Thursday, August 25, 2016

Frozen Yogurt at Pinkberry

Review #5, August 2016

Pinkberry has expanded beyond basic tart and sweet frozen yogurt.  They now offer a number of dairy-free flavors, and, finally, soft serve ice cream.  For dairy free, you can pick from "Just Fruit" flavors (strawberry, peach passion, or tropical mango) or you can opt for a coconut milk base (available in regular coconut or salted caramel flavors).  Ice cream comes in only one flavor "milk", is low-fat, and not available in San Francisco.

In fact, the San Francisco shop flavors continue to disappoint me.  When I went to redeem my birthday freebie, I was again faced with no flavors I wanted.  My choices were the standard tart, pomegranate, blood orange, and chocolate hazelnut that they always have, plus peach and the plain coconut milk based one.  I tried 4 flavors before I settled on two, but, honestly, I didn't want any of these flavors.  Why does our store never carry the good ones anymore?
Pomegranate Froyo and Coconut Milk Coconut Side-By-Side, With Cookie Dough, Cheesecake, Almond Roca, and . Small.
Even though I didn't really like them, I opted for Pomegranate and Coconut Milk Coconut, because the others were just way too sweet.  The coconut milk flavor was dairy-free.  In retrospect, I really should have considered the Original flavor.  Oops.

The pomegranate was slightly fruity, and very sweet.  Rather icy and not very smooth.  I know people love Pinkberry, but, there is much creamier froyo out there (like Yoppi, or my favorite local Prima Cafe).  As it melted, it got even worse, it separated into liquid and ice.  Meh.

The coconut milk flavor was about the same consistency, but was very rich.  Extremely coconut flavored.  It was a bit much, really.  It was also sweet.  I had hoped this would tame the sweet pomegranate, but it didn't.  I don't think I'd get it again, as it as just too much coconut for me.

For toppings, I went a bit crazy.  I had to rule out all fruit toppings since they had watermelon, which was sad, since the mangos and blueberries looked great.  I couldn't risk it.

I decided to get a bunch of toppings that I'd never had before, just to really mix it up.  And since I was saddened by the froyo flavors themselves, I decided to go big on toppings, hoping they'd jazz up the lackluster flavors.

So, I started with the most decadent option: cheesecake cubes.  They were awful! Cubes of mushy warm cheesecake, coated in some graham crumbles.  I tried a few, and discarded the rest.  Would certainly never get again.

The cookie dough balls were better, but not remarkable.  At least they weren't gross like the Baskin-Robbins ones?

Next up came almond roca, standard chocolate toffee crumbles, sweet, crunchy, fine.

My final topping you can't see here, but it was little pink balls.  I honestly had no idea what it was, I think she said they were pomegranate blueberry crunch balls?  They added great crunch, but were otherwise flavorless.

So, overall, not really great.  My toppings, besides the cheesecake, were all fine, but I wouldn't really recommend any of them.  And I didn't really care for the froyo itself.

I also sampled a few others:
  • Blood Orange: "Exquisite and succulent tart citrus with a zing".  Just like last year when I tried a sample, it was crazy sweet.  I honestly don't understand how they take a tart thing like citrus and make it so sweet.  I did not like this at all.
  • Peach: "Everything Is Peachy! light and succulent taste of a fresh harvested peach".  This is a summer flavor, and, we'll, it too was too sweet.  The peach was lost in the sugar.
A few months prior, I was on the East Coast, and got to sample the ice milk ice cream, when Ojan's niece couldn't finish hers, and I couldn't let it go to waste.  It tasted … well, like milk.  I couldn’t decide if I liked it or not.  Better than the froyo, but, compared to other soft serve ice cream, not as good.

Review #4, August 2013 and 2014

Many businesses give out freebies for your birthday, but usually they are chain restaurants, or fast food joints, and aren't really things I want (although, I've of course checked out many of them!).  This year, when my birthday rolled around, there was one freebie I was really looking forward to: Pinkberry!

Since I've reviewed them several times already, I'll skip the general details, and focus only on my experience on this particular visit.

