REVIEW: Ample Hills’ Big Ample Circus

Big Apple Circus began in New York in 1977 as an intimate European style one ring alternative to the then-popular and glitzy American three ring variety. While my personal experience with going to the circus has been limited to the mediocre Barnum & Bailey and incredible Cirque du Soleil, I am extremely happy that Big Apple is celebrating 40 years of showmanship. Anything that leads to a new limited collaboration with Ample Hills is one worthy of applause, and I have been anxiously clapping by myself in California waiting for this frozen phenom to arrive. Big Ample Circus combines sweet cream ice cream with popcorn toffee and red sugar-toasted peanuts.


Apparently being taken out to the ball game is a lot like taking a trip to the circus. This is straight up Cracker Jacks ice cream and I’m root-root-rooting for Ample Hills because they absolutely destroyed it. The major difference here is that every box of Cracker Jacks I’ve had since surpassing the age of 9 has tasted cheap and shitty, and the quality on display in this pint is the polar opposite.



The sweet cream base is absolute perfection. Plain without being boring. Sweet without being cloying. Rich without being too heavy. Everything that I want from a sweet cream is on display in full decadence here. The driving flavor is pure milky high quality dairy that serves as a wonderful canvas to the epic amount of mix-ins AH crammed into the pint. There’s a dense texture from the more heavy-handed custard style use of egg yolks, and the lavish custardy is dialed in immaculately.


The popcorn toffee weaves its way through the pint in giant chunks and is where my Cracker Jacks nostalgia switch really got activated. The toffee is essentially pieces of caramel corn stuck together in buttery bricks with a deep roasted burnt sugar flavor that is roasty, toasty, and comforting. The pieces are crunchy but not in a tooth-shattering way, and crumble with a beautiful silky butteriness that gives way to chewy popcorn. There’s a lovely hint of saltiness that pokes its way through the sweetness and a perfect top rope balancing act is in full effect.


There are so many wild looking red sugar swirls bleeding into the base from the toasted candy coated peanuts that I keep expecting to taste cherry, but the peanut blood is relatively flavorless. Even though so much of the color has swirled its way into the sweet cream, many of the peanuts still have their candy coating intact, and crunch with a satisfying sugary but roasted pop that is downright deadly. Candied nuts work incredibly well as a mix-in, bringing more fat and sugar to the already deviously delicious mixture of butter and cream. Anytime they make an appearance is a good move in my book, and this one reads like a masterpiece.


Big Ample Circus is a flavor that achieves on every level. It takes me back to a simpler time, eating Cracker Jacks and watching elephants do funny tricks in top hats, but also presents an elevated and high quality ice cream that stands strong on its own – no gimmick required. Three simple elements all executed with finesse is the ultimate recipe for success, and this is one you don’t want to miss.

Rating: 10/10
Found at:



REVIEW: Haagen-Dazs Peanut Butter Salted Fudge

Peanut butter and chocolate.  One of the greatest flavor combinations known to man and no stranger to the magical melty world of ice cream.  It’s that hard to top yin and yang of sweet and salty and creamy and fatty that ultimately just equates to yummy and delicious.  As many times as companies have put their own stamp on the classic team up, we’re seventeen years into the 21st century and STILL getting new takes.  Brand new for this year, Haagen-Dazs try another spin on the sweet treat all star with Peanut Butter Salted Fudge, which combines peanut butter ice cream with chocolate covered peanuts and a salted fudge swirl.

The peanut butter ice cream is smooth and sweet with a notable salty shine that immediately reminds me of biting into the iconic Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup.  Despite trying to emulate peanut butter, the base itself isn’t too heavy or dense and has a very nice light and creamy mouthfeel that is neither too soft or dense.


The salted fudge ribbons help aid in the execution of the light yet decadent experience in that they start with a sweet cocoa flavor and finish with a strong saltiness that lingers with a little dance on my tongue.  The ribbon is mostly integrated throughout in thin sheets which gives most bites a much more chocolate peanut butter flavor than pure peanut butter, with neither flavor becoming too dominant over the other.  There are occasional larger chunks of the salted chocolate that deliver a quick burst of sweetness before melting away and beg me to keep on digging.

As good as the other two components are, the real star of the show here is the chocolate covered peanuts.  I don’t think I’ve ever had chocolate covered peanuts in ice cream before and I’ll be damned if I don’t feel like I’ve been robbed of an incredible mix in for nearly 30 years of my life.  The peanuts have kept all the snap and crunch that makes them such an undeniable snack and work in perfect harmony with the ribbons and cream to emulate the frozen experience of eating the world’s best chocolate cup.  The flavor and texture immediately reminds me of Hershey’s Mr. Goodbar and all the elements combined taste exactly like Mr. Goodbar seduced a fine young Mrs. Reese’s and spawned the baby that is Peanut Butter Salted Fudge.


This new release from Haagen-Dazs isn’t reinventing the wheel by any means but it delivers a fantastic take on chocolate peanut butter that is a welcome addition to a freezer aisle with many variations on the classic combo.

Rating: 8/10
Found at: Safeway