Unique treats, gifts and baskets for unique people.

The Mercantile in Toronto's Roncesvalles Village is your go-to shop for everyday luxuries, with a thoughtfully curated selection of gourmet food items, kitchen accessories, gifts and gift baskets to help you live, give, and entertain in style.

Olive Some of Those Please!

Fresco Olives and Tapenade

A very nice young guy came into the store last week and was perusing our selection of olive oils. He told me his own family had some olive groves in Greece and he'd been bringing some bottles of oil in for friends and was thinking about maybe turning it into a business. It's a story not dissimilar to that of Johnathon Zikos of Fresco Specialty Foods, purveyors of our current favourite line up of olive oils and balsamics. But here's the thing: even if our new friend has an equally good product with an equally pretty label and an equally good story behind it all, he's going to have to exceed the passion and energy of Zikos – and that's going to be tough to do. In fact, you may have met Johnathon (yes, the spelling is correct) set up outside the Mercantile on a sunny summer day or during the Polish Festival offering samples of his excellent products; or you may have caught a glimpse of him dashing into the shop out of the blue to check stock levels and make sure the bottles are neatly aligned and dust-free. 

If you've read Tom Mueller's excellent book, Extra Virginity, you'll know that there are a lot of industrial producers out there filling the shelves with something they call "Extra Virgin Olive Oil" that is quite certainly something else. The cost simply of producing a litre of the real thing is more than what some of those companies are charging for a bottle. And for the taste, health and other benefits of the real thing, it is definitely worth it to pay more. And in the case of Fresco's line, it's good to know that the dedication to producing the very best in the field is matched by the dedication to bringing it to you here at home.

The reason for writing this post today is that Fresco has added a couple of product lines to their offering and we're pleased to make room on our shelves for some top quality green and kalamata olives and tapenades that reflect the same passion and excellence as their liquid shelf mates.

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Home Mixology

Bittermilk Cocktail Trio

At the last cocktail bar we went to, it took about 15 minutes to choose from among all the enticingly described options in the lengthy menu and another 15 just to make the drink. Various ingredients were scorched and twisted and filtered and rinsed and squeezed and stirred. The bartender wore a pharmacist's coat, wire-rimmed spectacles and all de rigeur tattoos and facial hair. It was all quite the show and the drink was priced accordingly. Lots of fun but not something for every day and certainly not the kind of effort you want to have to expend while also greeting your guests for a night in!

Enter Bittermilk - a small operation out of Charleston SC founded by restaurant and bar veterans dedicated to making your home cocktail experience as interesting as your special night out. As any mixologist will tell you, every cocktail is about balancing the characteristics of your ingredients: acid, sweet, smokey, salty, earthy, floral, bitter, herbaceous, etc. etc. Bittermilk has done that balancing act for you so all you need to do is add booze, shake with ice (or not), strain and serve. Lab coat, spectacles, tats and hipster-beards optional.

You'll find these beautifully packaged cocktail mixers just underneath the bitters section as you enter the store on your left: Tom Collins with Elderflower and Hops, Smoked Honey Whisky Sour and Charred Grapefruit and Sea Salt Tonic.

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Secret Flavour Weapon

Our Better Than Bouillon collection

Looks like the rink in Sorauren Park is about to see some action with a spate of hard cold weather. Which may mean your soup and stew pots are about to see some action as well. As always, the ever-widening selection of soup-kits from SoupGirl is a healthy and easy one-jar solution for your stove-top that doesn't spend much time on our shelves come winter.

But whether you're looking to deepen the flavour and aroma of those soup kits, start your own soup or stew from scratch or lend some oomph to a sauce or risotto stock, there is no better secret weapon for your pantry than this line of flavour bases from Better Than Bouillon. Each of these offers supremely concentrated flavour and will go a long way to getting you through a long winter. Less than a teaspoon in a mug may be just the belly warmer you need after shovelling the driveway.

The chicken, beef, vegetable and mushroom options are all organic and we've just introduced a new addition to the line up: lobster (you remember that risotto stock I was mentioning earlier?)

Done. You may now go ahead and throw out the dried out bouillon cubes in your cupboard!

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