REVIEW: CinnaFuego Toast Crunch

CinnaFuego Toast Crunch is a limited edition niche snack release done the right way. Unlike the recent collab between Ritz and Oreo and the ongoing Ritz Bitz S’mores re-release, where packages are made available to 1,000 people or less, this spicy cereal can be found online exclusively at Walmart. Sure, you’ll have to pay shipping, but everyone has a chance to get their hands on this sweet and spicy cereal snack that was way too much fun for me to resist ordering the day it dropped.

The pieces of toast look identical to the crazy squares in Cinnamon Toast Crunch I know and love, but there is an intense spicy cinnamon aroma wafting from the bag straight into my nostrils. It smells distinctly like the type of cinnamon heat I associate with Hot Tamales, Big Red gum, Atomic Fireballs, and those delicious cinnamon bears. In fact, if you’ve had a long night out with one too many shots of Fireball whisky you may get flashbacks from sniffing these fiery squares.

The taste mirrors the smell, with a punchy spicy cinnamon flavor that fuses together pretty naturally with the buttery cinnamon base of CTC. The finish gets a bit black peppery and I can feel the heat lingering in the back of my throat. I’m impressed by the level of spice but it’s definitely still a cinnamon spice as opposed to cayenne or something with a vegetal peppery taste like habanero. Never forget the cinnamon challenge, though, if you breath in too hard while snacking on this cereal you’ll cough — I definitely did. I can see people really hating this; it’s definitely a divisive and borderline aggressive flavor, but as a certified cinnamon fiend I am vibing hard.

In milk this cereal is a little weird. I don’t hate it but I don’t really enjoy it either. Milk tends to temper heat but I’ve found the unsweetened almond milk I eat cereal with to make it less sweet and a touch more peppery without being as punchy on the cinnamon front. I’m more of a dry cereal snacker anyway so this doesn’t really bother me and I’ll happily enjoy this spicy-TC at its crunchiest.

While it’s still available I’d recommend grabbing this limited edition bag to anyone who loves sweet and spicy, or are like me and insist on ingesting all new members of the Toast Crunch family.

Rating: 8/10

Found at: walmart.com ($5.98)

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: Limited Edition Neapolitan Oreo Cookies

It has been a long time since I’ve posted about a new Oreo here. It’s also been a long time since Nabisco has released a notable Oreo to the ice cream community. I’ve eaten all of them, and written about some for The Impulsive Buy, but this rehashing of 2011’s “Triple Double Oreo Neapolitan” needed to be addressed on the skillet. Just in time for yesterday’s national ice cream day, 2022’s Limited Edition Neapolitan Oreo Cookies combine vanilla, chocolate, and strawberry flavored cremes with a waffle cone flavored cookie.

Yes, you read that right, a waffle cone flavored cookie. That is what had me frantically hunting for these the moment they dropped; absolutely teeming with excitement. A waffle cone is such a special flavor ensconced in nostalgic ice cream dates layered with deep orange sunset hues and long shadows from nearby tree branches. I love them, and I almost exclusively enjoy them at my favorite scoop shops. So did they pull it off? Yes, I think they did.

Waffle cone is a hard flavor to pin down, and when I think of what I might taste I think of it as typically going one of two ways — slightly buttery with vanilla and almond accents similar to a bigger cylindrical fortune cookie, or a little darker with notes of brown sugar and cinnamon; or a combination of the two. I’ve even had waffle cones with notes of lemon, so it’s not always a decidedly specific flavor, and as such I wasn’t sure what I was looking for when I bit in. But one thing is for sure, visually — the criss cross hatches of the waffle cone on one side of the cookie is the perfect touch. 

Nabisco went with cinnamon as its choice for waffle cone emulation and it absolutely works. It tastes a lot like a waffle cone from Cold Stone, almost spot on, with a satisfying crunch that really hits home. Had the wafer carried a vanilla flavor it would be too similar to the standard Golden, which is too sweet of a vessel for a triple stack of creme, and as much as I love it, an appropriate amount of almond would have been too subtle to make much of an impact. I’ve had issues in the last couple of years with Oreo’s wafer texture being different, not nearly as soft and crumbly, but these are hard and crunchy in a good way, with intention, and it simulates the tough crunch of a waffle cone really well without feeling stale or clunky.

The big bold crunch of the cinnamon-y shell gives way to the satisfying smooth squish of three creme’s and I swear to you I’m not THAT high on scoop shop nostalgia when I say…these actually taste like Neapolitan ice cream. The vanilla is your standard OG Oreo creme, that much like vanilla in a container if Neapolitan, is the background support for the other two. The chocolate is nice and dark with a touch of bitterness and a fudge-y quality, and the strawberry has a classic scoop shop strawberries and cream presence to it — surprisingly not overwhelmingly artificial and Nesquick-adjacent, with a touch of tart in the finish. I did my best to pick apart the flavors but that’s not what this is about, this is about the entirety of the flavors combined with the crunch and brown sugar cinnamon accents in the cookie. Some bites are more strawberry-heavy or choco-heavy, depending on the balance in the individual cookie, which makes alternating bites unique and even more fun.

