The shelves of The Mercantile are stocked with staples, treats and treasures from all over the world but we take special pride in promoting homegrown products that compete with the very best the planet has to offer.
This coming Friday, July 1st, will mark Canada's 149th birthday. There will be concerts and picnics and fireworks and - for many - a long weekend to celebrate. So today, as you stock your own pantry or think about gifts to bring, think Canadian! This is just a small sample of some of the truly great products we carry that make us proud to be Canadian:
- Hand-painted, dulce-de-leche-filled chocolate skulls from extraordinary Toronto chocolatier Laura Slack (her bars, wrapped in paper from the Japanese Paper Place are also extraordinary and her ice-pops and ice cream bars in our freezer at the back are to die for!);
- Kernal's Black Peanuts - a rarity born and grown in southwestern Ontario - are simple, delicious and simply the most delicious peanuts you will eat;
- True North (by Southwest) spice blend from Epicentre - located on the shore of Chemong Lake near Peterborough - combines maple and Texas BBQ flavours in a rub that is for your holiday picnic ribs;
- A new line of syrups from Ottawa's Split Tree Cocktail Co. are small batch, hand crafted cocktail mixes using whole fresh ingredients, no artificial preservatives, and nothing you can’t pronounce (our favourite is the Rhubarb and Elderflower). They join an impressive selection of Canadian made syrups and bitters from makers like Meredith's Ginger, Dillon's, 3/4 OZ and Bar Le Lab;
- All the entries in our selection of maple syrups are (naturally) of Canadian origin but we have a particular fondness for the one from Edwin County Farms near Picton. If you're traveling and want to bring a little taste of Canada with you as a gift, we have special travel sizes that meet the threshold for carry-on safety or soft-packs that won't add too much weight to your checked luggage;
- Walter's Bloody Caesar Mix is a High Park success story (though it has since moved its centre to Vancouver) built around that most Canadian of cocktails. Read the list of ingredients on the can of the national brand and then read the list on Walter's - you'll be reading with your own eyes what your tastebuds have already told you about why this is your best friend at brunch;
- With humble home-kitchen origins from a Trinidadian-Torontonian (Trinitonian?) grandma and now made by a famed west end bar-owner, Mado's pepper sauce - if it wanted to - could rise to join the ranks of ketchup, HP, 57, Worcestershire and Sriracha and become one of the world's truly great standard sauces. It goes with eggs, it goes with shrimps, it goes with steak, it goes in a crudité dip, it goes with everything! We roasted a spatchcocked chicken in it and it was sublime. Anyone who buys one bottle will buy it for life and we have customers who come from way outside the neighbourhood to ensure their stock is secure - it's that good;
- Boyo's Hot Sauce is another Trinitonian feature in our Canadian hot sauce selection. And not only is it made in Toronto, it's made right here in the Roncesvalles neighbourhood. Talk about local;
- Wendy Tancock is a local west end artist and designer who has been mining the charms of Canuck iconography for years. We have a wide selection of her greeting cards featuring everything from Leonard Cohen to Casey & Finnegan to Butter Tarts and Nanaimo Bars. This July 1st, send a card to a friend outside of Canada and remind them just how much we rock;
- And finally, OrganicFair Chocolate isn't quite from Canada. It's from just across the B.C. border in Blaine Washington but they maintain a farm and garden in Cobble Hill, BC. And sometimes it's nice to have friends and neighbours recognize the best in you - which is the inspiration for their Canadiana bar: organic 70% cacao dark chocolate with maple, apples and northwest coast alder smoked sea salt.
These are just some of the products from here in the neighbourhood and across the country we're so proud to serve and just some of the ways it's fun (and delicious) to celebrate being Canadian. You'll have a whole bunch of your own and we hope you take some time this weekend to do just that.
We ARE open at our regular time of 10:30am on Friday, Canada Day, though we're closing a little bit early - at 5:00pm. Have a safe and happy Canada Day weekend!
