02/12/2012Gevalia Coffee. Traditional Roast, House Blend, House Blend Decaf, French Roast, Columbia, Espresso Roast, Vanilla, and Chocolate Mocha. $8.99 per 12-ounce bag of ground coffee. (Traditional and French Roast also available as whole beans.)
Bonnie: The Swedes love their coffee. I learned to enjoy their exceptional coffee during my visit in the early '90s to Arvid Nordquist, a Swedish coffee producer, for my first cupping lesson with one of Stockholm's leading master roasters. ("Cupping" is a professional way of evaluating the tastes and aromas of brewed coffee.) Back in the States, I sought out Swedish coffee, including the never-bitter Gevalia, then available only online.
I'm happy to report that many varieties of Gevalia are now available in U.S. supermarkets. Since I like grinding my coffee right before brewing and occasionally drink decaf, I'm partial to the French Roast (one of only two varieties available as whole bean) and the House Blend Decaf (the only decaf flavor). I don't like Gevalia's flavored coffees any more than any other artificially flavored ones. Skip those and reach for any of the others. You won't be disappointed.
Carolyn: I've always associated Sweden with a high suicide rate. Who knew they also drank a lot of coffee?
Good coffee, judging from these coffees from the best-selling Swedish Gevalia brand, now newly available in the United States. I mean good in the solid, mellow, smooth sense of Eight O'Clock brand versus Starbucks strong and snobby.
I like Starbucks-style coffee, but I respect these Gevalia offerings, particularly the signature House Blend and Traditional Roast. And I love the unmistakable taxi-yellow packages (mirroring the color of the Swedish flag), which will wake you up if the coffee doesn't.
But given this line's price and quality, I am surprised about how few of the varieties are being offered as whole beans.
Kashi Banana Chocolate Chip Soft n' Chewy Bars. $3.89 per 7-ounce box of five bars.
Bonnie: I've lost count of the number of granola and energy bars we've taste-tested for this column over the years. I'd like to add Kashi's new Banana Chocolate Chip Soft n' Chewy Bars to the short list of ones I recommend.
You can feel good about packing one of these new Kashi bars into your briefcase or your kid's lunchbox or backpack. With the modest 140 calories, 0.5 grams saturated fat (of 3 grams total), 9 grams sugar and 3 grams fiber in this soft bar comes an impressive half-serving of fruit plus a half-serving of vegetables from real food sources that include bananas, apples and pumpkin. That's a pretty nutritious snack.
Carolyn: Kashi Banana Chocolate Chip Soft n' Chewy Bars are one of those food products that put Bonnie's and my different views about food in sharp relief.
She says these are good; I say they're thick, dry and generally unpleasant. You might feel good and righteous about packing this fiber-and-fruit concoction in your briefcase, but you won't experience much pleasure eating it.
"Yummy banana bread taste with dark chocolate chips -- just like homemade!" enthuses the back of this box about a bar with some banana taste but almost no chocolate chips.
In other words, if this statement were really true, nobody would ever make banana bread at home again.
Hidden Valley Farmhouse Originals Salad Dressing. Italian With Herbs, and Pomegranate Vinaigrette. $3.79 per 16-ounce squeeze bottle.
Bonnie: When Hidden Valley's Farmhouse Originals salad dressing line debuted last fall, I complained about its many additives, while admitting that the flavors lacked the unpleasant aftertaste of most similarly additive-laden bottled dressings.
Ditto for these two new oil-based additions to the line. Meaning, that while these don't taste too bad, they contain lots of ingredients I don't like to pour over my salad. The Pomegranate Vinaigrette is the worst, with an especially long ingredient list that includes preservatives and artificial colors.
At least both are modest in calories, mainly because their first ingredient is water. Two tablespoons of the Italian With Herbs provides 80 calories but a hefty 270 milligrams sodium, while the Pomegranate Vinaigrette has 60 calories and a more reasonable 100 milligrams sodium.
Carolyn: Farmhouse Originals flavors were Hidden Valley's first foray into non-ranch creamy dressings. These two new ones see the line expanding into vinaigrettes.
That makes them big news for Hidden Valley but pretty ho-hum for everybody else. Hidden Valley's dehydrated vegetables and herbs aren't distinctive enough to set its Italian vinaigrette apart from everyone else's. The Pomegranate tastes like everyone else's berry vinaigrette -- although to its credit, pomegranate and other real fruit juices are high up on its ingredient list.
In short, I'd buy these only if they were on sale and similar Kraft or Wish-Bone offerings were not.
(Bonnie Tandy Leblang is a registered dietitian and professional speaker. She has a blog (www.biteofthebest.com) about products she recommends; follow her on Twitter: @BonnieBOTB. Carolyn Wyman is a junk-food fanatic and author of "The Great Philly Cheesesteak Book" (Running Press). Each week they critique three new food items.)