When California resident Chuck Samonsky decided to try Salt & Straw, a small-batch, handmade ice cream shop in Portland, Oregon, he got a little more than he bargained for—but in a good way.
“Close your eyes and imagine holding in your hand a very large waffle cone, still warm off the griddle and yummier than anything you have ever experienced, filled with Almond Brittle with Salted Ganache ice cream,” Samonsky says. “Lap up the melting edges of ice cream and start to slowly devour the immense one-scooper inside the waffle. Then, seemingly instantly, it’s gone.”
New Twists on Ice Cream
Salt & Straw owner and founder, Kim Malek, and her partner, head ice cream maker and cousin Tyler Malek, have taken ice cream to the next level. The pair reports that they forgo traditional, everyday flavors, instead “featuring the best ingredients and artisan products that Oregon has to offer, partnering with local farmers and artisans—such as beer brewers, coffee roasters, chocolate makers, and even local chefs.”
For Salt & Straw, it is especially important to be a supportive “farm-to-cone” ice cream shop. But on top of all that, Kim and her partner want to create new, exciting, and savory ice cream flavors for everyone to enjoy.
That means your everyday vanilla, chocolate, and strawberry have been transformed into Double Fold Singing Dog Vanilla, Freckled Woodblock Chocolate, and Honey Balsamic Strawberry with Cracked Pepper. Some flavors don’t stem from anything remotely traditional, such as Arbequina Olive Oil, Sweet Pepper Jam and Goat Cheese, or Cheddar Apple Pie. For eager tasters who are looking for something sweet, there are options like Sea Salt Ice Cream with Caramel Ribbon and Chocolate with Gooey Brownies.
But if you’re ready for something completely new, try Loaded Baked Potato, Pear with Blue Cheese, or a more recent addition after a collaboration with Chef Jenn Louis: Mint Leaves with Sea Urchins Meringues. Yes, sea urchin. And that’s just a taste of their fun flavor combinations.
“At first glance, this seems like a crazy flavor, but it’s actually just a reflection of Jenn’s use of fresh local sea food and other ingredients in her kitchen,” Kim says. “People love to try things they didn’t realize would taste so good and learn about new ingredients and local artisans.”
What’s in a Name?
Where did Salt & Straw get its unusual name? According to Kim, it’s a nod to the way ice cream used to be made.
“First, sweet cream was hand-churned in a chamber chilled by ice and rock salt. Then the ice cream was packed in layers of insulating hay, or straw, and was allowed to harden in a cool place, such as in the underground cellar or out in the barn. Since we make all of our ice cream by hand in small batches, we like to pay homage to this old-school art of making ice cream—through our name!”
Recipe for Success
What started off as a little pushcart has since expanded into three Portland locations. This excitement over unexpected flavor combinations seems to be one key for Salt & Straw’s success. Along with their innovative flavors comes a very specific process of making the ice cream. As outlined on the Salt & Straw website, their chefs use all natural cream from Eugene, Oregon, handmake the tasty treat in small batches, “pack it” with a creamy base of 17% butterfat (nearly the highest possible), and “keep the sweetness level low to let the flavors shine through.”
“I have a less-than-stellar history of spiritual beliefs,” Samonsky jokes. “No longer. I have died and gone to heaven, or at least found a way to die and go to heaven. Put Salt & Straw on your bucket list, and you may kick the bucket sooner and be a much happier person for it!”
Even with all that Portland has to offer, this shop alone will make any trip there worth your time. Plus, by the time you make it there, who knows what new wacky flavors these two will have come up with?