Monthly Archives: November 2013

Product review: Royce Chocolate “Black” (Imported Japanese Chocolate)

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This is the last review of a product I purchased in New York on a recent business trip there. I’ve reviewed one of the Royce stores, and also a green-tea flavored white chocolate of theirs.

The reason I bought this is because I felt like trying their dark chocolate, and many of their other products were much more expensive. This has only 63% cocoa content, but their products with higher percentage were either not in bar form or required refrigeration which was a no-go for a traveller like me.

The product name “Black” is actually not listed in English on the front of the package, though the black font does convey this image. It is listed at the bottom in Japanese (ブラック /  burak-ku).

The descriptive text for this product on their website says “Authentic dark chocolate with a superb balance of bitter”.

Flavor

The chocolate bar is contained in a airtight, plastic bag inside of the external wrapper. Many other chocolatiers make similar efforts, but this is the best job I’ve seen in terms of keeping the chocolate in perfect shape right up until you take your first bite.

The little square nuggets this chocolate is segmented into (32 total) are a little thicker than I usually prefer, but I quickly got over this minor issue as I placed one gently into my mouth. Just like the marketing material, the bitterness of cocoa was balanced with a succulent chocolaty sweetness that was out of this world.

I usually eat higher concentration chocolate so this tasted extra sweet to me, but in my memory of eating bars in the 60-70% range this was the best tasting. Having said that, I hope to review another chocolate bar in the near future with the same cocoa content and see how it stacks up in a side-by-side taste test.

There isn’t much else to say about this bar – there isn’t any special texture or add-ins. But for semi-sweet chocolate lovers there is little to complain about and lots to love!

Nutrition/Ingredients

A 130g package contains 4.5 servings, each composed of 7 blocks (30 g) of chocolate. One serving has 180, with 120 of those from fat.

The 63% of cocoa in this product is really at the low end of what is considered “dark” (60-70% is the typical minimum). As a lover of chocolate in the range 75-90%, I wish they would put out a bar with higher concentration. However, as I mentioned in another of my reviews on Lindt chocolates, the strong bitterness of hardcore dark chocolate is an acquired taste, so it makes sense for producers to pick a mixture that everyone can enjoy.

There is 11 grams of sugar per serving, typical for semi-sweet chocolate.  There is also 2 grams of protein, and 2 of fiber.

Containing two of ingredients I dislike for health reasons, “natural flavor” and “artificial flavor”, I can’t recommend this to anyone who is picky about whats in the food you eat. But for those who don’t care (or those that do but can make an exception time to time), the extra flavor resulting from these mysterious ingredients is well worth it.

Ingredients: Chocolate liquor, sugar, cocoa butter, soy lecithin, natural and artificial flavor.

Price/Availability

This sells for $7.99 and is only available by going directly to the Royce stores in New York, which were recently established in 2012.

Doing a quick price comparison against Lindt’s 50% bar, we see the price for Royce “Dark” is about 1.5 times higher. I feel the price is worth it for a rare, imported product.

Ratings:   Flavor: 8.5  Nutrition/Ingredients: 6.0   Price: 6.5   Overall: 7.0

Summary

Though a little pricy, this refined chocolate imported from Japan packs a savory taste that’s top class. Just be aware that the ingredients contained are not fully disclosed and are certainly not natural.

References

http://royceconfectusa.com/portfolio/black-chocolate-bar/

http://royceconfectusa.com/about-royce/

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Product Review – Financier Patisserie Brownie

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On the last night of my recent business trip to New York, I went searching again for a delicious, unique dessert to enjoy before I called it a night. After a long time searching through Grand Central Station, I finally settled on a brownie from Financier Patisserie, a company which sells traditional and signature French pastries since 2002. I have a soft spot for powdered cocoa on sweets which is one of the reasons this product caught my eye.

Flavor

This brownie has the flavor of typical soft, chewy brownie with a few nice additions. Fresh, crunchy walnuts give a mouth-pleasing texture, and the top layer of the brownie is covered with a sweet chocolate ganache. A third of the bar has an additional layer of cocoa powder on top, quite pure from its bitter taste. Finally, one corner is nicely ornamented with two small green things which seem like caramelized pistachios from their appearance and flavor.

