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: Tillamook Oregon Marionberry Cheesecake Frozen Custard

If there’s one thing Oregon does really well, it’s probably craft beer. And if there’s something else they do really well, and my personal favorite, it’s gotta be the harvesting and utilizing of the marionberry. Developed in Corvalis, Oregon in the 1940’s, the marionberry is essentially the biggest, juiciest blackberry you’ll ever eat, and its use in pies, cakes, and ice creams gets me completely amped every – single – time. No stranger to cranking out some of the Pacific Northwest’s finest dairy, Tillamook use the berry for a flavor in their premium custard line that highlights this wonderful fruit in Oregon Marionberry Cheesecake, which combines a chunky marionberry swirl with graham cracker pie crust in a mascarpone custard.

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Diving into this glisteningly gorgeous white base let me tell you this stuff is CREAMY. The texture of the mascarpone custard is rich, decadent, and buttery with a fatty dairy mouthfeel that is divine. Those extra egg yolks drive this ice cream into overdrive with a decent amount of sweetness but nothing that’s too over-the-top. Unfortunately I’m not getting any kind of cheesecake-y tang that I want from a flavor that calls itself cheesecake, and instead the gentle only slightly cheesy flavor of mascarpone takes over and I find myself really wanting a bit more funk to make the profile more interesting and engaging.

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The pieces of graham cracker pie crust are very ample, popping up in small chunks in almost every bite, but again, the flavor is a little lackluster. The taste is less reminiscent of a golden graham cracker and much closer to standard pie crust, which is fine, but against the not-too-tangy base, they leave a bit to be desired in terms of the ideal balance a great cheesecake can offer. They’re relatively soft and chewy, and without any sweet honey or buttery aspect I find myself getting tired of them pretty quickly. While they definitely channel “crust”, my favorite part of a good cheesecake is that rich, crumbly graham base, and I simply want more from these pieces, even though the density is on point.

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Where this flavor really sings is the marionberry swirl, which is thick, chunky, juicy, bright, and sweet. Marionberry’s have a amazingly sweet and tart flavor that are on full display in this swirl, and work wonderfully in conjunction with the very rich and succulent base custard. There are actual giant chunks of marionberry’s hanging out in the jammy ribbon that bring a huge sugary acidic pop that is undeniably Oregon and undeniably delicious.

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While the swirl is top notch and near perfect, it simply cannot carry the flavor to a full on victory, and as a result this Tillamook custard is a textural dream and a bit of a tasting miss. It’s luxurious and at times delicious, but overall falls a short of a triumphant addition to the custard chronicles.

Rating: 7.5/10
Found at: Safeway ($4.99)

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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