It wasn’t until Monday while I was at the St. Lawrence Market in Toronto that it occurred to me that NYC lacks a fancy indoor market like many cities have. And then the Times wrote about this very thing yesterday.
I’ll admit I skimmed, but two words leaped off the screen: tripe truck! Really? Supposedly, a restaurant consultant is envisioning a South Street Seaport market showcasing talents of chefs, in this instance a Batali-run tripe truck. I think it would be cool to have an international tripe truck serving regional styles. I could have menudo, cold Sichuan with chile oil, lampredotto. I mean, S’MAC and Rice to Riches have worked the single minded shtick. Why not let stomach lining have its day?
I’m one of those soulless types who are ambivalent about farmers’ markets. Obviously, I’m not against locally grown meat and produce, that would be stupid, but I don’t get that excited over it either excited and I never have the energy to actually pay visits to greenmarkets, wonderful as they sound. Maybe it’s because I hate the outdoors and everything in the city ends up inducing crankiness because too many people want to do the same thing and many of those people have abhorrent personalities.
The funny thing was that shoppers were complaining about the awful crowds at the St. Lawrence Market and I’d read as much on the internet beforehand. I was expecting a mob scene and at most there were a few counters with three people in a line. That was it.
Toronto was baffling that way. I’ve been before but can barely remember a thing about it (thank you online diary. Wow, I've really managed to tame my long-windedness since 2000). Despite being the most populous city in Canada, it felt more like a Portland; things close early, aren’t even open on Sunday and the streets are a ghost town after 9pm. And strangers stare at you, like they don’t know they’re supposed to mind their own business and avoid eye contact. Freaks. And they follow rules like waiting for lights to change and get flustered when entering the exit.
We trailed a woman into a liquor store, who half-way through the exit door realized she had done wrong and made a big fuss about getting back around us and going in the proper entrance half a foot to our right. We just continued on in through the exit and predictably miffed her.
I also realized that on street corners and waiting in lines I stand too close to others, making them nervous. It’s a New Yorkism that’s always unsettled me, the worst being the person in line behind you getting sideways and putting their things on the counter before you’ve even been rung up. I only realize that I’m physically aggressive and have no sense of personal space when out of town, though obviously not in China where elderly will mow you down.
So, the market was completely manageable and I picked up two Quebec raw milk cheeses: Riopelle de l'Isle, a super buttery triple cream and Geai Bleu, an almost cheddar-like, semi-firm blue, mild but not squishy like the soft blue cheeses I’m obsessed with.
Bizarrely, I stumbled upon a version of the cheese that started my teenage-born fixation, Bresse Bleu, at a Dominion grocery store across the street. No special cheese, just a superstore offering, but not one I’ve seen in the U.S. I got way more excited by this than the artisanal wedges I’d picked up earlier. Like I said before, I don’t even need farmer’s markets to be happy.
But the winner was a simple peameal sandwich, a regional delicacy I’m ashamed to admit I’d never heard of until a month ago. Peameal sounds kind of unappetizing; fortunately, it’s really just Canadian a.k.a. back bacon on a roll. But it’s so much more, of course.
First off, the bread is perfectly suited to the task, which kind of makes sense since the vendor is a bakery. The crust is just hard enough on the teeth but not resistant and the inner texture is soft but not Wonder Bread pliable. It’s horrible when a bun dominates a sandwich and this is a fine balance of starch and meat with enough strength to avoid sogginess.
The bacon, called peameal for the traditional coating on the slab of cured meat, is more like ham, a little bit fatty and sweet, only barely salty with cooked crispy edges. You get a healthy number of bacon layers.
Condiments are available for do-it-yourself doctoring. Mustard seemed popular so I went with that and chose a maple syrup infused spread from Kozliks, who has a stall just across the cavernous room.
I hate it when foodies oversell simplicity but this two-ingredient snack is definitely worthy of attention.
Carousel Bakery * 93 Front Street E., Toronto, Canada