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.

NEWS: While Everyone Else Makes Greek Frozen Yogurt, Häagen-Dazs Makes Gelato

IMG_3329

While almost everyone who owns an ice cream company has recently introduced Greek frozen yogurt, Häagen-Dazs has, so far, stayed away from the trend. However, instead of going Greek, Häagen-Dazs has decided to go Italian.

According to a post at The Ice Cream Informant, Häagen-Dazs has released a line of gelato. However, it isn’t Häagen-Dazs’ first gelato effort. A quick Google search found that they released a line of the Italian dessert in 2000.

The new Häagen-Dazs Gelato line comes in seven flavors:

Black Cherry Amaretto – Blends black cherries with amaretto, an Italian liqueur (1/2 cup serving has 240 calories, 9 grams of fat, 5 grams of saturated fat, 26 grams of sugar, and 4 grams of protein)

Cappuccino – Combines cappuccino and sweet cream gelato (1/2 cup serving has 230 calories, 10 grams of fat, 6 grams of saturated fat, 23 grams of sugar, and 4 grams of protein)

Dark Chocolate Chip – Mixes bittersweet chocolaty chips into dark chocolate gelato (1/2 cup serving has 270 calories, 12 grams of fat, 8 grams of saturated fat, 24 grams of sugar, and 7 grams of protein)

Limoncello – Combines lemon gelato with vodka (1/2 cup serving has 240 calories 9 grams of fat, 5 grams of saturated fat, 26 grams of sugar, and 4 grams of protein)

Sea Salt Caramel – Blends sea salt caramel ribbons with caramel gelato (1/2 cup serving has 270 calories, 11 grams of fat, 6 grams of saturated fat, 29 grams of sugar, and 4 grams of protein)

Stracciatella – Combines chocolaty shavings with sweet cream gelato (1/2 cup serving has 270 calories, 13 grams of fat, 7 grams of saturated fat, 25 grams of sugar, and 4 grams of protein)

Vanilla Bean – Do I really need to explain this one? (1/2 cup serving has 230 calories, 10 grams of fat, 6 grams of saturated fat, 23 grams of sugar, and 4 grams of protein)

If you’ve tried the new (or old) Häagen-Dazs Gelato, let us know what you think of them in the comments below.

NEWS: Take A Break From Walking Around the Mall and Enjoy Häagen-Dazs’ New Sweet Balsamic Strawberry Sundae

Strawberries

If you frequent a Häagen-Dazs shop, don’t get your usual scoop of Rum Raisin or something boring like that. Instead, try Häagen-Dazs’ new Sweet Balsamic Strawberry Sundae.

Unless, you’re allergic to strawberries, then stick with your usual scoop of Rum Raisin.

The dessert, or mid-mall shopping spree treat, is constructed of two scoops of strawberry ice cream with a drizzle of handmade tangy balsamic strawberry sauce, and topped with whipped cream. The ice cream and sauce creates a sweet, tangy, and creamy combination.

According to this story on the QSR website, Häagen-Dazs’ strawberry ice cream uses only Hood and Totem strawberries. This blew my mind because I thought there was only one type of strawberries — strawberries. I am now educated. Thanks, Häagen-Dazs!

The Sweet Balsamic Strawberry Sundae will be available at Häagen-Dazs shops for a limited time.

Source: QSR Magazine

REVIEW: Häagen-Dazs 2012 Limited Edition Flavors (Coconut Macaroon, Vanilla Bean Espresso, and Spiced Caramel Biscuit)

Haagen-Dazs Limited Edition Flavors (Coconut Macaroon, Vanilla Bean Espresso, and Spiced Caramel Biscuit)-WM

Here at The Impulsive Buy, new ice cream products tend to receive very positive reviews. Häagen-Dazs flavors, in particular, have never received lower than 7 out of 10. I think these scores are perfectly reasonable. 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. It’s just much harder to mess up ice cream than, say, microwaveable dinners, or breakfast sandwiches, or well-constructed lists of three things.

I propose, then, that we hold ice cream to a higher standard by applying what I call the pint test. The premise is simple: Is the ice cream so good that you would sacrifice your health and self-respect to eat a whole pint in one sitting? Häagen-Dazs would be held to an even higher standard since they now sell ice cream in 14-ounce containers, not in full pints (cost-sensitive bastards). Applying the scoring system to them, then, implies that I would hypothetically buy one carton, eat the whole thing, go back to the store, buy another carton, and eat at least 2 more ounces of that one. For this review of three new limited edition Häagen-Dazs flavors, I’ll offer a rating on the classic 1 to 10 scale as well as a “yes” or “no” on the pint test.

