Monthly Archives: November 2013

Product Review – Talenti Gelato Peppermint Bark

 mint

If you have been reading my blog you’ll know I’m a big fan of Talenti gelatos, having reviewed their products here and here. One of my favorite flavors is Mediterranean Mint, but I have eaten that so many times and felt like getting something new to review. I selected Peppermint Mark because I thought it would likely taste similar, while giving me the opportunity to try a new product.

I didn’t quite understand the naming until I did a Google search and discovered “peppermint bark” was a traditional candy consisting of peppermint candy (candy cane, etc.) pieces embedded in a ‘bark’ of white and dark chocolatess. I have never eaten it so cannot say whether it is a fitting name. The base ingredients are pretty much the same, but I can’t see how the texture is even close.

Flavor

This gelato has an extremely fresh mint taste, backed up by a nice portion of irregularly-shaped chocolate chips strewn about. The experience of eating this pure white cream is quite different from the light green colored Mediterranean Mint because of the color difference, but the actual test is very similar. As I said in the intro, this pretty much lines up with my expectations. The only difference  I detected was a slight graininess in the texture (maybe that is supposed to represent the ‘bark’), but it could be my imagination. Until I try these two back-to-back I won’t know for sure.

Nutrition/Ingredients

In a 100 gram serving there is 240 calories, slightly above the average of other Talenti gelatos which is roughly 210-220. This is clearly not something you should eat frequently when counting calories. There is 26 grams of sugar,  on the low side of Talenti ice creams (Sea Salt Caramel is a whopping 36 g), but a little excessive for my personal health guidelines. Both of these values are very close to Bryer’s mint chocolate chip ice cream, when adjusted by serving size weight, so there is nothing too unusual here.

This product has a few qualifications that make it available to a wide group of people: vegetarian, gluten free, HFCS free, hormone free, and kosher.

There are only 11 ingredients and all natural ones at that. Above all I am very impressed that there is no ‘natural flavors’, because that was present in their Mediterranean Mint flavor. The other differences between these two is that Peppermint Bark has added vanilla and oil (coconut and soybean), and peppermint extract is used instead of fresh mint. The latter explains the color difference between these two products.

Because of the natural ingredients and fresh taste, this is now my 3rd favorite Talenti gelato, after Coffee Chocolate Chip and Caribbean Coconut.

Full ingredient list: milk, sugar, cream, dutched chocolate, dextrose, oil (coconut, soybean), peppermint extract, vanilla, carob gum, soy lechitin

“Dutched chocolate” refers to chocolate processed with alkali, which gives it a browner color and milder taste. Its a pretty common process though I rarely see it listed as “dutched”, but rather as “processed with alkali”. Strictly speaking this is a “unnatural” process that I would like makers to avoid, but it’s a minor nitpick and not sure if how the replacement of natural chocolate would affect the flavor.

(Meditteranean Mint ingredients:  milk, sugar, cream, chocolate, dextrose, natural flavors, fresh mint, carob gum, soy lechitin)

Price/Availability

I purchased this ice cream at Publix grocery store for around $5.99 and haven’t seen it at any other stores in my area. The packaging is marked as “Limited Edition” so eat it while you can, but it seems to have been around since at least December 2012, making the odds of it suddenly disappearing less likely.

Ratings:   Flavor: 8.0  Nutrition/Ingredients: 8.0  Price: 7.0    Overall: 7.6

Summary

This gelato is a mint-lovers delight with nothing unnatural and would be perfect if not for the excessive sugar and calories hidden within.

References

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

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

Ben & Jerry’s Ice Cream Store

benj

During my family’s recent trip to Tennessee, I had an opportunity to pass through Chattanooga and spotted a Ben & Jerry’s store there. I had never seen a stand alone Ben & Jerry’s store like this before, and as the Sweets Reporter I felt compelled to step in and try some tasty sweets.

The menu had a large selection of ice cream flavors (over 25), a few yogurt flavors, sorbet, sundays, shakes, and even smoothies. I quickly decided on having “Coffee, Coffee Buzz Buzz Buzz!” flavor, which I had been wanting to try ever since spotting it on their website a few weeks back. My wife and kid shared a “Berry Nice” smoothy.

The coffee ice cream was somewhat of a disappointment. From the title I was expecting more coffee, or at least more caffeine, but found neither. This flavor is supposed to be “coffee ice cream with espresso bean fudge chunks”, but the coffee flavor wasn’t particularly prominent (coffee was 7th ingredient on the label) and the chunks, of which there were far too many, tasted like everyday  chocolate chips. It didn’t exactly taste bad but didn’t live up to my expectations either, especially considering it has such a great title. I would recommend Talenti’s Coffee Chocolate Chip (which I reviewed here) for an overall better flavor and better balance of chocolate chips.

