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It’s time we talk about dulce de leche.
It’s been a long time coming. We did chocolate milk tastings. We did candy tastings. We’ve been talking about food in general for over two years now, and so far, dulce de leche, the end-all-be-all of Argentine breakfast (I said what I said and I will not be taking any questions at this time), was getting a pass.
In a way, it makes sense. It is a most daunting task. How can I, as a born and raised Argentine, remove the inherent bias I have towards the dulce de leche my mom bought every day for the better part of my life? How can I even do a pre-selection, seeing as we have one billion dulce de leche brands, to avoid slipping into a diabetic coma? Most importantly of all: where do I get the moral authority to decide what is the best dulce de leche?
Well, friends, I have no answers here. But I did get my friend Eugenia to try these dulce de leches with me for some semblance of fairness. She’s also the person that did these beautiful illustrations. That’s gotta count for something.
Dulce de Leche Selection
Nicki: Alright, Euge, so, what do we got?
Euge: I’m glad you asked. We have six strong competitors here, all trying to get the elusive and coveted first spot reserved only for the best dulce de leche in the entire world. But like, from the ones we have here. So the best in the world, but from these six, that were chosen not entirely at random but also kind of at random.
Nicki: I see absolutely no flaws in our logic. Moving on.
Euge: Alright. First up we have our beautiful bagged dulce de leche, Estancia el placer. I’m already loving the name, and also, this makes me super nostalgic.
Nicki: Oh yes, 100%. Next up we have Vauquita. I would have never chosen this one, seeing as how I truly hate Vauquitas, but if there were any criteria to this selection, it was our own personal preference. What’s next?
Euge: Then come the three fancy, established dulce de leches: Vacalín, Poncho Negro, and Cachafaz. All three of them with their glass jars and designer black labels. These are classy labels, with their mix of metallic, matte, and shiny materials. These dulce de leches do not come to play.
Nicki: That they do not. These are clearly the favorites for the win.
Euge: You are too easily impressed by shiny trinkets, my dear. We’re here to judge flavor, texture, the finer things in life. Our judgment will not be skewed by the designer’s work. I should know, I’m a designer.
Nicki: You’re absolutely right. I apologize. Let us forget my momentary slip and move forward to the last dulce de leche: La Serenísima Tradición. Now, I have no expectations for this dulce de leche, but I’ve heard many people raving about it.
Euge: Yes, it’s made quite the splash. People love it. I don’t really know what to think, except that I’m sad we chose not to have La Serenísima Colonial or Clásico here with us.
Nicki: Yes, a most sad decision. But they are our favorite dulce de leches, so it kinda felt like cheating. And we are nothing if not serious investigative journalists in a most important endeavor.
Euge: That we are. Onwards and upwards. See you on the other side, friend.
Estancia el placer
Euge: Alright, right off the bat, I gotta say not having to pull the metallic cover out is something I’m on board with.
Nicki: Weird take, I’ll allow it. But I think that whatever point it gets for that is kind of canceled out due to the fact that it can literally not stand upwards. Do I need a dulce de leche holder to place next to my bagged milk holder? What is this nightmare?
Euge: Ah, but the nostalgic factor. My mom used to make smiley faces on my toast for breakfast. One million bonus points for my dulce de leche smiley faces.
Nicki: We have such an exact system, what could possibly go wrong here! What about taste, color, texture?
Euge: Color is fine, brown.
Nicki: Dulce de leche is brown, and this coming from a designer. I’m shook.
Euge: Alright, jesus. Brown with hints of ocre, very light, almost liquid in texture, and a lot of vanilla. If I were asked where I would find this dulce de leche, I’d say inside the day-old cake you buy at a non-descript confitería on a Tuesday afternoon. Or perhaps inside a mid-level medialuna con dulce de leche.
Nicki: Yes. I’m not stoked on this dulce de leche, gotta say. The nostalgic factor made me look forward to this, but the results did not live up to the hype.
Euge: The ex-boyfriend of dulce de leches.
Nicki: Actually, yes. If this dulce de leche was a person, it would be your high-school boyfriend. Sweetness that today seems too artificial and a testament to our obsession with smiley faces. Beautiful memories that should stay memories, and living proof that our taste has gotten better with age.
Euge: Thank God.
