Battle Of The Low-Carb Cheesecakes: Can Anyone Dethrone Ruby Tuesday's As The Best?
Who has the best low-carb cheesecake on the market today?
When I started livin' la vida low-carb in 2004, one of the first things I did was search for a delicious low-carb dessert I could sink my teeth into and not worry about what it would do to my weight loss efforts. After months of trying products of varying degrees of quality and taste, I came across an unexpectedly pleasant surprise from the restaurant chain Ruby Tuesday.
It turns out they are the ONLY MAJOR RESTAURANT CHAIN in the United States of America that offers their customer's a great-tasting low-carb/sugar-free dessert. Why is this seemingly simple addition to restaurant menus being ignored by major companies looking to expand their profits and grow their customer base? Do they really believe diabetics and low-carbers don't exist in large enough numbers to support a high-quality and desirable dessert low-carb dessert offering? I challenge the other major restaurant chains to step up to the plate and follow the lead of Ruby Tuesday on this trend. It will pay off big time for those companies who do.
What is this magnificent dessert that Ruby Tuesday has that makes them the toast of the low-carb community? Why it's their cheesecake, of course! If you haven't tried the Ruby Tuesday cheesecake, then you are missing out on one of the best-kept secrets for low-carbers. I remember the first time I tried this dessert, I was amazed it was low-carb and only had 1 net carb! WOW! In fact, the girl who sold me the slice of cheesecake said it tasted so good and was so popular that the low-carb version replaced the sugary version on the menu. How cool is that?
Needless to say, any cheesecake claiming to be low-carb has to live up to the very high standard set by the Ruby Tuesday cheesecake. So I decided to conduct a test this week between two major competitor's of the Ruby Tuesday cheesecake to see how they stack up against the best of the best.
The first contender is Phil's Phamous Lo-Carb Cheesecake. In business since 1999, Philip Pickard has been serving up his version of New York-style cheesecake after losing 37 pounds on the low-carb lifestyle and eating a slice of cheesecake every single day.
The second contender is Luscious Living Low-Carb SophistiCake. Jason Wachob's life changed in a moment in 2003 while sitting in The Cheesecake Factory with some friends when he realized there was a huge void in the low-carb community for a cheesecake they can eat and enjoy. Thus, he birthed his own company to himself, an avid low-carber, and others who are livin' la vida low-carb an option.
Now that I have sampled these two new cheesecakes, I am ready to compare them with the defending champion:
Round 1: TASTE
With any low-carb dessert offering, the number one factor that needs to be considered is taste. That is precisely why I was so attracted to the Ruby Tuesday cheesecake initially. The unique flavor was one I knew I would crave time and time again. The Phil's Phamous cheesecake was the first one I tried among the two contenders. I have to be brutally honest here -- the taste was not very good in my opinion. It was way too plain. Perhaps some people like their cheesecake tasting like a block of cream cheese, but not me. I like a cheesecake with a little zing to it. Upon my first bite of the Luscious Living cheesecake, that is just what I got! Oh my goodness, this cheesecake is out of this world. I was simply amazed that something could taste that good and still be low-carb! WOW, WOW, and WOW again! This first round is no contest.
ADVANTAGE: Luscious Living
Round 2: SWEETENERS
The Ruby Tuesday cheesecake uses a proprietary blend of various sweeteners including sucralose (Splenda), ACE-K, erythritol and maltitol. Except for the maltitol which can cause excessive gas when consumed in high quantities, I am very pleased with the sweeteners used to replace the sugar. Phil's Phamous exclusively used Splenda in its cheesecake. While I applaud Phil for doing that and avoiding the poor artificial sweeteners in his product, I learned a long time ago that too much Splenda in a recipe gives the food a funky-tasting wang. It is much better if a variety of sweeteners are used to prevent this from happening (just as Diet Coke with Splenda uses ACE-K to balance out the flavor). And Luscious Living was even worse by primarily using 10g of maltitol as well as Splenda. While I did not experience the "matitol effect" (if you've ever overconsumed on products with maltitol in them, then you know what I'm talking about) after eating the Luscious Living cheesecake, there are much better sweetener choices such as erythritol and oligofructose that could be used instead. It looks like neither contender has Ruby Tuesday beat on this one.
