REVIEW: Haagen-Dazs Trio Salted Caramel & Chocolate Ice Cream

Haagen-Dazs Trio Salted Caramel & Chocolate Ice Cream

Ketchup, mustard, and mayo.

Jordan, Pippen, and Rodman.

Destiny’s Child.

Nirvana.

The Marx Brothers.

Our society is made up of so many good trios, why not shove that logic into a container of ice cream? The master-churners at Haagen-Dazs have our backs with their new line of creamy crack simply dubbed “Trio.” The Salted Caramel Chocolate version combines layers of crispy Belgian chocolate with salted caramel ice cream and chocolate ice cream. Let’s triple dip.

Digging into the psuedo-pint makes a distinctly unique crunching sound as my spoon breaks through the layers of chocolate inside. The ice cream is of typical Haagen-Dazs high quality – the mellow chocolate and subdued salted caramel make sense to combine in a flavor like this, but they ultimately kind of cancel each other out.

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It’s always a risk to mix two ice cream bases, and here some of the subtle nuances of the caramel get washed over by the chocolate; which is a shame, because when you isolate the caramel on its own it’s a pretty tasty flavor.

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The star of the show, the Belgian chocolate, is kind of thin; actually thinner than a lot of chocolate chunks or Ben & Jerry’s “fudge flakes,” and doesn’t add as much of a thick texture as I would like. The effect is much more similar to just a standard chocolate mix-in than a thick layer of chocolate, and in that regard the taste is much less impressive than the visual.

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It actually tastes a lot like one of Haagen-Dazs’ ice cream bars got smashed up and squeezed into a carton, without that disgusting wooden stick that makes my teeth cringe.

The flavor combo between the two ice creams and layers of milky chocolate is a lot like eating a Rolo, but less sweet and grainy. I like Rolo’s, but I’m not usually interested in more than two or three, and that’s the same way I feel about this Trio. The flavors are good but lose their intrigue quickly and become a pretty single noted experience with the caramel nearly disappearing against all of the chocolate.

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Overall, it eats much more like a chocolate chocolate chip than an ice cream with salted caramel, and the flavor would have been much more effective with a vanilla ice cream to let the caramel actually come through and have any real impact. It’s a well made product but the flavor distribution and execution could use some work.

(Nutrition Facts – 1/2 cup (104g) – 300 calories, 180 calories from fat, 20 grams of fat, 13 grams of saturated fat, 0.5 grams of trans fat, 75 milligrams of cholesterol, 80 milligrams of sodium, 26 grams of carbohydrates, 0 grams of fiber, 24 grams of sugar, and 5 grams of protein..)

Purchased Price: $3.99
Size: 14 oz.
Purchased at: Safeway
Rating: 6 out of 10
Pros: Exciting crunch sound effects. Good quality ice cream. Shoving a Haagen-Dazs bar into a pint.
Cons: Flavors get muddled. Caramel gets lost. Chocolate layers should be thicker. Concept better than execution.

REVIEW: Dreyer’s Limited Edition Toll House Peanut Butter Cookie Dough Ice Cream

Dreyer's Limited Edition Toll House Peanut Butter Cookie Dough Ice Cream

Light ice cream. Some people shiver and cringe at the very notion. Some people praise it and buy it all the time. Me? I’m somewhere in the middle.

Light ice cream takes up that middle space in between Halo Top and super premium pints or trips to the scoop shop. I appreciate it for what it is, go in with real expectations, and enjoy.

I don’t follow too closely to what Dreyer’s Slow Churned line is up to, but when they announced a Peanut Butter Cookie Dough flavor that would clock in at 120 calories and only four grams of fat per serving I was intrigued and had to put my PB-expertise to the test. The limited edition Nestle Toll House-branded flavor combines sweet cream light ice cream with peanut butter cookie dough pieces and a peanut butter swirl.

Dreyer's Limited Edition Toll House Peanut Butter Cookie Dough Ice Cream 2

The sweet cream ice cream base is generally unremarkable. It’s soft and creamy with a blanketed nondescript sweetness that acts much more as a texture than a flavor. No buttery notes, vanilla, or rich cream flavor can be found, but for a light ice cream it definitely holds its end of the bargain being a smooth and melty backdrop to the container’s mix-ins.

