REVIEW: Ben & Jerry’s Non-Dairy Seven Layer Bar

Seven layer bars, or, onslaught sugar injections, as I like to call them, are composed of three main flavors – chocolate, butterscotch, and coconut. Yes, there is the graham cracker crust and some nuts, and there could be a remix edition involving peanut butter, but when I think about biting into a seven layer bar I am immediately given the teeth tingling sensation of butterscotch and chocolate assaulting my tastebuds with an underlining kiss of tropical coco flair. Since I have heard nothing but good things about the scoop shop exclusive Ben & Jerry’s Seven Layer Bar, I had to give their new pint-available non-dairy version a shot, which combines a coconut ice cream made with almond milk, chocolate chunks, walnuts, caramel, and graham cracker for a vegan treat that will hopefully make my teeth hurt.

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Getting my first taste of this almond-driven base is different but not necessarily bad. There’s a strange salty undercurrent and texture that immediately reminds me of almond milk the way it slightly coats my tongue with a taste that gives me childhood flashbacks of the smell of Play-Dough. The first glaring issue I have isn’t with what is there as much as what isn’t – which is coconut. On the first bite there is a subtle coconut flavor that quickly fades after your second or third spoonful, and that’s it.  No coconut flakes or chunks or lasting coconut presence. For a flavor with coconut in its name this seems kind of odd and a massive missed opportunity for Ben & Jerry’s to use almond milk to make the base, considering coconut milk and cream make fantastic non-dairy ice cream and would have been much better than almond. Confusing.

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Luckily the supporting cast of mix ins is pretty solid and helps awaken a fairly dull base into an experience that’s still enjoyable. The biggest boldest surprise flavor off the jump is the walnuts, which is the element I was least excited for. They have stayed extremely firm and crunchy and pop with big robust nutty flavor in a way that I haven’t had in ice cream before. I’m not sure if it’s the freshness of the pint or the non-dairy base but I have never experienced walnuts be this impactful in ice cream.

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The chocolate chunks are also really successful, and I like them more both in size and flavor than the way B&J have been using the fudge flakes in all of their new pints (or classics like Cherry Garcia). They’re smaller and slightly darker which gives them a less sweet presence that doesn’t wash out all of the other components on my spoon. The size of all the various pieces is just right where you can get a chunk of chocolate and walnut in one bite with enough creamy stuff to make it all work harmoniously.

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The two things I was looking most forward to – the vegan caramel and graham crackers – were a bit less abundant and took some digging. The caramel swirl is more prominent and definitely tastes different than your regular butter-made variety, with a slightly thicker consistency that reminds me of a Milky Way but much less sweet. I’m missing the use of butterscotch here but if there’s going to be any substitute for the ‘scotch a good caramel makes sense. The graham cracker pieces are great and pop with a saltiness and grit that differentiate themselves against all the other elements, I just wish there were more. I love the golden flavor of graham crackers in ice cream and had there been bigger pieces or a greater amount that flavor could have really shone through.  Overall it’s a good ice cream, especially for being non-dairy, but with a couple of tweaks it could have been great.
Rating: 7.5/10
Found at: Safeway

Quick Nutrition per 1/2 cup: 320 cals – 18g fat – 9g sat fat – 100mg sodium – 37g carbs – 2g fiber – 28g sugar – 2g protein

REVIEW: Hostess Limited Edition Sno Balls Ice Cream

I’ve always loved Sno Balls.  Starting at a very young age I held it down for team coconut, and those squishy mounds of jiggly marshmallow and cream-filled chocolate cake always got my chubby heart fluttering with joy.  Hell, I even like those red raspberry coconut Zingers that everyone else on earth seems to hate.  Needless to say, if there’s anything that could make Sno Balls better (aside from seasonal coloring, of course), it would be returning them to the icy tundra from which they came and immersing them in a vat of frozen creamy dairy.  Hostess and Nestle have once again combined forces to make all of our dreams come true with Sno Balls ice cream, which combines a marshmallow flavored ice cream with chocolate cake pieces and a whipped coconut swirl.  Are you dead yet?  Let’s eat.

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The ice cream is smooth and fluffy with a wonderfully decadent and addictive marshmallow texture that more closely mimics the ‘mallow than anything I’ve had not straight out of a Jet Puffed package.  There’s that undercurrent of sweet round vanilla that every so often crosses paths with a slightly gritty pink coconut swirl that is spot on the outside of Sno Balls.  It reminds me so much of eating the Hostess classic that I can almost feel the distinct squish of biting into one right out of the shiny cellophane.  Even though there isn’t tons of the swirl, I like how much they put in there because the coconut intensity weaves in and out of bites without becoming too dominant or taking over the entire profile.

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The cake pieces are dark with a brownie-like density and a distinctly deep cocoa flavor that stands out strong against the mellow marshmallow backdrop.  It’s not the highest quality mix in, but once again it stays true to the feeling and flavor of the treat that it aims to emulate.  Much like the Twinkies ice cream, the pieces are on the smaller side but there’s enough sprinkled throughout that chocolate keeps a constant presence and contributes greatly to the overall flavor.

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This ice cream does a tremendous job of putting a cold and melty twist on eating Sno Balls.  The marriage of marshmallow, coconut, and chocolate cake works really well as an ice cream that transcends the novelty appeal into something that is legitimately enjoyable and wouldn’t seem out of place at all in a higher end scoop shop.  The airier, lower milk fat type of base that Dreyers uses works much better than a denser more premium ice cream for bringing home that true marshmallow texture that the Sno Balls experience needs.  Eat this and be happy.

Rating: 8.5/10