Category Archives: Online vendors

Halfpops

halfpops

Apparently, some people have a thing for the half-popped popcorn that’s usually at the bottom of the bag. And while I’m definitely not one of those people—who are they, and what’s wrong with them?—I have to admit that Halfpops are actually all right.

Allergy information first, though. Halfpops’ exceedingly irritating FAQ clearly states that each and every one of their products is nut- and gluten-free, so that’s that, I suppose. (Seriously, though. Their FAQ is annoying as hell, as is the rest of their website. Why they insist on harping on how portable their snacks are, I have no idea. Halfpops are exactly as portable as regular popcorn—but I digress.)

Online pandering aside, Halfpops do taste okay. (Imagine a softer Corn Nut, and that’s basically a Halfpop.) As of right now, they come in seven flavors: Aged White Cheddar, Angry Kettle Corn, Caramel & Sea Salt, Butter & Sea Salt, Brooklyn Dill Pickle, Black Truffle & Sea Salt, and Chipotle BBQ. My favorite, by far, is the Black Truffle & Sea Salt—in fact, it’s the only one I’ve tried that I actually like. Unlike so many inexpensive “truffled”products, these actually have a noticeable truffle element to them—and a pleasant one, at that. I’m definitely a fan.

The worst flavor I’ve tried is probably the Caramel & Sea Salt. As soon as I opened the bag and got a whiff of those things, I knew they wouldn’t be for me—and they weren’t. “Cloying” is probably the least offensive adjective I can use to describe them—they’re way, way, way too sweet, without anywhere near enough salt to balance out the sugar, and I can say with confidence that I do not like these. Not one bit.

Somewhere toward the middle of the Halfpops spectrum are the Aged White Cheddar—which (to its credit) tastes a whole lot like Smartfood, but without all the popcorn fluff that the folks behind Halfpops insists is so undesirable—and the Butter & Sea Salt, which is a little heavy on the butter flavoring. Brooklyn Dill Pickle is okay, too, if you want to be overwhelmed with vinegar, but I…don’t, so that one’s probably another flavor I’ll have to avoid.

The problem with most of Halfpops’ flavors is simple, though: the seasoning is way too strong. Perhaps if they’d tone it down a smidge, I’d be on board—but for now, I think I’ll stick with the Black Truffle & Sea Salt. (Or, you know, regular popcorn, despite its terribly unportable nature.)

Find Halfpops at Stop & Shop, REI, and ShopRite.

Advertisements
Tagged , , , , ,

The Good Bean Chickpea Snacks

The Good Bean chickpea snacks

I can’t say I’ve ever found myself craving a handful of roasted chickpeas, but if I ever did…well, these would do the trick. They’re a little weird, but they aren’t bad—and they’re a whole lot better for you than, like, Funyuns (or whatever it is that you can’t stop shoveling into your mouth).

Two of The Good Bean’s three products—their chickpea snacks and their bean chips—are made in a dedicated nut-free facility. Their fruit & no-nut bars, while themselves nut-free, are made in a facility that does handle both tree nuts and peanuts (though The Good Bean uses Good Manufacturing Practices to reduce the risk of cross-contamination), so they’re perhaps a bit less safe than the chickpea snacks and the bean chips. Still, they’re a viable option for many with nut allergies, and if I could find them, I’d give them a try.

I haven’t come across the bean chips or the fruit & no-nut bars, but I have eaten my fair share of the roasted chickpeas, and as usual, I have some opinions. First off, let me be clear about one thing: These things are extremely dry. Get more than three or four of them in your mouth at once and it’s like trying to revitalize sawdust with your tongue. In small bites, though, they’re manageable—and I actually kind of like them.

