Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Pirate Cookies vs. Nutter Butters

image from www.canadaonly.ca
Christie brand Pirate cookies are an oatmeal sandwich cookie with a peanut butter filling. They are available only in Canada, and not every retailer of Christie cookies seems to stock them. In fact, they are so obscure that I was unable to find any information on Pirate cookies on the Kraft Canada website - they weren't even included in the alphabetical product listings!

In the interest of full disclosure, I must confess a certain bias. I can not evaluate the Pirate cookie without comparing it to the apex of peanut butter sandwich cookies, Nabisco's Nutter Butter*. Interestingly, it too is a regional delicacy, and is not available outside of the U. S. A.

The individual components of the Pirate cookie are perfectly sound. If separated from the filling, each oatmeal cookie is crisp and faintly textured, with a taste not unsimilar to Dad's packaged oatmeal cookies. The filling is Kraft peanut butter, an iconic Canadian product and my personal favourite peanut butter for spreading purposes.

image from www.nabiscoworld.com
Sadly, the result is just a bit too sugary, and while the second (and third) Pirate cookies taste just fine, the first one is a bit jarring in its sweetness. This is where the Nutter Butter most clearly surpasses the Pirate cookie. The Nutter Butter's exterior is so mild I am uncertain what flavour it actually is - PB? Vanilla? - and the filling is less sweet and more peanutty than the average peanut butter spread. Not only is the Nutter Butter less sweet on the whole, but the filling has a faint saltiness that plays so well off the peanut butter flavour.

The Nutter Butter is also the winner as far as mouth feel is concerned. The cookies are thin and pleasantly crisp, and the amount of filling, while likely too scant for you Double Stuf types, feels appropriate. The Pirate's filling is much more generous, but when I eat the Pirate cookie I experience a greater feeling of having a lot of it jammed into my molars when I'm done chewing, and I suspect the filling-to-cookie ratio may be to blame. I also feel the Pirate cookie is just too thick, taller than a Girl Scout sandwich cookie if I am not mistaken, and not as pleasant to eat as the thin and crispy Nutter Butter. I only ever want to eat 1 or 2 Pirates at a time, whereas I have been known to whiff through an entire pack of Nutter Butters in well under a week.

 In my opinion, the Nutter Butter is not only the best peanut butter sandwich cookie on the market, but the best non-chocolate grocery store brand cookie around. That said, the Pirate is a perfectly adequate substitute for Canadians craving a peanut butter sandwich cookie.

*I have elected not to discuss the calorie counts of these products because, frankly, I don't want to know. Be warned however that, should you click on the Nabisco link, you will be confronted with some numbers you might rather not see.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Koyo Rice Cakes

I eat a lot of rice cakes. In addition to being sugar and fat-free, rice cakes also give me the kind of crunchy carb feeling I would otherwise get from a wheat-based snack. I have become something of a rice cake connoisseur, and Koyo rice cakes are by far my preferred brand.

Quaker has had a monopoly on rice-cake sales since the 90's and, as such, is my only basis for comparison when discussing the finer points of rice cakery. Koyo rice cakes come in these different varieties, but these consist mostly of textural variations. If you need wacky flavours or packaging designed to simulate the experience of eating potato chips then the Quaker cakes are for you. I have only tried the plain, salted versions of both.

Compared to the Quaker rice cakes, which are almost completely uniform, the Koyo cakes have a more textured surface with greater variation between cakes. They also have a crunchier, less "styrofoamy" chew and a stronger rice taste. Koyo cakes are irregular, however, and some packages may contain one or two very thin cakes. This may be disappointing to shoppers who demand a certain amount of rice cake per-dollar.

The Koyo cakes retail for about $1.99 a bag. I can't remember the price of the Quaker rice cakes but I seem to recall that they are only marginally cheaper, though they do often go on sale. Koyo rice cakes are available in health stores as well as stores selling bulk ingredients. The Koyo website has a "where to buy" section as well as an online store.

As a bonus, here are 5 more great things to love about rice cakes:
  1. Rice cakes are not unlike pop corn if you break them apart and eat them in little chunks.
  2. Rice cakes weigh virtually nothing, so it is not unreasonable to stuff an entire package into your purse or bookbag and walk around with them for happy snacking all day long. I am not ashamed to admit that I love doing this.
  3. Rice cakes are a crunchy, sturdy vehicle for peanut butter and jelly or your favourite melty cheese concoction.
  4. Rice cakes are loved by the animal population! If you run into a friendly sparrow, squirrel or duck you can feel free to share a snack. (Maybe not those freaky flavour-types though.)
  5. Rice cakes are only 40 calories a cake. Eat the whole damn bag!
Happy new year, and happy snacking!

Image from www.koyonaturalfoods.com