Better Booch Cherry Retreat
Submitted by JoAnna Novak

What is a retreat? From the French, retraiter, to pull back. What has been pulled back in Better Booch’s Cherry Retreat? The label-promised “cherry”? “Vanilla”? Or “Earl Grey Tea”?

The retreat is specific to this flavor, though perhaps what’s been pulled back (held back) is common to all appellations of Better Booch, the boasted “No added sugar,” “No fruit juices,” “Non-GMO”? We like to know what’s missing, what’s been eliminated, what hasn’t happened (see: “this product not tested on animals”) as much as what is present.

Drinking the Better Booch, I stand at my standing desk, quite pleased with myself. The taste is like a beer stripped of flavor, the hint of a hint of waterlogged fruit. This is a lighter tincture than other kombuchas on the market — it makes that old chestnut GT’s taste like Kool-Aid.

It is hard to decide if it is worth $5. In no way does it constitute a meal. The Better Booch, though, does leave me belchy and mildly buzzed, and I feel, for a moment, if nothing else an admirer of the matte finish on the label paper.

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Halo Top’s Sea Salt Caramel
Submitted by Mark Galarrita

Halo Top’s Sea Salt Caramel ice cream is a dessert I had the other night as I watched Clint Eastwood’s film adaptation of the Broadway hit, Jersey Boys: a jukebox musical about Frankie Valli and The Four Seasons.

Sea Salt Caramel, much like Halo Top’s other tantalizing flavors such as Birthday Cake or Oatmeal Cookie, invigorates you towards a sense of euphoria. Your memories escape to the sweet years of childhood when life was still innocent, pure, and wholesome fun— not like Mr. Eastwood’s adaptation of the hit musical. Mr. Eastwood, whose directorial style seems to focus on sucking the joy out of 1960’s classics like “Sherry” and “Big Girls Don’t Cry” into a bastardization of a dark, melancholy America that blurs between the lines of grit and happiness, forcing viewers to remember that yes, this story is based around the same time of McCarthyism, the Vietnam War, and the Selma to Montgomery march.

After the first bite of skim milk combined with protein powered ingredients, your taste buds are smacked with a flurry of sweet and salty that jumbles on your tongue making you wonder if this is ice cream, or perhaps a fantastical sweet adventure you’re about to embark on. Halo Top perfectly understands its audience, using fun quips on their packaging to not only poke a little fun at their customers but also remind them that this is a vegan, gluten-free, dessert. Mr. Eastwood takes this strategy and throws it out the window, hodgepodging actors into the wind in the vain hope that their star appeal will enchant the audience. For example, Christopher Walken is cast as the mob boss, an actor traditionally known for his charm rather than a stand-in for Don Corleone. His casting drives the question of why is he there in the first place. If you wanted to get more of a POP effect, Mr. Eastwood should’ve put a live panda into the role; then audiences would’ve gotten the light above them to laugh and clap. Pandas are adorable and hilarious; this adaptation is sad.

As the label covering the Halo Top plastic jar demands of its consumer: Don’t Stop Until You Reach the Bottom!, it’s hard to turn down those orders. It’s the aura of light ice cream combined with natural ingredients that is so devilishly simple, you’ll wonder how they remixed a staple treat. The same can’t be said of Mr. Eastwood’s adaptation, which is by far the most soporific of musical “entertainment” that, on the surface, would appear so easy to do. All that’s necessary to adapt a hit Broadway musical to film, much like what stage-to-film predecessor’s Hairspray or Chicago get so right, is to take the theme and feel of the aforementioned classic and convert it for movie-goers who are easily distracted by fireworks and computer screens. People love Jersey Boys on Broadway, and they still love it today. There was color and spectacle blended in with respectful tributes to the lives of Frankie Valli and The Four Seasons. If you had the privilege of seeing it live, it was one of the few times where theater and stage directions sought to give you a reason to love life and all its splendors. What we got in the film adaptation was two hours of our time on earth which we will never get back.

If you’re health conscious and worried about the caloric intake, all of Halo Top’s flavors are made with skim milk, prebiotic fiber, and cane sugar; also, all pints round up to about four hundred calories. You can pick up Halo Top’s Sea Salt Caramel at your local supermarket today, alongside favorite ice cream brands Ben & Jerry’s or Blue Bell. And while you’re browsing through the supermarket, if you happen to be at a chain store such as Sam’s Club or Target, head over to the entertainment section and find a copy of Jersey Boys, likely thrown astray into the two-for-one DVD pit. When you see it, look upon the cover and ask yourself: who makes these films and why? What kind of culture are we creating as a community, if we continue to allow filth proliferate through our filters of quality? Are we generating artist or soulless wretches that continue to churn the cog of mediocrity in the vain hope that some corporate shill in the top 0.01% earns a few million from our pockets that we so willingly throw at his feet crying out: “Entertain us! Entertain us!” When will we turn our back upon these false idols and instead of seeking validation from our suit and tie masters of entertainment, look within and demand that art can be more than drivel — rather optimistic tributes to the human spirit and what we’re capable of as a species, beings with such a short time upon this lonely, harsh, Earth.

If you enjoyed Sea Salt Caramel, try Birthday Cake next. Pick up a pint for you and a friend today!