The staff was friendly enough, happy to let me sample a few flavors first (in fact, the first question I was asked wasn't "What would you like?", but instead, "Would you like to try any flavors?").  And the cashier even wished me a Happy Birthday (always a great touch!).  And it was a beautiful sunny day, and I enjoyed the fact that they had outside seating.

My froyo was great, and I'll certainly be back again.

August 2013

Peanut Butter Froyo topped with Dark Chocolate Curls and Almond Roca, Mango Froyo topped with Blueberries and Mochi.  Small.  $4.95.
For my flavors I decided on two that I have always loved: Peanut Butter and Mango.  Of course, those flavors do not go together at all, so I had them side by side rather than swirled, and ate them separately.  My last few bites did have a little bit of each in them, as they had melted somewhat at that point, and ... yeah, mango and peanut butter just do not go together :)  But, I honestly don't know how I'd pick just one, so side by side it is!  I love that Pinkberry lets you have any two flavors you want in this way.

Peanut butter is the most decadent of their flavors.  While some are low-fat or non-fat, the peanut butter is definitely not.  They use real peanuts, which, yup, contain fat.  I'm certain that using real nuts is what makes it so delicious.  It is creamy and just so peanut buttery.  Always one of my favorite peanut butter froyos anywhere.

I love a chocolate and peanut butter combo, so I wanted chocolate based toppings on that side.  I had many choices, including milk or dark chocolate shavings, chocolate crunch balls, brownie bites, crushed cookies, chocolate granola, mini chocolate chips, or almond roca.  I have gone with the almond roca on many other occasions, and liked it, so I went for it again.  This time however, I didn't love it.  It was ok, I mean, it is chocolate covered toffee and ground up almonds, totally delicious, but it actually just seemed a bit too sweet to me.  The real winner on my peanut butter froyo was the dark chocolate shavings.  I was shocked by how much I liked them.  The chocolate was actually really good, slightly bitter, and the size of the shavings made them really fun to eat, added a bit of a crunch, and were big enough to really taste against the peanut butter froyo.  I'd certainly get the chocolate shavings again.  Surprising how the most simple seeming topping can be the best!

Mango is another one of their froyo flavors that I've gotten many times, although I've usually paired it with something more appropriate, like lychee.  I knew it wouldn't go with the peanut butter, but I didn't care.   I wanted a fruity tart option too!  And it was.  Not as creamy as the peanut butter, but still fairly smooth, nicely tart, and with strong mango flavor.  It was a refreshing contrast to the richer peanut butter.

With the fruity froyo, I wanted a light, fruit topping.  I've had such mixed experiences with the Pinkberry fruit toppings, ranging from underripe mangos to amazingly delicious raspberries, but generally the fruit is good, although not remarkable.  It all looked ripe and fairly fresh, so I took a gamble and went for blueberries.  They were as expected - not mushy, ripe, but not extraordinary.  Good enough, and I'd get this again.

I was a bit stumped on what to pick for my final topping.  I could go for another fruit, as the strawberries and raspberries both looked good, and would pair nicely.  I could add something crunchy, as there were plentiful choices, ranging from all sorts of nuts (caramelized almonds, slivered almonds, mixed nuts) to several varieties of granola.  But instead my eyes were drawn to the mochi.  The last time I had mochi on my froyo, I said I wouldn't get it again.  But I really liked the flavor combination of the sliced fresh mango and mochi when I used them as toppings on the Greek yogurt, and since I was having mango froyo, I thought it would go well.  Like all other occasions, the mochi was good.  Soft, glutenous, a tiny bit sweet.  And like before, I liked the mango and rice flavors together, reminding me of mango sticky rice.  But ... I still don't think mochi is a very good froyo topping.  I'm not sure what it is about it, I just do not like the soft mochi with the soft froyo.  I mostly pushed the mochi aside, and ate them at the end, in a pool of mango flavored melty goodness.

I also sampled the green tea frozen yogurt.  It was very creamy, but didn't have a strong enough green tea taste for my liking.

I'm still always shocked by the price of Pinkberry.  With no toppings a small is $3.50; with toppings $4.95.  Their stuff is quality for sure, but it always seems steep.  Of course, this was my birthday freebie, so I'm not complaining.

