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Finding local foods at Toronto's oldest market: The St. Lawrence Market

The historic St. Lawrence Market Author: Canadian Living Credits: The historic St. Lawrence Market

Cooking School

Finding local foods at Toronto's oldest market: The St. Lawrence Market

The site of the St. Lawrence Market has been a location for Toronto food shopping since there were a mere 9,000 residents. Now at the heart of a city of 2.6 million people, this local market place remains and is still feeding residence, tourists and regulars alike with the over 120 specialty merchants and vendors.

Specialty local meats
A number of butcher shops can be found on the main floor of in the St. Lawrence Market place that specialize in all types of meats and specialty cuts. Buying directly from a butcher affords you the ability to ask the butcher about, how and where the meat you’re buying was raised. A butcher will guide you to the most economical cuts and let you know when to buy to get a deal – he might even give you a discount if he recognizes you!

Bob Stoyanovski of Upper Cut Meats, along with his wife, Anica, have spent 27 years servicing the community the old fashioned way. These butchers pick carcasses themselves and dry age their beef in their own cooler to customers’ specifications. Bob and his butchers are artisan rail butchers, cutting right in their facility in an age when most retail meat is factory butchered. Ground meats are made from their own trim, and Bob will cut and package any meats to order. To our readers’ delight, Bob showcased fantastic Ontario lamb, and wonderfully product that is largely produced on family farm operations. The lamb is mild in flavour, low in fat, deliciously tender and available all year round.

Fresh fish and seafood

The three fish markets on the St. Lawrence premises each have their own particular selections that cater to their clientele’s needs. Mike’s Fish Market has been selling fish in the market in the same location for over 40 years. Mike himself has retired and the location has since been operated by a partnership of three owners under the name Allseas Fisheries. Allseas Fisheries operates five stores around the city and is one of the largest distributors of fish and seafood to restaurants and grocery chains in the area. The knowledgeable staff at Mike’s are well trained and always ready to answer questions about the sometimes confusing world of aquaculture. We met with George Vasiliades, who has worked at Mike’s for the past 10 years. George offered samples of smoked fish, while sharing information about Ontario lake trout from Lake Huron. Ontario is the leading producer of farmed rainbow trout; this represents approximately 80 per cent of the total production in Canada. There are two growing regions in Ontario, southwestern Ontario, where most of the fish hatcheries are located, and the Lake Huron area, where the deep, cold, clean waters provide the ideal environment for raising rainbow trout efficiently and deliciously.

Page 1 of 2: Find out where to get Parma prosciutto and Toronto's freshest produce on page 2 >>


Handmade cured meats
Heading over to Scheffler’s Deli, one of the many cheese-and-prepared-meat emporiums on the periphery of the main floor, we meet with Odysseus Gounalakis. Odysseus took over the Scheffler location in 1992, but by no means is a newbie to the market scene. He has worked in the market since 1982, when he was just 17 years old. Odysseus came to Canada to go to university, fell in love with the market (and his wife, whom he met there) and ended up making it his career, Odysseus tells us “the market left a mark on my life and I never left.” Scheffler’s specialize in cured meats boasting the best selection of prosciutto in town with 11 different varieties. You can recognize the location by the fire-engine red slicer out front, in operation every Saturday slicing the delicately succulent flesh of Iberico hams and Parma prosciutto. Odysseus walked our group through a tasting of Niagara-made prosciutto and four different types of Ontario-produced artisanal cheeses.

Fresh produce downstairs
Descending to the market basement, directly at the bottom of the stairs is Phil’s Place Produce, a long-standing market feature. The original Phil is no longer running the show: eight years ago, the Kim family, led by dad Mike, took over and have built a reputation of great selection and quality produce. We spoke with son Jonathan Kim, who told us about the personal relationships he has with many of the farmers that supply his produce market. Phil’s gets fresh deliveries daily, and everything that they sell is hand picked by Jonathan. They have a fantastic selection of fresh herbs and are know for their root vegetable selection of exotic varieties like colourful purple potatoes, pink and gold beets and Ontario grown celeriac, available all year round. Luckily our visit coincided with the first crop of Ontario strawberries, available for a much shorter length of time, which Jonathan shared with us.

Farmers markets are open now: Find one this weekend, and explore your own local fare!

St. Lawrence Market photo gallery

Click here to see photos of the stalls and vendors mentioned in this article.

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Finding local foods at Toronto's oldest market: The St. Lawrence Market

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