REVIEW: Salt & Straw’s Goosebumps: Monster Blood is Back!

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.

Rating: 9/10

Found at: Salt & Straw ($13.00)

Note: this ice cream was sent to me for RND purposes but in no way effected my review or rating.

REVIEW: Bad Walter’s 46

Bay Area I’ve gotta let you in on a little secret – there’s some cool underground ice cream shit happening in Oakland. Bad Walter’s Bootleg Ice Cream began as a quarantine hobby for owner Sydney in the spring of 2020, and has snowballed into churning out weekly limited pints since October. From what I’ve been able to sample, I’m impressed. Bad Walter’s makes super premium custard bases that are, wait for it…lactose free! I know, I’ve never had anything like it either.

Last week’s limited run flavor was “46”, inspired by today’s inauguration. It features a brown sugar ice cream with chocolate dipped Ruffles and a peanut butter swirl. Y’all know how I love my sweet and salty so I HAD to taste this. 

Truthfully, this was the most impressive and authentic brown sugar base I’ve ever had. It’s incredibly smooth with a decadent mouthfeel, but what really took me by surprise was the depth of the brown sugar flavor. Initially it reminded me of an epic brown sugar cereal milk, but the more it stacked the richer the flavor became. By the end it reminded me of the filling in a See’s Bordeaux truffle, which is one of my favorite chocolate’s of all time. Less-typical bases, like brown sugar, tend to fade away after the initial bites, but this one never let go.

Bad Walter’s peanut butter swirl is exactly how I like my peanut butter swirls — more salty than sweet with a slick fatty texture but thin enough to actually temper with the ice cream. Just as satisfying as sticking your spoon in the jar! My only issue with it is I wish there was more. The top superficial layer of the pint had the swirl’s best showing, and while the swirl never entirely vanished I would have loved a couple more epic spoonfuls to allow the saltiness to play off of the stunning sweet base.

Similarly, the chocolate dipped Ruffles were executed very well – nice and crunchy with a salty potato taste highlighted by just a touch of bittersweet chocolate. Once again, perfect execution, just lacking a bit on the actual quantities to make this pint something undeniably out of this world. I was reminded of this same mix-in being used in one of my favorite ice cream’s of all time, Salt & Straw’s Chocolate Caramel Potato Chip Cupcake, and how if I got some chunks akin to the boulders found in those pints I would have been in sweet and salty heaven. 

Despite the slightly underwhelming density of the mix-ins, which is largely a preference thing, I really loved this ice cream, and I love the entrepreneur spirit of Sydney and her ice cream company named after her pesky pup. If you’re interested in grabbing a pint of what she comes up with next make sure to follow Bad Walter’s on Instagram and place your order on Sunday night for pickup the following weekend. And fair warning: it sells out quick!

Rating: 8/10 

Found at: Bad Walter’s ($10.00)

REVIEW: Blue Bunny’s PB ‘N Cones

There are little things in life that shouldn’t make me as happy as they do but I can’t deny the legitimate excitement they bring me. Finding my first pint of Blue Bunny is one such thing, and I am gleaming. Ice cream is at the top of my “I could eat this forever” pyramid, but I love variety, and as such, I prefer pints over all other sizes of larger containers. Blue Bunny usually comes in much bigger tubs, and since I barely get a chance to come across BB in San Francisco anyway, I’ll take whatever I can get. But a pint? Of Blue Bunny? This is amazing. PB ‘N Cones combines vanilla ice cream with peanut butter swirls and dipped cone pieces.

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The vanilla ice cream is exceptionally smooth and creamy with a beautiful light and refreshing mouthfeel. Not light in a bad, fluffy, low calorie kind of way, but light on the tongue like a perfect soft serve with more richness. The vanilla flavor is subdued but present with a classic sweetness that’s just right for putting back in joy without blinking an eye.

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The chocolate covered cone pieces are executed flawlessly. They’ve kept all of their crunch and pop through the smooth dairy with a wonderful brown sugar flavor accented by creamy milk chocolate. Waffle cones are one of the most iconic ice cream accompaniments, and their success being a mix-in relies almost exclusively on their execution. With no soggy-ness in sight Blue Bunny really nailed it.

