If you’re a hiker, there’s a pretty good chance you’ve packed a CLIF bar or two in your backpack on more than a few trips. I used to take one with me when I first started hiking – and I also enjoyed getting a chance to try out all the different flavors. Everyone’s got their favorites – and usually one or two they just can’t stand (I’ll always pass on the Carrot Cake, thanks). So when CLIF emailed me to ask if I’d be interested in checking out this year’s batch of seasonal flavors, I leapt at the chance.
I recruited my good friend and notorious foodie Bernardo DiGirolamo to help with the tastings, and we split some bars over a few days during some downtime at work.
First up was the Spiced Pumpkin Pie, which CLIF describes as “the goodness of pumpkin pie, wrapped up and ready for your pack.” As Bernardo and I are both native New Englanders, we are suckers for ANYTHING autumnal – and especially pumpkin stuff. We both celebrated the season’s first pumpkin coffees and I’ve got about five gallons of spiced pumpkin ale brewing in my apartment right this second, so we were both pretty excited to try this one.
We both thought the scent of this bar was pretty fantastic – lots of cinnamon and nutmeg here. Unfortunately, the pumpkin flavor is very subtle and takes a long time to come forward. Bernardo said he was glad this flavor was available, but he wouldn’t make it his first choice – and I’d agree. I will say, though, that unlike some of the other CLIF bars I’ve had, I didn’t get a sticky feeling in my mouth after this one – it was light and clean … but generally, I go for something with a bit more flavor. When you’re trudging up a peak and don’t really have an appetite, you have to REALLY WANT to eat whatever’s hiding out in your pack.
Next up was the Peppermint Stick flavor. Now, when I first announced that I was going to be trying all these flavors on Facebook, a lot of people warned me the Peppermint Stick was going to be disappointing – but I have to say, both Bernardo and I were pleasantly surprised by this one.
The mint flavor is pretty strong but not overpowering. There are actually tiny bits of soft peppermint candy inside the bar itself, which lend the Peppermint Stick CLIF bar a bit of extra chewiness and moistness that I don’t really remember getting from many other flavors. Bernardo and I were both really surprised at how much we liked this flavor. I haven’t seen it around Southern California much, but we both agreed we would definitely pick this one up again if we saw it on store shelves.
And finally, we also dug into the Spiced Gingerbread flavor. I have had this one before and already knew how much I loved it – but Bernardo had not. Even though I talked it up quite a bit, we both agreed that this one was our favorite of the three.
This bar is very hearty and chewy – and unlike a lot of CLIF bars, crunchy. There are some sizable chunks of pecans along with raisins, the expected cinnamon, nutmeg and clove, and some bits of sweet, spicy crystallized ginger, too. The icing melts into the bar when you bite into it and lends a subtle sweetness to everything that works really well. This is just as fragrant as the Spiced Pumpkin Pie bar, but here the flavor really comes through. Definitely our favorite by far.
The Seasonal Flavors of CLIF bars are available in stores through the end of winter. A portion of proceeds from the seasonal flavors goes to the Protect Our Winters foundation.
He has also been featured on Good Morning America, NPR, and the Associated Press, as well as in documentaries for Columbia Sportswear and the OTIS College of Art and Design.
Casey was one of eight people chosen by the National Parks Foundation to participate in the 2015 Find Your Park Expedition. His first book "Day Hiking Los Angeles," will be published by Mountaineers Books in 2016.
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This post was written by Casey Schreiner on November 7, 2012