Thursday, August 07, 2014

Fraiche

Fraiche is a yogurt shop in Pacific Heights.  Froyo places aren't exactly a rare thing in SF, but Fraiche's approach is a bit different.  Their froyo is made from their own yogurt base, using Clover milk, only minimally sweetened.

They also serve fresh yogurt, also housemade, in nonfat, 2%, and whole.  I tried the nonfat, and it was pretty standard tasting yogurt, not remarkable.  Then I tried the whole milk version, and it was much creamier, much better than the nonfat.  I could imagine it would make for a nice healthy breakfast, with a fruit topping, but I'm never nearby for breakfast, so I'm not sure when I'd ever have it.

Speaking of fruit toppings, their toppings are quite impressive.  They offer common ones like fresh fruits, compotes, and nuts, plus chocolate shaved to order, housemade brownies and fruit crisp, even homemade mochi.  The toppings are available to add to the fresh yogurt, the frozen yogurt, or oatmeal for breakfast.  The menu is rounded out with coffee, Blue Bottle.

Seating is fairly plentiful, with tables and a counter with stools inside, and 2 small tables outside.  Whenever the weather is remotely nice, those tables are always taken, but I was able to get one once, and it was a lovely place to sit watching the folks strolling by.

Service is always friendly, and they love to offer samples of the yogurts, but sadly, Fraiche doesn't rank very high on my list.  I think healthy yogurt just isn't my style.

Froyo

Fraiche always offers 4 types of frozen yogurt: fat-free natural, 98% fat-free Valrhona chocolate, 99% fat-free, lactose-free soy, and a seasonal dairy based flavor that changes regularly.  They are generous with tastings, so I've tried a few every time I've stopped in.  I've never been impressed with the dairy based yogurt, the style is just far icier than I like.  The soy one has good flavor, but my body sadly doesn't respond well to soy, so I can't ever order a full cup of it.

Tasting notes from flavors I have only sampled (multiple tastings in brackets):
  • Chocolate: thick, creamy, weird mouth feel, chocolatey, but not as good chocolate flavor as Yoppi. [ Not as creamy as Yoppi but really deep chocolate flavor, clearly made with high quality chocolate, very nice flavor. ] [ A little watery, but very deep chocolate flavor. ]
  • Soy: sorta sweet, definitely soy flavor, creamy, thick, really quite nice [ Again, very much a soy flavor ] [ Really creamy and nice, super soy flavor] [Creamy, nice soy taste] [ Creamy, great soy flavor, some vanilla flavor, pretty good! ] [ I do like the soy flavor, but still a bit icy ]
Small One Topping, Pumpkin, Fruit Compote.  $4.45.
Since I didn't love the natural, I didn't want chocolate, and I was avoiding soy, I was left with one choice, the seasonal flavor, which was pumpkin.

Like all their flavors, it was icy, not creamy.  I guess this is the low-fat part coming through.  It had some spicing, but not much, so I added cocoa and cinnamon from the coffee bar, which greatly improved things.

For my topping, I choose the fruit compote on the recommendation from the server.  Not what I'd normally go for, but he said it went great with the pumpkin.  The compote contained stewed golden raisins, cranberries, apricots, figs.  It was fine I guess, but just not the right topping for froyo.  I think it would work well will the natural yogurt perhaps.  I wish I'd picked something else, but nothing seemed quite right to pair with the pumpkin yogurt.  Perhaps just chocolate shavings would have worked?

The price was fairly high for a small yogurt (he put it in a bigger container for me).  $1 of that was for the topping alone, which makes sense for things like homemade brownies, or even the compote like I selected, but much less for sprinkles or nuts, and all toppings are priced the same.
Small One Topping, Natural, Apple Crisp.  $4.45.
On my next visit, I sampled the seasonal offering: Oreo.  It didn't really have any Oreo flavor.   It was a really strange flavor, very tart and not sweet, and I didn't taste any cookie at all.  Plus, it was very, very icy.

Although I like the flavor of the soy, I can't eat much soy, so I was left with chocolate or natural as my only options.  I didn't ever love the natural before when I'd tried it, but ... then I saw the apple crisp topping.  I knew I wanted the crisp, so my decision was made, I had to get the natural, just to go with my topping pick.

The yogurt was again more icy than I like, not creamy.  It was tart, and not too sweet.  Indeed healthy tasting, but just not my style, although I do admit that if you wanted a healthy "treat", you could get this with some fresh fruit topping, and really feel no guilt.

