Fresh City Farms
Fresh City Farms has gone from being an online grocer to a full-fledged store.
With locations on Roncesvalles and Ossington, the organic farm which also offers subscription delivery services carries around a thousand products.
Nearly everything sold here is organic, GMO-free, and hyper-local (where possible), with 70 per cent of goods farmed in Canada during peak season.
There's also an emphasis on gluten-free and vegan stuff, though bacon options are still aplenty via a couple of hormone- and antibiotic-free Ontario farms.
Founded by former Wall Street lawyer-turned-urban farmer Ran Goel, Fresh City began in 2011 as a small operation growing veggies for farmers' markets, which then became an at-home service delivering bags of produce grown on the Fresh City farm near Downsview Park.
While many major grocers have coasted on the online grocery delivery wave, most are learning that, while people tend to complain a lot about having to go grocery shopping on their spare time, the majority of us prefer purchasing our produce in person.
Fresh City's expansion from online to IRL is an excellent move, as is the addition of new products like fresh food jars prepared daily and, eventually, a counter selling tea and certified organic coffee from Birds and Beans.
Food jars, which can be brought back to the store, cleaned, and re-used up to three times before recycling, range from sizeable portions of salads and gluten-free, vegan taco mixes with quinoa ($11.55) to bolognese jars ($13.95) using Ontario lean ground beef.
Shipped daily from their production centre by Yorkdale, you'll eventually be able to have your jar food heated up in-store to eat at the brightly lit bar running along the window. Right next to the jars are an array of popular green and fruit smoothies.
Also benefiting from the store's ample natural light is a wall of organic herbs, known as the "U-Pick" garden. A flat rate of $3 gets you a paper cone, which you can fill with as many hand-cut sprigs of rosemary and oregano as you can. Whole live plants are also for sale.
In the produce section, expect lots of fresh veggies, many of which are grown at their Downsview farm (just look for the Fresh City Farms producer name on the label). Homegrown stock includes eggplants, zucchini, cherry tomatoes, and chard.
Most of the cheese is from Quebec and Ontario. Across from the pantry wall featuring staples, like nuts, you'll find a fridge of dairy alternatives like butter-less butter from Culcherd ($8.35) made with coconut oil and quinoa.
Another fridge carries tubs of beloved gelato flavours from Death In Venice, next to big bottles of real milk from organic dairy fave Harmony as well as the lesser known Sheldon Creek Dairy from Loretto, Ontario.
The space is so organized and well-lit you might feel inclined to support the endeavour by buying some merch, like hats with eggplants or shirts made in collaboration with local brand Kotn, known for their Egyptian cotton tees.
And for those trying to spruce up their cooking technique, Fresh City also sells kitchen goods like reclaimed black walnut cheese boards from carpenters Deadstok, located just around the corner on Givins Street, and DIY fermentation kits.
Fresh City Foods is an easy-to-manoeuvre store with labels that are upfront and straight forward, even for the most ingredient-illiterate of us.
With a mix of premium prices and low-as-profitably-possible costs for organic produce, it's a needed addition to a strip of Toronto that's abundant in stores that are neither cheap nor healthy.
What comes to mind when you think of good food? An organic kale salad? A bushel of heirloom beets bought at a farmer's market? Rebecca Tucker, author of A Matter of Taste, goes against the grain, to undo the moral coding that we use to interpret how we come by what we put on our plates, and suggests that the future of food looks more like science fiction than Saveur magazine. Special guests TBA.