The sea salt flavor is the best one I’ve tried. It’s simple and to-the-point, and it’s actually pretty addictive, once you get used to the texture. My least favorite was definitely sweet cinnamon; I couldn’t even get through the portion I used for the photograph above. It’s just so wishy-washy—too sweet to be savory and too savory to be sweet, and not at all pleasant to eat in any quantity. So when the urge hits, I guess I’ll just stick with the sea salt for now. (A lot of the other flavors have proven hard to find, but I think I’m all right with that.)

Anyway, if roasted chickpeas have been calling you—or if my glowing review has won you over—you can find The Good Bean’s products at Stop & Shop, Duane Reade, Zabar’s, and various health food–oriented markets across the city. (Perhaps you’ll even be able to find all the flavors and products I couldn’t. Good luck.)

Tagged , , , , ,

A Guide to Tree Nut–Free Peanuts and Peanut Butters

You can spend as much time as you’d like combing through Google results; you won’t find much in the way of information on tree nut–free peanut products. I’ve been complaining about this for a while (and I’ve blogged about it before, no doubt) but I figure it’s probably time to actually do something about the issue.

So…I have. I reached out to approximately half a billion peanut and peanut butter companies, and this post is the result. I’ve only included companies that are reasonably allergy-friendly, so if a brand’s not on this list, I’ve either never come across it or I’ve come across it and found that it’s probably not a viable option for those with nut allergies. (Or! A handful of stick-in-the-mud customer-service representatives have kept me from being able to find out much of anything about a company’s facilities. That happens a lot, actually.)

The products that have made this list are peanuts and peanut butters that probably won’t kill you…if you’re allergic to tree nuts and tree nuts alone, that is. And if you can’t eat peanuts (or if you’re in the mood for a change of pace), scroll down to the bottom of this guide for a section on other nut-free spreads.

(Looking for tree nuts free from cross contamination with other tree nuts?)

Continue reading

Tagged , , , , , , ,

New French Bakery

newfrenchbakery

I wish I could say I’d found a nut-free French bakery, but…I haven’t. What I have found is a nut-free bread company that supplies packaged “take & bake” breads to various supermarkets. So French bakery? Not quite. Useful product, though? Definitely.

New French Bakery doesn’t advertise itself as nut-free, but there’s nothing about tree nuts (or peanuts) on any of the packaging. That doesn’t mean all that much, though, so I sent an email to double-check. Within a day, I received the following reply: “Yes, our facility is tree nut and peanut free.” So that’s that, I suppose.

I’ve categorized New French Bakery as “truly nut-free,” but really, things aren’t so black-and-white. These companies exist on an allergy-friendliness spectrum, and I’d say this one’s probably a bit less nut-free (whatever sense that makes) than a company like Enjoy Life, which requires allergen statements from suppliers, employs batch testing, and is generally defined by its allergy-friendliness. Still, a nut-free facility is a nut-free facility—it’d be silly to expect anything more.

I picked up a bag of the French dinner rolls at Gristedes (the only place I can seem to find these things) and froze them that day, as the packaging recommends. A week or so later, I threw a few into the oven for 12 minutes and ate them with some cheese, and they were all right, but certainly not anything worth getting excited over. Had they not been warm, they would’ve been pretty lame—but warm bread is warm bread, so I couldn’t be all that disappointed.

From what I’ve tried, it seems as though New French Bakery’s bread is, at the very least, a few steps above most of the bread you’ll find at the supermarket—and it’s nut-free, too, which certainly helps its cause. It’ll do in a pinch, and it’ll certainly do if you’re accustomed to being denied bread.

Tagged , , , , ,

America’s Best Nut Co.

Southern Homestyle peanuts from America's Best Nut Co

Tree nut–free peanuts are trouble. I’ve written before about how tough they are to find, so I won’t rehash—but suffice it to say that they aren’t easy to come by. In fact, America’s Best Nut Co. makes the only safe shelled peanuts I’ve managed to find in years (and years) of half-hearted searching.