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Fortunately for the ice cream, it doesn’t need to work too hard because there is more peanut butter swirl than I expected and the nut butter fiend in me is definitely satisfied. Although the ribbons themselves are thin, there is a solid amount of peanut butter laced throughout every bite, occasionally even coming across a massive hardened chunk of PB that explodes with salty smoothness.

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The peanut butter itself is sweet and creamy, much like JIF or Skippy, and combines really well with the sweet cream to create a fluffy peanut-y experience that is much better than what I anticipated from a Slow Churned product.

The biggest issue with this flavor, unsurprisingly, is the cookie dough itself. While the taste of the dough is actually pretty good, with a unique deep fatty roasted peanut flavor and solid dough grittiness, there isn’t nearly enough of it and the pieces are quite small. Throughout the course of eating around a half of the container and digging around to try and find more, I came across less than 15 pieces of dough, which hardly lives up to its prominent placement in the flavor’s title.

Due to the low calorie count of the Slow Churned line I kind of expected this since the description and macros just seemed too good to be true. If they had to sacrifice somewhere the dough makes the most sense because if they had pulled back on the peanut butter swirl itself the flavor wouldn’t have come together at all.

(Nutrition Facts – 1/2 cup (63g) – 120 calories, 35 calories from fat, 4 grams of fat, 1.5 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 5 milligrams of cholesterol, 55 milligrams of sodium, 18 grams of carbohydrates, 0 grams of fiber, 13 grams of sugar, and 3 grams of protein.)

Purchased Price: $4.99
Size: 1.5 qts.
Purchased at: Safeway
Rating: 8 out of 10
Pros: Surprising amount of peanut butter swirl for a light ice cream. Fluffy creamy base. tasty nutty robust dough pieces. Solid nutritional tradeoff.
Cons: Not enough cookie dough pieces. Very basic nondescript sweet flavor in the ice cream base.

REVIEW: Limited Edition Peeps Oreo Cookies

Limited Edition Peeps Oreo Cookies

Goodbye red velvet and strange emoticon hearts!

Hello hoppy bunnies and pastel pallets!

As if there weren’t more Peeps flavors popping up than a rabbit’s litter in heat, this year Nabisco is gifting us the collaboration I’m not sure anyone anticipated or wanted – Limited Edition Peeps Oreo. This spring offering combines the Golden Oreo cookie with a fluorescent pink marshmallow Peeps flavored creme that unfortunately has no head you can rip off to begin your snacking.

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The package exudes a very “Golden” aroma, with a strong vanilla, buttercream kind of sweetness that reminds me of a super intensified Nilla Wafer. It smells more like a cookie than a marshmallow, with no notable Peep perfume mingling in the wash of creaminess. They’re also very visually appealing – the spring colors and golden yellow glow simply look tasty.

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The cookie is essentially a very sweet Golden Oreo, not too different from the Candy Corn flavor, which for me always tasted like a white frosted cupcake. What sets this one apart is a gritty sugar crystal crunch in the pink Peep creme that emulates the sparkly outside of the iconic marshmallow chick. This is the element I was most hoping Nabisco would incorporate into this mash up and they nailed it. It isn’t too intensely tough, but the creme adds a nice, smaller crunch to the bite of the big crumbly cookie.

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The problem is that the Peeps Oreo doesn’t really remind me at all of a Peep. What they share in common is that they are a big blast of sugar; but the cookie is completely devoid of any of the marshmallow nuances that contribute to Peeps’ notoriously fluffy flavor. After eating two or three in a row, a strange artificial tang developed on my tongue and left a little bit of a filmy feeling in my mouth, but surprisingly it still wasn’t as unpleasant as some other weird food dyed flavors I’ve encountered over the years.

If you’re a diehard Peeps fan who simply can’t get enough cute marshmallows in your life, then definitely give this a try for the novelty texture in the creme. If you’re looking for the next greatest limited Oreo flavor, or a worthy follow up to the beloved Marshmallow Crispy version, you can probably skip over these and instead make a melted masterpiece by exploding a Peep in the microwave and stuffing it inside of two Golden Oreo wafers, which might be just a tad more fun.

(Nutrition Facts – 2 cookies – 140 calories, 60 calories from fat, 7 grams of fat, 2 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 0 milligrams of cholesterol, 80 milligrams of sodium, 21 grams of carbohydrates, 0 grams of fiber, 12 grams of sugar, and 0 grams of protein.)

