By Lory Diaz
One of my favourite Toronto food events took place June 14 and 15, 2016, right behind 158 Sterling Rd: The Stop Community Food Centre’s Night Market! This is an annual fundraiser for the charity organization, which has been actively helping people and communities in need for over 30 years. I was excited to be invited to attend and review The Stop’s Night Market for Torontonicity. Aside from contributing towards an amazing cause, the event really allows ticket holders to stuff their face with delicious tapas-style dishes from some of Toronto’s greatest chefs and restaurants.
Before I go into all the amazing bites available at The Stop’s Night Market, I think it’s important to discuss the type of work they do. Access to healthier foods can be quite expensive, so The Stop offers drop-in meals, food banks, community kitchens, gardens, and children and youth education programs to individuals in need. Their Urban Agriculture program alone produces over 4,000 lbs of fresh fruits, veggies, and all the lovely greenery needed to run their educational sessions intended upon giving people the skills to grow their own gardens in environmentally-friendly methods. And a lot of their workshops, such as the Yes In My Backyard gardening session, are absolutely free, simply requiring registration! This really is a civic-minded organization looking to make the most positive impact on their community through skills development.
Alright, so going through the list of restaurants and chefs, I wasn’t quite sure where to start: Sugar Mamma’s Mini Donuts, The Gabardine, Hey Meatball, Farmhouse Tavern, Midfield Wine Bar, Kanpai Snack Bar, Universal Grill… over 40 booths! In all honesty, my first stop was Bespoke: heritage pork meatballs with red sauce pickle, topped with salsa verde. So juicy, not overly spiced (which can be a tactic used to hide lower quality ingredients), and a nice fresh kick from the salsa verde. Delicious, and worth repeating.
Oyster Boy! This team kept with a simpler and more rustic booth design that went well with their product: flavourful East Coast oysters.
Possibly the most delicious Spanish-style potatoes I’ve ever had came from Citizen Catering: patatas bravas, chimichurri, olives, espelette, and perfectly grilled octopus. These small bites were filled with bursts of flavours that all complemented one another in the best way.
If chicken is your protein of choice, then Patois, Art Gallery of Ontario, Smoke Signals Bar-B-Q, Blue Goose Pure Foods, and Bar Fancy all had delicious options.
Smoke Signal Bar-B-Q chicken wings:
I was leaning towards lighter and more vibrant flavours, so my next two choices were Abokichi’s onigiri rice ball (only comparable to a North American sandwich in how common and versatile it is in Japan), and Richmond Station’s vegetarian shawarma with pickled turnip. The onigiri didn’t feel heavy as some rice dishes can, but instead helped to create a great base for the pink slaw, carrots, and signature nori notes. The vegetarian shawarma had a great garlic punch, followed by a juicy burst of roasted tomato.
An honourable mention does go to IQ Food Co. for their tuna poke: lightly seasoned, not fishy, creamy avocado sauce as a base for their signature fresh vegetables and healthy proteins.
I’d like to mention that June 15th was a rainy evening, and despite the rain, the crowd was lively and making the most of a damp situation. People had prepared for the rain, and didn’t let it stop them from enjoying such delicious treats as The Stop’s beet and dill cured trout. Easily one of my top three items of the night, this dish was made with beet labneh, and sat on a sourdough rye cracker. It is as colourful as it is scrumptious!
There are a lot of food options, but just as many drink choices at The Stop’s Night Market. My two recommendations are sampling any of the Just Craft Soda combinations (though pear vanilla, and tangerine rhubarb are incredibly refreshing), as well as Reunion Island’s cold brew, tonic, and lemon refresher! As a side note, the Just Craft Sodas are available at Tokyo Smoke on Adelaide, you can read about it here!
I’ll admit that I was pretty full by the end of the night, but spent the darker part of the evening mesmerized by some of the booths. Farmhouse Tavern’s display was created by Gensler and reminded me of a prism. Beautifully colourful, in the most magical way.
The Stop Community Food Centre is happy to report that all the full bellies at their Night Market raised $215,000 this year towards some amazing programming! If you feel like you missed out, don’t worry as they do have great events to come. I do hope that more Torontonians decide to take an interest in this event though, and contribute towards a great local cause by attending next year’s Night Market. Get some friends together, or simply come by and make some amongst the crowd of happy supporters. Enjoy!