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A Growing Concern

Clearwater Farms

Another sure sign of spring is the return of the weekly produce basket from Clearwater Farm near Georgina ON.

This is a little bit different for us as you enter into a direct share relationship with the farm. We function only as a depot for the program. Here's how it works:

Click the image above to go to the Clearwater Farms website and sign up for the weekly basket program. You'll have a few options to choose from including a range of basket sizes, a 24 or 32 week program and a couple of payment options. 

Then, starting next Wednesday (April 18th) Clearwater will deliver your bag of produce to The Mercantile and you come and pick it up. Each week you'll receive 9-12 items of organically grown, local produce, featuring a variety of vegetables, herbs, and fruits along with recipe suggestions so you can meal-plan accordingly.

We're participating again this year because we believe in what Clearwater Farm is trying to do: provide easy, convenient access to top quality organic, chemical-free, local produce; help build the relationship between we city dwellers and the farmers who feed us; and inspire the next generation of food growers for healthier people and a healthier planet through their not-for-profit educational programs. So it's important to emphasize a few things:

  • You don't pay us for the program;
  • You don't administer your profile or alter your preferences through us. All of your communications are directly with Clearwater Farm;
  • We don't store your weekly bag. Be sure to come and collect it on the pick up day. Unfortunately, we have no room in our meagre fridge space to store your bag if you miss the pick up. We can keep it in the office overnight if necessary but after a day or so it's not quite as fresh as it could be and much beyond that we may need to dispose of it.

For the most part, there were no issues last year so we're happy to be part of this program again this year - partly because it reminds of the work we need to do in our own tiny gardens!

 

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How Much Are Those Bunnies in the Window?

Canoodling Window Bunnies

As promised, here's your Good Friday Reminder!

That's right, it is officially Easter. Our window has the canoodling bunnies to prove it and our shelves are positively groaning with Easter treats:

Chocolates from Roger's and Saxon and Dufflet and Denman Island and, of course, the extraordinary creations of Toronto's own Laura Slack - including the meticulously rendered and handpainted (and entirely edible) chick named Egbert (available in both milk and dark varieties); but also organic jelly beans and malt eggs and Hershey eggs and marshmallow chicks and bunny treat bags and egg table charms and our famous ceramic Yoga Bunnies - who might arrive for Easter but stay in your home to offer leporine serenity year round.

It is all going fast. Remember, the idea is for YOU to hide the chocolate for kids to find. We don't want you to have to search under anything to find it in the store so you've got today and tomorrow to provision!

We're open tonight until 8, tomorrow 10:30am-&;00pm. We are CLOSED on Easter Sunday AND Easter Monday (we're no April Fools!)
Hop on in and Happy Easter!

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Egbert & The Yoga Bunnies...

Egbert & the Yoga Bunnies

You're right - that does sound like an awesome band name!

But, in fact, it's merely a suggestion of the wide variety of Easter items currently in stock at the Mercantile.

That's right. Easter! You'd forgotten somehow, hadn't you? It's actually Good Friday THIS COMING FRIDAY. It's easy to lose track with these movable feasts!

There's no way for us to forget in the shop since we're surrounded by some of the finest Easter treats available: chocolates from Roger's and Saxon and Denman Island and, of course, the extraordinary creations of Toronto's own Laura Slack - including the meticulously rendered and handpainted (and entirely edible) chick named Egbert, pictured here in glorious colour (and available in both milk and dark varieties); but also jelly beans and malt eggs and Hershey eggs and marshmallow chicks and bunny treat bags and egg table charms and our famous ceramic Yoga Bunnies, also pictured here - who might arrive for Easter but stay in your home to offer leporine serenity year round.

Once people do twig to Easter, they usually make quick work of our stock so don't leave it too late.
We are CLOSED on Easter Sunday AND Easter Monday, regular hours on Friday and Saturday. Hop on in!

 

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The Natural Easter Egg

Murray's Farm Eggs

Bunnies, chicks and eggs. They are EVERYWHERE right now with Easter around the corner. And, of course, they are ancient symbols of fertility and renewal that coincide with the equinox and the arrival - finally - of spring.

