I'm a pie loyalist on Thanksgiving itself—don't you dare substitute another dessert—but I love seeing what else can be done with classic Thanksgiving flavors. Pumpkin pie milkshakes? I'm on it. Apple-pie oatmeal? Sure thing. So I was super-curious about the Thanksgiving-themed ice cream flavors from Portland's always-creative Salt & Straw—though the idea of stuffing-flavored ice cream made me a wee bit nervous.
Cranberry Walnut Crunch
We started with the most tart, fresh flavor of the bunch. The pretty-in-pink Cranberry Walnut Crunch is pleasantly, refreshingly tart—enough to cause your mouth to pucker, though the texture's still dense and rich. The walnuts softened a little into the ice cream, but remained remarkably flavorful—perhaps due to toasting. Though given the light, bright flavor of this, we almost wished it were a sorbet instead of a rich dairy base.
Pumpkin Custard Swirled in Spiced Chevre
The Pumpkin Custard Swirled in Spiced Chevre was made with locally produced goat cheese and tastes a bit like a spiced cheesecake; super-rich and just a little tangy. "The spice is right on," said one taster. "This is very holiday." The pumpkin custard swirled through is pretty much pumpkin pie filling, though the actual squash flavor comes through a bit more than we expected. It's not too sweet, and the balance of creamy-rich with deep-squashy works out nicely. We kept coming back to this one; the slight tang meant we didn't get sick of it.
The mincemeat was a surprise hit with some tasters—the ice cream is nicely spiced, and laced with chewy dried figs, cherries, raisins, and apples that were steeped in brandy. The fruit had nice, full flavor. This might sell better as "fruitcake" but we liked it regardless, though some found the clove flavor a little overpowering. Once in a while, you get a flash of citrus zest that's really nice.
Bourbon Pecan Pie
One spoonful and our tasters pronounced that they'd fallen in love with the Bourbon Pecan Pie flavor. It's buttery and boozy—not for the faint of heart or under-21 set—flavored with Burnside Bourbon from Portland's Eastside Distillery. It's laced with a pecan pie filling that's studded with nuts, and the swirl is rich and not cloyingly sweet. This isn't 'light' ice cream—you'd get full if you ate more than a half-scoop, but it's delicious. Most of our tasters chose this as a favorite.
Orange and Thyme Thanksgiving Stuffing
And then we got to the stuffing. Orange and Thyme Thanksgiving Stuffing ice cream starts with an orange and thyme ice cream base that's super herbal. "It's kind of fun," said one taster, "for a couple of bites." The Salt & Straw team manages to balance sweet and savory well, but this stuff is still pretty weird. There's 'stuffing crumble' bread in there too— like a chewy, gooey crouton with a bunch of orange zest. While we liked the orange and thyme, especially as a palate cleanser, this isn't a flavor we'd order by the scoop. Could it be made better with cornbread and sage? We're not curious enough to find out.
Cranberry, pumpkin, pecan, stuffing...If you put a scoop of each in your bowl, can you just call it 'leftovers'?