The Big Carrot opened in the 80s with a mission to be organic and GMO-free. This was a time where such concepts were not nearly as trendy as they are today. It now works as a co-op, where full time staff are voted into membership. They become much more than employees, participating in community work and attending membership meetings. The result is knowledgable and passionate people who know their food and are happy to point you in the direction of what is new and exciting. You can buy your groceries here, but there is also a fantastic hot bar which can provide you with easy dinner options. There are store tours and cooking demos, making the Big Carrot the Big Cheese when it comes to health food stores.
Recommended for Gourmet Stores because: Organic, environmentally safe and non-GMO products that are fresh and delicious. Now, that is one stop shopping.
Courtney's expert tip: Meet fellow foodies at the Big Carrot's Monday night vegetarian cooking series. On Thursday night, you can also participate in free lectures which provide public education on social and environmental issues.
As you walk into Max's Market, you will be presented with delicious prepared foods that will make you hungry, even if you just ate. The variety is astounding, from salads, empanadas, Schnitzel, stuffed vine leaves, and hundreds of other options. Come to pick up something for dinner, or buy some fresh bread for breakfast the following day. Max's Market has a high standard for freshness and it is a great place to grab appetizers for a party without breaking a sweat. At the back of the store, you will find even more gourmet food bounty. It is packed with jars, cans, and boxes of all sorts of great foods, from olives and pickles to cereals and nuts.
Recommended for Gourmet Stores because: You know it's a great gourmet store when you can't stop adding items to your shopping basket.
Courtney's expert tip: Try some free samples of the dips, but let us help you out: you can't go wrong with the guacamole.
When you are on the lookout for a new gourmet store to peruse, you probably aren't looking too closely at vegetarian butchers. Perhaps that is because you didn't know that there was a vegetarian butcher. Family owned YamChops opened in the summer of 2014 to great acclaim and interest. From tuna-less tuna salad to pork-less pulled pork, they have amazingly inventive prepared foods for vegetarians and flexitarians alike. In the back of the store, you can buy imported olive oils, local jams and preserves and dairy-free ice cream. Fresh and frozen entrees are all carefully chosen and the staff is more than happy to let you taste everything. Think of it as a savoury, vegan Baskin Robbins.
Recommended for Gourmet Stores because: Vegetarian is no longer a niche market. YamChops has amazing specialty food without the unhealthy connotations normally associated with gourmet.
Courtney's expert tip: Try the smoked salmon, which is made by smoking a thin slice of carrot and is topped with cashew sour cream, dill and chives. It is, quite simply, divine.
Fabulous Eats For The Allergic And Sensitive Types is not just for those who have wheat, gluten, shellfish, nut, dairy or other types of allergies. It is for those who love food and want to Instagram a picture of a really good doughnut. It is for those who can tell the difference between different types of olive oil. It is organic, non GMO food that is dedicated to being delicious, whether you throw one specialty item in your shopping basket or decide to bring your whole dinner home. Take one of their fluffy doughnuts while you are at it. You know you want to.
Recommended for Gourmet Stores because: Feast has the magic formula: delightful treats that actually make you feel better about yourself.
Courtney's expert tip: Three words: coconut milk caramels. A sweet toothed dream.
Pusateri's is so vast that it's frequently compared to Harrod's in London or Fauchon in Paris. It's on every Toronto foodie's radar and is always bustling with well-dressed people carrying baskets that are overflowing with baguettes and sushi. Even after a three-alarm blaze damaged the store, it wasn't long at all before it had reopened and even improved. The inventory is worth admiring as you would museum artifacts, as everything is displayed beautifully and the store is kept immaculate. The selection is immense, but it includes domestic and imported foods, packaged and prepared foods, fresh dairy, produce, seafood and meat, exotic spices and condiments, and even house-baked breads and pastries. A meal from Pusateri's is a guaranteed special night in.
Recommended for Gourmet Stores because: Pusateri's is a gourmet supermarket with locally produced fine ingredients that has the ability to make any mouth water.
Courtney's expert tip: Grab your takeout lunch at Pusateri's. Their pre-made sandwiches are sublime, but you can also buy a freshly baked baguette and a hunk of excellent cheese for a perfectly satisfying, simple meal.
