After my most recent debacle with raw food bars, any person in their right mind would assume that it would be a long time before I tried to navigate such unpredictable and often unsavory waters again. Of course, my curiosity will clearly be the death of me, because hardly a week after that first disastrous trial, I discovered a “Ginger Snap” Smart Monkey bar on a road trip… To much the same results. And considering I paid $3 (!!!) for that one mound of unpalatable mush, I simply couldn’t allow myself to leave it in the trash, suffering through every last bite. Honestly people, it was so depressingly distasteful, I was afraid I might have a reversal of fortune right then and there.
Is there no hope for raw food bars?, I couldn’t help but wonder as those vile materials churned angrily in my stomach. I knew in my heart of hearts that there was some company out there who could make this concept work as intended- Seriously, how hard is it to not process fewer than 7 or 8 ingredients in a tasty way? Fearing that this mission to discover the full potential of raw food bars would lead me on a wild goose chase to even more dangerous culinary territory, I jumped on the opportunity to try a brand that I had heard good things about already: Larabar.
Feeling like a kid in a candy store upon seeing the rainbow of colorful wrappers that belong to 12 different flavors, I selected a small sampling of three with high hopes.
The cross section of each of these bars is basically the same- A thick, dark paste of dates holding together a copious amount of nuts. This one pictured right here happens to be the Cinnamon Roll flavor, which I grabbed right away simply thanks to the imagery of the title alone. I positively adore cinnamon, so to open up that shiny wrapper and inhale a plume of the spicy scent was the best first impression the bar could have made. Yielding easily to the teeth, it had a wonderfully soft, tender texture, accompanied by the delightful contrast of crunchy nuts. This time, instead of the off-putting bitterness that I had found in the other raw food bars, there was the most amazing sweetness that seemed to wrap around my entire tongue and tickle my taste buds. It was simply unbelievable that there was no sugar added, but it really was just the perfect amount of natural sugar to enhance all of the other components as well. After getting halfway through the bar, I swore that I really could taste the pastry of its namesake, too! How on earth they created the flavors of that decadent dough in only 6 unprocessed ingredients is beyond me!
Encouraged by such a delicious offering in a category that was looking more and more dubious by the minute, I couldn’t wait to chomp right into my next bar, this time snapping up the Apple Pie flavor. Tinted a slightly red color thanks to the pigment found in apple skin, the smell of cinnamon also wafted up from this bar, albeit slightly more subdued. Lightly fruity and mildly spiced, I’m sure that fans of the previous flavor would also enjoy this one, as they were really quite similar. The occasional large almond chunks were wonderful surprises though, and the mellow apple overtones were enough to give it character all its own.
Finally, as if I weren’t already convinced that these bars were worthy of the hype I had heard, I still had the Banana Cookie bar to win me over. So simple but so good, this combination of bananas, raisins, and walnuts tasted just like… Well… Bananas, raisin, and walnuts! A beautiful thing indeed, it was a delight to have real food in a compact form, shelf-stable and easy to grab on the go. Again, the sweetness was really incredible but still entirely natural, like a banana so ripe that it must have sported a solid black peel, but without any of that unpleasant mushy texture! Needless to say, I just loved this flavor.
I can only imagine that the remaining 9 flavors each hold just as much promise, not just nutrients and fuel, but a truly tasty snack. Food should not be some bitter pill meant to be swallowed just to keep one’s energy up, but really a thing of pleasure. Healthy food is by no means exempt from this definition, and these are the bars to prove it. As they say on their website, Larabars are both “satisfying and nourishing.”