Financier hasn’t exactly invented a new form of dessert, but they’ve made incremental improvements on a classic to make it that much better. Fans of traditional brownies will surely love this decadent item.

Nutrition/Ingredients

This product is sold alone without packaging and the ingredients and nutritional information is not made public, to my knowledge. Their website doesn’t say anything particular about ingredients (organic, natural, no colorings, etc.) so you can’t make any assumptions about what is used.

I’d guess there is a good amount of sugar in one brownie, maybe at least 20 grams.

Price/Availability

I got this medium sized brownie for $3.50 at Financier Patisserie in New York’s Grand Central Station, but there are several other locations of this patisserie around the city.

Ratings:   Flavor: 8.0   Nutrition/Ingredients: N/A   Price: 7.0   Overall:7.5 

Summary

I highly recommend this supercharged, stylish brownie to everyone but those extremely picky about nutrition or ingredients, who might want to think twice before eating this.

References

http://www.financierpastries.com

Sweets Reporter 50th post!

I find that setting a specific goal and then working towards it can really help motivate me.

A little while after I started this blog, I decided I would make at publish at least 50 posts before I considered quitting or changing directions.

My first post was 2013/09/19, so I managed to do this in a little over two months. That’s a bit less than a post a day, not bad considering 39 of these posts were food reviews.  Each of these required purchasing the product, eating it, and sometimes doing some research on the ingredients used. For several of them I also emailed the producers for more information, and at at least a third of the time I never got a response back.

I’ll report some of my blog statistics for the curious, as well as for myself so if I end up writing another 50 posts, I can come back and see how far I’ve come.

I got 565 views, with 51 views on the best day (Nov 22). On my first week I got only 4 unique visitors, and that has climbed to 79 for this week.

I learned that there is two main sources for traffic: those who come in from multiple keyword searches on various search engines, and those who come from looking at the latest posts for a certain wordpress keyword. I have gradually been getting more of the former, but most of my likes and followers come from the latter.

Unfortunately I got only one comment and one reblog.

My most popular tags were:

  • Sugar: 87
  • Food: 86
  • Sweets: 85
  • Ice Cream: 65
  • Sweet: 59
  • Chocolate: 40
  • Dessert: 31
  • Haagen Dazs: 27

This last result is a little surprising and shows the popularity of Haagen Dazs. I have 4 posts tagged this keyword, but 5 with “Talenti” tagged, and 4 with “So Delicious” tagged. Neither of those two show up on the most popular tag list.

Looking at stats for individual posts, I see that Haagen Dazs green tea ice cream is the highest one, with 37 views.

One of the most important statistics, at least to me, is the number of followers. I have been fortunate enough to get 33, and I’d like to thank every single one! I oftentimes wonder if this is low or high given the circumstances, but in the end I know that regardless how good a blog’s content is, it takes time to gather a strong following. A friend of mine gets several thousand hits a day on her blog, but she has been running it for several years.

I know its not good to focus exclusively on metrics, and I don’t. I truly enjoy the process of researching, writing reviews, and (of course) sampling the sweets themselves. But, increasingly as I get older, I find comfort in numerical statistics, even if they don’t always capture the most important things. If I was writing just because I love the joy of writing, I wouldn’t need to publish anything on an online blog.

Going forward, I will probably reduce the frequency of my posts somewhat, as it is hard to keep up such a high pace without getting burned out. Many products have similar ingredients, so some of that analysis becomes too repetitious and I loose interest in it. If I can maintain a rate of one or two posts a week, focusing on products that stand out for one reason or another, it would be great.

As a result of maintaining this blog, I’ve also been eating a great deal more sweets which is not necessarily the healthiest thing, so toning down the pace will help in that area too.

I also have another idea for a new blog, which may utilize my experience at little bit better, and provide more personal satisfaction in the long run. I hope to start it in the next few weeks, once I work out the style and content from a high level. Even if I do start a new blog I don’t expect to quit this one altogether, especially if I keep finding uniquely healthy and tasty products to showcase.

