Single scoop = tennis ball. Photo courtesy Salt & Straw.
Opening Friday, the 12th (TODAY!), the first Orange County branch of Salt & Straw is ready and waiting for you. It’s been a handful of years since we visited Portland’s Division branch, and far too long since we stumbled upon their SF Hayes Valley grand opening. So Salt & Straw Co-Founder Kim Malek agreed to indulge our 12-year-old selves and arrange a comprehensive tasting.
Located in the former Haagen Dazs space, fans of S&S may notice new details. For example, similar to a garbage chute, they have “spoon chutes” for used tasting spoons. If you’re wondering about their missing tasting flights, no need to worry. We asked for you, and Malek explained how they were redesigning the presentation for ease of use. They’ll be on the Anaheim menu before you know it.
Full disclosure: Prior to our meeting, we agreed to a handful of pints being shipped our way for some unfiltered taste-testing. We’ve ranked those separately from the rest– because it would be ice cream flavor overload trying to make sense of 15 tastes. Heck, we had trouble with five!
Our top pick: Dandelion Chocolate Hazelnut Cookies & Cream (Vegan)
Growing up, our go-to ice cream flavor used to be cookies and cream. So to have a bad-ass version made with SF’s Dandelion Chocolate (Read: There are no flowers in this flavor.) was a dream come true. Hazelnut milk and coconut cream mellow out the dark chocolate, while their housemade, gluten-free oreos are mixed in. Our runner up was thisclose to winning, but we made our choice.
Very close behind: Chocolate Gooey Brownie
The secret to this insanely indulgent taste is their recipe for marshmallow fluff. Think frozen hot chocolate. Then imagine it swimming in brownie bites. Fudge lovers can rejoice in this rich offering. Our eyes rolled to the back of our head the first time we tried this.
Third is a nerd: Pots of Gold & Rainbows
Our co-worker said it best, “It reminds me of being in footed pajamas, watching cartoons with my sister.” Yep, they nailed it with this riff on Lucky Charms. Salt & Straw technicians legit pick out marshmallows from cereal boxes to add in to the final mix of this flavor. They also grind up the cereal as part of the ice cream base. Effing brilliant.
Coming in at fourth: Sea Salt with Caramel Ribbons
These days, we prefer a little salt with our sweets. While this is a well-balanced taste (as most of their flavors), there was stiff competition. We believe that if this was paired with a dessert, as opposed to being judged as a stand-alone taste, this would’ve ranked higher. Making it with James Beard award-winning cookbook author Mark Bitterman’s Guatemalan Fleur de Sel means this is special stuff.
Last, but not least: Honey Lavender
This was more intense than we anticipated. We prefer lavender in our diffuser or lotion over our taste buds. Or as another colleague stated, “It tastes like essential oil.” The residual mouthfeel required a Chocolate Gooey Brownie chaser. We gave it a couple of chances, but something had to rank last.
Onto the next round of flavors! These were the additional tastes that are also on the Downtown Disney menu that we tasted this week, as well as our thoughts.
Strawberry Honey Balsamic with Black Pepper – We remember trying this in San Francisco, because it was the most unusual (in our opinion) option listed when we visited. Reading the combination made us scratch our heads, but since we appreciate all the ingredients individually, we trusted in the process of blending them all together. It did not disappoint. We bet the flavor profile would taste pretty good in a salad, too.
Salted, Malted, Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough – Try saying that ten times fast! Making this both salty (thanks to Jacobsen’s Sea Salt) and malty really takes a traditional scoop to another level. And since they make everything in small batches, the chunks of dough are comfortably distributed throughout. This tastes like a classic example of what makes Salt & Straw such a great concept.
Sightglass Coffee Cashew Praline – This ice cream is nuts, and we mean that in the best possible way. Caramelizing the cashews means that it can stand up to the bold, cold brew. And for that reason, this is quickly becoming our new favorite. By the way, we adore cashews.
Black Olive Brittle & Goat Cheese – The new flavor that made us feel like a shoulder shrug emoji; we weren’t dying to try this one. These intense ingredients somehow managed to play well together. The way they candied the brittle gave it a balsamic-like taste that complemented their aged cheese from Cypress Grove, used in the ice cream base. Not for the ice cream purist. However, those same customers will most likely approve of . . .
Roasted Strawberry Coconut – Coconut cream and roasted berries are a match made in simple scoop heaven. We won’t even bother elaborating further.
Freckled Mint TCHO-Colate Chip – As someone who normally isn’t a fan of mint chocolate chip, Freckled is making us reconsider. It isn’t overly minty like Aquafresh, but there’s more than a hint to please the peppermint fans out there. Did you know Oregon is famous for their mint? We didn’t. And utilizing TCHO Chocolate is a San Francisco treat for this flavor.
Double Fold Vanilla – How did we forget to try this?!?! Sad face. Next time.
Finally, before we crash and burn from our sugar rush, it’s time to talk Halloween. The trio of tastes for the Spooktacular Series include the following:
The Great Candycopia – First off, they begin with salted butterscotch. Already winning. Then it becomes a serious sugar situation. Homemade versions of peanut butter cups, Heath bars, Twix and Snickers. Prepare to bounce off the walls.
Mummy’s Pumpkin-Spiced Potion (Vegan) – This ain’t your canned pumpkin kind of deal. We detect our undying love of rooibos (courtesy of August Tea) in this spiced up ode to seasonal lattes. In lieu of massive squash flavor, they’ve got bits o’ candied pumpkin making the magic happen. We may need to head back for seconds.
Creepy Crawly Critters – If you need a Bug’s Life fix, this is most definitely for you. It starts off innocently enough with trending matcha. Then it’s a one-two punch of orange and BUGS. Coconut toffee-brittle mealworms and dark chocolate covered crickets, to be exact. Thank you, Don Bugito, for providing all the, um, natural protein in our diet.
Salt & Straw is located at 1550 Disneyland Dr., E-103A in Anaheim’s Downtown Disney District. www.saltandstraw.com.
A contributing writer for OC Weekly, Anne Marie freelances for multiple online and print publications, and guest judges for culinary competitions. A Bay Area transplant, she graduated with a degree in Hospitality Management from Cal Poly Pomona. Find her on Instagram as brekkiefan.