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McEwan's - ripped off!

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Okay so here's the thing. When it comes to food, both my husband and I enjoy good stuff and we don't mind paying for it. In fact, we'll go out of our way to source new and interesting items. We love shopping at Pusateri's, Summerhill Market, the 5 thieves and of late, McEwans. Yes the prices are high, but I've always felt the produce is of a higher quality, the meats a better cut, and so forth. Until today, that is. I'm not one to routinely price check, but boy did I get a surprise.

We've been buying Mozzerella de Bufolo from McEwan's the last couple of weeks. It really is wonderful stuff but not cheap. It's by Cilento, and they charge $19.99 for a 200g size ball. It's imported from Italy and since I've not seen it widely available we figured the price is fair. But I just came back from an emergency run to Sun Valley and lo and behold, I see the same tub in their fridge. At first I didn't even look at the price, I was just happy to know that it is available so close to home. AND THEN I SAW THE PRICE - $9.99!!

Hey if Mark wants to make his hummos, sandwiches, salads, or whatever else it be, and charge an arm and a leg for it, so be it. It's his stuff, and the only place you can get it is at McEwans, I can live with that. But when he takes products and charges DOUBLE, then what they charge elsewhere, well to me, that is just piggish and a total rip off.

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  1. "But when he takes products and charges DOUBLE, then what they charge elsewhere, well to me, that is just piggish and a total rip off."
    This may very well be the case but on the other hand it may be a reflection of his overhead (especially rent for the enormous square footage). This takes me back to my initial speculation (before he opened) as to whether his current location is really sustainable. Are there enough people willing to pay a very high premium for quality stuff in a very pretty store from a celebrated top chef? Time will tell.

    1. Oofah! Sorry to hear that, millygirl.

      If this is the same stuff I'm thinking of, we usually buy it at Alex Farms or Chris' Cheesemongers at St Lawrence. And it's $9.99 there, if I'm not mistaken.

      1. Wow, thanks for the warning millygirl. I was actually wondering if McEwan has burrata but with his apparent mark ups I think I'll just keep getting it at the Cheese Boutique, even if he does carry it.

        1 Reply
        1. re: ms. clicquot

          This is no surprise, this is the reason that I have avoided this place. I enjoy good food, but paying a premium doesn't make it better. I too buy my Bufala at other locations and will not pay over $10 for this size. I believe that good food is in the preparation as well as fresh ingredients. McKewan gets his Bufala at the same place that everyone else does. Paying $9.99 for a takeout sandwich???

        2. Six weeks ago, I bought this same Italian bufala , 200 grams, for $9.99 at No Frills, Runnymede and Bloor.

          2 Replies
          1. re: Dean Tudor

            See? One does not have to shop at the fancy shmancy places like Pusateris or those other places to get the highest quality! I've seen that cheese at Fortinos. I can get organic meats, Fred's bread, fresh fish, local produce ( Ontario strawberries for $2.99) and much more, at Fortino's without the big mark up that I am sure is paying for the lovely surroundings or lovely neighbourhoods these upscale food shops are located in

            1. re: froglegs

              True with some items, but I found it interesting that No Frills' price for this cheese is exactly the same as Sun Valley, Alex Farms, and Chris' Cheesemongers.

          2. I have not posted previously on McEwan's. I figure he deserves some time to get things running smoothly. However, I have been there several times to look around. To date, I haven't been tempted to buy anything. But I need to post something about this.

            I found the fish selection gorgeous, but the prices were beyond ridiculous. $25/lb (no, they weren't swimming) for striped bass? If Diana's is the supplier, Diana's a few minutes away.

            The meat didn't look as uniformly great as the fish, but much of it was quite nice and the man at the meat counter was extremely personable. The prices were, again, out of sight. The Wagyu was less marbled than the prime, which seemed curious.

            The only distinction of the produce counter was its prices. Mexican avocados (not organic) for twice the price of similarly sized Mexican avocados elsewhere is one example. Nothing looked better (or worse) than anywhere else.

            So on to the cheese. On my first visit, a group of people was gathered behind the cheese counter. Everyone was listening intently (so intently that getting served would have been impossible) as some guy - it wasn't McEwan - gave them talking points about, and responses to, objections that identical items were cheaper elsewhere.

            The grocery and dairy selection, and prices, were a disappointing joke.

            3 Replies
            1. re: embee

              I just went there for the first time yesterday and have to agree with the negative comments.
              After a while, my wife and I got tired of spotting stuff we buy at the SLM or Sun Valley (or even No Frills!) being sold for anywhere from a 50% to a 100% markup.

              Sure, there are some things that are a bit hard to find elsewhere, but if you're a real foodie, you could probably get hold of 85%-90% of the things in the store for way less than is being charged.

              It looks lovely, sure, but like the old saying has it: "You can't eat atmosphere."

              BTW, had an iced Americano on my way out. YIKES! Bitter, bitter, bitter.

              1. re: embee

                Yes, the fish -- at least some of it -- is from Diana's.

                1. re: embee

                  So what do you think of Pusateri, embee?

                2. This is not the Toronto Zabar's, with high quality, low prices.
                  Too bad, but the location guarantees poor demographics, high prices, and few walk in buyers, mostly lookers. And no core buyers, as from the upper west side of Manhattan.

                  18 Replies
                  1. re: jayt90

                    I checked it out last week and saw a box of minute rice priced at 9.99.....enough said.

                    1. re: paper_bag_princess

                      But if you make $360 an hour and can cook that rice in a minute, it's worth it!

