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Sweets Review: So Delicious Dairy Free Coconut Milk Mint Chip Frozen Dessert

Having reviewed another So Delicious product (here) as well as another brand’s coconut milk mint chip (here), I decided to write a review for So Delicious’s Mint Chip. As with their other products in this lineup, this is a dairy-free, soy-free frozen desert which has a coconut base, sweetened by agave syrup.

Flavor

As you might expect from the name, this frozen dessert has a fresh, minty coconut base with a nice amount of chocolate chips dispersed throughout. The mint overpowers the subtle coconut flavor, probably because there is no whole coconut used, only coconut oil and cream. For those not accustomed to coconut-based frozen desserts, it tastes sort of like a dulled down, diet version of a normal milk-based desert. In some sense it is, because of the lower calorie and sodium content.

My biggest problem is that there isn’t really anything special or unique about the flavor. It loses hands down to the same company’s German Chocolate, whose succulent caramel and pecan pieces really make for a great taste experience. There is something strange about the Mint Chip’s texture, a lack of creaminess almost to the extent of being gummy. When I opened the sealed package the ice cream was in an odd shape with a little tornado shaped hole in the middle, almost as if it had partially melted and than refrozen. That could explain why the texture is so funky, or it could be due to the proportions of the gums that are used.

Just as with Luna & Larry’s Mint Galactica product, a balance of contrasting flavors is lacking. While this rival product does have a smoother texture, Mint Chip has the advantage of having larger sized chunks of chocolate with richer flavor. Overall I rate these two products’ flavors on the same level.

Even though I didn’t love the flavor of either coconut-based mint-flavored desert, it’s not that I dislike all minty desserts. There are some milk-based ones I do enjoy such as Bryer’s Mint Chocolate Chip and Talenti’s Mediterranean Mint. Both of these have much more sugar and calories, so its not entirely fair to compare them to the coconut versions. Hopefully I’ll get an opportunity to review one of these products sometime in the near future.

Nutrition/Ingredients

As is with many companies, the products in a set all have similar nutritional information and ingredient makeup. This product is no different and has much in common with the same company’s German Chocolate frozen desert.

In a 85 gram serving (four total in the container) there is 170 calories, with 80 of those from fat, and both figures are lower than many milk-based deserts. Protein is low compared to most milk-based ice creams at only 1 gram per serving, although fiber is quite high at 6 grams, thanks to the chicory root extract. Sugar is only 13 grams per serving, well below average compared to most milk-based ice creams, but comparable with other company’s coconut-based products, such as Luna & Larrys.

This product’s ingredients have a few key differences from the German Chocolate flavor. One is that it has significantly less ingredients thanks to the omission of caramel sauce, which contains a few undesirables like carrageenan and sodium citrite. Because of this I would say Mint Chip is arguably more healthy that German Chocolate.

In addition, Pecans and shredded coconut are not present in Mint Chip, and are replaced by chocolate liquor. For those who didn’t know (I didn’t until I looked it up), chocolate liquor is pure cocoa mass in liquid form and has nothing to do with alcohol. (According to Dictionary.com, “liquor” has a secondary meaning “any liquid substance”)

At first I thought the “mint flavor” listed on the label meant something which tastes like mint (either artificial or natural in origin), but doesn’t necessarily contain natural spearmint or peppermint. I checked with the company and they said this simply means “peppermint extract”, so it is the real stuff after all. I wish they would just list it an extract (as is done by Luna & Larry’s) since it sounds much better and leaves no room for doubt.

I slightly prefer the ingredients of Mint Galactica to this product because the former contains entirely organic ingredients, while Mint Chip has only two (organic coconut cream and organic agave syrup).

Full ingredient list: ORGANIC COCONUT MILK (WATER, ORGANIC COCONUT CREAM), ORGANIC AGAVE SYRUP, CHOCOLATE FLAKE [DRIED CANE SYRUP, COCONUT OIL, COCOA (PROCESSED WITH ALKALI), CHOCOLATE LIQUOR, VANILLA], CHICORY ROOT EXTRACT, CAROB BEAN GUM, GUAR GUM, MINT FLAVOR.

