If you’re looking for a way to take your home cooking game up a notch, what better way to do it than to start with the ingredients?
BMW brand ambassador Craig Harding, the chef behind top Toronto restaurants La Palma and Constantine, took us on a culinary road trip to show us how to shop like a chef. We took the new BMW X7 for a spin and explored some of Harding’s favourite spots to source ingredients in and around the city.
5 of chef Harding’s Top Spots to Shop for Ingredients in Toronto:
Since the 1970s, home and professional chefs alike have flocked to Cheese Boutique to gather the fixings for out-of-this-world platters and globally-inspired meals. “It’s not just about cheese; it’s way beyond that,” says Harding. “Every little corner of your kitchen can be stocked with the products you’ll find in this building.” Family-run for three generations, the legendary shop is now helmed by Maitre Fromager (Cheese Master) Afrim Pristine. The 10,000 square-foot shop overflows with rare cheeses, aged and cured meats, as well as olive oils, vinegars, jams and hundreds of other thoughtfully-sourced products from around the world, including Acquerello, an aged carnaroli rice that Harding likes to use to create extra-creamy risottos.
Adamo Estate Winery
Who knew that you don’t need to drive to Niagara-on-the-Lake or Prince Edward County to sample award-winning Ontario wines? Adamo Estate Winery is located near Orangeville, about a 30 minute drive north of Toronto. Founded in 2011, Adamo focuses on organic and biodynamic practices, picking their grapes by hand as well as crushing and bottling them on-site. Adamo has scooped up dozens of international awards and Harding says he typically aims to have one or two of their bottles on the menu at La Palma whenever they’re available.
Harding also shared a few bonus top shopping spots in Toronto:
Harding heads to Hooked for the city’s “best seasonal and, most importantly, sustainable seafood.” Hooked sources their seafood directly from producers at small-scale fisheries, aiming to offer quality, sustainable seafood at a reasonable price. The mini-empire now has four locations around the city, including their original outpost in Leslieville. In addition to fresh seafood, Hooked is an excellent place to pick up house-made sauces, pâtés and spreads to complete a meal. They also offer cooking classes to help shoppers learn to better prepare their seafood.
Long-running Queen West staple Sanko carries almost every Japanese import imaginable, from eat-on-the-spot foods and snacks like onigiri and mochi to colourful pottery from the Land of the Rising Sun.”When I need the best imported Japanese products like yuzu, organic tamari or fresh wasabi root, I head to this charming Japanese shop on Queen West,” says Harding. It’s a quirky spot to pick up Japanese sauces, spices and other ingredients you won’t find in typical grocery stores; or buy some colourful ceramic plates and bowls to add to your kitchenware collection.
This foodie favourite located on Geary Ave., a hotbed for a number of entrepreneurial culinary ventures, supplies some of the city’s top restaurants with made-from-scratch pasta. Harding says that Famiglia Baldassarre is his go-to spot when he doesn’t have time to make his own fresh pasta. “There is no better place in Toronto for the best hand-made noodles,” he says. They do a wildly popular lunch service featuring one or two rotating menu items (be prepared for a line-up) or you can pick-up wholesale filled, long egg, eggless and other types of fresh pasta to take home.
Photos: Courtesy of Nick Menzies