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The FroYo Favorites

May 6, 2014

Almost two years ago, the Albany Times Union had a roundup of the Capital Region’s frozen yogurt shops. I’m pleased to announce that the FroYo crash has still not come to Albany, and all of these places are still open and doing well. Some have even expanded. Plus, new shops still seem to be opening all the time.

Instead of getting just one person’s opinion on what are the best foodstuffs in the region, the FLB started organizing tours to come up with these difficult answers. And most people will swear up and down that the things we evaluate are practically commodities: one is just as good as the next.

It was said of soft serve. People believed that to be true of apple cider donuts. Mini hot dogs with meat sauce look identical to the untrained eye. Fish fry, mozzarella sticks, egg and cheese sandwiches, and the list goes on.

So recently Maeve McEneny, on my behalf, led a bunch of eaters into the wilderness to taste the difference among the five most established FroYo brands in the marketplace. To these brave souls, I offer my thanks and a debt of gratitude. Because of their hard work, we now have a clear top dog in the local FroYo scene, and a few other findings that I think are particularly interesting.

Chantelle, who has participated in many prior FLB tours said, “Going into this tour, I did not think there would be a ton of differences between FroYo places… there are.”

The first stop of the day was TCBY in Guilderland. As one might expect from a big national chain, this one really fell in the middle of the pack. The chocolate, Greek honey vanilla, and coffee flavors all had their fans for taste and texture. However, there was no plain tart to be found. It’s not the first time this location has been missing the staple product of the current FroYo wave. That aside, Ryan H. wrote, “TCBY was distinctly lacking in flavor, which I would never have noticed without a side by side comparison.” Of course, the maple nut flavor Ryan had at TCBY was the worst one he had on the tour.

I had high hopes for Colonie’s Lemondrop. While I have never done this tour myself, I considered Lemondrop a personal favorite because the plain tart has always been quite tart. As it would seem, perhaps that’s too tart for most. In fact, by far it was the most reviled flavor of the day, which sank this shop to the bottom of the bunch. Caitlin said, “Very tart. Don’t really like it though.” Maeve concurred saying, “Euro tart was too sour.” But it wasn’t all bad news for Lemondrop. Caitlin also thought their mint was one of the best flavors on the tour, and Ryan H. agreed.

16 Handles in Clifton Park is where things finally took a turn for the better. High scores abounded for their Euro tart, with two tasters calling it the best tasting version of this classic flavor. Caitlin raved, “The literal embodiment of frozen yogurt. Tastes like my favorite Greek yogurt in a tasty frozen form.” Other high points were the chocolate, birthday cake, and Tahitian vanilla flavors. Toppings also got higher than average marks with Chantelle giving extra points for “soft + perfect” mochi and moist cookie dough bites. There were some who felt the experienced suffered from terrible seating and its shopping mall setting. Still, this was the favorite spot overall for a third of the participants, which put it within a hair’s breadth of the number one spot. It’s a very solid showing.

Plum Dandy in Saratoga Springs almost didn’t make the tour because it was such a hike up the Northway. Its presence may have even dissuaded people from coming on the tour, but in the end it won the day. There was a lot that people loved. Maeve declared, “Euro tart is exactly what it should taste like – this is what we’ve been looking for!” But the shop also got strong scores for its vanilla and dark chocolate. Their red velvet even got perfect scores in taste and texture from both Jessica and Steve. Toppings were also impressive. Ryan H. reported that “homemade whipped cream and birthday cake mix are interesting additions.” Yep, you heard that right, powdered birthday cake mix to sprinkle on top of your yogurt. Caitlin gave the shop added praise for its “Cool grown-up vibe” as it was the first place of the day that had no neon.

So how did Dante’s in Troy do? Well, it was the only place that Ryan H. thought had perfect texture (to him that means resembling soft serve). Chantelle agreed, also giving both her chocolate and California tart perfect texture scores. Where Dante’s suffered most was in the toppings category. Maeve said the, “Wet toppings did not look fresh.” Even though Chantelle found their fruit to be too scary to eat, she did appreciate the “soft, yummy” cookie dough pieces. For some reason, multiple reviewers commented on how great the spoons are at Dante’s too. All in all, this came in respectably at the middle of the pack. There’s a lot of room for improvement on their toppings, but the yogurt is solid.

