Everyone was apprehensive, from the teenage girl behind me, whose eyeroll could have been seen in Texas, to the older woman in the front of the line. She shook her head wordlessly, overcome with the frivolity of my decision and whatever alternative decisions had led to this monstrosity, the one to get tomatoes and basil on my Greek yogurt. And, as I was quick to remind the dubious server, balsamic vinegar and sea salt. If I was going to eat a creamy salad after the gym, I was going to do it right.
“Are you sure you don’t want our new butter pecan?” she asked, offering me a bite-sized sample as a last-ditch effort to sway me. But I held my ground.
“No, I don’t think that will go as well with tomatoes,” and I smiled. It was a big, wolfish grin as I watched the three servers make my yogurt, each glancing anxiously at me, the mercurial masochist, as they fished tiny julienned shreds of basil out of a container and arranged plump cherry tomatoes atop the white, thick yogurt at the bottom of the cup. $3.88 and I was sitting outside at last, ready to enjoy my veggies.
Pinkberry sent me a gift card to try out some of their new selections, and I was excited to have hit the jackpot with their two savory offerings of Greek yogurt, three if you could the cucumber mint smoothie on the shake menu. This flavor features a fresh yogurt base, local to Fair Oaks Farms, standard to all the Greek yogurt selections, with grape tomato halves, basil, balsamic vinegar, olive oil, and sea salt. Ordering it is a little clunky- I wasn’t sure whether the yogurt was alongside the sweet selections, if each flavor combination had its own yogurt, or if it used one collective base. Unlike the sweet Pinkberries, this is spooned, somewhat gloppily, from a bowl near the toppings. Consequently, the texture is not as smooth or as silky as the mixed yogurts- it is thicker and melts very quickly. The top half of the yogurt was melted by the time I received it.
I wonder if the yogurt would benefit from additional flavoring, especially with this combination. The strong flavor of the yogurt, tangy and concentrated, was impossible to avoid, no matter how many tomatoes and herbs were in each spoonful. The acidity of the balsamic vinegar didn’t help, and any aged sweetness was virtually undetectable. The strongest non-dairy element was the basil, herbaceous and extremely fresh, almost citrusy against the other elements, and was, with the fresh tomatoes, the only real ‘sweet’ part of the dish. And I couldn’t help but yearn, as I looked at the pallid color of the yogurt, for the silky, sweet, milky flavors of a burrata or fresh mozzarella ice cream in lieu of the staunch Grecian cream.
I’m torn as to how I feel about this, because its innovation as an entree and a dessert is frankly, groundbreaking, setting it apart from the trendy truffle and bacon ice creams and adding elements that almost make it wholesome. My entire lunch came to a svelte 200 calories, and refreshed me after the gym and the hot afternoon. But was it any more satisfying than a real salad, or for that matter, a sweet frozen yogurt? As an ambassador for its flavors, it’s not a very good representation. It’s a technique that is already used in fine, experimental restaurants like wd~50 and Eleven Madison Park, and is clever and accessible for a larger market, but needs significant tweaking before it can sway the suspicious.