Archive for the ‘Food’ Category

Butter tarts and biking

Back in August, the Star published a story about the best butter tarts in Toronto, Eric’s Handcrafted Butter Tarts. Since that time, I’ve tried to buy one at one of the local vendors listed in the story. Today I finally scored during one of my rides on the way back from Port Credit, stopping by a charming little coffee shop called The Big Guy’s Coffee Shop, on Lakeshore between 4th and 5th streets. I had actually gone there before, and I was told that they get their delivery on Friday, and they usually sell out within a few days.

They had exactly one left that was plain. (I am allergic to nuts and all the rest were pecan). Although any butter tart tastes good after a bike ride, I’d say that this was perhaps my favourite. I favour tarts that have a relatively thin pastry shell.

Other places that I have tried recently:

  • Four Corners Bakery in East Caledon: too thick pastry shell for my taste.
  • Belwood Country Market: really good. They are mentioned in another Star article that appeared yesterday. The pastry shell is thin. When I got there, the plain had just come out of the oven and I was warned that they were really hot. The volume of filling was really high, if you like that sort of thing. The plain was great. I wasn’t as enamoured of the raspberry coconut version. Regrettably I didn’t take any pictures of the tarts that day.
  • Mattachioni on Dupont. They have that thin pastry shell that I prefer, and less filling than Eric’s, and I was told that they finish them off in their pizza oven, and they sprinkle a little sea salt on top. I’d rank these as equal to Eric’s, if a bit smaller.

The next time I’m cycling in Wellington County, I will have to try some of the other places mentioned in the Star article.

Eventually, I’d like to parts of the BT700 (butter tart 700), a gravel bike route that is 760 km. I admit I’m more interested in the butter tart aspect than the mileage, so I might warm up by doing one of the shorter routes that are described on that excellent website. I’ve covered some of the territory of the GNR route on several different rides.

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Haven’t been to Henderson’s in a while, and when I dropped by today, I was surprised to see most of the parking lot filled with cars. It is now largely reserved parking for the various businesses that have sprung in the building adjoining the brewery.


While I’m happy about the number of jobs being created in the area, I’m a bit sad to see the largely empty lot gone, which would preclude holding family oriented bike events as in the past.

On the plus side, they’ve finally added a small ramp so that it will make it easier for me to haul beer home through the rear entrance onto the Railpath.


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With the growing popularity of cargobikes, I expected that there would be several cargobike dealers to visit while here in Vancouver. I had visited one dealer several years ago when I checked out an early Yuba Mundo, but they had gone under after about a year. A cursory Google search turned up several other dealers that were also out of business. There was one dealer selling Bullitts that I didn’t want to contact as it looked like they were selling by special order out of their home. A little more digging yielded a few options.

One was the Bike Doctor, on Broadway across from the MEC mothership. I’ve visited them before when I was looking for raincapes.


Here you can see a Wike box bike and a Yuba Boda Boda out front.


Inside, you can see that they also carry the Babboe box bike.


They also have a good selection of family biking things.


In my brief visits with them, I’ve found them friendly, and their service and parts department was very helpful.

Another interesting shop was the Tandem Bike Cafe, at 16th and Heather. It is a coffee shop that also does bike repair. When I rode by, I had to stop since there was both a CETMA and a Metrofiets bike out front. I had not seen either in the flesh before. I was told that they could special order either of them.


Here you see the flanges that allow the CETMA frame to be broken down for shipping.


Some very clean TIG welding on the Metrofiets, and it also looks like the rear dropout is splittable for the installation of a belt drive.

Last but not least, a local contact pointed me towards Grin Technologies, so I went down there to check them out today.

On my way, I meet this fellow doing a technical check on one of the new bikes for the bikeshare system on the Hornby bike lane.


I asked about the helmet law, and he showed me a cable integrated into the handlebar that could be used to secure a helmet, but since he was from the bike vendor, he didn’t know about the details of any helmet sharing system.

The Google map directions to Grin were a bit unclear as their postal address is on Powell St, but their actual access is off a parking lot accessed from E Cordova St.


Once inside, an overwhelming number of things to look at.


A wide selection of unicycles.


