REVIEW: Baskin Robbins Candy Bar Mashup

This review is a big one for me, as it marks the one year anniversary of Sean’s Skillet. While the actual day isn’t until the end of the month, this blog began on October 30, 2016 with a review of Baskin Robbins’ Treat Oreo Treat Dark, and since then writing about the Flavor of the Month has been the only constant recurring series I’ve done – a true labor of love. Although BR are the biggest scoop shop chain in the world, they get largely overlooked by real ice cream aficionados, and a lot of the folks that I observe frequenting the shop stick to the classics or one of the 30-40 varieties that are familiar in the dip case.

I love Baskin Robbins, I grew up going there and have always been fascinated by the limited flavors and some of the incredible seasonal’s like America’s Birthday Cake. For years my October would truly feel real at the sight of Oreo’s with orange creme, and they are put to no better use than in the Baskin staple Trick Oreo Treat. Much like last year, BR are keeping the original TOT as a seasonal offering and bringing us an all new Halloween themed scoop to welcome the spookiest time of year. Candy Bar Mashup combines Snickers, Milky Way, and Twix in chocolate ice cream swirled with a caramel ribbon.

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The chocolate base is very standard in terms of its flavor, but immediately jumps out at me as feeling lighter than what I’m used to. It has a mellow, creamy chocolate presence that isn’t very exciting or offensive, but the lighter texture is a bit distracting. While I would never consider BR to be super premium, I am used to them being fairly close to the density of Ben & Jerry’s, at around 15 grams of fat per serving, and this is inching closer towards Dreyers territory (but not nearly that thin, and not gummy at all). Baskin Robbins do offer some amazing chocolate in Mississippi Mud and Superfudge Truffle, but this base is incredibly basic, and unfortunately, boring.

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The mix-ins bring a bit of halloween flair, but let’s be honest, where are the peanut butter cups? The Twix pieces are exactly the same as this years’ Made with Twix, which utilized separate pieces of the shortbread cookie covered in chocolate with no caramel. These pieces are the most prominent mix-in, at least in my scoop, and have the wonderful buttery crumbly crunch of the Twix cookies that add a little bit of intrigue to the relatively flat chocolate. The caramel swirl is minimal but present with the occasional gooey sweet highlight that naturally compliments the cookie very well.

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Snickers and Milky Way are definitely the co-stars here, and make only a few appearances in my cup. The pieces are significantly smaller than the Twix, and the Milky Way are only identifiable by their oddly hardened nougat-caramel combination and don’t really stand out against the already present chocolate and caramel. The baby chunks of Snickers bring a slight fatty peanut pop, which is great, but leaves me asking again – WHERE are the PB cups?

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While Candy Bar Mashup isn’t a failure by any means, it feels pretty safe, uninspired, and lacking in any true spooky holiday whimsy. I wish Baskin Robbins had brought back Trick Oreo Treat Dark, who’s dark fudge ribbon really set the flavor off to indulgent depths that this mashup only wishes it could touch.

Rating: 7/10
Found at: Baskin Robbins ($2.99)
Quick Nutrition: 290 cal – 15g fat – 9g sat fat – 150mg sodium – 35g carbs – 1g fiber – 28g sugar – 5g protein

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REVIEW: Pro Supps MyBar Confetti Cake Crunch and Ice Cream Cookie Crunch

As a wise man once said, “you’ve gotta get your daily turd-shaped protein injection somehow…”. Okay, maybe no one ever really said that, but I love me a good protein bar and when a new one pops onto my radar I’m eager to get a taste – turd shaped or not. The Pro Supps MyBar came onto the scene within the last year but I had yet to see them in stores, and I’m not one to take a gamble on ordering a box of 12 blindly. As I strolled the selection of porta-gains at GNC I noticed two MyBar’s tucked away on the bottom shelf, and I knew the moment was mine for the taking.

