He’s a celebrated chef, television celebrity, and owner of three of Toronto’s finest restaurants. Now, with this week’s grand opening of his sprawling fresh food market at the new Shops at Don Mills, home grown boy Mark McEwan can add “retailer” to his long list of accomplishments.
Aptly named mcewan, the 22,000-sq.-ft. gourmet marketplace is chock full of the best tastes, treats and textures this side of Europe. It’s a place where food and flowers delight the senses – and where take-out will never be the same.
According to Mark, the mandate of the store is Best in Category “but that doesn’t mean Most Expensive in Category.” His goal is to finally give quality-starved Torontonians the premium quality, locally-produced food and groceries that they so richly deserve.
“I’ve thought that Toronto has needed this for the last 10 years, but it was just a matter of me finding the right location and the right situation to make it happen,” says Mark, star of Food Network’s The Heat. “Shops at Don Mills is that perfect spot. It’s really groundbreaking and special in terms of what’s out there. I love what they’ve done here in terms of the physical layout of the complex. It has a pedestrian quality that doesn’t exist in any other shopping complex that I know of. It has an amazing demographic footprint, it’s very easily accessed and the stores are well positioned. The calibre of stores is very high, and come the fall when more stores open it’s going to be quite substantial.”
Everything about mcewan reflects Mark’s distinctive style of cooking which captures the essence of classical cuisine with the nuances of contemporary flavour. Much of the store is devoted to the chef’s delicious recipes made from locally-produced ingredients and neatly packaged for just one or for that special dinner party.
At mcewan, take-out is called “Restaurant Meal Replacement” (RMR), the counter brimming with gourmet pizzas, interesting sandwiches and salads, choice cuts of meat, fluffy pastries, delectable chocolates and so much more. Naturally, Mark’s signature dishes will take centre stage. Check out the RMR Counter for roasted heirloom carrots with a citrus cumin vinaigrette; braised brisket with pearl onions; fresh horseradish and natural sauce; potted salmon terrine with tarragon jelly; Roxy's meatballs; stuffed quail with corn; wild rice and foie gras; osso bucco shepherd’s pie with pomme puree; and baby octopus salad with tomato jam, chickpeas and lemon confit. Yum!
Best of all, it’s all prepared fresh on the premises in mcewan’s bustling kitchen. Overseeing the action is Executive Chef Ivana Raca, just 24 years old but already shattering glass ceilings in the traditionally male-dominated culinary world. She met Mark as a teenager and worked her culinary skills as first female saucier at his North 44 restaurant. When he opened One, he appointed Ivana the first female sous chef. Now, she is the first woman with the Executive Chef title in a McEwan operation.
Elsewhere in the store, check out Mark’s line of soups, sauces, tomato sauces, pickled vegetables and preserves, all packaged in charming mason jars. Sixty-two of mcewan’s 80 varieties of world calibre cheeses are produced in Canadian cheese boutiques. While cooking demonstrations aren’t practical, says Mark, product samplings will be in abundance. He’s working with the LCBO, another Shops at Don Mills tenant, to host wine samplings paired with his cheeses and other fresh food, produce and groceries. Edo will operate a sushi bar on the premises while Quince Flowers will offer up colourful bouquets of local and exotic blooms.
Store hours of mcewan are Monday to Friday 8:30 a.m. -8 p.m., Saturday 8:30 a.m.-7 p.m., and Sunday 9 a.m.-6 p.m. For more on mcewan, visit www.mcewanfoods.com.