REVIEW: Grenade Carb Killa White Chocolate Cookie

Grenade is a United Kingdom based protein supplement company founded in 2010, apparently dominating everyone’s post-workout fix world wide except me.  As someone who does most of his whey protein intake through bars I’m always looking for new flavors and textures to entice my palate.  When the Carb Killa bars popped up at my local GNC the packaging was interesting and I grabbed two of the available flavors.  The first one I tried, Caramel Chaos, had really great texture but was generally lacking in any notable flavors, despite the fact that it was the only protein bar I’ve had to actually have caramel.  The second bar – White Chocolate Cookie – changed everything.

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Carb Killa’s are triple-layered bars combining a whey protein base with gooey caramel and crunchy bits, then dipped in either a white or milk chocolate.  The White Chocolate Cookie bar has a milky white caramel beneath pieces of chocolate cookies and looks almost identical to the Hershey’s Cookies and Cream candy bar.  It is without a doubt one of the most uniquely flavored and well executed protein bars I have ever had.

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The three textures interact with each other to create a seamless snacking experience, leaving almost nothing to be desired.  White chocolate is the first ingredient, and the flavor is strong and pronounced with the use of cocoa butter and whole milk powder.  Many of the issues that plague protein bars – grainy bases, overly sweet fake sugars, or too much fake fiber, are all nonexistent here.  The bar is just sweet enough to emulate the candy bar it looks up to without becoming over the top or artificial.

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This might be one of the rare cases where a protein supplement trying to mimic an established junk food product actually surpasses the real thing.  The addition of the caramel offers a more complex mouth feel than the Hershey’s bar and with 22 grams of protein and only 2 grams of sugar I can’t imagine myself ever choosing the candy over the killa.

In the United States Carb Killa bars are available in four flavors – Caramel Chaos, Chocolate Cream, Chocolate Crunch, and the sensational White Chocolate Cookie.  I plan on trying the two chocolate flavors as soon as possible, and being on the lookout for some of the more obscure UK-available flavors like Banana Armour and White Chocolate Mocha to make a Stateside appearance soon.

Rating: 9.5/10

Quick Nutrition: Calories: 220 – Fat Cal: 70 – Fat: 8g – Sat Fat: 4g – Sodium: 150mg – Total Carb: 21g – Fiber: 6g – Sugars: 2g – Sugar Alcohol: 13g – Protein: 22g

REVIEW: Jack’s Prime Gobble Gobble Burger

In the realm of burgers there are real burgers, you know, the one’s made with beef or occasionally bison or something fancy, and chicken burgers, and veggie burgers, and then there are…turkey burgers.  The forever less loved patty, standing lonely from the outside looking in, will only get ordered by those avoiding red meat, watching their cholesterol, or suffering from generally broken taste buds.  No one in the history of the world woke up, mapped out their dinner plans, and said “damn, I am REALLY craving a turkey burger…”.  Pause.  Enter – Jack’s Prime.

Full disclosure, Jack’s Prime in San Mateo is my favorite burger spot in the bay area, and it’s one of the few places I will return to eat at at least once a month.  Part of the appeal of return visits for me is a rotating cast of monthly burger specials, and for the month of November it’s their take on a turkey burger called the Gobble Gobble.  The Gobble Gobble burger is a Diestel Ranch turkey patty topped with cheddar cheese, apple cranberry chutney, house made stuffing, romaine lettuce, and mayo on an onion bun.  Yes, it is Thanksgiving dinner in a single bite, and don’t worry, there are potatoes-a-plenty on the side.

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The Gobble Gobble burger with sweet potato fries

Many of the complaints about turkey burgers – they’re bland, or dry, or boring – all get laid to rest with the Gobble Gobble.  Through the clever use of melty cheddar cheese, herbaceous stuffing, and sharply sweet chutney, you never have a chance to lament the fact that there are no glisteny red juice puddles muddying your plate.  All of the elements work in perfect harmony here, with the seasoning on the patty being a bit understated to leave room for the powerful condiments to do their job.  The chutney having both cranberries and apples helps add a sweet and tart component that plays with the overall flavor much like caramelized onions, with the stuffing adding a fluffy bounce and deep onion richness.

