Saturday, June 30, 2012

Haagen Dazs Blueberry Crumble

There are few summer treats as enjoyable as a fresh berry crumble with a scoop of vanilla ice cream melting slowly on top. With Blueberry Crumble, Haagen Dazs has cannily capitalized on that pleasure with one of the most successful of the Limited Edition flavors they have put out this year. They could have taken the easy way out and swirled some blueberry purée into their world-renowned vanilla, dropped in some streusel bits and called it a day. Instead, for maximum blueberry flavor, they developed a new blueberry ice cream from the ground up. The delightfully complex blueberry flavor, shading from bright citric hues to darker almond tints, is the result of three blueberry products working in combination: Blueberries, blueberry purée, and blueberry juice concentrate. All that tinkering was worth it, creating a richly flavored ice cream that forms the perfect suspension for cobbler pieces that are remarkably crunchy and have a nice clean flavor. So when it's too hot to turn the oven on or you don't feel like sorting through a colander of blueberries, reach for this delicious offering from Haagen Dazs.

I thought this was the last of the Limited Editions they were going to release this year (besides the Peppermint Bark that doesn't come out until October), but I noticed on their website that two more are on the horizon: Sweet Chai Latte and Caramel Apple Pie. Let the hunt begin.

Availability: Their site says Blueberry Crumble is on sale January through December but it took me several months to find it. Grab it if you spot it!


Tuesday, June 26, 2012

DQ Oreos, I-Scream Pop Tarts and Bonus Items

Summer seems to bring on a bumper crop of limited edition treats so let's get right to it. 

Oreo DQ Blizzard
After the overwhelming success of the 100th Birthday cookies, the combination of Oreo with the words "limited edition" elicits a positively Pavlovian response in this consumer. These are supposed to hearken to the Blizzards sold at Dairy Queen, which are basically soft ice cream with a topping (or toppings) stirred in using a clever machine that turns a plastic spoon into a mixing blade. Blizzards (or McDonald's McFlurries or Friendly's Friend-Zies) can be a lot of fun but unfortunately, this is really just a double stuff Oreo with some black flecks in the creme filling. The flecks are pulverized Oreo wafers and are meant to evoke "cookies'n'creme" but they have a negligible - and negative - effect on the flavor. No need to run to the grocer and hoard these, but if you know anyone sitting on a stash of Birthday Cake Oreos send them my way. 

Let's talk nutrition. The serving size of regular Oreos is three cookies while for the DQ Oreos it's two cookies. For easy side-to-side comparison, I looked at six of each. Six standard-issue Oreos gives you 320 calories, 120 calories from fat, 240 mgs of sodium and 28 grams of sugar. In the other corner, six DQ Oreos provides you with a hefty 420 calories, 180 calories from fat, 300 mgs of sodium and 39 grams of sugar. This explains why they fudged the serving size - and why you might want to avoid eating six of any type of Oreo.

Availability: Released each year in the spring; sold until they run out.

Pop-Tarts Festival Fun Frosted Vanilla I-Scream Cone

Perhaps if they had spent as much time on the actual product as they did on the prolix name, Kellogg's might have had a better result with these. The illustration on the box informs us that this is yet another simulacra, created to imitate vanilla ice cream in a chocolate-dipped and sprinkle-coated cone. That's a lot of culinary weight to heap on these slight things. The expectations were further heightened by the Pop-Tart pictured on the box, which is wearing a lavish coat of chocolate frosting, each sprinkle placed just so, and what looks like a quarter inch of vanilla filling. The actual item is much thinner, with an indifferent swatch of icing and sprinkles that look like they were rejected as irregular by the manufacturer. Crack one open and you'll find a layer of filling better measured in microns than fractions of an inch. "Try'em Frozen" the box suggests so I did. Bad idea, I soon discovered. The cold kills any flavor that the filling might have so the sensation is not unlike eating a soft graham cracker with a little chocolate flavor on the finish. Letting them warm up a bit was an improvement as the filling proved to have a clean vanilla flavor that was not unrelated to ice cream. Since these are classified as "Toaster Pastries" a final taste was in order. Toasting improved the texture immensely but obviously removed any reference to that ice cream cone. Unless Pop-Tarts play a big role in your diet, or that of someone you love, there's nothing to get excited over here. 

Availability: About six months, starting in February.

Bonus Section: Discontinued/Sale Items

Here's a smattering of the many items being sold for 33% off at a Stop & Shop I recently visited in Massachusetts.

Coconut M&M'S For a minute, it looked like the green M&M with the hibiscus in her, er, hair was out of a job. However, I confirmed with M&M/Mars that these aren't going anywhere. Stop & Shop probably just wanted to move a few bags, and in my case it worked. Although I am a huge M&M's devotee, it took the threat of their demise for me to try these. While I generally like coconut, the lack of anything with that name in the ingredients was a turn off. In the end, I was pleasantly surprised. The coconut flavor may be artificial but it is not overdone and tastes like the real thing, with no chemical aftertaste. Also, no coconut means no coconut oil, so the nutritional profile is similar to plain M&M's. If you go for coconut and are looking to add a little variety to your trail mix, give these a shot.

Availability: Pretty much everywhere.

Martinelli's Sparkling Mango LemonadeTheir apple juice, both sparkling and still, is a classic (and classy) product that seems to have never changed and I don't recall seeing too much in the way of new products from this August company. The ingredients are all natural so there was no reason to think this wouldn't be delicious and it hit that mark easily. Tart and sweet with a fresh mango flavor and the familiar fine bubbles, this is an ideal quencher. And with a little rum and a squirt of fresh lime? Even better. While it's solidly in production, it's not the easiest thing to find so I'd keep an eye out for this and its prickly pear flavored companion. 

Availability: Specialty stores, such as Whole Foods. And, occasionally, the Stop & Shop.

Wonka Exceptionals Scrumdiddlyumptious Chocolate BarThis is from a line of Nestlé products inspired by the Roald Dahl book and subsequent movie adaptations. Promising "truly amazing chocolate made with natural ingredients," one has to wonder why Nestlé is giving old Willy the axe. While there are a few varieties, this one boasts "milk chocolate with scrumptious toffee, crispy cookie & crunchy peanuts" and I usually go for packed candy bars so I decided to taste it. Good stuff! The chocolate is very creamy and the thin bar is densely packed with lots of toothsome bits of a variety of textures and flavors, exactly as advertised. It's failure on the market may be due to the fact that it's actually TOO high quality to exist in the sometimes cheap arena of movie tie-in snacks. While I don't eat a ton of candy bars, this is a fun one and it's too bad it won't be around for much longer. I can also imagine it would be fantastic chopped and added to blondie batter. I might just track down a few bars for just that purpose!

Availability: The entire Exceptionals line of chocolate bars is out of production. Buy'em if you see 'em. The folks at Nestle assured me that more Wonka treats are on the way.

Next time: The elusive Blackberry Crumble Haagen Dazs has been obtained.