Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Another great article...

By my hero, Michael Pollan.

Check it out.

And for more of his writing, see his website in the Links section. And pick up a copy of The Omnivore's Dilemma.

New reviews coming soon!

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Backed up

No new posts in nearly a week, I know--my backlog is growing by the day! But fear not, a big review is in the works and a few more are...well, in my brain, at least.

Coming up on The Yogblog:

-A full Fage report: Four yogurts reviewed for the price of one blog entry!
-The froyo tour of Manhattan: It was postponed to this weekend, so me and my frozen-yogurt-eating henchwomen should have some thoughts next week!
-Ronnybrook yogurt cups: Peach and Maple Vanilla (and maybe Coconut) flavors reviewed!
-Cascade Fresh yogurt: My favorite "American-style" yogurts (which happen to be on sale 3 for $2 at Whole Foods this week) reviewed!

So don't touch that mouse...or something.

Friday, April 13, 2007

Trader Joe's Matcha Green Tea Yogurt

One-word verdict: Wowsa!

The backstory: This yogurt definitely caught me off-guard. I picked up a cup at Trader Joe’s last week on a whim when I was stocking up on Fage—noticed the cup in the fridge case, thought “I like green tea, that could be interesting,” glanced at the Nutrition Facts, approved, and popped it into the basket.
Now I wish I had bought twelve.

Nutrition: One of the (few) downsides of this yogurt is that—perhaps because it’s part of a TJ’s new snazzy-looking “Coffeehaus” line—it comes in slightly smaller-than-average sized cups: 5.3 ounces instead of your standard 6. So let the rejiggering of the Nutrition Facts begin…

Per 6 ounces of this yogurt, my calculations tell me, you will find 125 calories, 17 grams sugar, and 1.1 grams saturated fat. (Per actual 5.3-ounce serving, the numbers are 110 calories, 15 grams sugar, and 1 gram sat fat.) Even with it’s reduced size, the yogurt packs a decent amount of calcium (25% daily value in the 5.3-ounce cup). And it’s kosher and gluten-free.

Not bad.

Well, how is it? Dude, if you like green tea and you like yogurt, I’d say run, don’t walk, to your nearest Trader Joe’s and get some (because you never know if it’s going to be discontinued next week).

I opened it up and was greeted with a bright green (well, yellowish-green) color—almost exactly the same color that appears on the outside of the cup. The yogurt had separated a bit and there was a puddle of clear whey on top, but once I had mixed the yogurt a little bit the texture was silky-smooth and light.

I sniffed and got a mild whiff of green tea flavor but also, to my surprise, a real dose of actual yogurty scent. Was this yogurt actually going to taste like yogurt?

Yes, it was! In the smooth first bite, I definitely tasted the telltale mild yogurty tang that told me we were not in typical American yogurt territory. As for the green tea flavor, if you’ve ever had a Matcha Green Tea Blast from Jamba Juice or a Green Tea Frappuccino from Starbucks (both of which I’ll admit to having been a little bit obsessed with a few years back, at least until I found out how much sugar was in them), it’s like that, but less sweet. You probably taste the yogurtiness first, but then the green tea taste lingers after the yogurt has gone down. In fact, this may sound weird, but if you eat a few bites then close your mouth and breathe out your nose, you can taste the green tea flavor again on your tongue.

I devoured.

Where's it made? Again, not sure where the ingredients come from, but this stuff is “Distributed & Sold Exclusively” from Trader Joe’s Monrovia, CA, address, 2,759 miles from NYC.

Ingredient notes: I couldn’t believe how short the ingredients list was when I first picked up the cup. Grade A pasteurized skim milk, cream, nonfat milk, sugar, matcha green tea, and four bacterial cultures. No thickeners or stabilizers or or colors, no starches or gums or preservatives. Dairy, sugar, green tea, cultures—which is exactly what it tastes like when you eat it.

A slight quibble, though: What’s the difference between the skim milk and the nonfat milk? Is only the skim milk (but not the cream or nonfat milk) pasteurized? (I find that hard to believe.)

Processing/Earth-/Animal-friendliness: The container is your standard #5 plastic with a foil lid. And unfortunately, the cup makes no claims that any of the yogurt’s ingredients are organic, minimally processed, or anything but conventional.

Price: 99 cents per 5.3-ounce cup at Trader Joe’s…which translates to $1.12 per 6 ounces.

The bottom line: Brilliant taste, great European-style texture, and I love the spare ingredients list. I wish I knew more about the origins of the ingredients and that the cup wasn’t skimpy-sized, which is going to lose it a couple of points on price and sugar content. Still, highly recommended if you like green tea. (As an aside, I imagine they must have a companion “Coffeehaus” coffee flavor…which is another flavor I don’t do, so I’d love a report from the field!)


Trader Joe’s Coffeehaus Matcha Green Tea Lowfat Yogurt:
taste: 5; texture: 3; flavor novelty: 1; sugar: 1; sat fat: 1; price: 1; free of thickeners/preservatives: 2

TOTAL = 14

Link: Trader Joe's.

Soygurt Cross-Posting!

I'm excited to announce that my post on Trader Joe's soy yogurt has been republished at the "ultimate information resource for non-dairy living," www.godairyfree.org! Future soy yogurt reviews will also be cross-posted there.

Make sure to check out the site for some great tips, product reviews, and vegan, egg-free, gluten-free, soy-free, and/or wheat-free (and of course dairy-free!) recipes.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Trader Joe's Soy Yogurt

One-word verdict: Varies.

