Monday, January 24, 2011

Nutella VS Peanut Butter - an old post revived

Did you know that today is National Peanut Butter Day? It's true. And since Peanut Butter is a staple of the cyclist diet, I thought it would be worth reviving a three year old post comparing two spreads that provide so many calories to hungry cyclists: Nutella VS Peanut Butter. The showdown.

Original post here.

Nutella VS Peanut Butter
The Ultimate Face-off.

Peanut butter has long been a staple of the American diet. The peanut butter and jelly sandwich is the quintessential American meal. Athletes too have discovered the values of peanut butter as a delicious, healthy, energy laden food which can be eaten on or with a multitude of other items. What peanut butter is to America, Nutella has long been to Europe. Consisting essentially of milk chocolate and hazelnuts, it can be found on breakfast tables all over the continent, it comes in little packets to be spread with bread at hotel buffets, and has been used as a mid and post-ride recovery food for years. It is only relatively recently that Nutella has been commonly available in the US, and that peanut butter has been available in European stores. Globalization has finally put both products in our cupboards at once. And thus we are torn: which is better? Which is the PRO food to eat, which is the SMART food? Does it matter? Will I be judged by my choices? It is time to duke it out and settle it for good, which one reigns over the stomach of the common cyclist? There is only one fair way to settle it. We will compare the two products across a range of criteria, and score them both on a scale of 1-5. Highest total score wins. It's a straight up Face-Off.

The Contestants

There are many brands of peanut butter available, so we have chosen the most worthwhile competitor for the Nutella: Adam's 100% Natural Peanut Butter. Now, Adam's initially requires mixing, which other brands don't but I believe this will not grossly harm the product's chances.
Nutella Website

1. Presentation
As the saying goes, we eat with our eyes before we eat with our stomachs. Yes, presentation is key. While the perfectly smooth virgin look of any freshly opened jar is a delight to behold, we have to go with Nutella on this one for the totally PRO white top and matching label. The perfectly sized jars also imply rational serving sizing, as opposed to the commonly available massive tubs of peanut butter which are just so white trash. The Euro takes the first round.

Peanut Butter 3
Nutella 5

2. Nutrients
Here we have some interesting numbers. Both listed serving sizes are 2 tablespoons. Nutella registers 190 calories per serving, 100 calories from fat. Peanut butter reads 210, with 150 from fat. However, 21g in the Nutella serving are sugar, versus just 1g for the Peanut Butter, and although sodium is much higher in the PB (120mg versus 15mg), protein is also higher (8g vs 3g) and thus the calories from Peanut Butter are probably of slightly higher value than those in Nutella. Neither, however, is particularly full of carbohydrate, and both are primarily fatty foods, and high calorie. Fool yourself not.

Peanut Butter 3
Nutella 2

3. Spreadability
This one is close. On room temperature breads, both spread about evenly, with maybe a slight edge going to Nutella. On toasted items, however, the Nutella becomes slightly more fluid and glides across your piece with the ease and suppleness one expects from an Italian product. Peanut butter lags just a little behind, but is by no means a difficult spread. Still, the Nutella is just so smooth...

Peanut Butter 4
Nutella 5

4. Bananas
Ah, Bananas. The cyclist's favorite food. Full of fibers and cramp-defying potassium, it is a common post-ride snack, often spread on the spot with either Peanut Butter or Nutella. Here, Nutella's spreadability becomes a liability. Peanut butter has a little more heft to it which allows it to stick to a slippery banana. There are not usually unsightly drips, but rather clean scoops balanced perfectly. Peanut butter has an edge, on technical merit alone.

Peanut Butter 5
Nutella 4

5. Bread
This is a difficult one. Bread's neutral background is a perfect complement and vehicle for a large expanse of flavors and savors. Both Peanut Butter and Nutella do well with this one. It is hard to think of a bread style that does not work for either - and any bread which works with the one works equally well with the other. I will have to call this one a tie.

Peanut Butter 5
Nutella 5

6. Bacon
Yes, bacon. There are few things more decadent than a piece of toast, spread with Peanut Butter, and layered with a strip or two of bacon. The combination of salts and fats, especially while still piping hot, is incredible. Try it. The chocolaty Nutella comes in far behind on th this one - Chocolate and Bacon just don't mix.

Peanut Butter 5

Nutella 1

7. Honey
Peanut Butter - Banana - Honey Sandwich, Nutella - Banana - Honey Sandwich, or just Peanut Butter & Honey on Toast, Nutella and Honey on Toast. Wonderful, warm, sticky, messy, sweet goodness. Both the Peanut Butter and Nutella score highly in combinations with Honey. However, the sweetness of Nutella is just a too much sweet when laid on top of sweet honey, here, Peanut Butter edges Nutella slightly for it's more subtle sweetness and nice balance of saltiness for the sweet & salty combo that is warm breakfast perfection.

