Heather Visits Ben and Jerry’s

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My road trippin’ ways continued this past weekend with a visit to Burlington, Vermont. I hadn’t been to Burlington in a long time and the last time I was there I was really only passing through. I’ve been wanting to go back for a while, so when a friend from college and I were trying to come up with a place to meet up for the weekend, Burlington was at the top of my list. The craft beer brewery industry is strong in Vermont and I do love sampling beers, but the main reason that I wanted to go to Burlington was because that put me in close proximity to the Ben and Jerry’s factory. If you know me even a little, you know how much I love ice cream in general, but Ben and Jerry’s ice cream specifically. Blame that on growing up in a city with its own scoop shop or the omnipresence of their pints, but in my lifetime I have consumed a disturbing number of Ben and Jerry’s flavors. I’ve been trying to get someone to go to the factory with me for years, but with no success; it was either too far to drive (it’s over 3 hours from Albany) or people just don’t want to see me happy. So I was beyond thrilled when my friend Michelle, my big sister in my sorority, was game to go, even though she’s been on the factory tour before. She’s a good egg.

We arrived at the factory shortly after 11, which seemed like a perfectly acceptable hour to me to start eating ice cream. We were able to hop on the 11:10 am tour, so our wait time was pretty minimal. Our tour guide was great – very enthusiastic and full of the showmanship and corny jokes that make tours like this entertaining. The first part of the tour was a short video about the history of the company and their corporate philosophy. I knew a lot of this already – I actually used Ben and Jerry’s as an example in my college courses when we discussed models of corporations – but it was still informative and not too long. I didn’t know, for example, that the first national attention that the company got was because the Ben and Jerry’s bus that they were touring the country with caught on fire and burned to the ground. That’s some unexpected publicity.

Next up was a tour of the actual factory, which was not in production because it was the weekend. Still, it was interesting to see the steps that they go through to create a pint of ice cream. There was another video which helped illustrate what each station does in the factory; they had helpfully numbered all the machines so it was easy to follow each stop that the ice cream makes along the way. I don’t know why I was so impressed to see that the machines that fill the ice cream pints twist the package as they are filled to insure equal distribution of the goodies inside – in retrospect that seems like common sense – but that was the fact that stood out to me the most. This portion of the tour was also relatively brief – possibly ten minutes maximum – and then it was on to the best part of the tour: the free sample.

I had secretly been hoping that we would get to try either a new flavor that wasn’t out yet or something that they were testing out, but that was probably not very likely. Instead, we received a health sample of Spectacular Speculoos, which might have been new to most people on the tour who don’t stalk new Ben and Jerry’s flavors like I do. It didn’t make it any less delicious – it’s hard to go wrong with cookie butter in anything – so it was a nice way to end the tour. In the sample room we also discovered that Ben and Jerry’s is trying out two new flavors in Texas: Bar-b-que Peach and Bourbon Pecan Pie. People will get to vote on which flavor they like best and the winner will be a limited batch only available in the Lone Star state. This piqued my interest, as I am a sucker for food that you can only get for a limited time (see also my obsession with all the new Oreo flavors and seasonal M&Ms). I also have friends in Texas who I am overdue to visit, so they may be getting a request to throw a pint in their freezer with the knowledge that I’ll eventually be on my way to claim it (especially if it is Bourbon Pecan Pie is the winner). Now I’m interested in finding out what other limited regional ice creams are out there that I don’t know about. This is a rabbit hole that I probably shouldn’t be going down. Ben and Jerry’s has more tricks up their sleeve than I realized.

The tour was over after the sample room, but since we were still in the mood for ice cream we took advantage of the scoop shop in the front of the building. They seemed to have every flavor currently in production, which of course makes sense, and it was kind of alarming to see how many of them that I had actually tried. It was a lot. I decided to take advantage of the fact that they had all the SNL inspired ice creams which are somewhat harder to find – I don’t think they are available outside of Scoop Shops – and try something that I hadn’t had before. I got one scoop of Wayne’s Swirled (dark caramel and vanilla ice creams with caramel and fudge swirls) and Lazy Sunday (Vanilla cake batter ice cream with chocolate and yellow cupcake pieces & a chocolate frosting swirl). I liked them both, but I REALLY liked Lazy Sunday, which really isn’t a good thing for me since the last thing that I need is another Ben and Jerry’s ice cream that I like. I’ll have to seek this one out again before they retire it from Scoop Shops.

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The final stop at the factory wasn’t part of the tour, but was only a short walk away – a visit to the flavor graveyard. This is where they pay homage to some of the Ben and Jerry’s flavors that have been retired. It’s not an inclusive list – not every retired flavor has a tombstone – but it was an interesting sample of some of the flavors that they have tried that didn’t quite catch on with the public. Someone was apparently particularly bummed out about the retirement of Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Frozen Yogurt since that was the only “grave” that had flowers placed on it. That made us laugh.

