Friday, December 23, 2011

Maple Leaf Gardens Loblaws & College/Yonge Bulk Barn

 Even putting aside the historic significance of the magnificent building in which it is housed, the new Loblaws in Maple Leaf Gardens is an impressive store in its own right.  In addition to all the usual suspects of Presidents Choice products, there is a "Wall of Cheese" that is literally floor to ceiling in size.  Even more thrilling for me was when I discovered what I will call the "Wall of Mushrooms" - a healthy selection of assorted organic mushrooms.  The Patisserie section is filled with rows of cupcakes as far as the eye can see, as well as other pastries, cakes, candied applies similar to those from Rocky Mountain High, and chocolate truffles.

Chocolate is chipped off from a huge block and sold by weight.  The deli counter displays an array of cold cuts including Italian (Serrano) hams and salamis while the fish counter offers everything from pickerel, cod, tuna, to all sorts of shellfish and squid.  Fresh Ace Bakery artisan breads are created right on the premises and you can smell the aromas as you wander by.   There is seating for fast food dining with options including a Sushi bar, tea emporium, cold salads and a prepared food counter creating pizzas, paninis, and other hot meals that seem a bit higher end than the typical Loblaws offering.

The store honours the memory of its previous occupants in many ways.  A beautiful mural regales past Maple Leaf highlights (aka those mythical Stanley Cup victories we've heard about all our lives), a clever sculpture forming the blue Maple Leaf is created from old stadium chairs, and on grocery aisle 25, a round red dot marks centre ice.  You can almost visualize the ghosts of former players jockeying for position on a faceoff.

Just a block away from Maple Leaf Gardens is another surprise that is possibly even more exciting and useful for downtown Toronto than another super-sized Loblaws.   There are only two things that I miss since moving away from suburbia .. one is the private tennis courts in our old condo and the second is the Bulk Barn.  But now a giant Bulk Barn has opened right on the subway line at the NE corner of Carlton & Yonge!  For someone like me who likes to sample a little bit of alot of things, this is like my own personal Disneyland.  While it seems contrary to the name and concept of the chain, I look forward to being able to buy the small required quantity of something for a recipe rather than the huge prepackaged container that it would otherwise come in.

Imagine what seems like an infinite variety of flour ranging from traditional all purpose to ones I'd never knew existed (buckwheat, quinoa, tapioca, coconut) or even know what is in them (red fife??).  There was also a wide selection of spices, coffee beans, tea leaves, rice, bread spreads (cashew butter, almond butter, chocolate hazelnut), nuts (raw or roasted, salted or unsalted, mixed in cereal and granolas) and of course, enough chips, chocolate and candy to break any New Years Resolution.

The Bulk Barn is also a baker's dream in terms of baking decorations (sprinkles, food colourings, icing, candied roses), cake pans and molds, cookie cutters and wedding cake paraphernalia including the columns to separate the tiers of cake and mini brides and grooms.

I ended up with many little bags of nuts, aborio rice for Christmas dinner risotto, and multiple types of candy, perfect for the Gingerbread House party that I'm attending.  My favourite were the green Army men gummy bears and the candy coated chocolates that look like beautiful pebbles.  I also got some pomegranate flavoured cranberries and dried cherry raisins that I look forward to putting in my cereal.  It was so much fun wandering the aisles looking at all my choices.  I can't wait to go back and use 25% off coupons that they were giving away for use over the next few weeks.

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