REVIEW: Baskin-Robbins Pumpkin Cheesecake Ice Cream

Baskin-Robbins Pumpkin Cheesecake Ice Cream

Since the dawn of civilization cheesecake and pie have been wrestling in a titanic struggle of after-dinner supremacy. No flavor or ingredient has been off limits. From plump summer blueberries to decadent combinations of chocolate and peanut butter, the two desserts have been firing salvos at each other for years

Thanks to an urban chic food trend in embracing American comfort food, pie seems to have delivered most of the damage (calorically, of course) in recent years. It’s even become part of our lexicon, practically becoming synonymous with all things Americana and just damn yummy. That’s not to say cheesecake hasn’t had some good showings, but with fall dawning on us and Dairy Queen doing double-duty with seasonally themed Pumpkin Pie and Apple Pie Blizzards, it’s going to take more than a proverbial trip to The Cheesecake Factory to steal some of the glory.

Fortunately, Baskin-Robbins is fighting back, indulging my love for both pumpkin and cheesecake with September’s Flavor of the Month. With both a cream cheese ribbon and cheesecake ice cream base it covers almost enough dairy as a Wisconsin 4-H fair, adding gingersnap cookie pieces which promise to add a bit of crunch and crust to the pumpkin ice cream.

That’s right, pumpkin. Not “pumpkin flavored,” and not just orange color with some vague spice flavor, the ice cream base nails an authentic pumpkin taste buttressed by a wonderfully autumnal sweetness and cinnamon spice. Bordering on cloying but thankfully neither earthly nor artificial, its distinct brown sugar notes are balanced by the taste of fresh cream and milk. It’s that taste which keeps the base from the heavy connotation pumpkin pie sometimes conjures up, and despite what I’m sure is a veritable calorie overload thanks to no less than 11 different sweeteners in the recipe, a modest-sized cone isn’t enough to make you want to unbuckle your pants and watch Tony Romo throw six interceptions on Thanksgiving.

Baskin-Robbins Pumpkin Cheesecake Ice Cream 2

The cheesecake flavor is really quite splendid, and I mean this in the most endearing way possible. Despite a fascistic ONE SCOOP FOR YOU policy instituted by my local Baskin-Robbins, a thorough probing (also known as licking) of the base reveals a well-integrated cream cheese ribbon with varying degrees of tang and richness.

There’s a smooth mouthfeel throughout, and no sign of the chalky or gritty “cheesecake” chunks that one sometimes finds in frozen yogurt shops. On two separate swipes on the tongue I caught a burst of tang, which illuminated my palette amidst the sweet cream high. It encompasses both a distinctive cheesecake vibe and indulgent cream cheese texture, and together the two elements of cultured dairy work magnificently.

Insofar as flavor is concerned, the gingersnap pieces aren’t bad—the distinct taste of ginger adds a great balancing depth to the sweetness of the ice cream—but the crushed snaps aren’t exactly crust worthy. With a soggy texture and almost no crunch to speak of, they’re actually kind of lost amidst the overly viscous ice cream, which seems especially prone to melting on even a modestly warm fall day.

Baskin-Robbins Pumpkin Cheesecake Ice Cream 3

Actually, my biggest gripe was the deteriorating texture of the ice cream. While it starts off exceptionally creamy and smooth, it doesn’t hold up to the tongue and quickly melts, leaving one with less with the impression of pumpkin ice cream and more with the notion of chilled pumpkin bisque. It’s enough to make me kind of wish I was getting pie.

Is Baskin-Robbins’ Pumpkin Cheesecake Ice Cream enough to deal a game-changing victory in the war between pie and cheesecake? Not quite, but that doesn’t make it any less delicious or seasonally appropriate. With a no-nonsense pumpkin flavor and distinctive cheesecake richness and tang, it definitely fires the first shots in this year’s fall flavor battle.

