Whoever thought up the concept of self-serve frozen yogurt shops is a genius. In roughly the last year, five have opened in Fort Wayne; and two more will open soon. If you haven't been to one yet, you owe it to yourself to check one out.
The four I visited all work the same way. You walk in and grab an empty cup. Or, if you don't know what flavor yogurt you want, you can sample several flavors. The shops have about eight to 14 flavors from which to choose at any given time.
Once you've decided the flavor you want, you pull the handle and dispense as much as you want into your cup. Your finished creation will be weighed and priced by ounce, usually between 40-45 cents per ounce. Two complementary flavors are always paired up, so you can pull the handle in the middle and get a blend of the two yogurts.
Once you've filled your cup with as much soft-serve yogurt as you want, you proceed to the toppings bar, where you can top your yogurt with as much fruit, nuts, candy and even cereals as you want. But that's not all. What's frozen yogurt without some hot fudge or caramel sauce? Of course, every good dessert needs a dollop of whipped cream and a cherry on top.
The beauty is that you can make your creation as healthy or as sweet and fattening as you want. Frozen yogurt is low-fat or fat-free, good for people watching their cholesterol. Some flavors are sugar-free.
Here's how it compares with ice cream: An 83-gram serving of Heath Toffee frozen yogurt has 110 calories and 1 gram of fat. By comparison, a 72-gram ( 1/2 cup) serving of vanilla ice cream has 145 calories and 7.9 grams of fat.
However, an article at shape.com notes that, “While most frozen yogurt is nonfat or very low in fat, the calories still add up.” It can be loaded with sugar, so diabetics, beware.
The shape.com article also tempers the claims that frozen yogurt is full of healthy probiotics that support the immune and digestive systems. “Although frozen yogurt does contain probiotics, the majority of them do not survive long enough for you to reap the rewards,” the article says, citing shelf life and extreme temperatures as the culprit.
Along with being available in the store, nutrition information for most local yogurt shops is available online, so those who are watching fat, calories and cholesterol can pre-plan what they're going to get before they ever step foot in the door. That is, if they don't get lured into mounding high-calorie toppings on their frozen yogurt.
Fresh fruit toppings are available, usually strawberries, raspberries and pineapple. Nuts are available, too — a good way to add a little protein if you don't overdo it.
The not-so-healthy toppings include sweetened cereals, miniature marshmallows, crushed candy bars, gummy worms, gummy rings, M&M's, animal crackers, crushed cookies, fudge, butterscotch, and other toppings, and whipped cream.
News-Sentinel designer Drew Walker and I went to Yum Yums in Chapel Ridge recently with the express purpose of seeing just how much stuff we could pile on before the whole concoction was in danger of tipping. Managers Jenna Hoppe and Vanessa Brockhouse donned gloves and helped assemble our masterpiece, which, when we were done, weight in at 18 ounces and cost $8.53.
And yes, we actually ate it, gummy worms and all; I ate about a quarter of it and Drew polished off the rest.
When I started out to do this project, my idea was to compare and contrast the local “fro yo” places and pick which one was the best. After visiting all four, I can't decide. They're all my favorite. They are all top-notch, clean friendly places. Staff and customers are helpful and friendly. They're all painted in bright colors and sport modern furniture.
Oh, and by the way, I dislike regular yogurt, both the taste and texture. I've tried many flavors and varieties. However, I had no problem downing frozen yogurt — even the flavors that are quite tart. I like the creamy texture.
I never visited one of these shops at peak times, which is usually in the evening. I've been told sometimes the lines can stretch out the door. I hear sometimes kids get overwhelmed with all the choices. Hoppe said she hears parents limit their kids to, say three or four toppings.
And yes, employees confirm some people put very little yogurt in their cups and fill it with toppings. It's fair game, as you pay by the ounce, and the toppings generally weigh more than the yogurt anyway.
My only complaint about the new self-serve frozen yogurt shops is that none have opened on the south side of Fort Wayne. Southwest, yes. Northeast, yes. Northwest, check. South? Of course not. Hopefully, some entrepreneur will take a chance on us south-siders.