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’s Dandelion Chocolate Hazelnut Cookies and Cream

Salt & Straw are a pretty amazing company. If you weren’t aware, every time they open in a new city that city gets a menu that includes some S&S classics as well as some city-specific exclusives that you can’t get anywhere else. When they expanded to San Francisco last year they made some amazing flavors, including Roasted Strawberry Tres Leches and Salted Honey Marshmallows & Walnuts (RIP), but sometimes even great new things need to be revised. To kick off National Ice Cream Month, Salt & Straw added a handful of new SF-only flavors to their menu, including the tantalizing-sounding vegan friendly Dandelion Chocolate Hazelnut Cookies and Cream – a dark chocolate ice cream made with coconut and hazelnut milk with stacciatella ribbons of Dandelion chocolate and chunks of homemade gluten free vegan oreos.

IMG_0667

Continue reading