REVIEW: Marlo’s Bake Shop Soft Baked Biscotti (Original and Brown Sugar Coffee Cake)

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Although they aren’t as sexy as an oozing cream filled doughnut or as exciting as the latest wild Oreo flavor, I love me a good biscotti. As an avid coffee drinker how could I not get down with a cookie that’s usually baked twice to be extra hard and not only go along with but NEEDS a strong cup to reach its full potential? One year for Christmas I even replaced my usual batch of whimsy-and-butter laced goodies with three different types of biscotti. While I don’t tend to buy any particular type of biscotti and usually will just grab whatever the cafe I’m at has to go along with some espresso, I’ve found a great San Francisco based company putting a unique spin on the crunchy cookie. Marlo’s Bakeshop are a woman-owned bakery specializing in soft-baked biscotti that are free of preservatives and artificial flavors, with some inventive concoctions to boot. Continue reading

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REVIEW: Ample Hills’ No Sleep Til Pumpkin

It wasn’t until 2003, with Starbucks’ introduction of the Pumpkin Spice Latte, that the two very different but very popular world’s of coffee and pumpkin pie would collide to create one of the most iconic and polarizing drinks of the last fifteen years. It’s hard to imagine a time when the two flavors didn’t coexist, and with everything from M&M’s to Peeps to Bath & Body Works body wash emulating the cafe concotion, it’s fitting that ice cream is no stranger to the coveted combination. As their sole pumpkin offering for 2017, Ample Hills brought back No Sleep Til Pumpkin, which is dark coffee ice cream with pieces of pumpkin ooey gooey butter cake.

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REVIEW: Baskin Robbins’ Tiramisu

Tiramisu directly translates to “cheer me up” in Italian, and that’s pretty much how I feel about not only tiramisu, but damn near any ice cream I get the privilege of trying. Tiramisu holds a special place in my heart, as it’s become a pre-Christmas tradition for my girlfriend and I after a lovely meal of cioppino, and ice cream holds the biggest place in my heart of all foods. Needless to say, my heart feels like it’s about to explode with the latest Flavor of the Month from Baskin Robbins. Their take on Tiramisu is tiramisu-flavored ice cream with cake pieces, chocolate flakes, and a decadent chocolate coffee ribbon.

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Off the jump the tiramisu base tastes like everything it should. It’s a solid combination of chocolate and coffee that is not at all shy with its strong espresso notes. The texture is incredibly rich and creamy like tiramisu’s whipped mascarpone. While it isn’t cheesy persay, I wouldn’t call the actual dessert cheesy either, and the overall profile really works. The bitter coffee flavor is beautifully balanced by the sweetness, and while I was hesitant of a “tiramisu flavored” ice cream, BR really dialed in the flavors of one of the best Italian desserts.

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Amplifying the solid foundation laid by the base is the chocolate coffee ribbon, which adds an even darker, more bitter coffee presence and syrupy sweetness that is divine. It channels the intense depth of the usually soaked lady fingers so well that I actually get a bit of a sharp boozy component coming through that is unexpected for a mainstream scoop.

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The semisweet chocolate pieces add some very welcome textural contrast with a nice crunch and solid chocolate flavor. They’re evenly dispersed through the ice cream and help bring the much needed chocolate component to achieve a wonderful sweet and bitter balance with the strong coffee flavor.

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Cake pieces swimming in rich dairy seems like it would be a perfect substitution for tiramisu’s soaked lady fingers and they absolutely are. Soft, chewy, and slightly sweet, the cake pieces hold up their end of the dessert emulation wonderfully. Some of the cake pieces get caught up in the coffee ribbon and the combination of the two flavors reminds me of the cocoa powder dusting on top of a lovely slice of Italy’s finest. Such great flavor I was transported straight to a cozy evening in North Beach.

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While this may not be a new flavor, it’s one executed very well and worthy of its spot in the flavor of the month rotation. Whether you’re a fan of tiramisu, coffee flavored desserts, or just a damn good scoop of ice cream, this is one worth a visit to your local Baskin Robbins.

