The Coast News Group
Consumer Reports

Cream of the icy summer treats

There’s nothing better than indulging in a bowl of ice cream on a hot summer day.
And while exotic choices such as Ben & Jerry’s Boston Cream Pie and Blue Bunny Birthday Party might turn heads, vanilla and chocolate are still the nation’s favorite ice cream flavors. Consumer Reports’ trained testers recently tried 13 vanillas and 11 chocolates with varying amounts of fat.
Seven rated Excellent, and six of those are Haagen-Dazs and Ben & Jerry’s; the seventh, is from Archer Farms Belgian Chocolate (Target). All are dense and creamy, with strong, high-quality flavors.
Haagen-Dazs Vanilla Bean ($1.13 per 1/2 cup serving) topped the list of vanillas, for having a big dairy and real vanilla taste. It comes at a price, though, in the amount of 270 calories and 17 grams of fat per serving. Ben & Jerry’s Vanilla ($0.97 per serving) and Haagen-Dazs Five Vanilla Bean ($1.13 per serving) took the other vanilla top spots. Ben & Jerry’s has 230 calories and 14 grams of fat, while the Five Vanilla Bean has 220 calories and 11 grams of fat.
Among the Excellent chocolates, testers found that Archer Farms Belgian ($0.33 per serving) has an intense, complex chocolate flavor enhanced by bits of dark chocolate. It has 230 calories and 14 grams of fat per serving.
Both Haagen-Dazs chocolates have a big dairy flavor. Haagen-Dazs Five Milk Chocolate ($1.11 per serving) has 220 calories and 12 grams of fat, while Haagen-Dazs regular chocolate ($1.16 per serving) has 260 categories and 17 grams of fat. Ben & Jerry’s ($1.02) has a strong chocolate flavor but is a touch icy, according to testers, and has 250 calories and 14 grams of fat.
Lower-rated ice creams are less creamy and less flavorful, with flaws such as an artificial taste or gumminess. According to CR’s testers, it seems to be harder to make a high-quality vanilla ice cream than a high-quality chocolate. The chocolate flavor may help mask mistakes.
The tastiness of the top-rated ice creams comes at a cost-they’re full of calories and fat. For a special treat, try one of the top-rated varieties. And most are pretty pricey, 97 cents to $1.16 per half-cup serving. But Archer Farms costs 33 cents per serving.
Bottom line: For a special treat, try one of CR’s the top-rated ice creams. If more healthy fare is your goal, and anything cold and sweet will do, try a light or fat-free ice cream, which has fewer calories and less fat.
Chardonnays for less than $10
The news in chardonnay is that some producers of that wine, which is known for having an oaky flavor, are ditching wood barrels for stainless-steel tanks and letting the grapes do the talking. Most chardonnays, however, still occupy the territory between the two basic styles: fruity or woody/buttery (woody from oak barrels; buttery from a process called malolactic fermentation).
Consumer Reports’ wine experts found four very inexpensive chardonnays that rated are Very Good and seven that are Good. The Very Good are Alice White 2008 (Australia, $7); Bogle 2008 (California, $9); Trackers Crossing 365 (Whole Foods) 2008 (Australia, $7); and Yosemite Road (7-Eleven) (California, $5).
The Good chardonnays were generally less complex, with more generic fruit flavors. They include Alamos Medoza 2008, Fetzer Valley Oaks 2008, Frontera 2009, Harthill Farms and Paul Varmer 2007 (both from Whole Foods), Oak Leaf (Wal-Mart) and Trader Joe’s Charles Shaw Blend 2008.
Bottom line: You can buy a very good chardonnay for $5 to $9.
If you don’t mind spending more, try Kendall-Jackson Vintner’s Reserve 2008, $14. CR’s experts judged it especially tasty. It has heavy butter, vanilla, caramel and butterscotch flavors balanced by crisp acidity and light fruit flavor.