REVIEW: Salt & Straw’s California Honey Rocky Road

The Bay Area is a wonderfully creative place. Our year round agreeable weather, crazy good food scene, and tech giants’ home bases have yielded tons of great innovation, but the inspiration has been alive for decades. Not just the now-mainstream mission style super burrito, or the the major metal influence of Metallica, or the game-changing person-to-person swapping of Craigslist, but something much more classic, and even nostalgic, has its roots in the bay – rocky road ice cream. Lore has it that in 1929 William Dreyer took his wife’s scissors and cut up walnuts and marshmallows to add to his chocolate ice cream on the regular in Oakland, California, mirroring a favorite candy bar made by his partner, Joseph Edy (recognize those names?) After the Wall Street Crash of 1929, the ice cream creating duo swapped out walnuts for almonds and gave the flavor a name to would encourage people to smile in the midst of the Depression. 

Accidentally paying homage to its Bay Area roots, Salt & Straw’s California Honey Rocky Road combines chocolate cream cheese ice cream with candied California almonds and a ribbon of honey marshmallow fluff.
image1

The chocolate cream cheese ice cream is delicious but a little bit different than I anticipated. It’s incredibly smooth, rich, and velvety with the succulent texture of cream cheese but none of the tang. This isn’t an issue, just a bit of a surprise, as I would have welcomed a little bit of funk into the well-established profile of rocky road. The chocolate notes are light and on the milk side of the cocoa-equation, channeling old school scoop shops and little league malt cups eaten with a wooden spoon. It’s classic and very well executed, albeit a bit mild for my personal taste; and despite the cream cheese curveball in the description, shouldn’t push anyone away with unadventurous tastebuds.

image2

image3

Candied nuts are one of my absolute favorite mix-ins, and this flavor highlights every reason why I love them. The almonds are crunchy, sweet, fatty, and bursting with roasted almond flavor. They pop up in varying sizes, from small pieces of a nut to massive soundeffect-inducing boulders. The candied technique used on the almonds is light and almost crisp, much less like brittle and much more like honeycomb or crisped rice, and it’s a refreshing textural treat.

image5

The real showstopper in this pint, and one that Salt & Straw is no stranger to using in other great flavors, is the honey marshmallow fluff. I want to go on record and say ALL marshmallow fluff should be made with honey. It takes absolutely nothing away from the gooey, stretchy-sweet qualities of the marshmallow and boosts it up with amazing golden honey goodness. There’s simply nothing lost and everything gained by fusing the two elements together. The swirl is incredibly ample and well-placed throughout the container, often setting up in massive globs big enough to get an entire spoonful, which is a must, and is indulgent deliciousness at its finest.

image4

image6

Rocky road is not one of my go-to staple ice cream flavors, but this is the best rocky road I’ve ever had. It’s elevated enough to standout against the many others I’ve had while not steering too far away from the core of what makes this flavor what it is. With a darker, more complex chocolate base this could be a pint I have to stock up on for the winter, but as it stands it’s just a damn good twist on a classic, and an absolute must try if you’re a rocky road enthusiast.

Rating: 9/10
Found at: Salt & Straw (San Francisco, CA)

REVIEW: Trader Joe’s Sweet and Salty Granola Bars

My first name is Sean, and my last name is Skillet, but my middle name may as well be “SweetSalty” for how much I really love that combination. Opposing flavors that can compliment each other AND make one another greater is a thing of true beauty, and I’ll take sweet and salty in my breakfast, lunch, or dinner. Understanding this wonderful yin and yang of tastebuds, Trader Joe’s are helping me amp up my S&S at snack time too, with their new Sweet and Salty Granola Bars, which they describe as a nutty granola bar dipped in almond butter and Greek yogurt coating.

image1

This bar is fairly straight forward but very well executed. The saltiness is just enough to warrant the “salty” part of the title, and isn’t overwhelming but comes through in small bursts of little salt crystals evenly distributed throughout bites. They aren’t big and crunchy like sea salt but stand out more than your average table salt mixed into a recipe for balance. The sweetness comes through in the Greek yogurt layer and is a different and refreshing spin, rather than raisins or some other form of squishy sugary burst.

image2

image3

The mixture of crisped rice, whole oats, wheat flakes, and whole almonds gives a great chewy texture with pockets of crunch and a slightly golden flavor that reminds me of graham crackers. The graham-y-ness is accentuated once again by the Greek yogurt with some tasty vanilla notes and a great soft sweet and salty profile without the aggressive use of chocolate or caramel or another decadent flavor you’ll often find in S&S. The almonds help liven up the bites and add small pockets of fattiness that keep all of the components in check and interesting from beginning to end.

image4

The prominent finishing note on the bar is almond butter, and it’s a really nice way to seal the deal. The smooth creamy butter flavor enhances the presence of the actual almonds and has just the right amount of fatty flavor to keep it more interesting than your average granola bar. The ingredient list has not only almond but peanut and cashew butter, and while those butters aren’t super apparent there’s a depth to the richness that is great and much more complex than I was anticipating. Overall these little bars surprised me – sweet enough to go with a nice cup of coffee but not so sweet that they feel like candy. If sweet and salty is your thing, let these push your little impulse purchase button the next time you’re in line at TJ’s.

Rating: 8/10
Found at: Trader Joe’s ($2.99)