Häagen-Dazs Limited Edition Coconut Macaroon-WM

Coconut Macaroon

These new products all apparently fall under an international theme of “Small World, Big Flavors,” and this variety is “inspired by centuries-old recipes spanning from Europe & Asia.” I hadn’t realized there was anything particularly exotic about coconut macaroons, but I guess a brand with two made-up but vaguely Scandinavian words as its name has lots of practice in drawing upon the faintest of foreign connections.

Coconut ice cream filled with small bits of coconut macaroons might sound like too much coconut, but I thought they got the flavor just right. Both the cookie bits and the ice cream contributed to the coconuttiness in similarly pleasant parts, with neither ever tasting too strong. The ice cream was rich and buttery, though maybe a little too buttery, and the cookie bits were tasty and they were fluffy, chewy, and plentiful. But the problem was that they were still just bits, and while each bit made me want an actual macaroon more and more, no piece was large enough to satiate that craving. As they say, the sum of the crumbs doesn’t equal the cookie. (No one actually says that, but doesn’t that sound like an excellent proverb, one that might span from Europe & Asia?) In the end, no, I wouldn’t eat a whole pint, though I’d certainly eat a couple scoops before running to the bakery and buying some actual coconut macaroons.

Häagen-Dazs Limited Edition Vanilla Bean Espresso-WM

Vanilla Bean Espresso

Now this one, I understand the international association. It’s the Häagen-Dazs take on Italian affogato, with a swirl of espresso mixed into vanilla bean ice cream. The potent vanilla flavor hit first, with an aroma and spice that put regular vanilla ice cream to shame. Arriving second but with no less power, the rich espresso flavor had an intensity that I wouldn’t be able to find at any number of coffeehouses. In fact, I suspect people who don’t regularly drink espresso may actually find the vanilla bean espresso ice cream to be too strong for their liking. It’s also somewhat less sweet than regular vanilla ice cream, so judge that as you will. As for me, yes, I would eat a whole pint, even at the risk of staying up all night from the caffeine. I’ll just use the extra waking hours to catch up with all the reality shows on my DVR. (Do you think Christina Aguilera has a contractual obligation to wear stupid hats on The Voice?)

Häagen-Dazs Limited Edition Spiced Caramel Biscuit-WM

Spiced Caramel Biscuit

Our final product is inspired by the classic European biscuit, speculoos. I don’t believe I’ve ever had speculoos, but I won’t bother seeking them out at this point because they can’t possibly be as good as this ice cream. The ice cream is smooth (i.e., there’s no caramel swirl) and has a solid caramel taste and scent without being too sweet, which I occasionally find to be a problem with caramel-added desserts. The cinnamon and ginger of the cookie crumbs contributed a real spiciness, and the crumbs’ crunchiness made for some nice textural variety. The most important feature of this ice cream was the presence of both cookie crumbs AND big cookie pieces. The crumbs in each bite momentarily whetted my appetite for cookies, and the cookie pieces in every other bite would immediately satisfy me. I say without any reservations that, yes, I would eat a whole pint. Even if I were lactose intolerant. And about to go on a first date. To see a silent film. In an otherwise empty movie theater. Yes, that good.

Run to the store now and try these new Häagen-Dazs limited edition flavors. Oh, and for the Vanilla Bean Espresso and Spiced Caramel Biscuit, save yourself a trip and just buy two cartons, you’ll want to eat a whole pint.

(Editor’s Note/Disclaimer: The author of this review received these almost-pints for free from the frozen folks at Häagen-Dazs. The Impulsive Buy was not paid for the review and only Jasper got the free ice cream. Lucky bastard. And, so ends the FTC-required disclosure. Now back to your regularly scheduled review.)

(Nutrition Facts – 1/2 cup – Coconut Macaroon – 290 calories, 170 calories from fat, 19 grams of fat, 12 grams of saturated fat, 0.5 grams of trans fat, 75 milligrams of cholesterol, 60 milligrams of sodium, 26 grams of carbohydrates, 0 grams of fiber, 23 grams of sugar, and 3 grams of protein. Vanilla Bean Espresso – 260 calories, 140 calories from fat, 15 grams of fat, 9 grams of saturated fat, 0.5 grams trans fat, 75 milligrams of cholesterol, 45 milligrams of sodium, 28 grams of carbohydrates, 0 grams of fiber, 25 grams of sugar, 4 grams of protein. Spiced Caramel Biscuit – 290 calories, 170 calories from fat, 19 grams of fat, 12 grams of saturated fat, 0.5 grams of trans fat, 75 milligrams of cholesterol, 105 milligrams of sodium, 26 grams of carbohydrates, 0 grams of fiber, 22 grams of sugar, and 4 grams of protein.)

