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Omnivore Food Blog By Suzanne Podhaizer

Product Testing

April 29, 2008

Suckered By Marketing

Light_salt Since I've been so busy recently I've been buying a lot of food from the Cheese Outlet/Fresh Market on Pine Street. I'm usually a pretty good little localvore, but the other day I noticed a bag of Tyrrells Lightly Sea Salted Potato Chips from Herefordshire, England.

They came from far away, but I saw all kinds of enticing language on the package. Like, "We are the only small chip maker in the UK to grow our own potatoes...It's not unusual for a potato to be dug in the morning and made into chips by lunchtime." How could a foodie resist?

By the time I busted open the 1.24 ounce bag, which cost me a ludicrous $1.99, I was convinced that these would be potato chips worthy of being served to the gods. And they proved to be a tasty snack: crisp, golden, properly salted, not too greasy. But "flown across the Atlantic using massive quantities of jet fuel and still seemingly worth it good?" Not even remotely. Tyrrells crisps may be "an artisan delicacy," but they tasted like, well, potato chips.

Although I strive to make ethical food choices, I also allow myself to indulge in some of the fruits of globalization: Avocados, bananas, balsamic vinegar and European cheeses are some of the faraway items I'll spring for. But if I'm going to get something from outside my local "food shed," it better taste like nothing else on earth.

Which products from afar are your guilty pleasures?

* The picture comes from the Tyrrell's website

April 11, 2008

The Yogurt Project: Old Chatham Sheep's Milk Maple

Yogurt_plain_and_maple This is my fifth yogurt trial so far...if you've read any of the others, you can skip right down to the "taste test" portion. If not, I've reprinted my intro below:

What's the deal with little cups of yogurt? Just a few years ago, fermented-dairy eaters had a choice between Dannon and Columbo. Remember Columbo? I didn't...I had to ask my coworker to help me come up with the name of "that other major yogurt company when we were growing up."

Now, I see customers standing dumbstruck before the yogurt shelf, not knowing whether to reach for full-fat sheeps' milk, low-fat cows' milk or even a soy.  So, I figure, it's time for a massive yogurt taste test. You ready?

If I were a purist I would taste only plain yogurt, but this is my game, and I don't wanna. So I'm going to do the best I can comparing different brands by eating their most enticing flavors.

Old Chatham Sheepherding Company: Maple

Cost:
More than $2

Packaging: Pretty simple. The background is mainly green, and there's a, well, maple colored stripe around the bottom. There's also a simple drawing of a black sheep, which is cute and slightly creepy at the same time. Why creepy? The sheep's eyes kind of look like they're glowing, which gives it the appearance of an evil zombie sheep.
    On the back there's a good amount of information about the farm's yogurt-making practices. They use all-natural ingredients and manage the farm organically, for example. There's also a note about the fact that sheep's milk is easier to digest than cow's milk.

Nutrition Info: 6 oz. serving. 160 calories. 12% fat (DV). 0 g. fiber (DV). 11 g. sugar. 8 g. protein. 6% vitamin A (DV). 3% vitamin C (DV). 29% calcium (DV). 3% iron (DV).

Active Cultures: L. bulgaricus, S. thermophilus, L. acidophilus, Bifidus.

Appearance: Pretty white, with some whey off (that means there's liquid hanging around atop the yogurt). Around the edge there are some bubbly markings.

Aroma:
A pleasant "ferment-y" smell.

Mouthfeel: Of the non, non-fat yogurts I've tried, this is the lightest. It has a lovely (yet fleeting) silky mouthfeel. At the bottom of the container the texture became inconsistent. I stirred it up, but there were a few small blobs.

Taste: It may sound strange, but the first word that comes to mind is "effervescent." Yes, I know that's a touch descriptor, but what I mean is that it is tangy in the same way that carbonated beverages are tangy. It's slightly sour without being at all pucker-y. The maple flavor isn't very strong.

Notes: I appreciate the nutritional profile of this yogurt: It's neither super-decadent nor non- or low-fat. And it doesn't have a lot of sugar. And for those who can't tolerate cow's milk, this could be a great option. Overall,
I like it, I'd buy it again, but I won't lust after it.

*Picture from the Old Chatham website

  

April 02, 2008

The Yogurt Project: Cabot Nonfat Black Cherry

Yogurt This is my fourth yogurt trial so far...if you've read any of the others, you can skip right down to the "taste test" portion. If not, I've reprinted my intro below:

What's the deal with little cups of yogurt? Just a few years ago, fermented-dairy eaters had a choice between Dannon and Columbo. Remember Columbo? I didn't...I had to ask my coworker to help me come up with the name of "that other major yogurt company when we were growing up."

