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: Baskin-Robbins Movie Theater Popcorn Ice Cream

Baskin-Robbins Movie Theater Popcorn Ice Cream

Lights! Camera! Popcorn! Ice Cream?

Wait a second there, Spielberg. I get that with the Golden Globes, Screen Actors Guild, and Critics’ Choice awards packed into a two week span, January has become the de facto tie-in month for food branding to take a stroll down the red carpet. But you do realize, don’t you, that it’s January. As in, we just had a freaking polar vortex January. You’ve got to have something unique and unbelievably tasty to get me to put frozen stuff into my already frozen body in January.

Well, at the risk of also making January the de facto month for predictable food blogging puns, this year’s award for the best new ice cream flavor undoubtedly goes to Baskin-Robbins’ Movie Theater Popcorn Ice Cream.

I’ve got to give Baskin-Robbins credit. They do this whole “Flavor of the Month” and it’s usually something we’ve seen before – another Marvel comic book movie, if you will. A little chocolate here, some crushed up cookies there; sometimes, when they really go out on a limb, they might even add some fruit or fudge (edgy, I know.)

There’s nothing wrong with these flavors, but then again they’re hardly game-changing. Spider Man saves the world again but loses MJ? Bah! Seen it. Throw in the fact that my local Baskin-Robbins employees seem to take it as a personal insult when asked to walk the three steps from their station on the Dunkin’ Donuts side of the store to scoop ice cream on the Baskin-Robbins side, and it takes a lot for me to really get excited about their Flavor of the Month.

Baskin-Robbins Movie Theater Popcorn Ice Cream Closeup Ice Cram

This month has been different. Between my unbound love of all things salty and sweet and my own experiments making kettle corn ice cream at home, I was cautiously optimistic that the film-inspired flavor would deliver just the right balance of sweet, salty, crunchy, and creamy – the fantastic four of texture and flavor, if you will.

Baskin-Robbins Movie Theater Popcorn Ice Cream Yellow

The off-beat flavor not only delivered that elusive combination, it embodied it almost as well as Tom Hanks captured Richard Phillips in Captain Phillips. It all starts with the popcorn pieces, which, interestingly enough, are made from rice. Weird, right? Well, they don’t exactly look like perfectly popped and fluffy pieces of popcorn (actually, they have a stained gold color that familiar to those who drown their popcorn at the theater’s butter dispensers), but they sure have that buttery corn taste.

For you popcorn aficionados, consider these almost like little glazed nuggets of kettle corn, except with more butter. And more butter is always better, even in the case of ice cream. It’s almost toffee-like in its effect, providing a sweet crunch that stays remarkably brittle even in the extra creamy ice cream.

Baskin-Robbins Movie Theater Popcorn Ice Cream closeup

What’s more, there were no signs of ice crystals or other textural defects that sometimes come with larger mix-ins. About the size of a penny, the already salty-sweet popcorn flavored crisps get an extra shot of salty-sweet from the salted caramel swirl, which also adds an element of smooth dulce de leche-like viscosity to the ice cream. The whole flavor profile, with a depth of sweetness and hint of browned butter and salt, even elevates the lowly cake cone. Like a nominee for best supporting actress or actor, the cone actually takes on an element of – and I realize this sounds weird – pound cake flavor when eaten with the creamy, buttery ice cream base.

Granted, I like ice cream. But it takes a lot to get me to really, really, really like ice cream in January. But, as Brooklyn Nine-Nine pulled out a stunning surprise as the best new comedy at the Golden Globes (hilarious show, by the way), so Baskin Robbins’ Movie Theater Popcorn ice cream steals the show amidst over some otherwise worthy ice cream flavors. I just hope they bring it back in, shall we say, more conducive months for ice cream eating.

(Nutrition Facts – 2.5 oz scoop – 170 calories, 80 calories from fat, 9 grams of fat, 6 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 95 milligrams of sodium, 30 milligrams of cholesterol, 19 grams of carbohydrates, 0 gram of dietary fiber, 15 grams of sugars, and 3 grams of protein.)

Item: Baskin-Robbins Movie Theater Popcorn Ice Cream
Purchased Price: $1.99
Size: 2.5 oz Kid’s Scoop
Purchased at: Baskin-Robbins
Rating: 9 out of 10
Pros: Crunchy, buttery, salty-sweet popcorn pieces have a toffee-like effect. Plentiful salted caramel swirl. Creamy, clean mouthfeel. Raising the mere cake cone to the herculean dessert height of pound cake.
Cons: Eating ice cream in January. Predictable film puns. Awesome source of saturated fat.

