Chef Lynn Crawford has made a name for herself over the years – first as chef at the Four Seasons Hotels in Toronto and New York City and more recently as host of the Food Network series Pitchin’ In. With a focus on upscale versions of down-home comfort food, diners in Crawford-led kitchens know they can get a great meal focused on fresh, local ingredients.
When Crawford opened Ruby Watchco in Toronto’s east end Riverside neighbourhood in 2010, it didn’t take long for diners to spread the word about the food. Rather than offering a typical a la carte menu, Crawford’s team starts each week by creating different nightly four-course set menus, each focused on what’s in season and available locally. Almost everything is prepared in house, from the sauces and salad dressings, to the cheddar and chive biscuits, to the preserved fruits and caramels that often show up in cheese and dessert plates. Fans wanted the chance to take a piece of Ruby home with them.
That was made possible in 2011, when Crawford opened Ruby Eats just a few doors down from her Queen Street East restaurant. The small storefront offers fruits and veggies from local growers, walls of sauces, caramels and preserves created by the Ruby Watchco team, and an interesting assortment of products made mostly in Ontario. There’s honey produced by the Rosewood Estates winery in Niagara, and jars of amazing Diablo’s Fuego hot sauce made by Toronto-area chef Rossy Earle.
While the goal at Ruby Eats is to offer shoppers the tools they need to create great meals in their own kitchens – including occasional cooking classes led by chef Crawford – the shop also sells delicious to-go options. A daily menu showcases prepared salads and sandwiches, as well as indulgent baked goods (and yes, Ruby Watchco’s buttery, delicious cheddar and chive biscuits are available, too).