REVIEW: 7-Select Go! Yum Pumpkin Pie Ice Cream

Even though it’s still August, as Halloween candy lines the grocery store shelves and the breakfast cereal’s have gone full on orange, I was beginning to wonder if I would have anything new to scoop leading up to the equinox. I knew some of the best pumpkin ice cream’s from the main brands would make a triumphant return but who would pull a fast one and drop a gourdy surprise? Coming straight out of left field before the Pumpkin Spice Latte even hit Starbucks, 711 answered the call. I’ve never formally reviewed any of their ice creams on this site but have done a number of mini reviews on my Instagram, and for those who don’t know, 711 makes some pretty impressive and fun cheap ice cream. Go! Yum’s Pumpkin Pie combines pumpkin pie ice cream with cinnamon graham ribbons and pie crust pieces.

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The pumpkin pie ice cream is relatively mild in flavor with a dominant squashy pumpkin flavor brought to life by cinnamon, nutmeg, and allspice. I’ve always loved the way the natural smooth and creamy texture of pumpkin puree compliments the richness of dairy to achieve a great balancing act that feels decadent without being too heavy. 711’s ice creams fall somewhere in between the super premium fat content of Ben & Jerry’s and the lighter but still premium quality of Blue Bunny. There’s absolutely no fluffy or gummy consistency but it also doesn’t have an intense density to it. It’s simply really solid mid-tier ice cream that’s perfectly in line with what I’ve had from Go! Yum before.

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Without a doubt the best part of this pint is the cinnamon graham ribbon. While I’ve had many great graham ribbons, like in Ben & Jerry’s Pumpkin Cheesecake, this is the first time I’ve had one laced with cinnamon, and it’s awesome. It has a gritty graham crunch with sweet buttery notes that finishes with the gentlest zing of spice. I adore graham in ice cream and the cinnamon compliments it perfectly while also adding a bit more depth to the mellow spicy flavor in the base. The swirl is also thicker and comes along with some bigger bolder chunks than a lot of other graham ribbons, and the ice cream as a whole earns some extra points just for this one very strong component.

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The pie crust pieces are also really successful, and rather than just be soggy bland doughy bites, they have a touch of buttery caramelized crunch to them that brings another layer of texture and different taste than the ribbon. I oftentimes find the crust to be the least interesting part of a pumpkin pie and this mix-in takes the pint up a notch rather than drag it down, which is a surprising and welcome addition.

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Like most pies, and a lot of ice cream’s, this one gets better with a little extra love from whipped cream. I’m not sure why no mainstream companies have made a pumpkin pie ice cream with a swirl that replicates an integral part of the Thanksgiving experience, but that’s really my only gripe with this flavor as a whole. Given the strength of 711’s swirl game in Toasted S’mores and Mint Cookies and Cream, I wish they included one more layer, but as it stands this is a good and economically sound choice for getting your frozen pumpkin fix this spooky season.

Rating: 8/10

Found at: 711 ($3.99)

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REVIEW: Halo Top’s Pumpkin Pie

A trend in the food world begins to transcend trendiness and become solidified when it grows beyond a core set of styles, flavors, or offerings, and transitions into limited time seasonal versions of their product. Unleashing smaller scale season-based varieties displays confidence in a brand and a trust that consumers will flock to something that may not have as much mass appeal as a standard. Welcome to the upper-echelon of the grocery ice cream game, Halo Top. While many of the company’s most recent flavors have yet to make it to the Bay Area, Halo’s first limited time flavor popped up at Target just to keep my protein hungry basic tastebuds entertained, with Pumpkin Pie.

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As is the case with all high protein light ice cream’s, this stuff freezes hard and needs a good amount of time to temper on the counter, but this one tempered faster than almost every other Halo flavor I’ve had (nearly all of them). Once the ice cream gets appropriately soft it is very impressive how smooth, creamy, and “real” ice cream-like it is. In fact, the texture is so on point that I would have never guessed it to be a light ice cream, as the essence is much truer to the real deal than many gummy slow churned products.

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The flavor is equally impressive, with a very yammy pumpkin-forward profile that tastes closer to actual pumpkin pie filling than most pumpkin ice cream’s on the market. The sweetness is also perfectly on point. It’s sharp and sugary but not so much that it washes away the authentic pumpkin flavor, and is accented nicely by soft hints of cinnamon and nutmeg. As a whole the taste is more of a vegetal vanilla than it is spicy, but there’s enough spice there to keep it interesting and elevate the natural notes of the squash.

