VIDEO REVIEW: Magnum Cookies & Cream Ice Cream Bars

Purchased Price: $6.99
Size: 3-pack
Purchased at: Safeway
Nutrition Facts: (1 bar) 280 calories, 150 calories from fat, 17 grams of fat, 12 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 15 milligrams of cholesterol, 90 milligrams of sodium, 30 grams of carbohydrates, 2 grams of fiber, 23 grams of sugar, and 2 grams of protein.

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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: Ben & Jerry’s Salted Caramel Almond Ice Cream

Ben & Jerry’s Salted Caramel Almond Ice Cream

Ben & Jerry’s Salted Caramel Almond is an exclusive Safeway flavor (plus its sister stores) and, to be honest, it’s not a particularly exciting exclusive flavor.

While Walmart gets Cotton Candy, Confetti Cake, and another flavor that probably starts with the letter C, and Target gets Blonde Ambition, Berry Voluntary, and another flavor that probably starts with the letter B, Safeway stores get a safe flavor with a safe name, which I guess is appropriate for a chain called Safeway.

The safe flavor features safe vanilla bean ice cream with safe roasted almond slivers, safe fudge flakes, and a safe salted caramel swirl.

The vanilla bean ice cream is a solid base, it’s creamy, has a pleasant vanilla flavor, and there are vanilla bean specks. Although those could be tiny bits of the fudge flakes, which taste like the fudge flakes we all know and love from the dozen or so other flavors that have them.

As for the roasted almond slivers, they’re less like whole cross-sections of the nut and more like whole cross-section of the nut smashed into pieces by a hammer. Their flavor isn’t too noticeable while eating the ice cream, but very noticeable as they stick to the nooks and crannies of your molars after the rest of the ice cream has gone down your esophagus. The salted caramel swirl has a saltiness that’s stronger when I lick my lips while eating the ice cream than when the ice cream is in my mouth.

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There’s almost enough of each ingredient that you can get a bit of everything in every spoonful. With each scoop it’s a textural orchestra of gooey, creamy, snappy, and crunchy and a flavor orchestra of buttery, sweet, salty, and nutty. It’s like eating the top of a Nestle Drumstick beaten with a better ingredient stick.

It’s hard to go wrong with the combination of vanilla ice cream, chocolate, caramel, and nuts. It’s like combining rainbows, glitter, and a unicorn. With either of those combos, you know you’re going to have a good time. And while I had fun with Ben & Jerry’s Salted Caramel Almond Ice Cream, it wasn’t too exciting and tasted like something I’ve had before.

It was a safe fun, like hitting a piñata with a foam bat, without a blindfold, and doing it in the virtual world with VR goggles.

(Nutrition Facts – 1/2 cup – 290 calories, 150 calories from fat, 17 grams of fat, 10 grams of saturated fat, 0.5 grams of trans fat, 70 milligrams of cholesterol, 140 milligrams of sodium, 28 grams of carbohydrates, 1 gram of fiber, 26 grams of sugar, and 5 grams of protein.)

Purchased Price: $5.99
Size: 1 pint
Purchased at: Safeway
Rating: 6 out of 10
Pros: It’s like eating the top of a Nestle Drumstick that’s been beaten with a better ingredient stick. Safe flavor; it’s not weird or offensive. Lots of different flavors and textures.
Cons: Safe flavor; not as exciting as exclusive flavors at Walmart and Target. Almond slivers are almond bits. Fudge flakes seem to be in EVERYTHING.

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.

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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: Hershey’s Crème Filled Mini Éclairs

Hershey's Cre?me Filled Mini E?clairs

An éclair looks like a chocolate bar donut and sounds like some kind of frou frou French gizmo. I can practically hear my high school French teacher scolding: “Don’t you dare forget that accent aigu above the eh (how “e” is pronounced in French)!” But, if you’ve tried to make éclairs, you’ll quickly realize that this classic French pastry deserves to be embellished with that dang accent because of how complicated it is to make.

So what business does Hershey’s have with éclairs? Hershey’s Crème Filled Mini Éclairs of course! Yep, sounds odd to me too. But I taste-tested these with an open mind. After trying these babies, Hershey’s can make all the frozen ready-to-eat desserts they want!

Instead of instant gratification, I had to thaw the mini éclairs for two hours in the fridge or 30 minutes at room temperature. I jokingly complain, but I’ll take a 30-minute thaw time over four-hour éclairs-from-scratch time any day. Unfortunately, my first red flag was that there was freezer burn; little ice crystals were hugging each of the mini éclairs. But, there’s no way to tell if the freezer burn was user error. So, I’ll give Hershey’s the benefit of the doubt – maybe I didn’t get the box into the freezer quickly enough from Walmart. The packaging does warn not to refreeze!

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Either way, because of the freezer burn, the mini éclairs didn’t look great thawed. The ice crystals melted down and made the chocolate look like it was balmy with sweat. Yum, sweaty chocolate. Surprisingly, the overall structural integrity of the oblong choux pastry remained intact. I expected the pastry itself to collapse after the freezer burn thawed out.

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I got through each mini éclair in three swift bites. The crème inside was very luscious and did not have an oily mouthfeel. Paired with the Hershey’s chocolate glaze, it was like I was eating creamy, milk chocolate goodness. The combination was also not sickeningly sweet; I’m not a fan of desserts that are cloyingly sweet. The glaze reminded me of the outside of a Dairy Queen Dipped Cone. And, like a dipped cone, the chocolate wrapped each choux pastry perfectly and the ratio was perfect – just enough for the amount of pastry.

The chocolate glaze was the choux pastry’s saving grace because the pastry itself wasn’t great. Could I tell the éclair had been frozen? If I didn’t personally thaw them, I might not have been able to. But, there was something about the pastry texture that clearly wasn’t fresh. It’s like fresh bagels vs. the day-old bagel pile – it tastes about the same but it’s missing that fresh dough elasticity and spring.

I could totally see myself bringing Hershey’s Crème Filled Mini Éclairs for a potluck and shamelessly taking credit for making them. But, Hershey’s must think we’re all ants because these mini éclairs are teeny-tiny! This is ‘MURRICAA!! However, Hershey’s is staying true to the essence of an éclair with this mini innovation. After all, éclairs were named after lightning because people eat ‘em (especially me) lightning quick!

(Nutrition Facts – 5 éclairs – 270 calories, 160 calories from fat, 18 grams of fat, 12 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 90 milligrams of cholesterol, 15 milligrams of sodium, 19 grams of carbohydrates, 13 grams of sugar, and 4 grams of protein.)

Purchased Price: $4.52
Size: 10.58 oz box/about 20 pieces
Purchased at: Walmart
Rating: 8 out of 10
Pros: 30-minute thaw time over four-hour éclairs-from-scratch time. Luscious crème. Creamy, milk chocolate goodness like a Dairy Queen Dipped Cone.
Cons: Freezer burn. Sweaty chocolate. Choux pastry = day old bagel pile. Éclairs for ants.