Three recommendations you take seriously, right? I mean you ask three different people about food recommendations in Portland, Oregon and when the one thing that pops up on each list is the Sea Salt and Caramel (SSC) ice cream at Salt and Straw Farm-to-Cone ice cream shop (http://saltandstraw.com/) you go, don’t you? Well, we almost didn’t. You see, Portland, being an eminently walkable city, lured us into doing just that. We walked all day. After a great breakfast at Bijou Café (http://www.bijoucafepdx.com/) (loved their fried oyster breakfast hash and the blackberry muffins with homemade jam – but that’s another story), we walked for miles investigating shops, book stores, open air markets, fine art festivals and the Rose Garden at Washington Park. We had decided to make the trek to Salt and Straw in the Pearl District and have a late lunch of ice cream! The perfect vacation indulgence. Well, when you get to the cute corner store, your smile may vanish. The line is wrapped around the corner with about 40 people ahead of you. We grumbled a bit, actually looked on the iphone for other ice cream shops in the area (there were none), and considered just finding a good late lunch spot – I did have a hankering for some good fish tacos. We almost walked by Salt and Straw. But then I thought, three people – three recommendations. It’s vacation; so time we have. We got in line.
Now a line of 40 people waiting for anything can’t really be a fun time. I mean it didn’t compare to a toilet paper line in the former Soviet Union – but it’s still a long way to the ice cream counter. But you know what, this impatient guy from the high-octane Northeast had a great time waiting. Everyone’s happy. I mean – we’re all waiting for ICE CREAM! And the friendliest staff come out with a little sampling cart handing out as many free samples as you want while the line moves slowly but surely forward. So in reality, I didn’t really just have the SSC flavor. I tasted many
flavors before we even got to the counter. SO before my double cone of SSC I had already tasted these truly unique flavors:
Almond Brittle w/ Salted Ganache
Arbequina Olive Oil
Stawberry Honey-Balsamic w/ Black Pepper
Coconut Milk w/ Cashew Brittle
Sweet Corn Waffles and Caramel
Freckled Woodblock Chocolate
Mint and Sea Urchins Meringues
Yep, sea urchins. I will admit the urchin was not my forte. But they were all delicious. All these choices had a depth of flavor and complexity I had not encountered in ice cream before. In fact, I never thought I would use the word “complexity” to describe ice cream – but that is the only term I can use. I decided to
stick with the SSC since that was where all fingers pointed. OK – so now the nitty gritty. This was the BEST ice cream I ever had. Seriously and I’m 50 years old. The creaminess of this ice cream is unmatched. Not sure if they really had the cows out back, but it truly was sumptuous and the best mouth-feel I have ever had in ice cream. Not a hint of iciness. (BTW, if looking for where all the ice from the melting glaciers is showing up, I suggest trying any ice cream in Scotland – again, another story.) The vanilla and caramelly-butterscotch flavors were front and center and then you’re met with the tangy, minerality of the sea salt. It enhances the flavors and truly adultifies this experience. Perfect. How often do you eat something and moan after each bite?
Now here’s a secret. You don’t have to wait in line behind 40 people to get this ice cream. I found out that if you want to buy a quart of packed ice cream, you only need to walk right up to the counter and buy it immediately. You could even
purchase the cones separately, too! If you go this route, my suggestion would be to take your prize diagonally across the intersection and have a seat on a short brick wall along the side walk. Take the cover off your prized SSC quart, wait 5 minutes for the treat to soften a bit (I would say 10 minutes – but good luck waiting that long) and have at it. Though I think ice cream of this caliber really needs to be licked off a cone to ensure you are getting all taste buds involved.
So now you have four recommendations for the Sea Salt & Caramel ice cream at Salt and Straw in Portland, Oregon. Relax. Wait in line. Lick. (Moan.)