Love is in the air! To be fair whenever I’m scooping premium ice cream I’m pretty starry eyed, but this now automatic (and awesome) February flavor combo really strikes a love-nerve with my Valentine; so when this limited pint from The Social dropped I knew I had to get it. “A Velvet Affair” is silky white chocolate ice cream with generous pieces of cream cheese frosted red velvet cake.
White chocolate is under-utilized in ice cream bases and it’s a very welcome switch up. Not only is it welcome but it’s one of the strongest ones I’ve ever had. Granted, it’s pretty rare to come across, but this is DISTINCTLY white chocolate. It’s a hard flavor to succinctly describe but it’s sweet and creamy without the floral notes of vanilla or dairy-forward flourish of a sweet cream. It has none of the bitterness of milk or dark chocolate and none of the saltiness of more complex bases like last week’s popcorn. It’s devoid of so many flavors and yet it’s perfectly white chocolate with a notable smoothness and luscious mouthfeel — I love it.
The lone mix-in, pieces of red velvet cake, are abundant. The entire pint from top to bottom is packed with sexy chunks of vibrantly red moist red velvet love. They have a delightful sponge-y chew and buttery taste rounded out by ever-so-slight notes of cocoa. Some of the frosting clings to the cake as intended and some breaks off in churning rebellion. The frosting is slightly firm and sweet. There’s a density to frosting that stands out in ice cream and it is truly such a wonderful texturally contrasting mix-in. I really enjoy the extra pops of sweetness with a touch of grit every time they arrive on my spoon.
The only element that’s missing from this otherwise stellar pint is the cream cheese. The frosting is cream cheese based but I can’t taste any of it, even when isolated. As much as I love the texture and density of the frosting it lacks the tanginess that defines a proper slice of red velvet. Maybe the white chocolate base is too silky sweet to let it come through or maybe my tang-tolerance is too high. Either way this is a wonderful seasonal pint that you should absolutely add to your order while you can.
I, along with everyone in the craft ice cream scene, collectively wept when Jackie and Brian Cuscuna had to declare bankruptcy and sell their beloved Brooklyn-based company Ample Hills. Ample Hills was one of the first shops to ship their ice cream to my door and I immediately fell in love with their combination of dense rich custard and high quality house made mix-ins. Ample Hills lives on under new ownership — I’ve ordered, and it’s not the same. It’s not awful, but it’s far from the premium product I fell in love with five years ago.
Thankfully for all of us serious scoopers, Jackie and Brian don’t have a single ounce of quit in their bodies. In the summer of 2021 they launched The Social Ice Cream Parlor, an experience they spoke about in depth on their excellent podcast As The Ice Cream Churns. Their story is absolutely wild — from inking a deal with Disney and making exclusive Star Wars and Marvel ice cream’s to expanding quicker than they could financially support to eventually being crushed by bankruptcy with a final finishing blow from the pandemic we have all endured the last two years.
The Social strips everything back to the basics. Brian is making the ice cream and hand packing the pints while Jackie tackles the ins and outs of the business and social media. They have ample seating to encourage hanging out over a scoop and have added old fashioned cake donuts to the menu that they make fresh in house every morning. It’s a family affair and a love affair, and the passion shows in the product that came delivered to my door in San Francisco all the way from Brooklyn, NY. “The Old Ballgame Popcorn & Peanut Brittle” is popcorn-infused ice cream with house made peanut butter peanut brittle.
Many of the people and ideologies from Ample Hills carried over into The Social, but one major element has changed: eggs. Most of Ample Hills’ iconic flavors were a custard base, meaning they utilized egg yolks in the core recipe; and The Social got rid of the yolks entirely. I loved the original Ample Hills recipe, I even have the cookbook, but this new base is just as dense, rich, and phenomenally creamy as I remember from vintage AH.
Egg yolks are an amazing vehicle for mouthfeel and texture but their extra fat can also muddy the flavor. The lack of egg yolks in this base pays dividends for the popcorn flavor. It’s buttery and slightly salty with a little bit of caramel flavor poking through and a toasted flavor that permeates throughout. I absolutely love the texture of The Social’s ice cream, it feels traditional and elevated at the same time. Maybe it’s the 70s style swooping rainbow logo that reminds me of progression rock pioneers Yes but this ice cream feels so classic that I could see myself enjoying it in a parlor before I was born.
The peanut butter peanut brittle is the lone mix-in and it is executed perfectly. Peanut butter brittle is a touch different than your average caramelized-sugar variety and the foundation is more creamy and nutty than purely sweet. There are whole peanuts embedded within which have a softer crunch than the dense intense chomp of the brittle’s base. Even though this is the only mix-in, the brittle bleeds a bit into the base and creates a mild caramel-like swirl that pools around the brittle in a very endearing way. I’ll call it brittle blood, and the brittle blood is delicious, bringing a little more extra texture to a pint that truly tastes like digging into a box of Cracker Jacks. There’s something instantly nostalgic about these flavors colliding in ice cream form. For anyone who likes a sweet and salty treat it’s a simple and well-executed duo that’s sure to hit your tastebuds like a home run in the ninth inning.
One of the most stunningly eye-catching and vibrantly colored pints I’ve ever had the pleasure of scooping arrives in honor of Netflix’s dazzling and most streamed show ever, Squid Game. Part of the very limited 2021 Gone Viral Pack, Salt & Straw’s Calamari Contest combines teal and pink tracksuit ice cream with bone marrow fudge and dalgona honeycomb.
Conceptually this pint is immaculate, one of the coolest, deepest, and most thought-out ice cream’s I have ever seen. Taste-wise, it really is a tale of two halves. The teal ice cream has an amazing almond flavor that I don’t think I’ve ever tasted from S&S before. It’s smooth, creamy and perfectly sweet without being over the top. The pink ice cream tastes like…nothing? Okay, not nothing but it’s devoid of any of the signature salty or floral notes that define a lot of Tyler’s fantastic bases. It might be as close to a standard sweet cream as I’ve had from him; which next to the brilliant almond, doesn’t taste like much.
It’s also kind of odd — the two bases temper entirely differently. I always give my pints a proper 10+ minutes at room temperature before shooting and scooping and with this one the teal got perfectly tempered, edging towards too soft, while the pink remained hard and kind of stiff. I can’t think of too many times where S&S went with a dual base and this might be why.
The mix-ins are also totally split down the middle — literally and figuratively. The Dalgona honeycomb chunks are absolutely incredible, and exclusively on the teal side. They have an extraordinarily gentle and sophisticated crunch with airy pockets of sugary splendor that dissolve as soon as I sink my teeth in. It’s miraculous how perfect they are and how fragile they feel — quintessential Salt & Straw magic. The high concept is once again on full display, as Dalgona candy plays a pivotal role in one Squid Game’s challenges, and suddenly it feels as though I’m eating an episode.
The bone marrow fudge coexists with the pink side and is much more of a ganache than a fudge. It’s thick, dense, and hard, with an even firmer texture than the usual fantastic S&S salted ganache. Unlike the ganache, this has very little sweetness and actually leans towards savory as opposed to bittersweet. Something about the bone marrow adds a note of meatiness and I don’t really like where it takes the profile. The savoriness combined with the beautiful-looking but bland-tasting base makes the pink half of the pint more experimental but unfortunately far less enticing than the teal.
This is a tough one to grade. The concept and vision are a 10/10, the teal side is a 9/10, and the pink side is a 4/10, which leaves me with a 23/30, so let’s call it a 7/10 — a rating that could be higher for you depending on how savory your like your ice cream, it’s just not my style!
HUGE thanks to Salt & Straw for sending this pack my way to try — an amazing way to start the new year.
Over the last five years of being a professional (…right?) junk food reviewer the biggest thorn in my side has been the lack of a Walmart within 50 miles of where I live. San Francisco says a big “NOPE” to the big box store that notoriously pays its employees low wages, and generally, I’m okay with not supporting the chain; but it gets some exclusive products that I MUST try or I will disintegrate. My heart broke into 10,000 pieces when I found out the new Little Debbie Christmas Tree Cakes ice cream was only at Walmart, but thanks to a perfectly timed dog sitting weekend I was able to spend a night in a city with a Walmart and get this limited time Christmas pint.
