REVIEW: Ample Hills’ Corn to Run

Before Peanut Butter Munchies took the crown of the 2018 Ample Hills Flavor Frenzy contest, there was a corny co-champion from online voting that was also brought back from the dead and produced for a limited time. The two flavors were both churned, in scoop shops and available to order for shipping for one week, before one was crushed. Only 70 pint packs went out and I was lucky enough to get one of them. I’m extremely glad I had the big bucks to shell out with the quickness, because the runner up is far better than its dangling silver medallion implies. Corn to Run combines a creamy corn ice cream with cornmeal crumble and blueberry swirls.

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The creamy corn ice cream is incredible and without a doubt the best corn-based ice cream I’ve ever had. It’s bursting with rich, deep, corn sweetness that tastes like a perfectly prepared cob of corn smeared with sweet creamy honey butter. It has an immaculately smooth texture on par with anything in Ample Hills’ impressive catalog and carries an inventive yet crave-able-ness that is everything gourmet ice cream is all about. Even more alluring is the actual smell of the ice cream, which when I put my nose into the cool pint actually blossoms with an amazingly authentic corn aroma like I was sniffing a casserole at an indulgent banquet.

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The “cornmeal crumble” is really more chunks of cornbread cookies and they are incredible. Crunchy, gritty, sweet, salty, slightly greasy, and full of delicious cornbread flavor. The texture is very similar to the awesome clusters in The Munchies and the way they hold such intense crunch in the succulent corn cream is remarkable. They’re mostly smaller pieces with the occasional boulder, and in both sizes I can’t get enough. The flavor of the chunks combined with the base makes the profile as a whole taste like cornbread ice cream and it’s truly terrific.

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The blueberry swirls are the least dominant component in the pint but they add a nice touch of acidity and fruity sweetness that feels very welcome in the grand corny scheme of the flavor. I wish the swirls were a bit thicker, but they play the role of a gentle spread of jam across the top of some cornbread, and their backseat makes sense. Had there been some larger lush ribbons or even a pool or two against the sides of the container I can only imagine how beautiful the berry burst would have been.

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As terrific as PB Munchies is, it’s a shame this flavor saw such a short rebirth. Corn to Run is incredibly unique yet undeniably scoopable, and I hope it gets an encore performance sometime in the near future.

Rating: 9.5/10

Found at: http://www.amplehills.com

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REVIEW: Ample Hills’ No Sleep Til Pumpkin

It wasn’t until 2003, with Starbucks’ introduction of the Pumpkin Spice Latte, that the two very different but very popular world’s of coffee and pumpkin pie would collide to create one of the most iconic and polarizing drinks of the last fifteen years. It’s hard to imagine a time when the two flavors didn’t coexist, and with everything from M&M’s to Peeps to Bath & Body Works body wash emulating the cafe concotion, it’s fitting that ice cream is no stranger to the coveted combination. As their sole pumpkin offering for 2017, Ample Hills brought back No Sleep Til Pumpkin, which is dark coffee ice cream with pieces of pumpkin ooey gooey butter cake.

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REVIEW: Ample Hills’ Big Ample Circus

Big Apple Circus began in New York in 1977 as an intimate European style one ring alternative to the then-popular and glitzy American three ring variety. While my personal experience with going to the circus has been limited to the mediocre Barnum & Bailey and incredible Cirque du Soleil, I am extremely happy that Big Apple is celebrating 40 years of showmanship. Anything that leads to a new limited collaboration with Ample Hills is one worthy of applause, and I have been anxiously clapping by myself in California waiting for this frozen phenom to arrive. Big Ample Circus combines sweet cream ice cream with popcorn toffee and red sugar-toasted peanuts.

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Apparently being taken out to the ball game is a lot like taking a trip to the circus. This is straight up Cracker Jacks ice cream and I’m root-root-rooting for Ample Hills because they absolutely destroyed it. The major difference here is that every box of Cracker Jacks I’ve had since surpassing the age of 9 has tasted cheap and shitty, and the quality on display in this pint is the polar opposite.

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The sweet cream base is absolute perfection. Plain without being boring. Sweet without being cloying. Rich without being too heavy. Everything that I want from a sweet cream is on display in full decadence here. The driving flavor is pure milky high quality dairy that serves as a wonderful canvas to the epic amount of mix-ins AH crammed into the pint. There’s a dense texture from the more heavy-handed custard style use of egg yolks, and the lavish custardy is dialed in immaculately.

