Sustainable Food Tourism in Toronto

The tastes of the mythical “average traveler” are changing. For the many now led about by the wonders of their digestive system, food tourism - or at least travel-as-exciting dinner reservation - is the raison d'être of global exploration. For these travellers, ones like yourself perhaps, the sights, smells and taste experiences unobtainable “back home” (at least as anything but pale imitation) are what make memories.

So, let's talk about food in Toronto.

First, let me be clear, I am not a foodie. Please press crtl+w now if this immediately invalidates the following for you.

Toronto sustainable food groceries

Still here? Good. Because that's changing, fast. Perhaps not by becoming a new-New York City, which on its bad days Toronto desperately wishes for itself, but rather an emerging model of increased food sustainability for the North American megacity.

In fact, if you travel for food, Toronto is quickly becoming the farm-to-table poster child for the Great White North - pairing shockingly fresh with locally supportive is poised to make "Canadian cuisine" conjure images of more than undefinable shellfish and cheese.

Nowhere is this shift more evident than at Fresh City Farms where founder Ran Goel and his team have created a six-plus acre farm space in the north end of Toronto - complete with aquaponics system - supplemented by an additional urban farming environment in the heart of the city on King street. Their goal is to provide farm-to-table delivered groceries to residents and visitors alike - a sort of Grocery Gateway meets community farming vibe - while at the same time providing space for Member Farmers to learn hands-on about the farming trade.

For the ecologically or gastronomically-curious visiting Toronto, Fresh City Farms offers workshops as well as hosting special events and farm tours and are a great resource point for learning which local and Canadian brands to buy if planning a more extended stay in the city.

Of course, if your visit to Toronto involves a place or space of your own, the city’s open-air markets provide the perfect opportunity to shop what’s in season right alongside locals. Kensington Market, located at the edge of Chinatown and a longstanding holdout of hippie culture, offers up a dense grid of narrow streets where pedestrians rule and the restaurants are just as likely to have bought the fruit from the market next door as you are. Allow yourself to get lost in The Market (it’s not that big) and stumble your way into butchers, bakers, and cheesemongers, staffed with locals who are just as obsessed with their trade as any professional ought to be.

food Cheese Counter inside Toronto's St.Lawrence Market

When you come out the other side, take a few minutes to stroll up (or down) Spadina Ave. in the heart of Chinatown proper and stop off at any of the no-frills, cash-only Asian grocers - comforts from home or new tastes for dinner are always on sale. For a more regulated experience, The St. Lawrence Market’s farmers market is open for business every Saturday from 5 a.m. to 3 p.m. and features a mixture of small farm operators and local preserve makers alongside more established names in agriculture and agribusiness. Finally, if you crave a truly Canadian small-town market experience in the heart of the city, My Market - a cooperative of local farmers selling direct - operates three-weekend farmers markets May through November across the city.

The opportunities to experience local, authentic Ontario food are overwhelming in the city, but what if you’re looking to simply sit down and eat local (and Canadian)?

Woodlot Restaurant, Toronto

In that case, the destination has to be owner/chef David Haman’s Woodlot, a small 25-seat space located in Little Italy. With seasonal items featuring “creative Canadian comfort food” and choices cooked in the giant wood-burning oven that gives the restaurant its name, Woodlot offers a little slice of classic Canadiana without the need for log cabins and salted cod.

Come for the city and stay for dinner - whether you eat in or out, you won’t be disappointed eating local and seasonal. Like the classic jingle says, “Good things grow in Ontario.”