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April 27

After last week's nor'easter and the unseasonably hot weather that followed, I was begrudgingly ready to welcome an early summer (I'm more of a fall gal myself). In fact, I was so confident that the freakishly warm weather was going to continue, I retired my jeans to under the bed and broke out my sandals and a couple of my favorite summer skirts. But I wake up this morning and what do I find out my window? Chilly winds and a complete downpour, swelling up the Passaic River all over again and closing up a few of the local highways. Le sigh.

As much as I might like the idea of getting some mileage out of my cowl afterall, I could do without the dreary skies and all the rain. I was just getting used to hearing the Mr. Softie truck make its nightly rounds up and down the streets of S's neighborhood and once, a few nights back, I even ran out into the streets, trailing S in my pajamas, in the hopes of snagging a double-dipped cone. Unfortunately, all my trips and stumbles over my own feet and half-pulled-on shoes were to no avail, as S and I stood mid-block, watching the ice cream truck as it sped off and disappeared around the corner, its tinkling rallying cry of Mr. Softie fading off into the sound of traffic.

Ever since then, I've had the strongest urge for soft serve ice cream, or better yet, Pinkberry.

Pinkberry itself
An ode to Pinkberry

Now, I'm not sure how many people outside the LA & NYC metropolitan areas know about Pinkberry. I myself first heard about it only a few months back while prowling one of my favourite celebrity gossip websites (yes, celebrity gossip is a guilty pleasure of mine, and one that I indulge in --guiltily, mind you!-- on a daily basis). It featured a picture of Reese Witherspoon and one of her sons "enjoying the new yogurt craze, Pinkberry", which was puzzling since I'd never heard of such a craze before, and wasn't that the very nature of a craze -- something people heard of and then went crazy about?

I finally got the opportunity to have Pinkberry last month during a family trek to New York City; my brother-in-law's parents had driven out to New Jersey from Illinois on a visit, and to celebrate, my sister negotiated Korean Barbeque as the best way to satisfy both Mike's standards for good food and my father's determined pickiness when it came to eating anything that wasn't my mother's cooking.

the condiments of a Korean barbeque experience

I remember clearly it was a terrible weekend for travel since a heavy winter storm hit that Friday, making a mess of all of the roads and the local airports. Regardless, we weathered the slow traffic and the uncleared sidewalks to make our dinner date with the Lakes at the restaurant (one of several Korean barbeque places dotting the block). After a couple hours of pushing kalbi (short ribs marinated in a mix of soy sauce, garlic, sesame, ginger and sugar) around our personal table-side grills, feasting on various types of pickled condiments served in tiny side bowls, and sharing good conversation, we emerged onto the slushy New York street full and satisfied. Despite the weather, both my sister and I were determined to take part of the craze and after some finagling with our parents, were able to convince them that such a great meal demanded dessert.

the Lakes (top), Mike and Iko (bottom) at the Korean barbeque place

It wasn't a hard place to find. A small cluster of people -- mostly young and fashionably dressed -- had formed outside the Pinkberry door, even though the sidewalks were too wet to be comfortable and the interior of the shop wasn't very crowded. Along the entire length of one wall was a series of brightly back-lit shelves, displaying various Koziol gadgets, and while my mother went about placing our order, my father and I played a game of "What does that doohickey do?" The menu was fairly simple -- only two different types of soft-serve frozen yogurt to choose from: plain and green tea. The fun part was getting to mix and match what was then sprinkled on top, with an impressive selection of fresh fruits and classic ice cream mix-ins to choose from.

My sister went with raspberries

Since I'm not the bravest culinary adventurer around, I decided to go with something fairly tame and straight-forward: mangos and kiwis on plain frozen yogurt. Even with something as simple as that, I couldn't help but be surprised when I took my first tentative bite. Unlike the TCBY I had known in high school, Pinkberry retained a lot of its yogurtiness. A really bright and tangy taste, not at all sweet or sugary. Instead of the fruit cutting the sweetness of the yogurt, it was the other way around, with the mangos and kiwis rounding out the slight sharpness of the Pinkberry. Totally unexpected and so fresh! Kind of like running through a sprinkler in July, a little taste of summer.

Mom and dad
Mom and dad, both with and without Pinkberry

It was a mixed review as far as everybody else was concerned. Iko and Mike's mom welcomed the refreshing change of pace from everyday ice cream (coupled with the satisfaction of eating something good for you), while both of my parents shuddered at the surprise. "Oh no!" my mother exclaimed bewildered, almost dropping her spoon, "It's sour!" In the end, I had to lend a helping hand in trying to finish their serving.

Needless to say, I didn't mind.

Is there anybody else out there who shares my love for this little taste of summer, no matter the time of year?

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