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There were some flavors that I was bummed out that I never had the chance to try; I’m guessing that I would have really liked Crème Brûlée, Aloha Macadamia or Chocolate Peanut Butter Cookie Dough.

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Others I’m less surprised didn’t survive. Tennessee Mud and Peanuts! Popcorn! are creative but too specialized for mass consumption, and I say this as someone who likes the salty/sweet combination that the latter flavor would have provided.

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Some of the flavors in the graveyard have found a new life in a slightly different flavor: Peanut Butter and Jelly is retired, but Peanut Butter Jam Session lives on. There were some other flavors that I could see poised for a reincarnation in the near future: Fossil Fuel would make sense to bring back in some capacity now since Jurassic World is about to be released.

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All in all, it was a fun day at the Ben and Jerry’s factory and I’m glad that I can cross it off my long list of things that I want to do. It might not have been the life changing experience that I had built it up to be, but any day that involves ice cream is aces in my book. Worth making the pilgrimage just to say that I did it and I got to try some new ice cream to boot. Not a bad way to spend a Sunday morning.

The Ben and Jerry’s Factory is in located in Waterbury, Vermont.

Anchorman: The Ice Cream

I’ve written before of my love of Ben and Jerry’s ice cream before, both because of their delicious concoctions as well their love of pop culture. I can appreciate any company that names flavors after musicians, late night talk show hosts and TV shows. These are my people. While I haven’t been a fan of all these flavors – I couldn’t even finish the pint of Schweddy Balls that I bought and was pretty underwhelmed by the Liz Lemon frozen yogurt – I’m always looking forward to what they will cook up next. I still think that it was a missed opportunity that they didn’t do a banana flavored ice cream for the return of Arrested Development and I would have loved to see how creative they could have been with a Breaking Bad themed flavor. Blueberry Meth, maybe? Parents would have loved that.

Yesterday, I was delighted to see that the ice cream conglomerate was releasing a new limited edition batch that had a pop culture connection. To commemorate the upcoming Christmas release of Anchorman 2 (can’t wait!), the good folks of Vermont hatched the new flavor Scotchy Scotch Scotch:

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This is awesome not only because I love Anchorman, but because I am also a big fan of Butterscotch. Yup – 80 year old grandmas and I have the same weakness for butterscotch hard candies. While everyone else I know makes a bee line for the mints after dinner, I always excited when restaurants have a bowl of hard candies out that contains the magical butterscotch. I’m halfway convinced that one of the reasons a local Mexican restaurant is one of my favorite places to go is not because they make a mean chimichanga, but because they always have an ample supply of that golden little candy.

Because Scotchy Scotch Scotch is a limited batch, there is no predicting what grocery stores will have it and which won’t. To me, that just adds to the fun of it. I love a good scavenger hunt, stemming from my parents mother hiding gifts for us around the house on Easter and Valentine’s Day. We had to follow the clues to find our presents, which was sometimes just as much fun as the actual gift at the end of the road. I’ve gotten pretty good at stalking seasonal and limited edition food items; it took me a while, but I finally located the chicken and waffle Lay’s potato chips that I was coveting (verdict: sadly, they were gross) and I’ve successfully located the other Ben and Jerry’s ice cream flavors that will be released, though cannoli took a very long time and was hardly worth the effort. Candy Corn Oreos were far too easy to find (I liked them!), so I’m in need of a new project. The search for pumpkin spice M&Ms seems to have hit a snag.

I’ll report back if I am able to find Scotchy Scotch Scotch and give it a taste. For now, I’m just happy to know that it exists (and that they didn’t name the flavor Sex Panther. I love Ben and Jerry’s, but they were pushing their luck making me eat an ice cream named Schweddy Balls).

What’s your favorite pop culture related or limited edition food item? Sound off in the comments below. **A new trailer for Anchorman 2 was also just released. It has been a banner 24 hours for fans of Ron Burgundy!**

 

Pop Culture Ice Cream

If there is one thing in the world that comes close to my love of pop culture, it is my love of ice cream (what – did you think I was going to say family?). If I didn’t have some semblance of trying to take care of myself, I could eat ice cream absolutely every single day. As far as I’m concerned, it’s the perfect food – creamy, delicious and pretty much devoid of nutritional content. I am, after all, the girl who was watching Twitter to see where the new Cannoli ice cream could be found. I’ve been blessed with a cat that loves ice cream as much as I do, though I try not to let him have it (if you’ve met Pumpkin, you can imagine how successful that is). The fool even got his head stuck in an empty pint container when he was trying to be sneaky.

