Fraîche redux »
Okay, first of all, you’re probably thinking, “why the HELL are you reviewing a FROZEN yogurt place in December? Haven’t you been outside lately? I’m already frozen enough.” But some of us are crazy. For some of us, a frozen treat on a freezing night is homeopathic, fighting the cold by embracing the cold. Or maybe it’s that a smooth dessert with infinite toppings is always nice no matter what the season.
What I do know is that walking into Fraîche is like walking into a hug. The heat is blasting (and I mean seriously blasting, they must crank it up to 80), the doors stay shut, and the counter people are immediately friendly. And it’s not just me. On weekends, this place is PACKED, even on the coldest winter night you can imagine. It’s like an oasis of summer, where for just a few moments, you can discard your winter coats and mingle with/silently scorn the Blairs and Serenas of Pacific Heights.
When I set out to review Fraîche, I hadn’t read our previous review of the Palo Alto location. Either the power of Vegansaurus swayed the owners to shape up, or the San Francisco location is run by completely different and far superior people. Because the situation for vegans is vastly improved.
Let’s get some basics out of the way. Yes, the soy frozen yogurt is vegan. Yes, there are vegan toppings. Yes, the staff knows which are which. Yes, the granola contains honey. Yes, the shaved chocolate, pictured here, is vegan. Unlike our Palo Alto experience, if you ask if something is vegan, they will answer confidently or find out.
If you already like frozen yogurt or remember it from the last froyo craze in the ’80s, go here. Everything you remember about it is still good, and this time it’s vegan. And don’t miss the Wall of Health Claims, a laminated poster devoted to various unlikely facts about frozen yogurt, including my favorite about how you’ll lose weight if you eat it every day. You can basically ignore everything the Wall of Health Claims has to say. I’m sure a tiny cup of frozen yogurt topped with fruit is better for you than eating a pallet of Twinkies until you collapse into a diabetic haze, but when you get down to it, you’re really just eating soft serve ice cream with a probiotic twist. There’s nothing magical about it. If you like the idea of soft serve with delicious toppings, Fraîche will scratch that itch. But you probably won’t lose weight. Also who cares, it’s dessert!
Frâiche is open until 11 p.m. on weeknights and midnight on weekends, which makes them my new best friend. Find them at 1910 Fillmore St. in SF. In addition to the Palo Alto location, they’re also right on the Stanford University campus.
Review: Fraîche frozen yogurt! »
As Maria has said, Fraîche’s storefront is cold and joyless. I would think that places serving frozen treats would want to make customers more comfortable, rather than forcing them to sit on freezing metal chairs at pointy-cornered tables. And yet, they do not, so when you leave you can see the bruises you got from bumping into those pointy table-corners already forming underneath the first few layers of your skin, which has become creepily translucent with the onslaught of cold it’s suffered. Such are the penalties one pays for delicious soft-serve vegan frozen yogurt, right?
I appreciate the idea of vegan frozen yogurt. I love vegan yogurt that tastes as close to my ma’s homemade cow’s milk yogurt that I ate throughout my childhood. The vegan fro-yo at Fraîche combines the texture of the most perfect frozen yogurt with the sour tang of plain yogurt, which confused me with every bite. Is it dessert? Mixed with jam, is it my ma’s version of dessert that never fooled anyone? It has been almost seven months since I went and I still cannot make up my mind about it.
I can’t accuse them of false advertising, as they don’t say anything about it being sweet; they also serve their non-frozen yogurt with oatmeal, but this in particular seemed a little schizophrenic to me. Further, the gentlemen at the counter who served my friends and I were not the most helpful people I have ever done business with. To wit:
Laura to yogurt-server: Are your toppings vegan?
Yogurt-server to Laura: I don’t know; ask him (gestures to his right at a barista, because of course Fraîche has an espresso bar in addition to offering vegan and dairy frozen yogurt, and oatmeal, and granola)
Yogurt server to barista: Are the toppings vegan?
Barista to yogurt-server (does not look up from the coffee he is artfully pouring): No.
Yogurt-server to Laura: No.
Laura to (frustratingly idiotic) yogurt-server: I assume the fruit is (gestures to various small bins of fruits, including strawberries, bananas, blueberries, &c.)
So. If you are jealous of the soft-serve frozen yogurt everyone else is eating, get down the Peninsula (public transportation options include Caltrain and SamTrans) to Palo Alto and order Fraîche’s oddly sour vegan version. I advise at least trying it; I also advise limiting your interaction with the employees to the barest minimum, and not eating inside.
(Fraîche is the feminine form of the French adjective for “fresh;” the French word for “yogurt,” yaourt, is masculine; so, if the name of the shop were in reference to its main product—frozen yogurt—it ought to be Frais, “fresh” in the masculine form. But it seems that noun-adjective agreement was not this establishment’s highest priority so much as “foreign word pleasing to the Anglophone ear,” and so instead we have a terrible parenthetical diatribe on French grammar.)
[photo via Fraîche]