Saturday, February 06, 2016

Bounce Energy Balls, Australia

Another day, another review of snack food bars that I discovered while visiting our Sydney office, (like Carman's Muesli Rounds that I loved!).  These were ... less successful.

Bouce makes ... balls.  Energy balls.  The company was founded by a couple in Australia with health and fitness backgrounds, who wanted to build a snack products that helps people feel good, by highlighting superfoods.  They also make protein powders for shakes, but, I only had the balls.

Bounce makes 8 different varieties of these balls, all with kinda funny names: one is a "protein burst", another a "protein bomb", another a "protein punch", yet another is a "protein bliss", etc.  Most have protein added via one of my least favorite ingredients, whey protein isolate.  They do have interesting flavors, and all have fun coatings like bits of nuts (cashews, almonds, peanuts), coconut, or cocoa nibs.

Like many other bars I have tried, they are gluten-free, high in protein, etc.  They use natural sweeteners (blue agave, brown rice malt syrup, grape juice, dates) rather than sugar.

I tried 5 different flavors.  They ranged from truly dreadful (I'm sorry, I can't stand the texture nor flavor of awful whey protein junk) to almost ok (no whey protein, phew).  I do appreciate that they take a different spin on traditional energy bars, and really do like some of the outside coatings.  But ... whey protein, I just can't take it.
Almond Protein Hit.
"A tasty pocket rocket, bursting with nutrients from the king of nuts. This Ball contains the optimum balance of high quality proteins, complex carbohydrates and heart-healthy mono and unsaturated fats."

The first Bounce bar I tried was the "Almond Protein Hit".  How do you resist a "tasty pocket rocket"?

Almonds make up the majority of the ball (29%), with whey protein making up the next largest component (15%).  The whey protein shows up in several forms: isolate, hydrolysate, and concentrate.  The rest of the ingredient list is a random assortment of stuffs, including brown rice malt syrup and grape juice as sweeteners.

I went into it with low hopes since I don't tend to like protein bars, particularly ones with whey protein.  I liked the crunchy nuts on the outside, but, I didn't like the flavor of the base.  It wasn't necessarily the whey protein I didn't like, rather, it tasted like almond butter, and even though I do like almonds, for some reason, I don't generally like almond butter.

So not as awful as I feared, but, not something I wanted another of.
Peanut Protein Blast.
"The Golden Nugget - a filling and satisfying powerhouse of protein,packed with peanuts, to help keep you energised and feeling at your best."

Next, I moved on to a peanut based one, since I identified the almond as the problem in the first ball I tried.

The one is primarily peanuts (34%), plus all the expected whey proteins (22%), and the laundry list of ingredients I also found in the almond bar.

This one didn't look very good, the nut coating wasn't as evenly distributed, and the ball itself was kinda mushed.  Perhaps it was the higher nut percentage in this ball, or perhaps it was the fact that I've been craving peanut butter lately, but I liked this one far more.

The crunch of the bits of peanut on the outside, just like the almonds on the previous ball, were again a nice touch.  The ball itself had a decent peanut flavor.  It obviously still had whey protein stuff, but, I *almost* liked it.  My favorite of the balls, and the only one I'd consider eating again.
Cacao Mint Protein Bomb.
"An epic new recipe that harnesses the healthy power of cacao nibs, sunflower seeds, quality proteins and rice bran. It’s exploding with delicious, nutritious goodness."

After the near success of the Peanut Protein Blast, I decided to keep trying Bounce balls, since they seemed so close to tasty.  For my next bar, I selected the one that sounded like dessert: cocoa mint!

At first, this looked like a winner.  The outside was coated in crunchy cacao nibs.  I loved the crunch and the nibs.

But the ball itself ... the texture and the flavor were just awful.  All I could taste was the whey protein isolate, or maybe the whey protein concentrate, or perhaps the pea protein concentrate.  Whatever it was, it was awful.  It was also very bitter, likely from the sunflower seeds, which made up 19% of the ball.

The flavor was just dreadful, and the aftertaste lingered on and on.  No amount of nibs could save this one.
Coconut & Macadamia Protein Bliss.
"Not only is it packed with macadamias, cashews and coconut, this delicious favourite is also high in protein, fibre and antioxidants. Wow."

But still I persevered.  Maybe macadamias would be the magic touch?

