Friday, October 31, 2008

Fro-Yo with Halloween Spirit

Love fro-yo? Love Halloween? Try one of these fro-yo treats on Halloween day:

  1. Pumpkin fro-yo. I had some yesterday at Natural Sensations in SF (SFSU campus). Try places that serve sweet fro-yo.
  2. Add crushed Oreo cookies or graham cracker crumbs and gummy worms to your fro-yo. Instant faux gross fro-yo treat! I believe you can assemble such a treat at Yogurt Station in Walnut Creek, Nubi in Millbrae, Frozo's in Milpitas & Santa Clara, etc.
  3. Bring candy corn to your favorite fro-yo shop. Add to your fro-yo.
  4. Get the pumpkin spice granola as a fro-yo topping at Culture Organic Frozen Yogurt in Palo Alto.
  5. Add Halloween candy (e.g., Halloween Kit Kats) to your store-bought fro-yo (e.g., Haagen Dazs).

Happy Halloween!

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Spotlight on Tart Fro-Yo Toppings

Fro-yo girl here. The vast majority of tart fro-yo shops have very similar fruit and dry toppings and they normally carry anywhere from a dozen to 50 different types of toppings. Most of the toppings, other than the fresh fruit, come in boxes and cans. A few shops don't even have fresh fruit and may offer up defrosted frozen or canned fruit instead.

Strawberries are the most popular fresh fruit topping but other common fruit toppings include:
  • Kiwi

  • Pineapple

  • Mango

  • Blueberries

  • Raspberries

  • Blackberries

  • Bananas

  • Watermelon

  • Cantaloupe

  • Honeydew

  • Pomegranate seeds
Less common fruit toppings include:
  • Peaches (canned are more common than fresh)

  • Cherries (canned are more common than fresh)

  • Plums

  • Grapes

  • Pluots

  • Mandarin oranges

  • Lychee

  • Longan

  • Jackfruit
Mochi balls are my favorite non-fruit topping and they're available at most fro-yo shops. Other common dry toppings include:
  • Cereals (Fruity Pebbles, Cap'n Crunch, Cocoa Pebbles usually, but also Froot Loops, Lucky Charms, Golden Grahams, Honey Nut Cheerios, etc.)

  • Granola

  • Chocolate chips

  • Yogurt chips

  • Carob chips

  • Graham crackers (crushed)

  • Almonds

  • Marshmallows

  • Coconut

  • Dried cranberries (and other dried fruits)

  • Crushed cookies (chocolate chip, Oreo, Teddy Grahams, etc.)
Occasionally you'll see the following:
  • Brownie bits

  • Cheesecake bits
If the fro-yo shop also sells traditional sweet fro-yo, chances are they'll have crushed candy toppings (Butterfinger, gummy bears, mini M&Ms, Jelly Bellies, Nerds, Twix, Kit Kat) and sprinkles. I personally don't like to have candy toppings on my tart fro-yo.

You may also find various syrups (chocolate being the most common), honey and condensed milk.

Some Asian fro-yo shops have Asian toppings such as:
  • Chestnuts

  • Jelly (different types, like rainbow jelly, coconut jelly)

  • Red beans

You can customize your treat further with flavored powders like green tea, chocolate, green apple, etc. I've seen the powders at YoSwirl in Fremont, TrendyBean in Santa Clara and Tuttimelon.

Once in a blue moon, you'll come across a place that makes their own toppings. In the Bay Area, there are two places that do this (both in Palo Alto) and deserve special recognition:

* FRAICHE YOGURT: Homemade granola, homemade mochi balls. Unfortunately, their fro-yo is flavorless.
* CULTURE ORGANIC FROZEN YOGURT: The best place for homemade organic toppings, the variety changes all the time and includes mini chocolate meringues, a seasonal granola, mini chocolate chip cookies, brownies, coconut crunch, homemade apple cake, etc. These are all made on the premises by the brilliant Toppings In Chief, Mary. Right now they have spiced apples! Absolutely amazing - no other place comes close.

You know you love me. X0 X0, fro-yo girl.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Quickly Froyo – Worth 59 cents?

Fro-yo girl here. I know this is old news but I’m still bothered by Quickly. On the one hand, they’re bringing fro-yo to many places that didn’t have fro-yo before. On the other hand, they come across as unprofessional, sloppy, and second-rate.

They need to have someone proofread their website which says: “a varietal selection of flavors and toppings dispensed daily for seriously health conscience customers” and “we believed customer are the foundation of the business, and while others focus on costs, margins, and profits, we focus on total satisfaction of every customer.”

