There are grocery stores available wherever you turn. Where do you shop and why? Are grocery stores delivering the hype they talk about and are they doing it consistently or do you hear "flavour of the month" type commitments that disappear when they don't meet profit margins? I'm a consumer and make a point of paying attention to what my community stores say and whether or not they're living what they say. It's important to me to see a clean, well stocked store that carries fresh product on a consistent basis and makes the effort to buy as much locally as is possible.
This week I attended a media event in celebration of Longo's 25th store opening in the Toronto Leaside area. For most readers outside of the Greater Toronto Area (GTA), the name Longo's may not resonate for you. Longo's is a family owned grocery chain that evolved from modest beginnings in 1956 as a fruit and vegetable market and has grown to stand out with an identity of its own. It's still run by the Longo family and to have a large family presence at a media event was so refreshing.
I have to laugh at myself and share a story with you. The man in the picture approached me and introduced himself as Anthony. I responded by introducing myself and we had a short conversation that was quite pleasant. He was wearing a Longo's tag so I asked "and what do you do with Longo's?" "Oh", he said, "I'm Anthony Longo and I'm the President." OK ... good to know. Was I expecting to see the president of the company at a media event? He went on to introduce all the members of the Longo family including the originals who started the company. I was both impressed and honoured to see the humility of this family that worked very hard and earned their measure of success.
The new store is built on the historical site of an original railway structure and the restoration of the original building is gorgeous. The original railway ties and much of the original wood has been incorporated in the building that sports 40 foot ceilings.
There were areas of the store that really caught my attention. I was in a group that toured with Joe Longo as we learned about what sets Longo's apart. The fish and seafood department is a dream with varieties that I haven't really seen everywhere.
It's already prepared for you - just take it home and cook it.
The kitchen offers an expansive array of premade meals. The Longo concept of $6, $8, $10 makes short work of lunch or dinner. You chose a protein available in the price point you want to spend and then add from a large selection of sides.
The meat department is second to none. Joe informed us that 80% of the meat in the Longo stores is Canadian grown. I love that. And look at the selection.
There are two types of salad areas. This one is the premade health conscious salads for a grab and go. There is also an extensive salad bar for you to chose your own combination of fresh salads, pastas and toppers
Olive oil selection is always a challenge, isn't it? Sorry, this isn't going to make your life easier but it certainly is going to broaden your spectrum of choices.
The upper level of the store has been turned into a restaurant/lounge called Corks. Decorated in reclaimed wood and integrating antiqued copper, tin ceilings that are inspired from the era, it's a beautiful space to just relax and enjoy a refreshment and something off the menu.
I can't remember ever tasting raw oysters before and was so pleasantly surprised to find out that I love them. I'm reminded to not discount something just because you think it "might" be gross.
You may even want to learn how to shuck these delicacies;
This one, of course needed absolutely no coaxing for me. Longo's signature cake ,,, to die for.
Finally, learning to cook is a fun and social activity that you can attend on your own or with the kids.