Thursday, August 14, 2008

So Delicious Cultured Coconut Milk, Blueberry

One-word verdict: Decent!

The backstory: I guess they can ferment anything these days! This dairy-free, soy-free product is made with cultured coconut milk, of all things. I'm going to call it cocogurt.

Now, I like me some coconut milk. In curries, in coconut rice, in ice cream. But I also think that coconut milk tastes even less like dairy milk than soy milk does. I sure wouldn't drink it straight. And I've been burned by interesting-sounding, nondairy, nonsoy yogurt before. So when I found myself out of homemade yogurt and this stuff on sale at Whole Foods, I bought a cup of the blueberry flavor...skeptically.

Nutrition: In a 6-ounce cup, the blueberry cocogurt has 140 calories, 20 grams sugar (the other flavors range from 12-22 grams sugar—not too bad), and 6 grams saturated fat (in fact, all the fat is saturated). That may sound high, but remember that it's coming from a plant source (the coconut), so may not be as bad for you as sat fat from animal sources (though the jury's still out on this). There's also a good amount of fiber (2 grams) but not much protein (1 gram). It's also kosher, soy-free, dairy-free, certified vegan, and gluten-free.

Well, how is it? I peeled back the plastic on top and was greeted with a deep purple color and definite blueberry-like scent. Stuck in a spoon to find that the texture was blessedly not-too-thick—in fact, it would be pretty easily pourable if one chose to do so. Hm, potential!

Took a taste and my first thought was "Hm…not bad!" It didn't have an extremely yogurty taste, the blueberry flavor wasn't extremely strong, and it doesn't taste like coconut at all; but it also didn't taste weird and, while sweet, it wasn't offensively sugary. Things fell off a little over my next few bites, as I soon realized that there were only tiny bits of berry skin mixed in, not even close to a whole berry. Then, on my third bite, I got a piece of stem. Oops! And when a took a break a few bites later, I noticed a curious aftereffect in my mouth—if I held my lips closed and breathed out my nose, it tasted in my mouth a little bit like I'd been drinking an alcoholic beverage! (You may remember that I tried this trick with the Trader Joe's Green Tea yogurt, but the aftertaste there was green tea, not, um, beer.) Hm, what happens when you culture coconut milk, anyway??

The effect faded after a few moments, and I went back to eating. In fact, I polished off the cup.

Where's it made? "Distributed by Turtle Mountain, LLC," Eugene, OR, 3,004 miles from NYC.

Ingredient notes: Fruit comes before sugar in the ingredients list—usually a good sign. Then again, I can't pretend that this product isn't loaded up with a lot of ingredients, just about as many as that other one.

The list starts innocently enough with water, coconut milk, blueberries, and evaporated cane juice. But then we've got a slew of thickeners (pectin, chicory root extract, algin [kelp extract], rice starch, locust bean gum, agar, carrageenan, AND guar gum—and it's not even that thick!), the vitamins and minerals (magnesium phosphate, tricalcium phosphate, vitamin B12), and some natural flavors and dipotassium phosphate (mineral? preservative? both?) thrown in for fun. Whew. Oh yeah, and six yogurt cultures.

Processing/Earth-/Animal-friendliness: The container is your standard #5 plastic with a thin plastic lid. The ingredients are vegan and pretty natural-sounding, but nothing appears to be organic.

Price: I got the cocogurt on sale for less than $1.00 this week, but I think that it usually sells for $1.00 a cup at my Whole Foods.

The bottom line: One of the most surprising things about the cocogurt is that it didn't taste like coconut at all—and that among the six flavors offered by So Delicious, none of them are coconut! (If you are looking for a coconut flavored 'gurt and eat dairy, Ronnybrook makes a good one.)

That, and it's long ingredients list aside, I think that this product is still leaps and bounds better than that other nondairy, nonsoy yogurt, which I have taken a lot of flack for on this blog for detesting. Anyway, if you can't eat dairy or soy, I'd say definitely give the cocogurt a whirl.


So Delicious Made With Coconut Milk Cultured Coconut Milk, Blueberry:
taste: 3.5; texture: 2.5; sugar: 1; price: 2; naturally sweetened: 1; processing/earth-/animal-friendliness: 1


Link: So Delicious Coconut Milk Yogurt.

