Adventures in Food in May – The Return of Outdoor Markets, Mother’s Day Events, and Food Shows Galore!

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Got chocolate? Chocolate Addict in Kensington Market

May is here and oh my goodness is there ever a ridiculous amount of food goodness to look forward to this month!  I thought April was pretty amazing, what with National Grilled Cheese Month and Easter cupcakes and festivities and all, but May will totally blow April out of the water.  While I was compiling and writing up the May Food Calendar, it felt like I was on a never-ending roller coaster as I kept finding more and more events and markets to add to it.  I’m STILL not entirely finished!  I just found out about some new things today and I need to get cracking on finishing up the Cooking Classes & Workshops calendar because there are some mighty fine tasty specimens to enjoy in that category too.  The best part about all of this food news?  There’s a little bit of everything.  Let’s get started!

Farmers’ markets are heading outside starting this month!

Get the tote bags ready because the outdoor farmers’ markets are busting out this month!  If you read my comprehensive Spring Market News post the other day you’ll know some of this already, but just so we’re all on the same page, May will see the return of markets in East York, Trinity Bellwoods, Sherway Gardens, Withrow Park, and Pedestrian Sundays at Kensington Market among numerous others!  Dates and months can start to get a little confusing when we’re looking at so many markets, so what I’m going to do is make a separate page within the Food Calendar with all the markets that are specifically starting up in May with their locations and dates.  They’ll be listed on the main farmers’ market page as well, but this will make everyone’s lives easier and more streamlined. 

To add even more excitement into the market mix, the market at Evergreen Brick Works will be celebrating their 6th birthday on May 5th, there will be yummy tastings at the Brick Works every Saturday during the spring and summer months, and the foodie community is ecstatic to welcome a brand new market to the city later on this month in the Toronto Botanical Gardens!

Spadina Museum and Historic House & Gardens

M is for May and M is for Mother’s Day!  If you love to “mangia, mangia!” with mum, there are foodie Mother’s Day weekend activities happening all across the city including Mother’s Day afternoon teas at both the Spadina Museum & Historic House and Gardens, and Montgomery’s Inn in the west end; Mother’s Day brunch on a cruise ship; Mother’s Day brunch at The Drake Hotel on Queen West, and a very special Mother’s Day locavore buffet brunch at Artscape Wychwood Barns featuring fresh, organic, local food from their very own farmers’ market vendors and producers. 

Mum has a sweet tooth?  We have some of that too.  Tasty Tours is hosting and unveiling their highly anticipated Chocolate Tour on Mother’s Day weekend in addition to their Mother’s Day sweets tour!  Tasty Tours is devoted to showcasing the city’s finest in sweets and chocolates around downtown Toronto, most notably in Kensington Market, King West, and Trinity Bellwoods.  They’ll be having a flash sale promotion going on sometime next week  that will slash $15 off the regular ticket price for their Chocolate Tour, so instead of it being $35, you can get it for $20!  I don’t know about you, but I am just a click away from taking advantage of this deal!  Click HERE for the goods! and to sign up for their mailing list so you’ll be in the know about discounts and promotions!

Tasty Tours will be unveiling their chocolate tour this month!

And finally, we can’t forget about the food shows and happy hour festivities!  During the month of May, there’s the Good Food Festival & Market at the International Centre in Mississauga, the Tequila and More Show at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre, Iranian Heritage Day at the Royal Ontario Museum, Tastes and Sounds of Asia at Mel Lastman Square, the 2nd Annual Vegan Spring Expo down by the harbourfront, the return of The Stop’s Beer Garden at Wychwood Barns, and the celebration, fight, and solidarity of and behind Food Revolution Day on a local, global, national, and city-wide scale.

There’s a lot to look forward to and I imagine that things are only going to get crazier as the season progresses, but I’m here to be your eyes and ears (and in most cases, your tastebuds!) and I’ll be updating as frequently as I can on everything that will be going on this month and beyond.  Have a happy and foodielicious May, everyone!

Spring Has Sprung! Baby Potatoes, Empanadas, and Food, Food, Food at the Farmers’ Market at Wychwood Barns

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In just a few more weeks, the amazing market at Wychwood Barns will be heading outdoors during the May long weekend into what we all hope will be a happy summer market season for 2012.  I wanted to make one more indoor market visit though, so I took advantage of the pretty weather and made a day out of it, complete with brunch, window shopping, and LOTS of walking!  I walked from the Wychwood Barns neighbourhood on St. Clair West down to the Queen West and Trinity Bellwoods area, then proceeded to stroll along Ossington back up to Bloor and then to Dufferin.  It felt invigorating while I was doing it but I realized just how tired I was from all the fancy footwork when I nearly fell asleep on my laptop after I came home. 

