I looooove ice cream, to that point where I could not walk past one of the three gelato places (all on the same street) near where I work without going in. I’m not sure which is more to blame: my love of ice cream of my lack of self control. Luckily I don’t have to walk down that street too often or I would have a gelato gut by now (that would be in addition to my existing Buddha belly).
I’m not vegan or lactose intolerant, so I’ve never had any interest in all the non-dairy ice cream options out there. My friend Donna is a total foodie. She’s the one I go to whenever I have questions about anything involving food. Not only does she know the best tasting stuff, but she also knows which ones are best (or least bad) for your health.
She kept raving about some non-dairy ice cream and how awesome it was, but she likes yukky stuff (vegetables, for example) so although I trust her judgment, I didn’t go out of my way to find it. I figured why bother? I already have regular ice cream in my freezer! I did look at the link that she sent me, and they had some good flavors, but I didn’t think to look at the store locator.
A few weeks later, I was at the local upscale hippie store, which happens to be conveniently located near work and right across the street from my favorite lunch place. My friend and I used to love killing time in there because they always had interesting stuff to look at: massage toys (everything from the backnobber and the tingler to the happy massager), cute seasonal cards, and toys like Pee & Poo stuffed animals.
As I was walking through the store, I thought hey, this seems like the kind of place that would carry non-dairy ice cream! I checked the freezer case and there it was: Coconut Bliss! I bought two flavors: Mint Galactic (mint chip) and Dark Chocolate.
Donna and I had already discussed the fact that these products are made with coconut milk, rather than cow milk. I love Tom Kha Gai (it’s one of my favorite things to order when I have Thai food), but I wasn’t sure how I would feel about ice cream made with coconut milk. She told me that some of the Coconut Bliss flavors have more coconut milk flavor than others. She recommended that I try stronger flavors first, as those masked the flavor of the coconut milk more. I have since tried every flavor but one, and it’s true that the coconut milk flavor is more noticeable in some flavors. For me, Vanilla Island and Cherry Amaretto had the most coconut milk flavor, but I didn’t mind it at all.
I haven’t tried Naked Coconut yet because although I like coconut milk, I really dislike the flavor of shredded coconut. When I was in elementary school, my crafty mom made an Easter cake shaped like a bunny head. She covered the entire thing with shredded coconut. It was really beautiful – she dyed some of the coconut pink for the inside of the ears, and I think she had some blue coconut for the eyes. She spent a lot of time making it, which is why I still feel terrible saying this: I HATE the taste of coconut because of that cake. Until that bunny cake, I was okay with coconut, meaning I would eat it but I never requested it. I didn’t love it and I didn’t hate it. That cake turned the tide for me though. There was just so much coconut that I couldn’t stand it afterward. In high school, smelling any sunscreen or tanning products grossed me out because of the coconut smell. I love pineapples but can’t stomach pina coladas because of the coconut flavor. I don’t see any end in sight for my coconut boycott, so I’ll leave the Naked Coconut review for someone else to do.
Galactic Mint and Dark Chocolate are my absolute favorites! I always have a carton of each in my freezer. My husband woke up earlier than I did today (I don’t know why I wrote “today” because he always wakes up before I do), so he let me sleep in while he did whatever it is he does on Saturday mornings. As long as he isn’t tap dancing on the roof, I don’t really care what he’s doing while I’m asleep. I hate waking up for work during the week, so I always sleep in on Saturdays and Sundays unless someone pays me to wake up earlier. After I woke up, I was looking for something to eat for lunch and that’s when I saw the empty carton of Mint Galactica in the trash. My husband had finished the carton while I was asleep! I didn’t panic, but I did go to the store to get more after I ate lunch. I wasn’t kidding – the freezer is always stocked with Mint Galactica and Dark Chocolate.
I’m very particular about mint. I always forget if I prefer spearmint over peppermint or vice versa though. I once had a mint ice cream (at a barbeque restaurant, of all places) and I hated it immediately. It had a green, herbal flavor. I don’t mean a tinge either. It tasted like they had thrown cut grass into the ice cream machine with the mint leaves. Other times, the base is too sweet and not minty enough.
