Field to table – to mouth!
by Amy Rosen
I live in downtown Toronto, in a neighbourhood called Little Portugal, but at times it’s easy to imagine I live in Europe, since my neighbours have brought with them their green-thumbed customs from the old country to the new. This includes growing vast gardens in their backyard plots, full of ripe summer vegetables and trellises heaving with grapes. It’s a microcosm of the field-to-table ethos reflected in Toronto today.
Kensington Market is a spirited and quirky spot, where over 30 nationalities are bound together in a labyrinth of open-air commerce, from fruits and veggie stalls to ethnic specialty shops, cutting edge vintage clothing, and Good Egg, my favourite kitchen shop. (Shopping tips: Pick up bulk dried goods at Casa Acoreana, ethical meats at Sanagans, sustainable fish at Hooked, and a shopping snack at Jumbo Empanadas.)
The famous St. Lawrence market – the first permanent market structure was built on the current premises in 1803 – is where 120 specialty vendors bring in goods from Ontario farmsteads, as well as loads of prepared local and international delights, should you choose to throw the dinner party of your life. (Shopping tip: Head downstairs for the greatest eggplant Parm sub in the city.
Should you choose to combine your park visits with a grocery run, on any given day you can load up your bike basket with fresh finds from the more than two-dozen farmers markets dotting the city, including the year-round organic market on Thursdays at Dufferin Grove, home to everything from wood-fired breads to foraged mushrooms.
Still, if you don’t feel like shopping or cooking, simply sit back and relax at thoughtfully green — and totally tasty – restaurants like the vegan Urban Herbivore, for cheerful soups in mason jars and spelt muffins loaded with apples, dates and almonds. Or, S. Lefkowitz, Toronto’s first hummuseria, which dishes out platefuls of organic hummus topped with warmed chickpeas and za’atar, with fresh pita.
For more upmarket locally grown dishes, book a table at Jamie Kennedy’s Gilead Café & Bistro for his perfect herb-dusted Yukon Gold fries (or double down on the poutine topped with local beef Bolognese and aged Ontario cheddar), or Café Belong at the Brickworks (a cultural green hub in its own right), for tempura perch fish and chips with house slaw and tartar sauce.
High end, low end, near or far, there’s a field — and a table — waiting for you in this deliciously green city.