Friday, August 09, 2013

Awesome Bars

Today, I'm continuing my series of reviewing different types of bars.  I started a few weeks ago with the most generic granola bars out there: Quaker.  I've touched on nutrition bars like LUNA.  Now, it is time to go in the complete other direction, to a small, local San Francisco company, that makes a single product line: wholesome granola bars, aka, Awesome Bars.

The company is run by "The Granola Sisters".  Their products are sold in a few places around town, but I've most commonly encountered them at various artisan's markets and special events.

They make 5 (now, 6!) flavors of bars, but all are made with the same oat base accented with flax seeds and sea salt, with a dark chocolate coating.  They are sweetened with agave and brown sugar, and use coconut oil.

I do like the idea behind the bars being made with real ingredients and no extra crap, but I haven't really enjoyed them very much.  I think it is the flax that I don't care for.  I know it is very good for me, and I want to like these more than I do.  I still eat them fairly regularly, hoping they'll grow on me ...
  • Apricot Walnut: This is their newest flavor, and I don't even see it on the website yet.  Same base as always, but with dried apricots, walnuts, and brown sugar.  This one had a very different feel to it, much gooier.  The walnut flavor was strong, so if you like walnuts, this one is for you.  It was also much sweeter than the others, I think because of the brown sugar, which the other bars do not have.  It also was the only one that didn't have the chocolate coating.  I think this may be a bar still in development.  The flavor in the dried apricots was really, really good, but I think they were far too chewy.  I loved the chunk size in that you really got to taste the fruit, but, it just wasn't a pleasant eating experience.
  • Blueberry Almond: Standard base with roasted almonds, dried blueberries, and wheat bran.  Tasting notes:  All I could taste was the wheat bran and flax.  Very bitter.  I couldn't find any sweetness, not from the blueberries, nor the chocolate coating.  Least favorite. [ On second try, it was better, slightly more gooey, and I think the gooey component is the sweet part.  The little dried blueberries were very flavorful, but there were not many.  The almonds seemed to be mostly whole, but again, only a few in the whole bar.  If you carefully constructed bites you could get a bit of everything, but, creating the "perfect bite" is just not what you generally want to be doing when grabbing a granola bar. ] [ The chocolate in here is a joke, just a thin coating on the back that you absolutely cannot taste.  I liked the little blueberries though, super flavorful.  But I don't get a granola bar just to pick out blueberries :) ]
  • Cherry Almond: Same base with roasted almonds, dried tart cherries, and wheat bran. Tasting notes:  The dried tart cherries were very flavorful, and went well with the chocolate.  The sweetness and tartness from the cherries was able to mask a bit of the wheat bran and flax flavors for me. I liked the large chunks of almonds within.  But overall, not a winner, second to least favorite. [ This tasted fairly dry and unremarkable. No flavors jumped out. Mostly just oats and flax.  Bites with the cherries were nice, but there was only 2-3 in the entire bar.  Would not try again. ]
  • Coconut Pecan: Same base with pecans, unsweetened coconut flakes, raisins, and wheat bran.  Tasting notes: I liked this!  The coconut added a lot of flavor, masking the wheat bran/flax taste.  The raisins, something I normally don't like, added some needed sweetness. [ Again, it didn't have the bitter wheat bran/flax taste of the others, and was pretty sweet.  I had it sitting the sun, so it was also slightly gooey, which was nice. I didn't really taste coconut or pecan distinctly though, which I would have liked, since I like those ingredients.  And again, I liked the raisins, they were plump and not dried out, gave it a nice texture.  The chocolate coating isn't think enough to make much of an impact however. ]
  • Cranberry Trail Mix: Same base with pecans, almonds, cashews, and dried cranberries.  Tasting notes: Lots of flavors, good crunch, decent chocolate. [ Lots of flavor from the assorted nuts, but the cashew flavor was fairly pronounced, and I don't really like cashews. A good mix of stuff in it though, and I think this would satisfy most.  My third pick. ] [ Very nice mix of nuts, the cranberries were still pretty plump and not dried out, added some sweetness to cover the bitter from flax.  The chocolate also was good in this one, more pronounced than some of the others. ]
  • Salty Peanut: Same base, with peanuts and wheat bran.  Tasting notes: Decent balance of sweet and salty, good peanut flavor, decent chocolate. [ You could really taste the wheat bran and flax. Tasted too healthy.  There were whole peanuts, but you didn't get any peanuty goodness, as the other flavors dominated.  Also couldn't really taste the chocolate.  But my second pick overall. ] 
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