Toronto's Top Gourmet Stores Could Make A Foodie Out Of Anyone



If you pore over food magazines the same way that some people read the news, you were born in the right era. Toronto has a profound appreciation for food and respects people who want more from their meals than energy. If your taste buds are on high alert, give them the expedition of their dreams by frequenting one of Toronto's spectacular gourmet stores.

Foodies go to these specialty stores for chef-worthy ingredients. If you are one step away from donning a white toque and watch The Food Network like it is CNN, these are your people. All of these stores offer hard-to-find products at price points that may increase your heart rate, but gourmands will go to great lengths to score exceptional ingredients. If your love of food is very likely the love of your life, you don't want to have to settle for everyday tastes, flavours or concepts.

The St. Lawrence Market is consistently considered one of the best markets in the world and will offer you any esoteric ingredient from passionate food vendors. Or you can travel for a single specialty ingredient, whether it be a vegan prepared food at YamChops or an ethically cut bison steak from Custodio's Meats and Eats

Reading this article will acquaint you with the ingredients of your dreams, from flaked sea salt to delicate truffles. As Martha Stewart would say, that is a good thing. A very good thing.



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The Big Carrot Natural Food Market
Photo courtesy of The Big Carrot Facebook page


 

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.


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West Toronto
Max's Market


 

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.


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Little Italy
YamChops
Photo courtesy of YamChops Facebook page


 

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.


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Queen West


 

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.


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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.


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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.


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High Park/Roncesvalles


 

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.


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West Toronto
Cheese Boutique


 

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.


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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.


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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.


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Meet Courtney Sunday

Courtney Sunday has lived in England, Switzerland, Canada and the US, finding her way into the professions of freelance writing and yoga teaching in between travel opportunities. She learned...  More About Courtney

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