Thursday, September 08, 2011

Don Valley Brickworks Farmers Market

The Evergreen Brickworks (formerly Don Valley Brickworks) on 550 Bayview Ave is a community centre promoting environmental issues and sustainable living. In the summer, a large organic farmer's market is held on its premises on Saturday mornings, and a small antique market on Sundays.

In keeping with its mandate, the site encourages visitors to come by free shuttle bus from Broadview station, or by foot or bike rather than driving.  We like to access the Brickworks by bike, riding through the Mount Pleasant Cemetary to get to Moore Ave, where the entrance to Moore Ravine is found next to Moorevale Park.  This Ravine trail can be followed right to the Brickworks.  The entire ride from Yonge and St. Clair is about 5km.  Unfortunately the Ravine is uphill all the way home and being laden with farmer's market loot and full stomachs make it that much harder.

The farmer's market features all the traditional fare of local fruits and vegetables, breads and baked goods, cheeses, meats, candles, crafts.  We always look for harder to find produce and came home on a recent trip with heirloom tomatoes, purple beans, olive bread, zucchini blossoms and wild blueberries.

The zucchini blossoms were a special treat since they brought back memories of our trip to Rome where we went to the Jewish Quarter and ate deep fried zucchini blossoms stuffed with mozzarella and fresh unsalted anchovies.  Rich tried to reproduce this delicacy and was almost successful except that we could not find unsalted anchovies.

Our last trip to the Brickworks was for the annual wild blueberry festival in late August.  Large quantifies of wild blueberries were being sold by the pint, quart and basket and were the featured ingredient for many of the usual food stalls.  Blueberry smoothies, tarts, cookies, jam, crepes ... the list went on and on.

One of the most popular food vendors (judging from the perpetually long lineups) is Clement's Crepes.  I always feel sorry for the burrito guy in the next stall who has nowhere near as many customers and is actually blocked by the crowd waiting for the crepes.  This year Clement hired an assistant to make the orders go faster but that has not reduced the lineups.

It is so much fun watching him spin the crepe batter on the wheel and expertly flip the crepe.  You choose from various types of crepes that could contain fresh and grilled vegetables, meats and a generous heaping of cheese.  Clement lets the cheese flow beyond the edge of the crepe so that part of the cheese is crispy while the rest melts inside.

The result is delicious and worth the wait to try it at least once.  My usual crepe is the sauteed portobello and Cremini mushrooms (of course!) with organic spinach and mozzarella, fresh rosemary and roasted garlic sauce.

Rich is partial to another vendor called "Buddah Dog" who occasionally makes a deep fried poached egg with sauteed corn beef hash on a grilled bun.   To me, it sounds like something that should be found at the CNE along with the deep fried butter.

On a hot day, the stall selling exotic fruit juice and herb popsicles is a welcome sight.  Flavours include grapefruit/lime/ginger,  strawberry/lemon/basil, and the one we had, which was mandarin orange/ginger/lemon.

In the back of the building hosting the farmers market is a beautiful pond that contains large snapping turtles and other wildlife.  There is walking trail including paths up to a lookout with a spectacular view of the Toronto skyline.  In the autumn, this is great place to see the fall colours when the leaves are at their peak, without having to drive far outside of Toronto.

Koerner Gardens is a newly opened building that demonstrates planting and gardening tips and techniques in the summer.  The community and school groups are encouraged to help out in planting and maintaining gardens.

In the winter, it is transformed into a skating rink with a refrigeration system that will harness excess energy to be used to heat surrounding buildings.

The Kilns were the area for baking the bricks manufactured at the brick works.  It includes 3 long tunnel kilns and 6 single-track drying tunnels.  Historical plaques are displayed describing the past uses of the kilns.  Large portraits of past workers our painted on the brick walls.  This is a very cool space which will be a perfect location for future art exhibitions and other events.

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