(Nutrition Facts – 4 oz scoop – 260 calories, 110 calories from fat, 12 grams of fat, 7 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 45 milligrams of sodium, 135 milligrams of cholesterol, 34 grams of carbohydrates, 1 gram of dietary fiber, 27 grams of sugars, and 4 grams of protein.)

Item: Baskin-Robbins Pumpkin Cheesecake Ice Cream
Purchased Price: $3.39
Size: Regular Scoop
Purchased at: Baskin-Robbins
Rating: 7 out of 10
Pros: Pumpkin cream cheese base has loads of cinnamon and brown sugar flavor. Avoids gritty fake cheesecake pieces. Gingersnap crumbs contribute good spice. Nice bursts of cheesecake tang. A solid showing by team cheesecake in the never-ending battle of desserts. Thank God I’m not a Cowboys fan.
Cons: Gingersnap pieces aren’t very crunchy and get lost amidst the ice cream base. Melts entirely too quickly. Feeling like Oliver Twist as the Baskin-Robbins employee haphazardly scoops my ice cream.

REVIEW: Ben & Jerry’s Limited Batch Candy Bar Pie Ice Cream

Ben & Jerry’s Limited Batch Candy Bar Pie Ice Cream

I’m not much of a crier. Aside from a few moments scattered throughout the TV series Lost and Tom Hanks losing Wilson to the ocean in Castaway, I pretty much have a heart of stone. But a little bit of that stone was chiseled away when I ate Ben & Jerry’s latest pint, Candy Bar Pie, and the tears came in waterfall fashion.

If you’re wondering why I was crying, it’s for two reasons. The first being the ice cream was just so damn perfect. Rich peanut butter ice cream loaded with nougat, chocolate flakes, and perhaps the greatest ice cream filler ever, pretzel swirls.

Yes, pretzel swirls are real, and they’re fantastic. More salty-sweet goodness than even the most experienced veteran could wrap their taste buds around. Those with lesser developed taste buds should only take small bites of the pretzel swirls at first, as it will be a lot for your buds to handle, and if you take too much too fast your head will most likely explode.

Ben & Jerry’s Limited Batch Candy Bar Pie Ice Cream Top

The nougat is pretty much like a Swiss chocolate sauce, which is just chocolate syrup and marshmallow sauce mixed together. When it blends with the peanut butter ice cream it tastes almost like a fluffernutter sandwich. Then you throw the pretzel swirl into the mix and you get even more great taste combos. This ice cream is much like a Take 5 candy bar; it has everything you could want and it tastes even better than it sounds.

I’ve been indulging on Ben & Jerry’s for three-quarters of my life, and honestly, I’m torn between this and the original Chubby Hubby (the one that had chocolate covered peanut butter-filled pretzels, where the one today is just has chocolate covered pretzels) for my favorite Ben & Jerry’s flavor. I ate three pints of Candy Bar Pie in one week. I just couldn’t get enough. I was in love! Maybe there is still hope for my heart of stone?

No, there isn’t hope, because my love will be leaving me eventually, departing from her pint form and going back exclusively to Scoop Shops. See, it’s a limited batch, which means it will one day leave grocery stores, and subsequently my hopes and dreams will leave me.

I know it is originally a Scoop Shop flavor but can’t they keep it in a pint in stores? Ben & Jerry’s Scoop Shops aren’t all that common. Take Rochester, where I grew up. There is one Ben & Jerry’s Scoop Shop in the city. It isn’t at some centrally located spot either, so chances are you have a decent drive to it. I haven’t been to every major city but the ones I’ve been to have the same deal. And what about the rural areas? There are no Scoop Shops in the rural Midwest, I can tell you that with confidence.

Ben & Jerry’s Limited Batch Candy Bar Pie Ice Cream Closeup

There is usually good grocery store access in most places though. Whether it’s Wegmans, Piggly Wiggly, Hy-Vee, Publix or Stater Bros., it doesn’t matter. There’s usually something near you no matter your region. If Candy bar Pie stays in pints, it could potentially save people from a long drive to a Scoop Shop, and save people in rural areas who don’t have access to a Scoop Shop from losing access to the tasty treat altogether.

