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Really Great Granolas?

Jim Leff Oct 27, 2009 07:18 AM

I'm going to be holding a granola tasting (I'll post findings here afterward) and would like suggestions of brands. I plan on including all of the following. Are any of them lame? Any great brands missing? Also let me know if there's a clear flavor winner for any of these brands (e.g. I know a lot of people prefer Early Bird's "Aloha").

I'd like to only include particularly good granolas, not any "pretty good" ones!

Galaxy Granola
Bob's Red Mill Old Country Style Muesli
Udi's Granola
Heartland Granola Cereal
Bakery on Main gluten-free
Kashi Mountain Medley Granola Cereal
Breadshop's Organic Granola
Early bird granola
Bear Naked
Ola Granola

Oh, and suggestions for tiny regional brands are also welcome....I'll just mail order them.

  1. Jim Leff Oct 27, 2009 01:19 PM

    adding:
    Honey Oat and Cinnamon Pecan from "The Baker" (who does cardboardy breads, but, I hear, good granola)

    10 Replies
    1. re: Jim Leff
      c
      comestible Oct 27, 2009 01:32 PM

      Yes, I was going to suggest you add "The Baker's" granola, until I saw your second post. :)

      I don't know all those brands you listed. Of those I've had:

      Bakers is best,
      Galaxy pretty good,
      Bear Naked average,
      Breadshop subpar.

      I wish I could find some good ones that didn't cost upwards of $5 a pound!

      If I think of some others, I'll jump in again!

      One thing that's a big issue with me is the level of toasting. If there isn't any nutty, toasty thing going on, granolas are too blah for me. And there has to be an interesting mix of grains, nuts, seeds, maybe a little fruit...

      1. re: comestible
        Jim Leff Oct 27, 2009 02:34 PM

        Thanks. I'll delete breadshop. I don't like Bear Naked at all, but so many people do that I felt obliged to include them.

        For purposes of this tasting, "money is no object", though I agree that the pricing on some of these brands is outrageous....

        1. re: Jim Leff
          rockandroller1 Oct 28, 2009 04:52 AM

          IMO the best Bear Naked is the fruit & nut. the other flavors are just not very good. But I would put that up there as a "great" granola.

          I think the snacking granola from Whole Foods is also very good.

          1. re: rockandroller1
            Jim Leff Oct 29, 2009 08:47 AM

            I think fruit and nut is the one I never tried. So that'll be the one we taste!

            Is the snacking granola under Whole Foods' own brand?

            1. re: Jim Leff
              kubasd Oct 29, 2009 08:40 PM

              the chocolate one is actually pretty tasty....

              1. re: Jim Leff
                rockandroller1 Nov 3, 2009 07:53 AM

                Yes, it's their brand. I've tried several other snacking granolas but they are all lacking IMO.

        2. re: Jim Leff
          n
          NE_Elaine Oct 27, 2009 05:28 PM

          I love Bakers Granola, but have had a problem with rancid ingredients 3 times in the past year. I think their quality control is going downhill and I no longer think it is worth the 5 bucks a bag.

          1. re: NE_Elaine
            Jim Leff Oct 28, 2009 01:50 AM

            Rancidity is a huge problem all over, especially with natural foods containing no preservatives. And, worse, there's so much rancidity out there that consumers don't perceive mild rancidity as an "off" flavor; it's one they're used to.

            1. re: NE_Elaine
              c
              comestible Oct 28, 2009 08:30 AM

              That's really disappointing in a granola from a regional maker, where you'd think the manufacturing/distribution cycle is easy to control. Is that because of QC or is it that the stores are keeping the product on the shelf too long? (I've seen that problem at my local health food store.)

              1. re: comestible
                Jim Leff Oct 29, 2009 08:51 AM

                When I said "Rancidity is a huge problem all over", I meant all food products containing nuts, not just granola. Trader Joe's cereals with nuts are often a bit rancid, and I taste/smell rancidity all over. I think most consumers are actually well-acquainted with that aroma, but just don't identify it correctly (same with skunky beer....for many people, that's "the great imported taste" of Heineken, in those green bottles that let in the frequency of light that interacts badly with the hops).

                Not sure what it is; I'd imagine different factors affect different products, but shelf life is surely one of them. We've shelf-stabilized so many different things, but nuts (at least ones that aren't vacuum packed, irradiated, etc) are just nuts....

