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Northern Light's Profile

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Good (Authentic) Mexican Ingredients. (where to find in Toronto)

Hi All,

I just picked up one of Rick Bayless' cookbooks on Mexican cuisine.

Lots of items are fairly easy to find (ie. Chipotle Peppers)

Some others I'm less familiar with, and looking for tips on where to go digging.

guajillo chili
chayote
epazote
queso fresco

among others

Also wondering what the difference in flavour profile is for Mexican oregano, which is suggested as preferable to Greek or Italian varieties.

Thanks for any and all pointers in advance! :)

Dec 30, 2012
Northern Light in Ontario (inc. Toronto)

Whole Foods - Bayview and Broadway

On Whole Foods - Bayview: over 50,000sq ft, good size, comes with a large new LCBO also.

On rumoured Whole Foods Bathurst/Front, its tied to a new condo proposal that is not yet finalized/approved, assuming plans don't change (and the condo market doesn't collapse), I would think construction late next year (hasn't gone to market yet); so maybe 2015??

On McEwan - Downtown, after the flurry of rumours a year ago +, haven't heard a thing, would love to know more myself.

May 07, 2012
Northern Light in Ontario (inc. Toronto)

Friend coming for a few days from London, England. What can't she get across the pond that we do well here?

My 2 cents.

If cooking for her (or dining out); some native-to-Canada products:

- Fiddleheads
- Wild Leeks/Ramps
- Maple Syrup
- BIRCH Syrup (expensive, but good, more for savoury applications, love it on grilled pork)
- Game Meats (venison in particular)

Restaurant thoughts:

Bannock - relatively affordable, but still nice, has many 'Canadian'isms' on its menu

Anywhere w/good Poutine

For fine dining, Canoe and Pangea offer a lot of 'Canadian'isms' too.

****

Odd products/treats

- Beaver Tails
- Butter Tarts
- Tortiere
- Coffee Crisp
- Variety of products containing Canadianisms:
(Saskatoon Berry pie (frozen at this time of year)
Blueberry Mustard
Maple Bacon
Maple Mustard
etc.

Montreal Bagels
Montreal Smoked Meet
(Good) French Canadian Split Pea Soup
Prairie Oysters

May 06, 2012
Northern Light in Ontario (inc. Toronto)

PC Products to go Artificial Flavour and Colour Free

Loblaws just announced that its PC products (all of them) will be free of artificial colours by the end of 2012 and free of all artificial flavours by the end of 2013.

Doesn't fix every issue the chain has; but I continue to see signs of progress!

May 04, 2012
Northern Light in Ontario (inc. Toronto)

President's Choice Black Label

Article in today's Star about the launch of Loblaws new high end 'gourmet' product line.

http://www.thestar.com/moneyville/sav...

Some products do have preservatives, sigh, but there certainly are some interesting items on offer.

The full list is below (found it via Google, before someone at PC complains they got scooped

)

http://www.presidentschoice.ca/LCLOnl...

Thoughts?

Sep 13, 2011
Northern Light in Ontario (inc. Toronto)

Loblaw's new bakery (VP/Gerrard)

A few thoughts/answers

1) This is a pilot, from a U.S. consultant, the same one who overhauled the prepared foods area at the Yonge/Yonge store.

2) There is definitely the kernel of a good idea here, with better all natural ingredients, but they've made several mistakes too.

Initially they went right up to Whole Foods type prices, maybe even higher, debuting a Coffee Cake at $11.99, and asking .89c per bagel !

Subsequently, they have lowered the prices to $9.99 on the Coffee Cake and .69c per bagel.

The fact they lowered the price within 3 weeks of launch tells you how well their initial pricing went over.

****

Besides that, they also dumped several classes of product (because they didn't meet the new all-natural standard, and the consultant opted not to develop all-natural versions.

The absence of Nanaimo Bars caused grief for some, while I was more irked at them dropping the (natural) all-butter PC Ginger Cookies.

They can't pull this concept off by annoying large segments of existing customers.

***

One last screw up, they took away all access to individual desserts. You have now have to buy at least 2, but usually 4 of the various Patisserie Monaco or Dufflet offerings.