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I’m particularly partial to the ice cream stylings of Ben and Jerry’s. They have such fun and interesting flavors and I also am a fan of their corporate philosophy. I actually used to use Ben and Jerry’s as an example during my lecture on political economy back in my professorial days. I remember the first time my mom took me into the Ben and Jerry’s shop in Saratoga when I was a kid and I was just so overwhelmed by all the options that I asked for vanilla. Vanilla! All those amazing flavors and taste combinations and I picked the most boring of them all. Even chocolate would have been a better choice. It was good, of course, but far too conservative.

As I’ve gotten older and I’ve become more adventurous with my palate and have branched out to the many diverse offerings that Ben and Jerry’s has. My all-time favorite is still Chubby Hubby (Fudge Covered Peanut Butter Filled Pretzels in Vanilla Malt Ice Cream Rippled with Fudge & Peanut Butter), though I will mix it up with Cake Batter (Yellow Cake Batter Ice Cream with a Chocolate Frosting Swirl), Half Baked (Chocolate & Vanilla Ice Creams with Fudge Brownies & Gobs of Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough) and What a Cluster (Peanut Butter Ice Cream with Caramel Cluster Pieces, Marshmallow Swirls & Peanut Buttery Swirls), though I preferred the latter when it was called Clusterfluff. And you should see how excited I get when I stumble upon the seasonal Pumpkin Cheesecake flavor; since you never know where it will show up and when it will disappear, I’ve been known to buy up whatever is in stock.

One of my favorite things that Ben and Jerry’s does is that they offer some pop culture related flavors. I first became aware of this with Phish Food (Chocolate Ice Cream with Gooey Marshmallow Swirls, Caramel Swirls and Fudge Fish), but they have unveiled other flavors as well: Stephen Colbert was honored with the flavor Americone Dream (Vanilla Ice Cream with Fudge Covered Waffle Cone Pieces & a Caramel Swirl); Cherry Garcia (Cherry Ice Cream with Cherries and Fudge Flakes) was named after the great Jerry Garcia of the Grateful Dead;  John Lennon’s Imagine Whirled Peace (Caramel and Sweet Cream Ice Creams Swirled with Fudge Peace Signs and Toffee Cookie Pieces); Goodby Yellow Brickle Road (Chocolate Ice Cream, Peanut Butter Cookie Dough, Brickle Candy Pieces and White Chocolate Chunks), inspires by the Elton John Song;  Schweddy Balls (Vanilla Ice Cream with a Hint of Run and Loaded with Fudge Covered Rum and Malt Balls) inspired by this SNL sketch:

Fan of the sketch – not a fan of the ice cream. I couldn’t even finish the pint, which is saying a lot.

Unsurprisingly, my favorite of the celebrity flavors is Late Night Snack (Vanilla Bean Ice Cream with a Salty Caramel Swirl and Fudge Covered Potato Chip Clusters), inspired by Late Night with Jimmy Fallon. I’m a big fan of salty and sweet – see my love of Chubby Hubby – and there really isn’t anything better than chocolate covered potato chips. They promote the ice cream a lot during the show; many of the games that Jimmy plays with audience members involve Late Night Snack being dumped on a person or them sliding into it. I hate those games, as it is a waste of that tremendous ice cream.

Last night the Ben and Jerry’s Tumblr had a special announcement: a new celebrity flavor was going to be unveiled on Thursday.

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The new flavor would honor 30 Rock as it was going off the air after seven hilarious and wacky seasons. I’m embarrassed to say how excited I am to see what they come up with, not only for the ingredients but the name of the ice cream. Ben and Jerry’s have a lot of fun with the names that they come up with for their products and I’m curious what they will settle on to commemorate 30 Rock. I’m assuming that 30 Rocky Road is too obvious. Since the proclamation, I’ve been trying to come up with other possible ideas:

  • Liz Lemonade?
  • Dots-Com – something with dipping dots to honor my favorite member of Tracy’s entourage?
  • Tracy Jordan Almonds?
  • Something for Dennis Duffy, Liz’s reoccurring ex-boyfriend (played by the awesome Dean Winters)?
  • Something with Blerg in the title?
  •  Something to do with Dr. Spaceman? Please?

UPDATE: The Grub Street section on the New York Magazine website points out that in an episode of 30 Rock Tracy Jordan created his own Ben and Jerry’s flavor called Adultaraisin.

I’m glad that there are people cleverer than me working on this because I don’t know that any of these sound particularly tasty or are all that funny. The show has so many great characters and memorable jokes that they have a lot to work with. As for the ice cream, I just hope there is some fun stuff in it like caramel, peanut butter, some kind of dough or marshmallow in it. I really can’t wait to see what they come up with.

Got a clever idea for a 30 Rock inspired ice cream? Sound off in the comments below.