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Product Review: Talenti Black Raspberry Chocolate Chip

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This is my fifth review of a Talenti ice cream, with two of my favorites reviewed here and here. This brand’s chic packaging is what initially caught my eye, but with my first bite I was hooked with each of the sweet, creamy, and natural flavors.

Flavor

This ice cream has all you could ever want – a strong, natural raspberry flavor backed by a creamy, sweet milk texture, and tiny chocolate chips to complete the picture.

I’ve mentioned this with many other ice creams as well, but this one especially tastes *really* good when eaten in a half-melted state, like when you scoop your spoon around the perimeter of the container, picking up only the most melted stuff. Focusing on eating the half-melted parts not only maximizes your enjoyment per bite, it also lengthens the time to eat a given amount of volume.

Nutrition/Ingredients

A single serving (1/2 cup, 104 grams) contains 230 calories and 24 grams of sugars. These are both somewhat higher than the average ice cream, but typical within Talenti’s lineup of milk-based ice creams.

This dessert has very natural and healthy ingredients, and is also gluten free, hfcs free, hormone free, vegetatian, and kosher. There are also no artificial flavors or colorings, or even “natural” flavors, the latter of which are present in a few other Talenti poducts.

Because of the calorie and sugar content I wouldn’t consider this a diet product, but the ingredient quality is top class. Some might point out that “sugar” (typical white refined sugar) is used instead of agave or some other popular sweetner, but based on my research there is not sufficient evidence to prove any of these sugars is significantly more healthier than any other.

Full ingredient list: milk, cream, sugar, black raspberries, chocolate, oil (coconut, soybean), dextrose, vanilla, carob gum, and soy lecithin.

Price/Availability

I bought this for around $2.99 at a Publix grocery store, half of its normal price due a weekly sale. For some reason I never see this flavor at my local Whole Foods Market, though it may be at others.

Ratings:   Flavor: 8.5   Nutrition/Ingredients: 9.0   Price:  8.0  Overall: 8.5

Summary

Natural ingredients, great taste, and a reasonable price (even when its not on sale) make this a must try for any ice cream lover.

References

http://talentigelato.com/our-products/

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Product Review: Organic Nectars Cashewtopia Chocolate Hazelnut Gelato

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Did you know gelato made from cashew nuts existed?

Until recently I didn’t either. In fact, if it weren’t for me going out of my way to find unique desserts in order to have material for my reviews, I probably would have never tried Organic Nectar’s Cashewtopia Chocolate Hazelnut gelato.

Packaging

One of the reasons I had not been interested in this product is the packaging, magenta and black text against a plain white background, didn’t really appeal to me.  This design could be said to succeed in the sense of differentiating the product line from competitors, but it feels too sterile to me, almost like a medicine bottle design.

My other issue with the package design is that there is just too much text. There is over 10 lines of text no the front, and the back is even worse, with a very long description of how healthy this product is for you. Reading this, we learn that this gelato is sweetened with coconut and agave syrups, made in-house by the same company which are also sold as separate products. It makes me happy to know they are using two natural sources of sweetness, and the fact the sweeteners are self-produced means they probably have greater control over their quality. But it also annoys me since they are not-so-subtly advertising their own products in both the long descriptive text and the ingredients list below.

The thing that got me thinking about the design of this product was the “org” abbreviation for “organic”, used several times on the label. As it was the first time I had seen this particular shortening, it took a few seconds to register, especially because the full word “Organic” is used elsewhere in the ingredient list (it so happens this is only for their self-made syrup and nectar). After thinking about it for some time I finally realized that the only reason they abbreviated to “org” is because they ran out of space with such a cluttered and over-verbose design.

I was able to get the needed information from the package, but I just wish they had conveyed it in a more elegant and minimalistic way.

Flavor

To be honest, the flavor is very… lets just say different that what I was expecting. The hazelnuts scattered throughout are small and irregularly shaped, but they have a nice crunchy texture in the mouth. The problems is with the base itself, which has a strong sweetness that tastes somehow odd to me, and tastes quite unlike cashews. I’ve had a dessert which contained a high proportion of agave (Luna & Larry’s Coconut Bliss, Chocolate Hazelnut fudge), but in that product the sweetness was toned down. Here, its more in-your-face, and just tastes different. I’m not sure how to explain it – a effect caused by cashews, some difference in the plant or processing of the agave, or possibly some other minor ingredient.

It’s not that I hate the taste, just that its strange and hard to get accustomed to. Even the scent is very unusual and has some overtones not present in coconut, agave, or cashews.

Having said that, I’ve been able to eat over half a pint so far, and will likely finish it up in the next few days. The only question is will I buy this again, hoping to get used to it for the sake of the nutritional benefits, or stay with frozen desserts which are more my taste.

