Portland, OR: Advanced Ice Cream Technology at What's The Scoop
Sunday, March 17, 2013

What's the Scoop is an exciting new shop in Portland that seeks to redefine the ice cream making process. Instead of making ice cream the old fashioned way, this shop infuses a bit of cutting edge ice cream technology, adding its own twists along the way. What's the Scoop uses liquid nitrogen to freeze its ice cream, creating a uniform, ice-free texture. If they stopped at this point, the technology would be cutting edge, but not unique. There are now a few shops in the US, like Smitten, in San Francisco, that use liquid nitrogen to create crystal-free ice cream.

Unsatisfied with the lack of density that a quick liquid nitrogen freeze produces, What's the Scoop is the first shop SCOOP Blog knows of that takes an additional step to ensure the best texture money can buy. After freezing the ice cream with liquid nitrogen, What's the Scoop then puts the ice cream in a special "hardening cabinet," which is a fridge set to 30 below zero! By keeping the ice cream in a hardening cabinet, a good density is achieved without disturbing the ice-free texture provided by the liquid nitrogen. Once the ice cream is "set," the end result is transferred to a normal freezer without damaging the final product.

But as our readers know, SCOOP Blog is not satisfied with innovation for innovation's sake - we came here to review some ice cream! What's the Scoop doesn't disappoint, with some great flavors. We usually don't focus too much on vanilla flavors, because they're... well... vanilla. But the vanilla at What's the Scoop really shows off what their unique process can do. Another flavor we really enjoyed was the Bourbon Toffee, which demonstrated the shop's ability to make complex, layered, balanced flavors. These two flavors tasted delicious, and prove that What's the Scoop's unique process is capable of making crave-worthy flavors with consistently great texture and density. If only all the flavors could have been as good as those two. A lot of the flavors we reviewed at What's the Scoop showed a lack of balance, veering towards the over-sweet side of things. Some flavors also had an almost artificial quality to them, which led us to wonder whether the shop was taking shortcuts in some of its creations. We hope that as this shop grows, it takes the time to tweak its recipes, seeking balance and authentic flavors as the perfect pairing to their unique ice cream technology.

One neat thing to try out here is their cone scone, made with bits of accidentally cracked ice cream cones

One thing we really enjoyed about What's the Scoop was their toppings and mix-ins, which are all home made (except for the Mint Chip flavor, which uses Andes). The quality showed through, and the shop's dedication to making the toppings says a lot about its commitment to ensuring high quality. We also enjoyed the ice cream cone scone, which as far as we could tell, is their own invention. The shop collects ice cream cone shells that break and uses them in baking scones, so that the shells don't go to waste.

Flavor Tasting Notes

Most of the flavors here veer outside the "traditional," although very few are true originals

Bourbon Toffee

Amazingly balanced, wonderful bourbon flavor. Slightly oaky (in a good way), and wonderfully rich. The toffee, which is homemade using saltines, caramel, chocolate and Heath Bar, is also exceptional. The best flavor we had. Was interesting to compare this one to Humphry Slocombe's Secret Breakfast flavor.

Thrilla in Vanilla

Don't let the cheesy name fool you - this vanilla is the real deal. Very strong, balanced flavor. Appears to use a high quality extract - we did not see any specks of vanilla bean in the cream. Exceptional smoothness, with a good denisty and mouthfeel. Try this flavor if you want to experience what the liquid nitrogen process can do for a scoop.

Mint Chip

Very smooth and dense. Way too minty, though. Tastes like candy cane. We were told this flavor uses Andes brand mint chips, which could go towards explaining the artificially strong flavor.

Egg Nog

Again, the texture here is memorable. The flavor itself is authentic egg nog, but the nutmeg is just way too strong.

Espresso Kahlua

SCOOP Blog had high hopes for this flavor, but it was the biggest disappointment of our review. Smooth texture, but a weird gummy, almost taffy-like, consistency. Less dense than the other ice creams at this shop. Flavor is overwhelmingly strong, not particularly nuanced, espresso powder. Hard to taste any Kahlua at all, and no alcohol seems detectable.

Peanut Curry

Similar texture to the other flavors - very good. Strong, peanuty flavor with a balanced, not-too-strong curry note. A bit too sweet for us.

Final Score: 7/10

What's The Scoop?

3540 N. Williams Avenue, Portland, OR 97227