REVIEW: Caffe Panna Minted Panna

Caffe Panna’s People Pleaser Pack has arrived on Goldbelly, which means it’s time for some decadence. Since 2019 Hallie Meyer and Caffe Panna have cranked out some of the best and most innovative ice cream in the country, and thanks to dry ice and the internet, it reaches mouths far from their New York scoop shop. I’m kicking off the pack with a divisive flavor combo that I happen to love — chocolate and mint. Minted Panna is panna peppermint ice cream with fudge coated minty cookie chunks and house made Oreo ganache.

The peppermint base is absolutely fantastic. It is rich and creamy with an exceptionally smooth texture that really highlights the high quality Italian cream (panna). The peppermint is there but not overly aggressive, it’s mild and balanced to the point I would almost consider it a vanilla peppermint or peppermint sweet cream, like a melty sugary after dinner mint. The flavor is absolutely nothing like the dreaded tingly toothpaste taste that mint haters fear, yet it’s present and punchy enough to satisfy mint lovers like me. Flawless victory.

The flavor description gets kinda cheeky with it but I’m almost positive these are Girl Scout Thin Mint cookies, and once again they’re immaculately executed. The fudge coating allows the cookies to retain all of their crunch, and as much as I enjoy a traditional softened cookies and cream scoop I’ll take that chompy-ness ANY day. Due to the mint in the base and the extra coco-coating I get much more bittersweet chocolate flavor from the cookies than mint, but there’s no doubt a little extra cooling factor wafts in from each bite of the cookies. The chunks are pretty big and respectable, with a scattering of smaller pieces all the way to the bottom, but my pint did briefly dry out on the mix-in front pretty substantially in the middle. Luckily the peppermint base is so damn good.

My only gripe with this pint is the house made Oreo ganache because…I’m not sure I got any? There are some whispers of something that may have been gooey around some of the cookies, especially at the top, but that seems more like cookie blood than ganache. I was looking for something akin to Caffe Panna’s iconic Oreo brittle with a rich buttery or salty flavor, but softer and gooier, and I never found it; which is a shame because this flavor has potential to be an all timer for mint chocolate lovers.

Whether there was an accident when packing the pint or I’m not understanding what I’m seeing and tasting (although I’m pretty sure I know) I can’t deny how much I enjoy this ice cream. Two flawlessly executed components and one missing in action still has me wanting to lick the container when it’s empty —  I can’t deny its deliciousness and potential for greatness.

Rating: 7.5/10

Found at: Goldbelly ($114.99 for 6 pints)

REVIEW: Limited Edition Goldfish Old Bay Seasoned Crackers

Last year Goldfish began its creative collaborative journey via an impressive outing with Franks RedHot, and almost exactly one year later a second seasoning-inspired Goldfish has arrived — Old Bay. I am a huge fan of seafood but don’t love Old Bay as much as a lotta fish heads do, it’s a bit too celery-forward for how I like my crab, but I am really enjoying these crackers.

I assumed, like the RedHot variety, these would be the staple orange colored cheddar flavored fish, but they’re more of a plain white cracker, perhaps the blue-bagged “original” flavor, which reminds me of an oyster cracker or saltine in the best way. My first crunchy bite definitely gives me a prominent celery salt taste that I don’t love, but it quickly fades with subsequent handfuls. The combination of the salty spice and herbs on the crackers builds up to a pretty profound savory experience that gets buttery and creamy in a way that channels oyster crackers sitting atop clam chowder. There are notes of onion, garlic, paprika, and a subtle vinegary tang in the background. They’re delicious, and the seasoning is pretty convincingly distributed across the hundreds of fishies swimming in the bag.

This is a pretty straight forward idea — take a beloved seasoning and put it on a beloved cracker — but it’s executed extremely well and is just weird enough to appeal to those who have a sickening affinity for limited edition collabs (me, and probably you). Old Bay Goldfish are addictive and endlessly snack-able, with with some perfectly simple and eye catching packaging to bring the whole concept to brilliant salty life.

