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: Haagen-Dazs Chocolate Peanut Butter Pretzel

Haagen-Dazs recently released a new City Sweets collection, comprised of both bars and “pints” (14 ounce containers instead of what should be 16, but they’ve been doing this since 2009 so it’s no new controversy). The new ice creams go for a straight forward dessert-centric and “indulgent” profile, paying homage to black and white cookies, cake pops, and one that called my name immediately: Chocolate Peanut Butter Pretzel — chocolate ice cream with creamy peanut butter swirls and lightly salted pretzel pieces.

This “pint” is…confusing. Chocolate Peanut Butter is one of the stand out staples from HD, so adding the hit-or-miss pretzels should make its success dependent on the mix-in, but this is not the HD chocolate I thought I knew. Simply put, this ice cream tempers like shit. 

As you can see in the pictures it stayed really firm and hard to scoop after over 10 minutes on the counter, nearly 15. To peel behind the curtain: when I review a pint I’ll usually let it soften for 5-10 minutes, do some scooping and picture taking, then let it sit in the bowl for another 5 or so before it’s at its perfect temperature. This ice cream simply never let up, I couldn’t get a decent spoon shot and it was frustrating; but eventually I figured it out — peanut butter overload! 

There is so much peanut butter mixed throughout that it never found its smooth and creamy sweet spot. If that was the only issue I would have been fine with it, but the base doesn’t taste right either. It’s extremely light. The chocolate flavor is mild and boring and lacking any kind of character that can stand up to the salty magnificence of PB and pretzels. A lot of my fellow reviewers complain about B&J’s chocolate (I actually like it!) but THIS is a true mediocre chocolate, especially coming from a company known for having some of the best base quality in the grocery store.

That being said — the mix-in game here is stronger than anticipated. As mentioned earlier, tons of peanut butter, maybe to the detriment of the pint as a whole, and also lot’s of pretzels. The pretzels have an admirable success rate of crunchiness too, probably 80%, which I’ve learned over the years is on the higher end of realistic. This flavor feels like HD tried to take more of a B&J approach and hit on the mix-ins but missed on the foundation that makes their company great — the quality of the ice cream.

Rating: 5.5/10

Found at: Safeway ($3.99)

REVIEW: Bad Walter’s Dream Team

Chocolate and peanut butter: a love story as old as time, and a combination I am ALWAYS down to smash. The February flavor of the month from Bad Walter’s Bootleg Ice Cream utilizes this iconic pairing and boosts it with a little twist. Dream Team is dark chocolate custard with butter crunch toffee and peanut butter swirls. 

I don’t usually do this but I want to start with the bad. It’s really not that bad, don’t worry, but my only negative about the pint. Despite the alluring streaks on the outside and the big glob on top there wasn’t as much peanut butter as I had hoped! There was some there, for sure, but after that strong opening slather I didn’t get anymore significant PB until I reached the very bottom, more than 3/4 of the way down. I’m guessing this means the swirls sunk, possibly from not freezing fast enough, and I missed a pivotal part of the dream team for a lot of this scooping experience. That being said, when I got the PB it was creamy, salty and fatty in the best way.

The dark chocolate custard is dark and divine. It has properly deep bitter notes while still being sweet enough to eat like a dessert. It tempers differently than the Bad Walters I’ve had in the past, much slower and not quite as decadent and creamy for a custard.  It reminds me more of a gelato with a bit less luscious mouthfeel and more flavorful purity. Although it’s not exactly what I expected, I don’t mind it, probably a result of the heavy handed cocoa powder, as the dark chocolate flavor REALLY comes through. It just needs an extra five minutes (about 15 total) to get to the level of creamy I’m looking for, and I’m always willing to wait longer to get my precious pints where they need to be.

The shining star of this pint is the toffee. Man oh man the butter crunch toffee is flawless. It’s cut into the most perfect size — big enough to bring crunch but small enough that it doesn’t get too hard — and delivers everything I want from a mix-in. It’s buttery and sweet with a chomp that leads to a caramelized crumble with a hint of salt that I wish never ended. Sometimes toffee in ice cream can threaten the integrity of our teeth, not here, it only threatens my sanity now that it’s gone!

Rating: 8/10

Found at: Bad Walter’s ($13.50)

REVIEW: Salt & Straw Beet Red Velvet Cheesecake (V)

It’s August, which means in Salt & Straw land it’s time to put some veggies into ice cream. The idea may seem a little strange at first but last year’s Carrot Cake Batter & Hazelnut Praline was hands down one of my favorites of the year, and the Chocolate Zucchini Bread was no slouch either. Vegetables can be pretty incredible for a vessel of sweetness when paired up properly, whether for texture, flavor, or in this case, even just color. Beet Red Velvet Cake is a chocolate and beet coconut ice cream with chunks of homemade super dark gluten free chocolate cake and ribbons of vegan vanilla cheesecake.

