junk food junkie returns! am i really trying ice cream?!
Summers over, so what better time to review some ice cream! Of course, summer is SF is actually now, but, when I went to Burning Man, I decided to embrace the heat in the desert this year and add some ice cream treats to our food list. Man cannot live by wine alone you know. I think. When I decided to add the ice cream to the mix the SO was all for it as that is their go to on pretty much every occasion. Me, well, we all know I prefer some heft to my sweets and desserts and if there is icing, even better. But recently we had come across a new player on the ice cream field and they seemed to be taking off and hitting the right spot with a lot of folks. Particularly those in the foodie know and, surprisingly, the work a day millennial crowd. I know, but I didn't let that stop me from trying them out.
It's called Halo Top and part of, or probably, the big appeal with them is they are low calorie, high protein, low sugar and made with all natural ingredients to "craft our ice cream so that it tastes just like regular ice cream." A quote straight from their website. I was intrigued mostly from the low sugar and also low carb standpoint. Some other "ice creams" I'd had with these claims were not good, but in the interest of all things food, I was willing to give these a try and see what they were like.
Fortunately for me, they are some brand that is only carried by a specialty grocer, I could actually get them at Safeway of all places. Though, in order to get as many of the different flavors as I could, I had to hit one of the larger ones in town with an ample supply. As you can see above, I found a few. At the time it was one of every one they had in stock. Right off I will give them props for some of the flavors, which I'm sure went through rigorous taste testing before hitting the market. With things like s'mores, black cherry, peanut butter cup and red velvet to name a few, they really need to taste like what they say in order to impress me. Especially if I'm gonna plop down $4.99 a pint for them.
The low calorie thing seems to be the marketing push on the packaging as they lay it out for you right there. And not on a per serving basis to fool you like some of these other brands do. The calorie count is for the whole pint because in reality, that is how we as Americans eat. A pint IS a single serving for a vast majority. Particularly if you are eating for stress, depression, gluttony, whatever. It's what we do. I do it with a giant slice of cake which is no different. The highest is 360 and the lowest is 240. That's great, the real test is are they sacrificing flavor with the reduction. The answer kind of depends on which one you eating, at least for me.
Some of the flavors stood out like lemon cake, though I might have liked a slight bigger lemon kick. The black cherry had nice bits of cherry mixed through out. The red velvet had a background taste of chocolate and included little pieces of chocolate cake throughout. The birthday cake was sort of like a basic vanilla cupcake with sprinkles. The chocolate mocha was strong on both flavors.
Others were kind of middling. The peanut butter cup could have used more of the peanut butter and the chocolate (yes, I added some more pb on my own). The chocolate almond needed more chocolate. And a few just missed the mark. The s'mores didn't have much of any thing from a s'more, unless it was ground up so small I couldn't really taste it. The oatmeal cookie was kind of like cinnamon milk. Didn't really come across much if any oatmeal. Plus, oatmeal cookies should have raisins too. The pistachio just look green but I wouldn't have been able to tell you it was that flavor. The cookies and cream didn't do much on the taste scale either. It had tiny black bits in it like the ground up shell up an Oreo but the taste was very plain.
Overall, it was kind of hit or miss with the flavors and depending on your taste preference, you might have to cycle through a few to figure out what taste level you like. Kind of like we did. Beyond the taste, another big issue if it is going to be like "real ice cream" is gonna be the texture. Ice cream is creamy and that seems to be the biggest hurdle a company needs to meet in order to compete.
As a little new feature I'm experimenting with on the blog, below I've embedded two videos of how the ice cream spoons out. Hopefully it can give you a sense of what the texture is gonna be like.
I picked the red velvet and the lemon cake as they seemed to offer the most diversity. As you can see, the red velvet does kind of spoon a little like ice cream and has the ridges you get when it rolls up a scoop. You can also sort of see the little bits of brown cake too. The lemon cake seems to spoon up more like a frozen Italian ice. Not quite as smooth and in little flakes. Again I found it really depended on the flavor you having as far as if the texture was close to true ice cream. Things with color seemed to scoop closer to creamy and also have a decent semblance of a smooth creamy ice cream feel on the tongue. The ones that were riding on the white palette came off more on the icy side. Not a bad thing per se, just not very ice creamy for me.
Above are two more of the color flavors and you can see the appearance is definitely close, if not on par with the true smooth creaminess you look for in ice cream. That's not to say there aren't folks out there into ice milk kind thing. If they weren't there wouldn't be such a big market for Icees, Italian ices, shaved ice, sno cones and all the others with flaky, slushy textures.
Needless to say, the SO enjoyed them all as they are like ice cream without 80% of the guilt when you scarf down a whole pint. I still won't say I'm a big ice cream fan, but I didn't hate these. I found the deeper the color then the brighter the flavor and smoother the texture. I do still prefer my desserts to have some heft as even after eating these, it was like Chinese food, I was still a little hungry for more later. I did, however, find these highly refreshing on a hot day in the desert. They were the perfect pint of coldness to spoon up while sitting around in lawn chairs, sipping wine and waving at all the funky dressed people pedaling by the RV. Come think of it, take out the heat and the RV and that could pretty much be any day on your front steps in San Francisco.