REVIEW: Caffe Panna “👻”

Caffe Panna’s Fall Pack is essentially a love letter to cinnamon, spice, and everything nice. Amid pints of apple crisp, pumpkin s’mores, and cinnamon buns, there’s one simply titled “👻” with only one base flavor and one mix-in. Is it “Ghost?” Is it “Ahh!” Is it “Boo”?. I like Boo, so I’m gonna stick with Boo. However you want to say it, 👻 is cinnamon stick infused Panna sweet cream with chewy ranger fudge chunks.

The cinnamon stick infused Panna sweet cream has the quintessential texture that makes Caffe Panna so special. It is velvety and rich and looks just as beautiful as it tastes. This base is simple elegance, with a mild sweet cinnamon undertone that’s anything but scary. As a cinnamon freak I could handle a lot more, but I actually appreciate the restraint here, letting the high quality dairy notes in the sweet cream really shine, with some subtle spicy accents to carry the profile.

When it comes to decadent candy I’m actually not a very big fan of fudge. Oftentimes it’s WAY too sweet, lacking balance, and a bit gritty — not here, this fudge is excellent. I’m hard pressed to remember how many times I’ve had actual fudge in an ice cream. I’ve had plenty of fudge swirls, and I adore the ganache from Salt & Straw, but straight up boardwalk style fudge chunks in ice cream might be a new thing for me; at least of this quality. The Rangers Fudge chunks are big and take up nearly my entire spoon, with a firmness that’s dense but just soft enough to spoon through when properly tempered; revealing a potent bittersweet chocolate flavor that leans into the sweet with only a touch of salt. I prefer breaking the chunks in half to enjoy them with more of the creamy base for a classic fudge sundae type of texture and taste.

This pint evolves a bit half way through, the fudge chunks get denser and some of the fudge starts to bleed into a bit of a swirl — unexpected and delicious.

The flavors on display are simple and classic, yet so well executed I can’t deny how much I love this deceivingly stripped back homage to two ingredients that can, at times, be at odds with each other. BOO may be the most simple flavor in the Fall Panna Pack but it is far from one that should be glossed over.

Rating: 9/10

Found at: Goldbelly ($114.95 for 6 pints)

REVIEW: Legendary Foods Protein Sweet Roll (Cinnamon, Wild Berry, Chocolate)

It has been a long time since I’ve posted about a protein snack here. Way back in 2016 when I started the skillet it was a pretty regular occurrence to review protein bars and odd snacks, both here and in brief on Instagram. Now I mostly toss those onto my IG stories for a quickie, and even that is rare — but these new Protein Sweet Rolls from Legendary Foods need a post of their own.

I am a big fan of the Legendary Foods Protein Pastry (Brown Sugar Cinnamon, Chocolate Cake, and Red Velvet are the standouts), which is one of the rare products that actually has a decent enough macro/calorie split and flavor to be worth the cost. Protein Sweet Rolls continue on that trajectory, delivering a wallop of satisfying flavor at approximately 200 calories (depending on flavor) with 20g of protein and 9g of fiber. I tried all three flavors and they’re all on varying levels of delicious. I ate them room temperature straight from the wrapper as well as warmed up, and while I like Legendary Foods’ Protein Pastry’s room temp, these new rolls should 100% be hit with some microwave lovin’. But that’s how I feel about essentially all cinnamon rolls, so it makes total sense.


This is where all rolls began and I am impressed. You’re not going to get Cinnabon-level decadence here but it tastes almost identical to a Pillsbury Grand, straight from the can to oven. The texture is a bit denser and less flaky than an actual roll but the flavor is all there — pop it in the microwave and it’s one of the most delightful 20 grams of protein you will ever eat.

Tons of gooey cinnamon-y filling with a nice saltiness to back it up. For a protein snack I have virtually no complaints, as the flavor emulation and nutrition are so on point. Fantastic.

