Thursday, October 01, 2015

Ben & Jerry's Ice Cream

For newer reviews, since my reviews of new flavors in 2014, 2015, and 2016.

Original Review, October 2012

You already know that I love ice cream. I was raised eating ice cream after dinner pretty much every night. And going out to get soft serve regularly in the summer. Mmm, ice cream!

I grew up in New Hampshire, right on the Vermont border.  Vermont: otherwise known as "upside down New Hampshire", or, alternately, "home of Ben & Jerry's".  This meant that while the rest of the country paid an absurd $5 per pint for their ice cream, we paid $2.  Ben & Jerry's wasn't fancy ice cream, it was commonplace.  I ate of lot of it growing up.

Fast forward to college.  My college had a required meal program of 21 meals per week (3 meals per day, 7 days per week), that also included unlimited access per meal period in the regular dining halls, aka, you could go back in the dining hall for lunch 10 times in a single day if you wanted, and it just counted as 1 meal.  We also had a diner and convenience store, where you could get prepared to order food, or stock up on "essentials" like chips, drinks, bulk candy, or ... pints of Ben & Jerry's.  At the diner, items had prices and you had to use your meal "equivalency", it wasn't unlimited like the dining halls.

My first year, I only ever used the equivalency when I went out to dinner, or ordered pizza, which happened a few times a month.  I had a decent amount of ice cream (and candy!) as a result.  But the next year, I discovered a bit of a glitch in the system.  You could go to the diner, use your equivalency to get your pint of Ben & Jerry's and some candy, and then go the the dining hall.  When you swiped your card at the dining hall, it would say that you'd already used your meal.  Except ... we had the unlimited meal program, so it didn't matter.  They'd just let you through.  The system did not distinguish between using your meal in the dining hall or in the diner!  This meant that every single day, I could get 2 pints of Ben & Jerry's.  If you think I love freebies now, you should have seen me when I was a poor college student!  Let's just say that I ate a rather insane amount of Ben & Jerry's before they "fixed the glitch".  It wasn't abnormal for me to eat an entire pint in a single sitting.  My favorites were Vanilla Heath Bar Crunch, Everything But The..., Chubby Hubby, and Chunky Monkey.  Oh man, how I loved my pints of ice cream.

Anyway, since college, I haven't really had much Ben & Jerry's, as there are better local ice cream shops around here, like Mr. & Mrs. Miscellaneous!  And I still can't get over how expensive it is out here!  But, a year or so ago, when dealing with medical issues, I had a period of time where I was on a liquid/soft foods only diet.  Most of that time was also non-fat, which clearly ruled out Ben & Jerry's, but at one point, in order to run some tests, I had to radically increase my fat consumption, while still being mostly liquids.  One thing immediately came to mind: Ben & Jerry's!  I gleefully stocked my freezer and re-lived my college days.  Since then, I've run into Ben & Jerry's a few more times, on flights (American Airlines serves sundaes in business class and Delta has it in economy), and at random events at work where Ben & Jerry's was brought in to cater.

Ben & Jerry's isn't amazing, I mostly think it is pretty generic ice cream at this point, albeit with some creative flavors, and wouldn't go out of my way for it, but every once in a while, it really brings back such memories :)  My review below is of tasting notes over the past two years, and doesn't include memories from earlier since I'm not sure those would be consistent with my present reality.  You can read about new flavors from 2014 and 2015 in a separate post.
Cinnamon Cereal Swirl.
"Sweet cream ice cream swirled with crunchy cinnamon cereal”.

Icy.  Kinda like a snicker doodle, but the bits were not crunchy.  Very sweet.  Good cinnamon flavor. [ Ice cream wasn't very creamy.  Cinnamon swirl was almost like streusel  but not as good.  Meh. ]
Peaches & Cream (Test Batch).
"Creamy mascarpone ice cream with peach pieces".

This was fairly light and fruity tasty, even though it was obviously a decadent Ben & Jerry's ice cream with mascarpone in it.  The mascarpone flavor was noticeable and pretty good.  I really loved the chunks of peaches in it.  This was very different from most Ben & Jerry's flavors in that it wasn't loaded with candy, but I really liked it, and hope they continue it.

[ This was delicious.  Creamy, slight tang from mascarpone.  Not overly sweet.  I loved the chunks of frozen peach.  I'd get this again and again! ]
Phish Food.
"Chocolate Ice Cream with Gooey Marshmallow, Caramel Swirls & Fudge Fish".

This has a pretty decent chocolate flavor, and I'm not generally one for chocolate ice creams.  Very creamy, like all of their ice cream.  Loaded with a swirl of sweet gooey marshmallow, plentiful dark chocolate fish, and some sweet caramel.  Overall, a bit too sweet for my tastes.

