REVIEW: Little G X MdoughW Cinnamon Caramel Churro

Collaborations are one of the greatest elements of hip hop, but they can be pretty damn cool in the food world too.  Usually reserved for big brands like Taco Bell teaming up with Doritos, Baskin Robbins with Oreo, and recently, Pop Tarts with Jolly Rancher, it’s much less common that smaller independent companies collide to release a joint product – but today that narrative is straight shook.  Gourmet ice cream goddess Little G and cookie cup titans MdoughW have joined forces to release a limited edition run of cookie and brownie (“doughie”) loaded pints of indulgence decadence.  Utilizing MdoughW’s signature doughies, aka wildly soft cookie cups stuffed with delicious fillings, and Little G’s super premium ice cream bases and swirls, the two combined to churn out six epic flavors, and today we take a first dive into Cinnamon Caramel Churro, which is cinnamon ice cream with MdoughW churro pieces and a salted caramel swirl.

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The cinnamon ice cream is absolutely spot on.  It has a giant, robust, and spicy cinnamon flavor that has the cinna-slut in me satisfied in ways not many ice creams have done before.  There is a genuine spice-heavy, almost floral zing that tastes like freshly ground cinnamon was dumped generously onto a sweet cream base and it is absolutely magical.  Visually the base is studded with brown flecks that translate the cinnamon flawlessly.  It should go without saying that the ice cream itself is incredibly rich and creamy with a succulent melty mouthfeel that is divine.

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The churro pieces are incredibly soft with a nice salty pop that register much more like dough than they do the crispy fried stick I associate them with.  The pieces are of generous size and have upheld their dense chew well in the sea of cream, but without any sort of crispy crunch they could easily be cinnamon bun pieces or snickerdoodle cookies and I’m not sure I would be able to tell the difference.  Imagining the way the dairy would soak into the fried exterior of a churro to create a crispy squish has me wishing there was more, but the cinnamon-heavy, almost grainy base helps emulate that experience to a degree.

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The biggest element that’s a bit of a miss for me in this pint is the salted caramel swirl.  I know what Little G is capable of when it comes to swirls (the best in the game up there with Salt & Straw), and with this flavor the swirl is more subtly incorporated into the base than standing out on its own in big gooey puddles of deliciousness.  Every so often I’ll get a bite that has a sweeter, smoother punch to it, and that is where the caramel comes into play, but I miss having thick succulent ribbons that deliver a deeply sweet, salty, and caramelized flavor.

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This is a great flavor of ice cream for cinnamon lovers, but it doesn’t really hit the mark completely when it comes to what I know and love to be a churro.  Although it has one of the best cinnamon bases I have ever had, some crunch is really needed to drive the desired flavor into full effect, and I really wish I had some serious caramel to send it to the heights I know Little G can ascend to.

Rating: 9/10
Found at: http://www.goldbely.com (use code seanpancake0 for $25 off your first order!)

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REVIEW: Blue Bunny Mint Cookie Crunch

Blue Bunny have expanded their line of ice cream flavors, and I hope that means they’re expanding their distribution too.  While they have distro-deals in place with major retailers like Walmart, for whatever reason, in the Bay Area with our lack of Wally World’s, Blue Bunny is kind of hard to find.  Many grocery stores carry the novelty items like the mini cones, but quarts and pints of the Bunny are hard to come across.  Growing up in Nebraska where Blue Bunny was much more common, I was super stoked to find a fresh new flavor at a local discount grocery store.  Mint Cookie Crunch combines mint ice cream with fudge swirls and mint chocolate cookie chunks.

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The mint base is light and creamy with a refreshing minty-ness that steers clear of any dominant peppermint flavor.  It’s a pleasant and genuine base that isn’t too sweet or too powerful in any way.  The fudge swirl has a very distinct Hershey’s chocolate syrup kind of flavor with just a bit more thickness than the stuff that pours from the brown bottle.  It’s a little light milk chocolatey for what I would commonly associate with fudge, but it seems fitting for a swirl swimming in glowing green cream.

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The cookie “chunks” pop up in the form of little balls that have a big satisfying crunch and haven’t lost any of their bold cookie texture.  This crunchy-preservation is achieved by coating the balls in chocolate so the actual cookie never makes contact with the melty dairy.  It’s a clever move very similar to the cookies in Ben & Jerry’s Chocolate Peppermint Crunch (RIP) and they work just as well here as they did in that more chocolate heavy pint.  It’s a very different experience than a mint cookies and cream, and I appreciate the crunch factor that adds extra depth and excitement to the ice cream.  The flavor isn’t as mint-forward as the heralded Girl Scouts Thin Mint, but the cookies definitely have a minty-ness that let’s me know it isn’t just a chocolate cookie.

