The Great Non-Dairy Ice Cream Taste-Off
July's the Month of Ice Cream on BlogHer -- and as you know, I adore Month of Anything Food (cf. Month of Pie) and would love to play along. But my stupid tummy hates ice cream. Serve me up more than a teaspoon of frozen dairy -- ice cream, gelato, fro-yo, soft-serve, semifreddo, ice milk -- and you WILL regret it. I will, anyway.
So while y'all scream for it, scoop it up and slurp it down, every summer I'm on the sidelines pretending I really savor my sorbet (which is generally not bad -- just different) or treasure my tofutti (I have tasted enough ice cream to know that you, sir, are no ice cream).
But I was at the hippie produce store on an uncharacteristically warm San Francisco summer day (it wasn't drizzling) recently, and my gaze lingered on pint after pint of vegan ice cream -- in non-dairy bases I hadn't seen before. Cashew! Coconut!
So it was time for the Fake Ice Cream Taste-Off. I chose plain chocolate across the board, picked brands that are fairly widely available, evaluated texture and flavor, and considered the remarks of my Ice Cream Snob companion (to whom "non-dairy ice cream" is an oxymoron) to come up with ratings from zero to four slurps.
Nondairy ice cream base #1: Coconut
Product: Purely Decadent Coconut Milk Chocolate Ice Cream
Texture: Very rich, creamy, smooth. Gelato-like, in fact.
Flavor: Starts out as chocolate, then smacks you with a strong coconut aftertaste. This is not a bad thing if you like coconut and chocolate together (I do) -- just weird at first; there's really a full beat between flavors. I'm not sure I'd be into, say, their cherry-amaretto or pomegranate chip flavors, but I bet I'd love the plain-coconut version.
Ice Cream Snobservation: "Tastes like it should have rum in it. Rum would be the bridge between the chocolate and the coconut."
Rating: 3 slurps.
Nondairy ice cream base #2: Rice
Product: Rice Dream Organic Chocolate
Texture: A little grainy, a little icy, not so nicey.
Flavor: Decent chocolate flavor, though a bit one-note and an off-sweet aftertaste. Not much richness. Forgettable.
Ice Cream Snobservation: "Rice Dream rhymes with ice cream. That's as close as it gets."
Rating: 2 slurps.
Nondairy ice cream base #3: Almond
Product: Almond Dream Organic Chocolate
Texture: Very creamy. No grain whatsoever. A little hard coming out of the freezer; took a good half hour to soften at room temp.
Flavor: Light but chocolatey with an almond-milk -- not an almond-almond -- flavor. (Almond milk tastes sweeter with no roasted notes, to me.)
Ice Cream Snobservation: "This isn't chocolate almond milk-flavored ice cream?"
Rating: Four slurps!
Nondairy ice cream base #4: Soy
Product: So Delicious Soy Ice Cream Chocolate Velvet
Texture: Gross. Gummy. Have you ever tried freeze-dried astronaut ice cream? Like that, but reconstituted and ... fluffed.
Flavor: Chocolate. I think. I couldn't get past the texture.
Ice Cream Snobservation: "There's no way I'm even trying this after seeing the face you just made."
Rating: Zero slurps.
Nondairy ice cream base #5: Cashew
Product: Blue Mountain Cashew Creamery Organic Chocolate
Texture: I was expecting more, because though I love dairy cheese, I think vegan cashew cheese is a miracle of science, but it was a bit gritty.
Flavor: This product bills itself as the "best tasting raw vegan ice cream ever." It's the only tasting raw vegan ice cream ever for me. Though there are no off flavors, I found it a bit bland. I bet raw-foodists are over the moon about it, though. They didn't even get to have tofutti before this stuff came along.
Ice Cream Snobservation: "Best tasting raw vegan ice cream ever? I'm assuming that's meant to be a compliment, huh?"
Rating: 3 slurps -- 2.5 on taste and texture, .5 bonus for being so good for you.
Pint #6: Control Group: Sorbet
Product: Ciao Bella Chocolate Sorbet
Texture: Icy. Very icy. No creaminess, no richness. But a very smooth, very well-churned iciness, not at all slushy.
Flavor: Hands-down winner in the flavor category. This thing was INTENSE -- flavored with both cocoa powder and bittersweet chocolate. I want to wear it as perfume.
Ice Cream Snobservation: "This would be really good with a scoop of pistachio ice cream next to it. Or if you were on a diet or something tragic like that."
Rating: 3.5 slurps on chocolatiness alone.
What's your favorite nondairy ice cream? Are there better versions out there than the ones I tried? Or do you think the whole idea's a travesty?
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