August 2014

Another year, another free birthday froyo!  The very first warmish day in the month around my birthday I headed straight to Pinkberry to redeem my freebee.  I was really looking forward to this, and hoped to get peanut butter.  But alas, my choices were fairly lame: chocolate hazelnut, which I've never liked and pomegranate which I wasn't interested in, neither of which I even bothered to try.  The promising sounding Vanilla Latte had a decent coffee flavor, but was incredibly icy.  I'm glad I sampled it first, because I wouldn't have wanted a whole cup of it.  Strawberry Banana was another sweet and not tart option, and it had pretty good flavor ... except that I don't actually like strawberry froyo or ice cream.  Thus, I was left with only the two tart options: pineapple and original.  I considered coming back another day instead, but, it was sunny, and I wanted froyo!
Small Tart and Pineapple Tart Side By Side with Strawberries, Strawberry Popping Boba, White Chocolate Chips, Almonds.
The pineapple was tart yet sweet.  I liked the flavor, except that it was actually a bit too sweet.  Both the pineapple and the original froyo were fairly icy, not as bad as the vanilla latte one I sampled, but far icier and less creamy than I remembered.  The consistency was disappointing.

For a fruit topping, I went for strawberries.  I thought strawberries and pineapple sounded good together, and it looked like the most ripe option.  The berries were good, sweet, fresh, pretty good.  I decided to continue the strawberry theme and also added strawberry popping boba (the other option was mango flavored).  They were pretty standard, sweet.

I wanted some crunch, but didn't want granola, so my only choice was slivered almonds, the only nuts available.  They were unremarkable.  Still, good for a crunch.

The final topping I picked was white chocolate chips, mostly just to have something sweet and a bit creamy.  Which is exactly what they were.

Overall, this was fairly successful in terms of the ingredients I picked working well together, but it failed to impress.  I actually liked the plain tart better than the pineapple once I had the toppings involved, because the sweeter pineapple yogurt was too sweet with all the sweet toppings.  I wouldn't get this exact creation again.

Review #3, April 2014

You know I like frozen treats, particularly on a warm, sunny day.  And, although it is a chain, I do like Pinkberry.  Sure, it isn't my number one pick for froyo in San Francisco (that honor goes to Prima Cafe), but it is creamy, reliable, and they have a great selection of toppings.

Pinkberry always carries 6 flavors, and they rotate regularly.  I wasn't very excited when I saw the 6 flavor options of the day.  My absolute favorite, peanut butter, was not available.  For tart flavors, they had classic tart, pomegranate, key lime, and mango.  For sweet, only chocolate hazelnut and chocolate chip cookie.

Hmm.  I briefly considered not getting anything, but it was a beautiful day, and I really wanted froyo!

As always, the Pinkberry staff were more than happy to let me sample things.  Rather than asking what I'd like, the first thing I was asked was, "can I get some samples for you?"  I wasn't really in the mood for tart froyo, so I asked to try the chocolate chip cookie, and the key lime, just out of curiosity, even though I rarely like anything key lime.  As I pondered a moment, the helpful worker asked if I like Nutella.  I said, sure, who doesn't.  She eagerly brought me a sample of the chocolate hazelnut, saying it was much better than the chocolate chip in her opinion.  I'd had it before and didn't love it then, so I would have never asked to sample it, but humored her and tried it.

Both the chocolate chip cookie and the chocolate hazelnut are not fat free, and thus, are clearly creamier than the fat free counterparts.  The creaminess and consistency are perfect, but the chocolate hazelnut didn't have much flavor.  And the chocolate chip cookie I just really didn't like.  I can't say what it was exactly, but the flavor just wasn't good.  And reminded me nothing of a chocolate chip cookie.

So, even though I wasn't in the mood for it, I went tart flavors ... with toppings of course.
Small Key Lime and Mango Side By Side with Toppings.  $4.95.
Shockingly, after trying the sample, I decided to get key lime.  Definitely the first key lime thing I've enjoyed in a long time.  I also decided to get my old tart standby, mango.  The key lime and mango were on the same machine, so I was offered the choice of a swirl, or a side by side.  Just in case I decided that the key lime wasn't too my liking, or, if the mango turned out to not be delicious that day, I did them side by side, but I think they would be fine as a swirl too.