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The popcorn toffee weaves its way through the pint in giant chunks and is where my Cracker Jacks nostalgia switch really got activated. The toffee is essentially pieces of caramel corn stuck together in buttery bricks with a deep roasted burnt sugar flavor that is roasty, toasty, and comforting. The pieces are crunchy but not in a tooth-shattering way, and crumble with a beautiful silky butteriness that gives way to chewy popcorn. There’s a lovely hint of saltiness that pokes its way through the sweetness and a perfect top rope balancing act is in full effect.

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There are so many wild looking red sugar swirls bleeding into the base from the toasted candy coated peanuts that I keep expecting to taste cherry, but the peanut blood is relatively flavorless. Even though so much of the color has swirled its way into the sweet cream, many of the peanuts still have their candy coating intact, and crunch with a satisfying sugary but roasted pop that is downright deadly. Candied nuts work incredibly well as a mix-in, bringing more fat and sugar to the already deviously delicious mixture of butter and cream. Anytime they make an appearance is a good move in my book, and this one reads like a masterpiece.

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Big Ample Circus is a flavor that achieves on every level. It takes me back to a simpler time, eating Cracker Jacks and watching elephants do funny tricks in top hats, but also presents an elevated and high quality ice cream that stands strong on its own – no gimmick required. Three simple elements all executed with finesse is the ultimate recipe for success, and this is one you don’t want to miss.

Rating: 10/10
Found at: http://www.amplehills.com

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REVIEW: Ample Hills’ It Came From Gowanus

Gowanus is a largely industrial neighborhood in Brooklyn, New York, which was the original home of Dutch settlers in the mid-1600’s and later, the primary backdrop of the Battle of Long Island during the Revolutionary War. As someone that has never been to New York, I don’t know much about the area, but when I hear “Gowanus” I think of a giant brown swamp monster, getting ready to feast on anything that comes across its path. Fittingly to my own mental misinterpretation of the name, Ample Hills’ It Came From Gowanus combines their darkest, saltiest chocolate ice cream with pieces of orange-scented brownies, and hazelnut crack cookies with white chocolate pearls.

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This is without a doubt the most aggressively salted ice cream I have ever had and it is nothing short of phenomenal. It is thick, rich, and indulgent with incredibly deep dark chocolate notes and a massive salty flavor that’s hard for my brain to comprehend. The intensity of the ice cream is so grand that it almost doesn’t even feel cold, like the amount of salt has kept the freezer from doing its job and kept the custard frozen yet a silky room temperature without melting. It’s a revelation in cocoa that any chocolate lover needs to experience and is up there with the greatest bases I’ve ever had the joy of tasting. Flavor-wise it hits the highest of highs and the lowest of lows running the full spectrum with a richness that is inescapable.

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The intensity of the experience continues with the mix-ins and my mouth continues to be mystified by what I am tasting. I’m not exactly sure what hazelnut crack cookies are but I get some bites of nutty-tasting, almost toffee-esque crunchy cookie bits with a beautiful buttery flavor, and other bites that seem just like a chunk of straight chocolate. The brownies come in varying sizes from little pieces to admirable hunks and have the perfect dense-yet-chewy texture that beautiful brownies can offer. Orange “scented” is the key word here, as there is just a hint of orange flavor poking through the chocolate abyss, and for my taste I wish there was a more dominant citrus pop, as a little bit of relief from the darkness would be a welcome contrast.

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There are little white flecks that come across my spoon every so often and I assumed those were some white chocolate, but it turns out they’re little pieces of Saltine crackers – and unfortunately they didn’t really work for me. They’ve gone completely stale in the ice cream and pull me out of the intensely lush trip that Gowanus had sent me on thus far. The actual white chocolate pearls are little choco-coated balls that pop with a fun crispy texture and are mostly on top of the cookies but a few have jumped ship and float alone in the sea of darkness.

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It Came from Gowanus is an absolute doctorate-certified lesson plan in how to elevate ice cream to new heights achieving both decadence and masterful artistry at the same time. It’s a shame this flavor is available in such limited quantities outside of New York as it’s a true treat that any frozen food explorer must try.

Rating: 9.5/10
Found at: http://www.amplehills.com (Taste of NY 4-Pack)

REVIEW: Ample Hills’ The Munchies

The munchies. A term often associated with the insatiable hunger that comes along with getting mega-baked – a sensation I learned a whole lot about in my teenage years. I remember those gripping moments of hunger that simply could not be stopped, and every single flavor was amplified in a way I never thought was possible. Now when I hear the term I tend to think about the great Flamin’ Hot mix of chips, or creating my own munch-able bowl of sweet and salty goodness. In an attempt to channel the epic-ness that is experiencing the munchies, Ample Hills have crafted a signature flavor baring the same name, which combines a pretzel-infused ice cream with clusters of Ritz crackers, potato chips, and mini M&M’s.

