Old Ice Cream and the Ísbíltúr

The Vesturbæjar Ice Cream Shop. Photo via likealocal.com.

It seems only appropriate today, as the temperature creeps over 110 F (bouncing between that and 114 F this weekend—the longest it has been this hot in Arizona for consecutive days since 1989, lucky us…) to reminisce about a particularly fun Icelandic ice cream ritual, as well as a particularly awesome ice cream that Mark and I shared on our last day in Iceland.

The ice cream in question, called gamli ísinn, or “old (style) ice cream,” was brought to my attention during my first semester, but we didn’t manage to make it over to the beloved Ísbúð Vesturbæjar where it’s sold, until our last day for some reason. I’m not sure why this is, since it is right around the corner from the westside pool, but there you have it. Now that we have sampled the offerings, however, I imagine we will be much more frequent customers next year.

So: why is this “old” ice cream so-called, you ask? Honestly, I have no idea. But it is thicker than your usual soft serve, and at least to my palette, tastes a lot more of water. (I think Mark found this a strange taste assessment at the time, but this article in The Grapevine seems to confirm my suspicions.) If this doesn’t sound particularly great to you, let me just say, for the record, that it is. Particularly when you ask for the old ice cream, blended (there’s a name for this, but I forget it…), with a bunch of ingredients mixed in, much like a Dairy Queen Blizzard.

Oh, and the small size, which the nice girl at the counter, warned us came in a very deceiving cup size? It’s the size of a small pine tree. Or a baby’s head. Or a gigantic Icelandic Easter egg. However you like to hyperbolize, it’s huge.


Old Ice Cream!

Old Ice Cream!

Huge right? Our first old ice cream, I should clarify, is purple here because one of my mixed in ingredients (along with shredded coconut and chocolate covered licorice pieces, which I didn’t realize were licorice when I picked them, but ended up being delish) was fresh blueberries. The color alone made that choice worthwhile.

Mark and I were able to get one of the four stools by the window in the very small shop to sit and enjoy our ice cream mountain, but this would probably be a feat during the summer. What would likely be more common (if we had a car, at least) was what we observed two ladies who got their ice cream just before us do: precariously balance their ice cream mountains on the way back to their car, where they then sat to eat.

I’m told by a friend that this ritual—going to the ice cream shop and then sitting out front in your car and eating—is such a regular one, particularly among teens who don’t have many other options for late-night hangouts—that it has a name: the Ísbíltúr, or ice cream-car-trip. Not so unlike what teens do on Friday nights the world over, probably, but with a delightfully specific name.


3 thoughts on “Old Ice Cream and the Ísbíltúr

  1. This post makes me think of an icelandic yogourt, made in the US, that I tasted last year when in Boston. I really, really loved it, so when I came back home, I wrote to the company to ask when they would be selling in Québec/Canada! (That’s the kind of thing I do!) It was really good, so in case you’re curious: http://www.skyr.com/ Oh, and that ice cream sure looks good! Here, we sometimes say “to beat the heat with the heat”, when drinking coffee in the summer, for example. So I guess it works with the cold as well, doesn’t? I’m happy to hear blueberries grow in Iceland, because Québec is a blueberry land as well. I’ll go and pick some when I travel to Iceland, for sure. Oh, and look what I just found: http://www.grapevine.is/Travel/ReadArticle/Travel-Picking-Wild-Berries
    : )

    • Hi, Marie-Josée-

      Skyr is ubiquitous in Iceland and I agree with you: completely delicious. Over in North America Siggi’s is the only kind you can get thus far (although there was talk that Skyr made by an Icelandic company would be exported soon, see here: http://wp.me/p2wnAz-hb), but I have to admit, I prefer what you get in Iceland. I would love to pick some wild blueberries and also some wild rhubarb in Iceland next summer. I was told that lamb roasted with blueberries stuffed in it is delicious, and I would very much like to try that.

  2. So, as you can see, I haven’t read all your posts yet…
    Lamb roasted with wild blueberries must be delicious…and you say they also have wild rhubarb? I really can’t wait to go! Although I don’t eat a lot of meat, I have to say that any kind of meat or poultry is good/better with fruits. It makes a perfect meal! Oh, and just a thing you might like to know, although it’s not related to Icelandic food: I have just known about Daniel Tammet, a writer/poet/math and languages genius that has Asperger. He speaks 12 languages, created his own method/site to learn French and Spanish… AND he learned Icelandic in one week only!! Yes! http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PHGIUc9uS-w

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