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When you get all of the components together in one bite they work together seamlessly with a lovely balance of mint, chocolate, and smooth dairy.  Blue Bunny have put together a really solid product that isn’t as intense or fatty as a super premium ice cream but tastes of significantly higher quality and less gum-filler-y than Dreyers or Breyers.  A fantastic middle-of-the-road scoop that’s a great bang for your buck.

Rating: 8/10
Found at: Grocery Outlet ($2.99)

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REVIEW: Nuts ‘N More Chocolate Maple Pretzel

In my life peanut butter is a food group.  Whether it be smooth or crunchy, salted or unsalted, plain or flavored – peanut butter has a luxuriously addictive and delicious texture that I go to town on with just a spoon and a jar on a regular basis.  There comes a point in every PB-addicts life when reducing some of the fat and increasing the amount of protein simply makes sense, and it is with that mentality that brands like Nuts ’N More flourish – off of nut butter fiends seeking ways to justify their addiction.  At the end of last year I ordered one of the company’s newest flavors – Chocolate Maple Pretzel – and hoarded it until the moment was just right.  Well friends, the moment is now, and it feels (and hopefully tastes) oh so sweet.

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I guess it should come as no surprise that a product that combines three of my favorite flavors into one (put cinnamon in there and I might die) is tasty, but this nutty spread exceeded even my own expectations.  The aroma is spot on chocolate covered pretzel, with that salty sweetness accented by cocoa and rounded out beautifully by maple and yeast.  It’s like dunking your head into a bag of chocolate covered pretzels with just a drizzle of maple syrup on top, and it is divine.  The other Nuts ’N More spreads I’ve had have a kind of protein-y almost artificial peanut butter smell to them, and this one has none of that, which is really appealing.

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The flavor of this stuff is absolutely through the roof.  The peanut butter base has been perfectly integrated with chocolate chips that blended themselves into a smooth brown color as I mixed.  There are big chunks of actual pretzel that crunch and pop with salty explosions that set off the chocolate and peanut butter to brilliant new heights.  The use of real, gluten free pretzels is executed flawlessly, as they’ve maintained their texture and add a different kind of depth to this butter than any other I’ve had before, and they didn’t skimp on them either.  Maple is the least dominant of the flavors but it’s definitely present and its role is cherished, adding a little extra sweetness that enhances the bready flavor of the pretzels; and a little kiss of that Sunday morning magic that comes along with anything that registers “syrup” in my brain.

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Check out the pretzel sticks in there – my GOODNESS!

What’s most impressive about eating this spread is if I didn’t tell you there was some extra protein punch from whey you would have no idea because there is no fake flavor or grainy texture to be found.  The chocolate and maple do a tremendous job of masking any unpleasant or artificial notes that can come through in low sugar high protein products and the flavor is not only convincing but deliciously addictive for any flavored peanut butter.  It is without a doubt the best Nuts ’N More release I have tried and is up there with D’s Natural’s best Fluffbutter flavors in battling for the protein butter title.  This jar literally lasted me three days – I simply could not stop eating it.  It’s salty, it’s sweet, and dare I say I think it might be perfect.

Rating: 10/10

Quick Nutrition:
2 TBS – 182 Cals – 11g Fat – 9g Carbs – 2g Fiber – 2g Sugar 11g Protein – 138mg Sodium

REVIEW: Little G Chocolate Milk and Cookies

For those of you not in the know about Little G Ice Cream Company, here’s a brief background.  Little G is the brainchild of Grace Connor, a 17 year old entrepreneur and cancer survivor from Boston, MA who hit the ground running in 2016 with wild ice cream flavors that broke the internet with their photogenic swirls and fresh innovation.  Unless you live in the greater Massachusetts area you have to get your Little G fix from an online order via Goldbely , and while it is pricey, it is definitely worth it.  Grace bakes all of the cakes, pies, and cookies that fill her tubs and hand makes all of the batches on the weekend while still balancing high school.

