REVIEW: Ben & Jerry’s Limited Batch Pecan Sticky Buns Ice Cream

Ben & Jerry's Limited Batch Pecan Sticky Buns Ice Cream

Ben & Jerry’s flavors that are exclusive to one store or area carry a strong sense of injustice, for me at least. I saw a flavor last year that was exclusive to Texas. It’s like, hey, what’s wrong with (insert other 49 states here)!? You think you’re better than us?

Driving to Texas for an exclusive flavor is one thing, but it’s frustrating enough when I can’t go to my precious Wegmans to get a certain flavor and I have to go to a Target or Walmart instead. Bleh!

Even though Pecan Sticky Buns sounded really enticing, the thought of going to a Walmart in Rochester sounded anything but. I don’t think I’d been to one in a good two years. I hadn’t had sticky buns in a few years either, not since the last time I attended an adult caramel party. Think of the party from Eyes Wide Shut, only a lot weirder and with a lot more caramel.

Ben & Jerry's Limited Batch Pecan Sticky Buns Ice Cream 2

With this ice cream, Ben & Jerry’s did a really good job with getting certain flavors of an actual sticky bun down. The buttery brown sugar ice cream was pretty accurate. You definitely get a strong brown sugar flavor with this. I know because I used to pour a pound of brown sugar into my oatmeal when I was little.

There are chunks of sticky bun dough to further nail the brown swirly ooey-gooey parts of the sticky buns. You know what I mean. The sticky bun dough chunks were exactly like the cinnamon bun dough chunks from Ben & Jerry’s Cinnamon Bun flavor, which I’m not even sure is a flavor anymore. I know they have different names, but I’m suspicious they were the same exact chunks. Think they tried to sneak one by us here.

Ben & Jerry's Limited Batch Pecan Sticky Buns Ice Cream 3

The pecans were ridiculously flavorful. They appeared to be normal pecans but they tasted like those cinnamon roasted one you get at a baseball game or festival. They had that boiled in something sweet taste and it is pretty magnificent. I mean, there are not many things that wouldn’t be delicious if you boiled them in cinnamon. I bet Hannibal Lector boiled some of his victims in cinnamon before going to Chowtown. I just know there’s a deleted scene of that. Probably.

Lastly, there’s a cream cheese frosting swirl whose presence in a bite will always surprise you because it blends in perfectly with the ice cream. The swirls aren’t very thick, which was nice because you don’t get surprise flavor slammed by cream cheese, and they are a nice touch as they take you away from the cinnamon taste for a second.

Overall, it’s a good concoction, but it is SUPER rich, even for Ben & Jerry’s. I’ve had other exclusive Walmart flavors, but they were subpar (I’m looking at you, Cotton Candy). This one was worth the trip.

(Nutrition Facts – 1/2 cup – 300 calories, 170 calories from fat, 19 grams of total fat, 10 grams of saturated fat, 65 milligrams of cholesterol, 140 milligrams of sodium, 29 grams of total carbohydrates, less than 1 gram of dietary fiber, 23 grams of sugars, and 4 grams of protein.)

Purchased Price: $4.09
Size: 1 pint
Purchased at: Walmart
Rating: 7 out of 10
Pros: Has flavors very reminiscent of real pecan sticky bun. Adult caramel parties.
Cons: A bit too rich. Having to go to Walmart to get it. Ben & Jerry’s exclusive flavor injustice.

REVIEW: Ben & Jerry’s Empower Mint Ice Cream

Ben & Jerrry's Empower Mint

What’s that old adage about pizza and sex? I think it’s something like, “Hey, both of these things are good, even when the quality is less than ideal.” Well, ice cream is sort of the same way. I mean, when was the last time you took a large spoonful of ice cream and immediately spit it out in disgust? Never, that’s when.

But that’s not to say that all ice cream is necessarily created equal, either.

