Thursday, September 07, 2017

Frozen Yogurt from Prima Cafe

Update Review, September 2017

When "summer" hit San Francisco this fall, froyo was at the top of my agenda.  And luckily for me, Prima Cafe is located right near my office.  You may start with my original review if you want to read my initial raves about the quality yogurt.

I was quite happy with my recent creations.
Machines.
As with past visits, I was very impressed with the quality of the frozen yogurt (Honey Hill Farms).  It really is creamier than almost anywhere else I've tried in the city (the Westfield Mall location of Yoppi is probably second place).

They still have only 4 flavors at a time, 1 of which is always sorbet, and one of which is always classic tart, and a mix of non-fat and low-fat varieties, so, options are limited, but nearly every flavor I've tried has been wonderful.

Model is self-serve, pay-by-weight.
Toppings.
The toppings lineup is still quite limited, compared to most froyo shops.  This is it.  No fresh fruits.  No sauces, besides two squeeze bottles of chocolate syrup and caramel syrup.  ~12 other toppings, in a mix of jars and boxes (sprinkles, one type of chopped nut, one type of mochi, flaxseed (!), granola, a few interesting "crunches" (toffee, chocolate), standard crowd favorites (Oreo, Reese's, chocolate chips, pb chips, graham cracker crumbles), and lychee jellies.

But this is actually a cafe, not a froyo shop, so the selection is reasonable, and it all works well.  It does seem a shame not to have any fruit though, given the permanent place on the menu for classic tart!
Assorted Froyos w/ Toppings.  ~$2-3.
Pretty much every time I visit Prima, I am met with indecision, so, somehow, I wind up with nearly every flavor of froyo (thank goodness they only have 4 flavors at a time!)  I try to at least match my toppings with my creations, but, uh, I even fail at that pretty often.

Each of my creations was fairly small, and cost <$3.  Prima's per ounce rate is much lower than the big froyo shops, although they also add on a $0.25 cup fee.  I wonder if you brought your own if they'd take that away?

Froyo:
  • Cheesecake (non-fat): "Cheesecake lovers, have no fear. You can now succumb to your insatiable cheesecake cravings without sacrificing taste when you try our heavenly Nonfat Cheesecake yogurt. Made with real cheesecake bases, this yogurt tastes like a scrumptious slice of cheesecake straight from New York!" 
    • This was fairly creamy, but a bit icy.  I didn't taste anything cheesecake about it though, it just was kinda sweet and plain.
  • Classic Tart (non-fat): "This creamy, sweet yogurt is a must-try. Our Nonfat Classic Tart yogurt is perfectly tart with just a hint of citrus." 
    •  Fairly creamy for a tart style, subtle tartness, quite enjoyable.  Would be great with fresh fruit, and if I was in the mood for that style of froyo, I'd just bring my own since they don't have fruit toppings.
    • Really quite good simple tart yogurt.  I normally want plain tart with fruit, but this is sweeter than some tart, and perfectly fine with just some mochi and sprinkles.
  • Espresso (low-fat): "Need a boost but don’t feel like drinking another cup of joe? Down a few spoonfuls of our fantastic Low Fat Espresso yogurt! This tasty treat packs a punch of flavor that’s sure to jolt your taste buds!" 
    • Very creamy, nice coffee flavor.
    • This was very creamy, nice espresso flavor, but a sweet yogurt, not one where the espresso nature really shines through.
    • I didn't like it this time.  A bit grainy, and too sweet for espresso flavor.
  • Triple Chocolate (low-fat): "Let your senses drift off to Europe when you taste our delectable Low Fat Triple Chocolate yogurt. You may have to gobble up a few helpings of this luscious yogurt to believe it’s low fat! Rich European chocolate has never tasted so good!"
    •  Again, very creamy, nice mild chocolate flavor.  I think my favorite of the batch.
    • Very creamy, mild chocolate, very good for chocolate froyo.
  • Valencia Orange Sorbet (non-dairy): "Cool off with this perfect summertime treat! Our nonfat non-dairy Valencia Orange sorbet packs a punch of fresh, smooth orangey taste you’re sure to love!" 
    • Always fairly refreshing, but the sorbet is a bit icy.  Best swirled with the classic tart.
Toppings:
  • "Crunch Bits": 
    • I added these to both the espresso and chocolate. No idea what these really were, irregular little chunks of chocolate something. Even more fun to crunch than toffee bits. 
    • Added to both chocolate and espresso again.  I like these, whatever they are.  My favorite topping of that visit.
  • Lychee Jelly: 
    • I don't think I've ever had jellies on froyo before, but I was inspired after having them in bubble tea from Little Szchwuan and Home Plate Boba. They were sweet, and actually kinda fun to have on my froyo, even though it was a bit strange to have slimy things in my froyo. Went well with the tart/orange combo. 
  • Peanut Butter Chips:
    • Hard to go wrong here. Great peanut butter flavor. 
    • I added these to the chocolate froyo. They were just generic normal size peanut butter chips, but a good combination with the chocolate froyo. Next time though, I think I'd go for the crushed peanut butter cups instead, to get the same chocolate/pb combo, just with a better ingredient. 
  • Rainbow Mochi: 
    • Soft, pliable, not bad. 
    • Very soft, clearly fresh, better than the mochi at most froyo shops.  Nice with the tart froyo in lieu of having fruit.
  • Rainbow Sprinkles: 
    • Again, hard to go wrong. Colorful, fun.
    • Just for fun! Colorful standard sprinkles. 
    • I always add them.  Just sprinkles, but, color!
  • "Toffee Bits": 
    • Added to the espresso side.  Crispy, sweet, fun to crunch on. 
    • Added to chocolate and espresso.  I liked even better with chocolate froyo.

