Carton Design: how does this thing look y’all? Bold graphics, creative names, interesting descriptions?
Scoopability: based on the quality of product, how slick or embarrassingly difficult is getting the first scoop?
Brand’s Flavor Variety: how many pint flavors do they offer? One to three or 10-15?
And finally our overall Skoops: what kind of experience did this wee pint bestow?
Drum roll please...this is our final pint review! While searching the freezer section at a variety of grocery stores has been fun, we are very excited that local brick and mortar shops are starting to re-open - safely and socially distanced, of course.
I thought I’d seen all that Whole Foods had to offer by this point, but the small selection of High Road Craft Ice Cream pints surprised me on my latest trip. High Road got started in 2010 and boasts a “by chefs for chefs” tagline. They describe their team in possibly my favorite group of ice cream makers descriptions yet: “chefs and makers who share this belief in interconnectedness - in the idea that food can be a democratizing force, a bridge to another’s culture, another reason to love one another.” The brand offers a number of other products as well, from gelato and Mexican ice cream to a full bakery.
There were only four flavors available at Whole Foods, but I can see online that they actually offer many (from Mango Rum Cake to Malt Shop Sundae), including a special “flavor of the month.” I diverted from my usual, and selected Cinnamon Crumble: cinnamon ice cream with maple brown sugar swirl and chunks of cinnamon streusel.
For some reason I think I had low expectations (the carton design didn’t scream small batch, true craft ice cream), but I was very pleasantly surprised! The scoops were creamy; they weren’t too rich, but reminiscent of scoops from an in-person shop. The way I’d describe the taste is similar to the last few bites of a bowl of Cinnamon Toast Crunch. While I haven’t actually eaten the cereal in awhile, no one can forget those last bites when the milk is super cinnamon-y and the cereal squares are soft and full of flavor.
My one critique of this flavor is that it was heavy on the swirls of maple brown sugar, and too light on the chunks of streusel. It may be personal preference, but I felt the swirls were too thick and because there were only a few pieces of streusel, they seemed more random rather than fluid with the rest of the pint.
Overall, I highly recommend giving High Road a try, and I can’t wait to try more of their flavors (and their brownie stuffed cookie dough)!
Carton Design: 2.75
Flavor Variety: 4.50
This week I tried a creamery I'd ventured to in the past by way of their milk - still delivered in glass bottles, this creamery stands by eco-friendly measures and it's family tradition. Starting with dairy farming in Northern California in 1994, Straus ventured into ice creams and was the first certified organic dairy farm west of the Mississippi River and the first 100% certified organic creamery in the United States. In other words, expectations were high.
Of their 12 classic flavors, I chose Cookies & Cream. Always an interesting choice in my opinion - of course there's a basic requirement here, but each creamery makes their own unique choices within said cookies & cream parameters. Though relatively scoopable, the ice cream wasn't smooth as silk. Strauss uses their own gluten free chocolate cookie bites, which delivered on a lovely chocolatey taste but strangely had a gritty texture - there must be a sugar coating - and their cream element was the base, a "sweet cream" ice cream. My preference would be some sort of icing or thicker cream mix-in, but the sweet cream base was still nice.
Though Strauss didn't knock it out of the park, I still had a completely enjoyable experience with their pint of Cookies & Cream. If you're looking for some Super Premium Organic Ice Cream look out of Straus Family Creamery at your local grocery store.
Carton Design: 3.25
Flavor Variety: 3.00
With summer in full swing and quarantine carrying on for what feels like it's 200th week, escape through ice cream has become all the more comforting. This round I tried Nancy's Fancy, James Beard winner Nancy Silverton's gelato and sorbet company. With a hearty background in bread - having founded the La Brea Bakery and running four Italian restaurants in Los Angeles - Silverton started her gelato company in 2015 with the desire to create a product to celebrate classic Italian gelato. In a 2017 interview with Food & Wine she noted exceptional mouthfeel and flavor reign supreme and great gelato should be "smooth and creamy and dense."
What initially pulled me in was the "fancy" label on her pints. Intrigued, I checked out the options and excitedly selected Spiced Stumptown Coffee. With 14 flavors, currently only sold in grocery stores, Nancy's Fancy sticks to classic chef favorites like Bourbon Vanilla Bean, Passion Fruit and Meyer Lemon Torrone.
With a higher sugar and lower fat content, gelato lends itself to an easier scoop and I'm happy to report Nancy's Fancy was no different. Scoopability aside, it was time to dive in. Immediately I was surprised at the flavor profile. Knowing Stumptown cold brew, I thought I was headed for a coffee flavor that packed a true punch. Instead I was met with more spice than coffee. Though coffee was present, it was the cinnamon, nutmeg and specifically the cardamom which came through most clearly. One thing Silverton has achieved is discernible flavors. Another turn came with consistency. Sadly, there was no dense creaminess you find in a classic gelato. This gelato had larger ice crystals, creating a chunky, inconsistent base; and the mix-in of cacao nibs amongst such a base only exacerbated the disappointing 'mouthfeel'.