This ball fared about the same as the almond and peanut ones.  It was almost good.  I liked the crunch from the macadamias inside.  I liked the coconut coating.  But ... alas, whey protein.  Whey protein makes up 18% of this bar, with macadamias only weighing in at 6%.  A surprise is that cashews make up 12%.  I didn't actually taste the cashews, but I was surprised to see them in the ball.  I guess they provide a nutty taste, and are cheaper than macadamias?

Not one I'd get again, but not as offensive as some others.
Superberry Vitality Burst.
"Gluten and dairy free, the Superberry Vitality Burst has been developed to meet the requirements of those with specific dietary needs. Combining cranberries, goji berries, raspberries and coconut, the flavours are a sumptuous mix that tantalise your taste buds."

For my final attempt, I decided to try one that wasn't a Protein Blast/Bliss/Bomb/etc, aka, one that didn't have extra protein junk inside.  After all, I know I don't like whey protein.

I opted for the Superberry Vitality Burst (the other non-protein one is the Spirulina Ginseng Defence Boost).

This one had some promise, and indeed did not have the nasty whey protein.  But ... what do most health foods bars have that I also hate?  Yup, dates.  #1 ingredient in this.  This ball had a nice texture, and good fruitiness from the dried cranberries, apples, raspberries, and acai juice.  I liked the crunch from goji berries, sesame seeds, sunflower seeds, and crispy rice.  But ... dominant flavor?  Dates.

If you like dates, and fruity things, I think this one is likely actually good.

Friday, February 05, 2016

Gelato Messina, Syndey

Update Review, January 2016 Visit

As you know, I used to love Gelato Messina, and I've reviewed it several times before.  Go start with those reviews if you haven't read them before ...

On this visit though, I dunno, I just wasn't into any of the flavors.
Small Choc Mint.
"Real fresh mint gelato with chocolate chip."

So, I did the thing I always say not to do.  I got this flavor without tasting it first.  That isn't to say that I didn't taste flavors, I tried at least 5 or 6, and just didn't like any. I felt bad, so I finally just picked this, assuming that a mint chocolate chip was a safe bet.

And, it was fine, although not very minty.  I guess it was creamy, and it did have nice chunks of chocolate, but, maybe I'm just over gelato?  I didn't enjoy it much at all, and I didn't enjoy the 5 or so other flavors I tried before settling on this either.

I did like Ojan's Milk Chocolate with Choc Peanut Fudge though ... that really is the best flavor.  I need to just stick with it.

Other flavors I tried:

  • Banana Split: "Banana and caramel gelato with chocolate chips, crushed peanuts and whipped cream."  Tasting notes: I somehow didn't taste any of the signature components ... no chocolate chips, no peanuts, and definitely no whipped cream.  I did taste banana.  I guess a sample just wasn't big enough to do this one justice?
  • Pannacotta with Fig Jam and Amaretti Biscuit: "Pannacotta gelato base".  Tasting notes: The fig was really strong in this, I didn't taste 'pannacotta', not that I know what that would taste like anyway.  Fig was really all I really detected.
  • Nutcase: "Peanut and coconut gelato with candied cashews, roasted coconut and sesame seeds."  Tasting notes: This had too much going on.  Lots of bits in it, all competing with each other, rather than complimenting.
  • Return of the Mac: "Macadamia and milk chocolate gelato annihilated with white chocolate and macadamia cookies." Tasting notes: This was Levi's pick, and I had a bite.  It was totally crazy, annihilated was the right word, it was loaded up with huge chunks of cookies.  Not bad.   Crazypants.
  • Wagon Wheel: "Shortcrust gelato with marshmallows, raspberry puree and choc chips." Tasting notes: I accidentally tried this one, when I meant to ask for another flavor.  I know I don't really like Wagon Wheels anyway, and this was just too fruity for me with generous raspberry puree.
  • Pavlova: "Vanilla gelato with raspberry and passionfruit puree and baked meringue". Tasting notes: This was way, way too sweet.  The passionfruit was overwhelming.  Bits of baked, crunchy meringue inside was strange.

Update Review, May 2015 Visit

No visit to Sydney is complete without at least one stop at Messina for gelato.  On my recent visit, it wasn't summer any longer, but, we still couldn't resist the temptation of delicious gelato.

Wait, do you not know about Messina?  In that case, I suggest you go read the review from my Jan/Feb 2015 visit below, and then return here, since I'm skipping all the general details this time around.
Specials Board.
On this visit, one of the specials on the week was "Messina's Momofukup".  OMG.  This sounded like basically the best thing ever: "Cereal Milk gelato smashed with Momofuku crack pie".  For the unfamiliar, this is referring to the two famous creations from Momofuku Milk Bar in New York: the cereal milk and the crack pie.

