Thursday, January 29, 2015

READER REVIEW: Elliot's Review of McConnell's Chocolate Covered Strawberry

With Valentine's Day fast approaching, I'm sure all of you have taken care of dinner reservations, flowers and sweet treats. If you "know someone" who hasn't, let's take a look at a V-Day classic in ice cream form : McConnell's Chocolate Covered Strawberries, y'know, "for a friend".

This pint is a flavor the new owners of McConnell's released in 2013. The chocolate covered strawberries flavor is comprised of local Santa Barbara, CA organic berries in their sweet cream base with splinters of bittersweet Guittard chocolate. It’s quite reminiscent of a chocolate-covered strawberry.

Monday, January 26, 2015

READER REVIEW: Ryan J's Review of Maple Gelato Cardamom Ginger, Chocolate Covered Strawberry, and Sea Salted Caramel Almond

A few months ago I noticed a new brand of ice cream pop up in the freezer section of my local Earth Fare. I gave it a look, and was attracted by its unique flavors but was put off by its $10-a-pint price tag. Now recently the product has been discontinued at that store and marked off half price. I figured I might as well take the chance to try them. Maple's Organics Gelato is based in Yarmouth, Maine. They offer 22 different flavors of gelato and sorbet. Of the five or six flavors available to me, I bought a pint of Cardamom-Ginger, a pint of Chocolate-Covered Strawberry, and a pint of Sea Salt Caramel-Almond.

Before going into each flavor individually, it should be mentioned that all three of these flavors had a not-so-pleasant grainy texture to them. The label suggests to wait until it is "spoon-soft" and it was. Maybe the pints could've melted and become frozen again during transport, but it rather seemed that the sugar in the gelato had not completely dissolved in the cream. I don't know if that's a characteristic they were going for, but most people I know - myself included, prefer ice cream that is creamy. Seeing that one of the ingredients in all three is "Organic Evaporated Cane Juice Crystals," it seems intentional.

Cardamom Ginger: This variety is a cardamom-flavored ice cream with pieces of candied ginger mixed in. In this gelato, I felt that the grainy texture was the least intrusive and allowed me to better appreciate this flavor. It had a nice mild spice and was not overrun by ginger pieces, yet it also did not skimp on them. It was just the right formula of flavor, aside from the grainy sugar texture.

Grade: B

Chocolate Covered Strawberry: This flavor was especially grainy. But I was so entertained by the rare and tasty flavor of a chocolate-covered strawberry ice cream that I could almost overlook that. As seen in the photos, this mascarpone-based ice cream contains bits and pieces of organic strawberries and dark chocolate. The bits were pleasant, but felt a bit lacking. This gelato could've used a slightly stronger strawberry flavor. It of course could've been smoother.

Grade: C

Sea Salt Caramel Almond: Of the three flavors, this was my least favorite. I was surprised to be disappointed by this one because caramel-incorporated desserts usually impress me. It was the first flavor I opened and the graininess I discovered was already a big drawback. The ingredients just didn't mesh well. The sea salt wasn't very noticeable. The nuts and caramel sauce were near the line of "bland." Upon tasting it, I immediately regretted spending the money and freezer space on the brand even though it was half-price on clearance. So with what was left of the scoop of gelato in my cup, I used it to sweeten my coffee. (Is that an appropriate thing to mention in a review like this?) That turned out to be an even bigger mistake as it just turned my coffee into a gross distortion with a questionable taste and a seafloor of sugar and nut pieces that rushes in a shocking surprise when forcing the last gulp of coffee down. But no, that's not relevant. I give this flavor a C-. Very disappointing, but I guess a "D" grade ice cream would mean having a terrifying experience.

Grade: C

Overall from my trial, I thought these gelatos were not bad but I was not impressed. I would probably not purchase any of them again - especially not at full price. I do greatly appreciate that this creamery uses local and organic ingredients in their products. But if your ice cream is costly to produce, you better do it right. You can't rely on the high-quality ingredients alone. This is not an ice cream worthy of a $10 price tag. The only ice cream maker I know that can get away with charging $10 a pint is Jeni Britton Bauer. And its evident, because while Maple's Organics Gelato has been discontinued from the Louisville Earth Fare, Jeni's Ice Cream still has its place next to where it was. I don't feel great about giving an unflattering review to a small business that supports organic practices. I'm just sending out a warning for some high-rollers ...or some not so high-rollers who have an obsession with ice cream... who are considering dropping $10 a pint on this gelato. Maybe it was just a bad batch or something went wrong during transit. You can't blame a reviewer for that.

Where Ryan J. Found It: Earth Fare

Friday, January 23, 2015

READER REVIEW: Steve's Review of Blue Bell Marbled Cream Cheese Brownie

Once again one of our favorite readers was able to get his hands on Blue Bell's latest release ahead of us here at The Ice Cream Informant. Lucky for us, he downed the entire half gallon in the name of science and shared his findings:

When the Ice Cream Informant recently announced the release of Blue Bell's new Marbled Cream Cheese Brownie flavor, well, I couldn't make the rounds of my local supermarkets fast enough to find a tub. After all, what's not to like about a flavor described as "a flavorful combination of milk chocolate ice cream and cream cheese ice cream loaded with tasty chocolate brownies and a chocolate sundae sauce swirl"? This sounded delicious, so I just had to try some and after a few days of looking found a tub at Walmart.

Popping off the lid, I was met with a pleasing sight: A marbled swirl of milk chocolate and white, presumably cream cheese ice cream, with a swirl of chocolate sauce mixed in. Plunging in the spoon, I remembered that Blue Bell's milk chocolate base is absolutely nothing special, rather bland and lacking in chocolaty richness. So I figured this flavor would rise or fall on the other ingredients, and that turned out to be correct. The quantity and quality of the cream cheese ice cream, chocolate sauce, and brownie mix-ins complement the milk chocolate base splendidly, adding up to an excellent ice cream flavor. The cream cheese base is perhaps the most important element. It has a mildly tangy cheese flavor that is more than welcome, and its cheesy denseness provides some much-needed heft when marbled with the milk chocolate. The two bases, provided in roughly equal quantity, have excellent synergy. The brownies are dense chocolate squares. Chewy and moist, these brownies appear in large numbers top to bottom. Most of the time a spoonful of this flavor will contain a brownie. Rounding out this flavor is the chocolate sundae swirl sauce. To my pleasant surprise, this was not a thick, viscous fudge-like sauce of the kind found in I ♥ Chocolate, rather it is a runny chocolate syrup, the same syrup that does so much good for flavors like Tin Roof and Chocolate Covered Cherries. This syrup oozes through the proceedings, adding a nice dollop of pure chocolate flavor.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

READER REVIEW: Elliot's Review of McConnell's Toasted Coconut Almond Chip

Is there something about coconut that takes us to that tropical state of mind so many of us seek in the cold winter months?

Toasted Coconut Almond Chip was one of the first flavors the new family owners developed themselves after taking the reins a few years ago (in 2012). We've witnessed evolution, not revolution at McConnell's since that time, with the new owners investing in the product, upgrading equipment; ensuring product quality and consistency.

Saturday, January 17, 2015

NEWS: Marbled Cream Cheese Brownie, Blue Bell's Latest Releases

Blue Bell recently announced that their latest release will be a brand new one. Marbled Cream Cheese Brownie combines milk chocolate ice cream and cream cheese ice cream loaded with tasty chocolate brownies and a chocolate sundae sauce swirl. This one should be sensational. Also, keep an eye out for the return of I ♥ Chocolate -- another A rated flavor from Blue Bell.

Need some ice cream suggestions? Click on what component you're craving for further assistance!

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