Peanut Butter 5
Nutella 4

8. Cookies
Peanut Butter takes this one. I have yet to find a pleasing purely Nutella flavored cookie recipe. If one is available, however, do send it this way. Nutella can be mixed well to create a moist chocolate cookie, but it looses the creaminess and the hazlenut flavors in the process, and. Mind you, they are still delicious. Peanut Butter is a very common cookie ingredient, but a tricky one to work with due to the interesting ways in which it changes the consistency of dough, and a chewy Peanut Butter cookie that retains the full Peanut Butter flavors is a challenge. Of course, the Nutella fans will tell you that cookies are for the fat Americanos, and that Nutella makes wonderful Biscotti. Bull.

Peanut Butter 4
Nutella 2

9. Tortillas
Both items spread well. Neither resists the wrapping process nor spreads excessively once wrapped, and they do not create a mess inside a pocket. Like bread, both flavors are well born by the blandness of the tortilla. Bananas, honey, or other items can easily be added to the tortilla to create a more complex culinary experience. This is a tie. Tip: Avoid the tomato flavored tortillas.

Peanut Butter 4
Nutella 4

10. Straight from the Jar
This is the ultimate test. Armed with a spoon and a jar, and possibly some espresso, which one would you prefer to assault? I think the winner is clear. Peanut butter's heavier texture makes it much more difficult to process in direct form. It sticks to the mouth and the usual saltiness requires more liquids to compensate. Nutella, on the other hand, is a touch smoother to ingest and chocolate's undeniable love affair with coffee is hard to ignore.

Peanut Butter 2
Nutella 5


Peanut Butter: 40
Nutella: 37

And by a whisker, Peanut Butter takes it. Yes, versatility, perseverance, and the need for no special treatment, allows the old PB to nip the proud old Euro PRO at the line. There is just no denying a winner across a wide range of challenges, versus a specialist, no matter the hype.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

The Tweed Ride: Civil War reinactment for cyclists.

The Tweed Ride


Fashion riders. But with a dash of irony added to the narcissism. Like hipsters for hipsters.

I saw a dude on Skyline the other day with a wool jersey, no rain coat (it was pouring out), and a courier rack.

He looked cold.

Should have had some Tweed.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Portland bike lanes - meet the bike lane guy.

Everyone is familiar with the bike lane guy. You know, the white street painted stick figure hovering over two circles that insinuate that he's riding a bicycle. The bike lane guy lives in the bike lane, letting us all know that this traffic lane is for cyclists.

Most cyclists who live in or commute through a city see, oh, dozens of copies of the bike lane guy every day. This is him:

When we see the same thing over and over - a stick guy on a bike in the lane ahead - our brains start to bybass the actual observation of the image and start to just assume what the image is, what it represents, and assign a value to it - i.e. "bike lane guy, therefore this is a bike lane". So we miss the subtleties that we otherwise would pick up on while looking at side by side images of different bike lane guys.

Here, the bike lane guys is obviously in more of a hurry than the one above as he leans forward slightly:

And here we find bike lane guy sprinting to make an intersection before a red light, or something like that: and judging by the splat on his head it probably isn't going very well.

Now, bike lane guy can get positioned several different ways. I'm pretty sure I've seen bike lane guy in a bike lane recumbent position, and anything in between forward to the racing mode above.

But now I have to ask, how many people noticed when bike lane guy put on a helmet?

Or when bike lane guy, who usually rides left to right across your path, decided to turn himself around and head into the car traffic on your left?

Now that's kind of strange. But since bike lane guy is, afterall, the product of a stencil, it's pretty easy to flip him around and spray him onto the road the other way.

Then bike lane guy changes helmets. Did you notice when his brain bucket got a little more rounded?

Or what about when bike lane guy, who obviously is concerned about the clumsiness of a full sized bike in a city full of alternative transit options and office buildings with limited covered bike parking, got himself a little 20" wheeled Bike Friday?

Then there's the poor bike lane guy who came in the three-piece stencil variety, and got laid on the ground with a little too much paint and suffered a few bumps and bruises:

Although most of his brethren came out OK.

Sometimes bike lane guy is subtle. For example, this bike lane guy traded his old bulky helmet for a svelte new one, with some serious ventilation:

And every once in a while, bike lane guy likes to give us a smile and let us know that bike commuting is not only good for the environment and your health but also fun:

Of course, bike lane guys would be lonely without bike lane gals:

Who might think that they are princesses of the road:

And sometimes bike lane guy decided to do some decidedly silly (and dangerous) things, such as roast marshmallows / play drums while riding:

In downtown Portland, serious businessmen also commute by bike and the bike lane guy respects that:

Although you have to wonder what a Texas Longhorns fan is doing in Duck Country:

Or if Pinnochio really rides a bike:

Or if playing a trumpet while riding is a good idea at all (one nice feature to bikes is how silent they are - this defeats the purpose):

So there you go. Bike lane guy is everywhere, right under your nose, changing outfits, changing stripes, changing colors, toying with your eyes. Remember to give him a nod next time you ride over his head.