Posts Tagged trends

Yogi Berry – Cleveland Park Embraces the Fro-Yo Phenomenon

Yogi Berry Yogurt 1

Yogi Berry original with raspberries.

Two of the biggest trends to sweep the DC dining scene last year were cupcakes and high-end frozen yogurt. Thankfully for my waistline, only the yogurt trend has made it to my neighborhood so far. Yogi Berry, a frozen yogurt shop that’s high on style and light on calories, opened up in the Cleveland Park strip mall back in November, 2008. Over the past month, Wonk the Plank and I have visited our resident Yogi Berry three times to see if this frozen yogurt trend has any teeth, and we’re generally pleased with this tasty, if slightly overpriced addition to the neighborhood.

Yogi Berry is one many frozen yogurt shops that popped up after the enormous success of Pinkberry, the LA-based frozen yogurt store that became a trendy must-have after it opened in 2005. Unlike the frozen yogurt of my youth, this new wave of frozen yogurt is supposed to taste like real yogurt, with a tangy flavor that isn’t overly sweet. Pinkberry also serves its yogurt in well-designed spaces, featuring high-end touches like pebbled floors and Philippe Starck’s Victoria Ghost chairs.

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Either these really are Philippe Starck's Victoria Ghost chairs, or they look just like them.

The Ghost chairs – or a reasonable facsimile thereof – has made it to the Yogi Berry in Cleveland Park, but I found that not all the yogurt was as tangy as I expected. Still, tangy or not, almost all of it is pretty delicious.

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The store has nice design touches, like this textured wallpaper.

Yogi Berry serves up four yogurt flavors: original, green tea, berry, and chocolate. The original yogurt, which was my favorite, does indeed have a tangy flavor that predominates, although it’s not quite as sharp as the tang of actual yogurt. The yogurt has a sweet finish, with berry and citrus undertones that round out the flavor. To me, this yogurt is closer to ice cream that in it is to Greek yogurt, with a light, creamy texture that reminds me of soft-serve. I found it delicious enough that I could enjoy it on its own – no topping necessary.

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Our selections last Saturday. Note the Wonk's Women's Information Network t-shirt in the background.

The green tea, my second favorite flavor, has a little tang, but is sweeter than the original and tastes mostly of, what else, green tea. But because the green tea is a “specialty” flavor, it also costs an extra dollar per serving. Yogurt prices at Yogi Berry start at $2.95 for five ounces (toppings are an additional $0.95 each), and I’m not sure if the green tea was worth $3.95 for a small.

The other two yogurt flavors, berry and chocolate, taste exactly like conventional frozen yogurt – if there was a tang, then I couldn’t taste it. Still, berry flavor ended up being Wonk the Plank’s favorite, and I thought it was very tasty as well. The berry yogurt tastes strongly of blueberries, with raspberry and vanilla undertones. The chocolate, which was my least favorite, tastes exactly like normal chocolate frozen yogurt. It was fine, but undistinguished.

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Wonk's berry yogurt with blueberries.

All four of the yogurt flavors are low calorie – the original yogurt clocks in at approximately 122 calories for a small serving. If you want to up your yogurt’s caloric heft, the store serves an impressive variety of toppings, which run the gamut from the uber-healthy pomegranate seeds to the much more nutritionally dubious Captin Crunch. Wonk and I played it safe on our visits – I got raspberries and he got blueberries – and every time the fruit was fresh and flavorful. The store was much stingier with the raspberries than the blueberries, however.  I only received six raspberries on my last visit, while Wonk’s yogurt was nicely covered in blueberries.

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The topping bar, as you can see, is huge.

Wonk and I had an excellent time each time we visited Yogi Berry, although I do think that the prices are a little high for what it is. At the end of the day, paying four dollars for five ounces of frozen yogurt and some fruit is spendy. But, considering that I’ll happily pay that for a latte at Starbucks and not even blink, Yogi Berry’s pricing isn’t all that outrageous. I’m very pleased that the fro-yo trend has made it to my area, and Yogi Berry has already become one of my regular neighborhood haunts.

At least, that is, until a cupcake shop opens up in Cleveland Park.

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Yogi Berry's Cleveland Park shop is one of three stores in the DC area.

Yogi Berry
Sam’s Park and Shop
3515 Connecticut Ave, NW
Washington, DC 20008
(202) 362-9644
www.yogiberry.com

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Why Whoopie Pies Are Not the Next Cupcake

Cafe Blue Hills Tasty Treats

Are whoopie pies the next cupcake? I don't think so.

