Salt and Straw was founded in 2011 by cousins Kim and Tyler Malek. An unlikely culinary duo, the two founders previously pursued lives in the business world. However, they left it all behind to pursue their dream of opening a neighborhood ice cream parlor that would explore "fun, interesting new flavors."
SCOOP Blog first visited Salt and Straw over a year ago, when it was just a little pushcart off of NE Alberta. Even then, we knew that the shop that they were building would be special. The first flavor we tried from the cart was the Strawberry Balsamic. On that day, our entire worldview of what ice cream could be was changed. Served as an organic strawberry base with a ripple of the strawberry balsamic sauce, it almost tasted like the strawberries had been picked from the backyard half an hour before and mixed in there and then. The flavor was so intense and pure that it put every fruit we had ever had in an ice cream to shame.
We asked the person operating the cart what her secret was, and she mentioned to us that she had spent quite a bit of time researching the art of making ice cream and had studied numerous texts, including an old French text on ice cream, that helped Salt and Straw perfect the amazing scoops they served us on that day. It is no doubt this shop's unwavering attention to detail and rigorous approach to flavor development that makes it the best ice cream parlor we have ever tried.
But what is it about their ice cream that makes it so special? For starters, Salt and Straw has the most balanced, unique and tasty flavors we've ever reviewed, highlighting fresh, organic, local ingredients. One fine example is a flavor they are still experimenting with, dubbed "The Universe." The base consists of orange oil, blackberry and cinnamon. WHAT?? Yes, they managed to combine all those big distinct flavors into one scoop, while still maintaining a brilliant balance unlike any we've had before. Did we mention that The Universe comes with huge chunks of chocolate, spiked with cayenne, as well as bits of black sesame? We don't know how they pulled it off, but one thing is for certain: that scoop was delicious!
Salt and Straw's unwavering commitment to quality shows. The top-quality ingredients shine through in all their flavors.
Aside from brilliant flavors, each scoop we had at Salt and Straw had the most perfect texture: dense and velvety smooth, without a single ice crystal in sight. Mix-ins were all perfectly integrated, too.
Perhaps the highest praise we could heap on Salt and Straw is that when we ate their ice cream, we felt like kids again, filled with bliss and wonder. Since opening, we visited this shop four times for our review, and each time we found the flavors consistently perfect and more inventive and unique than the last time. Congratulations, Kim and Tyler, you've earned SCOOP!'s first perfect rating.
PS, you can now order a pint from the comfort of your own home. Salt and Straw's website allows you to order their amazing flavors and have them shipped right to your door, packed in dry ice. How brilliant! And if you're at the shop and want to pick up a pint, make sure to head straight to the front of the line. Although Salt and Straw can get incredibly busy, buying a pint will let you jump ahead.
Flavor Tasting Notes
From left to right: Elvis, Olive Oil, Honey Lavender, and Strawberry Balsamic. Delicious!
The smooth base consists of orange oil, blackberry and cinnamon. Thrown in for good measure are ginormous chunks of chocolate, spiked with cayenne pepper, as well as black sesame seeds. This scoop tastes like nothing you have ever had, and explodes with flavor on the mouth. They are still tweaking the formula, so you may be trying a different recipe when you visit. The Universe really showcases the strong balance and unique approach Salt and Straw exhibits in their craft.
Strawberry Balsamic with Black Pepper
This flavor has a wonderfully dense, creamy organic strawberry base with a subtle strawberry flavor. The nuanced base is perfect for holding the strawberry balsamic and pepper ribbon, which was very intense. The ribbon has amazingly fresh strawberry flavor with a balanced, yet bold balsamic note. The black pepper is subtle, and helps support the strawberry, making it sing. This flavor is a regular at Salt and Straw and the one that first won us over.
Molten banana cream base with authentic banana flavor. Densest, creamiest flavor we tried at Salt and Straw. The base does an excellent job holding the indulgent PB&J ribbon, which is what this ice cream is about. The PB&J ribbon was awe inspiring, with enormous chunks of peanut butter and marionberry jam, a Portland local specialty. Really divine and in utter balance. A masterpiece.
Candy Cap Mushroom with Port Wine
Sheer brilliance. Leave it to Salt and Straw to take locally picked mushrooms, with the distinct flavor of maple. and mix them in with port wine. This flavor, despite what you would expect with the inclusion of mushrooms, has a wonderful, balanced sweetness. One of the most sophisticated offerings we tried - we felt this flavor was extremely enjoyable and original. The texture and richness of the cream also added another dimension to the interplay of the mushroom and the port. When we ordered this flavor, we assumed it would be a weird novelty. When we finished our scoop, we wished we had room for another! Since our visit, we have rated other candy cap themed flavors that have begun to pop up around the US, most notably at The Penny Ice Creamery, but none were as memorable as Salt & Straw's.
Freckled Woodblock Chocolate
Wow! Little bits of milk chocolate throughout, with a bright flavor of malt. Moderate saltiness gives an additional dimension to this symphony. The Woodblock in the name is a local Portland chocolate maker from whom Salt and Straw sources the chocolate for this wonderful creation. Great texture, and the small bits of chocolate are perfectly integrated. Because they are so finely shaved, they melt on the tongue readily, making the ice cream unusually smooth, given the mix-in.
Slightly salty, with a hint of sweetness. Subtle, balanced olive oil flavor. A distinct, mild pepperiness really comes through. This flavor is one of the creamiest and densest we reviewed at Salt & Straw, and it outshines other olive oil ice creams we've rated at places like Bi-Rite and even Humphry Slocombe's venerable take on this challenging flavor. Olive Oil is Oprah Winfrey's favorite flavor from Salt & Straw.
Balanced, perfumed lavender flavor. The honey is subtle. Less dense than the other flavors, but this combo works well given the lightness of the lavender flavor itself.
Salt and Straw2035 NE Alberta St Portland, OR 97211