This product is certified gluten free, as per the small icon printed on the top of the carton.

Price/Availability

I bought this for $5.99 at Publix, though it is sold at many other supermarkets.

Ratings:   Flavor: 6.0   Nutrition/Ingredients:  8.0  Price:  7.0  Overall: 7.0

Summary

This is a no-frills mint flavored coconut frozen desert with chocolate chips. It has healthy ingredients and moderate calorie/sugar levels which urges me to recommend it over most milk-based ice creams. However, So Delicious’s German Chocolate is much better tasting and has a similar nutritional profile, so you might want to consider going with that instead.

References

http://www.sodeliciousdairyfree.com/products/coconut-milk-frozen-desserts/mint-chip

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

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Company response: Caffeine content in Haagen Dazs Green Tea Ice Cream

I recently got a response back from an email query sent to Haagen Dazs with regards to the amount of green tea and caffeine in their green tea ice cream product (which I recently reviewed here).

They were tight lipped on the exact amount of green tea in the product, classifying it as “proprietary information”, but they did respond about the caffeine content:

“there is approximately 25 mg of caffeine per ½ cup serving which is considered 1 serving.”

Haagen Dazs website lists how they use Japanese matcha tea for this product, and according to the energyfiend website, matcha has roughly 70 milligrams of caffeine in 1 cup (8 fluid onces) of tea. This can be twice to three times of that found in other green teas, depending on the company and brewing length. One reason matcha has a high caffeine content is because the whole leaf is present, ground up, instead of just brewing it as other green teas.

Since matcha should be the only ingredient with any significant amount of caffeine present, we can use the above information to get a ballpark figure for how much green tea is in this product. It works out to be roughly one-third cup  (1 teaspoon of matcha powder) in a single serving, and almost one and half cups in the entire package (one pint). This is useful information for those trying to make their own homemade ice cream with a similar flavor.

Unfortunately, this doesn’t translate to a huge amount of tea, so those looking to reap the health benefits of green tea would be better off keeping to matcha tea, or mixing in extra matcha powder into your ice cream.

References

http://www.energyfiend.com/caffeine-content/matcha-green-tea

http://www.energyfiend.com/caffeine-content/green-tea

Product Review: Julie’s Organic Gluten Free Vanilla Sandwich Cookies

I really like Whole Treat Organic Ice Cream Sandwiches (reviewed by me here), so I thought I would try out a competitor’s product to see what it had to offer.

Before I even put these sandwiches into my cart I was impressed with the packaging, which has a flowery, elegant design overlaid onto a tall tube shape (think a mini version of a Pringles can). It sure beats the Whole Treat packaging which is  homely, down-to-earth, and just looks cheap. Some of this may have been intentional on their part, though.

Flavor

This sandwich is made from two discs of chocolate, as opposed to the Whole Treat one which is made of two rectangular-sized ones. Julie’s also makes a rectangular one according to their website, but I don’t remember seeing that in the store.

When comparing these two sandwiches, Julie’s sandwich does everything bigger and thicker than its Whole Treat rival. For example, the total weight is roughly 20% more, and the ice cream in the middle is significantly thicker.

The cookies have a similar texture to Oreos, but somehow seem to crumble in my mouth before I’m expecting them to, leaving behind an almost grainy sensation. I prefer the Whole Treat sandwiches texture which is is bit softer and moister, and allows your teeth to really sink in. The cookie itself also has a very pronounced sweetness backed by a milder saltiness.

When I got to the ice cream within, I felt the thickness was a bit extreme. I’d even go as far as saying it made it difficult for me to fully appreciate the flavor. I either could force myself to bite off the full berth of the sandwich, which was more than I was comfortable with, or nibble away at it with multiple bites which was similarly awkward. On the other hand, the competitor’s thickness seemed just right and allowed me to eat it naturally without even thinking about it.

The ice cream flavor itself has a nice robust milk flavor to it, but again I felt it was a bit on the sweet side and too thick with cream.

This is without a doubt a delicious desert, but judging from taste alone I prefer Whole Treat’s product by a wide margin.

