REVIEW: Salt & Straw Calamari Contest

One of the most stunningly eye-catching and vibrantly colored pints I’ve ever had the pleasure of scooping arrives in honor of Netflix’s dazzling and most streamed show ever, Squid Game. Part of the very limited 2021 Gone Viral Pack, Salt & Straw’s Calamari Contest combines teal and pink tracksuit ice cream with bone marrow fudge and dalgona honeycomb.

Conceptually this pint is immaculate, one of the coolest, deepest, and most thought-out ice cream’s I have ever seen. Taste-wise, it really is a tale of two halves. The teal ice cream has an amazing almond flavor that I don’t think I’ve ever tasted from S&S before. It’s smooth, creamy and perfectly sweet without being over the top. The pink ice cream tastes like…nothing? Okay, not nothing but it’s devoid of any of the signature salty or floral notes that define a lot of Tyler’s fantastic bases. It might be as close to a standard sweet cream as I’ve had from him; which next to the brilliant almond, doesn’t taste like much.

It’s also kind of odd — the two bases temper entirely differently. I always give my pints a proper 10+ minutes at room temperature before shooting and scooping and with this one the teal got perfectly tempered, edging towards too soft, while the pink remained hard and kind of stiff. I can’t think of too many times where S&S went with a dual base and this might be why.

The mix-ins are also totally split down the middle — literally and figuratively. The Dalgona honeycomb chunks are absolutely incredible, and exclusively on the teal side. They have an extraordinarily gentle and sophisticated crunch with airy pockets of sugary splendor that dissolve as soon as I sink my teeth in. It’s miraculous how perfect they are and how fragile they feel — quintessential Salt & Straw magic. The high concept is once again on full display, as Dalgona candy plays a pivotal role in one Squid Game’s challenges, and suddenly it feels as though I’m eating an episode.

The bone marrow fudge coexists with the pink side and is much more of a ganache than a fudge. It’s thick, dense, and hard, with an even firmer texture than the usual fantastic S&S salted ganache. Unlike the ganache, this has very little sweetness and actually leans towards savory as opposed to bittersweet. Something about the bone marrow adds a note of meatiness and I don’t really like where it takes the profile. The savoriness combined with the beautiful-looking but bland-tasting base makes the pink half of the pint more experimental but unfortunately far less enticing than the teal.

This is a tough one to grade. The concept and vision are a 10/10, the teal side is a 9/10, and the pink side is a 4/10, which leaves me with a 23/30, so let’s call it a 7/10 — a rating that could be higher for you depending on how savory your like your ice cream, it’s just not my style!

HUGE thanks to Salt & Straw for sending this pack my way to try — an amazing way to start the new year.

REVIEW: Salt & Straw Parker House Rolls w/ Salted Buttercream

At virtually every holiday gathering with my dad’s side of the family, going back over 20 years, a bright orange package of King’s Hawaiian Rolls have made a prominent appearance. As a youngster I gained the reputation of being a Kings Hawaiian enthusiast (addict?), downing multiple rolls with a proper slathering of butter at the start of every meal…and sometimes after. I don’t eat them with as much ferocity as an adult, but they will forever have a place in my heart. For 2021 Salt & Straw have reimagined the entirely of their coveted Thanksgiving menu, including an inventive take on the almighty bread and butter. Parker House Rolls with Salted Buttercream is a salted sweet cream ice cream with a salted buttercream swirl and chunks of Parker house rolls.

I’ve had a ton of salted bases, most notably vanilla, but I think this might be my first foray into a salted sweet cream. The base is slightly savory with a decent saltiness and a super smooth, dense, premium texture that tempers like a dream. The salt paired with the sweet cream reminds me a bit of cream cheese. Although it has no tang, without the floral notes of vanilla or a dominant sweetness it carries a similar richness to cream cheese, which I really enjoy.

The fifth ingredient on the label is King’s Hawaiian Rolls, above everything except dairy and sugar, and that heavy-handed distribution is brilliant. The rolls stay soft and almost gooey in the ice cream, and their signature sweet flavor shines through the salted base perfectly. I have no idea how they did it but Tyler and the Salt & Straw crew managed to preserve everything that makes these rolls so special; it tastes like magic. According to their website the rolls were glazed with fresh churned buttercream before being put into the ice cream and I’m willing to bet that helped translate the mix-in to the ice cream with such impressive pizazz.

