Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Scooping up local goodness with Portland ice cream makers

I'll tell ya this much: I'd be perfectly content romping around all summer long, trying scoop after scoop of local ice cream. What I love about the Portland ice cream scene is - surprise - the unique flavors our proprietors bring to the table. I want to share a few stand outs that I'll be frequenting this season -if this mythical "summer" thing that was supposed to be delivered on June 21st ever arrives!

Salt & Straw
is scooping up customers in the Alberta neighborhood. This cart is pretty darn new but already has loads of regulars and even turned heads nationally within it's first few weeks of opening (due in part, perhaps, to using internationally honored Rogue Creamery blue cheese in their creative flavors ... more on that later)

The concept: A farm-to-cone ice cream experience with mature, savory flavors along with the classics, re-invented. Salt & Straw creates fresh, handmade ice cream with all local ingredients.

I first met Salt & Straw while dining al fresco at nearby restaurant The Aviary. I watched as scores of people left the ice cream cart licking away at their cones. After the meal, Monsieur Boy and I opted out of dessert at the restaurant and joined the line at the red and white striped cart.

So what flavors did I sample? Pear with Blue Cheese, featuring Salem pears and the aforementioned award-winning Rogue Creamery bleu. Lemon basil sorbet, which was as refreshing as it sounds. But for my full cone? A big scoop of sea salt and caramel. Long, creamy ribbons of caramel flowed through the salted ice cream. M. Boy went for the Brown Ale with Bacon. Laurelwood Brew and Olympic Provisions bacon. Good move - a delectable mix of salty and sweet.

My second trip to the cart was dedicated to the coveted Pear with Blue Cheese. The blue cheese doesn't overwhelm, which i was glad for. The coldness of the ice cream and the pears help to mellow it out, giving the dish a perfect combination of flavors.

Unique flavors aside, what makes this ice cream special is the high fat content: 17% butter fat, compared to many premium ice creams at 13%. The result is a thick, creamy ice cream that successfully merges with the sophisticated flavors Salt & Straw highlights. Also, the ice cream is less sweet than most, lending itself to a more mature palate of flavors that will change seasonally, keeping freshness and integrity in check.

The permanent location is slated to open August 12th, just a few blocks down from where the cart stands on NE Alberta. It will have an old-school mercantile vibe; a perfect place to chill out on a hot August day. But for the crew are serving scoop after scoop from the cart outside of the Aviary, 1pm-10pm daily.

Current Roster:
- Sea Salt Ice Cream With Caramel Ribbons
- Double Fold Singing Dog Vanilla
- Stumptown Coffee With Cocoa Nibs
- Chocolate With Gooey Fudge Brownies
- Brown Ale With Bacon
- Granda Malek's Almond Roca With Salted Ganache
- Honey Balsamic Strawberry With Cracked Black Pepper
- Lemon Basil Sorbet
- Pear With Blue Cheese
- Mimosa Sorbet

Where to find it:

2035 NE Alberta St.

Fifty Licks

Rain or shine, it’s hard to resist an ice cream truck, and this cheery, sky blue van with bright red lettering calls to you from across the street.

As the truck proclaims, Fifty Licks ice cream is fresh, handmade, and local, each small batch receiving TLC. I chatted with owner, Chad Draizin about his philosophy behind Fifty Licks and upcoming flavors (yes, he creates them to go with the season). On deck, strawberry, for one. Chad personally goes to the farmer’s market to hand select the perfect strawberries and keeps the recipe simple, letting the ingredients shine. Other ideas swirling around his head: Peach Gew├╝rztraminer, possibly some cherry coconut milk sorbet….. the menu ultimately depends upon what he likes at the market, and what produce is happening when he goes to production. You’ve just got to swing buy to see what’s being scooped.

Flavors I sampled:

Caramel Apple: Washington apple cider “boiled down into a buttery, bittersweet caramel”. Fresh, tart, and tangy, this cone was addictive! It’s not often you get to enjoy a dessert made with all natural, fresh, and local ingredients, but in Portland, it seems to be a mainstay.

Next up: Maple Bacon. Yesss. It reminds me of Voodoo Donut’s bacon maple bar, or maybe pancakes and bacon. Is it cool to have ice cream for breakfast? Fifty Licks uses humanely raised and hormone free bacon, so take comfort in knowing that your ice cream cone did not contribute to the delinquent treatment of pigs. Chunks of salty bacon in sweet maple ice cream? Yes, I am getting a full cone of this.

Sample # 3: Passion Fruit Sorbet with Szechwan Peppercorns. The peppercorns add just enough pop at the end of each lick - not too invasive to the tangy, almost lemonade vibe of the passion fruit sorbet.

So next time you have an ice cream craving - or want to celebrate the presence of sunshine this summer - start contemplating your flavors and scurry on down to one of these carts!

Where to find it:

4262 SE Belmont
Portland, OR 97215

Sold at New Seasons and Whole Foods markets and they post up all over town for special events

See more about both awesome ice cream vendors at
bePortland.com's Food & Drink page

Obsessed with Oregon "vino-culture"? - A great place to read about Oregon Pinot Noir.

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