Top Pick Of The Week

April 10, 2007

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Haagen Dazs Reserve Hawaiian Lehua Honey Ice Cream

The honey in Hawaiian Lehua Honey & Sweet Cream Ice Cream is made from the nectar of the blossoms of the Ohi’a tree. How rare is it? It is found only on the north slope of the Manua Kea volcano on the Big island of Hawaii, and harvested just once a year.

WHAT IT IS: Häagen-Dazs Reserve, a new line of reserve ice creams from Häagen-Dazs.
WHY IT’S DIFFERENT: Unusual ingredients and great recipes.
WHY WE LOVE IT: Häagen-Dazs has always been a superpremium big supermarket brand, but these ice creams have a finesse that equals anything made by a small, artisan creamery.
WHERE TO BUY IT: At, plus specialty food stores and select supermarkets in California, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Jersey, New York, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Washington and Washington DC. Häagen-Dazs Reserve Series sells at a premium price of $4.99 per pint, compared to $3.79 Suggested Retail Price for regular prints.

Häagen-Dazs Reserve:

Lovers of artisan ice cream now have five new flavors to contemplate from superpremium industry leader Häagen-Dazs But they’re not just any new flavors: They’re made of relatively rare ingredients, are made in limited quantity and are in limited distribution at select supermarkets and specialty food stores. Yes, the original superpremium ice cream brand has returned to its roots.

Chocolate ice cream fans can taste an earthy and unusual Amazon Valley Chocolate Ice Cream. Those who have been hearing a lot about açaí can experience Brazilian Açaí Berry Sorbet. For lovers of honey there’s a pretty special Hawaiian Lehua Honey & Sweet Cream Ice Cream, our group’s favorite in this tasting. For people who can’t get enough pom, there are Pomegranate Chip Ice Cream in pints and chocolate-covered Pomegranate Bars on a stick. And those who just want another ebullient flavor to eat from the pint—because you can’t put the container down—there’s Toasted Coconut Sesame Brittle Ice Cream.

Those who have always liked Häagen-Dazs will find more to love here. Those who have moved on to small-batch boutique creameries will find that H-D has stepped up to compete. Here, “Reserve” isn’t a marketing gimmick: It’s unreservedly true. Read the full review below to learn more about this new line, and each of the flavors.

  • Click here to read the full review below. (If your e-mail client does not support anchor links, scroll down.)
  • Read reviews of more of our favorite ice creams in THE NIBBLE™ online magazine.
  • See the Table of Contents of the April issue of THE NIBBLE online magazine, plus the back issues archive and our most popular articles.
THE NIBBLE™ does not sell the foods we review
or receive fees from manufacturers for recommending them.

Our recommendations are based purely on our opinion, after tasting thousands of products each year, that they represent the best in their respective categories.


Make Your Own Ice Cream

Williams-Sonoma Ultimate Ice Cream Book Gelato
Williams-Sonoma Collection: Ice Cream, by Mary Goodbody. More than 40 easy-to-follow recipes, from all-time favorites (lemon sorbet) to delicious new flavors (chocolate hazelnut gelato). The goal of this book is to inspire you to make your own ice cream—and we’ve recommended some of our favorite ice cream makers below, too. Click here for more information. The Ultimate Ice Cream Book: Over 500 Ice Creams, Sorbets, Granitas, Drinks, And More, by Bruce Weinstein. Recipes for just about every ice cream imaginable, from four different versions of vanilla to corn, avocado, and oatmeal. There’s a different recipe to keep ice cream lovers busy for a year and a half, including one for homemade ice cream cones. Click here for more information. Gelato!, by Pamela Sheldon Johns. Johns, an expert in the foods of Italy, clearly loves her subjects. With spectacular recipes handed down from generations, and fascinating stories from Italian gelato artisans—plus gorgeous photography—this is a volume for any ice cream-lover’s collection. Click here for more information.

Häagen-Dazs® Reserve™ Ice Creams: RSVP!



