Kensington Market, Toronto
XJ, James, JE,
Went to Toronto's Kensington Market over the weekend; first time in a long time. Few changes, though; still the same funky, slightly run down shops along the side streets west of Spadina Avenue (North-South) and south of College Street (East-West). Yes, I did forget my camera, but it was very cold and windy, so I probably wouldn't have gotten much anyhow.
The cheese shop XJ remembers is, I think, Global Cheese on Kensington Ave., where you do indeed have to peer past rounds of cheese to place your order (we bought aged brie and gruyere). There are several others, too. New additions since my last visit include two empanada joints right across the street from one another, a Guatemalan market that carries beans I've never heard of (Bull's Blood???), Chinese herbalists, stores for organic everything, roti stands, etc. Wendy and I kept our hands warm with some empanadas right out of the oven. They were filled with ground pork, ground carrot (I think) and a spice selection that had quite a bite to it, but not killer (the spice rating was green, not red, like some others). They listed something like 25 different fillings. The young guy at the counter said his mother was the maker. Next time, I'll remember the camera and take pics, including the large listing board in that shop, as well as the interior of Global Cheese. On the street, you can select from row upon row of used retro clothing, discount work boots, dizzy women's pants from India, embroidered Chinese dresses. The Chinese veg stores are very fine.
Kensington Market is on the west side of the city, and you have to walk store to store, so it's best to dress warmly in winter (it's not all that far north of the frozen shore of Lake Ontario) and usually windy due to the skyscrapers nearby. Summer weekends, though, are a crush of people on the narrow streets. Parking is always crazy. On the east side of the city stands St. Lawrence Market, my usual haunt, where both buildings (north and south side of Front Street [E-W] and Jarvis Street [N-S]) are enclosed, so winter shopping is a bit easier. Parking is always crazy.
The area around Kensington Market twenty years ago was completely Portuguese; now it's primarily Chinese. On Spadina and further south on Queen Street (E-W) are some of the finest Chinese restaurants I've ever found.
Overall, pricing is lower at Kensington Market than St. Lawrence, but the convenience of having everything under two roofs makes up for the difference at St. L. At either place, you can find very exotic ingredients indeed (for here at least), from spices to vegetables. Tapas, anyone? This doubtless has to do with the very multicultural nature of Toronto.
There is also an Italian food shopping area to the north of the city. I'm not familiar with it, but I will be going there shortly to check it out, once my Sicilian contact, AJ, resends the directions I cunningly lost.
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