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Peanut butter will always be a welcome addition to any pint in my freezer and that rule of thumb is no different here. The swirl is present but not dominant with a nice saltiness that cuts through all the other predominantly sweet components. It isn’t the saltiest peanut butter swirl I’ve had but brings the necessary contrast and wonderful fatty nutty notes that make it one of the greatest things ever. Since I’m such a fiend I wouldn’t mind a little more ribbon action, but it weaves in and out of bites pleasantly, perfectly tempered and creamy without seizing up.

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Once again Blue Bunny have shown that they are the kings of the lower calorie ice cream game. No, it’s not light ice cream, but it’s a far cry from the 300 calorie per serving offerings from Ben & Jerry’s and Haagen-Dazs; and eating BB is just as enjoyable as the more fattening options with lotsa fun factor to boot. PB ‘N Cones doesn’t reinvent the wheel when it comes to overall flavor profile, but it delivers exactly what it promises and makes me a real happy bunny, er…boy.

Rating: 7.5/10

Found at: Grocery Outlet ($1.99)

REVIEW: Humphry Slocombe’s Yuzu Cream (Whole Foods Exclusive)

Building on the success of last spring’s Hong Kong Milk Tea and autumn’s Golden Milk & Gingerbread, Humphry Slocombe are back in the collaboration saddle with Chef Melissa King and Whole Foods to deliver another exclusive pint of seasonal delight. Yuzu Cream utilizes the bumpy-skinned and oddly shaped Japanese Yuzu fruit for a new flavor to usher in the (hypothetical) sunniest time of the year. This new flavor drops in Northern California on June 6, simply described as “a refreshingly floral citrus, is dreamy with sweet rich cream”, and we’ve got an exclusive sneak peak today on the skillet.

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REVIEW: Museum of Ice Cream San Francisco

Right behind Golden State Warriors games and the Orpheum’s Aladdin, the hottest ticket in the Bay Area since September has been the Museum of Ice Cream. The first round of tickets sold out in twenty minutes, and despite being in the digital “line” right when they went on sale, I was left out in the cold. Fortunately for me, the creators of the highly popular museum saw the potential and extended their stay until February and I was able to visit on the last weekend of December. Nestled away just off of Union Square in an old banking building, a big pink banner leads the way to the magical creamy wonderland.

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REVIEW: Marlo’s Bake Shop Soft Baked Biscotti (Original and Brown Sugar Coffee Cake)

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Although they aren’t as sexy as an oozing cream filled doughnut or as exciting as the latest wild Oreo flavor, I love me a good biscotti. As an avid coffee drinker how could I not get down with a cookie that’s usually baked twice to be extra hard and not only go along with but NEEDS a strong cup to reach its full potential? One year for Christmas I even replaced my usual batch of whimsy-and-butter laced goodies with three different types of biscotti. While I don’t tend to buy any particular type of biscotti and usually will just grab whatever the cafe I’m at has to go along with some espresso, I’ve found a great San Francisco based company putting a unique spin on the crunchy cookie. Marlo’s Bakeshop are a woman-owned bakery specializing in soft-baked biscotti that are free of preservatives and artificial flavors, with some inventive concoctions to boot. Continue reading

REVIEW: Salt & Straw’s The Great Candycopia

Today is the one year anniversary of my first review on Sean’s Skillet. While I had written and rambled on about food on many occasions, October 30 was the day I finally took the plunge, and it all started with a review of a dark twist on one of my favorite Baskin Robbins flavors growing up – Trick Oreo Treat. It only seemed fitting that my one year anniversary review would be of my favorite ice cream company’s version of a trick-or-treat inspired scoop, with Salt & Straw’s The Great Candycopia; which combines a salted butterscotch ice cream with homemade snickers, whoppers, heath bars, and peanut butter cups.

UPDATE: in 2018 S&S took out the whoppers and replaced them with homemade Twix bar chunks, which are just as delicious and hauntingly infectious as ever.

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First things first, Tyler at Salt & Straw absolutely nailed this salted butterscotch base. Butterscotch is such a unique yet subtle flavor, defined by cracking the sugar at just the right time and balancing it with enough butter, vanilla, and salt to carry those soft creamy notes, and this ice cream hits it on the head. The flavor is unmistakably butterscotch, just like popping a cold and super velvety Werther’s original into your mouth over a long conversation on grandma’s floral print couch. There’s something nostalgic and whimsical hidden inside all of its sugary glory, and it’s those warm melty sweet notes that make butterscotch such a throwback autumn treat. While butterscotch can oftentimes comes off as a too intense sugary punch to the face, the salted aspect of the ice cream helps balance out the potential over-the-top nature of the base for a well rounded and decadent experience that is full bodied and glorious, with moments of reprieve.