Their website is pretty lean, and they have no email address, as far as I can tell—so I did the unthinkable: I called. The (very, very kind) woman I spoke with confirmed what I’d heard: that they don’t have any tree nuts in their facility, and that their peanuts should be entirely nut-free. Unfortunately, she also told me that their peanuts aren’t sold in any New York stores. Fortunately, though, they are sold online, so—well, I’m eating a handful as I type this. (Literally. One-handed blogging is a slow-going labor of love.)

Shipping was expensive, so in the interest of efficiency (and certainly not because I’m a pig), I ordered three tins: one lightly salted Southern Homestyle, one unsalted Southern Homestyle, and one sea-salted. All three were great, but I liked the lightly salted best, as they were a nice happy medium between the other two. (Duh.) The peanuts themselves taste great, and the salt complements their flavor nicely (rather than covering it up, as it tends to with the sea-salted variety). Plus, unlike the unsalted peanuts, these don’t grow boring after too many handfuls. They’re frighteningly addictive.

The unsalted did have their perks, though. First, they’re a classic—and second, they’re super greasy. These are some oily peanuts (though they aren’t unpleasantly so in the slightest). It’s a nice touch—in my eyes, at least—and it certainly sets these peanuts apart from those you’ll pull out of a shell.

In all, America’s Best Nut Co. is a lovely company that makes some damn good peanuts. My only gripes, really, are that they can’t be found in stores, and that they’re too expensive (for me) to order regularly.

Tagged , , , , ,

Gerbs Allergen Friendly Foods

Gerbs

I’ll just come right out and say it: Gerbs is a pretty awesome company. Everything they sell is entirely free from the top 8 allergens (plus sesame and mustard, too). It’s all vegan, kosher, and non-GMO, and it’s all free from sulphur dioxide, potassium sorbate, sodium benzoate, nitrates/nitrites, MSG, and trans fats. Truthfully, I couldn’t possibly care less about any of that—but I do care a whole lot about nut-free seeds, granolas, and dried fruits. As many people seem to be incapable of understanding, seeds are not nuts; they’re seeds, and I can eat them, as can everyone else who’s (just) allergic to nuts. Often, though, seeds come cross-contaminated—especially if they’re shelled—so it can be a real pain to find safe ones.

The same goes for dried fruits. For some reason, they’re almost always made by companies that handle lots of nuts. I tend to really like dried fruits, though, so I’ve been searching—really, really searching—for a safe and reliable source for a while now. Trader Joe’s has some options that work for me, sure…but they don’t have my personal favorite: pineapple rings (the sweetened kind, because I am a child).

Enter Gerbs, the solution to all (well, some) of my problems.

gerbs2

Gerbs carries chocolate products, coffee beans, dried fruits, seeds, grains, granolas, rice, oats, and various snack mixes, all free from the junk (and allergens) mentioned above—so basically, they sell a whole bunch of stuff that’s tough to find. And though their products aren’t available in stores, they are available online, and at (somewhat) reasonable prices, too. [That first link is to Amazon, where a whole bunch of Gerbs products are Prime-eligible. Game-changing, really, for those of us who straight-up refuse to (a) order in bulk or (b) pay for shipping.]

It wasn’t until last week that I finally got around to ordering some of this stuff. I got a pound of lightly salted sunflower kernels ($3.99), and—of course—a pound of sweetened pineapple slices ($7.99). And since my order only weighed 2 lbs, I only had to pay $5.99 for shipping, which would’ve otherwise gone up to $12.99. (Only. As if. Obviously, I placed this order before finding out about the whole Gerbs-is-Prime-eligible thing. Live and learn, I guess.)

To my surprise, the box arrived within two days—and fortunately, I have very little to say, other than that products I received were perfectly fine. The sunflower kernels taste like sunflower kernels—though I’m not sure I’d have labeled them as lightly salted—and the pineapple rings are just what I’ve been wanting. My only (cliché) complaint is that they disappeared far too quickly. I think I’m good on sunflower seeds for a while, though. Apparently, a pound is quite a few servings. (Just in: My eyes are way bigger than my stomach. Who knew? Guess I have some sunflower-seed pesto in my near future.)

