Monday, April 16, 2012

Freeze Dried Ice Cream

This review is admittedly aimed at my eight-year-old self who would have thought freeze dried ice cream was just the shiznit. Well, I am no longer eight, but I still picked up this package of freeze dried ice cream in a NASA-themed gift shop at Houston's George Bush International Airport. Sadly, the shop was almost entirely aimed at kids -- and not big kids like me --- but hey, never let it be said that I let pouting get in the way of a possible review! Doing research on the history of freeze dried ice cream (AKA what can I learn from Wikipedia in three minutes or less), it was interesting to note that all these fantastic little packs of ice cream that can be found at gift shops the world over -- and that all proclaim their contents to be genuine astronaut ice cream -- are really only about as accurate as I am when I tell my nephew that I am in fact cool.

Freeze dried ice cream as we know it was developed for the Apollo missions, but actually it ended up flying only on Apollo 7 in 1968. It apparently wasn't very popular, and by the 1970s they were able to send real ice cream up. So yeah, this is "space ice cream" in the sense that it made one single voyage. Kinda in the same sense that I was considered cool once back in 1996, and that for about five minutes. Obviously, this is not filling me with hope. Is it sad to admit, pre-tasting, that I wish the gift shop hadn't been sold out of the ice cream sandwich? The thing is I never, ever eat Neapolitan ice cream in real life. Blame my parents for being too cheap and/or lazy to buy actual good flavors. It's not that I don't like chocolate, vanilla and strawberry alone; I just don't like them together.

So how was my space treat?

The little brick was surprisingly thick. If you have a small group interested in trying it, there's plenty to be shared. It is also surprisingly lightweight for its size -- and surprisingly fragile. As you can see, it shatters like glass quite easily. The texture reminded me of a very dry, very dense meringue that sort of liquefies on your tongue...and yeah, that effect was kind of cool (although the novelty quickly fades). Obviously the "ice cream" is not as creamy as even the lowest of the bargain brands of ice cream, but it does have a vaguely dairy-like mouthfeel. The three flavors varied, so we will talk about them individually:

Strawberry: Had a pleasant berry flavor that actually came off as natural. However, the dairy notes were just plain funky. It reminded me of milk that had been left out too long but had not quite turned yet.

Vanilla: I think this tasted more like "residue of chocolate" than vanilla. Again, the dairy was just funktastic -- even more noticeably than it was with the strawberry. That's probably because there was no real flavor to mask it.

Chocolate: It tastes like freebasing cheap chocolate syrup. Not bad -- but only in the sense that it was the most edible of the three flavors. The chocolate was strong enough to hide the nasty dairy taste.

Yeah, I think I know why the astronauts held out for the real thing. It was fun to try, although I certainly won't be rushing to try more (or even finish this package).

Random gift shop at George Bush International Airport, Houston, Texas


110 calories per 3/4 ounce package


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