Their main business is selling kits and components for e-bike conversions. They do, however, sell this one type of ready to ride electrically assisted cargobike, the eZee Expedir.


More interesting to me was the row of bikes behind the two Expedirs.

Firstly, an e-assist Brompton.


Beside it was an Xtracycle Edgerunner in the process of being built up, and then a Yuba Mundo with a complete middrive that was somewhat reminiscent of the Stokemonkey.


However, Ben told me that their system was built in house and was considerably more refined. For one thing, this set up drives the chain, and a special crankset allows the rider to freewheel, whereas the Stokemonkey drives the crankset directly, requiring the rider to always be pedalling. There is also a clever arrangement that senses pedalling effort so that the controller can provide a proportional amount of assist.


One of their visions is to have this system made as universal as possible so that it can be installed on a wide variety of longtail cargobikes.

Here is the staff parking; quite the interesting collection of bikes.


Of course I immediately focused on the Haul a Day in the same orange colour as my own.


It had a hub motor drive installed, but they were planning to install a middrive. The owner told me that hers was a prototype HaD, and so it didn’t have a diagonal frame brace that later models had, like mine. Compare the above picture to mine:


Next to it was a longtail based on the Xtracycle Leap extension.


I was told that one of the hazards of working there was that when you showed up with a new bike, there was the possibility that it would be turned over to prototype a new configuration of electric drive. There were a few non-assisted bikes in the rack. I was amused to hear them referred to as “acoustic bikes”.

In the back was a vintage Xtracycle FreeRadical with an original Stokemonkey drive.

I could have easily spent another hour looking at all the things on display, but regrettably I had to move on. Thanks to Ben for showing me around.

I applaud their efforts in promoting electric assist with made in Canada solutions. After a week of biking around Vancouver, I can see the need for e-assist to make cargobikes more generally appealing.

A little further on, I had to stop by Bomber Brewing, since I had ridden by it three times during a previous training ride.


I tasted a couple of beers, but left with just a six pack of their Park Life Passion Fruit Ale that I had just yesterday at a restaurant. It tasted like a Radler, but I was told that it only had 7% of Passion Fruit Puree that was fermented with the rest of the beef. A nice, light summertime drink. Regrettably, they were out of their Bike Route Best Bitter, named for the fact that they were situated at the intersection of two bike routes.


That’ll wrap up my reporting from Vancouver this year. We’ll see what shape I’m in when I reach Portland.

Update: here is an article from ModaCity about the cargobike scene in Vancouver. It is optimistic, but it also mentions the lack of dealerships. Note the picture of the Bullitt cargobike with a beer keg from Bomber Brewing.

Update #2: Spokesmama has a much more extensive list of cargobike dealers in Vancouver.

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Today we went out and about town (mainly around Shibuya) but it was also an opportunity for me to try the newest version of the Koto-Ku bikeshare system. The procedure now requires that you register with a credit card, and the process is also much easier if you have an RFID readable card. I used my PASMO card.


You’ll notice a couple of differences from the last time I posted about this system. The first is that more of the electronics have been moved onto the bikes themselves, and there is no kiosk at the bikeshare station. The second and more significant change is that the bikes are now e-bikes.

In order to use the system, you have to register as a user online, and use a credit card. This site gives some instructions in english of how to go about this, but the menus seem to have changed a bit since the webpage was put up.

This is how the webpage at docomo-cycle.jp looks like on my phone. Click on the button to login, and then it will take you to the registration page.


The login page page has a “register” button.


and then you’ll go through a series of pages like this one where you enter your account information. One note is that your password has to be at least 8 alphanumeric characters with at least one number and one letter.


I’m already forgetting the details of the pages, but one thing that I can say is that it took my Canadian credit card number, my Canadian phone number (entered as +1416xxxxxxx) and a random Japanese style zipcode.  Once you register, you will get an email. At the same time, look for the option to register a membership card (such as PASMO), and then you will get a second email with an 8 digit code that you will use once to register the card.

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There is an alternative option to reserve a bike at a particular station, and you will get a shorter number code that has to be used with a particular bike. This would be a hassle as each of the stations that I saw had many bikes. To finish registering the card, you go up to a bike, press START and then ENTER, enter the code and then put the card on the reader. The prompts will appear briefly in both Japanese and English.