But of course I went for the other extreme: the apple crisp!  It consisted of spiced apples, and a sweet, cinnamony, crunchy oat topping.  I liked it much more than the yogurt itself, and really appreciated that it was offered as an option.  Their topping selection is quite impressive in general, quality looking fruit, house made mochi, etc.

I enjoyed this creation more than my previous one, but I still didn't love it, and don't really see a reason to return to Fraiche, it just isn't my style.

Previous tasting notes for Natural flavor: very tart.  Not really my thing. [ Very tart, very healthy, slightly sweet.  Perhaps good loaded with toppings, but too "natural" for me. ]
Small One Topping, Natural and Meyer Lemon, Apple Crisp.  $4.45.
I finally started adding soy back into my diet, so even though I said I wasn't going back to Fraiche,  I was excited to swing back into Fraiche on a hot day to finally get to enjoy the soy flavor, since I hadn't ever been impressed with their dairy based yogurts.

And ... just my luck, the soy was broken that day!  I had the choice of chocolate or natural as usual, or the seasonal special: meyer lemon.  I almost turned around and left, since I don't tend to like lemon flavor desserts, and I haven't ever really cared for the natural.  But I was there, it was a hot day, so I decided to at least try the lemon.  Fraiche is always so generous with letting you sample first.

The lemon, like all of their flavors, was an icy style, not creamy, but for a lemon flavor, it actually worked.  It reminded me more of a sorbet, which is usually icier.  It was tart but also sweet, and the lemon flavor was there, but it wasn't overpowering.  I didn't love it, but I didn't hate it.

I pondered just getting natural and the apple crisp again, since I remembered liking the apple crisp at least, and didn't think apple crisp would go that well with lemon, and then the person taking my order suggested that I could do a half and half, even though the lemon and natural were on different machines.  Yes!  I love not having to make decisions, and I didn't realize they'd do a side by side, as many places do not.

Both flavors were icier and more "natural" tasting that I prefer, but I actually enjoyed this more than any other visit.  I again liked the apple crisp as a topping, big chunks of nicely cooked apple, oats.  I again added more cinnamon on top from the coffee station.  I received less apple crisp on this visit than my previous one, but I still felt like I got my $1 worth.  I still can't imagine choosing a topping like sprinkles or nuts for $1, but the crisp is really a great deal.  To be fair, I think the reason I received less is because she couldn't really fit more, as I got far more froyo than I did on my other visits.  I think the side by side was harder to do than she realized, as I certainly wound up with far more froyo than I should in a small.

Anyway, this was the best version of Fraiche I've had so far, and perhaps I'm just coming around to their style more, but I still wouldn't go out of my way for it.

Drinks

Decaf Drip Coffee (Blue Bottle).  $2.95.
Another foggy, chilly San Francisco morning ... not exactly the time for froyo.  Even I have my limits!  Instead, I decided to just get a coffee, once I saw that they carry Blue Bottle.

Back in the day, I was a Blue Bottle loyalist (at their Ferry Building location).  I became such a coffee snob that I not only drank only Blue Bottle, I had only one or two specific roasts that drank, and only two baristas I would order from.  When I switched to decaf, I tried to keep going to Blue Bottle, but I didn't ever like their decaf.  A few years of drinking decaf later, all my coffee snobbery has been beaten out of me, so I decided it was time to give Blue Bottle decaf another try.

Fraiche brews all their coffee cup at a time, pour over style, just like at a real Blue Bottle location.  It took about 5 minutes, but I was told I could take a seat and they'd bring it over to me, even though I got it to go.

The coffee was better than I remembered from Blue Bottle's decaf.  Maybe they have changed their roast.  Maybe I just care less now.  Either way, I enjoyed my coffee, and it was the perfect thing for the morning.

$2.95 for a pour over was reasonable.
Spicy Chai, Soy.  $3.95.
Another day, it was a bit brisk out, so I decided to forgo the froyo, and try something else, even though I entered the shop planning to get froyo.  Normally, I can't resist froyo, but since I wasn't ever that fond of Fraiche's offerings, I was able to pass it up when I was still shivering just having a sample inside.

They carry a nice tea selection and cup at a time Blue Bottle coffee, but for some reason, the chai jumped out at me.  I really have no idea why, as I don't ever drink chai.

The chai was clearly not just made from a mix.  It was strong, in all dimensions.  I felt the caffeine surge through me almost instantly.  And, they weren't joking with the name, "spicy chai".  There was intense spicing to it.

For milk choices, they offer standard dairy (Clover, like the yogurt), plus almond or soy, with no upcharges.

$3.95 was a bit pricey, but it was a housemade chai, and with soy, so it wasn't unreasonable.
Fraiche on Urbanspoon
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