Photo by georgie_grd via flickr, under the Creative Commons license.

The New York Times is hinting that whoopie pies might be the next new big nostalgic baking trend, possibly displacing the cupcake trend. I had to give this one some thought, considering that the pioneering chockylit featured whoopie pies on her short-lived dessert blog, before disappearing  into the Internets. But Jezebel isn’t so convinced, and neither am I.

I’ve never had a whoopie pie, so I can’t judge them from a culinary perspective. They actually sound pretty tempting: two small chocolate cakes, sandwiched together with a cream filling of some kind – a precursor to the Oreo cakester.

And, although this sounds blasphemous, whoopie pies have some advantages over cupcakes. First of all, while I love frosting, too many cupcake shops pile on too much frosting for a dramatic visual effect, overwhelming the cake in the process. But because the whoopie pie is made from two pieces of cake sandwiched together with frosting, there’s a better cake-to-frosting ratio. It would also be harder to over-frost a whoopie because there’s really only so much filling one can stuff between two pieces of cake before the entire operation becomes unstable.

That being said, the idea that whoopie pies are the new cupcakes is going too far. Even if cupcakes are “trendy” now, they also occupy a large space in our collective nostalgic comfort food psyche that goes much deeper than mere trend. I would bet that every child in America—from San Franscico, to Kansas City, to Tampa—grew up eating cupcakes at birthday celebrations. We’ve all drooled at the packaged cupcakes in the pastry aisle of our local supermarkets. We’ve all seen, and probably at some time tasted, a Hostess cupcake. Cupcakes have been woven into our early childhood memories.

But whoopie pies are a regional treat, at best. According to the New York Times article, they were originally an Amish creation, and became a popular New England dessert, especially in Pennsylvania and Maine. But they aren’t ubiquitous – they are not the classic, standard childhood treat that is the cupcake.

And while the whoopie pies featured in the Times article are cute, they just aren’t as pretty as cupcakes—and it’s the cupcake’s immense artistic possibilities that are a large part of its charm. Just looking at the beautiful photos on Cupcakes Takes the Cake makes you realize that the cupcake is essentially a blank canvas which, with the aid of frosting, fondant, and sugar, can become anything imaginable. You can have cupcakes artfully decorated with shamrocks, you can make cupcakes shaped like roses, you can decorate cupcakes to look like the blood smattered smiley face pins in The Watchman. But whoopie pies, because the filling is sandwiched between two layers of cake, don’t have the same artistic possibilities. Sure, you can make them in different colors and flavors, but can you decorate them to look like Elmo? I think not.

No, the cupcake craze, if it’s going to end, isn’t over yet – and I don’t see whoopie pies posing any kind of a threat. Still, since I’ve never had them before, I believe they’ll be making an appearance at our next party. Now I just have to choose between this Epicurious recipe, or the one in the New York Times. Buttercream filling, or marshmallow fluff? Decisions, decisions.

What do you think? Is the cupcake craze at an end? Is the whoopie pie a serious contender to replace cupcakes? Have you ever made a whoopie pie?

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February Project: Pound Cake – The Recession’s “It” Dessert?

Pound Cake

Pound Cake Isn't Cool.

Pound cake is a deeply uncool member of the dessert family. It’s the homely cousin of the elegant multi-tiered genoise featured on the covers of wedding magazines. Even the name sounds clumsy and pedestrian, like it’s supposed to be exclusively served at your great aunt Edna’s birthday party, not at stylish and hip restaurants.

Even at its very best, pound cake has a simple, rustic soul, and one that isn’t well-suited to following the latest in-vogue flavors and styles on high-end dessert menus. Would you eat a chocolate pomegranate pound cake with chipotle-brown sugar glaze? What about a spiced carrot pound cake with rum and persimmon icing? Or a brown butter chestnut pound cake with shaved truffle streusel?

Those daring flavors are all wrong for pound cake.

Instead, pound cake is fabulously uncluttered. The best thing about it is its simplicity. But in a world of dessert menus run amuck, where a plate cannot be complete without a cake and a shooter and a sorbet and a foam, the pound cake is an antidote to fine-dining dessert overkill.

I suspect that now that everyone is paring back in the recession, and frugality and responsibility are trendy once more, pound cake is due for a major comeback. This unfashionable, homely dessert deserves our attention. Because at its best, pound cake is everything that a dessert should be. It’s simple, sweet, flavorful, and holds up equally well to a glass of dessert wine or a cup of coffee. And it embodies the new aesthetic of simplicity and humility, where we value the comforts of home.

