Friday, February 5, 2010


When Jamba Juice was unexpectedly replaced by Hershey's over the summer, the vast majority of the Penn community - including myself - was appalled. What was the school thinking? Thankfully, they got the message soon enough. A few weeks into second semester, word got around that there was a new kid in town - Yo-reka! (And yes, the exclamation point is part of the name).

Around the country, Yo-reka! is actually a frozen yogurt chain. The bad news: our Yo-reka! is not. The good news: it's a healthy alternative to those who want to skip the burgers and fries at the neighboring station, or the long line at Subway.

What exactly is Yo-reka!? It's a buffet-style bar featuring a variety of yogurt and toppings, from which you can mix and match according to your personal preference. The toppings range from fresh fruit (strawberries, blueberries, blackberries, and raspberries) to dried fruit (mango, figs, blueberries, and cranberries), from fruit preserves to plain honey, from nuts to other extra bits and pieces. But the best part is the granola. You can choose one - or more! - out of six different granola flavors, all with appealing names like "strawberry vanilla hempseed" and "maple pecan dream." And trust me on this (because I've tried them all), they're all really good, whether you like the extra crunchy kind, the kind with dried fruit mixed in, or the "super nutty" (another flavor!) kind.

What Yo-reka! prides itself on is the yogurt itself: organic Greek yogurt. We're all familiar with the term "organic" and how the label prods us to open up our wallets in favor of something that's healthier (or so we hope). But not many people may understand the difference between Greek and regular yogurt - or may not have even heard of Greek yogurt until now. In short, Greek yogurt is much creamier and richer than regular yogurt, because the production process involves a straining method that removes all the liquid from the yogurt. Using roughly three times the amount of milk needed to make regular yogurt and a variety of live active cultures, Greek yogurt is all-natural, has double the protein, is gluten-free and fat-free. It is no wonder that Greek yogurt is all the craze these days, with a whole range of brands available at Fresh Grocer (including Fage, Greek Gods, Chobani, and Oikos - the preferred brand for Yo-reka!). Even Starbucks offers a Greek yogurt parfait at various locations. I myself am a Greek yogurt fan, although I admit, it did take me a while to convert.

For those who are tentative about trying out new things, no worries. Yo-reka! offers the ever-familiar flavors of blueberry, peach, and low-fat vanilla along with the Greek. Besides, the Greek yogurt offered here is vanilla-flavored, which is more friendly to the palates than plain.

So take things slow, try out a whole bunch of combinations, and see whether you can come up with your own special parfait concoction.

It's not Jamba Juice, but at least Penn is trying to keep up with the trend.

Photo Credit: Madeline Miller 

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