Here we’re ready to go.


Yes, the bikes are still Bridgestone, but the e-drive was labeled Yamaha.


Here is the control panel. The green button turns the system on, the up and down arrows toggle the motor between strong, medium and “eco” modes. I used strong. The black button toggles the display between %battery, remaining range in km, and speed.


This was my first time on a pedalec and it was a revelation. The system applies quite a bit of torque upon launch, so it was very easy to accelerate from a standstill. We made the 1.5 km ride to the subway station in record time, and with no sweating.

When you dock the bike, you have to look for the green LED’s to light up to show you that the bike is registered with the local wifi associated with the station. Once you see the green light, you can engage the wheel lock, and then you are done. You don’t have to dock the bike at a rack, since the racks are just simple wheel holders.


Here is the entrance to the underground bike parking at Toyosu station (some of us were not on rental bikes).


and the bike turnstiles.


Destination was Shibuya, and for me, that means Tokyu Hands.


Just a few pictures of the bike area.

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also some leather hairnets from Rin Project.


Tokyu hands has almost everything that you can imagine for sale. Here are some shells to save you the trouble of beachcombing.


After some more shopping, we walked south to the trendy Daikanyama neighbourhood. We came upon the Log Road development, which is a new strip of shops on land that became available when a section of the Toyoko line was shifted underground several years ago. This was an incredible civil engineering project, where the actual shift of the tracks was done in the four hours between the last train at 1 am, and the first the same morning at 5 am.

Here are a few stylish but very heavy designer kid bikes. If you want a kid bike that has a Jones H bar styled handlebars, this is your place.

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The southwest end of the development is anchored by the Spring Valley Brewery.


Through the windows, you can see where the rail line goes underground.


The brew pub itself was very modern, and it was packed. We were lucky to get in without a reservation.


These tanks were named Schroeder, Linus and Lucy.


and this is a flight of today’s beers.


My favourite was the second one from the right “Daydream” which was scented with yuzu, as well as a peppery seasoning.

You can also choose to have a few of the beers infused with flavour. Here is a beer being infused with cilantro. Fun, but not to my taste.


The food here was also very good.  This was our last course.


Afterwards we walked around more shops in the area.


This doesn’t look like a real Surly.

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A bike with space to carry a purse built into the frame.


An e-bike store. Now I know the word for a pedalec is ‘denchari’.

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Nearby was an elaborate branch of the Tsutaya bookstore. Here, for example, is an entire wall of fountain pens on display and for sale.


Heading home, we are back at the bike parking to retrieve two kid bikes.




A touch of the PASMO card unlocks a bike.


This is a bad picture, so you can’t see that I’m starting off with 7% charge. I was told that this was not unusual late in the day (it was about 8:30 pm) and that batteries get swapped out for new ones each night.


Almost home.


Once again, when dropping off the bike, make sure you see the green LEDs, then lock the bike, and press ENTER and you are done.


The e-bikes certainly made the trip easier: each way they turned what would have been a hot, sweaty 15 minute walk into a 5 minute easy ride.

Postscript: for 5 single trips over three days, I was charged 150 yen each, which totalled 810 yen including the consumption tax. Also you will get an email in Japanese updating your status every time you check out or check in. They are going to try to have good English translation for all steps in the process before the 2020 Olympics roll around.

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Tsuta Ramen

I’m in Tokyo right now, and one of the things that I wanted to check out was the world’s first ramen joint awarded a Michelin star. You can look at lots of places on the internet that explain the seating system. I went by at 8 am on a Friday to get one of the reservation cards. There was no line to get cards, and from the looks of the box, I was one of the first to pick up a card that day, so things seemed a little calmer than was apparently the case about six months ago.


I picked a blue card, which meant I would be seated around 1 pm.


I arrived at 12:45, and there was a line of about 10 people, about half foreign tourists.


Since there are only nine seats in the place, if you show up with a party of four, don’t expected to be seated at the same time.  It took about 15 minutes to get to the front of the line, at which point it was almost exactly 1 pm.

