REVIEW: Macaw! Foods Protein Bars

Earlier this year I was approached about the opportunity to design my own protein bar with The Bar Shack. I did that and really enjoyed it, and now that same company have developed a line of ready-to-buy protein snack bars under the name Macaw! Bars. The bars are made of all natural ingredients with a base of date paste and various nut butters, supplemented by protein powder, organic dark chocolate, and a myriad of flavorful accents. Each bar is more of a nutrient-dense snack than a true protein supplement for me, clocking in with 12 grams of fat and just 10-11 grams of protein for a 240 calorie treat. For my intake, a protein bar is usually only worth it when it has 20 grams of protein for 200-230 calories, but those also come with the presence of heavy artificial sweeteners and preservatives. These may be for you, they may not, but from Chocolate Brownie to Lemon Poppy there’s something for everyone, and I’ve broken down a bunch of flavors today on the skillet.

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REVIEW: Enlightened’s Spring Flavors (Movie Night, S’mores, French Toast)

You would never know by lurking this site, but I actually really like Enlightened ice cream. I’ve been a fan of theirs for nearly two years but never wrote about them because I had this grand scheme of ranking all of their flavors and being a super completest about it. Problem is, their distribution in the bay area has been pretty spotty, and only a handful of flavors are available, especially since it seems like they’ve released about 43 varieties in the last year. All that hooplah aside, I would be pretty short sited to overlook one of the biggest trends in the frozen grocery game during National Ice Cream Month, so it’s time to finally break my silence. In March Enlightened made their strongest push yet, rolling out five new pints backed with a strong PR presence and inventive flavors that set the internet off with hype. While I still haven’t been able to track all of them down, and the ones I did get I had to leave San Francisco for, I’m stoked to introduce the skillet to three new high protein low fat low sugar alternatives to get your creamy fix. Movie Night, French Toast, and S’mores.

Movie Night

Popcorn ice cream with chocolate bits and a caramel swirl.

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REVIEW: ONE Brand Basix Bars (Cookie Dough, Peanut Butter, Triple Chocolate)

It’s no secret that I’m a fan of ONE brand protein bars. In fact, I’ve ranked every single one of their flavors and it remains one of the most popular posts on this site getting new visitors nearly every day. The company is known for delivering bars with 20 grams of protein, decent fiber, and only one gram of sugar, but they have a major drawback – sugar alcohols. ONE recently rolled back the amount of sugar alcohols in their bars by roughly half, but they’re taking the natural angle to a whole new level with a fresh line of Basix Bars naturally sweetened with stevia and overall simpler ingredients. The roll out comes in three very standard options for those familiar with protein bars – Triple Chocolate Chunk, Cookie Dough Chocolate Chunk, and Peanut Butter Chocolate Chunk.

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REVIEW: Sinister Labs’ SINFIT Protein Cookies (Chocolate Chip, Birthday Cake, Peanut Butter)

Sinister Labs dubs themselves the “first hardcore food company”, fusing psychobilly art with high protein products packed with great taste. They burst onto the scene in 2017 with an impressive line of SINFIT Protein Crunch bars and this year have rolled out a new line of the hottest fitness foodie trend – protein cookies. On the surface these cookies present the most impressive calorie and macro split I’ve ever seen – 310 calories, 12g fat, 35g carbohydrates, and 20g of protein with just 7g of sugar and 400mg of sodium. While still higher than your average protein bar, if these cookies taste anything close to delicious they could easily be the strongest in the game – but really, how do they taste?

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REVIEW: Super Mario Cereal

I’ve said it before but I’ll say it again, because honestly why the hell else am I eating all of this oddly fun factory food – nostalgia is a helluva drug. In the early 90’s little Sean E was a highly impressionable sprouting lad who loved his Nintendo, Raisinets, and professional wrestling. My favorite cereal at the time was WWF’s Superstars Hulk Hogan Cereal, which was a super basic sweetened puffed corn cereal that I’m sure would be exceedingly average if I had it today.

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Image: The Wild Robot!

But back then, when Hulkamania was the SHIT the cereal tasted like magic. I can’t explain exactly what it tasted like but the best comparison I have today based on hazy memory is the underrated Post Honey Oh’s, which still slap. Fast forward to 2018 and my cereal nostalgia button has officially been switched with Super Mario Cereal, which combines mixed berry cereal with marshmallows.

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REVIEW: The Bar Shack Custom Gourmet Protein Bars

Have you ever wanted to play God? Yeah, me neither, but when given the opportunity it’s kind of hard to pass up. As a dude who loves a good protein bar I’ve spent many a moment dreaming up flavors I wished my favorite companies would release, and now, I no longer have to dream, I can officially play protein bar God. The Bar Shack are a new online based company that allows anyone to design their own protein bar, made fresh and shipped straight to their door. So when owner Adam hit me up and asked if I would like to give it a shot I said “Hey, call me Jesus!”.

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REVIEW: Kalz Paleo Breakfast Muffins (Banana Chocolate and Tropical Blueberry)

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In September of last year I reviewed a new natural protein bar company called Low Kalz. The brand expanded from small snack-size bars to big paleo breakfast muffins available through Etsy, and they sent me a pack of each flavor to sample. The two flavors they turned into muffins just so happened to be my favorites – Banana Chocolate and Tropical Blueberry. As with the bars the muffins are preservative free and made with few ingredients, most notably almond flour, bananas, and eggs.

