Monday, May 20, 2013

Ice cream review: H.T. Traders Key Lime & Graham Cracker Gelato

Ice cream review by John
Score: 4 out of 5 scoops
Company: H.T. Traders

For those who don't know, H.T. Traders is actually an in-store brand for the grocery store company Harris Teeter, which operates out of North Carolina and has hundreds of grocery stores in the South. But don't let that fool you. I admit, I'm usually skeptical of store-brand ice creams, but this one is special.

I'm a key lime fan, so that alone scores this frozen treat high in my estimation, but I'm telling you, this key lime gelato might be the best I've ever had, even better than some key lime ice creams from the top brands. One thing that's great here is the key lime taste isn't too sweet nor is it too tart, which are common problems among key lime products. Another great thing is the sheer smoothness. This stuff is so smooth, you don't even have to let it sit out to melt like you have to do with most gelatos (which are traditionally somewhat soft, but often come frozen hard as a rock right out of the freezer).

Truly, the key lime flavoring here is just perfect, and the smooth quality of the gelato glides on the tongue.

But there is a downside. If there hadn't been, I would have scored this gelato even higher.

What is that downside? It's the graham cracker. Remember the title? Key Lime & Graham Cracker Gelato?

No, the graham cracker bits here don't taste bad, but that's because one can hardly taste them at all. Why? Because they're barely present. I ate a pint of this stuff by myself, and I bet there weren't more than a half a dozen little crumbs that I guess were supposed to be graham cracker pieces.

If this treat had included a solid graham cracker swirl or lots of graham cracker pieces, I might have been tempted to go with a score of 5 out of 5 scoops, but as things are, I couldn't go more than 4 scoops.

Still, this is a darn good ice cream. Key lime fans will be doing themselves a disservice by not trying this at least once.

Friday, May 17, 2013

Ice cream review: 2nd Street Creamery Truck Stop Fudge

Ice cream review by John
Score: 2.5 out of 5 scoops

I really do hate giving bad reviews, and I try to be fair, but I had such high hopes for this ice cream, and unfortunately I was quite disappointed.

It sounds like a great treat. It's chocolate ice cream with a marshmallow swirl and a fudge swirl. What could go wrong, right?

I'm sorry to say, everything.

Where to start? The chocolate ice cream tasted like one of the cheaper premium brands, more ice than cream. The marshmallow swirl was stiff, even when I let it sit and melt for a while, and had little flavor, being overshadowed by the fudge swirl. And that fudge swirl? Geez, it was the first time in my life I've actually not liked fudge. It didn't even taste like fudge, but more like a bitter chocolate syrup, and it had the weak, watery consistency of a syrup, not the strength normally associated with liquid fudge.

In a hope of being fair, I've only tried this ice cream one time. Maybe I got a bad batch. This ice cream comes from Iowa, and I was trying it in the Carolinas, so maybe it doesn't ship very well.

Would I try this ice cream again? Sure. I was disappointed, but one try doesn't prove anything. Hopefully the next batch will be more to my liking.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Ice cream review: Häagen-Dazs Gelato Stracciatella

Ice cream review by John
Score: 4 out of 5 scoops
Company: Häagen-Dazs

First off, what exactly does "stracciatella" mean? Well, the truth is, it can mean a few different things, usually all of them having something to do with European cooking of one type or another. In this instance, stracciatella refers to a style of Italian ice cream that is normally a vanilla with chocolate shavings inserted.

And that's sort of what we've got here, but better.

This new gelato flavor from Häagen-Dazs is actually a sweet cream gelato ice cream with tons and tons and tons of chocolate shavings. And when I say "shavings," I literally mean little curly-cue shavings of chocolate.

Anyone who reads this blog regularly knows I am a big fun of including ingredients in ice cream that add to the texture, such as chocolate chips, nuts, candies, caramel stripes, and the like. To put it bluntly, I like stuff in my ice cream. And this gelato does not fail.

The sweet cream gelato base is quite good in and of itself, but adding those chocolate shavings takes this sweet treat to a whole new level. And don't worry, because there are plenty of those shavings here. This isn't some premium-brand ice cream that tosses in a couple of chocolate chunks. No, no. You're not going to get a single spoonful here that won't have tons of chocolate shavings in it, and the chocolate is top-notch quality, too.

If you haven't tried any of the new Häagen-Dazs gelatos, do yourself a flavor and pick one up. The Stracciatella might be a good place to start.

Monday, May 13, 2013

Ice cream review: Häagen-Dazs Gelato Sea Salt Caramel

Ice cream review by John
Score: 3.5 out of 5 scoops
Company: Häagen-Dazs

Häagen-Dazs puts out some of the smoothest, creamiest ice creams on the market, so how can they top themselves? By putting out some ice cream that's even more smooth and creamy! Don't believe me? If not, then you need to try some of the new gelato flavors from Häagen-Dazs.

This one is the Sea Salt Caramel. I can't say it was a favorite, but it's still quality ice cream.

What you've got here is quite the tasty sea salt caramel gelato with a sea salt caramel ribbon mixed in.

Sound great, right? It is.

But I have a few quibbles, and these are mainly personal, just my opinion. For one, I prefer ice cream treats that have stuff in them, like cookies or nuts or something, and this one fails in that regard, though that doesn't mean it's a bad ice cream, just not quite my thing. The sea salt caramel ribbon helps some, and it is the best part of this treat (my mouth waters just thinking about it), but unfortunately the batch I tried didn't have a whole lot of that ribbon. Maybe I just had bad luck, because other Häagen-Dazs flavors I've tried that had a ribbon usually were quite generous with the ribbon.

