REVIEW: Haagen-Dazs Artisan Collection Tres Leches Brigadeiros Ice Cream

Haagen Dazs Artisan Collection Tres Leches Brigadeiros Ice Cream Contianer

What first springs to mind when you see the word Brigadeiro? If you’re like me, which you probably are not, what springs forth is the picture of a Spanish military officer wearing a kickass uniform that probably has epaulettes.

What should spring to mind, however, is a chocolate truffle originating in Brazil that is apparently both famous and beloved and is often used for celebrations. At least, that’s what the Internet told me.

Listen, the point is that Häagen-Dazs has a new Artisan Collection. Each flavor says the ice cream company “collaborated closely with notable culinary artisans from around the country”, according to their press release. I chose Tres Leches Brigadeiros because tres leches is delicious and I guess I was still enamored with the idea of epaulettes.

By the way, in case you’re reading this review out loud to your kids as a bedtime story, Brigadeiro is pronounced bree-gah-day-ro. I was adding a few extra syllables in there before I learned that little fact. How silly I would look at the office if I hadn’t. Because Brazilian truffles are a trending water cooler topic, you know.

Häagen-Dazs decided to team up with My Sweet Brigadeiro for this artisanal flavor. They are based in New York but also sell their handmade Brigadeiros online. They specifically chose their Happy Couple for the ice cream.

With all this talk of truffles and cakes, you might expect Tres Leches Brigadeiros to contain chunks, but Häagen-Dazs actually deconstructed the Happy Couple for this creation, resulting in an ice cream that is completely smooth.

Haagen Dazs Artisan Collection Tres Leches Brigadeiros Ice Cream1

My Sweet Brigadeiro’s website describes the Happy Couple as “white and chocolate Brigadeiro and it’s called Casadinho in Portuguese”. And, in case you’re not familiar with tres leches, it’s a cake that utilizes, you guessed it, three different types of milk: evaporated, condensed, and heavy cream.

Now that we’re completely caught up on terminology, let’s get to the ice cream itself. As mentioned before, Tres Leches Brigadeiros (I’m just gonna call it TLB from now on) is a really smooth and creamy ice cream. It’s got chocolate ribbons running through it, which is meant to represent the Brigadeiro.

When I saw the chocolate on my spoon, I expected a burst of rich flavor when I put it in my mouth. Not so. The chocolate flavor is present, and actually tastes high-quality, but it’s very faint. As for the white chocolate, I couldn’t taste it at all.

Where TLB really shines is the tres leches part. With three different kinds of milk in the ingredients, it created a sweet ice cream with great depth that also managed not to overwhelm with richness.

Haagen Dazs Artisan Collection Tres Leches Brigadeiros Ice Cream2

This results in a carton of ice cream that you can dig into and finish off during an episode of Game of Thrones and suddenly go “Oh…oops.” In fact, I barely had time to take pictures before my carton of TLB was finished.

All this results in a bit of a conflict when it comes to my opinion of Häagen-Dazs Artisan Collection Tres Leches Brigadeiros. On the one hand, I adore both the light but deep flavor and the smooth texture, with the added bonus of a hint of chocolate ribbon.

On the other hand, I feel like anyone who is familiar with Brigadeiros will be disappointed. While I’ve never had one personally, I have to believe that the Happy Couple Brazilian truffle offers up more flavor than what’s been showcased by Häagen-Dazs. It seems like this should just be called “Tres Leches with a Hint of Chocolate”.

(Nutrition Facts – 1/2 cup — 270 calories, 15 grams of total fat, 9 grams of saturated fat, 0.5 grams of trans fat, 75 milligrams of cholesterol, 65 milligrams of sodium, 28 grams of total carbohydrates, 0 gram of dietary fiber, 26 grams of sugar, 5 grams of protein, 10% vitamin A, 10% calcium, and 2% iron.)

