REVIEW: Tillamook’s Sea Salt & Honeycomb Toffee

Happy National Ice Cream Month! Or more specifically, happy week-of National Ice Cream Day! As has become a mini tradition on this site, the week of the day that celebrates one of the finest culinary delights of all time will be fully dedicated to nothing but ice cream. I realize over the last year there have been many weeks where I only posted about ice cream, but that was an accident and more reflects what I was eating than what we should be celebrating. To kick off the festivities we’re digging into a new flavor from Tillamook – one of the most underrated fine dairy churners on the West Coast now in many grocery stores including Target. Sea Salt & Honeycomb Toffee combines a honey custard with crunchy pieces of crunchy honeycomb toffee and a touch of sea salt.

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REVIEW: Ample Hills’ The Commodore

Vanderbilt Avenue is the street that houses the first Ample Hills scoop shop, where the company cut their teeth in 2011 cranking out all of their ice cream from its small kitchen. The street gets its name from the lore of Cornelius Vanderbilt, who was an 1800’s business tycoon known for owning the New York Central Railroad, and more importantly, inventing the potato chip. Yes, he was that picky dude who sent his fried potatoes back for being too soggy. The cook, George Crum, responded in passive aggressive fashion by slicing them mega thin, too thin to be eaten with a fork, and they were the surprise hit of the evening. James, also known as Commodore Cornelius, literally paved the streets in gold with his advances in transportation, but he also blessed our tastebuds with the then dubbed “Saratoga Chips”. No slouches to churning out thoughtful delicious custard, Ample Hills’ The Commodore is a Vanderbilt store exclusive flavor that combines a salted honey base with clusters of chocolate covered potato chips and housemade honey comb candy.

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In a completely un-shocking twist, this is the most restrained level of sweetness I’ve ever had in a honey based ice cream and it’s refreshingly delicious. The salt brings not only a different flavor but a different feeling as well – with a slight tingle that coats my tongue. I love the traditionally sweet and creamy bases that honey can deliver, but the salt in this one helps reduce the sugary notes and heighten the deep golden flavor of the sacred bee-vomit. It isn’t quite savory, but it has just enough of those salty earth tones that is doesn’t taste aggressively sweet, and I find myself wanting to eat more to figure out this unique sensation.

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The chocolate covered potato chips are absolutely perfect. The milk chocolate adds a great sweet punch and has preserved all the crunch of the deliciously crispy fried chips. Cornelius would be completely lit on this pint. There’s a big genuine potato flavor that comes through like grabbing a handful from a bag of Kettle brand, and the saltiness still pops despite the minerals’ presence in the base. It might seem odd at first glance, but the mashup of chocolate and honey and chips really works and hits that ideal balance of interesting yet craveable that all craft companies should aspire to.

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The honey comb candy in my pint has stayed somewhat intact but has also partially dissolved into little pools of honey caramel, and I’m not complaining. The pieces chomp with a lovely crystalized crunch that further release the deep golden honey notes, while the saucy caramel-esque sauce bleeds into the ice cream, once again deepening the honey presence. The honey comb is without a doubt the sweetest component in the container and adds that extra layer of candy crunch that makes The Commodore eat like a true sweet treat.

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This flavor, usually only available at one store in one state is currently for sale as part of the Taste of NY 4 pack through the end of the month. If this sounds remotely delicious to you, I can guarantee you will love it, and the investment will be worth the cost.

Rating: 9/10
Found at: http://www.amplehills.com

REVIEW: Little G’s Bangin’ Baklava

Baklava is a decadent pastry characterized by crispy layers of filo dough on top of gooey sweet honey and nuts, usually highlighting the pistachio. It originated in Istanbul, and I usually find it as a dessert option in Mediterranean restaurants after polishing off a tasty falafel wrap or chicken schwarma. I’ll never forget the first time I had baklava. I was at a Philz Coffee shop in 2009 shortly after moving to San Francisco and wanted a classic scone or cookie to go with my joe, but the only option was this puffy tan square that I had never seen before. From my first bite in I was taken aback by the flaky layers and caramelized richness of the nuts, and for the last eight years I’ve tried many varieties and enjoyed almost all of them. As much as I dig the dessert, I’ve never had it in frozen form, and leave it to Little G to pop my flavor cherry with an inventive and indulgent take on something I already know and love. It seemed only right that my first flavor to dive into from the 2017 Summer Favorite’s pack is Bangin’ Baklava, which combines honey ice cream with baklava chunks, candied walnuts, roasted pistachios, and a honey caramel swirl. Yikes!

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Honey ice creams are extremely underutilized, and when executed well are one of my favorite bases for a delicious scoop. No surprise here, Little G absolutely killed it with the honey base and the ice cream has a rich, golden sweet flavor that blends seamlessly with the high quality dairy for a big, luscious, true-to-the-bee flavor that leaves a lasting honey presence in my mouth buzzing with perfection. The honey notes aren’t subtle at all, but they aren’t cloying either – they’re dialed in and balanced with sugary sweet finesse that sings with success. My only concern is that there may be too much honey in the base, as it melts and breaks down really quickly, losing its ice cream character in the blink of an eye. 

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The pieces of baklava are impressive, and the filo dough has maintained all of its delightful crunchiness. Even submerged in a pint of cream the pastry crunches and I can feel the layers just like the first time I bit into the Mediterranean treat. The honeyed nuts on the inside of the dough accentuate the flavor of the base with a wonderful chewiness and the experience is a creamified version of eating baklava to a T. In classic Little G fashion the chunks are actually chunks and are sizable enough that I get all the elements I want from baklava spoonful after spoonful.

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The nuts are also super on point. The roasted pistachios are abundant enough that they add a bit of fatty, slightly savory relief from the generally sweet profile, but not so much that they take over entire bites like in last season’s White Chocolate Macadamia Nut MdoughW. I wish they were a touch more salted (or salted at all?) to add some more contrast, but that’s honestly just a nitpick-y preference and not a deal breaker in any way. The candied walnuts are also fantastic, I didn’t get very many in my pint, but when I did they were entire nuts perfectly caramelized and sweet with a sugary flavor that reminded me of Christmas. Even though I love the indulgence of getting whole nuts, it could have been more effective to cut them in half if each container is only going to get 3-4 so they come through more consistently. 

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This was the most aggressively tempered shipment I’ve gotten from Little G to date, and even after popping my order back into the freezer for awhile the pints were still pretty soft, and a lot of the honey caramel was integrated into the base, but pooled nicely at the bottom. When I was able to isolate it it was everything that it set out to be – slightly dark, rich caramel with some interesting, pleasantly astringent honey notes that set it apart from any other caramel I’ve had before. While it doesn’t stand out as much as a traditional caramel against vanilla or chocolate, it ties the baklava experience together with a lovely golden gooey ribbon further making this a fantastic, albeit a bit soft, ice cream-ed version of the traditional treat it aims to emulate.

Rating: 9/10

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