The ice cream features a vanilla base with pound cake pieces, red frosting swirl, and green sprinkles. LD’s Christmas Tree Cakes are among their finest products, and this ice cream does a really good job of paying homage to the cheap and comforting treat. The pint is 700 calories and I took it home for $2.49, so I knew what I was getting myself into, and with appropriate expectations I really enjoyed it.
The base is light and overrun as all hell, but in this context it works well. It has a mellow vanilla flavor and smooth almost fluffy texture akin to Cool Whip, but it’s not gummy or unpleasant like some cheaper (Breyers) ice creams. There’s quite a bit of frosting that not only looks cool and seasonally sound but adds a nice sweetness and syrupy texture that I love.
The cake pieces, although small, do their job in bringing some dense chew and slightly buttery flavor to the the pint. They’re a little firmer than the Tree Cakes themselves but not in a way that’s off putting. As much as the other two components work, the element that really brings the cake-turned-scoop experience to another level are the green sprinkles. They’re just like the ones that sparkle on top of Debbie’s Trees and add the perfect sugar crystal crunch to almost every bite — so simple and so incredibly effective.
This is a low calorie and low price tag ice cream that looks and feels like the holiday spirit without any of the more expected flavors like mint, gingerbread, or egg nog. It’s a fun switch up, essentially a light birthday cake ice cream with really endearing packaging, and I wish I could scoop it again, but I won’t lose any sleep over its exclusivity.
At virtually every holiday gathering with my dad’s side of the family, going back over 20 years, a bright orange package of King’s Hawaiian Rolls have made a prominent appearance. As a youngster I gained the reputation of being a Kings Hawaiian enthusiast (addict?), downing multiple rolls with a proper slathering of butter at the start of every meal…and sometimes after. I don’t eat them with as much ferocity as an adult, but they will forever have a place in my heart. For 2021 Salt & Straw have reimagined the entirely of their coveted Thanksgiving menu, including an inventive take on the almighty bread and butter. Parker House Rolls with Salted Buttercream is a salted sweet cream ice cream with a salted buttercream swirl and chunks of Parker house rolls.
I’ve had a ton of salted bases, most notably vanilla, but I think this might be my first foray into a salted sweet cream. The base is slightly savory with a decent saltiness and a super smooth, dense, premium texture that tempers like a dream. The salt paired with the sweet cream reminds me a bit of cream cheese. Although it has no tang, without the floral notes of vanilla or a dominant sweetness it carries a similar richness to cream cheese, which I really enjoy.
The fifth ingredient on the label is King’s Hawaiian Rolls, above everything except dairy and sugar, and that heavy-handed distribution is brilliant. The rolls stay soft and almost gooey in the ice cream, and their signature sweet flavor shines through the salted base perfectly. I have no idea how they did it but Tyler and the Salt & Straw crew managed to preserve everything that makes these rolls so special; it tastes like magic. According to their website the rolls were glazed with fresh churned buttercream before being put into the ice cream and I’m willing to bet that helped translate the mix-in to the ice cream with such impressive pizazz.
The salted buttercream, whether actually swirled or broken off from the tops of the rolls, is amazing. It’s rich and thick and buttery with an almost firm texture and amazing sweetness that only gets deeper from the added sea salt. It’s one of the densest and intense frosting swirls I’ve ever had and it absolutely steals the show in this simple but very effective pint.
On paper this flavor reads like a bit of a hat on a hat — a salted base with a salted swirl and a bread-y mix-in that’s sweet and also salty — but it absolutely works. Salt & Straw have taken the most mundane of Thanksgiving sides, bread and butter, and turned it into a complex and layered ice cream that’s simultaneously nostalgic and brand new all at the same time. Delicious.
The first Ben & Jerry’s Limited Batch of 2021 was a helluva challenge to find, and it’s less of a newbie and more of a remix. Totally Unbaked is a reimagined take on Half Baked, combining chocolate and vanilla ice creams with brownie batter swirls and gobs of chocolate chip cookie dough. As a fan of OG Half Baked this pint only really has to answer one question: is it an improvement? The answer, sadly, is no.