                      I haven't been to McEwan's and am not about to rush over. There's a sucker born every minute, but I'm not one of them.

                      1. re: foodyDudey

                        What? This place is a rip off? Who knew?

                        1. re: Crispy skin

                          Hey!
                          Give the guy a break!
                          Do you know how much gas a Ferrari guzzles!

                      2. re: paper_bag_princess

                        That's an outrage, an insult! Minute Rice? Who shops in this place - Bridle Path dwellers??

                        1. re: frogsteak

                          some people will always hate. although expensive, the quality of his prepared foods, meat, fish, cheese, pastries, and produce are top notch

                          1. re: KitchenVoodoo

                            Since you responded to an (almost) 5 year old thread, you better go check the price as it may be $14.99 now!

                        2. re: jayt90

                          Mmmm...memories of Zabar's. That's what Toronto is lacking.

                          1. re: jayt90

                            I visited the store today, and was pleasantly surprised. I even bought a few things.
                            The re-development of the the Don Mills Center seems to be a success, with a community feeling and casual strolling encouraged. A vast improvement over the shopping center.
                            McEwan's store is smaller than I expected, but a worthy destination if you watch your prices. After all, Diana's and Cumbrae's are nearby. (Cumbrae is actually promoting cheaper cuts as part of a nose to tail philosophy, but you have to ask or look carefully.)
                            McEwan did remind me of Zabar's, except for their pricing, and lack of hustle bustle and traffic. If Mark gets some loss leaders going, such as Le Creuset or small kitchen items, he may have a winner.

                            1. re: jayt90

                              I really didn't know what to expect of McEwan's. I'm sure not the market he caters to at his restaurants - I've never found the menus particularly enticing at any of them. But I did expect that he would do something that was different from, and better than, say Pusateri's or Summerhill Market. He didn't and it isn't.

                              I can't say it reminded me of Zabar's. My history with Zabar's goes back to the days when it was just another little appetizer on the Upper West Side. The current Zabar's incarnation, though similar in size to McEwan's, doesn't try to be a supermarket. What they do have is great depth in a few specialty areas and (at any given quality level) very good prices. There's also the New York buzz (not expected in Don Mills) and at least some vestige of ethnic ta'am. I suspect that New Yorkers looking for one stop shopping are more likely to go to Fairway than to Zabar's.

                              As noted above, I still haven't bought anything. Of the prepared food, nothing jumped out screaming EAT ME NOW. Much of what was on offer looked ordinary and/or overcooked, and I wasn't overcome by heavenly smells. I remember David Wood. McEwan's doesn't come close. I didn't ask whether they have a universal sampling policy that might change my mind. While many samples were on offer, none of them were of McEwan's own food.

                              Some of the pastries looked absolutely gross. One cream pie topping reminded me of shaving cream. I intend to try the Boulart bread, but likely not from here.

                              Meats looked nice enough, but prices made Cumbrae's come off as a discounter. Fish was beautiful, but $50 for enough bass to serve two? Produce couldn't hold a candle to Harvest Wagon or Pusateri's.

                              And the groceries? Most of what's there is available a short walk south at Metro.

                              McEwan's is certainly a nicer store than the Toronto competition. Zabar's smells better than all of them.

                              1. re: embee

                                embee, if you haven't tried the lamb at McEwan you're missing out. It's the one and only item they sell that I'll buy.

                                -----
                                McEwan
                                75 The Donway W, Toronto, ON M3C, CA

                                1. re: Googs

                                  What are some examples of great cuts and what do they cost?

                                  1. re: Googs

                                    Where is his lamb sourced from?

                                    1. re: radiopolitic

                                      We normally prefer Australian Lamb, but I must admit that their Lamb is good.
                                      It is Ontario.
                                      I have only purchased Racks of Lamb, and we had a couple of Racks this Weekend, and they were really sweet and tender.
                                      They have also happily cut racks into Chops for us as we prefer this cut for Chops as well.
                                      I really like their Meat Department, but their produce is rarely fresh or tempting, and I can't even comprehend why so much of their Baking is not fresh.
                                      Please Mr. mcewan,if you read this make breadcrumbs, croutons, etc.
                                      Give me fresh bread!
                                      Give the stale cakes to the food Bank instead of refrigerating everything and setting it out the next day, or even the next day again!

                                  2. re: embee

                                    Metro's "Irresistibles" or "Premiere Moison" (I forget which) bread is actually made by Boulart. It comes in frozen, and is proofed and baked in-store.

                                    1. re: sunshine89

                                      The Premiere Moison breads are from that baker in Quebec. It is my understanding that at least some of the Irresistibles breads come from Boulart.

                                      1. re: embee

                                        Yes! That jogs my memory. Logic would dictate that something branded as Premiere poison would be manufactured by them.

                                        The Irresistibles brand baguettes, ciabatta and fougasse are made by Boulart.

                                2. re: jayt90

                                  They're not exactly at Jane & Finch so I think demographics is a non-factor here because, like Pusateri's, most customers won't walk there, they drive and the Shops on DM is still within a 10-15 drive from Bridlewood Path, Lawrence Park and Leaside; and, as well, they're a bit closer to where some of the new immigrant money have gone such as Markham and parts of North York and Willowdale.

                                  And McEwan's strategy isn't high quality, low prices. It's essentially, I think, to be an alternative to Pusateri's and other high end food markets. My issue is that they haven't made that distinction very well as a lot of their products, like Neslie Ice Cream or McCain's Pizza, are typically found in regular supermarkets like No Frills. They need to be more selective in their product mix, but I think this will become clearer in time as they tweak and eventually find their niche.

