The time has finally come and on this Friday, April 14, the bay area will get its first Salt & Straw scoop shop. The stellar Portland-based ice cream company will be taking a similar approach to their stores in Los Angeles and will offer some SF scoop shop only flavors that you have to be present for to actually experience and taste that will be unique not only in their exclusivity but in their profile to represent the bay area. I was fortunate enough to get to try a couple of these flavors before they hit the public, and like everything S&S does, they are impressively great. Salt and Straw’s San Francisco exclusive flavor Roasted Strawberry Tres Leches combines a roasted strawberry ice cream with chunks of tres leches cake and a vanilla strawberry jam swirl.
The strawberry ice cream is perfect. Bursting with authentic slightly tart strawberry flavor there’s a touch of saltiness to the base that is simply delectable and tempers the aggressive sweetness of the jam to create a full bodied multi-layered berry flavor. The roasted element of the strawberries gives a true-to-taste fruit experience that shares absolutely nothing in common with lower quality, artificial tasting “strawberry” ice creams. I’m not as well versed on berry bases as I am with sweet cream, caramel, or chocolate, but this is without a doubt my favorite strawberry I have ever had.
The tres leches cake is dense and chewy in a way that resembles cake batter with a beautiful cinnamon flavor that melds harmoniously with the two fruity components. There’s a touch of golden sheen to the cake that reminds me of graham crackers in the best way – channeling honey and spice and childhood nostalgia. A little bit of the cinnamon seeps into the strawberry, so even when you get a bite without cake there’s an added touch of spicy depth that elevates the ice cream beyond your basic berry and into something transcendent.
What makes Salt and Straw so incredible is their precise attention to detail, and everything about that precision is represented in this pint. From the use of vanilla strawberry jam instead of just strawberry, which adds a round fullness to the flavor, to the subtle use of salt to balance everything out, Salt & Straw truly craft the scoops of ice cream lovers’ dreams.
According to a 2015 survey by Yahoo!, America’s favorite dessert is ice cream, and with good reason. The combination of sugar and fat with melty texture and an endless array of combinations creates the ultimate eating experience that cannot be replaced or replicated in any way. As good as store bought brands and chains like Baskin Robbins can be, there are smaller craft companies that are churning out ice cream that takes the art to a whole new level. At the top of the small scale ice cream game is Portland’s Salt & Straw, and for March they brought back a handful of fan favorites from years past for a repeat performance. Among these flavors is Chocolate Caramel Potato Chip Cupcake, which combines a malted salted chocolate ice cream with cupcake pieces frosted with chocolate ganache, chocolate coated potato chips, and a ribbon of housemade caramel.
The textures and flavors in this pint are nothing short of a masterpiece. The malted chocolate base is rich and sweet with a salty undertone that cuts through and reminds me a lot of Salt & Straw’s Woodblock Chocolate without the flakes. It has a lighter milk chocolate flavor accented by the malt that serves as a perfect backdrop to the layers of decadence that unfold as I eat in absolute glee. The chocolate covered chips are big crunchy boulders with an intense super dark bittersweet chocolate coating that tastes like the blackened midnight sky before exploding with a salty potato finish. These aren’t just the best chips I’ve ever had in an ice cream but some of the best chocolate covered chips I’ve ever had anywhere, with a flawless, deep, cocoa sweet salty finesse that is divine.
The chocolate cupcake pieces have been soaked in coffee syrup which gives them a rich, almost booze-y flavor that differentiates them from the extreme bitter darkness of the potato chips. Some of the pieces are soft and gooey like tres leches cake and others have firmed up and have a denser texture like chewy brownies. The cake pieces are accompanied by a chocolate ganache, which again, is intensely dark and bittersweet in the best way. Some of the ganache has broken away from the cake and become soft chewy chocolate fudge chunks of black magic voodoo.
What really brings this flavor together and makes the whole thing sing is the generous swirl of thick rich caramel that sticks to my spoon and makes my tongue do cartwheels for more. It’s sweet and dense and tastes exactly the way a caramel should, like the sugar cooked down for hours before finally seizing up to become the smooth brown butterfly it always knew it could. The swirling puddles of caramel were evident from the first scoop and weaved in and out of the entire pint, running down the side of the carton and bringing bliss to the three distinct, expertly executed layers of chocolate.
When you see so many different components crammed into one flavor it’s easy to write it off as a gimmick, but with Salt & Straw it’s as far from a gimmick as you can possibly get. All the pieces perfectly compliment each other to create an exciting, addictive, and perfect ice cream experience that needs to be tasted to be believed.
Found at: http://www.saltandstraw.com