News

Time for a Heart to Heart

Valentine's Goodies

You know that we love our customers. And we know that our customers know that the Mercantile is the perfect place to provision for LoveDay - that's why they've already put a serious dent in our selection of Valentine's Day cards!

But don't worry, there are still treats galore - whether it's cinnamon hearts to pass out at school, luxurious chocolates from Roger's and Laura Slack, a sweet/tart combo for your sweetheart from Tout de Sweet or heart-shaped spinach and cheese ravioli from Queen's Pasta for a romantic dinner at home. Or all of the above wrapped neatly in a CandyHearts Tea Towel!

That's just a fraction of our Valentine's selection but February 14th is a day that tends to creep up on people so we thought we'd let you know before the rush.

XOXOXOXO from all of us to all of you!

Read more

A Taste of Sunny Spain

Plaza del Sol paella etc.

Man, that was grim yesterday. 
Thought I was going to wipe out just going to the corner store. And if I didn't wipe out I certainly came home chilled and damp. And that made me think of Spain...

...to be precise, an open air market in Valencia and the heady aromas emanating from a huge paella pan right there on the sidewalk. Seafood, chorizo, tomato, saffron and that very particular rice. Bomba rice. It's not impossible to find bomba rice around but it's not everywhere so many people substitute arborio and it's just NOT the same thing.

A new line we're carrying called Plaza del Sol delivers the full paella experience along with some beautiful stuffed olives and tasty crostini just in time to beat the winter blahs and turn your kitchen into a street market near the Spanish coast.

Provision here at the Mercantile and then it's off to Spain. 
Traditional recipe here.

Read more

A Superlative Alternative

Seedlip Distillates

Alcohol seems to go hand in hand with the holidays - from cheer to "cheers!" - for better or worse.

For some that presents a personal challenge. For others it creates a conundrum about what to serve the non-drinkers at the gathering. And for many of us a New Year's Resolution to cut back our alcohol consumption is just around the corner. That means a spike in soft-drink sales but, honestly, what non-alcoholic beverage offers the complexities, subtleties and sensations of a finely crafted spirit? Are we doomed to drinking syrupy-sweet "mocktails" on a night out?

Ben Branson, the founder of Seedlip - the world's first non-alcoholic spirits distiller - found the answer to those questions and more in a book of medicinal distillation recipes dating back to 1651 and the company now offers three distinctive flavour profiles in gorgeously evocative packaging. Sip them straight, mix with tonic or apply your best mixology skills to creating the next breed of non-alcoholic cocktails. There's nothing "mock" about them. This truly is the solution of what to drink when you're not drinking.

Just because you choose to drink less, doesn't mean you can't drink well.

Read more

Suffering from Gifter's Block?

Mercantile Gift Boxes

You know the feeling.
You have people on your Christmas list and you've spent most of your brain power choosing just the right thing for that special someone. You're spent - fresh out of ideas for everyone else.

Fortunately, there are Mercantile Gift Boxes. With four unique and carefully curated collections, you're bound to find a box perfectly suited for the people left on your list: one for the seasoned home cook, one for the dinner party hosts, one for the sweet-tooth and one for that certain someone who just needs to take a day off and treat themselves to some well-deserved quiet time. As an added bonus, they're already tastefully wrapped in an elegant craft-coloured box with black ribbon. Just remove the price tag and it's ready to go under the tree.

You'll find them right opposite the checkout counter. For those of you expecting to find our killer selection of tonic waters there, don't worry we've temporarily moved them to the other side of that centre table!

Read more

Fewer tricks, more treats

Halloween Pasta

In communities where they take Halloween seriously, it's a holiday that presents an opportunity to confront fears, exorcise personal demons and commune with the spirit world. At its commercial worst, Halloween is fundamentally about promoting characters from the comic book universe and collecting free sugar. Somewhere in between is where most of us experience this fascinating orphan of a holiday.

Now, if you're looking to provision for the great giveaway at the door, you might want to give us a miss. We don't carry anything "chocolatey", only real chocolate! But if you do want to get into the .... spirit.... of things then there's lots to choose from:

First of all, there's the pumpkin fudge. We have customers who seem to sniff it out a few days before we've even put it on the shelf and they've already made a considerable dent in our stock of this decidedly seasonal treat. If you don't want to miss this year's bumper crop, you might want to get here before the weekend.

Second, if you're making creepy-themed treats at home, we've got everything you need for baking that says "BOO!" - including spooky cooky cutters, blood-coloured icing and dagger, machete and monster-eyes cookie and cupcake decorations.

Third, if you want to be like Mrs. McAuley who always stood on the porch of her house at Halloween dressed as a witch, dispensing little cups of hot chocolate out of her dry-ice enwrapped cauldron while spooky music played in the background... well we've got lots of great cocoa and hot chocolate mixes.

Fourth, if you're thinking past the porch - more about interior decor - we have a variety of harvest and Halloween themed table charms and other decorative items.

And Finally, if you're planning a more adult kind of evening - perhaps a séance/dinner party, Bat and Cat shaped black pasta cheesy ravioli from Queen's Pasta (pictured above) is the perfect primi course for your feast of goat's blood or spiders-flambé or whatever you have in mind. Oh heck, the kids will love them too!

Have a safe and happy Halloween and don't forget to contribute your Jack-o-Lantern creations to the Pumpkin Parade in Sorauren Park!

Read more

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!

Read more

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.

Read more

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.

 

Read more

A Non-punny Headline Pertaining to Nut Products!