The mango was fruity and sweet, just a bit tart.  It actually was a bit too sweet for me, at least, given my topping choices (more on that in a minute).  The key lime however was really tart, and I liked it.

Neither of these were as creamy as the versions with fat, but they weren't icy, and are probably the creamiest of any fat free froyo I've tried.  Very good consistency.

And then, it was time for toppings.  Pinkberry has a rule that you can get as many toppings as fit in your container.  Always such an overwhelming offer for me!

Now, a reasonable adult would get their tart, fruity froyo topped with wholesome things like fresh fruit, granola, perhaps some sliced nuts.  And Pinkberry offers all of these things.  One can craft quite a healthy treat for themselves.  And the fruit did all look good, freshly sliced, and would pair perfectly with the tart yogurt.

But ... I didn't get for any of those things, and instead picked all the ridiculous ones.  I kinda laughed when I saw my completed froyo, as I'm sure it resembled one ordered more often by a child.

Toppings:
  • Fruity Bears: I remembered loving these once before , so I made them my first pick.  They are rather hidden in the photo, peeking out below the boba.  I only received four of them.  As before, I loved them.  The flavor is just so intense, very fruity, and they are the perfect level of chewiness.  I wish I knew what brand they were, because I'd really love to eat more of these, just as gummy bears, sans froyo.  I don't particularly like gummy candy in my froyo, so I always let them fall to the side, and eat at the end.  It is kinda perfect, you have that moment of "oh man, it is my dessert gone already?  I want more!" and you then get to enjoy a pile of gummy candy as a second treat.  Perfect!
  • Sugarpova Smitten Sour Mini: Speaking of gummy candy, Pinkberry just introduced several new types of gummy toppings, by Sugarpova.  The "Smitten Sour Mini" are little ribbons, which weren't nearly as sour as I wanted them to be.  I didn't get these on my froyo, but when I asked how sour they were, I was immediately given a sample.  I'm glad I didn't pick them.
  • Sugarpova Flirty Mini: I did get the other Sugarpova offering, the "Flirty Mini".  These were little lips, in assorted flavors, two layers, with a cream bottom.  I didn't try them before I added them, but if I had, I wouldn't have ordered them.  They were too chewy for my liking.  The lemon flavor I really didn't like.  The strawberry was a nice flavor, and the cream bottom complimented it well in the strawberries-n-cream sort of way.  Like the bears, I received four of them, which you can see, cream side up, right near my spoon.
  • Strawberry Popping Boba: For my "fruit" selection, I went for popping boba.  Sure, they aren't actually made with fruit, but they had sweet strawberry flavor, and were kinda fun to eat.  They were too sweet though, at least in the quantity given.  Unlike the gummy candies, my server was quite generous with the boba, and there was far more of it than I wanted. I probably wouldn't get these again.
  • Yogurt Chips: I have no idea why I added yogurt chips.  Last time I had them, I thought they were useless.  I thought the same this time.  They added no flavor.  They are the perfect size though, and provide a good textural component, but, meh, no flavor.  Maybe I should try the mini chocolate chips next time.  I really don't want to get these again.
  • Fruity Pebbles: And finally, I wanted something with crunch to it.  I mentioned this thought outloud, and the server making my creation helpfully suggested granola or sliced nuts.  Instead I got ... Fruity Pebbles.  Now, I've never had Fruity Pebbles in my life.  Not as cereal, certainly not as a froyo topping.  I think whenever I go to Pinkberry, I have a moment of total weirdness where I can't make up my mind, and just call out whichever topping I see next.  And in this case, it was Fruity Pebbles.  They did indeed add a great crunch.  And, the quantity given seemed right.  But ... soooooo sweet.  With the mango in particular, they were just too sweet.  I guess if I were really in the mood for sweet I'd get them again, as the crunch and size were perfect, but not really right for this creation.
So, I sorta failed on selecting my toppings.  I probably would have liked my froyo more with fresh fruit, like mango, strawberries, or blueberries.  Perhaps some mochi.  Coconut flakes would go well with the mango.  Nuts are always good.  And who doesn't want chocolate shavings?  But instead, I had a pile of candy and sugar.  I still liked it, don't get me wrong, but ... not ideal.  As always though, those fruity bears really impressed me.  Best gummy bears ever :)

Pinkberry does make incredibly creamy froyo, but their prices are what keep me away.  $4.95 for a small with toppings?  It wasn't THAT big.