All in all, given the coffee flavor is more subdued than the spice, Spiced Stumptown Coffee would be a gelato best enjoyed by those who seek a light coffee flavor and heavier spice quality during autumn months. If you have a few extra dollars - Nancy's Fancy carries a hefty price - and are looking for a gelato or sorbet that might not be dense or creamy but delivers on distinct flavors, pick up a pint of Nancy's Fancy at your local grocery store.
Carton Design: 3.75
Flavor Variety: 3.50
On my last Whole Foods trip, I found the group of Dolcezza Gelato pints particularly appealing. I was in the mood for something on the more rich and creamy side, so I grabbed Peanut Butter Stracciatella.
If you’re reading this from the DC area, you’re probably familiar with Dolcezza Gelato. They first opened their doors in Georgetown in 2004 and now have 9 stores in the area. The founders were inspired by a gelato shop in Buenos Aires a few years prior and thought they should give the whole gelato-making thing a try.
They do their best to source ingredients locally and craft their gelato every morning in their DC factory (which used to be a flower warehouse - how cool!). They provide a great refresh on the difference between ice cream and gelato on their site too: gelato has fewer calories and less fat, contains less air in order to be more dense, and is stored at a warmer temperature to keep a creamy consistency.
Dense and creamy are two of the first words I thought of as I dove into my first bowl of Peanut Butter Stracciatella. Does anyone else get that blast of euphoria when your ice cream scoop sinks into a pint and you just KNOW it’s going to be smooth? Well, clearly I do...hence the Scoopability score of 5.0. Throughout the vanilla base, there are chocolate slivers and peanut butter. The carton notes that they hand-grind roasted and salted Virginia peanuts in order to create the peanut butter, and this freshness comes across. This gelato tasted like the most fancy version of a blended Reese's peanut butter cup I’ve ever tasted.
Reliving this experience is making my mouth water and I hope it’s doing the same for you. Look for a pint at your local Whole Foods and let us know what you think!
Carton Design: 3.50
Flavor Variety: 4.25
When I was strolling the frozen foods aisle on my last trip to Whole Foods, the pints of Honeysuckle Gelato caught my eye. The pint design is cute and trendy, so I was surprised I hadn’t seen it before. I decided to venture from my classic flavor choices and picked up the Bourbon Praline Pecan pint.
Before my first scoop, I was so intrigued by this new find that I did some research. Started in 2011 by three friends, Honeysuckle Gelato prides itself on creating Southern-inspired gelato (and gelato sandwiches) with the mission to “be sweet.” Its products are currently only available around the Southeast, with two brick and mortar locations in Georgia and North Carolina. What I enjoyed reading about most was their philanthropic efforts. Honeysuckle Gelato has made a genuine effort to partner with local organizations and provides both donations, profit portions and volunteers. It appears to be a pretty impressive commitment to me!
Anyway, back to the taste test. Unfortunately, my great first impression of the company did not meet my first impression of the gelato. I found the base to be more watery rather than creamy; the strongest taste came with the occasional pecan. I was expecting a much more creamy texture and exciting flavor, but that was not the case. I tried a couple scoops the next day to give it another shot and felt the same way. I was searching to be satisfied, but was left disappointed.
I won’t be picking up this pint again, but I’m willing to give Honeysuckle another try. They currently have six gelato and four gelato sandwich flavors; I have faith one of them will be better! I’ve also never had a gelato sandwich before, so that is a must try.
Carton Design: 4.75
Flavor Variety: 3.50
In honor of our grandmother's favorite flavor, I began scouring the Northeast for the best Grape-Nuts ice cream. It seemed an ideal opportunity as somehow I'd never tried it and this flavor is quite particular to the area - in fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if those of you outside the region have never heard of such a thing.
If you don't know about Grape-Nuts, it's a longstanding nutritious cereal with a bit of mystery surrounding its origin story - but it comes down to deepest histories in Canada, Jamaica and New England. An acquired but rewarding taste, they surprisingly don't contain grapes or nuts, but rather 4 simple ingredients: whole grain wheat flour, malted barley flour, salt and dried yeast. Yes, it sounds ancient and yes, it is bold in both taste and texture - it seemed rather hard to believe a malted barley cereal could make a delicious ice cream flavor.
Thankfully, I was able to find out for myself as I discovered Grape-Nuts ice cream also happens to be one of Gifford’s original flavors. Another Maine classic, Gifford's Famous Ice Cream has been serving since the 1970s with tried and true family dairy ties dating back to the 1800s. Operating out of Skowhegan, with stands across Maine and found in grocery stores as far as the the Mideast, Gifford's does not disappoint. With 58 flavors ranging from Camp Coffee to Cherry Blossom and Maine Wild Blueberry, they have a flavor for even the most finicky ice cream lover.
After cracking open the pint of Grape-Nuts with Vanilla, I was buzzing at the first smooth and easy scoop. Is there anything more satisfying? Oh right, flavor. With a mix-in like Grape-Nuts it might be tempting to over-sweeten the base, dulling any flavor from the star cereal itself. Gifford's managed to create a perfect creamy vanilla which only enhanced the Grape-Nuts flavor. An ultimate balance of sweet and salty crunch, it made for a most unique and enjoyable 'cereal & milk' combination. Grape-Nuts ice cream is a secret that needs to be let out; and I'm not surprised my grandmother was in on it all along.
