REVIEW: Caffe Panna Cocoa Snick

Chocolate and snickerdoodle? It definitely sounds festive, but does it work? Caffe Panna’s Winter Pack is full of nostalgia-laden crowd pleasing flavor profiles that are so classic they simply make sense; and others that push the boundaries of merry coexistence, including this one. Cocoa Snick is panna and dark cocoa ice cream swirled with marshmallow and studded with snickerdoodle cookie dough.

So, does it work? Sort of. Let me start with the highlight — the marshmallow swirl. This very well may be the greatest marshmallow swirl I’ve ever graced my tastebuds with. It is deliciously sticky sweet without being cloying, and has an aggressive yet perfectly fitting vanilla flavor that hits incredibly hard. It finishes with something akin to a sugary honey taste, and thanks to the immaculate quality control I get to relive that beautiful sweet stickiness over and over again. 

For the other two components there’s good news and bad news. The good news is the dark cocoa and doodle elements don’t clash, but the bad news is that’s because the base is pretty light in cocoa. It has a beautiful velvety Panna texture with ample sweet dairy notes but the “dark” component is severely lacking. For how sweet and abundant the marshmallow is I really wanted a hefty dose of bitterness in the base to compliment it, and it just isn’t there. Conceptually I can see how Caffe Panna went for a hot cocoa type of experience, and from that angle it’s fairly accurate, but off balance. It’s not bad by any means, just not strong enough to stand up to the greatest ‘mallow of all time.

The snickerdoodle cookie dough is also not quite what I anticipated. I love snickerdoodle’s, more specifically if you’ve read this blog for the last six years you know I love cinnamon, and I don’t get much cinnamon from these hefty chunks of dough. There’s a little bit of cinnamon there, but oddly enough what I taste more than anything is nutmeg, specifically a kind of eggy nutmeg note in the finish very similar to egg nog. Which isn’t a bad flavor per say, but it’s very odd in this context, especially with how intensely sweet it is as well. The dough has great cookie dough texture — nice and soft but firm with a grittiness throughout that channels raw dough’s sugar crystal crunch wonderfully. 

I guess there’s a reason I’ve never paired a marshmallow-heavy cup of hot chocolate with a plate of snickerdoodle’s for Santa; he likes milk and I like coffee. In Cocoa Snick there’s tons of dough and tons of marshmallow and tons of potential, but ultimately this pint lacks the balance of bitterness or a robust cinnamon punch to make it one that will be on my Christmas list next year.

Rating: 6.5/10

Found at: Goldbelly ($114.95 for 6 pints)


REVIEW: Salt & Straw’s Meyer Lemon Meringue Pie

March is a wonderful time of the year. Temperatures start heating up, basketball is in full swing, the flowers begin blooming their little buds, and more importantly, Salt & Straw bring back their fan voted favorites. My very first formal Salt & Straw review was the astounding Chocolate Caramel Potato Chip Cupcake which was voted in last year and is back again this year for good reason – it’s incredible. The 2018 voting season also brought back the whimsical Pots of Gold and Rainbows, and a flavor that hasn’t seen the light of day since 2015 – Meyer Lemon Meringue Pie. This citrusy scoop combines a Nilla Wafer ice cream with housemade lemon curd and silky marshmallow fluff.


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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.


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.



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.



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.


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)


REVIEW: Salt & Straw’s California Honey Rocky Road

The Bay Area is a wonderfully creative place. Our year round agreeable weather, crazy good food scene, and tech giants’ home bases have yielded tons of great innovation, but the inspiration has been alive for decades. Not just the now-mainstream mission style super burrito, or the the major metal influence of Metallica, or the game-changing person-to-person swapping of Craigslist, but something much more classic, and even nostalgic, has its roots in the bay – rocky road ice cream. Lore has it that in 1929 William Dreyer took his wife’s scissors and cut up walnuts and marshmallows to add to his chocolate ice cream on the regular in Oakland, California, mirroring a favorite candy bar made by his partner, Joseph Edy (recognize those names?) After the Wall Street Crash of 1929, the ice cream creating duo swapped out walnuts for almonds and gave the flavor a name to would encourage people to smile in the midst of the Depression. 

Accidentally paying homage to its Bay Area roots, Salt & Straw’s California Honey Rocky Road combines chocolate cream cheese ice cream with candied California almonds and a ribbon of honey marshmallow fluff.

The chocolate cream cheese ice cream is delicious but a little bit different than I anticipated. It’s incredibly smooth, rich, and velvety with the succulent texture of cream cheese but none of the tang. This isn’t an issue, just a bit of a surprise, as I would have welcomed a little bit of funk into the well-established profile of rocky road. The chocolate notes are light and on the milk side of the cocoa-equation, channeling old school scoop shops and little league malt cups eaten with a wooden spoon. It’s classic and very well executed, albeit a bit mild for my personal taste; and despite the cream cheese curveball in the description, shouldn’t push anyone away with unadventurous tastebuds.



