REVIEW: Milk Bar Chocolate Mint Cookies N’ Cream

Another Milk Bar ice cream…another mixed bag. I rambled on about my relationship with the growing gourmet grocery brand in my last review so I won’t go on about it here. In short, it’s complicated, and this latest creation featuring another flavor combination I adore isn’t making it any easier. Chocolate Mint Cookies N’ Cream is chocolate mint ice cream with chocolate cookie batter, cookies n’ cream crunch, and creamy mint swirl.

I love the idea behind this pint (14 ounces, I know, but for simplicity’s sake) but it has the same foundational issue as the last couple that I have scooped: dual flavored bases. Milk needs to get away from this because it rarely works, and it doesn’t work here. Chocolate mint should be one of the few dual flavored bases that can be pulled off with ease, like in Ben & Jerry’s excellent Minter Wonderland, but just like in Milk’s PB pint, this one tastes off. Specifically I’m tasting spearmint, which is not the type of mint I want to taste with chocolate. It’s cloyingly fragrant with a strange herbaceous quality, lacking any sharp minty punch to contrast the rich chocolate. Don’t get it twisted, the texture is still fantastic, I really love a lot of Milk Bar’s attention to high quality ingredients, but the flavor is bizarre and not at all what I wanted from this gorgeous green-streaked ice cream.

Speaking of gorgeous green, the most intriguing part of this container going into it was the creamy mint swirl, and I’m sad the mint flavor is very much the same spearmint-y adjacent oddity from the base, minus the chocolate. I find the spearmint a little less off-putting when on its own and paired with the sweet syrupy texture of condensed milk, but its creme de menthe hue still feels out of place against the sea of chocolate.

As always with Milk Bar, aside from the smooth silky texture of their bases, the real standout are the swirls. The chocolate cookie batter is the same as PB Cookie Crush and it’s just as phenomenal here as it was there. Bittersweet, gritty, and full of rich chocolate flavor, it’s the component that keeps me digging and digging for every last bit of its cake batter-y divinity. The moment Milk Bar put this swirl into a more straight ahead and determined base with a complimentary mix-in is the day it changes the grocery ice cream game — it’s so good. The cookies n’ cream crunch is what you’d expect, essentially pieces of Oreo cookies dispersed throughout with a softened texture and slight crunch; nothing special or new but essential for the concept.

As I finish the container the spearmint fades more to the back of the profile, partially from the flavor fatigue of the base and partially from the mint swirl being absent in the last 1/3 of the pint. There is an abundance of potential with this ice cream but its flaws make it one I’m not likely to ever revisit, despite some really high moments of brilliant execution in the base texture and cookie batter swirl. Maybe whatever mint extract this is is like cilantro and my tongue is cursed, so your mileage may vary, but as it stands, I would approach this wintery profile with caution.

Rating: 6/10

Found at: Whole Foods ($6.99)

REVIEW: Caffe Panna Secret Garden

Basil is one of the most beautiful ingredients in the culinary universe. Often associated with savory foods, its fragrant complexity isn’t limited simply to pesto, pizza sauce, curry, or garnish on fish. There’s an entire world of possibilities if you open your mind to combining the heralded herb with different, unique, components, including ice cream. Caffe Panna’s Secret Garden is fresh basil infused sweet cream rippled with Sicilian apricot preserves. 

To the unenlightened this may sound odd, but there are truly few things as quintessentially Italian tasting as this stunning imported Panna fused with basil. The base is absolutely perfect. It is rich and indulgent with an immaculately smooth velvety texture that takes over the entirety of my tongue as it melts. It’s decadent but still manages to feel light, refreshing, and even cleansing from the gentle and slightly peppery sweet notes of the basil. The purity of the high end Panna (cream) really gets a chance to shine while never overpowering the more herbaceous qualities of the green gift.

The apricot preserves are a lovely accompaniment to the basil. They’re sweet and thicker than a typical swirl, popping up in little clumps throughout the pint with zero iciness. The preserves carry a nice syrupy density without feeling cloyingly heavy and compliment the basil really well.

