By Cal Orey
Today at Lake Tahoe it is hot, hot, hot. It is the perfect day to taste cold chocolate ice cream... And I did just that. I purchased five different brands, not the usual Breyers Ice Cream that I am drawn to, time after time. I had special gourmet ice cream in mind and that is what came home with me in a big plastic bag.
Keep in mind, I'm a health author, not an expert food critic (like savvy Clay Gordon, author of Discover Chocolate) or seasoned chocolatier on the West Coast, East Coast or in Belgium or Switzerland. I am The Writing Gourmet--the one who writes books on the healing powers of vinegar, olive oil, and chocolate. The Writing Gourmet is a working writer who loves gourmet ice cream, including the most popular flavor--dark chocolate (according to my recent poll). These notes are simply my own personal point of view (POV) --and my younger brother (yes, he joined me in the at-home taste test) and I were on the same page; no sibling rivalry here.
Sure, ice cream does contain saturated fat (clogs your arteries and can pack on unwanted pounds and body fat if you eat too much). On the upside, these five brands I chose do not contain trans fat or a minimal amount. Yep, they do contain some cholesterol and sodium (not good for high blood pressure) but the amounts are not incredibly off the charts if you practice portion control. Moderation. Moderation. Moderation. (Yikes, what will I do with all this ice cream?)
1. Haagen-Dazs Reserve Amazon Valley Chocolate: "Though naturally lighter in color, AmazonValley cocoa beans deliver an intense flavor with notes of roasted chestnuts and hazelnuts."
Ingredients: cream, milk, sugar, cocoa powder, egg yolks, chocolate
Health Highlights: 1/2 cup--290 calories; Protein 5 g; vitamin A 10%; Calcium 10%; Iron 6%
POV: This ice cream boasts an exotic creamy texture with a rich, darker chocolate taste that lingers on and on--but it is a good aftertaste and yes, you'll want another bite (or two).
2. Villa Dolce Italian Kiss Chocolate Hazelnut Gelato: "Bacio, as it is known in Italy, is a delicious, rich blend of Piedmont Hazelnuts and European cocoa beans."
Ingredients: milk, cream, sugar, cocoa powder, hazelnut paste, hazelnuts (dextrose, guar gum, locust bean gum)
Health Highlights: 1/2 cup--200 calories; Protein 4 g; Vitamin 6%; Calcium 10%
POV: OMG! This is amazing. It has a caramel-egg nog type flavor. Blame it on the nuts. It's creamy with a capital C. The texture is something to write home about.
3. Ben & Jerrry's Chocolate Fudge Brownie All Natural: Chocolate Ice Cream with Fudge Brownies
Ingredients: cream,liquid sugar, skim milk, cocoa (processed with unbleached wheat flour, soybean oil, eggs, corn syrup, egg whites, guar gum, salt, carrgeenan, baking soda, vanilla extract, egg yolks
Health Highlights: 1/2 cup 220 calories; Protein 3 g; Vitamin A 8%; Calcium 10%; Iron 8%
POV: Ah, the chewy, brownie texture is fun and teases the taste buds. This will not last long in my freezer. (And I can't give it to the dogs. Bad stuff for four-leggers.)
4.Gelato Classico Italian Ice Cream Tiramisu: "Ultra rich and creamy hand-crated ice cream" and "Ultra rich gourmet ice cream"
Ingredients: cream, skim milk, cane sugar, carob bean,Tiramisu cake, cocoa processed, coffee, rum...(a long, long list of other stuff)
Health Highlights: 1/2 cup 270 calories; Protein 5 g; Vitamin A 10%; Calcium 15%; Vitamin C: 4%; Iron: 4%
POV: While the list of ingredients is a bit overwhelming (I am known as the purist gourmet), the unique flavor of this Italian ice cream is a masterpiece.
5. Haagan-Dazs Chocolate: "all natural ice cream"
Ingredients: cream, skim milk, sugar, egg yolks, cocoa processed with alkali
Health Highlights: 1/2 cup 260 calories; Protein: 5 g; Vitamin A 10%; Calcium:10%; Iron: 8%
POV: Simple. Creamy, rich chocolaty taste. Great texture.
So the verdict is in...Wow. This is a difficult choice. No wonder snobby Simon gets a thumbs down for some of his votes on American Idol. This is a difficult job to choose a favorite when all have merits. I love all-natural and simple ice cream. Therefore, #1 Haagan-Dazs Reserve Amazon Valley Chocolate wins in that category. But, the ice cream that melted my heart is #2 --Villa Dolce Italian Kiss. It titillated my working to be refined palate. Thank God I only purchased a 4 ounce container...
But the ice cream that truly wowed me--the real winner is #4, the Gelato Italian Classico Ice Cream. "Coffee and chocolate gelato with rum-kissed Tiramisu cake...Buon Appetito!" Despite its cat's tail list of ingredients it's the gourmet ice cream I was looking for on my quest without going to Italy.