Nutrition/Ingredients

One sandwich weighs 74 grams and contains 200 calories, 90 of them from fat. There are 18 grams of sugars, 3% DV of sodium, and 3 grams of protein.

These figures are all very close to the Whole Treat sandwiches when adjusted for serving size, an interesting fact because my overall impression of Julie’s sandwich was that it was sweeter and higher in calories. This is likely because of the 20% difference in overall size, as well as the width of the sandwich.

Though there are many similarities and both have generally natural ingredients, I prefer those in Julie’s sandwiches for a few reasons. First of all, in addition to being organic the cookies are gluten free, through the use of rice flour instead of normal wheat flour. According to Wikipedia, about 1 in 133 people in developed nations have an allergic reaction to gluten, which can be very serious. Because of this, this product is available to be eaten by a larger audience which is always a good thing. I’ve even heard stories of people who have minor gluten allergies that don’t realize it until later in life, so you might want to try experimenting with gluten free foods and see if you body reacts better to them.

Second, there is no caramel coloring. It’s true that Whole Treat’s coloring is in class I, the least risky of the four classes, but no coloring is always better in my book. There is also a few natural starches used, tapioca starch, corn starch, and potato starch, which may add a little more vitamins and minerals.

Finally, cocoa is listed much higher, at 5th place compared to 11th place for Whole Treat, and therefore likely to be in much higher concentration. This gives the consumer a better chance of reaping cocoa’s many potential health benefits. I think some of the black color comes from this, and possibly some from the starches used.

Full ingredients list:

Organic Vanilla Ice Cream – Organic milk, and cream, organic cane sugar, organic tapioca syrup, organic vanilla extract, organic tapioca starch, non-gmo soy lecithin, guar gum, locust bean gum, xantham gum.

Gluten Free Chocolate Cookie – Organic rice flour, organic unsalted butter, organic cane sugar, organic eggs, organic cocoa, organic corn starch, organic potato starch, baking soda, organic vanilla, sea salt.

Price/Availability

I purchased this at Whole Foods for about $6.99 and haven’t seen it anywhere else locally. However their web site search tool says there are a few other places nearby, such as Vitamin Hut and Simply Natural, which carry their products.

Considering Whole Treat’s product gives you more total product (6 x 60  = 360 grams vs. 4 x 74 = 296 grams), the price is a bit expensive. To be fair, Whole Foods can save money distributing its own products so some amount of price difference is not unexpected.

Ratings:   Flavor:  6.0  Nutrition/Ingredients:7.5    Price:  6.5  Overall: 6.6

Summary

These are large ice cream sandwiches that taste great and are composed of organic, gluten-free, and natural ingredients. Though I would rate it’s ingredients slightly lower overall, I prefer the taste of Whole Treat’s competing ice cream sandwiches for their light, easy-to-eat experience.

References

http://www.juliesorganic.com/ice_cream_sandwiches/

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

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Product Review: Haagen Dazs Green Tea Ice Cream

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[Note: I have taken a break from this blog to focus my energies on my new blog, which is about learning Japanese language. Please check it out here if you are interested: http://selftaughtjapanese.com ]

Green tea has been used in China since at least 2737 BC, and also has been drank for hundreds of years in other Asian countries including Japan, Thailand, and Korea. It is sold both as a beverage and as a treatment for a variety of medical ailments. Green tea is made from the same plant as everyday black tea, Camellia Sinensis, but there are major differences in how the plant is processed and grown. For example, green tea is processed with methods such as oven-drying or steaming to minimize the oxidation and fermentation. Also, certain types of green tea are made from tea plants grown in shade, including “matcha” which is the type of tea typically used for green tea ice cream (and also happens to be the same tea used in the Japanese tea ceremony). Because of these things, green tea has a very different taste and nutritional profile than other types of tea.

Grocery stores usually sell green tea from a few brands, though some of them are very diluted. If you want real green tea, try ordering some at an authentic Japanese restaurant (buffets that also serve Chinese food don’t count), or even better buy powdered matcha green tea at an Asian supermarket and mix it yourself. The flavor is very bitter, but tea lovers might just fall in love at first sip.