Nutrition/Ingredients

The marketing quip on the label is correct in that this gelato has (slightly) below-average calories, with 160 calories in a 85 gram serving. My mini database of ice cream figures has about 170 calories as an average figure for this serving size. Sugars is 16 grams which is also a bit below average, though the sugar is from two natural sources (coconuts and agave) so it may be healthier than some frozen desserts which use only table sugar.

Protein is suspiciously low at 2 grams per serving. Cashews apparently have 5 grams of protein per 28 grams worth of total weight, and from that you can infer there is a relatively small amount of cashews in this product (my calculations estimate 8-10%). Just because they are listed first doesn’t mean there is necessarily a huge amount of it present.

Nutritionally this product is great, with a wide array of natural sources, some of which are thought to have many beneficial health effects, such as coconut and cashews. There is no added sugars, no artificial flavors, and no artificial colors. For those trying to avoid certain foods, everything is dairy-free, egg-free, soy-free, gluten-free, vegan, and certified organic and kosher.

My only concern is the “org chocolate hazelnut flavor” ingredient, listed last. It seems to indicate something besides actual chocolate or hazelnuts, similar to the “natural flavors” category I despise. I had an exchange with an employee of Organic Nectars over email and was told the organic flavorings are only 0.025% of the total weight, “composed of NON-GMO carriers, as well as flavoring components comprised of  one or more of the following: Natural extracts of plant origin, (from vegetables or fruits), Essential Oils (from vegetables, fruit or spice sources) and essences of plant origin (from fruit primarily).”

As with other companies, they won’t tell you what’s in their ‘secret sauce’, but its nice they have limited the possible components and the proportion used in the product. Honestly I don’t understand how anything present in such a small dose (0.025%) could have any effect on the taste, but I clearly have more research to do in this area so I can learn how these “natural flavors” are made and influence the overall taste.

Full ingredient list: raw org cashews, purified water, Organic Nectars AgaveLight (raw organic agave syrup), org hazelnuts, org gum acacia (nutritional acacia sap fiber), org agave inulin (nutritional prebiotic fiber), org raw cacao powder, Organic Nectars PalmSweet (organic evaporated coconut palm nectar), org virgin coconut oil, org safflower oil, org raw cacao butter, org guar gum (nutritional jaguar plant seed fiber), org arrowroot, pink crystal salt, org chocolate hazelnut flavor.

Price/Availability

I bought this at Whole Foods for around $7.49, quite expensive for a pint. I understand premium/specialty products have justification to keep their prices high, but in the long run I feel this product only has a chance to succeed if they lower prices to a more reasonable level.

Ratings:   Flavor:  5.0 Nutrition/Ingredients: 9.0  Price: 6.0   Overall: 6.7

Summary

This gelato is a Jekyll/Hyde to me – amazing nutritional potential but the weird sweetness that dominates the flavor is hard to ignore. I recommend waiting until the price drops to $5-$6 and then try it yourself, or one of the company’s other flavors.

References

http://www.organicnectars.com/products.html#

Talenti Caribbean Coconut Gelato – product review

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Introduction

Talenti is one of my favorite ice cream/gelato companies, with a wide range of tasty products sporting a sleek and modern design, which looks even better after their recent rebranding effort (done in March 2013).

I reviewed their coffee-flavored ice cream in a previous post here, and this time I thought I would talk about another one of their flavors – Caribbean Coconut. I love it’s name which combines catchy alliteration with an island paradise atmosphere.

Flavor

This gelato takes a simple, light ice cream base with a touch of vanilla and mixes in a generous portion of shredded coconut. I’m not exaggerating, there is really a lot of coconut here. When you run your spoon through it you can see the little piece of coconuts, or feel their rough texture if you let the ice cream melt slowly on your tongue.

I always say a good ice cream needs a balance of two or more contrasting things. Talent’s Caribbean Coconut just barely manages that – the creamy light base against the shredded coconut pieces, and the strong milk taste against the subdued coconut. The milk flavor, reminiscent of drinking chilled milk, blends together with the coconut flavor so well that you can’t tell where one begins and the other ends. With such simple flavors I’m not sure how they did it, but the end product is a very satisfying experience for the senses.

The only weak point of this gelato, if you could even call it that, is that its lightness doesn’t make it very filling. After eating half of the pint, you’re hard pressed to not just finish it off.

Nutrition/Ingredients

There is 190 calories in a single 100 gram serving, about average in its class if not slightly on the low side. Sugar is a bit excessive for my liking at 24 grams.

There’s nothing nutritionally special about the product according to the label’s information: 3 grams protein, 0 grams fiber, and minimal vitamins and minerals. But there is surely other important nutrients present that are not captured there.

The strongest selling point of this ice cream (besides the great flavor) is it’s short, simple list of ingredients. There is only seven, with no artificial anything, and (impressively) no “natural flavor”. Add the potential nutritional benefits of coconut – listed 4th so there may be as much as 25% coconut – and you get a big thumbs up from me!

