Kashi GoLean Crunchy Whatever

Kashi GoLean Crunchy! Chocolate Peanut Protein & Fiber Bar

I am so over Kashi. That’s unfortunate, however, because I still have a couple of their bars and/or rolls to sample. The Crunchy! Chocolate Peanut protein & fiber bar tasted like what you’d get if you crossed a Rice Krispie treat (the prepackaged kind) with cardboard, and then spread an impossibly thin layer of chocolate across the bottom.

The stats: 180 calories/5 g fat/30 g carbs/13 g sugar/9 g protein

bad Karma

Pure Protein Karma Double Chocolate snack bar

I was very excited about the Karma bars – a sub-brand of Pure Protein. They include primarily organic ingredients, and I was hoping that since there’s more sugar, they’d avoid the mushiness that the regular Pure Protein bars sometimes fall prey to. I was right in that regard. I initially thought that the bar had melted a bit because it was a little lumpy and weird – but NO! To my great delight, those lumps were chocolate chips. REAL chocolate chips. Off to a great start here!

The bar on the packaging looked very much like a Hershey bar – little squares of chocolate – but the bar in the package was nothing like it. The chocolate chips were sprinkled on top of Kashi-like crispy bits that tasted kind of like styrofoam, all on top of some fudgy brownie-like stuff. The top and the bottom parts were great, but I’m not so much into styrofoam. Sorry, Karma. You’ve let me down. Everything looked so promising – chocolate chips! 13 g protein! – but in the end, a disappointment.

The stats: 200 calories/7 g fat/23 g carbs/14 g sugar/13 g protein

Bar-Buying Binge

I think I have a problem
Over the last few weeks, I’ve indulged in a bar-buying binge. I knew I wanted to carry on with this exploration of all things bars, so whenever we’ve gone to Strawberry Fields or Meijer or any other snack-selling establishment, I’ve spent a few moments of wonder in front of the bar selection, trying to remember the things I’ve tried and the things I don’t have at home. This has resulted in a giant pile of bars distributed between my kitchen, my bag, and the desk drawer at work.

Clif Black Cherry Almond bar

I grabbed this one for a mid-morning snack the other day after a wholly delicious but unsatisfying pastry breakfast. Despite my great love of Clif bars, this is one I hadn’t tried before – I think I’m mainly just suspicious of fruit bars for no good reason. I neglected to make notes about this bar, which probably means I should eat it again, but also means it was fairly unremarkable. Fruity, not exceptionally nutty – just generally solid Clif fare. I probably won’t go out of my way to buy again – but if I’m at the gas station and it’s that or Cheetos for breakfast, sure, I’ll eat it.

OK, I lied. I’d totally go for the Cheetos. No offense, Clif.

The stats: 250 calories/5 g fat/44 g carbs/20 g sugar/10 g protein

Clif Mojo Honey Roasted Peanut

The Clif Mojo line is an interesting development. The bars are all right around 180-200 calories and are more trail-mix-y than your traditional Clif fare. The packaging reads: “Folks tell us it’s pretty darn good. CLIF Moo is all about getting out there, trying new things, combining new flavors and textures, and respecting the planet by using as many organic ingredients as possible.” Now, I’m all about ‘getting out there’, ‘trying new things’, and ‘combining new flavors and textures’, not to mention ‘respecting the planet’ and ‘using as many organic ingredients as possible’ – but I don’t really see how a ‘honey roasted peanut’ bar does any of those things. I mean, ‘honey roasted’ and ‘peanut’ is a pretty standard combination of flavors. It hardly represents ‘new things’, though the sticky sweetness of the bar is a new texture for good ol’ reliable nuts. This bar was pretty damned tasty, though. It could be improved by putting it on top of peanut butter nougat and covering it in caramel and chocolate, but then I think you’d have a Snickers bar, and that’s not really what we’re going for here.

The stats: 200 calories/10 g fat/20 g carbs/9 g sugar/10 g protein

Clif Mojo Fruit Nut Crunch

Honestly, despite what I said about the Black Cherry Almond, this was my first real Clif let-down. It was not as fruity as I’d hoped, and was more nutty than I expected. It’s kind of like a trail mix bar without the M&Ms. It’s fine, but the other Mojos are better.