Original Review, August 2010

I love soft serve ice cream.  In a cone.  With sprinkles.  Best enjoyed in the sun, on a hot summer day.  Unfortunately, these things, while a part of my daily life when I grew up on the east coast, are pretty hard to come by in San Francisco.  So, I settle for soft serve frozen yogurt.

I eat a lot of frozen yogurt, usually at least one a day.  I somehow haven't written too many reviews yet, but I do have extensive tasting notes, so I'm sure I'll dig them out at some time point!

Frozen yogurt can take so many forms.  The hard kind I actively dislike.  I've never found one that tastes remotely good.  But soft serve can be pretty great, and can take you in whatever direction suites your mood.  Sometimes, I just want a tart flavor, topped with fresh fruit and granola.  Or sometimes, I want it sweet as can be, loaded up with candy and hot fudge, like an ice cream sundae.  Or sometimes, I want it just like my classic soft serve ice cream cones, rolled in sprinkles.

I prefer places that are self-serve, so I can get as much as I want.  Sometimes I just want a small one, and don't want to pay $5 for it!  I also like being able to add on whatever toppings, in whatever quantity, I feel like that day.  And I love to have lots of flavors to choose from.

But the most important aspect of a good froyo for me is how creamy it is.  I can't stand it when it is icy! Many places just get this wrong.  Or they are fine if you go on a standard day, but go on a day when they are low traffic, or go too early in the day, and it is icy.  Or go on a busy day, or late in the day, and its too runny.  Consistently creamy yogurt, that is what I value the most!

About a year ago, I had given up on finding a frozen yogurt place that consistently delivered.  Yoppi had its great flavors and great days, but also could be totally mediocre other days, even when having the same flavor, from the same store.  I thought I had visited every single place serving frozen yogurt, ranging from specialty shops, to random delis with froyo machines on the side, when I discovered a place that had been only open for a few months.  And ... it was just two blocks from my house.  Prima Cafe!

It turned out to be the best frozen yogurt I've found in San Francisco.  Repeatedly.  They are also a full cafe, serving breakfast goods, espresso drinks, smoothies, sandwiches, and soups.  But I've never had anything other than frozen yogurt.

