Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Belmont Premium Denali Moose Tracks Ice Cream (Aldi)

Aaah, ice cream.  The perfect refresher on a hot summer day…well, let’s be honest: This is a perfect treat year-round.  But, like everything else, the price of ice cream has shot up in recent years.  As much as I enjoy a bowl every now and again, I’m not willing to spend $5 for a tub of the ‘name brand’ stuff, especially when there are some cheaper, and in most cases, equally delicious options out there.

Which brings me to Aldi.  Ice cream, presented under the Belmont label, is definitely a hit-or-miss affair at the discount retailer, something that seems to have been yet another casualty of the oft-blamed recession.  Once, their premium ice creams were filled to the brim with cookie dough, or cookie bits, or whatever the title implied was supposed to be contained within, and they were a steal when compared to the national brands.  Now, however, their cookie dough ice cream has been reduced to a barren landscape of white with the occasional bite of dough; their cookies and cream ice cream also similarly lacking in cookies, but containing plenty of cream.

Belmont’s “Denali Original” Moose Tracks ice cream, however, is certainly the exception to what seems to be becoming a disappointing rule.  Just from cracking it open, I was rewarded with the site of a couple fudge caves, and a few mini peanut butter cups that were almost begging me to dive right in.  Flavorwise, it doesn’t disappoint:  The fudge is enticingly sweet, without being overly so, and strikes a perfect balance with the peanut butter cups, which are also a perfect blend of crunchy milk chocolate and creamy peanut butter.  This is one of those ice creams that, at least for me, once I get started, it’s almost impossible to stop. 

The vanilla ice cream itself, while not as creamy or as indulgent as, say, an Edy’s, still packs a good flavor.  And this brings us to the frozen dessert’s biggest flaw:  There’s quite a bit of the white stuff.  True, the ice cream has a good amount of peanut butter cups and fudge swirls, especially compared to the sad nature of Belmont’s other “premium” ice creams, but they all seem to be confined to the outer edges of the tub, leaving the entire middle to be little more than plain white ice cream with an occasional chocolaty treasure.  This isn’t really a huge deal, as all in all there’s probably just as much as the ‘bigger’ brands, but it would seem a little more consistent if it were mixed throughout, rather than just left to collect around the outside.

Overall: 8/10.  Belmont’s premium moose tracks ice cream contains enough crunchy peanut butter cups and fudge swirls to keep anyone with a sweet tooth happy.  My only problem is that the cups and swirls seemed to gather only around the outside of the tub, leaving the middle to be little more than boring ice cream.  It’s also not as rich or creamy as some of the bigger name brands, but its price manages to offset most of that.  Definitely worth a look to anyone on a budget, as it manages to be one of the better options in the Belmont Premium ice cream line.

Landmark Confections Duet White/Dark Chocolate Bar (Dollar Tree)

As you can obviously tell from the point of this blog, I am by no means a “high maintenance” guy.  I often shop at Goodwill stores, have no problems accepting clothes and gifts from stores like Wal-Mart, and just generally have an appreciation for the “cheaper” things in life.

That being said, there are some things that generally aren’t well represented in the inexpensive world of dollar stores, and chocolate is one of them.  I can tolerate many things, but cheap chocolates are among the worst of the worst.  They often have a terrible smell, and the same texture as plastic, with roughly the same taste.  As such, I’m hesitant to try any chocolates from a company I’ve never heard of.

Forcing my fears back, I sucked it up and decided to try Landmark Confections‘ Duet White and Dark Chocolate bar, which can be found at Dollar Tree stores.  The bar weighs in at 3.5 oz., and costs only a dollar; to me, this is a believable size-to-price ratio that could lead to a decent hunk of chocolate.  It’s not like you’re getting a pound for a buck.  The package design, while not mind-blowing, is certainly better than some cheapy chocolate bars I’ve had in the past, and definitely helped with my decision to buy it.

The bar itself is divided up into fifteen small-ish squares, with three squares the perfect size for snacking (at least, in my opinion).  Whether you’re smelling the dark chocolate or the white chocolate side, it pretty much smells like the former regardless, which I guess is to be expected, as dark chocolate has a rather strong smell.

Now, here’s where I negate any credibility I ever had in this review:  I don’t really care for dark chocolate all that much.  I find it to be unpleasant and bitter, which are the exact opposite reactions I’m looking for when I get a craving for chocolate.  On the other hand, I happen to love white chocolate, so I just bought it kind of hoping that both tastes would go well together.  So if you are a huge fan of dark chocolate, you can probably add a point or two to the final score to adjust for your taste preference, or you can just toss this review out the window entirely.

I was surprised by the texture.  Some cheapy chocolates I’ve had never really even melted in your mouth, which is obviously a big turn off when dealing with something like this, which should be smooth and creamy.  The chocolate in this bar melts in your mouth pretty convincingly.  I highly doubt that you will confuse this for the silky smooth confection of a Dove bar, but I would liken the consistency to a Hershey bar, more or less.

On to the taste:  At first, I found the taste of the dark chocolate to be rather overwhelming, but after a few little squares, I started to notice the white chocolate quite a bit more.  The white chocolate is basically a standard example of white chocolate…there’s nothing outstanding about it, but then again, what do you expect for a dollar?  The aftertaste, however, is generally strongly of the dark chocolate, with the occasional bite leaving the pleasant residual taste of white chocolate.

Overall: 6/10.  Again, please add a point or two depending on how much you like dark chocolate, as I’m not a fan of it at all.  Instead, I was hoping the mix of dark and white chocolates would create some kind of delicious harmony that was previously missing from my life.  It didn’t.  Instead, it just plays out like a standard ’national brand’ dark chocolate bar meeting a standard ‘national brand’ white chocolate bar, with neither flavor really managing to be anything special.  The aftertaste is primarily dark chocolate.  Definitely edible, so it can satisfy a sweet tooth, and the dollar price tag is also enticing.  But even for a buck, there are so many chocolate options out there that I’m sure you can do better.

NOTE: Could not find any pictures of these items online, and my wife deleted the pics I had taken to make more room in the camera for more pictures of our dog (as if the million we have aren't enough).  So I apologize for the rather bland format this time around.