Tuesday, October 13, 2009

St. Lawrence Market

Markets have been around for countless centuries. They have served as venues for people to gather, to sell, to satisfy the craving for a good bargain or, simply, just to look around. Each town in every country has its own spinoff: the tiangge, the farmers' market, the swap meet, the market square, etc. And in Toronto, there's St. Lawrence Market.

Considered by Food & Wine magazine as one of the 25 best markets in the world, St. Lawrence Market is situated in the heart of historic Old Town Toronto -- just a short walk from Union Station. Established in 1803, its three buildings have functioned as the city's social center, city hall, and market place throughout its history. At present, it houses more than 120 specialty restos and shops that sell all sorts of foodstuffs, from fresh seafood to pastries to Canadian souvenirs.

Being pressed for time, I was only able to go to the South market (shown in the picture). Its impressive full-brick architecture made it a dream to look at. As i went inside, the adrenaline rush kicked in... A cheese shop here, a meat shop there, a bakery at the center, and more stuff downstairs!!! As the saying goes, too much things to sample, so little time!

Before buying anything, I decided to have a look around first.

A small crowd from the market tour makes a stop at Scheffler's Deli and Cheese, which offers a huge array of antipastos, gourmet world cheeses, salads, fresh truffles, all kinds of olives, the largest selection of prosciutto in the city, and soooo much more. It feels like a busy, jam-packed, homey Santis deli.

As i descended the stairs, the comforting smell of apples and cinnamon lead me to Yianni's kitchen, a stall which sells Greek fare and is known for its apple fritters.

Beside Yianni's is Mustachio, from which i got my first taste of a veal eggplant sandwich ($7.50):

A huge slab of veal (dipped in batter then deep fried) with a huge slice of aubergine (dipped in batter then deep fried as well), smothered in herby tomato sauce and placed in an equally huge bun (4x as big as my fist). If not for the unfriendly store owner, i would've given this burger five stars.

After finishing half of this big-ass sandwich, i went back upstairs to look for some coffee to wash it down.

Tucked in a corner of the upper level (in front of Paddington's Pump), Luba's Gourmet Coffee and Tea Boutique boasts a wide selection of... you guessed it, coffees and teas. Ate Edith, the nice and friendly Filipina manager, gave me some of her home-cooked peanuts (with all its oily, garlic-y and salty goodness) to go with my aromatic hazelnut coffee ($1.75). Then I had a hankering for something sweet.

Future Bakery: the bakeshop at the center of the South market. One side features various pastries, the other sells breads and cakes.
I tried their Pistachio Baklava: TOO sweet. 'Nuff said.

I went back to Ate Edith and asked her where i could get yummy pastries in the Market worth my money. She told me to go back downstairs, go around the staircase, and head straight to the back. She couldn't remember the name of the shop, but according to her, it has the freshest baked goods in the market.

So I followed her directions and ended up in Stonemill Bakehouse.

Their stuff are made in-house, so that's a plus point for them. I tried their apple streudel ($1.56): PRO - not too sweet! CON - not fluffy and light enough. But not too hard, either. It isn't the best streudel i've tasted (blueberry streudel from the 400 Market is still the best, hands down), but it has potential.

Despite taking a few wrong turns (food-wise), St Lawrence Market is definitely a must-see for travellers to Toronto. If you have a day -- and money -- to spare, go and visit this unique establishment. Join their 2-hour guided food and history walking tours ($25) if you can.

St. Lawrence Market
92 Front St E (at Jarvis)
Toronto, ON M5E 1C4

South Market
T - Th: 8am to 6pm
F: 8am to 7pm
Sat: 5am to 5pm

Farmers' Market
Sat: from 5am onwards