The complete list is milk, sugar, cream, coconut, dextrose, carob gum, and vanilla.

Milk listed as the first ingredient explains the strong milk flavor. There is really a lot of milk in this dessert.

Dextrose is another name for glucose, one of the basic sugars. It’s is less sweet than fructose, and the “sugar” listed second place on the label is simple table sugar, which contains roughly half glucose and half fructose. I’m not sure why Talenti would need to supplement with dextrose, possibly as a money-saving effort. I wonder what the effect would be of simply removing the dextrose and adjusting the table sugar to give the desired sweetness.

Someday I hope to many a similar ice cream myself, where I increase the amount of coconut while dialing down the sugar. If I’m lucky I can raise the nutritional value without sacrificing taste too much.

Price/Availability

This product is available at Publix, Whole Foods, Target, and other supermarkets. The price is around $5.00 – $6.00, with online pricing around $8.00.

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

Summary

This ice cream has a rare combination of natural ingredients and fresh, simple taste that makes it one of my favorites. It’s a must try for anyone who is a fan of coconuts, or looking to upgrade their vanilla to a product with simple, healthy ingredients.

References

http://talentigelato.com/our-products/

 

Talenti Chocolate Coffee Chocolate Chip – company response on caffeine content and natural flavors query

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I had previously reviewed Talenti’s Chocolate Coffee Chocolate Chip ice cream, which maintains first place for my most loved ice cream. In that post I discussed sending an email to the company requesting more information about this product, and since I received a response from them I decided to write it up as a new post.  The original blog post is here for those interested.

I had requested two things from them: caffeine amount and detailed explanation of “natural flavors”. The former was because I had felt quite a ‘kick’ from eating this and wanted to determine whether that was from sugar, caffeine, or something else. I asked the latter from my uneasiness as to what I am actually eating. It’s apparently ‘natural’ but what is it really? Consumers who want to research more about the possible side effects and nutrition of this catch-all ingredient are at a loss.

First I’ll give an excerpt of the polite email I received from Talenti, followed by my comments on it.

===

Thank you for the inquiry.  We do understand your concerns regarding “natural flavors’ in our ingredients.

Unfortunately, the natural flavor(s) in our ingredients are considered a trade secret and is proprietary information. I can tell you the consist of juice, juice concentrates, essences, essential oils, and extractives.
 
Also, the amount of caffeine in our product is less that 2 one hundredths of one percent.  Our Coffee Chocolate Chip gelato has 5 – 8% per serving.
 
I hope this helps and apologize for not being at liberty to share more information with you.
 
Please feel free to contact us if you have any further questions or concerns. We wish you all the best,
 
===
According to the response, caffeine is only 5-8% per serving, which means only 5 to 8 milligrams per 102 gram serving. I typically eat half a pint (two servings) which translates to at most 16 mg of caffeine, far from enough to feel anything for anyone with a moderate caffeine tolerance. This leaves the cause of the buzz I was feeling to come from sugar or something else in the product.
Because of competitive reasons Talenti gave me practically no information on what is contained within “Natural Flavors”, only that it consists of “juice, juice concentrates” (which I am generally OK with), as well as “essences, essential oils, and extractives”. This latter group is still quite vague and could be practically anything. The only consolation we have is that since this ingredient is listed 10th on the label, we know there is no more than 10% of it present in the product (see here for a post on where I got this number from).
I don’t think it will do much good to push Talenti for more information at this stage, but I haven’t given up on exposing what is really in our foods.
Part of me wonders how much more can be discovered by doing a lab analysis of the product, but surely there is a high cost there so I’ll put that off until another time.
I really enjoy learning more about sweet treats directly from the producer, and hope to continue to provide this type of information in this blog.

Talenti Coffee Chocolate Chip Gelato- Product Review

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Introduction

For Sweets Reporter’s 20th post, I didn’t want to review just any product. It had to be something extra special and extra delicious.

I decided on using Talenti’s Coffee Chocolate Chip Gelato – my current favorite ice cream, hands down. You may have noticed I just mixed terms – is this a gelato or an ice cream?

Gelato is supposed to have several major differences compared to ice cream: Less fat, higher serving temperature, more sugar, and slower churning. But this ‘gelato’ has nearly the same amount of fat, if not more, than many ice cream products. I eat it at the same temperature, and the amount of sugar is comparable to ice cream. I can’t speak on how fast it was churned, but without a clear distinction between what makes a ‘gelato’ and an ‘ice cream’, I’ll continue to group these together. After all, ‘gelato’ simply means ice cream in Italian.

Anyway, lets get to the meat of this review. I’m looking forward to writing this and I hope you are looking forward to reading it.