Cereal milk is basically the sweet milk left after you eat a bowl of sweet cereal, and they have made it into soft serve ice cream at the Milk Bar.  Its crazy sweet, but amazing.  But even more amazing is the Crack Pie, honestly, the most addicting pie I've ever tasted.  Very aptly named.  Both insanely delicious on their own, and I could only imagine how amazing this combination could be.

I smartly asked to sample it rather than just diving in to getting a scoop, and I'm glad I did.  It turned out to just be too sweet.  I expected sweet, but, this was just too much.  I guess some things are better individually!

[ No Photo ]
Chocolate Peanut Butter

It didn't really matter that the Momofukup wasn't a winner, as Ojan had eyes only for the Chocolate Peanut Butter.  I did want to try something new, but, I liked it previously myself, so I went along with his decision, and opted to just share with him.

Sadly, it lost its magic on me.  The gelato was fine, but it didn't melt in quite the creamy way I remembered.  Maybe that is just because it wasn't a warm day?  But the bigger issue, is that it seemed just like chocolate, I didn't really pick up any peanut butter.  The magic of chocolate peanut butter flavor is, well, the combination.

Original Review, Dec/Jan 2015 Visits

On my first visit to Sydney, a friend introduced me to Gelato Messina.  It was, at the time, the best ice cream-like treat I had ever had.  I can’t even count how many times I returned over the course of that stay, or the next visit, or the next.  For some reason however, on my recent trip, it took me a full 2 weeks into the trip before I made it to Messina.  The weather just wasn’t as warm as I was expecting, and there were too many other things that kept coming up.  I don’t know.  I have no excuse.  I regret it, and won't make this mistake again in the future.

Anyway, Messina.  Gelato.  Great gelato.  They have several locations around Sydney, including the crazy busy one I used to queue up at in Darlinghurst, and now, they even have a shop in the food court area of the Star Casino, right near my office.  Score.

Every day they offer about 40 flavors, and each weekday they come up with a new special, available for one week only.  Those flavors tend to be far more crazy than the standard offerings.  The staff are always far more patient than seems possible, and offer to let you try as many flavors as you need to make up your mind.
Milk Chocolate with Chocolate Peanut Fudge, Single. $4.
This was Ojan’s pick, not mine, since I rarely go for chocolate ice cream.  But wow, it was good.  The peanut butter was rich and totally amazing, smooth and creamy.  The gelato itself was light and creamy.  The consistency was magical.  It melted perfectly.  Wowzer.  One bite of this, and I instantly remembered why I love Messina.

When we visited a few days later, and neither of us ordered this flavor, we both regretted it, and vowed to just get it again next time.
Gianduia Bianca, Tiny.  $3.
"White chocolate & hazelnut gelato with hazelnut praline"

I opted for the gianduia bianca in a moment of pure indecision.  For some reason, I wasn't loving any of the flavors I tried that day.  And I tried many.  I like praline, so, I went for it, even though, I don't normally like hazelnut.  Whoops.  I panicked, after feeling bad for trying so many flavors and not loving any (I had tried 4 or 5 at this point!).  The staff member was ridiculously friendly and told me to try as many as I liked, but I felt bad and just made a decision.  A rather poor one.

Anyway, it as very sweet, as both the base, and the praline, were very sweet.  It had chunks of hazelnut and very generous chunks of the praline.  Certainly well crafted, and I appreciated how much candy they put in it, but it needed something to balance out the sweet.  Luckily for me, Ojan ordered the regular gianduia, which was rich was chocoaltey, so I stole a little of his to mellow mine out.  It was better this way, but I wouldn't get this flavor again.
I found this photo from one of my earlier visits.  I don't recall what kind it was ...

My full sampling notes from flavors tried on this trip:

  • Apple Pie: "Real apple gelato with our own house made apple pie throughout".  I wanted to love this since I love pie and ice cream, but somehow it was just not interesting, although I admit, it was loaded up with pie for sure.
  • Caramelised White Chocolate: This was just very sweet.  It didn't taste caramely, nor white chocolatey.  One of my least favorites.  Perhaps good in combination with something else.
  • Gianduia: "Chocolate & hazelnut", Rich and chocolatey, but not as good as chocolate peanut butter fudge.  If you want a chocolate one, just go for that!
  • Salted Caramel and White Chocolate: "Salted caramel gelato with white chocolate chip." This is their best seller.  It was ... yup, salted caramel.  Sweet and salty.  I think I've moved on past the novelty of salted caramel however, so this was rather lost on me, but everyone else loves it.
  • Pandan & Coconut Sorbet: I actually really liked this, as I was really into asian flavors, like coconut and pandan, while in Sydney, but I'm not really one for sorbets.  Bring on the dairy!
Weekly Specials
  • P NUTTY: "Peanut butter gelato with peanut butter cookies and peanut custard."  This was actually pretty good, as I love peanut butter, but it was a bit much.  Probably great paired with a chocolate or vanilla base as a second scoop.
  • FO SHIZZLE: "Caramel custard gelato with candied hazelnuts, raspberry puree and chocolate chips."  This was also pretty good, as someone who likes lots of mix-ins, I appreciated all the assorted "stuff" in it.
Gelato Messina Darlinghurst on Urbanspoon

Thursday, February 04, 2016

Martabak Cafe, Sydney

On my recent visit to Sydney, a co-worker wanted to take us on an adventure to get martabak, at the aptly named Martabak Cafe.  Martabak is a Indonesian food, and although both savory and sweet versions exist, we were there to try only the sweet ones.  In particular, he really wanted us all to have the durian one, but, given my previous experience with durian, I wasn't particularly excited about.  But, I'm always up for trying new cuisine, particularly dessert.

The experience certainly was an adventure, but, I assure you, I will not be returning.  We did not enjoy this, and not just because of the durian.
Although there is seating, all orders are taken at the register.

The sweet martabak is sold in half or full size (5 or 10 pieces), with an "original" or pandan flavor pancake, and with fillings of peanut, chocolate, cheese, and durian (or any combination thereof).  The menu also had plenty of savory items, and some drinks, but, we were there just for the sweets.

Service was ... not particularly good.  We had to repeat our fairly simple order of 3 items multiple times.  The card reader was broken, with no signage warning us that they were cash only (which, I'd understand if it had just happened, but our host told us that the card reader has never worked when he has visited).  Once we ordered and paid, we took a seat.  The food was delivered to the table, one item at a time (including drinks, so, we each got our drinks several minutes apart).
Es Teh Thailand. $4.95.
"Brewed tea leaf with ice & milk."

The thai iced tea was good, standard thai tea with plenty of sweetened condensed milk.  It was the tastiest part of our adventure.
Durian, Pandan, Half. $11.95.
The first item to arrive was the durian martabak.  We went for pandan flavored, because, well, pandan is a bit novel to us, and green is more fun?  Pandan is a $1 surcharge for any martabak.

I took my first bite, ready to find it repulsive.  It wasn't THAT bad.  At first.  I took a second bite, and then that funk hit.  Ugh, it was horrible.  Sorry, but durian is just not for me.

One co-worker, who had never had durian before, said it tasted like onion, which I kind of understand.

I couldn't get past the durian flavor (and smell) enough to evaluate much more about this.  4/5 of us hated it and didn't take more than a bite or two, but our host eagerly finished the whole thing.
Chocolate Peanut, Pandan, Half. $9.95.
Next we moved on to a more promising option: chocolate peanut.  We again opted for pandan.

I wasn't into the pancake part.  It was spongy and really oily.  I also expected a crispy exterior, and this wasn't very crispy.  Meh.
Chocolate Peanut: Inside.
But, you can't go wrong with chocolate and peanuts, right?

Well, first, the "chocolate" was a bit of a surprise.  The chocolate was ... chocolate sprinkles.  I expected chocolate sauce.  Or ganache.  Or, something more spread-like.  Instead, it was just a layer of chocolate sprinkles, unmelted.  I doubt there was any cocoa content in here.

The peanut was bits of peanut.

So, oily cake I didn't like, non-chocolate filling, and bits of peanut.  Really no redeeming qualities here.
Chocolate Peanut Cheese, Original, Half. $10.50.
Moving on, we picked a chocolate-peanut-cheese, just to try something totally different, with a mix of sweet and salty.  It was on the menu, so, it clearly must be a thing.

It again had the same chocolate sprinkles and ground peanuts, plus, shredded cheese.  Like the chocolate sprinkles, the cheese didn't melt.

I actually did like the flavor combination of sweet and cheese, as I like my sweet and salty, but the pancake again was awful, this time "original" flavored. It was even more oily.  So oily, and not in a good way.

Ojan took one bite of this one and immediately declared "I can not take a second bite of this".  And I assure you, he didn't.
Martabak Cafe Australia Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato