Merv's Texas Adventures

Discussion in 'SBAF Blogs' started by purr1n, Dec 31, 2020.

  1. purr1n

    purr1n Building Magnis part time because it's peaceful.

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    First order of business: ice cream.

    I do not like chocolate ice cream. My favorite ice cream flavor is vanilla of which there can be several different ways to making it. I used to make my own ice cream at home with an ice cream maker and fresh ingredients. Over the years however, I have found less time to make my own.

    In California, my "reference" vanilla ice cream was Alden's Vanilla Bean Ice cream. It was horribly expensive, never went on sale, and only stocked in small quantities.

    AldenIC.png

    My wife and I used to call this molestered farmboy ice cream. Thankfully, I think the marketing guys got it and changed the packaging. Too bad. We liked the old packaging.

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    Vanilla bean is different from vanilla ice cream because the beans are ground into tiny specks, which do not infuse into the ice cream. Three are different flavors now such as creamy vanilla and french vanilla. I have not tried them. In fact, I don't think I've even seen them at my local grocery store in California. Oh well.

    BTW, it's really hard to find good (vanila) ice cream in California. I've tried them all, at least of the ones available at the major grocery stores. Too many vegans I guess. BTW anything from Trader Joe's is disgusting, so let's not even go there.
     
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  2. purr1n

    purr1n Building Magnis part time because it's peaceful.

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    So what does this have to do with Texas?

    Well Blue Bell ice cream had really what I would have considered the "reference" vanilla ice cream of the USA (their Homemade Vanilla). Sure I've resided in California, but I've visited most major cities throughout the USA, sometimes for extended periods of time. Blue Bell Creameries is based in TX, and as such Blue Bell had its presence in the Southern states. California was SOL.

    I'm sure that Blue Bell would have had a larger presence by now, but in 2015, they got shut down because of a listeria outbreak. I can only imagine a Scarlett O'hara character insisting on taking shortcuts in regards to sanitation of the food processing facilities, to the chagrin of Rhett Butler, but let's not go there. Shit happens.

    Like Alden's, Blue Bell also commands a price premium. (Sort of - as you do get a 1/2 gallon)
    large_33454e88-31b5-4562-bbf9-c2cc154e7ae5.jpeg
     
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  3. purr1n

    purr1n Building Magnis part time because it's peaceful.

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    Texas has these grocery store chains called H-E-B which is privately owned. There is one near me which is an H-E-B Plus which reminds of me Walmart or Meijer (in MI, KY, IL, OH) in that it sells crap other than groceries. The difference is that H-E-B sticks strongly to its grocery store roots. It remains a grocery super store even if it sells other things.

    H-E-B carries Blue Bell, but the owners like any other grocery chain owner, is going to try to do their thing with their own private label brand. Hence H-E-B ice cream. H-E-B makes several flavors of vanilla ice cream, but the two that immediately come to mind with respect to competition with Blue Bell are the Homemade Vanilla and 1905 Vanilla. (1905 was when H-E-B was founded).

    PXL_20210101_012736367.jpg

    Note that the H-E-B Homemade isn't quite the same as the Blue Bell Homemade. The two H-E-B vanilla flavors sort of straddle around the Blue Bell Homemade vanilla instead of making an attempt to be exactly like Blue Bell. They command a small premium at $4.82 for a 1/2 gallon. Less than Blue Bell or Alden's but more than the big brands that often get discounted to $2.99 (TX) or $3.99 (CA).

    Let the games begin!
     
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  4. Syzygy

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  5. YMO

    YMO it's not drinking alone if you're on Zoom

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    Blue Bell is so processed to the point IMO that it taste disgusting. They add too much corn syrup in their batches to the point you are tasting less of the flavors and more of the sweet. When I moved to FL I never understood the appeal.

    Thankfully the HEB equivalent in FL, Publix, has their own Ice Cream inhouse brand and their "Greenwise" organic Ice Cream is fantastic. Their vanilla is excellent since you can actually taste the more smoky taste of the vanilla, not the overpowering sweetness in tons of mass produced ice creams.
     