The stats: 190 calories/8 g fat/23 g carbs/11 g sugar/10 g protein

Balance “Bare” – Sweet & Salty Chocolate Almond (natural flavor)

I was initially suspicious of Balance after a few fairly gross samples. I think I had initially gone for the low-carb, low-calorie snack bars – y’know, the ones around 100 calories that are meant to tide you over until your next meal replacement bar. The first bites of those bars were heavenly – followed by total grossness, but at that point I was so close to the end that I couldn’t just spit it out. I imagine it’s somewhat like the experience of eating peanut butter if you’re a dog – delicious, yet fairly strange and aggravating. The Sweet & Salty Chocolate Almond “bare” proved me wrong – at least for the time being. It was crunchy, tasty, not at all bar-y, with no weird sugar alcohol mushiness. The bar was crispy without being overly crispy, with nuts and melty delicious chocolate underneath. You’ve won me over for now, Balance.

The stats: 210 calories/9 g fat/23 g carbs/12 g sugar/13 g protein

Bar review #1

So as I mentioned earlier in the month, protein bars have become a staple in my diet. I’m trying to increase the amount of protein in my daily diet, and Clif bars and the like have really helped (and cut down on the worse-for-me snacking, especially at work). I had previously committed to trying one new bar per day for the month of June (or maybe the whole summer, I can’t remember), but I’m lazy and forgot.

I did, however, try two new bars this week.

Pure Protein Peanut Marshmallow Eclipse

Pure Protein is one of my favorite bar manufacturers in no small part because their bars pack in a lot of protein – 18 grams, in the case of the PBME – for generally under 200 calories, which makes them an ideal alternative to, say, a bag of M&Ms. I’ll talk more about other Pure Protein bars later, but suffice to say that in general, the flavor and consistency is generally killer.

I’m no scientist, so I could be just making all of this up, but it seems like the bars with a higher amount of sugar alcohols (instead of regular ol’ sugar) just have a different consistency and tend to err on the side of smooshiness. Add in marshmallow, and you’ve got, well, a smooshy eclipse. I think I liked this one better in theory than in my mouth.

The stats: 180 calories/6 g fat/19 g carbs/1 g sugar/11 g sugar alcohol/18 g protein

Kashi GoLean Caramel Peanut Roll

Prior to his low-carb days, SB really liked the GoLean products. I haven’t had many, primarily because the GoLean cereal hurts my teeth, which is enough to turn me off to an entire line of products. Yeah, I’m difficult.

I tossed this roll bar thing in my bag on the way out the door to class as I’d had a big bowl of yogurt at 6:30 and had to last until 2ish before lunch. It advertises that it helps with “Optimized Glycemic Response”, and damn, it must have, as I wasn’t hungry until after my lunch hour workout. Thanks, GoLean! The bar – a core of peanut butter wrapped in caramel rolled in nuts – was chewy and delicious and kept me chewing for a few minutes – maybe that’s how it optimizes glycemic response? Even though I had to work for it a bit, it was delicious, had an adequate amount of protein, and was well within my snacking calorie limit. It’s way too carb-y for SB, but that’s OK, as it was my snack, not his.

The stats: 190 calories/5 g fat/27 g carbs/14 g sugar/12 g protein

Bad service = bad publicity

As a follow up to this post…I really don’t ever want to go to the Original Pancake House again. SB and I tried to go there for breakfast this morning, and it was an exercise in frustration. We were seated right away, and our order was taken promptly, but we then waited 20 minutes to see our server again, and that was only when we flagged him down because we had to leave. Our coffee – generally refilled about every 5 minutes – sat empty for almost 20, and SB’s water was never refilled. My food – when I finally got it after flagging down the server and asking for the check – was soggy (pancakes) and overly fried (canadian bacon).

So instead of being happily full of pancakes and ready to start class, I’m grossed out by the few bites I managed to get down in the car while speeding to the Education building, very frustrated, and generally resolved to NOT go there again. Honestly, we would’ve been better off in terms of service, quality, speed, and price if we’d just gone to McDonald’s.

