I love coffee but have never really been bitten by the sour frozen yogurt bug. My wife, on the other hand, complained about the demise of Dannon’s sour frozen yogurt for years before Pinkberry, Red Mango and countless copycats burst on the scene. She, unfortunately, doesn’t like coffee. This grim scenario could have required years and countless dollars righting our irreconcilable differences in couples therapy, but fortunately, some friends of ours turned us on to Fraiche. It’s probably better that Fraiche is located almost an hour away. If it weren’t, couples therapy might start to look like a bargain.
Fraiche does sour-frozen yogurt with a true Bay Area twist. They make their own yogurt from scratch – real frozen yogurt, made with local and organic ingredients. The menu also includes fresh, not frozen, yogurt and steel cut oatmeal, with or without yogurt. Like any yogurt place, you can top off your treat with various fruits, nuts, syrups or jams, but these toppings tend to be organic, homemade and/or locally produced. While I’m far from addicted, I could certainly find myself getting into Fraiche’s version of the stuff.
The exterior is really lacking and is almost easily overlooked. I’m not sure what the current banner outside displays, but it’s really unbecoming of the more soothing and inviting interior. The menu is detailed and informative without being overwhelming while the space is functional and attractively designed, offering booths, aluminum deck chairs and one big six person cushy booth by a window.
The part of the business that made me happy, though, was the presence of Blue Bottle Coffee. Fraiche sells bags of Blue Bottle’s Hayes Valley Espresso and Bella Donovan Blends, and given the decrease in supply over just three days, it looks like they do a brisk bean sale business. They also do espresso and brewed coffee. They pull their shots from a cute (but powerful) little 2-group La Marzocco GB/5 and drip coffee on a four-station stand with ceramic cone filters. Unfortunately, I feel I under-explored Fraiche’s coffee offerings. On neither trip did I try the drip and I failed to ask whether they also had decaf. I imagine they must have decaf, but they didn’t openly display any bags for sale.
While their selection is slim, they do a lot with what they have. The shot I had was really quite good and clearly pulled with care. It was freshly ground and staff apparently employ a naked portafilter – which is hard to see from the consumer side of the counter, especially when you have a two and half year old pleading in your ear for yogurt. My shot was topped with a dark, reddish-brown crema of moderate thickness with lots of flecking. The shot exhibited a mellow, orange-like acidity, was full-bodied, had a smokey, molasses finish and went down smoothly. It was a fine rendition of this particular blend.
I wondered a little about the brewing instructions taped onto the drip stand. It’s good to have directions but better if staff don’t need them. It certainly seemed like my barista knew what she was doing. My espresso was very good. While Fraiche has clearly invested in good equipment and quality training, I worry whether a yogurt shop – even a good one with good coffee – can maintain a well-trained staff. That said, if other non-cafes could produce coffee even half this good, the world would be a far better place.