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Friday, April 16, 2010

Yogurt culture comes to New Orleans

Posted By on Fri, Apr 16, 2010 at 10:06 PM

If you listen closely as the wind blows from the West Coast — or if you cradle an empty Starbucks iced coffee cup to your ear like a conch shell — you might be able to detect a faint shriek. "Pinkberry ... Pinkberry ... Pinkberry," the voice yelps repeatedly. This happens every eight seconds in Southern California*, where cast members of the The Hills and other girlie-girls fill their empty heads and stave off mascara tears with thoughts of frozen yogurt.

click to enlarge Pinkberry opens on Magazine Street (Poor-quality iPhone photo taken by me)
  • Pinkberry opens on Magazine Street (Poor-quality iPhone photo taken by me)

But inevitably, as with all trends involving upscale dessert or coffee restaurants, us plebeians catch on and Lauren Conrads of the world become "over it" and eventually they just start selling the same thing at McDonald's for much cheaper. I predict Pinkberry is heading in that direction. The Los Angeles-based frozen yogurt tastemaker, now has at least 80 stores nationwide and — perhaps most indicative of its popularity — a slew of knock-off fro-yo places (some more stealth in their copycat ways than others: there's D.C.-based Sweetgreen, which expands on the concept with salads; and then there's a place called IceBerry. Come on.)

Some may consider New Orleans slow on the uptake when it comes to trends; I prefer to think that we're keenly skeptical, especially when it comes to desserts. In New York and D.C., for instance, there seems to be an aggressively twee cupcake bakery on every street, sometimes with a lengthy queue waiting outside. In New Orleans, not so much — with our already-existing menu of excellent homegrown desserts like sno-balls and beignets, that's not really necessary.
Occasionally trendy food purveyors do test the waters in New Orleans, to varying success: Bee Sweet Cupcakes on Magazine Street seems to be holding strong, but almost every frozen yogurt restaurants that opened here — Cherry on Top and YouGurt, both located on Maple Street, and SkinnyBerry on N. Carrollton Ave. — closed not long after opening.
But what happens when the “the taste that launched a thousand parking tickets," the original location for so many young girls ruminating on boy troubles while ingesting essential probiotics, makes its New Orleans debut? I seem to think they'll do OK, based on the fanfare associated with Pinkberry's Magazine Street opening last night.
With loud 80s pop, a set-up that resembled a modest wedding reception, and those outdoor search lights that are to restaurants and club openings that these guys are to car dealerships, Pinkberry had arrived. Of course there was a line that, at some points, seemed it could stretch to across-the-street neighbor Whole Foods' cheese section, and those with enough stamina to get through the line were greeted by screaming employees ("HI! WELCOME TO PINKBERRY. DO YOU KNOW WHAT PINKBERRY IS? DO YOU LIKE BLUEBERRIES?"). The relentlessly cheerful employees, combined with the neon environs, made the experience a little terrifying.
However, all was forgiven when I finally received my yogurt. The original flavor (there's also pomegranate, coconut, mango, chocolate and a featured flavor, which was passion fruit that night) is thick, creamy and slightly tart — like Greek yogurt, but sweeter. And the toppings I chose — strawberries, shredded coconut and mochi, Japanese rice cake that tastes like marshmallow and has the consistency of a gummi bear — complemented the yogurt perfectly.

While It's no Hansen's Sno-Bliz, and the customer service onslaught was a bit much, I would say that it might be worth waiting in line.

Pinkberry is located at 5601 Magazine St.

*This doesn't happen.

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