Ironically, the one post I have spent the most time researching is still in unpublished draft form. I hope to make that public in the next week or two and curious to see what response it gets.

Thanks again to everyone who has read my blog, liked it, commented, or become a follower!

I’m always open to suggestions on how to grow this blog so feel free to comment any time.

Product review : Royce Prafeuille Chocolat “Maccha”

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This is the first of two products I will be reviewing from the Japanese chocolatier Royce, whose store I discussed here.

I purchased this because its’ one of the few products sold in the US which is flavored with real green tea powder.

Flavor / Appearance

Each of the 30 chocolate wafers is individually wrapped and stacked in 6 bins. I’ve noticed this type of packaging is pretty common in Japanese candies, and has the advantages of maintaining freshness and cleanliness, in addition to adding to the ‘gourmet chocolate’ feeling. On the other hand, it contributes to extra waste and adds time to the process of eating each one.

Opening one of these little packs reveals a light green candy in the shape of a perfect square. It’s slightly larger than a quarter and has  name ‘Royce’ printed across several times diagonally. It’s also extremely thin, surely the thinnest chocolate I have seen in my life, roughly three or four times  shorter than your average chocolate bar.

Before you take a bite, you may notice a buttery smell reminiscent of white chocolate, with a definite note of green tea. The flavor and texture are also very similar to white chocolate, again with a subtle taste of green tea powder, almost what I would call an aftertaste but nevertheless the real thing.

Inside each thin wafer there is an even smaller portion of “maccha sauce” (translated directly from the Japanese text inside the package), which is basically like a maccha-flavored jelly with an extra touch of sweetness. The practically microscopic size of this jelly makes it difficult to appreciate, however.

Nutrition/Ingredients

In one serving (7 pieces / 30 grams), there is 180 calories, half from fat, and 11 grams of sugars. This amount of sugar roughly corresponds to a chocolate with 60% cocoa.

This product is essentially a white chocolate, and therefore does not contain cocoa solids, only cocoa butter. Unfortunately this means it also lacks many of the antioxidant properties of dark or semi-sweet chocolate.

The ingredients are fairly commonplace, and not particularly unhealthy, except for “artificial flavor” which is even worse than my pet peeve “natural flavor”. I generally try to avoid any artificial flavors, which are basically chemicals cooked up in a lab which try to simulate the taste of real, organic substances. The composition of these compounds could technically be the same as their organic counterparts, however they were created via some form of chemistry magic, so cannot be considered “natural”.

While Royce does a good job putting out a high class chocolate image, its clear they are not catering to the health-seeking crowd, with artificial flavorings and no other special qualifications (organic,vegan, etc.).

Ingredients: cocoa butter, sugar, glucose syrup, skim milk powder, whole milk powder, lactose, powdered green tea, soy lechitin, artificial flavor

Price/Availability

In America, this is only officially available via one of their two (soon to be three) New York stores, where it sells for $18. You may be able to find third parties importing it from Japan, but there is usually a very high mark-up, on the order of 200%-300%.

Ratings:   Flavor: 7   Nutrition/Ingredients: 7   Price: 6.0   Overall: 6.66

Summary

Royce has put great effort into the appearance and packaging of this product, but the taste itself is basically white chocolate with some green tea powder added in. Artificial flavors, plus a high price, makes it hard to recommend it for most people except green tea fans who are more likely to appreciate the flavor.

References

http://royceconfectusa.com/portfolio/maccha-prafeuille-chocolat/

Product Review: So Delicious Mocha Almond Fudge Almond Milk Frozen Dessert

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Flavor

This ice cream has a very different flavor that is hard to put into words, especially if I force myself to not cheat and use the ingredients list as a reference. The best I can do is call it a nutty sweetness, punctuated with many small almond pieces – just enough to strike the perfect texture balance. There is a fudge sauce which winds to and fro within this creamy confection, but doesn’t seem to have much of a unique taste to it. Its nothing like any milk- or coconut-based frozen dessert.

I haven’t had almond milk yet, but will have to try it sometime so I can determine if that is what lends the strongest taste component to this frozen dessert.

Though a foreign flavor at first, if you take a few partially-melted spoonfuls you will soon find yourself yearning for more.

