Packaged, Artificial and Wonderful: The Top Frozen Treats

Posted May 22, 2018 7:44 p.m. EDT

I tasted more than 40 individually wrapped bars, bought with cash from the noisy, off-key ice cream trucks that circle my block, as well as the bodegas in my New York City neighborhood in Brooklyn. I was looking for big, summery flavors; satisfying, nostalgic textures; and the kind of general resilience that is necessary for a single frozen treat to thrive in a packed chest freezer. I went for everything — novelty character pops, classic sandwiches, ice cream bars co-branded with candy bars.

I tried not to hold it against them, but some had suffered in transportation, or in the fluctuating temperatures of a chest freezer on the fritz. If you’ve ever unwrapped one of Popsicle’s SpongeBob SquarePants bars after it has melted a little, then refrozen — its droopy grin no longer recognizable, its gumball eyes sunken deeper into its hideous face — then you know what I mean. These are simply the daily trials of a frozen treat in a New York summer, and these are the ones I liked best.

7. Good Humor Strawberry Shortcake Bar

Strawberry season may be an ephemeral joy, but the season for strawberry shortcake bars never, ever ends. The Barbie-convertible shade of pink doesn’t fade. The specific, candied tang of artificial fruit is elegantly coded into its soft cake crumbs. This is a grotesque and strategically layered delight (not technically ice cream — rather, a “dessert bar”). But it can be surprisingly delicate when it’s unwrapped, meets the heat outside and turns distressingly floppy and gelatinous. The only way to avoid this: Eat fast.

6. Popsicle Firecracker

The flavors are cherry, lemon and raspberry. The colors are red, white and blue. These three pleasantly sour ices, all stacked on one narrow stick, make up a classic cheap thrill that shouldn’t be overlooked. On the hottest days of the year, even those averse to high-fructose corn syrup and food coloring should let a freezer-burned Firecracker into their lives, if only for the joy of sticking out a blue- and red-stained tongue and reading the terrible joke on the stick out loud.

5. Nestlé Drumstick Lil’ Drums Vanilla With Chocolatey Swirls

There’s a beautiful ritual to opening up a single, individually wrapped cone — first you crinkle up the top edge so you can peel away the thick paper disc that protects the ridged ice cream top without damaging it, then carefully unfurl the paper that protects the sides of the cone. The smell of frozen peanuts hits you first, then the ice cream that tastes suspiciously like cold butter, intricately swirled with crisp, waxy chocolate. The best part is the ritual’s finish: a final bite of the crisp cone’s tip, filled with the tiny wedge of chocolate that kept you safe from melting drips all along.

4. Klondike Mint Chocolate Chip Ice Cream Bar

Unlike many of the classic ice cream bars on wooden sticks, with their thick, armorlike chocolate layers that crack apart in giant pieces and slide to the ground, Klondike (no stick) has mastered a fine, delicate outer layer that almost seems to shatter against your teeth and cling to the filling. Of course, you always want to try and grab one that hasn’t been crushed or handled, and unwrap it with care, for the pleasure of breaking that shell. Inside, the mint chocolate flavor is clean, chemical and bright, creating the illusion of being colder than it is, and the ice cream is light, with an almost frothy, foamy quality.

3. Good Humor Giant Vanilla Ice Cream Sandwich

The ice cream in this perfect sandwich is impossibly airy, dissolving with immediacy in your mouth like a frozen, vanilla-perfumed breeze. I don’t usually mean this as a compliment, but it’s so insubstantial, it’s like eating nothing at all. The cookies are thin, soft, sticking a little to your fingers and the roof of your mouth, and sometimes a little sweaty from extended stretches of time at the bottom of the freezer. But somehow it never matters how much time has gone by: This is an exemplary ice cream sandwich.

2. Fudgsicle Original Fudge Pop

It’s not quite ice cream, but then again it’s so much creamier than an ice pop. The Fudgsicle is a singular treat with all the sugary sweet, whisper-soft chocolate flavors of industrial chocolate milk (rather than actual chocolate, or actual milk). This is, of course, delicious. And as a bonus, it always seems to melt at a rate you can keep up with.

1. Chipwich

At a glance, the Chipwich doesn’t seem like anything special: two chocolate chip cookies sandwiching a fat layer of vanilla ice cream, edged with small, crunchy chocolate chips. But like every great sandwich, it’s constructed with great attention to proportion and texture. In fact, the Chipwich is perfectly built. Right out of the freezer, this sandwich has an ideal softness all the way through (just part of what makes it better than so many of the fancier imitations). The cookie is frozen but completely tender — exactly as tender as the ice cream itself. This means that when you bite in, everything yields easily, at the same pace, and nothing is squished out. It’s this, in addition to the treat’s mellow, comforting flavors and the dense creaminess of its ice cream, that makes the Chipwich such a great and reliable pleasure.