Eschewing brick and mortar operations where your cone is packed by a surly teen, and the potentially terrifying experience that comes with purchasing something from a rusty truck piloted by an angry man of some vague, eastern European origin, one is left with the dizzying array of options from the local supermarket.

As a generally indecisive person, the ice cream aisle cripples me. So I just always go with what I know: Ben and Jerry’s. The two cordial hippies from Vermont really do make a fine ice cream. Really, it’s hard to find a bad entry in their catalogue. They’ve made an art-form — and a gajillion dollars —- out of something simple: quality ingredients melded together masterfully in interesting ways with complete disregard for the health of the partaker.

God bless them, I reckon, for giving the people what they want.

And EMPOWER mint (that’s how it’s spelled on the label, anyway) is no different. The packaging explains that it is “peppermint ice cream with fudge brownies and fudge swirls,” and brother, that packaging ain’t lying.

Ben & Jerrry's Empower Mint 2

Pulling the top off is like crashing your car into a candy cane factory and it only gets more insane from there. The base cream is exactly what you’d expect: an overPOWERing amount of mint (haha, get it?). And, as a fan of mint ice cream —- typically featuring chocolate chips, though -— I enjoyed this aspect. Your mileage may very.

Not too far beneath the surface, you’ll encounter something chewy and dense and absurdly chocolaty… this is the brownie. It sticks your teeth together and makes your heart hurt, and man, is that good brownie chunkage.

Interspersed between the mint and the brownie explosion are delectable teases of fudge ribbon. It tastes like hot fudge, only not hot and a little less pliable.

Ben & Jerrry's Empower Mint 3

Everything in this ice cream works together toward the greater good: giving the recipient a terrible stomachache after imbibing far too much. And maybe that’s the point? Freedom of choice? This ice cream carries some sort of political agenda, as many of B and J’s treats do. The label proclaims “Democracy is in your hands,” and that’s true enough, I guess.

If I had some sort of vote pertaining to his particular iteration, though, it might be: let’s add some kind of nut, dudes. Because, really, that’s my only complaint. Everything is smooth, creamy, and soft. Why not chuck in some chopped walnuts? The texture variation would provide a welcome break and, I mean, don’t all sane people like nuts on or in their brownies?

In the end, though, this is a minor quibble and EMPOWER mint is just fine on its own. Although it doesn’t seem like rocket science to combine mint ice cream and gigantic, pulsating hunks of brownie (oh, and the fudge swirls), I guess nobody had really done it before. Kudos, gents, enjoy your next million.

(Nutrition Facts – 1/2 cup – 270 calories, 140 calories from fat, 15 grams of fat, 9 grams of saturated fat, 0.5 grams of trans fat, 75 milligrams of cholesterol, 80 milligrams of sodium, 29 grams of carbohydrates, 26 grams of sugar, and 4 grams of protein..)

Purchased Price: 2 for $7
Size: 1 pint
Purchased at: Target
Rating: 8 out of 10
Pros: Delightful. The Full Minty. Super Brownied. Cures what ails you.
Cons: Richer than the people who make it. Holy fat, calories, etc. Could use some sort of crunch, maybe.

REVIEW: Ben & Jerry’s Chunky Monkey Non-Dairy Frozen Dessert

Ben & Jerry's Chunky Monkey Non-Dairy Frozen Dessert

Ben & Jerry’s flavor gurus have wizarded four new Non-Dairy Frozen Dessert flavors: Chunky Monkey, Chocolate Fudge Brownie, Coffee Fudge Caramel, and P.B. & Cookies. Yes, autocorrect keeps reminding me that “wizarded” is not a real verb but the flavor gurus’ work is food magic.

While my body is still processing lactose like a champ, I have many friends who can no longer enjoy lactose-filled foods – even with Lactaid! But, is Ben & Jerry’s giving my lactose-intolerant friends the real deal with this Non-Dairy innovation? I’m particularly skeptical of Non-Dairy Chunky Monkey because it’s a brazen move to try to replicate a tried & true flavor.

