Wednesday, July 2, 2014

A Farmers' Market Sweets Tour in the Distillery

By: Lisa Jackson

Tasty Tours is back with a brand new tour – this time in the Distillery District! 

Last weekend, Tasty Tours launched the Oh Canada! Farmers Market Sweets Tour – a guided walk that profiles Canadian cuisine and local sweets in the historic Distillery District, a cluster of heritage buildings in Toronto’s east end. On this half day tour, you will speak with local farmers, learn about farming and environmental issues, and sample homemade treats and sweets, all while exploring the historic Distillery District. 

Starting off by the Grist Mill, our guide, Audrey, gives us a brief history lesson about the cluster of heritage buildings and the Sunday Farmers’ Market. We learn that it's not just a regular flea market – this one is chock full of local, organic produce and farm-raised goodies.

“All the products are made within 100 miles of the Distillery District,” says Audrey. “In fact, it’s a requirement for a vendor to apply for a booth.”

On our first stop, we marvel at the range of organic goods from Spade & Spoon Farms, located in Ayton, Ontario. Owners Adam and Blythe sell everything from Pickled Beans with Bite to Strawberry-Rhubarb Jam, Pico de Gallo salsa, and of course, maple syrup.

We're handed little cups of dark and light-coloured syrups to sip and compare, while learning about maple sugar production. As we learn by tasting, there’s a difference in syrups: the darker the colour, the less sugar and greater intensity of maple flavour.

“Use the darker maple sugar to make whipped cream for strawberries,” Adam advises. 

With maple still lingering on our tongues, the tour shifts to Haute Goat – a booth selling handmade chocolates, caramel sauces, and bodycare products – all made from goat’s milk. With a sassy goat mascot and free chocolate samples, how could we not stop here?

 Our tour guide brings over a tray of goat cheese chocolate truffles for sampling. The chocolate dissolves in my mouth, swirling buttery ganache on my tongue and finishes with the pinchy flavour of feta. While floating in and out of a chocolate coma, the owners recount their story of turning from city dwellers to full-time farmers. 

Looking for a weekend property, owners Shain and Debbie had an “instant love affair” with this farm in Campbellford, which they quickly purchased. Little did they realize that their lives would soon be overtaken by 44 Nigerian dwarf goats on the farm.
“Retirement is getting up at five in the morning,” says Shain. “I don’t know what happened to my plan to retire, but this keeps me alive.”

Now the Bashert Farm produces a range of gourmet goat cheese and sweets using goat milk. Since Nigerian goats give milk with the richest butterfat content of all of the goat breeds, the products made with this milk are smoother and richer than others. 

Other notable stops on this tour include tastings of Canadian Whiskey Cake (exclusively sold at the Distillery Market); butter tarts, Nanaimo bars, and ice wine macaroons at the Sweet Escape Patisserie; and honey fresh from the hive at the Hi Honey booth; and death by chocolate at Soma The Chocolatemaker. The tour ends with a savoury and boozy bonus at the Mill Street Brew Pub.

There are other stopovers (and samples!) along the way, but you have to take the tour to get the full experience. The Oh Canada! Farmers Market Sweets Tour runs every Sunday morning at 10:00am from June 29 to September 28. Tours cost $39.82 per person for adults and $26.55 for children (plus HST), and includes a guide, tastings, and discounts at select merchants. Tickets can be purchased on the Tasty Tours website.

Oh, and one word of advice: bring some cash for shopping. After all the tastings, you’ll want to take some sweets home.

Lisa Jackson is a freelance writer and blogs at Eat Drink Travel Magazine.

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