Sunday, January 6, 2008

Top Yogurts of 2007

Faithful yogurt-lovers, I know that the posts have been a bit thin on the ground for this blog over the past few months. I'm definitely planning to make 2008 a more yogurty year, with more regular reviews of new products. So to kick things off, I thought that I would post a list of my five favorite yogurts of 2007.

I ate a lot of yogurt last year…some excellent, some not so great, but these five really were a cut above the rest. Don't put too much faith in the order, which is somewhat arbitrary—I'll really take any of these pretty much anytime, and hope you'll give them a try, too. So without further ado:

The YogBlog's Top 5 Yogurts of 2007

1) Ronnybrook Drinkable Yogurt, peach and blackberry flavors (YogBlog score: 15/20)

2) Old Chatham Sheephearding Company Sheep's Milk Yogurt, maple and ginger flavors (YogBlog scores: 14/20 and 15/20)

3) Traders Point Creamery Organic Grassfed Yogurt, wildberry and orchard trio flavors (review forthcoming!)

4) Trader Joe's Matcha Green Tea Lowfat Yogurt (YogBlog score: 14/20)

5) Fage Total 2% Greek Yogurt with honey (review forthcoming!)

I chose these top yogurts on taste alone, but you may notice that they have some other key similarities. Short list of ingredients. Much lower in added sugar than typical commercial yogurts. Contain some fat instead of a bunch of added thickeners. The top three are produced by single herds on small farms. The top two are produced within 150 miles of where I live. Coincidence that these generally earth- and health-friendly factors also produce the best-tasting products?

What were your favorite products last year? What yogurts should I check out in 2008?

Friday, August 31, 2007

Old Chatham Sheep's Milk Yogurt, Ginger - Minireview

You can find the backstory and all that in my previous post about Old Chatham Sheep's Milk Yogurt, Maple flavor. Here's the skinny (or the fat?) on the ginger flavor:

Nutrition: Per 6 ounces, 150 calories, 12 grams sugar, and 4 grams saturated fat. That's 1 gram less sat fat and 1 gram more sugar than the maple variety. Also, it’s gluten-free.

Well, how is it? Same delicious creamy, mild white yogurt, this time interspersed with many tiny chunks of ginger. The ingredients list says "crystallized" ginger, but these bits were crunchier than that word would normally lead me to expect, more like eating raw ginger.

I'm not a ginger fanatic by any stretch, but I loved this yogurt. It seemed like a perfect combination of flavors--whoever thought of putting ginger in yogurt is some kind of genius. And how many yogurts leave you feeling confident of your fresh breath after eating them?

Ingredient notes: Once again, super short and sweet: Pasteurized Sheep's Milk, crystallized ginger, and four yogurt cultures. I guess that any added sugar comes from the "crystallized" part of the ginger?

Price: $2.19 cents per 6-ounce cup. If (like me before I tried this stuff), you can't imagine how that could possibly be worth it, well...just give it a try.

The bottom line: I love the original flavor, the minimal ingredients and lack of added sugar, and the one less gram of saturated fat makes me feel slightly less unhealthy devouring it. Still, the price is a roadblock.


Old Chatham Sheephearding Company Sheep's Milk Yogurt, Ginger:
taste: 5; texture: 3; flavor novelty: 1; sugar: 2; free of thickeners/preservatives: 2; naturally sweetened: 1; processing/earth-/animal-friendliness: 1

TOTAL = 15

Link: Old Chatham Sheephearding Company.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Ricera Rice Yogurt

One-word verdict: Barf. (Trust me, it accurately describes the color and the textures of this stuff, and the taste is not far behind.)

The backstory: I noticed a new brand on the Whole Foods yogurt shelves recently--Ricera, a yogurt made from rice. Interesting! I thought. A quick look at the long ingredients list and high sugar and calorie count, however, told me that this was probably not the yogurt for me. But when it went on sale this week, I picked up a cup of the peach flavor in the name of research.

Nutrition: For a yogurt that's so low in fat, the calorie count is pretty high, thanks to a lot of carbohydrates (42 grams total carbs in a 6-ounce cup). Per 6 ounces of the peach flavor, you get 190 calories, 25 grams sugar, and 0 grams saturated fat (1 gram total fat). This also includes 3 grams fiber, which is nice, but only 3 grams protein, which is significantly less than you'll find in most dairy and soy yogurts.

