Culinary Adventure Co: the original and best food tour of St Lawrence Market in Toronto
There’s very good reason why the Culinary Adventure Co food tour, St Lawrence Market is the number one choice in Toronto. A consistent contender in the list of the world’s best food markets, I went along to find out why.
On a greyish, yet relatively warm Wednesday lunchtime in Toronto, I made my way to the historic St Lawrence Market. Waiting at the meeting spot was our host Ian, along with a warm and friendly retired couple from Chicago. Originally from the UK, Ian wasn’t only a long-time Torontonian, but also a former restauranteur. That said, I knew we were in knowledgeable hands.
After a short exchange among the group, we all dug into some still warm and buttery chocolate croissants. Melt in the middle though delicate in flavour, I fought hard not to finish it, just anticipating the other delights about to come our way.
A brief background
Dating back to the 1800s, the public market was built to serve the ever-growing population of York. There are 3 main areas to the complex, each with a different purpose. St Lawrence Market North hosts weekly farmer and antiques markets, while St Lawrence Market South has daily food stalls and restaurants.
The third area, St Lawrence Hall, is an event and office building. It was here, in 1851, that the first meeting of coloured freeman took place. The meeting was important because it discussed how to integrate and educate the runaway slaves.
“The bun had a generous serving of the bacon along with some melted cheese in a doughy warm bun. Time to finish: 2 minutes.”
FOLLOWING THE RIVERA
Before the tour
What I really appreciated about the tour, is that it was as much about the food as it was the area.
Before entering the main hub and doing the tasting, Ian ordered a coffee for all of us before setting off for a brief step back in history.
After telling us about the background to the St Lawrence Market building, we moved onto St James Cathedral and park. Here, we came across a statue of Scottish-Canadian writer and agriculturist Robert Gourlay. Unbeknownst to me, Gourlay had led the rebellion against the British to change the law for Canadians to own their own land.
St James Cathedral is a stones’ throw away and totally worth stepping inside. The building is the home of the oldest congregation in the city, and is a classic example of Gothic-Revival architecture. Every element, such as the stained-glass windows, the pointed arches and the high ceilings, allow as much light as possible to enter the building.
Culinary Adventure Co food tour of St Lawrence Market
After a lesson in the history of York, it was finally time to start eating! Our first stop almost continued the historic theme with a visit to the Carousel Bakery. It’s the home of the world famous ‘peameal bacon’ on a bun, and the lines were building up fast to get one.
Peameal bacon bun
Peameal bacon is a boneless cut of back bacon that is wet cured and then rolled in cornmeal. The bun had a generous serving of the bacon along with some melted cheese in a doughy warm bun. Time to finish: 2 minutes.
Pastel de natas
The next stop was for something sweet. Feeling like a child at Christmas, I opened the container Ian gave us to find some delicate Pastel de natas inside. If you’ve never tried these before, you don’t know what you’re missing. Freshly baked pastries filled with custard and a little burnt sugar on top, I wolfed mine down fast. Time to finish: 30 seconds.
Admittedly, I’m not one for spicy food or condiments, so I tried this next tasting with caution. If you do love your food with a bit of a kick, you’ll love these mustards from Canadian brand Kozlik’s. The amazing maple mustard was my favourite, simply because of the sweetness from the syrup. Time to finish: 2 seconds.
Mini aperitivo – without the wine
Back to the savoury tasting, this time with delectable combination of local cheese, prosciutto and sweet teardrop red peppers. Ian advised us to try all 3 together – and yes, they complemented each other perfectly. Time to finish: 5 minutes.
Time for a perogie
On the ground floor of the market are a plethora of food stalls, one of which sells all different varieties of perogies. Perogies or pierogis are flour dumplings that originate from central and eastern Europe. We sampled some scrummy potato and cheese dumplings, served with sour cream. Time to finish: 8 minutes.
“If you do find yourself in a small group, don’t worry (!), because the amount of food is more than enough.”
FOLLOWING THE RIVERA
The sweet finale
Just when I thought I couldn’t possibly fit anymore in, Ian delivered the last course: dessert! 4 large naturally sweet strawberries dipped in dark Belgian chocolate. It was a tough job, but I managed to eat 2 because it was a shame to leave it. Time to finish: 3 minutes!
Anyone thinking about doing the Culinary Adventure Co food tour of St Lawrence Market in Toronto will not be disappointed. Ian’s historical and culinary knowledge made the tour that bit more special, plus he also gave us extra tips on places to visit afterwards.
Do note, that the amount of food you taste on the tour does depends on the size of the group. If you do find yourself in a small group, don’t worry (!), because the amount of food is more than enough. To see the latest tours and the most up-to-date ticket information, head to the Culinary Adventure Co website.
Looking for somewhere to stay in the city? The fantastic boutique Windsor Arms Hotel isn’t too far from St Lawrence Market and worth checking out!
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