Back in the late 1800’s, “Hogtown” was a nickname for Toronto. There are a few theories for the origin of this nickname, but a popular one is that came about because of the large stock yards and processing plant of the William Davies Company. Davies’ company is also credited with inventing peameal bacon.
When looking for things to do for my trip to Toronto, I came across the Urban Adventures When Pigs Fry food tour. Using the “Hogtown” theme, this is a food tour based entirely on pork.
Met our guide Cooper in front of the Hockey Hall of Fame. There was 4 of us in our group, and there was another couple – for a total of 6. The tour will take up to 12 people, but I found that 6 was a perfect size. From our meeting point we then walked a few blocks to the St. Lawrence Market. Along the way, he explained that the street we were walking along (Front Street) used to actually be the lakefront. The current lakefront was about a 10 minute walk from where we were – and this was as a result of infilling using dirt from the original subway excavation, and later from the building of the CN Tower.
At the market, he took us to one of the butchers to show us what peameal bacon was and gave us a little history of it (it is also known as Canadian bacon in some places). Then it was time to sample it for ourselves at Paddington’s Pump – which is a restaurant within the St. Lawrence Market that claims to be the Home of Toronto’s Famous Peameal Sandwich. Our sandwiches included peameal bacon, lettuce and tomato. There were also 3 types of mustard that you could add to the sandwich – Dijon, honey mustard, and regular mustard. The sandwiches were delicious and the peameal bacon tasted closer to ham than the typical strip bacon. While we were eating our sandwiches, Cooper also gave us a history of where the nickname of “Hogtown” came from. Two people shared one sandwich, but it was enough to get a real feel for the peameal bacon.
After we were done, we had some time, so Cooper took us to a couple of vendors in the market. We stopped to sample Kozlik’s mustard which is made using Canadian mustard seeds. The stall had 14 types of mustard to sample, and they were all much better than your typical French’s mustard. All of us on the tour ended up buying at least one jar of mustard (I bought 2 for myself).
Cooper then took us to Wine Country Merchant, which had some Trius wines (from the nearby Niagara region) available for sampling. We had a choice of Pinot Grigio, a dry Riesling or a Gamay Noir. I tried the Pinot Grigio, which was fruity, but not overly sweet.
After the mini wine tasting, we walked to nearby King Street, where we got on a streetcar to take us to our next destination – Porchetta & Co. On the way, Cooper explained that the preparation for the meat we were about to eat started 3 days ago. To begin, pork shoulder is marinated in a blend of garlic, herbs and olive oil for 24 hours. Next it is wrapped in prosciutto and lightly cured pork belly and slow roasted. Apparently the buns they use for their sandwiches are custom baked for Porchetta so that it is crusty on the outside, but soft on the inside. The bakery that makes these buns does not sell them to anyone else – they are only made for the restaurant.
For our tasting, we had the House Special sandwich (half a sandwich each). Our guide hyped up how good these buns were, and I definitely wasn’t disappointed. The meat was melt-in-your-mouth tender and flavorful, and the bun wasn’t so hard that it left crumbs everywhere, and so soft that it fell apart. It was very delicious, and I could’ve easily eat 2 more full sandwiches myself.
For our next stop, we had to walk a few blocks, and Cooper took us through Graffiti Alley on the way there. This is an alley where graffiti art is actually condoned, and there is some really cool artwork.
Just around the corner from Graffiti Alley was The Healthy Butcher. This butcher shop sources all of their meat from local farms. They even have a map on the wall of their suppliers. They are known for their bacon, but due to a gas leak, they couldn’t cook any up for us with their stove. As raw bacon wasn’t overly appealing, they gave us some smoked ham instead – which was very good. We chatted with the butcher for a while, and then headed onwards to our last stop – WVRST.
WVRST is known for their German sausages and their large selection of beer. As it was our last stop, I decided to get some beer (at my own cost) to go with the sausages that we were going to sample. Cooper got us 3 different types of sausages to try. The sausages came with a sauce made out of ketchup and curry sauce. Sounds weird, but totally complements the sausages.
This was the end of our tour, and Cooper left us to finish off our beers. He was a very knowledgeable tour – about both Toronto and the pork that we were sampling. It was a great way to spend and afternoon – and get away from some of the more touristy spots in Toronto. I highly recommend it.