REVIEW: Häagen-Dazs Tiramisu Dark Chocolate Gelato Bars

Ha?agen-Dazs Tiramisu Dark Chocolate Gelato Bars 1

A recent sojourn down the freezer aisles at Walmart has left me entirely convinced that the ice cream industry lays claim to some of the most linguistically appealing words. Take gelato, for example. Or better yet, Häagen-Dazs.

The way the words roll off the tongue with that seductive and sophisticated air is enough to sway a health nut away from the coarse offering of the produce department, or even a cash-strapped college student away from the economical tractor-beam that is the cereal aisle. Frosted Flakes, you say? Froot Loops? Please, mere alliteration and assonance cannot compare.

Perhaps this was the siren song which led me to Häagen-Dazs’ new line of Gelato Bars. As if transfixed by the mere sound alone, repeated in Neapolitan prose of some great poet (or at least Giada De Laurentiis) the tiramisu flavor was beyond by capacity to pass up.

Tiramisu seems to be a natural flavor choice for a gelato bar. Obviously the name alone fits in with the ethos of cultured European desserts, but the flavors, too, lend themselves to gelato. At first I was a bit skeptical; there’s a lot going on in tiramisu. Between the custard element and the coffee flavor to the not-too-tangy richness of the mascarpone cheese, it’s a lot to pack into bar form. And pack it they do.

Ha?agen-Dazs Tiramisu Dark Chocolate Gelato Bars 3

Each bar comes in this totally adorable sleeve, enrobed with a white patchwork pattern gracing the dark chocolate shell. It’s enough to make even the most dude of dudes want to go “awe, it looks like a little tuxedoed ice cream bar!” I may or may not have done this, but regardless, you get the point. Looks count when you’re paying more than a dollar a bar, and Häagen-Dazs gets it.

Ha?agen-Dazs Tiramisu Dark Chocolate Gelato Bars 4

The dark chocolate shell is exquisite. Yes, I believe exquisite is the right word. It’s bittersweet and smooth, with none of that off-putting metallic aftertaste some shells have. It holds its shape extremely well, yielding a slow melt and rounded flavor. I do wish the white patchwork drizzle had a bit more white chocolate flavor, but I became so engrossed in this dark chocolate shell that I can forgive what amounted to little more than ornamentation.

One often wonders about the texture of gelato, which although it claims no labeling standard in this country, is regarded as having a lower butterfat and sugar content than ice cream. In this case, though, the coffee-flavored gelato beneath the shell tastes both rich and sweet, with an authentic light-roast flavor which co-habitates wonderfully with the dark chocolate.

There’s an extra element there too. It’s hard to define, even after scouring a veritable Google search of taste-inspired vocabulary words. It’s nonetheless smooth in texture and indulgent in flavor, inspiring a cream cheese appeal without any of the stabilizing weirdness of actual cream cheese. This I can only assume is the mascarpone element combined with the egg yolk-fortified custard. I admit my lack of actual time spent enjoying real tiramisu in cafes amidst the Venato region of Italy may leave a feeling of doubt about my authority to claim this, but having had a crush on Giada and watched her shows for the better part of the time I decided girls no longer had cooties, I feel I do have some expertise in this matter.

All that being said, I can’t quite break into a Dean Martin rendition of “That’s Amore,” if only because the bar can’t fully complete the tiramisu flavor. There’s just no ladyfinger element, and given that one of the other flavors of the bar sticks freaking Pizzelle cookie pieces in the chocolate shell, I feel like I’m being shortchanged.

Ha?agen-Dazs Tiramisu Dark Chocolate Gelato Bars 5

When you think about it, the effect is really more affogato than tiramisu, although the latter is certainly more recognizable. Plus, and this would have been much more annoying on a summer day, the gelato base is more viscous than regular ice cream, and ends up exploding out of the shell if you’re not careful in eating the shell from top down.

Häagen-Dazs Gelato Bars definitely live up to their billing as sophisticated frozen desserts. With a rich coffee and mascarpone flavor and exquisitely smooth dark chocolate shell they’re worth their price tag, even if they inspire more of an affogato flavor than tiramisu. I only wish there was some kind of ladyfinger cookie or biscuit element involved, which would really push these bars into must-buy territory.

(Nutrition Facts – 1 bar – 270 calories, 160 calories from fat, 17 grams of fat, 11 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 60 milligrams of cholesterol, 45 milligrams of sodium, 25 grams of carbohydrates, 1 grams of fiber, 20 grams of sugar, and 3 grams of protein.)