The cup proudly announces that it's nondairy, and a tiny icon communicates that it's kosher, but I had to go to the company's website for confirmation that it's gluten-free (it is). That a rice-based product clearly geared toward the allergy market wouldn't make sure to put this information on the cup baffled me, but soon I realized it's the least of their problems...

Well, how is it? I needn't have worried about the calories, because I couldn't bring myself to finish it.

Upon removing the foil lid, I was accosted by a substance of a pukey brown color that smelled mildly fermented. The texture was slightly thicker than applesauce and gritty, interspersed with chunks of rice and maybe small pieces of peach (it was hard to tell).

The taste could also only be described as "fermented," with a bitter aftertaste and, at times, a hint of generic peach flavor. This, combined with the muddy color and gloppy, baby-food-like texture, made for a pretty disgusting "yogurt"-eating experience.

Where's it made? The product is "Distributed" by Ricer Foods in Middletown, California--2,907 miles from NYC.

Ingredient notes: To complement its nasty taste and uninspiring nutritional profile, Ricera has the longest ingredients list I've ever seen on a yogurt-like product. We start with "Organic Oryzalife," a patented blend of water, organic brown rice, and rice protein, followed by organic evaporated cane juice (sweetener) and organic peaches. After that starts the slew of (organic!) thickeners, flavorants, and preservatives, including tapioca starch, tapioca syrup, inulin, locust bean gum, natural flavors, agar, citric acid, pectin, and annatto. Yeesh! Also in the mix are salt, several vitamins and minerals, and four yogurt cultures.

I've said before that alternative yogurts usually need some extra ingredients to help them attain the texture of dairy yogurt, and I stand by that...but this seems excessive.

Processing/Earth-/Animal-friendliness: The container is your standard #5 plastic with a foil lid. To Ricera's credit, most of their ingredients are organic (where did they find that organic locust bean gum?), though with such a long ingredients list you have to assume that components of this yogurt are being trucked in from far and wide.

Price: I picked a 6-ounce cup up at Whole Foods on sale for $1 today, and I have to say I don't remember what the regular price is. I'll assume about $1.20. But trust me, even if it cost 20 cents you wouldn't catch me eating another cup of this dreck.

The bottom line: It tastes gross, it's high in sugar, and it doesn't exactly pass the "eat only food with a short list of ingredients you can pronounce" test. I commend the company for apparently being one of the only ones out there trying to cater to those hard-up yogurt lovers who are intolerant of both dairy and soy, but I think this product is going to need some serious rejiggering of its formula if it's going to score any repeat customers.


Ricera Rice Yogurt, Organic Peach:
taste: 0; texture: 0; sat fat: 2; naturally sweetened: 1; processing/earth-/animal-friendliness: 1


Link: Ricera Rice Yogurt.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Old Chatham Sheepherding Company Sheep's Milk Yogurt

Yes, the YogBlog is back!

One-word verdict: Creamylicious!

The backstory: I've had the buffalogurt, I've had the goatgurt. Of course I've been wanting to try the sheepgurt. It's just so damn expensive...I finally picked up a cup this week on sale, and it was still the most expensive cup of yogurt I've ever bought!

Nutrition: Old Chatham informs you right on the cup that, although their sheepgurt is full-fat, it contains the "same calories or less than many low fat cow's milk yogurts." And this is true, mostly because this stuff appears to be naturally low in sugar and they don't add to. Per 6 ounces of the maple flavor, you get 160 calories, 11 grams sugar, and 5 grams saturated fat (eep). Also, it’s gluten-free.

Well, how is it? The yogurt is white and has a lovely, naturally creamy texture (thanks, no doubt, to the ample fat content). It's not quite as thin as European-style yogurt, but not also certainly not in the "sculptable" texture category like Fage or Woodstock yogurt.

The taste is mildly tangy with a hint of maple syrup--I thought it was delicious. Not too sweet at all, but perfectly palatable. Also, I couldn't really detect anything particularly "sheepy" about it, though I'm not sure what I should have been looking out for; suffice it to say that it is not as readily identifiable as an "alternative" yogurt as both goat-cheese-reminiscent goat yogurts I have tried.

Ronnybrook makes a maple-flavored cow's milk yogurt, and if you've tried that you may have some idea of what this sheepgurt was like, although I much preferred the sheepgurt--it was less sour and had a smoother texture.

Where's it made? Old Chatham, New York--a mere 138 miles from NYC.