Other Häagen-Dazs 2012 Limited Edition Flavor reviews:
Junk Food Guy – Coconut Macaroon and Vanilla Bean Espresso
Fish and Spaghetti – Vanilla Bean Espresso and Spiced Caramel Biscuit
Food Review LTD

Item: Häagen-Dazs 2012 Limited Edition Flavors (Coconut Macaroon, Vanilla Bean Espresso, and Spiced Caramel Biscuit)
Price:
Size: 14 ounces
Purchased at: Received for free from Häagen-Dazs
Rating: 7 out of 10 (Coconut Macaroon)
Rating: 8 out of 10 (Vanilla Bean Espresso)
Rating: 10 out of 10 (Spiced Caramel Biscuit)
Pros: Coconut Macaroon had just the right amount of coconut flavor, and cookie bits were fluffy and plentiful. Vanilla Bean Espresso was really intense in both its vanilla and espresso. Spiced Caramel Biscuit had great caramel flavor without being too sweet, and the cookie crumbs AND pieces added spiciness and crunch. Making up believable proverbs. Catching up on my reality TV.
Cons: Coconut Macaroon ice cream may have been a little too buttery, and the cookie bits were too small. Vanilla Bean Espresso may be distractingly strong or not sweet enough for some people. Häagen-Dazs now coming in 14 oz cartons. Häagen and Dazs are made up words. Eating whole pints of ice cream. Lactose intolerance.

REVIEW: Häagen-Dazs Limited Edition Salted Caramel Truffle Ice Cream

Haagen-Dazs Salted Caramel Truffle

Just like yours truly in the bedroom, Häagen-Dazs ice cream doesn’t disappoint. I’ve purchased a number of Häagen-Dazs varieties and, just like 99 cent, physics-based iPhone games, they’re really hard to put down and I can’t say I’ve disliked any of them.

The only thing I don’t like about Häagen-Dazs is having to put that damn umlaut above the first “a” and remembering to include the hyphen whenever I type their name.

Häagen-Dazs’ Limited Edition Salted Caramel Truffle ice cream is another Häagen-Dazs flavor I’ve had trouble putting the lid back on and sticking back in the freezer. I want to eat the whole not-quite-a-pint container in one sitting, but I can’t. The only thing that prevents me from doing so is looking at the nutrition facts and calculating how much saturated fat, calories, and sugar I’d be consuming if I did so.

By the way, in case you were wondering, if I did eat the entire container, I’d take in 38.5 grams of saturated fat, or 192.5 percent of my recommended daily allowance; 980 calories; and 87.5 grams of sugar.

If you enjoy caramel, the Häagen-Dazs Limited Edition Salted Caramel Truffle ice cream has enough of it that it should be arrested For Unlawful Caramel Knowledge. The ice cream consists of sweet-cream ice cream, salted caramel ribbons, and chocolatey salted caramel truffles. What’s “sweet-cream ice cream”? After tasting it, it’s just a fancy way of saying vanilla ice cream.

Haagen-Dazs Salted Caramel Truffle Closeup

But back to the caramel. The salted caramel ribbons are rich and buttery, but, to be honest, the salted caramel didn’t taste any different from regular caramel. Häagen-Dazs says the French fleur de sel influenced this ice cream, so I was hoping there would be a slight salty crunch, but there wasn’t one.

There are lots of chocolatey salted caramel truffles. In fact, I’ve gone through half of the container, and I’ve been able to scoop one up with each spoonful. Though they’re sitting in frozen cream, the truffles aren’t rock hard, and, surprisingly, they’re more caramel-y than chocolatey in flavor.

Despite all the niggles I have with the Häagen-Dazs Limited Edition Salted Caramel Truffle Ice Cream, I really enjoyed it. But that’s because I love caramel. Thank goodness for the FDA-required nutrition label, because without it I’d eat a lot of this delicious ice cream.

(Nutrition Facts – 1/2 cup – 280 calories, 150 calories from fat, 17 grams of fat, 11 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 75 milligrams of cholesterol, 160 milligrams of sodium, 28 grams of carbohydrates, 0 grams of fiber, 25 grams of sugar, and 4 grams of protein.)

Item: Häagen-Dazs Limited Edition Salted Caramel Truffle Ice Cream
Price: $4.69
Size: 14 ounces
Purchased at: Safeway
Rating: 7 out of 10
Pros: If you love caramel, you’ll enjoy this ice cream. Creamy sweet-cream ice cream. Slightly addictive. FDA-required nutrition labels. Rich and buttery caramel ribbons. Lots of truffles.
Cons: Limited edition flavor available from February to December. No salt granules to provide crunch. Salted caramel doesn’t taste any different than regular caramel. Constantly forgetting how to add an umlaut.