Bury Ben & Jerry’s Schweddy Balls and Bring on the Cheesecake!

Tuesday, Feb 12, 2013 12:25 pm

A visit to B&J’s flavor graveyard is nowhere near as chilling as the strange little droppings found in the ice cream maker’s newest concoction.

By Alex Marie Lombino

Most women have a sob story in their emotional dossier that ends with a lapful of sticky, half-devoured, saline-laced ice cream. While I’d venture to say this stereotype has strong roots in reality, I wouldn’t lump myself into any category in which self-loathing is a requisite for indulgence. That is to say, my relationship with ice cream transcends mood and conditional happiness. Right now there are two half-empty pints in my freezer, and that’s because I didn’t make it to 711 this morning. That’s right, I eat ice cream for breakfast. Is that only because all the milk in the fridge is sour and I still can’t bring myself to toss it down the drain? Maybe. The bottom line is that my love of frozen dessert knows no bounds, that our love will not be restricted by the chains of social convention.

Now I want to get specific. While delicious ice cream takes many forms, when I’m in the freezer aisle I will always gravitate first to the Ben & Jerry’s display. Something about those brightly illustrated pints holds more allure than their peers. I don’t think I’m alone here. Few ice cream companies have garnered such fanaticism as the Vermont-based creamery. Whether it’s Ben & Jerry’s earth-conscious practices, fan-based flavor development, or simply the flavors of every decadent chunk-filled carton that keep such slavish craving alive is debatable. Despite the company’s rapid expansion since 1977 from its humble roots in Burlington, Vermont, there is still an element of craft and community in the Ben & Jerry’s brand that appeals to all of us who fancy ourselves connoisseurs of frosty treats.

Despite my passion, I had never taken advantage of my close proximity to Ben & Jerry’s headquarters, now located in Waterbury, Vermont. October seemed the perfect time to remedy this. The Ben & Jerry’s factory boasts a “Flavor Graveyard,” prominently featured on their website during October, the spookiest of months. With so many ever-revolving flavors, I love the idea of paying homage to those that did not merit a longer tenure in freezers across America. I’m also not a haunted-house type of gal; I’ve never been to the manure-storm that is Salem, Massachusetts, in the fall months, so an ice cream graveyard is about as morbid as I can do.

On the way to the factory with my travelling companion Elle (name changed to protect the fearful), I recalled my friend Kris, whose passion for Ben & Jerry’s nearly surpassed my own. He introduced me to one of my favorite all-time flavors, Strawberry Cheesecake. This item features cheesecake-flavored ice cream with bits of real strawberry and a delicious graham cracker crust swirl. Months later, Kris and I were conversing via AOL instant messenger, which was still a relevant means of communication at the time, about how Ben & Jerry’s was in talks to discontinue our cherished flavor. He had, in fact, signed a petition to keep Strawberry Cheesecake in circulation. To our delight, of course, it remained in the Ben & Jerry’s repertoire. Clearly not all flavors are met with this sort of public outcry. Hence, the need for an official burial ground.

Elle and I arrived at the factory around 3 p.m. Despite the chill, “Summer Breeze” by Seals and Crofts was playing on the sound system, while patrons enjoyed a few scoops on the patio in their parkas. I was pleased to find quite a number of cohorts who shared my commitment to ice cream in all seasons.

What followed was a “tour” of the factory, including observations of their production area from a birds-eye view. This reminded me of that scene in Jurassic Park where the children, Laura Dern and her cranky paleontologist lover interrupt the tour of the creepy dinosaur maternity ward to get past the glass for a closer look. I imagined creating a similar scene. “But I want to see the swirlorator! Why can’t we see the chunks go in!?” I would exclaim, plowing into the 16-year-old tour guide, down the stairs and through a pair of stainless steel doors that read, “No unauthorized personnel beyond this point.” This thought was fleeting. We ended the tour with a sample of Mint Chocolate Chip, which was exemplary for its kind, the texture light enough to retain the refreshing qualities of the mint.

Finally it was time for the main event. We exited the building to walk up a slight hill on a path that seemed melodramatically long. We reached the flavor graveyard, and immediately I felt that I wanted it to be spookier. I wanted a little camp, some spider webs or dry ice or the cold and icy cries of ice creams now past, their souls lingering with unfinished business on this plane. Within the perimeter of the graveyard were 20 or more gravestones with the names, descriptions, and poetic epitaphs of forgotten varieties. Among them was Tuskeegee Chunk, a peanut butter ice cream with chocolate chunks. There was Bovinity Divinity, a flavor that I vaguely remember never buying. Economic Crunch was full of nuts and little whimsy. I particularly lamented a flavor called Peanuts! Popcorn! Full of caramel corn and sugary peanuts, evoking the flavors of a carnival in summertime, cracker jacks at Fenway, and other quintessentially American pastimes that involve this classic sweet and savory combination. Elle was taken by Fresh Georgia Peach, a peaches-and-cream concoction, as well as White Russian, which according to its gravestone became too costly a recipe with all that tasty Kahlua floating around. Awards for most-amusing-yet-understandably-inaccessible went to Holy Cannoli and Makin’ Whoopie Pie.

After I left some flowers at the gravestone of Tennessee Mud, we had two very important stops to make. First, we headed to the gift shop where I picked up a highly practical ice cream pint cozy and a cow print oven mitt. Last, and certainly most important, was the scoop shop. Elle decided on a delicious three-berry smoothie that took approximately 15 minutes to make. I decided to go for a combination cup of the tried-and-true and the unfamiliar. Coconut Seven Layer Bar is by far my favorite flavor and lamentably unavailable by pint.
The next choice was also a no brainer: Ben & Jerry’s newest addition, Schweddy Balls, inspired by the classic Alec Baldwin Saturday Night Live sketch. Now, I love Saturday Night Live, am a voracious fan of sketch comedy, and am quite familiar with the Schweddy Balls sketch. I imagined ice cream full of delightful morsels akin to those featured in the show, eloquently described by Molly Shannon and Ana Gasteyer as, “glistening” and “tender.” The ice cream is described as a vanilla-rum flavor with malted milk balls and fudge-covered rum balls. This sounded to me like a fair interpretation. However, after I got through the top scoop of the ridiculously tasty Coconut Sever Layer Bar and down to the Schweddy Balls, I decided pretty quickly that this flavor didn’t match the hype. The rum flavor in the ice cream was hardly noticeable, and there were only two malted milk balls throughout. The fudge-covered rum balls themselves were fairly tasty, but not actually balls. In fact, they resembled the malformed droppings of a small animal. All in all, the ice cream lacked the impact of the comedic phenomenon that was its inspiration. If Ben and Jerry were to ask my opinion, I would say, “Put that Coconut Seven Layer Bar in a frickin’ pint already, would you?” And don’t be surprised if Schweddy Balls finds itself a place next to Coffee, Coffee BuzzBuzzBuzz! in that little patch of dirt in Waterbury, Vermont, where the ghosts of all flunked flavors hover restlessly, hoping for resurrection.

Alex Marie Lombino writes about food from her home in Boston’s North End, where she keeps a close eye on the local meatballs and maintains her own food blog, A Bowl of Sour Cherries. She can be reached at

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