Vanilla ice cream, sandwiched between two soft oatmeal cookies, all smothered in chocolate. This is a UFO (an unidentified frozen object) and as its name suggests, it is truly one of a kind. It is amazingly addictive. Who wouldn’t want it? Well at least that’s how I felt when I sent my husband to the store at ten o’clock at night in search of it. He warned me that the ice cream may not even be produced anymore, but I was sure that he could find SOMEWHERE to get it. It was desperately on my mind… I had to have one; well at least one, of course I’d take more if he could find it! I was sure he could. It had been SO long since I’d had one. I sat there anxiously awaiting his arrival…it would just be marvelous if he could find this for me… I hear the keys opening the front door. It couldn’t be him already, he had only been gone a short while…but more importantly, does that mean that he actually FOUND it!?! Oh my, I am so excited; I see a white bag in his hand… HE FOUND IT!!! And he bought two of them!!! The best news ever, it is sold at a store right near my house! I could get them anytime I want! Oh happy day! “Where had they been all this time…?” I began to wonder as I dove into the crunchy chocolate shell. Had they still been produced all this time and I just was not aware of it? I had to find out more about it…where was this produced, how many local vendors sold it, was the price consistent at each vendor… I had to assure I could get more in the event the corner store ran out of them.
My quest to find more began with where this UFO was actually produced. I found that it was originally produced by Merritt Foods Company in Kansas City, Missouri in 1976 but is now produced by North Star Frozen Treats in St. Louis, Missouri; which is a part of Ice Cream Specialties, Inc. They provide a full line of over 100 novelties and frozen treats, including the UFO ice cream sandwich. There are also other UFO ice cream flavors, including a “cookies and cream” flavor. I have yet to try this one! However, finding it could be an issue… at least under the brand name UFO.
While continuing my research, I found that there were many people like me that were looking for this favorite childhood treat. (Some even went as far as trying to “home-make” it.) There are many blogs with questions on where to find it. There are small convenience stores that carry the brand UFO but, it is not available all over. Some cities in Texas sell this brand at Albertson’s and other big name stores. In my local area, there are a couple of corner store vendors that sell it, so I consider myself one of the lucky ones. Part of the problem in finding it is oddly enough what name you know or remember it by. In cities, like San Francisco and Burlingame, it is known by the name, “IT’S IT”, which is much more nationally available than the brand UFO because it is available for sale online at the company’s website (www.itsiticecream.com).
Through this website I learned many fascinating facts and some history about this brand. It states that the “IT’S IT” brand may actually be the “original” brand. It very well could be as far as I know, seeing that it was created in 1928 and the UFO brand was not produced until the 1970’s. The story is that “It’s It” was created by George Whitney and was exclusively sold in San Francisco’s Playland-at-the-Beach for over four decades. Then when Playland was demolished in the early 1970’s, the It’s It ceased to exist. San Franciscans missed this ice cream so much that in 1974 it was reborn. It was hand-made in a small shop in San Francisco and was mainly sold to mom and pop stores. In 1978, when the shop became too small to meet the growing demand, the company relocated to a larger facility just minutes from the San Francisco Airport.
In the 1980’s the demand outspread the Bay Area throughout California. Soon after, it was distributed and available in over 15 states. In the early 1990’s, It’s It Ice Cream Co. expanded nearly two-fold when it moved to a new office and warehouse. Throughout the years, the company has gone through many changes, yet the product remains the same as it was in 1928. Today it is considered a legend of San Francisco, being called “The official food of San Francisco.” To my surprise, though in different wrappers, the “It’s It” and the “UFO” have the same main ingredients and product appearance. I am very interested in trying the It’s It brand to see if the tastes are similar as well.
Just by the given ingredients I would imagine that the tastes are similar, but this would be fascinating to test. The UFO’s taste is very smooth. The first thing you taste is the chocolate. Quickly after, you taste the soft oatmeal cookies melting into the vanilla ice cream. It is sensational. Because it is an ice cream sandwich, you get the effect of both the chocolate and the oatmeal cookies at once, with the vanilla ice cream being the metaphorical icing sandwiching the cake.
Experiencing this again, after such a long time, I decided I would like to look into the cost to acquire more. Individually, the cost for a UFO is over a dollar each. (As a child, it was only $0.75…talk about inflation!) It is not sold in boxes or cases to my knowledge. In my local area, if I wanted a box or case (24 individual units), I would have to order the It’s It brand online, which is quite expensive due to the overnight shipping costs. The case is only $20, and can be ordered in a variety of flavors: vanilla, mint, chocolate and cappuccino; but the shipping for this is $67, which would make the total for one case $87! If you buy two cases, you only have to pay the shipping for one; which I guess that’s a plus, but to have two cases of ice cream I would not only classify me as an addict, but quite possibly a near candidate for diabetes. Not worth it in my book but it is good to have the option to maybe buy more if I throw a birthday party for my kids. For now, I will most likely stick to the UFO brand that is cost effective, just around the corner, and just as good as I remembered it.
Even the packaging is similar to how I remembered. It is a clear plastic wrapper with a blue and brown circle in the middle and white writing. The letters “UFO” are boldly written across the circle front of the package inside the circle. What I did notice that was different from the original packaging, is that the original packaging had a “Mr. Shiwers” trademark and a cartoon figure on the side. On the newer package, the new company North Star has its name on the top corner of the circle in red, the lettering is traced in a lime green color, and the planet in the top-right corner is now green and orange instead of all white like the original. Another difference I noticed about the old package and the new, that I find significant, is the old package was sold in 3 fluid ounces and the new is sold in six. So you get more than you did in the original configuration (which I feel is a plus). Even with this, I still believe that I prefer the original packaging over the newer, because it is more familiar to me than the newer. But overall, it is not the packaging that is most important it is the product; which, in my opinion, is the same.
Since you get twice as much product in the new configuration than the older, I would expect that the calories would also be twice as much as the older. The nutrition facts for the six ounce (106 gram) UFO ice cream sandwich is: 360 calories (with 180 of those calories from fat), total fat is 20 grams, saturated fat is 12 grams, 30 milligrams of cholesterol, 230 milligrams of sodium, 40 grams of total carbohydrates, 2 grams of dietary fiber, 35 grams of sugars, and 5 grams of protein. Sadly, I am unable to compare these nutrition facts to the older 3 ounce version, because there were no nutritional values given on the label of the 1976 UFO package. Therefore, it is just an estimated guess that the nutritional facts for the 3 ounce older configuration would be roughly half of those in the 6 ounce configuration. In the 1970’s, people were less concerned with nutritional value than they are today. This may also be a reason these figures were not provided on the packaging. All in all, it is a good treat when you want to reward yourself, but as with any treat of this nature, you don’t want to overindulge as it is fairly high in calories. With that being said, I believe the moment you bite into it, you would agree that it is every bit as delicious as I have described (if not better)!!!
Whether it be “It’s It”, “UFO”, or simply homemade, you should experience this treat at least once in your lifetime. Tasting it, you will undoubtedly understand that this is not just another ice cream sandwich… it is a total experience. It will quickly become a favorite of yours, as it has become mine. I look forward to sharing this experience with my kids. I may even make it our new family tradition. After all; ice cream, oatmeal cookies, and chocolate will never go out of style. It’s classic…who wouldn’t want it?!