Rating: 10/10

Wild Berry:

Wild Berry is the weirdest of the bunch, and as a result the least successful. The berry flavor is nondescript and sweet, with the most blatant fake sugar taste of the three. I won’t lie, it’s still pretty decent, especially warmed up, but it’s not a flavor I find myself craving or wanting to really revisit. The more intense erythritol on the finish makes it less desirable, but the textures are still extremely impressive.

I would have loved to see the fruit flavor for this line follow in the Pillsbury footsteps and go orange, or a more traditional real fruit like blueberry, or even a hybrid blueberry orange. The “Wild Berry” Pop Tart style fruit flavor feels out of place in the roll context and falls short of the lofty expectations set by Cinnamon.

Rating: 6.5/10


I will almost always choose a cinnamon roll over a chocolate roll, but I’ll be damned if this isn’t another fantastic execution for the most indulgent and high calorie of the three. I guess I shouldn’t be surprised because both the Chocolate Cake and Hot Fudge Sundae Protein Pastry’s are really good, but this Chocolate Roll HITS. It has an undeniably delicious layer of chocolate frosting on top that reminds me of the icing on a chocolate yeast doughnut. The filling is a little less dense than the first two but the heftiness on top more than makes up for it. The inside has a nice dark chocolate taste that balances out with the fluffy and truly bread-y dough wonderfully.

Through and through this “roll” is a lot more like a doughnut, and it’s the best protein doughnut I’ve ever had. I could see this one easily satisfying a sugary craving for someone who’s trying to not indulge, but for me it’s just a damn tasty 20 grams of protein. Impressive.

Rating: 10/10

Found at: Vitamin Shoppe ($3.79 each)

REVIEW: The Pizza Cupcake (Margherita)

The Pizza Cupcake is a beautiful product. I first got wind of this unique frozen creation through social media in 2021, which lead me to finding its feature on Shark Tank. The concept is simple, and based on the reaction I saw on YouTube, must be good. I was beyond intrigued, but due to a premium on freezer space from my ice cream affinity (addiction), I never pulled the plug. Fast forward to Fall 2022 and the company actually reached out to me to try its product in exchange for some posts on Instagram detailing how I felt about them. Do I love Margherita pizza? Hell yeah. How could I say no! I made a video review of my experience for Instagram and TikTok, which I’ve linked on YouTube below, but I also wanted to do a quick writeup for those who are interested. The folks at Pizza Cupcake sent this to me because their product is now available at 1600 Walmart stores in the U.S. nationwide, and based on my experience, I imagine that number will grow pretty substantially in 2023 and beyond.

A Pizza Cupcake is very straight forward — a doughy base, some sauce, and cheese. I hold the idea near and dear to my heart that the Neapolitan Margherita pizza is one of the world’s most perfect foods, and this cupcake iteration is a lovely homage to one of my favorite culinary delights. The base is a cross between a pizza dough and brioche, and despite having no butter in it tastes EXCEPTIONALLY buttery from the decent dose of high quality extra virgin olive oil. It feels like a denser puff pastry and goes down light as a feather. I can’t get enough. The cheese is rich and stringy with a great balanced creamy, slight saltiness, and quintessential mozzarella snappy chew.

My one qualm with the Pizza Cupcake is that there isn’t enough of the fantastic San Marzano tomato sauce, which is mildly seasoned and full of clean tomato flavor. I love a nice acidic kick to balance out my pie and the sauce inside is pretty light. However, that is very easily remedied by having a cup of marinara on the side to dip, like you would with breadsticks or garlic knots. I wish the packaging suggested pairing it with extra sauce, or maybe even included a little package to warm up, but it doesn’t need more sauce as much as it thrives with it.

I am a huge fan of the Pizza Cupcake. It is one of the best frozen interpretations of pizza I have ever had. They’re great in the oven, done perfectly well in 12 minutes at 375, but even BETTER in the air fryer. The air fryer takes half the time, 6 minutes at 350, and adds a little more crisp to the outside, which I really enjoy. Grab yourself some cupcakes, and a little side of some sauce, and you’ll be in cheesy bread-y heaven.