Secret Garden is an exceptionally simple and elegant ice cream. It is beautiful in its simplicity and I love it. The only thing that could take it to the next level would be a little bit of texture. This is the type of ice cream that is sensational but after 3 or 4 spoonfuls you’re done, and with a little bit of toothy variation it could be an all timer. Perhaps some crunchy gently candied almonds or hazelnuts or even the stunning shortbread from the Panna Picnic pack’s sibling Cornberry Blues could make this even better; but as it stands it is an ice cream everyone must try. And hey, no one is stopping me (or you) from sprinkling a little crunchy magic on top and turning this secret garden into a secret salad sundae…trust me, it’s fantastic.

Rating: 9/10

Found at: Goldbelly ($114.95 for 6 pints)

REVIEW: Jeni’s Powdered Jelly Donut

When it comes to donuts the jelly filled variety are near the bottom of my personal tier list. Give me an old fashioned, buttermilk bar, sprinkled cake, custard filled, cruller, chocolate raised, hell, I’ll take even a plain glazed over a jelly filled. But when it comes to ice cream companies that have worked their way into readily available grocery stores? Jeni’s is right up there with the elite, cranking out some of the most consistent and top tier pints you can find in an aisle that also carries riced cauliflower. I sadly don’t get to try as many new Jeni’s flavors as I’d like, with no local scoop shops in the Bay Area and many of my local Whole Foods not keeping up with the times, but I got lucky with this spring drop and couldn’t deny a fruity frozen donut mashup. Powdered Jelly Donut is vanilla custard with raspberry jelly and brown sugar donut crumble.

This vanilla custard is not what I expected — it is comPLEX. As usual with Jeni’s it is rich, dense, and superbly creamy, but to my palate is is anything but a basic vanilla. I get slightly tangy notes akin to a milder cream cheese base, and a pretty legitimate saltiness comes through as well. It’s an extremely deep and heavy flavor with a potent eggy-ness that gets accented by the more nuanced floral notes of vanilla. In short, it’s really good, especially for a pint you can grab at a grocery store — absolutely top shelf stuff. The custard tempers surprisingly quickly for how premium it tastes, which creates a wonderfully velvety texture when the other components come to their proper temperature.

The raspberry jelly is bright, acidic, and tart with a little bit of a floral undertone. Jeni’s website refers to it as “raspberry rose” and while I’m not getting any perfume-y notes there’s definitely a supporting flavor underneath the usual straight ahead slightly sweet and sour berry burst. Out of the freezer the jam is a bit icy, but once tempered properly it has an impressively smooth and jelly-like consistency that plays with the indulgent and rich base really well. If I could make one tweak to it I’d make it a touch sweeter to drive home the donut vibe, but it’s a tasty and fascinating swirl in its own right.

As I’ve said on this blog many times before, donuts are exceedingly hard to pull off in ice cream, and the good news bad news here is the “donut crumble” doesn’t really resemble donuts at all; but it’s awesome. The crumble is really more of a swirl with a soft but gritty consistency similar to cake batter, and reminds me a lot of tres leches cake with its impressively heavy moisture. It has a nice buttery and slightly spiced nutmeg flavor to it that compliments the salty base and tart swirl really well. There’s a touch of astringency in the finish, which isn’t unpleasant, and actually makes the swirl taste a bit more bread-like than the full on sweetness overload in a cake batter. It was smart of Jeni’s to opt for this type of mix-in over actual donut chunks, which would no doubt be much harder to control, I simply would have called it a donut batter swirl. And honestly, that probably would have been something the ice cream enthusiasts would have gone wild for, making this surprisingly complex pint even more desirable.

Rating: 8.5/10

Found at: Whole Foods ($9.99)

REVIEW: Atomic Creamery Chocolate 3

Atomic Creamery began in 2017 in Orange County, California with a mission to “keep it fresh, keep it premium, keep it unique”. That ice cream mantra caught my eye big time, and I appreciate how the company leans heavy into their flash frozen liquid nitrogen churning method via a fully committed science theme. When my pints arrived I was worried — the dry ice had evaporated — but all the pints still seemed very frozen; except for one, Chocolate 3. Naturally I put the softened pint into the deepest depths of my freezer and crossed my fingers for two days. To my surprise, it emerged 95% intact. Aside from a little refrozen top layer, it was good to go, and I’m so glad it was. Chocolate 3 (cubed) is a chocolate base with Oreo cookies and brownie bites, finished with a whole Oreo on top.

