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.

Toronto Heatwave

Toronto Heatwave

Clustered on your tongue, in your mouth and on your skin are thousands of TRPV1 thermoreceptors. Their function is to kick into action at temperatures about 43C and above to initiate a pain response and trigger some protective measures to try to cool us down and dissipate the heat - things like producing sweat.

Now, by complete accident it turns out that a couple of non-heat-related enzymes also bond to these receptors - one of them being capsaicin, the active ingredient in chilli peppers. That's why we perceive spicy foods as "hot". They're not really. It's an illusion created by those TRPV1 receptors!

So why do human beings deliberately subject themselves to that pain response by eating spicy food and adding capsaicin-rich sauces to all foods? One theory floating around the scientific community is that prolonged exposure to capsaicin causes a desensitization of the TRPV1 receptors. ie., eat more spicy food and feel the actual heat a little bit less!

Given the successive heatwaves that have hit Toronto this summer - and global warming trends in general - maybe one response is to amp up your intake of hot sauce. Toronto produces some exceptional hot sauces and spicy condiments from a number of different traditions - including Okazu fermented sesame chilli and Mado's Dominican pepper sauce, both featured here on the blog in recent posts - but the flag-bearer for the recent explosion of heatwaves of flavour in this city has got to be No. 7 Mexican Hot Sauces.

Founded in the Junction Triangle in 2013 by the husband and wife team of Sandra and Carlos Flores, they offer a line of hot sauces ranging "from Mild to Wild" with no added preservatives, sodium or sugar. They are soy/dairy free, gluten-free, peanut-free, as well as vegan. Try the sweeter Pasilla (made with tequila!) or the smoky Chipotle or challenge yourself to the Habanero-Ghost Pepper blend (softened somewhat by the presence of cauliflower and carrot in the mix).

Remember, you may be preparing your body to handle the heatwaves still to come!

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Summer Refreshment at your fingertips, literally.

Augie's Ice Pops

We figure most of you know that we carry a couple of different (but equally great) lines of ice-pop moulds so you can make frozen treats at home. We know this because we are already on our second or even third order of the things. We keep selling out of them!

But for those muggy days when you're not at home but you need a quick hit of cool, we've got ready-made ice-pops in our freezer at the back of the store. And not just any ice pops. They're the best in the city and they're made right here in the Roncesvalles neighbourhood: Augie's.

Of course, there's no pleasure like a simple pleasure and Augie's ice pops certainly do the trick. But some of those flavour combinations (wild blueberry citrus, strawberry basil lemonade, Vietnamese coffee...) hint at a background working with some of the city's top chefs and a dedication to sourcing local ingredients from the farms where the flavours grow. Simplicity and sophistication in one delicious, refreshing treat, right at your fingertips and right down the street at the Mercantile.

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Let's Get Stainless Steel Serious

Onyx Stainless Steel Ice Cube Trays

OK, it's the height of summer. It's about time we had "the talk".

We have carried a variety of ice cube trays/makers/moulds in the past and continue to offer a few options including badass shapes and smart-and-supple silicone solutions. But let's be grown-ups about this for a minute:
Would James Bond's bartender make a martini using ice-cubes wrestled from a hive of silicone? No. She would not.

If you've been in the store a few times, very likely you've heard at least one of us wax eloquent about the Onyx stainless steel ice cube tray. And that's not just because it's a solid piece of machinery built for the task and built to last - this is practically a poem in stainless steel, an ode to another time, an evocation of half-forgotten memories and a trigger for the senses. It's like the aluminum ice cube trays you grew up with... only better.

First of all, it's the sound.
When you crank that handle up and the ice cracks, you practically expect to see the Rat Pack come running for their cocktails like Pavlov's dogs. If I was younger and smarter, I'd devote a whole ASMR-channel to this sound on YouTube. For a certain generation, it's the sound of mum and dad home from work and relaxing before dinner gets started.

Second, it's the shards.
This isn't prying and cajoling some uniform not-quite-cube from a silicone sleeve, this is a surgical operation that cracks a solid sheet of ice in one swift motion. There are bound to be shards. And believe me, you want shards. When they mingle with the cubes in your G&T or one slips through the strainer into your Manhattan, it creates the sensation of frostiness all on its own - like an iceberg calf in your drink.

But here's your pro tip on the matter of the Onyx Stainless Steel Ice Cube Tray - (because, if you're a grown up, you really really want this thing by now, don't you?):

Do not over-fill the tray with water when you're making them. Leave a little room for the ice to expand but not over the lip of each cell in the grid. Before you head to the freezer, lift the grid out and put it back just to make sure the cubes will all be evenly sized. And, once they are fully frozen, do NOT use brute force to crank that lever! Out of the freezer, turn the tray over and run the bottom under a cold tap for about three seconds - that ought to do it. When you pull that lever, the ice should crack without resistance. You'll get the perfect product and ensure your tray mechanism lasts a lifetime.

Keep a couple of plastic or silicone trays in the freezer that the kids can use for their Kool-Aid or whatever they're drinking these days. This is YOUR ice cube tray. Welcome to the world of grown-ups.

I'm glad we had this little chat.


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