REVIEW: Häagen-Dazs Artisan Collection Spiced Pecan Turtle Ice Cream

Haagen-Dazs Artisan Collection Spiced Pecan Turtle Ice Cream

I just want to preface this review by telling you that I pronounce the word “pea-can,” and not the snooty, actual pronunciation “puh-con.” I’d be totally misrepresenting myself if I didn’t let you know that up front. Clearly, I’m not very cultured, so the idea of trying this new fancy pants ice cream flavor intrigues me…and kinda scares me.

Let’s be real, despite Magnum’s best attempts, Häagen-Dazs is our most pretentious ice cream brand. What with their “look at me” umlaut and their “look at me again” hyphen. Their name doesn’t even translate to anything, it just sounds Danish and important. Now they’re adding everyone’s favorite buzzword “Artisan” to the mix? We’re talking “high-quality ingredients handmade by a worker in a skilled trade” here people.

Enter Spiced Pecan Turtle Ice Cream.

Haagen-Dazs Artisan Collection Spiced Pecan Turtle Ice Cream Topless

The base ice cream looks, smells and tastes like any run of the mill chocolate ice cream you’re used to, so don’t get your hopes up there. The revelation you’re looking for comes in the form of the featured chocolate, caramel, and pecan clusters. This is where you leave boring ol’ chocolate ice cream behind, and enter a new world of perfectly textured spicy bites.

Unlike some ice creams riddled with molar threatening chunks, the outer chocolate coating of each cluster acts as a barrier to somehow keep the inner pecan soft and fresh. This was a welcome surprise and easily the best part of the ice cream for me. Size and appearance wise, they reminded me a lot of Buncha Crunch, just without a bunch of crunch. A crunch would actually ruin the experience.

The clusters are also where spice flavor really pops. Said flavor is inspired by Christopher Elbow’s artisanal chocolate – fannnn-cy! Apparently Mr. Elbow is very famous for peculiar chocolate creations and not his curveball as his name would suggest. 

Haagen-Dazs Artisan Collection Spiced Pecan Turtle Ice Cream Closeup

Turtles are an underrated flavor combination in my opinion (and an underrated animal for that matter) but I’m not sure they needed a “spice” element. The spice itself does have a little kick to it, which is an odd sensation to taste in an ice cream. The aftertaste lingers in the back of your mouth after you chomp down on the clusters, and I wasn’t a fan.  I got the hint of caramel, but only for a second before that weird heat took over. I guess “sweet and spicy” is trying to sneak its way into the niche market “sweet and salty” has recently carved out. I think it’s gonna have a harder time catching on.

Even after looking at all the ingredients, I’m not positive what this mystery “spice” is.  It could be cinnamon? Maybe ginger? This ice cream does taste a little “gingerbready” if you will. Will you? I know you won’t.

Well then, let me do my due diligence and research Christopher Elbow a little more because this will bother me all day. After some digging, the spice(s) appears to be…ancho and chipotle peppers with some cinnamon to boot. Well there it is, with the inclusion of “chipotle” we’ve hit max buzzword capacity. That explains the heat element. Here’s your chance to have peppers in your ice cream. Color me intrigued.

So is this worth trying? I’m gonna go ahead and say sure, give it a shot. While it’s basically just a strange spin on regular chocolate ice cream, it’s unique enough to try for yourself. Will I ever buy it again? Probably not, but I’m not mad that I did. If nothing else, I felt important while I held this pint of Häagen-Dazs. You shoulda seen the look the cute checkout girl gave me when I told her I only eat the finest artisanal ice creams. It was somewhere between “Who cares” and “Security!”

(Nutrition Facts – 1/2 cup – 310 calories, 19 grams of fat, 11 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 75 milligrams of cholesterol, 125 milligrams of sodium, 29 grams of total carbohydrates, 2 grams of dietary fiber, 24 grams of sugar, 5 grams of protein, 8% vitamin A, 0% calcium, and 8% iron.)

