Sunday, January 27, 2013

Ben & Jerry, You've Met Your Match! (An Ice Cream Review: Talenti Caramel Cookie Crunch Gelato)

I have to admit that I am a bit of an ice cream snob. I spend so much time extolling the virtues of Ben & Jerry’s that you might think it’s the only ice cream I consider worth buying (even though it’s so expensive). But it’s only fair to give other brands a chance, even if they’re just as snobbish and expensive as the Vermont duo. And, in this case, not even ice cream.

I saw this pint of Talenti Caramel Cookie Crunch gelato at Giant the other day, but not being familiar with gelato (I mean, I know it’s an Italian ice cream sort of thing, but I also know it’s not quite the same), I chickened out and left it safely in the freezer before heading to the checkout. Since then I’ve Googled gelato, and discovered that the main difference is that there’s no added air and less fat. Gelato is supposed to be very rich and creamy...sounds right up my alley! So when I also found it at Weis, I grabbed it right away.

I love the container. When have you ever  seen ice cream (fine, gelato) in a plastic pint with a screw-on lid? The reuse potential for this thing is so high, I’d almost feel guilty not eating the entire pint. ;)

It’s also cool that you can see into the container, even though it does induce drooling. Because that caramel swirl looks absolutely amazing!

As you can see, the cookie chunks are quite small, nothing like those big pieces of Oreo that I loved in Breyers’ Golden Oreo and Birthday Oreo Blasts! But in this case, I wouldn’t do anything different. If you’re a true mix-in junkie, these might seem a bit sparse, but they hold their own while letting the magnificent vanilla base shine through. They might be small, but they really pack a chocolatey punch and feel more like a cross between an Oreo and a chocolate chip than a plain old Oreo. They’re just cool. And, between these and the caramel, it’s impossible to get a decent-sized spoonful of just base.

Oh yeah, I mentioned that magnificent base...all those raves about gelato are totally justified, this was by far the best vanilla base I’ve ever had. It has sooo much flavor, it’s insane. Straight out of the freezer it was already a creamy gel-like consistency. I don’t want to say gel because that makes it sound weird, but it’s the best way I can think of to describe it. It was very close to Ben & Jerry’s after it sits out and the edges get that melted appearance.

And the caramel? Easily the best caramel swirl I’ve ever had, too, and that includes B&J’s. I love B&J’s thickness and chewy consistency and still find it amazing. But Talenti has outdone them here with a super-smooth, creamy caramel that melts in your mouth and has so much flavor it makes your eyes bug out. It has actually infused itself throughout the pint, so that even where it’s not visibly present, there is still a subtle hint. It is ingenious.

It looks like Ben & Jerry have met their match, though they still win hands down in the flavor department (not so much in the nutritional information, though). My first experience with gelato has me hooked and ready for more...there’s room in the freezer, since I did eat the entire pint. :)
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