The MyBar looks very much like a Combat Crunch or MuscleTech Nitro and texturally falls somewhere in between the two. The bar is noticeably smaller but has a pretty solid density to it that makes it feel hearty in my hands. It should be noted that while they have similar calories and protein to the CC and MT bars, they’re slightly higher fat (10 grams) and lower carb (17 grams), which could be a pro or con depending on what kind of macros you’re looking for in a protein pick-me-up.

Confetti Cake Crunch:

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Fortunately the flavor of the Confetti Crunch doesn’t have any of the weird lemony Froot Loops aura of the Combat Crunch and is much more in line with MuscleTech’s solid spin on cake. It starts off cake-y and channels frosting with some nice vanilla notes and definite party vibes. The taste fades quickly and ends pretty flat with a protein supplement finish that doesn’t live up to the sprinkle crunch texture of the bar. Eating this bar reminds me a lot of Zebra Stripe gum – it starts begins with a wonderful bold flavor that is gone almost as soon as it arrives.

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When all is said and done it simply isn’t sweet enough, and for a bar with 6 grams of sugar I would expect a bit more sugary push to round out the lovely frosting beginning. It isn’t disgusting, but doesn’t reach the high points of the MuscleTech or Oh Yeah! ONE, so I’m not sure why I would get this one again.

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Rating: 7/10

Quick Nutrition: 220 cals – 10g fat – 5g sat fat – 20mg cholesterol – 210mg sodium – 17g carb – 1g fiber – 6g sugar – 20g protein

Ice Cream Cookie Crunch:

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This bar has one of the more interesting names I’ve seen from a supplement company, and as good as an ice cream-y protein bar sounds I’m pretty skeptical of their ability to deliver. My suspicions are correct, as aside from a pretty notable creaminess in the outer chocolate coating of the bar, nothing translates ice cream here at all; not to mention ice cream doesn’t typically crunch, so the name is pretty confused overall.

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It’s a pretty standard chocolate coated chocolate protein that has a nice dense-yet-soft, almost truffle kind of texture, with only a bit of decent flavor to back it up. Much like the confetti, it begins pretty sweet with some crunchy bits and fades very quickly to finish on a protein-heavy note that leaves a slightly dry, almost chalky feeling on my tongue. It’s fine, but again, nothing at all remarkable, and doesn’t come close to any of the chocolate Combat Crunch bars, which in my opinion are the best in the game.

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Rating: 6/10

Quick Nutrition: Identical to above except 400mg sodium

REVIEW: Quest Bar Mocha Chocolate Chip

I tend to start my weekday mornings with a protein bar and a nice cup of strong hot coffee.  As big of a fan of the flavor and effects of the world’s favorite black beverage as I am I’m generally not the biggest fan of coffee flavored bars, ice creams, and other desserts (except Tiramisu), but  I get a feeling my taste buds might be evolving.  Just in time for my change of heart, Quest have unleashed their latest protein-on-the-go creation with Mocha Chocolate Chip.

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Like most newly released Quest bars, this one is extremely soft and fresh with very little signs of the harder taffy texture that used to define the brand. The light brown base that makes up most of the bar has a slightly salty almost toffee kind of flavor that gradually builds and blossoms into coffee that is very authentic and delicious. It isn’t bitter like straight black drip or espresso but it definitely has big coffee flavor and isn’t nearly as sweet as some of the froufy-er beverages you might find at Starbucks or Dunkin. It’s a very genuine taste that as an avid coffee consumer I am stoked on.

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The chocolate chips are dark and not too sweet, and add extra texture and flavor to the bar that accentuates the coffee notes. The bites where you get a good amount of chip and protein base leave the perfect mocha flavor lingering on the tongue.  Another huge win for this bar is the absence of Sucralose, which Quest notoriously uses way too much of and as a result many of their bars have a bad artificial aftertaste. There is no bad fake sweet flavor at all and they have somehow achieved a great balance with only one gram of sugar and some stevia. Impressive.  There is, however, a moderately astringent aftertaste from the use of baking soda that isn’t terribly offensive but does a little dance on my tongue after I’m done chewing.

