Sunday, March 4, 2012

Haagen Dazs Limited Edition Flavors, Part 1

With spring in the air for real I was not surprised to see a new flight of attractively packaged limited edition flavors from Haagen Dazs in my grocer's freezer this weekend. Due to the size of my own freezer (average) and waist (also average, and I aim to keep it that way), I will review five of these flavors in two or three posts over the next few weeks.
Vanilla Bean Espresso - Inspired by the classic italian dessert affogato, in which vanilla ice cream or gelato is "drowned" in hot espresso, this flavor falls into the category of what I call simulacra. These are mass-produced products that attempt to replicate something that usually best served fresh. All s'mores products are simulacra and are usually spectacularly unsuccessful at recreating the combination of melted chocolate, caramelized marshmallow and crispy graham cracker that make s'mores so yummy (I still keep trying s'mores products, but that's another story.)
As I love the affogato's combination of bitter coffee and vanilla cream, I had high hopes for this flavor. While I knew Haagen Dazs couldn't repeat the unique hot and cold experience and the way affogato changes while you eat it, I thought they had a good shot at coming up with something for coffee ice cream lovers seeking a new thrill. Alas, it was not to be. The end result is a super-sweet, so-so, vaguely coffee-flavored ice cream. The reason is not hard to discern, due to the huge red flag in the list of ingredients. While the vanilla bean ice cream is made as usual, the "Espresso Swirl" contains (gasp) corn syrup. It's as if Haagen Dazs stared into the black and tannic abyss of coffee and blinked. Since they already make a pretty good straight-up coffee ice cream, it's a shame they didn't create something more sophisticated. With all the post-Starbucks java junkies out there, I'm sure it would have been successful. Better to make your own affogato, or order one.
You can't really tell them apart - which does not bode well
for the Vanilla Bean Espresso (right)
Spiced Caramel Biscuit - The traditional northern European cookies known as speculoos (Belgium, Holland) or spekulatius (Germany) and sometimes sold in the U.S. as Dutch Windmill Cookies, provided the jumping off point for this flavor. According to Wikipedia, there are regional differences in the types of spices used, with even white pepper being employed on occasion. It seems as though Haagen Dazs looked to Belgium, where they use little spice, while leaning mainly on cinnamon for flavor. Even so, this entry is a success. The caramel ice cream is as rich and smooth as you would expect and it is heavily larded with extremely crunchy biscuits that would probably be tasty on their own. Speculoos are usually stamped with elaborate carved designs and while that would have added an interesting texture, I can't really complain about this one. If you dig digging into cold and crunchy caramel flavors give this one a try.
Availability for both: February through December

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