I don't have family to feed, and have no need of 4 portions! Nor does $7 have the same impulse buy premise (especially for new, un-tested product) as $2.29 did...........

Provided they can iron these things out....they may be able to make this work.

We'll know what they're keeping (or not) when MLG opens.

***

Oh, btw for those asking, my understanding from staff is all breads are being brought in, (mostly) par-baked and frozen and then finished/warmed-up in store.

-----
Dufflet
787 Queen St W, Toronto, ON M6J, CA

Apr 10, 2011
Northern Light in Ontario (inc. Toronto)

Fabrica by Mcewen

With respect to the grocery, I've never seen it that busy myself, though only been in a few times.

But....the whispers I hear are that its actually doing quite well, and that a second, downtown location is forthcoming, likely on King W.

May 15, 2010
Northern Light in Ontario (inc. Toronto)

Maple Sugar & Maple Extract.....where?

I'm in the east end (near Main/Danforth) .

Are there any places in this area that sell either Pure Maple extract or Maple Sugar.

I know Whole Foods downtown sells the latter....was hoping to avoid paying the $11+ they wanted.

I just need some for sprinkling on some Maple Cookies and for the Maple Cappuccino I'm serving.

Tried Loblaws, and Bulk Barn...big zero.......Sobeys only had artificial extract.

Any help would be greatly appreciated.

Dec 13, 2009
Northern Light in Ontario (inc. Toronto)

Popeyes Fried Chicken - Change of Recipe?

My observations of Popeyes are these:

1) Why do most of the locations have jail bars on them? No other fast food chain does this, it really puts me off eating there, you'd think Toronto was demilitarized zone!

2) I've never seen a chain where so many staff do so little. I don't eat their often, but when i do, I fine that almost never is there any chicken ready, and if there is, there are no fries ready, and this is in the middle of lunch; but with the place 2/3 empty.

3)The staff are invariably absent, and when seen minutes later, can be found talking on their phone, reading the paper or arguing with one another.

If the above could be ironed out, its really not a 1/2 bad place for fast food. I wouldn't dine there weekly; but I would stop by more often when the fried chicken craving struck.

** as an side note, I did complain once, a number of years ago, at the time Popeyes didn't have a Canadian website, I don't know if it does now or not. But the U.S. site was riddled with spelling mistakes, had the addresses of the Canadian locations wrong, it was really quite dreadful.

Oct 25, 2009
Northern Light in Ontario (inc. Toronto)

Best Artisinal Bacon/ Bacon Selection

First off I'd like to thank everyone for their replies/suggestions so far. I've definitely got a few places on my to try list.

But i want to note, most of the bacon suggestion is of the 'normal' variety, with some variation in how smoked.

I'm really curious if anyone has any suggestions on where to get (naturally) flavoured bacon(s) that are interesting. I've been to Whole Foods in the U.S. and seen 10 different bacons in one store (in the butcher case). I'd like to try some variations; but as best I can figure Bacon-of-the-Month doesn't ship here; and I'm not paying $190 U.S. for six lbs of bacon either, I don't care how good it is!

So just looking for local quirky and quality alternatives.

Please continue adding your suggestions, I've got 4 on my list so far I think to try ......

Oct 06, 2009
Northern Light in Ontario (inc. Toronto)

Best Artisinal Bacon/ Bacon Selection

I just wanted to put out a call for suggestions on where to buy (and/or try) the most interesting and high quality bacons in Toronto.

I've done the rounds at most of the gourmet supermarkets in town; and typically their bacon choice is between bacon and bacon! (maybe peameal too)

The odd time you can find maple bacon (usually of the mainstream and also-ran variety)

I'm looking for great quality hickory-smoked bacon or cherrywood smoked bacon, or double-smoked bacon or berkshire bacon, or some interesting and/or oddball flavours, honey-bacon? Balsamic-Bacon? I don't know, but I know I want to be surprised and pleasantly so!

Suggestions Please!

Oct 05, 2009
Northern Light in Ontario (inc. Toronto)

Sobeys on Spadina

Popped into the new Sobeys @ Spadina & Bremner over the weekend.

Very impressive for a 'major'.

While its not Whole Foods or the St. Lawrence Market its a minor revolution from the usual Sobeys/Metro/Loblaws etc.