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Mix-in-wise this is also one of Halo’s more legit releases, with an impressively ample amount of pie crust throughout the entire pint. The pieces are small but aplenty, with a soft, bready, slightly buttery flavor that 100% register pie crust. The most intriguing part of Halo’s execution here is that nearly every bite tastes like a good forkful of pumpkin pie being equally represented by pumpkin, mellow spice, crust, and creamy vanilla undertones to mimic the role of whipped cream.

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This flavor is not only good for Halo Top or light protein ice creams, but for all pumpkin pie ice creams in general. No, it doesn’t have the rich fatty depth of Graeter’s or Ben & Jerrys, or the big spicy pop of Talenti, but it has an incredibly accurate and delicious pumpkin flavor that nails the nostalgic taste of diggin’ in on Thanksgiving day, and I enjoyed every bite.

Rating: 9/10
Found at: Target ($5.99)
Quick Nutrition: 1/2 cup (70g) – 90 cal – 3g fat – 1g sat fat – 40mg cholesterol – 130mg sodium – 3g fiber – 7g sugar – 5g sugar alcohol – 5g protein

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REVIEW: Graeter’s Limited Edition Pumpkin

While it’s relatively commonplace to find fun seasonal flavors from all the big players in the grocery ice cream game like Breyer’s, Dreyer’s, Haagen Dazs, and Ben & Jerry’s, it’s a much more rare feat to come across a higher end brand sneaking a seasonal release into the frozen aisle. Oftentimes a craft-leaning brand will only get the most likely to sell and core flavors at a store, maybe 4 or 5 varieties tops, and all the special ones will need to be ordered online or picked up at a (non-existent on this coast) scoop shop. A fortunate outlier to this equation has popped up, likely due to the mainstream infatuation with everything pumpkin, and at my local Whole Foods I was able to score Graeter’s spin on the trendy flavor, simply dubbed, Limited Edition Pumpkin.

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As expected from a super premium high fat ice cream, the texture is incredibly smooth, creamy, and dense. The flavor is sweet, subtly spicy, and mostly notably pumpkin-pronounced. The finishing note is pure squashy goodness and carries one of the most authentic and vegetal pumpkin flavors I’ve ever had in ice cream. There are notes of cinnamon, ginger, and nutmeg, but they definitely take a backseat to the gourd-forward ensemble of flavors in the container.

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It shouldn’t come as much of a surprise that Graeter’s, a company that prides itself on presenting classic, mostly refined and uncomplicated flavors executed with pure richness, went a very straight forward route with their pumpkin ice cream. The flavor is simply called “Pumpkin” and not “Pumpkin Pie” or “Pumpkin Spice”, so the spice being more of an undertone is exactly as advertised; but it also limits how good this ice cream can be. Similar to a very well executed vanilla, no matter how good it is it can’t compete with more complex flavors that incorporate multiple textures, mix-ins, and techniques to create a more engaging pint.

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I would love to see a company with very high quality base ice cream like Graeter’s incorporate a caramel swirl or a white chocolate spin on their renowned chocolate chips to bring some extra textural contrast and depth to their fantastic pumpkin flavor. I don’t want to call this one “boring” because it’s very well done, but it isn’t the type of pint I need to seek out year after year as it does’t satisfy any urge a solid pumpkin pie filling can do perfectly well – especially at the higher price point.

Rating: 7.5/10
Found at: Whole Foods ($6.99)

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REVIEW: Ben & Jerry’s Pumpkin Cheesecake

There’s something about firsts. You know the ones, big first time moments in your life – girls, foods, songs, authors, cities, etc. One of the big firsts I always think about this time of year is when I first fell in love with creamy versions of pumpkin. It was a cup of pumpkin frozen yogurt, topped with black chocolate sprinkles, eaten outside on a crisp autumn day – crunchy dead leaves gathered at my feet. While I always loved pumpkin pie, enjoying it in cold, melty, frozen form was something new to me, and I haven’t let go of that swirly passion for the last 15 years. It is with that sense of glowing nostalgia that I crack into my first pumpkin ice cream of the season with Ben & Jerry’s Pumpkin Cheesecake, which combines a pumpkin cheesecake ice cream with graham cracker swirl.