Previous Notes: Good creamy chocolate ice cream, tons of gooey marshmallow, tons of big dark chocolate fish.  Not really my thing, but not bad. I would like nuts or something more interesting, and more of the marshmallow!
Milk & Cookies.
"Vanilla Ice Cream with a Chocolate Cookie Swirl, Chocolate Chip & Chocolate Chocolate Chip Cookies". 

This was recommended to me by Ojan's niece.  I thought it was going to just be cookies & cream or cookie dough.  I wasn't really excited.  I was wrong.  This was a great flavor.  The "chocolate cookie swirl" was like mashed up Oreos, in a think band than ran throughout.  It reminded me of the crunchy bits I love from Carvel ice cream cake.  The chocolate chip cookies also weren't like globs of cookie dough, it was also a cookie swirl, full of flavor.  This flavor was just loaded up with tons of the cookie swirls, and was really quite good.  I'd gladly have more!
Cherry Garcia.
“Cherry Ice Cream with Cherries & Fudge Flakes.”

The ice cream base is a subtle, sweet cherry flavor.  Good enough I guess, but not a flavor I'd ever pick.  How many cherry ice creams are there in the world?  Perhaps there is a reason for that.

The chocolate chunks are great though, dark chocolate, large size chunks, and plenty of them.  The cherries are my favorite component, sweet, bursts of flavor, and the semi-frozen texture is actually really enjoyable.

So good cherries and chocolate, but ... meh overall. (Sorry Mom, I know this is your favorite!)

Previous Notes:  Plentiful dark chocolate chunks that have good chocolate flavor, lots of cherries, subtle cherry flavored ice cream but ... just not a big fan.
Vanilla Heath Bar Crunch.
“Vanilla Ice Cream with Chunks of HEATH® Bar Crunch”.

This is one of my old standbys.  I can't tell you how many pints of Heath Bar Crunch I've had in my life.  There is something about the gooey heath bars embedded in it that make me incapable of putting down a pint.  I just always want "just one more"!

This latest time, I thought the vanilla ice cream was pretty generic.  I still loved the Health bars, but there were not many at all in it.  Sadness.

However, you can no longer buy Vanilla Heath Bar Crunch.  It has been replaced with ... Vanilla "Toffee Bar" Crunch, since they no longer source the toffee bars from Heath, and have gone for a Fairtrade Certified and non-GMO producer instead.
Chocolate Fudge Brownie.
"Chocolate Ice Cream with Fudge Brownies".

I'm not normally a chocolate ice cream fan, but I really liked this.  The chocolate ice cream was creamy, and almost mousse like.  It had a very intense chocolate flavor.  It was crazy sweet however, definitely sweeter than I'd prefer.  There were plentiful chunks of decent fudgy, chocolate brownies.  Serious chocolate overload!
San Fran-tastic.
This past summer, they did the greek yogurt tour again, driving the bus around from city to city, giving out free greek frozen yogurt.  But this time, at the end of each city's time, they also introduced a one weekend only ice cream flavor to commemorate the city.  To form the flavor, they put up a web site that listed a bunch of options, and had people vote on what would make the best flavor.  And then vote to name it.  And for one weekend, they gave out little samples.

San Francisco's flavor was named ... San Fran-tastic.  Ugh. I honestly have such a thing against people calling San Francisco "San Fran".  Shutter.  Anyway, it was a caramel ice cream base, with Kika's Treats chocolate covered graham crackers, marshmallow pieces, and TCHO chocolate.  It was a nice touch to feature local artisans.  If you don't know of them, TCHO has a chocolate factory located right on the Embarcadero that makes decent chocolate and offers fairly interesting free tours, and Kika's Treats makes a variety of cookie-like treats, and show up regularly at different artisan's markets.

The caramel ice cream base was creamy and very sweet, but overall ok.  My cup full did not contain any marshmallows nor pieces of TCHO, so I have no idea what they were like, in taste or form factor.  I did have a full size chocolate covered graham cracker, which was really just kinda hard to eat as it was so big.  It was also a bit bitter.  I've had Kika's Treats many times over the past few years, and never found any of them to be bitter, so I'm not really sure what was up with that.  Overall, this was not a winner, but I don't feel like I really got to experience it.  And, sadly, it no longer exists, so I won't get to try it again.
Strawberry Cheesecake.
"Strawberry Cheesecake Ice Cream with Strawberries & a Thick Graham Cracker Swirl."

I don't like strawberry ice cream, so I really didn't think I'd like this.  And, well, I didn't really care for the strawberry ice cream base.  It did have a slight cheesecake flavor to it, but, it was still strawberry.  However ... I loved the graham cracker swirl.  I liked it for all the same reasons I like their cookie dough: sweet, buttery, flavorful.  The frozen chunks of strawberry were also rather fun, icy little blocks of flavor.