It was so worth it though!  It never ceases to amaze me how I can make these trips to the farmers’ markets and come away just wanting everything.  I was waffling on whether or not it was smarter to go this week or to wait for the first outdoor market later on this month, but my craving for Earth & City’s raw, vegan nut burgers with pesto pushed me out the door at the crack of dawn.  So there you have it.

$8 for a dozen beautiful gerbera daisies!

My beloved baby potatoes, especially the blue ones!

You might be inclined to think that going to these farmers’ markets means seeing and eating the same things over and over again (especially when you make multiple visits during the same season), but that couldn’t be further from the truth.  I was actually surprised at all the new things I saw at this week’s market.  Sure, I saw ChocoSol, Earth & City, and Yorktown Pie Company there among other familiar vendors, but everything felt new and vibrant, like everyone was itching for the new season to take hold and couldn’t wait to dish out new and delicious items to try.  The place was absolutely buzzing (it was actually very difficult to take photos this time because of the sheer volume of people grabbing things in front of me and don’t even get me started on the line-ups and crowding!) and people were picking up goodies and beautiful spring daisies and flowers left and right.  It’s a buzz that you’d only get at an early morning farmers’ market.

Earth & City had containers of some brand new savoury dips and spreads (sweet walnut sauce and preserved basil pesto, $5 each), the Yorktown Pie Company had brand apple cheddar mini pies that looked amazing, Allis Fresh Baked busted out a basket of mac n’ cheese corn muffins (seriously, they need to stop tempting me with all these cheesy, savoury muffins!), and Primeridge Pure Dairy had some of the most delicious soft cheese I have ever had melt in my mouth! 

Peanut butter chocolate thumbprints!

Earth & City's dips and vegan burgers

If it wasn’t for the brand new package of cheese I had sitting in the fridge at home I would have been all around their cheese like mud on a pig.  They had a BLACK PEPPERCORN SOFT CHEESE.  I LOVE freshly cracked black pepper and peppercorns like nobody’s business.  Ask anybody who has eaten in my company, I put the stuff on almost everything.  The fresh cheese was creamy, melt-in-your-mouth, and hella peppery and spicy.  And SO GOOD.  I imagined this on a crusty wedge of French bread and baguette.  I imagined this on a bit of pasta.  Hell, I even imagined it on my raw, vegan nut burger but then I felt bad because that would have made it unvegan.  But you get the idea.

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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.

The Stop Community Food Centre and Wychwood Barns – Farmers’ Market, Food Programs, and Accessibility, Part II

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One of the most rewarding things about food exploration is the infinite number of ways we can engage in it.  It’s about cooking from the heart, cooking at home, with family, with friends, for survival, passing down cultural traditions, dining out, experimentation, food cultivation, food history, economic and environmental stability and sustainability, and most of all, accessibility.  When we immerse ourselves in food culture, we essentially investigate the question, “how does a community feed itself?” 

The Stop Community Food Centre is one of Toronto’s culinary cornerstones, offering food programs in an effort to increase accessibility to healthy food.  These food programs take into account the very different lifestyles, family structures and situations, incomes, and aspirations of Torontonians, and are tailored to different age groups and levels of culinary experience.  Its mission is to build awareness and accessibility to nutritious food and food pathways.  It’s about knowing and understanding the different socioeconomic positions people occupy in our societyand finding ways to lessen the burden, to increase the knowledge of food systems, to spark a new-found interest, and to nurture those who take pleasure in cooking and food exploration.

 

Food programs offered by The Stop include a food bank; an after school cooking and learning workshop for elementary school children; a drop-in program for those who need a healthy meal, food counselling, and access to information and resources around the city; an urban agriculture program that is comprised of several community gardens in and around the community, all of which produce fresh fruits, vegetables, and herbs for The Stop’s food events, kitchen, and cooking workshops; food and cooking programs for both new parents and seniors; a community cooking program which strives to increase accessibility and awareness of healthy living and eating habits, build cooking and social skills, and to bring people together through food and cooking.  Finally, The Stop offers a weekly farmers’ market year-round, every Saturday from 8am-12pm, in conjunction with the Wychwood community and Artscape Wychwood Barns.