Not so with Mint Galactica! The mint flavor is clean and fresh with just enough sweetness. The chocolate chips are small shards that melt into chocolatey sweetness on the tongue. This is the best mint chip flavor I’ve had! My husband was originally a little reluctant because, as someone who grew up eating Baskin Robbins ice cream, he is highly suspicious of any mint chip ice cream that isn’t bright green. He is now a convert though. He LOVES Mint Galactica – it’s his favorite Coconut Bliss flavor. He is a picky eater too. He hates low-fat anything, so the fact that the loves (not likes) this is a shock to me.
When I first brought home Coconut Bliss, he would only eat it if I already had it out and I offered it to him. If I just sat on the couch with a spoon, he would never ask for a bite. Slowly, the tide has turned. The first step was when he asked for a bite when I was digging into Mint Galactica. In other words, he would have some if it was conveniently located near him, but he didn’t like it enough to seek it out on his own. After a few months of that, I heard him open the freezer door and he came out of the kitchen holding Mint Galactica in one hand and a spoon in the other. He now voluntarily takes Mint Galactica out of the freezer and starts eating it all on his own. He’s a convert!
Dark Chocolate is rich and luscious. I used to be a milk chocolate only girl, but now I love dark chocolate too. My husband, on the other hand, prefers to stick with the bourgeois milk chocolate that his unrefined palate is used to (his words!). For that reason, I wasn’t sure he would like this flavor. It’s not bitter, but I know that he likes his chocolate very sweet and mild. As I said, Galactica Mint is his favorite, but he likes this one too. I love Dark Chocolate. It’s the perfect amount of chocolatey goodness, a balance between rich and sweet without going too far in any direction.
Strawberry Lemon Love is freaking awesome. It’s a light and refreshing flavor that just says summer to me. There are two different flavors in this carton and they are poured roughly half and half into the container (rather than mixed together). I like this because I can eat all the strawberry if I want to. Maybe I like the separation because it reminds me of those cartons of neopolitan ice cream we used to have when I was a kid. Anyway, both the strawberry and lemon flavors are very true.
Strawberry is one of my favorite flavors (in ice cream, cupcakes, macaroons, you name it), so I’m kind of a strawberry snob. I can’t stand strawberry products that taste artificial or too sweet. I also have issues with lemons (I know this entire blog is making me sound like I’m totally picky about every flavor known to mankind). I’ve always liked lemonade and lemonhead candy, but I hate the smell of lemon cleaning products. It reminds me of the period when we were housebreaking our dog and I spent a lot of time cleaning the floor with lemon Pine-sol. I can smell that stuff a mile away now, and it always has a faint whiff of pee to my nose now. On top of that, my friends took me out for one last night of dancing before I moved after college. I was feeling fine until someone forced a Lemon Drop on me. Long story shot, I spent from 4am until noon puking lemon flavored nastiness, so I now have an aversion to really tart lemon. The lemon in Strawberry Lemon Love is great though – very real lemon flavor without being overwhelming.
Chocolate Hazelnut Fudge is really yummy. It’s a chocolate ice cream with a fudge ribbon and chunks of hazelnut. Hazelnut is not my favorite nut (unless it’s ground into submission as Nutella), so I probably would have liked this better without the nuts. The fudge adds a great texture and richness to the chocolate base, and the hazelnuts add some textural contrast.
Cherry Amaretto is good, but this is one of the flavors where the coconut milk is not masked. It’s not a strong coconut flavor, but it’s noticeable. The amaretto ice cream is nice – sweet and almondy, very light! Cherry flavors often have that fake taste that I associate with cough drops, but again, this has a very real taste to it. I know I keep saying that, but it’s true!
Vanilla Island has the most obvious coconut milk flavor. It’s not a bad thing if you like coconut milk, but if not, avoid this one! The vanilla flavor is strong without being cloying. Vanilla ice cream is kind of a crap shoot. Sometimes the vanilla flavor is non-existent. I know that people use the word vanilla as a synonym for bland or boring, but if your vanilla ice cream is bland or boring, your ice cream sucks. When vanilla is done well, it’s delicious! Vanilla Island has a good vanilla flavor, but it isn’t too sweet.
As I said, I am not a non-dairy ice cream connoisseur so I can’t compare Coconut Bliss to the other non-dairy ice creams out there. I’ve heard lots of complaints about the texture of soy ice cream, but I refuse to buy soy ice cream just to find out if it sucks or not. I can say, however, that the texture of Coconut Bliss is really nice. I don’t think it’s different from the texture of dairy ice cream. It’s smooth and creamy, and I didn’t have any issues with ice crystals or other complaints I’ve heard about non-dairy ice cream. Honestly, if someone had given this to me without telling me it had coconut milk, I never would have guessed that it wasn’t regular ice cream. The only thing that gives it away is that Coconut Bliss doesn’t leave that filmy, slightly slimy feeling on my teeth and tongue the way that dairy ice cream does.
