LiveReport - St. Lawrence Market and Rol San Dimsum
I have been very dreamy...
This reading week, I have been nothing but dreamy. Dreamy all day, mostly thinking about food, passsing by each minute reading food blogs, imagining beautiful sceneries in France, wishing I could become a child who is exposed to good foods, and dreaming of beautiful sentences from my newly-found memoir, A Moveable Feast.
I have not done as much reading (or studying) as I should have, nonetheless I have no regrets :) I am happy that this week I experienced more exposure to food than any other week. Especially today... My sister and I went to Toronto's Old District (on my insistence, of course) to get some fresh air at St. Lawrence Market. Why Saturday? Because I think it's the most energetic and ravenous day in the market, you'll see farmers bringing their fresh farm products in the Farmer's Market, vendor owners yelling (or, screeching) their Special of the Day, and best of all live music (I mean, GOOD music) on each corner of the market. Isn't it just lovely?
I am going to guide you on a tour around St. Lawrence Market, particularly to the stores that I personally visited. And later on, you'll find my review on a decent dimsum place.
Saturday Farmer's Market
According to its official website, this tradition of Ontario growers has begun since 1803. Starting sharply at 5 in the morning, having a bunch of farmers with fresh produce brings nothing but excitement! Once I heard from a friend that if you come early enough, you'll see the attraction of throwing and catching the fresh produce and fresh fish around the market. Sounds like fun, eh?
Each time I go to the Farmer's Market, I could not hide my amazement and curiosity of things. This is where I discover a lot of produce that I've never really seen before.
(click for a list of merchants and detailed map)
Are you a scavenger who likes to hunt rare food curios? I think you've come to the right place :) Not only do Domino's carries a wide selection of bulk foods, they also carry a wide variety of different brands of oil, balsamic vinegar, and a heaping condiments from around the world. From Oriental to European, everything seems to make a stop here! I even found Indonesian coffee candies, Kopiko, and Italian flour. You won't get enough of legumes and spices here. If you're looking for saffron, they offer a gram for only $3.99. Just one warning, don't get lost :p
Unique Fine Foods
My sister was attracted by the appearance of potato latkes, so we went over to this store to purchase one. Still hot and fresh! The taste resembled Indonesian fried corn batter, but I could eventually taste the fried potatoes.
I was not yet satisfied with my findings at Domino's and wandered off in this tiny store, which was an extension on the Rube's Rice located more to the centre. To my surprise, I found Israelli couscous, dark rye flour, and stone-ground cornmeal! These are treasures for me! First of all, I was introduced to the pearl-y Israelli couscous while I was working at Bluffs and have grown to love it. Then, the next two ingredients are essential in baking bread, especially for my next cornbread :)
I was so happy because buying a large scoop for each of the last two ingredients only cost me 74 cents :)
Mr. W gave me a budget of $20 to be spent on dessert and I turned my head to this small vendor with really nice display. I've tried their cheesecakes and they are so delectable, however, the baklava wasn't nearly as good. So, I bought a set of mini cheesecakes and mousses, a slice of mango cranberry cheesecake, and some Portugese egg tarts (Pasteis de Nata). They all looked promising to me. At least Mr. W loved my choice of mango cheesecake :)
Throughout all of my visits to St. Lawrence Market I have never seen this bakery open! Only today did I see it fully loaded with fresh artisan breads and.. people! Yes, people were crammed in this small lot, buzzing about, selecting the breads they want.
I landed my choice on the Artisan Whole Grain Walnut Bread and a bag of ten different rolls. I had the walnut bread sliced and ate one of the slices right there (after I have paid, of course). However, I must remind myself that I'm not a big fan of whole-grains. The grains really distract me!
Olympic Food and Cheese
Following Ivonne's Gnocchi a la Bava, I went all the way to St. Lawrence Market so that I can get my hands to the right cheese. I got the Parmigiano Regiano cheese alright, but I missed a spot! I didn't realize that I had bought the Danish fontina cheese instead of the Italian! Aww, thankfully Ivonne said that it's gonna be fine although the taste won't be as good.
This is a haven for cheese, dips, and spreads! They carry a wide variety of dips, such as taramasalata (dip made from cod roe), hot hummus, and artichoke spinach dip. The best part is you get to package your choice in the provided container, isn't it jsut fun?
We left St. Lawrence market with full heart and empty stomach. So we headed to Rol San restaurant in Spadina to grab some dimsum!
When we were little kids, having yum-cha every weekend was almost customary. Every Sunday, our extended family would gather in a place called Garden Palace and eat dimsum al afternoon. Back in the old days, dimsum is normally served in the weekend morning and afternoons only. This place was huge and had a stage on the center, so as a kid I would run around with my cousins and caused some havoc :P
The best thing out of this yum-cha that I remember is the mango pudding with whipped cream. The texture was just right and the yellow color was gleaming with pleasure. Until now, I have not found anything that could be compared with the mango pudding I had when I was still in elementary school :)
Also, the literal translation of "cha" is tea, so every dimsum place would always serve tea (no matter what) at no extra charge.
As long as I can recall, I have been to Rol San around four times, everytime only for the dimsum :) It all began when Mr. W found this dimsum place two summers ago and described to me dinstinctly how good their steamed shrimp dumpling (ha gao) was.
And, my sister was feeling like some Oriental fare, so she decided to go here. Due to a constrained budget, our lunch including tax and tips may not exceed $20. Therefore, we only ordered four different main dishes and two mango pudding.
I always like shu mai :) I like the fact that many of dimsum fares are steamed, a healthier way of cooking. Since it's steamed, it's one of my comfort foods. The shu mai was nicely decorated with cooked flying fish roe.
Cha Siu Pao
From the look of it, it wasn't quite successfully shaped into proper cha siu pao. However, as I expected, the cha siu (BBQ pork) in the centre is better than the one we had at TNT.
Chicken Feet with Chef's Sauce
Always a favorite during yum-cha. Compared to other dimsum places I have been, their chicken feet is one of the best. I like the sauce in particular but I really don't know how to describe it. I guess, you just have to try it first :)
Fried Bean Curd with Black Bean Sauce
I was expecting something different, the fried bean curd skin to be exact. Nonetheless, this one is pretty good and paired nicely with the sauce (that didn't look like black bean but like a sweetened soya sauce instead). They have chewy shrimp centres too. Next time, I have to order the right one.
From my recollection, their mango pudding was excellent. However, this time it was not as good. The taste of mango was not as distinct as before and the usually milky sauce (from evaporated milk) was tainted with the taste of coconut milk. I don't think coconut milk would be a proper addition to the sauce as it takes away the freshness of mango.
Other recommended food: Egg tarts (tanta), steamed shrimp dumplings (ha gao), and deep-fried squid tentacles.
This is a great place to be for gathering. If I ever had a chance to gather with fellow food bloggers, I would suggest this place.
Rol San Restaurant
323 Spadina Avenue
Phone: (416) 977-1128
TTC: take the streetcar from Spadina Station and make a stop at Nassau St. (after College St.), then walk to the south. The restaurant will be on your left-hand side.