Monday, 1 October 2012

Toronto's St Lawrence Market, The South Side

Hustle and bustle between the north and south markets

When I visited Toronto back in May, I popped in to the St Lawrence Market on a weekday which was all well and good but what I really fancied was a Saturday visit to the South building.

A lull at the "Saturday only" South Building

Every Saturday, the South Building is alive and bursting with local and artisanal producers.  The rest of the week we somehow muddle through with the hundred or so vendors and resellers in the North Building although "muddling through" may not be the mot juste:  the market was named in National Geographic's Food Journeys of a Lifetime book as one of the Top 10 Food Markets in the World.

I have fond memories of the South Side market when I lived in Toronto in the mid-1980's and I was looking forward to seeing what the year 2012 and the recent locavore movement would bring.  

It was interesting to see how the market has evolved in the intervening 30 or so years.  There was a new energy and abundance everywhere and a much wider variety of trendy, locally produced and eco friendly products.  I can assure you that in the mid '80's you wouldn't have seen anyone selling organic arugula or quinoa nor a company that roasted Fair Trade Coffee.  Back in the 80's, most local producers were considered part of a small niche market, reserved mainly for fresh obsessed vegetarians (like me) or enlightened cooks and chefs.
Mrs Stephanie Ivanoff
Mrs Ivanoff's dairy products
One person who has stood the test of time with her lack of pretension intact is Mrs Stephanie Ivanoff.  

Back in the '80's, she and her son were selling their own goat, sheep, and cow's milk Fresh and Feta cheeses and here she is, over 30 years later, still at it.  

It's clear that she knows her stuff.  Her Feta was, and still is, skilfully made, a balanced mixture of creamy, tangy and not too much salt, but it's her Fresh cheese that I was hoping she still made and thankfully, she still does.

Her Fresh cheese is sublime.  The texture is soft and yielding.  Its flavour is light, clean and buttery and  it's a perfect canvas for fruit, honey, olive oil, preserves, or just by itself.

It's the product of the the first stage of cheese making, the immediate result of separating the curds from the whey and not compressing it.  You'll notice that in the time between when you buy it and get it home, the whey continues to seep from the cheese, the texture becomes firmer and the flavour more concentrated.  Since she adds no salt, the subtle flavours of the milk come through and it won't keep:  it's best if you consume it within a day or two.  Poor you!

Acropolis Organics Olive Oil
I discovered other delicious and interesting things at the market that morning.  Fruity, buttery, Greek olive oil from Acropolis Organics, delicious French-style goat cheeses from the Best Baa Dairy and some good advice and foraged organic herbs from Linda Rose and her Black River Gatehouse. 

I never drink coffee but Hubby does, so when we saw all the hubbub and a steaming kettle at the Merchants of Green Coffee stand we stopped to see what they had on offer.  Hubby eagerly sampled some of their delicious, fresh roasted, sustainable coffees while a charming caffeine-fuelled Barista tried in vain to convince me to drink some too.   I will never surrender!

Next time I'm in Toronto I'll have to make my way back and not wait another 30 years.  Although who knows what will be on offer in 2042?

Merchants of Green Coffee
Cheeses from the Best Baa Dairy

Herbs and helpful advice from the Black River Gatehouse

Selling it old school.


scott cohen said...

Love the St Lawrence Market. The 2 things I remember from my last trip was the peameal sandwiches, and the ghost salt I purchased from a vendor (ghost salt is the spiciest salt in the world). Hope all is well. Great write-up and photos. Thanks for sharing.

Anonymous said...

What a fabulous looking market and your pictures really bring it alive!

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