Does chocolate ice cream by any other fancy name taste as sweet?

It’s getting hot out there, which means everyone is screaming for ice cream. There was a time when the whole “scream for ice cream” thing was just cute wordplay but I think we’re at the stage of literal screaming now, along with the occasional felony.

But it is a good opportunity for another installment of our Gourmet Writers’ Rating Check in which a panel of our culinarily experienced reporters blind-taste two items and try to distinguish which one costs several times more than the other.

This time, the star foodstuff is chocolate ice cream! We actually did vanilla ice cream a while ago, between a tub of Pierre Marcolini from Brussels and Japanese brand Mow, which is pronounced like “mowing the lawn” but confusingly is also the Japanese way of pronouncing the cow’s “moo” sound.

It didn’t go very well, however, with only one of our eight writers selecting the more expensive ice cream correctly. Chocolate ice cream is of course quite different in taste, but is it any easier to discriminate? Let’s find out!

In this sensory battle, we first have a cup of chocolate ice cream from the esteemed Parisian chocolatier Jean-Paul Hévin, which sells for 540 yen (US$3.88). And in the other corner is a big tub of Lady Borden, produced by Lotte and selling for 348 yen ($2.50). Factoring in the weight, that’s a roughly 800-percent difference in price.

Each brand is randomly assigned the letter A or B so our writers can’t know which is which when they try a spoonful of each while blindfolded. Let’s see what they say!

P.K. Sanjun: “A”

P.K.: “Yes, yes, yes, I think there’s a chance that I got this one. Lady Borden’s been around a long time, and I’ve eaten it a lot at yakiniku restaurants ever since I was a kid. At that time, they were all about richness.
Considering that, A really brings out the cocoa taste, doesn’t it? That’s not a bad thing at all, but I’m talking about if a long-seller like Lady Borden really gives you a sense of cocoa. I’m pretty confident that knowing what I know about Lady Borden, A is the more expensive one.”

Go Hatori: “A”

Go: “A is extremely bitter. I could feel the chocolate taste really coming through. B, on the other hand, was mild and felt like something kids would like. If this were vanilla Lady Borden, I’d be more sure…
It’s because A is bitter but also very sweet, but it’s not the sweetness of ice cream. It’s the sweetness of chocolate. A is chocolatey but B is soft and creamy. It’s a tough choice, but I’m going with A.”

Ahiruneko: “A”

Ahiruneko: “I don’t eat chocolate ice cream. The last time I had Lady Borden was, like, 20 years ago? And that time it was vanilla. If I only ate A I wouldn’t be able to tell, but when I ate B it felt like Lady Borden.
I remember from my childhood that Lady Borden had a strong milky taste. Knowing that, A feels more like chocolate ice cream from a chocolatier. I’m not so sure though.

Masanuki Sunakoma: “B”

Masanuki: “OK, I got this. A felt like something I’ve had before. Knowing that, B seems cheap at first, but has a high-class feeling deep down. There’s a subtlety to it.
A is really delicious, and it’s got a punch that I think kids would really like. When I ate A, memories of eating Lady Borden as a kid came flooding back. But this is a pretty difficult one, so I think three or four people are going to get it wrong.”

Yuuichiro Wasai: “B”

Yuuichiro: “I’m more of a vanilla ice cream guy… Ugh, I can’t tell anything from just one spoonful. Oh, man… I really don’t know. A had a stronger cocoa taste, but I think it could be either one.
But maybe that’s the trick. The cheaper ice cream would be the one that overcompensates with cocoa flavor. I don’t feel confident about this at all, but going by factors like how it melts in my mouth, I’m going with B.”

Mr. Sato: “A”

Mr. Sato: “I can’t afford to miss any of these rating checks to get my ranking up, especially on days when Yoshio isn’t here. Well, A leaves a taste in my mouth… Hunnnh, but B too, damn. This is hard! B also lingers in my mouth.
In terms of taste, A was the more straightforward chocolate, but its aftertaste was incredible… it was like a visitor that refused to leave. A also gave me a feeling like I was eating something delicious. Then again, B had an aftertaste too… But if I was going to pay a lot of money, I’d probably go with A.”

Seiji Nakazawa: “B”

Seiji: “I eat ice cream but I’ve never had Lady Borden before. Yeah, A is all right from just one bite. Yeah, I’m gonna go with B, though. The reason is that it doesn’t feel forced to me. It’s very natural.
In that way, A has a cocoa taste, but it’s also powdery. It feels like it was sprinkled with cocoa powder. B was smooth and didn’t have a powdery feeling. Quite frankly, if A was expensive I would feel kind of upset.”

Takashi Harada: “B”

Takashi: “Man, I really need a win soon… So, today’s my day! I used to eat Lady Borden when I was a kid so I vaguely remember it. A seems closer to the Lady Borden that I used to eat.
B was amazingly smooth. Even better, it tasted like nothing I’ve ever eaten before and its texture felt luxurious. It’s on an entirely different level of chocolate ice cream. I feel very sure about this.”

With the last vote cast, the writers gathered to hear the verdict. It was split right down the middle, four to four, with varying levels of confidence on both sides. The heavy hitters were also divided, with first-place P.K. siding with A and second-place Seiji going for B. Even perennial losers like Mr. Sato and Takashi were on opposite sides.

Tensions were running high leading up to the announcement that the more expensive chocolate ice cream, crafted by Jean-Paul Hévin was, in fact…


Yes, it could certainly be said that Lady Borden has a feeling of elegance, but their ice cream is also considered an old-fashioned standard with a low-stakes conventional taste. The Jean-Paul Hévin creation, however, has a more daring and cutting-edge feeling, subtly pushing the boundaries of what a simple food like chocolate ice cream can be.

Let’s see how these very divided results affected the overall rankings:

P.K.: 30 wins / 7 losses (81-percent correct rate): “There’s no way Lady Borden is that cocoa-y!”

Seiji: 23 wins / 7 losses (76.6-percent correct rate): “But A was powdery…”

Go: 22 wins / 11 losses (66.6-percent correct rate): “There’s a difference between ‘chocolatey’ and ‘soft and creamy.’”

Ahiruneko: 21 wins / 11 losses (65.6-percent correct rate): “I totally remember that Lady Borden is really milky…”

Yuuichiro: 18 wins / 11 losses (62-percent correct rate): “That was a trick question.”

Masanuki: 21 wins / 15 losses (58.3-percent correct rate): “That was a good one. I knew three or four people would get it wrong.”

Mr. Sato: 17 wins / 14 losses (54.8-percent correct rate): “A had a lingering feeling like a guest who refused to leave.”

Takashi: 16 wins / 17 losses (48.4-percent correct rate): “B was on an entirely different level…”

And so, P.K. has further cemented his position as our top-rated gourmet writer. However, Go appears to be making big strides towards a shot at the top and even Mr. Sato has been making significant progress in emerging from his last-place hole.

But to truly know which writer has the best sense of distinction, we’ll have to challenge every food imaginable. That’ll probably take a fair bit of time, but we’ll get there eventually, starting with next time on Gourmet Writers’ Rating Check!

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