Rating: 9/10

Found at: Sent to me, but can be bought online or at Walmart

Check out my video review on YouTube!

REVIEW: Milk Bar Chocolate Mint Cookies N’ Cream

Another Milk Bar ice cream…another mixed bag. I rambled on about my relationship with the growing gourmet grocery brand in my last review so I won’t go on about it here. In short, it’s complicated, and this latest creation featuring another flavor combination I adore isn’t making it any easier. Chocolate Mint Cookies N’ Cream is chocolate mint ice cream with chocolate cookie batter, cookies n’ cream crunch, and creamy mint swirl.

I love the idea behind this pint (14 ounces, I know, but for simplicity’s sake) but it has the same foundational issue as the last couple that I have scooped: dual flavored bases. Milk needs to get away from this because it rarely works, and it doesn’t work here. Chocolate mint should be one of the few dual flavored bases that can be pulled off with ease, like in Ben & Jerry’s excellent Minter Wonderland, but just like in Milk’s PB pint, this one tastes off. Specifically I’m tasting spearmint, which is not the type of mint I want to taste with chocolate. It’s cloyingly fragrant with a strange herbaceous quality, lacking any sharp minty punch to contrast the rich chocolate. Don’t get it twisted, the texture is still fantastic, I really love a lot of Milk Bar’s attention to high quality ingredients, but the flavor is bizarre and not at all what I wanted from this gorgeous green-streaked ice cream.

Speaking of gorgeous green, the most intriguing part of this container going into it was the creamy mint swirl, and I’m sad the mint flavor is very much the same spearmint-y adjacent oddity from the base, minus the chocolate. I find the spearmint a little less off-putting when on its own and paired with the sweet syrupy texture of condensed milk, but its creme de menthe hue still feels out of place against the sea of chocolate.

As always with Milk Bar, aside from the smooth silky texture of their bases, the real standout are the swirls. The chocolate cookie batter is the same as PB Cookie Crush and it’s just as phenomenal here as it was there. Bittersweet, gritty, and full of rich chocolate flavor, it’s the component that keeps me digging and digging for every last bit of its cake batter-y divinity. The moment Milk Bar put this swirl into a more straight ahead and determined base with a complimentary mix-in is the day it changes the grocery ice cream game — it’s so good. The cookies n’ cream crunch is what you’d expect, essentially pieces of Oreo cookies dispersed throughout with a softened texture and slight crunch; nothing special or new but essential for the concept.

As I finish the container the spearmint fades more to the back of the profile, partially from the flavor fatigue of the base and partially from the mint swirl being absent in the last 1/3 of the pint. There is an abundance of potential with this ice cream but its flaws make it one I’m not likely to ever revisit, despite some really high moments of brilliant execution in the base texture and cookie batter swirl. Maybe whatever mint extract this is is like cilantro and my tongue is cursed, so your mileage may vary, but as it stands, I would approach this wintery profile with caution.

Rating: 6/10

Found at: Whole Foods ($6.99)

REVIEW: Caffe Panna Secret Garden

Basil is one of the most beautiful ingredients in the culinary universe. Often associated with savory foods, its fragrant complexity isn’t limited simply to pesto, pizza sauce, curry, or garnish on fish. There’s an entire world of possibilities if you open your mind to combining the heralded herb with different, unique, components, including ice cream. Caffe Panna’s Secret Garden is fresh basil infused sweet cream rippled with Sicilian apricot preserves. 

To the unenlightened this may sound odd, but there are truly few things as quintessentially Italian tasting as this stunning imported Panna fused with basil. The base is absolutely perfect. It is rich and indulgent with an immaculately smooth velvety texture that takes over the entirety of my tongue as it melts. It’s decadent but still manages to feel light, refreshing, and even cleansing from the gentle and slightly peppery sweet notes of the basil. The purity of the high end Panna (cream) really gets a chance to shine while never overpowering the more herbaceous qualities of the green gift.