First, I’m sure they’re profit driven as well though they are too cheap to hire a decent web designer. Second, the customer service I receive at Quickly is usually much worse than I receive at other fro-yo and tapioca shops. With over 126 reviews on Yelp, the Irving location averages 2 stars and many people complain about the service they received:

I first noticed the Quickly Fro-yo sign at their Irving Street location, which happens to be on the same block as Tuttimelon. Quickly’s tactics really bothered me – it’s fair to undercut Tuttimelon on price but they stood in front of Tuttimelon handing out their flyers.

At 59 cents for a small cup of original tart fro-yo is a price that’s difficult to resist – by far the cheapest around. Their frozen yogurt was developed in cooperation with Dreyer’s and is, according to promotional materials, not made out of a powder mix. It is milky, creamy and softer than usual. The flavor is okay, not great, not horrible.

Tuttimelon’s original tart (99 cents for a small) is much better tasting than Quickly’s and Tuttimelon also is more generous with both fro-yo and toppings. Quickly sometimes has stale toppings, like dried out mochi balls. Despite Quickly’s tactics, Tuttimelon is still more popular.

Some (perhaps all?) of the Quickly locations now require you to buy at least one topping in order to get the 59 cents promotional price. Sneaky. Is it worth 59 cents for a small fro-yo? Probably so if you’re desperate and there’s nothing else around. Would I pay over $2 for a small cup of their fro-yo? Definitely not.

You can find Quickly cafes that serve Quickly fro-yo by checking their website:

They hope to open stand alone Quickly Fro-yo shops worldwide, including locations in SF and San Mateo. The stand alone stores will have more than one fro-yo flavor (right now I’ve only see the original flavor).

You know you love me. X0 X0, fro-yo girl.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Cefiore Comes to SF

Fro-yo girl here. SoCal chain Cefiore quietly opened its doors at its first NoCal location in SF’s Westfield Centre on October 12. According to Cefiore’s website, they are a subsidiary of Todai, the seafood buffet franchise. The shop looks clean and bright and they emphasize the lightness of their flavors and they call their yogurt Italian style. I don’t see how their fro-yo is Italian influenced.

There wasn’t anything particularly distinctive about the shop – it felt like a Pinkberry knockoff though it does have some fruity tart fro-yo flavors that are fairly unique, Raspberry Pomegranate and Acai Berry. Their fro-yo is icy, light and refreshing but it also has a powdery quality and it melts very quickly. I suspect they use a powder mix rather than a liquid base.

There are many fro-yo shops in the Bay Area that have a better product than Cefiore and I prefer Red Mango and Pinkberry as well. They do have a prime location – there’s nothing like shopping and fro-yo. The logo is nice too (flower).

See my full review on Yelp for more information:

Their second SF location should open soon.

You know you love me. X0 X0, fro-yo girl.

* Cefiore: Westfield San Francisco Centre, 845 Market St, #277, San Francisco, CA 94104

Friday, October 24, 2008

Swirl Culture Lowers Prices in November

Fro-yo girl here. I received an e-mail from Swirl Culture this week announcing a change in pricing.

Swirl Culture’s fall pricing (starting in November):
* Yogurt: Small $2.50/ Medium $4/ Large $5.50
* Toppings: 1 topping 95 cents/ 2 toppings $1.20/ 3 toppings $1.50
* Shaved Ice: Regular $5.95/ Large $7.95

Original Swirl Culture yogurt pricing:
* Small $2.75/Additional topping is $0.95
* Medium $4.25/ +3 toppings $5.50
* Large $6/ +3 toppings $7

So they’ve basically cut the price of the small and medium size yogurt by 25 cents. The price was comparable to other fro-yo shops in SF though the medium is still more expensive than the other places below:

SoGreen Original/Yogurt Bar Original/Yogen Fruz
S $2.95/$2.50/$2.50
M $3.95/$3.50/$3.50
L $5.75/$5.70/$5.50

I don’t think Swirl Culture is competing with the downtown SF fro-yo shops. There aren’t as many fro-yo options in North Beach so they could get away with charging a little more if people liked their fro-yo, they didn’t skimp too much on toppings, the toppings are fresh, they provide good service, etc. It might a location issue as well. I rarely go to North Beach because it’s crowded and parking is horrendous. Not only that, they’re not on the main streets (Columbus, Broadway) in that area, so it’s easy to forget that they’re in the area. How many of the people who live and work and that area are fro-yoholics?