There’s only one way to settle it – a good ole taste-off.

As I open both pints and get ready to dig in, Rocky IV flashes before me. Regular Chunky Monkey is Rocky – now wildly successful and the crowd-pleasing favorite. It used to be the underdog because banana ice cream isn’t OG like vanilla or chocolate. Non-Dairy Chunky Monkey is Ivan Drago – designed to perform and to mirror the best of the best.

*DING DING DING*

The first round, taste, goes to regular Chunky Monkey. Unlike the full-fat Chunky Monkey, Non-Dairy Chunky Monkey doesn’t have a creamy buffer so the banana flavor is reminiscent of banana-flavored Runts. Runts were one of the worst candies in the childhood trick-o-treat plunder and of course, the banana-shaped runt was the worst flavor of them all. It’s not looking so hot for Non-Dairy Chunky Monkey.

Chunky Monkey and Non-Dairy Chunky Monkey are neck-and-neck in Round Two – texture. Non-Dairy Chunky Monkey takes the win. Non-Dairy Chunky Monkey’s overall texture is surprisingly identical to the regular Chunky Monkey. How is Ben & Jerry’s Non-Dairy Frozen Dessert made with almond milk?! Vegan ice creams are typically made with fattier substances like cashew milk or coconut milk. I don’t know what kind of almond milk Ben Cohen & Jerry Greenfield drink but the almond milk in my fridge is most closely related to murky water. ALMOND MILK SORCERY!!!

Ben & Jerry's Chunky Monkey Non-Dairy Frozen Dessert 2
(L – Non-Dairy, R – Regular)

Round Three, mix-ins, is a swift win for regular Chunky Monkey. Non-Dairy Chunky Monkey’s packaging claims that it’s “so boldly loaded with chunks & swirls.” While I can clearly see the superior distribution of the fudge chunks and walnut pieces in Non-Dairy Chunky Monkey, the Non-Dairy Chunky Monkey fudge chunks have a sandy texture and are also less deliciously rich. It’s a rookie error of quantity over quality – tsk, tsk Non-Dairy!

Instead of ring girls holding up round cards, it’s just me holding up two spoons – alternating bites of ice cream and Non-Dairy Frozen Dessert at lightning speed. Brain freeze? Yep, numerous times.  

Now, we’re in the 15th & final round (and I’m finally almost done with both pints). Non-Dairy Chunky Monkey goes the distance; it’s not melting as quickly as regular Chunky Monkey. Regular Chunky Monkey is puddling into pools while Non-Dairy Chunky Monkey is melty but definitely looks more solid.  

Ben & Jerry's Chunky Monkey Non-Dairy Frozen Dessert 3

The taste-off is over and it’s a close call. Regular Chunky Monkey edges out Non-Dairy Chunky Monkey. However, like Rocky & Drago, Chunky Monkey & Non-Dairy Chunky Monkey can co-exist! While Non-Dairy Chunky Monkey is not an exact replica of the regular Chunky Monkey, it’s pretty damn close.

As a lactose-lovin’ gal, Non-Dairy Chunky Monkey wouldn’t be my go-to because it doesn’t have the full-fat richness, fragrance. But, some Ben & Jerry’s is better than no Ben & Jerry’s; Non-Dairy is a really great option for lactose intolerant/vegan folks. Ben & Jerry’s Non-Dairy Chunky Monkey Frozen Dessert won’t be in the Flavor Graveyard any time soon.

(Nutrition Facts – 1/2 cup – 260 calories, 130 calories from fat, 14 grams of fat, 8 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 0 milligrams of cholesterol, 15 milligrams of sodium, 31 grams of carbohydrates, 1 gram of fiber, 26 grams of sugar, and 2 grams of protein.)

