Vegan Adventures In Veggie Land: Part 1

It all started with Ben and Jerry's...

Recently, I've been buying lots of vegan products. Each time we go shopping, I try to get something which we've not tried before. Some purchases are good, some are mediocre, some are absolutely awful, and one is just so good that it has even become a permanent vegan switch! I'm going to review some of these purchases here. The reviews will be quite long, so I'm going to split this up over a few posts.

By the way, I'm not becoming a vegan. At the moment some of the dairy-free alternatives are just not good at all. There are things, such as fromage frais and regular dairy based Ben and Jerry's, that are just too good to lose! (Sorry vegans!)

This all started, as the tag line tells you, because of Ben and Jerry's. I saw an announcement that they had started selling vegan ice-cream (Yes, I do know it isn't technically ice-cream as it obviously has no cream in it...) via Tesco. Now there isn't a Tesco anywhere near us - which I'm thankful for quite frankly - so I resolved to nip into one the next time I happened to be nearby. About three weeks ago I was passing a store, so kept my promise to myself (and to Anneka!) and bought the three flavours currently available. At £5.50 per tub, this was going to be an expensive experiment! I also bought a regular, dairy-packed tub of Ben and Jerry's. It would be nice to have a backup just in case the vegan ones were disappointing.

The first flavour we tried was the Chocolate Fudge Brownie one. I've taken photos of the tops of each individual flavour, except for this one it seems... So you'll have to make do with the photo above. I also didn't take any photos of the ice-cream itself, as I wasn't originally planning to review it!

Obviously the ice-cream was quite chocolatey - which is exactly what you'd expect. Sadly, it wasn't as good as the dairy version of this product. The main problem is that, as it's made with an almond base, the taste of the nut overpowers the other flavours. The other issue we found was that the fudge brownie pieces were a little dry and crumbly. The dairy ones are soft and gooey, as a good brownie should be. The tub was also very sparsely populated with them. Seriously - we found only about five small pieces in the entire tub. Overall, it was acceptable for a vegan desert, but a little disappointing compared with the dairy version.

The second flavour we tried was the Peanut Butter and Cookies one. We did not enjoy this at all. The biggest problem with this flavour is the sheer nuttiness. I like peanuts. I really like peanuts. Also, I like peanut butter sandwiches. If you've never tried a peanut butter and banana sandwich, stop reading this, go and buy some peanut butter, bananas, and plain white bread and make yourself one! They're brilliant! This, however, was too much. There are supposed to be other flavours in this desert - vanilla and chocolate - but it's nigh-on impossible to taste them. The nut flavours just overpower everything. Additionally, there weren't many cookie pieces either. Slightly more than the fudge brownie one, but still not enough.

The last flavour was the Chunky Monkey one. I'm a fan of the dairy original, so I had high hopes for this vegan take on it. Lovely banana flavours, with nice chunks of chocolate and the occasional irritating walnut (not a huge fan of those). Sadly, this was lacking in those things. The problem, as was the case for the other two flavours, is the almond base. It's simply too strong a flavour to make a good ice-cream out of. It overpowered (and almost completely consumed) the banana flavour. The chocolate chunks in this were quite good though. Plentiful and generously sized, and tasty as long as they had very little ice-cream actually on them when you ate them. Overall though, this was another disappointing experience.

The Sofa So Good (brilliant name!) flavour was our backup. I'm really glad I bought it too, as it was nice to go back to a tasty tub of Ben and Jerry's after being so disappointed with the vegan versions.

One thing I immediately noticed for all three vegan flavours was that, even after letting them sit at room temperature for 5 minutes, they were a lot more difficult to scoop than their dairy-based counterparts. This meant we ended up with little slivers rather than nice round balls. I can't really fault the company for this though, as it is their first foray into vegan deserts. I'm sure that, with time, experience and recipe changes, this will be resolved.

Hopefully the company will take all the feedback from all the people who have taken time to review these new lines - there are a lot of people who have been equally excited and disappointed as we've been - and do something about the base recipe. Almond is just too strong a flavour in this quantity to be good for any vegan iced desert. It's too overpowering. The other problem I think the company has is that, naturally, people will be comparing these to their dairy-based cousins. At the moment, they cannot possibly match the high standards already set by flavours such as Phish Food and Topped Salted Caramel Brownie (my favourite flavour by the way!)

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