WOATS Oatsnack

WOATS Oatsnack, widely available at a supermarket near you, came to be when its founder, Justin Anderson, discovered the ancient enmity between granola and braces. As each WOATS bag will tell you, young Justin set out to make a softer oat treat and succeeded wildly, starting his own company at the age of 16.

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WOATS has just launched their fourth flavor, Jammin’ Strawberry Shortbread, and I received it along with the whole WOATS product line to review (obligatory disclaimer! That means I didn’t pay for these WOATS treats). That’s a lot of oats! Luckily, oats and I go way back–I may even eat instant oatmeal uncooked with milk on occasion (often), so I was up to this task. My husband was up to the task of quickly inhaling whatever I left on the kitchen table.

The Jammin' Strawberry Shortbread

The Jammin’ Strawberry Shortbread

First off, WOATS is to granola as Fig Newtons are to granola bars. In other words, they are indeed soft, a little chewy, and extra sweet. That texture is very appealing! Additionally, each bag contains about a cereal bowl’s worth of food and offers a variety of sizes, from chunks nearly large enough to be a granola bar on their own to loose oats good for sprinkling over other foods or adding milk to and making a cereal of it (I may have done that. I may also recommend it.).

I’ll start with the Jammin’ Strawberry Shortbread as it’s the first one I tried.  I could not see many actual strawberries in with the oat and shortbread clumps, but the flavor of strawberry was impressive throughout. Its brown sugar sweetness was pleasing, and the shortbread chunks added enough indulgence to push the oatsnack clearly into the dessert realm. I love the dessert realm—I keep a vacation home there.

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Coffee Fest Atlanta: America’s Best Espresso Competition

The America’s Best Espresso Competition at the Atlanta Coffee Fest

The crowd watches Bout #1 on Saturday, 2/7.

The crowd watches Bout #1 on Saturday, 2/7.

One of the fastest-moving events at a Coffee Fest is the Best Espresso Competition. I’m not just saying that because an integral part of the espresso-making process is using intense water pressure to extract a shot of espresso in around 30 seconds, give or take 10 of them. I’m saying it because the baristas competing in this event do a lot more than simply press a lever and a button. Rather, they work their way through all the major steps of pulling a shot with precision and intent. Those steps?

  1. Selecting the beans for their espresso. Arguably, this is the most important part of their preparation, and ultimately, they compete as the coffee roasting company, not as an individual. But you can bet these professionals have sampled and combined multiple types of beans ahead of time to find what they think will make a unique, memorable blend that will impress the judges.

I should note here that the judges and competitors tend to be Third Wave coffee aficionados, meaning that the traditional Italian roasts most associated with espresso by consumers, especially in Europe, are not what you’re likely to find at a Best Espresso Competition—or at least not at the bouts I saw. Instead, Third Wave fans prefer single-sourced, often washed, lightly roasted beans and blends as such processing leaves more of the beans’ unique flavor profiles intact. I spoke with Head Judge Cortney Kern of Barista Maniac, however, and he assured me that “sometimes a darker roast will come into the element—you’ll notice what it is visually and by smell. But most [competitors] do use a specialty light roast.”

Judge Cortney shares his rankings.

Judge Cortney shares his rankings.

Let’s continue with the other steps in a Best Espresso Competition!

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Bandit Wines Cabernet Sauvignon

Bandit Wines Cabernet Sauvignon
California

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Bandit Wines is a boxed wine company that you can find on Safeway’s lowest shelf. I haven’t had much boxed wine in my life. But when I tap into the foodie party line, I hear from craft enthusiasts that beer in a can has no metallic aftertaste and that boxed wine can be just as good as wine in a bottle. It appears as though mere reputation alone has kept me from embracing either thus far.

I’m not ready for beer in a can. I’m barely ready for beer in a pint glass—half pints do me well. But wine in a box? I could try that…and I swear my willingness has nothing to do with how ridiculously cheap this box was (about $5). Nope, what sold me is what that the pretty little lavender box said clear as day (good job, marketing!): At a liter, one box is the equivalent of one and a third bottles of wine, making it even more ridiculously cheap than it already was. Sold!

(Yes, I realize that means I bought it for exactly the same reason as I claimed I didn’t buy it. You don’t need to tell me that. And now I’ve lost my literary effect. I blame you.)

How does it taste? As I drink, I feel a kinship emerge with one Violet Beauregarde and her amazement as the gum she chewed at Willy Wonka’s factory shifted and reshaped itself into something new. A lovely, simple, cherry-leather nose broadens to include eucalyptus and pine notes on the palate. Those fade away, and the cherry reasserts itself to engage in delicious dessert play with milky cocoa. Luckily, no adverse side effects have been detected…yet.

I’ll be clear; this wine exceeds all my expectations. It gets an 80/100, and I will be back for more of that value buy. Heck, I’ll even give their chardonnay a chew.

Here’s my full Quini profile for more specific tasting notes:

Bandit_Quini

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