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REVIEW: Ben & Jerry’s Special Stash Marshmallow Moon

The craft ice cream scene is so hot right now that the innovators and grocery store ice cream game changers are coming out of retirement. Ben & Jerry’s, the now Unilever-owned company that created Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough and put creative life into the freezer section of your favorite supermarket are beginning to unleash their Special Stash; a super limited run of pints only available online and in small quantities at their scoop shops. The series begins with a third collaboration with Jimmy Fallon, in an apparent ode to MoonPie. Marshmallow Moon is vanilla ice cream with marshmallow and graham swirls and fudge chunks.

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Let’s start off with the good – the graham cracker swirl is phenomenal. It’s salty, buttery, and bursting with golden graham flavor that rivals any elementary school’s snack time dunk contest. It’s the same swirl from Pumpkin Cheesecake and One Love but in much bigger, thicker quantity, which makes it automatically better. The grittiness and slight crunch of the swirl is hands down the best part of this pint and to be honest, kind of its saving grace.

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Now, onto the weakest part of the this flavor, and it’s a big one – the base. Ben & Jerry’s vanilla ice cream is fine, it’s just not really that great, and within the context of this profile it falls pretty flat. Yes, it’s rich and creamy, but the vanilla notes aren’t very pronounced and I don’t get any kind of intriguing pop at all. This vanilla ice cream NEEDS big gobs and chunks of mix-ins for it to work, and while it works well in tandem with the graham, it does a major disservice to the marshmallow by being bland and washing out the subtle nuances of the fun and fluffy ‘mallow. I was very excited to see nice amounts of the marshmallow swirl throughout my pint, but I never got to fully enjoy them. Aside from the textural and temperature differences, it was hard to distinguish the gooey stuff from the base.

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The fudge chunks are big and snappy and tasty but ultimately kind of boring. Again, vanilla and chocolate are such standard fair that unless I got a good amount of the graham this just felt like chocolate chip ice cream with really big chips and relatively average vanilla.

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I love the idea of Ben & Jerry’s doing an ongoing Special Stash series, but this first entry is too safe and an average introduction into something that has a lot more potential than this pint shows. A simple change in base to peanut butter, caramel, malt, or hell, even a vanilla bean with more robust flavor, could have made this a much more solid ice cream. The Special Stash line also comes with a higher price, and at double the cost I usually pay for B&J’s it starts to inch towards the more gourmet small batch stuff. If they want to play that game they’ve gotta put their thinking caps on to push the envelop a little farther and earn my hard earned ice cream dollars.

Rating: 7/10
Found at: Ben & Jerry’s Scoop Shop ($6.50)

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REVIEW: Limited Edition Cinnamon Vanilla Lucky Charms

Frosty the Snowman is my dude. I’m not sure if it’s normal for kids to latch onto Christmas characters like they would superheros or athletes, but as a youngster I certainly did, and Frosty will forever hold a place in my heart. Every time he came back to life was another chance for a birthday party, and birthday’s mean cake, and cake means fun, and thus, Frosty beats Rudolph. While the latest seasonal release from General Mills may not have an actual Frosty tie-in (Frosty has a button nose and is always smokin’ a pipe), it is proudly reppin’ one of his relatives, and my internal nostalgia switch began to melt as soon as I saw the swirly blue box for Cinnamon Vanilla Lucky Charms.

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I’m gonna cut straight to the chase on this one – these Lucky Charms are not that spicy. The flavor is nearly identical to the established one kids (and adults?) have been chowing down on since 1964 – slightly sweetened toasted oats and crunchy dehydrated marshmallows. The key difference here is mostly aesthetic, as the usual array of rainbow colors have been replaced by cool wintery shades of blue and white. Snowmen, snowflakes, and snowballs cheerily swim in milk channeling a cool December day instead of the multicolored ending of a leprechaun hunt.

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I’m kind of surprised the cereal pieces don’t have any bite, since the box touts “frosted cinnamon oat cereal” very proudly, and I get zero cinnamon. That being said, there is a bit of cinna-flair in the marshmallows. When I get a spoonful with three or more winter-clad ‘mallows I get a sweet hit of cinnamon, but it’s very brief, and nowhere near the intensity of Pumpkin Spice Cheerios, Gingerbread Spice Life, or Cinnamon Pebbles. As for the vanilla, I think it goes without saying marshmallows have a vanilla-y flavor automatically, and I don’t detect any more or any less vanilla than I normally would from a box of Charms.

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Look, this cereal may not have the big cinnamon flavor that I had hoped for, but I cannot deny that Lucky Charms are still, in fact, magically delicious. The slight presence of spice in the marshmallows takes nothing away from the original recipe, and adds just a touch of holiday whimsy the ‘mallow-heavy bites. I’m slightly disappointed but I’m charmed by Lucky, and I’m a sucker for anything with cinnamon in it, even if it’s just a gentle whisper.

Rating: 8/10

Found at: Target ($2.99)

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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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