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A new twist: Frozen yogurt shops are back, with more to offer

BY JAKE EWALD

Intern

In the 1980s, yogurt became yet another transient fad.

TCBY, Penguins and Zack’s were hot spots for the frosty treats. Hordes of parents and their children migrated to their local yogurt shop to gulp down some fatty, soft-serve yogurt. And then the stores disappeared.

Today, the trend is back with enhancements. The local yogurt shop is not just a destination for dessert - it’s a meeting place, a hangout spot and a do-it-yourself concoction parlor, where icy yogurt is brought to life with a rainbow of toppings.

With the new trend in Asian-style self-serve yogurt spreading, it didn’t take long for La Jolla to overflow with new establishments.

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Steven Oxberry, food handler manager of Yogi Topi, said he believes that the change can be attributed to “offering the customer a quality nonfat product, with a wide variety of delicious flavors and tastes.

“An example of these are the new tart flavors that have a light and airy taste, leaving the customer with a sense of satisfaction and well-being.”

Whether it’s the new flavors, the added “element of choice” (as Oxberry also suggests) or just coincidence, yogurt is back in La Jolla.

Here’s a tasting guide to the frozen yogurt shops in La Jolla based on two visits each with four to five tasters varying in age from 16 to 50.

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Yogi Topi

7501 La Jolla Blvd.

(858) 456-1334

www.yogitopi.com

38 cents/ounce

Yogi Topi offers the largest selection of fruit and candy toppings (42) and yogurts (10 at a time out of 16). Plain tart and cake batter are especially delicious. The plain tart is tangier than most and has a slightly more icy consistency, and cake batter is full of flavor. The fruit flavors such as peach tart can be sweet in large quantities. Yogi Topi takes the prize for “best mixed flavors,” as nearly all go well together in a cup.

The toppings range from such classics as M&M’s, Oreos and Butterfinger to fruity offerings such as mangoes, peaches and blackberries.

The shop is colorful and caters to adults and children. In the background of your dining experience, electronic and pop music play at a nonintrusive volume. Yogi Topi (next door to Cafe MoJoe’s) now offers smoothies (pick as many toppings as you like and get them mixed with vanilla) for $5.

Froglander’s

915 Pearl St.

(858) 459-3764

No Web site

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$2.35 for tadpole (small)

La Jolla’s original frozen yogurt store, Froglander’s serves 10 flavors at a time and offers the most frequent flavor rotation.

Its staple flavors vary in quality. Plain tart is the most accessible (an ice cream fan can most easily transition to frozen yogurt with Froglander’s) of any in town. It tastes like ice cream. Vanilla, although creamy, lacks a strong vanilla flavor. Froglander’s peanut butter is the best anywhere, with a strong, sweet and rich taste. Chocolate tasted overly artificial.

The flavors, however, did not mix especially well as the sweetness of one would overpower the sweetness of another.

Froglander’s also has around 20 toppings, which are doled out plentifully. Special toppings include real cookie dough, assorted crushed candy bars and full-sized Hershey’s Kisses.

Froglander’s has ample parking in the rear, shared with Bruegger’s Bagels. Smoothies and milkshakes are now on the menu. Radio music is turned down low. To avoid a rush of rowdy kids, don’t stop by at the end of the school day.

Applegreen

1044 Wall St. (Entrance on Herschel)

(858) 551-0654

No Web site

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$2.50 for small (much smaller than Froglander’s)

Applegreen sparked the largest difference in opinion among the tasters. Froglander’s lovers found Applegreen’s yogurt too sour and flavorless, while yogurt purists (those looking at yogurt as a healthy snack) see it as the best frozen yogurt shop in La Jolla.

Applegreen has four flavors: blackberry (strong blackberry flavor, not sweet), chocolate raspberry (the taste of raspberries overwhelms the chocolate taste), Applegreen (tangy apple flavor; like a cold, melted, apple Jolly Rancher) and plain tart with lemon (slight lemon flavor, very tart, very tangy). Applegreen has 21 toppings, including multiple cereal and fruit offerings.

Applegreen is convenient to get to on foot (around the corner from the post office), but parking during the business day can be unpredictable. The shop is small and colorful and features deceptively low-to-the-ground chairs. The smoothie menu is extensive and priced slightly lower than other yogurt stores at $4.75 each.

Berries & Beans

1010 Prospect St., Suite 102

(858) 456-2124

No Web site

33 cents/ounce

Berries & Beans is the newbie in town, located below The Living Room. While the vanilla had a strong vanilla flavor, the peach tart lacked a peachy tang. The “Baby Yogurt” (plain tart) was passable.

Berries and Beans offers 12 yogurts at a time, meaning it is possible to find a great flavor. The toppings mirror most other stores, with a few appealing bonuses such as animal crackers and gummi worms.

Berries & Beans has board games and a large, comfortable seating area, giving it more personality than other shops in the area. Better to reach it on foot, as parking can be troublesome in downtown La Jolla. One observation: Hold your cup firmly as the yogurt shoots out of the nozzles unusually fast, causing sample cups to go flying out of hands and yogurt cups to become filled far too fast.

Dolci Mango

7521 Fay Ave.

(858) 551-8989

www.dolcimango.net

33 cents/ounce

The largest franchise on the list of yogurt stores in the area, Dolci Mango offers 12 flavors, including the popular plain tart, vanilla, strawberry banana, peanut butter and mango peach sorbet. The flavors are best enjoyed in small portions unless you love your yogurt sugary and syrupy. The plain tart was exceptionally sour. The mango peach sorbet is contrastingly refreshing, and the strawberry banana had a natural banana flavor. Several mango and pineapple fruit toppings were mushy.

Parking is convenient in the large Vons lot next to the store. Dolci Mango makes above-average sandwiches such as BLTs for a quick lunch. The largest of the yogurt stores, the shopt is bright and has comfortable red and yellow rotatable chairs.

Yogurt Escape

2134 Avenida de la Playa

(858) 456-2000

www.yogurtescape.com

39 cents/ounce

You’ll find Yogurt Escape in the La Jolla Shores area near the La Jolla Beach and Tennis Club. The shop has multiple flavors, including special seasonal tastes such as pumpkin in October, along with the usual cookies n’ cream, cheesecake, chocolate, vanilla, mango, etc. The plain tart is creamier than most, and the raspberry tart is more creamy than fruity. The cake batter is not a standout, as it is far too sugary.

Parking can be tough in the La Jolla Shores area with the surfers and other beach traffic. The atmosphere is loud and lively, featuring the tunes of pop radio.

Bird Rock Yogurt

5604 La Jolla Blvd.

(858) 454-1945

No Web site

$2.50 for small

Bird Rock Yogurt is not a walk-in store, but a kiosk near Starbucks on the commercial strip in Bird Rock. It is easy to walk to if you live in the area.

It features four flavors: original tart, melon, chocolate and vanilla. Of all yogurts tasted, the shop’s original tart was the best. The owners have found the perfect balance between creamy and icy. Yogurt here is chunky and thick - the most filling. The chocolate tastes rich and chocolaty.

Parking is available on side streets. Area for improvement: more fresh toppings. I counted only 10 standards such as chocolate chips, Sno-Caps, graham cracker shavings and gummi bears.

Jake Ewald is a senior at The Bishop’s School and has been devouring yogurt by the ounce since he was 7.