Thursday, May 27, 2010

Product Review: Blue Diamond Nut-Thins

Blue Diamond Growers, the makers of Nut-Thins, is a heavy hitter in the gluten-free world these days.  However, most people might be surprised to find out that the company's roots - and main focus to this day - is almonds.  The company is 100 years old this year, and its cooperative of nearly 3,000 California almond growers makes it the largest tree nut processing and marketing company in the world.

The company's Nut-Thins were one of the first GF products I tried after I went gluten-free, and in the years since, I've returned to them from time to time.  Strictly speaking, I place Nut-Thins into the rice cracker family of foods.  For my money, Nut-Thins are some of the better tasting and better textured rice crackers to be found.  Part of what sets them apart is the prominent use of nuts in the ingredients.

On the average, they're quite good.  For my taste buds, they tend to come across slightly salty, but when I check the actual sodium levels on the nutrition panel, they're not especially high in salt.  Bonus.  To date I've sampled four of the six available flavors: almond, pecan, hazelnut, and cheddar cheese.  The almond, pecan and hazelnut flavors are all very nice, but for me, they're largely interchangeable.  The flavor of the particular nut isn't so pronounced that there are striking differences between the three.  I'll eat any of them, any time.  I'm not as much a fan of the cheddar cheese flavor.  Rather than integrate the cheddar cheese into the cracker itself, it seems as if the cracker has merely been dusted with cheddar cheese powder.  It comes across a bit out of balance, and I think the cheese could be better integrated into the cracker.

Blue Diamond is a strong supporter of both the Celiac Disease Foundation and the National Foundation for Celiac Awareness.  Plus, although the Blue Diamond facility also processes wheat, BD tests every batch of Nut-Thins to make sure that gluten levels are below the 20ppm threshold.  (On top of that, their website indicates they're GFCO certified as well.)

Recently, an entire case of Nut-Thins showed up on our doorstep.  (That's 12 whole boxes of the stuff!)  The funny thing was, I received no advance notice, the box contained no cover letter, and I received no follow up communication.  It was as if the Nut-Thin fairy made a special delivery, courtesy of UPS, direct from the BD headquarters office in Sacramento.

Looking for a way to use some of those Nut-Thins in an unconventional way for the sake of this review, I decided to take an entire box of the almond flavor and make it into bread crumbs.  I pulsed it in the food processor until I got a fine crumb, then added ground black pepper, garlic powder, dried basil, and dried oregano, and pulsed just a little more to mix.  Then I used the Italian-seasoned Nut-Thin breadcrumbs to make meatballs.  They were delicious.  (I've since used three other boxes in other ways, including an updated taste test.)

As you know, we have a policy of not accepting more product samples than we use for a review, and so that leaves us with a surplus of 8 boxes of Nut-Thins that we're passing along to you in the form of a giveaway!  (6 are almond, 2 are pecan.)  We'll run the giveaway through Friday of next week (that's June 4, for all you calendar junkies...).  To enter, simply send an email to pete@peterbronski.com and include Nut-Thins Giveaway in the subject line.  We'll randomly select 8 winners and send you a box!

- Pete

5 comments:

theMom said...

Have you tried rice works?
http://www.riceworkssnacks.com/new_index_USA.html
They call themselves chips, but they are closer to a cracker in texture than most rice crackers. Not glossy and hard, but kind of grainy with a more subtle crunch. They kind of remind me of wheat thins. They come in several varieties. I kind of like the salsa flavor.

Also, you could try with some of your nut thins, to make those soda cracker cookies. The ones with sugar syrup and chocolate on them. Are you familiar with them? I've always wanted to try making them GF, but I generally don't have any excess crackers around here to risk wasting.

And one more thing...just a little thought...this give-away thing...You're going to go broke shipping those silly boxes. It's very generous of you, but really, they probably cost twice as much to ship as they do to purchase. And eight boxes. Wow!

peterbronski said...

Hi theMom... Thanks for the Rice Works recommendation! I'll have to give those a try. No worries about the giveaway. We're happy to do them in the first place. Plus, our sole advertiser - FoodBuzz - offsets the cost. And on top of that, it keeps us consistent and legit with our ethics and review policy. Most importantly, we're happy to share and glad that NGNP can experience these products!

Cheers, Pete

Stephanie said...

I haven't tried nut-thins for awhile. I didn't love them when I first went GF, but I think I was expecting more of a ritz-ish cracker. I've been working a lot with nuts in the kitchen lately (baking, almond milk, etc), and have debated picking up another box.
I love the idea of bread crumbs! I use chex cereal in my meatballs. Yum!

gfe--gluten free easily said...

I'm a fan of Blue Diamond products. I do use their Nut Thins fairly often. They are much more available than other gluten-free crackers around here. Plus, I love that they are certified by GFCO, which means less than 10 ppm vs the currently proposed standard of 20 ppm. (I do fine with GFCO products but get ill if I eat many of the other products at the 20 ppm level.) My favorite flavors are almond, Smokehouse almond, and pecan. I see on their site that they even have barbecue flavor now. Not sure about that. I rather like traditional flavors. They work well with my crab ball for parties. :-)

I, and my support group, would have been tickled pink if all those Blue Diamond crackers had showed up. ;-)

Thanks for the giveaway!

Shirley

peterbronski said...

Hi Stephanie... Good thinking with the Chex cereal in your meatballs! We apparently think along the same lines...

Hey Shirley... Yeah, I haven't tried the BBQ flavor, but I'm not so sure about that one either. BBQ flavor on a potato chip, maybe. But on a rice cracker? Hmm...

Cheers, Pete