Time sure seems to move in funny ways of late. Days blend together and it seems like ages ago that we went about life as usual - when really it was just a matter of weeks. In that sense, Easter arrives almost as a surprise. But then, Easter is often about surprise. Spring, renewal, the sudden, vivid presence of colour - all have the effect of delight and we could all use a little of that these days.
Of course, social distancing means we're not gathering together as we might normally at this time of year with friends and family. But that's no reason to forego other aspects of the tradition within your household.
That's why we're well stocked with colourful Easter treats from some of our regular and seasonal suppliers, including chocolate from Roger's, Saxon, Denman Island, Laura Slack, Galerie au Chocolat and more. We've got bunnies, foiled eggs, Victoria Creams and other favourites - not to mention cookie cutters, Easter sprinkles, egg cups, ceramic bunnies, tea towels, napkins... as Bugs would say: "et cetera, et cetera, et cetera"
Of course, we'd love to see you in the store (just a few at a time, please - peek through the window to check) but it is customary to have a certain fluffy visitor hop by the house at this time of year so let us be your Easter Bunny. We're delivering Wednesdays and Fridays. Email your order or call on the phone during our revised business hours - we can take credit card payments over the phone.
Details - including a rough menu of everything in the store for all your pantry needs - is available on our Facebook page. If you're not already following us there look for RoncyMercantile.
Hey Roncy - how's everybody doing?
We hope you and yours are staying safe and healthy amid this COVID19 pandemic. It's a strange new world for so many of us and we're really proud of the way the neighbourhood has come together (partly by staying apart!) And we need to start by saying how much we feel for all our friends on the strip who are temporarily closed and our friends at the Westerly who have decided to close permanently. These are tough times for everyone but we are ALL IN THIS TOGETHER.
We're doing our best to make provisioning yourself at the Mercantile a safe, healthy and easy experience through all this and there's lots you can do to help. For one thing, as you know, we're a small shop so social distancing is tricky. So please do yourself and us and your neighbours a favour - before you come in the store, have a look through the door. If there are more than 4 or 5 people in there just hang back for a second. People who come to the Mercantile these days generally know what they're looking for and we can help them find it quickly and get them on their way. That will create space for you to come in and maintain that necessary distance.
But there's another way we can make this easier for everyone: starting this week we'll be delivering on Wednesdays and Fridays. We don't have a fancy system for doing this online so here's how it's going to work:
During business hours (Mon-Sat 10-6, Sun 10-5) call in your order at 416.531.7563 and pay by credit card over the phone. We can either arrange for curb-side pick up or we can deliver to your doorstep on Wednesdays and Fridays.
Now, lots of people come for regular items all the time, but especially now that people are getting more creative at home, perhaps we should remind you of the range of things we carry. Here goes:
Crackers, aoili, sauces, ketchups, harissa paste and other North African sauces, preserved lemons, pickles, pickled onions, olives, kosher salt, Himalayan salt, grey salt, Maldon salt, flavoured salts, peppercorns, salsas, pasta sauces, mustards, coffee beans, oils, vinegars, aromatic bitters, cocktail and soft drink syrups, bar accessories, La Croix waters, tonics, soft drinks, spring waters, non-alcoholic beverages (Partake, Gruvi, Seedlip) jams, jellies, chutneys, cookies, maple syrups, honey, agave, molasses, pomegranate molasses, sugars, broths, bouillons, canned fish, rice wine vinegar, mirin, miso, gojuchang, hot sauces, liquid smoke, chocolate, candy, spices, dried mushrooms, vanilla, saffron, extracts, birthday candles, cake and cupcake stuff, tea, teabags and balls, chips, popcorn, snacks, nuts, rice, lentils, oatmeal, granola, liquid soaps, laundry and dishwashing liquids, tea towels, gifts, Queen's Pasta, eggs, Mad Mexican stuff, liquorice, cocoa, dried fruits, gummies and sours, popping corn, trail mix..........
Obviously not an exhaustive or detailed list but just in case you need something and are wondering if we have it before you call, that list just might help.
Again, order during store hours at 416.531.7563 for either curb-side pick up or Wednesday or Friday delivery.
Stay healthy, Roncy.
These are strange times indeed.
Until we are advised otherwise, the Mercantile will be open to serve you. Certainly now we will all be eating at home more than usual and you'll be looking for the variety and quality of products you always find in the shop.
We are taking some extra steps to protect ourselves and our customers according to public health experts and we would ask our customers to observe those same recommendations, which you can find on the Toronto Public Health website here. Please be good to yourself and your neighbours. Practice social distancing and don't crowd the store. And please handle only the items you wish to purchase.
So, having said that, it's appropriate that today's post is about two programs that support local business AND local growers - more relevant today than ever - and we're proud to participate in both.
