Toronto Underground Market, Part 2

23 Oct

Last night we headed to the Evergreen Brickworks for the second installment of the Toronto Underground Market. The first event, held last September in the same space, was wildly successful and last night’s event sold out in just a few days! The cold weather didn’t deter anyone and there was a huge crowd of hungry foodies waiting outside the doors at 6pm sharp, waiting anxiously.

Among the vendors were some old favourites (La Carnita was back and so were Comida del Pueblo and Popover Girl), as well as many new additions. While I did a lap to see what was new, Richard volunteered to go and wait in the line at La Carnita, which was strategically placed at the end of a hall of old brick kilns so that their predictably massive line-up wouldn’t impose itself too much on the surrounding vendors. Richard said that as he speed-walked towards their booth he saw people actually sprinting to get there first. By the time I joined him in line fifteen minutes later he was near the front, but the line was easily over 20 feet long by then.

The line-up for La Carnita at Toronto Underground Market Part 2

Andrew Richmond of La Carnita serving up tacos at Toronto Underground Market

Tacos and art from La Carnita at Toronto Underground Market

This time they were serving up their famous Voltron fish taco (which I’ve raved about before) and there was a new guy in town: Cochinata Pibil pork taco. The Voltron fish taco was just as perfect as I remember it, and though the presentation seemed to have been sacrificed a bit in the name of speed, which was understanable.  This time around there was a very generous amount of Voltron sauce. It still had that perfect amount of heat and cinnamon, and the breaded fish was crispy on the outside and moist and flaky on the inside. I love this taco to death! I think that I’d request it as a last meal.

The Cochinata Pibil taco certainly gave the Voltron fish taco some healthy competition for my heart, though. The pork was juicy, spicy, tangy and almost tasted a bit smokey, which may have been because the meat was cooked in banana leaves. It was well balanced by crumbly cheese and little pieces sweet and slightly tart fruit, and topped with pea shoots and a ring of something beautifully bright and pink which I couldn’t identify. One of the many things that I love about La Carnita is their attention to detail. They always make sure that the ingredients in their tacos are as interesting to look at as they are to taste.

Kurt from Westside Beef serving up his delicious beef Po Boys at Toronto Underground Market

We visited Kurt at Westside Beef again so that my dad and his girlfriend, who came all the way from Brantford for the night after hearing about the last event, could try his beef po boys. They were just as good as last time!

The boys at Popover Girl stuffing popovers at Toronto Undeground Market

Eggplant Popover from Popover Girl at Toronto Underground Market

Mini Walnut and Fig Tapenade popovers from Popover Girl at Toronto Underground Market

I didn’t try the popovers from Popover Girl at the first Underground Market, but there were healthy debates about her popovers in the comments on my post. People thought that the flavours weren’t very prominent and wanted the popovers themselves to be served hot. Lora, Popover Girl herself, said that next time she was going to focus more on just a few different kinds of popovers and stuffing them with fresh, hot fillings. When I saw the big trays of hot fillings behind her booth this time around I couldn’t resist finding out how these changes would affect the quality. I ordered an eggplant popover, which was filled with a deconstructed eggplant Parmesan and my dad’s girlfriend got the mini walnut and fig tapenade popovers. There weren’t many people in line ahead of us, but they had lost power right before the market opened and they were playing catch-up trying to get things hot again. They were worth the wait and I really respect a person who takes constructive criticism and comes out on top. When we walked past her booth at 8pm it had a line that was almost as long as La Carnita’s line! I wish that I had tried the porchetta popover since it seems that it was a huge hit with everyone I talked to.

Oatmeal Coffee Stout from F&M Brewery (Guelph, Ontario) at Toronto Underground Market

Right beside Popover Girl was F&M Brewery‘s booth. They’re located in Guelph and I’ve heard good things about them but hadn’t had the opportunity to try their beer yet because it’s hard to find in Toronto. I was thrilled to see that they had an oatmeal coffee stout on tap because I love dark beer. The darker the better! And this beer was definitely dark. Not a single wave of light was penetrating this glass. It was a very good stout with lots of deep flavour and a good amount of bitterness. Other breweries at the event were Mill Street, Spearhead (Richard had their Hawaiian style Pale Ale, brewed with pineapples) and Flying Monkeys, all of whom are great local craft breweries. There was also a hard alcohol vendor selling rum, but his booth looked pretty lonely every time we walked by.

Romanian Meatball Soup from Hai La Masa at Toronto Underground Market

I was starting to lose some steam at this point, but Richard wanted to try this Romanian meatball soup from Hai La Masa. It had meatballs and roasted vegetables, and the sign said that it was “soured with bors and lovage”. Bors is a fermented wheat water, and it did have an interesting sour taste, but nothing overwhelming. For the most part it tasted like a comforting homemade soup, like the kind your grandma would make for you on a cold day.

