Greek yogurt has been a terrific addition to the cultured dairy world. So has tart fro-yo, and I think Pinkberry churns out better frozen yogurt than most of the other chains and independent shops. That's why I had high hopes when the California-based company chose a small contingent of their stores* to launch Pinkberry Greek: their fat-free, non-frozen take on thick, creamy, protein-packed Greek yogurt.
This being Pinkberry, one of the apparent draws to their Greek yogurt is their vast array of toppings. In fact, the company is using their fixins' bar as a marketing tool, offering three sweet—and, surprisingly, three savory—combinations. Kiwis, mangoes, berries, granola, and various sweeteners bulk up the morning-friendly category (locations that offer Pinkberry Greek now open at 8 a.m. to serve on-the-go breakfasters); cukes, bell peppers, grape tomatoes, olives, crunchy sesame crackers, and dressings like extra-virgin olive oil, balsamic glaze, and pesto top off the latter. You can opt for one of the six preset combinations or dream up your own. (Or just get plain yogurt.)
Before I get into why I wasn't impressed, I should say that I'm picky about Greek yogurt. Most of the commercial stuff—especially the fat-free kind—I find chalky, bland, and astringent, and Pinkberry's version was no exception. In fact, I thought it actually had less dairy flavor than store brands like Olympus and Fage. The lack of sugar is why I like Greek yogurt so much, but at the same time the acidity needs to be in check. Good fat-free Greek yogurt doesn't remind you that it's fat-free.
Maybe that's what the toppings are supposed to do. I suppose if you stir enough berries and honey into the yogurt, you'll get some sweet-tart balance (though that never really compensates for the dull dairy flavor). But loading up the yogurt with salad ingredients just didn't work. Cucumbers and tomatoes didn't offer the bright sweetness of fruit. The balsamic glaze was gooey and saccharine. And the pesto tasted like it came from a jar.
Verdict: Pinkberry should stick to their original recipe: tangy fro-yo and fresh-cut fruit.
*Currently, Pinkberry Greek is only available in some stores in Maryland, Virginia, Washington, DC, Massachusetts, and Southern California. Check the Pinkberry website for details.
About the author: Liz Bomze lives in Brookline, MA, and works as the Associate Features Editor for Cook's Illustrated Magazine. In her free time, she freelances regularly for the Boston Globe, Boston Magazine, the Improper Bostonian, and Martha's Vineyard Magazine; practices bread-baking and canning; takes photos; reads; and watches baseball. Top 5 foods: fresh noodles, gravlax, sour cherry pie, burrata, ma po tofu.