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Dec 21, 2010 03:21 AM

Best Artisanal in Toronto... Stocking the Larder

I'm pleased to say that I'm leaving for 9 days in Toronto in just over a week! (I'll be there over New Year's, which I think of as an eating holiday.)

Since I will be couchsurfing at a friend's place, we will be doing some dining out, but also sharing meals at home base. So I'd like to stock up on some local flavor while in town.

Bakeries seem prolific in any neighborhood (and in board discussions!), so bread shouldn't be a problem. I already have my eye on a couple of artisanal shortbreads, and there looks to be some good chocolatiers in the city, but I also want to go beyond sweets.

So what else is out there that the locals treasure...

Handmade pasta from the farmer's market? A dairy outlet that sells unpasteurized cheese and eggnog in glass bottles? Pickles from an oak barrel in the corner store? Harissa jarred by a local restaurant?

I'm not necessarily looking for those specific foods, just the artisanal finds you welcome into your kitchen!

Thank you!

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  1. Where are these couches located?

    2 Replies
    1. re: Herb

      (LOL, love the phraseology...) High Park. Though we will be jaunting around the city & I will be ready for any spontaneous dip into an interesting market/diner/boondoggle.

      1. re: Bogberry

        One stop shopping and v. expensive.

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

    2. "Artisanal" isn't axiomatically better than commercial. Try the food zone east of Kipling, south of Dundas, home of Tymek's, Dimp's bakery, North Fish.

      3 Replies
      1. re: Kagemusha

        I agree with Kagemusha, especially after paying way too much for some artisinal-yet-skimpy-on-the-butter-kipferl and artisinal peach/vintage (aka rancid) walnut turnovers this past weekend.

        Artisinal isn't something TO does especially well. Rent is so high in Toronto that most artisinal products are made outside Toronto, in places such as Perth County, Niagara-on-the-Lake, Prince Edward County or Quebec.

        The cheese stalls at St. Lawrence Market will sell some artisinal cheeses (Monforte is a popular brand from Perth County, lots of cheeses from Quebec are worth trying), and I would think Max's Market in Bloor West Village would also sell some of these cheeses.

        Pingue cured meats (prosciutto, etc) from the Niagara region also might be worth seeking out.

        Brick Street Bakery in the Distillery is sort of artisinal, and makes good rustic breads and great Eccles Cakes. Soma Chocolate, also in the Distillery District, is somewhat artisinal in concept/approach/taste, even if it's owned by O & B (corporate), and not by "artisans".

        While not artisinal in any way, if you like Polish food, Cafe Polonez is worth a stop on Roncesvalles, which is just east of High Park. Granowska's Bakery sells some commercial Polish baked goods. I like the poppyseed rye that can be found on Roncesvalles, with poppy seeds incorporated into the dough, rather than just on top. Great toasted.

        artisinal bacon

        Distillery District
        55 Mill St, Toronto, ON M5A, CA

        St. Lawrence Market
        92 Front St E, Toronto, ON M5E, CA

        Brick Street Bakery
        55 Mill St, Toronto, ON M5A, CA

        Max's Market
        2299 Bloor St W, Toronto, ON M6S, CA

        1. re: phoenikia


          I would have been more precise to post for Artisanal Ontario! Or even Canada. Now that I think about it, the artisanal cheeses I purchase here (Houston) are through entrepreneurs who call themselves a cheese co-op. They carry several lines from farms in a wide radius outside the city.

          I do like Polish food, and had Granowska's in my sights simply because I haven't had a paczki in 4 years. But such a poppyseed rye sounds worth seeking out! I love poppy-laden goods.

          Thank you also for the links on the meats...

          175 Roncesvalles Ave, Toronto, ON M6R 2L3, CA

        2. re: Kagemusha


          Good point and good tips. There are certainly some commercial products that are worthy... and you figure that many of them started as small production, hand-produced items!

        3. Your best bet is to check out Wychwood and/or Brickworks farmers markets on Saturday morning. Tons of great artisinal Ontario goodies there.

          One in particular at Brickworks is the salt caramel stand. He sells small pieces but also large bars that you divide into pieces and sprinkle on the salt that he gives you in a dime bag. So good.

          Sometime, on the way to Brickworks, we stop by Athens Bakery on the Danforth, for a piece of spanakopita. Theirs is the best in town.

          Toorshis pickels is at both market. We love the pickled turnips.

          You will get back to your friends place with a bug full of great stuff.

          2 Replies
          1. re: acd123

            Great lead, acd123! But I might miss out on Brickworks as the only Saturday I have is Jan. 1. I emailed them and the market will be closed, but it seems SLM Farmer's Markets shifts to the Friday before, and the Thursday Dufferin market may be possible...

            I certainly wish I could get to that salt caramel stand!... I sent away for some (from Bequet Confection) in Montana as a Christmas gift to my brother. They handmake them as ordered; I haven't got a review from him yet.

            Hopefully, we will find something over the holiday hours -- otherwise, these ideas are so enticing, I'll want to return to TO sometime just for the markets!

            1. re: Bogberry

              Funny. My wife and I are going back to San Diego in Feb this year just for the markets too. Not really, we love San Diego, but the markets there are a big draw :-) Have a great time in TO.

              Too bad your only Saturday is Jan 1. I assume that Wychwood is closed too. Next time you're here, check it out, as well as Brickworks. Some of the things you'll find at Wychwood:

              Reading your post again, I understand what you are looking for. I just don't know where to being. There is so much around that you have to be more specific as to what you're looking for. You mention harrisa bottled by a local restaurant. Haven't seen that (I use Cap Bon), but a wonton noodle place in Richmond Hill called Jim(mie?) Chai Kee bottles their chili oil. It's amazing. You can also buy house chili oil at Swatow on Spadina but it's not as good as the one at Jim Chai Kee.

              Being a bit random for a minute, go to Chinese Traditional Buns for the steamed and pan fried juicy pork buns, Dan Dan Noodles, and stir fried green beens with ground pork and dried shrimp paste. Everything there is made by hand, including the noodles. Super cool to watch him make the noodles.

          2. Go to Fiesta Farms, get the Mennonite summer sausage hanging in the refridgerated section. The Monforte vendors also sell it at the Souraren market on Mondays. One will run you $20.

            It's top notch, better than any summer sausage that I've been served by Toronto restaurants.

            I find Pingue prosciutto to be overrated, it doesn't help that it's extremely expensive.

            Fiesta Farms
            200 Christie St, Toronto, ON M6G, CA