The backstory: It’s hard to judge soy yogurt by the same standards as dairy yogurt. Add enough thickeners and colorants and you may get it to look like the real thing, but I think that—as is the case with soy milk—you just can’t expect it to taste much like a dairy product or you will be disappointed. However, once you get past that, I think it is possible to accept soy yogurt on its own terms. And if you have a need for a dairy-free yogurt alternative (whether for kosher, vegan, lactose, or other reasons), the good news is that there are definitely some soy yogurts out there that are worth accepting. (There are also some that are vile.)

So which category does TJ’s house brand fall into? I sampled the peach and raspberry flavors to find out.

Nutrition: Pretty much all the soy yogurts I’ve ever seen are saturated-fat free, which is great, but they are also often very high in sugar, as if trying to mask the taste (or lack thereof) of soy. Both TJ’s flavors contain 0 grams saturated fat per 6-ounce cup and don’t go too crazy with the sugar—18 grams sugar for the peach, 19 grams for the raspberry. As a bonus, each flavor also contains 2 grams fiber (thanks, soy!), but the variety of starches added to help the texture approximate that of dairy yogurt bumps the total carb counts up quite a bit (27 grams carb for the peach, 32 for the raspberry), resulting in 160 calories for the peach and 170 calories for the raspberry. And both have 6 grams protein, though how much of that is true soy protein isn't specified.

Both yogurts are kosher, pareve, vegan, and gluten-free.

Well, how is it? The thing that surprised me most about this tasting experience was how much it differed between the two flavors I tried.

I started with the peach flavor. Upon opening the container I was greeted with a fairly gloppy-looking yogurt (“American-style,” I call it), but it was a nice orange color and smelled appetizing. The taste was pretty sweet with a bit of a soy undertone (this wasn’t bad, however—like I said, you just have to accept that soy yogurt has a taste all its own). There were little peach chunks throughout the yogurt, though not that many, and I’m sad to say that they were kind of tasteless.

Still, the product was all right, innocuous. Not the best soy yogurt I’ve ever tasted, but perfectly edible. The next time I go vegan for a week, I would put it on the menu.

The raspberry, on the other hand, was distinctively grayish in color. (In fact, I’d call it a barely pink shade of gray.) It had the worst part of the raspberries—the seeds—distributed throughout without any good fruity chunks. And, I shit you not, it tasted like tartar sauce.

Tartar sauce, you ask? Yes, tartar sauce. I actually ate my way through the whole the cup because with every bite I thought “Nah…that can’t be right. The next bite has to taste different.” But alas, no, tartary all the way. So congratulations, Trader Joe, on discovering the strange alchemy that can apparently turn soy, starch, fruit, sugar, and cultures into such a close approximation of everyone’s favorite pickly mayonnaise condiment.


Where's it made? Where are any store’s private-label goods made? It’s so hard to tell. These yogurts were, however, “Distributed & Sold Exclusively” from Trader Joe’s Monrovia, CA, address, 2,759 miles from NYC.

Ingredient notes: Both flavors consist of pasteurized and cultured organic soymilk (filtered water and ground organic soybeans), organic evaporated cane juice, fruit (peaches or raspberries), cornstarch, organic rice starch, natural flavors, lactic acid (from vegetable source), tricalcium phosphate, and four live active cultures. The peach also has “annatto (for color),” listed before the tricalcium phosphate, while the raspberry has no color additives listed (mystery of the gray color solved!).

So, more sugar than fruit…a couple of thickening starches…an acid to help ferment said starches...color in the peach flavor…and an added source of calcium (which may not be as bioavailable as calcium carbonate). That’s a fair amount of “stuff” added, though most commercial soy yogurts tend to be fairly processed food products in their quest to look similar to dairy yogurts (which are often pretty processed themselves). And at least some of the stuff is organic and all of it is fairly natural.

Processing/Earth-/Animal-friendliness: Clearly these yogurts are pretty animal-friendly, since they’re animal-product-free! Some of the ingredients are organic (the soymilk, evap. cane juice, and rice starch; not the fruit or cornstarch, though). The containers are your standard #5 plastic with a plastic lid.

Price: Not bad—a 6-ounce cup costs 99 cents at, you guessed it, Trader Joe’s. (But the question with any TJ’s product always is: Will it actually be on the shelf when I get there? And will it be discontinued next week? Hoard’em if you like ’em, I guess, because ya never know.)

The bottom line: The peach tastes all right, is at least partly organic, and doesn’t cost too much, so I think it’s a decent option if you’re doing the soy yogurt thing. The raspberry is flat-out nasty. There’s also a strawberry flavor, but I don’t eat strawberry yogurt (sorry), so if you try it, please post a comment and let us know how it is.


Peach flavor:
taste: 3; texture: 1; sugar: 1; sat fat: 2; price: 2; naturally sweetened: 1; animal/earth friendliness: 0.5

TOTAL = 10.5

Raspberry flavor:
taste: 1; texture: 1; sugar: 1; sat fat: 2; price: 2; naturally sweetened: 1; animal/earth friendliness: 0.5

TOTAL = 8.5

Link: Trader Joe’s.

Monday, April 9, 2007

Coming up on The Yogblog...

The Yogblog was quiet last week as I indulged in a few old favorites and took a break from reviewing. My apologies! But fear not, you have these works-in-progress to look forward to:

-A review of soy yogurts from Trader Joe's!
-Field reports from a frozen yogurt tour of Manhattan!
-Fage week: The Yogblogger finally gives famed Fage Greek yogurts a shot, with mini-reviews of the multiple varieties (0%, 2%, whole milk with add-ins, etc.)!

Stay tuned!