                                  This economy isn't helping and all high end retailer are feeling the pinch. I would think the McEwan's is adequately funded and prepared for a marathon and not a sprint.

                                3. To be fair, I think you have to compare his prices to that of Pusateri, Whole Foods, Summerhill Market and the like. I've only bought steaks from McEwan's for our summer BBQ and their prices are comparable to other high end retailers. I mean, I'm sure I can pick out something at Pusateri's that's cheaper than same at No Frills.

                                  However, having said that, and comparing to Pusateri's, it just seems that McEwan's have more of the pedestrian stuff that you can get anywhere (like Delissimo pizza for example that I can recall) and the charge more for it making it very obvious that they're overcharging.

                                  1 Reply
                                  1. re: syoung

                                    McEwan isn't a grocer and, however good he may be at what he has done, he doesn't know anything about being a grocer. Presumably he's getting expert advice from somewhere, and it seems his expert advice may not be very good. Sometimes ego isn't enough....

                                    I believe Summerhill's ownership is the third family generation. Cosimo Pusateri grew up in a fruit store. (The people now running Pusateri's don't have the same passion, and it'll be interesting to see where they go over the next couple of years.)

                                    I was impressed with Whole Foods when they first opened, despite their mega chain ownership and sometimes obscene prices. They offered samples of pretty much everything for which sampling was feasible, they had focus, and they had much merchandise simply unavailable anywhere else. I'm less impressed with them now and rarely go there, but their grocery selection still differs radically from what's sold at Loblaw's et al. McEwan's grocery selection sucks.

                                    Sam Steinberg was one of the great grocers of all time. He came up with the concept of today's Wal-Mart Supercentres almost fifty years ago, but he was a disaster as a "box store" merchant. His department store division never made a profit.

                                  2. It will also be interesting to see what happens to it in the winter... The Shops at DM are so nice on a beautiful day but I definitely won't be driving there to walk around in the snow. The people who just walk in to McEwan's now because they're at the Shops will probably disappear.

                                    2 Replies
                                    1. re: MaraW

                                      Great point! May be valet parking for shoppers?!

                                      1. re: Charles Yu

                                        They do have valet parking. Linda's has recently implemented that as well (5$).

                                        Prices seem to be a moving target, with price fluctuations for particular goods (burgers up, oysters down).

                                        The competitive advantage that they seem to be aiming for is service. The counters are extremely well-staffed with people who seem trained to up sell. You don't spend as much time lining up as you do at Pusateri's or Olliffe's.

                                    2. OK, I must admit, I don't 'get it' anymore with McEwan's grocery store/semi-restaurant/coffee shop meet-up place....

                                      My usual day to day grocery store shopping is done at Longo's at York Mills, with trips to Pusateri's in between as well as one-off food stores like Cumbrae's, Diana's Seafood, etc.

                                      I decided to give McEwan a few tries before really making up my mind (even though I kinda already did when I first saw it--one word: COLD). Anyway, I have now been about 5-10 times and I'm just about ready to give up on the place. Everytime I go, I'm the only one seemingly in the 'produce' dept. And that produce dept is an embarrassment to produce depts., I mean they don't have really any fall/winter greens to be found, let alone any romaine lettuce!! They had a few sad looking red leaf the few times I went. But the only romaine I could find was the already cut up pieces in plastic container for 6 bucks. I'm ok with 6 bucks if it's fresh, already cut and washed for me and I can make a quick salad when I get home. But when that 6 buck washed lettuce is BROWN, that's problem.
                                      Anyway, it's also very weirdly dumbed down to the point of chopped onions?? Everything is freakin' chopped already! Garlic, squash, onions, tomatoes, cucumbers, etc. I guess that's ok, but what about the fresh, whole veg for us that actually like to cook?

                                      So I mentioned this a few times to people I know go there and they just about laughed in my face and said, everyone knows you don't go to McEwan to SHOP! I said oh really, why do you go to McEwan's? Oh, you go there for the prepared food because it's like eating at his restaurant but cheaper and you can eat it at home with your wine etc.

                                      WRONG!

                                      I've now been 4 times just for the cooked food and it's disgusting. First, let's get something out of the way, his staff is friendly, but they are woefully inexperienced in many cases. Next the food. The food is sub-par at best and this is not the McEwan cooking that I have known to love at both Bymark and North 44 (I know he hasn't cooked at either for a long time, I mean the calibre of food). This prepared food he's selling is atrocious. Crusty whipped potatoes looked gross and should have stopped me there because I bought them and they tasted grosser--totally flavourless. Next, Hong Kong style ribs: if anyone can find any meat on those ribs, please give me a call. $24 for two smallish pieces and was struggling to find any meat on them. Sauce while good, is not worth $24. Roasted chicken tasted like it was roasted, freeze-dried and then re-heated--meaning, it was dry as hell and gross. There goes another $15. I would take Swiss Chalet ANY day over this piece of crap.

                                      Next we have lasagna. My neighbours kid could probably make a better sauce. Tasteless, weirdly overly acid and WATERY as could be. Noodles didn't even seem like they were freshly made and the cheese grated on top reminded me of the same frozen mozzarella cheese you find on frozen pizza. I kid you not.

                                      Tried a chicken pot pie and a beef shank or beef short rib pot pie and while it was edible, I was expecting way more flavour and way more depth to the dishes. If I wanted average, I'd go for a President's Choice frozen meal.

