Dining in the streets: Shops of Summerhill opens its renovated doors
Rosedale will be strutting its foodstuffs this weekend with the much-anticipated reopening of its pish-posh Shops of Summerhill. Major renovations last summer (including structural reinforcement, new wiring and back-of-the house remodelling) restored the Victorian building that has housed the market for nearly 30 years. Four of the six stores are opening their revamped doors now; two other mainstays—Harvest Wagon and All the Best Fine Foods—have taken up temporary residence on-site until their turn at reincarnation next spring. We browsed through the new and refreshed boutiques to get the lay of the Yonge Street landmark.
It’s all excitement at strip staple Olliffe, where the Gundy/Aitken brothers bring fresh blood to the butcher shop. The new owners are already a food culture family: Ben Gundy was executive chef at Jacob and Co., Sam Gundy founded Huron County’s Forager Foods and James Aitken is a Verity Group investor. Why does the trio want a finger in this meat pie? It’s personal, explains Aitken: “When you’re in a family of six boys, you’re gonna eat a lot of meat, and we grew up on Olliffe.” The boys have also broken down neighbourhood barriers: in a bizarre juxtaposition of aromas, their shop now adjoins new Sweetgrass Flowers (by Verity Group), bringing floral wafts and meatpackers together at last.
Next door at swank fishmonger Pisces Gourmet, we spot chef Guy Rubino chatting up the store owners. There’s definitely something fishy about the way he eyes the delectable beet-red tuna. We wonder if he plans to source goodies for his raw bar at Ame from the store.
At Harvest Wagon, owner Tony DiMarco is making the best of his makeshift digs. “It could always be worse!” he sighs. For a man who’s been here for 32 years, a mere 12 months is child’s play, and his space-to-be will be double the size of his old one, allowing more organic inventory, prepared food and catering. Phase two of the renovation starts next week.
After an amble through the stores, vendors new and old sit down to dinner at just-opened Montreal-style boulangerie MBCo. For an evening, the Montreal-Toronto food rivalry is set aside as chef Pierre Restivo treats the Summerhill family to a tasty peace offering of Australian rack of lamb, and maritime lobster carpaccio on a bed of fennel. Says one diner of All the Best’s Ontario rhubarb parfait, “My thighs are rubbing together.” Sitting beside us, All the Best founder and president Jane Rodmell laughs. She also dishes about her upcoming cookbook, which celebrates the shop’s 25th anniversary. “I think I said that I would help set it up,” jokes Rodmell—and here she is a quarter century later. The long-time food writer has been scouring the Toronto scene since the Windsor Arms hotel was the best we had, so when she writes, we read.