The salted buttercream, whether actually swirled or broken off from the tops of the rolls, is amazing. It’s rich and thick and buttery with an almost firm texture and amazing sweetness that only gets deeper from the added sea salt. It’s one of the densest and intense frosting swirls I’ve ever had and it absolutely steals the show in this simple but very effective pint.

On paper this flavor reads like a bit of a hat on a hat — a salted base with a salted swirl and a bread-y mix-in that’s sweet and also salty — but it absolutely works. Salt & Straw have taken the most mundane of Thanksgiving sides, bread and butter, and turned it into a complex and layered ice cream that’s simultaneously nostalgic and brand new all at the same time. Delicious.

Rating: 9/10

Found at: Salt & Straw ($13.00)

Click here to read my shorter Instagram review of Sweet Potato Pie w/ Double Baked Almond Streusel

REVIEW: Salt & Straw Goosebumps: Monster Blood is Back!

When I read that Salt & Straw collaborated with R.L. Stine to create a Goosebumps ice cream the 90s kid inside of me animorphed into a baby tazmanian devil and started space jamming my head into the wall with excitement. Okay…maybe that’s a bit much, but I was STOKED, and even more stoked when I saw the scoop shot covered in green goo that instantly conjured up memories of the book series’ dripping logo. I could even hear the menacing sleuth-like synth notes and crawling piano line from the 1995 TV show’s theme song; good memories. Created in conjunction with the latest book in the SLAPPYWORLD series, Monster Blood is Back!, the ice cream of the same name combines a salted mango ice cream with streaks of fruit punch flavored “monster goo”, and strawberry bark fangs.

Popping off the lid this pint instantly looks the part, with a deep pool of green goo staring me in the face, and it’s beautiful. The salted mango base was a smart choice, bringing a strong fruity flavor without being too sweet, as often mango ice creams can be. It’s an authentic taste with notable creaminess that feels fresh and expertly balanced, as Tyler and the team at S&S have a tendency to do with their namesake: salt. 

It’s wonderful that the base is slightly salted because the goo is SWEET. Super sugary and thick with amazing viscosity that clings to the spoon as I scoop. Fruit punch is a pretty accurate description as it’s no doubt fruity but there aren’t any distinct, or real, dominant fruity notes. Definitely some citrus (I get more orange than anything), mixed with some tropical pineapple flair followed by boatloads of sugar. It reminds me of something that I would squeeze out of a tube straight into my mouth in 1997, and for this chilling creation that’s pretty much flawless. When the goo combines with the base they compliment each other in a very refreshing and summery way, and for how off-the-wall this ice cream looks, it tastes really natural and bright. 

The strawberry bark fangs are the least notable part of this pint but they play a very important role: texture. The flavor is much more white chocolate than it is strawberry, and their gentle chew reminds me of softened chocolate chunks, not quite as soft as ganache, but not super crunchy either. It’s ideal that the flavor is subtle because the base and swirl have so much character there’s potential to clash. When I isolate a fang away from the other components I get a slight tart strawberry flavor and it’s nice. The fangs are studded with Pop Rocks for the occasional burst of extra explosive mouth fireworks, and while not as wild as in S&S’s Pirates of the Caribbean ice cream, it’s still a playful and satisfying touch. 

Eating this ice cream is FUN. It pulls at the nostalgia strings while simultaneously pushing the creativity forward, presenting something legitimately scoop-able and worthy of a visit to your local Salt & Straw, or delivered to your front door via their website. As a big fan of both the Goosebumps franchise and crazy craft ice cream, my only complaint is that this didn’t come in a limited edition pint container adorned with 90s-era Goosebumps artwork that I could add to my ice cream shelf…but I’ll let that slide for the sake of this supernatural success.

Rating: 9/10

Found at: Salt & Straw ($13.00)

Note: this ice cream was sent to me for RND purposes but in no way effected my review or rating.

REVIEW: Salt & Straw 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.

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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.
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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.

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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.

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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.

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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)