September 5, 2011

Review: Starbucks Ice Cream

I’ve been a big Starbucks fan for a very long time, though the reasons have changed over the years. Lately I enjoy Starbucks because they have some healthy/low cal breakfast options that are standardized (hooray for traveling to clients anywhere in the country and always knowing that the spinach feta wrap is only 240 calories). Growing up, a Starbucks opened two blocks away from my house, and it became the “cool” thing to meet friends there for coffee… or in my case, frappuccinos. I couldn’t get enough of them, and it only got worse when the theater where I worked started giving away buy-one-get-one coupons for frappuccinos. Instead of buying one and giving the other to a friend, I would buy one (venti) and get one (venti)… and drink both. Ohhhhhh caramel frappuccinos with extra whipped cream and extra caramel on top… I miss the days when my metabolism was fast enough to handle you. Today, if I’m really craving a frappuccino, I “make my own” with iced coffee, a frozen banana, and various extracts/powders in my kitchen… and usually a dose of protein powder as well.

But now, Starbucks has come up with another way to entice me to enjoy the frappuccino taste I love: frappuccino-flavored Starbucks Ice Creams! I was offered a coupon for two free pints in exchange for doing an honest review, and being an ice cream fan, I was really excited to do so. However, even before seeing the nutrition labels, I figured it wasn’t going to be as healthy as I wanted it to be. No matter how healthy you make your ice cream, it can’t compare to my banana soft serve (made from blending frozen bananas with unsweetened almond milk)! To help avoid the health bias that I tend to exhibit, I enlisted the help of one of my best friends – also a Starbucks addict, and an ice cream lover to boot.

I had to check out a few groceries before I could find one that carried the pints of Starbucks deliciousness, but eventually found a grocery store near me that carried several flavors: Caramel Macchiato, Mocha Frappuccino, Java Chip Frappuccino, Coffee, Vanilla Bean Frappuccino, and Signature Hot Chocolate. I picked Caramel Macchiato and Java Chip Frappuccino, brought them over to my friends, and we immediately dug in. Pssh – who needs a freezer when we can start wielding our spoons before I’ve even put my purse down?

The Caramel Macchiato was exactly as it sounded – mostly caramel and vanilla flavors, with a hint of coffee as well. It was pretty sweet, though not overly so, and decently creamy. When I went onto the Starbucks Ice Cream website later, I found several yummy recipes with each ice cream that made me appreciate the flavor even more; for this flavor, those included Caramel Macchiato Pumpkin Tart, Caramel Macchiato-Topped Waffles with Maple Walnut sauce, and Coffee Bananas Foster. Triple yum! I liked that this one took the basic flavor of coffee ice cream and pumped up the flavor with the notes of caramel and vanilla; however, I wish instead of just having caramel flavoring in the base of the ice cream, they had also swirled some into the carton after the ice cream was made. I think that would have added the perfect touch. Nothing that my own jar of caramel sauce couldn’t fix though!

I didn’t know what to expect with the Java Chip Frappuccino, that particular flavor of frappuccino having not been invented until after I gave up on drinking frappuccinos. It turned out to be pretty classic: coffee ice cream with chunks of dark chocolate popping out in each spoonful. It reminded me of one of those packed-with-stuff flavors that would come out of Ben & Jerry’s, and I really liked it. Tasty recipes with this one included Coffee Toffee Hazelnut Sundaes, Java Chip Semifreddo, and Tiramisu Ice Cream Parfaits – I could especially see that last one being incredible.

Being calorie-conscious, I stopped after just a few spoonfuls of each (hard to do!) and instead let my friend go to town. (Aside: why do guys get so much faster metabolism than women?? SO not fair. My friend complains about gaining a few pounds, cuts back like one of the multiple candy bars he eats per day, and suddenly he loses 10 pounds. Jealous!). My friend loved the Java Chip Frappuccino best, rating it an 8 of 10 (note that this rating scale was only bested by his absolute favorite ice cream, mint chocolate chip, which he would put at a 9. I’m not sure what rates a 10 in his mind, but knowing guys, it’s probably something like “mint chocolate chip ice cream served off a naked woman”). But the really shocking part came when I explained that I had to go to the “far” grocery store to find it (okay, so in NYC that’s only a few blocks away, but still)… and my normally-lazy friend said he’d make the trip to get this stuff – it was that good. Success! He wasn’t quite as sold on the Caramel Macchiato flavor, but still rated it a 7 out of 10… not bad at all.

As for the nutrition stats? Not quite as bad as I feared for these rich and creamy treats. A standard half cup serving (four per pint) of Caramel Macchiato contains 240 calories, 13g fat (20% RDV), 60mg cholesterol (20% RDV), 105mg sodium (4% RDV), 27g carbs (9% RDV), 21g sugar, and 3g of protein. While it’s certainly much higher in fat/calories than the Edy’s Slow Churned that I usually get if I end up purchasing ice cream, it’s comparable to just about any other regular (not light, not slow churned, etc) ice cream out there. And while 21g sugar is kind of a lot, I honestly didn’t think it was that bad when you consider that some breakfast cereals have even more than that. I really liked that there were no artificial ingredients at all in the list (seriously, everything was totally recognizable), and no fake sugar either – just all premium, good stuff.

While I will probably stick with my banana soft serve as my healthy dessert, this is a pretty good splurge if you’re looking to indulge (or if you’re blessed with a lucky Y chromosome and don’t have to watch what you eat as carefully). I found the ice cream to be flavorful, sweet (without being cloying), and creamy – a good pick to close out the summer. Bonus: I could see it being delicious in some sort of iced coffee / ice cream float. Or maybe even as a topper for hot chocolate now that the weather is getting cooler? Yum.

Disclaimer: I wrote this review while participating in a campaign by Mom Central Consulting on behalf of Starbucks, and received coupons and a promotional item to thank me for taking the time to participate.


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