Swirl Culture is no worse (and actually better than average in terms of flavor) than the other downtown SF fro-yo offerings. If they could offer validated parking, I would likely find myself there more often. They could also do more to build their community, their Culture Club. Their website says that the official site hasn’t be launched yet. They opened in late June and the site still isn’t launched???? They need to get their act together. The website should be used more as a promotion tool. It could at least list the fruity fro-yo flavor of the week, add testimonials, list upcoming events that SC is involved in, etc. Tuttimelon, Red Mango and other fro-yo shops have pages on Facebook and MySpace – those are low cost methods for promoting the shop and building a community of fans.

I’m not sure how their bonus card program has evolved. Initially the card only lasted for a month, so I wasn’t motivated to collect stamps. It’s just too much of a hassle for me to go to North Beach that often but if the card didn’t have an expiration date, I would hold onto it and possibly fill it up. Update: the frequent bonus card program is back. Buy 7, get 1 free.

You know you love me. X0 X0, fro-yo girl

* SWIRL CULTURE: 1400 Grant Ave, San Francisco, CA 94133

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Flaxseed Cones at Culture

Fro-yo girl here. Some fro-yo shops offer the option of having your fro-yo in a cone. Culture Organic Frozen Yogurt has taken this idea to the next level – homemade cones. Rather than offer your usual cake, waffle, or sugar cone, they’ve created an innovative and healthier alternative: flaxseed cones.

Flaxseeds are rich in Omega 3 fatty acids, lignan, soluble fiber and protein and consumption of flaxseeds promotes cardiovascular, immune, colon and brain health. I happen to like the nutty flavor of flaxseeds, so I buy bread with flaxseed or sprinkle flaxseeds on my cereal.

As for Culture’s flaxseed cones, they’re thin, sweet and a bit crunchy. The flavor isn’t strong enough to interfere with the fro-yo flavor and they hold up well when filled with fro-yo. You can buy a cone for $2.99. A cone + fro-yo + one topping is $5.49. You can also get the cone with fresh, seasonal, organic fruit (or their other toppings) without any fro-yo – perfect for vegans.

You know you love me. X0 X0, fro-yo girl.

* CULTURE ORGANIC FROZEN YOGURT: 340 S California Ave, Palo Alto, CA, 94306

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Pomegranate Seeds are Back!

Fro-yo girl here. When it comes to fresh fruit toppings, pomegranate seeds are my favorite. I love the crunch of the seed portion and the refreshing tartness of the flesh. Peeling one takes forever, so the seeds also feel like a special treat.

Pomegranates also are considered a superfood, rich in anti-oxidiants and a good source of of vitamin B5, potassium, vitamin C. Consumption may reduce the risk of heart disease, lower systolic blood pressure and promote prostate health in men.

Pomegranates are typically in season from October through January and I’ve been anxiously awaiting their return. The season is so short so I’ll have to get pomegranate seeds whenever I see them.

Today at Culture Organic Frozen Yogurt in Palo Alto, I saw a large bowl stacked with pomegranates. They’re back!!!! Pomegranate seeds were recently spotted at Fro-ggie in Fremont as well (thanks Carol L.) and Yogurt Harmony in Berkeley (thanks Karen W.). Keep an eye out for them at other fro-yo shops. I’ve had pomegranate seeds with my fro-yo at Red Mango, Pinkberry, Jubili, Tuttimelon, and Blondie’s Pizza. I’ve had pomegranate tart fro-yo at Tuttimelon (Irving St., SF and Alameda), Blush (pomegranate-dragonfruit), Papamingo, and Nubi (raspberry pomegranate). Tuttimelon has the best tasting pom tart fro-yo and it’s extra tart. Yum!

You know you love me. X0 X0, fro-yo girl.

* CULTURE ORGANIC FROZEN YOGURT: 340 S California Ave, Palo Alto, CA, 94306
* FRO-GGIE: 1554 Washington Blvd, Fremont, CA 94539
* YOGURT HARMONY: 2259 Shattuck Ave, Berkeley, CA 94704
* TUTTIMELON: 2150 Irving St, San Francisco, CA, 94122

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Spotlight on Mochi Balls

Fro-yo girl here. I'll be honest. Mochi balls are the reason I first tried tart frozen yogurt. When I first heard of mochi balls, I couldn't stop thinking about them, wondering what they were like. Most fro-yo shops seem to use Dae Doo Food's bingsu rice cake. Made in Korea, these mochi balls come in a light blue package and can be purchased from the refrigerated section at Kukje in Daly City (and probably most Korean markets). A package costs $2.99. The main ingredients are:

  • glutinous rice powder

  • sugar

  • corn syrup

  • salt

  • wheat flour

I found another brand of mochi balls, German Bakery, at Kukje. The balls had a stronger rice flavor and were more uneven in shape and size than the Dae Doo brand. However, the mochi balls were harder and not as fresh tasting as Dae Doo's.