Rating: 9/10

Found at: Lucky ($2.49)

REVIEW: Trader Joe’s Strawberry Lemonade Joe-Joe’s

It has been awhile since Trader Joe’s released a new flavor of Joe-Joe. There have been the seasonal staples of Candy Cane and Pumpkin, as well as 2016’s Mango variety popping back up, but when was the last time we got an entirely new flavor of Joe-Joe? I couldn’t tell ya an exact date, but I’m pretty sure this is the first one since the pandemic broke out in 2020. And if it isn’t, I have pandemic brain, which has melted away a lot of my memory — so apologies if I missed an all time Joe-Joe in the last 2.5 years. Strawberry Lemonade Joe-Joe’s combine a lemon flavored cookie with strawberry creme.

I ripped into these before realizing they were a lemon flavored cookie wafer, I was too excited to try a new and unique combination to read the box. I generally like Joe-Joe’s, but at times they can come off kind of flat, which isn’t the case here, and I’m going to place the responsibility for that on the non-plain cookie. They don’t have a particularly bold lemon flavor, no zest in sight, but they remind me instantly of the now-RIP’d Girl Scouts Lemon Sandwich Cookies, and that’s a very good thing. The cookie is soft and crumbly with a buttery undertone, which is surprising because these are vegan with no butter in the ingredients.

After the initial burst of mild lemon comes the rush of strawberry, which, thanks to actual pieces of dried strawberry in the creme, is pretty tart. I actually thought the wafers were more lemony than they were because the tart zing from the creme reminds me so much of lemon’s bright acidity, and they work really well together. The strawberry flavor is extremely natural with no artificial candy or Nesquick notes at all. While it does taste very natural, the combination of lemon and strawberry conjures up a milky spoonful of Froot Loops, but in the most clean and organic way possible.

While we may have had to wait a few too many years for them to pop up, these new Joe-Joe’s are fantastic, striking a beautiful balance between sweet and tart that will keep you gleefully snacking into the summer solstice. And yes, they are truly as refreshing as a cold glass of strawberry lemonade, and do that summery porch staple plenty of justice.

Rating: 9/10

Found at: Trader Joe’s ($3.99)

REVIEW: Salt & Straw Pistachio Rose Water w/ Strawberry Mochi

I’m not the type of guy to eat or burn my flowers. I love sniffing them, and they’re beautiful, but I don’t tend to appreciate strong floral flavors in my sweets or candles — two things I enjoy on the daily. With my preference for chocolate, peanut butter, salted caramel and even the forever underrated honey and lemon, I’m never overly excited about the Flower Power series at Salt & Straw. But I’m also not close minded. Salt & Straw added a new flavor to its usual springy lineup that really piqued my interest, despite understanding the risk I was taking for my own tentative tongue. Pistachio Rose Water with Strawberry Mochi is pistachio ice cream with ribbons of rosewater white chocolate fudge and scratch-made butter mochi cake marbled with strawberry butter.

What made me willing to take the risk initially was the pistachio base, and it absolutely delivers. As much as I love almond extract-leaning pistachio flavored things, there is absolutely NONE of that here. The base is pure 100% decadent pistachio butter. It is incredibly earthy and bursting with rich nutty flavor. Profoundly decadent and so heavy — it is truly one of the most premium and dense pistachio ice creams I have ever had. For that reason it takes a little extra time to temper, as should be expected with a pint that hits nearly 1300 calories; and it’s worth the extra 5-10 minutes on the counter to reach its perfect peak of melty divinity. 

The butter mochi cake pieces are no slouch either. There are TONS of them, from the top all the way to the bottom, and they have a wildly addictive firm but bouncy chew. The combination of mochi and butter comes off exactly how you might think. They have the richness of an ooey gooey butter cake with a more delicate flavor and less crunch. Since the strawberry butter is marbled in, some chunks are pink with a little extra sweetness and faint berry notes, while the others are pale and purely buttery. The pieces come in varying sizes and also benefit from extended temper time — this pint is HEAVY and demands all of your senses, focus, and time.

The two components I expected to enjoy met and exceeded expectations, so now onto the divisive one: the rosewater white chocolate fudge. From an execution standpoint, honestly, it’s flawless. Super fluid and runny yet thick with a sweet foundation and INTENSE rosewater flavor. The rose absolutely jumps out of the pint like you’re biting into your lover’s hand on Valentine’s Day or chugging a bottle of grandma’s perfume. It is STRONG. Initially I thought it was too strong but the more I eat it the more gripped I become. There’s something so beautiful in the aggressive rose that compliments the bold pistachio and buttery cake so well. When I return to the fudge after a more pistachio-dominant bite the taste settles into its own and feels in perfect harmony with the other two components. 

