Tuesday, February 8, 2011

A Different Kind of 'Yo'

WARNING: If you are craving froyo, don't read any further.

However, if fresh, locally produced NON-frozen yogurt, Direct-Trade coffee, and smoothies blended from real fruit are what you seek, Yola in Dupont Circle is the place for you.

The storefront looks small, but don't be fooled. The inside is quite spacious with bright colors, hardwood floors, and (my personal favorite) a chalkboard featuring interesting facts about any and everything. Customers order from a bar and then choose between casual seating or taking their food to go.

Customers can enjoy their yogurt or coffee while reading all of the cool facts on the "Did You Know?" board

I stopped in today to chat with one of the owners, Laura Smith. Ms. Smith and her father, David, came up with the concept to open a health-conscious yogurt bar while playing around with ideas at the dinner table. Smith previously worked as a paralegal, but after spending time in Switzerland and London, she noticed something that wasn't as widely accepted in the states: buying and producing local eats. She grew accustomed to peoples' attitude towards food in Europe, so when she moved back to the D.C. area and could not easily access information about the origins of her meals, she set out to make a change.

Together, Smith and her father came up with Yola--a place where everything would be fresh, local, and healthy. All of the yogurt comes from one of two farms: Blue Ridge Dairy in Leesburg, VA and Trickling Springs Creamery located in Chambersburg, PA. The yogurt is skimmed by hand to be virtually fat free, and the cows that produce it are grass fed and free-frolicking.

I sampled lemon, peach, honey, plain, Greek, and maple yogurt. All of them were fabulous, but my favorite was the maple, so I paired that with some of the plain Greek style and then topped it all off with granola, strawberries (good sized pieces--not the microscopic cubes that other places serve), dried mango, and pumpkin butter. Talk about a mood booster. The yogurt was thick, creamy, and had no chemical aftertaste, which I always experience with store-bought brands. The maple was lightly sweet, and the Greek was tart. The pumpkin butter really blended amazingly with both. Strawberries and granola are always a winning combination for me, but the dried mango was something new and interesting for my taste buds. Yes, it was a bit of an unconventional mix of toppings, but that's the beauty of a place like Yola. The price is set by size (not by weight or by amount of different toppings), so customers can make all kinds of parfaits with whatever and however many toppings they desire.

My Parfait! Maple and Greek yogurt with strawberries, granola, dried mango, and pumpkin butter. YUM!

And, if flavor isn't all you are looking for, the fair at Yola is also good for you. Smith described to me that buying locally ensures the live and active cultures that originate in yogurt are still there from when it leaves the farm to when a customer takes that first bite. Due to the close locations, longer shelf life isn't necessary, which means no second round of pasteurizing. This way, you get all of the benefits of dairy without any preservatives.

Something that isn't as apparent from the name is Yola's coffee selection. Right behind the bar area, there sits a big, beautiful espresso machine that only Direct Trade coffee beans touch. This means that it's purchased straight from the growers without a middleman. Producers are paid directly, which makes this coffee sustainable and morally sound. Plus, it's delicious.

Although Smith has had her ups and downs with starting and maintaining the business, she says she hopes it will make people appreciate where their food comes from. So far, Yola is off to a great start, and I can't wait to go back!

Owner, Laura Smith's personal favorite is the
Greek style paired with a hot cup of Direct Trade cappuccino.
(202) 223-0000
Dupont Circle
1323 Connecticut Ave., NW
Washington, DC 20036
Yola on Urbanspoon

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