Green tea ice cream has been made in Japan for at least 100 years, if not longer, and has been sold in the US since the late 1970s. When it was first introduced there was some manufacturers using artificial flavors instead of real green tea powder, but that has declined greatly since. However, as I discovered recently when trying some green tea ice cream in a local Asian buffet, there is still some around that tastes nothing like green tea and shares only the deep green color.

Although many ice cream companies make green tea flavored products, in typical (non-Asian) grocery stores where I live it is pretty hard to find one on the shelves. We were lucky to discover a store recently that sold Haagen Dazs’s version, so we picked up a pint right away.

Flavor

This ice cream has a simple, creamy milk flavor with a good balance of cream that gives a nice texture without being overly fatty. If you have tried the same company’s vanilla ice cream you’ll find the texture is almost identical, which is no surprise considering the ingredients are mostly the same.

The attractive green color hints at the green tea hidden within, and there is a definite authentic green tea flavor. But in all honesty, it’s more of an aftertaste – the milk flavor dominates the experience for me.

Being a fan of green tea, I wish there was much more used. Of course, this would make the flavor significantly more bitter and possibly scare away all but the most hardcore green tea lovers.

Overall, the flavor is better than any I’ve eaten in a restaurant, but not quite as good as the homemade version we made at home. For those interested, you can simply add matcha green tea powder to a standard vanilla ice cream recipe and it should turn out great. You can even mix it into a store bought vanilla ice cream, though you have to make sure the ice cream doesn’t completely melt in this process and run the creamy texture. In our case, we added a good amount of green tea powder which may be why I am slightly disappointed in the flavor of this product. Having said that, the rest of my family loves this ice cream so maybe I’m just overly picky about the flavor.

Nutrition/Ingredients

A single 102 gram serving contains 250 calories, which is about average for Haagen Dazs ice creams, but slightly higher than some other companies. Sugar is also pretty standard at 19 grams per serving.

There is 5 grams of protein per serving, a value typical of milk-based ice creams.

My favorite thing about this ice cream is that there is only 5 ingredients: cream, skim milk, sugar, egg yolks, and green tea. There is a few others made by Haagen Dazs (such as coffee) and I really appreciate their simplicity and lack of mysterious or unnecessary ingredients like colorings, natural flavor, or thickening agents. This fact alone puts this ice cream above over half of the products out there.

The other benefit of this is the green tea itself. It contains flavonoids and catechins, and research points to a large number of health benefits ranging from increased brain function and increased physical performance, to lower risk of certain cancer types and heart disease. Though further research on these nutritional benefits is still needed, some of the existing studies show impressive results. For example, a study of over 40,000 Japanese people showed that those who drank 5 or more cups a day were much less likely to die in an 11-year period.

The only catch is that, with green tea listed last on the label and a very mild green tea taste, the actual amount of green tea is probably very small. I sent an email to Haagen Dazs asking about the amount of green tea present and will write another blog post when I get the result.

Price/Availability

I bought this at Publix for around $5.00.

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

Summary

A very flavorful ice cream with simple, natural ingredients, and a taste of authentic great tea. Unfortunately for me its a bit lacking, and may leave some wishing for a slightly stronger concentration of green tea.

References

http://www.haagendazs.com/Products/Product/2781

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

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

http://voices.yahoo.com/the-difference-between-black-green-white-tea-7215974.html?cat=5

http://authoritynutrition.com/top-10-evidence-based-health-benefits-of-green-tea/

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16968850

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Haagen Dazs Butter Pecan ice cream

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Introduction

I typically don’t eat Haagen-Dazs ice cream, but since it was buy one get one free I decided to try their Butter Pecan flavor, which was one of the lower sugar choices in their lineup. It’s not that there is anything wrong with this brand per se, but Haagen Dazs feel very generic to me in that it has been around as far as I can remember and isn’t marketed as being particularly healthy or different. I guess being around since 1961 you could call it a ‘classic’ ice cream company. Having said that, I’ll try to put aside my biases aside when reviewing this product.

Flavor

This ice cream tastes like your typical butter pecan, except that it it has a very strong cream flavor. I’ve made ice cream myself and used a large proportion of heavy cream (which contains 36%-40% milk fat) and it tasted similar.