The apricot preserves are a lovely accompaniment to the basil. They’re sweet and thicker than a typical swirl, popping up in little clumps throughout the pint with zero iciness. The preserves carry a nice syrupy density without feeling cloyingly heavy and compliment the basil really well.

Secret Garden is an exceptionally simple and elegant ice cream. It is beautiful in its simplicity and I love it. The only thing that could take it to the next level would be a little bit of texture. This is the type of ice cream that is sensational but after 3 or 4 spoonfuls you’re done, and with a little bit of toothy variation it could be an all timer. Perhaps some crunchy gently candied almonds or hazelnuts or even the stunning shortbread from the Panna Picnic pack’s sibling Cornberry Blues could make this even better; but as it stands it is an ice cream everyone must try. And hey, no one is stopping me (or you) from sprinkling a little crunchy magic on top and turning this secret garden into a secret salad sundae…trust me, it’s fantastic.

Rating: 9/10

Found at: Goldbelly ($114.95 for 6 pints)

REVIEW: CinnaFuego Toast Crunch

CinnaFuego Toast Crunch is a limited edition niche snack release done the right way. Unlike the recent collab between Ritz and Oreo and the ongoing Ritz Bitz S’mores re-release, where packages are made available to 1,000 people or less, this spicy cereal can be found online exclusively at Walmart. Sure, you’ll have to pay shipping, but everyone has a chance to get their hands on this sweet and spicy cereal snack that was way too much fun for me to resist ordering the day it dropped.

The pieces of toast look identical to the crazy squares in Cinnamon Toast Crunch I know and love, but there is an intense spicy cinnamon aroma wafting from the bag straight into my nostrils. It smells distinctly like the type of cinnamon heat I associate with Hot Tamales, Big Red gum, Atomic Fireballs, and those delicious cinnamon bears. In fact, if you’ve had a long night out with one too many shots of Fireball whisky you may get flashbacks from sniffing these fiery squares.

The taste mirrors the smell, with a punchy spicy cinnamon flavor that fuses together pretty naturally with the buttery cinnamon base of CTC. The finish gets a bit black peppery and I can feel the heat lingering in the back of my throat. I’m impressed by the level of spice but it’s definitely still a cinnamon spice as opposed to cayenne or something with a vegetal peppery taste like habanero. Never forget the cinnamon challenge, though, if you breath in too hard while snacking on this cereal you’ll cough — I definitely did. I can see people really hating this; it’s definitely a divisive and borderline aggressive flavor, but as a certified cinnamon fiend I am vibing hard.

In milk this cereal is a little weird. I don’t hate it but I don’t really enjoy it either. Milk tends to temper heat but I’ve found the unsweetened almond milk I eat cereal with to make it less sweet and a touch more peppery without being as punchy on the cinnamon front. I’m more of a dry cereal snacker anyway so this doesn’t really bother me and I’ll happily enjoy this spicy-TC at its crunchiest.

While it’s still available I’d recommend grabbing this limited edition bag to anyone who loves sweet and spicy, or are like me and insist on ingesting all new members of the Toast Crunch family.

Rating: 8/10

Found at: ($5.98)

REVIEW: Jeni’s Powdered Jelly Donut

When it comes to donuts the jelly filled variety are near the bottom of my personal tier list. Give me an old fashioned, buttermilk bar, sprinkled cake, custard filled, cruller, chocolate raised, hell, I’ll take even a plain glazed over a jelly filled. But when it comes to ice cream companies that have worked their way into readily available grocery stores? Jeni’s is right up there with the elite, cranking out some of the most consistent and top tier pints you can find in an aisle that also carries riced cauliflower. I sadly don’t get to try as many new Jeni’s flavors as I’d like, with no local scoop shops in the Bay Area and many of my local Whole Foods not keeping up with the times, but I got lucky with this spring drop and couldn’t deny a fruity frozen donut mashup. Powdered Jelly Donut is vanilla custard with raspberry jelly and brown sugar donut crumble.

