Raw Bar Bites
A recent e-mail from a food stylist in southern California prompted today's (and tomorrow's) blog post. Her pitch: a snack bar that helps to lower cholesterol. I was intrigued, and a week later, I received two boxes of her goods.
As I worked through a few of her bars (to be featured tomorrow), I got to thinking about the sea of cereal, protein and nutritional bars that are up for grabs in the average grocery store aisle. The choices are overwhelming, and this Clif-Bar veteran had a lot of catching up to do.
For folks on the run, these bars, like cell phones and PDAs, have become part of the 21st-century way of life. Don't have time to grab a sandwich before boarding an airplane? No problem -- you've got a bar in your carry-on.
The big thing these days the packaged bar world is "raw." I know what you're thinking; if it's not a bag of crudite, how can it be raw? The idea of "raw" food is to eat nothing cooked or above 118 degrees Fahrenheit. In addition to fruits and vegetables in their pure state, raw foodists do a fair amount of dehydrating and rehydrating to give nuts and grains various textures that expands the repertoire for the raw cook.
When it comes to the bars, that means no flour, no refined sugar, no egg products and no dairy of any kind. Their uncooked, somewhat gummy quality is either something you like or hate. Nutritionally, they run the gamut, usually offering decent amounts of fiber, protein and varying amounts of fat (and calorie quotients).
I tried five raw bars, available at my local Whole Foods and My Organic Market (MOMs). All labels tout their raw state, their dairy and gluten free formulas and their organic certification. When it comes to taste, however, they range from truly dreadful to snack-worthy. Here's how they fared:
Organic Whole Foods Bar
Flavor: Chocolate Covered Greens
Company: Garden of Life, which also sells nutritional and cleanse supplements. Bar line includes four flavors.
Additional selling points: "Made with live probiotics," (live bacteria like lactobacillus acidophilus, that you might find in yogurt), "packed with 21 organic vegetables."
Credentials: USDA Organic
How raw is it: No percentage listed, but pretty darn raw
Ingredient highlights: Raw honey as sweetener, a blend of sprouted seeds and grains, vegetable juice and extracts. Chocolate coating made from cocoa and soy lethicin.
Tasting notes: I could hardly eat one bite. The raw honey is so overpowering and is clashing horribly with the 'greens' and grains. No thanks.
How much: $2.99
Raw Revolution Organic Live Food Bar
Flavor: Chocolate and Cashew
Company: Raw Indulgence, based in upstate New York, founded by a R.N. and natural foods chef. Line includes eight flavors.
Credentials: USDA Organic, certified Kosher
How raw is it: It's alive! Completely raw.
Additional selling points: Vegan, no refined sugars, soy free
Ingredient highlights: Cashews, dates, amaranth, almonds. Sweetened with agave nectar.
Tasting notes: Very flat chocolate flavor, reminding me of wet unsweetened cocoa powder. Dominant cashew flavor. Undercooked brownie texture, or maybe it's more Play-Doh-like.
How much: $1.99
Flavor: Chocolate Coconut
Company: Think Products, developed by former model Lizanne Falsetto. Lots of celebrity endorsements on Web site. Line of 20-some bars, under an umbrella of lalels that include cooked Think Thin, Think Green and breast-cancer-aware Think Pink.
Credentials: USDA Organic, Hollywood.
How raw is it: Everything but the chocolate and the pectin.
Additional selling points: Vegan, gluten free.
Ingredient highlights: cashews, almonds, unsweetened chocolate. Sweetened with dates.
Tasting notes: Doesn't have the raw putty texture unlike other raw bars. The coconut gives a "meaty" texture that is pleasant and palatable. Flecks of cashew throughout and chocolate flavor tastes authentic. Yes, I'd eat this again.
How much: $1.59
Flavor: Chocolate Orange
Company: Larabar, started by a rock climber named "Lara," based in Colorado, with a line of seven Larabars. Jocolat chocolate bars launched in 2006 (there are a total of four flavors).
Credentials: USDA Organic, Fair Trade and certified Kosher
How raw is it: 90 percent
Additional selling points: Dairy, soy and gluten free. Vegan.
Ingredient highlights: cocoa mass (ground cocoa beans), almonds. Sweetened with dates.
Tasting notes: Real orange zest. Dates help maintain balance of sweetness as well as keep texture from getting gummy. I could eat this again. I like how it offers balance between chocolate treat and respectable lunch/snack on the run. Yes, I'd eat again.
How much: $1.29
Organic Food Bar
Flavor: Active Greens Chocolate
Company: Bio International, based in California, which also sells nutritional supplements. Line includes eight flavors
Credentials: USDA Organic, certified Kosher
How raw is it: 80 percent
Additional selling points: Gluten free, "cold processed" (I'm thinking this means below 118 degrees)
Ingredient highlights: Almond butteris is first listed ingredient. A mix of vegetable powders (wheat grass, barley grass, spirulina). Sweetened with agave nectar, raisins and dates.
Tasting notes: If looks could kill a sale, this one's in the poorhouse. An unappetizing shade of mud and cud. If I close my eyes, I can take a bite. Compared to the Garden of Life bar, not nearly as sweet, but has a bit of a gummy tooth.
How much: $2.49
Please share your raw bar finds, pleasant and otherwise. The more the merrier. Tomorrow: The purported cholesterol-lowering Clue bar, and a few other "niche" bars, fully cooked.
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