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McEwan - Toronto

Rating: XX

Celebrity chef opens half-baked food market


Shops at Don Mills and Lawrence
Mon-Fri: 10:00 AM- 9:00 PM
Sat: 9:30 AM- 9:00 PM
Sun: 11:00 AM- 6:00 PM

XXXX - Dead Sexy
XXX - Sexy
XX - Not Sexy
X - Frigid

$$$$ - Expensive
$$$- Pretty Expensive

$$ - Not Bad
$ - Cheap

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I was expecting to be transported to the Culinary Garden of Eden upon entering McEwan’s. It was the grand opening of the highly anticipated grocery at Don Mills and Lawrence, and I was excited by the prospect of new gourmet delights brought to me by a Toronto-based celebrity chef. “Gourmet food is on the rise,” I thought to myself as I chugged my iced coffee, pumping myself up for the big day. North York will be home to another much needed alternative to corporate eateries and sterile foods.

I entered the prepared food section of a bustling and modern food market and was greeted by two large LCDs listing the fresh eats of the day. I read the screens and thought to myself… wouldn’t it be cool to show a tantalizing food video or a recipe demo rather than just using them as digital chalkboards? My thoughts were interrupted by the subtle sound of sensual trance music in the background. How hip? How cool? How… is that Wonder Bread? The recipe for a half-baked gourmet market is born.

“Make it the best it can be” is the McEwan motto. Is Wonder Bread really the best? What about Old El Paso? I think not. These are just some of the basic grocery brands intertwined with pretentious products such as a $36 bottle of “McEwan’s Ice Pressed Olive Oil”. What is ice-pressed olive oil? Don’t get me wrong, I love basic grocery brands and expect to see them in most grocery stores, but it ticks me off when people overcharge for them. Save your money and pick them up for less at another market down the road!

So what about the higher-end items, you ask? If you can set aside the pretentious olive oil and rather underwhelming produce section, McEwan’s does have a couple things going for it. 1) It does an okay job with the prepared foods, although there isn’t a true salad bar, 2) The cheese section is better than most other options in the area, and 3) The meat counter is quite impressive. This is actually the best part about the whole market. They have gorgeous cuts of aged USDA PRIME meats and all sorts of lovely looking swine and cattle. I was also impressed by the selection of BBQ sauces to accompany the meats and was pleased to see hard-to-find favourites such as Stubbs and the Red Head Pantry.

But these positives bear a hefty price tag. It would only be on a rare and special occasion that I would save up to buy a tiny morsel of steak or cheese. Even then, I’d probably be more willing to splurge at Whole Foods. I prefer its philosophy of high quality and good health to the rather confusing “high-low” concept at McEwan’s. Whole Foods also has better produce, better prepared-foods (including a salad bar), and a nice bulk food section (which you also can’t find at McEwan’s).

For daily shopping, I prefer Longo’s because their products are reasonably priced and of great quality. They are home-style gourmet, satisfying everyday shopping, and have the best produce section in the city (prices and product). They also have a great seafood counter, bakery, deli, and salad bar.

Overall, I have to give McEwan’s gourmet grocery a “not sexy” rating. Too expensive for Wonder Bread and ice-pressed olive oil, but the meat counter is magical and worth the price for a special occasion!

Check out my review of McEwan’s North 44 restaurant.


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