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...!

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Re-visiting Vosges

Vosges Selection

Chocolate occupies a very unique place in our world. It is simultaneously a refined and exotic treat and a cheap and ubiquitous snack. It's able to hold those two places in our minds because of the vast range of qualities available to us at any given time - a bit like olive oil.

But as they say with olive oil, if you're not paying above a certain threshold, you're probably not getting the real thing. And at various thresholds beyond that you're getting increasing levels of quality, increasing levels of expertise and artistry and increasing levels of fairness to the workers who grow and harvest this most remarkable crop. Somewhere in there - as a retailer - we also have to account for the tastes and curiosities of our customers and the thresholds they're willing to cross for great chocolate. There are lots of places in the neighbourhood to get cheap, commercial chocolate. Our role is to curate a range of chocolates above that low threshold that we think you're going to want to try. Which brings us back to Vosges Haut Chocolat of Chicago.

We offered Vosges in the past because, in terms of flavour combinations, they just blew our minds. We think Toronto's own Laura Slack gives Vosges a run for their money (and with even more beautiful packaging) at a lower price point (though a smaller bar) and many customers were just not quite willing to cross that slightly higher threshold. It was, frankly, kind of sad to see the Vosges bars ageing out on the shelf (though the staff tended to benefit!). But with this new line of flavour combinations from Vosges, we wanted to give them another try and give YOU a chance to give them another try too. It is worth it and YOU are worth it! These are all great flavours but to single one out, I guarantee you: if you try the Turmeric-Ginger bar you will be amazed.

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Prime 'Q

BBQ Suite

Well, we're in the thick of it now.
With good weather and longer days, we want to maximize the time outdoors and so cooking moves to the deck or the yard or the balcony or the tailgate. Whether you're a wood or charcoal purist or belong to the Hank Hill propane-powered team, there's something so satisfying about cooking on the grill. Our neighbours at Pollocks Home Hardware and The Cookery have a variety of useful tools (many on sale as we speak!) and our pals at De La Mer, Village Meats, Butcher Bar, The Meat Dept., Rowe Farms and our plentiful veggie markets have all the options of what products go on your grill. But planning for your BBQ is not complete until you've stopped in at The Mercantile.

For pre-seasoning we've got everything from Diamond Crystal Kosher Salt and an array of peppers to a great range of honeys, oils and vinegars. Peruse our spice shelves to concoct your own flavour mixes or select from among our many spice rubs. And then, of course, there are the BBQ sauces. Pictured here are just a handful of our many available options but we especially wanted to point out the grill-specific additions to the line-up from No. 7 Hot Sauces - a great Toronto company. They've introduced a classic Mexican BBQ sauce AND a series of Portuguese-style grill sauces called "Sandra's Piri Piri".

PLUS, right now we have the last of our grill planks on sale for 25% off! 
So make sure you put us on your BBQ provisions circuit and Happy Grilling!

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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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A Treat You Should Have at Least Twice a Day

A Treat You Should Have at Least Twice a Day

What if there was a toothpaste that actually paid attention to flavour? That made you actually look forward to brushing your teeth just for the sensation of it? That toothpaste, from Florence, Italy, is called Marvis and it is available in store as of today! We have the full line of seven different flavours in standard 75ml and 25ml travel-size tubes and we also have the Marvis toothbrush if you're a completist!
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