Candied nuts are one of my absolute favorite mix-ins, and this flavor highlights every reason why I love them. The almonds are crunchy, sweet, fatty, and bursting with roasted almond flavor. They pop up in varying sizes, from small pieces of a nut to massive soundeffect-inducing boulders. The candied technique used on the almonds is light and almost crisp, much less like brittle and much more like honeycomb or crisped rice, and it’s a refreshing textural treat.


The real showstopper in this pint, and one that Salt & Straw is no stranger to using in other great flavors, is the honey marshmallow fluff. I want to go on record and say ALL marshmallow fluff should be made with honey. It takes absolutely nothing away from the gooey, stretchy-sweet qualities of the marshmallow and boosts it up with amazing golden honey goodness. There’s simply nothing lost and everything gained by fusing the two elements together. The swirl is incredibly ample and well-placed throughout the container, often setting up in massive globs big enough to get an entire spoonful, which is a must, and is indulgent deliciousness at its finest.



Rocky road is not one of my go-to staple ice cream flavors, but this is the best rocky road I’ve ever had. It’s elevated enough to standout against the many others I’ve had while not steering too far away from the core of what makes this flavor what it is. With a darker, more complex chocolate base this could be a pint I have to stock up on for the winter, but as it stands it’s just a damn good twist on a classic, and an absolute must try if you’re a rocky road enthusiast.

Rating: 9/10
Found at: Salt & Straw (San Francisco, CA)

REVIEW: Salt & Straw’s Breakside Brewery’s Spent Grains & Bacon S’mores

No stranger to being the cool kids in the ice cream class, Salt & Straw are kicking off the summer season with an entire line of gourmet flavors using recycled and rescued ingredients.  No, they didn’t dig through the garbage to make a creamy casserole of mismatched scraps, but rather, sought out byproducts of food processes, fruit too bruised to sell at full price, or bread that is too stale to stay on shelves and flipped them into inventive flavors of melty indulgence.  As a country that wastes 40% of our food, this is a great thing to do for the United States, and owners Kim and Tyler Malek estimate this limited line alone will save around 2,000 pounds of food waste.  For Breakside Brewery’s Spent Grains & Bacon S’mores, S&S utilized the flavor of leftover grains and malts from brewing beer and combined them with chocolate chunks and a bacon marshmallow fluff swirl.

Anytime that I see bacon as a component used in a sweet or non-traditional way I get skeptical that it is there purely for gimmick because of the “everything is better with bacon” hype, but with this flavor that couldn’t be farther from the truth.  The marshmallow swirl is composed of 70% or so pure fluffy sweet marshmallow fluff, with an incredible balance of bounce and sugar that is everything a marshmallow should be – it’s perfect.  Dispersed sporadically throughout the ‘mallow are chunks of bacon that cut through the sweetness with a touch of salt and a wonderfully pronounced smokiness that evokes the flavors of a campfire.  The bacon is used not only to add an interesting tasting component, but to elevate the entire s’mores experience to a new, truer level than I’ve had in ice cream and it is fantastic.


The chocolate, unsurprisingly because it’s Salt & Straw, is incredibly dark and bitter with a big, bold cocoa flavor and an interesting gritty texture.  It tastes very high quality and feels like some of the spent grains were used in the pieces, as there’s a chunky density to the chocolate instead of the typical smooth and clean texture that usually coincides with chips/chunks.

Rounding the entire s’mores experience out is the actual ice cream itself, which is a slightly gritty yet still silky smooth graham cracker base with light honey notes and hints of earthiness.  The texture feels like a bunch of crackers were ground up and soaked in cream and then churned without any kind of aggressive straining to filter out the bits.  The base is also where the recycled component comes into play, mixing the roasted spent grains from Breakside Brewery in conjunction with the graham to create a deep slightly smoky presence, and there are no odd flavors that seem out of place or boozy for a s’mores ice cream; everything works incredibly well.

The only element missing from an ideal s’mores experience is gooey melted chocolate, but all the flavors are represented and the execution of the recycled theme is spot on.  A wonderful start to the June line, this one is a must try for people who love marshmallow, s’mores, or bacon used in brilliant new ways.

Rating: 9/10
Found at: or in scoops shops in Portland, OR


REVIEW: Little G’s Fluffer Cookie

A fluffernutter sandwich combines two of the world’s best lip-smacking creamy stick-to-the-roof-of-your-mouth ingredients that you can dig up in your grandma’s pantry – peanut butter and marshmallow fluff.  While I was always more of a traditional peanut butter and jelly kind of kid growing up and am now very much in the peanut butter and banana camp, I will never shy away from peanut butter plus anything, and I mean that quite literally.  My girlfriend recently challenged me to try peanut butter with mustard, and I did it, and guess what?  I liked it!  For the limited spring fling run of pints Little G put their own spin on the fluffernutter universe, but luckily for us all, did not include mustard.  Fluffer Cookie combines peanut butter ice cream with a marshmallow swirl and chocolate sandwich cookies.