Item: Häagen-Dazs Artisan Collection Tres Leches Brigadeiros Ice Cream
Purchased Price: $3.33
Size: 14 oz.
Purchased at: Safeway
Rating: 8 out of 10
Pros: Delicious tres leches flavor. Epaulettes. Not too rich and super smooth. Learning about other cultures’ foods. Hint of chocolate works with the tres leches.
Cons: Brigadeiro flavor seems highly muted. Embarrassing mispronunciations. Way too easy to eat all 52.5 grams of fat in a single sitting. Happy Couple sounds like Chinese food. Brazilians may feel their favorite truffle is misrepresented.

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REVIEW: Ben & Jerry’s Peanut Buttah Cookie Core Ice Cream

Ben & Jerry's Peanut Buttah Core Ice Cream

Ben & Jerry’s first wave of Core ice creams consisted of ice cream surrounding a core of ooey, gooey stuff that was sort of like eating a sundae straight out of the pint.

The idea was pure genius and highly successful, if you ask my freezer, which currently contains three pints of the stuff. If you ask my freezer, also inquire as to what’s in the Ziploc in the back of it, because I forgot to label it before I threw it in there and now I’m scared because I think it’s been in there for some years and I should probably just throw it away.

Now they’ve come out with three different Cookie Core varieties. The Boom Chocolatta version sounded like way too much chocolate for my taste, and I still don’t really understand what Speculoos are, so I figured my best bet would be to try Peanut Buttah Cookie Core.

Ben & Jerry’s describes it as “Peanut Butter Ice Cream with Crunchy Peanut Butter Sugar Bits, Peanut Butter Cookies & a Peanut Butter Cookie Core”. This raised Peanut Buttah above just “default flavor” status, because just reading that description probably made those with peanut allergies reach for their EpiPen.

Speaking of EpiPens, have you ever seen the commercial that advertises them? “Ask your doctor about EpiPen today!” What person with a severe allergy doesn’t already know about EpiPens? I imagine someone watching the commercial and saying to themselves, “Wait, you mean I don’t have to take an ambulance ride to the emergency room with my throat closed up every time I accidentally eat something that came in contact with shellfish? This is amazing, and I’m going to get a new doctor since I should have heard about this years ago!”

Sorry, I just had to share that. It’s been bugging me for a while now.

I’ve always considered the gold standard of peanut butter cookies to be my mom’s, who always baked them at Christmas time. Since you probably haven’t tried my mom’s homemade cookies, I give second place to Grandma’s brand, which has the bonus of being available year-round but doesn’t make the kitchen smell awesome.

All other peanut butter cookies pale in comparison, and I hate the taste of artificial peanut butter flavoring, so I approached Peanut Buttah Cookie Core with caution. I also wondered why we had to go with the unnecessarily dorky “Buttah”.

Ben & Jerry's Peanut Buttah Core Ice Cream Open

The only weak explanation is the description on the carton: “For p.b. fans & cookie spread-heads who want it all, here’s a flavor that delivers it, from the creamy to the crunchy to the peanutty core of crushed-cookie stuff that spreads like buttah (and tastes even bettah).” I feel like New Yorkers are going to be insulted by this mockery of their accents. Then again, they do love insults. Eeeey!

I’m happy to report that every bite of Peanut Buttah Cookie Core is the essence of all that is good about peanut butter cookies. The ice cream alone tastes like it, but I dare you to catch a bite that doesn’t contain some evenly-dispersed chunks of delicious peanut butter cookie.

The same goes for the “crunchy peanut butter sugar bits”, that strike me as more grainy than crunchy. “Grainy” doesn’t usually sound like a positive descriptor for food, but in this case it’s representative of the sugar bits that are big enough to crunch and add an extra layer of texture to the ice cream.

Ben & Jerry's Peanut Buttah Core Ice Cream Top

As for the core, it’s like the distilled essence of a peanut butter cookie. Smooth yet crunchy, cookie yet buttery, it is rich, delicious and everything that a Cookie Core should be.

