By STEVE PETERS
Rutland has just become a little sweeter. With the recent opening of Yogurt City in the Rutland Plaza downtown, central Vermont can now taste the flavors of the once again booming frozen yogurt industry. It’s a treat marketed as a healthier alternative to ice cream, that not too long ago was more apt to be found only on city streets of California. But perhaps the trend has finally caught on even here.
We’re now home to one of two Yogurt City franchises found in Vermont — the other opened in Williston earlier this year — with more than 70 locations throughout the U.S.
Yogurt City doesn’t seem intimidated by the state’s beloved creemee (a term I’m still trying to grasp) or the popularity of traditional ice cream makers such as Ben and Jerry’s. Chen Zhang, an employee at the new Yogurt City, says her store is different. “It’s very flexible and there are a lot of choices.”
Like most froyo shops, Yogurt City follows the self-serve model. Upon walking in to the spacious and brightly lit shop, customers pick up their cup and help themselves to one of 14 low-fat or nonfat flavors. The flavors change throughout the year and are based on customer popularity. Currently, they include peanut butter, pumpkin pie, strawberry, mango, chocolate, vanilla, banana, coconut, cheesecake, cake batter, red velvet, pistachio and original tart.
Customers have the ability to mix and match their frozen yogurt or even have those flavors paired on the same machine swirled together. Zhang believes that the variety of choices and the do-it-yourself approach is part of the Yogurt City attraction.
With nutritional information clearly posted (and available on their website), the health benefits to those looking to limit fat and calorie intake is certainly a draw. A four-ounce serving for any of the flavors weighs in around 100 calories, with little to no fat. Unlike ice cream, frozen yogurt doesn’t have a milk fat requirement and is not made with cream. The yogurt does contain some protein and calcium, and, as with all reduced-fat dairy products, still contains sugar.
Of course, there is also the toppings bar to consider. You won’t find too many traditional ice cream shops offering fruit, candy, nuts and granola — even marshmallows and candy worms — in the quantities of your choice.
People like choices and from the yogurt quantity, flavors, toppings — even the color of your biodegradable spoon — Yogurt City has many to offer and few restrictions. In the end, it comes down to how much your cup weighs. It doesn’t matter whether yours is filled entirely with yogurt or is mostly a bizarre mix of toppings, it all goes on the same scale and it all costs 49 cents per ounce.
“It’s affordable,” says Zhang, noting the many compelling qualities of Yogurt City. “It’s good for families, teenagers and just about everyone. We believe it will do well in Rutland.”
Rutland’s Yogurt City is just settling in; its soft opening was on Nov. 2, and a grand opening is in the works. The shop has a wide range of hours — yet another draw — open from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. on weekdays and 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. on weekends. Customers can enjoy their yogurt at one of several tables, the bar lining the back wall or take it to go.
In the near future, Zhang says the shop will offer free wi-fi, a party room available for private functions (with or without the purchase of yogurt) and have iPads available for customer use.
“We went to be a friendly place for everyone,” Zhang says. “And we always love to hear customer suggestions.”
Keep an eye out for the grand opening and when you go, don’t forget the 10 percent discount coupon available at their website.
CHECK IT OUT
34 Rutland Plaza, Rutland
Hours: Mon-Fri: 11 a.m.-10 p.m.; Sat-Sun: 11 a.m.-11 p.m.
Steve Peters is a cook, gardener and baker living in Rutland.