Sunday, September 23, 2007

It's war!!!

The war of the frozen treats has descended on New York City this summer. Not only has Pinkberry entered the premium frozen yogurt (or fro yo as they like to call it in good ol' California) market in the East Coast, the Italian gelateria, Grom, opened their inaugural American store smack dab in Manhattan. This is all pretty awesome because as some of you already know, I am simply addicted to frozen treats, be it ice cream, gelato, or even tofuti! Yes, I eat "tofu ice cream" and they're so good!

So I spent a weekend with the family about two weeks ago in NYC. My parents happened to be there because they were visiting my sis in NYC to help her settle down with her new school. Since my family's there, I might as well join the fun, no? But anyway, my pop and I managed to snag some US Open tickets too, on Ebay for this past weekend, so it was even more awesome!

OK, before I get into the US Open, let's re-prioritize and get back to frozen treats! I was lucky enough to have tried out most of the frozen treat shops (except for the much-touted Grom) but there's always next time. I've heard and read a lot about the California house of fro yo, Pinkberry. Not only has their treats been endorsed by multiple celebrity sightings in those mindless glossy magazines, I've read about them in many other foodie blogs too. They're also thinking of setting up shop right here in Chicago, which is so awesome because another frozen treat option never hurts anyone. So anyway, Pinkberry entered the NYC market pretty aggressively, opening 4 shops just this summer alone. They only offer two flavors: the original (which is a bit tangy) and green tea (which I've never tried). Their specialty is the wide range of their toppings, from the more "mundane" such as Oreo bits, slivered almonds to the more unusual such as mini mochi (rice flour balls) and fresh fruits. My mum, who's an ice cream addict like me, absolutely adores this frozen treat option because she's also a health nut. So Pinkberry lets her indulge her frozen treat craving without the guilt. I topped mine with slivered almonds, chopped strawberries and blackberries. I found that the Pinkberry topping to fro yo ratio was scant and wish that they would've given us more berries and nuts. My sister said that it pretty much depends on the crowd in the shop at the time. She finds that they tend to be more generous when it's less crowded. I guess we caught them in their grumpy time...

About a block away from Pinkberry's 32nd Street branch is another fro yo shop called Crazy Bananas. They're less publicized but I got wind of them, thanks to fellow food blogger Robyn. Besides a bunch phallic banana-ish decor items (which I was too embarassed to document with my camera because my folks were with me), their offering is very similar to Pinkberry's: fro yo with awesome toppings. Also, Crazy Bananas only offer the original yogurt flavor, no green tea. Other items on the menu include tea and smoothies. Due to less publicity, there were no lines at Crazy Bananas. As a matter of fact, we were the only customers in the shop when we made our pilgrimage there. I must say that I prefer Crazy Bananas to Pinkberry for a few reasons. First, it's waaay less crowded than Pinkberry. Not only were the lines super long at Pinkberry, it was virtually impossible to get seats there. And second, due to the lack of a crowd, the proprietor was extremely generous with the toppings. Just check out the mile-high pile of mochi balls and Oreos, slivered almonds, beautiful kiwi and luscious whole berries below!!! Also, it doesn't hurt that Crazy Bananas is slightly cheaper.
Awesome fro yo at Crazy Bananas

Another participant in this frozen treats war is the legendary Chinatown Ice Cream Factory in (where else but) NYC's humongous Chinatown. They're famous for creating ice cream flavors with an Asian twist. Besides the obligatory vanilla, chocolate and strawberry, their regular flavors include lychee, green tea, pandan, black sesame and PB&J (yes, you read that right. PB&J!). The shop's mascot is this Godzilla-like green dinosaur with red flames eating ice cream; kinda weird, but oh-so Asian. Craving for a South-East Asian flavor, I opted for a scoop of the pandan ice cream. Pandan is a leaf that is used in South-East Asian cuisine as an aromatic addition mostly in curries and rice dishes, sort of like lemongrass. One of my favorite pandan-flavored food is the ever-popular pandan chiffon cake (which I hope to make soon!), so I was intrigued at the prospect of pandan ice cream. Well, I'm always thrilled at the prospect of any ice cream, really... but anyway, the ice cream has a very light but distinctive pandan flavor. It was pretty subtle and I personally would've liked a stronger flavor. The ice cream also has a rather chewy and less-creamy-than-normal texture, which I really like. I will definitely return to try out their other weird flavors! *evil laugh*
Pandan ice cream at Chinatown ice cream factory, NYC

The last frozen treat joint we sussed out was Il Laboratorio del Gelato in Manhattan's lower East side. It was a little bit difficult to locate because the shop is very teeny but the ever-present line that extends outside the shop made it easier to spot. The patriarch got a very blah vanilla cone and the sister got a Oreo scoop. I opted for a scoop each of hazelnut (what can be more Italian than hazelnut, right?) and the more unusual maple. Both flavors were a bit too similar to exist in the same cup, I think. The hazelnut flavor was stronger, while I could barely taste the maple. The texture of the gelato was very creamy and smooth, although it melts a bit too quickly for my taste.
My hazelnut + maple gelato combo

Unfortunately, I didn't have the opportunity to try out the hottest new gelateria in NYC, Grom. But hey, there's always next time and after all, my sis lives there, which is a great excuse to visit! As I mentioned above, besides the orgy of frozen treats, I also did other stuff around the city, like go to the awesome US Open! We managed to score two tickets to the women's final match on Ebay. Only my father and I went to the game because the matriarch and the sister don't share our enthusiasm for racket sports, which was cool as my father and I don't really get to spend time alone, just the of us. Although the seats were "nosebleed" seats, we still had a great view of the court.
Happiness is to watch the US Open live!

Before the game started, we got a pretty cool bonus of having Carole King sing for us along with a local high school choir. The lone figure in black on the red carpet is Miz King rockin' the house at the Arthur Ashe stadium! Woohoo!
Carole King rockin' the house before the Women's final match

After that, a group of US Marines marched onto the court for a flag unveiling ceremony with the national anthem as a soundtrack. The ceremony finished with a fluorish of fireworks. Seriously, it would be sooo un-American to not end it with fireworks, no? *winks*
Us Open flag ceremonyIt would be sooo un-American to NOT end this sequence with fireworks, no?

As you all know now, the US Open finals were dominated totally by Europeans. I was a tad disappointed because I was hoping the Venus Williams was in the final match. The women's final match was a tad predictable but was nevertheless punctutated with great plays. Unlike the men's final match (with Federer vs. Djokovic), the women's final was very one-sided and the finalists both lacked personality on court. However, it was still pretty cool to watch such a great sporting event live even though in the beginning I remarked to my father that I needed some getting used to not hearing commentary after every play, haha!
Henin totally creaming Kuznetsova

Still, it was pretty cool to be doing something enjoyable together just with my father for once. He liked it so much that after the game, we checked out the other (read: better) seats so that we know which section to get the tickets for next year. Yay!
Pops + me-2

1 comment:

Chef Jeena said...

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Jeena xx

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