Ten Best: Frozen Treats

by Brian Clarey

Ice Cream July is National Ice Cream Month, designated in 1984 by President Ronald Reagan – a man with a notorious sweet tooth. But even if the Gipper hadn’t have called this one, we’d still be bending all our spoons this month because: A) It’s so damn hot, and B) It’s so damn good. Seriously, I could knock out two pints of Ben & Jerry’s for breakfast and chase it down with a Dixie Cup.

Popsicles Popsicles were invented in 1905 by an 11-year-old boy named Frank Epperson, who one cold night left his drink out on the porch with a stir stick in it. He got the patent for “frozen ice on a stick” in 1923, dubbing it the “Epsicle.” Since then the treats have come a long way. Popsicles now come in two species: the kind that’s just flavored ice and the ones made with ice cream and candy. And then, of course, there is the creamsicle, which is the duck-billed platypus of the genre.

Sno-Cones and snowballs Both involve ice and flavored water, but there are crucial differences between Sno-Cones, which are largely relegated to carnival-food status, and snowballs, which are a summertime delicacy in the Bottom South states along the gulf. Sno-Cones use coarsely crushed ice and syrup and are served in a cone. Duh. Snowballs use shaved ice, much more delicate to the palate, and in addition to flavored syrup can contain whipped cream, condensed milk, fudge sauce or whatever else you have on hand and are served in Styrofoam cups or sometimes in Chinese food takeout boxes. I have no idea why this is.

Frozen banana Take a peeled banana, shove a stick in it, dip it in chocolate and roll it in nuts before popping it in the freezer for a few hours. It’s a perfect fusion of tastes and ingenious design, as long as you don’t apply any metaphor to the eating of it. Sometimes a chocolate banana is just a chocolate banana.

Soft serve I know what you’re thinking: Soft serve is ice cream, schmuck. And you’d be right. Sort of. That soft ice cream that comes from a machine, though, is something else entirely in my book. Also, for the purposes of this piece, I’m gonna lump in frozen yogurt – or fro-yo to those who like to abbreviate – and frozen custard, which is rich, delicious and served a few degrees warmer than ice cream.

Ice pops These long, thin tubes of colored water are a childhood summer staple. The only downsides are that they are difficult for small kids to open and that they come at room temperature, which means they’ve got to sit in the freezer for a few hours before they can be enjoyed. Here’s how old I am: When I was a kid they were delivered to my house by the milkman.

Sorbet/sherbet/gelato Sorbet is made from ice and pureed fruit, and can be a dessert or a palate cleanser during a multi-course meal. Sherbet is made with ice and sweetened fruit juice and other ingredients like milk, egg whites or gelatin. Gelato is basically Italian ice cream, a bit more dense and icy than its American counterpart. Now you know.

Frozen candy bars Candy? Dandy. But take a Snickers bar, Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup, Charleston Chew, Twix, Three Musketeers or a Milky Way and let it chill in the freezer for a while and you’ve got something else entirely. Also delicious when frozen, but not technically a bar, are M&Ms – not the kind with peanuts.

Dippin’ Dots Dippin’ Dots, those little pellets of frozen goodness that you get at Chuck E. Cheese or the ballpark, are the most recent piece of frozen treat technology. Invented back in the go-go ’80s by a Southern Illinois University student, they are made by taking a conventional ice cream mixture and flash freezing it with liquid nitrogen, creating those tiny little balls. Next time someone asks, “What the hell are these things anyway?” you will have an answer.

Weird stuff Among the strangest frozen treats I could find: Beer popsicles made by a restaurant in Alexndria, Va that come in flavors like “Raspbeer-y,” plum and a fudgesicle made from stout and bittersweet chocolate; the Pickle Sickle, a popsicle made from frozen pickle juice that comes out of Seguin, Texas; the wasabi popsicle, made from the green Japanese horseradish; and a dessert that originated in Taiwan that is intended to look and taste exactly like snow.