NEWS: Dunkin’ Donuts and Baskin-Robbins Offers Men In Black 3 Inspired Menu Items

SubDunkinRobbins, NYC

I look forward to summer blockbusters because with those big budget films I can expect a barrage of new or limited edition products to promote them. When the movie involves aliens, I can expect green colored items. Case in point, Dunkin’ Donuts and Baskin-Robbins are each offering several new limited time only menu items inspired by the upcoming movie Men In Black 3, and some of them are green.

Dunkin’ Donuts’ new items are:

Black Cocoa Creme Iced Coffee – combines freshly brewed iced coffee with the taste of cookies and cream, and it’s served with a special pink and black straw. A large without cream has 230 calories, 1 gram of fat, 135 milligrams of sodium, 52 grams of carbohydrates, and 45 grams of sugar.

Undercover Black Cocoa Donut – a star-shaped donut filled with brownie batter butter creme and topped with chocolate icing and star sprinkles. One donut has 340 calories, 16 grams of fat, 7 grams of saturated fat, 330 milligrams of sodium, 47 grams of carbohydrates, 2 grams of fiber, and 25 grams of sugar,

Chocolate Lunarmax Donut – a glazed chocolate cake donut with rich chocolate icing drizzle and star sprinkles. It has 400 calories, 24 grams of fat, 11 grams of saturated fat, 400 milligrams of sodium, 41 grams of carbohydrates, and 21 grams of sugar.

Baskin-Robbins’ new items:

Pink Surprise Cake – a triple layer ice cream cake made of Oreo Cookies ‘n Cream ice cream sandwiched between two layers of Devil’s Food Cake and adorned with pink frosting roses.

Flavor of the Month Lunar Cheesecake – features green and white cheesecake ice cream with cheesecake bits and a crunchy graham cracker ribbon. A 2.5 ounce scoop has 180 calories, 11 grams of fat, 6 grams of saturated fat, 100 milligrams of sodium, 19 grams of carbohydrates, and 16 grams of sugar.

Spacey Sundaes – the Lunar Lander sundae features Lunar Cheesecake ice cream topped with marshmallow, white cake pieces, graham crackers, caramel, whipped cream and a cherry, while the Agent 31 sundae is made up of Chocolate Fudge ice cream topped with brownie pieces, hot fudge, chocolate sprinkles, whipped cream and a cherry. The Lunar Lander sundae has 820 calories, 30 grams of fat, 15 grams of saturated fat, 1 gram of trans fat, 130 grams of carbohydrates, and 98 grams of sugar. The Agent 31 sundae has 850 calories, 40 grams of fat, 29 grams of saturated fat, 1 gram of trans fat, 131 grams of carbohydrates, and 94 grams of sugar.

Triple Mocha Cappuccino Blast – a combination of cappuccino flavor base, milk, Chocolate ice cream and chocolate syrup blended with ice and topped with whipped cream and a chocolate drizzle. A 24-ounce size has 820 calories, 34 grams of fat, 24 grams of saturated fat, 0.5 grams of trans fat, 131 grams of carbohydrates, and 90 grams of sugar.

Men in Black 3 opens on May 25th.

NEWS: Taste Half of Baskin-Robbins’ 31 Flavors With Their Mini Cone Pack

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I’ve always wanted to try all of Baskin-Robbins 31 flavors in one sitting. But I believe if there’s one thing that will piss off any Baskin-Robbins employee behind the counter it’s asking to sample all 31 flavors with their sample spoons or purchase a cup or cone of each flavor. Also, it’s extremely hard to carry 31 cups or cones of ice cream by myself, so I never attempted it.

However, Baskin-Robbins’ new Mini Cone Pack might make my brain freeze-inducing dream come true. The Mini Cones are customizable packs of 16 mini ice cream cones, which can be made up of any combination of Baskin-Robbins flavors and comes in a handy carrying tray. And if my math is correct, I can try all 31 flavors if I buy two packs.

If you feel bad about having a Baskin-Robbins employee scoop 16 different flavors for you to make a customized pack, you can also purchase ready-made Mini Cone variety packs, which have a mix of Mint Chocolate Chip, Very Berry Strawberry, Gold Medal Ribbon, and Rainbow Sherbet.

