Crispiness Jihad

Ben & Jerry’s Cinnamon Buns Ice Cream

By: Ben & Jerry’s

Suggested Retail Price: $3 a pint

Taste: 3stars


Marketing: 3stars

Ben & Jerry’s has been doing its indulgent hippie-inflected gooey ice cream thing for a solid 25-plus years; even after selling out to Unilever. And the (relatively) new Cinnamon Buns flavor is emblematic of the B&J formula.

As usual, the strength of the product isn’t so much the ice cream per se but the novelty of the mix-ins plus a syrupy slurry of bonus flavoring—it’s less an ice cream than a sundae in a cardboard tub. In the case of the Cinnamon Buns flavor, a caramel ice cream base supports tiny chorizo-slice-shaped lumps of “cinnamon bun” dough and a ribbon of caramel streusel. The bun lumps have a gritty texture to them, which counterpoints the smooth ice cream, but it’s hard not to wish they were a bit … well, better tasting. Other than the density we tend to associate with unbaked dessert treats, there’s not a lot of actual deliciousness packed into these grim little nuggets.

The caramel ice cream is relatively milquetoasty (it’s not clear that plain vanilla wouldn’t have been better), but the caramel streusel is delightful, and all-too-scarce. Streusel-dominated bites of Cinnamon Buns ice cream are just delicious, bun-dominated bites less so.

The back of the container proclaims: “There’s no telling where the cinnamon buns end or the ice cream begins.” But, actually, there is: The cinnamon buns end and the ice cream begins when the product stops being all dense and gritty.

Nestlé Crunch Crisp Bar

By: Nestlé

Suggested Retail Price: 85 cents for a 1.74-ounce bar

Taste: 4stars


Marketing: 5stars

There’s something hypnotic about the TV ad for the new Nestlé Crunch Crisp bar, wherein disparate layers of cookie wafers, milk chocolate, and mysterious white “airy crispies” are magically assembled into one united candy product. In part, it’s probably because watching anything get assembled layer by layer in a computer-animated fashion is compelling, but the appeal of the ad also stems from the fact that this bar clearly comes out swinging on the crispy front. No joking around, no sandy-tasting Twix crispiness or halfhearted, muted crispiness of the standard Nestlé Crunch. This is a crispiness jihad, bursting with the fierce earnestness of a company determined to crisp the dickens out of its product.

The Crisp bar has sharply divided online candy bar critics. Chocolate Obsession calls it “the horrific love child of a Nestlé Crunch and Kit Kat,” and one of the blog’s comments pithily observes: “It taste[s] more like X-LAX than CANDY.” (A bon mot about a bad bonbon!) Candy Addict, by contrast, declares it a “really great snacking experience” and hails the “quite tasty” wafer cookie component.

When stacked up against its lowbrow gas station checkout counter brethren, the Nestlé Crunch Crisp bar acquits itself heroically. The multiple wafer layers (topped with crispies) give the illusion of a bar that’s much larger and more elegant than it is. And the chocolate cream/chocolate coating layers, while not of Scharffen Berger quality, aren’t bad. This column has kneecapped countless other experimental mass-market products for tinkering with successful formulae and screwing everything up. Here, happily, a bit of industrial experimentation created something tasty.

James Norton edits the Upper Midwestern food journal Heavy Table. He's also the coauthor of a book on Wisconsin's master cheesemakers. Follow CHOW on Twitter, and become a fan on Facebook.