I don’t really detect much coffee or chocolate taste, but the well thought out mixture of ingredients results in a complex flavor that is more than the sum of its parts.

Nutrition/Ingredients

In a 85 gram, 1/2 cup serving (four total in the package), there is only 160 calories and 10 grams of sugars. The calorie count is much lower than Talenti’s ice creams (rough average 200) and many of Ben & Jerry’s (rough average 250), though it’s right in league with So Delicious coconut milk based frozen desserts. The amount of sugars is also very low, nearly one-half to one-third that found in many other frozen desserts or ice creams. At first I was clueless on how they can achieve such a great perception of sweetness with only 10 grams of sugars. Then when I read through the ingredient list I discovered erythritol – a nearly zero calorie sweetener which is also utilized in other sugar-free ice creams to add sweetness.

Erythritol is 50-60% as sweet as table sugar, does not cause cavities, and only effects blood sugar (if at all). Sugar alcohols have gotten bad press because they can intestinal problems, such as nauesa, in large quantities. However, erythritol is claimed to have a less chance of these side effects compared to other sugar alcohols, and they are frequently reported only in doses over 50 grams.

I emailed So Delicious and though they would not disclose the exact amount of sugar alcohol employed, I was told that there is less than 2%. This works out to be at most around 2 grams. To reach 50 grams dosage it would take 25 servings, or over 6 packages of this frozen dessert. Clearly there is little health concern, and I feel in this case erythritol advantages outweigh its weaknesses, especially if your diet does not contain any other products with this sweetener. Having said that, I think those who haven’t had sugar alcohols before should take it slowly – don’t eat a whole carton in one sitting.

Tapioca syrup is listed as the sweetener present in the highest amount. It is made from the cassava root and is said to be a healthy alternative sweetener which is GMO and pesticide free.

Fiber is 5 grams per serving. Protein is 2 grams per serving, a good bit lower than many other milk-based products which have easily have 5-6 grams.  But honestly, nobody is going to be choosing which dessert they eat purely based on protein content. And while we are on this topic, even the difference between 160 and 250 calories is pretty minor. Even though its 40% more, for those eating only one or two servings it’s a very small fraction of most people’s daily calories. Having said that, if choosing between two ice creams that both taste great, I’ll usually choose the one that is lower in calories and sugar.

Besides my usual pet-peeve “natural flavors” (present in both the fudge sause and the base), there isn’t too much that bothers me in the ingredient list. Water, used a base in both the almond milk and the fudge sauce, helps to keep the calorie and sugar amount down.

Full ingredient list: ALMOND MILK (WATER, ALMONDS), ORGANIC TAPIOCA SYRUP, FUDGE SAUCE [DRIED CANE SYRUP, WATER, ORGANIC COCOA (PROCESSED WITH ALKALI), TAPIOCA STARCH, NATURAL FLAVORS, ORGANIC CHOCOLATE LIQUOR], ALMONDS (ALMONDS, COTTONSEED OIL, SALT), CHICORY ROOT EXTRACT, DRIED CANE SYRUP, ERYTHRITOL, PEA PROTEIN, NATURAL FLAVOR, COFFEE, CAROB BEAN GUM, GUAR GUM, KOSHER SEA SALT, MONK FRUIT.

Price/Availability

I just purchased mine for $5.99 at Whole Foods Market, where I recently noticed it in the frozen section.

Ratings:   Flavor: 7.5  Nutrition/Ingredients:8.0  Price:7.0    Overall: 7.5

Summary

This almond-based frozen dessert has a unique, delicious flavor that’s addictive. I highly recommend trying some to bring variation and nutritionally round out your ice cream “diet”, especially to those who eat mostly milk-based products.

References

http://www.sodeliciousdairyfree.com/products/almond-milk-frozen-desserts/mocha-almond-fudge

http://hbmag.com/tapioca-syrup/

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tapioca

Store Review: Royce (Japanese Chocolatier)

One thing I have become slightly disappointed lately is the state of the various chocolate producers and their product lineups. While there are a few companies, such as Green & Blacks, which make a variety of creative, tasty chocolate products, there are countless other companies that put up a big marketing show for run-of-the-mill chocolate without any special characteristics (flavor, ingredients, etc.) . I don’t know how some of these companies can stay in business with so many competitors putting out nearly identical products. My guess is that most of it comes down to marketing and connections, and as long as a company can hook a niche market they can survive for some time.

