Creamy DoveBar Wins by a Lick

Who makes absolutely the best ice cream on a stick?

Yummy. Dark. Bittersweet. Exquisite. The DoveBar - rich vanilla ice cream in a thick chocolate coating - defeated some very strong competitors in the Monitor's search for "best ice cream bar."

A Monitor taste panel, after biting into seven brands of chocolate-covered bars, left no doubt about their enthusiasm for DoveBar. One panel member called it "an excellent blending of smooth cream and crunchy crust." Others praised it as "a heavenly combination of rich dark chocolate and velvety vanilla," "the perfect marriage of rich, slightly bittersweet chocolate and smooth, creamy ice cream," and "the ultimate in flavor."

DoveBar's victory was no cakewalk, however. Four of the nine panelists rated Hagen-Dazs ice cream bars just as good or even better than Dove. Ben and Jerry's rich, buttery milk chocolate-covered bar also scored high.

Of the ice cream treats, six were well-known national brands. For comparison, panelists also tasted a lower-priced store brand from a local grocery.

When the votes were tallied, the bars divided into three broad categories: favorites, fairly good, and also-rans.

The tastiest tier included DoveBar, Hagen-Dazs, and Ben and Jerry's. Mmmm-mmmm-good.

The second group - somewhat lower in price and flavor - were Klondike and Eskimo Pie. Not bad. But not great, either.

At the bottom of the panelists' list were Good Humor and the grocery brand. Mmmm-mmmm-bland.

Panelists were asked to score their favorite bar as 100. Other bars were ranked as a percentage of their favorite. So a bar half as tasty as No. 1 would get a score of 50.

Seven of the nine panelists gave DoveBar a score of 100. But several of them also gave either Hagen-Dazs or Ben and Jerry's an equally high mark.

What makes a great ice cream bar? Panelists praised several qualities: creamy, rich ice cream, a thick chocolate coating with a bold flavor, and a taste that isn't too sweet.

Among the also-rans, for example, Good Humor was criticized for being "too sweet" and for "bland chocolate."

But the real competition was among the top-of-the line bars - Dove, Hagen-Dazs, and Ben and Jerry's.

Though it came in third, Ben and Jerry's had some ardent panel support. One panelist said that with its wonderful ice cream, Ben and Jerry's "would have won hands down" if it had a dark-chocolate coating (the vanilla ice cream version comes only with a milk-chocolate coat).

Final tallies gave top-rated DoveBar 99, Hagen-Dazs 97. As a panelist noted, they were "both scrumptious."

DOVEBAR INGREDIENTS: ICE CREAM: Cream, skim milk, milk, sugar, corn syrup, maltodextrin, vanilla extract, mono- and diglycerides, carob bean gum, guar gum, egg yolks, carrageenan, beta carotene. COATING: Semi-sweet chocolate (sugar, chocolate processed with alkali, cocoa butter, chocolate, milk fat, soy lechithin - an emulsifier, natural and artificial flavors), coconut oil.

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