Sat11222014

Food & Wine

December Freeze: Los Altos gets a yogurt shop for Christmas

Photo Joe Hu/Town CrierAfter serving up a customized swirl of yogurt, customers at Miyo Yogurt choose from a few dozen toppings, including fruits, cereals and candies.

 

Miyo Yogurt, Los Altos’ first foray into the current craze of frozen yogurt shops, offers a self-serve approach to the treat. Patrons squirt out whatever blend of flavors tickles their whimsy, sprinkle toppings from among more than 30 options and weigh their choices, paying 41 cents an ounce.

Co-owners Trang Do and Doug Matsumoto opened Miyo at 270 Main St. late last month. Their holiday-season debut is challenging in some respects – frozen treats aren’t usually associated with the winter months – but Do and Matsumoto are optimistic that the allure of yogurt will win out.

“The sun comes out and people came in,” Masumoto said stoically, but then recounted that even on a particularly foggy day last week, one dedicated yogurt lover filled a bowl and sat on a bench outside in the gloom, placidly supping and reading a newspaper.

Miyo is open 10:30 a.m. to 9 p.m. weekdays and until 10 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays. Its proprietors hope to be part of livening up downtown’s evenings.

“Kid’s don’t have any place to hang out here – we’re hoping this will be the place,” Matsumoto said.

“That’s why we have WiFi – kids can hang out and do their homework and their parents know where they are,” Do said.

Stop by on any given day and you may spot one or both of the owners working the yogurt scales or refilling the toppings bar. Their partnership has an unusual story behind it. Do and Matsumoto started out as a married couple who went into business together, running a gas station and a mini-mart. They subsequently divorced, but when Do decided to open a yogurt shop, she asked Matsumoto if he wanted to partner in the venture. He was game, and the two of them have a quiet, playful collaborative mien.

“We’re a good mix, I think,” Matsumoto said with a grin.

“We went to the frozen yogurt places and I said, ‘I even like this stuff,’” he said with remembered surprise.

While showing off the new store last week, he filled a big bowl with a blend of chocolate and plain flavors and spooned away while talking, ample proof he was among the converted.

The name Miyo Yogurt represents a felicitous combination of acronym and Japanese nomenclature. Matsumoto said that a friend, tossing around ideas to describe the self-serve shop, suggested “Make it your own,” which reduced to the initials Miyo.

“I looked at it and said, ‘Wow, that’s a good name.’ It’s a Japanese girl’s name,” he said, noting that it means “beautiful child.”

Lining one side of the store are self-serve pumps which dispense a rainbow of 10 flavors. There is classic, sweet vanilla yogurt and its modern successor, the tart, plain flavor that has become a signature at yogurt shops. Miyo has two kinds of tart – plain and icy, which while still creamy causes a crystalline burst in the mouth, adding a bit of texture.

“Icy feels lighter – it’s not as heavy,” Do said, although Matsumoto noted that it had almost the same calorie count.

They serve nondairy and sugar-free flavors (mango sorbet and blueberry, respectively, last week) and rotate some of the specialty flavors – last week, taro and blueberry gave way to Oreo cookie and peanut butter. The peanut butter was particularly arresting – the flavor reminded tasters of a raw Spanish peanut, more nut than butter, with a fresh taste unexpected in an ice-cream-type dessert.

The yogurt mixes come from a variety of suppliers such as Rainbows End and YoCream, selected based on Matsumoto’s and Do’s favorites. The yogurt base includes nonfat milk, sugar and – as Do and Masumoto intend to emphasize – live cultures, the current favorite of dietary marketing.

In addition to fresh fruit (gorgeous raspberries and chopped strawberries, kiwis, banana and mango), the toppings bar stocks 12 varieties of breakfast cereal, a phenomenon that might be mystifying to older generations, who can remember the days when TCBY was the go-to place for yogurt.

“They love Cap’n Crunch the best, and then Fruity Pebbles,” Do said.

She offers out three kinds of granola and next to them, looking sneakily wholesome with its similar shades of brown and cream, crushed Almond Roca candy, which Do said has been a particular favorite.

Chunks of cheesecake and cookie dough, chocolate-covered espresso beans, crushed candy bars, chocolate chips and mini gummy bears are only a few of the other sweet options. Do said that the multicolored sprinkles are a top favorite with her younger patrons.

Like most recently opened yogurt shops, Do stocks Asian-influenced toppings, including flavored jellies (lychee, mango, coffee and tropical fruit) and pillowy little cubes of mochi, a chewy rice cake. The sweetened mung and adzuki bean toppings are drawn straight from East Asian dessert tradition – the little yellow mung beans have an earthy flavor that can take adjusting to, when paired with sweet ice cream, for Western palates.

The lychee and longan fruits, both pale, translucent little cream-colored orbs, are hits with customers of all backgrounds – the similar tropical fruits have a clean, sweet flavor and texture like a peeled grape, in the case of longans, with a pleasantly surprising crispness.

 

Contact Eliza Ridgeway at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .

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