Mark McEwan goes to the grocery store

I have a real sweet spot for Don Mills, Ontario.  It’s history is rich and combines so many of our interests into a single place – architecture, design, farming, horses (E.P. Taylor was an integral part of Don Mills becoming what it is today), food and more form the fabric of this small area of Toronto.  This was one of North America’s first designed communities – depending on your own view, the jury is still deciding the final verdict of success of failure.

The center of the community was an outdoor shopping mall and gathering place for the community to gather.  When plans were announced to reconstruct and virtually level the original mall, many were up in arms.  The new Shops at Don Mills opened this spring and we made the trek to explore it’s food options on Saturday.  Of particular interest was the promise of a new concept in food retail, courtesy of Chef Mark McEwan.

Mr. McEwan is the chef behind some of the finest restaurants in the city (North 44, Bymark, One) in addition to several widespread television appearances and his own show and a thriving catering business.  He has not been shy about his mission to become a recognized and respected main character on the stage that is Toronto’s food scene.  Many have commented on his rare combination of skills – both in the kitchen and general business prowess.

He has taken a gamble in Don Mills by opening a 22,000 square foot market named McEwan.

Mark McEwan goes to the grocery store

The store and experience are immaculate.  The food options are plentiful and range from Kraft Dinner to Wagyu beef.  It was an exciting journey – Dana commented that she had seen many of the products in New York City at the Fancy Food Show few years back and had never been able to find them.

There are hundreds of jars of olive oil and balsamic vinegar (including rare 100-year old bottles which are locked under glass).  This amount of selection is reflected in so many offerings around the store – piles of tea, chocolate, cheese, meat, fish, charcuterie and more.  The options are stunning and leave you with the feeling that if you can’t find what you are looking for here that it might be best to settle for something else.  I was excited to see black garlic, purple asparagus and more.

I was particularly impressed by the amount of local food and preserves that appear to be made by or for the store.  Pickled onions, tomato sauce, jarred tomatoes, salad dressings and more are all set up in mason jars and preserved as we would ourselves.  There are notes throughout the store which explain the chef’s approach to certain jars or techniques such as explaining that the recipe he uses for his tomato sauce was from his wife.

There is a massive amount of food imported from around the world – much of it is artisnal, crafted by hand and simply not offered by local producers (such as the aforementioned 100 year balsamic).  There are plenty of local options where possible and they compliment what the Chef feels is the best of the best from around the world to offer to the public.  The selection runs the range from affordable to very expensive (more than $500 for a bottle of vinegar, $80 a pound for Wagyu).

It’s a stunning experience and a place where I could spend hours to learn more and more about food and ingredients from around the world.  It’s worth a visit and a look around – just set your budget in advance!

We did not have permission to shoot pictures inside the store and didn’t ask – it is very well designed and a beautiful setting.

Comments

  1. Rick Nixon says:

    Shopkeeper McEwan must have something in common with Marie Antoinette (she of “Let them eat cake” fame). He says that Torontonians will “get” his grocery store and I suppose they will — for a while. What I don’t get is walking in the front door and being confronted with Wonder bread. I admit I didn’t check the price. If I wanted Wonder bread or Kraft Dinner, for that matter, there are more convenient and le$$ trendy places to buy them. The other thing I don’t get is why I see new faces behind the counters everytime I have visited. I was sure that the door was of the sliding variety and not revolving. Wrong again I guess!

  2. Joel McEwan says:

    What a negative guy Rick Nixon is that notices only the few items put on the shelves for the convenience of the parents with fussy eaters at home. So many have commented on the mundane “cheese whiz” or ‘wonder bread” that I’m sure the message is loudly heard. Foodies are a very fickle group sometimes and are ruthless with their opinions.
    Unfortunately in life there are really very few people that really wish you success. Hopefully your family, but not always, and a select few friends and employees that need a job.
    Luckily we have guys like Mark that are willing to put it all on the line. The world would be a different place without the dreamers, the dreamers that somehow actually make them happen.
    What have you done to contribute to a better community Rick?

    • Joel and Rick and others reading,

      I beleive there is a middle ground – I have approved both comments as I beleive that both of you have shared valid views on your observations.

      I do, however, want to avoid this place ever becoming one of personal attack. Each of you have made your points and shared your valid observations – something you are entitled to and I am glad you have shared. I want to encourage all posts to stay to the positive and this be a place where we are free to challenge each other to expand our views without beating others down. I don’t want to become the morale judge of what is appropriate and so far it has been appropriate. Let us treat this like a conversation at our dinner table.

      I encourage all to comment more and would love to see the continuation of considerate debate. We are not likely to truly pursuade by throwing rocks. :)

      I maintain there are truly wonderful things to discover here and people will ultimately vote with their wallets. In the mean time, we hope to bring expanded (and positive) coverage of the store soon.

    • Andrea Levy says:

      hey joel,

      was it you i worked for? the store on eglinton about 20 ish years ago?

      i would love to connect and pick your brain, so to speak…

      Andrea

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