Viennetta: The Fancy Frozen Treat That Ruled The '90s

People like to feel fancy, but what does 'fancy' even mean? It's a very vague term when you think about it. Merriam-Webster says it means "not plain," which is, to be quite frank, an absolutely useless definition. A secondary definition, "of particular excellence or highest grade," is slightly more specific, but if we're being honest, fancy is something you just know when you see it. It often evokes expense; for instance, most everyone would agree that champagne and caviar are fancy things. But when money and quality are so often synonymous, it's the exceptions that really stand out.

There are plenty of foods associated with the 'high life' that really don't live up to their reputation. These are often desserts, the kings of over-decorated cuisine. A recent Tasting Table survey named macarons as the most overrated dessert in the U.S. despite their fancy reputation and association with French cuisine, often considered the height of culinary luxury. On the other end of the spectrum, there are those special instances when something gives off an air of fanciness without demanding a lot of your money. Such was the case with the Viennetta, and now it's back.

Viennettas make a comeback

The Viennetta was first sold as a Christmas specialty by Wall's, a British snack brand, in 1982, and Food & Wine reports that it was originally distributed in the U.S. under the Breyers brand. It is made of alternating layers of ice cream and frozen chocolate, which is a delicious combination, but not exactly something that screams 'fancy.' It's the fancy name and, moreover, the presentation that really makes the Viennetta stand out. Eater likens it to "the ruff of a debauched Elizabethan count." The ice cream is dispensed in wavy, ruffled layers that elevate this simple dessert far above the common ice cream bar, even though they're made with the same ingredients.

According to Food & Wine, the Viennetta was discontinued in the United States by the end of the 1990s for unclear reasons. MentalFloss suggests it may simply have faded away with other '90s fads, while The Travel suggests it was disappointing U.S. sales, as Viennettas continued to be sold internationally. In 2007, Wall's celebrated the 25th anniversary of the treat by making a 74-foot, 7-inch long Viennetta in Gloucester, U.K., that held the Guinness World Record for longest ice cream dessert for two years (via MLive). Now there's good news for those longing for a taste of the 90s, as Good Humor reintroduced Viennettas to the U.S. last year. If you're feeling fancy, now's the time, lest they mysteriously vanish once again.