Ingredient notes: Old Chatham has the ideal short ingredients list for a yogurt: Pasteurized Sheep's Milk, Pure Maple Syrup, and four yogurt cultures. That's it. No preservatives, thickeners, additional sweeteners...nada. Which is always wonderful.

Processing/Earth-/Animal-friendliness: The container is your standard #5 plastic with a foil lid. The cup makes the following claims: "All natural ingredients" (duh), and "Our farm is organically managed." Wanting to know more about what that second claim meant, I visited the company's website, which has a long list of health and nutrition claims for your reading pleasure, including the following: "There is nothing added: 100% pure sheep’s milk from healthy, nurtured animals grazing on the farm’s 600 organically managed pastures in Old Chatham, located in the agriculturally rich Hudson Valley of New York." They also state that the sheep are not given hormones or routine antibiotics and "are fed grain and grass grown on our farm’s 600 acres of organically managed fields and pastures."

So, not entirely grass-fed or probably even entirely organic, but overall it still sounds pretty good.

Price: And now, the product's downfall. The regular price at Whole Foods is a whopping $2.19 cents per 6-ounce cup! I got it on sale for $1.99 (which is the same price as a cup of Fage since WF increased it), but that still counts as the most I've ever paid for a single-serve yogurt. Sigh--I feel like for that price I could buy my own sheep. If anyone has noticed it at other outlets for cheaper, let me know, OK?

The bottom line: On the one hand, the lovely taste and texture, fact that it's locally manufactured, and the perfectly spare ingredients list makes me want to eat this yogurt every day. On the other hand, the pretty high level of saturated fat and crazy expensive price seems to ensure that this will only be an occasional treat for me. Alas. I'm still looking forward to trying the ginger flavor (yes, ginger yogurt!) when it's back in stock...


Old Chatham Sheephearding Company Sheep's Milk Yogurt, Maple:
taste: 5; texture: 3; sugar: 2; free of thickeners/preservatives: 2; naturally sweetened: 1; processing/earth-/animal-friendliness: 1

TOTAL = 14

Link: Old Chatham Sheephearding Company.

Friday, June 22, 2007

Soy yogurt recall

FYI, there is a recall out right now on certain WholeSoy yogurts because of undeclared dairy. Apparently the source of the dairy was the blueberries, which leaves me scratching my head a bit, but you can read more about the situation here.

Monday, June 18, 2007

In Brief: Yogurt Notes

I know I said that this blog is on hiatus...but I've actually sampled a lot of new yogurts lately, and while I don't have time to do full reviews, I thought it might be nice just to share a few impressions! If you've tried any of these, I'd love to hear what you thought of them.

So, without further ado...the mini-reviews:

Trader Joe’s Coffeehaus Mocha Lowfat Yogurt: Disappointing - but then again, I'm not much of a chocolate yogurt person, and my cup was past the expiration date.

Traders Point Creamery Drinkable Yogurt - Raspberry: I'm a sucker for drinkable yogurt, and this stuff from Indiana is 100% organic AND grass-fed, but sadly I found the texture of the full-fat yogurt off-puttingly thick. If you dig thick yogurt, though, you may really like it. (I'm also curious to try their low-fat version, which could be less viscous?)

Redwood Hill Farm Goat Yogurt - Blueberry and Apricot-Mango: The nutrition facts are all in the right place in this certified humane goat yogurt from California, and the flavor of the blueberry with a hint of a goat-cheese taste isn't bad at all. The Apricot-Mango is appreciably "goatier" which, I must say, put me off a little. And both could do with fewer added thickeners (gums, starches, etc.).

Liberté Goat Milk Yogurt - Raspberry: Also interesting-tasting, with a hint of goat cheese and a genuine raspberry flavor; also a bit long on the ingredients list. (I still want to try the honey flavor, though.)

DanActive - Various flavors: I know that Dannon is "the man" in yogurt circles, but I'm kind of a sucker for their teeny bottles of probiotic yogurt drink, which is not too thick and, surprisingly, genuinely yogurty-tasting. I've tried all the flavors now and have to say I like plain the best—the others (vanilla, strawberry, blueberry, cranberry-raspberry) are generally too sweet and have too many additives.

Emmi Swiss Premium Lowfat Yogurt - Cherry: Too much added sugar—and unlike with the Pink Grapefruit flavor, it tastes way too sweet. Disappointingly small cherry bits, too.