Small Bites: Tutti Fruitti, YoLo and TCBY open up

Go yogurt: Tutti Frutti on Biltmore Avenue specializes in self-serve yogurt, including tart varieties that the average American consumer might find unusual. Photos by Jonathan Welch

Three frozen yogurt shops recently opened in Asheville — it seems that we now have enough to go around. What's the scoop on all three of these stores?

What Xpress found on a recent tour de soft serve is that much has changed in the yogurt world, especially since the time that this writer was a brace-faced yogurt dealer at the TCBY at City Dock in downtown Annapolis, Md.

These days, the attendant is mostly in charge of the cash register and answering silly questions, and seems to have been taken out of the actual yogurt-handling altogether.

Everything, including toppings, is self-serve — which we found makes for a bit of chaos at times. It's hard to pump cheesecake yogurt into perfect spirals when errant children are knocking into your knees and trampling your feet, for example.
All three yogurt shops we visited sold toppings and yogurt for 45 cents an ounce, which, judging by some of the overfilled containers we saw being purchased, might not be such a bad idea for profit margins.

Here's what we found on our yogurt tour of Asheville:

Mo mochi

A futuristic spot sporting vaguely Japanese gimmickry, Tutti Frutti Frozen Yogurt’s decor could best be described as part elementary schoolroom and part 2001: A Space Odyssey.

The walls are painted in bright colors; one bears flowers and vivid photos of fruit. On the other side rises a gleaming stainless-steel wall where the self-serve yogurt pumps are embedded. Over each pump rests an iPod-like electronic sign that provides useful information to the hopeful yogurt purchaser: what flavor to expect to drop into the cup when you pull the handle, whether it will be tart or creamy or have dairy in it or not. The sign also seems to push you toward certain toppings from the self-serve bar, and some of the suggestions are interesting at best — take watermelon topped with Cap’n Crunch, for example.

Yogurt flavors include chocolate, vanilla, coconut, strawberry and other recognizable fare. There's also a strangely gray taro, a tart pomegranate and our hands-down favorite, the tart (or "yogurt-flavored yogurt," we decided). The company offers a rather wide variety of flavors, not always available, that can be viewed on their website; we're curious about the lychee and green tea flavors, which weren't in rotation when we visited.

Toppings include everything from fresh berries and diced mango to Jelly Belly jellybeans, fruity pebbles and pastel-colored mochi (glutinous rice sweets). There are strange spherical bubbles of sweetened fruit juice that one could compare in taste and texture to Jolly Rancher caviar.
13 Biltmore Ave. tfyogurt.com

Yo, go local

YoLo Frozen Yogurt follows basically the same premise as Tutti Frutti, but with a more homey atmosphere and a decidedly Asheville bent. The flavors are rather basic, with pink lemonade sorbet sharing the pump wall with non-fat coconut and country vanilla. Of course, there's chocolate, too. Yolo also carries a couple of tart flavors — a raspberry and a plain "California tart." We know a couple of those.

We were mostly intrigued by the fact that many of the toppings offered seem to come from local sources. The French Broad Food Co-op has pulled from their bulk bins to provide locally made granola, and Sugar Mommas Cookies are offered pre-crumbled. There are also plenty of sprinkles and Reese's Pieces, and the requisite fruit pieces. But how cool is it that you can top your yogurt with locally made Jack's Nut Butters? Extra points granted for the fact that free sample cups are offered happily.
505 Merrimon Ave. yolofroyo.com

Cold comfort

According to the very friendly attendant, TCBY was the first to bring the whole 45-cents-an-ounce phenomenon to Asheville. Though TCBY has added candy-colored plastic chairs to their decor, mochi to the toppings bar and signs that boast of the probiotic level in their yogurts, it's the same TCBY yogurt — at least by taste. To many, that means comfortable nostalgia and nothing "weird." Cheesecake, Oreo cookies and cream and chocolate tasted exactly like they did when I was in high school.

According to its website, the company also offers its own version of tart, but we didn't see it when we visited. TCBY remains traditional, despite the colorful new look.
5 Westgate Parkway, tcby.com

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