Item: Häagen-Dazs Artisan Collection Spiced Pecan Turtle Ice Cream
Purchased Price: $3.49 (on sale)
Size: 14 oz.
Purchased at: Stop & Shop
Rating: 6 out of 10
Pros: Unique flavor. Umlauts. Artisanal snacking. Fancy pants. Boring ol’ chocolate ice cream. Cute checkout girl. I like turtles.
(Puh-)Cons: Utter spice confusion. Christopher Elbow squandering his name. Odd aftertaste. Boring ol’ chocolate ice cream.

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.

REVIEW: Talenti Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Gelato

Talenti Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Gelato

Few people recognize cookie dough’s versatility.

Your kids ate all the Play-Doh? Give those rascals some cookie dough. Out of plumber’s putty? Use a bit of cookie dough to fix that leaky faucet. Need a quick stuffing for your Thanksgiving turkey? Shove some cookie dough up its poultry-hole and call it a day.

Maybe none of those are good ideas. Maybe Google Image searching “poultry-hole” wasn’t a good idea either. Maybe I’m unsure how to transition from talking about turkey orifices to gelato, so I’m just going to pretend I never wrote these first two paragraphs and start over. Were you expecting Pulitzer Prize writing here? Because I’m pretty sure any writer who uses the word “poultry-hole” more than twice is instantly disqualified, and I just hit number three.

One of seven new Talenti flavors for 2015, Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough seduced me with visions of a cookie dough gelato base speckled with plenty of chocolate chips. Due to the container’s lack of a description aside from the flavor’s title and ingredients list, this is what I was expecting.

I was wrong.

Talenti Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Gelato 2

Instead, this flavor features a vanilla bean gelato with swirls of dark butter fudge, mixed with bits of chocolate chip cookie dough.

Sugary sweet in scent, the vanilla gelato base possesses the strong vanilla flavor and subtle bitterness of a vanilla extract — different, but not undesirable. The fudge swirls’ sharp cocoa flavor alludes to watered-down chocolate syrup, but winds up choked by the potent vanilla gelato.

Talenti Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Gelato 3

Worst of all, the cookie dough bits are the Waldo of this flavor; I’m looking, but I just can’t seem to find ‘em. After consuming more than half the pint, I had encountered around five chunks of cookie dough. Their chocolatey, brown sugar flavor suggests a spot-on rendition of cookie dough, but what’s the point if they’re barely present?

At least I can say one good thing about this gelato: according to the Talenti website, the Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough flavor is both kosher and vegetarian. Rest assured, people. You will find no meats inside this pint. You won’t find very much cookie dough either. Hrmph.

Talenti Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Gelato 4

For a flavor titled “Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough,” the cookie dough really seems to take a backseat here. This flavor needs at least twice as much cookie dough to live up to its name. Frankly, Talenti’s new Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough gelato feels more like a pint of glorified vanilla ice cream.

This is one dessert I’ll be keeping out of my poultry-hole, I mean, mouth-hole.

(Nutrition Facts – 1/2 cup – 210 calories, 90 calories from fat, 10 grams of total fat, 6 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 40 milligrams of cholesterol, 60 milligrams of sodium, 26 grams of carbohydrates, 0 grams of fiber, 25 grams of sugar, and 4 grams of protein..)

Item: Talenti Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Gelato
Purchased Price: $4.69
Size: 1 pint
Purchased at: Stop & Shop
Rating: 4 out of 10
Pros: Gelato flavor is similar to vanilla extract. Kosher and vegetarian. No meat inside here.
Cons: Fudge swirls are choked by vanilla flavor. Very few cookie dough bits. Excessive use of poultry-hole.

REVIEW: Edy’s (Dreyer’s) Old Fashioned Vanilla Frozen Custard

Edy’s Old Fashioned Vanilla Frozen Custard

With the notable exception of some four months Rob Van Winkle’s To The Extreme spent at the top of the Billboard charts during 1990, there have been few, if any, reasons to get excited about anything “vanilla.”

I get it. Vanilla is boring.

Perhaps not as boring as three yards and a cloud of dust Big 10 football boring, but it certainly surpasses C-SPAN2 on a Friday night. But you might not realize vanilla is America’s favorite ice cream flavor.

And after trying Edy’s new Old Fashioned Vanilla Frozen Custard, it’s really not too hard to see why.

