After slightly overindulging on treats the other day, and again violating my shopping rule about not going to the grocery store when actually hungry, I decided to sample a new kind of ice cream. The reasoning behind this mixed a thwarted desire for ice cream with the fact that this ice cream had a very low calorie count without containing particularly mysterious ingredients. I say thwarted because the last kind of ice cream I bought turned out inexplicably to contain vermouth once I re-read the ingredients list after saving it in the freezer for at least a week. Despite the fact that I almost obsessively read ingredients lists, this somehow got by me (vermouth being some kind of wine, which I don’t eat). So maybe I was still smarting from that, despite the fact that I’d already consumed some excellent gelato earlier that day, and was planning to follow it up with pie and popcorn later. I’ve been on something of a health kick in the last couple of months :P. My “diet” includes a fair amount of rewards (though not usually all in one day) and has been very effective. I am motivated to exercise very well by self-bribery :D. I am not trying to sell anybody on this method because they would probably laugh but hey, everybody has to find something that works for them.
Anyway, back to the point. The ice cream I saw was something I’d never seen or tried before called “Arctic Zero.” It was right next to “Skinny Cow” products at my local grocery store. I’ve tried skinny cow before and they weren’t bad at all, and I was considering getting some, but the fact that these other Arctic Zero cartons had a giant label screaming “150 calories per pint!” (and the fact that they were unknown, and I love to try things) swayed me over to their side. Although Skinny Cow was known to be good, it was also rather obviously related to the portion sizes. I do appreciate this fact, don’t get me wrong. I saw for the first time that Skinny Cow had come out with miniature ice cream containers in addition to the ice-cream sandwiches I’d tried in the past. Unlike either ridiculously small or not-actually-so-mini ice cream containers from some other brands, these actually contained a reasonable amount of ice cream/calories that you actually might eat in a sitting without going overboard. I might get them next time.
I reviewed Arctic Zero’s ingredients list, as I was intending to head off another vermouth incident. Also, some low-calorie products appear to consist mainly of ingredients which may or may not be actual food items, and while I’m not vehemently opposed to eating anything that can’t either wink at me or wave in the breeze, I try to keep it balanced. Another thing I was looking for was artificial sweeteners. Most of them to me have a very unpleasant taste that really stands out to me.
The ingredients list of both flavors I picked up didn’t look terribly scary: Purified water, whey protein concentrate, organic cane sugar, chicory root, dutch processed cocoa powder with alkali, guar gum, xanthum gum, natural flavors, sea salt, organic monk fruit. According to the label, it’s also fat-free, lactose intolerant friendly (though not dairy-free), and gluten-free.
The only one of those ingredients that sounded particularly mysterious to me, long-time-ingredient-reader, was monk fruit. However, it didn’t sound BAD. The back of the package said that monk fruit was included (in addition to the cane sugar) as a sweetener. Okay… better than aspartame! Some after-the-fact research online indicates it is a gourd native to China, known to have very sweet juice with low caloric content and high amounts of vitamin C. It’s also apparently starting to be used by Kashi and So Delicious, amongst other companies (both of which I’ve tried non-monk fruit products of which I liked). At any rate, I have to say the sweetener does seem promising. I didn’t get any weird sweetener aftertastes from it as far as I could tell, though comparison of other products containing it will be in order (I will be looking for those Kashi and So Delicious products post-haste!). If so it might be one of the first non-sugar sweeteners that I don’t hate. I had hopes for Stevia, but ended up not liking it at all.
Here are some other new monk fruit products to explore (I’m thinking I might try the So Delicious fudge bars, I like So Delicious coconut milk): http://monkfruit.org/great-taste.
Back to Arctic Zero: Despite the absence of monk-fruit-triggered problems, I have to say the ice cream was not all that and a bag of coconut chips. I picked two chocolate options: Mint Chocolate Cookie and Chocolate Peanut Butter (because my sister was visiting, and I knew she didn’t like the first and did normally like the second). Plus, twice the testing possibilities :).