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Any good baker knows that some black coffee in a chocolate cake makes it taste like richer deeper chocolate and some of that is at play here. The classic pairing of chocolate and coffee works wonderfully and is one of the most solid flavors Quest have come up with so far. Coffee isn’t one of my personal favorite flavors, like the cinnamon in oatmeal chocolate chip, but it is good enough that I will buy it again and make it part of my small Quest rotation.

Rating: 8.5/10
Found at: GNC

Quick Nutrition: 180 cals – 6g Fat – 240mg Sodium – 24g Carbs – 14g Fiber – <1g Sugar – 20g Protein

REVIEW: Fit Joy Raspberry Chocolate Truffle and Cookies and Cream

Last years’ most prolific protein bar company, Fit Joy, are back at it again kicking off the first quarter of 2017 launching two new bars at the same time.  They went with one relatively uncharted flavor with Raspberry Chocolate Truffle, and tackled one that pretty much every competitor has already tried with Cookies and Cream.

Raspberry Chocolate Truffle:

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Visually this bar is great. A little bit of a different look for Fit Joy as there are no crisps on top and the protein base is noticeably softer with a marzipan-like texture. There’s a huge raspberry chocolate smell that is very floral and promising.

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The bite starts good, with a big bright raspberry flavor that lives up to the intense flowery aroma. Unfortunately, it takes an intense nose dive quickly as that powerful raspberry flavor becomes too much and is so overwhelmingly tart and sour that it literally made my face pucker.

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The way the bar dissolves on the tongue and the extreme tart-ness starts to taste like a kids Flintstones chewable vitamin and I’m left really wondering where the chocolate is. The thin dip on the bottom and drizzle on top can’t hold a candle to the epic tart berry flavor to a degree that chocolate may as well not be in the name or on the bar at all. Almost every other company that has released raspberry has done it with white chocolate, which helps up the sweetness and tame the tart. I was excited for a chocolate version but unfortunately this just doesn’t work at all. Sour, acidic, and ultimately kind of gross.

Rating: 5/10

Cookies and Cream:

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Visually this bar, again, is very appealing. The top is speckled with crunchy cookie bits and the inside base has a softer, fluffier texture than any other Fit Joy, kind of reminiscent of a whipped cream cheese. The flavor is full on chocolate, with both lighter milk chocolate and darker bitter being represented. There are so many different cocoa flavors going on that I even get hints of coffee, which adds to the rich bittersweet taste.

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This bar more closely resembles the experience of eating an Oreo than any other I’ve had – with the crunch and squish combo being very similar to wafer cookies sandwiching the iconic white Creme. There are softer whey crisps within the protein base as well, which adds multiple layers of crunch.

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I really like this bar. It has a solid smooth taste and texture without any weird lingering protein flavor and is overall really clean. My one criticism of it would be that it’s much more like a Chocolate Oreo than the original, which is fine, they should have just called it Cookies and Chocolate Cream instead.

Rating: 8.5/10

It ends up being a total split for Fit Joy entering 2017 with their worst bar and one of their best bars launching at the same time. While they don’t have the most explosive flavors out there (s/o Oh Yeah!) I continue to be impressed with their output and will try all Fit Joy bars in the future, even if some of them might totally miss the mark.

REVIEW: Optimum Nutrition Cake Bites (All four flavors!)

Cake bites, cake pops, cake truffles, petit fours…whatever you want to call them, they’re hot and the trend is as booming as ever.  So booming, in fact, that they’ve eclipsed the pastry scene, and like most delicious sweet things, have found themselves in the protein imitation universe.  Optimum Nutrition, whose 2016 line of protein bars were pretty lackluster, are kicking off 2017 with three flavors of protein cake bites – Birthday Cake, Chocolate Dipped Cherry, and Red Velvet (UPDATE: in August they added a fourth flavor – mini review added at the bottom).  Each package contains three circular cake bites that equal 20 grams of protein, under 25 grams of carbs, and 230-240 calories.  I’m going to break down each flavor and rate them against each other as well as on a whole.