Atomic’s ice cream should freeze pretty hard, a result of not only their premium ingredients but the liquid nitrogen that quickly brings it all together, allowing for a lower overrun, which pumps less air into the final product. For whatever reason, even freshly out of the freezer after being properly frozen again, their chocolate base is softer than all of the others, needing very little temper time to be deliciously creamy and ready to scoop. Speaking of which, this base is awesome; it is basic in the best way. It tastes like a tried and true, but premium, classic scoop shop chocolate. Not too dark but also not too milky sweet, it brings the perfect bittersweet balance that its color implies — rich and indulgent but not over the top in the slightest. The chocolate has delightful depth courtesy of San Francisco’s Ghirardelli that plays with the smooth and lush Straus cream beautifully — simple elegance. 

As much as I enjoy the base, the mix-ins are where this pint really takes off. Oreo’s are amazing and everyone knows what they taste like, so it comes down to how they freeze and how they’re chopped. The chunks in this pint vary in size but mostly come through BIG with slabs of wafer still coated in tons of creme filling — I love them. There are some smaller pieces that have softened more and I enjoy their softened-in-milk texture as well. I also had Atomic Creamery’s Chocolate 2 (squared) which is the same mix-ins but with a vanilla base, and while that flavor was very good, the mix-in density wasn’t nearly as generous — this Chocolate 3 pint is loaded and it’s a winner. It also helped me realize that while I’m not a massive fan of cookies and cream I am definitely a fanboy for chocolate cookies and cream when it’s done right — like old school Ample Hills and this Chocolate 3.

We all love a good Oreo, but the brownies in this pint are some of the best I’ve ever had. They are so ooey gooey and soft they feel and taste like they came straight from the pan, baked mere hours ago. The chocolate is a richer and more intensely flavored one than the base, kind of like fudge, with some vanilla notes and a hint of salt that poke through as well. Somehow both darker and sweeter, the massive chunks of brownie swimming in the chocolate base with the occasional crunch from an Oreo wafter is a chocolate lovers dream…and I am lucid. Sometimes brownies can be dry and cakey — not here. These mix-ins are a testament to the effectiveness of Atomic’s flash freezing, not only being made exceptionally fresh with top tier ingredients in person, but locking in that experience for someone on the other side of the state.

This review is for Chocolate 3, but it took two other pints to come to this conclusion. Chocolate 2, which I mentioned earlier, is a great, but even more subdued take on cookies and cream, and Rocky Road, which is part of their nostalgic collection, is an even more classic rendition on a classic flavor. I had to dig into Rocky Road as my only other chocolate base to make sure everything was copacetic with the one that felt totally softened upon arrival. Rocky Road is awesome, with crunchy massive whole nuts and soft marshmallows, but interestingly, the base also freezes at least 50% softer than all the others. Something about the Atomic Creamery chocolate base, perhaps extra liquid to offset the oftentimes drying effect of cocoa powder, makes the ice cream so much quicker to temper. If you give Chocolate 3 a shot, and I absolutely think you should, make sure you watch its texture closely, because it’s not like the rest!


Rating: 9.5/10

Found at: Atomic Creamery

REVIEW: Caffe Panna ABB Coffee Break

As someone who has worked in the coffee industry on and off for over a decade and reviews sweet snacks on the side, I don’t generally prefer when their paths cross. I like a good strong cup of black coffee every morning and have a broad palette for the magic of espresso, but when it comes to cookies and cake and ice cream I like to keep it sweet and indulgent. 