Purchased Price: $2.99
Size: 10.7 oz.
Purchased at: Safeway
Rating: 7 out of 10
Pros: Fun spring colors with pretty poppin’ pink. Gritty sugar-laced creme filling. Buttercream frosting sweetness. Classic golden Oreo sparkle.
Cons: Doesn’t really taste like Peeps. Slight artificial frosting tang buildup during snack-age.

REVIEW: Limited Edition Hostess Twinkies Ice Cream

Limited Edition Hostess Twinkies Ice Cream

Just in time for me dusting off the last of my White Peppermint Twinkies, Hostess is breaking down the freezer aisle doors with Limited Edition Twinkies Ice Cream. Combining a sweet butter cream ice cream with sponge cake pieces and a frosting swirl, the chubby 12-year-old in me can hardly contain his excitement.

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It should go without saying that this isn’t a super premium ice cream, but it isn’t a “diet” ice cream either, and the lower fat, higher air ratio here actually works to convey the desired flavors well. It scoops effortlessly, folding over on itself and exposing wonderful ripples of aggressively churned dairy. The base flavor is rich and buttery with caramel notes that hint towards the golden outside of Hostess’ sponge cake.

Limited Edition Hostess Twinkies Ice Cream 3

Texturally what it lacks in decadent density it makes up for with a light and fluffy whipped presence that melts with ease and reminds me of Twinkie creme. The frosting swirl is more predominantly mixed in with the base than standing out on its own, but when eating you can taste two distinct flavors. Some bites are pure sweet butter cream ice cream and others pop with a creme filling frosting surprise that is a touch greasy and extra sweet.

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The sponge pieces are perfect. Although not huge, they are pretty evenly sprinkled throughout and make their way pleasantly into every couple of bites. They’ve held their shape well and are chewy like cake that has been served on a plate with ice cream that has melted its way onto the slice. The texture is spot on Twinkie, with the exception that there’s no risk of them being dry because they’re drowning in deliciously sweet ice cream instead of sitting for an unknown amount of time in a cellophane wrapper.

Overall this is an extremely well-executed ice cream version of eating a Twinkie. The buttery, slightly greasy mouthfeel and melty creamy textures all harken back to the experience of eating the classic Hostess cake – but perhaps even better.

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It’s no secret that eating Twinkies can be extremely hit or miss, and this ice cream takes care of the quality issues that can happen when you buy cake at a gas station. It’s not going to flip the gourmet ice cream universe on its head, but it’s fun and tasty, and for what it is, it’s pretty damn good.

(Nutrition Facts – 1/2 cup (65g) – 160 calories, 70 calories from fat, 8 grams of fat, 4.5 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 0 grams sat fat, 20 milligrams of cholesterol, 50 milligrams of sodium, 20 grams of carbohydrates, 0 grams of fiber, 17 grams of sugar, and 2 grams of protein.)

Purchased Price: $4.99
Size: 1.5 qts
Purchased at: Safeway
Rating: 8 out of 10
Pros: Nice buttery sweet base with caramel notes. Tastes just like a Twinkie put into a blender. Tasty sponge cake, no risk of dryness.
Cons: A Twinkie ice cream that tastes better than an actual Twinkie = high risk of overdose.

REVIEW: Keebler Limited Batch Cinnamon Roll Fudge Stripes Cookies

Keebler Limited Batch Cinnamon Roll Fudge Stripes Cookies

Those funny little tree dwelling elves at Keebler really caught my attention last year. After being pushed to the back of my junk food brain, they officially put Fudge Stripes back on the map with killer Birthday Cake and Peppermint flavors that stood up to all of the limited release cookies I had in 2016.

To the resounding excitement of cinna-sluts like myself all across the nation, they’re kicking off 2017 with a Cinnamon Roll rendition of their famous striped confections.

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Immediately the rich robust smell of cinnamon and vanilla icing float out of the cool brown package. The aroma mimics that unmistakable head-turning scent that wafts out all Cinnabon’s in the finest shopping malls of America, resulting in the starry-eyed activation of the salivary glands.

The crunchy snap of the cookie is more pronounced than your average Fudge Stripe, which tends to occupy that space right between a soft and hard cookie. Leading the flavor is a soft cinnamon rush that is beautiful and balanced by the the thick and smooth vanilla glaze. It has a little bit less of a buttery taste than the usual Stripes’ shortbread base, and the dark tan cookie is speckled with brown giving an even and full cinnamon burst in every bite.