They use a self serve, pay-by-weight model, and feature 4 flavors, rotating weekly.  You can always look up the flavors on the web site, although they aren't that meticulous about updating it: http://www.primacafesf.com/menu/frozen_yogurt.  One slot is reserved for the original tart, and it is always paired with something else fruity, either another tart flavor, or a sorbet.  The other two are usually sweet.  The yogurt comes from Honey Hill Farms and is the creamiest frozen yogurt I've ever had.  I suspect it is in large part due to the fact that most of it is not non-fat.  Some isn't even low-fat.  Fat really just makes things better, and creamier!  They also just don't get nearly as much traffic as somewhere like Yoppi, so the machines aren't ever stressed past their limits.

The yogurt really is fantastic.  They have my favorite of all frozen yogurts in the city, an amazingly flavorful, creamy, peanut butter.  When swirled with a chocolate flavor, it is just about the best thing ever!  But I also love their fruity tart flavors, or the sorbets, when swirled with the plain tart.  And I don't generally like chocolate yogurts, but they have the best I've ever had.  The only place they fall short is on the toppings, which are minimal, at best.

The staff are friendly, there is ample seating (since on most days, you don't actually want to venture out into the cold SF day to enjoy your frozen treat!), and the place is always clean.

I wish they were open better hours, as they are only open during the week, and until 5pm.  I would be a regular customer on weekends or evenings if they were ever open, but that is the curse of my neighborhood, so many good places, never open when I'm home and free!

They are also using all of the new payment hotness.  They were actually the first place I ever used LevelUp!  They seed your account with $1, but if you haven't signed up yet, and you use my code (101243), then you'll get an additional $5 to spend anywhere (and so will I).  And then you can also add another $5, to spend at SOMA locations.  Now that is a lot of froyo!  They also use GoPago, but the yogurt isn't an option on there.

Best yet, on Friday afternoons, they have Frozen Yogurt Happy Hour!  50% off from 3pm-5pm!
Free froyo from Scoutmob promo! Topped with S'mores, Cappuccino Crunch,  mixed nuts, chocolate sauce, lychee jelly.
They normally give you a much bigger cup for the froyo, but for the free Scoutmob one, they just used a regular coffee cup.  I loaded it up with all available flavors of froyo for the day, and all of the toppings.  I wouldn't normally add all of the toppings like this, but in the interests of research, I had to try them all out!

Below are my tasting notes of all of the assorted yogurts and toppings, from the past year or so.  As always, subsequent tastings are denoted in brackets.

