Why You Should Go to The Royal

Every year around the middle of October, the city starts to hang banners on the light poles along the Lakeshore. They are long, trimmed with gold and royal blue in colour. They harken the arrival of one of Ontario’s most important festivals, and one that every Torontonian should attend. The Royal Agricultural Winter Fair, aka the Royal, is a celebration of Ontario farmers and their accomplishments. It is a showcase for the people who feed the city to display their very best, from squashes and jams to livestock. It is also a great opportunity for the youth in rural communities to shine and get the support they need from their peers and the community at large. Without these farmers we would be eating and living poorly, and it is our responsibility as a city to show some love.

A couple of years ago I did just that. I was invited down to the Queen’s Guinea Show, where many young farmers who have been raising beef come to show off the animals they've cared for outside of their school hours. While many kids get off school and play with their friends, these guys and girls studied how to be better caregivers to the animal, and learned what the animal needed not just to survive, but to thrive and earn top dollar at the market. That year one of the big winners was a young man named Jarrett Hargrave, who raised “Murray”, a beautiful Angus steer. When the auction started I nervously started bidding on Murray. No one knew who I was, but after the final gavel was smacked everyone knew that Sanagan’s Meat Locker just paid $7/lb for this giant. I paid over $10,000 for Murray that day (which is a totally barf-inducing amount). I knew the most I would get for his meat in my shop was around $4,000, but that’s not really the point. By getting that price for his steer, Jarrett will now definitely have the confidence and know-how to continue raising the best beef, and really understand the value in caring for these animals.

The Royal has been a long tradition in Ontario, and I hope my son gets to enjoy it when he’s my age. And I hope he has the ability to encourage the young farmers of his generation to continue producing the high-quality food that we expect at the shop and on our dinner table.So go get tickets already!


Sanagan’s East Side

Years ago, before social media was a thing, and before I had any title in the kitchen, I bought my first house. This was back in 2001, the glory days when a couple of 24-year-old kids making $13/hour could afford a mortgage in Toronto. The house was in the Greenwood and Queen area of the east end of the city. It was a little too far east to be called Leslieville; if anything, we were closer to the thriving, energetic Gerrard Bazaar, or Little India as I knew it back then. Gerrard Street between Greenwood and Coxwell is a bustling neighbourhood, full of family-run shops and restaurants showcasing treats like dosa, seekh kebabs, and lassi. The clothing shop windows are dressed with beautiful and colourful silk sari, and music wafts out of almost every storefront. It is a special place in Toronto, a city full of special places.

I moved out of that neighbourhood over fourteen years ago, but some of my family have moved in. My older sister Kate has lived on Woodfield with her family since my days there. Her son and daughter have been raised on this strip, eating sweet corn from the BBQs in the summertime and being tempted by the smells of Lahore Tikka House wafting through their bedroom windows at night. My younger sister, Mary, moved her family just east of Coxwell, and she’s now on a first name basis with the owners of Lazy Daisy Café and Swag Sisters’ Toy Store, two new and welcomed additions to the strip. My parents, while spending most of their retired life in Southampton, rented an apartment on Coxwell so they could be close to the grandkids. All in all, even though I’ve moved on, I still felt very connected to this east end neighbourhood. Which is why I’ve chosen it to open the second location of Sanagan’s Meat Locker.

Kate sent me a text message a few months ago. She was at a street party and one of the other guests was Dawn, who owns Lazy Daisy. They got to talking and Dawn said that the storefront next to hers is up for lease, and would I be interested. That text set off a chain of actions that ended with me signing a lease on the space about a month ago. We’re going to be fixing it up and hopefully open in the first few months of next year. It’s going to be a smaller version of what we do now, something similar to the old shop. Small, manageable, and super-meaty. I’ll be posting updates as we progress, and I hope to be seeing a lot of new faces in the next year.

We are very excited to expand Sanagan’s. It gives some of my excellent staff here room to grow, and it gives me the opportunity to spend more time in my old ‘hood. And eat a ton of delicious kebabs. See you soon Gerrard!