I mostly blame Biscoff for creating a product that (in my opinion) is more versatile (read: easier to eat straight from the jar) than even peanut butter or Nutella, the latter of which at least TRIES to feign mild health benefits (like hazelnuts and skim milk); this is straight up spice cookies (called Speculoos) in spreadable form, and there is nothing, I repeat NOTHING even REMOTELY healthy about eating it. Which is obviously why I just subjected myself to a Speculoos ice cream taste-test before noon.
Now, Trader Joe’s was the first retailer to get the cookie butter craze off the ground, because they marketed it as specifically that: cookie butter. No offense to Biscoff, but unless you were in the know, it’s probably a product you’d have bypassed at the supermarket. Since releasing cookie butter 1.0, TJ’s has gone on to produce crunchy cookie butter, cookie butter sandwich cookies, and (the thing that matters most to us today) cookie butter ice cream. A quart costs $4.49, which is a pretty good deal, but they could probably charge double and it’d still fly off the shelves. (I mean, I had to go to two different locations to find it in stock.)
Apparently Ben & Jerry’s caught on to the craze, because they recently announced they’d be releasing a new flavor in their “Core” series called Spectacular Speculoos, which I only first spotted on shelves in New York City two days ago at a Williamsburg supermarket on Kent. It cost a dollar more than the Trader Joe’s version, and is obviously smaller at a pint, but I figured WHAT THE HELL, THIS IS FOR SNACKS I MEAN SCIENCE and bought a batch.
So what are the apparent differences between the two? Well, Trader Joe’s doesn’t really provide a description of what’s supposed to be happening, but it’s pretty simple to surmise when you look at the product and taste it; it’s vanilla ice cream flecked with bits of frozen cookie butter, and it doesn’t try to be anything other than straightforward.
Meanwhile, Ben & Jerry’s goes hard on this one (as is to be expected) with two kinds of ice cream (dark caramel and vanilla) with a Speculoos cookie crunch incorporated, as well as a solid cookie butter core. It’s extravagant, to say the least, and in terms of appearance, I think Ben & Jerry’s won my eyes (and brain) over at the outset.
HOWEVER, I was surprised to find that I actually preferred the simplistic Trader Joe’s version to the over-the-top Ben & Jerry’s one; I know that the cookies are SUPPOSED to be spicy, but the spice factor is a little overwhelming in the Ben & Jerry’s pint, almost to the point of the ice cream flavors coming off as eggnog-y. So while the crunch from the cookie bits was nice texturally, and while the frozen cookie butter core is PRETTY DELICIOUS, I couldn’t really enjoy the ice cream as a whole…there was way too much going on, and I’d rather have just frozen a jar of Biscoff and eaten that instead. (Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for excess in ways that make sense, like chocolate or caramel or marshmallow, but they missed the balance mark in the spiced cookie game.)
Meanwhile, the vanilla ice cream in the Trader Joe’s quart is really refreshing against the little pockets of spiced cookie butter, and overall it’s a really well-balanced and clean flavor profile. A+, you guys. A+.
So there you have it! My final verdict is: Trader Joe’s is better in nearly every aspect, from the price to the taste. Sorry, Ben & Jerry’s, but stick to Half-Baked and Cherry Garcia, yeah? (And I would also like to pour one out for Häagen-Dazs, who definitely came out with this flavor a few years ago for a seasonal flavor that was way too ahead of its time. Sorry, gurl…you’ll get ’em next time.)