Belmont, MA: Sophia's Awesome Greek Yogurt
The title of the relevant Chowhound post sums it up nicely: "Best yogurt I've ever eaten—Sophia's Belmont." I couldn't agree more.
I stumbled on Sophia's Greek yogurt about a year ago at Parsons Table in Winchester, Massachusetts, where chef Chris Parsons was running a yogurt dessert special that named the source of the dairy. If any part of me was surprised that yogurt was the feature ingredient, it didn't take more than a bite for me to understand why. It was hands-down the thickest, richest, most complex-tasting yogurt I'd ever had.
The discovery became even better when Parsons told me that Sophia Skopetos sells her yogurt at her small Greek specialty market in Belmont—not more than 10 minutes from my apartment. I stopped in to buy some a few days later, and gaped as she hand-packed a container for me. She grabbed a short-handled paddle and dug her arm into a refrigerated tub. The yogurt was so thick that it clung stiffly to the paddle and forced her to scrape it free on the side of the plastic container she was filling.
But crème-fraîche thickness wasn't the only trait that made her product ($3 per pound; roughly $6 per quart) stand so far apart from Fage, Chobani, and all the other commercial Greek yogurts that, despite draining, still weep whey and run off a spoon. The flavor was also exceptional—tangy for sure, but with a savory, almost cheese-y depth and a milky richness that was ripe and creamy all the way through each spoonful.
The dairy nerd in me was practically bursting, so I started probing her with questions—like, what kind of cow made this milk? No cow, she said. It was a combination of sheep and goat's milk, both of which she sources from Vermont. Following the technique she learned from her grandmother growing up in Kalamata, she scalds the milk, cultures it, treats it with rennet (imported from the old country), and then drains the milk for a good 12 hours. Because she makes the curds with rennet (translation: an enzyme taken out of the belly of a young animal, in this case a sheep), it's technically not a yogurt—it's a fresh cheese, similar to a French fromage frais, which explains its thick, rich texture and ability to withstand weeping.
And then she hit me with an incredible piece of information: It was low-fat.
I said it couldn't be—it was just too rich and thick—but she replied that the milk she uses is two percent. Those numbers were good enough for me until a fellow enthusiast—and skeptic—actually had a sample of the yogurt analyzed at a local lab. Maybe everyone suspected that the low-fat thing was too good to be true—but according to this blogger's report, the fat count actually hovers around 20 percent, thanks to her thorough draining.
If you care a lot about fat, I guess that's a real blow. On the other hand, a friend of mine made a good point when she said that the stuff is so rich that you can't eat more than a few spoonfuls at a time anyway. And it's worth every bite.