I mean, imagine if seasons of Lost and every good Tom Hanks movie were just taken off shelves a month after they were released. You’d be sad, angry, or most likely both when you went to go DVD shopping and the titles you wanted were gone forever. It wouldn’t just be a bummer… It would be a SUPER bummer. The worst kind!

Much awareness has been brought to ALS through these ice bucket challenges (which, let’s be honest, unless you’re the Wicked Witch of the West or the Human Torch, really isn’t much of a challenge), so I propose a Candy Bar Pie pint challenge.

The way it works is simple: You film yourself eating a full pint of Candy Bar Pie in one sitting, and then you challenge your friends to do the same thing. They have 24 hours to respond, and if they fail to do so they owe you 100 bucks. Once the oligarchic board of decision makers at Ben & Jerry’s sees how much everybody loves the flavor, they will sprout a collective conscience and make it a permanent pint. So get your pints, spoons and cameras ready, everyone. We’ve got work to do.

(Nutrition Facts – 1/2 cup – 300 calories, 160 calories from fat, 18 grams total fat, 8 grams saturated fat, 55 milligrams cholesterol, 210 milligrams sodium, 31 grams total carbohydrate, 1 gram dietary fiber, 22 grams sugar, and 5 grams protein.)

Item: Ben & Jerry’s Limited Batch Candy Bar Pie Ice Cream
Purchased Price: $2.99
Size: 1 pint
Purchased at: Wegmans
Rating: 10 out of 10
Pros: One of the best tasting Ben & Jerry’s concoctions ever. Pretzel swirls will make you believe in unicorns again. Raising Candy Bar Pie awareness. Saving yourself a few minutes of driving.
Cons: Limited batch oh why God why!? Evil oligarchies having control of flavor decisions. Having a heart of stone. Wilson being lost to the ocean.

REVIEW: Trader Joe’s Speculoos Cookie Butter Ice Cream

Trader Joe’s Speculoos Cookie Butter Ice Cream

I injured myself yesterday.

It was in aisle 3. The Trader Joe’s Speculoos Cookie Butter Ice Cream had been sold out for the previous 10 days. Already half-defeated, melodramatic dairy cravings oozing from my limp, lactose-deprived mind, I turned my head and there, between the frozen waffles and Pomegranate Sherbet: one last quart.

“Blah! Cream! Ice! Butter! Cookie! Now!”

It was then that Zeus looked down upon me and said, “You! You did not form a grammatically coherent sentence! You MUST SUFFER!” A bolt of Karma-infused lightning darted from Mt. Olympus, swooshing carts, Trader Joe’s employees, and oblivious human beings right into the 12-foot path that stood between me and dairy perfection.

Grabbing a nearby Kouign Amann from the sample station, I leapt over the baskets, the boxes, and the kindly Trader Joe’s employee who was re-stocking the Salsa Authentica (saying “Excuse me” along the way). I reached down, my goal in sight, when my noggin bonked the shelf above and the slew of Very Vanilla meringues avalanched on my cranium.

Luckily, neither Ancient Greek-inspired divine intervention nor avalanching plastic tubs can stop a true dextrose zealot.

Trader Joe’s Speculoos Cookie Butter Ice Cream The untouched ice cream

Having brought the tub home and peeled off the safety-sealed container, I can see white creamy stuff and (small) brown chunky speckles. Smells of vanilla and sugar crackle into the air. By all the gold in Robin Hood’s barn, this stuff looks good. With the cover devoid of any specifics, I can only take an amateur dive at what awaits: vanilla, perhaps even sweet cream, ice cream with cookie butter swirls…and Speculoos cookie chunks? Maybe? MAYBE??

No. No cookie chunks. But cookie butter swirl chunks? Yes! And in wide abundance. Those chunky, gritty, swirly thingies are spattered throughout, gathering up on your golden spoon 1, 2, 5 chunks at a time. Unlike a dense, crunchy cookie, these cookie butter swirlies are gritty and loose and crumble with their spicy warm bite.

