Late this spring, Culture: An American Yogurt Company opened one block from my apartment. I surmised it would be yet another amalgamation of overexposed Pinkberry and Red Mango. I supposed it would quickly become a page in the prodigious book of failed NYC eateries.
Color me mistaken. Their fro-yo is off the hook, kids! Sweet and smooth, tart and tangy, it is like crack for 99.9% of customers. With toppings like key lime pie (lime curd, honey and graham crackers), fresh or muddled fruit, dark chocolate chunks or pina colada (fresh pineapple, caramel sauce and coconut macaroons) and flavors that run the gamut from mango strawberry to white peach to Nutella, they blow the competition out of the water with creativity and flavor.
The yogurt is made in Culture’s back room from hormone-free and antibiotic-free milk. The eatery itself is a certified New York State dairy, which means they make their product on site, soup to nuts, including milk pasteurization.
Not only have I become a regular patron, I’ve got a full-on, unequivocal addiction. They post their daily specialty flavors on a sidewalk chalkboard, an evil little ploy to add patrons to their already long line. And it works; the sign, in pretty pastel colors, begs you to “come hither” like a sexy sea siren luring lost mariners. It takes a heaping bucket of willpower not to fall prey to a Culture yogurt habit.
To ward off the demons, I decided to play yogurt god in the kitchen and create my own evil-good fro-yo masterpiece- lemon meringue frozen yogurt “sundaes.” I made a fairly simple vanilla bean and white chocolate yogurt from thick Greek yogurt and wrapped it in a coat of silken, creamy lemon curd. The addition of sweet white chocolate created more of a creamy semifreddo rather than a tart, icy frozen yogurt. Paired with the sweet-tart lemon curd, the flavors are perfectly balanced although the “sundae” ultimately feels more like a dessert splurge than Culture’s refreshing product.
Culture: An American Yogurt Company
331 Fifth Avenue
Lemon Meringue “Sundaes” with White Chocolate Frozen Yogurt and Lemon Curd
White Chocolate Frozen Yogurt:
1 vanilla bean
4 cups whole milk Greek yogurt
1/4 cup superfine granulated sugar
1 ounce finely grated, high-quality white chocolate
3 large eggs
3/4 cup sugar
1 tablespoon finely shredded lemon zest
1/3 cup fresh lemon juice (from about 3 lemons)
1/2 teaspoon cornstarch
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 teaspoon olive oil
To make the yogurt:
1. Remove seeds from vanilla bean pod. In a large mixing bowl stir sugar and vanilla bean seeds into yogurt.
2. Melt chocolate in a double boiler and let cool slightly. Incorporate into yogurt, whisking briskly. Cover and refrigerate overnight.
3. Process in ice cream maker according to manufacturer’s instructions.
Yield: 4 servings.
To make the lemon curd:
1. In a double boiler or stainless steel bowl placed over a saucepan of simmering water, whisk together eggs, sugar, lemon zest, lemon juice and cornstarch. Cook, stirring constantly, until the mixture thickens, about 5 minutes.
2. Remove from heat and immediately pour through a fine strainer to remove lumps. Cut the butter into small pieces and whisk into the mixture. Add olive oil and whisk. Let cool.
3. Cover immediately with plastic wrap so a skin doesn’t form and refrigerate for up to a week.
Yield: 1 1/2 cups.