Whether summer vacation starts for your family this weekend or next or if your kids are on an extended schedule, now is still a good time to acknowledge the impact a good teacher can have on the life of any student.
Something sweet, something savoury, something practical, nothing too extravagant. Just about anything in the store would be appropriate (they might be able to use some cocktail bitters or a selection of tonics as they contemplate the summer ahead!) but we've put a table of suggested gift items on the main table right as you walk in the door.
Yes, we have all the typical stuff proffered as "dad-ish" on Father's Day - bottle openers and cocktail bitters and sauces and rubs for the BBQ and, of course, our great selection of Father's Day cards. And if the Dad in your life is into that stuff, well you know where to come for the best. But even those kinds of dads would probably appreciate having a break on Sunday and since the forecast is for great weather, how about YOU do the grill honours? Maybe that's YOUR thing?
The new line of Badass BBQ sauces from Wildly Delicious pack the punch the name promises and a small but mighty selection of genuine North Carolina-style sauces from Milton Ontario's Wildman's Backwoods BBQ feature that perfect balance of sweet and spicy, tangy, salty and smokey.
Honestly, I'm not sure anyone will ever come into the store with a slightly panicked look on their face and ask, "Do you have rabbit figurines doing yoga poses?" And yet, these delightful white resin creatures might be just what someone you know needs in their life. We can't stop looking at them. Like the yoga poses they represent, they bring a sense of calm and balance and there's no way you can look at them and not smile.
So they may not be the most functional things we have in the store at the moment but if you just slightly expand your idea of utility, you might find these bunnies are just the thing you were looking for.
Sometimes the simple pleasures are the best - like a frozen treat on a hot summer day. And who can forget reaching into that corner store freezer for an ice pop and then gnawing on it until it was almost gone and all that was left was to suck out the last few drops of melted flavour left in that spent plastic sleeve?
But sometimes the simple things aren't so simple. Have you read the ingredients list on some of those ice pops lately? All kinds of artificial flavours and colours and stabilizers and preservatives. Jon's Pops mark a return to simplicity with a distinctly local flavour.
There have always been plenty of raccoons in the Roncy neighbourhood who typically commute when they need to via the nearby rail corridor. But recently we had a visit from this special raccoon who arrived by air. He was in the Village on one of his urban reconnaissance missions for a feature in the current issue of re:porter, the inflight magazine of Porter Airlines.
We're very pleased not only that the lead for the article is a big picture of our shelves (with a cameo from Shannon) and a separate column on The Mercantile (complete with a shout out to our dear friend Laura Slack) but also that so many of our wonderful neighbours and customers were included in the feature as well - from Butcher Bar to Hopgoods to Muttonhead to the Likely General and Miranda Bryden to Dylan Thomas Childs.
A few weeks ago, I took a walk from the top of Roncy to the bottom. Except for the banks, in that whole strip there were only five chain stores (Subway, Home Hardware - which totally feels local - Sobey's, Guardian and Tim Horton's) and a handful of places that have more than one location in the city (Butler's Panty, Fresh Collective, De La Mer, Ed's, Wisey's, etc.). When you think about it, that's a pretty remarkable feat given what has happened to strips like College St. and Queen West. That density of local, independent businesses is a testament to the people of the neighbourhood who clearly value the same kind of independent outlook that we do and we really appreciate it.
So clearly we all think of our neighbourhood as a real gem - hopefully this feature in re:porter will encourage visitors from Montreal and New York and Halifax and Chicago and Pittsburgh and Boston and St. John's to pay us a visit and see all the great things we have to offer as well.
If you're not flying Porter in the next little while, you can read the feature online here.
New to our cocktail and accoutrements section: artisanal syrups from Montréal's storied Bar Le Lab and preserved garnishes from another Montréal company, Camilla Wynne's Preservation Society - including her cocktail for toast: Marmgarita!
These items join our already excellent selection of syrups and tonics and bitters and garnishes and bar tools. So if you're looking to up the ante where your cocktails are concerned, you could either take a drive down the 401 or a walk down Roncy!