Certainly not a flavor I'd pick, since I don't want strawberry base, but really quite good, and if you like strawberry ice cream, give it a try.

[ No Photos: More Ice Cream ]
  • Americone Dream: “Vanilla Ice Cream with Fudge Covered Waffle Cone Pieces & a Caramel Swirl”.  Tasting notes: Plentiful cone pieces, but they were soggy and kinda off putting. [ The base ice cream was fairly creamy as it melted.  It was loaded with chocolate covered waffle cone pieces, that were almost awesome.  I liked the chocolate, and I liked having something to crunch on, but they were again a little soggy seeming.  The caramel swirl was way too sweet.  I really wanted to like this more than I did! ]
  • Bonnaroo Buzz: “Toffee & Malt Ice Creams with Toffee Chunks & a Whiskey Caramel Swirl”.  Tasting notes: Nice sweet toffee ice cream, generous chunks of toffee, pretty good!
  • Butterscotch (2012 Test Batch): "Butterscotch ice cream with butterscotch swirls." Tasting notes: this was creamy and sweet, pretty much as you'd expect from a butterscotch.  The swirls were like a punch in face, insanely intense.  Almost boozy flavor, and had some chunks.  Good, but a big bowl of this would be a bit much. 
  • Candy Bar Pie: "Peanut Butter Ice Cream with Fudge Flakes, Chocolate Nougat & Sweet & Salty Pretzel Swirls".  Tasting notes: Wow, this really was like a candy bar pie!  Peanut butter ice cream, full of peanut butter flavor.  Loaded up with tons of candy.  Really good, but very rich and heavy.
  • Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough: "Vanilla Ice Cream with Gobs of Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough".  Tasting notes: cookie dough itself pretty tasty, sweet, nice to bite into in ice cream.  The ice cream itself wasn’t too interesting, but I kept going back from more as it was nicely loaded up with cookie dough! [ The base ice cream was fairly generic, better than Baskin-Robbins, but the cookie dough bits themselves were delicious and buttery.  My favorite chocolate chip cookie dough ice cream so far! ] [ Seriously, I love the flavor in the balls of cookie dough.  I must find more flavors to try with cookie dough bits ... ]
  • Chunky Monkey: "Banana Ice Cream with Fudge Chunks & Walnuts".  Tasting notes: decent banana flavor, goes well with fudge and walnuts.
  • Coconut 7 Layer Bar: “Coconut ice cream with coconut & fudge flakes, walnuts & swirls of graham cracker & butterscotch”.  Tasting notes: You’d think I’d love this, but it was just sweet and had way too much coconut flake.  Not creamy at all.
  • Gilly's Catastrophic Crunch™: "Chocolate & sweet cream ice creams with caramel clusters, fudge-covered almonds & a marshmallow swirl."  Tasting notes: The chocolate ice cream was all I really tasted.  It didn't have as much marshmallow swirl as Phish Food.  Meh.
  • Late Night Snack: "Vanilla Bean Ice Cream with a Salty Caramel Swirl & Fudge Covered Potato Chip Clusters".  Tasting notes:  The ice cream was not creamy nor flavorful.  Did not have any salty caramel swirl.  The chocolate covered potato chip clusters were horrible - soggy, not salty, just weird chunks of stuff.
  • Lazy Sunday™: "Vanilla cake batter ice cream with chocolate & yellow cupcake pieces & a chocolate frosting swirl." Tasting Notes: I didn't taste cake batter, just a slightly sweet base.  Nor did I find distinct pieces of cake, just a strange texture which I assume was a result of the cake.  Meh.
  • Mint Chocolate Chunk: “Mint Ice Cream with Fudge Chunks”.  Tasting notes: Decently minty, tons of huge chocolate chunks.
  • New York Super Fudge Chunk: “Chocolate Ice Cream with White & Dark Fudge Chunks, Pecans, Walnuts & Fudge Covered Almonds”. Tasting notes: Generic chocolate ice cream, nice big chunks of sweet white chocolate and chocolate, lots of walnuts.  I didn’t find any pecans.  Fudge covered nuts a little mushy.  Lots of stuff in it.
  • Rocky Roadish: “Toasted Marshmallow Ice Cream with a Toasted Marshmallow Swirl & Fudge Covered Almonds”.  Tasting notes: Nice gooey marshmallow, but meh almonds.
  • Salted Caramel (Test Batch, Scoop Shop Exclusive): "Salted caramel ice cream with a salted caramel swirl."  Tasting notes: Sweet, but not overkill.  Creamy.  Nice caramel swirl.  But didn't really taste any salt.
  • Schweddy balls: “Vanilla ice cream with a hint of rum and is loaded with fudge covered rum and milk chocolate malt balls.” Tasting notes: Not very creamy, no real rum flavor, cheap malt balls.
  • Sweet Cream and Cookies: “Sweet Cream Ice Cream with Whole and Broken Chocolate Sandwich Cookies”.  Tasting notes: just generic cookies and cream. [ Decent execution of cookies and cream, but nothing special.  Lots of tiny bits of cookie. ]
  • Turtle Cheesecake: "Cheesecake ice cream with pecans, fudge flakes & a caramel swirl".  Tasting notes: I wanted to love this, since the ingredients sounded like winners, but it was just way too sweet for me.  I also didn't really taste cheesecake.
They also now offer soft serve, which I was excited by, as I grew up eating tons of soft serve, and haven't really been able to find any in the Bay Area, as all of soft stuff tends to be frozen yogurt here.  Unfortunately, I was not impressed by Ben & Jerry's offerings.
  • Chocolate: Decent chocolate flavor, but not great consistency, which is surprising for ice cream rather than soft serve frozen yogurt.
  • Vanilla: No flavor, poor consistency, kinda icy.
  • Swirl: Not creamy, kinda icy, not very good flavor, just not very good.

