V For Veg: Water ice is great, but...
But let's face it: "You can always have water ice [or sorbet]" is the cool-treat equivalent of "you can always have a salad." Nothing against salad or water ice, but we sometimes want that singular richness and flavor associated with ice cream. And finally, we're getting it.
Soy-based Tofutti premium was first on the scene in your grocer's freezer (if your grocer is Whole Foods or Shop Rite, an early mainstream adopter) soon joined by the likes of Soy Dream and Soy Delicious. The latter quietly dropped the "Y" from its name, and "So Delicious" has led the new breed of coconut-based ice creams.
Nowadays, coconut is more popular than soy, along with entries from almond, rice and hemp milk. A local company makes a kosher, organic, vegan product called "KOV" after just those attributes; it's also soy-free.
So dairy- and cholesterol-free desserts abound at the store. But what about the iconic ice cream cone - the one you purchase on a summer night and eat right there as it drips on the sidewalk?
Pickings here in Philly used to be pretty slim. But Govinda's Gourmet to Go (Broad and South) and the Franklin Fountain (Old City) stepped in to fill the gap a few years ago, stocking Klein's, a vegan ice cream out of NYC.
In homegrown terms, it's Little Baby's Ice Cream, with several vegan flavors, that's set to put Philly on the map. Launching this spring from an eco-friendly tricycle, Little Baby's has already acquired a solid following despite its tricky accessibility: It's sold at Green Aisle Grocery on Passyunk Avenue, but for a hand-scooped cone, you gotta catch the tricycle.
Company founder Pete Angevine explained: "None of us are vegan, but we have many friends that are, and it's important to us to provide options for them." And provide they do: Coconut Tea, Mint Oreo, Chai, Banana Chip and Panko Fried Plantain are available so far, with more on the way. All use a coconut-milk base.
Angevine plans to expand the vegan line, adding, "We always knew that there would be an interest in that kind of alternative, and now, after seeing how well they've been received, we'd like to have as many flavors as possible."
It's a cool trend: Even vegan soft-serve (vanilla only, but you can get sprinkles!) is now available, down at B2 (Passyunk and Dickinson). So whether you're lactose intolerant, you're allergic to dairy, or you're of the "I scream, you scream, the cows scream when their calves are taken away" set, you needn't be left out in the cold.
As Angevine puts it, "Ice cream is an emotional experience that is so universal it shouldn't be limited to folks that eat cream!"
V-NEWS TO USE: You can get a cone from the Little Baby's tricycle at Saturday's Roller Derby with the Philly Roller Girls, 6 p.m., Class of 1923 Arena, 3130 Walnut St., 215-898-1923.
Vance Lehmkuhl is a cartoonist, writer, musician and 10-year vegan. "V for Veg" chronicles the growing trend of plant-based eating in and around Philadelphia. Send your veg tips to VforVeg@phillynews.com and follow @V4Veg on Twitter.