Once you get into the door, you see that this is a bit Disneyland in that there is still a line inside. There are four seats for people waiting, and an additional two or three customers standing. Immediately to the right of the door, you are confronted with the ticket vending machine. With my limited reading, I decided to pick one of the two big button choices, and also opted for extra noodles (this requires a second button push). I was seated around 1:20.


BTW the first link in this post has much better pictures of the buttons.

These are the reason for all the fuss.


They were discouraging the taking of pictures, except of the food, so this picture only gives you a bit of the feel of the place.


and here is my ramen.


Verdict?  Well it was certainly my far and away the best shoyu based ramen that I have ever had. The noodles had great texture and the chasu pork was also not overly fatty or salty, and also undercooked by TO standards, which was a plus. The broth had depth without hitting you over the head with flavour, fat, or spicyness, in contrast to several of the places in Toronto (granted, many of the places in Toronto generally serve tonkotsu style broths).  Was it worth making two separate trips to this corner of Tokyo?  Maybe once for the experience, since I’ve had plenty of lousy ramen in Japan as well.

Or maybe you can opt for their other branch which is close by, and isn’t as well known, according to this article.

On the other hand, where else can you say you’ve eaten at a Michelin starred restaurant for less than twenty bucks?


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There were plenty of bike related things going on this sunny, summer-like Saturday. I’ve posted elsewhere about the Yonge Loves Bikes ride. This post covers what I did before and after. On the way to downtown, I stopped by the “bikefest” at Henderson Brewery, co-sponsored by Sweet Pete’s.


What I saw at midday was some obstacles laid out in the parking lot, a few displays, and a few kids biking around the parking lot. Oh and one food truck. The brewery itself was crowded and the beer of the month, Ride on Radler, seemed pretty popular. I was told that the procedure was to get food at the truck, and then to come in and have a beer.


The lack of food trucks, plural, was compensated by the fact that the food was good. Tacos served on paratha, rather than tortillas by Feed the Six.


Note that two tacos and a beer seems to be recurring theme on this blog.


BionX had this repainted Yuba Mondo with e assist for people to try.


Rob Z. checks out their fat bike. Note that the larger diameter D-series motor puts out a lot more torque, and I was also told that the regenerative braking works better as well.


Next up, the ride downtown to join Yonge loves bikes. Along Dundas, we come up behind this gal, and it took a couple of seconds to realize that she had a canine buddy in her backpack.

The Yonge loves bikes ride was great, but one thing didn’t go as planned. Originally, this was to be a meetup of three of the four Bike Friday Haul a Day’s in Toronto. However, the other two were nowhere to be seen at Nathan Phillips Square.

However, Stuart materialized during the ride with his red HaD (#2 in Toronto), and told me that Boris had a mechanical and was going to catch up with us later on.


Boris joined us at the end of the ride with his very spiffy British Racing Green e-assist Haul a Day. Here are some close up shots. The mid-drive:


You can tell better in this shot that he had the accessories on the rear colour matched to the rest of the bike.


Locking tool box on the front.


I see that the newer version of the bags has elastic flaps, rather than the toggles and drawcords that failed on mine.


Hydraulic discs, and a dynamo hub.


All three lined up.




The last shot, this time with owners.


Stuart (to the right) is going to start distributing HaD’s in Canada. He will also be carrying other cargobikes, and I know that he won’t sell any model of bike that he hasn’t personally used for at least a couple of months. He will be setting up a website at bikefriday.ca  When I have more details, I will update this post.

Coda: the full zip “Bikes and Beer” jersey that I picked up at Henderson’s yesterday sure came in handy on today’s very warm ride out in the country.



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Beer and bikes

Over the last couple of years, quite a few microbreweries have opened up all across Toronto. In the west end, it’s to the point where a number of us have been talking about having a beer and bikes tour. In the Junction, both the Junction Craft Brewing and Indie Ale House have been around for a while.

On my commute home early this spring, I was drawn to this doorway on Pauline Ave, just north of Bloor (two blocks west of Dufferin), and I was delighted to discover Burdock was selling beer.


Since then, I’ve been happy to drop by on a weekly basis to see what they have to offer.


