Like the first appearance of ramps at the farmers' markets, there's no surer sign of spring than the arrival of new Ben & Jerry's flavors.
March has typically been the month when the first new Ben & Jerry's flavors of the year make their debut, but it can take some legwork to actually locate them out in the wild. For me, the fun has always been in the thrill of the hunt that leads up to that first sighting. The excitement soon melts away, though, as these new pints blend in next to their contemporaries until they become fan favorites or are entombed forever in the Flavor Graveyard (R.I.P. Chocolate Peanut Butter Cookie Dough, Concession Obsession, Wavy Gravy).
For the past few weeks I've been patrolling the grocery stores in my neighborhood and even widening my search to stores I typically don't frequent, and this past Thursday I found ice cream nirvana at the local Safeway where I uncovered a complete cache of the new flavors—and at an introductory price of $2.79 per pint.
Allow me to introduce the new flavors:
Boston Cream Pie
Boston Cream Pie ice cream with Yellow Cake Pieces, Fudge Flakes and Swirls of Pastry Cream
This Parker House Hotel classic is technically a cake, and chunks of cake in the ice cream didn't sound promising, but this turned out to be the real sleeper of the bunch, mainly due to the pudding-like swirls of pastry cream. It would've been even better with the addition of a fudge swirl.
Rich Caramel Ice Cream with Dark Caramel Swirls
I love caramel as a topping or as part of a swirl, but perhaps I don't crave caramel ice cream enough to fully appreciate this. The spirit of the flavor is pure, but it's a little underwhelming compared to some of the other new flavors (and I think the Dulce de Leche from Häagen-Dazs is much better).
Hannah Teter's Maple Blondie
Maple Ice Cream with Blonde Brownie Chunks & a Maple Caramel Swirl
This limited edition batch, named after Vermont native and Olympic snowboarder Hannah Teter, is technically a new flavor but has been available since last December. This came very close to knocking Milk & Cookies off the dais as my personal pick for best in show. Maple might not be a flavor I want to return to on a regular basis but it's a perfect foil to the chewy chunks of blondie pieces scattered throughout.
Milk & Cookies
Vanilla Ice Cream with Chocolate Cookie Swirl, Chocolate Chip and Chocolate Chocolate Chip Cookies
This was my favorite of the bunch—think of it as cookies and cream taken to the extreme. I'm still not sure what a "chocolate cookie swirl" exactly entails but one spoonful reminded me of a classic black and white milkshake. I can see this pint making return engagements in my freezer.
Chocolate & Coffee Liqueur Ice Creams Swirled Together with a Chocolate Cookie Swirl
The only chocolate ice cream in the lineup and the least inspiring of the lot. I found this too close to their Dublin Mudslide to really stand out. And the liqueur ice cream came on too strong for my taste.
Peanut Brittle Ice Cream with Peanut Brittle Pieces and a Caramel Swirl
I was probably too caught up in the novelty aspect of some of the new flavors to truly appreciate this straightforward offering, but it packs a great crunch and should prove to be one of the longstanding flavors of the bunch.
I'm curious to know if you're starting to see these where you live—what's your favorite new flavor?
Tomorrow just might be the perfect day to sample some of these new flavors as Tuesday, March 23, marks Ben & Jerry's annual Free Cone Day (from 12 to 8 p.m. at participating scoop shops in the U.S.). And keep an eye out for a new scoop shop exclusive flavor: Chocowlate Chip (Fair Trade vanilla ice cream with cow-shaped fudge pieces).
About the author: Brad Thomas Parsons is a Seattle-based writer who has interviewed many of the food world's biggest names, including David Chang, Anthony Bourdain, Mario Batali, Danny Meyer, Ina Garten, Jamie Oliver, Paula Deen, and Giada De Laurentiis, among others. He is currently at work on his first book, Bitters: A Spirited History of a Classic Cure-All, with Cocktails and Recipes.