Inaugural Toronto Underground Market!

26 Sep

I remember reading about this neat thing in San Francisco where different food vendors came together at one location to sell their amazing wares a few months ago. I bemoaned the fact that this wasn’t happening here, in a city filled with so much great food!

Over the next few months I started following more food-related Twitter accounts and came upon Toronto Underground Market. I was elated to see that they had taken up the mantle from the fine folks in San Fran! I waited very impatiently for the tickets to the first TUM event to go on sale and, as soon as they did, snapped up two as quickly as I could. Then began the month-long wait for the actual event at a great venue, the Evergreen Brick Works.  This place has a special meaning to many people, especially for my husband whose neighbour/babysitter/teacher poured her heart and soul into helping revitalize this space as it had long gone unused. Sadly, she passed away this past winter but we know she’d be beyond thrilled to see the BrickWorks being utilized for this kind of event.

Four of us embarked upon this food adventure with high hopes and cash in hand. All the plates and drinks were very reasonably priced from as low as $2 and up to $8 though we didn’t come across anything that much. Most of the dishes we sampled were in the $3-$4 range and were worth every penny. Our first stop was at the ever-sought-after La Carnita station. These guys have caught fire: they’re incredibly popular taco stand pops up from time to time downtown and the line ups start early. They’ve generated a cult following using Twitter and it showed when we arrived at the Brick Works. Their stand had – by far – the longest line but I can tell you that it was worth the 20 minute wait.

While I waited with The Hot Biscuit, the hubby and a friend went in search of beer and food. They brought back pints from Beau’s Lugtread Lager and absurdly delicious pulled pork quesadillas with pickled onions, cilantro and a slice of fresh jalapeno served with a tomato & melon gazpacho, courtesy of Shi-Naki. With another 10 minutes or so ahead of us in the La Carnita line, J headed over to the West Side Beef Co. and brought back stellar beef po’ boys. The teeny little slider weighed about 12 lbs and was stuffed with organic, fresh beef smothered in sauce, surrounded by a fresh, soft, sweet bun. Drool. Possibly the surprise-best dish of the night.

When we finally got to the front of the La Carnita line, we were greeted by some very friendly folks who took our order (2 each of the Mexican chorizo tacos and tacos de lengua) and gave us the requisite piece of art that always accompanies a La Carnita tasting. With one bite, we knew why these folks are so popular: the beef was spicy but very well balanced and the chorizo was tangy, smoky and paired nicely with sweet fruit. Definitely a hit and was unquestionably at or near the top of many, many people’s lists.

One of the good things about standing in line was chatting with the folks around us. People would have these fabulous plates of food and you couldn’t help but exclaim, “Gosh! That looks so good…where did you get it??!” One dish in particular looked so neat that we had to seek it out: deep fried quails eggs at Bistro Filipino. Happily, it was a slightly shorter line and, again, worth every minute. While  I waited, our friends sought out multi-flavoured rice at Vijaya’s & Krishna’s Pure South-Indian Vegetarian Cuisine while J went to track down more beer. The rice was big hit and a mammoth plate of food. Three kinds of rice and a few other things on the plate that could have been a meal unto itself.

Beer in hand, J returned and we got our order of quail eggs along with chicken marinated in annato seed served with a side of garlic rice and pickled vegetables. The eggs were as delectable as they looked: creamy, salty and piping hot. I could’ve gone back for several more servings  and I wouldn’t have been the only one. I overheard many “I just had to get more” conversations among those in line.

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Those plates devoured,  we began our wait for dessert. The line for the various kinds of popovers at Popover Girl’s station was likely the most cheerful one. How could you not be happy waiting for these fluffy, buttery delights? There were savoury and sweet options available: bacon, cheddar, jalapeno, chocolate, red pepper & feta, pistachio tapenade, onion….take your pick. There are no incorrect choices here. The HB and I opted for the chocolate popover filled with pastry cream while our friend went for the cheddar option. Both smelled and tasted absolutely divine. We did our best to savour these pastries as best we could, but ultimately we found ourselves snarfling them down.

While debating going for Just-One-More-Dish, I couldn’t help but eye the macaroons at the Lunch Room’s table. A plate had already been purchased by the HB to take home to her boyfriend and after very little deliberation with myself, I decided that was a hell of a good idea.  A plate of four giant, chocolate-drizzled coconut macaroons for $3? I’d be silly NOT to get at LEAST one plate to eat later.  It was a good call: J and I dove into them when we got home and were not disappointed. The coconut inside was chewy and soft, sticking to your teeth in the best possible way. Hands down the best macaroons I’ve ever had.

Overall, this was one of the most fun food-related events I’ve ever had the chance to go to. It was well organized:  volunteers were thereto clean the little tables and empty garbage bins, to direct traffic and to answer any and all questions. Some of the vendors did run out of food but not until at least more than halfway through the night.  Having done event-work before, I was most impressed with how well this whole event turned out. If you’re lucky enough to get tickets to the one in October, I advise you to go earlier rather than later. Shuttle buses run from Broadview every half hour, but seating is limited. Go with an open mind and an empty stomach and you will leave one happy, full, foodie camper.


2 Responses to “Inaugural Toronto Underground Market!”

  1. lora September 26, 2011 at 5:21 pm #

    Hi, it’s Popover Girl!

    I had a great time at the event. I’m glad you enjoyed it. Looking forward to making the 2nd one even better!

  2. perudelights September 29, 2011 at 10:16 am #

    Next time I visit Toronto I must go to the Underground Market. It seems like and exiting place to visit. Thanks for sharing.

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