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Water Ice

This past weekend, we were in Philadelphia for a triathlon. As we drove through Philadelphia, we saw signs and ice cream trucks advertising water ice.  Of course, we aren't above amusing ourselves by poking fun at things that strike us as unusual, and something called water ice certainly falls into that category.  Now,  I don't know what they make ice out of normally in Philadelphia, but everywhere I have lived, water seems to be the main ingredient.  What ran through your head when you read the title for this post?
Anyway, I felt guilty later about poking fun so I decided to do a little research.  My research shows that water ice is Philly-ese for Italian ice.  Having never been to Italy, that didn't shed a lot of light on the subject for me.  More research turns up that it is not water at all but fruit juices or fruit puree frozen in a similar fashion to ice cream.  By composition, it more closely resembles sherbet but is made without any dairy ingredients. I had been thinking that maybe it was similar to a sno-cone (crushed ice with a flavored syrup poured over the top) so this was surprising.  Interestingly enough, CNN recently featured a story on frozen treats so check that out to get the "scoop"so to speak on other frozen treats.

All that the research really did for me was make me want to try water ice for myself.  I convinced the Hubster and we ventured forth. Jack, the concierge  at the Crowne Plaza--Philadelphia West who has never steered us wrong, recommended Rita's water ice and gave  us an approximate location.  He personally favored some locations downtown, but he knew that we didn't want to go too far.
Of course, being in an unfamiliar city with no real location to shoot for, we never found the Rita's store that day.  However,  we did find Daddy's Water Ice.   In past lives, I would never have even dreamed of stopping at Daddy's, but we have become fans of the show Diners, Drive-ins, & Dives and have visited many places that we would have locked the doors and sped past before.  Daddy's was located in an old house that had seen better days a long time ago.  The house was painted bright yellow and the door was covered with security bars. Of course, we saw the store as we drove past since the sign was on the front of the building.  Hubster screeched to the curb in a bus lane and I ran to make the purchase before a bus or the PPA arrived.  I was so flustered by the need for speed that I failed to take pictures of the store.  Looking back, I'm not sure the store was even open for business yet. When I opened the door, I think they all about had a heart attack.  "Use the window" was screeched repeatedly as I backed out and obediently went to the front window.  I guess they haven't learned that the first rule of home safety is "lock the darn door". Once they had recovered from the home invasion, they opened the window and I ordered two medium water ices--one cherry and the other pineapple.  For $4.50, I think it wasn't too bad.

The treat was obviously scooped like ice cream (obvious if you look at the cherry flavor above, the pineapple had already had a few licks so the scoop lines aren't as visible), but the texture is way different than ice cream.  The closest thing that I can think of is an extremely thick Slurpee.  There was definitely a crystalline quality  like a Slurpee, but it was much thicker.  Even though there was a crystalline feel, it was also very smooth.  (Yes, I know that is a contradiction, but if you can describe it better please do).  The water ice was refreshing and light, and the flavors were intense. The colors were too.  I imagine many white t-shirts have been permanently stained by errant drips.  On a really hot day, I can imagine that a water ice would be even more welcome--kind of like a popsicle on steroids.  If you drink a Slurpee too fast, you can get a brain freeze.  Water ice would likely cause a permafrost.

If you are concerned about the carcinogenic properties of food coloring, then water ice may not be a good choice for you.  There was a lot of food coloring.  I will spare you pictures, but the Hubster looked like he was wearing lipstick by the time he finished his cherry water ice.  There may have been natural fruit flavors in our treats, but we are both sure that there was some artificial flavors as well.  I am not saying that is bad, just giving our assessment. Overall, we enjoyed the treats and would definitely go back next time we are in town.

On the way out of town, we spotted the Rita's store that we had missed a few days before. Of course, we had to try their version for "research" purposes.    The bright red, white, and green color scheme  was very welcoming and much more polished than Daddy's store front.  Before our fascination with Triple D, I imagine that it might have coaxed us to give Rita's a try.  I tried the Florida Orange in a large size and Hubs had the child size Green Apple.  We both felt that the flavor was less intense in Rita's water ice.  Now we do acknowledge that this could mean that the flavors were actually real and not artificial, but neither of us is opposed to a little fake flavoring if it tastes good.  The crystals were larger in both of these flavors so it was less smooth--my orange had outright chunks of ice as well which made it less enjoyable.  There was certainly less food coloring in Rita's concoctions, but still plenty enough to make a mother cringe and run for the Shout though. Although Rita's is a well-known company and certainly more mainstream than Daddy's, we both felt that Daddy's was the hands down winner in the flavor department.  We both agreed that if Rita's had been our first taste of water ice, we may not have sought out another spot to enjoy the treat.  We are willing to give it another try for research though as we can't discount the possibility that our flavor choices may have something to do with the outcome.
Not only does Philadelphia have their own version of Italian ice, it turns out they have their own ice cream too.  I guess that will be my project for next year.


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