Food and drink (well, mainly food)

Someone posted on one of GSLIS’s community BBs asking for restaurant recommendations in C-U. I spent an embarrassingly long time on my list this morning, so I’m going to post it here so that I don’t have to do all this all over again. In long/short, here’s a list of places I like/love/tolerate in C-U:

Campustown

Cafe Luna is lovely at lunch time, with tapas at dinner. I haven’t been for dinner in a while, but it was great when I went a couple of years ago. Corner of 4th and Green in the funny wooden building – either go up the stairs from Green and turn to your left, or enter from the side entrance on 4th.

In the same building is the Crepe Cafe, formerly known as Tout Sweet (and formerly owned by the same people as Cafe Luna). Haven’t had their crepes, but their gelato and sorbetto is really wonderful. It’s been extremely quiet every time I’ve been there, so this might be a super sneaky good place to go grab a treat and read or catch up with a friend while on campus. Enter from the big wooden stairs, then turn right.

Jerusalem Cafe, at the corner of Wright and Healey, is a personal favorite, though I can’t actually say if their falafel is wonderful. The food is reasonably priced, and there are daily specials that never change but get you a good amount of food for under $5. I like #201, which I believe is a falafel sandwich with fries and a drink, but it could also be the plate of the day, which gets you veggies, hummus, pita, salad, and other good stuff.

Murphy’s, near the corner of 6th and Green, is a Campustown staple.  Nearly every wooden surface is grooved with years and years worth of graffiti, but the burgers are cheap and tasty and the beer is cold.  Avoid at all costs during basketball season.

Papa Del’s, on Green between 2nd and 3rd, has maybe the best pizza in town. It’s kind of legendary. You can buy by the slice or a whole pie, and I think there’s some kind of special after 3? My brother lived here for five years, and Papa Del’s is the only thing (other than the Blind Pig) that he wants when he’s back in town to visit.

Urbana

Cafe Paradiso, at the corner of Lincoln and Nevada, is one of my very favorite places in town. It’s been here a long time and has a lot of character – as well as great food. They have daily soups (usually one will be vegetarian or vegan) and (in the summer) pasta salad made from scratch, as well as sandwiches made to order, pastries from Mirabelle, and a great selection of bottled drinks if you’re not into coffee. I haven’t had a thing here that I didn’t like.

Bread Company is wonderful. We had kind of lousy service the last time we were there, but the food is always fabulous – hot and cold sandwiches, fondue or raclette(!!), interesting and wonderful specials, and outdoor seating. It’s just a charming little restaurant. Bread Co is on Goodwin between Oregon and Nevada, in between Espresso Royale and the Canopy Club complex.

Courier Cafe is a C-U staple. It’s the place everyone takes their parents when they’re in town. I love the sweet potato fries. Courier is on Race Street just north of Main.

Mirabelle is a lovely little bakery on Main between Race and Broadway. On the weekends, there’s a line out the door for pastries and bread during the farmers’ market. It’s much quieter on weekdays, so if you need a treat and coffee before class, stop in.

Just across the street is Crane Alley, which I still can’t decide if I love. They have a lot of good food – beet chips and goat cheese, excellent fish sandwiches – and pool and a lovely beer/wine selection, but it’s one of those places I don’t ever crave. That said, they have outdoor seating and several pool tables, so it can be a fun place to go with friends.

Siam Terrace, also on Main, is maybe the best Thai I’ve had in town, though I haven’t been back in a long time. It’s pricier than other Thai options to be discussed later.

Strawberry Fields is located between Main and Springfield in Urbana. It’s the local Whole Foods equivalent. Their deli has lots of veggie options including this broccoli (fake) bacon thing that kills me. They also have a great selection of sandwiches – my personal favorite is the Curious George: honey, peanut butter, and coconut! It’s also a great place to stop in and buy some fruit, snacks, and a takeaway salad or two for late night snacking.

Along similar lines, Art Mart, located in the Lincoln Square Mall, has delicious snacks, pastries, and a killer deli. It’s one of the only things actually worth seeing in the mall – pretty housewares, fancy kitchen stuff, and a lovely selection of gourmet things.

Miko, on University just past the Carle clinic/hospital complex, is a combination Thai/Korean/Japanese place. They have good sushi and tom kha soup, as well as bento lunches and teppan tables. Menu online.