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Reese’s and Snickers are two of my favorite candies of all time, and both of the in-house versions of these specialties are fantastic. The peanut butter cups are in large delicious chunks with a very smooth and rich peanut butter that reminds me of the great mini cups at Trader Joe’s. The PB is fatty and nutty without being too sweet, which makes it stand out against the beautifully intense butterscotch. The Snickers are a little bit farther from the original but just as delicious, with perfectly soft and smooth caramel inside of lush snappy chocolate with little bits of nuts to tie it all together. There are no peanuts in the ingredients but there are pecans, and I think they went with that autumn staple in lieu of the peanut, which gives some additional contrast against the flavor in the cups.

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Whoppers and Heath bars are much lower on my list of favorite candies, but goddamn do they work wonders in the recipe here. It’s no secret that toffee is terrific in ice cream, and the deep, burnt, brown sugar caramel notes exist in perfect harmony with the butterscotch, delivering a huge satisfying fatty crunch. The whoppers play a similar role, maintaining all of their crunchy character and bringing a funky malt flavor to the profile that once again plays perfectly with the butterscotch and pops with huge chomp-y satisfaction. UPDATE: While I had no problem with the Whoppers, there’s no doubt the Twix is a big upgrade The cookie is softer than what you find the packaged variety with a massively thick layer of S&S’ top tier caramel.

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From the first bite in all the way to the bottom of the pint this ice cream is like trick-or-treating in the best way. Digging into the sea of orange-y tan and chocolate brown I never knew what I was going to pull out, and oftentimes I didn’t know until I bit in. Would the bite be soft and creamy or hard and crunchy or smooth and sweet? It’s like reaching into a candy-stuffed pillow case after a successful night on the halloween prowl, pulling out treat after treat after treat. Fantastic.

Rating: 10/10
Found at: Salt & Straw (www.saltandstraw.com)

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REVIEW: Pepperidge Farm Pumpkin Spice Milano

The tale of two opposites attracting. When alternate worlds collide. The quintessential adult grocery store cookie meets teenage-girl-fueled food trend. Crunchy sophisticated fun fuses with basic bitch tendencies. Pepperidge Farm Pumpkin Spice Milano’s. Can this unlikely team up yield greatness? Today on the skillet we find out!

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The cookies have the classic Milano appearance – tan ovals with a thin layer of chocolate in the middle, but this one also has a fun deep orange oozing out of the sides. It’s a lovely color combination that screams spooky autumn vibes – reading books and playing chess with a roomful of dad’s happily crunching and sippin’ on English breakfast.

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The flavor of these iconically crispy cookies is surprisingly balanced and tasty – with neither chocolate or pumpkin being too dominant. The usually thin layer of the cookies’ innards is pivotal in achieving this optimal balance, as the chocolate doesn’t flex too prominently over the fall flavors and both are allowed to breathe without clashing. There are very apparent but not too intense notes of cinnamon and nutmeg flirting with just a hint of dark chocolate, and the crumbly, sweet, buttery body of the cookie smoothes both flavors out as the perfect mediator to these two often bold, potentially clashing flavors.

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Pepperidge Farm continues to impress me with their ability to combine elements that I’m not sure will work together, like dark chocolate and lime, and delivering a delicious product with finesse. The spice is subtle but pleasing and makes for a wonderful coffee companion while cozying up with a spooky novel on a dimly lit autumn morning.

Rating: 8/10
Found at: Target ($2.99)

REVIEW: Humphry Slocombe’s Golden Milk & Gingerbread (Whole Foods Exclusive)

Turmeric tea, also known as golden milk, is a warm and soothing chai-like combination of coconut milk, turmeric, and ginger, commonly consumed for both its flavor and anti-inflammatory healing properties. Picking up right where they left off with Hong Kong Milk Tea, Humphry Slocombe have once again joined forces with Melissa King to put a cold and creamy twist on a heralded hot beverage. Golden Milk & Gingerbread combines a turmeric, ginger, and honey ice cream with house made chocolate chip gingerbread and candied ginger. It is available starting today, October 25, at Whole Foods stores in Northern California.

