.  And then I walked some more. 

But before we give Roncy and the rest of the west end some more love (and trust me, it’s coming!), we’re going to start with a fab breakfast at Gayley’s!  My last visit to this great brunch and lunch cafe was about a year ago and I promised myself I would come back and have a hack at their breakfast menu, chock full of eggs benny dishes, waffles with apple compote, chocolate chip pancakes, and good old fashioned home fries and bacon.  Much like their lunch menu, their breakfasts are all priced around$5-$10 with many different choices to suit both savoury and sweet appetites. 

There were so many things I loved about this particular visit.  For starters, I realized right off the bat that the artwork on the walls had changed.  Instead of the colourful, vibrant paintings of whimsical flowers and fairy-like female portraits, there were beautiful photographs of the Azores islands in the North Atlantic ocean!  They switch up their artwork and I love how they remain committed to giving Canadian and local artists exposure doing this, and how it gives the cafe a sense of freshness and newness and a bit of a different vibe each time.

Next, Gayley’s is so thoughtful when it comes to their food.  I was in the mood for some spinach eggs benny so I ordered their eggs benedict florentine and I was completely taken aback when the nice gentleman who took my order asked me if I wanted my poached eggs well-done, medium, or runny.  OH.MY.GOD.  I have had eggs benny on a number of occasions and I have NEVER, EVER been asked that!  I was floored.  I happily told him I wanted them medium (I looove my eggs a little runny) and I was met with even more jubilance when I asked him if I could have a side of fresh fruit instead of home fries or salad. 

I really wanted some fruit with my breakfast so I asked if it would be okay to substitute (yes, for an additional $1 which I was more than fine with) and since I knew the fruit salad would most likely contain something I was allergic to, I asked him what types of fruit were included in it and he was so nice about listing them and ticking them off his fingers one by one.  After making sure it would also be okay to only have cantaloupe, strawberries, and other berries (and not honeydew, pineapple, and pears), the meal actually became even more fantastic!

My plate of beautiful eggs benedict florentine covered in hollandaise with fresh cut fruit on the side came to me with two delicate poached eggs on a bed of baby spinach and crunchy English muffins.  It was so pretty!  My plate looked like a happy rainbow and that, in turn, made me even happier.  I was told that none of my fruit had come into contact with anything I said I was allergic to (how thoughtful, careful, and sweet!) and after that, I dug in!  HOLY MOTHER OF PEARL!  Ladies and gents, you must go to Gayley’s for eggs benny.  Actually, forget that, just come for food!  Aside from the fact that their English muffins are crunchy as opposed to soggy (big turn-off) and their poached eggs are perfect, their hollandaise sauce is to die for! 

I can’t even wrap my head around how insanely delicious, scrumptious, and mouthwatering their hollandaise is.  It smelled divine straight off the plate but having it envelope your tastebuds is a completely different experience.  Their hollandaise tastes like Ruffles sour cream and onion potato chips!!!  Yes, that deserves three exclamation points – and then some!  Just think back to those childhood days when you would chomp on those sour cream and onion chips everyone loved so much, grabbing every last tiny crumb from the bottom of the bag and licking your fingers for that last bit of yumminess.  Okay, so that might be a little gross, but we all know we did it and maybe some of us still do!  I have never had hollandaise that tasted like this and it was so, so good.           

It’s a shame I’ve been missing out on their breakast all this time but I’m glad I finally made my way back here.  I am definitly looking forward to trying their waffles with apple compote (I’m not allergic to preserves, hurray!) as well as some of their other items.  Gayley’s is both dine-in and take-out and with its laid-back atmosphere, its a wonderful cafe in the west end for those lazy mornings and quiet togethers surrounded by nice people and great food.  

*****

Gayley’s Cafe is located at 1424 Dundas St. West, east of Dufferin St. off Gladstone Ave.  They serve all-day breakfast as well as lunch with a number of meat and vegetarian sandwiches, soups, baked goods, and coffee drinks.

Dainty Cakes & The Chocolate Banana Cream Pie Cupcake – A Photo Spotlight on the Wedding Cake Shoppe

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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.