                                      They even took a beautiful thing as roasted fingerling potatoes and butchered those to beyond recognition. Dry, shriveled up, and also tasteless.

                                      With almost every single dish, I had to 'doctor' it up for it to have flavour.

                                      I write this as a fan and long time customer of McEwan and his restaurants but with a very heavy heart that something that I anticipated would be a shining light in gourmet food shopping has turned into a disaster. I can't figure out why so mediocre and why he, who I know is a perfectionist, has let this slide so bad and far. I have heard that he is opening up a restaurant within the Shops at Don Mills but so far I have not seen any progress on this. But anyway, just really, really disappointed. Not to mention feeling like an ass for spending hundreds of dollars and having no good food memories to show for it.

                                      Anyone else?

                                      23 Replies
                                      1. re: Restaurant Dish

                                        Too bad. I was so excited about McEwan when I heard he was opening there. The loss of Kellens in that mall hit me hard, and I had high hopes for M, even if it was to be a different beast. McEwan is right on my way home from work, so very convenient. But I just don't find myself compelled to shop there.

                                        I went in recently to buy chicken livers. Simple thing. They didn't have any. Haven't been back since.

                                        I am not sure if the store can be what McEwan wants it to be... Have no idea how they're doing profits-wise, but whenever I have been, on a half dozen occasions, I haven't had to line up at the cash, and I've been the only one at a grocery side cash register. Now, the prepared foods area has always had more traffic, but can a store sustain itself on that? Surely, if that's where the money is, things will change. A produce department with expensive oxidized lettuce (a sign of minimal turnover) quickly becomes a liability.

                                        I must admit the prices of things at the prepared foods counter have always scared me away, and so I've never been burned. 6 dim sum dumplings just don't seem worth $12 to me; really, they just can't be THAT good... (I'd have to hear from a reliable source that they were THAT good before considering a splurge like that, but I haven't heard that about McEwan prepared foods, alas.)

                                        The area of the store I most like is the spices/condiments/preserves aisle. Some good stuff in there.

                                        Maybe you should have stuck with your What a Bagel bagel...

                                        -----
                                        McEwan
                                        75 The Donway W, Toronto, ON M3C, CA

                                        1. re: Full tummy

                                          You're so right I should have stayed with that bagel!

                                          Funny you mention the dim sum, as I was looking at them on my last trip and had the same exact thought. That might be appropriate to pay as an app at bymark, but I can't bring myself at the store. In the 10 times I've gone I've never waited in line either.

                                        2. re: Restaurant Dish

                                          To paraphrase Mark Twain's famous line... reports of McEwan's (supermarket) death are greatly exaggerated.

                                          In the latest issue of Toronto Life, it's reported that McEwan is tracking to first year revenue of $16 Million for the year and prepared foods represent the biggest revenue generator. We live close by so have been on many occasions and the prepared foods sections and they seem to be doing well by our anecdotal accounts. We go there mostly for their meat for the BBQ parties we've had this past summer.

                                          I do agree and suspect that their grocery side of the business is probably in the red and I wouldn't be surprised if Mark will be revisiting his sales mix and look to concentrate primarily in prepared and fresh foods.

                                          1. re: syoung

                                            Revenue is one thing, profits another...

                                            1. re: Full tummy

                                              Ditto. I think any profits these days from the McEwan enterprise are coming from catering and bymark.

                                              -----
                                              McEwan
                                              75 The Donway W, Toronto, ON M3C, CA

                                              1. re: Full tummy

                                                Well... it appears from the article sales-wise, they're doing very well and we know they have healthy profit margins so gross profit should be good as well. Yes, they have start up costs in PPE to amortize and maybe interest costs against a big loan but these are a given for most start ups. If the article says sales are tracking a healthy $16MM, what components of operating expenses are putting them in the red causing you to say "Revenue is one thing, profits another..."?

                                                1. re: syoung

                                                  Haha, I run a business, and so I know, first-hand, that the two don't necessarily have much to do with each other. That there is revenue is very good...I'm not saying McEwan isn't profitable.

                                                  -----
                                                  McEwan
                                                  75 The Donway W, Toronto, ON M3C, CA

                                              2. re: syoung

                                                Gee, if Mark's a public company that should be easy to find out. Anecdotal accounts aren't the same as audited financial statements, nor is Toronto Life a notably reliable source for financial reporting information. Asking how Mark's doin' is like asking if the fish is fresh--of course!

                                              3. re: Restaurant Dish

                                                Wow, that sounds like a brutal experience... You said it cost you hundreds of dollars? Really? That's crazy. McEwan's' Food Network show reveals enough of the man to make me not want to ever spend any money at his establishments. You might say I'm missing out on some of the best food in Toronto, but there's simply no way that arrogant ass is getting any of my hard earned coin.

                                                -----
                                                McEwan
                                                75 The Donway W, Toronto, ON M3C, CA

                                                1. re: redearth

                                                  Yes, unfortunately my average bills (I keep them all) have reached the hundreds. It's actually not that hard...it adds up pretty quickly in there.

                                                  As for McEwan being arrogant, I guess you could view it that way and others would say driven, self-assured, etc. If you know chefs, they are quite similar to CEOs in terms of the ego quotient, so combine a chef/CEO and I'm sure it can get brutal. He's a perfectionist and myself being one too, sometimes you are misunderstood.