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Top of the bun with nice layer of stuffing

When you get a bite with both cranberry and stuffing (which is most of the time) you are immediately transported to Thanksgiving dinner in the most deliciously comfortable way imaginable.  Even the onion bun, which is the most minuscule of modifications to their usual burger bun, emulates that tasty soft dinner roll you use to sop up all the gravy at the end of the years best meal.

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Up close and personal with the onion bun

If you find yourself abruptly out of leftovers and fiending for one last Thanksgiving fix, the Gobble Gobble will be available through the end of the month.  If you’ve missed out and/or are completely sick of cranberries and turkey, you can join me in waiting with fingers crossed for an encore appearance next November.
Rating: 9/10

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YUM

Jack’s Prime is located at 3723 S El Camino Real in San Mateo, CA, and are also home to insanely perfect sweet potato fries, the best garlic fries outside of AT&T park, and the most beautifully balanced peppery sweet BBQ sauce you’ll have anywhere not serving brisket.

REVIEW: Quest Beyond Cereal Bars (All three flavors)

The all-influential and trend-setting folks at Quest Nutrition are back at it again with a new line of portable protein – Beyond Cereal bars. The bars attempt to emulate the mainstream cereal bar, somewhere in between the Lucky Charms 7/11-available variety and the popular Red Berry line by Special K.

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As with most Quest products these bars are laced with both protein (12 grams) and fiber (7 grams), and only 110 calories each. The big difference here is the amount of sugar, clocking in at 8 grams, or four times the amount typically found in a Quest protein bar. The kicker is apparently the listed grams of sugar aren’t actually the same as the ones normally listed because they come from allulose, which has one tenth of the calories of actual sugar (despite being required to be listed in the sugar column).  This is the first widely distributed product on the market made with allulose and to be honest I have no idea how it works, but its flavor is certainly more convincing than the other alternate sweeteners typically used in protein products.

The bars launched this week with three flavors and I’m going to rate and review all three from most fire to most tepid, but heads up, they’re all pretty solid.

Waffle: This bar is delicious. Immediately upon opening the package you’re hit with the strong smell of maple syrup, not the stuff that actually comes from trees but the Aunt Jemima Log Cabin Sunday morning nostalgia kind of syrup. Somehow the taste isn’t overwhelmingly sweet, and the use of allulose allows the bar to avoid the artificial Sucralose taste that sometimes plagues Quest products. The texture is soft and chewy like a Rice Krispy treat with an undercurrent of buttery graham cracker. What makes this flavor particularly intriguing is there are no other products with this profile currently on the market. If this bar were an actual cereal it would be Golden Grahams, and it’s a damn fine substitute.  I had to buy this bar a second time to make sure I liked it as much as I thought and it’s without a doubt my favorite Quest product of the year.
Rating: 9/10

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Cinnamon Roll: Beautiful cinnamon flavor with a slight buttery toasty undertone – this bar is Cinnamon Toast Crunch all the way. It is the only one where the white drizzle on top seems to really stand out, adding a nice touch of creaminess and sweetness to highlight the spice. The spices aren’t overwhelming but are very much there, and this is the first time I’ve really marveled at the fact that this whole line isn’t actually cereal. Really cool for people with gluten intolerance to be able to enjoy something that emulates a cereal bar so well. Only downside to this one is it is the only bar of the three that has a bit of a fake sugar Sucralose flavor, even though it uses allulose as its primary sweetener.
Rating: 8/10

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Chocolate: This bar has less of everything. Less aroma, less sweetness, less pop on the initial bite. The texture is a bit softer but also grainier than the waffle or cinnamon, and its main strength is a deep cocoa taste. The chocolate here is not suggesting milk chocolate like Cocoa Pebbles but it isn’t as bitter as straight cocoa either. It’s got a natural chocolatey-ness that’s more convincing than most Quest products. The base flavor is not too far off from a less sweet Oreo, and doesn’t emulate any particular name brand cereal I’ve had on the market (RIP Oreo O‘s and shoutout Junk Banter for that comparison). If you’re a fan of Cocoa Puffs you will likely dig this but don’t expect it to taste exactly like the actual cereal you grew up loving.
Rating: 7.5/10

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Overall the Quest Beyond Cereal lineup is a slam dunk.  They have managed to make something awesome that I didn’t even know I needed in my life and I will be a repeat customer.  A quick fix snack bar that provides the comfort of a nostalgic breakfast with portability, protein, and fiber to boot.  The only issue with this line is the price point – being offered at a very similar cost to a regular Quest bar in most retailers ($2.39), but only having around half the protein and fiber you would typically get at that dollar amount.  A great snack but probably not suitable for a meal replacement, although you can always just crush two if you’re feeling spendy and hungry.