My problem with this product is monotony – in both appearance and flavor. The brown pecans set against the plain white aren’t particularly visually appealing, but more importantly the flavor of the thick, creamy base isn’t different enough from the sweet pecans (which aren’t exactly crunchy), and as a result I get tired of eating this ice cream quickly. To put it another way, this ice cream lacks balance between two opposing flavors and textures. If I was tasked to improve the flavor, first I’d make the base lighter, possibly adding some other mild flavor and natural food coloring. Then I’d add more pecans, using larger ones if they exist, and possibly removing or reducing the butter from the pecans. Yes, I realize this would make the flavor less “butter pecan”, but the butter flavor and the cream flavors are too close for my taste.

Nutrition/Ingredients

In a 100 gram serving there is 300 calories, slightly higher than the average of other Haagen Dazs ice cream products I’ve looked at, but very high if you compare to some other companies such as Talenti and So Delicious desserts. Sugar content is a bit below average with 17 grams per serving

There is a nice portion of protein with 5 grams per serving, but the fat per serving (22 grams) is off the chart – its literally the highest I have seen in recent memory and helps to explain why the flavor is so heavy. I checked a few other brands and their versions of butter pecan all had less fat, with Bryer’s butter pecan containing less than half fat per serving (roughly 10 grams). Personally, I value overall number of calories more than fat content, but as I mentioned those are quite high as well.

The full list of ingredients are: cream, skim milk, sugar, skim milk (lactose reduced), pecans (pecans, coconut oil, salt, butter [salt, cream]), corn syrup, egg yolks, salt, vanilla extract

In spite of my problems with high calories, fat, and taste, the ingredients in this ice cream are actually quite healthy, as least as far as ice creams go. There are no preservatives, no artificial colorings, no artificial flavorings, or even natural flavorings.  In fact, there aren’t any thickening agents such as guar gum either. Though I don’t consider this latter category to be necessarily unhealthy, I almost always prefer less ingredients, especially ones that are not everyday items I would use in the kitchen.

Some may spot “corn syrup” and associate that with “high fructose corn syrup”. While its true they are both made from corn, plain “corn syrup” contains more glucose as opposed to fructose, which is sweeter. While there is some research showing high amounts of fructose are harmful to the body if consumed frequently, some people maintain that these sugars all have similar effects on the body. After all, fruits naturally contain fructose (as well as gluctose and fructose), and table sugar is roughly half glucose and fructose.

Price/Availability

This sells all over but typically can be bought at Publix for around $4.69.

Ratings:   Flavor: 5.0   Nutrition/Ingredients:7.5    Price:8.0    Overall: 6.8

Summary

A high-fat, high-calorie ice cream with reasonable ingredients that is worth a try for fans of butter pecan, but I found its heavy cream flavor a little too much.

References

http://www.haagendazs.com/Products/Product/2449

http://candy.about.com/od/candybasics/a/creamguide.htm

http://nutrition.about.com/od/grainsandcereals/f/fructosesyrup.htm

So Delicious Coconut Milk German Chocolate Frozen Dessert – product review

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Introduction

I’m a proponent of all type of ice creams, including soy, coconut, and even goat milk-based. I’ve previously reviewed one of Luna Larry’s Coconut Bliss products (here), and this time I decided on reviewing another brand’s coconut frozen desserts that is soy free and dairy free.

I’ve had real German chocolate cake, as well as Cold Stone Creamery’s ice cream of the same flavor, and enjoyed both immensely. Unintentional or not, I’ll be comparing this to those products.

Flavor

To be honest, the first time I tasted this frozen dessert, I was a bit disappointed with the flavor. But when I tried it again the next day, it tasted much, much better. It took a mighty effort of willpower to stop myself from eating 2/3rds of the carton in a matter of seconds. From this I deduced two possible reasons for the difference in enjoyment. The first is that I was tired, not to mention on a full stomach, so my body was rejecting the ice cream. The other reason is that maybe it took my taste buds two tries before it “got” the flavor and learned to appreciate it fully. In any case, I’ll try to  sample something on two separate days before I complete my review, whenever possible.