Frozen Yogurt

Ben & Jerry's recently introduced a new product line: Greek Frozen Yogurt.  I guess they are trying to keep up with the current fads.  As part of the launch, they drove a truck around the US, giving out free little containers of the frozen yogurt.  I obviously had to try it.  I like soft serve frozen yogurt, and I like greek yogurt, but the greek frozen yogurt mostly isn't doing it for me. They should stick with their decadent ice cream :)

Raspberry Fudge Chunk Greek Frozen Yogurt.
"Raspberry Greek Frozen Yogurt with Fudge Chunks".

Decently creamy once it melted, good raspberry flavor, not very tart, wouldn’t really know it was yogurt.  Generous fudge chunks. [ Pretty strongly raspberry flavored, lots of chocolate chunks ] [ Just not that great, just raspberry yogurt, kinda icy, and generic fudge chunks.  Meh ]
Pineapple Passionfruit Greek Frozen Yogurt.
"Pineapple Greek Frozen Yogurt with Chunks of Pineapple & a Passionfruit Swirl".

This was by far my favorite of all the greek frozen yogurts I tried.  I actually wondered if it really was yogurt and not ice cream :)

The chunks of pineapple were flavorful and refreshing.  The passionfruit swirl was sweet but not overbearing.  The whole thing was tropical and balanced.  Again, creamy for a yogurt.  I'd get this again!
Liz Lemon Greek Yogurt.
"Lemon Greek Frozen Yogurt with a Blueberry Lavender Swirl".

Like most of their frozen yogurt, it was not very creamy.  I wouldn't have known it was lemon flavored, just sorta tart.  The swirl was colorful and vibrant, but had no flavor.  Least favorite frozen yogurt I tried.

[ No Photos - Additional Greek Frozen Yogurt ]
  • Banana Peanut Butter: "Banana Greek Frozen Yogurt with Peanut Buttery Swirls".  Tasting notes: Not very bananay nor peanut buttery.  Nice and creamy.  I’d never know it was yogurt. [ Decent pb flavor but sorta tart and strange.  Not horrible. ]  [ Creamy once it gets melty, very generous swirls of creamy pb.  Not bad. ] [ Very banana flavored, lots of pb.  A little plain though, nice with walnuts added in.  Would be great with hot fudge on top, or chocolate chunks in it. ] [ Not very banana flavored, not very creamy, but generous amounts of peanut butter swirl.  It needed some chocolate flakes or something! ]
  • Blueberry Vanilla Graham: "Blueberry and Vanilla Greek Frozen Yogurt with a Graham Cracker Swirl". Tasting notes: Nice and creamy, I’d never know it was yogurt, but not all that flavorful. [ Just strangely tart and sweet and not balanced. ]
They've also had several regular frozen yogurts in their product line for a while.  Why would you ever pick them though?  Their crazy premium decadent ice cream is what they are good at!
  • Half Baked Frozen Yogurt: "Chocolate & Vanilla Low Fat Frozen Yogurts with Fudgey Brownies & Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough".  Tasting notes: not good, bad consistency and flavor.

Sundeas

Ice Cream Sundae.  NOMS.
Ben & Jerry's catered an ice cream party at my office.  They had a couple types of ice cream to select from, and then a bunch of toppings.  I loaded this thing up. It was an amazing sundae!
  • Hot Fudge: very chocolately, great on sundae, nice and thick.
  • Caramel: great flavor, sweet, nice.
  • Whipped Cream: Fairly standard, but good.
  • Nuts: just little crushed peanuts, but help complete a sundae.
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