Overall Quest Beyond Cereal rating: 8/10

Quick Nutrition:
110 calories – 4.5g fat – 10mg Cholesterol – 170mg Sodium – 17g Carbs – 7g Fiber – 8g Sugar – 12g Protein

REVIEW: Fit Joy Iced Gingerbread Cookie

This summer Fit Joy burst onto the protein scene, pecs-a-boomin, and have been relentless in their attempt to dominant the market ever since. I’m not sure who their connect is but based on their prominent displays and promotions at GNC, The Vitamin Shoppe, and others, they really truly have the plug. After launching with six flavors, Fit Joy followed up with a limited seasonal Homemade Pumpkin Pie bar (which was okay), and are now trying to tempt Kris Kringle with additional holiday offerings. The first of these winter collection bars is Iced Gingerbread Cookie.

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Visually the bar is the same as all other non-cookie dough and mint Fit Joy‘s – a whey protein rectangle dipped in yogurt and topped with a garnish. The topping on this bar looks like little pieces of gingerbread cookies with the mellow aroma of cinnamon. The overall smell of the bar isn’t much different from the pumpkin pie or cinnamon bun with a sweet and subdued spice.

Biting in, a slightly crunchy texture from little crispy balls hidden inside the protein base gives way to a yogurt-driven sweetness that turns into a wonderful sharp ginger flavor. The ginger tastes authentic and finishes with the perfect spicy tingle that leaves you wanting more. The sweetness is on par with other Fit Joy flavors – definitely a dominant role but not overpowering or fake tasting in any way. The cinnamon crisps on top of the bar do a good job of emulating some of the snap you would get from a ginger cookie while also adding more cinnamon flavor.
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What makes this bar successful is that “Organic Ginger” appears in the ingredient list ahead of Stevia, and the experience as a whole feels more like eating a gingerbread cookie and less like a stick of fake sugar, which can’t be said for all protein bars.  Other companies should take notice and try and use more real ingredients when emulating flavors – especially spices.  Fit Joy’s mission statement is to use no artificial preservatives or sweeteners and the resulting experience is clean and refreshing.

Overall this bar is more impressive than their Homemade Pumpkin Pie and ranks among the best of their initial launch line, in the same class as Chocolate Peanut Butter, French Vanilla Almond, and Chocolate Iced Brownie. Great to see a protein bar company tackle a slightly different flavor than what’s on the market and have lots of success.

Rating: 8/10

Quick Nutrition: 220 cals – 10mg Cholesterol – 190mg Sodium – 24g Carbs – 10g Fiber – 5g Sugar – 20g Protein

PROTEIN POST: Nuts ‘N More Salted Caramel

Have you ever wished you could crush up a Butterfinger bar and spread it all over everything?  Drizzle it on ice cream?  Eat it with a spoon?  Put it on a sandwich?  Look no further – this Salted Caramel Nuts ‘N More protein butter tastes almost exactly like the distinct sweet nutty flavor of Butterfinger.

Butterfinger is that candy bar that I always found myself enjoying while trick or treating as a kid but rarely buying on a trip to the candy aisle.  Now in my adult years I don’t buy many candy bars but who can resist something packed with protein that sends you down a trip to nostalgia lane?

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Photo courtesy of Nuts ‘N More website

Nuts N More spreads combine whey protein isolate with nuts (in this case peanuts), flax seed, and a couple of binders and sugar alcohols to round out the flavor in their power packed butters.  The texture is a little bit whey-grainy but not too far off from a regular flavored nut butter, and with almost twice the amount of protein they’re definitely worth this minor change.

While I can’t say the spread tastes quite like salted caramel it is delicious and has a perfect creamy consistency that holds up well after a good mixing.  The product is a bit pricey ($12.99) but with 14 servings per container it should last quite awhile, unless you go on a crazy post-Halloween snack spiral and try it on top of everything in your cabinet.  Hey, at least you’d wake up hella buff.

