New Thing+ #1: The Bandit Coffee Group Inc.

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It’s been 68 days since my last post.

That’s not to say that I haven’t done anything new since then, far from it.

I’ve met Olympians, held their medals, flown in a very small aircraft, met some folks from Giantbomb.com, become allergic to Aspirin, been promoted to Associate Creative Director, and eaten frogs legs for the first time.

So yeah, I’ve just been busy.

But what better way to get back into the swing of things than to try out a new espresso bar.

The Bandit Coffee Group Inc. is a beautiful little spot just down the street from my place. Why I haven’t been there before is beyond me.

The decor is clean, yet rustic and the afternoon light brings a real natural feel to the place. The long wooden table that takes up the majority of the space is perfectly suited for a nice hour of iPad surfing.

The barista, or possibly the owner, was very friendly and really seemed to know what he was doing. My cappuccino was delicious, smooth and creamy and made me wish I’d tried out a macchiato instead because I bet it would have been even better.

This resurgence of independent coffee shops in this end of town is really heartening. Especially since this particular one is within walking distance.

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New Thing #313: Nespresso

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I’ve been pretty skeptical of the whole pod-based espresso craze, but more and more of my discerning friends have been telling me that I had to try Nespresso. Italians even.

So, I did. And damn if I didn’t almost walk out of there with one under my arm. Thankfully Shauna talked me off the ledge…or more told me off the ledge…so I came home empty handed. For now.

The coffee was good, very good. Sure, it’s not as exceptional as what you’re going to get out of a Sam James or Mercury shot, but it was better than anything I’ve had from a home machine that cost less $1000. The crema alone was richer than most restaurants will give you.

The other point my friends have all made to me is this: their manual machines continue to just sit and gather dust. Not because they’re particularly hard to use, but because they’re just too much fiddling to get a couple of cappuccinos going in the morning. And with a kid who never makes things easy before daycare it’s basically an impossiblity.

I’ve also been hesitant to even consider pods since they seem to amount to whole lot of waste ending up in a landfill. But they have that covered too. Just bring in your old pods to the store and they’ll recycle them for you. No fuss

And that store is a very nice piece of retail experience. They have a full blown free espresso bar for anybody to sidle up to at The Bay at the Eaton Centre. 

One of those anybodies was a rather pleasant retiree who spent 15 minutes giving me the most heart felt sales pitch I’ve ever gotten for any product in my life. The actual sales clerks had nothing on this guy. It was as if someone were looking at an iPhone for the first time and they happened to be standing next to to me. 

When you have customers that are that passionate about a product, you know they’re doing something right.

New Thing #305: Crema on the Danforth

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It’s not much of a secret that I frequent the Crema Espresso Bar at Yonge and Bloor rather frequently. I love their coffee and it’s conveniently located about 3 minutes from my office. 

But, even though I’ve passed it many times on the Danforth, I’ve never frequented their newest location until tonight. After a rather enjoyable visit with an old friend and colleague I grabbed a cappuccino to see how it stacked up to its brother’s. Pretty well is my assessment.

Plus, out of the three Crema locations I’ve been to, this is by far the most inviting. It’s warm and has plenty of seating and, at least in the evening, it’s fairly vacated. Perfect for a little quiet espresso time.

 

New Thing #286: Soma Mayan Hot Chocolate

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What better way to warm up on a cold winter night than with a cup of Mayan Hot Chocolate form Soma chocolatiers?

Firstly, I’ve never had a proper Mayan style hot chocolate that incorporates chilies into the mix. Secondly, I’ve been told repeatedly that Soma makes the best hot chocolate in Toronto from multiple sources over the years.

And as luck would have it, we strolled right past Soma tonight after a rather enjoyable dinner at Wvrst. We quickly ducked inside and grabbed a couple of drinks to go that wound up keeping us nice and warm on our way to the subway. 

And it was absolutely delicious.

I don’t know how I can have hot chocolate without chilies ever again. Their slight bite was the perfect complement to the sweet, rich chocolate they accompanied. The liquid was smooth and velvety all the way down and the foam on top just gave it that little extra bit of silkiness that it needed.

I think I’ll skip the espresso shops nearby next time I go on a cold day and head straight in for another cup of this sweet hot chocolate instead.