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The pretzel-infused base is impressively on point. It’s creamy and smooth with just a hint of gumminess that I’m guessing comes from the gluten, and a flavor that reminds me of the tough, dark exterior of a giant soft pretzel. I know this ice cream is channeling hard pretzels, and that’s how it was made, but it speaks so truly to genuine pretzel flavor that I’m reminded of the similarities that good quality small hard pretzels have to the big soft ones, and not just little crunchy salty sticks. It’s hard to pinpoint the exact profile but you know when you taste it there’s an essence that makes a pretzel a pretzel and that essence is in shining form here. The one element I wish came through more prominently is saltiness, as the base has pretty much zero salty presence, and that’s a defining characteristic of the twisty snack that would have worked really well to liven the whole experience up.

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The caramelized clusters in here are really great, and the caramelization aspect is key to keeping the crunch in tact in the frozen abyss. Little pieces of crumbly pretzel and the bigger balls of Ritz and potato chips add a great salty pop to the experience with a wonderful buttery chew. As good as these pieces are, I wish there were more. Throughout the container there were only a handful of the caramelized balls, and beyond that it was mostly small pieces that didn’t live up to the big satisfying crunch that the larger ones delivered.

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The mini M&M’s don’t really work for me. While I know regular M&M’s can have a problem with hard-freezing in ice cream, the mini version seem to have nearly evaporated into the ice cream and I never got any bites with a good chocolate flavor. The color of the shell bleeds into the base and is very visually appealing but does nothing to add any depth of flavor or texture to the ice cream, which is a bummer given the less than desirable amount of clusters.

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I love the innovation that went into this ice cream but the execution left something to be desired. With a name like the munchies it needs to bring a swift kick of sweet and salty satisfaction and the disappearance of the chocolate and lack of saltiness in the base didn’t give my tastebuds the ultimate thrill they were seeking. With a better mix in density and more prominent chocolate this flavor could be a true classic, but as it stands it’s just good, but still more impressive than most pints you could pick up at the grocery store.

Rating: 8/10 initially, 9/10 now (see below)
Found at: amazon.com via Ample Hills

UPDATE: after reading my review and seeing pictures, Ample Hills reached out and sent me a new pint that had much better quality control and way more mix-ins, which bumps the flavor up to a solid 9/10.

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REVIEW: Ample Hills Ooey Gooey Butter Cake

Ample Hills are a Brooklyn based ice cream company churning out some of the finest gourmet custard (egg yolk heavy ice cream) in the United States. They pasteurize their cream on site and bake almost all of their mix-ins in house, creating inventive and delectable flavors from top to bottom that can be ordered online or scooped at one of their seven shops in the New York area. Recently some of their flavors have been made available on Amazon, which cuts down on some of the very high shipping costs associated with ice cream and has made cream-heads like myself jump and salivate with joy. My first rendezvous with Ample Hills is Ooey Gooey Butter Cake, which combines vanilla custard with pieces of gooey butter cake – a short, dense, butter-heavy cake that originated in St. Louis in the 1930’s.

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The vanilla custard is insanely creamy, rich, and dense with an absolutely perfect melty mouthfeel that is divine. The vanilla flavor isn’t super pronounced, but instead has a layered cheesecake-y depth that isn’t over the top in terms of sweetness but is through the roof with fatty dairy notes that teeter on savory like cream cheese without the tang. The abundant use of egg yolks gives a different body to the ice cream that is very unique, reminds me of eating custard cones as a youngster, and is overall fantastic. Heavy yet fluid, the only way to truly describe it is succulent.

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The pieces of gooey butter cake are ample and diverse, with a rich, buttery, slightly floury presence that really flourish against the base. Some of the pieces are crunchy with a caramelized exterior that give way to a softer cake interior like the lovely edge of a brownie, and some of them are purely soft with the perfect ratio of dense and squishy. The harder pieces almost feel like they’ve been dunked in a caramel and the slightly burnt brown sugar flavor is phenomenal. This is my first time ever having ooey gooey butter cake in any application and I can’t wait to try it again.

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With a base that is straight forward yet decadent and a singular mix-in that is executed flawlessly, this is one of the most perfect pints money can buy from one of the most flourishing ice cream companies in the United States. An absolute thrill to eat from beginning to end, I recommend getting your hands on some Ample Hills as soon as possible.

Rating: 10/10
Found at: Amazon.com

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