Market research: Sorbet, the palate pleaser

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Ciao Bella sorbet has the most sugar of our tested sorbets, but it's natural sugar from fruit. Credit: RJ Mickelson

By Erin Lindholm

Special to amNewYork

While it’s true that sorbet’s a lower-calorie, lower-fat (often fat-free) alternative to ice cream, and it’s made of fruit and often dairy-free, that’s not a green light to eat the whole pint in one sitting.

“It should still be considered a treat or dessert unless it’s homemade, and you know what’s really going into it,” noted nutritionist Liz Stein.

The first step, said Stein, is to check the sugar. For all their appeal, “sorbets are still loaded with sugar.”

In the four market brands taste-tested for this article — Ciao Bella, Haagen Dazs, Sharon’s and Whole Fruit — sugar per serving ranged from 19g to a whopping 38g, which is a huge variable when we’re talking about a scoop of frozen delight.

Second, said Stein, is figure out where the sugar’s coming from. The fruit accounts for some of it, but “you want to choose a sorbet that has natural sugar, as opposed to high-fructose corn syrup.” Case-in-point: In four samples, we found everything from cane sugar to plain old “sugar” to corn syrup.

The third step — and, let’s be honest, the most important — is choosing a sorbet that tastes good. Here’s how our samples stacked up:0701EAT5c%28C%29SorbetSharon.jpg

Sharon’s is Stein’s sort of sorbet: Fruit is the first ingredient and the secondary sweetener comes from a natural source — in this case, cane syrup. She may be on to something: at 80 calories and only 19g sugar per serving, Sharon’s sorbets are a great go-to option for picking up a pint on the way home from work. Very tasty too.

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If you’re craving ice cream, Whole Fruits Strawberry sorbet, with it’s candy-sugary sweetness, ultra-smooth texture, and big strawberry flavor, comes the closest. We loved seeing the flecks of strawberry, but didn’t love the fact that the 20g of sugar per serving are from corn syrup solids and sugar.

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Haagen-Dazs’s Orchard Peach sorbet had the lightest, most subtle flavor of the bunch — it inspires descriptions like “effervescent” and “delicate” — which makes sense, given that water is first on the list of ingredients. In the right circumstances, we’ll overlook the fact that the 30 grams sugar per serving are from sugar and corn syrup, because this sorbet reminds us of nothing so much as a smooth, frozen bellini.

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Local darling Ciao Bella packs the most sugar at 38g per serving, but that’s no reason for alarm: The first two ingredients of the Banana Mango sorbet are bananas and mangos, and there’s no water added, which means you’re essentially eating a frozen banana-mango puree sweetened a bit more with regular sugar. There are pros and cons: The flavor is really intense, but at times eating this sorbet feels like you’re mushing through a banana.

If all else fails, “it’s really easy to make your own,” says Stein. All it takes is blending together fresh fruit, ice and agave nectar to taste, and freezing the mixture in a durable container. Sounds like the perfect solution for those bananas that are about to turn.

Something different: Wine Cellar sorbet

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For an interesting alternative to fruit sorbet, try Wine Cellar Sorbet of Brooklyn’s array wine-flavored sorbets, including Cabernet Sauvignon, Riesling,

Champagne, and more, all available at Whole Foods.

The sake sorbet, one of Wine Cellar Sorbet’s latest releases, is unlike any of the other samples: The spoon slides right through the sorbet, which is in a state of permanent semi-freeze. The taste is subtle, cool and smooth up front, with a lingering flavor of sweet rice, reminiscent of mochi, a favorite Japanese treat. The Sake sorbet would pair nicely with a citrus dessert, such as key lime pie, or would make for a perfect amuse bouche.

Tags: sorbet , haagen-dazs , sharon's , wine cellar sorbet , ciao bella , whole fruit

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