This vanilla custard is not what I expected — it is comPLEX. As usual with Jeni’s it is rich, dense, and superbly creamy, but to my palate is is anything but a basic vanilla. I get slightly tangy notes akin to a milder cream cheese base, and a pretty legitimate saltiness comes through as well. It’s an extremely deep and heavy flavor with a potent eggy-ness that gets accented by the more nuanced floral notes of vanilla. In short, it’s really good, especially for a pint you can grab at a grocery store — absolutely top shelf stuff. The custard tempers surprisingly quickly for how premium it tastes, which creates a wonderfully velvety texture when the other components come to their proper temperature.

The raspberry jelly is bright, acidic, and tart with a little bit of a floral undertone. Jeni’s website refers to it as “raspberry rose” and while I’m not getting any perfume-y notes there’s definitely a supporting flavor underneath the usual straight ahead slightly sweet and sour berry burst. Out of the freezer the jam is a bit icy, but once tempered properly it has an impressively smooth and jelly-like consistency that plays with the indulgent and rich base really well. If I could make one tweak to it I’d make it a touch sweeter to drive home the donut vibe, but it’s a tasty and fascinating swirl in its own right.

As I’ve said on this blog many times before, donuts are exceedingly hard to pull off in ice cream, and the good news bad news here is the “donut crumble” doesn’t really resemble donuts at all; but it’s awesome. The crumble is really more of a swirl with a soft but gritty consistency similar to cake batter, and reminds me a lot of tres leches cake with its impressively heavy moisture. It has a nice buttery and slightly spiced nutmeg flavor to it that compliments the salty base and tart swirl really well. There’s a touch of astringency in the finish, which isn’t unpleasant, and actually makes the swirl taste a bit more bread-like than the full on sweetness overload in a cake batter. It was smart of Jeni’s to opt for this type of mix-in over actual donut chunks, which would no doubt be much harder to control, I simply would have called it a donut batter swirl. And honestly, that probably would have been something the ice cream enthusiasts would have gone wild for, making this surprisingly complex pint even more desirable.

Rating: 8.5/10

Found at: Whole Foods ($9.99)

REVIEW: Atomic Creamery Chocolate 3

Atomic Creamery began in 2017 in Orange County, California with a mission to “keep it fresh, keep it premium, keep it unique”. That ice cream mantra caught my eye big time, and I appreciate how the company leans heavy into their flash frozen liquid nitrogen churning method via a fully committed science theme. When my pints arrived I was worried — the dry ice had evaporated — but all the pints still seemed very frozen; except for one, Chocolate 3. Naturally I put the softened pint into the deepest depths of my freezer and crossed my fingers for two days. To my surprise, it emerged 95% intact. Aside from a little refrozen top layer, it was good to go, and I’m so glad it was. Chocolate 3 (cubed) is a chocolate base with Oreo cookies and brownie bites, finished with a whole Oreo on top.

Atomic’s ice cream should freeze pretty hard, a result of not only their premium ingredients but the liquid nitrogen that quickly brings it all together, allowing for a lower overrun, which pumps less air into the final product. For whatever reason, even freshly out of the freezer after being properly frozen again, their chocolate base is softer than all of the others, needing very little temper time to be deliciously creamy and ready to scoop. Speaking of which, this base is awesome; it is basic in the best way. It tastes like a tried and true, but premium, classic scoop shop chocolate. Not too dark but also not too milky sweet, it brings the perfect bittersweet balance that its color implies — rich and indulgent but not over the top in the slightest. The chocolate has delightful depth courtesy of San Francisco’s Ghirardelli that plays with the smooth and lush Straus cream beautifully — simple elegance. 

As much as I enjoy the base, the mix-ins are where this pint really takes off. Oreo’s are amazing and everyone knows what they taste like, so it comes down to how they freeze and how they’re chopped. The chunks in this pint vary in size but mostly come through BIG with slabs of wafer still coated in tons of creme filling — I love them. There are some smaller pieces that have softened more and I enjoy their softened-in-milk texture as well. I also had Atomic Creamery’s Chocolate 2 (squared) which is the same mix-ins but with a vanilla base, and while that flavor was very good, the mix-in density wasn’t nearly as generous — this Chocolate 3 pint is loaded and it’s a winner. It also helped me realize that while I’m not a massive fan of cookies and cream I am definitely a fanboy for chocolate cookies and cream when it’s done right — like old school Ample Hills and this Chocolate 3.