Nicki: Indeed. Moving on.
Final score: 6/10, + 1 for nostalgic value.
Nicki: Alright, we’re gonna try this dulce de leche because my mom didn’t raise no quitter, but this kinda looks like shit, dear. What is this bubbly, rough texture? It looks uneven like someone was mixing this and said “eh, whatever” and bailed.
Euge: Yeah. Not a great first impression. Also, I get that it looks just like the candy, but I’m not a fan of this design. There’s definitely room for improvement. But alas, let us take our spoon and get right to it. It’s hard work, but someone’s gotta do it.
Nicki: Oh my God.
Euge: Oh my God.
Nicki: How is this so good? I was expecting nothing and I am thoroughly impressed. This is magic. This is a wonder. I love the texture. I’m not a fan of thick, dense dulce de leches, and this feels soft and light. It reminds me of when my mom had a rich boyfriend and he would rent a campo and the lady that cooked there would make homemade dulce de leche. What a magical era.
Euge: Especially for your mom, dating a dude who could rent an entire fucking campo. But homemade dulce de leche is nice too.
Nicki: So nice.
Euge: So, in my opinion, this dulce de leche would be perfect to eat on top of ice cream.
Nicki: Low profile enough that it doesn’t need a fancy dessert–it knows how good it is, you just need to trust it and let yourself be taken care of.
Euge: Yes. If this dulce de leche was a dude, it would be the kind of random guy you go out without really expecting much, they’re not even that cute but hey, a friend set you up so whatever, and then you go out, you have an amazing time and then you have an amazing time, if you know what I mean.
Nicki: You’re talking about gettin’ laid.
Euge: You are one sharp cookie, aren’t you?
Nicki: Why thank you for noticing. Let’s continue.
Final score: 10/10
Euge: Let’s get the obvious out in the open: this is a fancy-ass dulce de leche. This packaging is top-notch. Glass jar, shiny and matte label, black and white branding, all very classy. The upper-middle class of dulce de leches. This is no everyday treat.
Nicki: I’d say no, considering how fast I go through a regular pot and how pricey it was.
Euge: You gotta pay good money for the good stuff, my dear. It’s just the way it is.
Nicki: But is it good? I know I like the texture because I love light, soft dulce de leches, but the truth is that this is borderline too liquidy for me. The texture looks nice, though.
Euge: Yes, it’s definitely too soft for me. Also the taste is… off? What is that?
Nicki: That third thing. That flavor at the end. What is that?
Euge: I don’t know. It definitely starts off good, but it isn’t great. Dulce de leche shouldn’t have a mystery flavor. I don’t come to dulce de leche looking to be surprised. I feel like I grabbed a chocolate chip cookie only to realize it also had raisins.
Nicki: The worst possible outcome when grabbing a chocolate chip cookie. That’s harsh.
Euge: I’m just really not feeling the Argentine flag waving in the wind here. This is a dulce de leche I would maybe use on toast, just because the bread and the butter would help carry it across the finish line. I mean, what doesn’t improve with butter?
Nicki: Isn’t that the absolute truth. If this dulce de leche was a person, they’d be the OkCupid match that looked great in pictures and seemed like fun, only to find out they can’t hold a fucking conversation.
Euge: Exactly. Good enough to scratch an itch, but nothing to write home about.
Nicki: Harsh but truthful. Let’s carry on.
Final score: 7/10
Euge: First impression is good. No strong smell, so you know it’s not gonna have an overabundance of vanilla, which is great.
Nicki: Yes, definitely. Texture is on the soft side but still great, and it looks great too — both the texture and the packaging.
Euge: Yes, the black and holographic label looks very nice. This is a serious dulce de leche. Not playful, not boastful, but also not boring. A confident dulce de leche. Taste is great, too.
Nicki: Taste is great. It’s not surprising, though — I was expecting it to be great. I feel like I bet on a sure thing and now I’m finding out that my sure thing was, indeed, a sure thing.
Euge: Yes. It feels solid, an established dulce de leche. Doesn’t need to tell you it’s great, you’ll find out soon enough if you dare to try it. And if you don’t want to try it, then it’s your loss, it has nothing to prove to you.