Review #2, November 2012

A few weeks ago, I posted about Pinkberry, my second favorite froyo place in San Francisco.  I wasn't planning to go back so soon, but they just launched a new rewards app to replace their physical rewards cards, and to get everyone using it, they pre-load it with a free small with toppings!  You know I can't resist freebies, but particularly not at a place I know I like.  I also installed the Pinkberry app on Ojan's phone, and dragged him there with me a few days later to split another one.  So good.

It hadn't been that long since I'd last visited, but they already had several new flavors.  Of course I had to try them.  The staff were again very friendly, helpful, and eager.  Such a happy place to visit.

I still prefer self serve models, but I do appreciate that they let you pick two flavors even in a small, so you can be indecisive like me.  And the same with toppings, you can get 4-5 different ones, or as they say, "as many fit comfortably in the cup".
Lychee and Peanut Butter Yogurts with raspberries, mochi, chocolate covered pretzels, almond roca.  Small.  $4.95.
As always, I had a hard time making up my mind, so I went for my two favorite flavors, even though they totally didn't go together at all.  Which is fine, because they swirl them side by side.  I also wanted all the toppings, so narrowing down to four was hard.  They made it somewhat easier by not allowing any of the luxe toppings for the freebie.

Lychee was a new flavor for me, and I loved it.  It was sweet, but also quite tart, and just really tasty.  I'm not sure I would have known it was lychee, but I really liked the sweet and tart contrast.  On that side, I had mochi and raspberries.  The mochi was soft, not old or stale, but fairly unremarkable.  It was just plain mochi.  He gave a lot of it.  I probably wouldn't get it again.  The raspberries were the suggestion of the server, and seemed fresh, quality, and flavorful.  They were indeed a great pairing with the lychee.  But there were only 3 of them.  I would have certainly preferred more of them and less of the mochi!

The other flavor I picked was my old favorite: peanut butter.  Probably my all time favorite frozen yogurt flavor at most places, but Pinkberry does a particularly good job with making it creamy and flavorful.  On that side I had almond roca, which like before had a good crunch and went well with the peanut butter, and some tiny chocolate covered pretzels.  Like the raspberries, I only received 3 of them.  I guess that is the magic number for countable toppings.  They were a somewhat strange thing to put on frozen yogurt.  Tiny, but still a little big to eat comfortably.  And they did taste a little stale.  I liked the chocolate coating with the peanut butter yogurt though, and the salt and crunch from the pretzel were nice.  I probably wouldn't get them again though.

I certainly enjoyed my yogurt, but I couldn't help but think that $4.95 was a pretty hefty price for a fairly small yogurt.  Yes, it had toppings, but still.  I guess that is the going rate for froyo these days though.

[ Not Pictured ]
Mango and Lychee Swirl with Yogurt Chips, Raspberries, and a Waffle Cookie. 

This was a winning combination.  They were both very flavorful, tart yet sweet, and the two fruity flavors went together really well.  The lychee helped balance out the almost overwhelming mango.

Since I was impressed with the raspberries on my previous visit, I went for them again.  They were again fresh, slightly tart, and good, although ... one seemed frozen.  Do they actually use frozen fruit?

I also picked the yogurt chips, little tiny white chips that were a bit sweet, but mostly flavorless.  I would not get these again, as they added a little texture, but little else.

And at the last minute, I also had her add on a waffle cookie.  I think I got jealous when I saw the person next to me getting a waffle cone.  I'd had the waffle cookie on my first visit, and wasn't all that impressed with it, and felt the same way this time.  It really is just a little chunk of waffle cone, not stale exactly, but not fresh tasting.  I think I'd skip this in the future.

[ Not Pictured ]
Mango and Lychee Swirl with Raspberries, Organic Fruity Bears, and Chocolate Chips.

I again liked both of these flavors.  Tart, fruity, pretty good.  I think I would actually prefer to not have them swirled, as they are each very flavorful on their own, and swirling them somewhat cancelled out the flavors.