We all love a good Oreo, but the brownies in this pint are some of the best I’ve ever had. They are so ooey gooey and soft they feel and taste like they came straight from the pan, baked mere hours ago. The chocolate is a richer and more intensely flavored one than the base, kind of like fudge, with some vanilla notes and a hint of salt that poke through as well. Somehow both darker and sweeter, the massive chunks of brownie swimming in the chocolate base with the occasional crunch from an Oreo wafter is a chocolate lovers dream…and I am lucid. Sometimes brownies can be dry and cakey — not here. These mix-ins are a testament to the effectiveness of Atomic’s flash freezing, not only being made exceptionally fresh with top tier ingredients in person, but locking in that experience for someone on the other side of the state.

This review is for Chocolate 3, but it took two other pints to come to this conclusion. Chocolate 2, which I mentioned earlier, is a great, but even more subdued take on cookies and cream, and Rocky Road, which is part of their nostalgic collection, is an even more classic rendition on a classic flavor. I had to dig into Rocky Road as my only other chocolate base to make sure everything was copacetic with the one that felt totally softened upon arrival. Rocky Road is awesome, with crunchy massive whole nuts and soft marshmallows, but interestingly, the base also freezes at least 50% softer than all the others. Something about the Atomic Creamery chocolate base, perhaps extra liquid to offset the oftentimes drying effect of cocoa powder, makes the ice cream so much quicker to temper. If you give Chocolate 3 a shot, and I absolutely think you should, make sure you watch its texture closely, because it’s not like the rest!

Rating: 9.5/10

Found at: Atomic Creamery

REVIEW: Milk Bar Peanut Butter Chocolate Cookie Crush

Milk Bar ice creams are confusing. Although I never formally reviewed it here, Cornflake Chocolate Chip Marshmallow was my favorite grocery ice cream “pint” (only 14 ounces, HD style) of 2021, but it took two attempts to get it right. The first time around I had zero marshmallow. And conversely, the Birthday Cake container I got, which others raved about, to me, was awful — and I love birthday cake pints. Quality control has been all over the place — missing components and iffy base textures at times, but when they get it right, they really get it right. The latest addition to Milk’s permanent lineup is right up my alley, all the way down to its pretty purple packaging; and guess what — it’s confusing! Peanut Butter Chocolate Cookie Crush is peanut butter chocolate ice cream with peanut butter cookie crumbs and fudge chocolate cookie batter.

Bases with two flavors tend to be problematic because they can be indecisive, and that’s exactly how this peanut butter chocolate ice cream tastes. It’s more chocolate than it is peanut butter, the PB is definitely there; but it doesn’t taste incredibly authentic. It reminds me of a chocolate ice cream with peanut butter flavoring, almost like powdered peanut butter, as opposed to the true rich fattiness of a nut butter. And that peanut butter essence pulls back on the more intense notes of the cocoa as well — I just don’t love the way they work together. The texture is awesome though. No doubt a premium ice cream with a respectable creaminess and density that you can tell is made with some of the best ingredients of the grocery store brands.

The mix-ins are what make this pint really unique, both in terms of concept and execution. The fudge chocolate cookie batter is my favorite of the two. It’s like a hybrid between a gritty Oreo swirl and cake batter, with some moister thinner bits that carry a fudge-like quality. It has a deep bittersweet chocolate flavor that’s absolutely addictive and there’s plenty of it throughout. It is truly hard to stop eating. Milk Bar has slowly become one of the textural masters of store brand swirls and it’s special. 