Nicki: The equivalent of dating an actual adult, someone who has gone through a couple of break-ups, lives alone, knows how to take care of themself and likes to enjoy the finer things in life. They’re not here for drama. This is the kind of dulce de leche I’d bring home to meet my mom.
Euge: I can see her asking you for tiny dulce de leche grandchildren. I will say this, though: this dulce de leche is a great, solid option to eat right out of the jar with a spoon. It really doesn’t need anything else.
Nicki: I agree. When you’re good, you’re good. What’s next?
Final score: 10/10
Euge: Alright, picking up our original conversation about colors, I have to say this dulce de leche looks a bit more orange-y, almost reddish. Texture is a lot thicker, too. You know already just by seeing the bubbles, but I can feel it now when I dip the spoon.
Nicki: Yes, so naturally, I’m not a fan. Why people love dense dulce de leches is a mystery to me. The fact that you prefer the colonial versions of dulce de leches is just… wrong.
Euge: You’re treading on dangerous ground here.
Nicki: Ugh, you people and your dense dulce de leches. In any case, it’s not just about the texture here. What is this flavor? Why does this dulce de leche have a hint of spice to it? Also what spice? But mainly just why?
Euge: We said it before and we’ll say it again — I don’t come to dulce de leche to be surprised, I come here expecting to meet an old friend, and tried and tested meal, the comfort of coming home.
Euge: Ok so meal is a bit much, but you get my point. This is really just not that good. Especially for a dulce de leche that promises so much with its packaging.
Nicki: This is a dulce de leche I’d eat in pancakes. Just so that I get to taste less of the dulce de leche. That’s sad.
Euge: This dulce de leche reminds me of this very hipster dude I went out with. The kind of dude that seems cool from afar but when you actually go out with them they’re just odd and kinda snobby. “Have you listened to [unknown indie band]? I knew them before they were cool.” Get out of here already.
Nicki: That’s every single guy I went to college with.
Euge: Gone but not forgotten. Let this be a lesson in dulce de leche and bad dating choices. Moving on.
Final score: 5/10
La serenisima tradición
Nicki: This is our last dulce de leche. This is also the dulce de leche that carries the most tradition. Not only because it literally says “tradición” in the packaging, but because La Serenisima is one of Argentina’s biggest dairy brands, it is la verdad lactea, the dairy truth.
Euge: What a horrible slogan. This is like moms not realizing that if you name your kid Homer, nobody is going to think about the Odyssey and everyone will think about The Simpsons. If you call your brand “la verdad lactea,” people are gonna make dick jokes.
Nicki: Perhaps they chose it in a different time, when the youth wasn’t quite as rotten as today.
Euge: We are the youth in this scenario.
Nicki: Precisely. My point stands.
Euge: This is a charming conversation to have before literally sticking the thing in your mouth.
Nicki: Especially when the thing looks not that great.
Euge: We gotta stop talking like this and move away from dicks as a topic. Let’s close our eyes and get this over with.
Nicki: What is this? This is gross.
Euge: So gross. So heavy. So intense in the worst possible way. Who thought this was a good idea? It almost has a chocolate-y after taste, but like, in a bad way. Oh God. It reminds me of the dulce de leche Ser. This is bad.
Nicki: What is this dulce de leche trying to tell me? That tradition blows?
Euge: We should start a revolution. That’s the only possible message.
Nicki: Yes. This dulce de leche is only good for cooking something where it’s mixed with something else that hides its flavor. Mousse.
Euge: Ice cream.
Euge: This is the Tincho of dulce de leches. Comes from money, politically conservative, thinks it’s a big shot and that everyone is in love with him, and also calls you a slut if you don’t answer his text.
Nicki: I can almost taste the pro-life, blue pañuelo, upper-class righteousness.
Euge: Worst of the bunch?
Final result: 2/10
Euge: So, final conclusions?
Nicki: It’s pretty obvious. Cachafaz delivered in every aspect. Definitely my favorite. It’s just a very solid choice.
Euge: Really? It was great, yes, but I’m partial to Vauquita. That’s my final choice.
Nicki: Makes sense. You’re younger. You’re looking for surprises in life. I’m just looking for someone who will deliver on their promises and have their shit together.
Euge: I can almost hear the dulce de leche children in the distance.
Nicki: They shall be both sweet and beautiful.
Euge: That they shall.