I dug into each ice cream for a sample. The first thing I noticed was I should have let it thaw a bit. It was pretty hard :P. However, I persevered. The mint chocolate was the first one I tried. I immediately noticed that compared to normal ice cream, it was not very sweet. However, it was a little sweet, and actually how sweet it was, once I adjusted mentally, did not bother me. This may be since I’ve transitioned recently to drinking unsweetened hot chocolate, having found some amazing chocolate options that are not bitter this way :). The mint chocolate had a strong mint-chocolate smell and a minty taste. It was not particularly chocolaty tasting. Both ice creams were a uniform smooth brown color, with no distinguishable features or added bits or chunks. (I’m not sure what the “cookie” part of Mint Chocolate Cookie represents, as far as I’m concerned it was just mint chocolate).
The unpleasant part of the experience was a certain slimeyness that set in as soon as the ice cream began to melt on my tongue. It was reminiscent of the slimeyness of okra (not a fan). Although I like chewy, gummy stuff, I don’t particularly care for slimy stuff, especially in ice cream. On the plus side, it was extremely smooth and creamy. It was not at all crystallized or rough in texture like some reduced fat ice creams I have tried. Let’s be honest here, fat adds a certain lovely smooth mouthfeel and satisfaction, especially milkfat, which can’t really be replicated if you just take it out, even if the flavor is the same. This is essentially part of my problem with any replacement milk, even my top-ranking replacement milk which is So Delicious Unsweetened Coconut milk. It tastes okay, but it’s missing that fattiness I guess.
In this case, the smoothness was there, the creaminess was there, but it was accompanied by downright sliminess. But what I disliked more than the sliminess was a sort of foaminess which developed as it melted. It felt sort of frothy in my mouth, like toothpaste sometimes does (perhaps the mint was a factor here in the comparison as well). When the ice cream melted a little bit so I could get it out of the carton easier with the spoon, this frothiness was more noticeable. In fact, the stuff that melted on its own around the edges of the carton (I had a bowl out, but it was mainly just for looks I guess because I ended up primarily eating out of the carton) was peopled with many tiny bubbles that rose and popped slowly on their own. So it was kinda frothing itself as it melted. I should point out this is not unheard of in some other varieties of ice cream… I know I’ve encountered similar behavior in other extremely melted ice cream before, but generally it is when it gets so melted it’s not even cold anymore (and it’s not generally the best quality ice cream that seems to do this… my preferred brands just sort of turn back into “cream”). This one foamed well before that point, and much more so.
The overall texture pre-foaming was a little bit like frozen pudding. If you like frozen pudding, it might not be that objectionable. I’ve frozen pudding before to see what it was like and though I quite like pudding in its normal form I did not like the way the frozen stuff acted, which was similar to this.
Another odd factor in the texture was the way the peices broke apart (also frozen pudding-like). Sucking off a small frozen bite caused the pieces to separate abruptly in a way reminiscent of silly putty, if there were an ice cream version of silly putty. It was not as abrupt or rubbery, but that’s what it reminded me of. It’s hard to describe how a substance separates or perhaps even notice it until you realize it’s not separating how you expect, but there it was.
Despite the frothiness and slimeyness and frozen pudding effect, it actually wasn’t that bad. I say this because I continued eating it about halfway into the carton, at which point I realized my tongue was numb and I could no longer form intelligible words (by that time of night, I had long ceased to form intelligent words, so it wasn’t a great loss). However it also wasn’t that good so I put it away.
The chocolate peanut butter, unfortunately, was another story. My sister took one bite and refused to have anymore. She likes chocolate peanut butter ice cream. As for me, I have had chocolate peanut butter ice cream before, but don’t usually choose that flavor, though I like chocolate and peanut butter as a combination in general. However, upon tasting this, I had to admit that there was something terribly wrong with the peanut butter aspect.
