What’s with all the new frogurt shops today? Not that we’re complaining
In publishing, we like to say that imitation is the sincerest form of plagiarism. But what is the corollary in the culinary world? From lobster mac and cheese to gourmet s’mores, nothing succeeds like success.
But you can’t copyright a trend. Just because someone does something first doesn’t mean they get to do it alone — or even best.
So while those of us old enough to have bought Duran Duran records when they first came out on vinyl remember, the battle of the frogurt franchises is not a new one. But it is new again.
TCBY and I Can’t Believe It’s Yogurt squared off back in the 1980s when the frozen dairy dessert was all the rage. But it took the West Hollywood-based Pinkberry to reignite interest rabid interest in the product. (Face it: The gays know their trends.) And so intense is the appeal now, a new breed of fruit-named frogurt shops are springing up like mushrooms after a rain.
When it comes down to it, frozen yogurt isn’t all that unique. Except that it is. The differences are subtle but unmistakable.
One of the things that really launched the Pinkberry craze — the first of the gourmet shops — was the fact its original flavor tastes like, well, yogurt. I Can’t Believe premised its entire product line on diminishing the tangy grip of real yogurt on the tongue (what one colleague says he finds revolting no matter how diluted). Not Pinkberry; it embraces that slightly bitter edge. Indeed, its original recipe — what generations past might have called "plain" — has proprietary flavorings that accentuate that zesty bite.
That flavor is lessened in some of the other resident flavors (pomegranate, coconut, passionfruit, green tea and chocolate), each with decisively vivid tastes of their own — and all made with non-fat milk; a generously-sized small cup packs about 100 calories before toppings. The toppings — 33 in all — are (except for the Fruity Pebbles and related indulgences) natural, freshly made each day and sometimes organic.
Pinkberry is probably the purist’s first choice even though Red Mango, founded three years earlier in South Korea, has its loyalists too, and for good reason. In a side-by-side taste comparisons, Red Mango maintains its soft-serve characteristics surprisingly long. Even after a day in the freezer (it is "frozen" right?) its texture was creamy and soft, where Pinkberry’s became more crystalline, like a sorbet. Like Pinkberry, it’s all non-fat.
The flavors we sampled had a less forward yogurt taste — a plus or minus depending on your love of that cultured tang. Certainly the toppings were first-rate, including luscious blackberries. Red Mango also targets the gay market more specifically, opening its newest location at the ilume on Cedar Springs.
(A third contender, Berry Berry, opened just last month in Knox Village but closed for remodeling until Dec. 1 — outside our survey period. It offers a rotating menu of four flavors every week.)
So what does all this mean? Are we simply going back to the ’80s for round two of yogurtopia? Are cola wars far behind?
Who cares? Fat-free, lo-cal, organic and delicious. That’s enough.
Let the battle begin.
Pinkberry in Preston Royal Center, 5959 Royal Lane.
Red Mango in the ilume, 3922 Cedar Springs Road.
BerryBerry in Knox Village at Armstrong Avenue and 75 (reopens Dec. 1).
This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition November 27, 2009.