Now, I see customers standing dumbstruck before the yogurt shelf, not knowing whether to reach for full-fat sheeps' milk, low-fat cows' milk or even a soy.  So, I figure, it's time for a massive yogurt taste test. You ready?

If I were a purist I would taste only plain yogurt, but this is my game, and I don't wanna. So I'm going to do the best I can comparing different brands by eating their most enticing flavors.

Cabot Nonfat: Black Cherry

Cost: Around a buck

Packaging: Your standard, super-busy, kid-friendly, colorful yogurt container. The background is purple, the cherries are red, the wording is white and yellow, the Cabot logo is red, green and white. You get the idea. I don't find it that appealing, but my eyes gravitate towards it nonetheless. Like TV.

Nutrition Info: 8 oz. serving. 150 calories. 0% fat (DV). 0% fiber (DV).  21 g. sugar. 9 g. protein.  25% each: vitamin A, vitamin C, calcium, vitamin D, vitamin E (DV).

Active Cultures: Acidophilus and Bifidus.

Appearance: Kind of blobby. The black cherries are mixed into the yogurt, so the product is pale purple with cherry chunks, and being non-fat, is thin enough that it was clearly squishing around in the package and climbing the sides of the container before I got around to opening it.

Aroma: Pleasant, but smells less like yogurt than it does like black cherry soda, which I admit that I'm partial to. Really, that's about all I can smell.

Mouthfeel: Thinner than the full-fat stuff or the skyr, but not watery. It's the consistency of all the yogurt I grew up eating. After swallowing, the yogurt seemed to leave a bit of a gritty feeling.

Taste: A little tangier than some of the other yogurts, this one gave me the slightest hint of shivers. There's a very slight bitter note, and less sweetness and fruitiness than I expected. The black cherry aroma seems to be stronger than the cherry flavor.

Notes: If you buy into the low-fat thing, which I emphatically don't, this could be considered one of the healthier products out there: It's low in calories and fat-free, with some added vitamins to pump up the nutritional profile. The mouthfeel is fine, although I wonder if the grittiness I noticed came from the modified cornstarch on the ingredient list. The flavor is o.k., too. But I'm not wild about it. I wouldn't choose to eat this for enjoyment. However, it is local.

March 30, 2008

The Yogurt Project: Fage Total with Honey

This is my third yogurt trial so far...if you've read either of the first two, you can skip right down to the "taste test" portion. If not, I've reprinted my intro below:

What's the deal with little cups of yogurt? Just a few years ago, fermented-dairy eaters had a choice between Dannon and Columbo. Remember Columbo? I didn't...I had to ask my coworker to help me come up with the name of "that other major yogurt company when we were growing up."

Now, I see customers standing dumbstruck before the yogurt shelf, not knowing whether to reach for full-fat sheeps' milk, low-fat cows' milk or even a soy.  So, I figure, it's time for a massive yogurt taste test. You ready?

If I were a purist I would taste only plain yogurt, but this is my game, and I don't wanna. So I'm going to do the best I can comparing different brands by eating their most enticing flavors.

Fage Total: All-Natural Greek Strained Yogurt with Honey

Packaging: First of all, I hate the name. The container tells me it's pronounced "Fa-yeh," but in my head I pronounce it "fahj," which makes me think of high school biology...remember bacteriophages? Maybe I'd take more favorably to the name if I knew what it meant?
    And then there's the object itself. To me, the packaging shouts "hey, I'm mass produced!" Maybe it's because the container is an unusual shape: There's one cup for the yogurt and a second, smaller container for the honey. I would have been cool with the honey in the same compartment in an effort to save plastic.
    And the fact that they call the yogurt "Total" reminds me of names such as "Special K" and "All-Bran:" I think they're all trying too hard to sound healthy. But the image of a honeycomb and one of those wooden dippers is evocative and pleasant.

Nutrition Info: 5.3 oz. serving (does that include the honey? Although the serving size is smaller than the two other products I've sampled, the container feels heavier. Maybe it's all that extra plastic?) 250 calories. 18% fat (DV). 0% fiber (DV). 28 g. sugar. 8 g. protein. 10% calcium (DV). 10% vitamin A (DV).

Live Cultures:  L. Bulgaricus, S. Thermophilus

Appearance
: White and creamy. The package advised me not to stir, so I didn't at first. Later, while eating, I did stir it. Nothing bad happened. The amber honey looks just like...honey.

Aroma: Slightly sour but pleasant and dairy-licious. The honey is very fragrant and sweet smelling. No I can't tell what flowers it comes from.

Mouthfeel:
The creamy layer on top is denser and fattier feeling than the lighter stuff beneath, but both have a nice, clean mouthfeel that doesn't linger too long after you swallow. Some yogurts can really coat your tongue. The honey is thick and sensual.