                                                  And I won't try to sell you on his food--it's very good IMO, but you can't convert everyone. I think it was doubly surprising for me because I was usually so impressed with his offerings, have even had catering done by him, but this store does not represent his best work.

                                                  -----
                                                  McEwan
                                                  75 The Donway W, Toronto, ON M3C, CA

                                                  1. re: Restaurant Dish

                                                    Hahaha! One day my husband was in the shop with me, and one of the staff was helping him with at the meat counter, where he was buying sausages (actually, they were quite good and reasonably priced; something I'd return for)), and then the fellow said, "Ya, you can drop $500.00 here without even thinking about it; no problem!" It wasn't even in response to any comment from my husband about the prices.

                                                    But, we didn't, and we haven't, and we won't be...

                                                  2. re: redearth

                                                    Wow. I have watched a lot of that show and I wouldn't have thought it made him seem arrogant. I thought he came off looking quite 3-dimensional and caring/compassionate in that series (while still being driven and a perfectionist).

                                                    He is sometimes arrogant/dismissive with regard to other chefs, but, never to his staff or assistants.

                                                    I have not shopped at his store. However, many of the comments made here that are negative can be equally applied to Pusateris (poor value, not great quality prepared food, old-looking over priced produce, surprising inclusions of mass-market items, etc. . .)

                                                    -----
                                                    Pusateri's
                                                    1539 Avenue Rd, Toronto, ON M5M, CA

                                                    1. re: Atahualpa

                                                      Atahualpa, you are entitled to your opinion, but I TOTALLY disagree with your last comments on Pusateri's.

                                                      Poor value is all about perception, so I'm not going to touch that one. Not great quality prepared foods? Really? I think they are very high quality, actually. They may not be that 'imaginative' ie. grilled salmon, roasted potatoes, herbed green beans, etc etc but they are of very high quality.

                                                      And, I must say in the over 10 years that I've been going to Pusateri's, I have never ONCE seen any remotely old-looking produce--overpriced, yes maybe--but never old-looking. Their produce rivals some of the best markets I've ever been to.
                                                      As for mass market items...well, I guess the well-to-do sometimes like making Aunt Jemima pancakes too.

                                                      -----
                                                      Pusateri's
                                                      1539 Avenue Rd, Toronto, ON M5M, CA

                                                      1. re: Restaurant Dish

                                                        Their shelf items, however, are another story. When I used to live practically next door to Pusateri's, I frequently went in there for canned items or boxed foods, even though they were overpriced. It was all about convenience at the time. Items were sometimes past their sell by dates, particularly cereals and crackers.

                                                        -----
                                                        Pusateri's
                                                        1539 Avenue Rd, Toronto, ON M5M, CA

                                                        1. re: 1sweetpea

                                                          Actually, agree 100% with you on this. I just was going to edit my above comment, but will do so here. The shelf items are atrociously dated, some cases dusty and well over priced.

                                                        2. re: Restaurant Dish

                                                          I have only ever shopped at Pusateri's about a dozen times. I do not have qualms about them stocking Aunt Jemima's either, but, a lot of people have complained about McEwan stocking things like Wonderbread and it seems to be just about the same thing to me.

                                                          At Pusateri's, I have seen:

                                                          Frisee with more brown that white for sale. Endive that was limp. Mushrooms with lots of slimy spots out for purchase.

                                                          I have bought:

                                                          Cooked salmon so overdone that it crumbled instead of flaking. Unmemorable bits of bland but OK food.

                                                          Caveat: It has been 2-3 years since I was at Pusateri's.

                                                      2. re: redearth

                                                        mmm his food is pretty darned good redearth. I've enjoyed both his restaurant and catered food over the years and it's always been consistently well crafted, just the right degree of inventive :-) and most important of all: delicious. Perfect service always. Don't miss out! If $$$ is an issue you might try it out at winterlicious to see if it you like it enough to pay the full freight. Just a suggestion: chacun son gout! However, I haven't been to the new store yet . . . and I've not heard one good report of the prepared food there from friends who have gone. Like an above poster, I remember how stellar David Wood's store was; I was hoping for something along those lines but it looks like it's not to be.

                                                        1. re: redearth

                                                          Yeah, I have to agree with you there. he's more brand than brawn, IMHO. Eaten at his restos and not impressed. Think he just catered to the right audience early on and milked for all it was worth.

                                                          What killed me was his show where he does the cook-off amongst his 3 best staff members, giving them each a little slab of Berkshire pork belly for the challenge. So original...except that Lynn Crawford did this years earlier, splitting her staff into two teams and buying *each team* an *entire* Berkshire pig to cook with. And she isn't even a resto owner. She's an employee. But it demonstrated the level of commitemnt as a chef and teacher.

                                                          Mark, you're such a generous, progressive leader...

                                                          1. re: Thatcher

                                                            Lynn Crawford will be an owner when she opens a new restaurant in the location where Citizen currently is. It will be interesting to see what's on the menu.

                                                            1. re: foodyDudey

                                                              Citizen is closing?

                                                              1. re: grandgourmand

                                                                Rod Bowers has sold it.

                                                                1. re: Tatai

                                                                  Correct, and the Rosebud is available if anyone here wants a new career.

                                                              2. re: foodyDudey

                                                                Lynn Crawford is opening her own resto?

                                                                Thank you. You just made my year. I'm so happy I could pee my pants.

                                                        2. Doesn't beat the Cheese Boutique's price on a normal big plastic bottle of Sriracha sauce.

                                                          Probably $1.99 or $2.99 at most in China town.. He was selling it for... Drumroll..... $11.99.