This flavor combination gripped me so much I dreamt about it the night after my first serving — it’s special. If I had one suggestion or adjustment, because I don’t want to call it a “flaw”, it would be to toss some actual roasted pistachios in there. The only thing this magical scoop is missing is a little crunch, but that won’t stop me from singing the praises of this complex and beautiful ice cream that should positively without a doubt make an encore appearance next May for Salt Straw’s Flowers 2023.

Rating: 9.5/10

Found at: Salt & Straw ($13.00)

REVIEW: Ben & Jerry’s Topped Chocolate Milk & Cookies

The last of Ben & Jerry’s Phase Two Topped pints to arrive at my local Safeway, and therefore find its way onto this blog, is Chocolate Milk & Cookies. This flavor is a relatively simple remix of one of B&J’s most beloved and classic pints among cookie frea—er, enthusiasts. The extra choco-fied version of Milk & Cookies pairs a chocolate ice cream with chocolate chip cookies and chocolate cookie swirls, topped with milk chocolatey ganache and fudge chips. 

Just as with all the other Topped pints, the chocolate ganache on top is great. The milk chocolate is sweet and milky while the fudge chips are slightly darker and add a little crunch. Nothing new here or particularly of note compared to the others in the lineup. It’s a fun way to start the journey — best broken into pieces and spread throughout the scooping experience.

Beyond the ganache there’s not a whole lot of excitement in this scoop. I really enjoy the original Milk & Cookies, and while I’m a fan of Ben & Jerry’s chocolate base I think it really does this pint a disservice. The beautiful contrast between the brown sugary cookie chunks and vanilla of the OG gets lost against the more dominant bitter notes of the chocolate. It doesn’t help that there aren’t nearly as many soft and chewy cookie chunks as I associate with Ben & Jerry’s. They’re there, but just as with some of the pints in the original Topped line, the mix-ins are much more sparse and hard to find.

Even more egregious is the lack of chocolate cookie swirl. I’m very familiar with this gritty Oreo-like ribbon of delight from B&J and there is virtually none to be found. It’s such a bummer because I loved Topped Dirt Cake, which has not only a wonderful vanilla pudding base but the inescapable aura of cookies in every spoonful. I dug all the way to the bottom and found mere whispers of cookie swirl — it made me very sad.


This pint isn’t bad but it’s very underwhelming. My experience may have come down to a quality control issue, because I’m sure Ben & Jerry’s didn’t intend on the mix-ins being so light. While I don’t think it could compete with the original vanilla version even at full strength, if I had had any respectable amount of swirl and some more chocolate chip cookie chunks this pint has potential to be solid.

Rating: 6/10

REVIEW: Salt & Straw Bottomless Limes!

When Salt & Straw head ice cream maker Tyler Malek opens his coveted creative doors to children under the age of 13 for the Student Inventor Series he doesn’t simply request base and mix-in ideas, he asks them for a story to turn into a flavor. The stories are, as expected, pretty wild and…psychedelic; and his ability to turn those concepts into scaleable, sellable, pint-able entires into Salt & Straw’s history is nothing short of impressive. There have been times in the past where we, as the consumer, only get the story, or a portion of it, to decipher what the flavor was going to be. This year the stories are all well documented and can be read on Salt & Straw’s website, but we also have a more traditional description to help guide which to scoop and which to skip based on personal flavor preferences. 

Those descriptions are usually pretty helpful and clear, but this one left me a bit stumped going into it — and I’m glad I took the risk! Bottomless Limes is described as, “In celebration of a most mysterious holiday, we ribbon in Key Lime cheesecake with hunks of golden pie crust, crystallized with brown sugar and ginger, and shards of sprinkle-studded chocolate bark.”