That being said, a good coffee ice cream can be special, just like a beautifully balanced slice of Tiramisu can be perfection, and Caffe Panna have proven to me before that they can make one helluva coffee ice cream. It is, in fact, in the espresso-bar-meets-scoop-shop DNA of the brand to tackle coffee desserts with finesse. ABB Coffee Break is cold steeped coffee bean ice cream with coffee cake streusel, Allie’s Banana Bread chunks, and an espresso swirl.

The cold steeped coffee bean ice cream, from what I can tell, is awesome. As with most of the People Pleaser pack, this pint is teeming with mix-ins and flavor-shards are coming at me from every direction. I can see little flecks of beans throughout and they seem to carry a bit of a crunch, with a bold but creamy coffee flavor that permeates throughout the entire experience. Like I mentioned earlier I take my coffee black, but this balanced attack of bitter, sweet, and creamy is nothing short of divine.

Speaking of divine, the coffee cake streusel is insanely intense and quite honestly, transcendent. It is buttery and crunchy just like the top of a fresh coffee cake should be, and dispersed in smaller pieces throughout with a surprising bitter note on almost every bite. It has the crunchiness of shortbread and finishes with either the flavor of being espresso-soaked or doused in cocoa powder. I’m not entirely sure what I’m tasting but it definitely deviates from the standard cinnamon crumb coffee cake, and as much as I love cinnamon I welcome its darkness and complexity with open arms.

And the bitterness doesn’t end there, it only gets wilder. The espresso swirl has the density of dulce de leche, with a stick-to-your-spoon consistency that’s thicker than any caramel I’ve had from Panna in the past. The flavor is an absolute wallop of espresso intensity balanced out with just enough burnt sugar sweetness to feel like dessert. It’s without a doubt the strongest coffee component in the pint and as someone who usually eats ice cream at night I’m wondering if I’ll be able to sleep after this. I love this espresso swirl, and its distribution throughout the pint is perfect, but it’s definitely for coffee lovers only.

The lone break from the bitter in coffee break comes from the other half of the flavor’s namesake — Allie’s Banana Bread — and it is awesome. Another, albeit much newer, staple to NY’s food scene, like Lloyd’s Carrot Cake, Allie’s bread is another absolute winner of a mix-in that plays into this profile surprisingly well. The bread is dense and moist with a brilliantly bright and sweet banana flavor that somehow gets through the seemingly endless layers of coffee. It carries a hefty chew but has a softness like it was baked yesterday, with its tropical fruity notes and butteriness bringing a touch of levity to the scooping experience.

There are some pints that teeter on the edge of insanity, and this is without a doubt one of them. Being on the edge of insanity is okay though, if you can pull it off, and with ABB Coffee Break Hallie and the team at Caffe Panna somehow manage to balance a myriad of complex bitter and aggressive flavors with massive boulders of mix-ins via just enough nuance and sweet cream to create a masterpiece.

Rating: 10/10

Found at: Goldbelly ($114.95 for 6 pints)

REVIEW: Salt & Straw Salty Donut Guava + Cheese

Once upon a time Salt & Straw dropped an extremely limited ice cream doughnut collaboration with Miami, Florida based The Salty Donut. The pint pack sold out in what felt like the blink of an eye and the click of a mouse, but fortunately for those of us that missed out in early 2021, that success lead to some of those flavors coming back and keeping a rotational slot in Salt & Straw’s online store. The Salty Donut Guava + Cheese combines a cream cheese ice cream with glazed brioche donut chunks, rich Florida guava curd, and puffed pastry streusel.

The name Salty Donut is accurate because this ice cream is SALTY. Not so much the cream cheese base, which is dense, rich, and slightly tangy with an immaculately creamy texture, but the brioche donut chunks. The chunks are pretty sizable, and while not perfect, they are the best execution of a donut in ice cream I have ever had. Not quite crispy but more than simply chewy, they carry a rich buttery flavor with epic saltiness that really jumps out of the pint. They’re not fully savory but far from sweet and I really appreciate their presence and execution. Donuts never feel quite like donuts when they’re frozen and submerged in cake, the way that normal cake and cookies can, but these are as close as it gets and really awesome.