First, Shop1km is a coupon book you will likely already have found in your mailbox. We are one of the stores participating with a page in there and it's your opportunity to get 15% off your entire purchase. Just make sure you let us know you intend to use your coupon BEFORE we ring in your purchase. Customers using a Shop1km coupon will also receive a free single-serving bottle of Singer's Vegan Caesar mix - delicious on its own or in your alternative Bloody Caesar (while supplies last). The current coupon program is set to expire on April 3rd - we'll let you know if there's any revision to that schedule given the current emergency situation.
And second, the Clearwater Farm weekly food basket program is back and we are once again serving as a hub. Clearwater farm not only works with a network of local organic growers to provide a weekly choice of fresh fruits, vegetables and other farm products but also runs educational programs on food system sustainability and your membership helps run those programs. Sign up online here by April 12th to get some delicious perks!
It's important to remind customers participating in the program that we are a hub only - your relationship is with Clearwater Farm - but we hope you'll find things in store to accompany the produce you take home from Clearwater. You might also like to know given the current situation that you can opt for home delivery when you sign up.
That's it for now. Stay healthy, Roncesvalles - we love you.
How fortunate that, this year, Valentine's Day falls on a Friday! You get all this week to fire up your imagination, stoke the fires of passion and then ignite a weekend of loving bliss with a Friday night tête-à-tête/coeur-à-coeur.... if that's your thing.
Honestly, it's one of those holidays that makes us a little bit uncomfortable because it imposes a) an idea of how you express your love and, b) what the nature of that love is. Because in spite of all the emphasis on red and pink it really is a rainbow of feeling that the day is meant to celebrate.
So forgive us our nod to cliché but we do at least imagine that we've got a broad enough array of tools for you to build exactly the kind of tribute to whatever degree of fondness or affection or tenderness or passion that you have in mind to mark.
Special chocolate confections from Odile, Denman Island and Roger's to go the classic route; hibiscus flowers in syrup to drop into a glass of bubbly for a certain flair, heart shaped ravioli from Queen's Pasta in a dinner-for-two size for the home cook, candy hearts for the kid (or the kid in you), the best Valentine's cards on the strip and a whole lot more.
Last weekend was busy with those thinking ahead but there's still time to add just the right accent to your expression of love, so come on in before Friday!
Coffee drinkers now enjoy the same kind of bewilderment once the domain of the wine world: a whole lot of unintelligible language that you're told is meant to make you enjoy the drink more but ends up making you enjoy the overall experience less.
There are more and more expert roasters in Toronto all the time and we'll mention a couple more in the coming months, but for now we wanted to introduce you to one of the original independents that you'll now find on the shelves of The Mercantile - one of just a couple of locations in Toronto carrying this favourite of Oregon.
But Stumptown has travelled well beyond Portlandia. One of our customers who works frequently in New York is obliged by a coffee-loving cousin every time she goes down to bring back a bag or two from Stumptown's flagship NYC shop. That's a long trip into Manhattan from her digs in Queens. Lucky for her, Stumptown is now available on Roncy!
And what's so special about Stumptown?
It's partly about their relationships with growers around the world to help build those communities through direct investment in people and technology to bring you the very best bean; it's partly about their commitment to the environment, their relentless curiosity in finding special characteristics in the beans they select and their attention to detail when it comes to roasting. But ultimately it's about the flavour in your cup.
So if you're looking to up your coffee game at home, head down to 297 Roncesvalles, walk through the door and hang a left. You've arrived at Stumptown!
The Mercantile Christmas Gift Boxes are back - and they're the perfect solution for so many of those hard-to-decide people on your list...
For the home chef in your life, the Chef Essentials box features Maldon Flaked Salt with matching pinch bowl, a classic local mustard, some fine Sicilian olive oil and a little Mercantile chocolate bar;
For the fan of the YouTube show, HotOnes? Get them the HotOnes sampler set featuring a variety of our most popular spicy condiments;
For someone into elegant entertaining? The Spanish Sardines set includes Conservas de Cambados sardines in olive oil, deluxe crackers and a preciously themed serving plate and fork;
For someone who skates outdoors or is getting a new toboggan, the Keep Warm box will be waiting for them with gourmet hot chocolate, two double-walled glass mugs, shortbread cookies and, of course, marshmallows;
For the Yoatam Ottolenghi fan, the Ottolenghi Simple Essentials box features a selection of some of the great chef's most commonly called for spices and ingredients. And if they're not an Ottolenghi fan yet, bundle the box with a copy of the book also available in store;
And finally, for the person on the verge of a New Year's resolution, the Mocktails set includes Seedlip distilled alcohol-free spirits, Partake near-beer, dried orange garnish, FeverTree tonic and a stainless steel jigger.
Our Christmas boxes take the guess-work out of buying for that hard-to-buy-for person.
Each box includes a flour sack tea towel to cushion the contents and they're so elegantly wrapped you can put them under the tree as is!
