New Species of Cracker Discovered!

Bear Naked Native All Natural Whole Grain Granola

By: Bear Naked

I Paid: $4.89 for a 12-ounce bag (prices may vary by region)

Taste: 5stars


Marketing: 4stars

Assessing granola can be a little daunting: It comes in infinite varieties but, to an unseasoned eater, seems pretty much interchangeable. Those seeking the upper end of the granola experience—the other end being drab or forgettable—would do well to check out Bear Naked’s Native line.

Sweetness: You don’t want your granola to be candy, but you don’t want a dour handful of grain either. Bear Naked’s Mango Agave Almond flavor has a complicated yet mild sweetness, imparted by its agave-glazed almonds, evaporated cane juice, agave nectar, and honey. It’s a clean, mellow, deep sweetness. The Yumberry Goji Currant variety is equally well balanced and satisfying.

Ratio of oats to flavor nuggets: I like granola with small, regularly sized bits of “other” items and tiny clusters of oats. A consistent texture means that whether you’re snacking or mixing the stuff with yogurt, you can enjoy an even-keel eating experience. Bear Naked is perfect in this regard.

Quality of flavor nuggets: Many granolas coast on raisins, minuscule bits of dried apple, and maybe, if you’re lucky, some flax seeds. Bear Naked does a beautiful job with its enhancers: Mango Agave Almond has tasty agave-glazed nuts and dense, chewy pieces of dried, sweetened mango; Yumberry Goji Currant sprinkles little goji berries, tart currants, and mellow if ridiculously named yumberries among its flakes (extra points for incorporating two kinds of superfoods: goji and yumberry).

If you care, Bear Naked Native granola has no preservatives, cholesterol, trans fats, artificial flavors, or high-fructose corn syrup. If you don’t, the stuff is still absolutely delicious.

New York Style Focaccia Sticks

By: Nonni’s Food Company

I Paid: $3.29 for a 5-ounce bag (prices may vary by region)

Taste: 4stars


Marketing: 3stars

What the hell, you might reasonably ask, are focaccia sticks? According to the bag, they’re “made from real focaccia bread at a traditional bakery in New York City.” They’re actually a cross between a bagel chip and a mini biscotti.

As far as texture goes, these things get an A-plus. They have a substantial crunch without tasting stale or overly dense. Seasoning comes courtesy of natural herbs and spices, to generally positive effect. Opening a bag of Roasted Garlic & Herb Focaccia Sticks is likely to trigger an instant sense memory of being in an Italian restaurant. The garlic flavoring is strong and insistent but isn’t completely overwhelming, nor tainted by a chemical aftertaste. Like all varieties of the sticks, the flavor is multidimensional and deftly applied.

Rosemary & Sea Salt is far more retiring, less useful for straight-up eating but an asset for dipping. And the Quattro Formaggio manages that highly difficult feat of imparting a blue cheese note without crushing either the taster’s palate or the other flavors within the snack. The cheddar gets a bit lost in the shuffle, but the Parmesan/Romano notes are present.

People associate New York City with loud voices, but Focaccia Sticks speak softly and with confidence.

James Norton edits the Upper Midwestern food journal Heavy Table. He's also the coauthor of a book on Wisconsin's master cheesemakers. Follow Chowhound on Twitter, and become a fan on Facebook.

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