Rita’s Water Ice
Swedish Fish Italian Ice, kid’s size. $1.25 I think?
Mention wooder ice to anyone outside of Philadelphia and the following conversation ensues:
“Water ice? What’s that? Do you mean ice water?”
“No, it’s like… flavored ice that’s blended…”
“Oh like a sno cone?”
“No, sno cones are chunks of ice that have syrup on the top. It has a smoother consistency…”
“Oh like a smoothie?”
“No it’s icy and it doesn’t have yogurt or ice cream or anything creamy in it. It’s usually fruit flavored.”
“Wait so it’s not like a sno cone? So what’s water ice?”
It’s hard to explain to outsiders, but growing up in a suburb of Philadelphia, wooder ice (or “water ice”, or even “Italian ice” if you’re especially pedestrian) was always an essential part of the summer. We’d ride bikes for approximately five minutes, get pretty tired and sweaty since we were some chunky puppies, and need to be cooled down. Water ice was always a favorite option because it wasn’t messy and had a tendency to be more refreshing than cream-based ice treats (I can’t think of any examples of those at the moment but it’ll come to me). There were many smaller, Mom + Pop water ice places that bested the franchises in terms of taste and price, but for convenience and flavor variety, Rita’s has always been the go-to place.
Recently Rita’s started advertising their new Swedish Fish Italian Ice on Facebook, and it seemed to be a well-placed gimmick because they got the attention of their target market extremely effectively. In between updates consisting of the “What zodiac sign wuld u be if u didnt already have a zodiac sign”, “is ur favrite singer lady gaga”, and “what sex poisitin u” quiz results (THANKS, MOM), I saw many a status update talking about the new ice flavor. How, really, could water ice taste like Swedish Fish?
This morning my Associate Taste Tester Phil and I decided to give it a try, and we wondered if we should just get a sample first in case it was really gross. That question was answered for us by the extremely upbeat cashier, who immediately offered us a spoonful without us even prompting her to. It was relatively inoffensive, so we each ordered a kid’s size of it.
My first impression was that it somehow had an element of waxiness that Swedish Fish candy has, and that impressed me. It’s odd, but that waxy flavor is an integral part of the taste experience when eating Swedish Fish. It also had that primary flavor, the ambiguous floral-and-probably-cherry. It was far too sweet, however, and even a kid’s size was overwhelming. By the end of it I felt nauseous, but I guess it succeeded in its goal of being a water ice that tastes like Swedish Fish.
After purchasing the water ice, the cashier gave me a free sachet of Swedish Fish candy (just one– Phil didn’t get any!) What I realized– what I actually knew all along, in fact, was that Swedish Fish are mostly good because of their chewiness and because you can pretend like they are being carried by a tidal wave into your mouth. When you do that with water ice, it’s just stupid and it doesn’t make any sense.
2 out of 6 burgers