Not only do the flavors work but the texture is immaculate as well, it feels delightfully like a mouthful of frosting. Sometimes when too many creme’s get stacked they can come across with a cloying density, but here the creme’s are fresh and soft with an ice cream-like creaminess that’s very sweet but appropriate. I love these cookies, and if you have a soft spot for ice cream dates and grocery store sweets you must toss these in your cart the moment you see them.

Rating: 9.5/10

Found at: Target ($3.99)

REVIEW: Caffe Panna Carrot Cake 2022

When it comes to pleasing the people, few things get the job done as swiftly and successfully as cookies and cake. Which is likely why Caffe Panna’s People Pleaser pack relied on one or the other in all six of its densely creative pints, including the aptly titled Carrot Cake 2022: spiced Golden Oreo infused ice cream with candied pecans, cream cheese frosting dollops, and chunks of Lloyd’s carrot cake.

Let’s get one thing out of the way here — you’re not going to get a whole lot of Golden Oreo nuance out of the base because this pint is absolutely LOADED. And I’m not mad! The subtly spiced base acts as a nice canvas that’s far from blank but not very busy either. I get some notes of cinnamon and a smooth creaminess when I can get enough of it on my spoon to truly get a taste. The texture is there, it’s cold and luscious, but it’s not even close to the focus of the flavor train speeding across my tastebuds.

Caffe Panna’s candied pecans are revelatory. They’re absolutely perfect, and I was so happy to have them poking out at me right underneath the superficial top layer of the pint. Candied or chocolate-coated nuts in ice cream are underrated in general, but these stand out amongst all candied nuts ever — frozen or not. They have a robust earthy pecan flavor accented by sweet burnt sugar and a massively satisfying crunch. I never want them to stop appearing as I dig. I’m not sure if they’ve been blessed with some spices or if the cinnamon is creeping in from the creamy cuddle of the base, but they pop with a little spice as well, and it’s a combination I simply can’t deny. 

The pecans play in perfect tandem with the generous chunks of New York institution Lloyd’s carrot cake, which are perfectly dense yet soft and moist. The cake is about as good as it gets when tossed into ice cream and the not-too-aggressive notes of cinnamon, nutmeg, and clove round out the summery spiced profile beautifully. Lloyd’s cake has been heralded as some of the best in the country for the last 30 years and I can see why — it tastes so classic and authentic in a simple and beautiful way. I love seeing the bright orange flecks of carrot jump out from the sea of brown and white, looking almost as satisfying as the cake tastes.

Where this pint starts to veer off the path of perfection is in the cream cheese frosting. I love frosting, I’ve eaten it straight from the jar regularly throughout my life, including last week, but the execution here is a bit much, even for me. The frosting is heavy on the sugary sweetness and light on the cream cheese tang, which I don’t mind, but the hand packed pint got too heavy handed on my dollops, which are actually much more like scoops. When I encountered my first glob of thick, slightly gritty frosting I was elated, especially in tandem with the milder, more buttery cake, but a little more than halfway into the pint I had an entire baseball-sized layer of frosting, and there isn’t much I can do with that other than let it sit in my freezer. Underneath the frosting was very little-to-no more ice cream and I was sad the journey came to an end prematurely.

While Carrot Cake 2022 may suffer a bit from the learned art of restraint, even for an edge-eating frosting freak like myself, I can’t deny this is among the best carrot cake ice creams I have ever scooped. The quality is unmatched, and it is one of the few times in my life I wanted less of a mix-in, but I’ll take that problem over getting none of what’s listed on the label any day.

Rating: 8.5/10

Found at: Goldbelly ($114.95 for 6 pints)

REVIEW: Limited Edition Goldfish Old Bay Seasoned Crackers

Last year Goldfish began its creative collaborative journey via an impressive outing with Franks RedHot, and almost exactly one year later a second seasoning-inspired Goldfish has arrived — Old Bay. I am a huge fan of seafood but don’t love Old Bay as much as a lotta fish heads do, it’s a bit too celery-forward for how I like my crab, but I am really enjoying these crackers.

I assumed, like the RedHot variety, these would be the staple orange colored cheddar flavored fish, but they’re more of a plain white cracker, perhaps the blue-bagged “original” flavor, which reminds me of an oyster cracker or saltine in the best way. My first crunchy bite definitely gives me a prominent celery salt taste that I don’t love, but it quickly fades with subsequent handfuls. The combination of the salty spice and herbs on the crackers builds up to a pretty profound savory experience that gets buttery and creamy in a way that channels oyster crackers sitting atop clam chowder. There are notes of onion, garlic, paprika, and a subtle vinegary tang in the background. They’re delicious, and the seasoning is pretty convincingly distributed across the hundreds of fishies swimming in the bag.

This is a pretty straight forward idea — take a beloved seasoning and put it on a beloved cracker — but it’s executed extremely well and is just weird enough to appeal to those who have a sickening affinity for limited edition collabs (me, and probably you). Old Bay Goldfish are addictive and endlessly snack-able, with with some perfectly simple and eye catching packaging to bring the whole concept to brilliant salty life.