A Mini Cone Pack is priced at $9.99, but if you make a Baskin-Robbins employee scoop up 16 different flavors to make your own pack, might I suggest also leaving a 50 percent tip.

REVIEW: Baskin-Robbins BRight Choices Premium Churned Light Ice Cream (Vanilla & Chocolate)

Ice cream is the GREATEST COMFORT FOOD THAT TAKES YOU ON AN EMOTIONAL ROLLER COASTER RIDE EVAR!

That’s right. You read what I typed with my caps lock key on. How many foods out there can make you feel so good while eating it, but make you feel so bad after eating it?

It’s like illegal drugs with their highs and lows. And just like illegal drugs, you can get ice cream anytime of the day because dealers, like most convenient stores and Wal-Marts, are available 24 hours a day. As long as you’ve got the money, you can get your honey. Pints of ice cream are like nickelbags, half gallons are like bricks, and those three gallon tubs of ice cream are like all-you-can-smoke buffets.

As I wrote earlier, the problem with ice cream is that it makes you feel bad after eating it. The saturated fat that comes with good ice cream is like the THC in weed, you know it’s bad for you, but it’s what makes it so good. Thankfully, Baskin-Robbins has created their BRight Choices Premium Churned Light Ice Cream that has 50% less fat and 20% fewer calories than their regular ice cream.

The Premium Churned Light Ice Cream comes in a few flavors, but I chose milk chocolate and vanilla varieties because I love the message behind the Paul McCartney and Stevie Wonder song “Ebony and Ivory” and I try to bring them together as much as possible and because the Baskin-Robbins I went to only had three Premium Churned flavors to choose from.

When I put Premium Churned ice cream into my warm mouth I thought it wasn’t as creamy as regular full-fat, pants-ripping ice cream. Between the two flavors, the vanilla one was my least favorite because it tasted exactly how I expected a 50% less fat ice cream should taste — kind of bland. The vanilla flavor wasn’t very strong and I felt it didn’t come close to tasting like full-fat, pants-button-popping-off ice cream, which was disappointing because the milk chocolate flavor was a different story. If someone were to give me the Premium Churned Milk Chocolate Light Ice Cream while I was blindfolded with my limbs restrained in a torture rack and a leather-clad woman named Olga feeding me spoonfuls of it in between the whip lashes she’s giving me, I wouldn’t think it was a reduced fat ice cream. It was surprisingly good and really chocolatey.

Hopefully the Baskin-Robbins BRight Choices Premium Churned Light Ice Cream won’t make you feel so bad after gorging on them. With 50% less fat and 20% less calories than their full-fat counterparts, the roller coaster ride you’ll have after eating them will feel like Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride instead of Space Mountain.

(Nutrition Facts – 2.5 ounce scoop – Vanilla – 130 calories, 4.5 grams of fat, 3 grams of saturated fat, 20 milligrams of cholesterol, 70 milligrams of sodium, 19 grams of carbs, 1 gram of dietary fiber, 18 grams of sugar, 4 grams of protein, 6% Vitamin A, 2% Vitamin C, and 15% Calcium. Milk Chocolate – 130 calories, 4.5 grams of fat, 2.5 grams of saturated fat, 15 milligrams of cholesterol, 75 milligrams of sodium, 20 grams of carbs, 1 grams of dietary fiber, 18 grams of sugar, 4 grams of protein, 6% Vitamin A, 2% Vitamin C, 15% Calcium, and 2% Iron.)

(Note: Greg the Frozen Food Master at Freezer Burns reviewed another BR Premium Churned Flavor.)

Item: Baskin-Robbins BRight Choices Premium Churned Light Ice Cream (Vanilla & Chocolate)
Price: FREE (received coupons from nice PR folks)
Size: 1 pint
Purchased at: Baskin-Robbins
Rating: 8 out of 10 (Milk Chocolate)
Rating: 6 out of 10 (Vanilla)
Pros: Milk Chocolate flavor was surprisingly really good and chocolatey and didn’t taste like a reduced fat ice cream. 50% less fat and 20% less calories than Baskin-Robbins’ regular ice cream. “Ebony and Ivory” is a classic song. Being blindfolded, restrained in a torture rack, and whipped by a leather-clad woman named Olga.
Cons: Not as creamy as full-fat ice cream. Vanilla flavor was kind of bland. The BRight Choices Premium Churned Light Ice Cream doesn’t come in a lot of flavors. The bill for being blindfolded, restrained in a torture rack, and whipped by a leather-clad woman named Olga.