Sunday, August 12, 2007

Frozen Confection Hostilities

Not necessarily the winner of this showdown

Our topic today is the recent outbreak of Frozen Confection Hostilites in New York, also known as "The Fro-Yo Wars". But I think that name might be trademarked or something. So with the help of my best friend, Thesaurus, I came up with this new non-protected name. Non-protected, that is, until I get one of my many lawyer friends (that means you, Jaimi) to help with the paperwork required to protect this new term. For free. Zero billable hours. Pro bono. Thanks for your help in advance. In any case, not all of these frozen products claim to be yogurt, and I'm not in the business of misleading anyone. So we'll stick with "frozen confections".

As far as I'm concerned, the main combatants in this fight are Pinkberry and Tasti D-lite. That's what we'll focus on for this showdown. I'm well aware that there are a number of other frozen treat players out there - Mr. Softee; Baskin-Robbins; Tastee Surprize; Tasty Frozen Fun; Mary's Dairy; Cold Stone Creamery; Carvel; Tasty Freeze-lite; Frozen Party in Your Mouth; The Dominican Gentleman Who Sells Popsicles Out Of The Trunk of His Car. Among many, many others.

Let's begin with a little background. Tasti D-lite has been around since 1987. And according to its website, "Its secret formula began in the kitchen and was perfected in the lab." Not a good start, Tasti D. So you opened the freezer in your kitchen, found there was no ice cream, and went directly to the lab to whip up something tasty? Or rather, "tasti"? And what kind of lab are we talking about? A basement meth lab? A high school chemistry lab? Animal product-testing? This does not bode well.

Pinkberry started out in Los Angeles, and became almost instantly successful, even wildly popular. It's supposedly something of a ripoff of a Japanese frozen yogurt chain. This makes sense. The Japanese are well-known and widely respected for their fascination for frozen treats. Case in point is Mochi - a chewy rice-gluten-ensconced little chunk of ice cream. Truly delicious, and just another example of Japanese innovation. The result of the relentless pursuit of frozen morsel perfection.

Anyway, back to Pinkberry. There was distressingly little information available on the Pinkberry website. They offer you a catchy tune, but give little insight into the actual ingredients of the frozen yogurt. The only hints I could glean were that Pinkberry contains some amount of dairy, is not kosher, and is both physically and mentally addictive (just ask Pinkberry's legions of devoted fans). Beyond that, no clues are offered. On the other hand, the basic ingredients in Tasti D are listed on their website. And most of the words are ones I'm familiar with. I didn't see any benzene, acetone, rat poison, or herpes listed as ingredients. I think that's a positive: Tasty D 1, Pinkberry 0.

Flavors. Pinkberry offers just two: Original and Green Tea. I've tried both, and they are quite refreshing. I prefer the Original, because it tastes more like yogurt. Even if it's not actually yogurt, or even a distant relative. On the polar opposite end of the flavor offerings catalog is Tasti D-lite. They have over 100 flavors. You read that right. It's not a typo. At least, the "100" is not a typo. There may be other errors in this blog. I don't really use spell-checker, as I strongly believe we should all be responsible for our own actions. Spelling mistakes included. Own up to it. Don't be a wuss. Spellcheck's for losers. And loossers/

Tasti-D's "Tasti Engineer" contemplates a potential new flavor creation

Tasti D's flavors range from your standard Chocolate, Cookies 'n Cream, and Rocky Road, to more exotic flavors like New York Cheesecake, Marzipan, Chicken 'n Bacon, and Philly Cheesesteak. Any way you slice it, Tasti D has a spectacular variety. And fans have been known to haunt a variety of locations in order to sample as many flavors as possible. If you track down a store that's offering the Peanut Butter 'n Jelly, or Pineapple Cake flavors, please let me know. I'd like to have a word with the manager. Or maybe just punch the manager for offering these flavors to the public.

So clearly, as far as flavor variety goes, Tasti D wins hands down: 30-Love, Tasti D's serve.

Toppings. As lopsided as Tasti D's victory was in the flavor offerings category, Pinkberry dominates the struggle for toppings supremacy. Pinkberry is, after all, the king of fresh fruit toppings. The big, beautiful blackberries are unstoppable. The perfectly ripe, luscious blueberries are irresistible. The bananas are pretty good. Tasti D has rainbow sprinkles and carob chips. This one's a landslide: Tasti D 2, Pinkberry 1.

Mouthfeel. Supposedly an important part of the frozen confection experience. They're both really cold. And soft. I don't know. Let's call this one a draw. Tasti D still leads by one point.

Healthfulness. I don't have any cold, hard data to back this up, but I'm pretty sure Tasti D-lite uses a buttload of chemicals to achieve their mind-boggling array of flavors. They do a good job in terms of flavor, but it makes you wonder what all that stuff does to your insides. I'm doubtful its does a body good, but I'm willing to look on the bright side. Maybe all of those chemicals could help treat that pesky urinary tract infection. Or if fed to dogs could get rid of heartworms. I smell a clinical trial somewhere nearby.

Not another crazy flavor idea. Or is it?

Although they won't tell us what's in the secret formula, Pinkberry probably doesn't use as many chemicals as Tasti D. We can't know for sure, (they might use some advanced petroleum-based polymers in place of milk or active yogurt cultures) but I just feel like I'm eating healthier at Pinkberry. So I give them the point for this category.

And guess what? This competition ends in a tie. Tasti D 2, Pinkberry 2.

What a cop out. How anti-climactic. The battle goes on. But wait! Pinkberry's got a switchblade, and is approaching Tasti D from behind, silently. Tasti D doesn't suspect a thing, just sitting their enjoying a cone of its newest flavor, Pepperoni Pizza. And now Pinkberry pounces! And now the D is down!

What I'm trying to say is that I actually prefer Pinkberry.

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