I only have two complaints about Ben & Jerry’s Peanut Buttah Cookie Core Ice Cream. The first is that it comes off as having only one note of flavor. Trust me, if you love peanut butter cookies, you’ll love this ice cream. And the various textures come through in each bite. But it lacks the mishmash of flavors that Ben & Jerry’s is so well-known for.

The second is that it’s so rich. With all that peanut butter cookie going on, after just a few spoonfuls I felt like I’d already overindulged. This may not be a problem for some, but to me, I could only eat it in small doses.

(Nutrition Facts – 1/2 cup — 320 calories, 190 calories from fat, 21 grams of total fat, 8 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 60 milligrams of cholesterol, 140 milligrams of sodium, 27 grams of total carbohydrates, 1 gram of dietary fiber, 20 grams of sugar, 6 grams of protein, 8% vitamin A, 10% calcium, 2% iron.)

Item: Ben & Jerry’s Peanut Buttah Cookie Core Ice Cream
Purchased Price: $3.49
Size: 1 pint
Purchased at: Target
Rating: 7 out of 10
Pros: Absolute peanut butter cookie taste. EpiPens saving lives. Plentiful peanut butter cookie chunks. Wonderful blend of textures.
Cons: Bit of a one-trick pony. Mystery freezer items. Too rich for prolonged consumption. Insulting New Yorkers. Peanut allergies.

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REVIEW: Papa John’s Philly Cheesesteak Pizza

Papa John's Philly Cheesesteak Pizza

“It’s the most wonderful time of the year and Papa John’s is getting into the holiday spirit.” – Press release for Papa John’s new Philly Cheesesteak Pizza

“What the hell do Philly Cheesesteaks have to do with the holidays?” – Me

Yes, Papa John’s has decided that the best way to show their Christmas/Hanukkah/whateveryoucelebrate spirit is to offer a limited-time Philly Cheesesteak Pizza. Rejoice! Sound the trumpets!

Or, if you’re from Philadelphia, shake your fist angrily at yet another pizza bastardization of your beloved sandwich. At least, that’s what I imagine people from Philadelphia are doing. While they can’t seem to decide who offers the best cheesesteak within their own city, they can probably all agree that Philly Cheesesteak Pizza is bullshit.

Not that Papa John’s is the first offender in this regard, and I’m sure they won’t be the last. But they do seem especially fond of taking other foods and turning them into pizzas. The Fritos Chili Pizza had barely been released before the Philly Cheesesteak came along, and earlier this year they released a Double Cheeseburger Pizza.

Papa John’s describes their Philly Cheesesteak Pizza as “hand-tossed pizza crust layered with creamy garlic sauce, steak from the Original Philly Cheesesteak Company, fresh onions and green peppers, then covered with mozzarella and provolone cheese.”

Before you oo-la-la over the Original Philly Cheesesteak Company, know that they offer bulk steak that’s been fully cooked and blast-frozen, including a Value Pack, which is described as “The economical choice—marinated with Soy Protein for maximum value.” But hey – at least it’s actually from Philly, right?

Before I get to the bad, I’ll address the good parts of the Philly Cheesesteak Pizza. Don’t worry, it won’t take too long.

Papa John's Philly Cheesesteak Pizza Slice

The steak – sorry, the Original Philly Cheesesteak Company steak – was sliced thin and was tender; I didn’t have to wrestle with it like it was beef jerky. The onions and green peppers added a nice bit of crunch for contrast. There was plenty of gooey cheese topping the pizza.

Okay! Moving on. First off, the steak, which I would consider the most important part of the pizza, was practically tasteless. It wasn’t even salty. While the onions added a little bit of their flavor, the green peppers were tasteless, and I only knew they were on the pizza because of their color and crunch.

Papa John's Philly Cheesesteak Pizza Close-Up

The real food crime that took place here was the creamy garlic sauce. From the first bite onward, it overwhelmed the rest of the toppings. I love a good, garlicky white pie, but this sauce just made me sad. It tasted extremely over-processed and bitter.

