It's not like the holiday season is short on desserts or anything, but now there are a few more sweet contenders from Texas's own Blue Bell.
Blue Bell has been making peppermint ice cream a holiday tradition for years, but this year it's added three more seasonal options: Christmas Cookies, Banana Nut Bread and Spiced Pumpkin Pecan, which debuted in 2010.
In an informal CultureMap office tasting, peppermint was the clear favorite, filled with tiny peppermint candy balls to crunch. While peppermint is always delicious (and goes great with Christmas sugar cookies), my favorite was the new Banana Nut Bread. There were, thankfully, no baked goods mixed in, just a classic banana ice cream, a few nuts for crunch and a rich taste throughout that added to the cakey flavor— buttermilk, perhaps?
I might be biased — I grew up with a grandfather who liked to make homemade banana ice cream in summer, and my mother's banana nut bread is a standard around my house in the fall and winter — but when it comes to holiday favorites, nostalgia is a real and significant factor. Why else would anyone in their right mind drink eggnog?
That's probably why the Spiced Pumpkin Pecan flavor doesn't have the same appeal for me — pumpkin pie never played much of a role in my holiday feasts, so I consider pumpkin more of a savory food. The combination of the sweet pumpkin with the cold temperature was just too off putting, although the swirls of caramel were nice.
In an informal office tasting, peppermint was the clear favorite, filled with tiny peppermint candy balls to crunch.
The biggest let down was the Christmas Cookies flavor, mostly because there's so much potential and it just went off the rails. Starting with sugar cookie ice cream, the flavor also had chunks of chocolate chip, snickerdoodle and sugar cookies, plus thick red sprinkles in the shape of candy canes and neon green icing swirl throughout it. First of all, while I accept artificial colors in icing, it's less appealing in a scoop of ice cream.
The second issue was the cookie overload — the chunks would have been better if Blue Bell had stuck with a specific type of cookie (I vote gingerbread) rather than going all hodge-podge and having random bits of cinnamon (from the Snickerdoodle) and chocolate get involved. Sometimes less is more.
The Blue Bell seasonal flavors are on grocery store shelves now. Do you have a favorite holiday ice cream, or do you stick to the warmer desserts when it's cold out?