Near the end of a recent business trip, I happened to be browsing through New York’s Bryant Park, searching for food and sweets in the many stores in the park and in the nearby area. I walked by one store and as I peered in through its window some very unique chocolate caught my eye. Not just the stylistic packaging, thin square boxes with monotone coloring, but the chocolates themselves were something I had never seen before. There was a dark-chocolate looking one covered with powdered cocoa, and a green one covered with something that looked like green tea powder. Unfortunately the store was closed at the time (it was sometime after 8pm on a weekday), but I decided I would research this place and come back later. The name “Royce” was easy to remember if I associated it with “Rolls Royce”.

When I got back to my hotel and did a bit of research I discovered Royce was a high quality Japanese chocolate maker, established in Sapporo in 1983. Their Japanese name is pronounced something like “royz”. That explained the green tea chocolate – the Japanese really love their green tea. The company’s website said there was only stores available in the US, and both were in New York. Lucky me! I decided to head there the next day, which was my last opportunity to shop before returning home.

Getting there was a bit tricky since I got off at work at 6pm and they closed at 7. I ended up taking the Metro and having to run through the city until I arrived around 6:30pm with just enough time to browse.

The store is set inside a building with others, such that a double entrance is required to get inside. The actual square footage of the place was very small, but with a sparse design they somehow managed to make it feel much bigger. There was a large shelf against one wall with various products on display, and a long square table in the middle. Everything was very modern, very bright, and very clean. Essentially, very Japanese. If you check out this link, you can see their other store to get a feel for the design used. (Interesting linguistic note: one word for ‘beautiful’ in Japanese is ‘kirei’ which also means ‘clean’)

Upon closer inspection, the middle table contained both products I had seen in the window, “Nama Chocolate Bitter” and “Nama Chocolate Maccha”. Both were only $18 which I considered cheap for these rare and unique products. I felt even better about this price after I heard from one of the saleswomen that they do not sell their products online. (Note: I did find at least two of their products sold on Amazon, but they were by third parties and had very high markups of over 200%. Here is one.)

After taking in the beauty of the store for some time, I become concerned when I realized the middle table was actually refrigerated, and when I asked one of the saleswomen she said the products will last 7 hours outside a refrigerator, and 11 hours inside a special bag which they provide free of charge. Unfortunately my hotel didn’t have a refrigerator, so these wouldn’t do for a souvenir to bring home to the family. It would be a waste of money to buy and eat only a few myself before throwing it away, so I decided on skipping these altogether. I was given a small sample of the bitter one which had an amazing flavor, something like light fudge with cocoa powder. A second sample which I couldn’t refuse was one of their marshmallow products. It was surprisingly tough but had a taste like nothing I’ve had before.

In retrospect I feel a bit stupid, because although the products displayed in the window were not in a refrigerator, the product name “nama” means “raw” in Japanese, so I could have of guessed refrigeration was required.

I ended up purchasing two other products which didn’t require refrigeration. I haven’t tried these yet but planning on tasting and reviewing soon.

Summary

A very unique chocolatier only available in New York – highly recommended for anyone who considers themselves a consumer of high quality, high class chocolates.

Note: They are working on opening a third store, and one of the other stores was closed for construction, so be sure to check their website before heading over.

References

http://royceconfectusa.com/

http://royceconfectusa.com/locations/

Product Review – Goo Goo Cluster Peanut Butter flavor – “The original southern confection with real milk chocolate”

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I bought this product at the same time as this one which I reviewed recently. It was something I hadn’t seen before, and I figured that I couldn’t go wrong with a cluster of peanut butter and chocolate

The Standard Candy Company has been around for over 100 years, and the GooGoo cluster was invented in 1912, in Nashville.  Although the peanut butter variant wasn’t created until 1991, this line of candy can be seen as a true southern classic because it was the world’s first ever combination candy bar.

