Courage Foods is the kind of place where you can always count on it to smell good inside. This cozy little Upper Beaches grocery store on Kingston Road sells carefully chosen produce (as local as possible) and pantry items as well as the shop's own baked goods and prepared foods made in its back kitchen, the source of the irresistible wafting aromas.
Owners/spouses Karen and Jim O'Brien opened the store in 2010; they took over the space that was previously Farmer's Daughter and completely revamped it, making it their own. The O'Briens' goal is to cater to the community's needs, offering a selection of good quality products that are affordable and accessible to those who live in the area, but also the option to indulge in some pricier luxuries. You can buy a box of organic Wellington crackers for $3.25, or drop $6.50 on uber-gourmet Rustic Bakery artisan crackers here.
With such a small space, they have to be strategic about what they stock. It's clearly impossible to please everybody, but they do their best to get to know their clientele. "It's a fine balance," says Karen. "We want everyone to feel welcome and comfortable here."
The O'Briens have impeccable taste and carry local brands like Mad Mexican , Queen's Pasta and Hewitt's Dairy as well as Karen's favourite bottled drinks from Italy's Galvanina organic sodas and the U.K.'s Fever-Tree .
Then there are the prepared foods for lunch and dinner made from scratch on the premises. The hot dishes change up daily and consist of hearty fare like shepherd's pie, mac and cheese and pulled pork sandwiches.
There are always a few soups on offer and a good number of veggie options (on the day I visit, there is chickpea curry with basmati rice).
A popular item that customers come by to pick up when they're entertaining is the beet salad ($3.95/$5.95/$11.95 by container size). Tossed with goat cheese and balsamic dressing made with cider vinegar and lemon, it's a satisfying balance of salty, sweet and acidic, and adding optional toasted sunflower seeds on top is the crunchy piĂ¨ce de resistance.
For dessert or just a pick-me-up sweet treat, there are mini and full-sized muffins, sweet loaves and squares (the one thing they don't make is their own bread - it comes from Prince Edward County's Stonemill ).
A real winner is the to-die-for brownie ($2.95 for a huge square); it has intensely chocolate-y flavour but isn't too sweet.
The shop is named after David Courage, an ancestor of Jim's who owned a successful pub and catering company in Aberdeen, Scotland. Courage would be proud to know the O'Briens are carrying on the family legacy here with this divine-smelling fine food business of theirs.
Photos by Jesse Milns