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Monday, June 25, 2012

Fruit Cake Energy Bars: A Taste Test

Posted By on Mon, Jun 25, 2012 at 10:00 AM

click to enlarge almondbutter.jpg

Panforte, the Italian fruit cake originally paid to monasteries as a tax and built to hold up and carry calories throughout the year, is showing up as the new energy bar alternative. We first spotted a variation at the Artisan Cheese Festival earlier this year in the form of an Almond Butter Bar from Napa-based La Saison. More recently Emeryville based Clif Bar released Gary's Panforte in standard Clif Bar size and packaging in a limited edition run to celebrate their 20th anniversary and founder Gary's memories of bike trips across Italy.

These are far more interesting, and more foodie-thentic, than most commercial candy-bar-alternative energy bars on the market that either taste like dust, chew like hardened sludge, or are thin parodies of the candy bars they often are, at higher calorie and sugar density than a Snickers. Does anyone really believe a Marathon bar is anything more than a Snickers on steroids?

Both are good, the La Saison even better than good, and are a worthwhile alternative if you are already energy barring, or a backpack snack even if you're not. The truth, of course, is in the eating, so here you go:

La Saison

Almond Butter Go Bar

Thick, like fruit cake with more moisture. Dense and laced with nuts and dried fruit. As an energy bar this is a full dinner substitute -- there was no note of calories on the packaging (not sure how they get away with that; perhaps it was a sample), but I have to assume they are severe. Raisins and seeds and a general sweetness make for great flavor. This brick of a bar is likely a survival tool for your backpack or a great meal alternative.

It's similar to a fig cake you'd place as accoutrement with cheese, though softer and a tad sweeter. In slices it could be a perfect small-form addition to a cheese board, which would save you from buying a whole panforte or fig cake for that purpose, since they never get used up.

garys.png

Gary's Panforte

Fruit, Nuts & Spices

Looks and smells as its named -- like a dense, dark, moist Panforte. Good flavor, immediately presenting the dried fruit, then the nuts and a bit of spice, but with a modest earthy-grainenessess similar to what you get from ground flax seeds. Modestly sweet, which is surprising since the number one ingredient is Organic Brown Rice Syrup, like mincemeat pie, with all the baking spices that implies. A fun, flavorful, texturally interesting alternative to your average energy bar.

Contact Ben Narisin at sfoodieben@gmail.com . Follow us on Twitter: @sfoodie, and like us on Facebook.

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Ben Narasin

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