Flavor

This candy has three parts: a layer of thick peanut butter, whole peanuts placed here and there above the layer, and a sweet, nutty icing surrounding the two and creamily filling in the spaces between. As you might expect, the combination of chocolate and peanut butter is very similar to Reese’s Peanut Butter cups, though the texture of the crunchy peanuts and icing make the overall taste experience very different. The bumpy, irregular shape gives a little surprise to each bite as you try to guess how many peanuts you’ll gobble up.

I thoroughly enjoyed this delicious treat, but things ended a bit too quick for my liking because the size is small for the amount of calories (230) and sugar packed within (to be fair, I was biased because I had read the calorie count before taking my first bite). I had to stop myself from eating a second, and then a third. The package is also a bit oversized for the volume of the three clusters inside (individually wrapped), but what company doesn’t do this? It’s better than some chip products where, after settling, half of the bag is empty air.

This product also isn’t very filling, at least considering the amount of calories. That’s probably because the amount of whole peanuts is relatively small and there is a large ratio of sugar to other ingredients. Compare to Clif Crunch Peanut Butter bar, which contains only 190 calories and feels two to three times as filling. A product like that, designed more to nourish than as a sweet treat, also takes longer to eat.

Nutrition/Ingredients

The more I discuss calorie and sugar content, the more I feel it is becoming less relevant, especially for those who eat candy once in a while. I may omit the discussion of nutrition metrics completely in the future and focus just on ingredients, but for the short term I’ll continue to at least report the basic figures.

A single serving (43 grams) contains 230 calories and 17 grams of sugars. These values are pretty standard for this type of candy, though the calories from fat is somewhat high (140). Protein per serving is 6 grams. There isn’t much else unique about the nutritional profile.

The ingredients are all pretty typical, and reasonably healthy with no artificial flavorings or colorings. The unique thing about this is it actually contains eight ingredients derived from nuts (or the nuts themselves), including peanuts, almonds, pecans, walnuts, cashews, and hazelnuts. Most of these are used in relatively small proportions (except peanuts which are listed as the most prominent ingredient), but with all the potential health benefits of nuts this gives me a good feeling.

I’m starting to tolerate natural flavor more as it’s been in so many products I’ve reviewed lately, but I still wish it would be one of the last ingredients or eliminated completely. Here it is used in a higher proportion than many of the other nuts or nut-based ingredients.

Sugar is the second most prominent ingredient, but for a candy (especially a classic one) this is to be expected.

Full ingredient list: Peanut Butter (Dry Roasted Peanuts, Dextrose, Hydrogenated Cottonseed, Rapeseed Oil and Salt), Sugar, Peanuts, Dextrose, Cocoa butter, Fractionless Palm Kernel Oil, Chocolate Liquor, Whole Milk Powder,  Soy Lechitin, Cocoa (processed with Alkali), Whey Powder, Nonfat Dry Milk, Salt, Cornstarch, Natural Flavor,  Peanut Flour, Soy Protein Isolate, Wheat Starch, Almond Flour, Pecans, Walnuts, Cashews, Hazelnuts.

Price/Availability

I got this 3-pack carton at the Nashville airport for $6.99, but you can get this online directly at the company’s website for $4.25. They also sell this product in 12- and 72-pack cartons, for a significant savings on unit price.

Using their online store locator, a quick search shows that there only a handful of places in South Florida which carry this, mostly Cracker Barrel Old Country Stores. I take this limited availability as a good thing – it gives the product a feeling of being special and fits with its image of being a southern classic candy.

Ratings:   Flavor: 8.5    Nutrition/Ingredients: 8.0   Price: 8.0    Overall: 8.2

Summary

Apart from its small size (which pained me all the more because of the great taste), I have little to complain about this product with it’s unique texture and generally healthy ingredients. Highly recommended for fans of peanut butter and chocolate, this item also has historical significance tied to Nashville, Tennessee.