Anyway, Gerbs is most definitely a company worth supporting—and their products are definitely worth eating, too. Find them, as I’ve said, on both Amazon (Prime!) and the Gerbs website.

Tagged , , , , , ,

Fruit Slices

SweetGourmet fruit slices

I used to eat these jelly-based fruit slices all the time as a kid. Who knew they’d be so hard to come by for those who can’t eat nuts? Lots of supermarkets buy them in bulk and repackage them for sale—but they do the same with nuts, so more often than not, the fruit slices you’ll find at Fairway et al. come with “may contain” warnings. Shame. But I’ve really been craving these, so I had to make it happen.

Now, SweetGourmet definitely sells nuts; in fact, they have a whole category on their site devoted to nuts and seeds. But fruit slices aren’t all that easy to find, and I was pretty desperate to get my hands on some—and (for some reason!) I didn’t want to order them from nuts.com, so I decided to give these a try. Their ingredients are as follows:

Sugar, glucose, agar, citric acid, cottonseed oil, egg albumen, natural and artificial flavors, artificial colors (red 40, blue 1, yellow 5 & 6). **Contains: Egg Ingredients. Product information/materials may change.

Not the ideal company for someone with a nut allergy, but hey, fruit slices. So far, I’m around 75% of the way through my box, and I’ve had no issues. I got them off of Amazon, but they’re available straight from SweetGourmet, too. I ordered the middle size (20 oz.), and they arrived within a few days, packaged in a large box with sheets of wax paper separating the layers of fruit slices.

Anyway, they’re pretty good, if you’re into fruit slices (is anybody?). My only complaint is that the assortment is a little lacking. (I’m told it’s very inconsistent and varies a lot by box.) My box had mostly greens, reds, oranges, and yellows—which is unfortunate, because the watermelons and the blue raspberries are the real stars.

Tagged , , , , ,

See’s Lollypops

A box of See's Lollypops

I used to eat See’s lollipops (I’m sorry—I’m not going to use their spelling) on occasion as a kid, but I had no idea they were nut-free until a random flashback sent me Googling. See’s makes lots of nut products; who would’ve expected them to make these (gourmet!) lollipops in a nut-free facility?

On their website, there’s an allergen information page with lists of the See’s products that are free from from nuts, dairy, gluten, soy, and egg. There’s also a nut-free filter, and their FAQ states that candies marked nut-free are those that “are free of nuts and have been manufactured in a nut-free facility.” So at See’s, nut-free really seems to mean nut-free. Miraculous.

The lollipops are expensive ($18.50 for a box of 30) but truthfully, they’re worth it. Flavor-wise, they’re unlike any other lollipop I’ve ever had—rich, creamy, and never too sweet—and they last for-goddamn-ever, too (both individually and as a box), which makes me feel a little better about the price.

The assortment comes with four flavors: chocolate, vanilla, butterscotch, and café latte. They’re all made with butter and heavy cream, and they’re all delicious in their own way, but my personal favorite is the butterscotch (which is the sweetest by far—go figure). It’s super buttery, but not at all in a sickening way. It’s actually pretty salty, too—so in all, it’s perfectly balanced.

Chocolate’s probably my second favorite. The flavor’s closer to cocoa powder than, say, pudding, which took me some time to get used to, but once I got there, I was sold. It tastes a lot like a brownie—not the Betty Crocker kind, but a good one. (An adult brownie, I guess.) It’s very rich, and it has a sort of grainy texture, which I like. And for a lollipop, it’s actually sort of filling.

Vanilla and café latte are my least favorites, but they’re not bad by any stretch of the imagination. Vanilla’s very creamy, which is nice—and it gets a little chewy around halfway through, which is strange, but inoffensive. Café latte is great, I’m sure, if you’re into coffee, but I’m not, so I could probably go without this one. It’s all right—somewhat bitter, and subtly sweet, too—but again: I’m not into that strong coffee flavor. Oh well.