This ice cream is absolutely chaotic, and I love it. It’s not chaotic in the way Chocolate Caramel Potato Chip Cupcake is, where there are tons of sweet and salty components in a sea of brown and black, it’s chaotic in the sense that it looks visually perplexing and I can’t really describe what’s going on. What flavor is the base ice cream? I couldn’t tell ya! It’s nearly impossible for me to isolate it without a sprinkle or chocolate shard popping onto the spoon, which, for someone who loves texture, isn’t a problem at all. My best guess for the base is vanilla, but it doesn’t really sing with any particularly classic floral vanilla notes, so I’ll simply scoop on and enjoy its smooth dense texture and premium mouthfeel.

The most prominent flavor that jumps out at me upon tasting, and the one I hoped would be very present, is the golden pie crust. The crust is unmistakably graham cracker, with a beautifully buttery brown sugar and molasses essence that tastes like the foundation of any perfect cheesecake. I don’t feel its gentle grittiness as much as I taste it, and I love how its presence seems to pop up in every other bite. There are occasional bigger chunks of the crust and they have a dense soft chew that’s every bit as wonderful as the real deal on a slice of NY’s finest.

Also in every other bite, or nearly every bite, are the variably sized shards of chocolate. There’s both a darker bittersweet chocolate and more traditionally sugary white, which adds a firm crunch and great sweetness to the delicious sea of controlled madness. There are also super crunchy ball-shaped Christmas-colored sprinkles which bleed into the base for more visually appealing chaos. It’s like an epic technicolored chocolate chip ice cream at its core, and it’s so fun to eat.

With a name like “Bottomless Limes!” I expected the flavor to be overly citrusy, but it isn’t, and I really appreciate the balance on display. The key lime cheesecake pops up in big bright green chunks throughout, and once the ice cream is properly tempered it has the perfect smooth and luscious cheesecake texture with bright acidity and tangy depth. There is no mistaking this dense swirl for anything other than cheesecake, and it pairs surprisingly well with the more bitter notes from the chocolate bark. One moment the pint is sweet, then tangy, then cheesy, then crunchy, then creamy — and it all works. It’s a very heavy ice cream that needs extra time to temper, but once you practice patience you will be rewarded with an amazingly decadent experience.

Once I read the story by 12-year-old Rae and learned that this flavor was inspired by a bottomless pit, this pint made a whole lotta sense. Eating it does remind me of a spiral into chaos, like endlessly falling into the abyss, but it’s a very tasty plummet with complex complimentary flavors that come together in tasty execution as brilliantly as they look.

Rating: 9.5/10

Found at: Salt & Straw ($13.00)

REVIEW: Salt & Straw The Ice Cream of Moo

It’s that time of the year again where the geniuses (psychopaths?) at Salt & Straw hand over their coveted creative duties to children, cranking out the scoops of their dreams in the Student Inventor Series. A fan favorite since 2011, the series has spawned some bonafide classics like Cinnatopia and a whole lotta absolutely crazy pints plucked straight from the curious depths of developing brains, like Lots a’ Nacho. One of the more straight forward and less-fruit-heavy creations this year is The Ice Cream of Moo, which combines silky salted chocolate ice cream with studded clusters of candied caramel cashews and hunks of maraschino cherry-laced chocolate ganache. 

The chocolate base initially took me by surprise, but I think I’ve settled into appreciating it. The texture is a bit lighter and airier than the epic density I’m used to from Salt & Straw. It isn’t actually airy like like a cheaper ice cream with high overrun, it’s definitely still super premium, just a touch more churned than I’m used to. The flavor is a relatively light and milky chocolate taste that reminds me of a Wendy’s chocolate frosty, or a malt cup without the malt, plus some delightful saltiness. The salt causes the base to temper quicker than your average S&S pint, and since it’s described as “silky” I think it definitely fits the bill. It’s a solid foundation but ultimately the least interesting part of this ice cream.

There are only two mix-ins but there’s plenty of them! The candied caramel cashews bring a different type of saltiness to the profile, with a hint of burnt sugar that has no doubt seeped into the base to cover up some of the cocoa’s typical bitterness. I love the flavor of cashews and that unique fatty earthiness comes through surprisingly well. What I’m not quite as fond of is the texture. The texture isn’t bad, but it’s more cashew than it is candied, as in, it has the softer chew of a roasted nut as opposed to the hard crunch of a praline. I still enjoy eating them but I would have loved a crunchy component to really add some chomp-y depth to the pint.

