REVIEW: Salt & Straw’s Wildflower Honey with Ricotta Walnut Lace Cookies

Every May Salt & Straw dedicates the month to the magic of spring’s awakening. April showers bring May flowers and what better way to honor their beauty than by eating them? While I’m not a huge fan of floral ice cream’s I am a major mark for that sweet sweet nectar created with flowers via super buzzy bee love. Honey creates the foundation for some of the tastiest bases I’ve ever had, and while I’ll pass on Jasmine Chocolate Chip, and I can never turn my back on a pint of Pooh’s favorite. Wildflower Honey with Ricotta Walnut Lace Cookies combines honey ricotta ice cream with a hint of lemon and homemade whole oat and walnut lace cookies frosted with buttery ricotta icing.

IMG_0089

Continue reading

Advertisements

REVIEW: Salt & Straw’s Sweet Corn & Waffle Cones

I could go on and on about how much I love Salt & Straw’s Chocolate Caramel Potato Chip Cupcake. I’ve made it my mission this year to get everyone I possibly can to hear me out and try it. CCPCC is the fine craft of ice cream perfected to such a degree that I hope it comes back every March, or in my dreams, permanently. Another of this months voted back offerings, Meyer Lemon Meringue Pie, is no slouch either, but there’s a sneaky good flavor lingering beneath the glitz and glam that really deserves your attention too. Sweet Corn & Waffle Cones combines a sweet corn ice cream with chocolate covered waffle cones, freckles of salted brown butter, and ribbons of rich vanilla caramel.

IMG_9383

Continue reading

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.

FullSizeRender

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

FullSizeRender_1

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.

FullSizeRender_2

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.

FullSizeRender_3

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.

FullSizeRender_4

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.

FullSizeRender_5

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.

FullSizeRender_6

REVIEW: Salt & Straw’s The Great Candycopia

Today is the one year anniversary of my first review on Sean’s Skillet. While I had written and rambled on about food on many occasions, October 30 was the day I finally took the plunge, and it all started with a review of a dark twist on one of my favorite Baskin Robbins flavors growing up – Trick Oreo Treat. It only seemed fitting that my one year anniversary review would be of my favorite ice cream company’s version of a trick-or-treat inspired scoop, with Salt & Straw’s The Great Candycopia; which combines a salted butterscotch ice cream with homemade snickers, whoppers, heath bars, and peanut butter cups. UPDATE: for 2018 S&S took out the whoppers and replaced them with homemade Twix bar chunks

FullSizeRender.jpg

First things first, Tyler at Salt & Straw absolutely nailed this salted butterscotch base. Butterscotch is such a unique yet subtle flavor, defined by cracking the sugar at just the right time and balancing it with enough butter, vanilla, and salt to carry those soft creamy notes, and this ice cream hits it on the head. The flavor is unmistakably butterscotch, just like popping a cold and super velvety Werther’s original into your mouth over a long conversation on grandma’s floral print couch. There’s something nostalgic and whimsical hidden inside all of its sugary glory, and it’s those warm melty sweet notes that make butterscotch such a throwback autumn treat. While butterscotch can oftentimes comes off as a too intense sugary punch to the face, the salted aspect of the ice cream helps balance out the potential over-the-top nature of the base for a well rounded and decadent experience that is full bodied and glorious, with moments of reprieve.

FullSizeRender_1

Reese’s and Snickers are two of my favorite candies of all time, and both of the in-house versions of these specialties are fantastic. The peanut butter cups are in large delicious chunks with a very smooth and rich peanut butter that reminds me of the great mini cups at Trader Joe’s. The PB is fatty and nutty without being too sweet, which makes it stand out against the beautifully intense butterscotch. The Snickers are a little bit farther from the original but just as delicious, with perfectly soft and smooth caramel inside of lush snappy chocolate with little bits of nuts to tie it all together. There are no peanuts in the ingredients but there are pecans, and I think they went with that autumn staple in lieu of the peanut, which gives some additional contrast against the flavor in the cups.

FullSizeRender_3

Whoppers and Heath bars are much lower on my list of favorite candies, but goddamn do they work wonders in the recipe here. It’s no secret that toffee is terrific in ice cream, and the deep, burnt, brown sugar caramel notes exist in perfect harmony with the butterscotch, delivering a huge satisfying fatty crunch. The whoppers play a similar role, maintaining all of their crunchy character and bringing a funky malt flavor to the profile that once again plays perfectly with the butterscotch and pops with huge chomp-y satisfaction. UPDATE: While I had no problem with the Whoppers, there’s no doubt the Twix is a big upgrade The cookie is softer than what you find the packaged variety with a massively thick layer of S&S’ top tier caramel.