Very large prepared foods area, with cooks behind the counter. You can get pasta, stirfrys or pizza made to order.

A nice iittle cafe.

A sushi counter that is almost up to T&T standards

Much better organic selection than usual, and more gourmet stuff too.

Butcher counter still needs work.....but hey, its Sobey's.

Jun 29, 2009
Northern Light in Ontario (inc. Toronto)

Irresistible Organics

I was in a Toronto area Metro supermarket tonight; and I noticed a bunch of new (Irresistible) Organic products on the shelves.

It appears to be a soft-launch for their private-label organic food line.

They didn't even have prices on the shelves for them yet.

Noticed:

Olive Oil
Toasted Sesame Oil
Peanut Butter
Honey
Ketchup

Presumably much more to come

They were the last of the Big chains to not have an organic product line

Mar 29, 2009
Northern Light in Ontario (inc. Toronto)

Loblaw local food push - whaddya think?

One first has to have some perspective.

I understand Loblaws carries 25% of their produce from Canada

I would assume, in theory this is for the whole year. Which isn't soooo bad, then.

Because you know outside of Onions, Potatoes and Apples, anything else in winter has to be greenhouse grown. I can't imagine they hit 10% in winter.

So in season for 10-12 weeks, I imagine they are up at, or above 50% local produce.

That said, I don't for a moment by this as a 'thoughtful' gesture, but rather as a business-trend-analysis one.

But hey, who can quibble if they do the right thing, for WHATEVER reason.

I will say, the Ontario corn I picked up at Loblaws tonight was excellent! I was very impressed, tasted fresh-picked.

But that's one of the few products I have been able to give that endorsement to this season, at Loblaws.

*****

As for Galen Jr. not grocery shopping..... he said as much in an interview right after his promotion.

He said his wife does all the shopping and the cooking. And he described himself as a 'meat and potatoes' kinda guy. ie. He was was happy with whatever the wife is serving

He's not a foodie by his own account.

That does however speak to Loblaws problem. While Dave Nichol got too much credit back in a day....he was a sincere foodie. He was always good at conveying his enthusiasm even when describing his latest find, Peanut Butter ice cream!

Which, LOL, may not have been one of his better moments.....but at least you had the sense that he did try it, and maybe even liked it. It may have been his find, and he did have take a certain pride in PC standards. I don't think Galen can impart that same sense.

Aug 29, 2008
Northern Light in Ontario (inc. Toronto)

Farmers' Markets 2008

Its important to remember that there is still FREE parking at the Brickworks. The paved lot is always free. It just fills up quick, and its a tiny bit further from the action.

Only the dirt lot is subject to payment, and even then its a 'suggested donation'. Its City property, leased to Evergreen; and even then Evergreen has a Pay-What-You-Can policy for most events.

So the $5 is no real burden, its purely optional

Jun 16, 2008
Northern Light in Ontario (inc. Toronto)

Organic Butcher on Danforth - new!

I went in today for the 1st time.

Certainly the appearance of the store gets high marks off the bat. Its more what they sell that counts, but 1st impressions do have an impact.

I looked over everything, there's was lots to be interested in; but my stop-in was spontaneous and I didn't really need much today.

So I mostly toured the store and chatted up the staff. They carry Venision (Sausage and chops, though the latter are vac-packed, but not frozen).

They carry a variety of pre-made products (sauces, dressings etc.), some cheap looking deli-meat (vac-packed) which i discussed with the staff, only to find that they ALSO do their own roast turkey and roast beef, on site, but for reasons beyond explaination also vac-pac it and mix those packs in with the less appealing deli offerings.

I noticed a number of marinated choices. I decided on a skewer of Louisiana Beef and one of Garlic/Rosemary Chicken.

Which I grilled for lunch.

I would highly praise the chicken. Very garilicy, nice flavour.

Over-priced at 3$ per skewer but yet worth it.

The Beef on the other hand.... sauce was fine, but not inspired, but the beef was a bit tough, and didn't have a very strong flavour. Wondering if they used Eye of the Round or something.....

For $3 a thumbs-down on the beef skewer.

Pistachio curry will be tried though.

Overall, worth a resturn visit, for sure.