Chocolatey
  • Chocolate Mint (nonfat, seasonal):  Tasting notes: delicious, creamy, probably the best chocolate froyo i’ve ever had.
  • German Chocolate Cake (unknown): Tasting notes: decent creamy and flavor but not amazing [ some weird aftertaste, not a big fan ] [ nice chocolate flavor, sweet, rich, great blended with candy cane ] [ very creamy, rich chocolate flavor, lots of pecan notes as well, a tiny bit fake tasting though. ]
  • Triple Chocolate (lowfat): Tasting notes: Creamy, amazing chocolate flavor. Best chocolate I’ve ever had. Amazing swirled with peanut butter to make a peanut butter cup!
Tart
  • Blueberry Tart (nonfat): made with real blueberry puree.  Tasting notes: little icey, decent flavor but could be stronger blueberry flavor, tartness is nice. [ kinda icy, sweet, meh ] [ not very strong blueberry flavor, not that tart, meh ]
  • Classic Tart (nonfat): Tasting notes:  kinda icy, decent flavor, but only had it swirled with sorbet so didn’t get full sense [ pretty nice tart flavor, a little icy, nice swirled with blueberry tart ] [ nice tart flavor, slightly icy, really great swirled with pink lemonade sorbet ] [ nice tart flavor, icy, good swirled with mango sorbet ] [ very icy, not very tart ] [ icy, tart, good combo with mango sorbet ] [ icy, tart, but good swirled with sorbet ] [ nice tartness, would be good with fresh fruit toppings, if they had them. ]
  • Raspberry Tart (unknown): Tasting notes: Really great raspberry flavor, nice tartness.  Very good.  Nice alone, or swirled with classic tart.  Very creamy.  My favorite of the tarts.
Sorbet
The sorbets are more icey than the froyo, not nearly as awesomely creamy.
  • Mango (nonfat): Made with real mango puree. Tasting notes: icy, but that is how sorbet is. [ Icy, subtle mango, goes well with tart ]
  • Pink Lemonade (nonfat): Tasting notes: sweet yet tart, tangy.  Slightly icy, but just in the way sorbet is.  Great swirled with the tart froyo [ icy, sweet, meh ] [ tart, icy, good flavor, good swirled with tart froyo ]
  • Valencia Orange (nonfat):  Tasting notes: really tasty! like a creamsicle when swirled with classic tart [ flavor good again, but icy this time ] [ very icey since sorbet, but not much orange flavor ] [ Very sweet, really needs to be swirled with regular tart to mute it a little. ]
Sweet
  • Birthday Cake (nonfat): Tasting notes: creamy, but far too sweet. 
  • Cookies and Cream(lowfat):  Contains real cookies. Tasting notes: very sweet, but not too much. really really tasted like oreos! [ no flavor, but nice and creamy ] [ ridiculously creamy, but no flavor ] [ Beautiful consistency, so creamy, but just not very flavorful ]
  • Espresso (lowfat): Tasting notes: sweet and kinda espresso flavored, a little watery [ espresso flavor too subtle ] [ creamy, but not super strong espresso flavor ] [ nice coffee flavor ]
  • Olde Fashion Candy Cane (nonfat, seasonal): Tasting notes: kinda fake tasting, kinda icy, but decent [ icy but nice mint flavor ] [ nice and minty, great blended with german chocolate cake ]
  • Old Fashioned Peanut Butter.  Made with real peanut butter.  Tasting notes: Creamy, fantastic strong peanut flavor. Not remotely fake tasting. Best peanut butter froyo I’ve ever had. Amazing swirled with triple chocolate.  [ Creamy, amazing peanut butter flavor.  Truly amazing.  Not lowfat, and totally worth it. ]
  • Island Coconut: I loved this!  Creamy, awesome coconut flavor.
  • Red Velvet Cupcake (lowfat): creamy, definitely red velvet flavor, would be good swirled with chocolate. [ Very, very creamy, sweet red velvet flavor ]
  • Sea Salt Caramel Pretzel (lowfat): Sweet, not very strong caramel flavor, strange pretzel taste. Interesting, but not that great.
  • Strawberry Sensations (lowfat):  Made with real strawberry puree.  Tasting notes: creamy, but sorta medicinal strawberry flavor [ crazy creamy, decent strawberry flavor ]
  • Tahitian Vanilla (nonfat):  Tasting notes: creamy, decent, vanilla not that strong [ creamy but not very vanilla flavored ]
  • White Chocolate Mousse (lowfat): Tasting notes: creamy but no real flavor [ creamy but no discernable flavor ]
Toppings
This is where Prima Cafe falls short.  They only have a few toppings, and none are very great.  On my first few visits, I thought I must just be coming too late in the day and that they had run out of most things, since there was a lot of empty space in the toppings bar, but I've never seen it have more than a few items in it.  There is never any fresh fruit, normally a staple at froyo shops!  Only one sauce, a few candies, and sprinkles.
  • Cappuccino crunch: I'm not entirely sure what this was.  Little bits of mostly chocolate, with subtle coffee flavor.  Nice crunch, went really well with espresso froyo. [ No longer offered ]
  • Ghirardeli chocolate sauce: thin, watery chocolate sauce, like Hersheys, but with more flavor.
  • Ghirardeli caramel sauce: thin, watery caramel, not really interesting.
  • Lychee jelly: Tiny little jelly cubes, very sweet, in sweet sauce.  No idea what this is made from, probably just corn syrup.
  • Mixed nuts: little chopped up nuts, mostly peanuts.  Add good crunch.
  • Peaches: these didn't look remotely fresh, just little cubes.  Didn't try.
  • Rainbow Mochi: Soft, fresh enough seeming, but no flavor.
  • Rainbow Sprinkles: Fairly generic.
  • S'mores: Another one that I don't really know what it was.  Mostly just sweet, crunchy, with a slight marshmallow flavor.
Prima Cafe Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato
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