The puffed pastry streusel is similar to the brioche chunks without the heft and potent salty finish. It doesn’t really taste like much but adds a nice chew throughout. I could do without the swirl but in no way does it hurt the experience at all.

Where this pint really takes things to another level is the guava curd. I am generally not a guava fan but this curd is so fantastically balanced and rich with tropical flare it made me a believer. It’s heavy and yolky with a brilliantly bright sweet guava flavor that gets tempered by a touch of saltiness. The other components have so much salt it would have been fine if the curd was sickly sweet, but it isn’t, and the potent pop of the summery fruit gets even more shine by the restrained harmony put into the exceptionally dense and buttery smooth swirl. The combination of the thick sugary salted guava and subtle sweet tang from the base is truly magical, and it helps that I have epic pools from the start all the way to the bottom — immaculate quality control from S&S.

This collab between Salty Donut and Salt & Straw is one of the best frozen donut executions you will ever try, and is without a doubt my favorite guava dessert I’ve ever had. Perfectly balanced with salty and fruity and epic-ly decadent to boot, you’ll want to add this one to your next pint order if you’re lucky enough to order a pack when it’s available.

Rating: 9/10

Found at: Salt & Straw ($85 for 5 pints)

REVIEW: Caffe Panna Funfetti Crash

Funfetti Crash was a limited release New York only pint at Caffe Panna in June that I was able to add onto my Goldbelly order via an ancient technology known as a the telephone. Yes, that is the secret to plussing up your CP order — go old school — it’s worth it. This gorgeous pint is golden Oreo infused ice cream with funfetti cookie crumble and white chocolate curls…and honestly, all it’s missing is the party hat and streamers.

I’m not sure why this ice cream is so unbelievably addictive but I find it nearly impossible to stop digging. The base has so much golden Oreo vanilla flavor and cookie crumble integrated into it it practically has the texture of cake batter — gritty and dense yet still smooth and very creamy. The ice cream clings to the spoon like poetry with the occasional strong popping crunchy eruption of nonpareil sprinkles. I love a good textural contrast and this one happens so organically I’m transfixed. 

As fantastic as the base-meets-crumble combo is, the component that really sets this experience off are the white chocolate curls. I was greeted with a bunch at the very beginning and expected the curls to calm down, but they never do, and I find layer after layer of simple yet exquisite white chocolate all the way to the bottom of the pint. The curls are sweet and creamy with a gentle crunch that compliments the cookie-forward ice cream beautifully, and it’s some of my favorite white chocolate I’ve ever had paired with ice cream. 

Funfetti Crash isn’t doing anything fancy and it doesn’t need to, it’s elegant in its simplicity and executed with perfection. For those who love birthday cake flavored desserts, white chocolate, or weirdos who think the golden Oreo is superior to the original, this is an absolute must scoop whenever it shows up again at Caffe Panna’s beloved Manhattan storefront (or in one of their coveted packs that ship via Goldbelly). 

Rating: 10/10

Found at: Caffe Panna ($20)

REVIEW: Caffe Panna Minted Panna

Caffe Panna’s People Pleaser Pack has arrived on Goldbelly, which means it’s time for some decadence. Since 2019 Hallie Meyer and Caffe Panna have cranked out some of the best and most innovative ice cream in the country, and thanks to dry ice and the internet, it reaches mouths far from their New York scoop shop. I’m kicking off the pack with a divisive flavor combo that I happen to love — chocolate and mint. Minted Panna is panna peppermint ice cream with fudge coated minty cookie chunks and house made Oreo ganache.

The peppermint base is absolutely fantastic. It is rich and creamy with an exceptionally smooth texture that really highlights the high quality Italian cream (panna). The peppermint is there but not overly aggressive, it’s mild and balanced to the point I would almost consider it a vanilla peppermint or peppermint sweet cream, like a melty sugary after dinner mint. The flavor is absolutely nothing like the dreaded tingly toothpaste taste that mint haters fear, yet it’s present and punchy enough to satisfy mint lovers like me. Flawless victory.