The new addition to the mix, the brownie batter swirl, is FANTASTIC. It’s rich and thick and sticks to the spoon like proper batter, although it’s missing the grittiness I expected, (not an issue) and has more of a smooth consistency like fudge. B&J’s ability to nail a rich heavy swirl is what makes Peanut Butter Fudge Core one of my favorites from them and in Totally Unbaked that rich thickness is absolutely the star of the show.
It makes the whole pint more chocolate forward than its predecessor and while the base distribution is still fairly equal, most of the more subtle vanilla flavor gets washed away from the intensity of the chocolate ice cream and swirl tandem. I have no issue with the level of chocolate, and I guess what I want is MORE chocolate because this pint DESPERATELY misses the brownies. B&J do brownies so well that their absence here is notable. Despite how good the batter is I still want the brownie’s dense chew to go with it; that would be a sweet combo.
What makes me REALLY miss the brownies is the cookie dough execution. I’m not sure if this was just a quality control issue but all of the dough pieces are hard on the outside, which is not what I’ve come to expect from my boys Ben and Jerry. It feels like the dough was about to be baked, popped in the oven for 45 seconds, and then *SIKE* pulled out and plopped into ice cream. It’s very odd, and not appealing in the slightest.
If Half Baked is your favorite Ben & Jerry’s staple (what’s wrong with you – it’s Phish Food, baby!) then this one is probably worth a shot as there’s a good chance your dough won’t be weirdly hard. If you’re looking for something complex and unique and tantalizing you’re better off skipping it, even though the brownie batter swirl is *chefs kiss* perfection.
I am not a keto guy, if anything I’m a bit of a keto skeptic. My philosophy towards diet, exercise, and carbohydrates is all about balance, and I personally couldn’t imagine a life without carbs. I am, however, a big time ice cream guy, so when Enlightened hit me up about trying their newest Keto pints I absolutely stepped up to the challenge.
Although the calories are a hit higher than normal Enlightened “light” ice cream pints, which usually clock in at 400 calories, I decided to review and rate these against other light ice cream rather than real full fat full sugar ice cream. As a whole, because I’m not concerned about carbs, I would rather have the 400 calorie pint with more protein than the 600+ calorie pint with more fat, but there’s no denying that this latest line has some bangers and a couple of surprises.
Chocolate Peanut Butter
Chocolate ice cream with peanut butter swirl.
Somehow this base manages to be both light and bitter at the same time, like some odd artificial sweetener hybrid of milk and dark chocolate. It’s not inedible but I’m not a fan. I was never a fan of Enlightened’s chocolate base in their normal “light” ice cream so I’m not surprised that the flavor doesn’t work for me here either, but it’s worse. The texture is impressive though. After a decent 15-20 minutes of tempering the higher fat content really shows with a pleasantly silky mouthfeel that makes the flavor profile a little more bearable.
Fortunately for this pint the peanut butter swirl is fantastic. It’s pretty much on par with any PB swirl from a grocery brand — thick and fatty and salty with an irresistible perfect peanut butter taste like it came straight from the jar. There’s a decent amount of the swirl too, popping up in admirable chunks that really do a LOT to drive the somewhat redeemable quality of this pint.
P.B. Cookie & Brownie Dough
Vanilla ice cream with chunks of peanut butter cookie dough and brownie dough, plus chocolate chips and a peanut butter swirl.
Much the same with their initial, now called “light” pints, Enlightened’s vanilla base is much better than their chocolate, and the added fat only improves upon the original formula. Surprisingly rich with a nice floral vanilla flavor it comes together pretty well when tempered, but I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again — you MUST temper the HELL out of these pints (the texture is awful from the freezer). The peanut butter swirl in this vanilla base is a home run, but there isn’t as much as there is in Chocolate Peanut Butter to make room for the other mix-ins.
The other mix-ins are pretty solid too. The peanut butter cookie dough is the standout for me, with a noticeable nutty pop that stands out against the vanilla. The brownie dough didn’t deliver as impressively, with a harder chew that doesn’t really channel brownies, but it doesn’t ruin the pint either. I would leave them on the table for more chocolate chips which are simpler but more effective, and maybe a little more PB too. It’s no surprise that the pint with the highest calories has such a high ceiling.
Ice Cream Cake
Vanilla and chocolate ice cream swirled with birthday cake dough bites and a fudge icing swirl.
