Sunday, December 16, 2012

Ben & Jerry's Chocolate Nougat Crunch (An Ice Cream Review)

You probably don’t follow Ben & Jerry’s as closely as I do, but you may know anyway that they introduced two new flavors this year. I’ve already written about Chocolate Therapy, the ultimate chocolate lover’s paradise (or downfall), but I had yet to try Chocolate Nougat Crunch, for two reasons.

One, I’d read reviews that were less than glowing, describing it as weird, boring, lackluster, and generally not worth it. Two, the description:

“Sweet Cream Ice Cream with Fudge Covered Wafer Cookies & a Chocolate Nougat Swirl”
Sweet cream ice cream: cool, although I’ve had some weird experiences with B&J’s sweet cream and I’m not positive I like it. Nougat swirl: awesome, it’s like marshmallow swirl only better, right? But wafer cookie? I despise those stupid little wafer sandwich cookies that come in pink, orange, and brown. They’re bland, soggy, and overall just not worth eating. Especially the pink ones. But I’m getting off track here.

Despite being turned off by the thought of wafers in my ice cream, I was intrigued enough by the nougat swirl (and, I admit, the “new!” scrolled across the lid) to buy a pint the last time I was at Wegmans.

Oh goodie, look at that big puddle of nougat! A bunch stuck to the lid, too, and even in its just-out-of-the-freezer state, it was luxuriously gooey and soft. That said, this was one of the hardest-to-scoop ice creams that I’ve ever encountered. Which is weird, because in all my time eating ice cream (especially Ben & Jerry’s), I’ve notices that light-colored bases like vanilla, caramel, cookie dough, cake batter, etc are generally softer while chocolate tends to be significantly harder.

Ah, but here’s the culprit: those darned wafer cookies! There are so many of them that it’s impossible NOT to run into one with an ice cream scoop. (With a spoon, maybe you could avoid them, but I don
’t trust myself with just a pint and spoon not to eat the whole thing.) And those wafers do not take well to being sliced open with dull implements.

Anyway, on to the actual experience of eating it.... I’ll start by saying that the nougat is far and away my favorite part of this ice cream. It’s super gooey--think strings of it hanging from your scoop--and super thick. And REALLY sweet. It’s like the insides of a Milky Way liquefied, minus the caramel (wait, that’s a 3 Musketeers...). Like the marshmallow swirl in Phish Food but with special twist. Marshmallow swirl has its merits, and I love it, but I’d love to see this swirl in another flavor in the future. Hmm...maybe Milky Way?

Anyway, I wasn’t sure about the wafer balls at first, and I’m still not crazy about them. Some were very crispy, some were a little damp like the ice cream had soaked into them. The crunch is sort of cool next to the goopy nougat. I still kind of wish the wafers were just pure chocolate, because I really do have something against wafers, but I can see how their slightly bland insides would help balance out the SWEET swirl so you don’t get totally sugar-intoxicated.

The base is only subtly different from vanilla ice cream, at least when combined with all the other madness going on in this pint (seriously, the volume of the mix-ins must be at least equal to the volume of the actual ice cream). If you’re skilled enough to get some on its own, though, it is slightly sweeter and, once again, I got a funny twang that I can’t accurately describe but which I’m not sure I like in my sweet cream ice cream. No matter, though--it was rich and dense and creamy like all B&J’s, and amid all the swirl and wafers it performed admirably enough.

I;m not sure I’ll buy this one again, but if I do it’ll be because of the swirl. And, OK, maybe the chocolate-covered wafers were a little fun...but mostly because of the chocolate. I’d like to see more of that element in this pint, and then we’d have a sure-fire winner.
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