Rating: 9/10
Found at: Baskin Robbins ($2.99)

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REVIEW: Limited Edition Dunkin’ Donuts’ Mocha Oreo

Few things in this world go together as beautifully as coffee and chocolate – so why the hell did it take so long for Oreo to put a spin on the classic combo? When Trader Joe’s released their fantastic Mocha Joe Joe’s earlier this year I couldn’t believe they beat Nabisco in the cookie race, but they did, and they put out a real bang up of a product in the process. Although late, Nabisco teamed up with another junk food juggernaut in Dunkin’ Donuts to unearth the Limited Edition Mocha Oreo, which pairs the traditional chocolate Oreo wafer with a coffee flavored creme filling.

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Coffee is one of the most fantastically seductive aromas the culinary world has to offer, and shockingly these Oreo cookies don’t smell like coffee – at all. In fact, they smell like chocolate frosting. Slightly less sweet than what I remember regular double chocolate Oreo’s smelling like, but absolutely zero traces of the roasted bean that’s the inspiration behind the product. Sometimes coffee is used in baking to elevate the flavor in a chocolate cake, adding extra depth to the bitter cocoa notes, and I’m hoping that’s what’s at play here, and not a cookie that tastes as weak and diluted as Dunkin’s overhyped coffee.

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Fortunately for me, and for Nabisco’s reputation, these cookies actually taste great. There is 100% more coffee flavor than there is smell, and while it isn’t the punchiest mocha product I’ve had, it’s a damn good one. The usual bitter notes of the wafer cookie are amplified by the coffee creme, and the two play off of one another to great success. A mocha is generally less coffee-heavy, with only two or three ounces being actual espresso and the rest milk and chocolate, and with those ratios in mind this Oreo is pretty much spot on. As a daily black coffee drinker who really appreciates the natural flavor of the dark stuff these satisfy my tastebuds and are still sweet enough to actually compliment a real cup of bitter joe on the side.

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As simple as this minor creme-change is, it really works, and I find these Mocha Oreo’s to be the best chocolate-based limited offering in recent memory. They’re much more interesting and endearing than Chocolate Covered Strawberry and have a much more significant flavor switch up than Filled Cupcake or Brownie Batter. While they may not deliver as big of an espresso hit as Trader Joe’s Mocha Joe Joe’s, they’re nearly just as delicious and full of that classic Oreo nostalgia.

Rating: 8.5/10
Found at: Safeway ($2.99)

REVIEW: Trader Joe’s Mocha Joe Joe’s

The world has never seen a coffee Oreo…until later this year. That’s right, in 2017, thanks to a collaboration with Dunkin Donuts, Nabisco will finally release a coffee flavored Oreo.  Bad news for them, Trader Joe’s has beaten them to the punch via the release of the brand new for this year Mocha Joe Joe’s. With two chocolate wafer cookies sandwiching a vanilla creme studded with ground coffee, Oreo has some heavy competition on their hands.

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Coffee is one of my most cherished and nostalgic smells, and busting into these Joe Joe’s is like unearthing a fresh bag of whole bean espresso.  There’s a full, dark, dominant coffee aroma that will be no stranger to anyone who grinds coffee beans at home, and is a surprising coming so intensely from a $3 box of cookies. The creme filling is smooth, soft, and almost runny with a much softer texture than its Oreo idol. The creme is studded with coffee bean bits that add a little extra crunch but primarily bring a bold coffee flavor that is sharp, bitter, and genuine. The taste is very similar to that of chocolate covered espresso beans and that’s a huge boost over a lot of coffee flavored products I’ve had before.

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As powerful as the coffee flavor is, the cookies do still overall register sweet, with the wafer cookie being a little less dark and bitter than the standard Oreo. There’s enough sugary sweetness in the melty creme and wafer to balance the coffee intensity and I think this cookie will be loved not only by caffeine junkies, but those who appreciate the other element of a mocha – good chocolate. The finish is sweet and smooth enough to accompany a good cup of coffee, tea, or espresso, but dynamic enough that it isn’t just another average tasting Oreo copy cat.

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This is the most excited I’ve been by a cookie so far this year, and it caught me by total surprise.  I love drinking coffee daily but am not as hyped on coffee flavored treats, and these cookies may have converted me.  I’ve always thought Joe Joe’s were of high quality but with this Mocha flavor Trader Joe’s have taken them to another level, achieving the perfect snack-able balance of coffee, chocolate, and delicious that has me excited for other new limited releases in the future.

Rating: 9/10
Found at: Trader Joe’s
Quick Nutrition: 2 cookies – 7g fat – 95mg sodium – 23g carbs – 14g sugar – 1g protein

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