Champaign – Ethnic

I have an inordinate fondness for Basmati, located at the corner of 1st and White. It’s not amazing Indian, but I do so love it. Order off the menu most nights, but some nights (Thursdays and Sundays?) they put out a delicious buffet.

Despite my boss’s love for Fiesta Cafe (across the street from Basmati, same intersection), I’ve found their portions to be way too big and the food not that stellar.

My favorite Thai place is Thara Thai, located on Bloomington Road off of Prospect (before 74). Their food is cheaper than Siam Terrace, but almost as good. I love the pineapple pad thai, pad see ew, and Thai iced coffee.

Right next door is my favorite Mexican place: Real Hacienda. Their portions are still pretty big (see Fiesta Cafe), but it’s less crowded and loud, their margaritas are cheap, and the food is better than any other Mexican I’ve had in town.

Sushi Kame, which opened in downtown Champaign a few months ago, has decent, affordable sushi. It was formerly Hinode, which was not great but cheap. I’ve only been there once and the service was terrible, but everything we ate was good. On Main between Neil and Randolph.

KoFusion, located in the One Main building at the corner of Neil and Church/Main, has good but expensive sushi. I think you’re really paying for the atmosphere there. Go for lunch if you go at all. Menu online.

Kamakura, on Neil between Green and John, is my favorite place for sushi in town. I’m not really sure why I prefer it over the others, but I do. They also have teppan tables, as well as a variety of intriguing desserts.

Champaign – Breakfast

Sam’s Cafe is, hands down, my favorite place to go for breakfast in C-U. It’s a little hole-in-the-wall diner-y place on Walnut between University and Taylor, and they have the best French toast ever. It’ll be crowded, but it’s worth it, and you’ll be very hard pressed (or very hungry) to spend more than $7-10.

Merry Ann’s Diner (two locations: on Main between Walnut and Neil in the One Main building, and at the corner of Neil and Kirby) has garden variety diner food, terrible coffee, but round-the-clock food in case you’re drunk or up late/early.

Jim Gould, surprisingly enough, has a really lovely breakfast, which they begin serving at 7:30. Shane had a great omelette, and I had a big bowl of fruit, yogurt, and granola. Their Sunday brunch is expansive but overpriced. Menu online.

Escobar’s, on Columbia behind the post office, just opened a few months ago. We had Sunday brunch there a few weeks ago, and it was great. Generous portions, but not TOO much. I haven’t had any other meals there, but I’m looking forward to going back. Menu online.

Radio Maria‘s Sunday brunch is a downtown Champaign staple. I can think of few better ways to waste a Sunday morning/afternoon than sitting on Radio’s patio drinking a mimosa and having the masa boat surprise. They also have tapas and killer entrees, discussed later. Radio is located at the corner of Walnut and Taylor in downtown Champaign. Menu online.

Carmon’s, located at the corner of Hill and Neil, has the best sticky rolls in town. It’s currently closed for renovations, and really pretty much everything else there is so-so, but damn, those sticky rolls!

A lot of people swear by the Original Pancake House, which I’m grudgingly including even though it’s a chain.  Their portions are generous, but half portions are frequently available, so I highly recommend asking if you have a smaller appetite or just don’t want to use all of your day’s calories in one meal.  We usually split an order of the Eggs Michael.  Located in the Round Barn shopping center just past the intersection of Springfield and Mattis.

Champaign – Coffeeshops

I worked at Aroma Cafe, on Neil between Park and University, for 2 1/2 years, so I can safely say that I’ve eaten just about anything that could come out of their kitchen. It’s not amazing, but it’s all good stuff. The kids quesadilla is the best deal on the menu. There’s front and back patio seating, and the owner is a GSLIS alum. They have music Thursday nights which can be very hit or miss. Menu online.

Cafe Kopi, on Walnut between University and Main, is one of my favorite places in town to eat, read, or people watch. Along with Paradiso, they’ve been around quite a long time, and are frequented by townies and students alike. You’ll almost always run into a GSLISer there. They have great salads (the tuna salad salad being my favorite) and sandwiches and have recently started offering paninis. I love their coffee – the cafe miel is my favorite. Menu online.