Jun 05, 2008
Northern Light in Ontario (inc. Toronto)

Loblaw's = downhill

Well,

The first of the big Loblaws overhauls that I mentioned is underway. They've begun making a royal mess at the Victoria Park Market location.

So far nothing is close to finished. So not much to report.

Except, they've overhauled the butcher case.

Some good ideas, still needs work.

Aside from fancier plates, as opposed to plastic trays, and a more stylized presentation, they've changed some of their offerings.

Added a whole bunch of marianted/rubbed meats. Asparagus/Havarti stuffed chicken breast, cajun rubbed ribs, about 6 other items.

Also new is that their identifying that its Ontario meat, and talking up marbliing (in their pork). The sausages are now in links of 2, suspened on mini-hooks; and they only kept the 2 italian varieties and added a new cheese sausage and and a turkey one.

Issue: They don't list the ingredients for their mariandes/rubs. Also the chorizo sausage was good, they can't afford to get rid of things they did passably well on.

The rest of the store is still wait and see....

Oh, but put this down to what's still wrong with this chain....

No signs saying 'excuse our appearance', no renderings of how the store will look; no directions on where stuff has been moved to; and apparently the staff (front-line) haven't been told a thing; the changes are done at night, and day staff see what's been done only when they arrive.

No way to run an airline (LOL)

Jun 04, 2008
Northern Light in Ontario (inc. Toronto)

Morels in S. Ontario

Morels can now be found at Whole Foods (Yorkville) for the season.

Have to say though, don't think they were stored well, they looked kinda mushy (they put them on on styrofoam-type trays then convered them in plastic.

How long should fresh morels last when properly stored?

May 15, 2008
Northern Light in Ontario (inc. Toronto)

Loblaw's = downhill

I spoke with a Loblaws staffer recently.

I was told several massive changes are about to happen at GTA stores.

1) All Loblaws branded stores are gaining the right to source their own produce through the Ontario Food Terminal this month.

(not sure about No Frills)

They expect this to mean fresher produce and to improve their in-stock status in that dept.

2) Several stores are about to undergo major renos in the $5,000,000 to $10,000,000 range.

I don't know all the details, but I gather the Loblaws branded stores will mostly be switched over to the new Loblaw: Great Food banner or at least something resembling that.

In general this is supposed to mean:

Less general merchandise in favour of more food.

More enhanced services (like they will cook your meat for you in the store, to order)

More organics (some meat, larger organic sections etc.)

I am told the first renos start soon, likely at the Gerrard/Vic Park store.

But Leslie/Lakeshore is on the to-do list, as apparently are both Forest Hill and Queen's Quay.

No word on the really dumpy stores like Broadview and that Valuemart in the Manulife Centre (though staff there had been told to expect renos last November.......(didn't happen))

***

The changes sound promising, but i haven't seen renderings or blueprints so I will wait to pass judgement on the physical changes.

The operational change in produce sounds good too.

They certainly need to work on their shelf-stocking too.

Who would have imagined such a seemingly simple problem overwhelming such an established company?

May 15, 2008
Northern Light in Ontario (inc. Toronto)

Cajun Corner - Laird Drive

I tried the new Cajun Corner location (Leaside) on Friday May 2nd.

My experience was as follows:

Parked on a nearby side street, walked by and entered.

The staff on duty saw me; but intitially didn't react; before coming over to tell me I could take any seat. It was late in the lunch period and there were 2 other tables, one of six and one of 2.

I settle down to read the menu and the waitress asks if I would like a drink. A splendid idea, except there were no drinks on the menu, no drinks menu, no drinks listed on the wall etc; and the waitress wasn't exactly sure what they had.

After some thought, she noted they had a selection of 4 beers by the bottle (Keiths, Coors Light, Pabst, and Molson Canadian).

That was followed by the pronouncement that they were out of Keiths.

That was a strike against them; its bottled, its mid-Friday, can't anyone drive to the beer store? How can you be out....meh.

Also not impressed by the staff knowledge (or lack of) or the lack of a drinks menu.

She also neglected to mention the cocktails or wine, which I found about only after wandering up to the cash where they had a small sign noting house wine and the cocktails. (a sign which no one sitting down could ever see).