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Birthday Cake:
The texture is softer than your average protein bar with the whipped aspect bringing a bit more bounciness and squish while still staying firm. It doesn’t particularly remind me of cake but it is different than your typical Quest or Oh Yeah! ONE bar. The vanilla flavor is strong but not overwhelmingly sweet and there is no artificial aftertaste. The strongest element of this bites’ flavor is a really wonderful buttercream finish that leaves your mouth creamy and clean with a whisper of sweetness.

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The round sprinkles on top add a nice crunch and even though there is a bit of protein flavor the whole experience feels more pastry shop authentic than most protein bars.  This is a safe flavor to offer because it tends to be popular, but it’s also competitive as there are already good options out there.

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This is not a better take on cake than MuscleTech’s Nitro bar or the Oh Yeah! One version bit it’s still pretty solid.  Rating: 7.5/10

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Chocolate Dipped Cherry:
The different fluffy texture is really at play and more effective here. It reminds me of a mousse or a marshmallow the way it holds its form yet is soft and pillowy. The cherry flavor, while it doesn’t taste like any cake I’ve ever had, is spot on and very reminiscent of a cherry Tootsie Pop in the best way. Cherry flavored things are either disgusting and medicinal or tasty and sweet like our favorite childhood candies and this cake circle falls into the latter category.  Some people will definitely hate this flavor immediately because of its sweetness but I enjoy it.

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The chocolate coating is a bit thin and could be darker but ultimately works well to counter the cherry candy flavor and make a good balanced bite. I have never had a flavor like this in a protein bar and creativity always wins extra points in my book. Rating: 8/10

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Red Velvet:
The texture on this one most closely resembles its namesake, with that slightly dense cocoa-kissed red base being the star of the show. The initial flavor is all vanilla and not too different from Birthday Cake, but then finishes with the appropriate hint of chocolate. The coating could use more of a cream cheese tang to truly drive the red velvet flavor but it has a touch of tang and is definitely creamy which helps provide the “frosting” contrast.

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This one also gets extra points for being a less predictable flavor for protein bars, with the only other option out there being the solid YUP brands’ BUP bar, which I’ve only had when ordering online due to weird/poor distribution.  Not surprisingly I think this is the least sweet of all three and is a pretty decent version of the sought after Southern cake.  Rating: 7.5/10

While these definitely aren’t a spot on spin on little bites of cake, they are a fresh take on the ever-growing market of portable protein snacks.  One thing I don’t like about this line is the decision to include zero fiber.  I don’t need 15-20 grams of fiber in a bar but throwing in 5-10 grams helps hit the nutritional needs and balance out the impact of the carbs – neither of which you get when choosing these over another supplement.  While the flavors all rated slightly higher, I’m going to give ON Cake Bites a slightly lower rating overall because of the nutritional makeup, but will still purchase these every so often.

Overall rating: 7/10

UPDATE: In August ON added a fourth flavor to the lineup – Chocolate Frosted Donut.

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This one is pretty much in line with the quality of the initial three flavors, although I like it slightly less. The sprinkles on top are just like the ones on Birthday Cake and add a nice crunch to offset the generally soft and squishy whipped interior of the bite. Does it taste like a donut? Barely. As in, it doesn’t taste like a donut for 80% of the chew and then right towards the end I get a little bit of golden egginess that reminds me of a cake donut.  Not a yeast donut like the package would imply, and not very much at all, but there’s a touch. Much like the first three there’s no weird fake sugar aftertaste and the protein vibes are present but subtle. ON’s flavor game isn’t anywhere near the level of Oh Yeah! but this is still a decently tasty product nonetheless, even if slightly below the initial three flavors.  The macros are almost identical except this one has 250 calories instead of the 230-240.

Rating: 7/10

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REVIEW: Salted Toffee Pretzel BSN Syntha-6 Protein Crisp Bar

I love butterscotchy, toffee-y, complex caramelized flavors, but they’re hard to come across in the protein bar universe. The rare couple of times I’ve gotten caramel or toffee flavored supplements they’ve either been generally underwhelming or so over the top sickly sweet with artificial sugar that they turned me off. Suffer no more – I have found my saving grace. BSN‘s Syntha-6 line branched off from the typical vanilla and chocolate to bring us the unique and expertly executed Salted Toffee Pretzel.