As always, we have an amazing selection of the chocolate iterations of these seasonal icons and we'll talk about those next week. But this week, we wanted to go all-natural.

We have been very proud for the last few years to be your neighbourhood source for what we consider to be the very best pastured eggs available. Murray Thunberg operates his farm near Cambridge Ontario and he raises his hens (and pigs, though we don't carry the pork!) the old fashioned way. In each box of Murray's Farm eggs you'll find a variety of shell colours (and different tones of yolk when you crack them open too). They are rich and flavourful and they are pretty enough to serve as pre-painted eggs but there's no artificial colour here; merely the reflection of the different heritage hen breeds occupying Murray's barn: Jersey Giants, Golden Buff Orpingtons; Silver Pencilled Rocks, Blue Copper Maran and others.

So we'll set you up for chocolate eggs and there are other places on Roncy where you can get decorating supplies and even elaborate Easter Egg stencils but if you want to have just naturally beautiful eggs in your fridge over Easter, head to our fridge at the back of the store and pick up a carton as soon as you can. Our regular customers usually clean us out but at this time of year the demand for Murray's gorgeous eggs is especially high and it's not hard to see why.

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Lá fhéile Pádraig sona duit

Guinness Chips (crisps)

As St. Patrick's Day approaches this weekend, you will not see pithy Irish proverbs or spangly green plastic leprechaun hats in the windows of the Mercantile. Are we not getting in the spirit of things? May I remind you that the proprietor of our store is one Shannon Doyle. We have nothing to prove. The Mercantile is a shamrock-free zone!

The feast celebrating the patron saint of Ireland goes back - officially speaking - to the early 17th century. And as Irish emigrants moved around the world, the holiday took on all kinds of local variations. Most people in Ireland would look at you funny for suggesting the "traditional" St. Paddy's fare of corned beef and cabbage because that is an Irish-AMERICAN invention. And green beer? Talk about amateur hour!

If you wanted to treat the day not as the stereotype-reinforcing frat-party it's become but rather with some nod to genuine Irish culture and tradition, we'd recommend a brief reading of Beckett, a dinner of lamb stew and colcannon and a shot or two of Writer's Tears Irish Whisky as you watch the 48th staging of the All-Ireland Senior Club Hurling Championship on a very obscure satellite sports channel. The only problem is, we have none of the ingredients for any of those things in our store. What we do have are Guinness and Guinness Toasted Cheddar flavoured potato chips from Burts Crisps - one bag for each half of the hurling match should see you through!

May the road rise... never mind.

Oh, and if you're reading this on Friday, Happy St. Urho's Day! Now there is a holiday with one incredible story behind it!

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P.I.Y. (preserve it yourself)

Kilner Jars

John Landis Mason first patented his hermetically sealable preserving jars in 1858. Could he ever have imagined the variations on his theme that would lead to  The Onion's hilarious take on how far they might extend their ubiquity? Likely not. But he most certainly lived to see his idea adopted in markets around the world (though he himself died in poverty in a New York tenement in 1902): the Kerr jars and famous blue Ball jars in the U.S., Bernardin jars in Canada (using metric volumes), the distinctive clip-seal Weck jars from Germany (which we carry at the Mercantile) and the hybrid Fowler's Vacola jars of Australia. Most of these companies have come up with variations to the glass or lids - some practical and some that have invited the derision of The Onion: devices to turn these simple jars into everything from travel mugs and cocktail shakers to toothbrush holders and patio lanterns. 

