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

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

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

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

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

Flavor

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

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

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

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

Nutrition/Ingredients

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

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

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

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

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

Price/Availability

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

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

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

Summary

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

References

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

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

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Product Review – Financier Patisserie Brownie

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

Flavor

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

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

Nutrition/Ingredients

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

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

Price/Availability

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

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

Summary

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

References

http://www.financierpastries.com

Sweets Reporter 50th post!

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

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

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

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

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

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

Unfortunately I got only one comment and one reblog.

My most popular tags were:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Flavor

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

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

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

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

Nutrition/Ingredients

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Price/Availability

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

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

Summary

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

References

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

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

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

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

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

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

Flavor

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

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

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

Nutrition/Ingredients

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

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

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

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

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

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

Price/Availability

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

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

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

Summary

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

References

http://www.googoo.com/

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

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

Myx Fusions Moscato & Coconut Wine

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

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

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

Flavor

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

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

Nutrition/Ingredients

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

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

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

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

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

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

Price/Availability

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

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

Summary

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

References

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

Perugina Milk Chocolate With Cappuccino Crispy

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

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

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

Flavor

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

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

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

Nutrition/Ingredients

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

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

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

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

Price/Availability

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

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

Summary

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

Product Review – Talenti Gelato Peppermint Bark

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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

LaLoo’s Deep Chocolate Goat’s Milk Ice Cream

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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