The flavor description gets kinda cheeky with it but I’m almost positive these are Girl Scout Thin Mint cookies, and once again they’re immaculately executed. The fudge coating allows the cookies to retain all of their crunch, and as much as I enjoy a traditional softened cookies and cream scoop I’ll take that chompy-ness ANY day. Due to the mint in the base and the extra coco-coating I get much more bittersweet chocolate flavor from the cookies than mint, but there’s no doubt a little extra cooling factor wafts in from each bite of the cookies. The chunks are pretty big and respectable, with a scattering of smaller pieces all the way to the bottom, but my pint did briefly dry out on the mix-in front pretty substantially in the middle. Luckily the peppermint base is so damn good.

My only gripe with this pint is the house made Oreo ganache because…I’m not sure I got any? There are some whispers of something that may have been gooey around some of the cookies, especially at the top, but that seems more like cookie blood than ganache. I was looking for something akin to Caffe Panna’s iconic Oreo brittle with a rich buttery or salty flavor, but softer and gooier, and I never found it; which is a shame because this flavor has potential to be an all timer for mint chocolate lovers.

Whether there was an accident when packing the pint or I’m not understanding what I’m seeing and tasting (although I’m pretty sure I know) I can’t deny how much I enjoy this ice cream. Two flawlessly executed components and one missing in action still has me wanting to lick the container when it’s empty —  I can’t deny its deliciousness and potential for greatness.

Rating: 7.5/10

Found at: Goldbelly ($114.99 for 6 pints)

REVIEW: Salt & Straw Bottomless Limes!

When Salt & Straw head ice cream maker Tyler Malek opens his coveted creative doors to children under the age of 13 for the Student Inventor Series he doesn’t simply request base and mix-in ideas, he asks them for a story to turn into a flavor. The stories are, as expected, pretty wild and…psychedelic; and his ability to turn those concepts into scaleable, sellable, pint-able entires into Salt & Straw’s history is nothing short of impressive. There have been times in the past where we, as the consumer, only get the story, or a portion of it, to decipher what the flavor was going to be. This year the stories are all well documented and can be read on Salt & Straw’s website, but we also have a more traditional description to help guide which to scoop and which to skip based on personal flavor preferences. 

Those descriptions are usually pretty helpful and clear, but this one left me a bit stumped going into it — and I’m glad I took the risk! Bottomless Limes is described as, “In celebration of a most mysterious holiday, we ribbon in Key Lime cheesecake with hunks of golden pie crust, crystallized with brown sugar and ginger, and shards of sprinkle-studded chocolate bark.”

This ice cream is absolutely chaotic, and I love it. It’s not chaotic in the way Chocolate Caramel Potato Chip Cupcake is, where there are tons of sweet and salty components in a sea of brown and black, it’s chaotic in the sense that it looks visually perplexing and I can’t really describe what’s going on. What flavor is the base ice cream? I couldn’t tell ya! It’s nearly impossible for me to isolate it without a sprinkle or chocolate shard popping onto the spoon, which, for someone who loves texture, isn’t a problem at all. My best guess for the base is vanilla, but it doesn’t really sing with any particularly classic floral vanilla notes, so I’ll simply scoop on and enjoy its smooth dense texture and premium mouthfeel.

The most prominent flavor that jumps out at me upon tasting, and the one I hoped would be very present, is the golden pie crust. The crust is unmistakably graham cracker, with a beautifully buttery brown sugar and molasses essence that tastes like the foundation of any perfect cheesecake. I don’t feel its gentle grittiness as much as I taste it, and I love how its presence seems to pop up in every other bite. There are occasional bigger chunks of the crust and they have a dense soft chew that’s every bit as wonderful as the real deal on a slice of NY’s finest.

Also in every other bite, or nearly every bite, are the variably sized shards of chocolate. There’s both a darker bittersweet chocolate and more traditionally sugary white, which adds a firm crunch and great sweetness to the delicious sea of controlled madness. There are also super crunchy ball-shaped Christmas-colored sprinkles which bleed into the base for more visually appealing chaos. It’s like an epic technicolored chocolate chip ice cream at its core, and it’s so fun to eat.