Item: Häagen-Dazs Tiramisu Dark Chocolate Gelato Bars
Purchased Price: $3.49
Size: 3 bars/box
Purchased at: Walmart
Rating: 7 out of 10
Pros: Exceptional dark chocolate flavor in the shell. Tastes super rich. Coffee flavor is light and sweet. Notes of mascarpone and custard. Pronouncing foreign words.
Cons: No ladyfinger element. Outside lace doesn’t add more than ornamentation. Gelato base melts quickly once the integrity of the shell is broken. An awesome source of saturated fat.

QUICK REVIEW: Haagen-Dazs Caramelized Banana Chip Gelato

Ha?agen-Dazs Caramelized Banana Chip Gelato

Purchased Price: $3.99
Size: 14 oz
Purchased at: Target
Rating: 7 out of 10
Pros: Wonderful banana-flavored gelato that doesn’t taste doesn’t taste at all artificial, Lots of semi-sweet chocolatey shavings throughout the container, which give the frozen dessert a texture contrast. Not overly sweet. Easy to scoop out, somewhat hard to put down (although reading the nutrition facts over and over helped me put it down). Monkeys would approve.
Cons: Can’t taste the caramelization in the caramelized banana gelato; it tastes like plain banana ice cream. Not a full pint. Texture not like gelato one would get from a gelato shop, even after letting it soften a little. Has a very faint banana aroma. Not as great as Häagen-Dazs Bananas Foster Ice Cream, which has a flavor that’s more complex than this gelato.

Ha?agen-Dazs Caramelized Banana Chip Gelato Closeup

Nutrition Facts: 1/2 cup – 260 calories, 110 calories from fat, 12 grams of fat, 7 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 75 milligrams of cholesterol, 55 milligrams of sodium, 35 grams of carbohydrates, less than 1 gram of fiber, 26 grams of sugar, and 4 grams of protein.

REVIEW: Häagen-Dazs Pistachio Gelato

Ha?agen-Dazs Pistachio Gelato

There are many great mysteries in the universe. Like has anybody ever really killed two birds with one stone? Who’s the brilliant mind behind the cookie cake? If everything King Midas touches turns to gold, can he… you know… touch himself? Surely I’m not the only one who ponders these questions on a daily basis. Here’s another one of those mysteries: is gelato any good from a container?

Before I moved to Missouri, I lived directly across the street from an Italian café, which served the most foodgasm-inducing gelato I’d ever eaten. There were so many flavor options to choose from, it made every trip an adventure because you never knew what you’d walk out of there with.

Now that the authentic gelato is no longer across the street – and as far as I can tell nowhere to be had here – I knew it was time to do some investigating of my own into the store-bought gelatos. I got in the car and made the ever-joyous weekly trip to Walmart. And that’s not sarcasm. I literally live in the middle of nowhere, and going to Walmart passes for fun around these parts.

While perusing the ice cream aisle, I found Häagen-Dazs had a new line of gelatos, and the flavor debate began to rage in my noggin. Pomegranate swirl? No. Caramelized banana chip? Interesting, but wasn’t in a banana mood. Pistachio? PISTACHIO! Yes, this was the one. Even the Walmart cashier knew it was the one, as before she put it in the bag she took a gander at it and said, “Mmm, now that looks good.” Indeed it does, Walmart cashier. Indeed it does.

Upon arriving home, I put the gelato in the freezer and prepared to set the mood for the occasion. I tucked the corners of my love seat cover in so it looked nice and neat, cleaned the clutter from my coffee table, put some Miles Davis on and got into my jammies. Yes, I call them jammies.

Ha?agen-Dazs Pistachio Gelato Top

After retrieving the gelato from it’s frozen prison, I popped it’s top – tee hee – and gave it a look over. It’s a darker green than pistachio ice creams are, and it had little black specks in it, kind of like a vanilla bean flavor would. I buried the cold steel of my spoon in and took a bite.

HO. LEE. CRAP.

The gelato was light and uber-creamy like authentic gelato, and it tasted like a real pistachio without having actual pistachios inside of it. This is an advantage because as anyone who’s eaten pistachio ice cream knows, you get a rotten pistachio every once in a while and it is one of the vilest tastes you’ll encounter.

The gelato is sweet tasting like pistachio ice cream, but you also get that roasted pistachio taste, something I hadn’t encountered in a frozen pistachio delicacy before. It has a high fat content, but you couldn’t tell unless you looked at the nutrition facts because it’s just so damn light and airy. The only element it was missing was the saltiness a real pistachio has. Curious, I put a little bit of salt on a spoonful.