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This flavor is much less mix-in reliant and heavy than a lot of Ben & Jerry’s pints, which means the base has to be really strong in order for it to succeed. As I scoop into the pale off-orange autumn abyss of the container scarecrows begin to sing and crows ca-caw with pumpkin-y bliss; this base is most definitely a success. The texture is incredibly smooth and decadent but not too dense. It isn’t light by any means but it carries a perfect velvety feeling that transcends a lot of what B&J’s offer in their bases and is pleasantly pumkin-y rich.

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The one-two punch of pumpkin purée and cream cheese high on the ingredient list helps translate the pumpkin cheesecake vibes without being too in-your-face. While the ice cream doesn’t have any pronounced tang to it, it does have a nice cheesiness that plays beneath the layer of squash and spices. The pumpkin flavor is very deep and impressively true with subtle notes of cinnamon and nutmeg that are present but far from aggressive. It isn’t terribly spicy but it is very accurate to the balance of flavors I would expect from a slice of spiced cheesecake.

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Graham crackers are one of my favorite mix-ins ever, not only for their general flavor but in the way they work so well with dairy. The swirl here is full of graham flavor with a gritty salty mouthfeel and hints of butter. It’s a perfect crumbly sweet and salty accompaniment to the creamy spiced base, but as usual with graham, I just want more. There are occasional pockets of medium sized chunks but the swirl is mostly as described – a swirl. Unfortunately this comes across much more like crumbs for most of the experience, and as the lone mix-in there’s not much room to be too crumbly.

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This ice cream is really easy to eat. Due to its lighter density and balanced base flavor it goes down quick and is all around delicious. It’s one more swirl or a little more graham away from being a perfect pint, but it’s definitely one of the best frozen autumn treats you’ll find at the grocery store this season, and very true to its cheesecake destiny.

Rating: 8.5/10
Found at: Target ($4.49)
Quick Nutrition: 1/2 cup (103g) – 260 cal – 15g fat – 7g sat fat – 140mg sodium – 30g carb – 25g sugar – 4g protein

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REVIEW: Little Debbie Pumpkin Spice Rolls

Yule logs are a traditional Christmas time dessert made of rolled up cake and icing, popular in Switzerland, Belgium, France, and you guessed it – in mini junk food size at gas stations all across America. The most common junky American version is the Ho Ho, and not far behind are Little Debbie’s smaller, and in my opinion slightly less delicious, Swiss Rolls. But unlike Hostess, Miss Debbie is a rather creative gal when it comes to her cellophane logs, and beefs them up in larger size for Zebra Rolls and regular seasonal themed editions. Although it’s not quite Christmas time yet, in fact it isn’t even officially autumn, I can’t think of many better additions to the scrumptious cake logs than a little spice, and I’ve got just that with Little Debbie’s Pumpkin Spice Rolls.

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Off the jump these plump pumpkin rolls are positively bursting with cream filling. It might be because there’s no outer coating to conceal what awaits when normally biting in, but just removing the roll from its wrapper the cream is begging to be devoured. The smell is only subtly spicy, with just some soft cinnamon and vanilla enticing my nostrils, but they look real pretty with their best soft  orange glow and a swirly drizzled top for bedazzlement.

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There’s not a whole lot of pumpkin flair in the actual flavor of the roll, but there’s much more depth than what Debbie usually offers, and a whole lot more balance than what you typically get with quick-fix baked goods. The normally painfully sweet cream filling, which, as it looked, is incredibly ample, is given its chance to shine admirably against the soft cinnamon in the batter. The absence of coating also let’s the cream feel more impactful, as the soft cake isn’t hindered by a waxy layer and the cream brings all the squishy-ness I want from such a confection.

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While I’m generally a fan of more aggressively spiced things, I actually appreciate the softness of the cinnamon flavor in these rolls. Sure, there are some better iterations of cheap pumpkin cakes, but the massive amount of cream and super soft moist-ness reeled me in and kept me excited enough to want to eat more. They remind me more of a mellow Thanksgiving afternoon than a spooky October evening, and surprisingly, I’m quite okay with that.

Rating: 8.5/10
Found at: Target ($1.99)
Quick Nutrition: 1 roll – 260 cal – 11g fat – 5g sat fat – 130mg sodium – 39g carb – 26g sugar – 1g protein

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