Ultimate PDX Ice Cream Sampler

Salt & Straw transforms five local artisan chocolatiers' creations into bold spheres of cold comfort.

By Karen Brooks February 20, 2013

Portland is increasingly the city of culinary collaborators. Across the city, a growing number of cooks, brewers, bakers, cooks, distillers, and food artisans are jamming like pick-up bands, creating their own music. From Breakside Brewery’s chef-driven beers to urban wine collective supper clubs, hybrid ideas are blossoming and everyone seems to be getting on the spirit.

Salt & Straw embodies the spirit with ongoing chef’s collaborations, released as small-batch, month-long experiments sold in scoops, tasting flights. or pints to go. February pushes a bold new direction, expressing not just one chef, but a movement: Portland’s rising artisan chocolate scene, told through local chocolatiers. Each scoop is the result of days of meetings, technique-sharing, and tastings. Co-owner Tyler Malek says his goal was to tell the story of each shop in a scoop—an inspired undertaking for a young ice cream maker.  

I recently put them the test. My best advice? Order a flight and try them all.

Sahagun's Oregon Kiss

The thinking woman’s nutella ice cream, with a gentle cocoa-nuttiness. Elizabeth Montes helped pioneer Portland’s artisan chocolate scene in 2005, and her chocolate covered caramels just landed a well-deserved slot in the New York Times' “best in the box” list. Here, Malek reconsiders Sahagun’s classic hazelnut truffle via chocolate ice cream patched with hazelnut chocolate paste. Not out of the park, or deep in the wild austere beauty that makes Sahagun a purist’s dream, but quite satisfying, especially when you hit those little chunks.

Xocolatl de David's Mole Chocolate
Out of the box, like a wild-child spicy hot chocolate reborn as cold fusion. I loved it. Chocolate bar explorer and former chef David Briggs is mad for Oaxacan food, and it shows. Mexican chocolate is the base for swatches of candied mole boasting an impressive 62 ingredients by Malek’s estimation, and no less than six chiles, plus individually candied peanuts, raisins, and pepitas. Each bite delivers delicate chocolate against nuanced, slow-burning spices and the sweet and nutty crunching. At home, I swirled on a little dark chocolate sauce and liked it even better.

Alma's Chèvre and Black Pepper Ganache
Subtle and intriguing, this is a brainy chocolate goat cheesecake ice cream best appreciated by food lovers. In transforming a seasonal Alma Chocolate bon bon, Malek cooks goat cheese right into the chocolate and adds grinds of fruity Cambodian pepper. The real inspiration might be the buckshot of cocoa nibs, each gilded with edible gold—a go-the-distance nod to Alma’s signature hand-gilded chocolate icons.

Woodblock Chocolate’s Pirates of Trinidad Chocolate
Chocolate chip ice cream as the gods meant it, with a fume of rum and the surprise of fresh-roasted, single-origin Trinidad chocolate. Each chocolate chunk releases a heady rush of rustic, exotic, slightly bitter-edged pleasures. A star is born with this scoop, a beautiful expression of the "bean-to-bar" approach of Portland’s fast-rising Woodblock Chocolate.

Missionary's Meyer Lemon Chocolate Sorbet
A vegan’s dark chocolate pudding dream, deep in coconut milk and bright (maybe glaring?) lemon notes. Inspired by Portland’s popular vegan chocolatier, it wasn’t my zip code. But the dairy-challenged will be happy with the option.   

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