August 2015

TORONTO, ONTARIO CANADA

What is in season in June and July in Texas and beyond

Real Fine Food

TORONTO

 

Going north from Texas in August is always going to be a cool endeavor. Yes, there was a fall chill in the Toronto air but the city itself was also très cool. Clean, calm and friendly.

 

A city of 4 million people, it certainly has the capacity to be as anxious as New York, as grimy as Chicago or as aloof as any other big city but it wasn't.

 

I did a call on social media before my trip for Torontonian farm-to-table, seasonal and veg-forward restaurants, vegetarian and vegan spots,farmers markets and actual farms.

 

From the shout outs and advice I got back, I reached out to various places and set up meetings to talk, taste and learn.

 

Toronto spots I hit :

Plan B Organic Farm, Evergreen Brickworks Farmers Market, Maman, Miss Thing's, Cluny, Public Kitchen / Doug McNish, Kasa Moto, Cafe Crepe, Dandylion, Grasslands, Cameron House, Kops Records, Cherry Cola, Horsehoe Tavern

#RFFtoronto

 

Below...my finds in detail.

 

xo

Stephanie

 

Real Fine Food in Toronto

Maman

Pan Bagnat and salads in Toronto
Pan Bagnat and salads in Toronto

Delicious, fresh lunch fare made in-house daily in downtown Toronto. New menu every day.

press to zoom
Handmade desserts fresh daily
Handmade desserts fresh daily

One must get a treat. When at Maman, do as the French do. Indulge, my dear!

press to zoom
Handmade French food in Toronto
Handmade French food in Toronto

The fresh baked goods, oh my! The best. I mean...on the right is blueberry cake with lavender frosting. Just say yes. They make everything in house, daily.

press to zoom

Maman

Maman's first location in New York City was an instant success. Not hard to see why this location # 2 was called out as a place to visit during my stay. A French restaurant in the heart of downtown run by French folks who love the simplicity of good, real food...

 

PERKS :

• Menu changes daily according to best available ingredients

• Items WILL run out because they strive to make just enough and not waste

• All baked goods made in-house, daily

• Family recipes 

• Fresh daily menu keeps the kitchen creative and the customers happy

 

MY FAVE : 

• Oh man, they talked up the chocolate chip cookie. It delivered. Almonds, mancadamia, walnuts, lots of chocolate...yes yes yes and thank you.

Cluny

Real Fine Food in Toronto
Asparagus Frites
Asparagus Frites

A delicious compromise appetizer - a little bit of veg, a little bit of fried. With toasted sesame seeds!

press to zoom
Vegan Cauliflower Salad Cluny
Vegan Cauliflower Salad Cluny

What a perfect substantial salad. Amazing texture combo with the hazelnuts, pomegranate, herbs and cauliflower. Perfect.

press to zoom
Healthy whitefish lunch in Distillery District
Healthy whitefish lunch in Distillery District

Beautiful and healthy whitefish lunch at this French restaurant in Toronto.

press to zoom
Vegetarian Moroccan Tagine at Cluny
Vegetarian Moroccan Tagine at Cluny

Wow this was delicious. And definitely hearty. Sweet potato, chickpea, harissa, apricot on couscous. A great meal for a chilly or rainy day.

press to zoom
Stephanie M Casey in Toronto
Stephanie M Casey in Toronto

I enjoyed one of their two patios. One of them is covered so it can stay open much of the year.

press to zoom
Top French restaurant in Toronto
Top French restaurant in Toronto

Of course, Cluny bakes everything in house. Boulangerie and Patisserie on site. Several cuts of bread will be brought to your table.

press to zoom
Real Fine Food in Toronto

Cluny

Located in the attractive Distillery District, this gigantic restaurant really surprised me. It looks like it simply has to be corporate or even a chain because of its size. While a large investment company is behind it, operations were handed over to experts. Extreme care was taken with who runs the place and how. Literally every detail from floor to ceiling has been placed with care, including everything on the menu. A multiple-visit kind of place, you can enjoy the patisserie, gorgeous bar, main dining room, two patios, private function rooms or the oyster bar (whew). When the general manager I'd set up to meet with became unavailable and Jennifer stepped in without knowing who I was or why I was there yet confidentlly knew everything about the place, well...two thumbs up.

 

PERKS :

• Something for everyone on the menu : vegetarian, vegan, fish, meat

• Veg, Gluten Free and Nuts clearly (& beautifully) marked on menu

• THIS PLACE IS GORGEOUS 

• New Fresh Seafood Menu each night according to best-of-day catches available

• Fresh baked goods, Specialty cocktails, Stellar wine list

 

MY FAVE : 

• A tie - I loved the Cauliflower salad and the vegetarian Tagine. That tagine was amazing.

Real Fine Food in Toronto

Kasa Moto

Rock Shrimp Tempura
Rock Shrimp Tempura

Our server was very excited for us to try this. It was super. Crispy, spicy. Yuzu pepper aioli & wasabi. Recommended.

press to zoom
Tableside Kamameshi in Toronto
Tableside Kamameshi in Toronto

Kamameshi is traditionally a family-style dish. Toronto contemporary Japanese restaurant keeps to that by serving and mixing each individual bowl tableside.

press to zoom
Kamameshi at Kasa Moto
Kamameshi at Kasa Moto

Wild mushrooms, burdock root, yam cake & truffle soy butter. YES. A filling dish with lots of nutrients. I really loved this part of the meal!

press to zoom
Canadian Sake yum
Canadian Sake yum

Izumui Sake from the Toronto Distillery District. Rice is from Japan. We loved this.

press to zoom
Black Cod
Black Cod

Wow, this was a rich piece of fish. Very substantial and delicious. The skin...oh the skin. Crispy pow. Textural flavor experience like whoa. Ricotta miso, bok choy & bonito.

press to zoom
Decaf with Nut Milk
Decaf with Nut Milk

Everywhere I went in Toronto had nut milk available. Generally, several kinds. This was a perfect decaf end-of-meal. And what gorgeous ceramics Kasa Moto served on.

press to zoom

Kasa Moto

I had originally planned to keep it French-y with Kasa Moto's sister restaurant Collette but it got booked up for a private event so their PR folks asked if I'd like to try Kasa Moto. After browsing the info and menu online my answer was yes. Lured by a fab rooftop in an area I hadn't explored, my Toronto host and I headed to Yorkville for some contemporary Japanese food. 

 

PERKS :

• Lovely space

• Lots of variety for different diets and portion moods

• I really loved all the ceramics and glassware - details truly elevate an experience

• All the fish was exceptional, of course

 

MY FAVE : 

• There were details of almost every dish that were quite special. Click pics above to enlarge for notes. But, oh! our dessert was something, too. Too dark to get a good photo but I'd gamble going with any dessert here will treat you right.

Real Fine Food in Toronto

Plan B Organic Farms

Farm workers picking beans
Farm workers picking beans

Starting a day on a beautiful organic farm in Canada is not the worst thing in the world... ;)

press to zoom
Wildflowers abound at Plan B
Wildflowers abound at Plan B

Technically weeds, everything that grows on this property serves a purpose. From bee attractors to ground cover to natural balancing.

press to zoom
Tobacco a natural pesticide
Tobacco a natural pesticide

Alvaro just started growing tobacco to create a natural pesticide. He says all you have to do is soak the leaves in oil and then dilute the oil. So simple.

press to zoom
Llama at Plan B Organic
Llama at Plan B Organic

There was minimal livestock on the property. Some ducks, chickens and turkeys. And I came across a couple of goats, this llama and a sheep. Goats are so friendly. Like dogs. They come up wagging their tales and want you to feed them goodies (like clover blossoms!).

press to zoom
Plan B Organic Farm in Canada
Plan B Organic Farm in Canada

I lucked out with a perfect, beautiful day. This old bus was on the way to the outer fields and the forest path.

press to zoom
Stephanie at a Canadian Farm
Stephanie at a Canadian Farm

Impossible to capture the beauty of the forest walk. But here it is anyway! I wonder if all Toronto area organic farms are so wonderful?

press to zoom
organic ground cherries
organic ground cherries

I'd never seen or eaten these before! Cooler climate food.

press to zoom
Kale at Plan B Organic
Kale at Plan B Organic

Rogue organic kale plant just doing it's thing. It was hard to resist asking to chop it off to take home for dinner! I did pick some squash and grab a full lambs quarters plant from the ground, though. :)

press to zoom
Toronto Organic Farm
Toronto Organic Farm

At Plan B, native plant growth is encouraged and worked with. Lush and full, this place is just full of life. Frogs hopping out of the way as you walk, bees buzzing, natural predators taking out pests.

press to zoom

Plan B Organic Farm

Boy, I got lucky with this one. Alvaro and his family run this beautiful organic farm about an hour outside of Toronto near Hamilton, Ontario. They operate their own area CSA  and also work with Mama Earth Organics providing food for Torontonians. Alvaro is very interested in cutting out middlemen and and getting food directly from farmers to customers. But what is really amazing about this organic farm is that agroecologist Dr. Fulvio Gioannetto is working with them to create complete self-sustainability. Pesticides made from native plants cultivated on site, no need to bring in outside...anything. It is a process of hard work and education to get there and they are going for it. Noble, hard-working, forward-thinking...the future of food.

 

PERKS :

• Natural everything, of course!

• Such a lovely summer climate for growing, they don't get long-term mega heat

• People who are passionate about what they do and how

• Year-round growing via large on-site greenhouses

 

MY FAVE : 

• It was a pleasure to roam the grounds - so much going on. From the forest path to the few areas with minimal livestock to the greenhouses and fields of food growing. Beautiful. And Alvaro was a fountain of knowledge and inspriation. Click pics above for more detail in the descriptions.

Real Fine Food in Toronto
Sweet Potato and Red Fife Canadian bread
Sweet Potato and Red Fife Canadian bread

This was dense and substantial. Red Fife is an heirloom Canadian wheat. We ate this a few ways - for breakfast toasted with peanut butter and honey, for dinner toasted with garlic salt and tossed in cubes in oil and spices to top a salad I made of the oak head lettuce, lambs quarters and red clover.

press to zoom
Oak Head Lettuce from Evergreen Brickworks Farmers Market
Oak Head Lettuce from Evergreen Brickworks Farmers Market

Not something I've ever seen at my local farmers market. A perfect little head of basic green. A typical-tasting and textured lettuce.

press to zoom
Doug McNish Raw Tostada
Doug McNish Raw Tostada

ooof this was amazing!!! Doug McNish is definitely one of North America's best plant-based innovators. I wish I had been able to try more of his food. This was so good and just stuffed with nutrients. Sunflower seed "refried beans," cashew cream, raw tostada.

press to zoom

Evergreen Brickworks Farmers Market

Large, vivacious, tons of great food and vendors! Click pics above for details.

 

Thanks, Toronto!

It was a pleasure. Other randoms below.

Stay tuned for the next Real Fine Food town takeover.

 

Toronto Graffiti
Toronto Graffiti
press to zoom
Miss Thing's
Miss Thing's

I thought this place was a dive from the info and pics online! If I had known it was a swank joint, I'd have reached out for media because they have a dish I REALLY wish I'd gotten to try: Jackfruit fried rice served in half a pineapple! Also, swell tiki decor and cocktails.

press to zoom
Farm to Table in Toronto, Dandylion
Farm to Table in Toronto, Dandylion
press to zoom
Ravioli at Dandylion
Ravioli at Dandylion

There was an egg inside! Very fresh.

press to zoom
Wildflower weeds picked at Plan B
Wildflower weeds picked at Plan B

Beautiful! I hope to cultivate year-round floral in my home garden.

press to zoom
Nutella Crepe on Queen Street
Nutella Crepe on Queen Street
press to zoom
Red Clover Flower Salad
Red Clover Flower Salad

A dinner I made from fresh, local stuff included a very yum salad of red clover flowers, oak head lettuce, lambs quarters greens, armenian cucumber. Made a dressing with fresh plum from the market and also fried up some cubes of the sweet potato / red fife bread to toss on top. Aces.

press to zoom
Belmonte Raw Green Juice
Belmonte Raw Green Juice
press to zoom