Summer in New York: It’s not just about simple ice cream anymore…

It’s summertime in NY, and while ice cream, sorbet and other frozen desserts are always hot sellers as the temperatures increase, there seems to be a particular onslaught of new variations this year.  Just in my five blocks alone, there are a myriad of choices.   Let me start with frozen yogurt and its many derivations.   My next post will cover the gelato and sorbet craze.

NYC has been the home to Tasti-D-lite for years.  It’s hard to go too far in any neighborhood without finding one.   Now, there is also a slightly new rendition called The Lite Choice.  In fact, one of the original Tasti-D-Lites, located at 146 west 72nd st. between Broadway and Columbus (south side of the street) is now The Lite Choice. Capitalizing on the natural and organic craze, it boasts the following on its website:

“The Lite Choice® soft serve is made from the finest all-natural ingredients and farm-fresh dairy. Our soft serve is low-fat, lower calorie, low carb, and low cholesterol. There’s NO corn syrup, artificial additives, or preservatives. We use USDA certified organic flavors. ”  (and it is Kosher)

At the location on 72nd st, there are four ready-made flavors to choose from each day — including always chocolate and vanilla — but they can also custom make “any flavor, anytime”.   For Peanut Butter and Almond Butter, you can see the vats of fresh nuts that are used to make the flavor.  They’ve created flavor groupings from 80-120 calories per serving.  The decor of the store feels very similar to Tasti-D-lite with the white, light blue and pink colors.

If you are a traditional Taste-D-lite fan, no worries — there are still plenty of locations on the upper west side.  One of the biggest and newest is at Columbus Circle (60th and Broadway), right next to the Time Warner Center.  It features six flavors daily, in addition to the Custom Blend options.  Plus, this one has breakfast parfait, smoothies, flying saucers, cakes, muffins and coffee blended drinks.   The staff is warm and friendly, often saying as you enter the store “Welcome to Tasti D-lite, how may I delight you today?”  No, I’m not kidding.  This is a corporate owned store, so they take the service seriously :).   And, you can sample the flavors before choosing – just ask.

Tasti D-Lite has also added a new flavor probably to compete with the new surge of Pinkberry (and Red Mango, Yolato, etc. not to mention the Frogurt plain yogurt at Bloomingdale’s which will need its own post at a later time…I’m addicted).   The flavor is called Tart n’ Tasti and is a frozen yogurt vs. a frozen dessert.  Very good!

That brings me to the Pinkberry craze.    Locations exist all over Manhattan – with three locations in the vicinity of my five blocks —

Columbus Circle (330 West 58th st)

Columbus Ave (between 74th and 75th)

2041 Broadway (between 70th and 71st)

To quote the website, “Pinkberry is a great tasting and healthy frozen yogurt with nonfat and lowfat flavors that are packed with live and active cultures – so much so that Pinkberry carries the seal of approval from the National Yogurt Association. Pinkberry frozen yogurt has yogurt’s natural goodness, such as calcium and protein. Contains active live cultures: s. thermophilus, l. bulgaricus, l. acidophilus.”

The number of flavors varies by location, but there is always Original, which is plain tart. In addition, you can try green tea, pomegranate, coconut, mango, chocolate, and now for a limited time, Watermelon.   I just tried watermelon, and it is amazing.  Sounds unusual and a bit strange for a frozen yogurt flavor, but it’s perfect for summer.  Very refreshing! In honor of Watermelon, Pinkberry has also added two toppings to go with it — fresh watermelon and cucumber.  Another strange topping at first thought, but the cucumber goes well with the Watermelon.   Toppings are one of the signatures of the Pinkberry shtick. They run the gamut from fresh fruit items you might expect like strawberries and blueberries, to those you might not, such as kiwi and pineapple.  Plus, there are the dry toppings that add a touch of fun — not only the typical granola and nuts, but also items like Cap’N Crunch cereal, dark chocolate crisps and mochi, among many more.  Check out the website, or better yet check out a store.    They are easy stores to spot with the modern, green and white decor.  The only downside is they get very crowded and chaotic. Operationally you order and pay, then someone else handles getting your yogurt and asking what toppings you want.   Not sure it’s the best system.    If you don’t want to bother, see if the one near you delivers.  You can order online!

On a final Pinkberry note, a great addition this year has been the “mini” size for those who just want a little bit (and not such a big investment, as it can be a pricey treat).   It’s just 3 oz, frankly a perfect size.

Maybe it’s the economy or maybe it’s a yogurt thing, but Pinkberry, Tasti and The Lite Choice all have loyalty programs with Frequent Buyer cards — typically after buying 10, you get one free.   And, Pinkberry just added a summer 1/2 price Happy Hour between 5pm and 7pm.  The only requirement is to order the new watermelon flavor as one of your flavor choices.

If you are still not satisfied with the frozen yogurt/dessert options above, try Haagen Dazs at 263 Amsterdam Ave (just north of 72nd st.).   This store offers soft serve, sugar-free frozen yogurt that comes in the two classic flavors – vanilla and chocolate, which can also be swirled.  Although it is sugar-free, it is quite good and does not leave an after-taste from the artificial sweetener.    The only challenge is maintaining your willpower to stick with the frozen yogurt rather than the ice cream!

Stay tuned in the next couple days for more info on ice cream and gelato in my five blocks.   In the meantime, I’m sure you will happen upon a Mister Softee ice cream truck on almost every corner.  Try it, if you want a delicious, simple, frozen treat that brings back childhood memories.

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