Although I’m on a somewhat restrictive diet these days (no more dulce de leche I.V. drip), my paper-thin willpower is no match for the new Häagen-Dazs flavor, “fleur de sel caramel.” There’s been a lot of fleur de sel hoopla these days, and I approve of all of it. Sweet and salty is a no-brainer, as far as I’m concerned. My friend, Allison, first disgusted me and then converted me when I saw her dump a package of M&Ms into a bucket of movie popcorn. When she did that I covered my head, afraid of angering my god. I became one of the Skull Island natives in King Kong when they first experienced the beautiful madness of White Man’s new-fangled transistor radio. Since eating that first buttered “M”, though, I was all in.
The Fleur De Sel Caramel ice cream does not disappoint, either. What does disappoint, however, is the Häagen-Dazs website promoting their new line of “reserve” flavors, designed for the more discriminating ice cream eaters shopping at their neighborhood Value-Mart. Besides describing the various flavors–Amazon Valley Chocolate, Hawaiian Lehua Honey & Sweet Cream–as if they’d been discovered on an archeological dig, the site embarrassingly lists “food and wine pairings” for each flavor. Here’s an example, from Toasted Coconut Sesame Brittle:
“Serve a scoop atop a banana leaf for the perfect ending to a Thai dinner.”
And for wine? You probably guessed it already, but:
“A sweet German dessert wine such as Trocken Beren Auslese.”
Come on, guys. That’s just showing off, isn’t it? How many people are filling their shopping carts with pre-packed pints of mass-produced ice cream (manufactured by the Dreyers corporation, by the way–a company whose slogan is “Give ‘em the good stuff!”), and then wheeling over to the supermarket’s stockboy to find out where they keep their sweet dessert wines and banana leaves. It’s such a stretch, particularly when the HD suggests one pair their Pomegranate & Dark Chocolate ice cream bar with a “fresh mint garnish.” I guess I could just take a bite out of this ice cream bar on a stick, hold the bite of ice cream in my mouth as I delicately place a fresh mint leaf on the exposed pomegranate ice cream, and then spit my mouthful back on to the bar, making it whole again, but that strikes me as inconvenient. Also inconvenient: asking a 7-11 clerk if he has any fresh mint behind the register, next to the trucker speed, Skoal Bandits, and naked lady cigarette lighters.
As you read through the flavor descriptions, the food pairings get more and more ludicrous, mentioning gorgonzola cheese, or a raspberry balsamic vinaigrette reduction. It even suggests eating Fleur De Sel Caramel ice cream out of the just-spent oyster shell. COME ON, GUYS.
I think I know what happened here. The company’s advertising agency received the creative brief for these new reserve flavors which HD would like to position as being slightly more exclusive than their core brand flavors. There was probably some kind of mention in the brief that the brand’s “aspirational” qualities have been diluted by “clutter” in the category of artisanal-style ice cream, and by the fact that HG has become so ubiquitous that people no longer associate it with driving a Delorean or wearing polo boots and eating mustard with real, fancy mustard grains in it.
Enter: Häagen-Dazs Reserve. The suggested pairings are bullshit. We know it, and HD knows it. No one honestly expects people to eat store-bought ice cream out of a cashed Bluepoint oyster shell. It’s just meant to create a tantalizing fog of rich person fantasy that tastefully obscures the fact that this is a 2000-calorie tub of ice cream loaded with industrial salt and factory-cut caramel fudge nuggets, and that the average consumer (me) is probably going to pair it with some frostbitten chicken taquitos from Trader Joe’s, a Diet Coke, a DVR’d episode of Top Chef, and three tablespoons of existential misery. Either way, that’s good eatin’.