The art of perfecting the ratio of cookie-butter-to-cream is an exercise worthy of a sensei master. When gathered in their best proportion, the chunks accentuate a warmth from cinnamon and clove in the Speculoos butter while also bouncing off the sweetness in the vanilla base. What’s better is chunks get chunkier as you dig, rewarding you with golden nuggets so big they’d send the gold panners from ‘49 into a tizzy.

Trader Joe’s Speculoos Cookie Butter Ice Cream Proof that swirly chunks may take over the world

And that vanilla-cream base? It’s pretty good. Not enough to make a possum do a back flip or anything, but pretty good. Thick and creamy with a super sweet melt, it makes for a smooth foundation that’s just on the cusp of tasting like an Oreo filling. The Trader chose not to toss in any vanilla bean speckles in this particular base, but who needs speckles when you have chunks of pulverized cookie goo all around? Give me the cookie goo. Give me it all.

For those in the Vanilla Clan with a penchant for spicy-warm, yet wonderfully simple concoctions, this ice cream will do you right as it stands. If you like your ice cream with more of a punch, you might be well-served to incorporate other mix-ins or smoosh it up with another ice cream flavor. Think chocolate. Coffee. More cookie butter. That triple-layer Mocha Cake your Aunt Sally baked for you last week. Almost anything will do. The vanilla has a lighter flavor, so anything you dump on it will be a dimension to all that perpetual lightness, a yin to its yang, a Nietzsche to its Dora the Explorer.

Trader Joe’s Speculoos Cookie Butter Ice Cream Close up of swirly chunkies

On the whole, this ice cream registers as “good” in both the tender, youthful, overly optimistic part of my brain as well as the crumpled, calloused, grumpity part. In fact, it may be the only thing that these parts of my brain agree upon. Ever. While not chaotic or exploding with mix-ins, it’s a simple, slightly spicy, sweet cream that makes good for eating right off the sugar cone, between French toast, or in a bowl after you’ve dumped your entire Halloween candy stash upon it.

I plan to eat this quart in the morning. I plan to eat this quart at night. I plan to eat this quart until it is finished… and what if someone tries to eat it from my freezer before then? I will not let them. And if they do, I will buy another. I will collect the cookie butter ice cream. All of it. I will stock my freezer to the brim, supporting the dairy farmers as I fill my belly with cookie-butter-laden cream. I suspect future historians will dig me out of a landfill of empty ice cream containers. I will have no regrets.

(Nutrition Facts – 1/2 cup – 220 calories, 130 calories from fat, 12 grams of fat, 6 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 30 milligrams of cholesterol, 70 milligrams of sodium, 25 grams of carbohydrates, 0 grams of dietary fiber, 18 grams of sugar, and 2 grams of protein.)

Item: Trader Joe’s Speculoos Cookie Butter Ice Cream
Purchased Price: $4.49
Size: 1 quart
Purchased at: Trader Joe’s
Rating: 8 out of 10
Pros: Cookie swirls, cookie swirls, everywhere, everywhere. Gritty cinnamon goodness. Solid vanilla-cream base. Less sugar than most powerbars. Good for breakfast. Good for dinner. Supports dairy farmers. The Nietzsche to its Dora the Explorer.
Cons: Could have EVEN MORE cookie swirls. And more cookie swirls. Ice cream base may be too sweet for some. Being buried in a landfill of ice cream pints. Poor grammar. Karma-related injuries. The wrath of Zeus.

REVIEW: Ben & Jerry’s Gilly’s Catastrophic Crunch Ice Cream

Ben & Jerry’s Gilly’s Catastrophic Crunch Ice Cream

Sometimes you have one of those days. You drop your toothbrush in the toilet. You eat shell in your scrambled eggs. You get attacked by three nefarious pigeons while walking to the pharmacy and break your sunglasses.