FullSizeRender_2

From the first bite in all the way to the bottom of the pint this ice cream is like trick-or-treating in the best way. Digging into the sea of orange-y tan and chocolate brown I never knew what I was going to pull out, and oftentimes I didn’t know until I bit in. Would the bite be soft and creamy or hard and crunchy or smooth and sweet? It’s like reaching into a candy-stuffed pillow case after a successful night on the halloween prowl, pulling out treat after treat after treat. Fantastic.

Rating: 10/10
Found at: Salt & Straw (www.saltandstraw.com)

FullSizeRender_4

REVIEW: Salt & Straw’s Carrot Cake Batter & Hazelnut Praline

The best time of the year is fast approaching, and as a certified spice fiend-ing cinna-slut I am ready for the equinox that arrives on September 22 at 1:02 PM PST. There will be so many special spicy pumpkin-y treats everywhere I turn that the air will taste of cloves. Since the leaves haven’t quite changed yet, I’ve found myself leaning back on the trusty year round crutch for myself and fellow spice-aholics – carrot cake. Seemingly in sync with my personal preferences for a little pre-autumn foreplay, Salt & Straw have laced their August Farmers Market series with an ode to one of the few desserts I would ever order with a vegetable in its name. Carrot Cake Batter & Hazelnut Praline combines a carrot cake batter ice cream with candied hazelnuts and a swirl of cheesecake frosting.

image1

The carrot cake batter ice cream is executed with insane perfection. It’s extremely smooth and creamy but also hefty with shreds of carrots seamlessly working their way through nearly every bite. It eats like a cake-baking dream, with spicy notes of nutmeg and cinnamon beneath a wonderfully balanced sweetness from both the dairy and the carrots themselves. In every way it reminds me of the scraping and licking reward after whipping up some batter and I can’t think of a single way that the base could be improved to more accurately translate that highlight of any day in the kitchen.

image2

image3

While I generally associate walnuts with carrot cake I absolutely love the candied hazelnuts S&S threw into the mix here. They definitely have a slight candied sweet quality to them, but what they really provide is a dark, roasted, burnt-in-a-good way, caramelized richness that brings huge contrast and legitimate spoon intrigue to the equation. Hazelnut’s naturally have an intense, almost harsh flavor to them, and the aggressive roasted quality works well to heighten the presence of the spices in the “batter” as well as offset the general sweetness throughout. They also add a significant textural pop to the pint, with both a nutty crunch and a praline squish that is everything a perfect mix-in should be. Simply put, I love them.

image5

The swirl of “cheesecake” frosting, much like the inclusion of hazelnuts, is another brilliant slight switch up to the carrot cake formula that works wonders here. The swirl is essentially a cream cheese frosting but has a more restrained sweetness than the usual straight forward frosting or glaze with some beautiful cheesy notes and ample vanilla. The ribbon is dotted with vanilla beans which play perfectly against the tang and give a very cohesive and slightly savory but still predominantly sweet flavor in tandem with the base. It’s integrated seamlessly throughout the pint, with some thick sheets along the sides, never getting too dominant, but never straying too far from the spoon either.

image7

Despite the zero percent of actual cake in this pint, this is my favorite carrot cake flavored thing I have ever had that isn’t in actual slice form. The flavors are incredible, the idea is inventive, and the execution is immaculate. It is extremely rare for a cake batter ice cream to really channel the joys of licking the spoon, and this one not only does that, but does it in a way that is creative, elevated, and delicious.

Rating: 10/10
Found at: Salt & Straw ($11 – online and in stores)

image6

REVIEW: Salt & Straw’s Breakside Brewery’s Spent Grains & Bacon S’mores

No stranger to being the cool kids in the ice cream class, Salt & Straw are kicking off the summer season with an entire line of gourmet flavors using recycled and rescued ingredients.  No, they didn’t dig through the garbage to make a creamy casserole of mismatched scraps, but rather, sought out byproducts of food processes, fruit too bruised to sell at full price, or bread that is too stale to stay on shelves and flipped them into inventive flavors of melty indulgence.  As a country that wastes 40% of our food, this is a great thing to do for the United States, and owners Kim and Tyler Malek estimate this limited line alone will save around 2,000 pounds of food waste.  For Breakside Brewery’s Spent Grains & Bacon S’mores, S&S utilized the flavor of leftover grains and malts from brewing beer and combined them with chocolate chunks and a bacon marshmallow fluff swirl.

image1
Anytime that I see bacon as a component used in a sweet or non-traditional way I get skeptical that it is there purely for gimmick because of the “everything is better with bacon” hype, but with this flavor that couldn’t be farther from the truth.  The marshmallow swirl is composed of 70% or so pure fluffy sweet marshmallow fluff, with an incredible balance of bounce and sugar that is everything a marshmallow should be – it’s perfect.  Dispersed sporadically throughout the ‘mallow are chunks of bacon that cut through the sweetness with a touch of salt and a wonderfully pronounced smokiness that evokes the flavors of a campfire.  The bacon is used not only to add an interesting tasting component, but to elevate the entire s’mores experience to a new, truer level than I’ve had in ice cream and it is fantastic.