          2. ipsedixit Oct 27, 2009 02:51 PM

            Made to Crave Granola is like crack.

            http://madetocrave.foodzie.com/

            1. h
              Humbucker Oct 27, 2009 03:03 PM

              Not sure if this counts, but the Costco bakery department makes an awesome, addictive snacking granola (it's probably super high calorie, even by granola standards).

              4 Replies
              1. re: Humbucker
                Jim Leff Oct 27, 2009 03:27 PM

                ipsedixit, thanks, great, "crack-like" is what I'm looking for (I have a verifiable problem with Ola Granola). Can you recommend a stand-out flavor?

                Humbucker, how much variation is there between Costco stores and regions? I'm in the NYC area.

                1. re: Jim Leff
                  ipsedixit Oct 27, 2009 03:50 PM

                  The basic old fashioned and maple pecan are the flavors I've tried. I'm tempted to try the pumpkin when my "stash" runs out.

                  1. re: Jim Leff
                    h
                    Humbucker Oct 27, 2009 04:20 PM

                    I'm in the San Francisco bay area, but I think I've also seen it in a Toronto area Costco, so the NYC stores might have it.

                    Here's a picture I found on Flickr:

                    http://www.flickr.com/photos/gsisante...

                    The granola comes in a large plastic tub and can usually be found near the cakes and pies in the bakery dept.

                    1. re: Humbucker
                      mollyomormon Nov 6, 2009 02:08 PM

                      Agree. I love that Costco granola and didn't realize they still made it. I also agree that it's probably intensely caloric but it's tasty.

                2. h
                  HillJ Oct 28, 2009 01:11 PM

                  http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/631246

                  A few Ch recs.

                  My vote: http://www.granolajo.com/
                  a toss up btwn the honey & the caramel apple.

                  2 Replies
                  1. re: HillJ
                    Jim Leff Oct 29, 2009 08:53 AM

                    Thanks!!

                    1. re: Jim Leff
                      h
                      HillJ Nov 1, 2009 03:54 AM

                      http://www.ouichefnetwork.com/oui_che...

                      Granola recipe via Oui Chef

                  2. joypirate Oct 29, 2009 11:34 AM

                    I like Kashi's Cocoa Beach also, though it only feels sorta like eating granola. Not sure if that's a good thing or a bad thing.

                    And I hate being one of those people who responds to a thread asking for the best and responding 'homemade!', but, um, yeah, I guess I am that guy today. This is a solid starter recipe, though I substitute the maple syrup for honey to increase clumping, and add an extra cup of nuts (usually pecans) and a TBL of cinnamon and a pinch of nutmeg, also, probably an extra 1/2-3/4 cup of dried fruit (I'm partial towards some combination of blueberries, cherries, cranberries and super-plump raisins)

                    http://www.epicurious.com/recipes/foo...

                    1. mcap Oct 29, 2009 01:13 PM

                      I have been really enjoying the Cascadian Farms granola, specifically the maple brown sugar one. http://www.cascadianfarm.com/

                      It has a good texture and the maple brown sugar is not overpowering. Plus, if you have it with milk, the milk turns a nice and sweet nutty brown afterwards. Tasty...

                      1. n
                        newfoodie Oct 30, 2009 12:12 PM

                        http://www.lovegrownfoods.com/

                        1. c
                          cathodetube Oct 31, 2009 01:41 PM

                          I recently discovered Lizi's Organic Granola in England which says it is blood sugar friendly and the glycemic load is 6g glucose equivalent per serving. It also won a great taste gold award this year. The ingredients are:- jumbo rolled oats, rapeseed oil, agave syrup, dessicated coconut, concentrated apple juice, pumpkin seed, black treacle, pistachio nuts, cashew nuts, flaked almonds, golden linseeds, sunflower seeds and hazelnuts. I love it and have it with skimmed milk in the morning. If you can find it there I think it's worth a try. The website is www.lizis.co.uk.

                          1 Reply
                          1. re: cathodetube
                            Jim Leff Oct 31, 2009 09:19 PM

                            Thanks. Apparently this used to be available at Whole Foods and at Westerly Health Foods in Manhattan. I'll give a call Monday and see if it's still available.