If you’re familiar with frozen custard, you’ve been fortunate. Well, at least in one sense of the word. Forgetting for a moment that those of you who are familiar most likely have to suffer through horribly oppressive winters and have a potentially high proportion of cows to people in your local community, you and your Midwestern specialty of at least 1.4 percent egg yolks have remained one of the last great frozen treats to avoid being mass produced and shipped to every megamart in America.

Excuse me, had remained, because Edy’s/Dreyer’s has taken the rich, egg-infused dairy dessert and taken it to supermarket shelves everywhere.

On one hand, this is clearly a good thing. For us East Coasters it means not having to stand in ridiculous lines at Shake Shack or putting ourselves at the mercy of unnecessary commutes. But on the other hand it also could mean the inevitable bastardization (or as I like to say, “gelatofication”) that comes with trying to recreate an incredibly fickle product for retail.

Now, I know what you’re thinking. With flavors like Snickerdoodle, Peanut Butter Pie, and Salted Caramel Pretzel, why on Earth would anyone buy Old Fashioned Vanilla?

Because old fashioned vanilla is classic, and if there’s ever going to be a litmus test for whether or not something mass produced truly lives up to the hype of a regional specialty, it’ll be the most pure and unadulterated form of that product. I can get pretzels and cookie bites stuffed into any factory made ice cream or frozen dairy dessert, but if the dairy base is what sets it apart, and if the egg yolks are noticeably present, then custard of even plain vanilla should stand out as the most sophisticated of desserts. In other words: this is where ingredients matter.

Edy’s Old Fashioned Vanilla Frozen Custard Closeup 3

The custard is thick and packed tight with little to no overrun and a noticeable yellow shade common with egg-infused dairy products. Two modest scoops weighed in at over 130 grams (about a serving and a half), meaning there’s little manufactured air. It’s a welcomed change from all the frozen dairy desserts on shelves these days.

You can taste it, too.

The texture registers all the common ice cream buzzwords; not only is it extremely creamy and rich, but it holds its texture when licked and scooped. It’s definitely indulgent, but the flavor isn’t heavy or overwhelming. Instead it’s floral and somehow light, with a sophisticated and multilayered sweetness and bold vanilla flavor which stays with you long after that first scoop.

The smooth nature of the custard makes it exceptional and keeps it from becoming too hard, while the vanilla flavor is something of a revelation. I’ve had plenty of vanilla styled ice cream before — Vanilla Bean, Homestyle Vanilla, and French Vanilla — but, with the exception of maybe some premium brands, nothing has come close to the intensity of the flavor. Even Rita’s, a frozen custard chain I once worked at as a teenager, doesn’t compare when matching the authenticity of the flavor.

Edy’s Old Fashioned Vanilla Frozen Custard Closeup 2

Knowing I’d probably never choose an unadorned vanilla ice cream when confronted with plenty of other flavor choices, you might say I had my doubts when choosing the Edy’s Old Fashioned Vanilla Frozen Custard. But those doubts were accompanied by the hope that if this really was genuine custard then I’d be in for a rich and flavorful treat even without all the bells and whistles.

Thankfully this flavor lives up to the reputation of authentic frozen custard, and more than makes an acceptable and affordable substitute for when standing in line at Shake Shack just isn’t an option.

(Nutrition Facts – 1/2 cup – 210 calories, 90 calories from fat, 10 grams of total fat, 6 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 65 milligrams of cholesterol, 60 milligrams of sodium, 25 grams of total carbohydrates, 1 gram of dietary fiber, 17 grams of sugar, 4 grams of protein, and 8% calcium.)

Item: Edy’s Old Fashioned Vanilla Frozen Custard
Purchased Price: $3.97
Size: 1 Quart
Purchased at: Walmart
Rating: 9 out of 10
Pros: Exceptionally smooth and creamy texture. Bold sweetness and rich flavor. Floral and distinct vanilla flavor. Rivals premium ice cream price but comes in a slightly larger (weight) container. Not having to travel far for authentic frozen custard.
Cons: Completely unrealistic serving size in terms of actual scoopage. The inevitable backlash of Midwesterners everywhere.

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.