ST. LAWRENCE MARKET: Pies and Tarts

So this clearly isn’t a restaurant review, but instead a post about one of the cooking classes I recently attended at Toronto’s awesome St. Lawrence Market (seen in all it’s glory below).


The view from the Miele Market Kitchen where class takes place.

The Pies and Tarts class was one of the Saturday classes from 12:00-3:00pm, so what better activity than to browse through the treasures of the market before class starts. If you haven’t been, the market is two big floors jam-packed with more or less every food product you can think of. Since nearly every store has a specialty, you’re bound to find what you’re looking for.

I had one of the famous breakfast-in-a-bun peameal sandwiches (above) from Carousel Bakery and very much enjoyed its thinly sliced bacon and warm fried egg contents while perusing the shops. 

Following breakfast, it was time to head up to the Market Kitchen. Our class was roughly 15 people, mostly in twos and mostly female. That said, being one of the few guys in the class gave me a useful handicap throughout the baking activities. Speaking of the ‘activities’, the goal of the class was to walk you through four different pies/tarts, each helping you learn the basics of different techniques. The dishes are below.

Classes are lead by a few experienced chefs who both demonstrate and guide you through things start-to-finish. We were lead by three, and split it up into three groups who cycled through each of the tourtiere, mixed nut tart and galette stations. Before it all got going, there was a quick puff pastry demo. Was nice to know most people (and restaurants) don’t make their puff from scratch. A lot of these ‘Did You Knows?’ are spread throughout the session. Here’s a slice of the pissaladiere with olive, anchovies, gruyere and caramelized onions.

I won’t go through every detail of making the others, but I can say it certainly was educational. As a complete noob when it comes to baking, I felt pretty comfortable and I thought the instruction in the hands-on segments was very helpful. 

I think the best tasting I ate during the session was the apple-blackberry galette. A really nice flavour combination that had a little lemon zest in their as well to really brighten everything with the flaky pastry. Here’s a large one being cut below:

Perhaps the best looking was the mixed-nut tart. Essentially its a pecan pie with hazelnuts and walnuts. In my opinion, it’s got a little more depth and crunch than your average pecan pie and not as much sugary, caramel-like filling. Had a lot of fun making it as well. A pic below:

We also made and took home tourtiere’s to bake for ourselves that turned out to be one of the better ones I’ve ever eaten. 

All in all, it’s a great class for $50/person. There’s plenty of food, the instruction is clear, and you get to meet some new people which is always nice in settings like this. Would definitely recommend it. I’ll be heading to the Cooking with Game Meats session next. For the full list of upcoming events, check them out here.

Posted by: Jacob, Visited Jan 14th, 2012

BANNOCK: Comfort food semi-elevated



416-861-6996   |   $11-23 entrees

We were a bit sceptical of the self-labelled “Canadian comfort food” theme, but it more or less succeeded in our view.

Food

Familiar comfort foods like mac and cheese, chilli and chicken pot pie have been playfully given a gourmet twist. The Canadian theme is definitely apparent with maple vinegar, Niagara stone fruit, Yukon fries, Alberta ground brisket and – of course, poutine – filling the menu. Standard restaurant fare (steaks, fish filets, salads etc.) are also available if you don’t want to play along with the theme.

For starters, we decided on the BLT Bannock and were left very satisfied. The staple “bannock” flatbread is a delight – proving to be stone baked like a ciabatta but not nearly as doughy as a pita or naan. The yellow tomato and soft arugula made this a great starter sandwich that was light enough to leave us wanting more. The thick-cut bacon (only Jacob partook, meaning he got 2x the usual) was a great addition. Dijon-like horsemayo was also delicious.

The split pea fritters were disappointing. We were expecting strong pea flavour, but essentially received falafel. The pea flavour was non-existent and there wasn’t anything special about the dish. Save your nine dollars.

For our first main, we ordered the Ontario venison chuck chilli, served with great northern beans and of course, a large round slice of bannock. The large-portioned bowl had plenty of kidney beans, a hearty tomato base and large chunks of venison, topped with thinly sliced cheese and spring onions. The venison flavour could have been more pronounced, tasted like a very good bowl of hickory smoked beef chilli.

The other main was an authentically-spiced tourtiere with chunks of pulled pork in the filling, served with some buttery mixed vegetables. Would have liked more evenly distributed pork in the pie instead of large chunks, but this is a personal preference. Not spectacular, but hearty for sure.

The wine menu features a variety of Niagara wines as well as some international staples from familiar locations. Unfortunately, the beer selection on tap is limited to only four choices. Given the prominence of beer in the Canadian culture, we expected to see a longer list featuring some local brews.

Service and Ambience

Bright lighting across an open space, with beautiful antique wood adorning the walls and ceiling. The wooden furniture and concrete floors also add a rustic character that differs from the more modern feel of many other O&B eateries.

Our waitress Jen was very friendly and led us through the menu with recommendations here and there. There were a couple mix-ups with the drinks early on, but the place is new(ish) so perhaps they’re still ironing out a few kinks.

The Reco?

Definitely worth a try and maybe a repeat visit. Not sure the place delivers great value for comfort food, but it’s a close call. If you’re hanging around Eaton Centre and feel like dine-in rather than food court offerings (no matter how revamped the new food court may be), cross the street and check out Bannock. A good lunch or dinner spot with a menu that puts subtle tweaks on familiar favourites.

Other reviews:
Graceful Glutton     |     Toronto Life (resto preview)

Posted by: Safir & Jacob, Visited Sept 25, 2011

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