                                                          -----
                                                          Cheese Boutique
                                                          45 Ripley Ave, Toronto, ON M6S, CA

                                                          11 Replies
                                                          1. re: SocksManly

                                                            *choke* what????

                                                            1. re: Full tummy

                                                              Haha! My Zehrs in Windsor is clearing out the Sriracha for $1.75 a bottle right now. I bought 2 bottles about a month ago and noticed that the sale is still going. My guess is that they're purging the product to make room for more PC products or a Joe crap expansion. Sigh.

                                                              I find it laughable that higher end stores sell products like Sriracha or pomegranate molasses at massively inflated prices, assuming that their clientele wouldn't deign to venture into one of the stores from the products' respective cultures, where they'd find that the same items retail for less than $3.

                                                              I'm fine with paying a slight premium to have a variety of fine products available in one store, but these stores are never one-stop shops for me and more often than not, I find that the quality of their prepared foods doesn't even come close to their attractive appearance under slick packaging and in the displays. Unless they carry something spectacular that can't be found elsewhere, it just isn't worth it for me.

                                                              1. re: 1sweetpea

                                                                You can get premium products at Costco for decent prices. Buffalo Mozzarella from Italy for $8.99. Great anchovies, in oil - less than $6 a jar. AAA Beef - all Canadian. Haricot verts, white asparagus, diverse variety of very good cheeses, etc. You get the drift. T & T has some pretty awesome fresh/live seafood at unbeatable prices. Don't forget all the fantastic ethnic stores in Toronto - we are pretty lucky! If I had to compare McEwen's & Pusateri's - the latter wins hands down for variety, price, prepared foods and produce.

                                                                1. re: wano

                                                                  Wano- What a criticism of McEwen! I won't get caught dead in Pusateri.
                                                                  I thought that McEwen was trying to be broader based and appeal to customers who actually cook a bit. For eg, he carries Jello. Maybe he was just trying to fill up shelf space.
                                                                  I was surprised that McEwen's prepared food section was so small and looked a bit dreary. I think that everything else at Pusateri is there just for appearance - excelsior- to bolster the prepared food section.

                                                                  If you want to see one of these places with muscle, go to Starsky in Mississauga, two location; I haven't been in the new one yet. For eg, 6-8(?) different kinds of bacon. Oh G-d, just one day a year , please!
                                                                  VVM

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                                                                  Pusateri's
                                                                  1539 Avenue Rd, Toronto, ON M5M, CA

                                                                  Starsky's
                                                                  2040 Dundas St E, Mississauga, ON L4X, CA

                                                                  1. re: Vinnie Vidimangi

                                                                    Hi Vinnie,

                                                                    I will check out Starsky next i am in Mississauga, thanks for the tip.

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                                                                    Starsky's
                                                                    2040 Dundas St E, Mississauga, ON L4X, CA

                                                                    1. re: Vinnie Vidimangi

                                                                      Starsky is big, granted, but not exactly the end of the rainbow. The cured meats are superficially impressive for sheer volume but smoked pork cut how many different ways is still smoked pork. I see more bloat than muscle at Starsky. McEwen's whole enterprise is based on fear: fear of the unknown, the ethnic, a mistake, or venturing beyond your herd. Shopping where everyone looks just like you suits lotsa people just fine.

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                                                                      Starsky's
                                                                      2040 Dundas St E, Mississauga, ON L4X, CA

                                                                      1. re: Kagemusha

                                                                        I ranted about the place, but I disagree with your sweeping comment.

                                                                        I can't begin to understand what you mean by fear of the unknown, maybe you could explain further. And in terms of fear of ethnic? I don't think his premise was ever let me bring all the cultures within Toronto under one store and sell all their products. Meaning, he sells whatever "ethnic" products are hot and will sell. Not so sure there's such an alterior motive as you suggest.
                                                                        Oh, and I'm not a 40-something lady that lunches, so not sure about your theory there either....

                                                                        1. re: Restaurant Dish

                                                                          Life's too short to bother with McEwan's when there's a city full of food to explore and enjoy. The haute TO vibe is off-putting and the prices are an affront. It took me about 15 minutes to scope the place and to conclude someone led McEwan astray, his resto savvy notwithstanding. Celebrity isn't always bankable. BTW, his signature cookware is apparently on sale at Sears.

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                                                                          McEwan
                                                                          75 The Donway W, Toronto, ON M3C, CA

                                                                          1. re: Restaurant Dish

                                                                            $12 for 6 dim sum dumplings, probably sub par, caters to people who are afraid to get it in a "sketchier" place. McEwan's bridges the gap between exotic and familiar.

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                                                                            McEwan
                                                                            75 The Donway W, Toronto, ON M3C, CA

                                                                          2. re: Kagemusha

                                                                            And none of it at Starsky was denoted as Berkshire .Even a dumb Pollack (that's not a fish) like me knows about Berkshire.

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                                                                            Starsky's
                                                                            2040 Dundas St E, Mississauga, ON L4X, CA

                                                                  2. re: SocksManly

                                                                    That's INSANE!!!

                                                                    Even though I live minutes away, I still haven't been to his store....but I will go for sure just to see this with my eyes lol.
                                                                    That is just wayyyy too much of a markup.

                                                                  3. I don't know why it surprises anyone that McEwan is going to be expensive. It's a big shop, with not a lot of product in there, so guess how they're making it work -- M. A. R. G. I. N. You get the nice shopping experience, and you get to feel like Conrad Black (pre Florida).