Bacon caramel popcorn from the Picnic Society at Toronto Underground Market

Bacon caramel popcorn from the Picnic Society at Toronto Underground Market

Bacon caramel popcorn from the Picnic Society at Toronto Underground Market

This was a very smart choice for the Underground Market: Bacon Caramel popcorn from the Picnic Society! It was easy to serve quickly, so there were virtually no line-ups even though they were cranking this stuff out like crack. Foodies love their bacon, especially when it’s combined with something sweet. This popcorn was a perfect combination of sweet and savory and had a little bite of heat to it at the end. It went really well with my oatmeal coffee stout from F&M, but probably would have been well complimented by their homemade lemonade, which was being served with cute paper straws. I loved their branding.

We really wanted to go to Comida del Pueblo after tasting their jalapeno corn bread grilled cheese at the last market, but their line-up was huge! It snaked around the space in a semi-circle and I’m sure that it would have taken nearly half an hour to get to the front. They were serving the corn bread grilled cheese again, and this time they also had a water buffalo empananda and banana beignets with a caramel filling. Friends told me that the beignets alone were worth the wait.

Samosas at Toronto Underground Market

Just when I thought that we were done eating, Richard appeared with 3 samosas in his hand. I thought that I was full, but I couldn’t resist. They were piping hot and crispy and they were filled with chicken and beef with lots of bright vegetables. They weren’t ground-breaking, but their ingredients were of a much higher quality than most of the samosas that I’ve had.

Pumpkin Whoopie Pie from Morsel at Toronto Underground Market

For dessert we had a cute little pumpkin whoopie pie from Morsel. It had an amazing pumpkin pie flavour and the filling was creamy and sweet.

Mini cupcakes from Sullivan & Bleeker Baking Co. at Toronto Underground Market

Mini cupcakes from Sullivan & Bleeker Baking Co. at Toronto Underground Market

How cute are these mini cupcakes from Sullivan & Bleeker Baking Co.? I couldn’t resist this little guy. They looked like itty-bitty ice-cream sundaes! I’m sorry to report that shortly after Richard took this picture of me, I was trying to balance my camera and my cupcakes and my cell phone and I dropped a cupcake on the ground! At least it wasn’t my camera, right?

Jerk Chicken plate at Toronto Underground Market

Why is it that you always find such delicious food when you’re way too full to eat it? We ran into a friend who had just picked up this plate of jerk chicken, slaw, plantains and rice from a vendor whose name he couldn’t remember. The jerk chicken smelled so peppery and good! Another vendor that I really wish I had seen earlier was the one right at the entrance. The booth was run by the Thistletown High School Chefs – A group of high school students under the guidance of a teacher/chef. They were serving a few different types of pasta and while we were milling around the doors getting ready to leave we smelled their food and saw people walking away with the most beautiful looking pasta dishes. I wished that I had room in my stomach for some of it. I hope that they’re at the next market in November. Apparently there were also some lobster churros being served somewhere. I wish that I’d seen those, too!

All in all, this month’s market was a big success. I think that Hassel and the other organizers learned a lot from the inaugural event last month. It seemed less crowded this time (even though it was sold out like the last one) and we were able to stay until 8pm without feeling like we might get trampled. I think that part of the reason for this was that the vendors that they expected to draw the biggest lines spaced apart from each other so that their lines don’t converge and cause congestion. The list of vendors was well chosen with lots of variety and a good balance between professionals (caterers, bakeries, breweries) and home chefs.

The last Underground Market of 2011 will be on November 19th (but there will be more events in 2012). Tickets sell out fast, so watch Toronto Underground Market on Twitter or Facebook to find out when you can buy yours.

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12 Responses to “Toronto Underground Market, Part 2”

  1. Katherine Verhoeven October 24, 2011 at 12:11 am #

    So jealous! I haven’t made it out to one of these yet, though I’ve been at the brickworks during the day both times it’s been on. Got to eat a little at the mini-TUM at Canzine today…did you (though I wasn’t checking for vegan dishes while looking, myself).

    • Katherine Verhoeven October 24, 2011 at 12:20 am #

      OH so sorry! I got confused by google reader and thought this was another blog as I wrote! Ignore the part about Canzine please!

  2. adrian October 24, 2011 at 1:07 am #

    great blog – I was there at the same time (left at 8) and found it busy but not too bad. The cornbread and shrimp fritters where my favourites and the vibe in the room was just fantastic – what a great event. Terrific fun, and your report and photo’s really captured it.

