Friday, August 30, 2013

Dole Fruit Crisps

I eat a lot of fruit, but it is generally fresh.  I'm spoiled living in Northern California, with a serious abundance of amazing fruit.  Sometimes I'll eat dried fruit, but canned?  No way.  Probably the only one of Dole's packaged products I'd ever even had before is the canned pineapple (which, as a child, I actually thought was the only way pineapple came - lols!).  But the fruit crisp line sounded great, in name anyway, as crisps are one of my favorite desserts.  If they were even halfway decent, I was sold, since nothing gets easier than opening up a package!

So yes, Dole Fruit Crisps are a totally random, totally generic grocery store item and ...  I really do like them!  I struggled deciding how to label these amazing cups of goodness.  One could argue that they make for a good breakfast (I certainly justified it to myself!).  Dole's marketing mostly positions them as a snack item.  Anyone who looks at the sugar content probably considers them dessert.  Regardless of what time of day you want to eat them, you should do just that: eat them!

Besides the sugar content, some of which obviously comes from the fruit (but there is added sugar), they are fairly healthy.  I won't tell you they are a health food item obviously, but they are fairly low fat, low calorie, and satisfying.  If you were having one for dessert, it would be a very guilt free item!
The fruit crisps come in several flavors: apple cinnamon, apple pear, and peach.  Each are standard Dole fruit packed in a fruit syrup, with a separate container of crumbled oat and brown sugar topping.  They are individually packaged, with two separate compartments, like those crazy yogurts with mix-ins, the crumble topping on top.

The packaging emphasizes how versatile they are, and I actually agree.  You can eat them at room temperature, making them a good snack/dessert to pack on a trip (imagine how jealous your seatmates will be on your next flight when you bust out apple crisp next to them!) or in a child's lunchbox.  You can stick them in the fridge and eat them chilled.  Or the containers are even microwave safe, so you can heat them up.  Who doesn't love warm fruit crisp?

You may wonder why I even encountered these in the first place.  I read about them a while ago, tons of rave reviews.  Perhaps my all time favorite dessert is warm fruit crisp served with ice cream.  Of course, I regularly eat warm fruit crisp, made with fresh, in season, local produce.  Why would I ever buy these?  Let's just call it a moment of weakness at the grocery store.  I went for the apple cinnamon, so it was chunks of apples, in a syrup, with cinnamon spicing.  To be honest, I had very low expectations, even though the internet was full of raving reviews.  I laughed at the fact that I was even purchasing packaged fruit.  I have no idea when I last ate something like this.

I wanted to evaluate them simply at first, and tried one right out of the fridge.  First I tried a bite of just the fruit.  It wasn't soggy.  It wasn't too crisp.  Hmm.  Clearly not fresh apples, but, not bad.  The syrup wasn't standard fruit syrup that canned fruit is packed in, instead, it was thicker, more like what belongs in a crisp.  It was sweet for sure, but nicely spiced with cinnamon.  Hmm.  Not bad.  I probably wouldn't want to just eat a cup of the fruit, as it was pretty sweet, but it was far better than expected.

Then I opened my crisp topping.  This is where I can be a serious snob.  When I get crisps at restaurants and the topping isn't actually crispy, or is just oats and not well spiced, I get so grumpy.  You may also recall that I've been on a quest to find granola I really enjoy, and I've been striking out over and over.  So, I really didn't think this would be much to write home about, and is clearly something I have opinions on.

I was wrong.  The topping was fantastic.  It was crunchy.  It was slightly sweetened, with a fantastic brown sugar flavor, not just sweet.  I could sprinkle on as much as I wanted.  And even better, there was plenty of it.  I had leftovers each time, and used it for other things later - topping for my own fruit crisp, stirred into yogurt, sprinkled over ice cream.  If I could buy just that topping, I would.

My first enjoyment of one of these was at breakfast, as I just couldn't wait.  Besides the sugar, it really isn't that bad as a breakfast item: fruit, whole grain oats, seems ok to me!  Add a dollop of yogurt and it turns into a complete breakfast.  I had half of one cold, while waiting for the other half to warm up (in the toaster oven, not in the microwave as they suggest ... because, seriously who uses microwaves?)  I actually preferred it cold, which surprised me, as I'm always a fan of warm crisp.  Perhaps as a breakfast item it made more sense cold?  Either way, a dollop of yogurt on top was nice to cut the sweetness, and convince my brain I was having breakfast, not dessert.

But of course, I really wanted to try it warm, with ice cream, as a dessert.

So, a few days later, I warmed up another one.  Sprinkled on the topping, and baked it that way.  It smelt great.  I took my first bite, and again, didn't like it much when it was warm.  It is like the sweetness just gets concentrated or something.  But the moment I added a scoop of vanilla ice cream, it was great!  Warm, sweet, decently spiced fruit.  Crunchy, equally well spiced topping.  Cold, creamy vanilla ice cream.  Quite tasty and satisfying.  Honestly, better than many crisps I've had at fancy restaurants.  This is clearly the winning way to enjoy it.

I found an individual serving too small.  It was gone in only a few bites!  I wanted more, more, more.  Yes, I licked the lid and scraped out every last drop.  I guess this is partially how they keep the nutrition stats fairly reasonable, and I do think they are mostly intended for children.  I did like that they provided plenty of the delicious oat topping though, no skimping there.

Will I go buy more of these?  Probably not, as I have access to plenty of fruit crisps regularly.  But if I didn't, they honestly weren't bad.
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