                                                                    McEwan is expensive. Pusateri's is expensive. There are better deals just about anywhere than these two fine establishments, but they gotta make it work somehow. I don't think Mark is quite yet lining his pockets with gravy from the store, nor would I suspect his investors. It's a tough business food retailing, and they're going to take advantage of the ambiance where money is no object.

                                                                    In this recessionary climate, I'm avoiding the place, but I'm happy to say I'm glad it's there, and I've bought stuff there that I think is reasonable value.

                                                                    The fact that anyone pays or paid double there is simply a case of buyer beware -- you walk in the door, check your credit card on the way in.

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                                                                    Pusateri's
                                                                    1539 Avenue Rd, Toronto, ON M5M, CA

                                                                    McEwan
                                                                    75 The Donway W, Toronto, ON M3C, CA

                                                                    8 Replies
                                                                    1. re: m4240z

                                                                      I think the two things that Pusateri's does well - and at a price point that is reasonable value for money - are their meat counter (fishy friends say same is true for that end of things) and the wide selection of desserts. Add to that the fact one can buy a variety of unusual sauces, the occasional (triple-underline) tasty dish from the prepared foods and plenty of every day groceries only lightly marked up including produce which in my experience has been fresh. That's a winning combination for a high-end store imho. Unlike McEwan's, I have never felt ripped off or taken advantage of - and the close-packed aisles create a sort of neat neighbourhood buzz (not to mention the close encounters in the parking lot lol !) Give me Pusi's any day !

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                                                                      Pusateri's
                                                                      1539 Avenue Rd, Toronto, ON M5M, CA

                                                                      McEwan
                                                                      75 The Donway W, Toronto, ON M3C, CA

                                                                      1. re: m4240z

                                                                        Not sure that anyone, or I, was surprised that McEwan was expensive. I fully expected it to be expensive, I mean what, 26,000 sq foot kitchen, 'gourmet' food, McEwan's type of restaurant cooking/catering? I think I went in with my eyes wide open. BUT, I guess I wrongly assumed that with that large pricetag, would come along the same top-notch shopping experience I have when shopping at Pusateri's, equally as expensive. But it's just not there. Staff are either stunned at McEwan's or too green to really know what they're doing. Everyone at the prepared foods counter looks like they are embarrassed to be serving food and as if they're just 'temps' going onto 'better' jobs. At least, that's the feeling I get everytime I get something there. Quite opposite of Pusateri's.

                                                                        I was thinking more about this and I wonder, shoot me down of course if I'm totally off base here, but do the extreme shopping experiences differ so much because one is essentially 'European' run (Pusateri's) and the other is not?

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                                                                        Pusateri's
                                                                        1539 Avenue Rd, Toronto, ON M5M, CA

                                                                        McEwan
                                                                        75 The Donway W, Toronto, ON M3C, CA

                                                                        1. re: Restaurant Dish

                                                                          Went to McEwans once and that was enough. Over priced , unfriendly and a cheap imitation of other stores that do it much better.
                                                                          I can get what I need from Whole Foods with better quality and friendly staff to help out.
                                                                          McEwans seems to be all about Pomp and Circumstance without any substance. Got a very cold feeling in the store. Lost my business from the get go. Mark has been in business far too long to NOT know what he's doing so it's not a casr of a learning curve to be ironed out. It was like a bad Catering party all gone wrong for me.

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                                                                          McEwan
                                                                          75 The Donway W, Toronto, ON M3C, CA

                                                                          1. re: Restaurant Dish

                                                                            I think the difference in shopping experience is staff getting into the groove -- Pusateri's has had years of experience, and frankly, I found the service at McEwan to be quite good. I think the staff is young, and probably inexperienced. I takes years to understand food, and be good at selling it, and it needs a strong commitment and understanding of the product. Not easy to get when paying retail wages, when most would rather work at American Apparel.

                                                                            I'm not a big Pusateri's shopper (my wife, on the other hand is), but I do recall buying a birthday dinner of ingredients at Pusateri's. I bought some enoki mushrooms -- I found them for a fifth of the price in Chinatown the next weekend -- same product, same wrapper. But it was there when I wanted/needed it, so I'm not going to begrudge them the cost differential (and there's no valet parking in Chinatown!).

                                                                            On value -- I bought one of their marinated chickens, and thought it was actually pretty good value, and the next day I convinced my sister to buy one too, and she thought there was value there.

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                                                                            Pusateri's
                                                                            1539 Avenue Rd, Toronto, ON M5M, CA

                                                                            McEwan
                                                                            75 The Donway W, Toronto, ON M3C, CA