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  6. purr1n

    purr1n Building Magnis part time because it's peaceful.

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    These are the results in order of preference from my family:

    Julie: 1) H-E-B 1905; 2) H-E-B Homemade; 3) Blue Bell Homemade
    William: 1) Blue Bell Homemade; 2) H-E-B Homemade; 3) H-E-B 1905
    Gen: 1) H-E-B 1905; 2) H-E-B Homemade; 3) Blue Bell Homemade
    Me: 1) H-E-B Homemade; 2) H-E-B 1905; 3) Blue Bell Homemade

    As we can see, the results are all over the place. Third place here doesn't mean it's bad. These three vanilla ice creams blow away anything I've had from California - noting that the only Alden's flavor I had been able to try was vanilla bean, which is not anywhere comparable to these.

    The Blue Bell actually tasted the most like the homemade vanilla ice cream I would make from fresh ingredients with the ice cream maker. It's the cleanest flavor. Maybe buttery almost, as butter is what we get from cream. Being the least complex, it felt like someone simply blended sugar and cream. Note that this is the only ice cream here that uses high fructose corn syrup. Think of this as like the THX789 of vanilla ice creams.

    The H-E-B 1905 is interesting is that it's a custard type vanilla. We're talking egg yolks. Now I've tasted a Signature Select (I think a California Safeway) brand that tried to take this approach and it was disgusting - sticky, not creamy, not smooth - like clay. The custard flavor is strong, but not overpowering. This is probably the sweetest ice cream, but with the egg, it works. It's custard after all.

    The H-E-B Homemade was my favorite and no one else put this in last place. No eggs, but this one goes have the highest fat content. The vanilla flavor is upped a bit, smokey mid-palate with an all slightly bitter finish. The vanilla is strong with this one.

    BTW, all three of the above vanilla ice creams use annatto. I find this fascinating as I've used annatto seeds for the yellow / reddish coloring (and subtle aroma) for Vietnamese beef stew.

    --

    Lots more to come. I am super enamored with H-E-B. (They pulled off a decent frozen Chinese potstickers / dumpling and I still can't get over that most of their stuff is $2.48)
     
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  7. Syzygy

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    I didn't want to comment on Blue Bell; it's kinda choice-of-last-resort for me. There are so many people here that absolutely love BB.
     
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  8. rhythmdevils

    rhythmdevils Best SBAF member of all time

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    My name is RD and I’m addicted to ice cream. I’ve always loved it since I was a kid. My favorite is mint chip though.

    There’s a small ice cream company in Santa Barbara called McConnell’s. Small boutique ice cream company , only sold in pints.

    it’s the best store bought ice cream I’ve ever had by far. Especially the mint chip which instead of using artificial mint flavor they use mint oil and the resulting flavor is akin to fresh mint tea vs mint chewing gum. It’s absolutely amazing. We don’t get many of their flavors up here we get salted caramel, orange chocolate, mint chip and plain cream. It’s dense, not air fluffed which is my most common complaint about commercial ice cream. And the flavors are all just so real and natural tasting. Plus really creative.

    they have a vanilla bean listed on their website. Have you tried it Marv? I’m sure it’s widely available in LA.
     
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  9. zonto

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    I haven’t tried a ton, but my favorite store-bought vanilla ice cream is Trader Joe’s brand. Liked it more than Alden’s (pretty sure you can get that at WF).
     
  10. rhythmdevils

    rhythmdevils Best SBAF member of all time

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    Ah!! Trader Joe’s ice cream is all air fluffed. No no no :(
     
  11. schiit

    schiit SchiitHead

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    McConnell's is $48 for half a gallon, or pretty much 10x where Marv is comparing. Let's be fair.

    And, if we're going for ice-cream-suitable-for-stocking-$24,000-refrigerators comparisons, I'll take Rori's (Carpinteria) over McConnells any day. Though we do make a version of the McConnells olive oil and salted almond with coconut cream and added mini-chocolate chips at home (yeah, sounds weird, don't judge till you try it, we don't like ice cream that is very sweet.)
     
