I had a little incident the other night. Last weekend, to be precise. On Saturday, I had plans to see my husband’s band perform at True Brew Barista in Concord, which is not only a great place for coffee or tea but also a place to hear live, original music (and there’s a bar, too). I had some errands to run before the show, and I knew that since I had been good and packed my dinner, I wanted to reward my frugality with ice cream. Because that’s how we treat ourselves here in the world of Jamie…
In any case, the errands ran a bit longer than I would have liked, so my ice cream options were somewhat limited. Since I was heading to Concord, I thought I might stop at Arnie’s again and try a new flavor…but then I remembered there was a homemade ice cream option right in downtown Concord, where I was headed! A little voice told me, “well, you’re a risk taker then, because who knows if they’ll be open at 6:30 on a Saturday night…”but I chose to ignore the voice and take the risk, because I knew my blog readers would appreciate a report on Granite State Candy Shoppe if they could get one.
When I pulled into a parking space across the street from the store, I noticed it looked pretty dark. I knew this didn’t bode well – but I decided I’d get out and take a look, just in case. Upon further investigation, I saw they had indeed closed at 6 p.m. on a Saturday – and it was now about 6:23 p.m. If it wasn’t so cold, I would have taken some time to really stew on the fact that downtown Concord doesn’t have a homemade ice cream place open on a Saturday night- and in fact, their website says they’re open until 8 p.m. Thursdays and Fridays, which means their Saturday close time is even sillier. But given the cold and the fact that I was on a mission, I decided I would put off my stewing and quickly walk the span of downtown to see if there was a suitable dessert option available. Eating store-bought ice cream or frozen yogurt from the Co-op or a convenience store wouldn’t cut it given my Raynaud’s syndrome (it makes me lose circulation extremely quickly in my hands and feet) and the cold temperature. So that meant it would be a sit down inside option or a sad Jamie tonight.
I didn’t have high hopes. I passed a couple of places that were closed that might have been promising. I also passed Dos Amigos, which I knew would be in my budget but probably didn’t have any exciting dessert options, although they do have some tasty tacos and burritos. And then, up ahead, I had a fantastic surprise – Orange Leaf! Now, don’t get me wrong. I have had Orange Leaf before and I was not wowed at all…but when you’re craving some good ice cream or frozen yogurt, some healthy predictable soft frozen yogurt is honestly not a bad alternative. I loved TCBY as a kid (basically my travel frozen yogurt, as I’d only get it in airports and train stations) and though Orange Leaf isn’t the same, we’re in the ballpark. This is an instance where I’d gladly take a somewhat less tasty product for a lower calorie option with some probiotics. So without a moments hesitation – well, except for a few moments to try to get a decent picture of the sign without street light reflections, and then a few more moments to focus my energy on photographing the entrance – I stepped inside, feeling I was “at home” and in a great place to kill some time before the show.
So, why do I not normally get excited about a chain like Orange Leaf? If you haven’t figured it out yet, it’s not just because it’s a chain, although that’s a contributing factor. More importantly, a place like Orange Leaf is just using one base and then mixing in standard flavors, normally sent to them from the same company every other frozen yogurt place is using. The flavors aren’t that rich or that fresh and the uniformity is annoying, and my money ends up supporting an experience that, frankly, I hate. Some of you might enjoy paying (usually too much money) for a giant bowl of frozen yogurt that you can fill yourself, cover in toppings and then pay a mystery price for by the ounce. Personally, I greatly prefer to order, for example, a small cup of chocolate chip cookie dough – I know the price up front, I have some control over the portion size without relying on my eye to not sentence me to gaining two pounds, and I don’t have to walk to the counter in fear that when they weigh it, I will have spent $5 or even $10 on what will inevitably be sub-par frozen yogurt. I also hate how the only ice cream cups available in these places are always HUGE – why not acknowledge that maybe a kid or a small adult can’t finish, or doesn’t want to finish, three or four cups of yogurt? So, if you wondered what biased me against Orange Leaf, that would be my answer.
But when a girl is hungry and craving ice cream or frozen yogurt, everything tastes better and standards get relaxed. That’s just the way of the world. Plus, it was warm inside, with free wifi, and they had this adorable window seat with one chair (at least at the time) apparently just for me. And they seemed really friendly. So all of that really helped to make for a nice frozen yogurt experience in downtown Concord.
So the question remains – how was the frozen yogurt? It was as I expected. Some flavors were pretty good, and some not so much. I tend to try a whole bunch of things when given the opportunity, so I did. Keep in mind that they were ALL low fat, so they clearly won’t stack up well against a premium or super premium ice cream. And despite giving myself many flavors, I managed to only pay $3.44, which I honestly thought would be impossible! So their prices are reasonable and actually comparable to what I’d pay somewhere else, like Arnie’s.
Cheesecake & Reese’s Peanut Butter – I tried them as a swirl. The cheesecake is really delicious. I’d get a whole cup of it for sure, and it would be great with mix-ins like strawberries. The peanut butter isn’t bad, but it’s not as chocolatey as a Reese’s and not memorable at all.
Cookie Cake and York Peppermint Patty – I also swirled these. The cookie flavor tastes like bad cookie dough in cookie dough ice cream. Meh. Tastes low fat. The peppermint flavor is nice – but I would have liked it WAY better solo.
Brownie Batter – Glad I saved it for last (aka bottom corner of the cup). It has a nice deep chocolate flavor that reminded me of a good chocolate ice cream when it’s a bit melty. You won’t miss the fat here. Very tasty.
Salted Caramel – The saltiness is a bit too much, but I love that it has actual caramel strips in it. If it had higher quality, sweeter caramel, it would improve it, but it’s quite tasty.
So, if you’re ever facing a desperate craving in downtown Concord, I do recommend Orange Leaf, particularly if you stick to the flavors I outlined. Of course if you’re into mix-ins, the base probably doesn’t matter half as much to you as it does to me. Thanks for stopping by! And I’d love to hear your own chain yogurt experiences for comparison/commiseration.
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