In fact, it took me a bit to figure it out, but I was finally able to pinpoint that the most off part of it was that it had the taste of bile. I know that sounds gross and extreme, but that’s the most accurate way to describe it.

All of the toppings on Papa John’s Philly Cheesesteak Pizza were tasteless or unimpressive, but the worst offender by far was that creamy garlic sauce. It took this pizza from underwhelming to straight-up unappealing. Hell, if you’re going to use a processed sauce on a cheesesteak pizza, why not just use Cheez Whiz? To state that Cheez Whiz would have improved any pizza should let you know that you should pass up on this holiday offering. Bah humbug.

(Nutrition Facts – Nutrition Facts not available on website.)

Item: Papa John’s Philly Cheesesteak Pizza
Purchased Price: $12.00
Size: Small
Purchased at: Papa John’s
Rating: 1 out of 10
Pros: Onions and peppers add crunch. Angry fist-shaking. Steak is tender.
Cons: Steak is generally flavorless. Peppers are flavorless. Creamy garlic sauce tastes like bile. Wishing there was Cheez Whiz on my pizza. Creamy garlic sauce tastes like bile.

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REVIEW: Taco Bell Rolled Chicken Tacos

Taco Bell Rolled Chicken Tacos Package

Say what you will about Taco Bell’s recycling of ingredients when introducing new menu items, but I will say this – they do enjoy getting creative with tacos. Whether they’re turning a Dorito into a shell, or wrapping a taco around another taco, playing origami with tortillas is not their weak spot.

And thus, the next iteration of the taco has arrived at Taco Bell: Rolled Chicken Tacos.

“Aren’t rolled tacos called taquitos?” You’re asking yourself right now. Or maybe you’re not, but it was my first thought when I saw them. The short answer is yes. I’m glad we cleared that up.

I associate these two terms with two different things, however. Whenever I visit a taqueria, I see them listed as rolled tacos on the menu. But when I visit the frozen food aisle of the grocery store, I see big boxes of taquitos.

In fact, growing up, my parents’ freezer was not complete without a big box of El Monterey or Delimex beef taquitos. It was my dad’s thing. I think he gave them out at the hospital when I was born in lieu of cigars. They tasted as cheap as they cost, but when you’re a ravenous prepubescent, the perfect food is something you can throw in the microwave, eat with your hands, and dunk into a puddle of Pace Picante.

Strangely, beef isn’t an option when it comes to Taco Bell’s Rolled Tacos. It’s chicken or GTFO. I don’t understand this decision, given that Taco Bell has loads of ground beef hanging around that would fit perfectly into a fried tortilla tube, but here we are. I have no choice but to be poultrified.

While it seems self-explanatory, I should let you know how Taco Bell describes their Rolled Chicken Tacos: “Rolled Chicken Tacos are crispy tacos rolled up with marinated all-white-meat shredded chicken.” Again, so glad we cleared all that up.

The Rolled Tacos also come with your choice of five, that’s right, FIVE different dipping sauces: Nacho Cheese, Premium Guacamole, Salsa, Reduced-Fat Sour Cream or Taco Bell’s new Spicy Ranch.

My mouth wanted to go with guacamole, but knowing that the Spicy Ranch was new, I had to pick that. Spicy Ranch is about as Mexican as dipping your rolled tacos in ketchup, but we are talking about Taco Bell, so hey.

Taco Bell Rolled Chicken Tacos

When Taco Bell says “crispy”, what they really mean is “deep fried”, and boy are these Rolled Chicken Tacos. Upon removal from their sleeve, the delightful scent of fried tortillas wafted into my nostrils. The tacos were dark and glistening with grease. Yesss.

The texture of the tacos was indeed crispy, but not so much that they were mouth-hurty, and there was a nice, greasy give in the middle. The meat-to-tortilla ratio was pretty much spot-on; I expected them to be underfilled, but the chicken wasn’t overwhelmed by the tortilla.