New Thing #283: Seven Grams Espresso Bar

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I made my way up Avenue Road at lunch today to Seven Grams Espresso Bar after being informed that there was another intersting espresso bar in the neighbourhood. Although “in the neighbourhood” might be stretching it a bit since it’s a 15-20 minute walk from work.

The first thing I noticed when I got inside was just how spacious it was. Since I tend to frequent pretty cramped coffee shops on a regular basis it’s nice to find somewhere that you can spread out and not knock elbows with the people next to you. 

It’s also nice and bright upstairs, and the tables below are warm and invitin. It’s the type of place you’d go out of you way to spend some time reading or studying in.

But how’s the coffee? Well, it’s pretty good. It’s not the best I’ve had downtown, but it’s way above average for that part of town. And it’s just far enough away from work to be the perfect destination when I need a walk to clear my head.

I think I’ll be back.

New Thing #270: Tim Hortons Latte

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Tim Hortons is selling espresso based drinks now. So, yeah, I couldn’t resist trying a latte today from the donut slingers down the street. I think you can safely guess how high my expectations were going into this one.

I’ll say this: Tim Hortons makes a fine cup of warm milk.

For the life of me I couldn’t taste anything resembling coffee in this mechanically made mess. At least the milk wasn’t scalded though, so I could at least treat it like a bland hot chocolate to warm me up on the walk back to the office. And were the chocolate sprinkles really neccessary Nice Lady Behind The Counter? 

So, the good news is that it didn’t make me wretch. The bad news is that it isn’t a latte by any stretch of the imagination.

New Thing #264: Mountain View Coffee Factory Caf??

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Mountain View Coffee is a coffee wholesaler down off the Lakeshore in the east end. My friend Lynn told me about it a while back, but as I found the hard way, they’re not open on the weekend. So with a day off to fill I trotted on down around lunch time.

What I was interested in was that they proport to change up the beans regularly so that coffee people can try new things. But that isn’t really apparent when you walk in, and I didn’t see anything espousing the virtues of whatever they were using behind the counter today. I figured this would be a place where they’d give you a little spiel about what you’d be drinking that day. But I guess not. 

The space is big and open, which you’d expect in a warehouse facility, but they’ve managed to add enough warth with some tables and furniture to make it inviting to stay and enjoy your beverage. Plus they have free wifi which is always a plus. 

I had a cappuccino that wasn’t, well, terrible. It wasn’t great either. But it was good enough to accompany the latest issue of The Walking Dead in a nice quiet environement.

I think the biggest problem they’ll have is that Mercury Espresso Bar is literrally just up the street from them and their product is vastly superior.

New Thing #240: Kaffismi??ja ??slands’ Espresso

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Sometimes a random happenstance really works out. 

Take my friend Stuart who recently went to Iceland on vacation. He was busy planning his trip when I came across a blog post by my friend Liz about the best places to get coffee in Reykjavik. So, of course, I passed the link along.

And wouldn’t you know it, Stuart brought me back a bag of Kaffismiðja Íslands’ own blend of beans. What a nice fella that Stuart is.

They’re simply wonderful. Not a hint of bitterness and extremely smooth and silky. If it weren’t so damned far away, this would definitely replace the Intellgentsia variety I usually keep on hand.

And yes, it even beats the beans I roasted myself.

 

New Thing #213: Circus Coffee House

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There’s a little storefront on the way to the park from my house that’s been under wraps for months now. And I’ve been anticipating it’s opening since the first time I saw the word coffee on the door.

Unfortunately, it’s not going to replace any of my go to coffee shops. 

I grabbed a latte, and once it had cooled down enough to drink I nursed it on the subway all the way to work. It was ok, but nothing I’m going to go out of my way for in the future. 

However, they do have an extensive list of fresh juices and free-wifi so I might go back for their non-caffeinated fare some day.

New Thing #206: Cortado

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My coffee snobbery may come into question with this post, but I’ve never had a cortado before today. On the recommendation of Adrian, one of my work pals, I had Crema whip me up this espresso cut with warm milk concoction this afternoon.

Yummy.

It’s about half way between a straight espresso shot and a macchiato. Normally, if I’m not at work, a macchiato is my go to beverage, so it was nice to try something a little stronger than it, but meatier than just a shot of espresso.

I think I’ve just found my perfect breakfast drink.