Find them across from the cash desk in the middle of the store.
Well, we didn't expect it so soon or so fiercely, perhaps, but it was inevitable. Winter.
But let's not forget that winter has its benefits - including a chance to focus on indoor pursuits, to create warmth in whatever style suits you. Cocktailing is one such activity (in moderation, of course!) and we have a couple of very special ingredients to mention as we anticipate warm flavours to battle the cold outside.
First, Graeme Foers has a history right here in our neighbourhood but much of his time is spent in the woods handcrafting his Tapped Out Bourbon Barrel Aged Maple Syrup. Now, if you ever went to a sugaring off in the bush you might have a memory of taps in the trees and lines running from all around the lot to a tank in the middle. To some people that's quaint and they know that maple syrup operations run the gamut from mom & pop farms to industrial scale evaporation processors. Tapped Out makes even the mom & pops look like a factory floor. He is literally asking each tree for permission to take sap and collecting it individually, keeping the fires burning all season long to make the best maple syrup there is and then aging it in bourbon whiskey barrels brought up from the States.
Nickel 9 Distillery is also very close to home - just a few blocks away in the Junction - and making a mark with a couple of spirits available at LCBO stores. But they've also released this wonderful line of aromatic bitters. Some - like the hibiscus or the lavender citrus or the grapefruit orange - could be used to summon summer in a glass if you're so inclined. But I'm looking at the smoked apple and the cedar cherry bark and the rosemary black peppercorn and thinking I could just lean into winter quite comfortably.
It starts with the Pumpkin Fudge that arrives early October. Not only does it taste and smell fantastic, it triggers something - something in the air. Then the Bat Signal really goes out! And before you know it the Mercantile is filled with spooky stuff.
For school treats try our YumEarth peanut free dummies. There's murderously hot mustard, scary Scoville sauces, bloody eyeball candy decorations for creepy cookies, special edition Laura Slack chocolate skull lollies, halloween lights, mugs, bottle openers, tea towels and other seasonally themed decor items.
Of course, there's also black cat and black bat pasta from Queen's Pasta - spinach and ricotta filled black pasta ravioli made just for Halloween night dinner and available in our freezer at the back of the store.
And adults know we're a grown up trick-or-treater's dream store!
While we're at it, witches hats off to the people in the neighbourhood who make ours one of the most fun parts of the city to stroll at night with their awesome halloween yard displays. If you haven't walked down Grenadier lately......
Oh. And if you come in late and find we're out of treats, please don't TP our window. We're doing our best to make sure there's enough for all you ghouls and goblins.
One of the great things about being in a diverse city like Toronto is that tastes for certain things - be they music or movies or fashions or food - move beyond their cultural origins. At The Mercantile we see this every single day in the number of people who come in to stock up on their harissa paste or Okazu or gojuchang or preserved lemons or pasilla peppers or Mado's sauce who aren't north African or Asian or Latin American or Caribbean. All of these flavours have become part of a common repertoire.
A week or so ago, the folks from a local producer called Bunny Hug came into the store with a product we'd never heard of called Kaya. Its roots are in the colonial era of Singapore/Malaysia when local cooks ventured to approximate the jams and morning toast spreads of British officers using local ingredients.
So think of something like lemon curd in terms of consistency but remove the tartness and replace it with the soft, round, creaminess of coconut and you've got Kaya. It. Is. DELICIOUS!
Now, we can totally see this being overlooked because it's an unfamiliar product and you're not looking for it in the first place and wouldn't know what to do with it if you just stumbled upon it. But we're pretty confident that if you try it you're going to want to keep a jar in the fridge for when you want that sweet comforting piece of toast - or even dolloped on a cracker. We tried it on a salty potato chip and it was fantastic! For now, we're keeping it with the jams and jellies in the cabinet just to your right as you enter the store.
If you're in the neighbourhood tomorrow at 4:00pm, Bunny Hug will be at the Mercantile offering samples so you can see whether you might like to make this taste part of your culinary repertoire.
When I was a kid, the Girl Guides had the cookies and the Boy Scouts had Apple Day (not ApplePay, Apple Day) as fundraising tools. Things are a bit more sophisticated these days. The 65th Toronto Scout Group based on Roncesvalles has teamed up with family-run Pefferlaw Farms to offer this high quality dark grade 100% pure, organic maple syrup gathered from trees in the Woodland Trails Scout Camp and surrounding forests.
For many Canadians, maple syrup is a pantry item. For Canadian and visitors alike it's one of the most popular Canuck souvenirs going and "Where do you keep your maple syrup?" is one of the most common questions we get when people enter the store for the first time. We have several excellent maple syrups to choose from and you'll find them on the top shelf above the mustards and pestos on the north wall of the store but for a limited time (and for extra convenience) you'll find this special fundraising edition bottle right on the counter.
Come see us and help support the Scouts in your neighbourhood!