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Deliciously dreamy consistency

Serving Size: 2 TBSP – Servings: 14 – Calories: 188 – Total Fat: 12g – 2g saturated 0g trans fat – Cholesterol 2mg – Sodium 102g – Total Carbohydrate: 8g – Dietary Fiber: 3g – Sugars 1g – Protein: 12g

Note: This is not a new product, just something I’ve recently got into and felt the need to share!

REVIEW: Baskin Robbin’s First Class Camouflage

At-tennnnnnTION!!!

Your regularly ignored neapolitan ice cream has been strip searched, reworked, and made relevant again. Goodbye strawberry and vanilla, hello cake and salted caramel. Keep the dark daddy chocolate to hold it all together and you’ve got Baskin Robbins’ First Class Camouflage.

Originally released in November 2014 to celebrate Veterans Day, this is the flavors’ second appearance alongside the limited edition camouflage colored waffle cone.

The ice cream itself is visually a spot on representation of American military camo. Swirled together in random quantities are brown (chocolate), tan (caramel), and a deep forest green (cake). Unfortunately the pale color palate is also representative of the way the flavors work together on the spoon and they miss the mark on the potential of this scoop.

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I was initially excited about this flavor because while I had read about Baskin’s “Salty Caramel” ice cream on their website I had never seen it available in stores. Being one of the main components of the camouflage it seemed finally my time to try it – but not quite. The caramel flavor in first class is completely devoid of any saltiness at all, likely due to the lack of “salty caramel ribbon” that is supposed to come in the flavor. What it does have, is a wonderful deep burnt caramel essence reminiscent of the crystallized sugar on top of a creme brûlée. I have never tasted a rich caramel flavor like this from BR before and that is this limited offering’s greatest success, even though its name is misleading.

On the flip side, its biggest weakness is a total lack of any cake flavor whatsoever. Cake is a much more delicate flavor than chocolate or caramel and as a result gets completely lost in the trenches of sugary warfare. The green “cake” doesn’t taste like cake nor does it taste like vanilla, it simply becomes a sweet creamy question mark being bullied by chocolate. To be fair, it’s hard to judge a flavor like this on one scoop, because like neapolitan and spumoni, every serving is a little different depending on the ratios of each component.

What would have really helped make this flavor more interesting is a ribbon or mix in of ANY KIND. Without little bits of cake to drive the green or a swirly salty caramel ribbon to punctuate the tan the flavor reluctantly becomes a poor mans version of the Baskin staple Gold Medal Ribbon.

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There is nothing wrong with this flavor but there is nothing particularly special about it either. The base is up to standard BR quality – creamy, rich, and velvety smooth, and the chocolate has a great prominent cocoa flavor. Good as far as quality ice cream is concerned but not worth a trip or forgoing your favorite flavor on your next visit.

Rating: 6/10

REVIEW: Quest Bar Rocky Road

Earlier this year Quest announced that it would be rolling out three new flavors of cheat clean goodness over the course of four months and the big bad finale is finally upon us. Following the success of imitating a cookie with Oatmeal Chocolate Chip, and a muffin, with Blueberry Muffin, the Quest brand has chosen to take on imitating Rocky Road ice cream.  The classic flavors of chocolate, nuts, and sweet marshmallow lend themselves well to a portable protein bar, but how does it stack up against the others in the Quest-verse?

Rocky Road’s biggest strength is the same as the two that came before it, and that is in its chunky prominence.  Quest have quickly solidified themselves as the king of the chunk and while new competitors pop up seemingly every month, Quest has found a way to keep itself relevant and desirable in the vast field of protein bars.  Every bite of Rocky Road has ample pieces of crunchy almonds and sweet marshmallow; the bar has some of the most equal chunk distribution I’ve seen from Quest and that keeps the bar interesting from start to finish. The chocolate base, like most Quest bars, has a strong sucralose flavor that drives the sweetness of each bite. As long as you’re okay with the fake sweet taste the overall experience is pretty true to a good scoop of rocky road ice cream. Almond is the dominant flavor over marshmallow, which gets lost just a bit in the general sweetness of the bar as a whole, but you see them and their presence is at least felt texturally.

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Rocky Road is essentially a nutty crunchy version of one of their best bars already on the market – Double Chocolate Chunk. While there are no pieces of dark chocolate lurking in the protein base, the ample amounts of almonds and marshmallows make this an intriguing bite on the go. Not as good as the two that came before it but still better than or equal to the other top Quest bars already available.

Rating: 7/10