Growing up by the beach in Florida, I think I consumed more soft-serve and rainbow sprinkles during the summer months than any other food (um…food product). I was heartbroken when our local TCBY and Carvel shuttered to make way for the smoothie craze (my first job was selling soft-serve Carvel at the ball park). You just can’t put toppings on a smoothie. Oh, and also, I’ve tried Pinkberry, only once and that was enough.
So, I’m delighted that West L.A. is now home to my favorite new food fad: self-serve-soft-serve. These new yogurt places are better than the ones that I grew up with and here’s why. Most of them have at least eight flavors “on tap,” usually more and they are always rotating and changing. But more importantly, half of each of these shops is entirely devoted to every topping under the sun-from breakfast cereal to fruit to cookie dough. And your sundae is charged only by weight. So if you’ve got a sweet tooth, this is actually better than Disneyland. After all, how much does whipped cream really weigh? Most places charge about 32 cents an ounce. That means you can pile it on and still have it cost less than a latte. It’s a little like raiding a candy store and a lot like eating as if your parents went out to dinner and didn’t leave you with a babysitter. It’s actually most like a giant candy buffet with yogurt to accent it.
So, how does this play into the Chew-Gooder mission statement? It doesn’t. At all.
For instance, while Yogurtland’s yogurts are all low fat or fat free (um, prior to your topping additions anyway) they are all made with high fructose corn syrup and corn syrup solids. There are “no sugar added” flavors but don’t think you are getting away from the chemicals-probably just the flavor. The toppings are full of fake sweeteners and preservatives. You can expect plastic spoons of every color.
If you want froyo with more of a health or environmental conscience, try Sno:la in Beverly Hills (and soon Santa Monica). They boast biodegradable or compostable containers and spoons, counter tops made with actual recycled computer chips and seasonal yogurt flavors made with organic milk. A small amount of their gross proceeds also goes to Slow Food USA–Go snails.