Purchased Price: $5.79
Size: 1 pint
Purchased at: Vons
Rating: 6 out of 10
Pros: Almond Milk Sorcery!!! Superior distribution of the good stuff. Coexist with regular Chunky Monkey like Rocky & Drago! Goes the distance.
Cons: Banana-flavored runts. Sandy fudge chunks.

REVIEW: Ben & Jerry’s Chocolate Fudge Brownie Non-Dairy Frozen Dessert

Ben & Jerry's Chocolate Fudge Brownie Non-Dairy Frozen Dessert

As a young lad, I used to think the term “lactose intolerant” was really “lack toast and tolerant,” and I was fascinated whenever I met someone with the condition.

In my mind these people lacked sufficient amounts of toast and were extremely understanding. Not having friends who were lactose intolerant, I never heard the phrase much other than a few times growing up, so my illusion was shattered when I figured out what the term really meant in high school.

They say you don’t really know someone until you walk a mile in their shoes, then have your faces surgically switched like in the Travolta/Cage classic Face/Off, drop their kids off at school, work their job, come home, tell your new family about your day over dinner, and sleep with their spouse. Unfortunately I’ve never done this because I don’t have the patience to talk about my day with strangers, but I have, at select points in life, went a few days without having dairy. And it stunk!

I mean, could you imagine not having Ben & Jerry’s ice cream? Well, now you don’t have to. Nor should you. It’s not a fun scenario to imagine.

Ben & Jerry's Chocolate Fudge Brownie Non-Dairy Frozen Dessert 2

Ben & Jerry’s answered non-dairy prayers everywhere with their new line of Non-Dairy Frozen Desserts, which are made with almond milk. Now lactose intolerant peeps everywhere can be friends with two of the coolest dudes around!

But how does it compare to regular Ben & Jerry’s ice cream? Pretty darn good. There are many noticeable differences but given the aim of the product is for non-dairy folk to be able to partake, they’re easily looked over.

Ben & Jerry's Chocolate Fudge Brownie Non-Dairy Frozen Dessert 3

The flavors are most modeled after already existing flavors, like this one, Chocolate Fudge Brownie. I noticed right upon opening the pint there is no distinct smell to the ice cream. The moment you dig your spoon in you’ll find the consistency is very different from the dairy version. The dessert is crumbly when you bite into it. It’s not nearly as creamy as the dairy version; it’s actually kind of dry.

The chocolate flavor is not nearly as sweet as the dairy kind. It’s more of a bitter flavor, kind of like a light dark chocolate. Although not as good as the ice cream, it’s something you would be happy eating if you couldn’t have the dairy version.

I don’t know for sure if the brownies are made with almond milk, too, but if I had to guess I would say they were. They are packed with flavor like the dairy version but they are much drier. Usually Ben & Jerry’s brownies have some moistness to them but these brownies have the feel of next day brownies, when you leave the brownies out for a bit and they dry out. Still really tasty, just a tad dry.

The brownies actually come from Greyston’s, a bakery in New York, which aims to provide jobs for low-income residents, so you can feel extra good about eating them.

Overall, the non-dairy frozen dessert isn’t as good as the ice cream version but it’s still really tasty and would please lactose intolerant folks and ice cream snobs alike. The worst part is the price, which ran me $5.49 for the pint. Yikes! A bit excessive, but if you’ve never experienced Ben & Jerry’s because you’re lactose intolerant, it’s worth the plunge.

(Nutrition Facts – 1/2 cup – 200 calories, 100 calories from fat, 11 grams of fat, 6 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 0 milligrams of cholesterol, 45 milligrams of sodium, 23 grams of carbohydrates, 2 grams of fiber, 16 grams of sugar, and 3 grams of protein..)

Purchased Price: $5.49
Size: 1 pint
Purchased at: Wegmans
Rating: 6 out of 10
Pros: Good flavors for not being real ice cream. Face-switching surgery. Non-dairy folks having prayers answered.
Cons: Ice cream and brownies are a tad dry. Lacking sufficient toast. Having your illusions shattered.

