Lucky Dip – Friday, March 9th, 2012

In Toronto:

Bistro 990 (990 Bay Street) will shut its doors on March 17th.

Vegan chef Doug McNish‘s first book Eat Raw, Eat Well will be published on March 20th. It’s available for pre-order at various online booksellers already.

Tori’s Bakeshop opens today at 2188 Queen Street East offering vegan, organic and refined sugar-free goodies like pies, cakes, cookies, donuts and more to the folks in the Beach.

You should go:

Tonight at The Depanneur (1033 College Street) the drop-in dinner is tamales by Holy Tamale. Vegan-friendly corn tamales with sweet potato, apple, onion and spices. Plus “drunken beans” and green rice – all for $10. An extra $2 will keep the carnivores happy with some chorizo.

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To Market, To Market… To Market

Over the years, I’ve heard a lot of excuses as to why people don’t make the effort to shop at farmers’ markets, with the most oft-heard one being that there just isn’t anything accessible and easy to get to. This has changed considerably in the past couple of years, and downtown Toronto now has over 20 separate markets, with at least one market taking place every day of the week during the summer and early autumn.

Which begs the question – have we hit a saturation point? Are markets the new Starbucks with two on every corner?

On Thursdays in the downtown core, there are now three separate markets within walking distance of each other. The market at Metro Hall is the most established of these, with a selection of vendors who are predominantly farmers. There are many vendors selling the same in-season produce, but this tends to create a healthy competition that keeps prices reasonable. During the lunch hour, there are live performances, and half a dozen food vendors along the south end of the square selling everything from Caribbean food to crepes to peameal bacon on a kaiser.

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Where Chefs and Farmers Come Together

chefmarket_stjohnsbread

The world of the professional kitchen is a far cry from cooking at home – in so many ways – but the most obvious is the scale on which restaurants work compared to the home cook. Chefs dedicated to offering dishes made from the best ingredients spend a lot of time tracking down the products – and producers – who can consistently provide them with a quality product.

For years, most restaurants have worked with restaurant supply companies or importers at the food terminal, and the idea of working directly with local farmers seemed painstaking and difficult. How could a chef know which local farmer could supply enough potatoes for their famous frites? Or which grass-fed beef was the best?

The idea of bringing chefs and local farmers together has gained momentum in the past few years as the local food movement has taken hold in the GTA. With more than 20 farmers markets for individuals spread out across the city, wouldn’t it be a great idea to set up a farmers’ market just for chefs? A place where farmers and chefs could meet, where wholesale orders of large quantities could be accommodated and where a chef could put in an order and it could be delivered to their kitchen door.

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What do You Want From Your Farmers?

market3The trend of eating locally, while nothing new for many people, seems to have brought some additional concerns with its renewed popularity. Maybe it’s the necessary role food plays in our lives, but we as consumers seem to want a lot more from our food shopping experience than any other shopping we do. Where we are encouraged to get to know the people selling and creating the food we eat, this philosophy doesn’t seem to extend toward other items we purchase. No one is insisting we develop an ongoing relationship with our real estate agent, or form a “community” with the salegirls from the Gap. Heck, for that matter, the “buy local” trend seems to go no further than food, as the same people who search out wheat grown within a 100-mile radius have no qualms whatsoever about wearing yoga pants made in China, or shoes that have come from Italy.

No, we have a twisted and sometimes perverse relationship with food and with the act of procuring said food. We’re no longer content to just go, shop and bring the stuff home. Now we need events, family-friendly activities, entertainment, a sense of community and added value. That’s a lot for your average farmer and a table of tomatoes to live up to.

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