REVIEW: Salt & Straw’s Dandelion Chocolate Hazelnut Cookies and Cream

Salt & Straw are a pretty amazing company. If you weren’t aware, every time they open in a new city that city gets a menu that includes some S&S classics as well as some city-specific exclusives that you can’t get anywhere else. When they expanded to San Francisco last year they made some amazing flavors, including Roasted Strawberry Tres Leches and Salted Honey Marshmallows & Walnuts (RIP), but sometimes even great new things need to be revised. To kick off National Ice Cream Month, Salt & Straw added a handful of new SF-only flavors to their menu, including the tantalizing-sounding vegan friendly Dandelion Chocolate Hazelnut Cookies and Cream – a dark chocolate ice cream made with coconut and hazelnut milk with stacciatella ribbons of Dandelion chocolate and chunks of homemade gluten free vegan oreos.

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REVIEW: Salt & Straw’s Sweet Corn & Waffle Cones

I could go on and on about how much I love Salt & Straw’s Chocolate Caramel Potato Chip Cupcake. I’ve made it my mission this year to get everyone I possibly can to hear me out and try it. CCPCC is the fine craft of ice cream perfected to such a degree that I hope it comes back every March, or in my dreams, permanently. Another of this months voted back offerings, Meyer Lemon Meringue Pie, is no slouch either, but there’s a sneaky good flavor lingering beneath the glitz and glam that really deserves your attention too. Sweet Corn & Waffle Cones combines a sweet corn ice cream with chocolate covered waffle cones, freckles of salted brown butter, and ribbons of rich vanilla caramel.

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REVIEW: Kit Kat Ice Cream

As a bonafide ice cream lover I don’t pay too much attention to Dreyer’s. I’ve had my fair share of their products over the span of my life, but the end result is usually pretty lackluster, like last years Pumpkin Spice Latte, so I don’t feel a need to seek out their newest releases. That being said, sometimes packaging can jump out at me so convincingly as I slowly peruse the frozen aisle that I can’t help but stop; as was the case with the recently re-branded Kit Kat ice cream. In 2016 Dreyer’s released a line of candy bar themed cream’s including 100 Grand, Baby Ruth, and, you guessed it, Kit Kat. They’ve changed the packaging to more closely mimic the wrapper of a candy bar, and although the container doesn’t explicitly state this, they also changed the base from their normal higher fat Grand style to the lighter variety usually reserved for Slow Churned. The new Kit Kat ice cream combines chocolate light ice cream with a wafer swirl and pieces of Kit Kat candy.

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REVIEW: JC Scoops’ Cinnamon Chocolate Churro

In the United States we have doughnuts, and in Spain they have churros. The long fried sticks of dough covered in cinnamon and sugar are a delicious treat often served for breakfast with hot chocolate, coffee, and dulce de leche. The marriage of sparkly sweet dough and chocolate or caramel is a match made in heaven, and while I prefer mine with a nice black coffee, the choco-churro combo cannot be denied. Continuing their fascination with breakfasts’ sweet treats, JC’s Scoops have unleashed Cinnamon Chocolate Churro, which combines sweet brown sugar and cinnamon ice cream with ribbons of chocolate fudge and pieces of sugar-dusted churros.

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REVIEW: Coolhaus’ Farmer’s Market Strawberry Cheesecake

Cheesecake and ice cream have a lot in common. Decadent, creamy, high fat, versatile, celebratory, dairy-heavy, and downright delicious; most people can’t deny how stellar the two desserts are. That being said, I can’t say I would really want to eat the two at the same time, as combining them side by side on a plate might send me deep into dairy depths that my stomach may not be able to recover from. I am, however, a big fan of when the two worlds collide into a successful flavor of ice cream, which is unfortunately much easier said than done. With their latest batch of pints Coolhaus takes on the challenge with Farmer’s Market Strawberry Cheesecake, which combines mascarpone and cream cheese ice cream with a fresh strawberry swirl and graham cheesecake bites.