References

http://www.googoo.com/

https://www.googoo.com/online-store/candy/peanut-butter-3-pack-carton/

https://sweetsreporter.com/2013/11/01/product-review-clif-crunch-peanut-butter-granola-bar/

Myx Fusions Moscato & Coconut Wine

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On a late night during a recent New York business trip, I was looking for something alcoholic to drink without resorting to products where there is no ingredient list. This product had nice bottle design, potential for great taste, and above all a fully disclosed ingredient list, so I decided to try it out.

I am not a big wine drinker, but a little research indicates that moscato wine is a popular white wine which is sometimes used as a “dessert wine” and typically has a pronounced sweet floral aura.

This is my first time drinking moscato wine, and also my first post to feature an alcoholic beverage.

Flavor

This drink has a light, sweet flavor, with subtle overtones of coconut. Usually when drinking a product with alcohol the question is how much can I bear the bad taste (including most beers), but this drink left me pleasantly surprised with its drinkability and practically no taste of alcohol. It really goes down smooth and I quickly polished off all four bottles in a few minutes.

Overall, I feel that both wine lovers and those with a sweet tooth will enjoy this well balanced beverage.

Nutrition/Ingredients

There is 140 calories and 17 sugars in a 187 ml bottle. Its hard to compare this since many alcoholic drinks don’t advertise these numbers, but they seem reasonable to me.

There are various research studies which claim either good or  bad effects of wine on health. I am not going to pick a side now, but for those that feel wine is healthy (in moderation) I suggest this product. It has 5.5% alcohol, a bit low for moscato wines, though it is in league with wine coolers which are conceptually similar to this drink.

Nutritionally, this product is much better (or at least less riskier) than those which do not list their ingredients of nutritional information. This is a wide majority, including personal favorites such as kahlua or Irish cream. Myx uses no artificial flavors or colors, which surely can’t be said about many other liquor products.

Natural flavors are present but since this is an alcoholic dream I’ll be a bit more forgiving. This includes the main coconut flavor since there is no actual coconut list. My biggest concern is the three preservatives used which could have negative effects on the body. Potassium sorbate, for example, can contribute to nutritional deficiencies by impairing absorption of nutrients in certain cases.

A nice plus is that much of the sweetness is achieved by grape juice and its concentrate, and sugar is only used in smaller proportions.

Full ingredient list: moscato wine, water, grape juice, grape juice concentrate, sugar, natural flavors, citric acid, carbon dioxide,  potassium sorbate, potassium benzoate, and potassium metabisulfite (to preserve freshness).

Price/Availability

This product is sold in 4 packs of 187 ml bottles. I purchased it from the Walgreens in Times Square (not your average Walgreens for those who are interested) for $11.99.

Ratings:   Flavor: 7.0   Nutrition/Ingredients: 6.0   Price:  7.0  Overall: 6.66

Summary

A nice sweet wine-based drink with healthier ingredients that many wine-coolers and alcoholic beverages out there. For lovers of wine and sweet alcoholic drinks this is a must-try.

References

http://www.newhealthguide.org/Potassium-Sorbate.html

Perugina Milk Chocolate With Cappuccino Crispy

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On a recent business trip to New York, I searched a few grocery local stores for a new sweet treat to taste. I wanted a taste of coffee without too much caffeine so I decided on this product. This is the first time I have seen a product by Perugina, an Italian company established in 1907,  so I thought it would be an interesting experience.

I’ll quote a sentence from the marketing quip on the back of the  package:

“You will be transported into a dream world of flavor, culture, and passion for delicacies that is genuinely Italian.”

Flavor

Everything from this product, from its appearance to its taste, seemed like a ripoff of the classic ‘Nestle Crunch’. Nestle Crunch has been around since 1938, but I’m not sure if Perugina’s product was first of not. If I had to guess I would go with Nestle Crunch being first. Ironically Nestle purchased Perugina in 1988 – I wonder how this affected their recipes.

My biggest beef with this product is that there is practically no coffee flavor, its overpowered by all the sugar packed in. The ingredient list also is consistent with this since coffee is listed after sugar.

This one of the times when I will probably not finish the entire bar and it will end up in the trash can. To be fair, its also one of the times I didn’t pay attention to the ingredients before purchase.