While the Kilner jar lost its 1842 Yorkshire roots long ago to a faceless corporation, we have to admit that their most recent variations to the utility of the Mason jar are actually genuinely useful and we're now offering two of them in store:

1. The Spiralizer
We love our stand-alone spiralizer and have added more carrot and zucchini to our diet as a direct result but it has two distinct flaws:

a) It's a uni-tasker. Until you actually need it - which is certainly not every day - it sits there taking up a considerable amount of precious shelf space. Frankly, we keep ours in a storage room rather than the kitchen where counter space is at a premium;
b) While the process of loading up the vegetables and cranking the handle to make courgetti or beet ribbons is fun, the design is....inelegant. The height of the output and the extension of the business end of the thing never seems to accommodate the right kind of vessel in which to collect the finished product. There is inevitably overspill and the messy business of transferring it into whatever bowl or pan your stuff is destined for.

The Kilner spiralizer attachment solves both of these issues simply and economically. The blade-lid and protection ring take up minimal space in the drawer and the crank mechanism is replaced by your own wrist! Just twist your carrot (so to speak) into the lid and perfectly spiral cut ribbons fall into the jar you're going to store them in or where you can work with them right away. No messy transfer!

2. The Fermenter
We make our own pickles in a giant crock. I admit I make more pickles than we want or need because I'm making use of the volume of the crock. And to make the crock work for fermenting I needed to custom cut a platter of silicone and sacrifice a few plates to weight the whole assembly down so gas can escape but mold can't grow. The Kilner Fermenter kit includes cut ceramic weights that fit perfectly into the Mason jar and the lid-bung-valve assembly moderates all of the gas exchange which is such an important part of the home fermenting process. With one simple attachment you've taken out all the guesswork and your pickles or sauerkraut or kimchi will already be in the jar you'll put in the fridge when the ferment is done - just replace the fermenter attachment with a regular lid.

These are truly useful tools. And if they're a success in the store, we'll consider bringing in the butter-churning attachment!

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That's a Wrap!

BeesWrap

It's almost pretty enough to wrap a present in but you're more likely to want to give it as one of the most useful gifts you'll give anyone, including yourself!

For the past week, we've been trying out this new product called BeesWrap made by a young farmer in Vermont -  infusing organic cotton with beeswax, organic jojoba oil and tree resin, creating a washable, reusable, and compostable alternative to plastic wrap. It feels great in your hands, for one thing: we've wrapped it around a half loaf of bread, a chunk of cheese and covered a bowl of leftovers with it. As you handle the product it warms slightly, softening into the shape that's tight around the food or over the bowl. When you're done (or put it in the fridge) it hardens a little making a secure little package. When you've finished the cheese or bread or leftovers, just wash the paper in cool water with a bit of mild dish soap, let it air dry and it's ready to go for your next food storage task. So not only does it feel good to use, physically, it feels good not to be using more plastic wrap!

It comes in three package types: the smaller Sandwich Wrap, complete with attached wooden-button-and-twine tie; the larger Bread Wrap, suitable for most common fridge or counter storage challenges; and the 3-pack, so you can try it in a few different applications.

We had a similar product a couple of years ago but it wasn't as good as this one  - so all of those customers who've been asking when the old one might come back will be very pleased with BeesWrap - perhaps even positively abuzz!

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RECIPE: Okazu Theory into Practice

Okazu Recipe

One of the great pleasures of having a store that offers specialty ingredients is hearing about the myriad ways customers put those ingredients together and we thought it might be fun to share those with our readers from time to time.

Susan Gesner's recipe built around one of our favourite ingredients - Spicy Chilli Miso from Toronto's Abokichi - earned her the designation of "Okazu Master" and includes a few ingredients you'll find on our shelves, including Kozlik's Amazing Maple mustard and some balsamic vinegar or glaze (we've gone with Nonna Pia's basic reduction here).

