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NY eats: Peanut Butter & Co

January 3, 2009

How many times have I longingly gazed at the PB & Co jars on the shelves of Whole Foods, never buying any because I didn’t know which flavor to choose?
I decided to wait to buy the peanut butter until after I had visited their cafe in the Village. It also just happened to be the perfect place to meet my friend Sam from my Paris program. We used to spend hours talking about chocolate and peanut butter alone… she’s a chocolate and Nutella fiend.
I’ll admit that while the concept behind the cafe is cute, the food is ridiculously overpriced? If they charge 7 dollars for a sandwich, it better be good, right? The theme of the cafe is pure nostalgia, only slightly more glamorous: enjoy a gourmet peanut butter (or not) sandwich on wheat or white, with the crust cut off, if you like, carrot sticks, potato chips, and if you want milk, they have skim, whole, Lactaid, or soy, with your choice of syrup.
I was tempted by all the sandwiches, but they either seemed too dessert-like (I know, lame reason), or I felt like I could make them at home. I decided on the peanut butter sampler, which includes all their peanut butters with carrots, celery, apple slices, and crackers.

I also ordered a chocolate egg cream, simply because I had never tried one before. If you don’t know, an authentic egg cream should be chocolate syrup on the bottom, followed by milk, and finally seltzer– it’s the “poor man’s milk shake.” The verdict? I personally loved it… It was so refreshing and a good way to satisfy a milkshake craving without drinking an entire liquified pint of ice cream.

As for my sampler plate, I was astounded at how much peanut butter I got– basically those little plastic containers normally used for ketchup.
And how fresh was the peanut butter? The jars were still warm, and the peanuts had evidently just been ground.
BUT… I would have preferred some cut up pieces of bread or something, since the “Melba toast” was pretty unsatisfying. I didn’t end up eating that much, because how much peanut butter can you really eat? I ended up taking all the peanut butters home, and now I can say I’ve tried all the flavors. I’ll review them briefly here–

Smooth Operator and Crunch Time were great quality peanut butters. Just the right texture– slightly liquid and also perfectly salty.
Dark Chocolate Dreams– the chocolate overpowered the peanut butter, but this was ridiculously indulgent, like Reeses. I preferred it to Nutella, which has an unnaturally slick and shiny texture.
White Chocolate Wonderful– I couldn’t really taste the white chocolate, which doesn’t have much flavor anyway. It was more like sweetened peanut butter. I wonder if there would be a way to bring out the white chocolate taste more.
The Heat is On– this was definitely one of the best! Savory peanut butter is wonderful. They weren’t shy with the spices, either. This was actually hot, and would be great as a dressing for Asian noodles.
Cinnamon Raisin Swirl– As I love cinnamon in all forms, this was one of my favorites. Studded with raisins, this is definitely fun to eat on its own.
The Bee’s Knees– convenient to eat with banana peanut butter sandwiches because you don’t have to add additional honey, but like the white chocolate, the honey added more sweetness than taste. That’s the problem with peanuts… their taste is so overpowering.
Mighty Maple– I don’t know if it was just the sample I got, but it was pretty gritty, as though it had maple sugar instead of syrup in it. The flavor was subtle, but also more obvious than the honey. I can see why Erica likes it so much.

Sam, chocolate lover, ordered the Peanut Butter Cup sandwich, which had peanut butter and Nutella (I wonder why they didn’t just use Dark Chocolate Dreams). I pointed out that she could have just made it at home, but she told me that the quality was definitely superior to homemade, which is a relief to hear.

They were a little stingy on the carrot sticks, if you ask me.

On the other hand, I loved the decor of the place! Very old school, with a corner of their products (cookbook, lunchboxes, t-shirts, in addition to peanut butter). I would consider coming back and ordering a milkshake or something instead. I consider it more as a source of ideas for sandwich combinations– the weekly special was Pina Colada: peanut butter, cream cheese, pineapple jam, and coconut.

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