Such was the day I was having when I walked into a Ben & Jerry’s Scoop Shop, half-blind from my sunglasses-less eyes. Craving something to promote my tooth decay, Gilly’s Catastrophic Crunch Ice Cream seemed like my Golden Ticket.

Sweet cream. Chocolate ice cream. Caramel clusters. Fudge almonds. Marshmallow swirl. Sounds like a mish-mosh put together by especially creative carnies with ingredients that would make the Grinch’s hearts grow to the strength of 10 Grinches (plus 2). How will its tastes settle on a non-Grinch? Only one way to find out…

Ben & Jerry’s Gilly’s Catastrophic Crunch Ice Cream Must find all the clusters!

Gilly (played by Kristen Wiig) is known as the rambunctious rally-rouser in the Saturday Night Live classroom, having created all sorts of semi-violent mischief, including walloping buckets of Chunky Monkey ice cream at the teacher. That same degree of mischief is evidenced here by the multitude of kooky ingredients pummeled into this frozen dairy concoction.

Let’s start with the two bases: the swirl of sweet cream and chocolate ice creams is distinct. The sweet cream portion reminds me of milk that’s been artfully infused with Frosted Flakes while the chocolate tastes light and sugary, much similar to a Hershey’s bar. It’s perhaps not the best chocolate you’ve had in your life, but definitely lovable. When the two mix together, that chocolate flavor takes over while a tinge of hyper sweetness comes at the back end from the sweet cream, making for a very, very light milk chocolate base. It’s dense and creamy, even if perhaps a bit subtle for my inner chocolate fiend.

Ben & Jerry’s Gilly’s Catastrophic Crunch Ice Cream The Cluster Cave

But what I’m really here for are the mix-ins. Just look at that rocky terrain obstructing the creaminess. Clusters! Fudgy almonds! Those fudge almonds add a deeper dimension in the universe of chocolates, touting more of a semisweet profile than the base, while the almonds contribute their thudding crunch more than any notable flavor. And, oh yes, the marshmallow swirl: it’s goopy, in that humble marshmallow fluff way, although its one-note, straight-up-sugar flavor comes across tame against the subtly cocoa-y base, a shame as the marshmallow swirl in Phish Food ranks up there in my personal Ultimate Favorite Ice Cream Experiences of All Time Ever.

But, meanwhile, the clusters. Man, those clusters. Those chunky, sweet caramel little crunches add more than all the heart, stars, horseshoes, clovers, and blue moons combined. Chunky. Lightly burnt sugar. A tad sticky. Part of this balanced breakfast. But there aren’t enough of them! Must find all the chunkies! Must eat a whole bowl! Someone must turn these chunkies into a granola. Immediately.

My dad always told me good things come to those who persevere. But sometimes, persevering isn’t easy. Sometimes you have to wait. In a line. For 32 minutes. With a screaming three-year-old. And a tall man’s sweaty armpit in your nose. But the key is to never lose sight of the goal, for the goal will be your reward.

In this case, I was rewarded with some high-quality ice cream and, while it was good, I don’t think I’d go back for Gilly’s. The ingredients were all high quality, yet they mixed together in an altogether subtle way. It almost represents the wackadoodle character of Gilly. It had the kooky ingredients, yet the delivery was muddled. Perhaps more of those amazing clusters, some richer chocolate in the base, maybe a hint of something gritty, like a graham cracker or cookie, and BOOM. It’d be Gilly madness all up in here.

But just because it’s not for me doesn’t mean it can’t be for you. If you like crunchy, caramel things, almonds, and subtle milk chocolate ice cream, this is worth persevering for. It’s really a good ice cream. Don’t be ashamed of your flavor preferences! Find the chunkies! Eat them all! Persevere!

(Nutrition Facts – 1/2 cup – 250 calories, 130 calories from fat, 14 grams of fat, 8 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 45 milligrams of cholesterol, 45 milligrams of sodium, 27 grams of carbohydrates, 1 gram of dietary fiber, 23 grams of sugar, and 4 grams of protein.)

