I visit the market a lot, although I've missed the last few. It's a market that focuses on Organic food. It's more expensive on the whole than some other markets, but most of the vendors sell naturally grown and self made products and it shows. I don't pay a lot of attention to names so can only describe them from where they set up and what they sell. There's a good list of vendors at the Dufferin Grove site here:
Not all vendors are there every week. The market is always bigger in the late summer when all the produce is coming in and the other vendors come to take advantage of the crowds. I'll try to touch generally on those that I've seen most often.
There are a couple of produce vendors year round. There are more in the summer when the market moves outside and there's room for all. Of the ones there in winter, the one that sets up outside brings in mostly their own grown produce, while the one inside has things that are probably bought elsewhere and brought to market. They both sell organic produce, but I think the one outside is more exclusive about that. Their prices are higher than St Lawrence's North Market, but I think that's in part due to the organic process. One of the vendors sells apple cider in the late summer that I look forward to all year long. This portion of the market really picks up in the summer and autumn. When the market is out in the park instead of by the ice rink, they can spread out and bring more with them. The variety and quality is wonderful then, although everything is very much seasonal. I love going every week to see what new things have been harvested.
There are a few butcher vendors. One sells venison exclusively, another chicken and game meats (boar, elk, etc.), and the last your more standard pork and beef. All of them are organic/free range and you can taste the difference. The pork and beef (plus related products like bacon, sausage, etc.) is more expensive but very nice. But the meat is mostly packaged and frozen and sold out of coolers, so it's not as fresh as you might find at St Lawrence.
There's a sheep milk product vendor who brings cheese, cream cheese, and yogurt. A new vendor is there I haven't tried that brings smoked fish. They come from up north by Georgian Bay and look like they do everything home style.
There are a couple of bakeries, one of which brings in their own array of breads. They have a good variety of artisan breads. The other uses the ovens at Dufferin Grove and produces a limited but very fresh array of breads. The Rosemary bread is wonderful, and if you time your visit just right, you may end up walking away with a warm loaf. In summer I've sat on a bench and ate chunks of that bread immediately after buying it, and there's nothing like a taste of fresh out of the oven loaf.
There are a few dessert vendors, one does soy, another fair trade chocolate. The chocolate vendor is in partnership with South American farmers, and sells cacao beans (raw and roasted), a rough ground powder, and their own chocolate chunks and drinks that are usually very pure (no milk mixed in, but just spices or amaranth as a thickener) They often have a pot of hot chocolate going at the market, and I believe everything they sell is vegan.
The honey vendor is always there, but I find his products on the expensive side compared to the St Lawrence North Market and he usually only has one variety. There's a vendor that sells olive oil (you can re-fill your own bottles from their keg), some cheese (feta usually) and a very limited supply of farm eggs. They sell out of their eggs pretty quickly so you need to go early. Next to them is a small vendor that sells home made perogies and cabbage rolls among other things. There's usually a hot food vendor there every week, but more in the summer when people wander through the park.
Basically, it's open year round, but is best in the summer and autumn. It's somewhat expensive but if you want natural and/or homey small batch products it's fantastic.
the chocolate vendor is chocosol? www.chocosoltraders.com
they write up that they get their chocolate from mexican vendors... but i have heard this south american story and i'm not sure now if there are two fair trade chocolate vendors running around toronto.
anyhow, i find their processing a bit rough and you'll never get silky chocolate out of them but it's still pretty nice and who can resist chocolate! one of the most fun things is that they use a solar-roaster that is sometimes powered via bicycle and are working on turning more of their machinery into cycle-powered.
Yes, it's Choco Sol. I thought it was South American, but maybe it was Mexican and I just remembered incorrectly. Maybe I'm mixed up because of the Mayan flavour hot chocolate. Their chocolate is a bit grainy and their powder is a rough powder not a fine one. But it seems like everything is done more or less by hand and it seems more "real", if you know what I mean.
Re: frozen meat, you could also call the vendors (or talk to them one week and pick up the next) and arrange to get fresh. They'll package it up and have it ready for when you arrive. I believe most of them with the larger animals (cow, pig etc.) will sell you halves and quarters at an OK price.
"There are a few butcher vendors. One sells venison exclusively, another chicken and game meats (boar, elk, etc.), and the last your more standard pork and beef. All of them are organic/free range and you can taste the difference. The pork and beef (plus related products like bacon, sausage, etc.) is more expensive but very nice. But the meat is mostly packaged and frozen and sold out of coolers, so it's not as fresh as you might find at St Lawrence."