REVIEW: Salt & Straw’s Thanksgiving Dinner of Ice Cream 2017

Thanksgiving is the grandest meal of the year, and for the fifth time since they started in 2011, Salt & Straw are turning that epic feast into an immersive and inventive ice cream experience like no other. It isn’t just channeling the feelings and magic of the family-centric holiday, but actually fusing the savory salty flavors into wild new versions of America’s favorite dessert. This review is a little different than most, as rather than have a pint or scoop and pick it apart, I went into their new Hayes Valley location in San Francisco and had a full flight of the Thanksgiving Dinner of Ice Cream offerings all at once; eating them sequentially as if I was partaking in a meal. A Salt & Straw flight comes with four flavors so I had to add one on the side, in a waffle bowl for ultimate dipping and crunching satisfaction, and opted to put start the meal in said crunchy bowl.

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Sweet Potato Casserole with Maple Pecans:
Sweet and spicy sweet potato ice cream with maple sugar caramelized pecans and maple marshmallow fluff.

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This scoop might sound strange at first, but it’s a pretty recognizable profile that translates really well into ice cream. The base is sweet and cinnamon-y with an overall flavor reminiscent of sweet potato pie that is absolutely delicious as an ice cream. The sweet potato’s organic consistency helps make the texture extra creamy and is perfectly succulent smooth. The caramelized pecans are rich and fatty with an amazing sugary pop that reminds me of sticky pecan pie in the best way. The maple marshmallow swirl is incredible, as is all marshmallow when touched by S&S, and while all the ingredients are very similar, there’s no doubt this ice cream is better than any sweet potato casserole I’ve ever had. This is the only flavor in the lineup that doesn’t have any distinct savory notes and it is an absolute slam dunk. Very scoop-able, very pint-able, and the shining star of pure deliciousness in this series. Rating: 10/10

Buttered Mashed Potatoes and Gravy
Buttered mashed potatoes ice cream with a gravy fudge swirl.

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Yes, this is quite literally potato ice cream, and surprisingly, it works. Thanks to the use of yukon gold potatoes the texture is mostly smooth and creamy with a bit of potato grittiness that immediately starts to play mind games with my tastebuds. There are nuances of butter and garlic, but the overall profile still leans sweet. The swirl is thick and gravy-like, with a texture that screams fudge and a flavor that screams a chicken-stock-kissed caramel with a hint of bitterness. It’s slightly savory but not so much that it’s off-putting, and the relatively basic flavor of potato makes it less likely to clash with other scoops if you wanted to do a little mash up. For as bizarre as this one seems it’s actually pretty damn good, and I would eat it again no doubt. It isn’t as crave able as an average scoop of ice cream, but it’s executed well. Rating something like this is really challenging, since it’s in its own niche category, but I will attempt a numerical grade. Rating: 8.5/10

Persimmon Walnut Stuffing
Olive oil and coriander spiked ice cream with homemade toasted walnut stuffing and bourbon raisins.

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I don’t know about you but stuffing is one of my absolute favorite parts of Thanksgiving dinner, and that savory bread-y satisfaction is on full display in this scoop. It isn’t weird at all. The olive oil ice cream is lush and beautifully creamy with hints of pepper that play against the general sweetness very well. The bourbon raisins pop with bright sugary notes and the chunks of stuffing are no joke. They are large and in charge. The olive oil and dairy soak the stuffing like a bread pudding and the overall experience is one that is reminiscent Thanksgiving’s best side, but also very scoopable. My only issue with this one was I didn’t taste persimmon at all, and I really wanted to because persimmon’s are fantastic. Rating: 8.5/10

Salted Caramel Thanksgiving Turkey
Salted caramel turkey ice cream with candy-coated crispy turkey skin.

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This is without a doubt the weirdest of the bunch, and as far as crave-ability goes, my least favorite. The base is rich with turkey stock flavor, onions, and spices, yet is still sweet and very rich. I’m a huge fan of sweet and salty, but throwing this savory curveball into the mix is a little challenging for my tastebuds. The turkey skin is buttery and crunchy like toffee but still packs a distinctly meaty and poultry-heavy flavor. It’s bizarre, and for what it’s worth executed very well. It’s not the kind of scoop I would call disgusting, it’s just not one that tempts me to want to eat more. One of the more exciting things I tried was a bit of this and a bit of the mashed potatoes in one bite, and yep, it was just like the classic mix on a real Thanksgiving plate. Rating: 9/10 on execution, 7/10 for my personal taste.

Spiced Goat Cheese & Pumpkin Pie
Spiced goat cheese ice cream with swirls of mashed pumpkin filling.

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Who doesn’t love a good pumpkin pie to finish off the most indulgent meal of the year? I was super looking forward to this flavor, and while it’s good, I think it ultimately let me down the most. Goat cheese can work beautifully in ice cream, and S&S’s own Marionberry Habanero is a great example of this, but for my taste this one is simply too goat cheesy. The base is very tangy and almost tastes like a straight goat cheese log with just a touch of amplified sweetness and slight spice kick. The pumpkin swirl is great, but the ratio leans so heavily towards the base that I never feel like I got quite enough. The bites with equal parts of the two were terrific. Cheesy but spicy and sweet with lush pumpkin flavor – there just wasn’t enough of them to make me love the scoop as a whole. Rating: 7/10

Overall Salt & Straw’s Thanksgiving Dinner of Ice Cream is a total success – full of creative flavors that really do conjure up amazing memories of family and feasting. If you are fortunate enough to have a scoop shop in your neighborhood I highly recommend stopping in for a flight, and if you have an adventurous palate and can afford it, getting a 5 pack of pints delivered to your door would make for a really fun evening of food exploration.

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