Monday, May 25, 2009

YoBlog Is Back

Almost a year has passed since I last posted to YoBlog.

It was June 20, 2008 when I wrote up the results of my ill-fated yogurt taste test -- another episode in my life to confirm the the tried and true adage: "Everything in moderation."

While my love for yogurt soon returned, my desire to explore, research, and write about the cultured milk product vanished -- or so it seemed.

Why YoBlog

When I decided to start a blog, I deliberated on all the things in life that fascinated and excited me: politics, history, mysteries, tea, etc., but I kept coming back to yogurt as something I could opine on ad infinitum (and sometimes literally ad nauseam). I've covered napkins, the backs of envelopes, and other pieces of scrap paper with ideas for YoBlog.

When I discovered my YoBlog journal this week in a stack of old papers, I remembered just how extensive and bizarre my yogurt obsession is.

Flipping through the notebook, my taste buds flooded with anticipation and my fingers tingled with inspiration. YoBlog is back!

Please Share Your Story Ideas

I've already mapped out some stories for the summer, but I hope you'll share your interests by leaving me a comment.

Plus, I hope you'll follow YoBlog on Twitter: @YoBlog. I'll be using Twitter to poll yogurt enthusiasts, solicit story ideas, gather feedback, announce new content, and share stuff than doesn't make it into the blog.

Until next time, happy yogurting!

Friday, June 20, 2008

Taste Test Results in Yogurt Over-consumption

Since I started YoBlog, a yogurt taste test has been in the forefront of my mind. YoBlog is about a yogurt quest, and nothing embodies that journey more than sitting down with cups upon cups of yogurt and searching for the true best yogurt.

Through the taste test, I had hoped to pinpoint the best of the best yogurt with an easy-to-explain methodology and a definitive outcome. The taste test was to be no frills: no sweeteners, fruits, or chocolate to mask the authentic taste of the yogurt.

I rounded up eight types of plain yogurt for the taste test: Cultural Revolution, Siggi's Skyr, Horizon, Wallaby, Stonyfield, Brown Cow Cream Top, Whole Foods 365, and Seven Stars Farm. Some were nonfat, some lowfat, and some quite fatty. (Brown Cow and Seven Stars, I'm looking at you!)

Here's a music video I made of the experience:

Like Fools Rushing In

So, I made a few mistakes. First and foremost, too much yogurt. At the midpoint, I thought I was going to throw up, and I relied on sheer stubbornness to get through the taste test. I only had a dollop or two of each type and cleansed my pallet throughout the taste test, but there's only so much no-nonsense yogurt a yogurt-lover can stomach.

Next - and this may have contributed to the first point - I failed to check that the yogurts were fresh. This was only a problem with Cultural Revolution: I couldn't tell if it expired or if rank was the actual flavor. Unfortunately, Cultural Revolution was the first yogurt I tried, so that flavored the rest of the taste test. I shudder thinking about that yogurt.

Ultimately, while I expected a range of tastes, smells, and textures, the yogurts were more alike than different. Cultural Revolution was the clear loser. Seven Stars stood out as the best, but if you want to avoid the 11 grams of fat in a serving of Seven Stars, Siggi's Skyr is a stellar nonfat alternative. Brown Cow deserves an honorable mention.

To be truthful, though, Brown Cow, Horizon, Whole Foods 365, and Stonyfield were so similar that it was hard to tell them apart.

I started the taste test with high expectations: an objective, systematic test tempered by my own yogurt authority would give rise to a compelling narrative and a definitive outcome. By the end, high expectations morphed into a stomach ache that left me in the fetal position on the couch with a lot of cognitive confusion. What happened? Can I make it to the toilet if I have to throw up? How will I write this up on the blog?

At least I have plenty of yogurt for YoBlog's first recipe review this weekend.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Update on TangySweet

Demand something of Tom Angell and he delivers.

By the way, doesn't Tom look like a food critic?