REVIEW: Ben & Jerry’s Coconuts for Caramel Core Ice Cream

Ben & Jerry's Coconuts for Caramel Core Ice Cream

Perusing through the frozen foods section of a grocery store – specifically the ice cream section – is a joyous activity indeed, yet sometimes it can be overwhelming. Like, for example, when you see Ben & Jerry’s just dropped not one, not two, but three new flavors on you, and you’re presented with a conundrum: which flavor is right for me? Then you have to look deep inside yourself and do a quick cavity search on your soul to come to a decision.

I settled for Coconuts for Caramel, one of the most recent additions to the ever-expanding Core line. Well, I wouldn’t call it settling. It sounded scrump, and my older brother did send me a text along the lines of, “OMG YOU MUST TRY COCONUTS FOR CARAMEL IT IS SO GOOD (SNOWMAN EMOJI)” So, it was a pretty easy choice. Wait, why snowman emoji? There are like, three different ice cream ones.

So you probably guessed the ice cream contains coconut and caramel. I hope you did, otherwise you’ll never be a detective. A core of gooey caramel sits in the middle, surrounded by sweet cream coconut and caramel ice creams. Yes, it’s a much less obvious concoction than the early Core entries the flavor team probably spent all of five minutes on – Peanut Butter Fudge Core, ahem – so that’s pretty neat. Good to see them continuing in a less played out direction.

The caramel side of things is amazing. The core is real rich, resembling caramel you’d normally find residing in a truffle. The caramel ice cream is more mellowed down than the core. The flavor reminds me of a caramel macchiato. If you scoop it along with the core, which you will, it’s like collecting a caramel power up in a Super Mario game. Or going down a random pipe and collecting caramel coins? You get the idea. Either way, yes.

The sweet cream coconut ice cream can complicate matters a bit. It has so much coconut in it, plus chocolate chips, I had trouble discerning the taste of the actual ice cream. It’s like trying to find a needle in a haystack that is made out of the filling in a Mounds bar. It can get frustrating. Much like watching the slow, clueless contestants on the old game show Supermarket Sweep. It’s like, “come on, go get the Farmer John Hams!” But no! They’re dilly-dallying in the personal care aisle.

Ben & Jerry's Coconuts for Caramel Core Ice Cream 2

Ben & Jerry’s is famous for having lots of mix-ins in their ice cream – they used to have a fan club called “Chunk Spelunkers,” which is sadly now defunct – but this was coconut overkill. The texture is not like normal ice cream, it’s more gritty than creamy, and was tough to eat on its own.

Your best bet is to combine the two ice creams together and scoop out some of the caramel core in the same bite. This is where the pint is money. The caramel from the core and the creamy caramel ice cream cover up the overabundance of fillings in the coconut ice cream and combines into something like a caramel covered Mounds bar.

It would have worked better if the chocolate chips were in the caramel ice cream and there was half the amount of coconut. That may just have balanced things out. Plus, caramel has to be lonely over there. Sweet cream coconut has ice cream and two fillings. That’s not fair at all. Why does the coconut side get everything?

Another minor issue I had was the core basically disappeared towards the bottom quarter of the pint, which I have pointed out in other Core flavors. I wish they would get the cores to reach the bottom more consistently. But not everything can be perfect.

(Nutrition Facts – 1/2 cup – 280 calories, 150 calories from fat, 17 grams of fat, 12 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 60 milligrams of cholesterol, 65 milligrams of sodium, 28 grams of total carbohydrates, 2 grams of dietary fiber, 25 grams of sugar, and 4 grams of protein..)

Purchased Price: $3.99
Size: 1 pint
Purchased at: Wegman’s
Rating: 5 out of 10
Pros: Sweet, different caramel flavors. Snowman emojis. Going down pipes and collecting things.
Cons: Coconut overkill. Bad texture for ice cream. Awful “Supermarket Sweep” contestants.