Like the mint, it wasn’t particularly chocolatey. It was a little chocolatey. I found myself wondering if this was why I had not seen any options of just “chocolate” in the store (which I would have gotten instead). Like the Chocolate Peanut Butter, if the Mint Chocolate Cookie was not colored brown and in a box labeled Mint Chocolate Cookie, I would not have identified the chocolate aspect (I’m sorry to say I’ve run into this on occasion with milkshakes and chocolate frozen yogurt, too… if it’s chocolate make it chocolatey! I shouldn’t have to distinguish between vanilla and chocolate based on color…). However, upon researching their website later, I discovered Arctic Zero does make a plain chocolate flavor, it just wasn’t at my store. Since both cartons do contain cocoa as an ingredient, this should be doable… they need to seriously up the cocoa content in my opinion. This is a worthy caloric sacrifice. Also, I know that certain types of cocoa can pack plenty of chocolaty flavor into a very small volume without many calories, so it ought to be happening more here. If you can’t rely on rich chocolate taste in chocolate ice cream, what is the world coming to?
Back to the peanut butter part. It was not good. It had a very peculiar and unpleasant taste. I could tell it was supposed to be peanut flavored, but I couldn’t my finger on which part of the experience was so distasteful. It did seem familiar somehow though (the unpleasant aspect of it, I mean… the peanut part was identifiable and thus familiar in that way, but the “twist” on it that I disliked was also familiar).
Reading the Arctic Zero website finally shed some light on the issue. Their site says “It’s like a delicious-tasting frozen protein shake you can spoon.” This is *exactly* the part that it reminded me of that I didn’t like. If you’ve ever tried protein shakes, meal replacement shakes, or those protein bars, there is something in them that tastes the same. I had an ill-fated period of eating these some years back and the taste oddities remain etched in my tongue. I’m not sure which of the ingredients is responsible for this, but it is very reminiscent. If you like protein shakes this probably will not bother you. Also, as I mentioned the “protein shake” part of the flavor was mainly on the chocolate peanut butter one. They have quite a few other flavors which might be less affected or perhaps some flavors mask it more, like mint. The ingredients on these two cartons were the same so maybe it’s part of the “natural flavors” that has to do with how the peanut flavor is derived.
Other than that, the chocolate peanut butter one had the same textural difficulties regarding sliminess and foaminess, but since the flavor was unappealing, I also didn’t make much attempt to overcome them.
Incidentally: after re-freezing the cartons again they did get a big crystallized on top, as can also happen to ice cream. Digging past this got down to creaminess again. I’ve heard you can also smooth plastic wrap on the surface to prevent such things (too lazy, since the surface was irregular) or turn the carton upside down (I’ve always been afraid of melted ice cream leak, having encountered this before with tipped cartons in the freezer). Bottom line: I didn’t do anything to combat this, but if you care about this on regular ice cream or on this you can try one of the above methods.
I have to say the areas in which Arctic Zone succeeds are not necessarily in the ice cream department. Maybe this is why they do not use this phrase anywhere on the box except in the small type on the back where it is described as an “ice cream replacement” (which is more accurate), though it definitely is masquerading as ice cream. Frozen-pudding dessert, maybe… or if you’d like something cold that is not ice cream, or you can’t eat ice cream for some reason but can eat these. The back of the carton also says, “Do you ever have the urge to eat the entire pint?” and goes on to mention that in this case, it is actually quite healthy (protein, fiber, etc).
I’ll admit I have had more than an “urge” to eat an entire pint of ice cream, I’ve succeeded :). I didn’t eat an entire pint of this stuff. I dunno that I would be up to it. I think there’s little doubt that it would be better for me, though. I have to give them points for trying to make this actually healthy vs. throwing in non-foods to bulk it up, and for not using sweeteners like aspartame. With more chocolate taste I would find it more appealing. The slimy/foaminess is weird, but as apparently proven by the amount of mint chocolate I ate, not insurmountable given the right flavor combo, though it certainly wouldn’t replace ice cream in my diet. Also, the slime and foam both developed as the ice cream melted slightly. The completely frozen texture wasn’t bad, so if you’re the type of person who bites off ice cream and swallows it in frozen form it might be less of an issue. I like to let it melt a bit on my tongue so it doesn’t freeze my teeth.
Maybe the slime comes from the monk fruit? I will be experimenting with other monk-fruit products if I can find them to check this out :). At this point I feel like I’m making excuses for this product. I want to like it… it’s likable in some aspects and it’s trying hard. But I can already tell it’s not right for me and this is not going to be a long-term relationship. I’m not going to extend the disappointment to a second date, but I find myself wishing it well and hoping somebody else likes it :P.