The Berry Nice smoothy, another product with a well thought out name, was very tasty with blueberries, pomegranate, strawberries and banana mixed with sorbet. The biggest drawback was the many seeds which were cumbersome to chew, though they indicated there was a good proportion of real fruit. Having said that, I’d like to see the actual ingredient list to see if there was more sorbet than fruits.

I regret not writing down the prices (nor taking pictures since I didn’t have my camera at the time – need to buy a smaller camera), but from what I remember the ice cream was around $3.50 for a small size and the smoothy was a bit over $5 for the smaller size. Of the two I consider the smoothy, which is made from fresh fruits, a much better deal, especially since you can get the same ice cream for much cheaper by buying pints at a grocery store. The only exception is when the flavor you want to try isn’t sold near you (which happened in my case with the coffee ice cream). Still, its a great place to grab some sweet goodness with a group of friends, and the large menu assures everyone will be satisfied.

The service was very friendly and considerate as well, tolerating several children running around the place without a complaint or even a negative expression. Also when they were out of cups for the small smoothy they gave us a large sized cup and filled it up to the top, without any extra charge.

Their website has a store locator,  and it appears that there a bunch of these stores all over the country, so be sure to check if there is one in your area. If you search for “Miami” using it you’ll actually see a few Royal Caribbean cruise ships show up. If I ever sail on one of those I’ll like try one of those fruit smoothies again.
Address and contact information for this store
201 Broad Street
Chattanooga, TN 37402
Phone: 423-265-8606

References

http://scoopshops.benjerry.com/scoopshops/chattanooga/menu.aspx

http://www.benjerry.com/scoop-shops/menu

Rickland Orchards Greek On The Go Mango Granola Bites

 greek

I recently came back from a family trip to Tennessee, where I enjoyed the beautiful fall colors – fiery red, bold orange, and luscious green. Living in South Florida there isn’t much feeling of the changing seasons, but when you head north it’s really a different world. I was thinking of creating a blog post about some of the things I saw there, including the very memorable “Rock City”, but decided against it since I want to keep my blog relatively focused on sweets, at least for the time being.

I looked through one of the local grocery stores ice cream sections there, but didn’t see much that caught my eye. There was a few brands that were new to me but most were sold in large one gallon containers, which typically aren’t in the class of ice cream I like. Some brands I was familiar with back home, such as Ben and Jerry’s, didn’t have too many unique flavors there either. That’s one of the disadvantages of globalization – wherever you go things are more or less the same.  Of course, I didn’t do a thorough survey and had I checked out a few other stores I might have seen a wider selection and some more things I wanted to taste and review.

I did stop by a Ben and Jerry’s store which I may briefly review in another post, but for this post I’d like to focus on a sweet product I bought literally at the last minute. I picked it up in on a whim at one of the Nashville airport’s many gift shops.

Flavor

The appearance of these little white balls is a bit surprising at first glance. They look like a homemade gum ball, so when you pop one in your mouth you might be thinking “is it really OK to eat this?” No worries though – as your teeth sink into the soft yogurt coating you soon realize this has little in common with a gum ball. The texture of the coating is not a perfect sphere (hence the “homemade” part), but rather lumpy, as if it was a Frankenstein made of a bunch of smaller pieces. Not the most appealing first impression, but as with most sweets the taste and texture are paramount over the appearance.

The yogurt coating is very much like that on your average granola bar, like Nature Valley’s yogurt bar, except there is a very strong mango flavor infused into it. To be honest I am not a big mango fan (which may have caused me to be extra sensitive to the flavor), but I can see this being delicious to mango lovers so I won’t count it against the product. There is a certain chewyness which reminds me of a protein bar (in a good way), probably because of soy protein isolate contained within.

The inner core of the balls is made up of granola, which has a pretty underwhelming crunch to it. I think a little more snap would improve the overall taste experience. As with the coating, I wasn’t too satisfied with the appearance of the granola portion. It was too mashed together without any visible granola pieces (oats) or other recognizable elements.

My biggest disappointment is that both the inner and outer portions look very different from the packaging illustration, where the granola oats are well-defined and coating is much smoother and even.

Because of my feelings towards mango I won’t say I’m eager to purchase this again, but both my wife and son really enjoyed these sweet, crunchy bites.

