Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Ronnybrook Drinkable Yogurt

One-word verdict: Divine.

The backstory: I love drinkable yogurt, but I eyed Ronnybrook’s colorful bottles at the Greenmarket, moseyed past them at the little shop at Chelsea Market, and spied them on the shelves of Whole Foods many times before I took the plunge. What kept me away? Maybe it was the brazen listing of “whole milk” as the first ingredient in the yogurt. Maybe it was the lack of Nutrition Facts printed on the label (how do they get away with that?). Plus, it cost $2.50 a bottle. I guess I assumed that, fatwise and pricewise, it was out of my league.

But I was wrong.

As I became interested eating more local foods, I found myself checking out the Ronnybrook website (the family dairy farm is located in upstate New York and serves the tristate area). There I found the Nutrition Facts for the drinkable yogurt line and learned that the stuff wasn’t nearly as dastardly as I thought. Then I discovered that, if you buy the yogurt directly from Ronnybrook either at their stall or at their shop, it only costs $2 for a 12-ounce bottle (that’s $1 per 6 ounces). I was sold—or, I should say, the yogurt was, to me: a bottle each of the blackberry, mango, and peach flavors.

Nutrition: Well, the bottles are 12 ounces and the info listed on the Ronnybrook site is for 8 ounces, but since 6 ounces is the standard size for a cup of yogurt these days, I rejiggered the Nutrition Facts (and price) so that I could compare the product ounce-for-ounce with other yogurts. It works out to about 135 calories, 3 grams saturated fat, and 19 grams sugar per 6 ounces for the mango and peach flavors (145 calories and 20 grams sugar for the blackberry). Not bad! A little high on the sugar side, perhaps, but I’m assuming that—for the blackberry and peach flavors, at least—a little of that must come from the chunks of fresh fruit floating appealingly in the bottle. And the featured fruit always comes before the (organic) sugar on the ingredients list, another plus.

Well, how is it? I have to admit that I could barely contain my enthusiasm after my first sip of the blackberry yogurt. I immediately sent my boyfriend an embarassingly ecstatic e-mail, laced with exclamation points and maybe a few expletives. What can I say? I felt like a hole in my yogurt-loving life had finally been filled.

The flavor was divine. Sweet, but not so sweet that the yogurty flavor was masked. The consistency was quite creamy, but interspersed with chewable chunks of blackberry pulp and seeds. And amazingly, even though the taste was so delicious, I found the stuff filling enough that I could actually stop drinking after 6 ounces and save the other half of the bottle for the next day. Well, maybe after 7 ounces.

To my delight, I found the peach flavor to be just as high-quality and subsequently crave-worthy as the blackberry. I was a tiny bit disappointed in the mango—perhaps because it’s blended smooth instead of having the little chunks. Or maybe I just set my expectations too high with the mango yogurt, a flavor I had never seen before (point for novelty!). In the end, I think that the peach and blackberry flavors were just a bit more perfectly carried off, but overall all of the flavors I tried tasted both fresh and decadent.

Where's it made? Ancramdale, NY (108 miles from NYC).

Ingredient notes: In addition to the (pasteurized) whole milk, fruit, and organic sugar that I mentioned earlier, these yogurts also consist of skim milk, pectin (a thickener derived from fruit), natural flavors, citric acid (natural preservative or flavorant), and eight “imported live cultures”—four of which are buttermilk cultures, which Ronnybrook claims “makes the difference” (dunno about that, but I think they’ve got a pretty good formula down, whatever they’re using). Anyway, not quite preservative and thickener-free, but still a pretty short and natural list.

Processing/Earth-friendliness: According their website, Ronnybrook's milk comes from hormone- and antibiotic-free cattle who eat grass in the summer and corn and hay silage in the winter. Milk is pasteurized, but not homogenized. Also, the drinkable yogurt bottles are #1 plastic—easily recyclable! (And if you consider them two servings apiece like I do, that means even less waste overall since you'll only be discarding every other day.)

Price: Drinkable bottles cost $2 apiece at the Ronnybrook Store in Chelsea Market and at Ronnybrook’s Greenmarket stalls. That works out to $1 per 6 ounces—a very good price for such a quality product. (You can also find the stuff around New York City at places like Whole Foods, Garden of Eden, and Dean & Deluca, and it’s delivered by FreshDirect, but expect to pay extra at all those places.)

The bottom line: This is the best-tasting drinkable yogurt I've had in the United States. It appears to come from well-treated animals, doesn’t have a ton of additives, doesn’t break the bank on sat fat or sugar, and has a terrific creamy consistency with real chunks of fruit. Plus, the price is fair, and for my fellow tristaters, it has the added benefit of being a local product. Drink up.

SCORING (see sidebar for criteria):

Blackberry and peach flavors:
taste: 5; texture: 3; sugar: 1; sat fat: 1; price: 2; naturally sweetened: 1; animal friendliness: 1; recyclable: 1
TOTAL = 15/20

Mango flavor:
taste: 4; texture: 2.5; novelty: 1; sugar: 1; sat fat: 1; price: 2; naturally sweetened: 1; animal friendliness: 1; recyclable: 1
TOTAL = 14.5/20

Link: Ronnybrook Farm Dairy.


Sirje said...

On the subject of mango, I know this isn't exactly in the spirit of the taste test quest, but one of my yogurt favorites is plain yogurt home-blended with the frozen mango chunks sold at Whole Foods. Icy, creamy, no added sugar (well, sometimes I add a little honey), and dee-lish.

But I'll have to try the Ronnybrook. I, too, have passed their stall many times at the GAP Greenmarket, and only ever tried their yogurt cheese (also yummy).

TD said...

Agreed that their yogurt cheese is really excellent--I had it on my bagel just this morning. I'm never going back to cream cheese!

NYHH said...

Ok, seriously, this is the awesomest blog ever. You are like my own personal reviewer, and I will do none of the work yet reap all the benefits. Will you be doing Danactive?

Anonymous said...

I love the peach drinkable Ronnybrook yogurt--I will try the blackberry