In the summertime a farmer’s market should, in my view, offer three things: local produce that is more delicious and better-handled than what is for sale at the grocery store; a connection to the people who actually took part in growing or preparing the food; and the opportunity to shop for a picnic meal in a pleasant environment.
The North York market at Mel Lastman Square has always been pretty good at the first two. Willowtree and Thiessen farms bring remarkably good fruit and vegetables from two different, but local, parts of the province. Thames River Melons adds a third source and their much-appreciated, ripe-when-you-want-it melon expertise. We were spoiled, last year, for cheese selection from both Montforte and Thornloe.
Bread and prepared lunches are the weak spot for the picnic part of the equation at North York. The Kountry King Sausage tent has some great bacon and dried sausages but their hot peameal, steak, or sausage on a bun really aren’t any different than the usual vendor fare.
The prepared food situation took a marked improvement with the addition of the Taste of Russia stall this year. I was surprised at the number of positive responses to my tweet about their appearance from those who remember them from their Queens days. The Twitter drooling was justified.
Mushroom and potato blini and the spinach and feta triangles are both good and a pair (or one of each) go for $4.50. The best deal and surest eye-opener are the crispy, fried cheese and potato pierogies. At 5 for $2.50 I’ve found it difficult to keep myself to only one order. In all cases don’t turn down the complimentary container of herb and garlic sour cream.
Whomever makes the apple dumplings shows a commendably restrained hand with both the sugar and spices. If they could only find a way to keep the bottom of the apple-wrapping pastry from getting soggy they would have a real home run here.
Because most vendors are set up and ready to go by 8 AM the nearby condo dwellers are just as well served on their way to the subway as nearby office workers out for a lunchtime stroll.
Coverage of farmer’s markets in Toronto is available on Spotlight Toronto and by following the #marketTO hashtag on Twitter.