Sunday, March 6, 2011

Ben & Jerry's Love Affair

I consider myself an active consumer of Ben and Jerry's ice cream. When I had an NYC job and commuted from NJ, on off-nights I'd sometimes turn to my "vice kit," which equated to some bad take-out, an alcoholic beverage, and a pint of Ben & Jerry's. Funny, back then I could easily eat a pint in one sitting.

My long-time love of Ben & Jerry's—the ice cream brand with a quirky-casual attitude featuring kooky, exciting flavors—instilled a dream in me to some day visit their Vermont factory. One time after moving to Brooklyn an ex-boyfriend swept into the city the week after 9/11 to take me on a road trip. We drove to Canada for a week, and on the way back he surprised me by driving to the place I wouldn't stop talking about when we were together. So we got to visit and take a factory tour! (That's us at the factory eating our free samples above.)

Throughout the company's history, when new flavors come out I get real excited, then at other times I get perplexed and sad when a flavor is discontinued, only to be sent to the Ben & Jerry's flavor graveyard. Standouts that are sorely missed include:
  1. Festivus (brown sugar cinnamon ice cream loaded with gingerbread cookies & a ginger caramel swirl) named for a famous Seinfeld episode. The flavor's ardent fans still mourn its demise.
  2. Tuskegee Chunk (a rich peanut butter ice cream with chocolate chunks), named in honor of America's first black military airmen.
  3. Rainforest Crunch (a joy-inducing jungle of vanilla ice cream with untamed chunks of cashew & brazil nut buttercrunch), where the environment popped up in a flavor. And how often do you see Brazil nuts in ice cream?
    But enough of the past. New flavors are upon us! In fact, Ben and Jerry themselves appeared on "Late Night with Jimmy Fallon" to announce their new flavor, Jimmy Fallon's Late Night Snack, for now only available at scoop shops. So yesterday at the mall I picked up 3 "scoop-shop"-only flavors to taste-test with my ice cream taste-tester friend. We tasted:
  1. Jimmy Fallon's Late Night Snack (vanilla bean ice cream with a salty caramel swirl & fudge-covered potato chip clusters)
  2. The hilariously-named Clusterfluff (peanut butter ice cream with caramel cluster pieces, marshmallow swirls & peanut buttery swirls)
  3. The been-around Coconut Seven Layer Bar (coconut ice cream with coconut & fudge flakes, walnuts & swirls of graham cracker & butterscotch)
The verdict? They were all good (and after racing through a hot car to the freezer kinda looked the same). Coconut Seven Layer Bar was good but too sweet, making me miss their now-defunct Coconut Almond Fudge Chip (coconut ice cream with fudge chips & roasted almonds). Clusterfluff was tasty but the peanut butter flavor seemed to overwhelm the other things going on. Our favorite of the bunch was Late Night Snack. Sure, there's a lot of caramel availability in B&J flavors, but this time the caramel is salted. Plus, biting into crunchy chocolate-covered potato chip bits was so inventive and satisfying. When they start selling this flavor at supermarkets, you know where I'll be.

Until we eat again,

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