Clearly, though, I’m into these lollipops. I found them at Macy’s in Herald Square (6th floor—you’re welcome), and they’re apparently sold at Lord & Taylor, too. Or, if that’s too much trouble, they’re available online. In any case, they’re certainly worth a try—even if you aren’t a fan of lollipops.

Tagged , , , , , ,

Don’t Go Nuts

IMG_3219

I first heard about Don’t Go Nuts online, in the midst of one of many searches for nut-free granola bars. And while their bars aren’t quite granola, they’re nut-free—so I figured I’d give them a try.

Allergen information out of the way first, though. According to their FAQ, all of their products—both bars and spreads—are produced in a nut- and peanut-free facility, and they use their own signature Field to Fingers process to ensure their products really are safe for those with allergies. Plus, all their products are also certified gluten-free, and there’s no egg or sesame in their facility, either.

Anyway, I pulled up their store locator (which I’ve since learned has been out of order for a few months and which won’t be fixed for a few more) and was directed to Whole Foods and Lot-Less. Easy enough, I thought—I’m at Whole Foods often enough, and (for reasons I really don’t understand) there are three or four Lot-Less locations within walking distance of my apartment.

Long and incredibly boring story short, I went to two different Whole Foods locations and pretty much every Lot-Less I could find (over the course of a few weeks, mind you—I’m not that obsessive), but I didn’t see Don’t Go Nuts anywhere. The Lot-Less on Chambers Street has multiple walls and shelves devoted entirely to bars, but there wasn’t a Don’t Go Nuts logo in sight. Huh. I would’ve just caved and ordered them online, but Amazon only carries them in boxes of 12, which was a bit too much of a commitment for me, given that I’d never tried any of their flavors.

Really, really not wanting to blindly spend $20 on a box of 12 “snack bars,” I reached out to Don’t Go Nuts in the hopes that they’d be able to point me toward a store that actually carried their products. I ended up speaking with a very helpful woman who informed me that they’re currently in the process of switching to a new digital agency partner, hence the outdated store locator. In the meantime, though, their bars are sold at Fairway, Balducci’s, Westerly Natural Foods, Foodtown, Grace’s Marketplace, King’s, and Shop Rite. Plus, Lucky Vitamin and Vitacost sell individual bars online—which fact I apparently overlooked in my search.

What’s more, Don’t Go Nuts was generous enough to send me a few samples—two of each bar, actually, and a bunch of their soybean spreads, too. I certainly wouldn’t have had the money to try so many of their products within a timespan short enough to allow me to actually the compare the flavors effectively—so I was pretty grateful for the samples. And to get to the point, finally: I really enjoyed a lot of what I ate.

My favorite bar was definitely the Whitewater Chomp (granola with white chocolate chips and white chocolate drizzle). It’s very sweet—everything I tried was—but I’m not really complaining. It tasted a lot like coconut-flavored cookie dough (though Don’t Go Nuts is coconut-free), and it had a nice texture, similar to that of a Quaker Chewy Bar. I liked the Celestial Campout bar (honey graham with white and dark chocolate) as well, though the chocolate they use isn’t the tastiest—so perhaps the Boogie Board Bash (same deal, but without the dark chocolate) would be a better choice.

I will admit, though, that I wasn’t a huge fan of the fig flavor that was so strong in some of the bars (Blueberry Blast, Lift Service). But maybe that’s just me. I’ve never been a huge fan of fig-based desserts. Overall, though, the bars were pretty decent. Be warned, though: If super-sweet bars aren’t your thing, stay away from Don’t Go Nuts. If they’re for a child, though—or if you have huge a sweet tooth—they’ll probably be perfect.