As you may remember, I asked Tom to check out TangySweet, a new fro-yo joint that's just a hop, skip, and a jump away from Tom's office, and write YoBlog's first store review. Well, he went and sent me some notes along with this tidbit:
I went to TangySweet today and took some notes for you. Sorry that I prolly don't have time to write up a legit post, but you can feel free to edit this and/or quote any of it if you want to put it up on the blog :-)
As if yogurt isn't the most important thing in the world. Sheesh.

Seriously, Tom, thanks for taking a break from saving the world to write about yogurt.

I interviewed Tom's notes; here's my report.

YoBlog (YB): So, Tom's notes, tell me Tom's first impression of TangySweet.

Tom's notes (TN): TangySweet's got a very friendly staff, who were eager to give small taste samples and explain what toppings they have. Everything seemed to be running smoothly after less than a full week in business - except the credit card machine wasn't working.

YB: Bummer about the credit card machine. Was Tom able to scrape a few dollars together to get some yogurt?

TN: Yes, although he had to steal some money off of Dave Borden's desk.

YB: Well, that's O.K. Dave won't notice anyway. I heard he's misplaced checks in that office of his anyways. So, what did Tom have?

TN: After sampling some flavors, he settled on the green tea flavored yogurt and fresh fruit toppings. He liked it so much that he jumped with joy and shouted, "This is the perfect delicious, refreshing treat on a hot DC afternoon!"

YB: Wow, sounds like Tom had a great time. Any complaints?

TN: Tom found the menu to be a little sparse. He thought they could use more side items or a variety of drinks besides just the yougurt, toppings, smoothies, and water that they have now.

YB: What about the price? Some of these fro-yo joints try to charge you an arm and a leg.

TN: Relatively expensive next to TCBY, but comparable to Red Mango and Pink Berry. Tom paid $5.50 plus tax for a medium yogurt with three toppings. (Sorry, Dave.)

YB: What was the highlight? Besides Tom peeing his pants from the excitement of it all?

TN: Let's see. "Excellent selection of fruit toppings" got four exclamation marks (!!!!), so I'd have to say that. Like all the hot fro-yo joints, TangySweet's got a good selection of junkfood toppings too, like chocolate chips and all the sugary childhood cereals.

YB: Well, Tom's notes, we're out of time. Wrap it up for us.

TN: Overall, TangySweet is an enjoyable consumer experience with delicious yogurt. While Tom will probably go back for more, he hopes they expand their menu as they get the hang of things.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

WaPo on Yogurt

It looks like the Washington Post is following in my footsteps and jumping on the yogurt bandwagon! Tom, I expect your field report by the end of the week!
West Coast Yogurt Trend Arrives in Dupont Circle

Wednesday, June 11, 2008; F04

Washington native Aaron Gordon was ready to come home after 10 years in Los Angeles. But the entertainment marketing executive made sure to bring a taste of the West Coast with him. Last week he opened TangySweet, a shop in Dupont Circle offering the slightly sour frozen yogurt that has surpassed even cupcakes as a cult food.

TangySweet rides the wave of several trends. The stunningly modern shop, designed by local architectural firm Kube Architecture, is eco-friendly: the floors are concrete and the tables are made of recycled acrylic (lighting inside the translucent tables slowly changes color). The yogurt is all natural, made by a Virginia farm, and at least some of the toppings -- a rotating menu of berries, kiwi, pineapple, granola, nuts and cereals including Cap'n Crunch -- are local, when possible.

The yogurt comes in three flavors: classic (sour slightly lemony), a subtle green tea and a sweeter pomegranate. The texture is slightly icier than in versions by competitors Red Mango and Pinkberry. "We aimed for something crisper and cleaner: a tangy burst followed by a clean finish," Gordon says. "That lets the toppings, especially the berries, be the star of the show."

There are three sizes: 5-ounce ($2.50), 8-ounce ($3.50) and 13-ounce ($4.50). Toppings cost 95 cents each or $2 for three. There are also smoothies, a blend of fruit and yogurt, for $4.50 to $5.50.

Gordon says he hopes to open two more stores by next summer. He is looking at locations in Penn Quarter and Columbia Heights, though no leases have been signed.