Sante nuts

Seriously, even Santé's website succumbs to the temptation in a couple of spots but we are going to boldly resist any mention of "showing off our nuts" or talking about a product we're "just nuts about"...... Ooops!

Anyway, the point is that nuts are a delicious and nutritious food that are great for snacking or using as an ingredient. These delights from a family owned and operated business in Santa Clara (they're across the street from the Intel Museum and a short drive Google's HQ... Google it!)  are great for either - from the sweet and spicy pecans to the candied walnuts to the cardamom-flavoured cashews (our particular favourite, in fact). 

They're so delicious you'll be tempted to just snack the whole bag but take a moment to visit the aforementioned website for some really great recipe ideas for how to incorporate these nuts as an accent to a variety of healthy dishes (we made the Roasted Cabbage Wedges with Pecan Crumbles and they were amazing!)

Signing off unpunnily until next week!

Read more

A Bluming Fantastic Beverage

Blume latte mixes

Move over matcha, there's a new mix in town!

Recently arrived from Vancouver, in fact. And while our Canada Day post last week was Ontario-Quebec-centric, there IS a time difference so hopefully this still counts!

Blume is the brainchild of Vancouver pals Ella and Karen and we've already heard buzz in store from a customer just back from the wet coast. If you're looking for an alternative to caffeine in the morning but still crave the creaminess of a latte and want the boosting benefits of turmeric (we start every day with a turmeric-based Morning Mojo) then this is a great option. Or, add a tablespoon to your smoothies or baking or soups or just about anything.

From the basic recipe turmeric to the turbo-charged chilli-turmeric version to the beetroot latte with cinnamon, ginger and clove, each provides its own set of flavour and nutritional characteristics but all are vegan, caffeine-free, gluten-free and organic. Each bag is good for about 30 servings (though you may be tempted to use it in multiple applications for your first bag!)

Get your day off to a great start with Blume!

Read more

Canada Day Edition: The Veteran and the Rookie

Joe Beef vs Heartbeat

Here on the eve of Canada Day, we wanted to remind everyone that, while we're not a store that's exclusively Canadian, we ARE a store that's dedicated to offering the best the world has to offer and that includes some incredible Canadian products. And what better way to talk about them here than with a hockey metaphor!

On the left side of this photo, three offerings from the veteran, Joe Beef - the Montreal institution that includes the Joe Beef and Liverpool House restaurants as well as a variety of take home sauces and rubs. A great example of Canadian pride is watching Joe Beef's founders, David McMillan and Fred Morin, take the late great Anthony Bourdain ice fishing with foie gras and the "finest wines known to man" and on a culinary trip as they ride by train from Montreal to Quebec City. The ketchup, BBQ Sauce and Reserve Jerk Sauce we're offering are great examples of their commitment to foregrounding bold flavours and great ingredients. The ketchup is a mix of tomato and red pepper with less sugar than you typically find in a grocery-store ketchup. The BBQ sauce AND the jerk sauce are both built around a base of Quebec prunes for a heady, jammy note in each.

If Joe Beef is the Mario Lemieux in this hockey metaphor (the once upstarts are now the establishment and they own the team!), Heartbeat Hot Sauces are not even the Sidney Crosby - more like the Connor McDavid! This is a young team from Thunder Bay Ontario with just two sauces in their line up: fresh jalapeño with fermented serrano peppers bring a bright heat to the table while the fermented red habanero is, curiously, both sweeter and hotter with a bit more depth of flavour. But their undeniable talent has already got them playing in the big leagues. They are featured in the number 2 spot in the line up on season six of Hot Ones - the YouTube show where celebrity guests try to keep it together while host Sean Evans interviews them and leads them through a series of hot sauces ending with the Last Dab - a sauce that comes in at around 2.4 million Scoville units!

Not only is it a very big deal to be featured on the show, Heartbeat is also featured at Heatonist, the hot sauce vendor in Chelsea Market NYC that's behind the Hot Ones show and their own line of hot sauces.

This Canada Day, celebrate this tasty Team Canada at YOUR barbeque!

 

 

Read more

Sharpen Your Sense of Flavour

OCNI Flavours

OK, bear with me - this may be our most puzzling post yet. And it comes from a Montreal/France collaboration with an acronym meaning "Unidentified Food Object" (hence the amusing logo) and, like it's namesake, it's something strange and exciting and out of this world.

What you're looking at in the four test tubes above look like double-thick crayons. But instead of being made of wax and pigment, they're made of a careful formulation of agar-agar (the seaweed-based food product that acts as a solidifier) and flavour - in this case basil, soy and porcini mushroom, lemon and salt and hot pepper and garlic respectively. The unidentified object on the right is something perhaps more familiar: a pencil sharpener.

They come in a handy pack that converts neatly into a stand for your countertop:

Now, here's where it gets REALLY interesting:

When it comes to finishing a dish, you're probably used to sprinkling a little salt, grinding a little pepper, crushing a couple of chillies, grating a little parmesan, zesting a little lemon, squeezing a little lime, shaving some truffle.... Well, get ready to add a couple of new verbs to your culinary actions. You're going to really sharpen the accents to your dish by twisting the chosen flavour stick in the sharpener for that final flourish of finishing flavour.

OCNI flavour stick in action

Come into the store to check it out and ask for a demonstration. Then be prepared to welcome these friendly and flavourful aliens into your kitchen!

It's a new frontier in cooking and OCNI is inviting you to boldly go...!

Read more
145 results
Back to the top
Copyright © 2019 The Mercantile.
Continue shopping
Your Order

You have no items in your cart