The peanut butter cookie “crumbs” as you can see in all of the pictures, are really more a swirl as well, and it isn’t really crumbled throughout as much as it pops up in sheets. I love the gritty texture akin to graham crackers and the hints of saltiness that come through but I’m still searching for more peanut butter. I get a buttery flavor with just a touch of peanut butter and I can’t help but think about how, despite the creativity of this crumb, I wish it was straight up peanut butter.

This is a flawed “pint” but it is not a bad one. Sometimes creativity can be our own undoing, and while I appreciate how this ice cream wanted to do something different, I can’t help but feel like a straight ahead chocolate base with that amazing fudge chocolate cookie batter and a peanut butter swirl would have been so much more satisfying than this inventive but muted foray into the chocolate peanut butter universe. 

Rating: 6.5/10

Found at: Whole Foods ($6.99)

REVIEW: Caffe Panna ABB Coffee Break

As someone who has worked in the coffee industry on and off for over a decade and reviews sweet snacks on the side, I don’t generally prefer when their paths cross. I like a good strong cup of black coffee every morning and have a broad palette for the magic of espresso, but when it comes to cookies and cake and ice cream I like to keep it sweet and indulgent. 

That being said, a good coffee ice cream can be special, just like a beautifully balanced slice of Tiramisu can be perfection, and Caffe Panna have proven to me before that they can make one helluva coffee ice cream. It is, in fact, in the espresso-bar-meets-scoop-shop DNA of the brand to tackle coffee desserts with finesse. ABB Coffee Break is cold steeped coffee bean ice cream with coffee cake streusel, Allie’s Banana Bread chunks, and an espresso swirl.

The cold steeped coffee bean ice cream, from what I can tell, is awesome. As with most of the People Pleaser pack, this pint is teeming with mix-ins and flavor-shards are coming at me from every direction. I can see little flecks of beans throughout and they seem to carry a bit of a crunch, with a bold but creamy coffee flavor that permeates throughout the entire experience. Like I mentioned earlier I take my coffee black, but this balanced attack of bitter, sweet, and creamy is nothing short of divine.

Speaking of divine, the coffee cake streusel is insanely intense and quite honestly, transcendent. It is buttery and crunchy just like the top of a fresh coffee cake should be, and dispersed in smaller pieces throughout with a surprising bitter note on almost every bite. It has the crunchiness of shortbread and finishes with either the flavor of being espresso-soaked or doused in cocoa powder. I’m not entirely sure what I’m tasting but it definitely deviates from the standard cinnamon crumb coffee cake, and as much as I love cinnamon I welcome its darkness and complexity with open arms.

And the bitterness doesn’t end there, it only gets wilder. The espresso swirl has the density of dulce de leche, with a stick-to-your-spoon consistency that’s thicker than any caramel I’ve had from Panna in the past. The flavor is an absolute wallop of espresso intensity balanced out with just enough burnt sugar sweetness to feel like dessert. It’s without a doubt the strongest coffee component in the pint and as someone who usually eats ice cream at night I’m wondering if I’ll be able to sleep after this. I love this espresso swirl, and its distribution throughout the pint is perfect, but it’s definitely for coffee lovers only.

The lone break from the bitter in coffee break comes from the other half of the flavor’s namesake — Allie’s Banana Bread — and it is awesome. Another, albeit much newer, staple to NY’s food scene, like Lloyd’s Carrot Cake, Allie’s bread is another absolute winner of a mix-in that plays into this profile surprisingly well. The bread is dense and moist with a brilliantly bright and sweet banana flavor that somehow gets through the seemingly endless layers of coffee. It carries a hefty chew but has a softness like it was baked yesterday, with its tropical fruity notes and butteriness bringing a touch of levity to the scooping experience.

There are some pints that teeter on the edge of insanity, and this is without a doubt one of them. Being on the edge of insanity is okay though, if you can pull it off, and with ABB Coffee Break Hallie and the team at Caffe Panna somehow manage to balance a myriad of complex bitter and aggressive flavors with massive boulders of mix-ins via just enough nuance and sweet cream to create a masterpiece.

Rating: 10/10

Found at: Goldbelly ($114.95 for 6 pints)