The Great Claremont Fro-Yo Sho-Down

The 5Cs boast several intense rivalries that cause constant debate among students. There is, of course, the Sagehens vs. Stags rivalry as well as non-athletic hostilities like TNC or Pub? The Coop or the Mudd Hole at 1 a.m? However, I would argue that the most intense rivalry right now among students is centered just off campus: Yogurtland or 21 Choices?

Ever since Pinkberry burst onto the scene in 2005, frozen yogurt has become one of the most, if not THE most popular of the recent food trends. To me, the big question is: why has frozen yogurt become such a huge hit? The most frequent rationale is that it’s healthy. It is indeed healthier than ice cream, but not by much. A scoop of rich, 16 percent butterfat ice cream is in the range of 187 calories and 12 grams of fat. A serving of frozen yogurt, non fat-free, runs about 115 calories and 4 grams of fat. Come on, splurge on the 70 additional calories and have the ice cream!

I have several gripes about frozen yogurt. All the stores look alike, and servers give you an “I’m holier than thou” attitude that one often only sees at exclusive celebrity haunts in West Hollywood. My biggest problem with frozen yogurt, though, is…when are you supposed to eat it? Is it a dessert? Is it for breakfast? Is it supposed to be a healthy after school snack? What does fro-yo want to be? With that identity crisis looming in my mind, I spent a couple of the recent 100-degree days immersing myself in the world of yogurt at Claremont’s two leading fro-yo shrines: 21 Choices and the new, mega-corporate giant Yogurtland.

Sadly, I don’t think my wardrobe is hip enough to make me a regular at Yogurtland, but that’s fine with me—especially since I have no real plans of visiting again. Let’s start with the good part: it’s cheap. Now, the rest. This was the first froyo place I have ever been to where the fro-yo is self-serve and paid for by the ounce. I like the idea of paying by weight, but I despise the self-serve concept. That idea works when you’re at Collins Dining Hall but just seems weird in the real world.

The Nutter Butter flavor actually tasted like nutter butter, despite the chalky, icy texture that plagued all of Yogurtland’s 15 or so yogurts. I wouldn’t be surprised, though, with over 50 locations (including Japan!) if Yogurtland central headquarters doesn’t pay much attention to the quality of its yogurt at each shop. The pomegranate yogurt lacked the pleasant sweetness that comes from quality pomegranate seeds, and was more akin to grapefruit. The s’mores flavor did taste of graham crackers, but it’s as if the Boy Scouts forgot the chocolate and marshmallows. The New York cheesecake tasted as much of swiss cheese as cheesecake, and the Taro flavor was as enjoyable as poi. The strawberry-banana flavor tasted exactly like the Dannon’s strawberry-banana yogurt I’d eaten as a kid, which means it didn’t taste like strawberry, banana, or any mixture of both.

Ratings:

Yogurtland: *1/2101 North Indian Hill Boulevard C1-103, Claremont

21 Choices: ***817 West Foothill Boulevard at Mountain Avenue, Claremont460 West First Street, Claremont

A few nights later, I proceeded to the original 21 Choices location in a mini-mall at the corner of Mountain Ave. and Foothill Blvd. After noticing the enormous difference between the original location’s wholesome Middle America ice cream shop atmosphere and that of every other frozen yogurt place I have ever seen, the big shocker came. The workers were actually friendly. In fact, they may even be too friendly. One of the workers even asked my companion and I about our weekend plans. It was slightly awkward, so I said going to a movie instead of the Foam Party at Mudd.

The shop’s name is very misleading, as each day there are only six flavors, two of which are always some sort of chocolate and vanilla variation. You can log onto their Web site to find out the day’s flavors. When I visited, the Mayan chocolate was particularly rich, almost a chocolate mousse. The Tahitian vanilla had a few vague notes of vanilla, better than most other vanilla flavors. I was excited for the chocolate banana milkshake flavor, but it lacked the requisite banana taste, making it seem like a gentle milk chocolate. The sweet California strawberry and root beer float offerings were both very acceptable. The undeniable winner, though, was the cinnamon swirl coffee flavor, with perfect notes of both the earthy coffee and cinnamon, enhanced with a slight cookie dough essence.

I came into contact with three different servers during my one trip to this shop: one did the samples and yogurt pouring, the next did the mix in, and the last one met me at the cash register. It felt as if I were in an Austrian waltz: one server taking my hand and graciously handing me off to the next server, when I’d spin around and be handed to the next server. Twyla Tharp would be proud.

Neither of these locations turned me into a fro-yo fan. Sure, Yogurtland is slightly cheaper, but I would say that this rivalry is arguably the most one-sided one in Claremont.

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