The Many Flavours of Riverside

Greg tells many great stories of the time he lived at Queen and Broadview in the late 80s, upstairs from one of the guys from  Skinny Puppy. Those stories almost always come back to the fact that there was a dearth of restaurants in the area back then, and save for but a few greasy spoons, you pretty much had to leave the neighbourhood to find a decent place to eat.

What a difference a couple of decades makes, with the recently-named Riverside District having become a magnet for young families, boutiques and galleries as well as hip restaurants, cafes and food shops. A stroll along Queen Street East from the Don River over to Carlaw offers up any number of great places to eat and shop for food. And let’s not forget the coffee.

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Where Can I Find – Green Coffee Beans?


Sit for a moment and calculate – how much do you spend every month on coffee? $50? $100? $300? I know I’m not the only one getting tired of the references to tough economic times, but coffee is where many of us will draw the line at cutting back, even when times are bad. But instead of giving up coffee, how about rethinking how you buy the stuff? That cup or two a day habit from the local chain can end up costing $20 to $30 a week, and that’s if you stick to a plain cup of Joe. Since cooking at home is cool again, why not consider dusting off that coffee maker and brewing up a pot each morning?

Of course, grocery store coffee can be kind of yucky and preroasted beans are expensive (averaging $12 to $20 a pound). There’s also the question of freshness. Coffee purists insist that coffee must be consumed within five days after roasting, three hours of grinding, and fifteen minutes of brewing. When you also consider that much of the world’s coffee still comes from plantations where pesticide use is the norm and farmers don’t make a living wage, sourcing out organic fair trade products is also important.

The next logical step then, if you love coffee and care about how it is grown, and want to save cash – is to roast it yourself.

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Taking a Walk on the Green Carpet


Normally, the north building of St. Lawrence Market is the focus of local food only on Saturday mornings as farmers and food producers fill tables with all things edible and Torontonians descend upon the place in search of tasty treats. This past Tuesday evening, the market building was a bastion of local food again as a number of chefs and wineries offered samples of their wares as part of An Evening of Local Cuisine, one of the many events put on by The Green Carpet Series.

Attendees had the opportunity to wander the space sampling food from local restaurants that had been paired with wines from Ontario wineries. Participating chefs and restaurants included Chef Ben Heaton from Globe Bistro, Chef Marc Breton from the Gladstone Hotel, Chef Nathan Isberg from Coca, and Chef Anthony Rose from the Drake Hotel. Participating wineries were Henry of Pelham, Frogpond Farm, Flatrock Cellars and Vineland Estates Winery.

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A Bag of Magic Beans

merchantspeaceMerchants of Green Coffee
2 Matilda Street

Coffee. Where would we be without it? It wakes us up, keeps us going and fuels social gatherings. But how many people actually think about where their coffee comes from? Or how fresh it is?

For people who grew up on (and possibly still drink) supermarket coffee, there’s a distinct possibility that they’ve never had a truly fresh cup. That becomes less likely every time a new ethical, fair trade roaster opens up a café in a busy neighbourhood, but there’s still a definite difference in terms of freshness.

A truly fresh coffee is one roasted to perfection, then ground and brewed immediately. Of course, to facilitate this process, it helps to have a source of green coffee beans.

I discovered Merchants of Green Coffee in 2002 and have never looked back. Roasting my own beans has completely changed how I both drink and think about coffee. Continue reading “A Bag of Magic Beans”

Growing Up Organic

What do a soy bean farmer, a nurse who runs a community garden, an activist working to stop toxic chemicals, an environmental architect and a food writer all have in common? We all shared a table at the Canadian Organic Growers (COG) conference this past Saturday.

With a theme of “Growing Up Organic”, the various presentations focussed on how organic food compared to conventionally grown food and how that might affect children’s health, as well as looking at the various organic food programmes in daycares and schools that were encouraging parents and teachers to choose and promote organics at home.

Speakers included Thomas Pawlick, author of The End of Food, Dr. Rick Smith from Environmental Defence Canada, Wayne Roberts of the Toronto Food Policy Council and Kim Crosby of Real Food For Real Kids.

The event also featured the first ever “Organic Food Hero” awards, with honourees in various categories. For her series “Organic Goes Mainstream”, Jill Eisen of CBC Radio received the Organic Media Hero award. Chef Michael Stadtlander was a awarded the “Organic Supporter” award for his work championing organic food and farming. The Organic Organization Hero for this year was Anne Slater of the Ecological Farmers Association of Ontario. Bread and Roses Café in Hamilton, Ontario won the award for Best Restaurant Serving Organic Food, and The Canadian Organic Growers Volunteer award went to Anne Macey.

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The Battle of Ethiopia

I had planned on pulling together a big long piece about the differences between the types, but oddly, there’s very little information out there that doesn’t originate from a coffee-selling site. If I had more time, I’d even pull together what I’ve got and replace the stub on Wikipedia under the Ethiopian coffee section.

So here are the basics – coffee was first grown in Ethiopia, discovered by a goatherder named Kaldi. While coffee is now grown in a variety of other regions, many of the beans from Ethiopia are still considered the best in the world.

Like wine and chocolate, the flavour of the coffee beans can vary greatly from region to region, and even farm to farm, depending on a variety of growing conditions. Personally, I prefer Ethiopian beans because you can roast them really dark and the flavours really pop. Some people find they taste like dirt, and they can be very earthy.

The three beans I tried were Yirgacheffe, Sidamo and Djimmeh.

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