Yesterday grocery stores were front page news in Toronto. Loblaws has bought Maple Leaf Gardens and turned it into a massive store with wide aisles and separate wall-sized displays of cheese, prosciutto and other goods.
I joined the lineup under the restored, retro awning on Carlton to get into the Gardens and only scalpers shouting “who’s buying, who’s selling” could have made that more nostalgic. There are some touches like the large mural pictured above, tables topped with posting posters from when Ali was still Clay, and the art installation made from old blue seats above the escalator that are definite nod to the building that was the setting for millions of hours of frost-bitten boyhood fantasies.
Into the grocery store itself the wide, spacious aisles are splashed with orange–the signature Loblaws colour before black, green, or blue–and especially the dry goods seemed to be stocked with lots of units if not much more selection than usual.
The full-wall display was massive and I’ve heard positive reports on the local cheese programme that stocks it but beyond that I’m surprised Loblaws didn’t push the envelope in more places. With such a large space, the building’s tourist draw, and establishments like Eataly as an example I would have expected at least one chef-collaborated restaurant instead of just a blown up version of the usual “canteen”.
On my way back to the subway I noticed another close-to-opening store that might become a bigger draw for car-less foodsters. Bulk Barn is opening a location right at Yonge and Carlton and we’ll now find it easier to haul our candy-by-the-pound by subway.
Update: The new Bulk Barn at Yonge and Carlton now has signs up that give December 18, 2011 as the opening date. From what I could see through the holes in the brown paper I’d say that is believable.
My third grocery-related stop of the night was at Longo’s Maple Leaf Square location for the Taste Ontario, Taste the World dinner by Chef Matt Kantor. The event was organised by Alexa Clark, one of Longo’s Taste Ambassadors.
The meal’s six courses (which I’ll describe more fully in a separate post) all prominently featured a seasonal Ontario ingredient presented through the lens of an international recipe.
As I made my way to The Loft (an odd name for a basement demonstration kitchen) I was happy to see that they’re attracting a strong pre-game crowd in their wine bar, Corks. Between the killer selection of Ontario Craft beer on tap, top-notch Ontario wine on eno, and daily specials that combine food and drink this is a great undiscovered gem. I’m surprised that this great idea has still not been emulated.