Rating: 9/10

Found at: Lucky ($2.49)

REVIEW: Trader Joe’s Strawberry Lemonade Joe-Joe’s

It has been awhile since Trader Joe’s released a new flavor of Joe-Joe. There have been the seasonal staples of Candy Cane and Pumpkin, as well as 2016’s Mango variety popping back up, but when was the last time we got an entirely new flavor of Joe-Joe? I couldn’t tell ya an exact date, but I’m pretty sure this is the first one since the pandemic broke out in 2020. And if it isn’t, I have pandemic brain, which has melted away a lot of my memory — so apologies if I missed an all time Joe-Joe in the last 2.5 years. Strawberry Lemonade Joe-Joe’s combine a lemon flavored cookie with strawberry creme.

I ripped into these before realizing they were a lemon flavored cookie wafer, I was too excited to try a new and unique combination to read the box. I generally like Joe-Joe’s, but at times they can come off kind of flat, which isn’t the case here, and I’m going to place the responsibility for that on the non-plain cookie. They don’t have a particularly bold lemon flavor, no zest in sight, but they remind me instantly of the now-RIP’d Girl Scouts Lemon Sandwich Cookies, and that’s a very good thing. The cookie is soft and crumbly with a buttery undertone, which is surprising because these are vegan with no butter in the ingredients.

After the initial burst of mild lemon comes the rush of strawberry, which, thanks to actual pieces of dried strawberry in the creme, is pretty tart. I actually thought the wafers were more lemony than they were because the tart zing from the creme reminds me so much of lemon’s bright acidity, and they work really well together. The strawberry flavor is extremely natural with no artificial candy or Nesquick notes at all. While it does taste very natural, the combination of lemon and strawberry conjures up a milky spoonful of Froot Loops, but in the most clean and organic way possible.

While we may have had to wait a few too many years for them to pop up, these new Joe-Joe’s are fantastic, striking a beautiful balance between sweet and tart that will keep you gleefully snacking into the summer solstice. And yes, they are truly as refreshing as a cold glass of strawberry lemonade, and do that summery porch staple plenty of justice.

Rating: 9/10

Found at: Trader Joe’s ($3.99)

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)

REVIEW: Ben & Jerry’s Topped Dirt Cake

2022 began for Ben & Jerry’s with a follow up to last years seven pint Topped line. It took me a lot longer than anticipated to track them down, and I’ve scooped multiple flavors that came out since the new Topped pints were announced, but I’m glad to finally get a chance to dig into them, starting with ode to a favorite childhood dessert. Dirt Cake is vanilla pudding ice cream with chocolate sandwich cookies and chocolate cookie swirls, topped with milk chocolaty ganache and chocolate cookie crumble.

A lot of folks, including my girlfriend, seem to have a fetish for cookies and cream ice cream. While I’m not one of them, I definitely appreciate a solid take on cookies and cream and always thought it odd that B&J didn’t have a straight forward take on the scoop shop classic in their lineup. They have Milk & Cookies, which is a fun elevated take on the profile, as well as Mint Chocolate Cookie for all the peppermint people (me), but nothing more standard for the more basic scoopers. C&C enthusiasts can rejoice, because this is a wonderful and ever-so-slightly different rendition on an iconic flavor, sprinkled with a bit of nostalgia.

The vanilla pudding base isn’t distinctly pudding-y, which is largely a textural difference that can’t necessarily translate into something frozen like ice cream, but it is different than the normal B&J vanilla. It might be a touch more sweet? Very similar to how the pudding ice cream swirl works against the darker base in Chocolate Therapy, there’s just a little something different than your typical floral vanilla. Whatever the small tweaks to the flavoring the gurus did, it works, and I really enjoy it as a backdrop to all the chocolate mix-ins.

Speaking of the mix-ins, there’s tons of them and they’re awesome. The pieces of chocolate sandwich cookies are of admirable size with a nice very gentle crunch that leads to a squish. The bittersweet flavor of the cookie wafers works splendidly with the vanilla pudding, and the swirl blends into the base and chunks, tying everything together so that every bite has the essence of cookies and cream. Especially with the additional cookie crumbs on the top of the pint, it’s impossible to not feel like you’re diving face first into a frozen sea of creamy Oreos.

And that milk chocolate ganache on top? Perfect. The milk chocolate has a distinctly sweeter and creamier flavor than the cookies with an epic thickness that takes everything to the next level. Softer than chunks of chocolate but firmer than fudge, I like to preserve the topping to spread throughout my bites to make every 3 or so spoonfuls particularly decadent and exciting. 

In my heart of hearts a true dirt cake flavor would have some gummy worms, but as someone who loves that combo and continues to go back to it despite the fact that I might lose a tooth, I totally understand why B&J chose to omit them. Whether you’re a cookies and cream fanboy or just someone who appreciates a well-executed and classically decadent pint this is absolutely one you shouldn’t miss.

Rating: 8.5/10

Found at: Safeway ($4.99)