The appearance of this ice cream isn’t too appetizing, at least when compared to Cold Stone’s version (see references section below for a nice picture of the latter). The nuts are small and their color blends in with the chocolate so they don’t stand out. The coconut shavings are also few and far between, and blend into the chocolate and caramel base.

However, as you gradually start to shovel spoon after spoon into your mouth (of course after letting it partially melt) your doubts start to disappear. Rich chocolate swirled with sweet caramel, coconut shavings that tickle the tongue, and crunchy pecan pieces that entertain the teeth – its all there. There is no brownie as with the Cold Stone version, but the flavor is comparable and there is approximately 200 less calories and half the sugar.

If you take a deep whiff you’ll notice the coconut smell stands out, with a slight overtone of the caramel. There is little to no chocolate scent as cocoa is used in relatively small proportion compared to the coconut and caramel ingredients.

Nutrition/Ingredients

This product has 180 calories in a single 85 gram serving, slightly lower than the average of equivalent milk-based creams. Its also slightly higher than some of the other flavors of So Delicious coconut milk.

Sugar content is 14 grams per serving, which is typical for other coconut based frozen desserts, but quite low compared to many milk-based creams. I’m always amazed with the apparent sweetness of coconut-based products given their low sugar content. Its probably because agave syrup is commonly used, which is roughly 1.5 times sweeter than table sugar due to a high concentration of fructose. I’ve mentioned in a previous post that agave is potentially healthier than table sugar, but keep in mind that is still unproven and it may turn out that there is no difference from a nutritional point of view.

There is only one gram of protein in contrast to the relatively high fiber (6 grams of fiber which is 24% DV). I believe most of this comes from the chicory root extract which is high in fiber. Vitamins and Minerals, as listed on the package, are negligible except 6% of Iron.

Here is the full list of ingredients:

ORGANIC COCONUT MILK (WATER, ORGANIC COCONUT CREAM), ORGANIC AGAVE SYRUP, ORGANIC DRIED COCONUT, CHICORY ROOT EXTRACT, CARAMEL SAUCE (ORGANIC TAPIOCA SYRUP, WATER, MOLASSES, PEA PROTEIN, NATURAL FLAVORS, ORGANIC COCOA BUTTER, SODIUM CITRATE, SALT, CARRAGEENAN), PECANS, COCOA (PROCESSED WITH ALKALI), CAROB BEAN GUM, GUAR GUM, NATURAL FLAVOR.

Sodium citrate is used for flavor and also to regular acidity, and carob bean gum and guar gum are both used as thickeners to control texture. I’ve been seeing this in many of the products I’ve reviewed lately, but “natural flavor” is always a bad thing to me due to lack of transparency.

Carageenan, a substance extracted from seaweed, is used to thicken and stabilize the dessert. While it is generally accepted by the FDA as a food additive, some experts advise against using it in infant formulas, and some scientific research had indicated there is a possibility it can promote cancer. However these results were done with tissue cultures as opposed to directly with human subjects, and they are disputed by the scientific community.

I feel that the most nutritious ingredient in this dessert, by far, is the coconut itself – in the form of coconut milk and dried coconut. Though I am skeptical on those who claim coconuts are a “superfood” or one can live purely off them, there is a large number of vitamins and minerals in them: potassium, phosphorous, iron, zinc, folate, and manganese, among many others. There is also a large number of health benefits claimed, including raising good cholesterol, helping the immune system, and promoting heart health. (Check out the links I have provided in the references section for a starting point on researching coconut’s potential benefits.) I don’t think there is enough evidence to be 100% certain of many of these supposed benefits, but from the point of view that a wide variety of foods are good for health I feel it is wise to include some coconut in your (ice cream) diet.

On a final note, I’d like to mention a word of caution about how much nutrition coconut actually contributes to this product. While “coconut milk” is listed first on the label, and hence highest in proportion that other ingredients, coconut milk itself consists of water and coconut cream, with water in higher proportion. From this all that we can determine is that the coconut milk is at most 50% coconut cream, possibly much less. That would actually put the amount of coconut cream used less than other ingredients, such as agave which is listed second.