I’m going to guess that the peanut butter ice cream itself is up to the usual Little G standards, but as is the case with some of their flavors, this one is so mix-in dense I can’t even really tell.  The peanut butter definitely takes a backseat, not only in texture but in flavor, to the insane amount of Oreo cookies smashed into the base.  What is really beautiful though, is the way the cookies have softened and taken on a dunked-in-milk kind of texture, that while it’s different than your usual melty creamy ice cream, it’s still insanely delicious and fun to eat.  Make no mistake, these aren’t just wafer cookies, these are entire Oreo’s, and the ample amount of creme filling is also present, fusing with the base and the softened wafers to create a decadent, almost cake-like experience that is delicious and downright intense.


The slightest hint of peanut flavor peeks its head through the onslaught of aggressive sweetness and cocoa creme, but most people probably wouldn’t be able to pinpoint the PB versus vanilla or sweet cream.  Composition-wise this pint is very similar to the core lineups’ Chocolate Milk & Cookies, with a bigger emphasis on the creme flavor than the chocolate because of the base switch up.

The marshmallow swirl is thick and also very intense, with a dense yet fluffy texture that is pretty much as good as it gets when it comes to an authentic and delicious marshmallow presence.  Once again Little G is up there with Salt & Straw for taking the swirl game to another level, and this one, while it tastes predominantly sweet, does have a touch of roasted flavor to it that gives it an added layer of complexity and aids in bringing out a hint more roasted peanut flavor as well.

Through and through this pint tastes like eating an ice cream-ified version of an Oreo.  The fusion of the marshmallow swirl with the cookies’ creme emulates the iconic filling, and the plethora of cocoa wafers in every bite makes the Oreo vibes absolutely inescapable.  For my personal tastes, and to be true to the tradition of the fluffernutter tag, I want a bit more peanut butter, more salty contrast, and some relief from the intensity of the sugar, but this is one of those flavors that will leave you thinking about it when your bowl is empty, and becomes dangerously addictive.

Rating: 9/10
Found at: (use code seanpancake0 for $25 off of your first order!)


REVIEW: Hostess Limited Edition Sno Balls Ice Cream

I’ve always loved Sno Balls.  Starting at a very young age I held it down for team coconut, and those squishy mounds of jiggly marshmallow and cream-filled chocolate cake always got my chubby heart fluttering with joy.  Hell, I even like those red raspberry coconut Zingers that everyone else on earth seems to hate.  Needless to say, if there’s anything that could make Sno Balls better (aside from seasonal coloring, of course), it would be returning them to the icy tundra from which they came and immersing them in a vat of frozen creamy dairy.  Hostess and Nestle have once again combined forces to make all of our dreams come true with Sno Balls ice cream, which combines a marshmallow flavored ice cream with chocolate cake pieces and a whipped coconut swirl.  Are you dead yet?  Let’s eat.

The ice cream is smooth and fluffy with a wonderfully decadent and addictive marshmallow texture that more closely mimics the ‘mallow than anything I’ve had not straight out of a Jet Puffed package.  There’s that undercurrent of sweet round vanilla that every so often crosses paths with a slightly gritty pink coconut swirl that is spot on the outside of Sno Balls.  It reminds me so much of eating the Hostess classic that I can almost feel the distinct squish of biting into one right out of the shiny cellophane.  Even though there isn’t tons of the swirl, I like how much they put in there because the coconut intensity weaves in and out of bites without becoming too dominant or taking over the entire profile.

The cake pieces are dark with a brownie-like density and a distinctly deep cocoa flavor that stands out strong against the mellow marshmallow backdrop.  It’s not the highest quality mix in, but once again it stays true to the feeling and flavor of the treat that it aims to emulate.  Much like the Twinkies ice cream, the pieces are on the smaller side but there’s enough sprinkled throughout that chocolate keeps a constant presence and contributes greatly to the overall flavor.


This ice cream does a tremendous job of putting a cold and melty twist on eating Sno Balls.  The marriage of marshmallow, coconut, and chocolate cake works really well as an ice cream that transcends the novelty appeal into something that is legitimately enjoyable and wouldn’t seem out of place at all in a higher end scoop shop.  The airier, lower milk fat type of base that Dreyers uses works much better than a denser more premium ice cream for bringing home that true marshmallow texture that the Sno Balls experience needs.  Eat this and be happy.

Rating: 8.5/10