For some time now I have been making special trips to a Doc's, a Westport coffee house, just to purchase their hand made BlueBelle Granola Bars. I would look for any excuse to drive down their street in the hopes of finding my favorite flavor. Always on the hunt for talented small local producers, I recently tracked down the owner of BlueBelle Premium Granola Bars, Westport's Jerri Graham, to learn more about her take on this popular snack.
Jerri's mission is to create healthy bars that are delicious, satisfying and enhance over all well being. She takes simple, nutritionally dense ingredients and combines them such that each one is identifiable and discernible. She is a creative soul with great business integrity, who understands the importance of a product to both enhance one's health and thrill the palate.
There are currently 4 variations on the bar, all using the same base of organic oats and oat flour. The choices are Lemon Ginger, Fruit and Nut, Cherry Cranberry Almond and Chocolate Coconut, and they're all good. In addition to the base used for all of the bars, the 'flavors" give you almost the entire list of other ingredients in each bar. Of course, there is a safflower or canola oil, some butter and cane sugar, in addition to spices in some bars. Purity and transparency are paramount to Jerri's mission and it is obvious when you taste these nutritionally dense treats.
My tasters unanimously loved the Cherry Cranberry Almond bar. They all rated it with a 4 or 5 (out of 5) and everybody wanted a second or third bite. As with all of her bars, each ingredients is like a bullet of flavor. The clear, resealable package is the first indicator that all is visible and accessible. Look at these bars and you can see the pumpkin and hemp seeds, the chopped cherries, cranberries and almonds and imagine the flavors of honey and maple syrup in combination with some gentle spices jazzing it up a bit. The ziploc envelope holds the 3.5 ounce bar which is intended to provide 2 snacks (seal it and save it in your bag/desk/car) or a meal.
The Lemon Ginger had a freshly grated ginger spark that I loved. The counterpoint of lemon was just right. Texture was the thing with the Fruit and Nut bar as the flavors were less distinctive but still chewy and pleasing. My hubby's favorite is the Chocolate Coconut which has a not too sweet but powerful semi-sweet chocolate pronounced against the pleasing chewiness and sweetness of subtle coconut. BlueBelle Premium Bars are also available in larger ziploc bags. The Chocolate Coconut has a home in our kitchen as we nibble bites after dinner or for breakfast. Why not? With a base of organic oats, seeds and fruit it is a guilt-free and nutritious snack any time.
Jerri surprised me with a new flavor when we met the other day. Over the weekend, she experimented and hit the jackpot with a Chocolate Peanut Butter Banana bar. She used the same base for this one but added crushed peanuts, peanut butter, dried bananas and sesame seeds to create the perfectly chewy, fruity, chocolaty, slightly sweet and salty combination. The blending of flavors was so delectable that i couldn't help but ask for more. Jerri anxiously waited for my response. After the initial wide eyed HMMMMM, all I could say was that if i had read the label first, i would have thought the combination would be too familiar. But she has created another hit by enhancing the expected flavors with subtle, unique techniques and ingredients (dried bananas for depth of flavor and chewiness without being sticky). Her ingredients are either hand chopped or gently chopped in the food processor. They are never pureed or macerated, which is what lends that satisfying chew to each bite.
Also in the works are other new flavors including Tropical Fruit which will include mango, strawberries, and possibly Brazil nuts for the added value of natural fat and selenium. Jerri also spoke about working on the creation of a bar without nuts (just seeds) for those with tree nut allergies. I love the idea for her Brain Bar, inspired by her desire to keep our brains healthy with regular doses of blueberries, hemp and flax seeds to increase and maintain brain power. One of her long range goals is to be able to donate a portion of her proceeds to the Alzheimer's Association to contribute to research. Finding a cure to beat the disease that so cruelly took her father and grandfather is part of her mission, one bar at a time.
Jerri's pig-tailed and wide eyed, 9 year old daughter, Catherine, played games patiently on Jerri's phone while we tasted and spoke. Catherine is often privy to the business talk, the tastings and even the preparation process as Jerri periodically brings her along when she begins her baking in the kitchen of CakeSuite in Westport, sometimes as early as 6 AM. She is teaching Catherine (and the rest of us) about creativity,experimentation, purity and hard work. BRAVA!
Her tag line " let the good begin from within" prompts the consumer to both eat well and to spread goodness by taking responsibility for one's actions and attitudes. Wise ideas!
Find BlueBelle Premium Bars at Doc's Cafe, Abbondanza and Argoya in Westport, Intensity Fitness in Norwalk, The Pantry in Fairfield or by clicking on www.bbbars.com.