While it might require seeking, Grape-Nuts ice cream is well worth the search. And you could not find a lovelier one in Gifford's Grape-Nuts with Vanilla. If you're ever looking for a taste of Maine, New England or just great taste, try Gifford's Famous Ice Cream.
Carton Design: 3.00
Flavor Variety: 4.75
While I’m not Keto, I know it continues to be a growing trend so I picked up a pint from Rebel Creamery, which claims to be the first Keto, lowest net carb ice cream out there. Started by a couple who discovered a niche part of the ice cream world based on their dietary preferences, they hit the jackpot with a successful Kickstarter campaign in 2017 and set out to create a creamy yet low sugar ice cream. They boast 14 total flavors, everything from Butter Pecan to Mint Chip to Coconut Swirl. I wanted to stay somewhat in the realm of my typical favorites, so I grabbed Peanut Butter Fudge.
When I popped open the cap of the pint, I was greeted by a foil covering that recommended letting the pint soften for 10-15 minutes before diving in. I’m a rule-follower, so I set my timer and waited patiently for the first scoop. Unfortunately, I don’t think I hit the sweet spot (no pun intended) for getting the creamy, soft scoop they promise. I essentially got shavings and shards of ice cream; I waited longer when I revisited the pint the next day, but I got the same result. The bowl of shards didn’t spark too much excitement, but surprisingly each bite was actually very creamy. I’m not sure how they did it, since the appearance and texture were no match, but at least it tasted good where it mattered.
Overall, I relatively enjoyed the ice cream. I would rename this particular flavor “Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Mousse” if I could, though. It’s a very light flavor, which matches the light, airy appearance and weight.
I would definitely recommend giving it a try to those following the Keto diet as I can see that it would satisfy the ice cream craving. For those of us still indulging in plenty of sugar, there are likely other pints on the shelf that you may want to try first.
Carton Design: 4.00
Flavor Variety: 4.00
If you’ve ever flown on a Delta flight, you’ve surely had a couple of Biscoff cookies. But after it’s inception in 1932 in Lembeke, Belgium, the cookie has developed a long history and reputation beyond an airline snack.
I hadn’t seen - or perhaps just not noticed - pints of Biscoff ice cream in the grocery store before, so I was surprised to see their small assortment on the shelf. (Plus, they were on sale which always catches my attention!) Of the three flavors offered, I grabbed Chocolate Brownie; I was intrigued by how they could present such a rich flavor coming from a more modest traditional cookie.
I’ll be honest - I had a pretty laissez faire attitude as I grabbed the pint from my freezer later that night. This was quickly diminished as I sunk my spoon into the pint and realized the ice cream was immediately smooth and soft. I took a bite and truly could not have been more surprised. It quite possibly might be the most rich and creamy ice cream I’ve had from a pint in ages. With Biscoff cookie crumbles on top, the rest of the pint is a Biscoff and chocolate blended base with dark chocolate brownie chunks, cookie butter swirls and an occasional cookie crunch.
It appears that all of their flavors have a Biscoff base with blends or additions to the recipe to create each one. They boast five total flavors on their website: traditional Biscoff, blueberry cheesecake, chocolate chip, salted caramel and chocolate brownie. I also saw an article that the company has recently released ice cream bars for their standard Biscoff flavor.
If you’d like to pretend you are adventuring in Belgium and enjoying a nice scoop from a local shop, grab this pint on your next grocery shop.
Carton Design: 3.50
Flavor Variety: 2.75
Overall Skoops: 4.25
Sunday, what better day to tuck into a fresh pint? Though in quarantine, we haven’t been doing much of anything else. This week I ventured to southwestern New Hampshire via a pint of Walpole Creamery. This tried and true, Super Premium and All-Natural ice cream has been churned by Walpole Creamery since 2006. They make their own base from scratch, sourcing ingredients locally - including their milk from Crescent Farm, family owned and a few miles away.
With their 16 standing flavors and 7 seasonal options, you’ll have no trouble finding the perfect flavor for your every whim. On my first taste, I chose Mint Chip - a potentially treacherous choice given how easily iterations of this flavor can disappoint. On our adventures we have encountered waxy chocolate, watery spearmint and all around artificiality; rarely have we come across a satisfying mint chip.
Are you also a persnickety mint chip lover? If you tend to seek a kind of mint to cream ratio which gifts you that beautiful intake of breath like walking outside after a fresh snowfall, look no further than Walpole Creamery. What a glorious taste. True mint with rich, highest quality cream. What more could you ask for - oh, chocolate chips of course! Again I was dazzled by smooth dark chocolate chunks, good sized with a lovely snap to boot.
And goodness did my scoop cut through that ice cream like butter. What an experience!
For my next Walpole pint, I’m going for Double Dutch Chocolate and I couldn’t be more thrilled to dive back in. If you’re interested in pure ice cream that treats you to brilliant quality and flavor, be sure to try Walpole Creamery.
Carton Design: 4.00
Flavor Variety: 4.50