Sunday, 13 May 2012

A tribute to frozen yogurt

Pinkberry: a bit blurred, still spectacular.
I think I've been a bit slow to discover the joys of frozen yogurt, but I thought it was time to share my love.  Recently I was taken to Pinkberry, a frozen yogurt outlet from Los Angeles which enjoys a cult following - cemented by an appearance in Curb Your Enthusiasm - that opened its first UK branch at Selfridges in London last year.  This frozen yogurt is of a particular style: usually sold 'plain' and piped out from a machine into statuesque Mr Whippy-like blobs, it is then sprinkled and coated in as many wonderful toppings as you like such as granola, Oreo cookies, Heath bars (like Dime bars), chocolate curls, brownie bits, fresh mango, strawberry...

The staff at Pinkberry seem cheerfully content to conspire with you in your quest for maximum toppings - usually they're brilliantly adept at stuffing as much as they can into the tub. And all-American, the branding transforms frozen yogurt into a little pot of joy which is passed over to you else with a happy farewell from the staff member, "Enjoy your Pinkberry!"

There is something really addictive about eating frozen yogurt like this.  It might have something to do with the perfect balance between sour and sweet, which makes it really satisfying, never sickly, to the point where you almost feel you could graze on it all day.  It's a tangy and refreshing while still being comfortingly creamy and smooth, and the mixed in little sweet soft and crunchy accompaniments contrast nicely in a winning combination of texture and flavour.

Frozen yogurt sometimes markets itself on the 'healthy' card - at Pinkberry I witnessed a small group of slim and fresh-faced youthful females pointlessly questioning staff about the calorie count - and really, I'm not sure once you've caked on the layers of chocolate and sugar toppings it can be really that virtuous.  Either way, I go to Pinkberry for a treat and I don't care if it's good for me, but it is I suppose an added bonus that the delicious gunge holding together all those honeyed nuts, jelly bears and chocolate brownie chunks is fat free and also probiotic.

Lick: on a deckchair, Brighton-style
I also remembered that I can get frozen yogurt of this kind in Brighton, at Lick - apparently the UK's first frozen yogurt outlet.  It's worth mentioning too that along with its cult following frozen yogurt has bizarrely gained a kind of chic image - the Link website features videos of intimate gigs held at the shop while photos of cheerful fresh-faced folk with their frozen yogurts clearly appeal to the Hipstamatic generation.  Pushed on by my developing Pinkberry addiction, on Friday I tried their mango frozen yogurt - as well as plain they have a new flavour each day.  It was OK, but the mango flavour was a bit too subtle for my liking, and it really wasn't the same without any crunching toppings mixed in.  So today with visitors who are also Pinkberry addicts, we took advantage of the sun and went for a full on frozen yogurt experience.

Lick is a bit cheaper than Pinkberry, but their range of toppings is more limited, and their set price limits you to 3 different toppings only - any more costs extra.  I think this is a bit of a shame - part of Pinkberry's appeal is that you can go crazy and try everything, a kind of 'eat as much as you can cram on' type joyfulness which attests to its American origins.  Today I had strawberries, honeycomb and Oreo cookies.  I'd say Lick's yogurt is less sweet than Pinkberry's, and it's probably personal taste what you prefer, but for me I think Pinkberry just has the edge.  Still, I think Lick's slightly more tangy blend of yoghurt compliments well very sweet accompaniments like the honeycomb and Oreo's I opted for, and I'd probably stick to those in the future rather than fruit.  The strawberries also were quite sour.  I realise they aren't in season, but somehow all of Pinkberry's fruit is juicy and sweet all year round - and they state in proud posters that they always use the 'freshest fruit' not pre-prepared in syrup.  God knows how they do it - I guess it's probably evilly imported from halfway round the world.  Also Lick tend to chop their fruit and other bits larger than Pinkberry, so although it looks quite spectacular, you don't quite get that lovely 'mixing in' of flavours quite so easily.  One thing I did love more than Pinkberry, was the location - obviously being about 20 minutes walk from my house is a huge advantage, but mostly the setting in the North Laine is complimented by Lick deckchairs placed outside the shop for customers.  It was lovely to sit back in the sun with a frozen yogurt in the perfect location to people watch.  And I like to support local home grown businesses, so I'll definitely be going back to get my fix (once the warm weather returns).

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