The spreads are good, too—but only as a last-ditch substitute for peanut butter. I liked the Slightly Sweet and Chocolate flavors best, but both were a bit watery. They definitely had that strange imitation-nut-butter flavor, and the texture was off, too. (But perhaps I’m just being picky because I can actually eat the real deal; if I were allergic to peanuts, I’m sure I’d be really grateful for these.)

In all, Don’t Go Nuts is a pretty solid company, and their products are worth the effort it takes to seek them out and give them a try, if you’re in the mood for something super sweet. Just…try not to go nuts looking for them. (I’ll see myself out.)

Tagged , , , ,

Tate’s Bake Shop (or, alternatively: The World’s Least Scientific Experiment)

tates

Let me emphasize: Tate’s Bake Shop is not at all nut-free. In fact, they’re probably the least nut-free company I’ve discussed on this blog—but their cookies are (quite literally) irresistible, so I’ve decided to do some research.

Every Tate’s bag clearly states that their cookies are made in a facility that also processes pecans, walnuts, almonds, and macadamia nuts. Trader Joe’s sells a very similar product under their private label—though they only sell the gluten-free chocolate chip and ginger chunk varieties—and theirs are without any sort of nut-related allergen warning (which, at Trader Joe’s, generally means they really are safe). The Trader Joe’s cookies are absolutely delicious, even sans gluten—so I’ve been dying to try the real deal for a while now.

Anyway, I sent an email to Tate’s and received the following reply:

I wanted to reach out to let you know we do use the same equipment to pack nut containing cookies as our non-nut containing cookies. We have specific cleaning procedures in place to ensure that all nut protein is removed from the equipment. We then test the equipment to ensure that all proteins have been removed. This is all documented and signed off by the supervisors. Additionally, we do have statements from our ingredient purveyors indicating there is no nut cross contamination.

Honestly, the above reply was way better than I’d expected. So much better, in fact, that it seemed too good to be true. I decided to call to double-check, and the phone calls that followed were…interesting, to say the least. The first woman I spoke to told me that she couldn’t think of anyone who would be able to answer my questions, but she did give the phone number for the Tate’s warehouse.

I called the warehouse and reiterated my questions to a few different people until I was transferred to someone who essentially repeated verbatim what I’d been told via email. That, combined with the fact that very few people at Tate’s seem to be all that well versed in their allergen policies—and the fact that this particular woman sounded rather annoyed—led me to believe (without about 95% certainty) that I was speaking to the same woman I’d been in contact with via email.

It was a brief and unpleasant conversation, but the fact remained: The manufacturing practices at Tate’s sounded good to me. So given that I don’t really have a history of reacting to products that may contain trace amounts of nuts—and given that I was feeling especially irresponsible on that particular Tuesday—I figured I’d give Tate’s the good old taste test. So I did. And I didn’t react.

Of course, everyone’s allergies are different—so do with that what you will. In fact, please take all of this with an entire shaker of salt. Much like my post on IT’SUGAR, this post doesn’t come with any recommendations; it’s mostly just a recap of my poor decisions and the experiences that came of them.

…All right. Now that we’ve gotten all that out of the way, we can spend a minute talking about the cookies themselves. I only tried the chocolate chip, but they’re absolutely wonderful—by far the best store-bought cookie I’ve ever had (though if we’re counting the Trader Joe’s version as a separate product, those come in a very close second). They’re perfectly crispy, buttery, and salty, with chocolate chips good enough to win me over—and I hate chocolate chips. Seriously: Tate’s are in a league of their own, and if you can eat them…well, you need to.

I’m really looking forward to trying their other flavors, if a little slowly and stressfully. The Chipless, the gingersnap, the vanilla, the Ginger Zinger, the mint chocolate chip, and the oatmeal raisin are all calling me. I’ll let you know how it goes.

Find Tate’s at…most grocery stores, really. Try Whole Foods, Citarella, Stop & Shop, Fairway, Eli’s, Gourmet Garage, or Westside Market.

Tagged , , , ,
Advertisements