Nutrition/Ingredients

One pack contains roughly 36 bites, and a single serving is defined as 9 bites. In a serving there is 190 calories, 80 from fat, and 15 grams of sugars. Though far from being a diet product, these values are pretty reasonable. There is 3 grams of fiber and 5 of protein per serving.

Although there is a mild yogurt taste and actual yogurt is used in the ingredients, it isn’t enough for me to recommend this product for those looking to get the health benefits of yogurt. See another of my reviews where I talked about this here. From the ingredient list we can see there is a higher proportion of sugar, vegetable fat, and skim milk powder over yogurt. Same thing with mango – there is enough of it for a taste, but not enough to count as eating fruit for health reasons.

The ingredients used are generally healthy and natural, with the exception of “natural flavors” which is pretty common in products of this sort. I’m a little curious why they added soy protein isolate which could turn some people off from this (being a more heavily processed ingredient), but the extra protein and flavor is a plus for me. Sugar and fructose syrup aren’t my favorite ways to sweeten something up and ideally I’d prefer a less processed form like agave, but because there is still debate on which sugars are healthiest this is a very minor point. I wonder how the taste would change if they reduce thed amount of these sugars and upped the proportion of brown rice syrup and honey, which are already present. I’m guessing the current ratios were chosen mostly for cost reasons.

Full ingredient list: Greek yogurt coating [sugar, vegetable fat (shea butter, palm oil, palm kernel oil), skim milk powder, dried greek yogurt, soy lecithin, natural flavor, citric acid], oats, mango bit [fruit (mango puree, apple puree), sugar, fructose syrup, rice flour, vegetable fat, natural flavor, pectin, citric acid], soy protein isolate, honey, canola oil, chicory root extract, natural flavors, brown rice syrup, water, tapioca starch, calcium carbonate, gum acacia, probiotics: lactobacillus acidophilus.

Price/Availability

I got this at the Nashville airport but according to their website it’s available at a variety of store chains, including Target and Winn-Dixie. I paid $5.99 but odds are this will be at least a dollar or two cheaper when purchased outside of an airport. For example, I saw this for around $4.00 on this site. I’ll give my numerical rating for price based on the latter since its not fair to the product to use the airport giftshop’s price.

Their website also supports direct purchase, which is nice.

I was a little annoyed the company’s website didn’t list this flavor, but that can be excused by the fact it is a relatively new product, at least according to the “New” label on the corner of the package.

Ratings:   Flavor:  7.0  Nutrition/Ingredients: 7.0    Price: 8.0   Overall: 7.33

Summary

Although the appearance is not that attractive, I’d still recommend this product for anyone who likes mangos and yogurt coating. Granola lovers might want to stay away since the granola portion lacks a certain crispness and definition.

References

http://www.amazon.com/Rickland-Orchards-Greek-Mango-Granola/dp/B00CLHXEP8

http://www.ricklandorchards.com/products#granola-bites

http://www.smartpowders.com/rickland-orchards-greek-on-the-go.html

LaLoo’s Deep Chocolate Goat’s Milk Ice Cream

lala 

When I first saw this product around a year ago, I was attracted by it’s unique packaging and high price. I didn’t know much about goat’s milk and frankly was a little hesitant, but decided to take the plunge for a new sweet desert experience. It was glad I didn’t chicken out because I ended up discovering a great product!

Flavor

Its funny because fundamentally I shouldn’t like this product. Several years back I got tired of all plain vanilla and chocolate ice creams, and recently tend to gravitate to things which have nuts, chocolate chips, or something else to provide a balanced contrast of flavors. But there is something special about this which makes me always want to come back for more.

Texture-wise this ice cream is very similar to typical cow’s milk ice cream, and that is no surprise given these two milks are similar in composition. It’s very creamy and doesn’t get hard in the freezer, so I can eat it right away after pulling it out, whereas some other non-milk based products have odd textures or require waiting to get soft enough to enjoy.

When I take in a mouth full of this ice cream my first thought is of plain old chocolate ice cream. But as it sits in my mouth, I begin to notice two things. First, the chocolate (listed 3rd on label) tastes a little stronger than some other brands. I want to describe it’s taste as “refined” or “elegant”, but I think there is some bias on my side since I know the chocolate comes from a name brand chocolate maker (Scharffen Berger). Also, the goat milk adds a new dimension with some subtle flavors not present in typical ice creams. Some describe goat milk as extra sweet, or salty, but I find these words don’t really mean much to me. Just try it yourself and you might just get hooked like I did.

