Ninutik is a line of maple products that are primarily retailed online and at hotel and gallery gift shops, though it's a little-known fact that their sugar studio on Golden Avenue is open to walk-ins.
The production lab is a bright and sunny single room, located inside a mixed-use building populated by similar artisanal producers and small businesses. I should be clear that this place isn't really a retail shop - so unless you're picking up party favours or a catering order , it's unlikely you'll find a reason to visit.
Owners Richard Brault and Dianne Croteau are both industrial designers by trade who see this iconic Canadian product as a medium for edible art objects. Their collection of crystallized maple goods includes solid maple cubes veined like marble, soft maple wafers, lollies, spreads and grain sugars. It's the kind of stuff that makes for lovely party favours, souvenirs or hostess gifts.
I've previously spotted Ninutik at the Roundhouse Winter Craft Beer Festival serving taffy, and, I've seen their products shaved into wisps tableside at restaurants - it's good stuff, and far more sophisticated than your average maple leaf shaped souvenirs.
The maple is sourced from Ontario farms, which supply the shop with refined light maple in 55 gallon drums. Light grade maple isn't just less-concentrated sap (so I learn); it's pale and golden in colour because it's tapped earliest in the season before the weather warms. It's the fanciest grade available and is generally reserved, not bottled like the deep caramel-hued syrup you'll commonly find in stores.
If you can't get out of the city this sugar bush season, this might be the next best thing. Find Ninutik products for sale online or in gift shops at the Royal York, Fairmont and AGO, or, stop in to see the sugar studio in person.
Photos by Jesse Milns