Friday, October 28, 2011

OMG Pinkberry!

One of the things about living in the country is that every time I go to the city, the world is fresh and magical.  Today my friend Kathryn and I walked around Santa Barbara and happened into a Pinkberry yogurt shop.  Not a very unique event and my expectations were low:  a break from walking, talking and shopping and a pleasant treat.  

Isn't it magical, though, when someone takes the ordinary and turns it into extraordinary?!

Pinkberry has a limited number of non-fat flavors with a wide array of toppings.  Ordinary.  First clue to the extraordinary is the server who asks if you've been here before, explains a little about their unique approach and then asks if you would like to sample a flavor.  I pick peanut butter knowing I probably won't like it because I've had it before and it's always bland and disappointing.  Not this time. OMG, somehow this has the essence of peanut butter in a frosty smoothness.  It doesn't even need a topping ... although I do opt for a scoop of chocolate crunch.  Instantly I am a fan.

I begin to look around and notice the decorations ... simple, clean, fresh and inviting ... and listen as the staff engages with other customers ... obviously trained staff.  Later I ask one of the servers and find out that they receive about a week of training before starting work.  Now I am a groupie eagerly awaiting a Pinkberry in the Fresno area ... hint, hint all you Fresno entrepreneurs!

I thought I was having a unique groupie experience until I came across a Los Angeles Times article that called it the "taste that launched a thousand parking tickets."  Apparently some of it's fans call it "crackberry" and agree with food blogger Rosie O'Neill, who wrote recently: "I would get Pinkberry IV'ed into my veins if I could."

The Times article reports:  Pinkberry was started by Hyekyung Hwang (a.k.a. Shelly), the daughter of a factory owner in South Korea, who came to America in 1992 for business school at USC. She is smart, quiet and tougher than she seems. Her business partner, Young Lee, a kick boxer turned architect, was once a bouncer for nightclubs before he started to design them.
Hwang understands that people want food that is healthy and low-calorie and that they will pay more money for it than you might think. Pinkberry yogurt is made with real milk and is about 20 calories per ounce, and a medium cup with three fresh fruit toppings (nothing comes from a can or is soaked in syrup) costs $4.95. What Lee knows is that aesthetics matter, and even if you are only going to spend 20 minutes in a yogurt store it should be a refreshing 20 minutes. So he painted the inside of Pinkberry in sherbet hues of peach, green and blue, and used Philippe Starck furniture and Le Klint plastic hanging lamps from Design Within Reach because, he said, they remind him of yogurt. The effect is modern Asian, not kindergarten.

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