Bowled Over

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Bowled Over

TASTE KITCHEN: TOASTED O’S CEREAL

Bowled over
By Debra Samuels
Globe Correspondent / January 7, 2009

In a supermarket, the breakfast cereal aisle is a football field-long corridor. Some of have morphed into many other brands. Recently, nine members of a food and nutrition-oriented 4-H club, ranging in age from 6 to 17, tasted five brands of toasted O’s. The young group took our blind tests cereal-ously. (Couldn’t resist!) First they nibbled on dry O’s and then added milk. For a while, all you could hear was the sound of crunching. There were eyebrows raised pensively, requests for one more taste, and pleas for more time to finish. One thing was clear: These youngsters wanted their O’s toasty and crunchy, even when submerged in milk.
All the brands are made with whole grains. Although this is typically not a sweet cereal (1 gram of sugar per 1 cup serving), sugar is the third item on the ingredient list in four of the five brands. Cascadian Farms Organic purely O’s, the only cereal with no sugar, got seven pairs of thumbs down as the least favorite. Most of the cereals are similar in texture, but this one tastes like air. Trader Joe’s brand, Joe’s O’s, was the favorite. Its first ingredient is whole grain oats, which you taste and which have an agreeable aroma. The brand Cheerios came in a close second.

Cascadian Farm Organic
purely O’sOrganic whole grain oat cereal
$4.69 for 9 ounces

This brand was often compared with an inert object: “Dry, it tasted like old paper, it tastes better with milk.” “Smells like some kind of flower, sweet but appealing, but tastes like cardboard. Better after milk.” One taster compared the smell to an attic. “Very pale compared to others. This egg-white looking cereal is smooth in your mouth and is awkward to chew. After adding milk the flavor is weak and gets soggy.” But another thought it “maintained its crunchiness with the milk, but not the best taste.” The final word: “Not sweet, tastes like cardboard. Not crunchy, horrible.”

CheeriosToasted Whole Grain Oat Cereal
$3.19 for 8.9 ounces

A close second for best, three chose this as the favorite. Texture and smell were important factors for most: “Smells like toast, not very sweet, and more crunchy than the others.” “Even crunchy with the milk. Also has a good after-taste.” “Before milk, smells grainy, really has lots of flavor. With milk tastes good and has good texture.” “Looks less hole-y and bumpy than the others. When chewing, the cereal is crunchy and tastes like freshly toasted bread.” Another also said it “smelled like toast.” One observer wrote this: “Different color than the others. Tastes good with milk. I think they might be Cheerios.”

Food Club Original Toasted Oats
Toasted Whole Grain Oat Cereal
$2.50 for 15 ounces

We found this brand at Roche Bros. Not a lot of enthusiasm here but some liked the size: “O’s bigger than other brands.” As for the texture: “Feels kind of stale and tastes bland. Tastes the same with milk – like sawdust.” “It almost looks as if it is made of Styrofoam. When I taste it, it is like Styrofoam with a very bland flavor.” “The texture is crunchy and rough.” Others liked the taste. “Has a nice sweetness to it, which makes it less bland. I smell honey.” (There is no honey). “Not very sweet, not very sweet smelling, but very very crunchy!” “At first they are a bit stale, but as you progress the taste is OK.” Another: “Blander with milk.”

Stop & Shop Oats & O’s
Toasted Whole Grain Oat Cereal
$2.69 for 15 ounces

Most of the kids commented on the texture before and after adding the milk: “Before milk, crunchy, just sort of doesn’t have a taste. After milk, kind of soggy. Still no taste.” “Has a sweet smell, but tastes bland. The texture is crunchy. With the milk it is still bland, but got soggy quickly.” A “sweet smell” appeared on many comments. Another who chose it as a favorite wrote: “It looked bland at first. When I tasted it, it was crunchy and seemed to dissolve in my mouth. It reminds me of my own toasted O’s that I eat at home.” Several thought the milk helped. “Milk adds more flavor.” Our youngest gestured with a thumbs up and his scribe (his mom) said he was all smiles after he finished it.

THE WINNER!
Trader Joe’s Joe’s O’s
Toasted Whole Grain Oats
$2.29 for 15 ounces

Waxing eloquent, one wrote: “The golden brown cereal, smelling toasty and warm, tastes great and the texture is just right. The combination of milk and cereal is good but the flavor diminishes.” “Before milk: smells nice and appealing and the color is golden and yellowish. Tastes very good and is quite easy to chew. After milk: Tastes even better. The milk complements the flavor of the O’s.” “Absolutely no smell, tastes really good and good with milk.” “Very sweet and crunchy!” “Not too much of a smell. Is more oat-y, has small o’s.” “It has a very weak scent and looks pale. The taste is somewhat bolder and doesn’t taste so much like paper.” Two described it as having a bland taste: “When I have 8 in my mouth they taste like rice crackers. Very, very bland.” And one was just not sure: “It tastes between good and bad.”

© Copyright 2009 Globe Newspaper Company

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