Item: Ben & Jerry’s Gilly’s Catastrophic Crunch Ice Cream
Purchased Price: $3.75
Size: 1 scoop
Purchased at: Ben & Jerry’s Scoop Shop (Rockefeller Center)
Rating: 6 out of 10
Pros: Crunchies! Lovable chocolate base. Thuddy almonds. Slow melting. Fudge coating adds different dimension of chocolate. Creative carnies.
Cons: Needs more clusters. Milk chocolate base may be too subtle for some. Marshmallow gets lost in sweet cream. Dropping your toothbrush in the toilet. Getting attacked by three nefarious pigeons.

REVIEW: Ben & Jerry’s Lazy Sunday Ice Cream

Ben & Jerry’s Lazy Sunday Ice Cream

Lazy Sunday now is in ice cream form
But to eat it, you gotta go to the Ben and Jerry’s store
“What’s that?” you ask. Let me shut down your smile
No Lazy Sunday in the supermarket aisle

Based on the sketch by Samberg and Parnell
Look it up on YouTube—it did super well
There are tons of parodies, and we should confess
That white people joke rap is borderline at BEST

The flavor has chocolate swirl and some cake bits
A cake batter base—okay, just let me taste it
Ben & Jerry’s adding to my building frustration
The nearest Scoop Shop is at the f*$%ing train station

Left. No—right! No—straight! One-way street!
Pedaling the bicycle, can’t wait for those sweets
I know where I’m going, don’t get it twisted
Used Google Maps because the rap song insisted

(instrumental break)

I stroll to the counter, try to act all casual
Like I’m not reviewing food, stay normal and affable
The attendant asks me, “How does two scoops sound?”
I tell her “Three scoops. I’m not fooling around.”

Start to dig in to the creamy frozen treat
It smells like a birthday cake, if you can believe
Chocolate and vanilla flavoring—both pretty typical
Let’s talk about the cake bits and get a little critical

Breaking up the texture would be the dream
But they’re about the same consistency of frozen ice cream
They’re chewy and sticky, tiny bits of brilliance
Too bad when you’re eating cake, you can’t tell the difference

Cake ice cream, cake bits, so much cake, I’m at a party
One-sided, kinda boring, tell the host I’m sorry
I’m tasting too much cake, that’s the reason why
Even at a cake party I pull the Irish goodbye.

Nothing crunchy, nothing salty, nothing avant garde
I will not mourn you at the Flavor Graveyard
Do they really bury pints there? The gravestone quips
Here lies Jimmy Fallon: Fudge-covered potato chips

They stuck cupcakes in this because it’s in the song
I can’t help but think they were doing something wrong
Maybe there are legal things and other confines
But imagine this flavor: Mr. Pibb and Red Vines

The Ben & Jerry’s lady says to me the price
I do a double take, “Say it to me, twice.”
It costs same as a pint? What are you, insane?
You know who I’m not? Marta Kauffman nor David Crane

I liked this okay, I guess what I mean is
Like McAdams likes Gosling, in two thousand fourteens’
Yeah, sure, okay, Us Weekly confirms
They both feel indifferent—left on decent terms

Get back on my bike, flash a little grin
Still had ice cream so I consider that a win
Wrote up this track here, a tribute to the original
I’m eating Americone Dream, my life’s so nutritional

(Nutrition Facts – 1/2 cup — 230 calories, 120 calories from fat, 13 grams of fat, 7 grams of saturated fat, 60 grams of cholesterol, 70 milligrams of sodium, 25 grams of carbohydrates, 0 grams of fiber, 20 grams of sugar, and 4 grams of protein.).)

Item: Ben & Jerry’s Lazy Sunday Ice Cream
Purchased Price: $5.50
Size: Large (3 scoops)
Purchased at: Ben & Jerry’s Scoop Shop
Rating: 5 out of 10
Pros: It’s ice cream. Cake balls are very cake-y. Cake flavoring is strong, good.
Cons: It’s not really balanced taste-wise. The cake balls are the same texture as the ice cream so they get lost easily.