Tag Archives: baguette

Bicycle Allowances

As many of you know, I am training to ride from Toronto to Montreal this summer in support of the Toronto People with AIDS Foundation. It is a huge amount of time, resources, energy, and dedication to getting my body ready for the week of grueling, late July exertion that I have signed up for. Call me crazy, I wouldn’t deny it.

Anyhow, one of the benefits to training has been the expenditure of calories that I have never in my life had the pleasure of having to replenish. Five and a half hours of cycling basically allows me to consume an extra 3000 calories! For a closeted compulsive eater, this is like music to one’s ears. The thought process goes something like: “Go eat chelsea buns at parties, add honey to your water just because, and when you stumble upon a new artisan bakery on Lakeshore, eat the baguette, the whole baguette.”

Another major benefit to cycling so much is that I get to explore parts of this fine megacity that I would otherwise never venture to. Yesterday I managed to combine a store visit for work with a mini-training ride. I headed west to Browns Line and Lakeshore. Usually I take the Lakeshore Promenade following the Waterfront trail in and out of sweet residential enclaves, through blossom filled parks, and in and around water treatment plants. But yesterday, I was on a mission to get to Fair Grounds cafe to drop off some samples of chocolate, sugar and other snacky things. Fair Grounds is a micro-roaster that serves up Fair Trade, organic coffee, lovely pastries, and a fair amount of other retailed items like tea and snacks. It is tucked away in an unassuming old bank building on the corner of Lakeshore and 38th or 39th (I can’t remember exactly the cross street). Jeffrey is the ever-present and friendly owner, who works like crazy to offer his customers the best available. They go to farmers markets in the west end, and certainly provide a community building space at the cafe in an otherwise desolate landscape of the low-rise retail strip that looks as if it was forgotten forty years ago.

"Spinach Bagel" from Tatsu's

So I had the pleasure of treating myself to a freshly roasted iced americano at the cafe, and on my way back towards the city, I stopped in at Tatsu’s Artisan Bakery. I wouldn’t have noticed it had I not taken the Lakeshore route, and was very pleased with what I found. What looks as if it was probably a Coffee Time or other sterile donut chain at one point in it’s occupation, has been transformed into a handcrafted baked goods hot spot, just across the street from Humber College. I tried the baguette (which from my independent scoring, would have actually won the baguette challenge as posted a few months ago, with a score of 5), a handmade, organic spelt loaf, and a “spinach bagel”, which resembled a bagel only in shape. The spinach bagel was a perfect cycling snack, flaky pastry and gooey, salty spinach mush in the middle, kind of like a traditional English sausage roll, but with spinach instead of sausage, obviously.

The other west side discovery I have made is up Brown’s Line, just north of Horner Ave. It’s called Organic Big Burger. I don’t eat beef, but if you do, the meat comes from Beretta and they pride themselves on offering clean fast food. But the piece de resistance at Organic Big Burger is MAPLETON’S SOFT SERVE ICE CREAM!!!!!!! That’s right, I said it. Family farmed, organic, LFP certified, sweet, delicious soft serve with no trace of petrochemicals, hydrogenated oils, or the crap that usually makes up a perfect twist. They offer Chocolate, vanilla or both, and it is WELL WORTH the drive, or ride, out there to experience it for yourself.

Happy riding folks! Don’t forget your helmet.

Battle of the Baguettes – Toronto Edition

One morning over lattes (a burgeoning theme on this blog…honestly, unintended), David, Amanda and I decided that we wanted to find out, once and for all, who baked the finest baguettes in the city. A baguette-off was called and the tasting, crunching, ripping and buttering all happened last night. I share with you the process and the results.

The contenders:

The Line Up

The criteria:

  • The Crust (crispiness, firmness, not roof-of-mouth-cutting)
  • The Crumb/innards (moistness)
  • Elasticity
  • Airiness
  • Stickiness (whether there is a satisfying stick to the roof of the mouth)
  • Scent
  • Taste (balanced, not too flavourful, but not too bland)
  • Aesthetics/Visual Appeal
  • Rippability
  • Colour (golden brown was the goal, too yellow not good, too brown/burnt not good)

There was no category for organic ingredients, locality, or cost, but in retrospect, these would have been really good as well. We’ll make sure to include them for the next battle (maybe croissants?).

After testing each contender against each criterion, the results were tallied. Each baguette was scrutinized  with a highly sophisticated rating system. Smiley face for good, neutral face for average, sad face for not good, or a skull and cross-bones for just plain bad.

The Sophisticated Baguette Rating System

After all of the testing, the results were interpreted on a scale of -10 to +10. One point was given for a smiley face, no points were awarded for a neutral face, and one point was subtracted for each sad face. A skull and cross bones, of which there was only one for the Airiness factor of the Rahier baguette, was a reduction of two points.

The RESULTS:

  • Rahier -7
  • Bonjour Brioche +1
  • Pain Perdu -2
  • Chabichou +1
  • St. John’s Bakery +9

And the winner is…drum roll please (who needs the Oscars, anyway?)… St. John’s Bakery, which incidentally uses organic red fife wheat flour sourced as locally as possible. But St. John’s was also a sourdough. So, we hummed and ha’d about whether it was even eligible for the Battle of the Baguettes, and kept it in the running because it was just so effing good. That being said, if the sourdough number from St. John’s was ineligible, Bonjour Brioche would have made it out on top. Rahier took a beating, but it was agreed that they do sweets, pastries and fancy little cakes very well and we won’t write them off completely. Chabichou was a serious disappointment as it was limp, lifeless, and bland, but David swore to us that it was uncharacteristic of baguettes he had procured there at other times. Pain Perdu was decent, but nothing to write home about (although their croissant would give most bakeries a run for their money any day, so it won’t be written off either).

Judgette "Daintily Frosted"

The discussion that followed the contest culminated in the

Judge "Bicycle Baron"

realization that there isn’t a VERY GOOD baguette the city (based on the handful that we got our hands on), and that bread-making in Toronto has a way to go in order to compete on a global scale. Memories of perfect, crusty, chewy, bubbly, can’t-wait-to-break-the-end-off, long, slender loaves from Montreal, New York and Paris surfaced for each of us causing serious cravings for travel and finely baked goods.

In the end, we had a great time, focusing all of our collective energy on getting to the bottom of the matter. Adding freshly churned butter from Cheese Boutique, and two lovely raw sheep’s milk cheeses, Bonnechere from Back Forty (Lanarck, ON), and Allegreto from Quebec, both available at About Cheese on Church just south of Wellesley, made each baguette even better. We finished by feasting on the rehearsal dinner (see Blue Egg post) and paired our breaking of the breads with a 2008 Gamay from Malivoire, and a 2007 Triomphe Syrah from Southbrook Vineyards; both certified organic and from the Niagara Region.

Please offer your two cents in the comments section on baguettes you have found to be of superior quality, or bakeries to avoid at all costs.