Nutrition/Ingredients

In a 90 gram serving there is a 160 calories and 15 grams of sugars. The sugar content is quite low compared to many milk-based ice creams, and comparable to many coconut milk-based ones. The calorie content is also much less than average compared to both other types of products. For comparison I’ll present a brief table with values for a few other products, adjusted by weight.

  • LaLoo’s deep chocolate        => 177 calories / 17 grams of sugars
  • Ben & Jerry’s chocolate therapy  => 250 calories / 23 grams of sugars
  • Publix premium chocolate             => 205 calories / 21 grams of sugars
  • Talenti double dark chocolate      => 210 calories / 25 grams of sugars
  • So Delicious german chocolate    => 212 calories / 16 grams of sugars

Protein is moderate, at 5 grams per serving.

Unlike many other products which are made with unnamed chocolate, this one utilizes Sharffen Berger chocolate, whose chocolate bars you have seen in the grocery store. Scharffen Berger is a chocolate maker founded in 1997 in San Francisco, and was “the first American ‘bean-to-bar’ chocolate manufacturer in over 50 years,” according to their website. I haven’t done any direct taste comparison of their bars and can’t say for certain they do anything special compared to other chocolate products, but for chocolate fanatics this is a nice bonus and might have some nutritional benefits as well.

Speaking of nutritional benefits, the main advantage of this product is that is contains goat’s milk instead of the typical cow’s milk found in ice cream. It is claimed that goat’s milk has a few benefits over cow’s milk. For example, it is less likely to trigger allergies, easier to digest, and more friendlier to those who are lactose intolerant. It is also reported to be closer to human breast milk.

I can’t say conclusively that goat’s milk is better than cow’s milk, but in the vein of getting a wide selection of different types of nutrients, I suggest trying to add goat milk products to your diet a little at a time.

This product has only 11 ingredients, and of those the only one that I would consider debatable is carrageenan, used for it’s thickening properties (among other things). I’ve spoke about this briefly in another post (here) but I wish was not used in ice cream products.

Full ingredient list: Goat Milk, Sugar, Scharffen Berger (processed with alkali) semi-sweet chocolate (chocolate, sugar, cocoa butter, lecithin, vanilla), Egg Yolks, Locust Bean Gum, Guar Gum, Carrageenan.

Price/Availability

This ice cream is quite hard to find. The only place I have seen it sold recently is the Whole Foods Market in Fort Lauderdale (info here), selling at $6.99 for a pint (473 mL).

I remember seeing it for a bit more a few months ago, though I don’t remember the exact price. It was somewhere in the range $7.99 to $8.99. In any case I’m glad they dropped the price. Even $6.99 is quite expensive considering you can get many coconut and milk-based desserts for a dollar or two cheaper. But, given goat milk ice creams are quite rare (I don’t know of any others), it is fair for this to have a certain premium.

Ratings:   Flavor: 8.5   Nutrition/Ingredients:8.0    Price:  7.0  Overall: 7.83

Summary

This goat milk ice cream, natural and delicious, is a great vacation away from your average milk-based ice cream. It’s a little pricey, but its unique flavor makes up for that.

References

http://www.laloos.com/flavors.php

http://www.laloos.com/images/nutritional_Deep_Chocolate.jpg

http://www.wholefoodsmarket.com/stores/fortlauderdale

http://www.scharffenberger.com/our-story/history/

http://www.eatlifewhole.com/2013/06/goats-milk-vs-cows-milk-is-there-a-difference/

http://www.mtcapra.com/benefits-of-goat-milk-vs-cow-milk/

Is Fruit Really Unconditionally Better Than Desserts? (the answer may surprise you)

I commonly read that sugar in products such as ice cream and cookies is unhealthy, and those with a craving for sweets should redirect their urges to fruits which are healthier and more natural.

But why are fruits healthier? A good place to start is this article, where a food scientist/R.D. (registered dietitian) talks about the health advantages of fruit over candy and desserts. I’ll quote a few of the key points here but I recommend you read the entire article for proper context.

  • “fruit offers good stuff like vitamins, antioxidants and water, while candy and desserts are nutritionally void”
  • “Fruit also tends to have less sugar by volume.”
  • “whole fruit has a lot of fiber”

Let’s look at each of these points in turn with actual fruit and dessert examples.

First, no one will deny that fruit has vitamins, antioxidants, water, and a whole bunch of other things we haven’t even identified yet. Since this stuff is natural, it seems logical that much of it is good for the body, and I’m sure there are studies out there that show how certain fruits have various beneficial effects.

But stating candy and desserts are “nutritionally void” is an extreme exaggeration that is clearly not true for all products. Sure, many of the popular candy products (think ‘Halloween candy’) and desserts contain a good portion of lab-made chemicals and heavily processed ingredients. But is there any candies or desserts with any nutritional value?