  3. lora October 24, 2011 at 1:58 am #

    Thank You from the Popover Girl.

    I really love the challenge in trying to make it better.
    I wouldn’t have been able to do it without the help of Roberto from The Slow Room.

    ….I can’t believe I’m being compared to La Carnita (even if it is about the line and not the food…lol)

    Maybe La Carnita wants to mix something up to fill a Popover. Just putting it out there. Popovers are a great vessel for such a variety of flavors. It’s why I love them!

  4. Justsayn October 24, 2011 at 4:59 am #

    Well organized – fun times!

    Here’s my top 5.

    1. La Carnita – beautiful to look at and equally tasty. Such fresh flavours and perfect combinations. Love my art work too!

    2. Braised Ox Tail with rice and peas. The ox tail was right up there with the best I have ever had. Deeply seasoned and tender. The perfectly cooked rice and peas held their own. The serving was short on value but the whole plate packed so much punch we went back for seconds.

    3. Thistletown students made fantastic Aranacini accompanied with two delicious sauces. The agnolotti was a bit greasy but super flavourful and al dente.

    4. Bacon Caramel Popcorn. The bacon flavour was absent, even when chewing on it, but the popcorn itself, the caramel and the heat, made for a super addictive treat!

    5. Buffalo empanada from Comida del Pueblo was super good. The pastry was exceptional and although the meat was generic, it had nice moisture and seasoning. We skipped the line to grab these quickly on the side so we missed their other items.

    NOTE: After the brutal wait for La Carnita we decided to not also wait for popovers and grilled cheese. We arrived right when the doors opened, beelined for La Carnita but they were not ready so we waited in their line for a good 15 minutes before the first taco was even served. We then waited another 30 minutes once they started. Awesome payoff but we couldn’t face another huge line. The new popover offering looked great!

    Runners up

    Samosas – really great, light, crispy wrapper that was a cross between an old school egg roll and a wonton, but the filling was so dull we didn’t even finish them.

    Tourtiere – great pastry crust but again the filling cried out for some seasoning. Unbelievably bland!

    Misses

    Butter chicken and garlic naan – overpriced and nothing special at all. The naan had too much raw garlic and the butter chicken, while moist, was just shallow. We were really hoping this would have been authentic rich butter chicken.

    Shrimp fritter was so greasy we took one bite and had to toss them.

    Elle Cuisine – over the top branding turned us off. As well, the servings were skimpy.

    We had a great time and next time we will spread out right from the start.

    • lora October 24, 2011 at 9:14 pm #

      I’m sorry that you didn’t get to try a Popover. However I don’t blame you for not wanting to wait another line. I don’t like waiting lines myself (even with a drink in hand and good company) I must say I was flattered to see the line but really felt terrible people wait 20 min. Hmmm how to serve quality product faster. Something to work on for next year. I won’t be doing Nov.

    • Eshwar Sarwan October 25, 2011 at 2:48 pm #

      Many thanks for you compliments and kind words on oxtail with Rice & Peas. Glad you enjoy it.

      Eshwar
      wwww.itsthyme2cater.com

  5. Lindsay October 24, 2011 at 2:03 pm #

    The best part about the pasta booth was that all the food was made by a high school culinary program and they were doing it as a fundraiser! Love to see schools doing this kind of stuff :)

  6. Carly October 24, 2011 at 4:39 pm #

    Hey there – just wanted to let you know that the jerk chicken with rice and peas and plantain was made by a woman named Paulina, who runs a small catering company called Paulina’s Catering. It was awesome, had a great kick!

  7. chinwhat (@chinwhat) October 25, 2011 at 4:39 pm #

    was Elle Cuisine the one who made the perogies? although it was small, the quality was top notch! by far, my favorite item of the night. the execution was perfect.

    the banana fritters were great as well!

    value wise, the jerk chicken is the winner. it was good, but nothing special where i could’ve gotten somewhere else.

    sad i missed out on the hot horchata though. i was right behind the person who got the last serving :(

    that warm apple cider-y drink (glogg i think it was) kind of made up for it. it was good!

  8. Will Lam (@will_lam) March 20, 2012 at 9:13 pm #

    I’m a huge fan of Elle Cuisine’s food! While I agree the perogies were small, they were packed full of flavour and love lol

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. Toronto Underground Market (TUM) « Food, travel and fun with an uptown gal - November 22, 2011

    [...] were missing the last TUM of the season.  I had been tempted by posts from @sharp_photo (here and here), as well as the many tweets of delicious food offerings, not to go this time.  The TUM events [...]

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