Thursday, December 17, 2009

PRODUCT REVIEW: Häagen-Dazs Five

I've decided to change this posting to my very first product review. I'll simply use a two-stage rating system of recommended or not recommended.

As I mentioned in my recommendation of Choctal ice cream, I'm frequently unimpressed with so-called "gourmet" ice creams. The texture is usually too icy, the flavor is too mild, or ridiculous flavors and fillings are used as a band-aid over low-quality ice cream.

I've never been impressed with Häagen-Dazs, specifically. I've always found their flavors weak or unpleasant, and the texture has never befitted a product that costs $4 per pint. I tried their Rerserve ice cream chocolate, and it was good, but it came at the same time as the epic Choctal.

So it was with skepticism that I bought some Haagen-Dazs Five. It's their philosophically pure ice cream, where any of the seven available flavors is made with the four primary ice cream ingredients and a flavor. In the end, while I was not totally bowled over, it was good ice cream.

I've only tried the coffee, vanilla, and chocolate flavors, but since the ice cream base is the same for all of the flavors, my analysis should be applicable. The vanilla was very smooth and light. The flavor tastes natural with none of the bite from artificial flavorings. They used both vanilla bean and vanilla extract, and the extract is not noticeable. The flavor lingers on the palate for a long time, which is really nice. Maybe this isn't complete marketing nonsense.

The chocolate was a similar story. It wasn't as strong a flavor, and certainly wasn't epic like Choctal, but it was very smooth with a little bite to it. I've never been terribly impressed with Haagen-Dazs texture, and this ice cream is no different. All three had a faint icy texture to them. The coffee was the only one that had a problem with the flavor. There was a hint of bitterness in the aftertaste, which isn't good since the flavor doesn't hit the palate until it's been on the tongue for a second or two. It wasn't terribly unpleasant, and many people might enjoy it, but I didn't.

Five also stands as a good counterpart to Choctal. I mentioned in the recommendation that most pints of ice cream have four servings, but Choctal wedged in five. The ice cream was so stunningly dense and almost gummy between the teeth. Its texture left all other ice creams wanting. Five is the opposite. It has 3.5 servings, lower fat, and is much lighter and airy. They've whipped in a greater amount of air which is bad, in my book. They advertise that the ice cream has lower fat, but a lot of that is simply because there's less matter in each fluid ounce of ice cream. It's noticeable. Not terribly so, but noticeable.

All in all, these are very good "default" ice creams. Nothing amazing, but nothing specifically negative. And for many people, you could treat these as a "diet" ice cream. For example, Ben & Jerry's chocolate has 250 calories per 1/2 cup (105g), while Five chocolate has 220 calories per 1/2 cup (102g). Importantly, Five has only 12g of fat compared to B&J's 15g. So Five has fewer servings, smaller servings, and fewer calories. Go ahead, eat a whole pint, because this is as close to diet as you're going to get without having to seriously compromise flavor. And even here, I wonder how much of the textural negatives are from the low fat as they are a result of Haagen-Dazs overall ice cream quality.

Häagen-Dazs Five: RECOMMENDED


Anonymous said...

You should read your labels because the Five series is nothing special. If you look at the ingredients with the regular HD, they are the SAME. Nothing but package marketing!

The HD products are much better than some of the other conventional ice creams because you don't see a lot of fillers on the label and you sure don't taste them. Some of the others have really made my stomach feel horrid.

Aaron MC said...

Hi Anonymous,

I checked the ingredients of Five and standard H-D. There are differences, but they're small.

That explains why the textures were so similar and underwhelming. Still, it's decent ice cream.

And I agree. Most mainstream ice creams are pretty poor. The only one I find universally palatable is Turkey Hill.

Anonymous said...

It doesn't have smaller servings, they just put less ice cream in the container and charge the same amount for it. You get 3.5 1/2 cup servings instead of 4 for the same price. It's not that they are suggesting you eat less per sitting, they are just selling less food for the same price, a reduction of 12.5 %.

Aaron MC said...

Ahh gourmet food. Where they charge more for less. But don't you feel cultured now? :-D