Not my favourite choice, but ordered the Pabst which arrived promptly, with a chilled glass.

Better.

I then ordered the small green salad (the piquant dressing intrigued me) and the Shrimp po'boy.

The salad itself was pedestrian, a few mixed greens and 3 slices of cucumber, but the dressing was genuinely interesting and as per its name, HOT. Quite enjoyable; for $3.00, no complaints.

Actually, I think they should bottle the dressing, its quite unique.

The food was slow coming out, with the waitress telling an another table that they were having fryer issues.

The sandwich arrived, I wasn't sure what to expect.

Never having had a po-boy before, I can't compare it to another.

I can say, I found the shrimp nice, the tomato and lettuce were fine, the remoulade dressing had a nice flavour, but there wasn't very much of it. The bread was on the chewy side, and fairly thick relative to the amount of filling. All in all, a good sandwich, but not brilliant.

The accompanying spicy coleslaw had a nice flavour profile, but could have used a bit more heat; it used to have more heat at the Leslieville location.

All in all a pretty good meal, though not excellent, and reasonable price; but there were clearly some issues to be worked out (beer, signage/menus, timing).

I would rate it a 6.5/10, but had the issues above not happened it would 7.5 - 8.

*****

Oh, and they really need to cook the beignets every day. Even at Leslieville they only did them on weekends; and now apparently only on Sundays.

They're really good, they were the first thing I tried down at the old Queen St. location; I never understood why they wouldn't do them on weekdays; its not like they're hard to make. But they are delicious!

May 05, 2008
Northern Light in Ontario (inc. Toronto)

Chowfind at Main and Danforth

My experience there was similar to most.

I would say the bread was so/so, but the choice of dips for the bread gets good marks.

The salad was nice, nothing special, but good, well plated.

I had a Beef Tenderloin on a day I was there, The prepared it more like a roast than a steak; but it was very tender, tasty, with a portabello mushroom sauce.

On the food front the only real let down was that they served by dish with french fries, which I'm certain we're frozen, at the very least they were beyond dull, and papery.

But the service was superb, the pricing more than fair.

The decor though.....This is one of those places that I think would benefit from Restaurant Makeover. They don't need help in the kitchen (though the menu probably could use a judicious trim); but man does front-of-house need a serious re-think.

Still, I would go again, cheap way to eat decent, local to the eastern Danforth.

****

Now if only we could get a decent coffeeshop/cafe east of Woodbine; even a chain one.

Mar 11, 2008
Northern Light in Ontario (inc. Toronto)

Shoppers Drug Mart goes Organic

Just stumbled into my neighbourhood Shoppers the other day and was surprised to find a massive new line of Organic products.

They've branded the new line 'Nativa'.

Its bigger than the Sobeys line (Compliments Organics), not sure if its as big as PC but they've got somethings I've never seen in PC Organics.

They've got Cookies, Pasta, Salad Dressings, Nuts, Chocolates, Rice, Cereals among other things.

I was sticking to my list, so I haven't tried any of the stuff yet, but will post reviews when I get the chance.

Anyone else tries them, please post and let us know how they did.

Hey, its not haute cuisine, probably not even local; but for convenience shopping, which is How I think of Shopppers Drug Mart, I think this is a big step forward.

Mar 11, 2008
Northern Light in Chains

No Frills vs. Food Basics vs. Loblaws vs. Valu-Mart vs. Sobeys vs. Dominion vs. Other

As far as shopping experience goes...

I don't think anyone beats Whole Foods among the full-sized supermarkets.

Now, they're unquestionably the worst on price...

Though getting a bit better with the change in the dollar and increasing number of house-brand products.

But its always impeccably clean, fully stocked, incredible selection in such a tiny place, really nice staff and they not only offer tons of samples, they let you taste almost anything in the store.

I once saw they carried some new British chips that were pork-flavoured (they also had Asparagus flavour!). To be honest, it didn't sound very appetizing, but it did have me curious. But at $6.99.....

There are staff all over the store, and I just asked one to come over and could I please try these chips.

They just cut the bag open on the spot and said try as many as you like!

Hard to beat that service!