Eating Little G ice cream is a completely different experience than most.  While the usual appeal of grabbing a premium pint is a smooth rich base complimented by flavorful and texturally exciting mix ins, Little G flips the ratio on its head and delivers an insane amount of sweet, crunchy, and diverse mix ins complimented by high quality thoughtful ice cream.  Opening up a container of Grace’s creations is like unearthing the visually accurate pint of all the ice cream descriptions you’ve read and been disappointed in throughout your life.  When a label says “cookie dough” or “candy pieces” or “cookies” she really really means it, and you won’t have to look hard at all to find everything that the description promises.

Chocolate Milk and Cookies combines a chocolate ice cream with chocolate sandwich cookies and cookie dough, for a rich, decadent, chocolatey-abyss experience you will not soon forget.

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Digging into the pint reveals a painters pallet of the shades of decadence.  Rich dark brown ice cream, massive tan chunks of cookie dough, and deep black Oreo cookies with the occasional white pop from a giant glop of creme filling.

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The chocolate ice cream is smooth and delicious with a flavor that leans more towards milk than dark, especially when eaten in tandem with the Oreo cookies (every bite) which have a deeper more bitter cocoa-forward flavor.  You could essentially call the base ice cream “chocolate cookie” with how many Oreo’s are integrated here, as you will rarely find a bite that is just plain chocolate ice cream.  This flavor eats like a tall glass of milk that has been filled with Oreo cookies, smashed into creamy perfection, mixed, frozen, and served in a cup.

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The cookie dough chunks are huge and plentiful, taking up half of the spoon as you go through gleefully.  They are very fresh and soft with a texture that gives easily as you chew and make your way to a large crunchy chocolate chip.  The pieces of dough are big and soft enough that you can break them in half and they keep their form.  The dough doesn’t have much saltiness to it but is still less sweet than the other components and leans towards a buttery savory note for some contrast.  When getting a bite with ice cream, cookie, and dough, your tastebuds are sent to chocolate cookie heaven making you wonder “am I dead?”

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This ice cream is hard to stop eating.  It combines some of the best elements of sugary snacking all into one – cookies with milk, cookie dough, and chocolate, for an experience that slaps most cookies and cream flavors in the face and simply says “get outta here”.

Rating: 9/10

REVIEW: Baskin Robbin’s Superfudge Truffle

New year, new flavors, new excitement.  Even though they didn’t close out the year with the strongest choices, I will always look forward to the Baskin Robbin’s flavor of the month.  January 2017 sees a return of a former featured favorite from BR’s past, Superfudge Truffle, which combines a rich chocolate fudge ice cream with decadent chocolate truffle and toffee truffle pieces.

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Are you a fan of chocolate?  Meet your new heroin.  This is one of the richest, thickest, chocolate on chocolate onslaughts I have ever scooped into and it is GOOD.  There’s no beating around the bush with the decadence in this ice cream – the chocolate fudge base is so fully loaded with chocolate it’s nearly black with a sticky brownie-batter like texture.  The base, while called fudge, is actually better than most fudge’s I’ve had because it isn’t so overwhelmingly sweet that it’ll give you a headache (like most fudges are).  Just when you think you’ve hit the ceiling of chocolate indulgence you frequently run into a chocolate truffle, which melts with the luxurious texture you’d expect, and stands up to the deep darkness of the fudge cream.

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One of my concerns going into this flavor was that there would be no reprieve from the chocolate, but the use of the toffee truffles works surprisingly well.  While still chocolate in nature, the toffee truffles give a slight crunch and burst of saltiness that not only provides the palate a break from the cocoa but highlights its full bodied brilliance even more.  Because toffee has a buttery and salty profile, as opposed to the pure sweetness of caramel or white chocolate, the alternating types of truffles keep the flavor fresh and insanely addictive.  Some of them have a crunch like a giant chocolate chip and some of them blend their way into the chocolate fudge backdrop.

This flavor is very similar to another Baskin Robbin’s classic that flows in and out of rotation – Mississippi Mud – which combines chocolate fudge ice cream with regular chocolate ice cream, fudge chunks, and a fudge ribbon.  Mississippi Mud was my go-to for total chocolate annihilation when it was available, and Superfudge might even best it because of the use of only the fudge base and the inclusion of the toffee truffles.  Superfudge Truffle is on par with the best flavors Baskin Robbin’s have released the last couple of years, AND, when it’s all gone it leaves dark chocolate psychedelic artwork in your cup.  Double win.

