The Hunt For Ben & Jerry's Cannoli Ice Cream

Dec 12, 2012 12:01 pm

Limited release leads to excitement/disappointment

A limited batch of Ben & Jerry's cannoli flavor has hit shelves. Our columnist weighs in.
A limited batch of Ben & Jerry's cannoli flavor has hit shelves. Our columnist weighs in.
 

There is something about exclusivity in food that's entirely thrilling. Fast food chains have mastered this concept by offering limited editions of various products: McRibs and Shamrock Shakes at McDonald's, Stuffed Crust Pizza at Pizza Hut, Chili Fingers at Wendy's. Now, limited edition foods can be found in your grocer's freezer and one such item got me hunting like Captain Ahab on the trail of that technotronic whale. The target? Cannoli, a new “limited batch” flavor from ice cream think tank Ben & Jerry's.

A little history. Ben & Jerry's previously offered a cannoli-flavored ice cream. “Holy Cannoli” was sold from 1997-1998 and consisted of creamy ricotta and pistachio ice cream with roasted pistachios and chocolate cannoli bits. Back in September when they announced that a new cannoli flavor would be offered, Holy Cannoli fans rejoiced. They thought they were getting Holy Cannoli Part Deux. That's not the case. The new cannoli flavor is a reimagined version, much like “The Dark Knight” is a reimagining of “Batman.” The new entry has mascarpone ice cream with fudge-covered cannoli shell pieces and a mascarpone swirl. Same genre, different take.

I love cannoli. When I'm in New York, I can't leave without a stop at Veniero's. In Boston, I head directly to the North End to get a box of my beloved at Mike's. In LA, I don't have many options – which is why I got so excited when Ben & Jerry's announced Cannoli as their newest Limited Batch flavor. Unfortunately, I couldn't find it anywhere. Grocery store after grocery store (I went to more than a handful that first day) left me empty-handed. They had plenty of Key Lime Pie on the shelves, but not Cannoli. Therein lies the problem.

Since I couldn't accept knowing that cannoli ice cream was on the market but nowhere to be found, I reached out to Ben & Jerry's for an explanation. PR maven Liz Stewart set me straight on the Limited Batch process and her answers were less than encouraging. “New limited batches replace old ones. It’s as simple as that!” Sure, that's easy for her to say. She has access to all flavors all the time. “Depending on how quickly a flavor may or may not sell, there is some fluctuation in when the flavor will actually hit shelves.” There's the rub. I wouldn't be getting Cannoli until Key Lime Pie disappeared.

So I waited. And I waited. I even bought some Key Lime Pie in an effort to make it disappear more quickly. From the announcement in mid-September until just last week, I kept searching for Cannoli. Ben & Jerry's must have noticed that people were having trouble finding the flavor because they launched a genius #FindCannoli Twitter campaign to help people zero in on available Cannoli. Luckily, on a routine trip to the grocery store last Wednesday, I found my target. A pint of Cannoli was sitting on the bottom shelf of the ice cream freezer at my local supermarket. I rejoiced. Perhaps audibly.

After three months of searching, I finally had my bounty. I was nervous for my first bite. After so much searching, there was no way it could meet my expectations. Could it? No. Sadly, it couldn't. In fact, I don't even think it tastes much like the cannoli that I love so dearly. It's mascarpone, not ricotta, so the texture and flavor is completely different than a traditional cannoli. Don't get me wrong, it's not bad. It's just not what I expected. That doesn't mean my search was for naught, however. For those three months of my quest, I had a purpose, a goal. I was stalking my dairy prey and just because I'm not crazy about the end result doesn't mean my time was wasted. Sometimes the journey is just as valuable as the destination – even when it comes to ice cream.

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