The highlight of The Ice Cream of Moo, unsurprisingly, is the cherry-laced chocolate ganache. Salt & Straw’s chocolate ganache is one of their greatest mix-ins, one of my favorite EVER, and that classic salty, super bitter, deeply rich flavor is on full display in this new cherry-ified iteration. The ganache is so dark and so intense I wonder if that’s why the base seems light, because there are lotsa cashews and lotsa lovely chunks of ganache from top to bottom. It carries a wonderful buttery chew that’s downright addictive, with little pops of fleshy acidity from the house made maraschino cherries. It’s not only a highlight but a component I could eat on its own forever and ever, and honestly worth the price of admission on its own.

While the base and cashews leave something to be desired in their execution, I can’t deny how fun this ice cream is to eat. There’s an addictive quality to it that made me down half the pint in one pretty quick sitting. It’s salty and sweet and bitter all at once, with earthy undertones and a very playful concept that’s more attuned to an adult palette. A fitting addition to the Inventors Series in its 11th year, but just shy of being one I can see being summoned back from the Vault a couple years from now.

Rating: 7.5/10

Found at: Salt & Straw ($13.00)

REVIEW: Haagen-Dazs Black & White Cookie

As a lifelong West Coast Cali boy, black and white cookies aren’t too prevalent in my sweet treat catalog. I’ve had a couple of them over the course of 20 years and thought they were fine, but recently had one that really won me over. It was a cake-y, buttery, cookie-adjacent experience that gripped me so much I ate three in three days and then sought out others to try. The ones that followed weren’t as convincing as to their legendary status on the East Coast, but they’re officially part of my preferred cookie-sphere now…and I want more. All the time. 

Which brought me to another “pint” from the Haagen-Dazs City Sweets Collection, which thus far has underperformed; but how could I pass up the chance to see if my new found love for this regionally beloved baked good translates into ice cream? The aptly titled Black and White Cookie is vanilla bean ice cream with soft cookie pieces and ripples of chocolate frosting.

As the age old optimistic adage goes, the third time’s a charm, and I finally struck gold (or maybe silver) with this new Haagen-Dazs flavor. The vanilla bean ice cream is what I expect from HD. It’s rich and creamy with a genuinely round and fragrant floral vanilla taste that has the intense, sharper presence of extract as well as the more earthy-tasting vanilla bean speckled throughout. It has a smooth and milky finish that lays a perfect foundation for the two mix-ins.

The cookie pieces are abundant and soft with a cake-like chew that gets even gentler the longer the ice cream tempers. Texturally they’re perfect, but the flavor leaves a bit to be desired. They aren’t bad by any means, just a touch boring. The sizable cookie chunks don’t have any notably buttery or salty essence to compete with the strength and sweetness of the base, so they exist more than they impress.

But the fudge ripple makes up a lot of the ground that the cookies leave uncovered, not only with a delightful bittersweet chocolate taste but with perfect thick and sticky fudge texture. The dense fudge against the creamy vanilla is a tried and true combination that instantly triggers memories of vintage scoop shop and McDonald’s sundae’s in the best way.

While the taste of the cookie chunks fall a bit short of making this experience mesmerizing, it is absolutely an ice cream worth picking up if you see it in the grocery store, especially if it’s on sale. Not to mention the strong vanilla base with chocolate accents makes the perfect foundation for building your own sundae at home — my current favorite is topping it with Peanut Butter Chex: sensational.

Rating: 7.5/10

Found at: Safeway ($3.49 on sale)

REVIEW: Ben & Jerry’s Topped Dirt Cake

2022 began for Ben & Jerry’s with a follow up to last years seven pint Topped line. It took me a lot longer than anticipated to track them down, and I’ve scooped multiple flavors that came out since the new Topped pints were announced, but I’m glad to finally get a chance to dig into them, starting with ode to a favorite childhood dessert. Dirt Cake is vanilla pudding ice cream with chocolate sandwich cookies and chocolate cookie swirls, topped with milk chocolaty ganache and chocolate cookie crumble.

