Serious Eats: Sweets
The Scoop: On Tasti D-Lite
As the final Scoop of ice cream month, I felt a bit of pressure to write about something epic. I felt like I should interview a cow or make my own chocolate dip from a bar of single origin chocolate that I sourced from a producer in Madagascar whose annual output is only 10 ounces. But then I decided I'd leave the Pacojets to the rest of the staff and write about something that real sticklers will point out isn't actually ice cream at all.
Tasti D-Lite (known as Tasti D, or just Tasti, to those in the know), is a low-fat soft serve
ice cream frozen dessert. The company was started in New York City in 1987, way before anyone dreamed of Pinkberry or its counterparts.
The whole premise of Tasti D is that it's low in fat and low(ish) in calories. We're talking 70-100 calories per 4-ounce serving. That's mostly why 90 percent of Tasti customers are girls.* Maybe this isn't something we should be gender proud of, but it is what it is, and there's definitely a positive side. Going to Tasti is a bonding event, an excuse for some girl time. You can gossip all you want about boys at Tasti—there is zero chance that hot guy from math class is going to walk in and hear you talking about his butt.
*based on personal observational data
I grew up in New York City in the 90s, and Tasti D-Lite was everywhere. As a result, it was a known excursion for young people of that age when you want to go out but you are too young to be going to a bar and according to your mother you can't eat full-fat ice cream every night or you'll end up being one of those people who take up two seats on the subway. So you go to Tasti. It's going to be my 2030 mayoral campaign message: Fat free ice cream, keeping kids off the streets!
But if I'm going to come clean, it wasn't just convenience that led me to Tasti. I actually like it. I came of age during the whole fat-free fad. I don't know if disciples of Atkins and South Beach fully remember or appreciate how this diet took over the world—and the supermarket. For most of the 90s, you could get anything in a non-fat version. Fat free cookies (fans of Snackwell's Fat Free Devils Food Cookies say hey-ya!), non-fat ice cream, non-fat bread, fat free butter (seriously), fat-free triple chocolate fudge cake. I mean, what happened to all that stuff? There must be a landfill somewhere made completely out of Entemann's fat-free pound cake.
People tend to be fond of the things they grew up eating, so yes, I have a weird taste for super sugary, carbo-loaded (but fat-free!) products.
Like Tasti. There are supposedly 100 flavors, 3-5 of which will be on tap at any store at any given time. But if you go to Tasti more than a handful of times, you realize that there are in fact just two flavors: vanilla and chocolate. These two flavors get mild masks, but their incarnations are all closely related. Angel Food Cake? That's vanilla. NY Cheesecake, Crème Brûlée, Banana Pudding? Vanilla. Rocky Road, Brownie Batter, Milky "Weigh", and Mudpie are all variations on each other and on chocolate. But it's kind of endearing in that way (we know your secret, Tasti D-Lite!) and really, no one cares because it's all about the toppings.
That's what Tasti was known for—toppings. Sure, there was none of this freshly cut fruit you find nowadays, but who wants fresh fruit when you can have crushed Oreos, butterscotch chips, and granola? (By the way, at Tasti we believe that toppings don't add calories so your 70 calorie cup is uh, clearly still 70 calories).
This new "tart" frozen yogurt is fine and all, but at many of the chains it's too icy and certainly too "healthy tasting" to be ice cream. Not Tasti. A cup of their classic vanilla tastes a little like super-aerated marshmallow fluff. And when you have sprinkles added for crunch, you don't even get that weird tongue coating feel.
So thank you, Tasti D-Lite, for sticking to your artificial low-cal guns. I'm still with you.