Salt and Straw: Back to Basics with a PDX Spin

Salt and Straw, 2035 NE Alberta St., Portland, OR

Salt and Straw

2035 NE Alberta St., Portland, OR

Salt and Straw is not just normal ice cream. You can tell by the line up that loops the block. Before you write this off as a hyped up hipster hang out made popular by annoying social media “experts,” read on.

Located on the same street as the iconic Pine State Biscuits and scrumptious Waffle Window, Salt and Straw keeps in line with Portland’s trademark quirk and charm. The small, quaint ice cream parlor offers the most bizarre and original flavours I’ve ever tried. We had lots of time to decide what we wanted, after all, we were in line for 30 minutes.

A popular item was the sampler, a long wooden plank with four little pods for small glass bowls of ice cream. I wonder if they require the customers ordering this item to sit right in front of the picture window so all of us in line could drool and marvel at them while they savoured their diverse selection of ice cream. We contemplated ordering the sampler too but I was dying to try Salt and Straw’s homemade waffle cones. I usually never order ice cream in a cone. Do you have any idea how clumsy I am? But since Salt and Straw is famous for them, I had to have one.

One dollar from each scoop of Salt and Straw ice cream sold is donated to Portland Central City Concern. That’s pretty awesome.

Strawberry Honey Balsamic ice cream with black pepper, Salt and Straw, 2035 NE Alberta St., Portland, OR

I was disappointed that they didn’t have the bone marrow flavour that I had heard so much about. I had considered ordering the Citra Hops seasonal flavour but as daring as I am, I still can’t get that aftertaste of Heston Blumenthal’s brown bread ice cream out of my mouth. I swear it tasted like yeast. And hops reminds me too much of that. I finally decided to order the pear with blue cheese and the strawberry honey balsamic with black pepper. How strange does the latter sound? I did try a small tasting spoon of it before confirming my order. As an adventurous foodie, even I had my doubts about an ice cream that combines sweet strawberry and black pepper. But who would have thunk? It was delicious! After tasting it, I quickly asked for a scoop in a waffle cone.

We could smell the waffle cones being made as we waited in line, and it’s hard to ignore towers of them in front of the bins of ice cream.

Salt and Straw gets its name from how handmade ice cream used to be made, back in the day on farms: rock salt was used to make the cream freeze, the ice cream was then packed in straw to keep it cold. All the ice cream at Salt and Straw is handmade and uses all local Portland ingredients. That’s Portland for you: taking something ordinary like waffles, biscuits or doughnuts and making it extraordinary with its own weird, twisted, creative spin. Salt and Straw uses ice cream as the perfect stage to showcase Portland’s freshest ingredients and innovative spirit.

Strawberry Honey Balsamic ice cream with black pepper, Salt and Straw, 2035 NE Alberta St., Portland, OR

After my first lick of my strawberry honey balsamic, black pepper ice cream, I couldn’t stop. The funny thing was, I couldn’t taste the black pepper at all, try as I might, I even looked for the little black specs in the ice cream. I guess the spice was only in there as a flavour enhancement because boy, did the sweet and juicy strawberry ever stand out with a smooth honey finish and a small, sharp cut of balsamic flavours.

The texture of the ice cream really did taste smoother than any other ice cream I’ve had. The waffle cone was crunchy and sweet until the end, never getting smushy or soggy.

Pear with blue cheese ice cream, Salt and Straw, 2035 NE Alberta St., Portland, OR

The pear and blue cheese ice cream was amazing: sweet, plump cubes of pear mixed in with the sweet, smooth ice cream. Every so often, a punch of pungent and chunky blue cheese cut through the soothing juicy pear and smooth cream. It was a dynamic battle of syrupy, fresh sweetness against aged, sour, rich blue cheese, each flavour enhanced the other. I loved it.

Pear with blue cheese ice cream, Salt and Straw, 2035 NE Alberta St., Portland, OR

Sea salt ice cream with caramel ribbon, Salt and Straw, 2035 NE Alberta St., Portland, OR

For a flair of the normal, we ordered the sea salt ice cream with caramel ribbon. The first hit of flavour was the strong saltiness and then the mild cream and finally the extremely sweet, nutty and deep caramel flavour enhanced by the saltiness. I actually couldn’t stop eating this even though I had already devoured two scoops of ice cream.

Salt and Straw makes ice cream nostalgic again with a sophisticated, grown-up spin. It’s definitely worth a visit, and totally worth the wait in line.
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