Flavor

This is a product that I’ve eaten so many times and just learned to enjoy in sort of a zen state. Rather than thinking about the flavor too much,  I simply savor the experience as time seems to slow down. So its a little difficult to give an objective description for someone who is new to this gelato, but I’ll do my best.

From far away, things don’t look too different than run-of-the-mill chocolate ice cream. But as you dig in a spoon the texture is somehow thicker and more dense.

As I mentioned in previous posts, ice creams generally taste better when partially melted into a half-liquid state, so the creaminess can be felt along the length of the tongue. This product is no different. In fact I’d say the effect is even more pronounced, and this is in line with the recommendation that gelatos are served at a higher temperature than ice cream.

Several sensations come as your tongue makes contact with this delightful desert. There is a very strong sweetness, backed by evenly balanced flavors of chocolate and coffee. There is also a rich, savory flavor that is difficult to describe in words, but many associate with butter, meat, or cheese. On a historical note, a Japanese chemist was the first to discover this taste which he called “umami” (tastiness) and attributed to it glutamate. He was also the inventor of the (in)famous food additive MSG.

Fortunately, the savory taste in this product comes from a much more natural and healthy source, eggs. I don’t know of another gelato/ice cream with the same taste, and I think this is one of the reasons I’ve fallen for this product.

Awhile back actually tried to replicate this ice cream myself, and after a few batches with successively more eggs I realized those were what was giving such a great flavor. I never did quite get the right taste (or texture, for that matter), but I plan to try again someday.

Embedded throughout the ice cream base is a storm of chocolate pieces, little treasures hiding here and there. The company has referred to them as “a ribbon of chocolate”, but its really just tiny chocolate chips, and I enjoy their sweet, chocolate flavor much more than “chocolate flakes” I’ve had in another product.

That reminds me of a funny story. This gelato used to be called simply “Cappuccino” and lacked  chocolate chips, but sometime last year they changed the name to “Coffee Chocolate Chip” and added in the chips. At that time I was outraged. I even wrote an email to Talenti demanding my Cappuccino back, and went as far as saying that the chocolate chips destroyed the smooth, creamy texture and overpowered the coffee flavor.

Now it’s over a year later and I have gotten used to these things. Having said that, I wish I could taste that classic flavor one more time. Maybe I would still like it better.

Ingredients / Nutrition

Per a single 1/2 cup (102 gram) serving, there is 240 calories. I would say this is near the average for ice creams I have eaten.

As you would expect from the taste, this product has a good helping of sugar – 24 grams per serving. While this is higher than I am normally comfortable with, because of the great taste I make an exception. There are ice creams with much high sugar content, such as Argentine Caramel, made by the same company, with 33 grams per serving.

For an ice cream with such a complex flavor the ingredient count isn’t too high (13). Eggs, which give the characteristic savory taste and also enhance the thick creamy texture, are in very high proportion (they are the 3rd ingredient). I don’t know of any other ice cream or gelato for which this can be said of.

Because of the high egg content, there is a moderate amount of protein (6 grams per serving). But more than that, the cholesterol value is off the charts, providing over half (57%) of your daily amount in a single serving. Until recently this would have been regarded as extremely unhealthy, but some recent research shows that the cholesterol in eggs can actually be good for you. See link in references section below for more information.

Besides the massive amount of eggs, the ingredients are pretty typical. My pet-peeve “natural flavor” is present, and I have sent out an email to Talenti to get further detail on what is really in there.

Here is the full ingredient list:

Milk, sugar, eggs, cream, chocolate, dextrose, oil (coconut soybean), coffee, carob gum, natural flavor, soy lechitin, vanilla.

One warning for those who aren’t frequent coffee drinkers. I don’t have any specific figures on caffeine present but based on my experience I can say there is a hefty amount in this product, coming from both coffee and chocolate. Add a sugar high to the caffeine buzz and you’ll be bouncing around for quite a while.

Price and Availability

This sells for around $5 in Publix and other grocery stores, though I have seen it for nearly $8 online. It is a bit pricey but at Publix it occasionally goes on sale for one dollar off, and rarely for half price. Whole foods also carries Talenti gelatos, but I have never seen this flavor there for some reason.

Ratings

Flavor: 9.5

Ingredients/Nutrition: 7.5

Price:7.5

Overall: 8.16

 

Summary

A heavenly mix of sweet chocolate and coffee, enhanced by the lush, savory taste of eggs. Except for a few minor issues such as “natural flavor” and high sugar content, its practically the perfect ice cream (or gelato). As my current favorite, I recommend it to anyone who enjoys sweets, chocolate, or coffee.

References

https://talentigelato.com/our-products/

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

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/05/28/ice-cream-vs-gelato_n_3333016.html

http://sweets.seriouseats.com/2012/07/whats-the-difference-between-gelato-and-ice-cream.html

http://www.livescience.com/39353-eggs-dont-deserve-bad-reputation.html