Taste: Very, very pleasant. The yogurt is rich and barely sour. And when it's mixed with the honey, it's even better. This tastes almost as good, if not as good, as the Liberté.

Notes: There's no wrong way to eat a Reese's, and there's probably no wrong way to eat this yogurt, but there are several possible methods. 1) Dip each spoonful of yogurt in the honey. I don't like this method because the pristine honey gets white swirls in it. Perhaps I'm strange? 2) Spoon out the entire honey cup onto the top of the yogurt, and dig in. 3) Same as #2, but blend the honey in. 4) Drizzle the honey onto the yogurt a little bit at a time. In any case, though, there was too much honey for the amount of yogurt. I know Americans like things sweet, but this much sweetener is kind of ludicrous. And I have a feeling that people won't save up the dribs and drabs for other uses, so I'm guessing that a lot of it goes to waste. Or maybe people just eat super-sweet yogurt.

March 27, 2008

The Yogurt Project: Liberté Méditerranée Yogourt, Plum & Walnut

This is the second post in my yogurt project. If you missed the first one, I've quoted my writeup about how it works below:

What's the deal with little cups of yogurt? Just a few years ago, fermented-dairy eaters had a choice between Dannon and Columbo. Remember Columbo? I didn't...I had to ask my coworker to help me come up with the name of "that other major yogurt company when we were growing up."

Now, I see customers standing dumbstruck before the yogurt shelf, not knowing whether to reach for full-fat sheeps' milk, low-fat cows' milk or even a soy.  So,  I figure, it's time for a massive yogurt taste test.  You ready?

If I were a purist I would taste only plain yogurt, but this is my game, and I don't wanna. So I'm going to do the best I can comparing different brands by eating their most enticing flavors.

Liberté Méditerranée Yogourt: Plum & Walnut

Packaging: The packaging for this product is fine. Writing on the white, plastic cup is in purple, black and blue, and there's a very simple drawing of plums and walnuts with a blue swirl above it. It doesn't get me excited, but it doesn't turn me off, either.
     It's labeled free of rGBH. The product is made in Canada with milk from the St. Albans Creamery Cooperative in Vermont.

Nutrition Info: 6 oz. serving. 250 calories. 22% fat. 0% fiber. 24 g. sugars. 6 g. protein. 20% calcium, 20% vitamin A, 4% vitamin C.

Live Cultures: S. Thermophilus, L. Acidophilus, Bifidus, L. Bulgaricus


Appearance: White and thick, the consistency of really dense whipped cream. The plums and walnuts are on the bottom. When mixed into the yogurt, the whole turns a very pale purple with bits of walnut strewn throughout.

Aroma: This product has a nice, sweet, milky aroma with just a hint of sourness. When the fruit is mixed in, it smells like plums, too.

Mouthfeel: Thick, but not too thick, and very pleasant. The fruit mixture alone has the consistency of applesauce with nut bits mixed in. Those who don't like chunks in their food may be turned off by the walnuts.

Taste: Completely delightful. The yogurt itself is slightly sweet and tastes like cream, with the smallest hint of sourness on the finish. The fruit and walnut combo is intensely plummy. The walnuts add textural interest --  if you like that kind of thing. -- but not much flavor. Overall, I can't imagine many things I'd rather eat.

Notes: Some may balk at the calorie content or the amount of fat in this product: Don't. Please. Fat and fiber help make you feel full. When I eat low-fat yogurt with no added fiber (yes, some yogurts are "enhanced" with a fibrous ingredient called inulin, which is often extracted from chicory plants), I want to eat again in about 10 minutes. The Liberté. on the other hand, actually fills you up.  Sorry for being a  Liberté proselytizer, but this is the first yogurt that I've ever loved.

Visit the Liberté website, here. 

March 26, 2008

The Yogurt Project: Siggi's Icelandic Style Skyr, Pomegranate and Passion Fruit

What's the deal with little cups of yogurt? Just a few years ago, fermented-dairy eaters had a choice between Dannon and Columbo. Remember Columbo? I didn't...I had to ask my coworker to help me come up with the name of "that other major yogurt company when we were growing up."

Now, I see customers standing dumbstruck before the yogurt shelf, not knowing whether to reach for full-fat sheeps' milk, low-fat cows' milk or even a soy facsimile.  So,  I figure, it's time for a massive yogurt taste test.  You ready?

