Thursday 12 January 2012

Pin It

Get Gadget

In Search of Icepan

I'm not what you'd call a health nut. When facing a choice between two things, which one is healthier for me is very rarely a factor in my decision making process. In fact, I usually associate non-healthy with better tasting, so all other things being equal (and by that I mean my wife isn't with me), I normally take the less healthy option. With this in mind, I can't explain my fascination with Icepan ice cream to you. Something designed to be a nutritious alternative to fatty desserts should be right at the bottom of my "must try" list, yet I spent almost a year and a half obsessing over getting myself to an Icepan location. It became the butt of more than a few jokes in my family but come on...they're making ice cream out of liquid right in front of you! How cool is that?

The year and a half quest wasn't my fault. I don't remember where I first heard about Icepan from, but once word got to me, I put the Hollywood location (which was their only location at the time) on the list for our next California trip. If you ever want to hear your kids complain about having to go out for ice cream, try and tear them away from Mickey to drive across town for an hour so they can try some "healthy ice cream". Believe me, that's not the marketing pitch you want to use. It's especially not the way to go when, after making your kids give up their morning on Space Mountain, you get to this fabled ice cream store and it's closed for renovations. Boy did I get blasted for that one (Hollywood just doesn't seem to be working out for us), but in all fairness there was no notification on their website. I tried to make it up to the kids by taking them across the street to try Carl's Jr. for the first time, but despite some really good shakes, I'm sure you can imagine that it wasn't much of a substitute. Icepan was firmly in the bad books, and for a while I was stuck in there with it.

That Icepan in Hollywood never did reopen from it's "renovations", but fortunately a new location opened in Las Vegas. I may be the only person to ever plan a trip to Vegas for the ice cream, but I wasn't going to be denied again. A few months later we found ourselves in Vegas and one of our first stops was the Mirage hotel and casino. Unfortunately the Icepan location was across the street at Harrah's, but when we tried to park there we were met with a flood of water pouring out of the self-park garage that made it completely impassable. People with lesser ice-cream determination levels may have decided at that point that fate was trying to keep them away from Icepan, but I'm not discouraged that easily. We drove over to higher ground at the Mirage then splashed our way through the pouring rain, across the strip to Harrah's. The irony of the fact that I was now dragging three cold, shivering children through a casino to go get some ice cream was not lost on me (Although it seemed to be lost on everybody else. Geez, what grumps.), but I was counting on the change of moods once we reached the counter.

The concept of Icepan is simple. You choose your flavor of ice cream (they have about 16 different types, including seasonal flavors), and what kind of milk you would like it made out of (Soy, Non Fat, Low Fat, Whole), then they mix up the milk and fruit in a blender and pour it onto the icepan. The icepan instantly begins to freeze the liquid, and the worker keeps flipping it and chopping it to let it freeze properly. It's a little hard to explain, so take a look at my daughter's ice cream being made. Unfortunately we didn't start filming right away, so the first little bit is done, but you'll get the idea:

You'll notice in the middle the lady added some toppings to the pan then chopped them in to the ice cream. I see that on the Icepan website it says they don't have any ice cream that contains cookies or candies, but I'm pretty sure those were M&M's being cut into my daughters order. I guess the policy may have changed since we visited, but I'd sure miss having Snickers bars as a topping option.

So after a year and a half quest, how did it taste? It tasted healthy. I don't mean that in a negative way, and those of you who eat healthy all the time probably have no idea what I'm talking about, but for those of us whose food groups start with chocolate and end in ice cream, there's a distinct taste that something has when it's good for you. It's not a bad taste, it's just different, but I can safely say that it's something we're not used to. Each one was a little different too. The chocolate was too strong for my liking, the strawberry was overpowering, but the banana and butterscotch was a great mix. Of course my favorite was my daughter's with the M&M's in it. Candy really does improve everything.

I enjoyed our visit to Icepan, but I don't know that I'm in a hurry to go back again. The show of watching them make the ice cream is definitely worth a trip, but it's $6 per cup which is more than enough to buy a carton of Ben N Jerry's Peanut Butter Tracks. Maybe I'll just learn to cut my own M&M's into that. I doubt that I'll have to worry about that creation "tasting healthy" at all.