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  12. rhythmdevils

    rhythmdevils Best SBAF member of all time

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    huh. I’m pretty sure it sells for similar prices to other “good” pints here at Whole Foods- 4-5$. Either that or you just figured out why my grocery bills are so high.
     
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  13. Syzygy

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    I've heard of vanilla ice cream drizzled with Scotch whiskey and sprinkled with black pepper as a dessert, but $12/pint? That's crazy talk!

    Maybe I just have misguided priorities.
     
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  14. fastfwd

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    To each his own. There's no accounting for taste. Etc.

    But FWIW, the FDA says (in 21CFR101.22):

    (i) If the food is one that is commonly expected to contain a characterizing food ingredient, e.g., strawberries in "strawberry shortcake", and the food contains .... an amount of characterizing ingredient insufficient to independently characterize the food, or the food contains no such ingredient, the name of the characterizing flavor .... shall be immediately followed by the word "flavored"
    So I'm sure the "Homemade™ Vanilla Flavored" Blue Bell is sweet and cold, and of course any ice cream tastes better than no ice cream, but I'll keep eating the too-many-vegans land-of-fruits-and-nuts dude-bruh California ice cream made with real live actual vanilla.
     
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  15. LetMeBeFrank

    LetMeBeFrank Won't tell anyone my name is actually Francis

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    Recently we found the Meijer brand Purple Cow to be fantastic, especially for the price, and it has been our go to for all frozen treats. Popsicles, icecream, etc. I don't normally like vanilla icecream but the purple cow stuff is really good.
     
  16. purr1n

    purr1n Building Magnis part time because it's peaceful.

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    Really not looking for the vanilla bean type. This comparison was really about the vanilla (extract) where the flavor is more "cooked" and infused. Really just apples and oranges. It's really a completely different process.
     
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  17. fastfwd

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    Nothing wrong with oranges.

    The important thing is that you got to eat ice cream. And plus, you get to exit 2020 two full hours before California. Happy new year!
     
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  18. purr1n

    purr1n Building Magnis part time because it's peaceful.

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    I think some context is being missed:
    1. Vanilla extract ice cream, not vanilla bean - totally different flavor.
    2. Easily found at regular grocery stores
    3. Affordable to common man - heck, I found Alden's too expensive - I got two kids and Julie has a sweet tooth.
    4. Actually decent, a good step above Breyers, Dreyers,. Tilamook, Safeway Select, Kroger / Ralphs, etc.
    I know CA has some awesome shit, but the accessibility and pricing are rather difficult for this awesome shit. It's the same ol' same ol'. Nothing well above average for a good price.

    There's a reason why I didn't bring up the boutique stuff. It would be like me saying every headamp sucks compared to the DNA Stellaris or the custom amp that I own.

    Now if there is a vanilla (extract) ice cream in California that is accessible and affordable that hits above its price point, I'd like to know about it. It's entirely possible that I missed it.
     
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  19. rhythmdevils

    rhythmdevils Best SBAF member of all time

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    they do though don’t they? ;) You can call me an ice cream snob I’m comfortable with that.

    looking forward to hearing more about your adventures in Texas in 2021!!

    :sail:
     
  20. purr1n

    purr1n Building Magnis part time because it's peaceful.

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    Meijer is privately owned and regional. Same as H-E-B. I think this is the difference. Private companies work differently than public ones with stock ticker symbols.

    California has been 97 percent borged by public corporation chains Alberstons/Safeway/Vons/Pavillion and Ralphs/Kroger. It didn't use to be this way.

    The privately held stores such as Raleys/Nob Hill seem to be disappearing. There is Bristol Farms in SoCal which has good tasting house brand stuff without the Whore Foods or Erehwon prices. But then we are talking about only a dozen stores in an area larger than a few small NE states combined.

    As a meat eater and one who cooks from scratch, I found Whole Foods and Erehwon either lacking in selection or way too expensive. Ranch 99 has a far better selection of leafy vegetables, fish, and certain cuts of meat. However, such a trip in El Lay traffic was always painful.
     
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