You scream, I scream, all of America screams and eats millions of gallons of ice cream a year—most of it vanilla, chocolate, butter pecan, French vanilla, neapolitan, vanilla Bean, mint chocolate chip, strawberry and cookies n’ cream purchased in supermarkets. Just 14% is superpremium ice cream*—the top-of-the-line, a category which is government-regulated based on the amount of butterfat (which makes it rich and creamy, 14% or more for superpremium) and the amount of overrun, or air whipped in (10% to 40% for superpremium—the less overrun, the denser the product). Butterfat and overrun percentages largely differentiate superpremium ice cream from premium, regular and economy grades—but so do flavors. Economy and regular brands tend to come in basic flavors—vanilla, chocolate, strawberry, coffee. Premium and superpremium brands make fancier flavors as well: Fudge Swirl, Chocolate Chip Mint, Cookies & Cream. (Read more about the different grades of ice cream).
*Flavors and percent of sales reflect the last 52 weeks of supermarket sales. Yes, vanilla is Häagen-Daz’s top-seller, among approximately 65 flavors.

What  could be better than superpremium? While the government doesn’t recognize an “ultrapremium” category, some manufacturers are going for the “U” by using rare and costlier ingredients—the reserve line, as it were. One such company, Choctál, recently debuted a line of “ultrapremium” single origin chocolate and vanilla ice creams, making variations that use only cacao beans from Costa Rica, the Dominican Republic, Ghana or Kalimantan (Borneo); or vanilla beans from Costa Rica, Madagascar, Mexico or Papua New Guinea.

Flavors & Serving Suggestions

For its debut flavors, the Häagen-Dazs Reserve series presents ice creams with ingredients sourced from around the globe†: the Far East, Middle East, South America and South Pacific. It also rides three hot food trends: açaí, pomegranate and single origin chocolate. While they are made on Häagen-Dazs’s signature French-style ice cream—i.e., it is made with a custard base that includes egg yolks, which make the ice cream more rich-tasting—the Häagen-Dazs Reserve recipes are less sweet and more complex than the regular line. Egg yolks are not a differentiator in superpremium ice cream: The butterfat comes from the amount of cream in the recipe. If you’d like a less rich-tasting superpremium ice cream, look for one without egg yolks (most of the boutique brands we’ve sampled don’t use them).

†Of course, everyday chocolate, coffee, vanilla, banana, coconut, and other flavors are made with ingredients from foreign shores.

If you’re ready to taste, grab your virtual spoon and dig in—in alphabetical order:

Amazon Valley Chocolate Ice Cream

The rare Criollo beans used to make this ice cream come from the state of Pará in the eastern Amazon jungle of Brazil, where the Amazon River flows into the Atlantic Ocean. This single origin cacao† chocolate ice cream yields quite unusual flavors: Tasting blindfolded, you might not know the ice cream was chocolate. There is a dominant flavor of roasted chestnut with hints of cinnamon, coffee, even molasses. Just about the last note to appear is chocolate: it’s more of a mocha effect. Connoisseurs of single origin cacao will find it fascinating.

Whether or not you’re looking for a nutty chocolate, Amazon Valley Chocolate Ice Cream is a stunning example of a single origin cacao ice cream—how terroir affects the beans. This is an intense group of flavors that we that have tasted in no other single origin (or blended) chocolate.


Haagen Dazs Reserve Amazon Valley Chocolate Ice Cream
Amazon Valley Chocolate Ice Cream: unlike any other
chocolate ice cream you’ve ever had.


We had just finished our review of Choctál’s four single origin chocolate ice creams, which we had tasted along with several other superpremium ice creams from blended beans‡ as a benchmark, so the difference was especially eye-opening. Should you decide to have an origin chocolate ice cream tasting (and we highly recommend it), you will definitely want to include Amazon Valley Chocolate.

Serving Suggestion: Garnish with fresh raspberries or a raspberry balsamic reduction. For a wine pairing, try a dessert red: a late harvest Zinfandel or a Banyuls from France.

‡Single origin” means that all of the beans come from the same region, and therefore share a flavor profile common to that region. Most chocolate products are made from blended beans, combining beans from up to 20 different regions of the world to achieve the exact flavor the manufacturer is looking for. In addition, every harvest invariably produces varying flavors due to weather and other factors, so blending allows a uniform flavor to be achieved. Read more about the geographical differences in cacao beans and chocolate flavors.

Haagen Dazs Brazilian Acai Berry Sorbet

Brazilian Açaí Berry Sorbet: You may not live
longer and healthier from a “superfood”-based sorbet,
but you’ll enjoy eating it.


