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NEW COOKIES

It's always a nice surprise to see what new filling Nabisco has come up with for its Oreo cookies. We've seen mint, birthday cake and cookie dough - in case the cookie itself wasn't enough. Some are big hits, but we've tasted plenty of Oreo misses as well. This week, our judges sampled four brands of cookies new to grocery store shelves. Just like the Oreos, some were winners and a couple were disappointing.

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Product Nabisco Chips Ahoy: Ice Cream Creations Mint Chocolate Chip Pepperidge Farm: Chocolate Brownies Newton's Fruit Thins: Banana Drizzled with Dark Fudge Enjoy Life: Soft Baked Double Chocolate Brownies
Judges' comments These chocolate chip cookies really did taste like mint chocolate chip ice cream. "I would love to use these as the ends of an ice cream sandwich, with vanilla ice cream," said one judge. "What a nice treat." Another picked these cookies for their nice size and large amount of chocolate chips. "I love the flavor and the cookies are light and chewy," said another. One taster said he usually doesn't like "brand extensions" like Nabisco's latest effort. "But," he said, "the mint in these doesn't come on too strong and, in fact, after a couple of these, it fades. They really do taste like ice cream." Although judges enjoyed the latest offering from Pepperidge Farm, they were a bit disappointed, saying the cookiemaker didn't live up to its reputation for producing extra-special treats. "They have nice-size chocolate chunks and they are very soft, but I expected more from Pepperidge Farm," said one judge. "Pepperidge Farm cookies rarely disappoint, what with their collision of flavors," said one taster. "However, these are pedestrian concoctions overloaded with bland chocolatey-ness." Newton's newest creations look like crackers but taste like cookies. Panelists liked what banana flavor they could find, but complained the cookies needed more fruit. "I defy anyone with even one taste bud to find even a hint of banana in these," said one judge. "The packaging is nice, though. Maybe that's where the banana is hidden." One said the cookies were saved by the fudge striping on top. Judges were unable to enjoy these cookies, questioning whether they were undercooked. "They are a puffy glob of chewy brown stuff that sticks in difficult-to-reach crevices of your mouth," said one. "If this is 'improved taste' like the package says, I can't imagine what unimproved taste would be like," he added. Another judge appreciated the healthy focus of the cookies (they are free of gluten, dairy, peanut, tree nut, egg, soy, fish and shellfish) but decided the bakers left out most of the flavor to achieve lower fat and calories.
Would they buy? All four judges said yes. All four judges said yes. Two of the four judges said yes. One of the four judges said yes.
Shopping information $3.29 for a 9.5-ounce bag from Publix. $3.49 for an 8.6-ounce bag from Publix. $4.29 for an 8.7-ounce bag from Publix. $3.99 for a 6-ounce bag from Publix.

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NUTRITIONAL INFORMATION

Serving size Two cookies One cookie Three cookies Two cookies
Calories 140 140 150 120
Fat/Fiber 6g / 0g 6g / 1g 6g / 2g 4.5g / 2g
Sugars/Sodium 12g / 95mg 11g / 90mg 8g / 80mg 9g / 105mg
Carbs/Protein 20g / 1g 21g / 2g 22g / 2g 18g / 1g

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PANELISTS: Nan Jensen, registered dietitian; Wayne Conery, manager of the R-Bar on Treasure Island; Kay Hodnett, personal chef; and Jeff Jensen, public information officer for the city of Treasure Island.

SEND SUGGESTIONS FOR PRODUCT TESTING TO: Taste section, Tampa Bay Times, P.O. Box 1121, St. Petersburg, FL 33731 or email them to jkeeler@tampabay.com. Please put TEST SUGGESTION in the subject line. To read past Taster's Choice columns, go to tampabay.com/things-to-do/food/tastetest.

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