ADVANTAGE: Ruby Tuesday
Round 3: CARBOHYDRATE CONTENT
Total net carbs is an important thing to look for with any low-carb food you put in your mouth. If one slice of cheesecake has double-digit carb totals, then you will only sabotage your efforts to lose and maintain your weight. Thankfully all of the cheesecakes I am reviewing are well under 10g of carbohydrates. Phil's Phamous has 3g net carbs for a fairly large slice and Luscious Living claims boldly on its packaging that it has "ZERO NET CARBS." But I'm confused about how they come up with that. On the nutritional information, the total carbohydrates are 13g, with 3g of dietary fiber and 10g of sugar alcohol (maltitol). But unfortunately, that's not all of the carbs included in the cheesecake. There are also 2g of sugar that must come from the vanilla extract, lemon juice, and orange juice used in the recipe. So that's 3 + 10 + 2 which should equal 15g of total carbs. When you take away dietary fiber and sugar alcohols, that leaves you with 2g net carbs per 3 oz serving. Maybe the person who came up wih the "ZERO NET CARBS" claim went to public school and didn't learn how to subtract correctly, but the information is not accurate. The Ruby Tuesday cheesecake only has 1g net carb in it which includes the nut-based crust (by the way, neither of the contenders have a crust). The champion prevails in this round as well.
ADVANTAGE: Ruby Tuesday
Round 4: TEXTURE
A good New York-styled cheesecake is going to be thick and stick to your ribs when it goes down the pipe. The Ruby Tuesday cheesecake which comes frozen certainly fits this description. But Phil's Phamous cheesecake, which is made fresh and never frozen, has the perfect density and creamy consistency that you expect from a cheesecake. It is thick enough to chase away your hunger pangs for hours after you eat it. The texture and satiety are exactly what you desire in a good cheesecake. Yet Luscious Living did not have this same characteristic. Rather than the signature rich, thick flavor you would expect from a cheesecake, it was much lighter. While there is nothing wrong with this, I felt the texture of Luscious Living was not as authentic as Phil's Phamous. The fact that Phil's is homemade and kept fresh without extra preservative ingredients gives it the edge over Ruby Tuesday's cheesecake, too!
ADVANTAGE: Phil's Phamous
Round 5: VALUE
I know you're wondering about the cost. How much is this bad boy gonna break my bank? Well, if you went to Ruby Tuesday and ordered one slice of their cheesecake, it is prohibitively expensive at $5 a slice! But you can purchase a whole cheesecake with 12 individually sliced cheesecakes for about $30, which comes to $2.50 each. Of course, if you don't have a Ruby Tuesday near you, then it may cost you a good chunk of that $6 per gallon gas to get it. Phil's Phamous includes the price of 2-day shipping in the price of its cheesecake, which sells for $42.90 all inclusive. This is a large cheesecake that has about 12 servings (or more if you eat smaller slices). If you stretch it out to 15 individual slices, then that's $2.90 per slice. And Luscious Living's cheesecake comes in a beautiful tin container, but it is about half the size of Ruby Tuesday and Phil's Phamous. There is probably the equivalent of 6 slices in one container of Luscious Living cheesecake. It's $19.99 for one or $33.99 for two plus $12 for 2-day shipping. That comes to $3.73 per slice and it's worth every incredible bite. But for the best value, it looks like Ruby Tuesday offers that as well.
ADVANTAGE: Ruby Tuesday
While Ruby Tuesday remains the world heavyweight champion of low-carb cheesecakes, they better watch out! There are some excellent contenders out there putting up a good fight to dethrone them from their pedestal.
If you are a company that sells an excellent low-carb cheesecake and you think you have a product that is better than Ruby Tuesday, then send me an e-mail about what you have to offer.
I would like to personally thank Philip at Phil's Phamous and Jason at Luscious Living for providing the sample cheesecakes used in preparation for this article. Please visit their web sites for more information about their respective products. THANKS!
9-23-05 UPDATE: Jason from Luscious Living sent me an e-mail and wanted to explain about the net carbs discrepancy I mentioned in my blog post. Here is what he wrote:
"With regards to nutrition labeling I’d like to clear something up. When I received the nutrition results I had the very same question regarding the Total Carbohydrate content. The lab’s response was that carbohydrates are calculated by subtracting protein, fat, ash, and moisture from the total weight. The calculation that most of us are familiar with and that you used in your article isn’t accurate.
As far as the net carb calculation goes, if other manufacturers are loading their product with upwards of 30-40g of maltitol per serving and coming up with a 2 or 3 net carb count, then I have to use the same calculation. In the end, the low-carber is educated enough to make their own decision how they would like to count their own carbs."
