Monday, January 12, 2015

READER REVIEW: Elliot's Review of McConnell's Dutch Chocolate

What kind of ice cream would you like? When's the last time you answered, "Chocolate!"?

The state of the union in ice cream is such that everywhere you look, you are bombarded with off the wall flavor combinations, mix-ins and packaging. The idea of a straightforward, rich, elegant, balanced base is one that appeals to all of us, but is practically something many of us have lost touch with. Brand names are bought and sold by big conglomerates, becoming meaningless representations of what they once were. Misdirection is easier than producing great ice cream. The extent to which companies can divert attention from a mediocre base allows them to divert those dollars into their marketing and packaging budget. It's easier to tell people a product is great than it is to make great ice cream, and tempting to invest in marketing rather than production. Look at how many companies contract others to make (aka co-pack) some or all of their ice cream for them, like Cool Haus, Graeter's and many others.

We know there must be a chocolate ice cream out there that is the total package. I mean, there's a purveyor producing a product great enough to completely satisfy, stand alone and remind us that we don't need Ritz crackers, pretzel swirls, or peanut butter ribbons to enjoy a scoop of ice cream, right? The problem for many consumers is that they just don't know where to look to find the platonic ideal of such a scoop.

Scooping this "medium" (approx. 66-72% Valrhona & Guittard) chocolate by McConnell's got me thinking about the idea that the addition of aggressive flavors and mix ins isn't enhancing the experience, rather it is a diversion to mask an unexceptional, unbalanced base that no one would want on it's own. Chocolate flavors themselves seem to be a game of cram as much cocoa powder as possible into a base as possible to increase flavor intensity. This results in a sandy, grainy texture as it melts on your tongue. Dutchman's Chocolate is produced differently, incorporating the use of an expensive piece of equipment called a shear blender, one that most ice cream companies do not employ. This allows the cocoa to become emulsified into the mix, and when it melts on your tongue it is like a chocolate cream, well blended and not at all gritty.

This excellent, straightforward chocolate ice cream bucks the trend, highlighting the 18.5% butterfat <10% overrun base. This is the one - if you're ready to rediscover what it's like to be completely satisfied by chocolate ice cream, pick up a pint of this flavor.

Where Elliot Found It: Straub's Market
Elliot's Grade: A


  1. Great review, Elliot! McConnell's is truly a phenomenal ice cream, this chocolate is impossible to stop eating once you open the pint. Even more amazing is the simple ingredient list, it doesn't need any additives to be the very best as is. McConnell's is now in hundreds of supermarkets in California, but despite the recent growth they have not compromised one bit. At $7.50-$8.50/pint it is pricey but so very worth it! Still much more affordable than Jeni's, and every bit as good if not better than Jeni's for equivalent flavors. Let's hope McConnell's never sells out like you correctly identified Graeter's recent switch from hand-packed pints to a contract packager.

    Please go to your Nov 4, 2014 Review of Graeter's Mocha Chocolate Chip and check out my Jan 3, 2015 response to Richard Graeter's claim that they have not sold out-- you will see I have presented the facts as printed on Graeter's new logo pints. Please contact Richard to make him aware of this, and perhaps Graeter's will want to restore their former spot next to McConnells as authentic French Pot, super-low-air ultra premium ice cream. Otherwise, they need to delete "French Pot Process" from all of their advertising and packaging immediately to reflect their new mass-production, higher-overrun process.

  2. Jeff, thanks very much.

    The direct question posed to RG about co-packing was never answered. Take from that what you will.

    "French Pot" is marketing speak for vertical batch freezer. McConnell's has their own modified version dating back to the company's roots in the late 1940s. It is a modified commercial dough mixer they call a Hybrid French Pot.

    I care about the quality of the end product, and trust actions over words. I see the path Graeter's has chosen, and while I am disappointed by it, I am most interested in scooping objectively superior ultra premium ice cream. Since I have a choice, why would I bother with anything less than the best?

    McConnell's is my favorite hands down. By a mile. My love for them is conditional - I love their best of breed product. Great people there, but my allegiance is built on their consistently excellent and superior product. They spend their time focusing on what goes into their containers rather than talking down others, marketing or strong-arming distributors as so many others do.


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