The raspberries were again about the same.  Better than you'd expect for out of season berries, but not particularly amazing.  The chocolate chips were semisweet chocolate, and added something good to crunch on.  The fruity bears were a big surprise, they were really good!  Perfectly chewy, really fruity and flavorful, quite good.  I don't actually like gummy candy in my froyo, and pushed them off to the side to enjoy at the end, and I'm glad I did.  I'd gladly just eat these on their own!

[ Not Pictured ]

  • Cookies and Cream: Delicious!  Really creamy, and almost tasted like soy milk (in a good way).
  • Gingerbread: Well, it tasted like gingerbread.  Which it turns out, I don't really want in my froyo.
  • Mango: Such a strong mango flavor.  Very tart.  Tons of flavor here, I think a full cup of it would be too much, but a small portion was delicious.
  • Pomegranate: This had a subtle pomegranate flavor, a good tartness.  I would consider getting it again, but I tend to like other flavors more.

Original Review, September 2012

I posted a few weeks ago about my favorite frozen yogurt in San Francisco: Prima Cafe.  They are a tiny, local place, not even known for their yogurt.  It seems strange, but my second favorite place falls on the far other side of the spectrum ... the nationwide chain, Pinkberry.

They only recently opened a Pinkberry in San Francisco, and I attended the big launch event, where they were sampling many flavors.  When I went back for a regular visit, the first thing they did was offer to let me try all of them (which I didn't do, I knew I wanted the peanut butter!).  They were still new at the time, perhaps that is why they were doing that?  It seemed very generous!  Again, perhaps because they are new, but the staff seem very friendly and enthusiastic.

Anyway, their frozen yogurt is particularly creamy, and they have a slew of interesting toppings.  I greatly prefer self-serve models where I can control the size of my creation and put the toppings on how I want them, but for a full serve place, they are my favorite.

As always, multiple tastings are denoted inside brackets.
Small peanut butter and original with peanut butter crunch, lemon cookie crunch, milk chocolate crunch, almond roca, and a waffle cookie.
Frozen Yogurt:
  • Chocolate: Very intense chocolate, but not a style I like.  [ Very rich, very chocolatey, but I don’t like it.]
  • Chocolate Hazelnut: Very creamy, nice hazelnut tones, tastes like nutella, pretty good.
  • Coconut: Nicely tart, great coconut flavor, nice consistency. [ Some coconut flavor, good consistency, ok ]
  • Hot Chocolate: Very creamy, not as intense in its chocolatey-ness.  Not sure what was hot chocolate about it, the picture had marshmallows?
  • Mango: Very nicely tart, creamy, good mango flavor.  [ Great tartness and creamyness, really good ] [ Tart but sweet, good mango flavor, very good ] [ Very tart, creamy, good flavor ]
  • Original: Nice tartness, fairly creamy, very good for this type of yogurt. [ Nice tart, nice creamy ] [ Nicely tart, pretty good for this type of flavor, slightly icy ]
  • Peanut butter: Creamy, soo much peanut butter flavor, awesome.  [ Soo much peanut butter flavor, really good. ] [ Creamy, rich, decandent, really good ] [ Creamy, rich, good flavor ]
  • Peppermint: Icy, decent flavor.
  • Strawberry: Kinda sweet, creamy, not my favorite.  [ Sweet and creamy, but not very distinctly strawberry, meh ] [ Tart, ok strawberry flavor, not great. ]
Toppings:
  • Lemon Cookie Crunch: One of the "luxe" toppings, a liquid with crunchy bits.  Very lemony, sweet, good with plain tart yogurt.
  • Milk Chocolate Crunch: Another "luxe" topping, basically chocolate sauce with crunchy bits.  Sweet, with a light chocolate flavor, great with peanut butter yogurt.  Crunch was nice texture, but I didn’t care for the crunchy stuff itself that much.
  • Peanut Butter Crunch: And another of the "luxe" toppings, a peanut butter sauce with crunchies.  It did not have much peanut butter flavor, but again had a nice crunch.
  • Almond Roca: Great crunch, yum, great with pb flavor yogurt.
  • Waffle Cookie.  Just a chunk of waffle cone, but kinda fun to dunk in the yogurt.
Pinkberry Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato
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