                                                                            1. re: Restaurant Dish

                                                                              Totally agree with you. I've been a customer of McEwan since Day 1 and initially was impressed with the service. I ws sick and tired of the bad and indifferent service at Pusateri's as well as the crowded aisles and thought I'd give it a chance. It's in my neighborhood so I also wanted to support it. Recently, however, i.e., since about Thanksgiving, service had taken a major slide. Examples: meat dept guy tells me there's no such thing as 'fresh' beef short ribs, only frozen. I told him I could buy fresh at Longo's (York Mills and Leslie) but he still insisted there was no such thing. Of course I found them at Longo's. Another day I ordered beef chuck into 2-inch cubes for for beef bourg. When I went to pick it up the next morning, they'd forgotten my order. I had to wait while they cut the meat and when I got home it was more like 5-inch chunks. Same weekend, I found that McEwan's wasn't selling mascarpone cheese and I got a couple of blank looks when I asked for it. Same with snow goat cheese in a tube (needed it for a recipe and not the older more expensive variety from France). Produce department is equally clueless if you don't speak to the head guy. Fish dept: it started out with a great guy, but looks like her quit. Now they have another clueless wonder who's afraid to cut a piece of tuna. One day I went in there for tuna and he tried to sell me a huge chunk (I was cooking for 2 and needed 10 oz). When I asked for a smaller piece, he said he couldn't cut it. Is this Mr. McEwan's edict or are these people just no empowered to do their job? Another time I got home with much less salmon than I asked for. Give these fish guys a measuring course! What I've found is that if you don't deal with the head of the department, you get a lot of untrained, no-nothing people. As nasty as Pusateri's is, at least most of the people there know their stuff! The best things about McEwan are the cheese department (excellent service and knowledgeable staff) and the bread dept. The cashiers are friendly, but they don't know anything about the products if you have a quesiton. I agree with some of the other posts that the pastry counter is pretty lame, however, they have a cookie called a Sammie, that's out of this world (and it should be at $10 a box). Last week after the forgotten beef episode I called Jordie the store manager who listened to my litany of complaints and she told me that the store had been praised for its service etc. and acted like I was the only one who'd ever complained! If I hear that line once more .... Anyway, she acted as if she wanted off the phone and offered to leave me a gift certificate at the cash (all this without asking my name or phone #). I declined, saying I didn't want a freebie, only good service as I'd like my local gourmet supermarket to stay in business. I haven't been back since. Today I bought my fish at Pisces and produce at Harvest Wagon (where I shopped before McEwan. I hope Mark McEwan checks out these postings and starts keeping a better eye on service.

                                                                            2. re: m4240z

                                                                              As I already mentioned above, according to Toronto Life, McEwan has been very successful thus far tracking $16MM in sales for it's first fiscal year. So the doom and gloom about how how bad the supermarket is doing in this recession is not warranted if TL is to be believed.

                                                                              In fact, he's doing so well he's now looking to open up a 2nd supermarket downtown and eyeing the Traveodge location at King/Bathurst. As well, he plans to open up his 4th restaurant acrosss from this supermarket at Shops on DM called Fabbrica.

                                                                              The magazine article is not posted up yet but some info can be found here: http://www.torontolife.com/daily/dail...

                                                                              1. re: syoung

                                                                                Sales revenue has nothing to do with profit. You could do $100 million in a year and be insolvent. If enough people are sufficiently foolish to spend the money he's asking for the stuff he's selling, good for him. I'm not one of them.

                                                                                I checked the place out a few times early on and was startled by the pricing. The prepared foods I that was looking forward to cost the moon and didn't appeal, and the produce and bakery actually put me off. However, the meat and fish looked very good and the meat guy knew his stuff.

                                                                                I was hoping to return once they were running for a while, figuring all would be better - certainly the quality and service levels if not the pricing.

                                                                                Well, I was wrong. On my last visit, the service was truly pathetic, the meat counter had gone way downhill, and the prepared foods still looked generally unappetizing. The store was almost deserted. I still haven't tasted anything made in their kitchen - though samples were on offer, none were of McEwan's food.

                                                                                David Wood sold extraordinary prepared food in the eighties, when his labels carried an overt warning if the item contained - gasp - garlic. We've come a long way since then. I was hoping for exciting prepared food, at a rational price. Cheeze Whiz I can buy elsewhere.

                                                                                There was a quite heated discussion on this board, before McEwan opened, pondering who his target market might be. Obviously, I'm not in it but, then, I live in Leslieville.

                                                                                1. re: embee

                                                                                  I am surprised that there are no samples of the Mck prepared foods, and the lack of samples in general.
                                                                                  Went for my second time last weekend to show the place to a foodie friend, and because I was desperately out of stocks at home I got the prepared potato gratin, a couple of veal scallops, and some Berretta bacon - the whole bill was over $30.
                                                                                  We looked at a piece of cheese from Italy that was $40+ - it was Buffalo Mozzaralo - flown in weekly from Puglia. No doubt strapped in to its First Class flat bed seat.
                                                                                  As on my previous visit to the store, there were many clusters of people just looking, and also sniggering at the price tags. There was a troop of hip young Asian kids literally doing a survey of every item, and giving a sarcastic thumbs down. But their Bridal Path parents may sustain this place. Who knows.
                                                                                  The whole Shops at Don Mills is weird - who will trampa round there in the dead of winter? but I love the McNally Robinson bookstore - anybody yet dined at their Prarie Ink Cafe?

                                                                            3. haha yes, all I remember thinking when browsing McEwans last was, "This place is out of control!" I distinctly remember looking at a potato salad consisting of 5 small halved new potatoes for $12 and laughing out loud. There are people who will gladly pay, though.. I should probably troll the place for a personal chef gig, now that I'm thinking about it.

                                                                              I'll admit to picking up some very beautiful dried pastas that I didn't think I could get anywhere else.

                                                                              2 Replies
                                                                              1. re: NovoCuisine

                                                                                Nor was Gina Mallet kind to McEwan's in her weekly review.

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                                                                                McEwan
                                                                                75 The Donway W, Toronto, ON M3C, CA

                                                                                1. re: millygirl

                                                                                  I went there this past weekend with my husband and we had a great time. Fully entertained by the staff, lots of food demos. We left full that's for sure with some ymmy goodies for later.