Ha?agen-Dazs Pistachio Gelato Spoon

It would be impossible for a word or two to describe just how good this bite was, so I will attempt to do so with the following story that may or may not be true. I’ll leave it to you to decide.

After taking the bite, I blacked out. I awoke some time later to a knock on my door. I wondered who it could be as my building has a buzz-in system. My hot neighbor finally giving into my offer of drinking and yelling at my fantasy baseball team with me? I opened the door to reveal a six-foot tall pistachio. I first thought this some odd Trojan horse attempt of my hot neighbor to make it inside my apartment, and I said “if you wanted to come watch fantasy scores with me, you just had to ask.” But this was not my hot neighbor. It was a talking pistachio. And not just any pistachio either. It was the Pistachio King!

He said he was summoned here when I achieved pistachio bliss after putting salt on the gelato. I had uncovered the key to ultimate pistachio power. Basically, I unlocked the Super Saiyan 4 level of pistachio flavor.

The king and I hit it off instantly. It was like we were best friends in a past lifetime. He brought a 24-pack of my favorite beer, Sam Adams Coldsnap, and even laughed at my lame “that’s a Coldsnap, baby” line, a play off of SRV’s “Coldshot.” We put back bottle after bottle and collectively yelled at my fantasy baseball team. Once the games were done for the night, I asked Pistachio King if he wanted to watch me play Kingdom Hearts, and without hesitation he said yes! It’s not even a two-player game, but he didn’t care, he just continued to drink and cheer me on.

At one point Pistachio King asked if I wanted “some of that good shit,” and pulled out a baggie filled with a white crystal-like substance inside. I said “Pistachio King, I don’t do that,” but he said “don’t worry, it’s only salt!” We had a good laugh, and then I put some of the salt on the gelato and took a bite. Everything started spinning, and I again blacked out.

When I awoke, Pistachio King was gone and the gelato container was empty. Probably just a dream. But wait, why are there pistachio shells on the floor? Hmm… Well, at least the gelato from a container mystery was solved.

(Nutrition Facts – 1/2 cup – 260 calories, 13 grams of fat, 6 grams of saturated fat, 85 milligrams of cholesterol, 40 milligrams of sodium, 30 grams of carbohydrates, 22 grams of sugar, 6 grams of protein, 10% vitamin A, 10% calcium, and 4% iron.)

Item: Häagen-Dazs Pistachio Gelato
Purchased Price: $3.89
Size: 14 oz.
Purchased at: Walmart
Rating: 10 out of 10
Pros: As good as legit Italian gelato. Incredible real pistachio flavor. Adding a bit of salt brings out-of-body experience. Kickin’ it with Pistachio King.
Cons: High fat content. Container’s not a full pint. Hot neighbor still doesn’t want to drink and yell at my fantasy baseball team with me. King Midas mystery remains unsolved.

REVIEW: Häagen-Dazs Sea Salt Caramel Gelato

Haagen Dazs Sea Salt Caramel Gelato

Q: What do you call it when a Danish-sounding company sells an Italian dessert in America?

A: Delicious! Or so we hope.

Fine, so I won’t get a job crafting jokes for Conan anytime soon. (At this point, even Leno is probably out of the question.) Still, you must admit there’s a certain sense of satisfaction to be felt when America, supposedly the great melting pot, so heartily embraces other cultures like this. Throw on some Spanish peanuts, serve with Colombian coffee and you’re in business!

Or are you?

As I had no idea about before researching this review (yes, I occasionally put in a little effort), Häagen-Dazs can trace its origins all the way back to… the Bronx. The founder was a Polish immigrant who decided his high-end ice cream might sell better with an exotic-sounding name, which history would prove remarkably accurate. So for everyone who assumed Häagen-Dazs originated in Denmark or Sweden, sorry… you’ll still have to head to Ikea for your genuine Scandinavian fix. Or just read the rest of this review, since the blood of a hundred raging Norsemen pounds through my veins (plus a couple of crafty Irishmen who snuck in there).

Since I was already researching stuff, I decided to go all the way and find out what distinguishes gelato from regular ice cream. Not a lot, as it turns out, since “gelato” is just the Italian word for ice cream. Generally speaking in the U.S., it’s a soft ice cream with less air and usually a little richer than regular ice cream.

But since there aren’t any official standards governing it, technically anyone can call their ice cream “gelato” with no consequences. Still, I’m going to ignore the skepticism bred into me by years of corporate work and choose to believe Häagen-Dazs actually did make this dessert a little richer than usual, instead of just calling it gelato to capture that exotic mystique. And they do capitalize on it, with the words “Italy” or “Italian” used on the carton about a dozen times and a little outline of the Colosseum.