The chicken itself was moist and surprisingly flavorful. When you’ve only got one ingredient going on inside a taco, it’s important to get it right, and Taco Bell did a pretty good job. Whatever marinade they used kept the chicken juicy and added seasoning and a nice little kick to what could easily have been bland, shredded meat. My favorite part were the bits on the end that had turned crunchy from the frying process. I could eat a whole stick of crunchy, deep-fried chicken.

Taco Bell Spicy Ranch

As mentioned before, dip is important when it comes to taquitos. In regards to Taco Bell’s new Spicy Ranch, I found it to be lackluster, and this is coming from a person who will dip pretty much any chicken product into any ranch product. It wasn’t bad, it was just terribly generic.

I don’t know what they used to spice up the ranch, but it had a slightly orange-ish tone with little red and green flecks. It was thick, which was good – nobody wants a runny ranch when they’re dipping – and Taco Bell was generous with their portions, as I got two cups with my four rolled tacos. In the end, though, it was just ranch with a bit of a kick, and nothing more.

Overall, I was pleasantly surprised by Taco Bell’s Rolled Chicken Tacos. The corn tortillas were deep fried to just the right unhealthily greasy and crunchy texture and the chicken was prominent, juicy and well-marinated. While the Spicy Ranch did nothing to wow me, there are four other dip choices for your perusal.

At the price of $1.99 for two tacos and one dip or $3.99 for four and two dips, these make a fine snack or appetizer to your Fourthmeal. There’s also a “duo” (I don’t know what that means) 12-pack.

(Nutrition Facts – 4 rolled tacos – 520 calories, 200 calories from fat, 22 grams of total fat, 3 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 50 milligrams of cholesterol, 940 milligrams of sodium, 58 grams of carbohydrates, 4 grams of dietary fiber, 0 grams of sugars, and 20 grams of protein.)

Item: Taco Bell Rolled Chicken Tacos
Purchased Price: $3.99
Size: 4 tacos and 2 dip cups
Purchased at: Taco Bell
Rating: 8 out of 10
Pros: Tortillas were just the right amount of crispy. Origami tacos. Chicken filling was juicy and well-marinated. Makes a cheap but satisfying snack. Taquito Cigars.
Cons: Forced poultrification. Spicy Ranch was lackluster. Things that are mouth-hurty. Unhealthy amounts of grease (if you consider that a con).

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REVIEW: White Castle Frozen Jalapeño Cheeseburgers

White Castle Frozen Jalapeno Cheeseburgers

I’ve never lived on the East Coast, which means I’ve never had the pleasure of eating at White Castle. I can’t decide if I just used the word “pleasure” sarcastically, because, while having never been there, I have heard much about the establishment. I’ve heard White Castle burgers are magical, like crack.

Wait, calling crack magical isn’t a good idea. I’ve heard White Castle burgers are magical, like unicorns. It’s said they’re the ultimate hangover cure. I’ve also been told they’re the ultimate hangover cure because you will eat them, and then immediately blast all of last night’s alcohol consumption into your toilet bowl.

They’ve also been called the ultimate drunk food, presumably because anything tastes good while you’re drunk, and you’re already going to be full of regrets in the morning, so why not add the fullness of White Castle sliders on top of that?

So basically, White Castle is just like Taco Bell, except with burgers instead of…whatever you want to call what Taco Bell serves.

I’ve seen White Castle burgers in the frozen food aisle before, but never picked any up. I felt as though they wouldn’t be truly representing the White Castle experience. But then I saw their new Jalapeño Cheeseburgers and I thought, well, hell. I’m not heading to the East Coast any time soon. What better time than now, and what better place than here, on the Internet?

There were both microwave and stovetop cooking instructions on the back of the box. My first instinct was to head straight for the microwave, but then I saw that the stovetop instructions were “for steaming of burgers”. That seemed to indicate that that would be the more authentic way to go, so I decided to give it a shot.

…Except one of the first directions involved using the “steamer insert”. I looked in the box. I looked at the box. I saw absolutely nothing that looked like a steamer insert.

