As I have mentioned before, shopping in specialty grocery stores or markets gives me the same thrill that a child gets when they are in a toy store. I could easily spend a couple hours wandering around a new grocery store, or taking my time at each booth at a market. I simply just love food.
My latest new food finds are really fun, delicious, and they all share a common theme: they are all small family/friend run companies. I’m really looking forward to sharing the following with you – I hope by the end of reading this post you will be excited to seek out these fabulous products to try for yourself!
Maple syrup is one of my favourite food products. It definitely ranks on my top 10 list of favourites. I’m not talking Aunt Jemima table syrup though (although, it is pretty delicious on pancakes), I’m talking about pure, freshly harvested Canadian maple syrup. The taste is so different, and has so many different tasting notes. It’s caramel-y, sweet, oaky, nutty, rich, and of course has the distinct maple flavour. I find that certain syrups take on different tasting notes, almost like a wine does. Some people like to splurge on balsamic vinegar, wine, or fancy oils – me, I get excited about buying a high quality bottle of maple syrup – I guess that’s just my Canadian coming out, eh?
When I saw Drip set up at a booth at a market recently, I got really excited immediately. First off, I was so impressed with their simple, sophisticated booth. It was lined with a dark table cloth, and then there stood 3 beautiful cut stumps, with each flavour sitting on top of each.
I know you shouldn’t judge something before trying, but I knew just by the look of the table and the sleek bottle that it would be a good find. I got a little shot glass of Amber syrup and sipped it back. Mmmm, I wanted more immediately. It had the most unusual flavours in it, I had never tried a maple syrup so different. Unusually good though, it was a rich, nutty flavour that had hints of burnt caramel, sweet brown sugar and pure vanilla. I then proceeded to sample the Blonde and Copper varieties (the first of the season and the middle of the season). They were just as good, and if I could, I probably would have bought one of each. But, I loved the richness of the Amber and I also love the fact that Amber has the most minerals and antioxidants in it – due to it being left in the tree the longest.
Did you know that maple syrup is rich in the trace mineral manganese? It is an important mineral that helps with antioxidant defences. Zinc is also found in maple syrup, which helps in immune system functions. It is full of great properties, and is actually written up in the website and book The World’s Healthiest Foods.
Drip is run by a very lovely couple, who I had the pleasure of meeting, and by one other man. I was told that the syrup is from a forest up north in Manitoulin Island – just south of Sudbury, Ontario. I also love the fact that this syrup is simply straight from the tree. It is unblended and has no additives or preservatives. It is definitely Mother Nature’s sweetest, most delicious goods.
I always like maple syrup on pancakes and waffles (gf obviously), but I don’t think I will ‘drip’ this maple gold on something so rich. I will definitely use it over my yogurt and granola, on oatmeal, over salmon and drizzled on greek yogurt. I am also looking forward to trying it in a cold tumbler of gin – an idea recommended by the lady who sold it to me. To conclude my long rant on maple syrup, I will end it off by saying that this is exactly what I have been looking for in a maple syrup, and I don’t know if there is anything that can beat this taste. There are a few locations in Toronto that sell it currently – such as the Drake General Store – but you can purchase it online (thank goodness)!
Check out their website
and trust me, you will not go wrong with this purchase. You may just become addicted!
Upper Spice: I’m not a huge fan of spicy foods, but I do love spices that add a punch of flavour. I have also recently taken a taste for jerk spices. I love the variety of flavours that fuse together to make such a distinctive taste.
I discovered Upper Spice at a local market, they were sampling their Medium Jamaican Jerk on slow cooked chicken. It was delicious, it had a cinnamon-y spicy flavour and the heat warmed up my whole body. I found the medium to be a bit too hot for me, so I opted for the mild. The great thing about this line of spices is that they are all 100% gluten free and homemade! Upper Spice is owned by a mother/daughter duo from Burlington, Ontario who created the spice mixture after getting a taste of authentic Jamaican jerk on a trip to Jamaica. This jerk spice is nothing like I have ever tried – so fresh, flavourful and although I have never been to Jamaica, it definitely tastes authentic. I am excited to try it as a rub on ribs, and as a spice for sautéed chicken fajitas.
You can buy Upper Spice online, 3 packs for $15. Or, keep your eyes peeled this summer at local Toronto markets…that’s where I bought mine!
Hawberry Farms: Every year, The University of Guelph has an annual artisanal sale called Fair November. The first year I went, I visited the Hawberry Farms booth, which had an extensive variety of jams, oils, dips and relish. Every product is so unique and unlike anything you would find at a grocery store, such as Apple Pie Jam, Blueberry Rhubarb Jam, Banana Spread and a lot more – including the famous Hawberry Jelly, which is a berry found on Manitoulin Island (the same largest freshwater island in the world that Drip is harvested). I had ended up purchasing the Carrot Cake Jam, and I absolutely fell in love with it. It honestly tastes like carrot cake and it goes well with so many things; such as muffins, slices of a loaf, toast and even mixed into vanilla ice-cream or greek yogurt. Year after year I would attend Fair November and pick up my jar of Carrot Cake Jam. Luckily it would also last me a few months – as it is pretty rich and a small amount goes a long way. It’s been two years now since I’ve had this delicious creation, until last weekend when I picked it up at the Harbourfront Artisanal Market. I was so happy to have found it there. I wasn’t aware that they had a website in which you could order from, I will definitely be doing this from now on when I need my fix of Carrot Cake Jam. Trust me, I don’t think they have one product that isn’t delicious, so take your pick, you won’t be risking anything!
ChocoSol: This chocolate company isn’t just about making delicious chocolate; it seems that they are all about dignity, positive relationships, respect and love. Maybe that’s why I felt so great after sampling a piece of their chocolate the other weekend at a farmer’s market. ChocoSol is a small Toronto based company, run by a few staff and volunteers, who believe that their chocolate is “good for mind, body and soil”. They say on their website that ‘sol’ in Spanish means the sun, which refers to the fact that their first 1000 kilos of cacao were rosted with solar power in Mexico. Sol in french means soil, and in English ‘sol’ sounds like ‘soul’ and reminds them of doing good hearted things in a learning community. After reading and learning about their product, there doesn’t seem to be any reason to not like this chocolate. I should also mention that the chocolate is fair trade, sweetened with agave syrup, and free of gluten (bonus), nuts, dairy, soy and it is vegan. I tried the ‘Choco-Latte’ drinking chocolate at the market and wow was it good. Not a typical chocolate milk though, as it is water based and only sweetened with agave syrup. It was bitter, but it felt like a super healthy cocoa drink – I actually loved it. The Coconut Chocolate was the other product I tried. The sweetness of the coconut sprinkled on top almost helped sweeten the dark, natural, earthy chocolate. What I love about this chocolate is that you do feel like you are having a treat, but you don’t feel high on sugar afterwards, it just feels healthy. All in all, this tasty chocolate company seems to exhibit all things good – good chocolate, good people and good souls. You can look at the locations of where ChocoSol sells on their website. I will definitely be searching this one out again soon.
I love finding new products, especially when they are Canadian, local, and of course gluten free and absolutely delicious! I hope you search these out and enjoy them as much as I do. Let me know what your favourite local products are – I would love to hear and try!