Friday, April 15, 2011
At the end of January I bought my first place -- a condo in the lovely Yonge and Davisville area. At the time, Moving Day seemed ages away but here we are, mid-April, and by the end of the month I'll be there.
I've lived in the historic St. Lawrence Market neighbourhood of downtown Toronto for the past six years or so (in two different apartments), and I love it so much I had my real estate agent show me just about every building in the area before expanding my search northward. The reason being, as an avid cook and baker, having the Market at my doorstep was just too perfect. There was no ingredient I couldn't find there -- from pomegranate molasses, to black truffle salt, to tamarind paste. In fact I'd sometimes look for recipes that had offbeat ingredients just to see if I could find them at SLM -- invariably, I could.
That's to say nothing of the incredible fruits, vegetables, breads, and meats to be found both there and at the weekly farmer's market across the road on Saturday mornings.
And though I realize I can always come back -- it's only a subway ride away, after all -- I thought I'd pay tribute to it and a few of the other culinary treasures in my neighbourhood before I leave.
Here are my top five, in no particular order:
1. Mengrai's Striped Bass with Tamarind Coconut Sauce (pictured, above) -- There are so many lousy Thai food places in this city, fortunately Mengrai is not one of them. I've taken a few friends to eat there over the years, but what I'll really miss is my Friday night routine of calling them up, ordering this particular dish for takeout, and enjoying it on my sofa while watching a movie. Sure, once in awhile I'd order noodles or one of their curries (all very good) but this was the one that kept me coming back. I loved that the vegetables would often change depending on what they had on hand -- sometimes there would be green beans, and broccoli, sometimes cauliflower and carrots, almost always bok choy and savoy cabbage. Comfort in a bowl.
2. Cafe 260's Coffee Beans -- Situated right across from my current condo building, Cafe 260 has been selling me their fresh roasted beans for the past three years. Their house blend is much better than anything the big brands have to offer, in my opinion, and I've gone through enough pounds of it to get my buy-12-get-1-free more than once (I probably drink too much, truth be told). It's also become a favourite of my parents, and they request it whenever we go to the cottage. I'm sure I'll find some decent beans in the new 'hood, but nothing like my little Cafe 260.
3. Stonemill's Cherry Strudel (St. Lawrence Market) -- I'm all about the Parisian breakfast -- a good cup of coffee in one hand, a delightful pastry in the other. And while I adore a good croissant or pain au chocolat, Stonemill's Cherry Strudel, with its flecks of cinnamon, buttery, flaky crust, crunchy turbinado sugar topping, and tart-sweet cherry filling is perfection. My Saturday morning is not complete without one of these.
4. Roasting chickens from Rowe Farms at the Saturday Morning Farmer's Market -- I used to think of chicken as the blandest, most pedestrian of foods. That was when I was overcooking boneless-skinless breasts, and before I started roasting them whole. The first time I roasted a whole chicken it was a Rowe Farms bird, and it opened my eyes to how delicious and flavourful chicken could be. It helps that Rowe Farms meats, while a bit more expensive, are locally-grown and free of antibiotics and hormones. I now buy as much of my meat there as I can, and it's worth every penny. Roast chicken has become one of my favourite Sunday meals -- paired with herb-roasted fingerling potatoes, and lemony Swiss chard, it's hard to do better.
5. French toast at the George St. Diner -- After a particularly stressful day last summer -- I had my wallet stolen and the thieves racked up thousands on my credit cards -- my wonderful parents came into the city, gave me some money to see me through the week until I could get my cards back, and took me out for breakfast at the George St. Diner. I had French toast (my favourite brunch food), and as I drowned it in maple syrup I could feel all that anxiety easing away. Though I've only been back a few times since, I'll always remember that day fondly. A bad experience made better with the help of food and family. Isn't that always the way?
While I realize I'm saying goodbye to some of these places -- not you, though, SLM, I'll always come back to you -- I know there are a ton of great spots in the new neighbourhood and I cannot wait to try them out. My friend [and soon-to-be-neighbour!] Bonita was kind enough to give me a tour recently and I'm particularly enthused about the pastries at Jules, the gelato at Il Gelatiere, the Indian food at Amaya, and the Middle Eastern fare at Tabule.
I will be sampling all of them very soon!