Last month, Toronto was graced with the grand opening of McEwan, a European style gourmet grocery store located in the heart of Shops at Don Mills. For those who aren’t familiar with McEwan, perhaps you’ve come to hear the names, Bymark, North 44 or One in the midst of conversations about Toronto’s fine dining establishments. Mark McEwan, Toronto celebrity chef, is the brainchild who has brought these three restaurants to life, and who has recently given patrons the opportunity to savour his creations right in the comfort of their own home. He understands today’s busy lifestyles and hopes that his store offers a gateway to great food without all the hassles and prep-time needed in the kitchen. McEwan, as Mark describes, is a ‘restaurant-style grocery store’. His inspiration–the European style grocers he’s come to know and love, often found in Paris or Milan. His mission is to bring those distinct elements which define European grocers into the North American landscape, and give customers an alternative to the supermarkets that are often found on this side of the globe.
Many of the items found at McEwan are not commonly seen at a Metro, Nofrills or Loblaws. The variety is plentiful and prices are reasonable (for the most part). But the biggest difference lie in the McEwan experience. I found myself surrounded by an array of ‘Restaurant Meal Replacements (RMR)’ (as Mark likes to call it) served by polite individuals who greet and educate you on the specifics of each item. On my left there were coffees and muffins. Beside that, stood a sushi chef preparing various Japanese maki and sushi combinations (operated by Edo). In front of me was homemade biscottis and cookies. The middle island featured warm soups and other warm dishes (which by the way, were all gone by the time I arrived, which was around 6pm on a Monday!) To the far right, freshly baked breads, cakes and desserts hid behind a glass casing. As I continued to walk through, McEwan’s signature dishes took centre stage, either already packaged or assembled to order. Items include, but not limited to: Hong Kong style ribs, stuffed quail with corn, wild rice and foie gras, braised brisket with pearl onions, potted salmon terrine with tarragon jelly and a variety of sauces and spreads. Further inside, samples of cheeses and fruits were also laid out for tasting.
After making my rounds, I decided to grab some dinner before I left. Here is what I got:
1 x ciabata baguette (@ $1.59)
1 x small seafood antipasto serving (@ $5.25)
1 x large soup of the day (cabbage cauliflower– thx June ) (@ $8.95)
1 x mango salsa (@ $5.25)
1 x truffle mac & cheese (@ $13.95)
The truffle mac & cheese I’ve heard is delicious at Mark’s One Restaurant, so I was delighted to have the opportunity to give it a try. I was slightly disappointed to find that this dish lacked the desired truffle and cheese taste that one would come to expect. The cabbage cauliflower soup, though smelled quite appealing, was actually a bit sour in taste. I added extra pepper at home, but that did not help much. I was not however disappointed with the rest of my purchases. The ciabatta bread had a crunchy crust but was nice and chewy on the inside. The seafood antipasto was another good one, the taste of the prawns, scallops and octopus were so fresh and well seasoned. The mango salsa was to die for! There was perfect consistency in this dish. Honestly though, there was too much to try in one go.
I think Mark is onto something with the opening of McEwan. He is smart to realize that the shopping and eating landscape has evolved and people demand something more. Whether you plan to give your taste buds a treat or just walk around for the experience, I’d recommend anyone in the area to go check it out!