REVIEW: Ben & Jerry’s Cookies & Cream Cheesecake Core Ice Cream

Ben & Jerry's Cookies & Cream Cheesecake Core Ice Cream

Ben and Jerry are game changers.

As far as the most innovative people of the last 200 years goes, I’d rank them fourth behind the guy Edison stole his ideas from, the inventor of basketball’s three point line, and Tony Stark. Also, I have Ben just behind Mr. Franklin in the “Best Ben’s” category, and Jerry tied for first with Seinfeld.

I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t skeptical when I first heard of Ben & Jerry’s Core ice cream line. They already had plenty of choices on the market. I just assumed they were repackaging old flavors with a shiny new gimmick.

For the very first time in my life, I was wrong.

Enter Cookies & Cream Cheesecake Core Ice Cream.

Sure Ben and Jerry messed around with a cheesecake flavor in the past, but not like this.

The base ice cream flavors here are chocolate and cheesecake. Chocolate is, well, chocolate. Don’t expect them to reinvent the wheel there. The cheesecake ice cream wasn’t really all that strong either. If I didn’t know, I would have said it was just vanilla. It was subtle, almost giving off a malt flavor, but I think that was intentionally done to not overpower the star of the show – the core.

It’s perfect.

Ben & Jerry's Cookies & Cream Cheesecake Core Ice Cream 2

I think cheesecakes are one of those foods that are either incredibly delicious or downright boring. There’s no in-between. No core, if you will. For me, the sign of a good piece of cheesecake is when I don’t even remember it’s actually a cheese-based dessert. That’s what you get here. It’s perfectly sweet without being cloying like a lot of Cheesecake Factory’s fare. The soft texture was exactly what it should be. It gets cold, but not quite as cold as the ice cream surrounding it, so there’s a nice difference in flavor and texture. I would have thought cheesecake à la mode would be overkill, but now it’s all I want.

That’s not to say this concoction is perfect. The chocolate cookie pieces, while necessary to make a “cookies and cream” ice cream, brought little to the table. They tasted more like brownie pieces and were somehow dry despite being speckled in ice cream. I would have liked it if they went a little wackier with it. Perhaps a play on a chocolate chippy topping may have suited this better, but that’s just a nitpick.

Ben & Jerry's Cookies & Cream Cheesecake Core Ice Cream 3

Cutting the carton in half results in something that looks like a delicious seismic chart. The core and the cheesecake ice cream are kind of indistinguishable in color, so any time I tasted the core it was a pleasant surprise.

So while it was basically a normal swirl ice cream with boring cookie pieces, the core was so damn good. I kind of understood Ben & Jerry’s choice to go that route. This flavor is a one ingredient CORE-de-force. Eh? Right?

That being said, I did get the urge to buy this flavor again and perform ice cream Frankenstein surgery. I want to de-core it and swap it into various other Ben & Jerry’s varieties. Imagine the possibilities! Phish Food with a cheesecake core. Chubby Hubby with a cheesecake core. Americone Dream with a…oh, who am I kidding, I’m far too lazy to do this.

I’ll just stick with their Cookies & Cream Cheesecake Core as an enCORE. Eh? Right?

(Nutrition Facts – 1/2 cup – 270 calories, 15 grams of fat, 10 grams of saturated fat, 65 milligrams of cholesterol, 90 milligrams of sodium, 27 grams of carbohydrates, 1 gram of dietary fiber, 24 grams of sugars, and 5 grams of protein.)

Purchased Price: $3.00
Size: 1 pint
Purchased at: Stop & Shop
Rating: 8 out of 10
Pros: Perfect cheesecake core. Nothing wrong with a swirl. Good balance of ingredients. Game changers. Cheesecake à la mode. Steph Curry from downtown. Puns.
Cons: Uninspired cookie pieces. Destroying the package and forcing yourself to eat the entire thing in one sitting. Thomas Edison is a thief. Puns.