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REVIEW: Baskin Robbins’ YORK Peppermint Pattie

It’s the most wonderful time of the year…to overdose on mint. While winter is the perfect time to let the chill in the air become the chill in your mouth, there’s one candy that reps the cooling effect year round like no other – YORK Peppermint Pattie’s. Thick, dense, chewy, and intensely minty, it’s the kind of candy you either love or hate, and fortunately for me I get down with the choco-mint overload. Continuing their tradition of collaborating with all of the biggest candy brands, Baskin Robbins have brought back the aptly titled YORK Peppermint Pattie for December, which combines mini YORK peppermint patties and a rich dark chocolate mint ribbon swirled in mint ice cream.

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REVIEW: Ample Hills’ No Sleep Til Pumpkin

It wasn’t until 2003, with Starbucks’ introduction of the Pumpkin Spice Latte, that the two very different but very popular world’s of coffee and pumpkin pie would collide to create one of the most iconic and polarizing drinks of the last fifteen years. It’s hard to imagine a time when the two flavors didn’t coexist, and with everything from M&M’s to Peeps to Bath & Body Works body wash emulating the cafe concotion, it’s fitting that ice cream is no stranger to the coveted combination. As their sole pumpkin offering for 2017, Ample Hills brought back No Sleep Til Pumpkin, which is dark coffee ice cream with pieces of pumpkin ooey gooey butter cake.

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REVIEW: Coolhaus’ Street Cart Churro Dough

Like many people living on the West Coast, my first introduction to churro’s was amid the tasty backdrop of Disneyland’s Main Street. The crispy crunchy combination of fried dough covered in cinnamon and sugar became a staple and must-have anytime visiting the Magic Kingdom. Now, living in San Francisco, I often see the more true origin of churro’s, in little push carts in the streets of the Mission district, on a regular basis. While I don’t often indulge in the long sticks of spicy delight while hitting up the mish for some tacos, it’s a flavor combo I still hold dear to my heart, and if you throw that shit in some ice cream I’m on it like an abandoned twenty dollar bill. Coolhaus’ Street Cart Churro Dough combines brown butter ice cream with cinnamon sugar churro dough and a chocolate chip swirl.

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When I initially read the description of this flavor my eyes lit up with excitement over the brown butter ice cream, which is one of my favorites, and I’m happy to report that Coolhaus delivered big time with its execution. It’s velvety smooth and creamy with an unmistakable browned butter flavor that accentuates the richness of the high quality dairy perfectly. The butter is incredibly authentic, and even leaves a slick on my tongue like I just put pack multiple handfuls of freshly popped movie theater popcorn. It’s a subtle spin on your average vanilla or sweet cream that elevates ice cream’s decadence to new heights when it’s done well, and this one is exceptional.

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The pieces of churro dough are also really good. They’re small gritty balls of cinnamon sugar delight very reminiscent of the mix-in from Ben & Jerry’s Cinnamon Buns with a bit more crunch and salty shine. While their overall flavor is definitely sweet, there’s an undercurrent of saltiness that really drives the dough-y component home. The cinnamon pops strong against the brown butter base and the two work together perfectly.

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Calling the chocolate chips a swirl is pretty accurate, as they’re more integrated specks of chocolate throughout than actual chunks of chocolate. The pieces remind me a lot of the shavings in Baskin Robbins’ Chocolate Chip, and they bring more gentle crunch than actual chocolate flavor. The integration of flecks of chocolate rather than B&J’s style chunks or flakes is awesome as it allows the buttery cinnamon flavors to be the star of the show, and I’m never taken out of the creamy churro fantasy.

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This flavor is currently only available to be ordered through Coolhaus’ online shop, but when it makes its way into grocery stores early next year it will be a standout offering in the frozen section for those lucky enough to have it. Brown butter ice cream is very rare in more mainstream outlets and hopefully this one sparks a change, because the extra depth and richness is terrific.
Rating: 9/10

Found at: Coolhaus online shop.

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REVIEW: Ben & Jerry’s Special Stash Marshmallow Moon

The craft ice cream scene is so hot right now that the innovators and grocery store ice cream game changers are coming out of retirement. Ben & Jerry’s, the now Unilever-owned company that created Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough and put creative life into the freezer section of your favorite supermarket are beginning to unleash their Special Stash; a super limited run of pints only available online and in small quantities at their scoop shops. The series begins with a third collaboration with Jimmy Fallon, in an apparent ode to MoonPie. Marshmallow Moon is vanilla ice cream with marshmallow and graham swirls and fudge chunks.