Congratulations to Plum Dandy, they are the whole package.

The judges hard at work evaluating the winning yogurt at Plum Dandy

Participants evaluating the FroYo at Plum Dandy

But what I think is clear is that almost every place has its charms. TCBY is great if you want a festive disco atmosphere with your yogurt. Lemondrop is for those who like their tart yogurt really really really tart. 16 Handles is great for those who put yogurt and toppings (especially mochi) over the creature comforts of a decent place to sit. Plum Dandy has crazy good red velvet with cake batter powder as a topping in an adult setting. Dante’s yogurt has a creamy, firm texture which is great just so long as you don’t mind their problematic topping bar.

Thanks again to Maeve and everyone who showed up for this last tour in my absence. If you missed touring with Maeve here, you’ll have more chances to catch her at Dutch Apple Cruises. And as for the FLB tours, they will continue with the next savory tour this summer. Like the Tour de FroYo, it will be open to all, but fair warning, you’ll need a team. Ideally a team of four, but a team of two could work as well. More details to come as we get deeper into summer.


11 Comments leave one →
  1. May 6, 2014 10:54 am

    No offense… But I spend exactly 0 minutes per day pondering the differences between fro-yo chains. I hazard most adults feel similarly. I think you should have had this be the first kid accompanied tour. The only time I would think of entering a fro-yo shop would be with wee-uns in tow. I am sure my munchkins have all sorts of opinions on the subject.

  2. Maeve permalink
    May 6, 2014 12:51 pm

    This was a lot of fun and we enjoyed not only eating all the different Fro-Yo BUT meeting other Capital Region foodies. Thanks for the opportunity to host, Profussor!

    Re: Kids. My 9 year old niece did join us at Dante’s at the finale. With no prompting, she turned to me and questioned quite seriously (furrowed brow and all) as to why the spoons were so oddly shaped. Kid opinions are the best.

  3. May 6, 2014 1:23 pm

    Nice to see what everyone had to say–even as an adult with no kids. I also love the stronger sourness of Lemondrop’s tart yogurt, but I can see how it wouldn’t work for all. The worst is when a place doesn’t even have tart. Tsk, tsk, TCBY.

    Now we just need to get a Red Mango here. Granted, we don’t actually need more frozen yogurt places, but in my experiences in other cities Red Mango’s been great.

  4. May 6, 2014 1:35 pm

    Interesting roundup. I could do a similar tour out here with completely different players. Pinkberry is closest to me. I like their tart yogurt topped with strawberries and chocolate chips.

  5. Jessica R permalink
    May 6, 2014 2:31 pm

    A team based tour? I’m intrigued!

    I’ll like to suggest an “Italian Mix Sub” tour, if one hasn’t already been suggested before.

    • buffsoulja permalink
      May 7, 2014 1:32 am

      Love that idea. You would have enough for a tour just in and around New Scotland/Delaware Ave: Ragonese, Cardona’s, Andy’s, Sainnato’s

      • -R. permalink
        May 7, 2014 10:54 am

        Would participate.

  6. May 6, 2014 8:43 pm

    As a Saratogian, I am not surprised to hear that our Plum Dandy has it all. When I have to venture to one of the other places, I am always disappointed. And Saratoga is NOT that far up the Northway.

  7. Luigi permalink
    May 6, 2014 9:40 pm

    Lemon Drop is so artificial. The ingredients are terrible. Wish this tour had taken into account whether or not the offerings required a full chemistry lab to create the ingredients. Dante’s and Menchies are excellent and at Dante’s I don’t feel like I have just eaten a bowl of garbage or chemicals. Flavors are really nice. I wonder if the fruit toppings didn’t look so fresh at Dante’s because they were preservative free? I am sure the other places use preservatives to make their fruit look all bright and “fresh”. Wish this tour had bothered to inquire about that issue.

    • S.G. permalink
      May 9, 2014 12:10 am

      16 Handles has a whole line of flavors, the Artisan Collection, that are made with all natural ingredients only. Check them out!

  8. May 7, 2014 6:24 pm

    Good to hear that the area’s first froyo shop ranked best. Though I actually prefer Menchie’s just a bit, flavor-wise.

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