Price/Availability

I picked this up at Whole Foods Market for around $4.99 on sale, whereas it usually sells for $5.99.

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

Summary

This frozen dessert combines the potential health benefits of coconut with a reasonable amount of sugar and calories, not to mention an unforgettable flavor that makes it one of my favorite coconut-based ice creams.

References

http://sodeliciousdairyfree.com/products/coconut-milk-frozen-desserts/german-chocolate

http://www.coldstonecreamery.com/icecream/signaturecreations/germanchokolatekake/index.html

http://www.myfitnesspal.com/food/calories/cold-stone-creamery-german-chocolate-like-it-852207

http://inrfood.com/ingredients/419

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

http://www.nutrition-and-you.com/coconut.html

http://healthism.blogspot.com/2011/07/vitamins-and-minerals-in-coconut.html

http://authoritynutrition.com/top-10-evidence-based-health-benefits-of-coconut-oil/

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.

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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,
 
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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

Luna & Larry’s Coconut Bliss Mint Galactica ice cream – Product Review

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Introduction

This is my second product report of a Luna & Larry’s Coconut Bliss product, the first being of Chocolate Walnut Brownie flavor. I’m a big fan of that ice cream so I thought I would experiment with another flavor.

I’ve had my share of mint ice creams: Bryer’s mint chocolate chip was one of my favorites as a boy, and recently I’ve enjoyed Talenti’s Mediterranean Mint on a handful of occasions.

I was won over by this product’s great name (could it be because I’m a fan of Science Fiction?), even before I tossed the pint into my shopping cart. If I gave a rating for naming, I would surely give this a 10/10.

Flavor

The base cream has a strong coconut flavor, more so than other makers’ coconut ice cream I’ve tasted, and the mint is very much in-your-face. These two flavors mesh well and make a great foundation for an excellent taste experience.

But this ice cream falls short to deliver a strong counterpoint which serves as a contrast, like a picture with a well defined foreground and background. In my previous review, there was a nice contrast between the sweet chocolate coating and the (somewhat) crunchy cookie part.

The chocolate flakes are supposed to serve that role, but until I ate this I didn’t realize the true difference between ‘flakes’ and ‘chips’. Chips are cube shaped and flakes are, well, similar to well-known corn flakes where they have a large, irregular surface area, but are extremely thin. My problem with this shape is that they appear large and tasty, but when you taste them there is practically no substance. As a result they don’t influence texture or taste much. I included a close-up picture of the flakes at the bottom of this post for reference.

After several servings of this I might get used to these flakes and understand their contribution better, but at present I just feel like there this product is just too hollow and lacking depth.

Another minor disappointment is that this ice cream is white, not colored green like some other mint-flavored creams. Of course I’m against using artificial colorings, but apart from that I feel the color has a psychological effect of emphasizing the mint flavor and making it taste all the more refreshing. To me, plain white signifies vanilla, which is at odds with the actual flavor here.

Don’t get me wrong – I’m not trying to say this coconut ice cream is that bad, its just that when compared to  similar products it falls short. In fact, I am enjoying eating it while writing this report.

Nutrition / Ingredients

A 1/2 cup serving (97 grams) contains 15 grams of sugar, below average for ice creams, and 240 calories which also on the low side. There are 3 grams of fiber and 2 of protein.

Nutritionally this ice cream is very similar to the previously reviewed Chocolate Walnut Brownie, except that here we have much less Iron (4% vs 15% DV), one-fifth the salt (10mg vs 55mg), and a few other minor differences.

The base ingredients are also similar between these two products, and everything is organic. Of course there are no brownies or walnuts, which have been replaced by peppermint extract and coconut cream, the latter being an ingredient I haven’t seen used before. The chocolate here is in flake form as opposed to be mixed into the cream itself.

I have been researching the health effects on various types of sugar, and apparently some professionals believe that agave isn’t especially good for the body. The high amount of fructose contained in agave makes it resemble the dreaded “high-fructose corn syrup”. I plan on doing some more research on this critical topic and eventually would like to write a detailed post with my results, but for now I’ll just say that there is disagreement on how healthy each type of sugar really is. I personally still prefer agave to standard sugar, but because of the uncertainty I’ve reduced my ingredients/nutrition rating of this product from 8.5 to 8.0.

