REVIEW: Vice Cream’s Higher Grounds

We all like to get a little high. My favorite way to start the day is a nice caffeine buzz, and the best way to end that day is with a nice creamy scoop. While every day doesn’t end with ice cream, you betcha every morning breaks with a steaming cup of the blackest of the black, so it should be no surprise that fusing these two joys of life seems nearly as common as chocolate, vanilla, and caramel. Fueling all of our favorite crutches, Vice have come through with Higher Grounds, which combines a dark roast coffee ice cream with a mocha fudge swirl, chocolate cookie crumbles, and espresso pillows.


This is a really great coffee ice cream. It’s bursting with dark and bold coffee flavor and just enough sweetness to keep it in the realm of sugary desserts. The bittersweet intensity is rounded out beautifully by a perfectly smooth and dense creamy texture that finishes with pure lush dairy notes. It’s by far the best base I’ve had from Vice and one of the better coffee flavored ones I’ve had from the grocery store in general.


The element of this flavor I was the most curious about are the “espresso pillows” and it turns out that’s just a really cute name for chocolate covered espresso beans. The pillows are bold and crunchy with a strong coffee bean flavor that cuts through the intense coffee presence of the ice cream for a real coffee lovers treat. The bittersweet chocolate coating adds a touch of sweetness to the dark party and I really love chomping on beans intermittently during this caffeine-fueled cream dream.


It’s hard to tell how much coffee flavor is in the mocha swirl among all the other coffee-forward elements but it’s syrupy and adds a nice different texture to the overall experience. In an ideal world it might be a little thicker to live up to the “fudge” name, but as it stands with its Hershey’s syrup swagger it’s perfectly acceptable and does its job well.


The cookie crumbles are the least interesting part of the mix, but also the only one without coffee so they’re a pretty necessary component. They’re little crunchy balls that remind me of a chocolate topping that would come with a cookie-themed yogurt, and I don’t dislike them but don’t really love them either. I would have really enjoyed some Oreo’s or more varied pieces of cookie, but the constant presence of the crunchy bits brings a nice toothiness to the pint that holds up.

Higher Grounds isn’t reinventing the wheel by any means but it’s a damn fine coffee ice cream for those who really like their flavors big and bold. Super creamy, super potent, this pint is a winner.

Rating: 8/10

Found at: Safeway ($4.99)

REVIEW: Ben & Jerry’s Chillin’ the Roast Truffles

Caffeine is the most widely abused drug in the world, and I’ve got to imagine alcohol isn’t too far behind it. Most people start their day with a steaming cup of coffee and end it with an ice cold brewski or glass of wine; and the two beverages allow us to get our days rollin’ and then wind them down, respectively. In my funny little world, I would rather start my day off with the coffee and end it with a nice creamy scoop of some high quality ice cream. Ben & Jerry’s Truffles line has a new solution to all of my problems with Chillin’ the Roast, which combines cold brew coffee ice cream with chocolate cookie-covered coffee liqueur truffles and a fudge swirl.


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REVIEW: Baskin Robbins Caramel Macchiato

Sometime in the early 2000’s Starbucks invented the Caramel Macchiato, confusing coffee consumers and soiling the term macchiato forever.  A word that was once associated with a small espresso drink dotted by freshly steamed foam was transformed into a big cup full of milk caramel, vanilla, and less than 10% actual coffee.  This turn of events in coffee culture made caffeine aficionados angry and baristas of all levels perplexed on what the hell people were trying to order, and as such, everything has been ruined forever.  Arriving approximately 15-20 years late to the trendy party, Baskin Robbins are putting their own spin on the teeny-boppers gateway drug with their flavor of the month for April 2017.  Caramel Macchiato combines coffee ice cream with a salted caramel swirl and real espresso flakes for a flavor that will hopefully leave me sugar AND caffeine high.

The coffee base is exactly what I look for in this kind of ice cream – smooth and sweet with vanilla undertones and a present but not too intensely bitter coffee flavor.  The taste is very similar to a heavily milked and sugared cup of coffee, which should come as no surprise considering the ingredients used to make ice cream.  It’s mellow enough that it doesn’t smack you in the face but big enough that the flavor doesn’t fade after repeated bites into creamy obscurity.

The salted caramel swirl seems much less salted than would be ideal, but its signature sweetness stands out against the coffee backdrop and adds some silky texture that is enjoyable and true to the caramel macchiato beverage.  While I do think Baskin Robbins makes a good caramel, especially evident in flavors like Gold Medal Ribbon, I have yet to have a good salted caramel from BR and this scoop isn’t changing that perception.  I also wish there was more of the caramel, because without it in the bites the flavor is much more latte than it is “macchiato”.

As for the third component of this flavor, the “real espresso flakes” are actually coffee studded chocolate flakes, and don’t lean too heavily on coffee or chocolate flavor with just a touch of bitter cocoa that elevates the espresso vibes without pushing it over the edge.  I was excited when the description said “espresso flakes”, and while these chocolate chips are fine, they don’t really fit the flavor profile, and may have been better replaced by caramel covered espresso beans or something more inventive to capture the caramel macchiato essence more effectively, since this isn’t a mocha flavor.  Despite the unnecessary presence of chocolate this is a pretty tasty cup, and one I might even re-scoop if I find myself near a Baskin later this month.

Rating: 7.5/10
Found at: Baskin Robbins