Welcome to Short Order, Tasting Table's column for the next generation of adventurous food lovers.
I'm sitting at my desk with eight cartons of ice cream in front of me. I've never been happier.
This isn't the first time I've been in a situation like this, and (hopefully) it won't be the last. But today isn't your ordinary ice-cream-for-a-light-snack day: Ben and Jerry's released four dairy-free, certified-vegan flavors, and I'm giving them a taste test. Let this be a lesson that Change.org works.
The lactose intolerant 8-year-old inside of me erupted with joy when I heard about the new flavors, seeing as I'm built of skin, bones and Tofutti Cuties. Thankfully, my stomach got itself together, and with graduating to dairy came the privilege of falling in love with Ben & Jerry's.
To see how the new flavors stack up, I compared them with their dairy-full versions, with a caveat: Two of the flavors don't have identical twins, so I went with two fraternal ones. If two is better than one, then eight is surely better than six. Especially where ice cream is involved.
① Chunky Monkey
This was a clear forerunner in the beginning of this frozen dessert ride. Many of my coworkers agreed (yes, I shared; I'm not an animal). The dairy version of Chunky Monkey was still a bit creamier, but taste-wise the vegan version was similar, and just as enjoyable. I didn't start liking bananas until four months ago, so a past-me would likely have hated this, but my current self was a fan. The almond base made it taste like my go-to banana-almond milk morning smoothie, so I'm throwing this one under the "breakfast" category.
② Chocolate Fudge Brownie
This was my least favorite of them all. The new version tasted distinctly like dairy-free chocolate milk, a fact that should carry about zero shock value, but that's not a flavor that I'm into and the aftertaste wasn't excellent. But I also don't love chocolate ice cream. I like fudge, and I love brownie, but there's that remaining third that just got in the way. The word "chalky" came up a few times from coworkers. After a couple of spoonfuls (I'll try anything twice), I just started picking out the brownies.
③ Coffee Caramel Fudge
There was no exact dairy-full version of this, so I got Coffee Toffee Bar Crunch as a substitute doppelgänger. I felt decidedly neutral—on both flavors, in fact. As in, I'd have no difficulty polishing off a pint of the chocolate-specked vegan coffee one, but I could also do serious work on the giant pieces of toffee crunch in the dairy one.
④ PB & Cookies
I could try to explain my feelings, but one of my coworkers just messaged me this: "P.B. & COOKIES, TAKE MY MONEY!!!" which about sums it up verbatim. I tried it next to Peanut Buttah Core, which had 10 times more PB going on than the vegan version. The cookie situation was infinitely better here though, and besides, the only thing more peanut buttery than the core flavor might be a jar of the actual spread. The first couple bites were somewhere between OK and positive, but the farther I investigated and the more cookies I unearthed, the happier I became. Then I found a hidden ore of crunchy peanut butter bits, which sealed the deal, and I declared the ice cream Olympics over.
WINNER: PB & Cookies pulled a James Polk and dark horsed the crap out of Chunky Monkey, who will just have to settle for silver. While lactose-intolerant and voluntary vegan treat lovers are surely rejoicing, let's not mistake this with health food. Purple Doritos are vegan, too. And though consumers are bound to compare the two types (I mean, hello), all I'll say is that there are eight empty containers in the back of the office, no discrimination shown.
So how do I feel after going to town on eight pints of ice cream? Great. I'll take eight more.
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