A lot of folks, including my girlfriend, seem to have a fetish for cookies and cream ice cream. While I’m not one of them, I definitely appreciate a solid take on cookies and cream and always thought it odd that B&J didn’t have a straight forward take on the scoop shop classic in their lineup. They have Milk & Cookies, which is a fun elevated take on the profile, as well as Mint Chocolate Cookie for all the peppermint people (me), but nothing more standard for the more basic scoopers. C&C enthusiasts can rejoice, because this is a wonderful and ever-so-slightly different rendition on an iconic flavor, sprinkled with a bit of nostalgia.

The vanilla pudding base isn’t distinctly pudding-y, which is largely a textural difference that can’t necessarily translate into something frozen like ice cream, but it is different than the normal B&J vanilla. It might be a touch more sweet? Very similar to how the pudding ice cream swirl works against the darker base in Chocolate Therapy, there’s just a little something different than your typical floral vanilla. Whatever the small tweaks to the flavoring the gurus did, it works, and I really enjoy it as a backdrop to all the chocolate mix-ins.

Speaking of the mix-ins, there’s tons of them and they’re awesome. The pieces of chocolate sandwich cookies are of admirable size with a nice very gentle crunch that leads to a squish. The bittersweet flavor of the cookie wafers works splendidly with the vanilla pudding, and the swirl blends into the base and chunks, tying everything together so that every bite has the essence of cookies and cream. Especially with the additional cookie crumbs on the top of the pint, it’s impossible to not feel like you’re diving face first into a frozen sea of creamy Oreos.

And that milk chocolate ganache on top? Perfect. The milk chocolate has a distinctly sweeter and creamier flavor than the cookies with an epic thickness that takes everything to the next level. Softer than chunks of chocolate but firmer than fudge, I like to preserve the topping to spread throughout my bites to make every 3 or so spoonfuls particularly decadent and exciting. 

In my heart of hearts a true dirt cake flavor would have some gummy worms, but as someone who loves that combo and continues to go back to it despite the fact that I might lose a tooth, I totally understand why B&J chose to omit them. Whether you’re a cookies and cream fanboy or just someone who appreciates a well-executed and classically decadent pint this is absolutely one you shouldn’t miss.

Rating: 8.5/10

Found at: Safeway ($4.99)

REVIEW: Haagen-Dazs Dulce de Leche Churro

After a less than ideal start to my Haagen-Dazs City Sweets experience, I was really hoping to right the the ship with another new spin on an undeniable HD classic in Dulce De Leche Churro — cinnamon churro ice cream and thick, gooey dulce de leche sauce mixed with crispy cinnamon-y churro pieces.

Well, this one has problems, but different problems.. The good news is the base actually tempers, unlike Chocolate Peanut Butter Pretzel, and it tempers perfectly. The ice cream is smooth and creamy with the nice mouthfeel I associate with HD; but sadly the flavor is a bit mild for me. Being that it’s supposed to be cinnamon churro I would like a more robust spicy taste. I’s not bad, just tame, and reminds me much more of a cereal milk sweet cream than a churro. There’s the essence of something lingering beneath the surface but nothing exciting.

The dulce de leche swirl is one of HD’s most effective flavor weapons and it absolutely delivers here. Thick, sticky, and super sweet, with ever-enticing buttery notes of burnt sugar. It’s just as delicious and perfect in this ice cream as it is in the classic stand alone flavor of the same name. For those unfamiliar with dulce de leche It’s essentially caramel, and HD executes it with the best of ‘em.

Where this “pint” goes awry are the churro pieces, and unfortunately I could see this coming from a mile away. The pieces aren’t coated so a lot of them, 60% or more, are soggy and stale. It’s an awful texture that completely kills the scooping experience. That being said, somehow, the other 40% or so are impressively crunchy and explode with fun, crispy texture. The problem with is that even when they do crunch they don’t have a ton of flavor. They remind me of CTC Churros in size and texture but they lack the flourish of cinnamon and sugar that makes that cereal great. They’re more reminiscent of pretzels than churros, and without any salt it’s just not that exciting for my tongue.

When putting something crunchy into ice cream it HAS to be coated — pretzels, cereal, etc do NOT work without some help from a chocolaty coating or glaze. I would have loved to have seen these churro pieces get covered in a cinnamon white chocolate, or even a slightly salted caramel white chocolate. That could have been delicious, and help fix not only the crunch catastrophe but the muted flavors of the ice cream as a whole.


Rating: 5.5/10

Found at: Safeway ($3.99)