Coconut Bliss freezes pretty hard, so if you prefer soft ice cream, leave it on the counter for five or ten minutes before eating. I like my gelato soft, but I really like that Coconut Bliss is firm. Our old freezer had some issues, so I learned firsthand that some of the Coconut Bliss flavors melt more quickly than others. Mint Galactica is the firmest and Dark Chocolate (as well as Chocolate Hazelnut Fudge) is softer. See what kind of research I can do when I have multiple flavors in the freezer at the same time? My highly scientific methodology was to squeeze each carton to see which one was softer. Galactica Mint was always the firmest no matter what other flavor was in the freezer. Moral of story: unless you let it thaw ahead of time, do not use a plastic spoon to eat this stuff.
Be warned: Coconut Bliss is very rich. I used to laugh when reading the label on a Ben & Jerry’s pint. How could that tiny carton be four servings? I could eat a whole pint by myself! Coconut Bliss is rich enough that I can eat the 1/4 carton serving size and not feel like I’m forcing myself to stop. Sometimes I’ll eat 1/3 of the carton, but that’s usually because I’m compulsively trying to even out the top of the ice cream so it’s nice and flat.
Also nice: all the ingredients are recognizable as real things. Remember that Breyer’s ice cream commercial where they had the little kid reading the ingredients list on two different cartons of ice cream? Like that. The ingredients are organic and fair trade if you care about that stuff too.
If you’re not familiar with coconut milk or its properties, DO NOT FREAK OUT when you see the fat content on the label. It seems perversely high, but to put it in the simplest terms, coconut milk has good fat which does not make YOU fat. In fact, whenever I eat Coconut Bliss, I tell myself that it’s my ice cream diet. It’s burning fat! I’m losing weight!
Coconut Bliss has three new flavors being launched this month: Chocolate Peanut Butter, Naked Almond Fudge, and Pina Colada (my arch nemesis!). CHOCOLATE PEANUT BUTTER! My local store already carries it, but they were sold out when I tried to buy it today!
Coconut Bliss is also introducing ice cream bars – I guess that’s a good way for me to get some portion control. I’m really just interested in having ice cream on a stick again!
Update: I love Chocolate Peanut Butter. It’s like eating a Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup that has been turned into ice cream. My only complaint is that the peanut butter is not always distributed evenly. I’m guessing it has something to do with how thick and heavy the peanut butter is when it’s added to the ice cream, but imagine seeing this in your carton. You would be sad too, right?
I have eaten many cartons of the Chocolate Peanut Butter flavor, so I can safely say that this is not what every single carton looks like the whole way through. The amount of peanut butter varies as you dig down through the carton, but I have had more than one carton that looked like the above picture at some point. Again, I realize there will be some variance but whenever I see the spots of peanut butter starting to get smaller, I start freaking out that I will see the peanut butter diminish down to tiny dots in a sea of chocolate. What can I say? I really love peanut butter! I love chocolate too, but when I buy something that combines two flavors, I like to see it mixed together more evenly. I don’t want the chocolate to get a big head or anything!
The Dark Chocolate Coconut Bliss Bars are exactly what I thought they would be: delicious ice cream on a stick. You know when Cameron Diaz and Ben Stiller discuss having more meat on sticks in There’s Something About Mary? I feel the same way about ice cream. Granted there are already lots of popsicle type products on the market, but most of them are more of the same so it’s always exciting for me to find something new!
As I mentioned earlier, Dark Chocolate is one of the flavors that is on the soft end of the Coconut Bliss range so I was a little worried that the bar would start melting before I had time to finish it, but I guess I was just being paranoid. Either that or I wolfed it down so quickly that it didn’t have time to melt! I love being able to eat my ice cream one handed without a spoon! I’m also a sucker for anything that reminds me of childhood summers, so this product wins on all fronts. Mr. Awesome has this weird thing about eating ice cream with wooden sticks. When we went to the Gilroy Garlic Festival, we bought some sort of ice cream product but once he saw the vendor hand me a tiny wooden paddle, he said that he didn’t want to eat any of it. Despite his wooden stick issues, he liked the Coconut Bliss bar too!