Thanks to the health movement which has gained popularly in the last few years, we now see entire grocery stores dedicated to healthy, natural food. In my area there is Whole Foods Market, Mother Earth Natural Foods, and many smaller ones. With this there is are loads of healthier products flooding the markets, those with organic, natural ingredients, and an absence of things like artificial colors and flavors. I would say at least half of the products I’ve reviewed in this blog I would consider healthy, if not more.

To give one recent example of a recently reviewed healthy product, take So Delicious’s coconut milk mint chip frozen dessert. It contains several ingredients which are known to have good amounts of minerals and vitamins such as coconut (oil and cream), cocoa, and spearmint. It also contains water, which was another of the items mentioned in the article. This is just one example which clearly has many vitamins and nutrients, and until someone shows me a clinical study comparing specific deserts and fruits showing the actual long-term effects of each, I am not convinced fruits have more vitamins and minerals in all cases.

I mentioned one desert product, but there are many like this including those made with cashews, nuts, almonds, soy, rice, and other things thought to be nutritionally rich.

The next point is whether fruit has less sugar by volume. I will first list the sugar per weight for a few fruits based on the figures from sugarstacks.com.

  • Grapes: 16%
  • Cantaloupe: 8%
  • Navel Orange: 9%
  • Apple slices: 10%
  • Banana: 12%
  • Watermelon: 13%
  • Average: 11.3%

Next I’ll show the values for a few ice cream/frozen desserts.

  • Talenti Argentine Caramel: 33%
  • Talenti Caribbean Coconut: 25%
  • So Delicious Coconut Milk Chocolate: 14%
  • So Delicious No Sugar Added Mint Chip: 1%
  • Laloos Vanilla Snowflake: 22%
  • Haagen Dazs Butter Pecan: 20%
  • Average: 19.1%

Overall there is about 70% more sugar in these products, which is consistent with the article’s claim that desserts have more sugar than fruits. Keep in mind, this is just a small sample of frozen desserts, and does not include many other sweet products that have significantly more (or less) sugar levels. Although I only included one product with no sugar added, there are many others of this type, some using sweeteners which may have negative effects on the body (though I would say those are not well known yet).

There are even some cases where fruits have more sugar than a frozen dessert, such as grapes (16%) compared to So Delicious’s chocolate frozen dessert (14%). This product utilizes agave as its main sweetener, which some say is healthier than white sugar. There are others which say simply say ‘sugar is sugar’ which would also mean the sugar from fruits and desserts is the same in terms of how the body digests is.

I cannot dispute the article’s final point that whole fruit has alot of fiber. However, taking the mint chip frozen dessert I discussed above as an example, it has 6 grams of sugar in 85 grams, which gives around 7% fiber of total weight. Much of this fiber comes from chicory root extract.

Here is the fiber per total weight ratios of a few common fruits:

  • Apple: 2.4%
  • Oranges: 2%
  • Raspberries: 7%
  • Peaches: 1.5%
  • Pears: 3.1%
  • Average:3.2%

In this case we can see a dessert has over twice the fiber as several fruits, a few of these were listed as “high fiber fruits”.

Just from this quick analysis, it seems obvious to me that fruits do not have an unconditional win in the fight against desserts and candies. By no means am I saying fruits are not worth eating, since studies (plus common sense) say that eating a variety of fruits is best. But if you are careful about which desserts you choose, focusing on those with natural, nutritious ingredients, I think you can still maintain a healthy diet. It make take a little time to get used to these “healthier” desserts after a lifetime of eating the unhealthy, popular ones, but its worth it since then you can eat (nearly) guilt free.

My biggest concern about desserts is the high fat and calorie content, though this completely depends on how much you eat. From a weight gaining perspective, its clearly less healthy to eat a gallon of ice cream a day versus a banana. But a quarter-pint (single serving) of most ice creams a day shouldn’t cause significant weight gain.

Don’t let an “expert” tell you that you shouldn’t eat desserts. I’m not going to completely stop eating sweets and go all fruit until there is sufficient clinical evidence showing that seemingly healthy products line coconut milk frozen desserts are actually harmful in some way.

Do your own research and enjoy the sweetness that desserts bring to your life!

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/06/29/fruit-sugar-versus-white-sugar_n_3497795.html

http://www.sugarstacks.com/fruits.htm

http://www.fitsugar.com/Fiber-Fruits-209893

http://www.healthaliciousness.com/articles/foods-high-in-dietary-fiber.php