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Right off the jump I’m hit with a strong buttery toffee flavor that when combined with the texture of the bar reminds me of caramel popcorn. It has that kind of “day at the circus” nostalgic quality to its aroma that is deep and refreshing with a solid balance of sweet and salty. There is no weird aftertaste or strong protein-y flavor to the bar at all, it’s just like a delicious salted caramel Rice Krispie Treat with crunchy pretzel surprises sprinkled throughout.

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Embedded within the crisps you can actually see and taste the chunks of pretzel, which enhance the texture of the bar as well as give it a slightly bready flavor to balance the sweetness. Impressively, all of the claimed elements from the description are represented here with saltiness, richness, and a wonderful back and forth between soft and chewy and hard and crunchy.  It’s a true flavor that takes no stretching of the imagination to really taste the toffee undercurrent.

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While not too flavorful when tasted in isolation, the creaminess from the base dip and top drizzle help highlight some of the buttery notes you want from toffee. There are so many different aspects to this bar yet somehow they all work together harmoniously and the flavor never falls flat or gets boring. Each bite has a slightly different texture or flavor punch and it’s without a doubt the best take I’ve had on salted caramel, pretzel, or toffee for a protein snack, let alone nailing all three at once.

Rating: 9/10

Quick Nutrition: 240 cals – 7g fat – 260mg sodium – 24g carbs – 4g sugar – 5g sugar alcohol – 20g protein

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REVIEW: Vanilla Marshmallow BSN Syntha-6 Protein Crisp Bar

New year, new bars – let the fun begin.  Making my weekly trip to GNC I saw a big display of shiny red bars with an under market price and some interesting flavors.  For only $1.99 and the different angle of “protein crisp” as opposed to the usual dense style bar, I was intrigued.  BSN’s Syntha-6 line utilize both whey and soy protein as well as dried egg whites and rice crisps to compose their 20 gram Vanilla Marshmallow flavored protein injection.

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The first thing I notice is the very soft, moist, and crumbly texture of the bar. Unlike the NuGo bars, which are one of the other ones I’ve had in this Rice Krispies Treats style, there is nothing hard or dense about this bar, and the protein pieces are so loosely packed that they fall apart.  The crisp pieces are pushed together with a gooey marshmallow-y sticky base with a white drizzle on the top and bottom of the bar.  The bite is very soft and pleasant with a good crunch that leads to effortless chewing, which can sometimes be impossible with tough taffy-like protein bars.

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The flavor is vanilla-forward without being too sweet and some surprising subtle cinnamon undertones. There are no specific spices listed in the ingredients but I taste not only cinnamon but a hint of nutmeg as well. It isn’t aggressive but it compliments the vanilla and gives some depth to a flavor that had potential to be too sugary.  Marshmallow is a very specific kind of flavor that is easier to understand texturally than it is in its taste composition and they more or less got that down with the Rice Krispies feel.

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As far as emulating a marshmallow crispy treat it does a pretty good job texturally but is missing the rich butteriness you would expect when eating an actual treat. Although the packaged factory made ones by Kellogg’s don’t have a pronounced buttery flavor, my favorite part of a homemade marshmallow treat is the deep fatty butter playing off of the sweet ‘mallow. You don’t get that here, but it’s also a protein product and you can only expect so much.

Overall this is a really tasty bar with only two grams of sugar and zero artificial aftertaste.  The texture is a nice switch up from the usual offerings and is definitely one of the best vanilla flavored supplements I’ve tried.  I find it odd they chose to put in no fiber at all, since most bars will come with anywhere from 5-15 grams, but maybe that helped with the overall taste and texture that made it successful.

Rating: 8/10

Quick Nutrition: 230 cals – 6g fat – 15mg cholesterol – 180mg sodium – 23g carbs – 2g sugar – 20g protein