Last Saturday we went down to the Distillery District to check out the food offerings at the 2011 Toronto Christmas Market.
Cheesewerks, the not-yet-opened grilled cheese emporium had a booth where they were previewing their menu. The original sandwich with various Balderson cheddars, on fancy bread and with roasted garlic, red repper ketchup goes for seven bucks.
Grilled cheese and the schnitzel stations both called to us but it was the French Canadian Poutine that we settled on. A bit under-sized for five bucks and with fries that could have used another couple minutes in the fat this poutine was redeemed by curds that actually had some squeak and a traditional gravy.
The highlight for me on our visit was my friends’ Jason and Michelle patisserie, The Sweet Escape. I could feel a knee-weakening twitch when we entered the building that had filled with the delicious aroma of their maple bacon donuts.
A bit cakier than the one we had at Dynamo Donuts in San Francisco but much more generous with the bacon and an all-round more satisfying treat.
In addition to their case of delicious baked goods, The Sweet Escape also checks the gifts, sandwiches, and hot drinks boxes. They have the ninja-bread cookie cutters that will make great gag gifts for anyone who has even thought about making their own. A pulled pork or smoked brisket sandwich from Buster Rhino’s BBQ will turn a cupcake-stop into a balanced meal, and their hot apple cider for $2.75 compares well to other stands where we saw it for four bucks.
The one gimmicky offering that we fell for, pig candy from Leonard Cake Company, was actually not too bad. It tasted nicely of both bacon and chocolate even if it did make a bit of a mess as we ate it. Due to a melted chocolate equipment-malfunction we couldn’t try the freshly-dipped hot version.
Mom and Dad can satisfy their competing needs for stimulants and social lubricants throughout the market. Balzac’s, Caffe Furbo and others continue their usual coffee business as well as some of the special booths.
For after the sun passes below the yardarm there are no fewer than three beer gardens, a “winter warmer lounge” featuring vaguely-appropriate liquors and Polish beer (naturally because it’s also cold in Poland), and a booth from Wine Country Ontario.
The folks from WCO will only be there on the weekends and when we there they were pouring from some pretty excellent bottles including ones from Coyote’s, Kacaba, and Thirty Bench.
Obviously, there is also the usual entertainment for the kids including a live stage and a rather sad-looking reindeer petting station.
The Lowes’ Toronto Christmas Market at the Distillery District is open Monday to Friday from noon to 9 PM and from 10 AM to 9 PM on weekends. It runs from December 2 to December 18. The beer garden hours are slightly different. I’d say it’s best accessed by transit by taking the King streetcar to Parliament and walking southeast from there.
Update: I was reminded by my friend Bonita and yesterday’s rain to add a note about the weather. The Distillery is fairly close to lake and some of the lanes are rather narrow so some spots can be quite breezy and others are in the shade. Dress warmly.