Serious Eats: Sweets
Walmart's Exclusive Ben & Jerry's Flavor: Flourless Chocolate Cake Ice Cream
"Seeking out limited and exclusive flavors can be a fun but equally frustrating endeavor."
Soon after I posted a roundup of the new 2010 Ben & Jerry's flavors, I heard online whispers that there was one more new flavor out there, a pint even more difficult to locate than all the rest. And, just as Yoda pronounced to the ghostly Obi-Wan Kenobi in The Empire Strikes Back, I can now confirm: "there is another."
The good news: Flourless Chocolate Cake is one of the best new Ben & Jerry's flavors I've had in years. The bad news: it's a "limited batch" that's only available at Walmart Supercenters.
Continuing the Star Wars theme, retailers like Walmart and Target have long carried exclusive Star Wars products, typically action figures repackaged together as a themed set. But other than a brief time where Target was the only retailer selling Pepperidge Farm Tim Tam cookies, I can't think of many instances where one retailer was the exclusive source for an otherwise nationally available food product.
Seeking out "limited" and "exclusive" flavors can be a fun but equally frustrating endeavor, especially if you don't live near the retailer stocking the item. For the sake of Serious Eaters, I trekked 15 miles to the nearest Walmart Supercenter in Renton, Washington. Living on the edge, I didn't bother calling ahead to see if they even had the ice cream in stock—that would take the thrill out of the hunt.
I took a counter-clockwise lap around the perimeter of the vast store and as I closed upon one complete revolution I worried that this Walmart wasn't technically a "Superstore." But then I finally hit the grocery aisles and came upon the freezer case. One cooler was jam-packed with Edy's ice cream but right next door were a half-dozen pints of Flourless Chocolate Cake, the only Ben & Jerry's on hand. Mission accomplished. But was it worth the trip?
Billed as Ben & Jerry's "chocolatiest chocolate flavor yet," Flourless Chocolate Cake consists of chocolate ice cream flecked with pieces of flourless chocolate cake rounded out with chocolate frosting swirl. Inspired by the restaurant dessert menu standby (and a confection increasingly popular with gluten-free bakers), this is not to be confused with its kissing cousin, the molten chocolate cake (now there's an ice cream flavor I could really get behind).
Chunks of cold cake embedded in ice cream didn't initially appeal to me, but these cake pieces are dense and delicious and not at all crumbly. After two spoonfuls I still hadn't uncovered the cake-frosting swirl, but if I hadn't put the lid back on I could have easily made short work of that pint. The intense, chewy-chocolate combination reminded me of one of my favorite Ben & Jerry's flavors, Brownie Batter,which I haven't seen in supermarket freezers for awhile. I fear it might be one pint away from the Flavor Graveyard.
Flourless Chocolate Cake answers the question of when is a pint of ice cream worth a 30-mile roadtrip? If you're a chocolate lover and you come across this pint, scoop it up. I picked up an extra pint and tucked it into the back of the freezer for a rainy day. Which, living in Seattle, might just be tomorrow.
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.