Champaign – Restaurant-bars

Seven Saints, located at the corner of Chester St (the right turn lane of University at this point) and Market St in downtown Champaign, just opened about two weeks ago. The chef from Crane Alley (see above) jumped ship to come here, and oh god, I am so happy. They have lots of salads, sandwiches, things that look suspiciously like the Crane Alley menu, and a whole page of “sliders”, gourmet mini-burgers which you can fairly cheaply pair with a half salad. (This is more for the townies, but it’s worth noting that Seven Saints is the latest venture of the Nieto bar empire, which also owns Jupiter’s, The Highdive, Cowboy Monkey, Guido’s, Soma, and another place that I can’t remember. This basically means you’ll get the same hit-or-miss service you do at all the other places. All of the Nieto places are non-smoking, with smoking outside.)

Right next door at the corner of University/Chester and Walnut, is the Esquire, which is always a good place for cheap beer and bar food. I crave their veggie burgers and fries like nothing else. I think they went back to allowing smoking, but outdoor seating is available.

Continuing on the trend of Nieto bars with restaurants, Cowboy Monkey, confusingly located on Taylor Street (which is more like an alley or a pedestrian walkway), has a great patio and summer menu. They have live music almost every night, so you can pay to go in, or listen from outside. Menu online.

Guido’s, at the corner of Main and Neil, doesn’t change their menu much, but I don’t care because I love it. We’re big fans of their house salad (black beans and corn, romaine, steak or chicken), black bean burger, onion rings, and pulled pork sandwiches. Not all that great service, but a really lovely patio that wraps around the corner.

Boltini, kitty-corner across the street at 211 N Neil (yes, I know this off the top of my head), has really wonderful salads and cheese plates and a long long martini list. Our favorites are the circus salad (mixed greens, broccoli, tomatoes, hard boiled egg, capers, and marinated tuna) and the pub dip. We go there on Tuesdays for the Boltini bingo lounge variety show.

Farren’s can be hit or miss. It alternates between crowded and empty, and while I’ve never had anything not-good there, I also haven’t had anything I’ve LOVED. My townie friends swear by it, though. They have burgers, salads, and sandwiches mainly. On Randolph between Church and Hill in the alley behind Nitaya Thai (which you should skip because it’s nothing special).

Jupiter’s is a good place to split a thin-crust pizza with a couple of friends. They have a good specialty pizzas, or you can pick your own toppings. There’s competitive pool here a couple of nights per week. They’re on Main between Walnut and Market. Menu online.

Champaign – Fancy-pants Restaurants

Radio Maria (mentioned above) has tapas and great entrees. I love the adobo pork, mezze plate and torta maria from the dinner menu, and the paella, asparagus bundles, and grilled plantains from the tapas menu. We were there last night for dessert, which was also incredibly lovely. They’ve just expanded to include a really nice bar/lounge area, so it’s a good place to pop in for a snack and a drink OR stay for a whole meal. Menu again online.

Bacaro, located on Walnut between Neil and Taylor, changes their menu seasonally but is always killer. Last summer we had this circus-themed dessert which was just totally fun and inventive: caramel corn, a mini fudgesicle, and a couple of other tiny treats all made in-house. It’s pricey, but generally quite worth it – or just a good place to have a glass of wine with a friend.

The Great Impasta, near the corner of Church and Neil, is more traditionally Italian. Their regular menu is online, but the specials are always the most interesting things available, and they’re updated based on market availability. I’ve had some very good meals here, and a couple of ordinary ones. It can be very crowded, so make reservations in advance. I’ve never been there for lunch, but I bet it would be nice, despite the construction going on next door. Menu online.

Jim Gould (mentioned above) has very meat heavy lunches and dinners – I’ve been told that lunch is the real bargain, but I was underwhelmed (and overfed) when I went there for dinner, so I can take it or leave it. Menu online.

Champaign – Other

Jarling’s Custard Cup, on Kirby in Champaign, is a summer staple.

Chemex

Let me talk for two minutes about my new coffeemaker.

After having really excellent coffee in Iowa City and at Sasha and Stef’s, I’ve spent several months lusting after the Chemex coffee maker at the Walnut Street Tea Company (which is also where I get chocolate, tea, spices, coffee, and snacks, but those are all subjects for other posts). This weekend, knowing we were going to have a small brunch today, I bit the bullet and bought the 8 cup coffee maker. I’ve been trying to make more coffee at home to save money (and the embarrassment of going to Espresso more than once a day), so investing in good beans and a good coffee maker always seems worthwhile. I’ve been using our small French press, but it’s really too small to make more than one cup – or coffee for more than one person.

