Toronto is a well known paradise for foodies in North America and local gourmet food stores offer the very best from food and cuisine. As Toronto food lovers take their passion seriously, you can find some of the world’s finest ingredients here, along with various cookbooks and kitchen gadgets — for most, the use of which you wouldn’t guess at first glance. Treat yourself to some gourmet snacks and ingredients at specialist food shops. Here’s our delicious selection of Toronto’s top places for gourmet eating and shopping.
The Spice Trader
877 Queen Street West
Tuesday-Saturday: 10:00 A.M.-6:00 P.M.
Sunday: 12:00 P.M.-5:00 P.M.
“The Spice Trader is like a drug to me,” says Leslie, one of many regular customers. Laughing, she admits to walking on the other side of the street sometimes to avoid the temptation of its alluring scents, so as not to get carried away with the items in this excellent store. The Spice Trader prides itself on organic spices in little green tins, which will always tell you the origin of an ingredient and other details. The spices, including obscure flavours, seem pricey at first glance, but compared to organic store brands, the price is similar.
Many of those who shop at the store say it changed many of the food opinions they had before their first visit. If you get a chance to talk with owner Alison Johnston, you’ll probably have have the same experience and be positively surprised by her passion and knowledge not only about spices but also about food in general. The idea of setting up a shop originated during Alison’s travels through the Middle East after she saw spice markets in Jerusalem and Istanbul.
“We wanted to create a store where we could educate people about spices, as well as let them know about different cuisines and flavours, also try to tell them a little bit about the history,“ explains Alison. Her favourite spice changes month to month; at the moment of our interview, it was Ras El Hanout, a Moroccan mixture used for meat, fish, stews, soups, and root vegetables. If you love spices and want to enjoy the best samples of your favourites, this store won’t disappoint you!
All The Best Fine Foods
1101 Yonge Street
The Shops at Scrivener Square
Monday-Wednesday: 8:30 A.M.-6:30 P.M.
Thursday-Friday: 8:30 A.M.-7:00 P.M.
Saturday: 8:30 A.M.-7:00 P.M.
Sunday: 10:00 A.M.-5:00 P.M.
All The Best Fine Foods is a well established specialty business and another destination for food lovers. Owned and directed by Jane Rodmell, with her passion for food and her amazing personality, which is undoubtedly the force behind the store’s success. A celebrated author and an experienced chef, Jane explains the idea of Good Food: “Good Food is wholesome food, natural food. Good Food is about getting as close to the source and as close to the earth as you can get, with as little interference from preservatives or additives. Good Food makes me happy.“ She explains that elaborate source methods can be effective, but that it’s essential to know the ingredient you’re working with “so that the technique used on it will only bring out the very best of that ingredient.“
The reason why you see people leaving the store with their hands full of all kinds of food products is that All the Best sells a wide selection of gourmet products. The company provides service for events and special occasions for more demanding customers or those with special requirements. If you appreciate rich taste and delicious food created in house from natural ingredients then this store is the right choice. Cheese people can enjoy All The Best Cheese Room with cheese from Canada and all around the world, where popular weekly cheese tastings take place.
K&K Tropical Fruit
298 Spadina Avenue
Rambutan by Maurizio
Did you know about rambutans, milk apples, or jackfruit? Located in the heart of Chinatown at Spadina and Dundas, this store has an outstanding variety of tropical fruits — some of which many of us have never heard of. If you want to get more exotic fruit that you bought during the holiday in Thailand (and name of which you can’t pronounce) or just explore an explosion of colours, tastes, shapes, and smells, you’re in luck if you happen to be around because K&K has them. More familiar items are abundant here as well. The store is valued by professionals and people from restaurants, too. Customers usually appreciate the fact that most of the produce is seasonal, and that despite the buzz of crowds fawning over wedges of fuzzy, red rambutans, the fruit is actually not bruised. Prices are a bit higher, but their fruit specials can be a way to try some of this fresh-tasting, exotic produce for a bargain.
638 Queen Street West
Monday-Wednesday: 7:30 A.M.-7:00 P.M.
Thursday-Saturday: 7:30 A.M.-10:00 P.M.
Sunday: 10:00 A.M.-5:00 P.M.
As its name suggests, The Prague Fine Food Emporium specializes in Czech foods. It’s a family business that has already run for 40 years and combines restaurant with grocery store. If you like sausages, ham, goulash, dumplings, and a wide offer of soups, the place is definitely worth a visit. Their cuisine is often described as “hearty and generous,” and not only because of portion qualities. Their display of sweet treats and desserts is mesmerizing and makes The Prague a bright point in the street.
Its owner, Tom Kral, is the third generation of his family running the very first Czech restaurant in Toronto. Travelling to Prague, he wanted to get to know the country of his ancestors more closely, and still takes this as a challenge. Tom sees the future of The Prague in further developing its restaurant, as the business grew in this way — from the store with Czech items called the deli to the gourmet restaurant where special fine items are also offered, along with frozen meals and other food products. He wants to "try to keep the recipes we have somewhat secret,“ emphasizing that his business philosophy lies in balance and appreciation. Tom’s family is "proud of the heritage,“ and visiting The Prague, you can’t help but notice.
55 Mill Street
Monday-Saturday: 10:00 A.M.-8:00 P.M.
Sunday: 11:00 A.M.-6:00 P.M.
Are you a chocolate lover who dreams about a place where chocolate is created, where flowers are added to beautiful brown bars, where you can taste a coating of velvety smooth chocolate, sometimes with a wide assortment of nuts and fruits? Or are you looking for a small gift? Chocolate is just right — not too big but rich and indulgent. You should check out Soma Chocolates, the artisan mini chocolate factory. Many local chefs consider Soma’s chocolate to be the finest in the city, and some of the high-rated restaurants have already included Soma’s products in their menus. If you don’t like traditional dark chocolate, you can enjoy more contemporary creations, such as gelato, cookies, and hot chocolate.
Walking into this place, the amazing smell hits you. Soma is not that big, so it may get a little frustrating at busy hours; however, shopping is pretty convenient, as everything is displayed and priced. Toronto chocolate addicts love everything they can find loaded on the floor-to-ceiling shelves here. Justin, a visitor from Washington, DC, visited the place four years ago, but he still thinks about the chocolate from Soma on a weekly basis. “This is not so much a chocolate shop as it is a chocolate experience, providing a view into all that goes on behind the scenes,” he explains.
Soma owner David Castellan got the idea for the specialty shop at a special course in California attended mostly by people from big chocolate conglomerates. There he learned about the technique of developing the right flavour of the beans and did experiments with roasting and other means of getting proper chocolate taste. After getting back from the course, David's classmates considered it “silly to start a place making 40 kilograms at a time,“ but David was interested in opening something small rather than a industrial company. Even though Soma chocolate production has grown due to its popularity, David has no plans for massive expansion, only for getting another production facility that would allow him to make chocolate in larger batches. David feels that he is reviving a dying chocolate art. Demand for his products is tremendous, and his fan base of gourmet chocolate lovers extends well beyond Canada.