I know I bashed the Enlightened chocolate base and I stand by that but it’s WAY better when it’s split 50/50 with vanilla. The harsh bitter flavor is greatly reduced and I actually enjoy the two of them in tandem, creating a milky and sweet light chocolate that’s a nice foundation for some mix-ins.
Speaking of mix-ins, the birthday cake dough bites are AWESOME. I think these might be the best mix-in I’ve ever had from Enlightened (not counting swirls). They taste exactly as they should – like little pieces of yellow cake dough with a sweet crumble and touch of grit. I love them. Enlightened tends to knock it out of the park with their swirls and the fudge icing in this one was kind of weird. I still enjoyed it but it was very thick, almost chunky, and felt more like a part of the base that a swirl.
Classic butter pecan ice cream with the crunch of roasted pecans.
Their description has the word “classic” in it and that’s all you really need to know, this is butter pecan ice cream, nothing more, nothing less. The base is nice and creamy like the others with a mild nutty flavor and a surprising maple flavor akin to breakfast syrup. There are a pretty epic amount of pecans and they have a gentle roasted flavor and mild crunch that add some much needed nuance and texture as the sole mix-in.
I like Butter Pecan but when it comes to OG scoops I’m more into Pralines and Cream, and even if they didn’t candy the pecans a caramel swirl here would have been awesome. I know the keto label limits what can be done with ooey gooey-ness but Enlightened does such a great job with caramel in their light pints I can see, and wish I could taste, the potential. Without a swirl it’s a touch savory for me to crave again but it’s an admirable keto-friendly rendition of an old school staple.
Big thanks to Enlightened for sending me these pints, along with some others which I’ve posted about and will post sporadically on Instagram. Although I received these items for free it in no way shaped my review of them. If you’re interested in trying these yourself, Enlightened can be found in most grocery stores or shipped straight to your door on their website with FREE SHIPPING when you spend $50.
When I read that Salt & Straw collaborated with R.L. Stine to create a Goosebumps ice cream the 90s kid inside of me animorphed into a baby tazmanian devil and started space jamming my head into the wall with excitement. Okay…maybe that’s a bit much, but I was STOKED, and even more stoked when I saw the scoop shot covered in green goo that instantly conjured up memories of the book series’ dripping logo. I could even hear the menacing sleuth-like synth notes and crawling piano line from the 1995 TV show’s theme song; good memories. Created in conjunction with the latest book in the SLAPPYWORLD series, Monster Blood is Back!, the ice cream of the same name combines a salted mango ice cream with streaks of fruit punch flavored “monster goo”, and strawberry bark fangs.
Popping off the lid this pint instantly looks the part, with a deep pool of green goo staring me in the face, and it’s beautiful. The salted mango base was a smart choice, bringing a strong fruity flavor without being too sweet, as often mango ice creams can be. It’s an authentic taste with notable creaminess that feels fresh and expertly balanced, as Tyler and the team at S&S have a tendency to do with their namesake: salt.
It’s wonderful that the base is slightly salted because the goo is SWEET. Super sugary and thick with amazing viscosity that clings to the spoon as I scoop. Fruit punch is a pretty accurate description as it’s no doubt fruity but there aren’t any distinct, or real, dominant fruity notes. Definitely some citrus (I get more orange than anything), mixed with some tropical pineapple flair followed by boatloads of sugar. It reminds me of something that I would squeeze out of a tube straight into my mouth in 1997, and for this chilling creation that’s pretty much flawless. When the goo combines with the base they compliment each other in a very refreshing and summery way, and for how off-the-wall this ice cream looks, it tastes really natural and bright.
The strawberry bark fangs are the least notable part of this pint but they play a very important role: texture. The flavor is much more white chocolate than it is strawberry, and their gentle chew reminds me of softened chocolate chunks, not quite as soft as ganache, but not super crunchy either. It’s ideal that the flavor is subtle because the base and swirl have so much character there’s potential to clash. When I isolate a fang away from the other components I get a slight tart strawberry flavor and it’s nice. The fangs are studded with Pop Rocks for the occasional burst of extra explosive mouth fireworks, and while not as wild as in S&S’s Pirates of the Caribbean ice cream, it’s still a playful and satisfying touch.
