Call me old-fashioned, but amid all of the trendy flavors that manage to find themselves in every conceivable product—pumpkin spice, red velvet, salted caramel etc.—there are just some classic pairings that will never go out of style. One such classic is cookies and cream, or as Ben & Jerry’s inelegantly titles it Sweet Cream & Cookies.
Over the years, I’ve downed dozens of pints, and my favorite remains Graeter’s Cookies and Cream, which features a vanilla base, along with Oreo cookies, resulting in a phantasmagorical degree of pleasure. When I stopped in my local scoop shop for weekend provisions, I was curious to see how Ben & Jerry’s sweet cream base would compare. In short, it compared very well. Not only was the hand-packed pint loaded with chocolate sandwich cookies, but boasted every permutation you could possibly want, from crumbles to full-sized discs. After finishing the pint (in one sitting, of course), the one question that I couldn’t figure out was why hasn’t Ben & Jerry’s made this flavor available in pre-packed pints?
Pr(Buy Again): 1
With yet more snow looming, I decided to pop into Ben & Jerry’s for a few hand-packed pints to sustain me through the inclement weekend. At just 230 calories for a half cup, Ben & Jerry’s Cotton Candy ice cream registers as one of their lightest offerings. One look at the hand-packed pint’s off-white base with hints of mauve, and it’s not hard to see why: it’s almost wholly bereft of mix-ins and a marked departure from the ice cream’s description on their website, which claims it’s “loaded with cotton candy pieces.” I counted just four pieces of crystallized sugar in the entire pint. And that’s a real shame because they nailed the carnival classic’s flavor.
If there was some way to ensure a future purchase would more closely match the description, I’d be willing to give this one another chance. Short of that, though, I’m just going to have to turn my attention to the litany of other options that I’ve yet to try.
Pr(Buy Again): low
Ever since watching Louis CK’s bit about Cinnabon (see here), I’ve found it all but impossible to guiltlessly order a cinnamon roll, so I saw it as quite a windfall when I first picked up a pint of Cinnamon Buns at my local Ben & Jerry’s shop. Alongside Peanut Butter Cup, it has become my go-to Ben & Jerry’s flavor. And so on a recent grocery haul at Kroger, I didn’t think twice when I saw it sitting on the shelf.
Unfortunately, I would soon learn that I got a dud. The cinnamon streusel swirl that in the past mirrored the inner walls of a cinnamon roll was nonexistent, and most disappointingly, the cinnamon bun dough pieces had clearly ventured well past their sell-by date; instead of boasting their normally chewy, cookie dough-like texture, they were uniformly stale, crumbling as I bit into them. As Kobe Bryant once poetically explained, “These motherfuckers ain’t doing shit for me.”
Pr(Buy Again): high, so long as it’s not from Kroger
Somehow I managed to immunize myself from the initial faddish enthusiasm surrounding cookie butters. Indeed, it was only this past December that I had my first taste of Trader Joe’s cookie butters, first the smooth instantiation, followed a few days later by the crunchy variety. The genius of Ben & Jerry’s Spectacular Speculoos Cookie Core comes from combining the two textures.
Given the abundance of mix-ins, it doesn’t take much effort to amass one perfect spoonful after another. And at just $5 there really aren’t many confections that provide such sustained delectation. The waves of flavor begin with velvety mounds of the smooth cookie core that engulf one’s mouth. Then, with hardly a moment for your brain’s pleasure centers to recover, bits of speculoos cookie detonate on your palate like little gingerbread landmines. To round out the pint, Ben & Jerry’s went with dark caramel and vanilla ice creams, both of which are characteristic of their other bases—dense, slow-melting and balanced in sweetness—serving as a suitable backdrop to showcase the outstanding mix-ins.
Pr(Buy Again): 1
Ben & Jerry’s has been churning out a number of new flavors to start the year, the newest of which is The Tonight Dough—the successor to Jimmy Fallon’s Late Night Snack—featuring chocolate and caramel ice creams, a chocolate cookie swirl and two kinds of cookie dough: chocolate chip and peanut butter.
Much like Boom Chocolatta! Cookie Core, the caramel base is meek, so this is in essence a chocolate ice cream with cookie dough—hardly a bad thing. And the chocolate cookie swirl, the same swirl found in Milk & Cookies, adds a grittiness to complement the chewy marble-sized cookie dough pieces. While The Tonight Dough won’t help me overlook the number of outstanding flavors that have met the flavor graveyard, it is good, and peanut butter cookie dough is a welcome addition to Ben & Jerry’s arsenal of mix-ins. Ultimately, though, if I find myself hankering for chocolate and peanut butter, I’m going to stick with Graeter’s Buckeye Blitz.
Pr(Buy Again): low
Ever the fan of cheesecake—though we should probably call it cheesepie given the crust, filling and absence of flour—I was excited at the prospect of enjoying one of my favorite desserts in ice cream form. Well, I was soon met with a wave of disappointment, both with respect to the base and the mix-ins in Ben & Jerry’s Strawberry Cheesecake and Cheesecake Brownie. The faint aroma of cheesecake grows even fainter when one takes a bite of the base. Insipid is not a word that springs to mind often when talking about Ben & Jerry’s, but alas that’s the case here. If subjected to a blind taste test, unflavored cream would be my best guess of the flavor. Turning to the mix-ins, pieces of fruit rarely fair well in ice creams, crystalizing and losing much of their character. The strawberries are watery and not at all pleasant to eat. And then we get to the cheesecake brownies; why Ben & Jerry’s went with these puny cubes in lieu of Greyston’s is yet another perplexing feature of this deeply flawed flavor.
In short, if you’re craving cheesecake, stick with the real thing.
Pr(Buy Again): 0
With the flurry of red velvet products hitting the shelves for Valentine’s Day, it seemed appropriate to give Ben & Jerry’s Red Velvet Cake a go. In the interest of full disclosure, I should note that I have a slender acquaintance with red velvet, having only had it on two occasions, once as a cupcake and once in actual cake form—both from Zingerman’s.
It’s not easy to translate a confection, for which people have a reference point, into an ice cream, and this one definitely falls short. While the cake pieces are airy, the base is very sweet, almost as if the sugar dispenser’s lid came undone, releasing an avalanche more than the recipe required. It wouldn’t be such a problem if the cream cheese frosting swirl made itself manifest. But aside from one thick pond midway through the pint, which did indeed yield a tangy burst, it was all but imperceptible. Also absent were any hints of cocoa, another stopgap that could have brought some balance to this cloying concoction.
Pr(Buy Again): low