image2

image3
The chocolate, unsurprisingly because it’s Salt & Straw, is incredibly dark and bitter with a big, bold cocoa flavor and an interesting gritty texture.  It tastes very high quality and feels like some of the spent grains were used in the pieces, as there’s a chunky density to the chocolate instead of the typical smooth and clean texture that usually coincides with chips/chunks.

image4
Rounding the entire s’mores experience out is the actual ice cream itself, which is a slightly gritty yet still silky smooth graham cracker base with light honey notes and hints of earthiness.  The texture feels like a bunch of crackers were ground up and soaked in cream and then churned without any kind of aggressive straining to filter out the bits.  The base is also where the recycled component comes into play, mixing the roasted spent grains from Breakside Brewery in conjunction with the graham to create a deep slightly smoky presence, and there are no odd flavors that seem out of place or boozy for a s’mores ice cream; everything works incredibly well.

image5
The only element missing from an ideal s’mores experience is gooey melted chocolate, but all the flavors are represented and the execution of the recycled theme is spot on.  A wonderful start to the June line, this one is a must try for people who love marshmallow, s’mores, or bacon used in brilliant new ways.

Rating: 9/10
Found at: http://www.saltandstraw.com or in scoops shops in Portland, OR

image6

REVIEW: Salt & Straw’s Pirates of the Chocolaty Caribbean

As a somewhat low key Disney fanboy and not so low key Salt & Straw fanboy I was completely puffed with joy when I read that the two would be collaborating for the new Pirates of the Caribbean movie.  Very rarely does a smaller craft brand like S&S get the chance to work with one of the entertainment industry’s titans, and I was genuinely excited not only for this release, but for what the relationship could mean in the future.  I was so excited that I read the press release at least five times, and in fact, I think it’s so well written that I’m going to stop my intro here and just post the official description from a couple weeks ago:

“Pirates of the Chocolaty Caribbean captures the sweetness and spice of rum and toasted sugar flavor of the island spirit by infusing a caramel ice cream with cinnamon, allspice, orange peel, cloves, cardamom, nutmeg, and star anise. The real magic of this caramel spiced rum ice cream is the one-of-a-kind chocolate inside—single-origin chocolate from Trinidad, sourced locally from Bar Au Chocolat, studded with pop rocks that go off like pirate cannons between your teeth. Dig into the true flavor of the Caribbean in every scoop!”

Of course, this was a super limited time offering, only available at ONE shop in Los Angeles, but somehow, through the goodwill and kindness of Kim and Tyler and Salt & Straw, I was able to acquire a pint, and give it a taste for the skillet.

image1

By Salt & Straw standards this base is incredibly subdued, and for my personal tastes, a bit too mellow.  When I read the description of all the spices going into the ice cream my heart lit up, but they’re much harder to detect than I had anticipated.  Usually with S&S when they say something is in the flavor it is IN it and always executed with intense finesse, but here I had to really search for any prominent spicy notes.

image2

image3

The ice cream is incredibly smooth and rich with a soft caramel essence that isn’t too sweet and finishes with a lovely buttery flavor that accentuates the high quality dairy like a well balanced sweet cream.  There is the slightest touch of cinnamon and nutmeg at the end, but even that is very subtle, with no star anise, cloves, or cardamon to be found.  There also isn’t any boozy rum flavor going on, which given the description of “caramel spiced rum ice cream” would have been really nice to taste as well, although I get the feeling the spices were supposed to emulate rum rather than alcohol being a prominent flavor.

image4

What really works wonderfully in this flavor is the pop rock studded dark chocolate, which delivers on everything it promised to be.  It’s incredibly dark and bitter with tons of small pop rocks that immediately start sizzling the second I chomp into them; and it really does feel like cannons going off in my mouth.  The chocolate is integrated in broken thin sheets and dispersed throughout the pint with perfection – some small shards of chocolate and some big chunks that keep each bite slightly different in bitterness and crunch.  It’s a funny juxtaposition to put such a novelty candy into high quality single origin chocolate but it works wonderfully, adding excitement to every bite.

image5

While I wish this ice cream had a true spiced rum base to compliment the very well executed chocolate, I can’t deny that it is still an incredibly well made and delicious product.  All of the more interesting ingredients fall to the background and simply temper the sweetness of the caramel for a more grown-up spin on flavors that are very familiar to ice cream aficionados.  In all honesty this is just a very high quality and slightly elevated chocolate chip ice cream, and a damn good one at that.

Rating: 7.5/10
Found at: Salt & Straw Los Angeles

image6