Sunday, September 18, 2005

The yogurt wars: Vol. 1

This post is the first in an irregularly occurring series in which I compare yogurt brands and flavors I've never tried before. The goal is to find out if there's any yogurt within my reach that can compare with my Holy of Holies: the Publix lowfat fruit-on-the-bottom yogurt with tart cherries--which, in itself, is not perfect, being slightly soupier than a 2% yogurt has any right to be. But still, I love it best.

I was raised on a Dannon a day, and I've been to Greece and sampled their incredible whole-milk yogurt with a drizzle of honey. I make yogurt curries and I make yogurt slaws. So I figure I'm as good a reviewer as anyone...

Brown Cow Cream Top
maple flavor

First let me say this is a delicious yogurt with a strong dark maple syrup flavor. It’s not overly sweet, which I appreciate; it has a lovely tart yogurty tang.
But there are textural problems. I was expecting smooth unctuousness from this, since it’s a whole milk yogurt. But the main body of the yogurt has a slightly granular texture. And the much-touted “cream top” has a mouthfeel more reminiscent of cold chicken fat than of cream. It leaves an unpleasant greasy residue on my lips and on the spoon.
Cairo the three-legged dog, who always cleans out my yogurt containers for me when I’m done eating, liked this especially well--but then again, he’s also very fond of chicken fat.

Redwood Hill Farm Goat Milk Yogurt
blueberry flavor

I wasn’t sure what to expect from this. I love goat cheese, but I have a lingering mistrust of goat milk in sweet foods because my dad kept dairy goats for a while when I was young and I am still getting over the trauma of having goat milk on my Life cereal.
But holy cow! I mean, holy goat! This is great yogurt. Like Brown Cow, it purports to have a cream layer. However, in this case I didn’t even notice it. It is creamy throughout, with a delicate goat-cheese undertone, and the fruit is sweetened with honey so it’s not cloying.
I wouldn’t want to switch altogether to goat’s-milk yogurt; I’m too attached to the taste of the cow’s-milk variety. But this is really divine stuff, and it makes for a refreshing change from the everyday.
Cairo dutifully licked out the container, but he didn’t go crazy for it.

Nancy’s Nonfat Yogurt
raspberry flavor

Let’s deal with the 1000-pound gorilla in the room first: the packaging. On one hand, I like being able to dole out the fruit bit by bit. On the other hand, all that extra plastic strikes me as a wildly irresponsible use of resources.
The yogurt itself is damned near perfect (at least for a fat-free variety, which I have no problem with in general, despite the existence of some truly spectacular whole-milk yogurts in the world). Excellent texture and tartness. I would have loved it plain! But the raspberries have some “off” flavors that I can’t put my finger on--like maybe the berries weren’t the freshest, or maybe the honey they used to sweeten them wasn’t particularly nice. I expect better from a product that comes from Oregon, the berry capital of the universe.
Cairo liked the fact that he could get his tongue into the bottom of the shallow cup.