August 3, 2012

A Gluten-Free Trip to Aspen Leaf Self-Serve Frozen Yogurt in Gunbarrel Near Boulder

By Evan Sandsmark -  

Recently, we made the unusual decision to go get frozen yogurt in the morning. We were in the Gunbarrel area, slightly to the northeast of Boulder, so there was really only one option: Aspen Leaf Frozen Yogurt. It turned out to be a good option, though, as there were lots of gluten-free frozen yogurts to choose from – 11 of the 12 yogurts were gluten-free, by our count – and there were also a number of gluten-free toppings available, although these were somewhat hard to pick out (more on this below). Overall, we had a nice, if unconventional, breakfast at Aspen Leaf recently, and it’s worth checking it out if you’re ever in the Gunbarrel area.

The Aspen Leaf that we visited is part of the conglomeration of businesses and restaurants that make up what might be loosely described at Gunbarrel’s downtown. (Bogey’s is also in this area.) But it’s not really a downtown in any traditional sense of the term – it is, well, just a conglomeration of business and restaurants, which is basically the only thing in Gunbarrel besides residential areas and the sprawling Covidien complex. (Locals in the know are convinced that if a zombie apocalypse should occur, Covidien will serve as ground zero. We’re fairly sure a zombie apocalypse is not on the horizon, but we admit that Covidien does have a slightly unsettling appearance for reasons that are hard to clearly articulate.) If you’re rarely in Gunbarrel, you can visit the Aspen Leaf in Boulder, which is part of the Table Mesa Shopping Center.

The interior of Aspen Leaf is similar in design to the two other frozen yogurt places we have visited in the Boulder area: Boom and Ripple. In a corner of the shop, there is a stack of paper dishes of two sizes – 16 oz and 20 oz – which you then fill with as much frozen yogurt and as many toppings as you desire (because it’s self-serve). At the end of this process of creation, your yogurt is weighed, with the price corresponding to the dish’s weight. As we’ve warned before, the weight adds up quicker than you might imagine, so make your dish with caution if you want to keep the price reasonably low. It costs 45 cents an ounce, and you’ll definitely fly past 10 ounces fairly easily.

If you look on the Aspen Leaf website, you’ll notice dozens of different types of frozen yogurt. However, in the store in Gunbarrel, there are “only” 12 options available at any given time. During our visit, as mentioned, 11 of these options were gluten-free, and two yogurts – the watermelon and orange sorbet – were also vegan. Thanks to a list of allergens printed on each yogurt-dispenser label, it’s easy to tell which options are gluten-free (although the print is small, so if you wear glasses, remember to bring them). Unfortunately, this isn’t the case with the toppings, and it was actually rather cumbersome to determine which toppings were gluten-free. Contrast this to Boom frozen yogurt, which goes out of their way to stock many gluten-free items, and label them all accordingly. (Boom also makes a point of stocking vegan almond milk frozen yogurt, vegan hot fudge sauce, and local items whenever possible – for this reason Boom is actually the favorite of the publisher of GlutenFreeInBoulder.com.)

Lots of the toppings at Aspen Leaf are store-bought items, and from experience we knew that some of these (like the crushed Oreos) contain gluten. However, we were uncertain about most, so we had to use an ingredient book that Aspen Leaf keeps on hand, presumably for customers exactly like us. We didn’t really feel like examining the nutritional details of the many different toppings, so we just added fresh fruit and sunflower-coconut granola, which was the one topping that is noted to be gluten-free on its label.

Since we visited Aspen Leaf in the morning, we decided it would be fitting to have the cappuccino frozen yogurt, which we blended with vanilla. (They were part of the same machine, so we could get these two flavors in a twist.) On top of this we added sliced strawberry and blueberry, and sprinkled some of the aforementioned sunflower-coconut granola over the entire dish. The frozen yogurt was delicious, as frozen yogurt always seems to be. The cappuccino flavor, despite residing in only half of the yogurt twist, came through nicely, and mixed very well with the vanilla yogurt. The fruit was fresh and juicy, especially the blueberries, and it made the dish more of a meal and less of an inappropriate breakfast treat. We added the granola primarily for texture, but the slight flavor of coconut was discernible in most bites. It was a very tasty concoction with surprisingly harmonious flavors. Relative to our normal breakfast, which is generally a granola bar or piece of toast at best, it was extremely good.

(While this may seem an unconventional breakfast, it served our needs nicely. However, for those wishing to combine more traditional breakfast fare with the frozen yogurt bar experience, Boom offers both hearty greek yogurt [unfrozen] and oatmeal during the morning hours.)

Overall, we had a very good experience at Aspen Leaf. Although it was a little hard to figure out which toppings were gluten-free, it wasn’t that hard, and the delicious dish we created is what we remember.

The Aspen Leaf in Gunbarrel is located here:

6562 Lookout Rd.
Boulder, Colorado 80301

And you can check out their website here:

Aspen Leaf Yogurt

Note: This is the eleventh article in a new series presented by GlutenFreeInBoulder.com. On a (roughly) weekly basis, we will visit a restaurant (or frozen yogurt shop, in this case), try a thing or two, and write about our experience. We will, of course, be sampling exclusively gluten-free food so we can report back to our readers about the items worth having. However, many of the places we visit merely offer gluten-free options, and hence are not necessarily 100% gluten-free facilities, so if proximal cross-contamination is an issue, call ahead. It is particularly relevant to mention cross-contamination at a place like Aspen Leaf because it is a self-serve buffet. It is very easy for a gluten containing ingredient to become mixed into a gluten-free ingredient at the topping bar, so keep that in mind as you consider your various options. If you would like us to review a particular restaurant with gluten-free options, send an email to info@glutenfreeinboulder.com. We’ll try our best to check it out!

Read Next Article » Gluten-Free Waffle Cakes Offered Around Boulder are Confirmed to be Delicious
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