Sunday, June 8, 2008

Rachel's: Wickedly Above Average

The blogosphere's been buzzing over Rachel's Wickedly Delicious Yogurt, a UK fave that debuted in the States in 2007, with words like "yummy," "yum," and "yummo" as well as "healthful" and "nutritious." Rachel's is definitely a strong, tasty yogurt, but I wouldn't go so far as to call it the "world's best yogurt," as one blogger does.

Aromatherapy in a Cup?

At about $1 a cup, Rachel's is reasonably priced. Otherwise, this is not a sensible yogurt. The two lines - Essence and Exotic - scream free-spirit silliness and nonsense to me. Rachel's describes Essence as "blissfully blended mood-inspiring yogurt, the essence of scrumptious satisfaction" and Exotic as "luscious blended yogurt inspired by the planet's most alluring fruits and flavors."

Here's one blogger's take on this:
I couldn't agree more.

Well, I decided to give it a try. It couldn't be worse than the goat yogurt of yore.

Rachel and the Giant Peach

I started with the Peach Green Tea - aka Revive - of the Essence line. The "all-natural" ingredients include grade A pasteurized nonfat milk, evaporated cane juice, peaches, green tea, cream, fructan, natural flavors, pectin, agar, DHA algal oil, annatto extract, vitamin D3, and live and active cultures. That's a lot of "all-natural" stuff I had to Wikipedia. All-natural and simple are not one in the same when it comes to the marketing of food.

The yogurt was a pleasant peach color with a pleasant peach smell. The taste was more peach than green tea, but Rachel's is definitely distinct from other peaches out there. The uniqueness of Rachel's is subtle, so all I'll say is it's different and better than the mainstream of Yoplait and Dannon. That said, it's still a tad too sweet for my taste buds.

Here's how Rachel's describes the experience of eating the Peach Green Tea:
Get up and groove. Sweet peachy pleasure gets lively with jazzy notes of natural green tea. Bring on the day.

Someone in marketing needs to stop smoking the ganja.

Onto the Exotic Pomegranate Blueberry. This one had the same creamy and luscious consistency as the peach as well as the same heavy taste. I found the Exotic even sweeter than the Essence. The blueberry was stronger than the pomegranate, but both were outshone by the sweetness of the yogurt. In the end, I preferred the Peach Green Tea over the Pom Blueberry.

What does Rachel's think of the Pomegranate Blueberry? Break free from the berry-blend blahs. Classic blueberry meets sassy pomegranate in an unexpected burst of pure fruity exuberance. My earlier point stands.

A few spoonfuls into the Exotic, I realized that Rachel's would be better as a dessert yogurt than a snack or breakfast yogurt. The taste is too rich and sweet for a pick-me-up.

Healthful, Schmealthful

While Rachel's Wickedly Delicious may be a more healthful dessert than German Chocolate Cake, Twinkies, or a pint of Häagen-Dazs, it's not that healthful as far as yogurts go. It's got some good stuff like calcium; vitamins A, C, and D; and omega-3; but it's also got a lot of sugar - 26 grams - with only seven grams of protein.

If you're looking for a healthful yogurt, go nonfat Greek or skyr. If you're looking for something sweet with a strong, distinct taste that's health-neutral, Rachel's it is.

I still have a few flavors in my fridge - Plum Honey Lavender (aka Calm), Kiwi Passion Fruit Lime, and Vanilla Chai (aka Relax) - and I plan to try them all. Let us know what you think of Rachel's, and be on the lookout for our first blind taste test!

In conclusion, here's a photo of our cat Osca, also a yogurt enthusiast:

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Probiotics Go Viral

Current TV, a peer-to-peer news and information network, ran this take on the marketing on yogurt on May 9, 2008. Within weeks, the story went viral. I track yogurt in the news and on the Internet through a Google Alert, and the story popped Friday, Saturday, Sunday, Monday, and Tuesday. After a friend forwarded me the story, I felt it my duty to share it with you all.

I'd like to think I'm above the fray because I haven't tried Activia (though just typing the word makes my brain sing Ac-tiv-iaaaaa like they do in their commercials) and you won't find Dannon or Yoplait in my fridge. Alas, I do wear sweats and a gray hoodie while I eat yogurt, but at least I don't have a Masters!