                          2. p
                            Piglet Oct 31, 2009 05:44 PM

                            I usually find granola to be one of the world's most overrated foodstuffs, but a while back the NY Times printed an article on, and recipe for, a slightly salty granola made with olive oil. I tried the recipe and WOW! Amazing stuff--I've been making a batch a week ever since. (How good is it? The one time the whole bunch of it got inexplicably stuck to the baking sheet I baked it on, my husband spent a good half hour scraping all of it off, so as not to waste a bit of it!)

                            Relevant for your purposes is the fact that the recipe is based on a commercially available product, as noted in the Times article; here's a link:

                            http://earlybirdfoods.com/generalstor...

                            Looking forward to the results of your taste test!

                            2 Replies
                            1. re: Piglet
                              Jim Leff Oct 31, 2009 09:20 PM

                              Thanks, but see my original posting....early bird is on the list!

                              Do you have a link to the Times recipe by any chance?

                              1. re: Jim Leff
                                p
                                Piglet Nov 1, 2009 03:22 AM

                                Oops, my bad... should have read the original post more carefully! Here's a link to the Times recipe; have fun with it!

                                http://www.nytimes.com/2009/07/15/din...

                            2. d
                              DC in DC Nov 1, 2009 04:18 PM

                              Okay, I'm a granola conniseur, and these are the two best in the entire world:

                              (1) The Four Seasons Mexico City: housemade and unavailable unless you're staying there.

                              (2) The granola sold at the tiny but sublime Busy Bee Bakery in Inverness, California. Can't find a website but phone is 415.663.9496. The granola's got a fantastic mix of oats and nuts and is super-toasted and -carmelized. They sell it by the bag so I bet you could get them to send some. We bring bags home every time we visit, and then apportion it strictly so it lasts as long as possible.

                              Enjoy!

                              4 Replies
                              1. re: DC in DC
                                ipsedixit Nov 1, 2009 08:58 PM

                                I've actually had the granola at the Four Seasons -- in fact, I was able to request for dinner on a couple of occasions.

                                It was indeed quite good, but I found it achingly sweet, almost like crumbled oatmeal cookies ... which is why I requested it for dinner ... it made for the perfect dessert with some of the in-house Champurrado!

                                1. re: ipsedixit
                                  d
                                  DC in DC Nov 2, 2009 06:25 PM

                                  That's so interesting; sweet must be in the eye (mouth?) of the beholder. I myself can't stand most commercial granolas because they're so sickeningly sweet - and I found the Four Seasons' nuttiness a nice change. But to each her own...

                                  1. re: DC in DC
                                    h
                                    HillJ Nov 3, 2009 03:12 AM

                                    DC in DC, I agree with you and all too often I find commercial granola stale. Even homemade granola has a window of freshness that is short. Which is why my family and I prefer small batches when purchased or made from scratch.

                                2. re: DC in DC
                                  rockandroller1 Nov 3, 2009 07:54 AM

                                  "unavailable unless you're staying there..."

                                  I bet if you called and asked for the recipe, they'd give it to you. Or someone like the T&L Ombudsman could get it; do they still do that?

                                3. h
                                  huruta Nov 6, 2009 06:14 AM

                                  I second Udi's Granola. We LOVE their simply almond vanilla and miss it terrible -- its hard to find in Seattle. We used to score it in bulk at Central Market in Dallas. We haven't found a great replacement, especially at a reasonable price.

                                  1. Bunnyfood Nov 6, 2009 08:00 AM

                                    Worth looking at mail ordering Big Sky bakeries granola(Portland, ME)- totally delicious, best I've had in the vein of "traditional" granola- grains, nuts, lightly sweetened...they mail out after they make it on Thursdays...gave as gifts last year. Both crunchy and chewy, nice rich buttery flavor, big clumps. It keeps really well and is as good out of hand and as it is as a breakfast cereal with milk, yogurt, fruit...

                                    1. s
                                      spm Nov 6, 2009 11:15 AM

                                      If you want a truly great granola make it yourself. Use grape seed oil instead of butter to minimize the cholesterol and maple syrup instead of honey. I add flaxseeds (some like them crushed) and walnut or hazelnuts...A little nutmeg, a little cinnamon, It's all good. Trust me it tastes so much better than the store bought stuff and it makes your house smell delicious.

                                      1. Jim Leff Nov 18, 2009 12:45 PM

                                        Ok, I held the tasting. See results here:
                                        http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/668169

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