REVIEW: Salt & Straw’s 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: Salt & Straw’s Dandelion Chocolate Hazelnut Cookies and Cream

Salt & Straw are a pretty amazing company. If you weren’t aware, every time they open in a new city that city gets a menu that includes some S&S classics as well as some city-specific exclusives that you can’t get anywhere else. When they expanded to San Francisco last year they made some amazing flavors, including Roasted Strawberry Tres Leches and Salted Honey Marshmallows & Walnuts (RIP), but sometimes even great new things need to be revised. To kick off National Ice Cream Month, Salt & Straw added a handful of new SF-only flavors to their menu, including the tantalizing-sounding vegan friendly Dandelion Chocolate Hazelnut Cookies and Cream – a dark chocolate ice cream made with coconut and hazelnut milk with stacciatella ribbons of Dandelion chocolate and chunks of homemade gluten free vegan oreos.

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REVIEW: Ben & Jerry’s Non-Dairy Frozen Dessert (P.B. & Cookies, Coffee Caramel Fudge, Caramel Almond Brittle)

I’ll be honest – non-dairy ice cream really isn’t a priority for me. I have nothing against it, but the higher price tag and generally less delicious outcome isn’t something that I feel the need to seek out and spend my hard earned money on. The only Ben & Jerry’s dairy free flavor I really gave a shot prior to 2018 was the vegan exclusive Seven Layer Bar, but for some unknown reason the availability and price of B&J’s almond milk-based pints have become much more reasonable this year and I now feel compelled to give them their due. While vegan-ified versions of staple but subpar flavors like Cherry Garcia and Chunky Monkey don’t get me too pumped, these three pints that don’t exist with cows milk have me kinda stoked. Let’s spoon.

P.B. & Cookies

Vanilla with chocolate sandwich cookies & crunchy peanut butter swirls

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REVIEW: Ben & Jerry’s Non-Dairy Seven Layer Bar

Seven layer bars, or, onslaught sugar injections, as I like to call them, are composed of three main flavors – chocolate, butterscotch, and coconut. Yes, there is the graham cracker crust and some nuts, and there could be a remix edition involving peanut butter, but when I think about biting into a seven layer bar I am immediately given the teeth tingling sensation of butterscotch and chocolate assaulting my tastebuds with an underlining kiss of tropical coco flair. Since I have heard nothing but good things about the scoop shop exclusive Ben & Jerry’s Seven Layer Bar, I had to give their new pint-available non-dairy version a shot, which combines a coconut ice cream made with almond milk, chocolate chunks, walnuts, caramel, and graham cracker for a vegan treat that will hopefully make my teeth hurt.

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Getting my first taste of this almond-driven base is different but not necessarily bad. There’s a strange salty undercurrent and texture that immediately reminds me of almond milk the way it slightly coats my tongue with a taste that gives me childhood flashbacks of the smell of Play-Dough. The first glaring issue I have isn’t with what is there as much as what isn’t – which is coconut. On the first bite there is a subtle coconut flavor that quickly fades after your second or third spoonful, and that’s it.  No coconut flakes or chunks or lasting coconut presence. For a flavor with coconut in its name this seems kind of odd and a massive missed opportunity for Ben & Jerry’s to use almond milk to make the base, considering coconut milk and cream make fantastic non-dairy ice cream and would have been much better than almond. Confusing.

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Luckily the supporting cast of mix ins is pretty solid and helps awaken a fairly dull base into an experience that’s still enjoyable. The biggest boldest surprise flavor off the jump is the walnuts, which is the element I was least excited for. They have stayed extremely firm and crunchy and pop with big robust nutty flavor in a way that I haven’t had in ice cream before. I’m not sure if it’s the freshness of the pint or the non-dairy base but I have never experienced walnuts be this impactful in ice cream.

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The chocolate chunks are also really successful, and I like them more both in size and flavor than the way B&J have been using the fudge flakes in all of their new pints (or classics like Cherry Garcia). They’re smaller and slightly darker which gives them a less sweet presence that doesn’t wash out all of the other components on my spoon. The size of all the various pieces is just right where you can get a chunk of chocolate and walnut in one bite with enough creamy stuff to make it all work harmoniously.

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The two things I was looking most forward to – the vegan caramel and graham crackers – were a bit less abundant and took some digging. The caramel swirl is more prominent and definitely tastes different than your regular butter-made variety, with a slightly thicker consistency that reminds me of a Milky Way but much less sweet. I’m missing the use of butterscotch here but if there’s going to be any substitute for the ‘scotch a good caramel makes sense. The graham cracker pieces are great and pop with a saltiness and grit that differentiate themselves against all the other elements, I just wish there were more. I love the golden flavor of graham crackers in ice cream and had there been bigger pieces or a greater amount that flavor could have really shone through.  Overall it’s a good ice cream, especially for being non-dairy, but with a couple of tweaks it could have been great.
Rating: 7.5/10
Found at: Safeway

Quick Nutrition per 1/2 cup: 320 cals – 18g fat – 9g sat fat – 100mg sodium – 37g carbs – 2g fiber – 28g sugar – 2g protein