Friday, February 21, 2014

Review: Bakery on Main - Extreme Fruit and Nut

It's time for a review of a fringe cereal brand. I can't and won't review every new cereal that hits the market. That would be overkill, besides who is really interested in every little nuanced new variety of Cheerios or Special K that is introduced? But, every once in a while I come across some unusual cereals that catch my attention, and for the next two reviews I will try them and share my findings.

Recently during a trip to Target I came across some pouched cereals from a company called Bakery on Main from Connecticut. In many ways the packaging was not that spectacular and it said that it was a granola (a largely passé cereal type), but upon closer examination I was intrigued by what I saw through the clear window on the bag. This was no ordinary granola, but clusters largely embedded in miniature corn bowls. In fact, granola is a misnomer as there are no rolled oats to be found anywhere. This is something different so I fell for it and brought a bag home.

Bakery on Main had its start as a health food bakery creating items for Celiacs, those with sensitivities to gluten. The Gluten Free Granola I brought home obviously is targeted to that audience, but the unique nature of the cereal pieces themselves might just stand out enough to the rest of us as something worth trying.

Bakery on Main makes several different granolas. The one I chose is "Extreme Fruit and Nut" as that sounded like a great combination to me. I must say, before I really dig into the review categories, that my biggest disappointment with this cereal is that it could not fully live up to its billing. Opening the pouch I did discover a smattering of almonds, hazelnuts, pecans, and walnuts, but virtually no fruit. The ingredients list raisins and cranberries, but I had to look hard to find any. Digging deeper it was evident that there were a few lone pieces in the bag, but so few that it in the first bowl I poured not a single fruit particle appeared. This is hardly extreme, unless by that one means extremely stingy. I want to give them the benefit of the doubt, assuming that being a small operator they haven't yet figured out the quality control issues of mixing and packaging cereals with very small ingredients of various weights. Nevertheless, this was not a good way to start my review.

As far as taste is concerned this is a delightful cereal. Don't be put off by the gluten free talk. The combination of nuts (and fruit, supposedly) along with a wide range of other ingredients such as rice, coconut, sunflower seeds, and flax seed in the little corn shells add up to what they promise: "Happy Taste Buds". I agree. It's not overly sweet, and the blend of flavors make for a pleasant experience.

With such a wide range of wholesome, natural ingredients one shouldn't be surprised that cereal's strongest suit is its texture. Out of the pouch or soaked in milk this cereal keeps its crunch, and provides a wide range of chewing experiences that make eating enjoyable.

This is serious food, and if you are truly focusing on a healthy breakfast you will find this cereal an experience to enjoy, which is not something you can always say about health foods. Besides the quality taste and texture, the unique nature of this "granola" is in itself intriguing and worth exploring.

Bakery on Main prides itself on the nutrition qualities of its foods. This cereal is not only gluten free, but emphasizes that it is casein free, non-GMO, transfat and cholesterol free, low sodium, etc. The focus is on natural ingredients, and as a result there are no fortified vitamins and minerals. Overall it is a fairly nutritious cereal, but as with many "granolas" the fat content, albeit low in saturated fats, is somewhat high at 43% of calories. Fiber and protein quantities are OK, but not great. A positive is that the sugar level is within the 20% of weight range.

In the end this was a pleasant surprise for me. Except for the mysterious missing fruit, this is a quality cereal that stands up to most cereals on the market. If you are looking for a new cereal experience from a small manufacturer this should be on your list. In fact, you might just want to try one of their other varieties as well, such as "Cranberry Orange Cashew Granola".

(Review protocol HERE)

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