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I like my ice cream to have a variety of textures and flavors, but sometimes a base is strong enough on its own to carry interest from first lick to the very end of a cone or pint. One of the most interesting naked ice cream’s I’ve had was from Humphry Slocombe earlier this year called A.C.T Golden Milk, and I’m happy to say this is that same fantastic base. It’s incredibly smooth and creamy, shining with the brilliant bright yellow color of turmeric, soft sweet honey notes, and wonderful spicy tingle of ginger. It’s sweet and spicy perfection with a hint of savoriness that works beautifully on its own but is elevated to a whole new level by the inclusion of gingerbread.

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I was wary going into this pint that the gingerbread was chocolate-chip-studded and not just straight up, as sometimes chocolate can clash with intense spices, but there is nothing but pure harmony going on with these flavors. The chocolate adds a nice crunch and sweet creaminess to the ample pieces of delicious gingerbread. The bread is present all throughout in lovely toothy crumbles and bigger chewy chunks, playing off of the wonderfully complex base in luscious cohesion.

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The icing on top of this lovely melty holiday-nostalgia-fueled gingerbread cake are the little pieces of chewy spicy candied ginger. They integrate themselves seamlessly with the chunks of gingerbread and pop out with even more sweet ginger-y pizazz. Their slightly softened texture and pronounced spiciness once again accentuate the intention behind the overall flavor and make for a very interesting and super crave-able scoop.

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Golden Milk & Gingerbread is Humphry Slocombe at the top of their game. Fusing together chef-inspired flavors into a sweet treat that is just as decadent and dessert-y as it is smart and elaborate. It’s almost a shame that this flavor is a Whole Foods exclusive because it ought to be tasted by as many people as possible. At the very least it gives us all an excuse to go out of our way for some organic produce, and stash up on a couple pints of this spicy brilliance.

Rating: 9/10

Found at: Whole Foods Northern California

Quick Nutrition: 1/2 cup (98g) – 230 cal – 12g fat – 7g sat fat – 50mg cholesterol – 170mg sodium – 27g carbs – 23g sugar – 3g protein

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REVIEW: Limited Edition Cookie Butter Oreo

Cookie butter. Super delicious – but what the hell do you do with it? After pulverizing the wonderfully spice-laden European speculoos cookies into a sweet and crunchy spread akin to peanut butter, there aren’t too many paths to take other than a jar, a spoon, and a dimly lit kitchen. However, when feeling extra creative, indulgent, and cannibalistic, like topping a fried chicken sandwich with a fried egg, you can put that cookie butter into more cookies and make a cookie on cookie sandwich that should send sweet tooth’s spiraling into happiness. Enter – Oreo Limited Edition Cookie Butter Oreo’s.

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As is customary in opening all new bags of cookies, I inhale the sugary aroma, and as is customary with most limited Oreo flavors, the smell is predominantly of the wafer, in this case, graham. There’s pretty much no spicy speculoos-y scent coming from the pristine rows of tan on tan on tan, and I’m not that surprised.

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What I am surprised about though, is the flavor. These cookie butter cookies taste nearly nothing like cookie butter and entirely of graham cracker. The deep, spicy nuances of speculoos are nowhere to be found, and the creme simply backs up and mimics the flavor of the wafer. I love graham crackers, so the profile to me is overall pleasant, but it’s also a pretty big letdown, as there’s barely even a trace of cinnamon, let alone the nutmeg, cloves, pepper, or ginger I expect.

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Where I will give Nabisco some credit with this limited edition is in the texture of the creme, which they made gritty and slightly chunky to mimic what comes inside the jars of the real stuff. Unfortunately the grittiness is about all that really resembles the cookie butter in the isolated creme, as the underlining flavor is closer to regular sweet Oreo “white stuff” than any spicy spreadable magic.

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The one-noted aspect of these cookies ultimately makes them pretty boring. The most interesting part of eating these is the slight saltiness that’s revealed in the graham wafer against the relatively boring and flat creme. They’re less complex than a classic Oreo, and maybe even less complex than a Golden, and surprisingly one of the more disappointing limited releases this year. A creamy frosting-esque graham cracker? Most definitely. A cookie filled with cookie butter? Most definitely not.

Rating: 6.5/10
Found at: Target ($2.99)
Quick Nutrition: 2 cookies – 140 cal – 7g fat – 2g sat fat – 85mg sodium – 20g carb – 10g sugar – 1g protein

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