Rating: 9/10

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REVIEW: Muscletech NitroTech Chocolate Peanut Butter Bar

I am a peanut butter crazed lunatic.  It’s one of those everyday kinds of foods for me, not always in abundance, I just gotta get some creamy nut butter in my life on the daily.  For this reason I don’t buy peanut butter or chocolate peanut butter flavored things because I am almost always let down and have to add actual peanut butter to it to make it decent.  In fact, I think almost all protein bars are improved with a little peanut butter, so I tend to skip PB flavor because I’ll end up adding my own anyway.  All of that aside, after being very impressed with the Muscletech NitroTech Birthday Cake protein bar (which I never reviewed but you should buy) I decided to give them the benefit of the doubt and try their Chocolate Peanut Butter crunch bar.

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Off the bat this bar looks like the lost cousin of a Combat Crunch, with little crunchy whey crisps poking their way through a creamy yogurty coating, wrapped around a whey protein base.  What makes this bar unique is the coating is peanut butter with the inside being chocolate, whereas most products trying to tackle this flavor do it the other way around, emulating a Reese’s peanut butter cup.

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Flavor-wise this bar is pretty tasty but is still far from hitting the mark of the luxuriously creamy and perfect experience of peanut butter chocolate.  The strongest flavor here is the chocolate, which is surprisingly less sweet and more cocoa-forward than I expected.  The deep cocoa taste mixed with the soft chew of the center of the bar reminds me of a brownie kissed with the essence of peanut butter.  Since the only peanut butter taste comes from the coating, it fades quickly and unfortunately crumbles and breaks as you eat it.  The one aspect they nailed as far as a PB profile goes is an underlining saltiness, which is good since this bar has more sodium (350 mg) than I usually like to take in with my protein supplements.

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Overall this is a pretty solid effort that is neither incredibly impressive or a big letdown.  It’s much better than Combat Crunch’s attempt, which is my least favorite of their bars, and the sorry attempt by Quest, but can’t touch Muscletech’s spin on Birthday Cake.  It still falls short on delivering the ultimate chocolate peanut butter experience but could be a good choice for those who really crave this combo but don’t want to dig into a Reese’s.  In all honestly, just grab a Reese’s.

Rating: 7/10

Quick Nutrition: 240 cals – 8g fat – 350mg sodium – 24g carbs – 5g fiber – 5g sugar – 22g protein

REVIEW: Fit Joy Birthday Cake Batter

Just in time for the cake-eating festival that will be my birthday on Sunday, one of the most prolific new protein bar companies are back at it with Fit Joy’s Birthday Cake Batter.  This doesn’t appear to be a seasonal release and should be readily available wherever their bars are sold all throughout 2017.  The pink wrapper and solid macros scream nothing but pure fun and I’m hoping for a much better effort than the last cake flavored protein attempt I had by BPI, which sucked.

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This is the first bar that I’ve had with the specific flavor of cake batter as opposed to cake or cupcake, and with that specificity in mind I think Fit Joy have really succeeded. The aroma coming out of the wrapper smells almost exactly like a jar of funfetti vanilla frosting, and fortunately the flavor isn’t too far behind. Much less sweet than a spoonful of artificial frosting, the bar has a wonderful vanilla presence and eggy bounce that remind me of yellow cake (the best). The coating and protein base look similar with multicolored specs that play off each other well, combining for one batter-filled bite. It’s a much truer birthday cake than the bars by Combat Crunch and Fit Crunch, both of which have a strange lemon dominance to their flavor.

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The texture is a soft chewy that gradually transforms into the smooth consistency of cake batter as you break it down in your mouth. There are no crunchy sprinkles or crisps inside or on top of the bar so the experience is one dimensional but not in a bad way. The outer yogurt layer mimics frosting, giving two different sensations that lead to an ultimately really enjoyable experience.  It is also a completely new flavor profile for Fit Joy and executed more convincingly than 75% of the companies that try to tackle it.

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As someone who grew up loving boxed yellow cake for my birthday and licking both the beaters and bowl clean when my mom was done whipping it up, this bar really speaks to my inner bday boy.  This is one of the strongest flavors Fit Joy have released, ranking among Chocolate Peanut Butter and Gingerbread Cookie as a top pick in their lineup.

Rating: 8/10

Quick Nutrition: 230 cal – 8g fat – 190mg sodium – 22g carbs – 10g fiber – 3g sugar – 20g protein.