Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Flavor Battle: Ice Cream of Celebrity Apprentice

Consumers of Delish Ice Cream are never in want of fonts.
At certain hours, my Michigan Avenue office sits in the shadow of neighboring Trump Tower, Chicago's second tallest building. Last week, I gazed upward trying to steal a glance as I took the fifty yard stroll from my office entrance to the Walgreen's housed in the same building. And once inside I combed the store for more evidence of the comb over billionaire.

Back at my desk, I cracked the lid of two new Delish brand ice cream flavors that were imagined by contestants on Celebrity Apprentice: Penn Jillette's Vanilla & Chocolate Magic Swirtle and Trace Adkins' Maple Macadamia Mash-up. Though there are many things worthy of mockery about Donald Trump--mostly his inability to laugh at himself when he is mocked--he should be admired for using his reality show as a platform for a  nationwide ice cream competition.* My main grievance is that the competition was less about flavor quality and more about other factors. Here are my case studies on the two flavors:

Name: Penn Jillette's Vanilla & Chocolate Magic Swirtle
Details: "Rich Vanilla Ice Cream with a Sea Salt Chocolate Swirl and Fudge Caramel Candy Pieces." Though, they don't seem to advertise it anywhere on the packaging, the candy pieces are shaped like turtles.
Creator: Famed member of the illusion/comedy duo Penn & Teller. Also a famed skeptic and TV show host. I first knew of Penn & Teller from educational videos they made that were shown in some of my classes at school.
Expectation: I am bored to read that this is little more than vanilla with a fudge swirl with a fairly pedestrian mix-in. The use of salt seems a weak attempt at making the flavor original.
Review: Most of the bites are so salty, it makes me crave the bland vanilla ice cream that houses it. But every few bites, much to my surprise, the swirl itself is magnificent, a more nuanced flavor than one finds in flavors like Moose Tracks. It's a shame they used a much lower quality chocolate for the chocolate-caramel turtles.

Name: Trace Adkins' Maple Macadamia Mash-up
Details: "Dry Roasted Macadamia Nuts in Maple Ice Cream."
Creator: I can't say I'd ever heard the name Trace Adkins before. Based on his style of dress I wager he is a country singer. Based on his flavor concept, I would guess he is a Vermonter who likes spends his vacations in Hawai'i. Based on the fact he's on a celebrity reality show, I'd wager that whatever he's known for, his peak has passed. Zing!
Expectation: If the ice cream base isn't overly sweet, it will win. And macadamia nuts are a favorite ice cream mix-in of mine.
Review: I was pleasantly surprised that the maple base was flavorful without being cloying or overwhelming. It didn't taste like maple syrup so much as it tasted like the sweetness one tastes after the maple syrup has soaked into fluffy pancakes. And the macadamia nuts are a great touch!

Findings and Conclusions:
Wrigley Building & Trump Tower, Chicago
Maple Macadamia Mash-Up was the obvious winner. It was a new idea that worked. As a brand, however, Trump could do better to pair with a brand that makes a better product than Delish ice cream. Neither ice cream was as dense as I like, but just because a flavor is sold in pints does not mean it is super premium. The texture of both suggests a heavy reliance on corn syrup (the fifth ingredient). And then there's the mix-ins, which were in far to short a supply. But I guess I shouldn't be surprised that both flavors were stingy with the mix-ins. It is Donald Trump, after all.

*While the show has had ice cream competitions before--it was first done in 2004 during season two, where contestants imagined a red velvet cake ice cream (now becoming more commonplace) and a chocolate doughnut ice cream (what's the hold up?) that Caio Bella produced for them to sell around New York City--I believe this is the first time the show's flavors have been available nationwide.

Monday, May 20, 2013

Championship Round: Presenting the Winner...

Somewhere between following the Stanley Cup(cake) Playoffs and baking ice cream bread, I've inadvertently delayed the crowning of the AICM (April Ice Cream Madness) Tournament champion.

Unlike the democratic process of political campaigns or the popularity contests of reality TV, being the best is the only route to becoming a champion. But before any flavors start making victory laps, let's take a moment to remember the winners of each round:
Only one among this year's new flavors from Ben & Jerry's and Häagen-Dazs can be the best. And only a champion deserves that glory...

This year's champion is Ben & Jerry's Chocolate Peppermint Crunch. While this wasn't the best chocolate mint ice cream I've ever had, I dare say this is the best chocolate mint ice cream to hit the grocery store shelves. Chocolate mint, white peppermint swirl, crunchy chocolate mint cookies. Time for another round.