Company description: "Four all-natural, certified organic, low-calorie, gluten-free, kosher hot chocolate affogatos."
Translation: An affogato is an Italian concoction - typically hot espresso (or sometimes a liqueur) poured over frozen gelato, creating a delicious contrast. The Lite Choice's tweaked version is hot chocolate poured over soft-serve or hard ice cream (touted flavors are vanilla, double chocolate, pumpkin or chocolate espresso, although they'll give you whatever flavor you want).
Chain: The Lite Choice.
Calories: About 115-155 (not including whipped cream).
Location: 135 South St., in Queen Village, and 121 Market St., in Collegeville. (The Center City store on 15th near Walnut doesn't offer affogatos.)
Order time: A few minutes.
Review: The company tinkered with the treat in-house last year. "We fell in love with the combination of our frozen treats immersed in hot chocolate last winter and decided to begin offering hot chocolate affogatos [for sale] as soon as the weather turned chilly this year," said Ryan Larkin, who owns the Queen Village and Collegeville locations.
But affogatos aren't on the store's menu, even though they've supposedly been available since early November. (Signs will go up soon, Larkin promised.)
And a clerk at the Queen Village store said that she'd never made one for anyone before and wasn't sure how much to charge for it. She gamely offered us samples, with caramel spice our favorite. In the sample size, the treat sorta works, with just a few swallows of hot chocolate melting a generous dollop of ice cream.
But in the regular version (4 ounces of ice cream, with an ounce or two of hot chocolate), it was a disaster.
"You forgot to put the ice cream in there," one Gang member told an employee, before realizing that it had all melted in the two minutes it took us to pay. The result was a tasteless, lukewarm, milky mess that left us regretting the splurge.
By the way, that's part of The Lite Choice's schtick: They want you to treat yourself without the guilt of indulgence. So they use a long list of hippie/foodie buzzwords, describing their goodies as low-fat, low-carb, low-calorie, gluten-free, kosher, natural and organic, with no artificial additives, corn syrup or rBST hormones. (Yes, we had to Google that: rBST stands for "recombinant bovine somatotropin," a controversial hormone that boosts milk production in cows.)
All that might make you feel righteous in picking The Lite Choice as your sweets spot. But in gutting the goodies of fat and calories, The Lite Choice gives up some taste. You say you still want a diet treat? Then definitely get your hot chocolate and soft-serve separately and skip their affogatos altogether; the ones we tried were a flavorless flop.
Summary: Want the real thing? Head to Capogiro (with four Philly locations), where the Italian treat is worth every pants-busting calorie and fat gram. (Cinnamon, dark-chocolate or hazelnut gelato are especially awesome bathed in Capogiro's rich espresso.)