A Tour of St. Lawrence Market, Part 2


As noted in Part 1 of our tour of St. Lawrence Market on Monday, the south market has just about everything needed to fill a pantry. But the fruit and vegetable stands, bulk goods and bakeries tend to mostly fill the perimeter and basement of the space. For most visitors to the market the first thing they see when they enter the main space of the upper level is meat. And that’s where we’ll begin part 2 of our tour.

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A Tour of St. Lawrence Market, Part 1


Recently in a Market Basket column, we explored the north section of St. Lawrence Market which hosts the weekly farmers market. But there’s a whole array of tasty stuff in the south building where vendors are set up at permanent kiosks and shops.

Open Tuesdays to Saturdays, the south market building, located at 92 Front Street East at Jarvis, is like the high street in a small town, with a selection of butchers, bakers, cheesemongers, greengrocers and bulk and dried goods stores. Many vendors have been at St. Lawrence since the 70s and 80s, making them a longstanding tradition for shoppers here.

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Where Can I Find – Red Fife Flour?

multipleflourThe “Where Can I Find?” column is a new bi-weekly feature here at TasteTO starting this week. We’ll research and track down hard to find items and let you know where they’re available. Got a question for the “Where Can I Find” lady? Drop us a line.

I see red fife flour showing up on restaurant menus that have a local food theme, but where can I get this product to bake with at home?

The hot ingredient this summer is most definitely red fife flour. Restaurateurs and bakers from Jamie Kennedy and Marc Thuet to St. John’s Bakery are using this wholly Canadian product, and articles about the history and near extinction of the grain are popping up in a variety of publications from MacLean’s and Toronto Life to Edible Toronto.

The short version – red fife wheat was first planted near Peterborough in 1842 by David and Jane Fife, and it became the backbone of the Canadian wheat industry, giving Canada the nickname “granary of the world”. Immigrants were given free seeds to encourage them to settle on the prairies and become farmers. Over the years, red fife fell out of favour as other varieties derived from the red fife strain became more popular because of shorter growing times and higher yields. The original strain was on the verge of extinction by 1988 when a seed-saver activist named Sharon Rempel got her hands on a pound of seed and planted it in Keremeos, British Columbia.

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The Dog Days of Summer

We didn’t take the dogs to Woofstock, Toronto’s annual dog festival, this year, which sort of defeats the point, yes, but it was way too hot. Hours of walking on hot asphalt is not so great for fluffy black and brown pooches. And in fact, we noticed a significant decrease in the number of dogs, especially larger ones, at the event. Waiting for the streetcar home we encountered a boxer that so hot he was foaming at the mouth. Not good. However, lots of effort was made by organizers and vendors to ensure there was water to be had, plus a cool down station that consisted of a fountain and a bunch of wading pools. Most everyone seemed to be having fun, despite the weather.

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Berry, Berry Good

It’s October 24th and I ate local strawberries for breakfast this morning. This is crazy.

There are a few farmers who grow a variety of strawberry that is ever-bearing. That is, the plants produce fruit continuously from June until the first frost. Usually that first frost comes in early October, but this year, October has set record high temperatures, with days in the mid to high 20s. Thanksgiving hit 32′C, with a humidex of 40′C.  This is good strawberry weather.

I happened across this box at one of the fruit vendors at St. Lawrence Market yesterday. I stopped to buy a fresh fig and ignored the berries, figuring they were from California. Then I noticed the sign that said they were Ontario strawberries, and despite my mostly frugal ways (priced at $4.99, they were considerably more than the $3 to $3.50 I had been paying at the Farmer’s Markets all summer) I figured they would be the last berries I’d get until June, so I splurged.

Usually the ever-bearing berries tend to lose their flavour by the fall. They’re still better that the hard woody imported strawberries from the supermarket, but they’re just not as sweet as the first crop of the summer. These, however, taste like June berries. The warm weather and a decent amount of rain has made them plump and gorgeous and sweet.

We ate them with a vanilla-infused rice pudding sprinkled with grated chocolate. It was the perfect way to celebrate the last strawberries of the year.

Cooks of the World – Spice Up Your Life

arvinda_preenaIndie Food Artisan – Arvinda’s

The number one most intimidating aspect of cooking Indian food is the spicing. Although every Indian family creates their own masalas for certain dishes, these recipes are often closely-guarded secrets, and for folks who didn’t grow up blending and grinding their family’s special recipe for curry or garam masala or chai, getting the proportions just right can be overwhelming enough to make them want to toss the whole thing and head to Gerrard Street instead.

One woman was confident enough to share her masalas with the world, however, and through her cooking school and a family-run business selling her spices, Arvinda Chauhan’s name has become synonymous with Indian food.

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I’ve fallen off the wagon. I blame Greg – he fell first and dragged me down with him.

I did make a resolution that I would “sample” things when I had the chance, just for the sake of expanding my palate and increasing my knowledge about food. I’ve been doing that when the opportunity arose, but with little enthusiasm; the proscuitto and salami I had at the Green Link event didn’t wow me, the burger Greg ate last week grossed me out (I spit out the tiny bite I tried), and the massive brontosaurus-sized ribs he ate for lunch on Saturday made me think that I had maybe just lost the taste for meat. I got them down and it wasn’t gross, but it wasn’t a pleasant taste – just kind of… dank. Maybe that’s why ribs need so much sauce – to cover up the yukky grey taste.

Then we wandered into St. Lawrence Market and a nice man handed me free proscuitto.

I always had this running joke that I’d like to be a proscuittotarian. Pescetarians are folks who eat fish, but are otherwise vegetarian, pollo-vegetarians eat chicken. I wanted to be able to eat proscuitto. And somehow I always knew that proscuitto would be my downfall.

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Living Out of Boxes (of Food)

It’s been quiet in these parts, and the food has been unexciting. Too much stuff out of packages and too much stuff out of take-out containers. There’s two more weeks of this to go, and I swear, once we get moved and settled, I never want to see another frozen pizza again.

I mean, it’s not as if we’re moving far – a whole five blocks east. But it’s still easier to weed down your kitchen cupboards and buy new, rather than moving all your groceries, particularly perishables. So we’re trying to use up and clear out, which means no trips to Whole Foods, or the markets (Kensington and St. Lawrence), or swank and lovely Pusateri’s.

Instead, we eat the crap. Salads out of tubs, the ubiquitous frozen pizzas, store-bought frozen vegetarian lasagna, and many things from soy made to resemble parts of dead critters. The plan is to eat the crap for now, and once we’re in the new place, unpacked, and have had time to hit all the grocery places for fresh grub, to do a two-week detox to clear all the gunk out of our systems.

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