By Mitchell Clute
What could be better than being asked to eat a bunch of ice cream and then write about the experience? At first glance, it sounded like a dream job.
But as I visited the NadaMoo! website and read about their flavors, I had a few trepidations. First, I noticed that NadaMoo! was proudly lacking a few of the things I look for in ice cream—namely, heavy cream, egg yolks and sugar.
But it was the substitute ingredients that really had me worried. What were those terrifying words at the top of the ingredients list—coconut milk, agave nectar?
As a kid, I hated coconut. I mean, absolutely hated it. As an adult . . . well, let’s just say that not much has changed, though I have trained myself over time to enjoy the occasional coconut-milk-based curry.
And agave nectar? For most, it tastes just like every other sweetener, except I sometimes detect this cloying vegetal taste.
In spite of those misgivings, I am a fan of dessert in all forms. So, steeling my nerves, I headed to my local Whole Foods Market to pick up a few pints, settling on Sweet Cherry Lime, Gotta Do Chocolate, and Lotta Mint Chip. Gotta do coconut milk, I thought to myself. Lotta agave nectar.
Like me, my son, Silas, and daughter, Ella, are ice-cream fiends. Not so with my wife, Catherine, who avoids dairy and actually buys coconut ice cream by choice. It seemed to me that we were a perfect tasting panel—one person who was already a fan of the category, and three who needed to be convinced.
Right off the bat, the cherry lime flavor didn’t do it for me—the combination of fruitiness and creaminess just seemed a bit strange. Still, the mouth feel was just right, with the creamy, fluffy texture of real ice cream. My wife gave a thumbs-up to the texture of the chocolate too. She would have loved a bit more intensity to the chocolate flavor, but compared to some of the other nondairy desserts she’s tried, this one was a huge improvement. Instead of a solid brick of ice that had to sit for fifteen minutes before scooping, NadaMoo!’s formulation was easy to serve.
My kids were already into the mint chip, and they weren’t inclined to share; I knew they must be onto something. And indeed, when I finally pried the pint free from their greedy hands and got to try it, I was duly impressed. This one had a strong, clean mint flavor, with no discernible coconut aftertaste at all. Sold!
I called NadaMoo!, based in Austin, Texas, to find out what made their product stand out from the rest. “We’re dairy-free, but NadaMoo! really has a creamy, ice-cream-like texture,” says company president Daniel Nicholson. The company’s formulation closely mimics the way dairy-based ice creams are made, using natural stabilizers such as locust bean and guar gums, as well as texture-enhancing ingredients like inulin and tapioca syrup solids.
“Without stabilizers, the freezing point creates an icy, gritty texture,” Nicholson explains. “Ours are there to give the product body and the right balance of solids and fats.”
Since joining the company in 2008, Nicholson has led the charge from four to ten flavors, with a new one—gluten-free cookies and cream—slated for this year. NadaMoo!’s list of certifications is impressive too: the products are certified fair trade, organic, gluten-free, vegetarian and kosher.
In spired by Nicholson’s enthusiasm, I decided to go back for another round. This time, I got my whole extended family in on the fun, and we tried Java Crunch, Vanilla…ahhh, Mmm…Maple Pecan, and Chocolate Almond Chip. The maple pecan was intensely maple, while the lighter chocolate flavor of the chocolate almond chip worked great with the other flavors supporting it. My wife loved the vanilla—with its subtle, nutty undertones of coconut; I could see why someone who loves that flavor would find it a winner. And my niece, Matea, gave two huge thumbs-up to the cherry lime, saying it reminded her of her favorite snow cone flavor.
Bottom line? NadaMoo! shows that vegan ice cream can be just that—ice cream. My freezer just found a new friend.
Find out more about NadaMoo! ice cream at www.nadamoo.com.