EatDrinkShopCook: Suddenly, frozen yogurt is cool again
"What's the deal with all the frogurt places opening up?" I asked my 21-year-old niece.
She quickly corrected me. "You mean FroYo?" I guess so.
The darling treat of the 1980s is back, but this time with a sassier attitude.
Twenty years ago, we saw the boom of places like TCBY and I Can't Believe It's Yogurt. "It tastes just like ice cream," people would say. And it did, for the most part. It was ice cream, minus the hefty calories. Then something happened and the yogurt places went the way of VCR aerobics videos. Until now.
Seemingly overnight, "FroYo" places have been popping up everywhere.
One, for example, is Top This Frozen Yogurt in Westport. Just before Memorial Day of this year, Louise Costantini opened up her shop in the former Ben & Jerry's location. "I was a mother raising my kids for 20 years," she said. "They went off to college and I thought, `What am I going to do?' "
With a background in retail and finance, Costantini decided to open up a frozen yogurt shop like the ones she had seen all over the West Coast.
There are six flavors available daily. There's always vanilla, chocolate and original tart, and then three others, such as Red Velvet Cake, Irish Mist, Cappuccino, Cookies & Cream or Cheesecake. The yogurt there is self-serve and costs 59 cents an ounce. (Just for the record, anything you buy by the ounce always scares me. It's the salad bar phenomenon; you think you've got $4 worth of salad but then it turns out all that light-as-air lettuce and tiny scoopfuls of chick peas and shredded carrots suddenly add up to $8.)
In any case, at Top This, you grab a cup, fill it with your choice of flavor(s), and then move on to the topping bar. There are 24 toppings, ranging from the most popular -- fresh-cut strawberries -- to kid-friendly sprinkles, crushed Oreos and M&Ms.
According to Costantini, the yogurt has about one-third the calories of regular, full-fat ice cream and contains live yogurt cultures. But how does it taste? The flavors are bright and rich. The chocolate had a nice depth of cocoa and the cheesecake really did taste like cheesecake filling. The raspberry was fresh and juicy and the original tart was, well, tart. Just like eating plain yogurt, only frozen and more decadent.
In search of more yogurty goodness, I stopped by Pinkberry, across from Borders Books, on the Post Road in downtown Fairfield. It was a Saturday afternoon and you'd think they were giving out parking passes for the train station by the number of people waiting in line. The narrow, trendy, New York-esque shop front was packed with people anxious to get their FroYo on.
Everyone seemed to be familiar with the product. Obviously I've been terribly out of the loop. The flavors for the day were original, mango, pomegranate, chocolate, coconut and the featured flavor, pumpkin pie. You could get your cup of Pinkberry in mini ($2.45), small, medium and large ($5.95) sizes, as well as take-home pints.
Here, the focus seems to be on the healthy end of the spectrum. The toppings ranged from gourmet gummy bears and real chocolate shavings to fresh fruit (no syrupy canned stuff) and pumpkin granola. I chose the original tart with raspberries and dark chocolate crunch topping. After searching for an empty bench on the sidewalk (no easy feat on a Saturday afternoon), I was able to try what everyone else already seemed familiar with.
I have to say, it was really, really good. So good that I went back the next day.
I would be remiss to leave out the new Tasti D-Lite on Kings Highway in Fairfield. This stuff was made hugely popular when it was featured on "Sex and the City" and was trendy in New York several years ago.
There are 100 flavors of Tasti D-Lite, which is not ice cream, nor is it yogurt. "It doesn't have the cultures of yogurt," explained local owner Mark Smith, "and it doesn't have the calories or sugar of ice cream." Okay, so it's not frozen yogurt and it's not ice cream, so what exactly is it? I checked the website and found it is described as "just the right blend of science and common sense." Well, whatever it is, Tasti D-Lite's success is largely based upon its calorie count; every flavor, whether it's Brownie Batter or Peanut Butter Marshmallow, is less than 100 calories.
There are, of course, other places that carry frozen yogurt. Robeks -- with outlets in both Westport and Fairfield -- offers it, and almost every ice cream shop in town seems to have some sort of yogurt product.
But then I was driving down the Post Road in Fairfield with a friend when I saw another sign: "RolyYo, Tart Frozen Yogurt." What the heck? I pulled over to go check it out.
Roly Poly, the sandwich shop across from Dairy Queen, now also offers plain tart yogurt. Prices are $3 for a small, $4 for a large and includes two toppings. On this particular day, the toppings were chocolate chips, sprinkles, granola, coconut, Craisins and pineapple.
So there you have it, folks. Tart yogurt. It's what all the cool people are eating.
14 Post Road West, Westport
Hours: Sunday through Thursday, 11:30 a.m.-9 p.m.; Friday and Saturday, 11:30 a.m.-10 p.m.
Cuisine: Frozen yogurt
Atmosphere: Casual, four tables
1512 Post Road, Fairfield
Hours: Monday through Wednesday, 11 a.m.-9:30 p.m.; Thursday through Saturday, 11 a.m.-11 p.m.; Sunday, 11 a.m.-9:30 p.m.
Prices: $2.45 for a mini cup on up to $5.95 for a large
Atmosphere: Hip, funky ... "Am I really in Fairfield?"
1201 Kings Highway, Fairfield
Hours: Monday through Thursday, 10 a.m.-9 p.m.; Friday, 10 a.m.-10 p.m.; Saturday, 10 a.m.-10 p.m.; Sunday, 11 a.m.-9 p.m.
Prices: On the higher end for ice cream
Atmosphere: Cool, fun; plenty of seating
1903 Post Road, Fairfield
Hours: Monday through Friday, 10 a.m.-7 p.m.; Saturday, 10 a.m.-5 p.m.; Sunday 10 a.m.-4 p.m.
Prices: $3 small, $4 large
Atmosphere: Small, casual