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REVIEW: Little Debbie S’mores Cake Rolls

It’s the last week of July, which in commercial snack land means Halloween is right around the corner. Yes, even though in California, and especially in the Bay, we have yet to hit our temperature max, I know in my spooky spicy cinnamon-pumping heart that once that second week of August rolls around there will be pumpkins EVERYWHERE. So before I start spiraling into the autumnal abyss, it seems fitting to cap things off with one last summery s’mores treat, especially since I’m a pretty big cheerleader for Little Debbie’s Pumpkin Spice Rolls. Little Debbie’s S’mores Cake Rolls combine a graham cake with crème filling and a chocolate drizzle.

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REVIEW: Limited Edition Good Humor Strawberry Shortcake Oreo

The music begins at a clear soft distance, your ears perk up and you stop whatever you’re doing. Once settled into your surroundings and putting the Gameboy down you can truly determine whether or not it is in fact the song or not. Yes, yes it is. My ears are hanging low. You tap your pockets. No money. You look around the room. Cushions. Crumpled pairs of pants. Stranded wallets. How can you make this happen. The adrenaline begins to rush as you see an abandoned dollar bill and some quarters laying on the kitchen counter. No need to blow your lungs yelling for mom. Money in hand you bust ass sliding on flip flops and bolting out the door before anyone can stop you. Chasing the ice cream man. A true right of passage for children across the world.

As a kid who spent five years in Nebraska in 109 degree humid as all hell summers I earned that cheap ice cream treat, and now, in 2018 I can get that fix without breaking a sweat or even opening the freezer with Good Humor Strawberry Shortcake Oreo’s.

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REVIEW: Little Debbie Turtle Brownies

Sometimes even the trashiest of folks have to don their finest for a special outing, and that day has come for junk food Queen Little Debbie. Popping off the shelf in a notably thicker and shinier box garnished with the title “Specialty Recipe” tag, there’s a new batch of cellophane treats aimed to set the bar even higher for quick fix cakes. Little Debbie’s Turtle Brownies combine a pan-baked cake brownie topped with salty-smooth, golden brown caramel, crunchy roasted peanuts and a drizzle of fudge coating.

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REVIEW: Tillamook’s Special Batch Frosted Carrot Cake

Spring hath sprung, which, aside from the sunshine and flowers and strawberry all-in-my-everything, mostly means boy oh boy do I miss my cinnamon. In the seasonal snack universe April and May means the scent of cinnamon in the air is only a mere two or three months away, but any way that I can get my fix in the meantime is a spicy blessing for me. While it wasn’t originally released this year, I finally found a very tantalizing special batch ice cream from Tillamook to tease my spicy intrigue. Frosted Carrot Cake combines a carrot cake ice cream with layers of cream cheese frosting and walnuts.

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REVIEW: The Original Cannoli Chips (Powdered Sugar, Lemon, Cinnamon & Sugar, Cookies & Cream)

The Original Cannoli Chips are a product of Golden Cannoli, a Boston-based company founded in the 1970s specializing in cannoli shells and filling. While they got their start slangin’ high quality cannoli components to bakeries in the greater Boston area, they accidentally stumbled upon magic when sampling their shells at a trade show. The reception to the broken pieces of fried dough was so great that they ran out faster than they could distribute them, and as such, the cannoli chip was born.

Potential spoiler alert: I’m a fan of Cannoli Chips. I first got wind of them when they got distribution at Walmart in 2016, and when I was finally able to get my hands on them I was surprisingly amazed. I never posted about them here, but tried a couple of flavors and confessed my love via Instagram. With the launch of their new Lemon flavor the company reached out to me about sending some samples so I thought it was appropriate to give them a proper feature on the skillet. Ladies and gentlemen – The Original Cannoli Chip.

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REVIEW: Cola Pringles (South Korea)

I’ve had a lot of Pringles in my life. Growing up it was all about the Ranch and BBQ flavors, and as I got older the light blue allure of Salt & Vinegar became my go-to stacking chip. I’ve also had a lot of weird Pringles flavors. Kickin’ Chicken Taco, Cheeseburger, White Chocolate Peppermint, and one of the most successful Pringles of all time – Ketchup. But those are all relatively safe offerings available stateside, and it’s in other parts of the world that things get pretty odd. Thank goodness for the internet and eBay, because via the magic of technology I was able to get one of the latest Pringles experiments from South Korea – Cola.

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