Eating this ice cream is FUN. It pulls at the nostalgia strings while simultaneously pushing the creativity forward, presenting something legitimately scoop-able and worthy of a visit to your local Salt & Straw, or delivered to your front door via their website. As a big fan of both the Goosebumps franchise and crazy craft ice cream, my only complaint is that this didn’t come in a limited edition pint container adorned with 90s-era Goosebumps artwork that I could add to my ice cream shelf…but I’ll let that slide for the sake of this supernatural success.
When I first wrote here about emerging lactose-free artisan ice cream queen Bad Walters I mentioned the amazing base quality and massive potential with a desire for more mix-in density. Those qualms have been answered beyond my wildest dreams with the latest monthly masterpiece and absolute BANGER of a pint in Slumber Party: Ritz Cracker ice cream with Nutter Butters, Reese’s Pieces, and a thicc fudge swirl.
The base is absolutely perfect. I have yet to scoop a base from BW that doesn’t deliver on what it’s aiming for and I loved every moment of this rich and salty ice cream that shines with golden buttery Ritz cracker flavor. It tastes and even smells exactly like the red-boxed titan to the degree that if you didn’t tell me what it was and I was blindfolded I would be able to nail it on one bite.
The Nutter Butters are an amazing mix-in choice and were chopped up the perfect size — big enough to yield a substantial chew but not quite taking over the entire spoon. The texture is exactly like nice Oreo chunks in a proper cookies and cream, softened like they’ve been dunked in milk but still hard enough to be a really fun textural contrast against the base.
The thicc fudge swirl was exactly as described – more akin to frosting than a typical fudge swirl, and it would have stolen the show if the base wasn’t so damn good. I loved it. In the best way it reminded me of the Duncan Hines chocolate frosting my mom used to finish my birthday cakes with growing up; I would eat this swirl by the jar. Anyone who’s had the seasonal Fudge Covered Ritz Crackers during the holidays knows how perfect this combo is.
The only part of this pint that didn’t work for me were the Reese’s Pieces, and despite how cool they look and sound, I wasn’t surprised I didn’t love them. When frozen, Reese’s Pieces lose their creaminess and become kind of waxy, and unfortunately none of their salty PB flavor stood a chance against the perfect and salty base, so they didn’t taste like much either. I did appreciate their chomp as the sole crunchy mix-in but I don’t need them here as they mostly got in the way of the other stars of the show.
This pint will be available again TODAY at 6:30 PM PST for pickup this weekend. If you’re in the bay area set your alarms and be ready to act quickly because they’re out now in less than 5 minutes, and it’s worth every penny.
Krispy Kreme and Oreo set out to prove that team work really can make the dream work with two new doughnuts paying homage to America’s favorite cookie.
Oreo Cookie Over-the-Top is an Oreo Cookie glazed doughnut topped with Cookies and Kreme filling, drizzled with chocolate icing and finished with an Oreo cookie wafer.
Oreo Cookie Glazed Doughnut is an OG glazed covered in rich Oreo cookie glaze, filled with Cookies and Kreme, and finished with an icing drizzle and Oreo cookie pieces.
Does the Oreo cookie glaze taste like an Oreo cookie? No, not really, but it tastes like chocolate and chocolate is delicious so I’m totally on board. I can say with relative certainty that it IS different from the once-a-year (ish) Chocolate Glaze that KK started rolling out in 2017, as it has a thicker more pronounced body to it akin to novelty Donettes. It’s not as waxy as the finest Hostess and Little Debbie variety but the similarities are there and I am down.
The Over-the-Top is my favorite of the two, with its massive novelty-sized wafer being not only downright cool to look at but tasty and texturally intriguing, too. I eat doughnuts for dessert, so by the time I got to it the wafer was a bit softer than I would like but still tasted fantastic. Another element that set this one apart for me was the Kreme. The description says both are the same but if you look at my pictures the color is notably different and much lighter on the Over-the-Top doughnut. My KK tends to do a solid job with their filling but I can’t help but wonder if it’s a different batch or a different Kreme entirely?
Rating: 8.5/10 Over-the-Top and 8/10 Oreo Cookie Glazed