I digress.

We made our third pot with the Chemex this morning, and it was fantastic. It takes longer than the French press or the regular drip coffeemaker, but the coffee was also more flavorful and rich – plus the aesthetic value of the coffee pot is really high, which somewhat makes up for the time you have to stand over it pouring in the hot water. It seems like we’ve had to use a little more coffee than in the drip coffeemaker, but the coffee has been just wildly better, so it’s worth it. It is also worth noting that when I got up from my nap this afternoon, I poured the last of the coffee (made around 11am) over ice, and it was every bit as flavorful as the hot coffee was four hours previously.

Long story short: I’m quite pleased with this purchase, and if you come over for breakfast, I’ll make you some excellent coffee to prove it.

Browser wars

I upgraded to the newest version (1.1) of Camino last week. It was fast and pretty but crashed about every half hour, which is no good as most of the work I do is on the web, and all other Mac browsers just pale in comparison. I retro-graded (back-graded? down-graded? un-graded?) yesterday to 1.0.4, and I have to say, I’m missing the little spell-check already. Camino, don’t let me down!

A couple of years ago, not long after moving here, I posted a list of my favorite restaurants in my new hometown. Since then, I’ve gone on a few dates, tried a few new places, and even worked at one restaurant. After three years in town, here are my favorites:

Favorite place for breakfast: Sam’s Cafe, 115 N Walnut St, Champaign (french toast, grits, AND bacon)
Favorite place for lunch in Campustown: Noodles, 528 E Green St, Champaign (I’m hooked on the spicy peanut salad)
Favorite local neighborhood bar: Bentley’s, 419 N Neil St, Champaign (Beth’s Bloody Marys are the best)
Favorite bakery: Mirabelle, 124 W Main St, Urbana (the line’s been out the door the last few times we’ve been)
Favorite place for sushi: Kamakura, 715 S Neil St, Champaign (good and not terribly expensive)
Favorite place for Thai: Thara Thai, 912 1/2 W Bloomington Rd, Champaign (pineapple pad thai)
Favorite place for Mexican: Real Hacienda, 912 W Bloomington Rd, Champaign (cheap margaritas)
Favorite place for lunch in my neighborhood: Cafe Kopi, 109 N Walnut St, Champaign (great coffee and tuna salad salads)
Favorite coffeeshop: Cafe Paradiso, 801 S Lincoln Ave, Urbana (soup from scratch every day, great sandwiches, excellent coffee)
Favorite place for a first date: Crane Alley, 115 W Main St, Urbana (as long as you’re not by the foosball table)
Favorite place for a beer after work: Mike & Molly’s, 105 N Market St, Champaign (great beer and people will leave you alone if that’s what you want)
Favorite place for brunch on the weekend: Courier Cafe, 111 N Race St, Urbana (everything’s good)
Favorite place for cheap beer and bar food: Esquire, 106 N Walnut St, Champaign (mmm pitchers and fries)
Favorite place for a special occasion: Bacaro, 113 N Walnut St, Champaign (seasonal menus and streetside seating in the summer)

What’s your vote?

some such lite rockingness

Wow. Seriously, wow. If only we all had enough money to ridiculously spoil our pets.

In other news, I was not miraculously accepted to the English department. I’m in talks with my supervisor to see if taking classes as a non-degree student is a feasible option. If possible, I might take one class in the fall. It’s not much, it won’t count towards anything until I’m admitted, and it will cost money – but it’s something, a start, a way to keep my brain from turning into ice cream until I can actually get in somewhere.

Other stuff – working on a few reviews for the book club site. Getting incredibly fucking sick of “lite rock,” including terrible covers of otherwise good songs (see Shawn’s post on this subject from last week) (PS if you have any to add to that list, please comment here!). Tonight I have some things to do, but then I’m hoping for some quiet time with Shawn. I would say things seem to be calming down, but the last time I did that they exploded again. Perhaps the dull chaotic roar is the best I can hope for right now.