TORONTO, ONTARIO CANADA
Real Fine Food
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
Below...my finds in detail.
Delicious, fresh lunch fare made in-house daily in downtown Toronto. New menu every day.
One must get a treat. When at Maman, do as the French do. Indulge, my dear!
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.
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...
• 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.
A delicious compromise appetizer - a little bit of veg, a little bit of fried. With toasted sesame seeds!
What a perfect substantial salad. Amazing texture combo with the hazelnuts, pomegranate, herbs and cauliflower. Perfect.
Beautiful and healthy whitefish lunch at this French restaurant in Toronto.
Wow this was delicious. And definitely hearty. Sweet potato, chickpea, harissa, apricot on couscous. A great meal for a chilly or rainy day.
I enjoyed one of their two patios. One of them is covered so it can stay open much of the year.
Of course, Cluny bakes everything in house. Boulangerie and Patisserie on site. Several cuts of bread will be brought to your table.
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.
• 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.
Our server was very excited for us to try this. It was super. Crispy, spicy. Yuzu pepper aioli & wasabi. Recommended.
Kamameshi is traditionally a family-style dish. Toronto contemporary Japanese restaurant keeps to that by serving and mixing each individual bowl tableside.
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!
Izumui Sake from the Toronto Distillery District. Rice is from Japan. We loved this.
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.
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.
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.
• 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.
Plan B Organic Farms
Starting a day on a beautiful organic farm in Canada is not the worst thing in the world... ;)
Technically weeds, everything that grows on this property serves a purpose. From bee attractors to ground cover to natural balancing.
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.
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!).
I lucked out with a perfect, beautiful day. This old bus was on the way to the outer fields and the forest path.
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?
I'd never seen or eaten these before! Cooler climate food.
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. :)
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.
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.
• 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.
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.
Not something I've ever seen at my local farmers market. A perfect little head of basic green. A typical-tasting and textured lettuce.
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.
Large, vivacious, tons of great food and vendors! Click pics above for details.
It was a pleasure. Other randoms below.
Stay tuned for the next Real Fine Food town takeover.
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.
There was an egg inside! Very fresh.
Beautiful! I hope to cultivate year-round floral in my home garden.
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.