Friday, April 29, 2011 at 11:27AM
Culture, which opened earlier this month on Fifth Avenue between Third and Fourth Streets, is at the vanguard of the natural progression of frozen yogurt, into the artisanal realm.
That may sound silly, but think about it: Ten years ago TCBY was frozen yogurt. Its products didn't taste anything like yogurt, though; it was basically just yogurt in ice cream's clothing.
Then a few years ago Pinkberry exploded onto the scene, introducing frozen yogurt that--gasp!--actually tasted like regular, tangy yogurt, and it was complemented by a selection of fresh fruit instead of sprinkles and crushed Oreos. It didn't come from real yogurt, though: it was powdered and reconstituted before being put through the churn.
Enter Culture. Not only is this frozen yogurt made from real yogurt, it's made in-house from hormone-free milk through a 24-hour process that involves adding culture to the milk, setting it, straining it to the consistency of Greek yogurt, and finally churning it, sometimes adding fresh fruit to the mix. It's all-natural, small-batch yogurt and frozen yogurt, and is the only true artisanal yogurt shop around.
The yogurt comes in four varieties: "fresh strained" (not frozen), in both organic whole milk and skim milk form, and frozen yogurt sold in both plain (tangy, creamy, and unlike any other frozen yogurt you've ever had) and fruit-flavored, in varieties that change daily. When I dropped by it was blackberry.
The yogurt is just the tip of the iceberg, though. Chef/owner Jenny Ammirati, who trained at the ICE and at Thomas Keller's Bouchon Bakery, has created some truly original flavor and topping combinations.
The Parfait pairs the yogurt of your choice with homemade granola, fresh fruit, and a little honey or fruit puree.
Vermont Maple comes with maple-pecan "wetnuts" as well as fresh fruit.
Key Lime Pie was my personal favorite, a combination of graham cracker crumble and a homemade key lime custard. The tanginess of the lime matches well with the yogurt, and it's perfect for a hot day.
The Pineapple Goodness topping is made of roasted pineapples in a cardamom-maple glaze, which has a slightly Indian-inspired kick.
Strawberry Balsamic, paired above with the whole milk fresh strained yogurt, gives a sweet, acidic bite to the tangy yogurt, and the balsamic reduction doesn't overpower.
Finally, the Pina Colada combines yogurt with crumbled coconut macaroons and chunks of pineapple.
There's something devilish lurking under all of the above combinations as well: Every yogurt has a little bit of topping under the yogurt as well, so just when you think you've run out of strawberries, you realize that there's a bunch left on the bottom. That's just a small example of the thought and creativity that's gone into every item on this menu (of which you're also free to mix and match). It's artisanal yogurt with no pretensions, and it's all damn tasty.
Culture: An American Yogurt Company 331 Fifth Avenue Brooklyn NY 11215