Of course, when I hear the words “sea salt” I think not of Italy but of my home state of New Jersey. And being a big caramel fan as well, I was really looking forward to digging into this stuff. Color wise, it’s somewhere between beige and tan, strongly reminiscent of coffee ice cream. Once you dig a scoop in, you’ll locate the caramel swirl, though it should be noted that it’s not criss-crossing every square inch of the container, more popping up every now and again like jokes in recent seasons of The Simpsons. There also aren’t actual visible-to-the-naked-eye chunks of salt scattered throughout the mixture like little NaCl nuggets.

Haagen Dazs Sea Salt Caramel Gelato Closeup

But speaking of salt, that leads me to maybe the biggest surprise about Häagen-Dazs Gelato Sea Salt Caramel, which is that the sea salt isn’t distributed evenly through the ice cream. If asked to predict ahead of time, I would have guessed that the salty taste would be pretty uniform with caramel becoming more and less prominent depending on how much of the swirl was in each bite. What I didn’t realize is that the sea salt is actually contained IN the caramel swirl. In essence, there’s sort of a “base” caramel foundation flavor, and then the saltiness waxes and wanes with the amount of swirl you get.

And boy, does it ever: some bites you might as well be eating plain caramel ice cream, with others you’ll be surfing a saline wave. At times it’s almost a delayed reaction, lingering after the caramel taste has faded, but it never becomes overwhelming, so you won’t feel like someone tossed a salt lick into your dessert. If anything I would have hoped for a little more salt… it’s good, so either expand the ribbon or mix a little bit into the base caramel.

Speaking of which, the overall caramel flavor is nicely rich and creamy, so I guess no lawsuits need to be filed over the “gelato” name, pending the results of the air content analysis I ordered. (Got my eye on you, Häagen-Dazs… or should I say, Hojnowski-Dziedzic?) The caramel swirl adds a nice textural element, and I was impressed by how easy it was to scoop even right out of the freezer — with lower air content and increased richness you might suspect it’d be harder to dig into, but actually quite the opposite. Or I’m just getting super-strong, another distinct possibility.

This is a good dessert, although the cost and calories have to be at least a little prohibitive. Still, it blends relatively well and is rich, as promised. (You’ll also need to hit the stairmaster for an extra 20 minutes the next day, as not promised but implied.) It isn’t the best ice cream I’ve ever had, but definitely a successful experiment, and one you shouldn’t hesitate to reach for if you’ve got a craving for some sweet n’ salty goodness.

(Nutrition Facts – 1/2 cup – 270 calories, 100 calories from fat, 11 grams of total fat, 6 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 85 milligrams of cholesterol, 150 milligrams of sodium, 38 grams of total carbohydrates, 0 grams of dietary fiber, 28 grams of sugars, and 4 grams of protein.)

Other Häagen-Dazs Sea Salt Caramel Gelato reviews:
The Ice Cream Informant

Item: Häagen-Dazs Sea Salt Caramel Gelato
Purchased Price: $4.49
Size: 14 fl. oz.
Purchased at: Giant
Rating: 7 out of 10
Pros: Official ice cream of both the Vatican AND the Jersey Shore. Smooth and rich, just like you like your men. Caramel ice cream + caramel swirl = great combination! When it’s there, the salt adds a terrific element. Mostly-black carton makes you look super cool.
Cons: Misleading company names. Not enough salt to justify making up 2/3rds of the product name. Recent seasons of The Simpsons. Definitely needs a wider caramel swath. Legally I’m allowed to plop a Frosty in a cup and sell it as “gelato.”

REVIEW: Häagen-Dazs Cappuccino Gelato

Ha?agen-Dazs Cappuccino Gelato

The last time The Impulsive Buy reviewed a Häagen-Dazs product, fellow writer Jasper came up with a groundbreaking, but ridiculously simple hypothesis for why one of the company’s premium ice cream varieties has never received below a “7” score on a TIB review.

Let’s take a look back, shall we?
 

Häagen-Dazs routinely comes out with interesting and well-executed new products but, look, when your product’s primary ingredients are sugar and cream, you’re set up for success

I couldn’t agree more. Taking a look at your standard Häagen-Dazs container, you almost always see cream as the first ingredient listed, followed by skim milk and then sugar. To make things even richer, Häagen-Dazs also adds egg yolks to many flavors. But what happens when they pull the old switcheroo on the first two ingredients, adding more skim milk than cream, and then adding a little corn syrup to act as the main sweetener instead of sugar? While were at it, let’s just take out those yolks as well. What kind of machination of frozen dessert wizardry does that leave poor schmucks like me with?

