Sunday, 28 June 2009

Foodbuzz 24, 24, 24: A Trip to the World Famous St. Lawrence Market in Toronto

This week we had the opportunity to take a day trip to Toronto's St. Lawrence Market. The good people at Foodbuzz agreed that this would be a fun trip to share with my readers and a great opportunity to cook up a feast with all sorts of goodies that I usually can't find in my own small town.
I think many people are in the same position that we are, we love cooking great food but our resources are limited to what the local mega marts have to offer. Unless you live in a booming metropolis or you are lucky enough to have a great market near you, you are stuck with whatever the everyday markets have in stock.
Not today though! We had a great time exploring this wonderful market, and brought home lots of goodies to create a fabulous mixed small plate tasting menu for our friends. What a thrilling experience!

Toronto, Canada's St. Lawrence Market, is located west of Jarvis Street, between King Street East and the Esplanade, is owned by the City of Toronto.
This photo is taken from the south, back, entrance.

History of the St. Lawrence Market
"In 1803, Governor Peter Hunter issued a proclamation, following recommendations made as early as 1796, that all the land north of Front, west of Jarvis, south of King and east of Church street was to be designated officially as the "Market Block."
Since 1901, the South St. Lawrence Market has been known primarily for its fruits, vegetables, meat and cheese. For many years, few people realized that Toronto's original City Hall had been incorporated into today's south market. The history of the South St. Lawrence Market also includes the north "farmer's market" and St. Lawrence Hall as well."

"The Market Gallery opened in 1979 and is an exhibition facility for the City of Toronto, Culture Division. Located inside the South St. Lawrence Market on the south-west corner of Front Street East and Jarvis Street, the Market Gallery is on the second floor in the original council chamber, all that remains from Toronto's City Hall (1845-1899) which once stood on this site."

We couldn't help getting a little artistic with this puddle shot near where we parked.

There is so much variety at the market, over 120 specialty merchants and vendors. Dairy, seafood, baked goods, meats, produce, housewares, wine.. the list is endless. I have to confess, I wanted everything.

Two of our favourite places were Kozlik's Canadian Mustard shop, where you can sample various fresh mustards with little pretzel dippers, (they even had freshly made horseradish for sale!), and the Seafront Fish Market. The seafood is unbelievable there, so fresh and so big! Nothing like our regular grocery stores. As you can see, the staff are very friendly too.

We got there fairly early in the morning, before the crowds and tour buses arrived. We began with a couple of reconnaissance tours around the market before we started shopping. We came prepared with a large cooler in the trunk of the car, complete with ice packs. We wore large canvas shopping bags for our purchases too. We were on a mission!

A whole store devoted to sprouts! Natural fibre clothing. Specialty cheeses and seafood. And in the bottom right hand corner is a display case filled with frozen meats labelled kangaroo tail, emu, elk, wild boar, and all sorts of foods I have never tried. We didn't get any of those on this trip, maybe next time!

There was a fantastic assortment of baked goods, both sweet and savoury, in several locations. We bought three different baguettes for grilling, and several mini treats for dessert.

When you visit the market, you have to have lunch. We went to the Carousel Bakery for some fabulous sammies.
"The Carousel Bakery is known as the home of the award-winning "World Famous Peameal Bacon Sand­wich." The fabulous sandwich has been often imitated but never duplicated by many competitors. Carousel Bakery has been at the same location in the St. Lawrence Market for over 30 years. There are line ups at the counter every weekend as well as weekday lunch hours for this Toronto tradition. Even Celebrity Chefs Emeril Lagasse and Bobby Flay have returned for seconds!"

Picturesque from all angles, the market is huge with many entrances and exits. Merchants sell interesting items outside the market as well. The bottom, right-hand corner shows the mural painted on the North Market wall. On Sundays they host an Antique Market.

As you can tell, we had a great trip and collected lots of goodies to try....

And now.. the meal!
A seven course tasting menu of some of the best that the St. Lawrence Market has to offer, whipped up by yours truly... grilling done by my husband - thanks sweetie!

For the first course, we served grilled baguette slices with taramosalata (Greek style carp caviar spread), triple creme goat brie, Greek olives and cucumber.

Next we had Malpeque oysters, raw, with a touch of Kozlik's horseradish. Shucking them was a learning experience for hubby, but I am happy to report that he was not injured in the process. We all were brave and slurped those babies back - what a flavour sensation! I have never had anything like that before.

For the third course, we had jumbo sea scallops, lightly grilled, on a bed of mango salsa, served in an avocado boat and drizzled with a mango margarita coulis.
The scallops were just sprinkled with a little kosher salt, fresh ground black pepper and olive oil and grilled briefly, both sides, on high heat.
Mango Salsa
1 mango, diced
1/2 jalapeno, seeded and chopped fine
1 cup diced English cucumber
1 green onion, sliced thin
1 roasted red pepper, diced
1/4 cup cilantro, chopped
Juice of 1/2 lime
Drizzle light olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste
Toss in a bowl and chill until ready to serve
Mango Margarita Coulis
1 large, ripe mango, diced
3 tbsp tequila blanco
Juice of 1/2 lime
Pinch of salt
Puree until very fine in a blender. Put into squeeze bottle and chill until needed.
The fourth course was grilled marinated colossal shrimp, served on a baby caprese salad.
Shrimp Marinade
Juice of 1/2 lemon
1/4 cup olive oil
1 tsp hot chili flakes
4 cloves garlic, minced
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
Mix the marinade up in a ziplock bag, marinate shrimp for 1/2 hour only so the acid doesn't start to cook the shrimp.
Baby Caprese Salad
1 lb mixed mini tomatoes, halved
1/2 lb bocconcini, halved if large
Large handful of fresh basil leaves, chiffonaded if large
Toss with some lemon dressing just before serving.
Lemon Dressing (Reserve some for asparagus)
Juice of 1 lemon
1/4 cup olive oil
Kosher salt and fresh black pepper to taste
The fifth course was grilled yellow fin tuna steak, served on a sesame green bean salad.
The tuna was given a black peppercorn, Szechuan peppercorn and sea salt crust and grilled for 2.5 minutes on each side on high heat and then thinly sliced. Some people thought the pepper was overpowering, I liked it though. To each his own.

Sesame Green Bean Salad
3/4 lb. green beans, trimmed and blanched for 2 minutes in boiling salted water and then plunged into ice water to stop the cooking process, then drained
3 tbsp canola oil
1.5 tbsp sesame oil
1 tbsp rice vinegar
1/2 tsp each microplaned ginger and garlic
2 tbsp toasted sesame seeds, plus more for garnish
Toss together, season to taste with kosher salt and fresh ground black pepper and keep at room temperature until ready to serve. Garnish with more toasted sesame seeds.
The sixth course was grilled lamb and purple asparagus.
Lamb Marinade
1 tbsp chopped fresh rosemary
2 cloves garlic
1/3 cup olive oil
zest of 1/2 lemon
1 shallot, minced
4 lamb chops
Combine the marinade ingredients in a large ziplock bag, add chops and smush around to make sure they are all coated. Refrigerate for at least 8 hours. Let come to room temperature before grilling and season lamb with salt and pepper.
For dessert we had these beautiful mini cheesecakes and mousses, so decadent and delicious!
We were delighted to share this 7 course tasting menu with good friends, and are happy to report that a good time was had by all. Now, what to do next weekend?