I love how the sweet, chewy mochi balls add texture to the fro-yo experience. The downside is that they do become stale. You can spot a stale mochi ball by looking for a dried out, hardened texture.

A few fro-yo shops in the Bay Area make their own mochi balls and these deserve special mention:

* Coco Swirl - made by the owner's mom on a daily basis, comes in white and pink. The pink color comes from strawberries. Add as much as you want since it's a self-serve joint.
* Fraiche Yogurt - the best homemade mochi topping, big, chewy, soft squares. I find their fro-yo bland and not tart.
* Clear Optometry - offers the most variety, six flavors of mochi topping: strawberry, green tea, lemon, orange, original, Ghirardelli chocolate.

Of the three, I recommend trying Clear Optometry.

You know you love me. X0 X0, fro-yo girl.

* KUKJE SUPER MARKET: 2350 Junipero Serra Blvd, Daly City, CA 94015
* COCO SWIRL: 35 Crescent Dr Ste E, Pleasant Hill, CA 94523
* FRAICHE YOGURT: 644 Emerson Suite 110, Palo Alto, CA 94301
* CLEAR OPTOMETRY: 138 E 3rd Ave, San Mateo, CA 94401

Monday, October 20, 2008

Top 10 Bay Area Fro-Yo Shops

Fro-yo girl here. Now that I’ve tried over 100 fro-yo shops, I’m often asked for recommendations. These are my top 10 Bay Area fro-yo shops:
· Culture Organic Frozen Yogurt (Palo Alto) – creamy & thick in texture, tastes natural with less sugar to mask that fro-yo flavor, organic fro-yo made from Straus and unique housemade toppings like brownies, chocolate meringues and seasonal granola - my cup of Culture yogurt is pictured above
· Café Delatti (Los Gatos) – every tart flavor tastes great, especially the mango tart, dense & creamy texture
· YoCup (Rincon Center, SF) – the most balanced fro-yo I’ve encountered in terms of flavor, texture, everything
· Tuttimelon (Irving St, SF) – extra sour and the best bargain in town, a small original is still 99 cents and they pack on the toppings like no other place I know of
· Caffe Ambrosia (SF) – natural and clean tasting plain tart, icy, soft and smooth
· Red Mango (Palo Alto) – not as tart as the others on the list but with a sophisticated subtle tang and an ultra creamy texture
· Harmony Yogurt (San Carlos) – dense and smooth, made with organic Straus Creamery yogurt, almost gelato like in consistency
· Yogurt Harmony (Berkeley) – rich, heavy and dense, four delicious tart flavors a day
· Yumi Yogurt (Redwood City) – best place for sweet fro-yo with the largest portions
· Poco Café (San Jose) – best place for mix-in yogurt, plain yogurt mixed with your choice of frozen fruit, chunky & tart

None of the self-serve shops made the cut. I’ve found higher quality, better tasting fro-yo at the non-self serve fro-yo shops.

I’m also asked how one person can eat so much fro-yo and not get sick of it. I can’t answer that question yet.

You know you love me. X0 X0, fro-yo girl.

Fro-yo Frenzy Begins

Fro-yo girl here. I'm sure many of you fro-yoholics have fantasized about trying every fro-yo shop in your local area. I've spent the last few months visiting fro-yo shops and every time I get close to visiting all the fro-yo shops (with the exception of some sweet fro-yo only shops and every location of Quickly and other chains), new fro-yo shops open. Not only that, the shops I have visited change their offerings. One person can't cover all the Bay Area fro-yo shops. This is why I was inspired to create this blog - to thank those who have provided me with fro-yo shop tips and to find others on the same quest.

I've reviewed over 90 fro-yo shops in the Bay Area to date - and the quest continues. I've met other fro-yo fans (most notably, fro-yo boy), talked to fro-yo shop owners, attended multiple fro-yo shop grand opening events, collected fro-yo shop t-shirts and more. I'll continue to review fro-yo shops on Yelp but I'd like to use the blog to track fro-yo shop openings, fro-yo shop news, etc.

Know of any fro-yo shops that I've missed? Let me know.

You know you love me. X0 X0, fro-yo girl.