With a name like “Bottomless Limes!” I expected the flavor to be overly citrusy, but it isn’t, and I really appreciate the balance on display. The key lime cheesecake pops up in big bright green chunks throughout, and once the ice cream is properly tempered it has the perfect smooth and luscious cheesecake texture with bright acidity and tangy depth. There is no mistaking this dense swirl for anything other than cheesecake, and it pairs surprisingly well with the more bitter notes from the chocolate bark. One moment the pint is sweet, then tangy, then cheesy, then crunchy, then creamy — and it all works. It’s a very heavy ice cream that needs extra time to temper, but once you practice patience you will be rewarded with an amazingly decadent experience.

Once I read the story by 12-year-old Rae and learned that this flavor was inspired by a bottomless pit, this pint made a whole lotta sense. Eating it does remind me of a spiral into chaos, like endlessly falling into the abyss, but it’s a very tasty plummet with complex complimentary flavors that come together in tasty execution as brilliantly as they look.

Rating: 9.5/10

Found at: Salt & Straw ($13.00)

REVIEW: Salt & Straw The Ice Cream of Moo

It’s that time of the year again where the geniuses (psychopaths?) at Salt & Straw hand over their coveted creative duties to children, cranking out the scoops of their dreams in the Student Inventor Series. A fan favorite since 2011, the series has spawned some bonafide classics like Cinnatopia and a whole lotta absolutely crazy pints plucked straight from the curious depths of developing brains, like Lots a’ Nacho. One of the more straight forward and less-fruit-heavy creations this year is The Ice Cream of Moo, which combines silky salted chocolate ice cream with studded clusters of candied caramel cashews and hunks of maraschino cherry-laced chocolate ganache. 

The chocolate base initially took me by surprise, but I think I’ve settled into appreciating it. The texture is a bit lighter and airier than the epic density I’m used to from Salt & Straw. It isn’t actually airy like like a cheaper ice cream with high overrun, it’s definitely still super premium, just a touch more churned than I’m used to. The flavor is a relatively light and milky chocolate taste that reminds me of a Wendy’s chocolate frosty, or a malt cup without the malt, plus some delightful saltiness. The salt causes the base to temper quicker than your average S&S pint, and since it’s described as “silky” I think it definitely fits the bill. It’s a solid foundation but ultimately the least interesting part of this ice cream.

There are only two mix-ins but there’s plenty of them! The candied caramel cashews bring a different type of saltiness to the profile, with a hint of burnt sugar that has no doubt seeped into the base to cover up some of the cocoa’s typical bitterness. I love the flavor of cashews and that unique fatty earthiness comes through surprisingly well. What I’m not quite as fond of is the texture. The texture isn’t bad, but it’s more cashew than it is candied, as in, it has the softer chew of a roasted nut as opposed to the hard crunch of a praline. I still enjoy eating them but I would have loved a crunchy component to really add some chomp-y depth to the pint.

The highlight of The Ice Cream of Moo, unsurprisingly, is the cherry-laced chocolate ganache. Salt & Straw’s chocolate ganache is one of their greatest mix-ins, one of my favorite EVER, and that classic salty, super bitter, deeply rich flavor is on full display in this new cherry-ified iteration. The ganache is so dark and so intense I wonder if that’s why the base seems light, because there are lotsa cashews and lotsa lovely chunks of ganache from top to bottom. It carries a wonderful buttery chew that’s downright addictive, with little pops of fleshy acidity from the house made maraschino cherries. It’s not only a highlight but a component I could eat on its own forever and ever, and honestly worth the price of admission on its own.

While the base and cashews leave something to be desired in their execution, I can’t deny how fun this ice cream is to eat. There’s an addictive quality to it that made me down half the pint in one pretty quick sitting. It’s salty and sweet and bitter all at once, with earthy undertones and a very playful concept that’s more attuned to an adult palette. A fitting addition to the Inventors Series in its 11th year, but just shy of being one I can see being summoned back from the Vault a couple years from now.

Rating: 7.5/10

Found at: Salt & Straw ($13.00)