The San Francisco Chronicle food section tasted eight lemon sorbets on Wednesday in search of that perfect sweet-tart ratio, smoothness, acidity, and real lemon flavor. What they found is not pretty: "Too much sweetness, off textures and strange, artificial-seeming flavors ... at least in the opinions of our five tasters."
The national brand that fared best was Häagen-Dazs (72 points out of 100). Häagen-Dazs finished second to Draeger's Sorbet Classico (78), an upscale Bay Area store brand. Ciao Bella (45) finished a distant third.
Sharon's Sorbet, a national brand I root for because it's still independently owned and operated, totally tanked. On the Chronicle's one to 100 scale, it received an 11. Ouch!
The Chronicle's tasting inspired me to do my own mini-tasting featuring Häagen-Dazs, Sharon's, and Ciao Bella.
The Häagen-Dazs was 17 grams heavier per half cup than the others. It was smooth and creamy, more like ice cream, but it didn't taste much like freshly squeezed lemons. Half a cup has 110 calories.
The Ciao Bella was icier but more lemony. I could actually imagine them squeezing the lemons into each pint. Half a cup has 140 calories
Sharon's, my beloved Sharon's, was, as the Chronicle judged, pretty awful. It was downright strange. Half a cup has 70 calories.
Aren't the calorie differentials striking? What could explain them? The ingredients are very similar, though Sharon's lists lemon juice as its first ingredient, while Ciao Bella and Häagen-Dazs list water. In fact, the Ciao Bella lemon sorbet had the fewest ingredients, five to be exact: Water, lemon juice, sugar, pectin, guar gum. Either the calorie counts are not accurate, or the Ciao Bella has way more sugar than the others.
Anyway, in the end I decided that either Häagen-Dazs and Ciao Bella would be a fine antidote to the oppressive summer heat we've been suffering through in New York lately, but they are merely good, and not delicious, as the Cookie Monster would say.
If I want delicious, it sounds like I have to get on a plane and buy some Draeger's.