Earth and City graciously invited me to spend the morning at their kitchen in the Junction neighbourhood in Toronto's west end last week. I joined Lisa Sweetman (co-owner) and staff Jessica Marren and Veronica Summerhill to co-prepare a recipe for delicious and vibrant root veggie chips (you’ll find the recipe included below). We spent the morning doing food prep and chatting about Earth and City, the philosophy behind the brand and their ongoing commitment to supporting local and fostering community through food.
When I arrived, Veronica was busy preparing fresh strawberries for a recipe that they were testing out for raw macaroons - pink for Valentines Day. The Earth and City open-concept kitchen was filled with creative energy, with Cassandra Rizzotto’s (co-owner) stunning paintings prominently on display. Even though it was a cold winter day, the space was filled with natural light pouring in from a huge skylight overtop of the prep area.
Earth and City was founded by Lisa and Cassandra in 2010. Lisa explained that they both came from different perspectives, Cassandra is a visual artist who also has a long history working in the food world and Lisa was an elementary school teacher, who in 2010 was looking to eat healthier. Lisa met Cassandra in the summer of 2010 when she purchased a painting by Cassandra. The two bumped into each other again at the end of that summer at the Dufferin Grove Farmers’ Market and as Lisa puts it, she basically asked Cassandra to be her friend. Soon after, Lisa and Cassandra decided to make a business in creating raw, vegan food because that was how they were both eating at the time. Earth and City made its debut at Wychwood Barns Farmers’ Market where they can still be found every Saturday, year round. They initially started out selling raw macaroons, brownies and a variation of other goodies which they continue to offer on their menu.
Earth and City has become a local farmers market favourite for many. In Lisa’s words, “farmer’s markets will always play a big role as that is where we got our start. Everyone in the company feels fortunate to spend most of their summers in the bright, airy markets of Toronto.” Earth and City can be found in 8 farmers markets (link to “visit” page here} (4 of which run all year round) and their products can be found retail outlets including Kupfert and Kim, Fresh City Farms, Jimmy’s Coffee and Creme Fraiche Market Cafe, to name a few. Earth and City also provides catering services and over the years have provided healthy eats at many events throughout the city. Their offerings include a savoury menu with fresh, plant-based produce from Ontario farms and a sweet menu with goodies made from raw nuts, seeds, fresh and dried fruits and natural sweeteners.Their drink menu includes smoothies, fresh juices and lemonades flavoured according to the season, like cucumber-mint.
As Lisa put it, she “took leap of faith” giving up her teaching career to pursue Earth and City full time. The last 4 years have been about getting solid in their business. In 2014, Earth and City made their biggest leap by hiring more staff and doubling their presence in farmers markets, from a commitment to 4 farmers markets to 8. Moving into 2015, Earth and City is looking to play with their menu by taking local food trends and putting their own spin on them. They will also be continuing to grow their relationships with farmers across Ontario, exemplifying the notion of “farm to table” in their business practices.
While speaking with Lisa and spending time in her kitchen the theme of community-mindedness became clear. What sets Earth and City apart is their commitment to creating innovative vegan food according to the Ontario growing season, as well as using mainly raw ingredients and choosing organic wherever possible. The theme of supporting local plays a big role for Earth and City. Lisa explained that they are always looking to showcase local and continuously challenge themselves to use produce that is in season, not just as the garnish but as the main focus of their dishes. Lisa and Cassandra are passionate about building relationships with local farmers and moving towards partnering closer with more local farmers in addition to strengthening existing relationships as well.
During my visit, I learned that both Cassandra and Lisa hold masters degrees in education fields. Their passion to educate others certainly shines through in their work. Lisa explained that part of their commitment to the community is teaching others how to incorporate local, plant-based and organic foods into their diets and modelling this by example. Lisa and Cassandra like being direct with customers and building connections and dialogue with the people they meet in the markets. They enjoy talking about what Earth + City is doing and why and will invite customers looking for more information about healthy food choices to email them with questions they may have.
When it comes to eating local and organic Lisa's advice is to aim for the best you can do. She says to choose mostly organic and local, but at the same time think about your means and be reasonable and real with your food choices. Finding balance is key, this includes figuring out what works and finding your own best by taking your good and trying to make it a little bit better. She says that we do not celebrate ourselves enough and that we should remember that the journey is about learning your own body and that looks different for everyone.
Instagram Giveaway Details:
Two lucky winners will each win a Earth & City $25.00 Gift Certificate redeemable at any of their market stands (for a full list of farmers’ markets go here ). To be eligible (1) Follow @lovewildlivefree and @earthandcity on Instagram and (2) repost the photo below on Instagram using the hashtags #lovewildlivefree #earthandcity and tag @lovewildlivefree @earthandcity. The winners will be selected at random. Contest closes Thursday, January 29 at 5pm EST and is open to residents of the Greater Toronto Area.
Root Veggie Chips Recipe
These crunchy, vibrant chips can me made in the oven or in the dehydrator - either way they turn out great! We have included instructions for both versions below.
Several large root vegetables, washed (sweet potatoes, parsnips, beets)
Sunflower oil for baking
Sea salt (to taste)
Black Pepper (to taste)
Dried caraway (to taste)
(Use organic ingredients)
Directions for Oven Baking:
First, preheat oven to 375 degrees.
Next, using a mandolin set at 1/16th inch thickness, slice sweet potatoes,
parsnips, and beets into rounds.
Now, lightly oil a baking sheet with olive oil. Ensure that the entire sheet is just
coated (not thick).
Then, place sliced rounds in a single layer on the baking sheet. Because the
bake times vary for each veggie, keep them on separate sheets.
Add sea salt (all three), black pepper (parsnip/sweet potato), and caraway
(beet) to taste.
Finally, bake vegetables for 8-14 minutes. For us, parsnips took the least
amount of time, followed by the sweet potatoes, then lastly the beets.
You won’t need to flip the slices due to their thinness! Just be sure to watch
closely so as not to avoid burning.
Slice vegetables as directed. Place in a bowl and toss with just enough olive oil to coat, season with spices and salt to taste. Place rounds in a single layer on the mesh sheet of a dehydrator tray (the teflex is not necessary). Dehydrate for approximately 6 hours, until chips are dry and crispy.
Enjoy! (And try not to eat them all in one sitting)
Special thanks to Lisa Sweetman and Cassandra Rizzotto for the beautiful photos, as well as their time and generosity and thank you to the staff at Earth and City including Jessica Marren, Veronica Summerhill and Jane Deeks. For more information about Earth and City please visit www.EarthandCity.ca.