If I were a purist I would taste only plain yogurt, but this is my game, and I don't wanna. So I'm going to do the best I can comparing different brands by eating their most enticing flavors.

siggi's Icelandic style skyr: Pomegranate and Passion Fruit

Packaging: Very nice. The flimsy, white plastic container is covered with a striking, recyclable cardboard wrapper, which has a white background and black type in a simple font. There's also a rustic line drawing of the fruits that flavor the product. On the side, there's an unusually long list of what's not in the yogurt, including rBGH, preservatives and corn syrup. Plus, it boasts, the milk is from grass-fed cows. It's made in New York State, so it doesn't have to travel too far.
    This is probably the most dramatic yogurt label I've seen, and I was pretty amused while examining it. A note from Siggi reads: "...we absolutely don't use any artificial sweeteners like aspartame; I shudder at the mere thought."

Nutrition Info: 6 oz. serving. 120 calories. 0% fat. 0% fiber. 11 g. sugars. 16 g. protein. 20% calcium

Live Cultures: B. lactis, L. Acidophilus, L. Delbrueckii subsp. Bulgaricus, L. Delbrueckii subsp. Lactis, S. Thermopholis

Appearance: Thick and "creamy" looking, white. No whey off.

Aroma: Sour enough to make one's nose tingle a tiny bit. Barely there fruit.

Mouthfeel: Thick without having a fatty mouthfeel (I like the fatty mouthfeel). The texture is strange to someone used to fatty, whole-milk yogurt.

Taste: First note is a bitterness that strikes me as unusual in yogurt, followed by a puckery sourness and then, finally, a hint of sweetness. The fruit flavors are not readily apparant, here. I wouldn't have guessed passionfruit or pomegranate in a million years. There's no "jam" on the bottom of the container, although I kept stirring, just in case. I didn't find it pleasant, but it wasn't particularly unpleasant, either. Not something I would eat for the pleasure of it, but possibly would because it's good for me. Maybe.

Notes: The non-fat yogurt is unusual because it's made from milk that has had all of the fat -- and much of the water -- removed. This gives it a remarkably thick texture for a non-fat product, and I thought the process was worthy of mention.

Visit siggi's website here.

February 23, 2008

Béquet Caramels

Awards Today, while shopping for lunch at the Fresh Market on Pine Street in Burlington, I discovered a brand of caramels I hadn't seen before. Called Béquet, the sweets are made in Montana and come in flavors such as maple, salt-chocolate, "soft" and "chewy."

I opted for a trio: chipotle, espresso and salt. All three were delightful: soft, buttery and sweet, with just the right amount of chile, coffee and salt. I highly recommend these to caramel fans.

If you wanna learn more about the company, check out this article.

* The photo is from the Béquet website

February 20, 2008

Twizzlers vs. Red Vines

I owe our awesome, locally owned video store a bunch of money -- more than I'm currently willing to pony up. So, after years of swearing that I never would, I got a membership card to the evil, corporate video store. You know which one I mean. Most of my films arrive via Netflix anyway, but sometimes D. and I want to plow through a whole season of some TV show without interruption, and making a few trips to the video store is part of the deal.

The other day, while after a few discs of LOST, I noticed a package of Red Vines, a red, twisty, rope-like candy I've never seen before. My immediate thought was: "How do these compare to Twizzlers?" I bought a package of each...

Red Vines

Ingredients: Corn syrup, wheat flour, citric acid, artificial flavor, red 40
Packaging: A wax-coated paper tray with a plastic covering. The retro script is reminiscent of comic books or old horror film. Red, white and blue.
Appearance: Rough texture, with a matte finish. Slightly twistier.
Aroma: Very mild and sweet. When you stick your nose inside the package there's a rather nauseating smell, but maybe that's from the paper they use in the packaging?
Mouthfeel: Slightly rough against the tongue and densely chewy. A bit sticky between the teeth. Takes some work to bite off a piece.
Flavor: Sweet, fake fruit with a tiny sour note at the end. I find the final flavor a little off.

Twizzlers
 

Ingredients: Corn syrup, wheat flour, sugar, cornstarch, palm oil, salt, artificial flavor, glycerin, citric acid, potassium sorbate (preservative), red 40, soy lecithin.
Packaging: All plastic, pretty generic script. Also red, white and blue.
Appearance: Completely smooth and shiny. Bottom is flatter than top.
Aroma: Sweeter and fake fruitier.
Mouthfeel: Smooth and easy to bite into. Dense, but not as sticky.
Flavor: Fake fruit and sweetness that grows stronger as you chew. Stronger pseudo-fruit flavor on the finish.

Overall, I like the Twizzlers a little better than the Red Vines, not because I find them delicious but because they lack a flavor note that I found unpleasant. It's the lesser of two artificially-flavored evils, I guess.

Perhaps my familiarity with Twizzlers is skewing the results, although I didn't really grow up eating 'em, and they've never been one of my favorite candies (I'm a Nerds fan from way back, though).

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