When I’m hankering for gelato, I generally grab either a pint of Talenti or Graeter’s. On a recent jaunt to Kroger, I spotted a new brand and flavor that piqued my interest: Gelato Fiasco’s Maine Wild Blueberry Crisp. At $7.49 for a pint—that’s nearly twice as expensive as a pint of Talenti—I had lofty expectations.
Not only was it not worth $7.49, but you couldn’t pay me to eat this one again. Let’s start with the vanilla gelato base. This has to be the most insipid vanilla flavor I’ve had the misfortune of trying. One could likely amble through the ice cream aisle blindfolded and pick out a generic brand of vanilla that’s more palatable. It didn’t get any better with the blueberry components; I can’t think of any other way to describe it other than to say it was slimy. And finally we get to the oat streusel. Rather than boasting the crisp texture one finds in a well-made crumble, it instead mirrored the texture of uncooked oatmeal. After only a few bites, I tossed it.
Pr(Buy Again): 0
There are certain junk foods for which shrines ought to be built. On the savory side, there’s Panda Express’s orange chicken, McDonald’s french fries and In-N-Out’s double double. On the sweet side, there’s Krispy Kreme’s original glazed donut and Cinnabons. Add to that list Ben & Jerry’s Peanut Butter Cup.
I’ve probably enjoyed this flavor a half-dozen times; what keeps it out of my regular rotation is the hefty 1,480 calorie dent it levies. The peanut butter base is easily my favorite in the Ben & Jerry’s lineup. Ultimately, though, it’s the surfeit of halved peanut butter cups that make this an irresistible pint.
Pr(Buy Again): 1
Having taught American Politics for two years, I’ve been known to make liberal use of Colbert Report clips. No late-night host better understood our political institutions and could deliver more thoughtful critiques of them (e.g. his multi-year effort to lampoon campaign finance laws).
So when Monsieur Colbert partnered with Ben & Jerry’s, I was expecting something out of the ordinary—certainly not a plain vanilla base. Indeed, the description is to creative what Secretary Clinton is to transparency. Fudge-covered waffle pieces represented the only original element. And yet, in concert they work much better than I expected. The aforementioned waffle pieces permeate the entire pint and boast a deep-fried crispness. And the caramel swirl was not the subdued variety you’ll find in a Talenti pint, but rather a swirl so thick as to almost resemble a core. This one—not unlike Colbert’s shtick—easily won me over.
Pr(Buy Again): 1
With its undulating chocolate cookie swirl plastered on the surface, the first impression goes to Ben & Jerry’s. Once you dig past the initial layer, though, Graeter’s begins to separate itself given its creamier vanilla base and Oreo cookies.
For some reason, in lieu of chocolate sandwich cookies commonly found in Cookies and Cream, Ben & Jerry’s opted for a deconstructed approach, pairing a respectable chocolate cookie swirl—one far more palatable than the acrid disaster found in Boom Chocolatta!—with chocolate chip cookie pieces. I appreciate their attempt to innovate, but the aforementioned cookie pieces were not good at all. They were mealy and tasted as if someone forgot to add sugar to the batter.
So this is one of those rare cases where the lower calorie option is actually tastier. At 260 calories per serving, Graeter’s Cookies and Cream remains one of their lighter offerings while Ben & Jerry’s Milk & Cookies clocks in at a slightly heftier 280 calories per serving. If Graeter’s isn’t available in your area, another option is to visit a Ben & Jerry’s scoop shop for their Sweet Cream & Cookies.
Graeter’s Cookies & Cream — Pr(Buy Again): 1
Ben & Jerry’s Milk & Cookies — Pr(Buy Again): low
It’s been several weeks since Talenti announced seven new flavors for 2015, so I rode over to the nearest Kroger in the hopes of finding either Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough or Oatmeal Raisin Cookie. For whatever reason, though, it seems Ann Arbor lags behind other cities in receiving new ice creams as none of the new flavors were available. Instead, I picked up a pint of Caramel Apple Pie gelato.
As far as I’m concerned, caramel apples are a waste of a perfectly good Granny Smith. Not only are they just about impossible to eat due to gummy caramel, but last year they also began detonating people’s insides thanks to Listeria. Apple Pie, on the other hand, is delicious and deserves its place among the pantheon of classic American desserts. So I was curious to see whether Talenti would highlight the features of the former or of the latter. Spoiler: fortunately, it was the latter.
Let’s start with the cinnamon gelato base: it’s tantamount to the puddle of melted ice cream that pools up at the bottom of a bowl when one tops a warm slice of pie with vanilla ice cream. As good as the base is, it takes a backseat to the outstanding mix-ins. While the caramel swirl was too sparsely distributed to leave much of an impression, the cubes of tender cinnamon-laced apples coupled with the textural playground of pie crust—both crumbly and caramelized pieces to mimic the top and bottom layers of a pie—combined to make for one of the best pints of Talenti I’ve tried.
Pr(Buy Again): 1
It didn’t take long for me to realize I was destined for disappointment. Indeed, I knew I made a mistake the moment my spoon made contact with the chocolate frozen yogurt base. In contradistinction to the chocolate ice cream base of Phish Food, which gathers on the spoon like a tidal wave, the frozen yogurt version broke off into chunks and had a freezer-burned texture to it.
Combining two forms of chocolate—the ice cream base as well as chunks of fish-shaped fudge—both of which veer toward the bitter end of the spectrum, with sugary swirls of marshmallow and caramel, the original Phish Food has all of the balance of a Cirque du Soleil performer. The same, however, cannot be said of its FroYo instantiation.
Save for the abundantly dispersed fudge fish, nothing about this low fat offering is appealing; in addition to the awful base, the marshmallow swirl is dessicated, and the caramel swirl doesn’t stand out at all. So unless you’re looking to extinguish your enthusiasm for frozen desserts, avoid Ben & Jerry’s Phish Food FroYo and stick with the real thing.
Phish Food — Pr(Buy Again): high
Phish Food FroYo — Pr(Buy Again): 0
Well, this head-to-head wasn’t even close. It was about as lopsided as a Ronda Rousey fight. While Ben & Jerry’s vanilla base is nothing to scoff at, Graeter’s vanilla base is sheer creamy bliss. Where the two pints noticeably diverge is in the mix-ins. In their laudable commitment to Fair Trade products, Ben & Jerry’s eschewed Heath bars, opting instead for a knock-off toffee that is wholly nondescript. Graeter’s uses actual Heath bars, which have their characteristic milk chocolate with buttery notes to the toffee and a brittle-like texture. To further gild the lily, Graeter’s incorporates their chewy, oar-sized chocolate chips.
So if you can find Graeter’s Toffee Chocolate Chip, there’s frankly no reason to bother with Ben & Jerry’s on this one.
Ben & Jerry’s Vanilla Toffee Bar Crunch — Pr(Buy Again): 0
Graeter’s Toffee Chocolate Chip — Pr(Buy Again): 1