CAPSULE REPORT: A gaggle of journalists and nutritionists raved about David Burke Flavor Sprays when they debuted last year. We tried six of them and thought they were more hype than hot. Still, they are fun, and readers write to ask our opinion of them. So rather than stay mum on the topic, we share our thoughts of the good and the tepid.
We love David Burke: he’s a great chef and a creative thinker who is always coming up with something truly innovative in food—not just restaurant dishes, but new forms of food. We first reported on his gourmet pops—smoked salmon, goat cheese, foie gras and cheesecake on a stick, a great contribution to entertaining. We love his mail order panna cotta. Some of his other efforts, like FlavorMagic spice-impregnated wraps for meat that supply all the seasonings so you don’t have to (in a clear, non-edible sheet, like a very thick plastic wrap), are really more trouble than they’re worth. It’s high concept, but who truly lacks the skill to season a piece of meat or fish? It was more difficult to cover the meat properly with the seasoned wrapper.
Burke is executive chef and co-owner of top New York City restaurant davidburke & donatella, which we visit frequently, intaking zillions of calories. So when we heard that he was “giving back” with a line of zero-calorie Flavor Sprays to enable people to put more flavor into steamed vegetables, boiled eggs, or whatever acts of contrition one pays in between visits to the restaurant, we were charmed by both concept and end-result. It’s nice that someone who has contributed so much to creating absolutely knock-out, self-indulgent food can turn his attention to the opposite end of the scale (so to speak) with calorie-free, fat free, carb-free Flavor Sprays.
In mini (a tad higher than 4 inches) pump bottles, there are 35 flavors, sweet and savory, both naturally-flavored and a combination of natural and artificial. Anybody on any diet or food plan can use the sprays.
Flavor Spray was voted by Time magazine as one of the most amazing products of 2005. So is it bigger than diet soda, or is the emperor’s new clothes?
While the sprays will certainly be of interest to perpetual dieters, the word amazing is a bit hyped in our opinion. But it all depends on what side of the emperor’s tailor shop you’re sitting on. We find them more fun than food solution—but fun is good, and one can never have too many gift ideas for dieting friends. Chronic dieters—we are one—will try anything looking for the panacea. Here’s our analysis.
What They Are
How They Taste
Much as we wanted to find a great new diet aid, we found that the flavor sprays don’t really add a lot of flavor. We had to spray them on totally bland foods—plain yogurt, farmer’s cheese (a more bland version of cottage cheese) and plain rice crackers—in order to get any taste at all. Even when we tried them on sugar-free vanilla ice cream, the vanilla in the ice cream totally covered up the flavor of the Fudge and Cookies & Cream Flavor Sprays. Similarly, we found that the recommended pairing of Chocolate Fudge Flavor Spray on strawberries or pineapple had very little impact—and why would anyone want to tamper with delicious fruit that way—we wouldn’t even put real chocolate syrup on it.
In fact, a lot of the recommended pairings seem like sprays in search of an idea, rather than assists to foods that need doctoring up. Take a look at these recommended ideas:
What’s wrong with eating perfectly good peanuts plain—we do it by the bowlful? Toss them with real cayenne or chili if you want spice, or buy them that way. Similarly, why spray a cracker when a fresh basil leaf and a sliver of tomato—passable on just about any diet—would make so much more delicious a snack (and, by the way, the Tomato Basil Flavor Spray was the least palatable flavor we tried).
Here again, why would anyone need to do this? With fresh (or even dried) basil so healthy, delicious and available, and a sauce of fresh chopped tomato ditto, if you can eat the carbs in the pasta, you can have a delicious real sauce on top of it. (Check out Vino de Milo, for 45 calories a serving—it’s our favorite sauce.)
Why would someone put this partially artificially-flavored spray on a perfectly good steak, when fresh cracked pepper and hot sauce would do so much better a job for virtually the same zero calories and fat?
Honestly, there are calorie-free salad dressings like Walden Farms that taste so much better here.
In terms of the suggestion of mainlining the sweet flavors, by spraying them right into one’s mouth (e.g. Banana Split Spray, Chocolate Fudge Spray, Marshmallow Spray, Cheesecake Spray): it’s a creative thought, but the taste isn’t great as a direct hit. For a spectacular sweet taste experience, we’d rather have a 20 calorie Jeff’s Diet Egg Cream, or calorie-free diet sodas from Boylan’s or Steaz Green Tea Sodas, or one of the fruity and elegant unsweetened iced teas from Republic of Tea.
In terms of potential:
At The End Of The Day
Flavor Sprays launched to great momentum. With everyone in search for the great diet aid, Flavor Sprays generated a big initial trial. We, too, have dieted all of our lives, and wanted to find the magic. We didn’t: just give us a delicious plate of steamed fresh vegetables with a squeeze of fresh lemon juice and fresh-cracked pepper. It’s all the flavor we could ask for—no sprays required.
We did, however, find the fun and the adventure; and others will too, although probably not enough to generate lots o repeat purchase. Yet others will enjoy the flavor and become permanent customers: when your daily breakfast consists of a boiled egg, that bacon spray may start to look good.
But, even Burke says, “The sprays do not compete with a gourmet chef or a balanced diet. Rather, they help in adding flavor to food without adding the fat and calories. They complement well-prepared food and a healthy diet plan.”
So, for $5.95 a bottle, buy a couple and try them. Perhaps check out the recipes on the website.
Shipping additional. Prices are verified at publication but are subject to change.
Purchase online at FlavorSprayDiet.com
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