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PDX: Salt & Straw

Salt & Straw

Salt & Straw is the ice cream representative for Portland. And with Portland being weird and all, S&S is slightly different compare to other cities’ representatives. The ice cream culture in Portland seems to emphasize on the tasting experience – everyone is encouraged to taste all the flavors before narrowing down their choices. The ice cream scoopers would start a conversation while the tasters explain why they prefer one over another. These feedback are then, I assumed, compiled and reviewed for the next batch of ice cream flavors. I would call this third wave of ice cream; first wave is the traditional “century-old” creamery that continue to churn out hundreds of flavors. The second wave consists of fair-trade ice cream shoppe that focuses on smaller rotation of choices. (and usually just hard ice cream, rather than custard and yogurt and every other cold treat) Or I could just be making things up, but I have noticed that Portland does do ice cream different. Salt & Straw manage to make flavors even more exclusive, by rotating flavors every month and never promise to bring any back. To never miss any epic flavors, many locals and fans plan their monthly trip to Salt & Straw. Accompanied by the time need for unlimited testing, this ice cream shop always have a line that snakes outside.

Pre-Covid 19: much longer menu.
Pre-Covid 19: Take your time and try all the flavors!

Unfortunately, the coronavirus of 2019 threw a wrench into the third wave of ice cream. Lines are highly discouraged, and don’t even think about taste testing. We assumed that would kill the spirits of Portlandians to visit the beloved institution, so we walked down NW23rd Ave. Oregon’s governor recent relaxation of dine-in restaurants seemed to pack in dozens of people into every eatery and bar along the street. Nobody is wearing mask, which make us stand out like sore thumbs. But we enjoy our stroll down the main avenue anyway. That also prepared us for the “long” line surrounding S&S. I do not know if they ever closed during the early days of this new reality, because everything seemed to have set in stone. No more taste testing, sidewalks are clearly marked to adhere to the 6ft rule, and masks are encouraged (but not enforced). We joined the crowd but tried to distance ourselves from everyone else, many who are unfazed by what is going with the current situation. I think it is irresponsible to ignore guidelines and safety precaution, but who am I to judge? We can’t defend our decisions to risk exposure just to get some ice cream.

Long lines.
Stay away!
Pots of Gold & Rainbows – “For this legendary technicolor favorite, we hand-sort the luck from the charms, steeping the whole-grain cereal in cream for that bottom-of-the-bowl sweetened milk before stirring in mountains of rainbow ‘mallows.”

The updated menu seems to contain fewer flavors. The silver lining is that S&S continued to roll out new flavors of the month. For June, it was cereal-based with amazing sounding flavors such as Snap ‘N Crackle Marshmallow Treats and Peanut Butter Captain Munch. It might irk some to eat the concoction of textbook children breakfast meal in sugary dessert, but that might is my childhood dream coming true. That is also the vision behind this month’s theme. I order a large Pots of Gold & Rainbows (with Lucky Charms) while Megan choose the milder strawberry sorbet. We stood around waiting for our ice creams to be scoop and shuffle along the back alleyway. Neither of us are brave enough to eat ice cream while passing the unmasked population.

Pre-Covid 19: when there were so many pints and nobody cared.
Pre-Covid 19: Don’t remember the flavor anymore.
Pre-Covid 19: Such a long wait.
Pre-Covid 19: They used to have decorations but I never noticed; these days, the only decorations we have are signs and markers on the floor.

I encourage Megan to get another cerealy flavor, but she stuck to her guns. That made me feel bad as she is really impress with the leprechaun flavor. To be honest, I couldn’t distinguish between the sweetness from the cereal and the ice cream. Aren’t cereal just made from sugar? I never realized that there could be flavors. The Pots of Gold and Rainbows is visually very stunning and beautiful, but it tastes just like an extremely sweet version of vanilla ice cream. The cereals have been minced and mixed well into the base, and there is not hard cereal texture. (unlike pretzel in an ice cream, for example) We trade bites of ice cream as we joyfully walk down the road, just like any two children from an ice cream truck. (Though most kids probably would not trade ice cream) I’m glad to see that S&S is still kicking, but we might avoid coming here in the future. That’s less to do with the crowd, and more to do with the existence of a Pints Club Monthly Subscription. With S&S shipping all 5 flavors, not only we can skip the line, we will also get to do our little taste tests and never miss any flavors. Will there even be a reason to go to a physical store? That, might just be the final ice cream wave.

Pre-Covid 19

Visited: June 26th, 2020 at 19:00 for dessert.
Address: 838 NW 23rd Ave (and multiple locations in and out of Portland)
Website: https://saltandstraw.com/

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