THANKS, Jason. I appreciate the explanation, although I don't understand how the 2g of sugar are negated from the carbohydrate total. Anywho, he was very nice to describe my blog post about his product as a "wonderful review." If you want a cheesecake that will melt in your mouth and make you slap your momma TWICE, then you really need to order a SophistiCake. The creativity of the tin canister it comes in is worth it even if the cheesecake tasted awful. But, thankfully, it doesn't. Buy one TODAY! :-)
9-24-05 UPDATE: After hearing positive comments back from one of the featured cheesecake businesses featured in this blog post, I anxiously awaited the comments from the other one, Phil's Phamous. However, unlike Jason's response which was gracious despite my criticism of certain aspects of his product, Phil Pickard was not at all pleased with my review and let me know it in this caustic e-mail response:
I am sorry you thought my cheesecake sample was "not very good" in your opinion. As a practicing "freelance writer", I believe you should be forthcoming with your audience and that would include being "brutally honest" in all areas. However, this may have taken a little research on your part. Some things you left out of your blog were blatantly obvious and should be shared with your readers just to be fair and accurate.
TASTE: Though Phils Phamous Classic NY Style Cheesecake tasted like "a block of cream cheese", there are those who do like the flavor of cream cheese. It is the main ingredient in a New York style cheesecake! If you enjoy your cheesecake with a "little zing to it" you should try Phil's Lemon Cream, Key Lime, Orange Creamsicle or any other one of Phil's 19 flavors. (By the way, you left VARIETY out of your considerations.)
SWEETENERS: Though I do use only Splenda in my cheesecakes, the reason that you didn't taste the "funky-tasting wang" in my cake is because I use liquid Splenda exclusively which has no after taste. I also take exception to your skipping over the maltitol connection with diarrhea. Maltitol does more to a lot of people than "cause excessive gas". I don't know about you or your readers but I do not like to eat anything that has to have a warning posted on it that if you consume it, it may make you sick.
CARBOHYDRATE CONTENT: The carb content in Phils Phamous' cakes is the total content, not the net. You don't have to subtract anything from my carb content to figure out how many real carbs you are consuming. As you must know, there is much founded evidence that subtracting the total "sugar alcohol" numbers from the carb content does not accurately derive the true net carb content. Most people, these days who are truly knowledgeable about living a real low carb lifestyle, may perhaps subtract half of the sugar alcohol number in order to get a more accurate net carb count. I would also like you to expound on the nutritional analysis of the Ruby Tuesday cake and scrutinize their ingredients the way you did Luscious Living's. How do they derive 1 net carb per serving? (Especially considering their nut crust, which does contain carbohydrates!)
TEXTURE: I can't disagree with your analysis here!
VALUE: This can only accurately be determined by the weight of the product you are comparing, not by the size of the slice you think is sufficient! Phils Phamous cakes weigh 3.25 lbs. or more. I do not know the weight of the Ruby Tuesday cake but I am willing to put mine up against it in a fair test of price per ounce. You should also consider CONVENIENCE in your overall analysis. What is it worth to have a cake delivered to your doorstep?
For some reason, I doubt you will run these comments as a "reprint from your new blog." However, as a responsible journalist / freelance writer, I believe you owe it to your readers to tell the whole story as you now know it. What do you think? Please reply.
Do you get the feeling Phil is mad at me for my comments? Sheez! I had to be honest about how I felt regarding the quality of his cheesecake versus the others and he just didn't like what I had to say. Sorry, but I don't sugarcoat anything here at this blog. If I like, I tell you. If I don't like it, I tell you. That's the way I have always been and will always be in my analysis because that's what my readers expect from me. I'm not going to lie if I think the product stinks. While I don't think Phil's Phamous Cheesecake is entirely bad, it certainly was not as good as Ruby Tuesday's cheesecake.
By the way, since I did the test for this blog, I have had another slice of Phil's Phamous except this time I poured some cinnamon mixed with Splenda and butter on top to give it a little flavor. WOW! That was REALLY good and as I stated in my original analysis of his cheesecake, it was very filling. I think a little tweaking with the recipe could make Phil's Phamous even better.
If you like a good cheesecake with luscious cream cheese flavor, then you should buy one of Phil's Phamous cheesecakes! It'll last you a long time!