*********

Among the majors:

I would rate Longos the best; very good service/staff attitude, nicely presented stores, very good organic produce and some really original items like the Beef Tenderloin stuffed with Chrizo Sausage.

After that I would put Sobeys. The new/renovated stores are nice, more organic selection is needed, meat counter service is terrible (or absent), but still, its improved enormously the last few years.

T&T is great for carrying just so many 'neat' things like the make your own soup packages (raw chicken, fresh herbs, peeled garlic cloves, onion, noodles, celery and carrot (peeled) all in one pkg in their convenience fridges!

Loblaws used to be great, but is having huge issues keeping things in stock, and I've noticed a real deterioration in produce quality. Plus I just don't want to walk the length of a football field when I shop!

Feb 22, 2008
Northern Light in Ontario (inc. Toronto)

Local products

The Culinarium suggestion looks interesting.

I found their website.

http://www.culinarium.ca/

Feb 07, 2008
Northern Light in Ontario (inc. Toronto)

Loblaw's = downhill

The Zellers is moving out of the No Frills complex to a site just west of Warden, probably mid-2008.

So something big will have to happen with the existing No Frills site.

I'm pretty certain the whole No Frills site is owned by one of the Weston Companies. I remember a rezoning app there a few years ago for highdensity residential and retail. I can't remember if it got approved.

***

Dominion does well at Eglinton Square considing the quality of the store. The did renovate already though, so I don't seem them quitting just yet.

Eglinton Square was once supposed to be redeveloped as a regional mall, with a new Dominion closer to Pharmacy. That plan was shelved, but I imagine changes are coming to that site too.

Jan 10, 2008
Northern Light in Ontario (inc. Toronto)

Loblaw's = downhill

10 Years ago I was a regular Loblaws shopper.

Why? Because they were innovators; because their stores were nicer than a then rotting corpse of Dominion and Oshawa Group Stores (IGA/FOOD City); because they had GREEN products, Organic Products etc. when few others did. Because they had the great little movenpick in the Dupont store.

What changed? Everything.

In the inverening years, A&P breathed life back into Dominion.

Sobeys renovated stores, added good premium brands like Compliments Sensations and Organics.

Organic produce became semi-mainstream. Loblaws lost its near-monopoly.

Their stores got bigger, but not better. They became more like Walmart with ever-less selection (in food) and they just lost their touch.

Now I shop at Sobeys and Whole Foods

My nearby store is Vic Prk Market.

Things I notice there

1) They used to have a really attractive display of food as you walked in, cucumbers, tomatoes, lemons, bright and varied in colour. Today this space is usually empty, and otherwise its cluttered with seasonal products or specials.

2) Their Meals to Go Section has next to no vegetables (maybe carrots) that's it. Moreover they don't post the ingredients. (which Dominion and Sobeys have both started to do in their deli/meals to go type offerings).

3) They show no foresight. They put the PC Organic Olive Oil on sale in early December. They ran out within a week. They have not restocked it in over a month!

4) They added all sorts of clutter from clothes to towels to furniture...but made the selection much worse in food! I asked a staffer their who said product variety (the # of food SKUs they carried was off more than 40% since his tenure had begun at the store)

5) They stopped paying attention to quality. My personal peeve is the Organic Chocolate Chip Cookies. So I care about the environment...this means I can't have a Decadent-style cookie? Where's my chocolate chunks? The cookie and its packaging are both un-appetizing.

6) They replaced a cute little candles/incense type section with miles of mediocre magazines and greeting cards. Now the candle section was probably too big. But it had ambiance, style, looked like it fit the food theme (romantic dinner/ dinner party decoration section). What replaced it....geeze its not only not food related, its cheap looking, plastic shelving etc. detracts from the shopping experience.

7) Finally, the staff are demoralized. I know I asked one senior staffer there.....he said he was 'involuntarily transferred' from his old location on the opposite side of the City where he'd enjoyed 20 years; he has less authority now (he can no longer return/refused bad produce), and he said he just got his first wage hike in 7 years, a whole 2%!

No wonder they're bleeding frontline talent and those who there act like they don't care. Tough to be motivated for an employer that treats you like that!

Jan 10, 2008
Northern Light in Ontario (inc. Toronto)