The Stop and Wychwood Barns are a fusion of culture and art, bringing together local businesses, farmers, entrepreneurs, and artists (culinary and otherwise) under one common goal and umbrella.  We may not all be locavores, but the The Stop Farmers’ Market at Wychwood Barns emphasizes the importance of providing support for local, Ontario growers, producers, farmers, retailers, and independent food businesses who strive to grow, create, and prepare organic, sustainable, healthy food.  The market fully endorses market vendors that provide food that is gluten-free, vegan, raw, dairy, meat-centric, and organic, so long as the food has been cultivated through ethical and sustainable practices.  Market vendors have information plaques attached to their booths informing market goers of the business’ history, mission, goals, and information.

The mission behind The Stop Farmers’ Market isn’t to necessarily “convert” our community into becoming a locavore one or to “push” the locavore doctrine onto people.  We know the benefits of using seasonal ingredients and buying local, but we also know that many of us don’t wish to subscribe to these principles and/or face limitations, so we need ways to negotiate through the various foodpaths that are made available to us.  And one of these ways is through a community market like this one.   

Its goal is to show support for local businesses while at the same time building awareness in and around Toronto (and beyond!) concerning the food options we have in our cities and province.  The concept of accessibility is based upon the notion of choice.  Without choices and without options, accessibility cannot exist so it is through accessibility that we can begin to make informed purchasing decisions and healthy lifestyle choices.

The Stop Community Food Centre and Artscape Wychwood Barns provides our city with so many opportunties to engage with food and I’m so looking forward to being more involved in this community and taking advantage of the many food programs that are offered.  I hope you’ve all enjoyed the first two parts of the Wychwood farmers’ market series because the third and last will be featuring the raw and vegan delights of Earth & City tomorrow!

*****

The Stop Community Food Centre Farmers’ Market at Artscape Wychwood Barns is held year-round on Saturdays from 8am-12pm.  The market is currently being held indoors for the winter.  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

Root Vegetables, Cheeses, Pot Pies, Chocolate & More! The Farmers’ Market at Wychwood Barns, Part I

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After months and months of farmers’ market visits, I have finally made my way to Wychwood Barns for The Stop Community Food Centre Farmers’ Market!  I’ve been looking forward to my first Wychwood farmers’ market visit for so long, especially after I mixed up the market times the first time I tried to go last summer and ended up showing up after the party!  For whatever reason, I mixed up the times and thought the market went on until 4pm when it actually went on until 12 noon.  I learned from my mistake and knew better this time.  I knew the market would be amazing given the size and scope and all the wonderful things I had heard from others; my going was only a matter of time.  I woke up at the crack of dawn, bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, ready to get an early start to my day.  Today was absolutely beautiful out and it was the perfect day to go to the market.  The air felt fresh and comfortable with just a tiny bit of nip in it. 
 
The market, held indoors in Artscape’s barn #2 on Wychwood Ave., is arranged in a rectangular shaped “O” offering everything from local Ontario winter squash, fruits, and root vegetables, fresh cheeses, pickled vegetables, loaves of bread and giant scones from city bakeries, meats and meat spreads, breakfast food, roti, vegan delights, savoury pot pies, chocolate, and so much more.  Coming here felt simaltaneously brand new and familiar.  I was seeing the market in all its glory for the first time, and yet there I was excitedly saying hello to market vendors I had met over the summer and friends I had made along the way on this market journey.
 
 
 
 
Going to Wychwood today made me realize everything I had been missing out on and it made me appreciate the experience so much more.  I want to come here every Saturday now.  I want to integrate this market into my weekly schedule so I can take photos, buy vegetables, eat breakfast, eat pot pies and vegan food, and sneak in a sweet dessert here and there.  I think I could feasibly feed myself for an entire day here!  In hindsight I really should have picked up some kale to take home, but I didn’t leave the market empty-handed!  I ate some samples and took away two giant scones (one spinach and blue cheese and one orange and chocolate chip!) and a heavenly frosted brownie from Earth & City which I couldn’t wait to sink my teeth into.
 
 
I’m so happy to finally feature the Wychwood market on the blog and I have a ton of photos to post and so much to write about, so I’m making this into a 3-part Wychwood farmers’ market series: a post full of photos for today, a full write-up about The Stop Community Food Centre in conjunction with Artscape Wychwood Barns, and a delightful new vegan foodie post of Earth & City!