Archive | June, 2012

Ronnybrook Drinkable Yogurt

25 Jun


Ronnybrook Drinkable Yogurt

A food review by Daniel B.

The bar for yogurt is pretty low these days. I don’t know the last time you went into a supermarket and read the labels in the yogurt aisle. But it’s not pretty. The Dannon fruit-on-the-bottom yogurt, which was a fixture of my childhood is now sweetened with high fructose corn syrup and thickened with corn starch (in addition to modified corn starch).

However, even without those laboratory sweeteners and potentially GMO-derived thickeners, conventionally produced dairy can be a minefield for those concerned with the overuse of synthetic hormones and antibiotics.

Organic yogurt uses milk that comes from cows not treated with rBGH and also ensures against subtherapeutic doses of antibiotics being administered within the feed. But Ronnybrook, in Ancramdale, NY takes this one step farther, which is just one thing that makes their tart and fruity drinkable yogurt so good.

Cows may love to eat corn, to them it’s like candy. But their physiology is designed to convert pasture into protein. Whether that be in the form of meat or dairy. Corn makes them fat and happy. Still, it makes sense that if cows eat a better diet, they will be healthier. And given the choice, who wouldn’t prefer to drink the milk from healthier cows?

I’m not going to make any specific health claims, as the healthfulness of milk in its variety of forms is hotly contested by plenty of smart people on either side.

However, the superiority of pasture-raised dairy is starting to gain momentum nationally. Just recently Chipotle announced that 100% of its sour cream now comes from pasture-raised cows. And Organic Valley which is distributed nationally seems to be moving in this direction as well.

This is old news for Ronnybrook.

Their cows are grass-fed and are put out to pasture every day provided that the weather cooperates. When it doesn’t, the cows are given feed that is grown almost entirely on their land. That means in the winter they eat through a massive amount of hay that is harvested on the farm.

It’s wonderful to see that these animals get such good treatment. To give you a sense, here is just one blurb from the dairy’s website that explains how they care for their herd:

Our cows are like family to us here. They are the offspring of a long line of prizewinning Holsteins that the Osofsky family has raised for nearly 70 years. In the rare event one of them gets sick, that animal is taken out of the milking rotation and isolated from the rest of the herd. If our veterinarian tells us that she needs antibiotics to get well, that’s what we do. Same as we would do with one of our children. When that animal is completely restored to health, she’s returned to the milking lineup with her sisters.

So this special milk is turned into yogurt with ten live active cultures: L. Bulgaricus, L. Yogurtii, L. Acidophilus, S. Thermophilus, S. Lactis, S. Cremoris, S. Diacetylactis, L. Cremoris, L. Rhamnosus, and Bifidobacterium Lactis. That’s some tart and tangy yogurt. And considering a serving contains 7g of fat and 4g of saturated fat (it is made primarily with whole milk after all) it’s pretty darn refreshing. With no gums or starches, it finishes nice and clean.

The strawberry flavor is notable for all of the juicy bits of strawberry pulp and seeds suspended in the yogurt. And without any coloring agents, the pale pink color of actual strawberries is a blessed relief from some of the impossibly pink hues contained in other yogurts.

While the label does not claim the strawberries are organic, I do like to imagine they come from their neighbors at Thompson-Finch Farm. But that is probably naive.

Regardless, it’s great to have some better alternatives to all of the junk that is cluttering up the yogurt shelf in the supermarket. Sure, during strawberry season you could make your own drinkable yogurt in a blender. But Ronnybrook’s is ready to go, and it’s a great way to support this fantastic dairy, even if you are getting your milk elsewhere.

About Daniel B.

A west coast transplant now living in Albany, Daniel Berman is applying his communication strategy background to food writing with the ultimate goal of improving the culinary landscape in the Capital Region. He writes the FUSSYlittleBLOG and contributes regularly to All Over Albany.

SoCo Creamery Salted Caramel

12 Jun


SoCo Creamery Salted Caramel

A food review by Daniel B.

Ice cream is serious business in the northeast. We are very lucky in that there are many places to get high quality, hard ice cream that is made in small batches. Recently, I led a multi-county tour of five Capital Region favorite ice cream stands, and we discovered a few interesting things.

1) Even great ice cream makers don’t nail every flavor.

2) Some great producers can utterly fail in multiple flavors.

Most likely your favorite ice cream place has as much to do with nostalgia than the actual product itself. Whether it was the stuff you grew up with as a kid, the place you went during some amazing vacation, or the local stand which has become a summertime ritual for your family, there are lots of emotional connections we have that make ice cream taste great.

Having never been to the SoCo Creamery in Great Barrington, MA I can say with certainty that my perceptions of this ice cream are not influenced by fond memories. However, after trying their Salted Caramel, I’m tempted to hop in the car and make a pilgrimage to this epicenter of adult pleasure.

There are some people who will scrunch up their noses at the thought of salty ice cream. I get that. But for them, I have a few more accessible parallels.

  • Honey glazed ham
  • Chocolate covered pretzels
  • Reese’s peanut butter cups

None of these are fancy, gourmet treats, but all of them leverage the powerful combination of contrasting flavors existing in a harmonious balance.

Or think about it this way. You are at the movies and you have a bite of salty popcorn. That makes you want a sip of sweet soda. Which in turn, makes you crave a taste of salt. This plays into the physiology of taste, and we are hardwired to enjoy it. Nobody knows this better than the folks at Coca-Cola.

So do not hesitate to try this creamy blend of lightly salted caramel ice cream, with thick gooey globs of rich caramel. It’s not salty, but the salt does serve to keep the sugar in balance and create a richer more complex flavor profile. For context, a serving only contains 100mg of sodium where a non-salted super-premium ice cream has 50mg of sodium.


It just so happens that SoCo recently participated in Boston’s annual Scooper Bowl fundraiser. There Tina and Bethany, two ice cream obsessed bloggers declared, “The booth that inspired and intrigued us the most was SoCo Creamery.” And Bethany went on to award her top pick of the day to their Salted Caramel (Tina preferred the Lemon Poppy Seed).

But the thing that really ignites my desire to hop in the car and make the long drive to Great Barrington is that gushes over their hot fudge sauce.

The good news is that word of SoCo Creamery is spreading and pints of their ice cream can now be found beyond Massachusetts and into Connecticut, New Jersey and New York. It’s the exact same stuff in the cartons as they make in the store, with the same commitment to small-batch production and “all natural” ingredients.

Truth be told, I’d prefer it if they could leave out the carageenan, guar gum and xantham gum. But I know I’m fighting an uphill battle on this one. And if you buy an occasional pint of Ben & Jerry’s, these ingredients aren’t strangers to your ice cream.

Here in New York, you can find SoCo Creamery ice cream at the Old Chatham Country Store and Adams Fairacre Farms. Plus there are plenty of places closer to Manhattan where it’s also available.

Although maybe you are like me, and inspired by tales of magnificent hot fudge to go along with their enticing flavor combinations. Hopefully I’ll finally get to Great Barrington soon, because ice cream season doesn’t last forever.

About Daniel B.

A west coast transplant now living in Albany, Daniel Berman is applying his communication strategy background to food writing with the ultimate goal of improving the culinary landscape in the Capital Region. He writes the FUSSYlittleBLOG and contributes regularly to All Over Albany.