I broached this culinary ordeal with vivid memories of a long-ago soy sauce tasting from which I’d emerged with comically useless notes reading “Salty!” “Very Salty!” “Salty!” and “A little less salty!”.
A massive tasting of granolas seemed likely to evoke a wash of similarly undifferentiated impressions – this time, of endless roasty/toasty/raisiny/nuttiness. But I forged on, curious to investigate my theory that granola is in the midst of a renaissance, evolving from insipid health food cliché into something more resembling luxury food.
My attention was first captured by obscure Ola! Granola. I’d ordinarily hesitate to pay $6 for 9 ounces of roasted grain, but upon cracking open the package I found myself powerless to stop munching. I scarfed nearly the whole bag, dry, in a violent spate of rapid-fire ingestion, leaving a light wake of oaty dregs on the floor under my frantically shoveling hand. Not that it was so sublimely delicious. It was, to be sure, damned good granola, but it was more addictive than aesthetically perfect. I’d never before encountered an addictive granola.
OLA!: “VANILLA ALMOND”
(Whole grain oats, almonds, whole wheat flour, wheat bran, pure maple syrup, canola oil, pure vanilla extract, cinnamon, sea salt)
~Good quality cinnamon in perfect proportion. The sweetness is equally calibrated, as is the almost subliminally salty undercurrent. Nothing fancy, but highly enjoyable.
OLA!: “CRANBERRY ORANGE PECAN”
(Whole grain oats, pecans, sweetened dried cranberries (cranberries, sugar) pure maple syrup, whole wheat flour, wheat bran, orange juice, canola oil, pure vanilla extract, cinnamon, sea salt)
~Not as perfectly balanced as the Vanilla Almond; this one’s flavor is a bit mamby-pamby, and the texture was a tad too chewy/sticky for some. Still, two tasters voted it among their top three.