Brazilian Açaí Berry Sorbet

Touted as one of the top “superfoods” because of its super-high concentration of antioxidants, vitamins and minerals, the açaí berry (pronounced ah-SIGH-ee) hit these shores two years ago from Brazil, in the form of juice drinks. The fruit of the açaí palm tree—the açaí berry looks like a blueberry—can’t be sold fresh because it withers soon after it is picked. It is thus quickly turned into concentrate, from which beverages and ice cream spring.

Everyone scrambling to buy blueberry sorbet for its antioxidants should try açaí sorbet. This particular sorbet has a combination of blackberry, blueberry and raspberry flavors that are very interesting. The texture is a bit grainy, like pear sorbet; it’s very refreshing; and, at 120 calories per serving, it’s the “diet flavor” in the line. (If you like açaí, we also recommend to you the açaí and pomegranate sorbet line from Belizza, an upcoming Top Pick.)

Serving Suggestions: The sorbet is delicious plain, or served with seasonal berries or a fresh fruit salad of berries and tropical fruits (banana, mango, papaya, passionfruit—not citrus). It also be delicious with a scoop of vanilla—an açaí creamsicle. It also can be enjoyed with blue cheese like Gorgonzola, served with whole wheat biscuits like Carr’s Whole Wheat Crackers or English wheatmeal biscuits.

Hawaiian Lehua Honey & Sweet Cream Ice Cream

Hawaiian lehua honey is made from the nectar of the blossoms of the ohi’a lehua tree. The ohi’a is the most common hardwood tree in Hawaii, and it is the first tree to appear on new lava flows. The tree has exotic, spiky blossoms, generally crimson-hued but also bright yellow on some trees.

The honey has a distinctive floral flavor and as a creme honey, it is a delicious spread for toast and muffins. But add it to fine ice cream and it becomes a champion comfort food.

A chorus of sweet honey, sweet cream and sweet butter, this flavor is nurturing in a most elegant way. It is unlike any other honey ice cream: We would not have previously sought out a honey ice cream, but this, perhaps, is our favorite flavor.


Hawaiian Lehua Honey and Sweet Cream Ice Cream
Hawaiian Lehua Honey and Sweet Cream Ice Cream:
one of the great comfort foods.

Serving Suggestions: Versatile, this milk-and-honey marvel can be served anytime: as a casual or fancy dessert, a snack, even for brunch on a waffle. It’s best to enjoy the pure flavors of this ice cream without any additions, except for a plain piece of pound cake. (Sure, put a macadamia nut or two on top as a garnish.) For a sybaritic finish to dinner, serve with a glass of Sauternes.

Haagen Dazs Reserve Pomegranate Chip Ice Cream

Pomegranate Chip Ice Cream: We wish for more
pom intensity.


Pomegranate Chip Ice Cream and Dark Pomegranate Bar

Pomegranate is hot: People hear the word “antioxidant” and can’t resist. Häagen-Dazs has launched two variations: a pom chocolate chip ice cream and a chocolate-covered ice cream bar. But in reality, pomegranate is a very subtle flavor. Drink a glass of plain pom juice and you have to reach for flavor notes: There’s not much of a mid-palate and no finish. Häagen-Dazs uses Turkish pom juice instead of the domestic product because they feel the flavor is more intense, and blends in a small amount of elderberry juice to adjust for variability that occurs naturally with the harvesting cycles. But we would still wish for more concentration of flavor—isn’t helped by being further diluted by milk, cream and sugar. Just be prepared: Pom is a quiet flavor; you won’t experience a rush of fruit.

There are lots of large, “chocolaty” chips, made with coconut oil, not cocoa butter, so they can’t be called “chocolate”**, a switch that was made after the company received many complaints about how hard and cold the chocolate chip was in ice cream. Although they are not “real” chocolate, they provide a nice bittersweet flavor. The net impression is a mouthful of chocolate chips on a low-key fruit ice cream in the background. A mouthful of chocolate is never unpleasant; the ice cream pleases in its own quiet way (the more we ate it—and we did finish the pint—the more complacent we became).

**In order to be called chocolate, a product must include cocoa butter. Products made with vegetable oil substitutions (which are far less expensive than cocoa butter) are called coatings or confectioner’s coatings.