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The overall flavor is less sweet than their standard cookie but also not too aggressively spiced. For people who love cinnamon, like myself, there’s enough to satisfy, but not so much that they would turn someone off who may be more adverse to a strongly spiced cookie. Taste-wise the product they are most reminiscent of are cinnamon Teddy Grahams.

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Unlike an Oreo, there’s no real way to separate the baked base from the coating, but it’s pretty apparent that the cinnamon comes from the brown speckled cookie and the sweetness driven by the glaze. Surprisingly, the frosting flavor comes across much sweeter in the smell than it does on the tongue, which makes me feel like I could eat approximately 45 of these before any kind of “stop” registers in my brain.

For cookies that were baked inside of a tree, these are an impressive and satisfying take on one of Saturday morning’s greatest indulgences. Hopefully the Keebler clan can continue to channel their elfin voodoo and crank out a pancakes and syrup flavor so I will never have to cook breakfast again.

(Nutrition Facts – 2 cookies – 140 calories, 60 calories from fat, 7 grams of fat, 4 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 0 milligrams of cholesterol, 85 milligrams of sodium, 19 grams of carbohydrates, 0 grams of fiber, 10 grams of sugar, and 0 grams of protein.)

Purchased Price: $2.49
Size: 11.5 oz package
Purchased at: Target
Rating: 8 out of 10
Pros: Perfect cinnamon bun smell. Amazing cookie crunch. Balanced cinnamon and vanilla flavor. Potential to save breakfast cooking time in the future.
Cons: Could use some yeasty bread “roll” flavor.

REVIEW: Hershey’s Cupcake Kisses

Hershey's Cupcake Kisses

In my mind, and in my heart, cake and Kisses fall in essentially the same category. Short, sweet, and simple reminders that life is worth living, and ideally consumed/received on a daily basis. It is under this umbrella of logic that I read the news of Hershey’s Cupcake Kisses and proceeded to die with anticipation.

For this Target-exclusive Valentine’s Day candy Hershey’s put a spin on their popular Cookies ‘n’ Creme flavor (also available as Kisses) and made a “white cookie cupcake” kiss with colored cookies and cupcake flavor. Opening the playful pink bag is like dunking your face into a Funfetti frosting wonderland, It is exactly what I wanted these Kisses to smell like.

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The initial bite is very sweet and smacks you in the face with vanilla frosting splendor. At first these Kisses taste exactly like hardened bits of Funfetti vanilla frosting with the cookie pieces in place of the festive sprinkles, and the white chocolate is the jarred faux-buttercream. Unfortunately there is a strange astringent aftertaste that dominates and leaves my mouth tasting unpleasant and artificial, almost like a cake made with too much baking soda.

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I thought it might be coming from the colored cookie pieces, which unlike in the cookies and cream version have no chocolate or specific flavor to them. I was able to isolate some of the cookies in my mouth and they tasted fine, like a slightly tame shortbread. After repeatedly trying more Kisses to shake the bitter essence, it kept coming and put a damper on the overall experience, but for some reason I kept wanting to eat them.

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There is a lore that pink or red frosting has a bitter strong flavor when compared to other dyes, likely due to the use of iodine, Red #3, or Red #40. Although not specifically listed in the ingredients, there could be an element of frosting-emulation at play here that is causing the strange aftertaste.

Whether that translates to a true cupcake experience or a failed element of execution is up to you, but it’s certainly there, and for me, ultimately distracting. Strange frosting flavors have never kept me from crushing cake in the past, and while these Kisses miss the mark of being perfect, I will still eat at least three servings of them (27 Kisses).

(Nutrition Facts – 9 pieces – 200 calories, 90 calories from fat, 10 grams of fat, 6 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 0 milligrams of cholesterol, 50 milligrams of sodium, 24 grams of carbohydrates, 0 grams of dietary fiber, 18 grams of sugar, and 2 grams of protein..)

Purchased Price: $3.49
Size: 10 oz. package
Purchased at: Target
Rating: 6 out of 10
Pros: Funfetti frosting wonderland. Still oddly delicious. Foil covered in hearts. So many shades of pink.
Cons: Weird bitter aftertaste. Cake doesn’t have a crunch.