Was I going mad? Had there been a mistake, where the insert was not included? Or had I been somehow bested by White Castle frozen cheeseburgers, which should seemingly be one of the easiest foods to prepare on the planet? Either way, I was lost. Without my steamer insert, I could not cook them on the stovetop.

White Castle Frozen Jalapeno Cheeseburgers 2

So, I moved on to the microwave, which had instructions that I could actually follow without questioning my sanity. The burgers (sliders, technically) come in packs of two – open the side of the package, break the connected sandwiches apart, and nuke. Mission accomplished.

White Castle Frozen Jalapeno Cheeseburgers 4

The first thing I noticed was that the buns are both soft and chewy. They don’t have much by way of flavor, but they’re generally inoffensive – fluffy, but not intrusive.

White Castle Frozen Jalapeno Cheeseburgers 3

Next came the onions. They actually gave a little bit of a crunch, which is impressive for a frozen, microwaved burger. It tasted almost like there was onion flavor in the meat itself. I was impressed by how much flavor they added to the party.

The burger patty had White Castle’s signature punched-out holes in it, which made it look like I just rolled a meaty five. Not bad if you’re playing a 2d6 game. Wow, that took a turn towards nerd super fast.

The meat itself was sub-par. The package claims that it’s 100 percent beef, to which I’ll give the benefit of the doubt, but it had about 5 percent flavor. I get the idea that White Castle is pretty much supposed to be shittyburgers, but it was almost like the meat was an afterthought. They didn’t taste bad, they just didn’t taste like much of anything, besides some grease.

The cheese, which was pepper jack, melted nicely in the microwave and added a creaminess that complimented the crunch and flavor of the onions.

The real selling point here was the jalapeños, and they didn’t disappoint. They didn’t set my mouth on fire, but there was a nice jalapeño flavor and heat that built as I made my way through my two sliders in eight bites.

White Castle Frozen Jalapeno Cheeseburgers 5

I was surprised that the flavor was so bold for such a seemingly cheap burger. I have to wonder, though: where were the peppers? I didn’t see any when I flipped the top bun off to take pictures. There wasn’t any pepper texture, unless it was mixed in with the onions. The only other source would be in the pepper jack cheese, which is not really that hot. Mysterious.

White Castle Frozen Jalapeño Cheeseburgers come in three packs per box, which means the serving size is two sliders. This is a very odd serving size. As I mentioned, I was able to eat two burgers in eight bites, which is equivalent to quite a small snack. You microwave them inside the bag, so having three would be awkward, and eating four at once leaves you with two stragglers. Perhaps this is some cunning plan by White Castle to get you to buy more than one box at a time.

While neither drunk nor hungover while eating my sliders, I found myself enjoying the White Castle Frozen Jalapeño Cheeseburger experience. In this case, the whole was more than the sum of its parts. With an unremarkable bun and meat patty, it seems like these burgers would disappoint, but the large presence of the onions and invisible jalapeños added lots of flavor and texture, and the cheese melted nicely and smoothly. While it would make for an awkward meal, a pack of these sliders would be perfectly acceptable as a quick snack or desperate hangover fix.

(Nutrition Facts – 1 package (2 cheeseburgers) – 310 calories, 150 calories from fat, 17 grams of total fat, 8 grams of saturated fat, 1 gram of trans fat, 40 milligrams of cholesterol, 560 milligrams of sodium, 26 grams of carbohydrates, 1 gram of dietary fiber, 3 grams of sugars, 14 grams of protein, 4% vitamin A, 10% calcium, 10% iron..)

Item: White Castle Frozen Jalapeño Cheeseburgers
Purchased Price: $4.49
Size: 6 cheeseburgers
Purchased at: Safeway
Rating: 6 out of 10
Pros: Unicorns. Definite jalapeño presence, despite lack of evidence. Nerd jokes about meat patties. Creamy cheese melts nicely. Onions added lots of flavor and crunch.
Cons: Crack. Bun was flavorless. Where’s my steamer insert? Meat patty offered little. Hangovers. Serving size too small, with odd quantity in box.

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