Price and Availability

This typically sells for around $6.49 with tax. This a bit pricey for those on a budget, but not unexpected, considering this is a non-dairy specialty product.

There a only a few places that I know of in South Florida that sell this, one is Whole Foods Market which is where it happened to be on sale for roughly one dollar cheaper.

Ratings

Flavor:6.0

Nutrition/Ingredients: 8.0

Price: 6.0

Overall: 6.6

Summary

Nice healthy ice cream with natural ingredients, but the flavor may be a little underwhelming for those who are used to other mint creams.

References

http://coconutbliss.com/coconut-bliss-products/mint-galactica

http://www.webmd.com/diet/features/the-truth-about-agave

mint2

Ben & Jerry’s Chocolate Fudge Brownie Ice Cream – Product Review

benjer

Introduction

In my college days, Ben & Jerry’s Chocolate Fudge Brownie was my go-to ice cream when I had a rough week or had accomplished something noteworthy and deserved a reward. Though I would never attempt this at my age, in those days I would just sit down and polish off an entire carton in a matter of minutes.

I generally try to gravitate towards less sweet products, but there was a half price sale at Publix so I had an excuse to pick up a pint of this.

In spite of my nostalgic attachment to this product, I’ll do my best for an unbiased review.

Flavor

This ice cream is about as sweet, rich, and decadent as you can get. As you come across the brownie pieces, your teeth sink into spongy cake with an even deeper sweetness (if that is even possible). When I eat this my “avoid too much sugar” angel on my shoulder has to keep quiet or else I can’t enjoy myself.

I love how the base ice cream itself is so thick and gooey. It would work fine on its own even without the brownie bites inserted.

This ice cream also tastes colder on the tongue than most others I have tasted, possibly because it is so dense an can hold a low temperature better than others. One reason for this is a high concentration of water.

Ingredients & Nutrition

A 105 g serving (1/4 of the container) contains 270 calories, which is significantly above average for the ice creams I typically enjoy.

I’ll just let the cat out of the bag – Chocolate Fudge ice cream contains way more sugar than anyone health-conscious would ever consider consuming, a whopping 28 grams per serving. But the fact this ice cream is so bad for you is what makes it so tasty, and why it’s perfect for special occasions when you feel you deserve it. Just make sure you eat no more than half of the carton at a time!

Other nutrients are mediocre, with 5 grams protein, 2 grams fiber, 15% DV of iron and 10 %DV of calcium.

There are around 20 ingredients, which is no surprise because typically brownies require several ingredients on their own. Also, this product isn’t marketed as a healthy ice cream so there’s no reason for the producer to try and reduce the ingredient count. Ingredients of note are liquid sugar (#2), water (#4), and cocoa (#6). There is also three egg ingredients (egg yolks, whole eggs, and egg whites) present.

While Ben & Jerry didn’t go out of their way to use ingredients thought to be ‘healthier’ such as agave syrup instead of plain sugar, its nice to see there are no artificial flavorings or colorings. There is no ‘natural flavor’ either.

One minor annoyance I have with this product is the ingredients for the base ice cream and brownie bites are not separated as is done for other products. I have a feeling  the thick texture of the ice cream base is due in part to egg yolks, but I can’t tell for sure since eggs are also typically used in brownie baking.

The brownie bytes make this ice cream very filling so it can be enjoyed even when you’re hungry. Regardless of the state of your stomach, you’ll get a huge sugar rush after this.

Price and Availability

This is available in many different grocery stores, from Publix to Target to Walmart, for roughly $3.79 for a one pint container.

Ratings

Flavor: 9.0

Ingredients&Nutrition: 6.0

Price: 8.0

Overall: 7.66

Summary

This ice cream is perfect for when you want to go overboard and just totally enjoy yourself – at the cost of a massive amount of sugar intake. Not recommend for frequent consumption.

References

http://www.benjerry.com/flavors/our-flavors#product_id=611