Nutrition/Ingredients

In a 40 gram serving (2.5 total servings) there is 220 calories and 19 grams of sugars.  This is pretty typical for chocolate bars with a low percentage of cocoa. It isn’t listed on the package, but from the taste and amount of sugars I would say roughly 30-40%.

Because of the high sugar content (listed first on the ingredient list) and low cocoa content, I can’t recommend this chocolate from a nutritional perspective. One surprise is that crisped rice is used in Nestle Crunch, whereas this product has modified food starch and wheat maltodextrin replacing that.  The presence of artificial flavors really puts the nail in the coffin for this chocolate.

I have no idea what part of this product is “genuinely Italian”, since both the flavor and ingredients are quite generic. I guess this company still gets shelf space since it has been around for over 100 years (and has the backing of Nestle), but if they want to stay competitive they should try new recipes with more unique flavor and healthy ingredients.

Full ingredient list: Sugar, milk, cocoa butter, chocolate liquor, cappuccino crispy (nonfat milk, sugar, coffee, modified food starch, wheat maltodextrin), milkfat, sunflower lechitin, artificial flavor.

Price/Availability

I got this for $4.99 at Cafe Hestia near Grand Central Station in New York.

Ratings:   Flavor: 6.0   Nutrition/Ingredients: 5.o   Price:  7.0  Overall: 6.0

Summary

With a load of sugar, very little chocolate and hardly any coffee taste, this product is a major letdown. If you are a bug fan of classic chocolate like Hershey’s you might enjoy this, otherwise pass it up for more healthy, refined chocolate.

Ice Cream – weight vs volume

In several of my previous blogs I had adjusted by weight (expressed in grams) when comparing across ice cream products. While the amount of weight per serving is an important value and in comparing using it gives useful information, in reality we eat ice cream by volume, not weight. When you scoop up some ice cream the real limiting factor is volume, in other words size, because ice cream will never be heavy enough for you to care about a spoonfuls worth of weight.

For this reason I’ll try to stick to comparing against volume in future posts. Originally I had started comparing using weight because I noticed this different across ice cream producers and thought it translated to different volumes, so it would be the most fair way to compare. However I was wrong – most ice cream/frozen dessert companies use a standard serving size of 1/2 cup, which yields 4 per pint.

Here is a sample of average weight per 1/2 cup serving for a few ice cream companies:

  • Talenti: 100 grams
  • Haagen Dazs: 100 grams
  • So Delicious Coconut Milk: 85 grams
  • Bryers: 66 grams

So how can the weight be almost double for the same volume? The basic ingredients, coconut/cow milk and sugar, shouldn’t differ too much in weight and the minor ingredients are in a lower proportion and have only a small effect on the total weight. The answer may be a little surprising to those who haven’t researched how ice cream is made:

Air.

Believe it or not air bubbles are actually a necessary component of (tasty) ice cream. If you want to see what I mean, you can try an experiment which I accidentally did the other day. Move a small portion of ice cream into your refrigerator and wait a few hours until it melts into liquid. Then transfer it back to the freezer and wait a few more hours. It will re-freeze but much of the air (and ice crystals) will be gone, so the texture will be ruined. Also you will see the volume is reduced. If you own an ice cream machine you’ll know that its primary purpose is to continually spin the cream so that these air bubbles form.

If you go back and look at the table above again, you might be upset since Bryer’s is essentially filling their ice cream with air. I found a great post which discusses this practice and does some research to discover the cheaper the ice cream the more air is puffed in. You can find it here.

Some might declare we need to stand up to ice cream producers and force them to stop saving money by giving us air-filled ice cream, but I would disagree. At least for a company like Bryer’s that produces great-tasting ice cream, I don’t think there is any reason for them to change. Personally, I have gravitated to more dense ice creams in the last few years, but I have no problem eating some Bryer’s now and then, albeit in small portions.

Besides a cheaper price to the consumer, there are other advantages to adding air – less calories and sugar content. But be careful, since a much larger container size (gallon vs a pint) means you are likely to gobble up more per sitting. You could also argue there is less nutrition, but most people don’t eat ice cream primarily for nutrition.

Regardless on how you judge things, I believe in transparency – consumers knowing what is really in the products they buy. This includes air, which is not listed on the label as an ingredient.