We tried a couple of variations of Susan's recipe (including a sous vide rendition - which is great for texture but the glaze doesn't caramelize in the same way). Of course, we get our OceanWise salmon down the street at De La Mer and the one step we always think is worthwhile for salmon is to prep the fish with a dry brine: coat the fish with a mixture of salt and sugar and put it on a plate in the fridge for half an hour or so. This will draw out some of the excess moisture and eliminate the white albumen-y stuff that often emerges when cooking salmon. Just wash off the mixture and pat dry before proceeding. Here's Susan's recipe:

INGREDIENTS

  • Enough Atlantic salmon / Arctic Char for 4 people
  • 2 tablespoons of spicy chili or chili miso
  • 1 tablespoon of Kozlik’s Amazing Maple mustard
    • or other sweet tinged mustard such as the Russian
  • 1 tablespoon of balsamic vinegar (either glaze or regular)
    • I usually use a balsamic fig or some kind of strong flavoured balsamic
  • Pepper as you wish

DIRECTIONS

Pre-heat oven to 420F

Wash and dry dry-brined fish and place in an over-proof pan lined with parchment paper. In a small bowl, mix chili miso, mustard, balsamic and pepper together. Spread this all over the top of the fish. When the oven is hot, put in middle rack and set timer for approximately 20 minutes.

Serve and enjoy with your favourite sides.

If you've come up with your own recipe using ingredients sourced at the Mercantile, feel free to share them with us and maybe we can make these community recipes a regular feature!

 

 

 

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It's Wendy Friday!

Wendy Tancock new designs

We've known Wendy Tancock from before there was a Mercantile. Over decades, she has created a body of designs that combine a naïve graphic style with a sharp sense of observation and wit that is engaging, concise, funny, instantly recognizable and always uniquely Canadian. From hand-selling topical T-shirts out of cardboard boxes at Toronto events in the mid-'90s, we've watched her distinctly cottage-industry-scale business catch on with larger and larger markets beyond the city limits.

Now, we're very excited for Wendy that a new distribution partnership is helping customers across Canada be as charmed by her as we've always been. That partnership is also allowing her to branch out in terms of products and we're thrilled to be able to offer her new line of tea towels along with an enhanced selection of coffee mugs and - as usual - her Canuck-centric greeting cards.

So, while you've always been able to find Wendy's greeting cards on our rack in the middle of the store and you've regularly been able to find some of her mugs on our shelves, we're celebrating her success this week with a special window display and an in-store feature spot.

Come in and be charmed. Everyone knows it's Wendy!

 

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Cold Cold Hearts make a Warm Valentine's Dinner

You can pick up all kinds of Valentine's treats this weekend for the LOVE-liest day of the year coming up next week: Popcorn and chocolate Caramel Hearts from Be Mine, Laura Slack's Raspberry Ganache Valentine Dark Chocolate Bar and specialty confections from Denman Island and Saxon Chocolates.

But for a cozy night in, you might want to plan ahead. These ricotta-filled ravioli from Queen's Pasta are cold, cold hearts - but only because we keep them in the freezer at the back of the store. Boil from frozen until they float, finish in a pan with some brown butter, parmesan and pancetta, sprinkle with parsley, serve with a nice bottle of prosecco and things can only get hotter from there!

Pick them up this weekend - quantities are limited!

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Love in a non-heart-shaped Box

Valentine's in a Box

Pop quiz:
What day is coming up soon when you should let that special someone know just how you feel and express your affection and appreciation?

Ummm.... the correct answer is "tomorrow" and the day after that and the day after that and the day after that. Trick question.

However, since the calendar specifically designates a particular day for these expressions and we know people will be coming into the store looking for the right vehicles for that expression on that day, we wanted to let you know that we are prepared - not as on-the-nose as a heart-shaped box and not as lewd as Samberg/Timberlake's other thing in a box but a box nonetheless!

Remember, it's not so much about the stuff as it's about the experience and this box is all about experiences and sensations:

  • Sprucewood Fresh raspberry Shortbread Cookies
  • Pukka LOVE tea (organic rose, chamomile & lavender)
  • Really Great Goods, lavender & lime epsom salts
  • Fenwick Organic Coconut wax candle, Lavender & Eucalyptus
  • Laura Slack Raspberry Ganache Valentine Dark Chocolate Bar
  • all wrapped in a white Flour Sack Tea Towel

All for $49.95

Of course, you'll find all kinds of Valentine-themed choices around the store - from cards to chocolates to adorable gifts - but this right here is love in a box, Prêt à Aimer!

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