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Let’s start off with the good – the graham cracker swirl is phenomenal. It’s salty, buttery, and bursting with golden graham flavor that rivals any elementary school’s snack time dunk contest. It’s the same swirl from Pumpkin Cheesecake and One Love but in much bigger, thicker quantity, which makes it automatically better. The grittiness and slight crunch of the swirl is hands down the best part of this pint and to be honest, kind of its saving grace.

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Now, onto the weakest part of the this flavor, and it’s a big one – the base. Ben & Jerry’s vanilla ice cream is fine, it’s just not really that great, and within the context of this profile it falls pretty flat. Yes, it’s rich and creamy, but the vanilla notes aren’t very pronounced and I don’t get any kind of intriguing pop at all. This vanilla ice cream NEEDS big gobs and chunks of mix-ins for it to work, and while it works well in tandem with the graham, it does a major disservice to the marshmallow by being bland and washing out the subtle nuances of the fun and fluffy ‘mallow. I was very excited to see nice amounts of the marshmallow swirl throughout my pint, but I never got to fully enjoy them. Aside from the textural and temperature differences, it was hard to distinguish the gooey stuff from the base.

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The fudge chunks are big and snappy and tasty but ultimately kind of boring. Again, vanilla and chocolate are such standard fair that unless I got a good amount of the graham this just felt like chocolate chip ice cream with really big chips and relatively average vanilla.

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I love the idea of Ben & Jerry’s doing an ongoing Special Stash series, but this first entry is too safe and an average introduction into something that has a lot more potential than this pint shows. A simple change in base to peanut butter, caramel, malt, or hell, even a vanilla bean with more robust flavor, could have made this a much more solid ice cream. The Special Stash line also comes with a higher price, and at double the cost I usually pay for B&J’s it starts to inch towards the more gourmet small batch stuff. If they want to play that game they’ve gotta put their thinking caps on to push the envelop a little farther and earn my hard earned ice cream dollars.

Rating: 7/10
Found at: Ben & Jerry’s Scoop Shop ($6.50)

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REVIEW: JC’s Scoops’ Salted Caramel Fudge Brownie

When I walk into a new scoop shop there are a couple of trigger words that really get my ice cream juices flowin’. Salted caramel, birthday cake, peanut butter, and brownies are among the top attention getters for me, and if you combine any of them into one flavor I’m guaranteed to need to taste it. Although they don’t have any proper shops, JC has once again lured me into their scoops with a tantalizing flavor that hits me right in my trigger spot. Salted Caramel Fudge Brownie combines a savory sweet caramel ice cream with a salted caramel swirl and fudge brownie squares.

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The most interesting aspect to the description of this ice cream is “savory sweet caramel”, and on my first bite in I know exactly what they’re talking about. When I hear “savory” I think about dinner, but what JC really meant here is “salty”, and it’s a damn fine salted caramel base. Maybe they didn’t want to be redundant in their description, but the salted caramel flavor is big and bold, with the base and swirl working together to create a deep savory salted profile that pops with buttery caramel notes and is downright delicious.

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I wish there was more distinction between the swirl and ice cream itself, as I’m not getting much gooey caramel satisfaction, but the two combined are a real winner. Most caramel bases I’ve had from grocery-available brands are fine but pretty lackluster compared to their higher end competition, and this one delivers a much more gourmet depth that I really appreciate.

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The brownie squares are a plenty and tasty – with a rich chewy texture and great chocolate flavor that give sweet reprieve to the double salted aspect of the base and swirl. They taste really high quality, up there with Ben & Jerry’s own notoriously fire Greyston Bakery made brownies, and are a great compliment to everything going on. Some of the brownies have crumbled and integrated themselves into the base, giving a slightly gritty texture to the ice cream like a good cookies and cream. While the chunks are definitely the highlight, it’s nice having little pieces of chocolate in every bite.

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This flavor isn’t pushing any boundaries or playing with unique flavors the way some of JC’s Scoops’ other releases are, but it’s incredibly well executed and isn’t holding back with its wonderfully potent saltiness. For anyone, like myself, who loves that sweet and salty injection into their luscious creamy treats, you definitely don’t want to sleep on seemingly innocent looking paint pail pint.

Rating: 9/10
Found at: Sprouts ($4.99)