So my February baking project will be devoted to the humble pound cake. As I did in January with the Popover Project, I’ll be trying out new recipes from different authors, and letting you know what works, what didn’t, and what I learned from each.

Who knows, maybe pound cake will be the “It Dessert” of  2009.

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Are Cupcakes the Most Hated Fad Of 2008?

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Are cupcakes on the way out?

Maybe it was the Washington Post Cupcake Wars that did it, but it seems like something has turned the DC Foodie world against cupcakes. Commenters over at the Washingtonian’s Best Bites blog are having a cupcake-hate fest. Best Bites asked its readers what their favorite, or least favorite, DC Dining trend was for 2008, which unleashed a tide of comments saying that everyone’s “over” the cupcake craze.

I can’t tell if this is because people just don’t like something that’s trendy, or if they’re offended by the whole concept. I mean, I bet if someone offered up a fresh cupcake to one of those commenters, most of them would take it.

Still, this got me thinking about some of my own favorite and least fads in the food, design, and home cooking world. Granted, I have limited knowledge of all three, but here are some of the trends that I’m kind of sick of myself:

  • The transformation (now almost entirely complete) of the Food Network from a station that focused on chefs and cooking to one that is entirely dominated by Rachel-Ray knock-offs.
  • The way all the Top Chef contestants just seem to be milder, washed-out versions of past contestants.
  • The fact that all these wonderful design blogs that I like so much have so many entries I can’t actually read them.

Okay, there are more, but it’s a new year and I want to begin on a more positive note.

What about you? What were your favorite (or least favorite) domestic trends in 2008?

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HGTV’s Top Three Worst Design Trends

If you too are tired of hearing how drapes “soften” a room, or hearing your coworkers go on and on about their design “inspiration objects,” then I suggest you check out this New York Times essay on how  TV-decorating mania has spawned an overabundance of home decor terms.

Now, don’t get me wrong – I’m interested in decorating as much as the next homemaking-minded gal, and I’m generally a fan of HGTV. Even if I too find the constant talk of “focal points” wearying, I like that HGTV encourages us to use our imaginations and really pay attention to our living spaces. (Side note: I also think HGTV fueled problems in the housing market by encouraging people to view their houses as investments rather than homes, but that’s a subject for a whole other post).

Still, this article reminded me that the world would be better off without some decorating concepts embedded in HGTV dogma.

The Top Three Worst HGTV Decorating Trends

1. Water Features. I’ve never understood HGTV’s obsession with water features. According to HGTV, water features belong in every room of the house. But why would I want a fountain in my bedroom where it will get the rug wet? Or in the living room where guests could knock it over? I’m not against a tasteful fountain in the backyard, and I have very fond memories of my grandmother’s goldfish pond, but I swear to God every HGTV room has some kind of cheap fountain that looks like it would be a pain to keep clean. I’m sorry, but I don’t want an ugly fountain taking up space in my home, especially if it serves no discernible purpose.

2. Outdoor Rooms. Perhaps it’s because I’m originally from the Pacific Northwest, where it rains nine months out of the year, but I find the whole idea of creating an elaborate “outdoor room,” complete with furniture, drapes, and nick-knacks, ridiculous. In the real world, I don’t want to leave a bunch of fabric-covered items sitting outside through summer thunderstorms. And even if I live in a dry climate, outdoor furnishings are still going to gather dust, dirt, bugs, and God knows what else. Plus, where are you supposed to store all the furniture in your “outdoor room” come winter time? I think it’s fine to get some nice lawn furniture if you think you’ll use it, but creating an entire outdoor space is just excessive to me.

3. Anything Can Be Art. Now, I’m not against making your own art; in fact, I absolutely love doing amateur art projects, and many of my creations are hanging in our living room. But I dislike that the designers on so many HGTV shows grab random objects (coasters, tea cozies, trivets), nail them to painted boards, and call them “art.” I know that those shows are under huge time and budget constraints, but for real people, it’s better to wait and collect (or create) pieces that you really like. If you get a bunch of random crap and throw it up on the wall because you have space to fill, you’ll be sick of it in two months. For those of you interested in learning more about affordable art, check out this Apartment Therapy post on affordable art. I’m also a big fan of the indie band posters over at The Small Stakes, which run about $25 and are hauntingly lovely.

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