The coating on the Dark Pomegranate Bar is much sweeter than the chips. It seems to be the same chocolaty coating as on the company’s regular ice cream bars (made with soybean oil rather than coconut oil). Häagen-Dazs’s frozen bars in general have many fans, but the coating is a bit too sweet for us: The sweet chocolaty flavor takes over, playing front man to the pomegranate ice cream in the background. In choosing between the two, we favor the Pomegranate Chip Ice Cream.

Or better yet, you might want to try the products from Sheer Bliss, the company that brought the first specialty brand pomegranate ice cream onto the market two years ago. They have a very well done Pomegranate With Dark Chocolate Chips ice cream and a Pomegranate Bar covered with semisweet chocolate (both are made with 100% pomegranate juice and 100% real chocolate).

Serving Suggestion: This flavor is delicious with a plain, dense chocolate cake—a Bundt® or a chocolate pound cake. For a wine pairing, pour a late harvest Zinfandel.

Toasted Coconut Sesame Brittle Ice Cream

This is the seductive flavor we devoured by the pint, without stopping for air. The flavors of toasted coconut, sesame and ginger were meant by Häagen-Dazs to be evocative of Thailand. To us, the brittle tastes just like those crunchy little Middle Eastern honey-sesame candies; crushed into coconut ice cream it creates an irresistible, sophisticated candy-in-ice-cream effect. (The ginger, which is in the brittle, was not particularly discernable by us; we wish it were more so, but are happy with the recipe the way it is.)

While the other Reserve flavors were developed in-house, Toasted Coconut Sesame Brittle was created by a consumer a finalist in the company’s 2006 Flavor Search competition. The top prize winner, Sticky Toffee Pudding, is now part of the regular line. The richest and most dazzling of the group (and the crowd-pleaser in our tasting along Lehua Honey), we are growing to resent Toasted Coconut Sesame Brittle, because we can’t stop eating it.


Haagen Dazs Reserve Toasted Coconut Sesame Brittle Ice Cream
Toasted Coconut Sesame Brittle Ice Cream: the showgirl of the group.

Serving Suggestion: Showy enough by itself, Toasted Coconut Sesame Brittle Ice Cream can be served for dessert after a Chinese, Thai or Vietnamese dinner. Atop a piece of regular or chocolate pound cake, it is the bomb. Add a sweet German dessert wine such as a Trokenbeerenauslese and celebrate something.


  • For an all-around great ice cream: Lehua Honey and Sweet Cream Ice Cream.
  • For sweet, rich excitement: Toasted Coconut Sesame Brittle Ice Cream.
  • For an exotic experience: Amazon Valley Chocolate Ice Cream.

Our Ice Cream Glossary explains all.


Mankind has been enjoying ice cream for thousands of years: Up to four thousand years ago, the Chinese elite enjoyed a frozen treat made with milk, overcooked rice and spices that was packed in snow to harden. Fruit ices were prepared with fruit juices, honey and aromatic spices and similarly frozen. Through trade routes, the Chinese introduced frozen desserts to the Persians and other Arabs 2,500 years ago (fruit ice is “sharbet” in Arabic). The elite of antiquity like Alexander the Great were hooked on fruit  juices sweetened with honey and chilled with snow; Emperor Nero’s famous banquets always included them. If his crew could have gotten their hands on a supply of Häagen-Dazs Reserve Hawaiian Lehua Honey & Sweet Cream Ice Cream, they would have partied even harder.

—Karen Hochman

FORWARD THIS NIBBLE to anyone who loves exciting flavors of ice cream.


Amazon Valley Chocolate Ice Cream, Brazilian Açaí Berry Sorbet, Hawaiian Lehua Honey and Sweet Cream Ice Cream, Pomegranate Chip Ice Cream, Pomegranate Dark Chocolate Bar, Toasted Coconut Sesame Brittle Ice Cream

Certified Kosher (Dairy) by OU

  • Pints

Purchase at select supermarkets and specialty food stores and shortly will be available for sale online at

For more information visit

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Haagen Dazs Reserve - Lehua Honey Pint
One of the must-try Häagen-Dazs Reserve flavors.

Read more about our favorite
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in THE NIBBLE™ online magazine.

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