Friday, February 1, 2013

Columbia Gorge Organic - CoGo Bars

Many years ago, no one labeled their products as vegan. You had to read through a bunch of unfamiliar terms, use your trusty vegan ingredients guide to decipher each one, then at the end, determine if you thought it was vegan or not. Thank goodness those days are behind us. And today the natural products industry is going strong. One of the early adopters of organic labeling is Columbia Gorge Organic, the creators of the CoGo bars, which are certified organic and labeled gluten-free, vegan, soy-free, and free of refined sugars. This is exactly the kind of food my body deserves, that is, real food not the food-like products I see all over the shelves these days.

At the heart of it, Columbia Gorge is a family farm in the Hood River area of Oregon. In 1989, the Stewart family began farming on 180 acres and became the first organic farmers in the area. They use their produce mainly to produce juices and smoothies, but also make gluten-free bars.

What's funny is that I picked up one of these bars on my travels a couple years ago and really didn't fancy it. I found it to be dry and I had never been a big fan of the gluten-free oats anyway. So when they recently contacted me to see  if I would review all of their bars, I told them (as I do everyone else) that I couldn't guarantee a positive review as I'd had the bars before and didn't think they were that great. They told me they were willing to take the chance as they had just reformulated them. Hmmm...well, sure, why not?!

Boy, was I pleasantly surprised. Although I still found them a tad bit dry, they were much moister and more flavorful than the first time I tried them. And I really liked them.

The Double Chocolate was so incredibly chocolately. The gluten-free oats gave the soft, chewy bar a little crunch. This bar would make a great in-between meals snack.

I loved the Almond Banana, which I found to have a nice almond flavor without too much banana. The grain mix was really fitting in this bar as it went well with the flavors.

I also loved the Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip! Inside you could taste the little, itsy bitsy chocolate chips. I found this bar to be moister than the others due to the naturally occurring oil from the peanuts.

I really liked the Superberry too, which was more of a berries and grain mix. It had a nice crunch to it.

Lastly, I tried the Hemp Apricot bar, which was the one I had had before. Much better!

And the ingredients they use are 100% natural. Take, for example, the double chocolate bar. Using their own farm-fresh pears, each of these bars is made with the CoGoMix, which is made of their pears, brown rice flour, quinoa, amaranth, and millet, then for the chocolate bar, they add brown rice syrup, dates, chocolate chips, brown rice flour, crisp brown rice, agave syrup, raisins, chocolate liquor, cocoa powder, tapioca starch, vanilla extract, sea salt, and baking soda. I'm not sure what the baking soda is for other than an anti-caking agent, but everything else is about as natural as it gets.

These are bars that I'd happily buy for trips or in-between meal snacks. Most of all, I love supporting conscious companies. When I saw the following statement on the website, I just got an all over good feeling about them:  "So, is an organically grown apple better for you than a conventional? We’ll let the scientists argue about that. And even though the FDA says a little pesticide on the produce is ok, we’d just as soon not eat any amount – nor anything else that isn’t part of Mother Earth’s plan. Because to us eating should be based on a simple equation: Food = Nature."  Well said. To find out if they are sold near you, click here.

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