All The Best Fine Foods specializes in cheese and even has a dynamic cheesemonger who can help you to choose from the global selection. Weekly cheese tastings are always popular in-store events. However, All The Best specializes in much more than cheese. Think of it as the store for everything delicious. Shelves are lined with all manner of gourmet goodies: olive oils, condiments, spices, pickled vegetables of every variety, plus cookbooks and gift baskets. They feature a changing menu of freshly baked breads, pastries, and desserts, and fantastic prepared foods that are ideal when time is short and you still want a good hot meal. Everything that your heart or your stomach desires is available right at this store.
Recommended for Gourmet Stores because: The name says it all. All The Best has the best selection of delicacies and staff who can help you find exactly what you crave.
Courtney's expert tip: All The Best is steps away from one of the best LCBOs in the city. Make sure to stop by the Summerhill location to pick up the perfect wine pairing for your gourmet meal.
Often when people speak about eating ethically, they are thinking about vegetarian food. Custodio's Meats and Eats keeps the experience carnivorous yet provides the gourmet customer with ethically butchered meats. Traditionally and locally raised meats are put on full display in the clean fridges. You can certainly buy your meal pre-roasted, such as their juicy grilled chickens or take away a container of double smoked mac and cheese to go along with your main. You can also buy sauces or reductions made from the various meats carried in store. Buying a whole duck, thick-cut beef ribs or other premium cuts will make an avid cook more than happy.
Recommended for Gourmet Stores because: Demis, stocks, terrines and amazing cuts of local free run meats make Custodio's a hub for gourmet goodness.
Courtney's expert tip: Jason Custodio will be more than happy to help you out if you don't know where to start. If you want to break out of the chicken and beef rotation, ask him what to do with a rabbit or bison. You will learn more about cooking than you ever could at your local supermarket.
Some people love cheese so much that they name their children after it. This family owned enterprise doesn't have any children with cheese names, but they have treated the cheese industry as a member of their family. Enraptured Torontonians drive from far distances to get their artisanal cheese fix since the mid 1970s. There is a cheese-aging cave in the store as well as every single type of cream, semi-hard and hard cheese that you can imagine. Some people flock just for the free samples, although it is rare to leave without a purchase of some sort. Even though you may assume that the Cheese Boutique only sells dairy goodness, there is also everything from Turkish figs to Italian olive oil to imported truffles. An attached cafe is a great place to stop and savour some bites or you can use the ingredients for an incredible gourmet picnic.
Recommended for Gourmet Stores because: The top restaurants in town buy from the Cheese Boutique. Follow their lead if pressed curds of dairy bring out the emotional side in you.
Courtney's expert tip: The Cheese Boutique is in a remote suburb west of Toronto. If your idea of heaven is cubes of cheese on toothpicks, it is worth renting a car to indulge.
In case your high school French is not up to par, let us warn you in advance: Cote de Boeuf is not a place for weak stomached vegetarians. However, it is a place for meat-loving foodies, particularly those who have been or dream of going to France just for the experience of eating. Inspired by Parisian butchers, beef is sawed the old-fashioned way (literally using a handsaw). Beef and pork are sourced from one farmer and you can take home outstanding cheeses, olives, charcuterie and even cooked items like sticky ribs. Best of all, you can shop with a glass of wine in hand. That is what we are talking about.
Recommended for Gourmet Stores because: The Parisian inspired wine bar attached to this gourmet store will help you to make all the right food decisions.
Courtney's expert tip: If you are hosting a crowd, call them 24 hours in advance for a catering platter that will wow your guests.
Toronto is home to the world's best food market, according to National Geographic – a pretty reputable source, if you ask us. Even if you don't subscribe, you will certainly rank The St. Lawrence Market highly due to the fantastic collection of vendors selling all manners of food in the southeast end of the downtown core. The indoor marketplace has been in operation since 1803. Daily tours keep you abreast of the details behind this important part of Toronto history. Permanent vendors hawk the freshest seafood, cheeses from around the world, and meats and produce grown just outside the city. There are also pre-made sandwiches and sit-down restaurants in the basement that are worth considering. Come hungry.
Recommended for Gourmet Stores because: This is the mecca of Toronto foodie experiences. It wouldn't be hard to spend an entire day eating your way through the market.
Courtney's expert tip: Come in the morning and nosh on a peameal bacon sandwich at the Carousel Bakery, which is a Toronto institution in itself. You'll see.