So, caramel fans, you'll like this one. Gelato fans, you, too. Häagen-Dazs fans, you'll want to give this one a try. It might or might not be a new favorite for you, but I guarantee you'll be glad you gave this one a try.

Saturday, April 27, 2013

Ice cream review: Ben & Jerry's Chocolate Peppermint Crunch

Ice cream review by John
Score: 4 out of 5 scoops
Company: Ben & Jerry's

This latest flavor from Ben & Jerry's starts with a base of chocolate ice cream, then mixes in a fudge and peppermint ribbon, and into the concoction adds plenty of little crunchy balls of minty chocolate cookie.

I almost gave this one a Score of 3.5 out of 5 scoops, but then I realized this ice cream is better than that even though it didn't quite live up to my expectations.

Don't get me wrong, this is a quality ice cream, it's just I felt the chocolate was too strong.

How can chocolate be too strong? Sounds crazy, right. Well, in this instance, there are two factors in my opinion: 1.) though the label says the ice cream involved here is chocolate, it seemed a little darker and richer to me than Ben & Jerry's usual chocolate base ice cream, and 2.) this isn't supposed to be only a chocolate ice cream, but also a peppermint one, and my taste buds told me the chocolate was too strong to allow much of the peppermint flavor to get through.

That doesn't mean none of the peppermint flavor comes through, because it does, and I'll freely admit that those who like their minty flavorings in lighter doses will likely be thrilled with this ice cream. But for those of us who like our minty flavorings to have a big kick, this ice cream left a little to be desired.

Let me reiterate: This is not a bad ice cream, not by any means. Chocolate fans should unite in their love for Ben & Jerry's latest. Just don't expect it to be overly strong in the peppermint department.

I mentioned the chocolate ice cream seeming stronger than usual, and that was a draw for me. The fudge and peppermint ribbon added a nice little twist, and some zing, to this flavor. And I truly loved the little minty chocolate cookie balls because not only did they come in abundance, but they kept their solid crunch factor, which is not something I can always say when cookies are added to ice cream (though Ben & Jerry's seems to have this trick down quite well in all their flavors).

So, if you're a chocolate lover and want to try something new, give this ice cream a try. If you're a peppermint fan, you'll still likely enjoy this treat. For those who are simply Ben & Jerry's lovers, you've got one more great flavor to add to your list.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Ice cream review: Blue Bunny I Do!, I Do! Wedding Cake

Ice cream review by John
Score: 4 out of 5 scoops
Company: Blue Bunny

When I'm really in the mood to splurge on some grande ice cream, I have to admit, Blue Bunny ice creams don't normally fit the bill for me. It's not that Blue Bunny is awful, because the company definitely makes some decent frozen treats, but when I really, really want something awesome, I usually turn to one of the higher-priced brands.

But I'm not sure I can think that way any longer.


Because of the new I Do!, I Do! Wedding Cake ice cream from Blue Bunny.

I still won't claim this flavor is equal to the best of the higher-end companies, but it's at least as good (if not better than) some of the middle-of-the-road flavors by the big boys.

And why not? Here you'll find sweet buttercream frosting flavored ice cream with raspberry sauce stripes and chunks of white cake.

Now, about each individual part of this ice cream:

First up, the sweet buttercream frosting ice cream. Uh, yeah, it tastes like buttercream frosting, really. It's not quite as cream as the real thing, but the flavor is just right without being overpowering. Here's a tip, though: If you want this ice cream to have a smoother texture and a creamier taste, let it sit out at room temperature for 10 minutes or so before trying.

Now about that raspberry swirl. It's good, darn good, and I'm someone who isn't a big fan of raspberries because too often (in my opinion) raspberry has a flavor that's much too tart for my liking. That's not the case here. Here you've got a nice, light, sweet raspberry swirl that mixes well with the other flavors to be found.

And last but not least, those chunks of white cake. They're pretty good stuff. Normally I want tons and tons of goodies added to my ice cream, but here I think too much of the cake pieces would have been over the top. That doesn't mean there aren't plenty of cake chunks here to be found, but there aren't so many as to take away from this ice cream's other elements.

All in all, the Blue Bunny folks have done themselves proud, and now I'll have to eat my words and eat more of their ice creams. If this is any indication of the direction this company is headed, then I'll be glad to ride along with them.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Ice cream review: Talenti Chocolate Peanut Butter Cup gelato

Ice cream review by John
Score: 4 out of 5 scoops
Company: Talenti

I've tried several Talenti gelatos by this point, and I have to say, I've yet to be disappointed. This is another great one from this company.

The title might fool you a little. You might be expecting actual peanut butter cups here, but that's not the case. Don't worry, though, because what you get is still awesome.

Take a smooth and creamy chocolate ice cream, add an a peanut butter swirl, and chunks of chocolate, and you've got the basics of this gelato. The chocolate ice cream will do any chocolate fan proud, as its one of the smoothest around without being too rich but just right. The peanut butter swirl is a bit stiff because of the frozen nature of this food, but let it sit out of the refrigerator for 5 or 10 minutes and you'll get a light, smooth peanut butter. And this tastes like real, quality peanut butter, not that overly sweet stuff sometimes passed off for peanut butter in some candies and ice creams. And the chocolate chunks here are to die for! Sweet without being too sweet, and chocolate without being too chocolate. Does that make sense?

As always (at least so far), I can always recommend Talenti.