Apparently something vaguely Italian. Don’t get me wrong. Häagen-Dazs’ new line of Gelato keeps with the gut-busting ethos of premium frozen dairy products that pack more than 200 calories per 1/2 cup serving, but seriously, by inverting the first two ingredients of their standard ice cream the company is taking the ice cream equivalent to a fall from the Majors to Single A. That’s a big gamble for something that promises a “taste of Italy” and comes in similar, if not identical, flavors as your standard ice cream. God knows I love a good pizza and could totally use some one-on-one kitchen pointers from Giada, but I was skeptical that this new line of frozen desserts could live up to its gourmet billing.

The new line of Gelato comes in seven flavors, but because my local Walmart isn’t exactly a café in the streets of Florence, only Vanilla Bean and Cappuccino were in stock. I chose the later, mostly because my stops into Walmart tend to occur before the sun rises, and I felt like getting a proper caffeine kick to compliment my breakfast of a Chick-fil-A Chicken Biscuit.

When judging frozen dairy, I like to borrow a page from Jasper’s playbook and apply the Pint Test. You may recall the Pint Test judges an ice cream/gelato’s quality on whether or not you would sacrifice your better health sense to finish the pint (or 14 oz. container) all in one sitting.

But I propose a corollary to the Pint Test. Any bastard with the willpower of a child in Toys “R” Us (like myself) can finish a pint on a hot summer day without thinking about it. The true test is whether or not someone like Jillian Michaels would finish a pint during a 14 degree morning after topping off a gargantuan church/fire department/community club sponsored breakfast of all-you-can-eat pancakes and sausage.

For that to happen, you know it’s good.

Unfortunately Jillian didn’t respond to my request for assistance in this review, but thanks to an 18 degree morning, I was able to capture an ethos that doesn’t exactly benefit gelato eating*.

Ha?agen-Dazs Cappuccino Gelato Closeup

I was expecting the kind of intense roasted espresso flavor one gets when shoving a handful of those chocolate covered espresso beans into one’s face, but I was instead greeted by a mellow coffee flavor and a milky-sweet taste. There’s a real freshness with each spoonful, thanks to the milk, but nothing else helped make it stand out beyond your standard coffee ice cream. If anything, the cappuccino “swirl” gives you inconsistent mouthfuls. Sometimes you’re getting a jolt of flavor, other times a whimper. 

Ha?agen-Dazs Cappuccino Gelato Spoon

The gelato was certainly smooth, but at the same time it lacked the frothy texture and almost whipped mouth feel that makes a cappuccino more than just espresso beans and milk. If anything, it reminded me of a condensed form of reduced fat ice cream, with the flavors dissipating rather than lingering (as an exceptionally rich ice cream would). The gelato melts quickly, and instead of holding its shape when scooped out, it sags back into a puddled indentation of sweetened cream, corn syrup, and yes, skim milk. My God, I just got a sickly but remarkably accurate image. This gelato develops old lady boobs. 

Jillian Michaels may not have been on hand to test my corollary to the Pint Test, but suffice to say, her iron will wouldn’t have crumbled beneath a few tasting spoonfuls. Make no mistake about it, there’s nothing particularly Italian about Häagen-Dazs’ venture into gelato, and nothing over-the-top or memorable about each spoonful.

It’s good, but so is every coffee ice cream I’ve ever had, many of which have not developed old lady boobs. I hate to be the guy who finally has to break the company’s impeccable record of product reviews here, but this is one Häagen-Dazs product which you won’t actually feel compelled to eat in one sitting.

*Despite outside photography, I didn’t actually eat said Gelato outside. That would have just been cold as balls.

(Nutrition Facts – 1/2 cup – 230 calories, 90 calories from fat, 10 grams of fat,62 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 90 milligrams of cholesterol, 45 milligrams of sodium, 32 grams of carbohydrates, 0 grams of fiber, 23 grams of sugar, 4 grams of protein, and 10% calcium)

Other Häagen-Dazs Gelato reviews:
Serious Eats
On Second Scoop

Item: Häagen-Dazs Cappuccino Gelato
Purchased Price: $3.86
Size: 14 ounces
Purchased at: Walmart
Rating: 5 out of 10
Pros: Clean and sweet coffee flavor. Smooth and creamy base with zero grit. Not finishing off an entire container and living with a day’s worth of self-disgust as you contemplate whether or not buying another pint is in order.
Cons: Not really a pint. Nothing exceptional or robust about the coffee flavor. Price per spoonful sucks. Cappuccino identity crisis. Melts too fast. Sags in your spoon like old lady boobs.