With its ability to spread knowledge as well as hatred, is the internet a positive force for mankind or a negative one? If God is good, why does he allow evil to exist? What is the essence of humanity _ what makes us different from other animals?
Good questions, all. And hard to answer. But not as hard, or as inherently fascinating, as this: Who makes the best chocolate chip and salted caramel ice creams in the country?
Admit it: It's a lot more interesting than pondering the problem of evil.
As with all great epistemological questions, we started with a general notion and worked our way to a specific: "Who makes the best ice cream in the country?" was eventually distilled into "What premium brands of ice cream available at grocery stores make the best chocolate chip and salted caramel ice creams?"
Finding volunteers to help with this quest was, as you might guess, not particularly difficult. Long lines of eager taste testers lined up in the newsroom to express their considered opinions about a topic of considerable interest to seemingly all of them.
"I'm definitely an expert on ice cream. As a lifetime aficionado. I have a refined palate. I have deep expertise in ice cream," announced one tester who will here go unnamed although I really want to say who it was.
Other testers were just as certain about their abilities. If there is anything people are happy to discuss, it's ice cream.
We ended up with 10 taste testers, including me, who agreed to sample both the chocolate chip and salted caramel flavors of five different brands — Haagen-Dazs, Talenti, Graeter's, Oberweis and, as a control, the non-premium Edy's. The tastings were not blind — we knew which ones we were trying — except for the first taster, the one with the expertise and the palate.
Ranked from best to worst, here were our judgments:
In the chocolate chip category, the clear winner was Haagen-Dazs Vanilla Chocolate Chip. Our testers said it was "rich" and "the best," with "big, nice chips." One tester praised its "hard, chocolate chips, while others complained that the chips were "low quality (chalky)" and said the "chips ruin it. They taste like cardboard."
Second place went to my hometown favorite, Graeter's Chocolate Chip. The testers said it had a "hearty taste" with a "creamy mouthfeel," but there was a difference of opinion about the "chewy" chocolate chips. One called them "an interesting surprise" and another "didn't like the chewy chips at first, but then the chocolate flavor comes through and then I quite enjoyed it." Others thought the chewy chips were "weird."
Talenti Chocolate Chip was third. One tester called it "most classic," while another complained it was "not a deep vanilla" and thought the chocolate chips were "melting." Two complained it was "icy," and one thought the chips "too tiny."
Fourth place was held by Oberweis Chocolate Chip. "So creamy" enthused one tester, while another called it "the best." One enjoyed "the texture" but thought the taste was "a little off," while another complained of an "aftertaste."
Edy's, which came in a distant fifth, was "creamier than I expected," with a "fine" and "velvety" texture and "big chunks of chips" but had an "odd, slightly sour vanilla" taste," was "too icy" and "sort of bland."
Among the salted caramel choices, the undisputed winner was Talenti Sea Salt Caramel. "More of a deeper caramel flavor" and "like a real caramel" said the testers, who also called it "very tasty" and "rich and creamy." A couple of the testers noted the "dark color" and said, "I wasn't sure about the color," but while one called it "bitter," nearly everyone else agreed it was "very good."
A fairly distant second was Haagen-Dazs Dulce de Leche, which is more or less the same thing as caramel. "Great mouthfeel" enthused one tester, and "great texture" agreed another. Other testers noted a "very mild" flavor and thought it was "more like vanilla." But the consensus was "yum."
Two brands tied for third place, Oberweis Dulce de Leche and Edy's Caramel Delight. The Oberweis variety had a "nice texture and sweetness," with a "great caramel flavor," though others found "not enough caramel taste" and thought it was "dull, compared to others." The Edy's brand was "creamy, foamy" and "very sweet," but the caramel was "subtle" or "too bitter."
Bringing up the rear was Graeter's Original Salted Caramel Ice Cream. One tester called it "the best," and another said it had "the strongest caramel taste." But other testers thought it was "too caramely," tasted "burned" and complained of "a bitter aftertaste. Also, foretaste."
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