We know and love Taco Bell for its singular ability to do whatever the hell it wants. The fast food chain gives and takes away beloved menu items at a moment’s notice. It tosses Cheez-Its and Doritos around with reckless abandon. It’ll add as many lanes to the drive-thru as it damn well pleases.
Part of the reason the chain can do whatever it wants is because of the price point: most items on the menu are cheap enough that if they end up being bad, most customers won’t complain, meaning menu innovation is a low-risk endeavor. And sometimes the more seemingly disgusting, the better: Taco Bell expertly walks the fine line between gimmick and taste, and that is exactly what its fans have come to expect. So what happens when other brands get involved?
Last month, B.J. Novak’s Chain popup partnered with Taco Bell to create the Wagyu Beef Cruncho Perfecto (a playful, gourmet spin on the Crunchwrap Supreme). And now, the iconic Milk Bar is the latest company to get in on the Taco Bell collaboration action with the Strawberry Bell Truffle.
The Strawberry Bell Truffle is a version of one of Milk Bar’s regular offerings, the cake truffle, but with that “think outside the bun” twist. According to a press release from Taco Bell, the bite-sized treats have a sweet corn fudge center wrapped in vanilla cake mixed with strawberry pieces and soaked in strawberry milk. The outside is covered with a strawberry and sweet corn cake coating topped with tiny pieces of Taco Bell’s crunchy taco shell. They come in packs of two for $2.99.
“We knew we’d struck gold when we discovered a way to holistically combine Taco Bell’s Crunchy Taco shell product with Milk Bar’s decadent truffle desserts,” Taco Bell Corp. executive chef Rene Pisciotti said in a statement to The Takeout. “The Strawberry Bell Truffles represent the fusing together of Taco Bell’s and Milk Bar’s iconic flavors and expertise.”
For now, the treat will only be available through August 16 (or until supplies last) at three locations: the Taco Bell in Tustin, California; the Milk Bar in New York City’s NoMad neighborhood; and the Milk Bar on Melrose in Los Angeles. Pisciotti tells us that this is the first time Taco Bell has tested a product not only in a Taco Bell store but a partnering brand’s locations as well.
When I asked if there were plans to release this particular treat nationwide, Pisciotti’s replied: “Never say never.”
This isn’t the first time Taco Bell has worked on a menu item with Milk Bar—according to Taco Bell, back in 2018 Milk Bar founder Christina Tosi created a Dessert Nacho dish to be served just to “close friends of the brand” at a Friendsgiving event at Taco Bell HQ. While the dish never made it to the menu, it did spark the desire for Milk Bar and Taco Bell to work in test kitchens on something sweet to eventually put to market.
Essentially the Strawberry Bell Truffles are a collaboration four years in the making. Who knows what other brands Taco Bell might have been working with behind the scenes over the years?
“Our Taco Bell culinary team is constantly in the kitchen cooking up new and creative menu items and potential offerings to our fanbase,” Pisciotti said. “We also have an incredible network of potential partners to collaborate with, whether it’s just initial conversations or long-standing friendships with ideas and prototypes being shared back and forth.”
Based on that statement we’re going to go ahead and assume that there have been many secret Dessert Nacho–esque items being cooked up in Taco Bell’s test kitchen, being tweaked and workshopped with other brands until both parties are satisfied. Whereas Taco Bell has a reputation for experimenting, it can take a little bit longer for some companies to slap their name on a product and sell it to the masses.
Just look at Baja Blast, an early sign that Taco Bell would lead the way in brand mashups. When the drink was created with MTN DEW back in 2004, it was the first collaboration of its kind—one that was only available in Taco Bell soda fountains. It wasn’t until 10 years later in 2014 that MTN DEW released a canned version of the soda through its own distribution channels. Now MTN DEW has more Baja flavors than ever.
When we asked whether the company could share information about future brand collaborations, we received an ominous response that has our minds reeling.
“Taco Bell always has something up its sleeve so there’s more exciting announcements to come,” Pisciotti said. “Just stay tuned!”
Oh, we will stay tuned, Taco Bell. We will indeed.