Taste Test: We Try All the Flavors of Tillamook's New Tillabars
My Oregon childhood tasted like Tillamook ice cream. Scoops on family outings to our suburb's "downtown," long after-school walks to buy cones at the now-defunct soda fountain/candy shop, birthday parties with more sundae toppings than we were ever allowed at home. There were other brands available back then, sure, but Tillamook was the local standard, sold by the half-gallon since 1972.
I still like the stuff, and it's not just the nostalgia factor. Tillamook ice cream is fluffy in texture and while the flavors tend toward classic, not surprising or 'gourmet', they're all good. A few years back, I convinced Erin Zimmer that we needed to try every single flavor Tillamook makes, and while that was a little more ice cream than I'd like to consume on a daily basis, it didn't dull my enthusiasm.
So I was excited to hear that Tillamook has recently released Tillabars, a new line of ice cream bars, each, as they say, "wrapped in a chocolate hug." Since the bars are primarily available on the West Coast and I live in San Francisco, I decided it was my duty to Serious Eats to try them all (admittedly, a pretty easy task compared to my prior Tillamook Ice Cream Adventure). Here's what I thought of each one.
Salted Caramel Swirl
Delicate ribbons of sweet caramel melt into the mellow, creamy vanilla ice cream in this bar—you won't really experience the caramel and vanilla separately. It's sweet but not beyond-the-realm-of-classic-sundae-sweet, and the filling is nicely accented by the milk-chocolate shell, which has its own heavy dose of vanilla. The flavor is more textbook than trendy: there's no hint of burnt sugar here, and the salt is pretty under the radar, but it's a really tasty combination of creamy ice cream and creamy chocolate coating in classic style, and a crowd-pleaser. This was the first box to empty chez Hoffman.
Tillamook makes a number of different vanilla ice creams, and the Old-Fashioned Vanilla stands out as the best of the bunch. So I was glad to see it here in ice cream-bar form. The ice cream is mellow and light, almost airy, kind of like the vanilla side of the orange-sherbet-and-vanilla-ice-cream cups I remember loving as a kid. The milk chocolate shell hits just the right sweet note. This isn't a fancy-pants gourmet dessert; it's the perfect evocation of summers gone by, and the flavor I'd buy when introducing people to the brand.
The creamy sections of this bar are delicately coffee-flavored, with just enough java punch to cut the sweetness. In the center: chocolate ice cream, which has an old-school milk-chocolate-and-cocoa-powder flavor. Unfortunately, the chocolate stripe was a little icy, and the dark chocolate shell doesn't work quite as well as the milk chocolate found in the other bars. Still, I liked the bar's very creamy coffee ice cream.
I was a little wary of the white-chocolate wrapped Lemonilla Bar, but it grew on us. The white chocolate is impressively creamy, not waxy, with a vanilla-laced flavor and frosting-like sweetness. The mellow Old Fashioned Vanilla ice cream is nicely brightened by the stripe of sweet-tart lemon sorbet running through the center of the bar, and while I wished for a touch more fresh-lemon flavor, the two ice creams work well in tandem. If you've ever fantasized about putting a scoop of vanilla ice cream in your icy lemonade, this may be the next best thing.