My favourites thus far have been two of the earliest varieties that I tried: the Brown Ale, and the Bloor Lager. Sadly, these haven’t been sold for at least a couple of months, but I was told that the Bloor Lager will be coming back later this month.

I’ve also dropped in on Folly Brewpub on College near Dovercourt.


Nice, the only problem is that their bottles are a bit too tall to easily fit in my fridge.

Just a couple of weeks ago, I notice that Halo Brewing opened up on Wallace, again on my ride home.

I look forward to when they have a variety of beers in bottles.

Finally, just this past week, Hendersons Brewing Company opened on Sterling Ave, just north of the Nestlé factory. I couldn’t resist their beer from the Ides of May: “Dear Toronto, You Suck, Love Vancouver”. Notice that the Vancouver Lookout Tower is giving us the finger. Science World also seems to be in the wrong place.


It turns out to be a smooth, lightly hopped “IPA”. Very nice for summer.


The brewery was hopping at 5 pm this afternoon, and the bottle shop was nearly sold out. Looks like they will do well.

If there was just a way to cut back to the Railpath before riding to Bloor, this place would be even better.

Got to get working on that Beer and Bikes tour idea!

Update: Henderson Brewing is having a bikefest on June 18 in their parking lot, in collaboration with Sweet Petes.

Update #2: it turns out that there is an official rear entrance to Henderson’s from the Railpath! IMG_3324

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OK I admit it was cold riding around this AM. Perhaps the coldest morning all winter.
In deference to the temps, I opted for the Makers & Riders pants (which I had put away for the season), real ski gloves, as well as actually wearing my winter coat while biking.

The temperatures were variously reported as between -26 and -24°C; at any rate a record low for Feb. 13.

My last stop on my shopping this morning was to COCO Organic Chocolates on Jane St. I’ve switched to this store for my chocolate related needs since they have supported various bike projects in the neighbourhood, such as the Reading Line (check out their new website here), and Slow down Jane.

Check out these bike themed chocolates.
IMG_2690All set for tomorrow now.

Cutting through this lovely little laneway on the way home. I love the signage hanging off the back of Baby Point Hardware.
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And the forecast for next weekend is positively balmy, just in time for Ice Cycle 2016!

on a side note: I could tell it was cold because the bungie cord on my Haul a Day that keeps the kickstand stowed wasn’t working so well. Also, I’ve going to have to do something about the inadequate fender coverage on the front part of the back wheel.
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Stroopwafels in Toronto

At the end of the World Human Powered Speed Challenge this year, I received a little gift from Team Cygnus: a packet of stroopwafels.

When I brought them home, the girls and I cruised through the packet all too quickly, and then we were very sad.

Last week, I found a local source for stroopwafels: Gardenview Convenience at Queen and John, just around the corner from my favorite bike shop. Just go to the cash register, and look on a shelf down to the left.

Better to focus on the fact that they are from Holland, rather than the nutritional information.

Thomas told me that the best way to enjoy them is to use one to cap a cup of coffee so that it gets a little warm.

Highly recommended!

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One of best things about commuting by bike is that I get to interact with the scene on the street. Case in point: today I was riding home along Palmerston Ave when I passed these fine gentlemen who called out something. I had to circle back to make sure I was hearing correctly: something about “free beer”.

Turns out that I wasn’t hearing things. They handed me a cold beer, and told me it was a promotion for Beau’s Beer, which is a craft beer, albeit not so local. Because of container laws I had to wait until I got home to try it. I would bet that they weren’t handing out beers to drivers.

The bottle I was handed was their Lug Tread Lager.
It was a smooth drinking dry Ale with a nice, not overbearing hoppiness. I’ll have to get some more from the LCBO.

I’m all in favor of the Ontario Craft Beer movement. The selection of interesting beers brewed in Toronto is gradually growing, which is a great thing. I try to support the two places that are in my neck of the woods: the Indie Ale House, and the Junction Craft Brewing Company.

Here is a picture taken outside JCB a couple of weeks ago.
IMG_0534 A different vibe than the bikes that you typically see outside the Beer Store.

Back to Beau’s. Thanks to the guys for lugging around beer on such a hot day. I’ll have to try out your other varieties.

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