While these reviews are always a lot of fun to write, and hopefully slightly enjoyable to read as well, I want to be serious for a second. A few weeks ago, we found out my younger daughter is allergic to peanuts (and tree nuts, and sesame), culminating in a Mother’s Day trip to the emergency room. Fun! She’s perfectly fine — we’re learning what foods to buy and our house contains more adrenaline shots than the sets of Pulp Fiction and Crank combined — but it really caught us off guard. Between this and my older daughter getting a peanut stuck up her nose last year, I’m starting to think my ancestors owed George Washington Carver money or something.
Regardless, I mention this to explain why I was hesitant to pick up this new, peanut-y flavor of Ben & Jerry’s, exclusive to 7-Eleven. I could always keep it in the freezer at work, but it’s hard to write a review when you’re supposed to be… well, working. (Okay, it’s not HARD, but it’s frowned upon.)
Eventually I relented and brought it home, but I’ll say this: it’s a new experience to run out to the garage fridge every time I want to eat some ice cream, then make sure I wash my hands when I come back in. At least it’s summer; can you imagine me huddled out there in December, piteously lifting the spoon with shivering blue hands? Honestly, the lengths I theoretically might have gone to for you people.
Eschewing cutesy names like Karamel Sutra or I Wanna Dip My Malt Balls In It, this time B&J have elected to just tell you what it is: there’s nuts, there’s caramel, it’s swirled together. Transparency can be nice, though it feels a bit like watching a Michael Bay film titled “Stuff Blows Up and Also There’s a Pee Joke, Plus Boobs.” Maybe 7-Eleven stockholders hate puns, or possibly they just figured anyone making an impulse ice cream purchase while picking up a gallon of milk and some smokes wouldn’t properly appreciate clever wordplay.
Your loss, 7-Eleven.
As for the appearance, you’ve seen B&J’s cartons before, obviously. The most noticeable difference is that the little emblem denoting the ingredients to be Fair Trade has changed — before it kind of resembled a stick figure, now it looks like the logo to Sea World. Maybe the peanuts were harvested on the ocean floor or have been secretly replaced with kelp? Beyond that, the description promises nougat ice cream with peanuts, fudge flakes, and a salty caramel swirl. To put it mildly, that’s a lot to be getting on with. Your grandparents couldn’t find that many ingredients in an entire ice cream parlor, and B&J have crammed it all into one flavor. How will that play out?
Rather well, as it turns out, though not without some flaws. The peanuts are instantly recognizable, and extra enjoyable since they’ll pretty much never be allowed in this house again. The nougat ice cream is very rich and sweet; I’m a nougat fan, and this definitely gets the job done. The fudge can likewise easily be detected, and it and the peanuts are present in impressive quantities.
So what didn’t I like? Well, either there isn’t much caramel or the fudge is serving to mask it, because it doesn’t completely disappear but can easily be lost in the shuffle. Likewise, you’re not going to be able to tell whether the swirl is salty or not, although the peanuts fill that niche anyway, so the end result in your mouth is basically the same. I guess if you’re reeeeally reaching, it can be a bit tough to chew at times, though I personally like the textural variety and it’s certainly not going to be breaking your jaw. And as I mentioned earlier, the sheer number of ingredients can make for a slightly schizophrenic taste experience, though certainly not an unpleasant one.
I feel like nearly every Ben & Jerry’s review wraps up nearly the same, but this is another winner for the boys from Vermont. I’m fairly certain I’d enjoy it even if I weren’t on peanut lockdown, but the “forbidden fruit” aspect certainly doesn’t hurt. Even if you’re able to eat peanuts all damn day, though, I’d still recommend you pick a pint up and try it for yourself… that is, if you can afford 7-Eleven’s absurdly high prices without breaking the bank.
(As a postscript, my wife adds that she called Ben & Jerry’s to see whether allergens would be a problem in a factory tour we may take on an upcoming vacation, and found them to be “insanely helpful.” They offered to comp us a pint of allergen-safe ice cream when everyone else gets a sample of the day so that our younger daughter doesn’t feel left out. I must say, that’s super cool of them.)
(Nutrition Facts – 1/2 cup – 310 calories, 160 calories from fat, 18 grams of total fat, 10 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 55 milligrams of cholesterol, 90 milligrams of sodium, 32 grams of total carbohydrates, 2 grams of dietary fiber, 23 grams of sugars, and 6 grams of protein.)
Item: Ben & Jerry’s Nutty Caramel Swirl
Purchased Price: $5.49. Five and a half freaking dollars!
Size: 1 pint
Purchased at: 7-Eleven
Rating: 7 out of 10
Pros: Illicit peanuts are the best peanuts. Full nougat flavor. You will not get bored eating this ice cream. Father’s Day night officially NOT spent in the ER.
Cons: Not quite enough caramel. Mother’s Day night in the ER. Price suggests every other carton is expected to be shoplifted. Unimaginative name. Bringing something potentially lethal to your child into the garage is not Father of the Year material.