We Try Salt & Straw's 2013 Thanksgiving Ice Cream Gift Pack
Last year, Portland ice cream shop Salt & Straw unveiled a collection of Thanksgiving-themed ice cream flavors like Orange and Thyme Thanksgiving Stuffing, Cranberry Walnut Crunch, and Bourbon Pecan Pie. They're back this year with a new collection that pays homage to more elements of the annual autumnal feast, including sweet potato casserole, stuffing, pumpkin and mincemeat pies, and, yep, even turkey. Here's an overview of each of the five flavors included in the Thanksgiving gift pack:
- Apple Cranberry Stuffing: celery-sweetened ice cream blended with bread pudding studded with cranberries and apples
- Pumpkin Custard and Spiced Chèvre: pumpkin pie filling swirled into spiced chèvre ice cream
- Sweet Potato and Candied Pecans: puréed sweet potatoes, marshmallow fluff, and roasted pecans
- Mincemeat: holiday spiced ice cream with brandy and citrus-steeped spiced dried figs, cherries, currants, and apples
- Salted Caramel Thanksgiving Turkey: caramel ice cream blended with turkey juices, caramelized onions, and salted caramel brittle
There's nothing subtle about the mincemeat. It is intense. Before I could even get the first taste past my lips, the aroma of holiday spices blasted my olfactory receptors fast and hard. There's also a ton of spiced and citrus-steeped dried fruit. Every bite is jam-packed with chewy, spicy little nuggets. If you love mincemeat, this flavor will be a winner, but if you're on the fence, it's best as an accent. Sandwiched between two spicy gingerbread cookies, it would be pretty delicious, but I couldn't imagine eating more than one bite of it at a time (which isn't really a bad thing, since that way, you could stretch a pint until Christmas).
The sweet potato and candied pecan was almost as spicy as the mincemeat, but not quite. While the mincemeat's dominant spices were cloves and nutmeg, this ice cream goes heavy on the cinnamon and ginger. The marshmallow swirl introduces a fluffy, sticky sweetness to the mix, but the base tasted too strongly of molasses, and most of the sweet potato flavor was lost. The pint would have also benefited from having twice as many nuts. The toasty, buttery flavor of the pecans was delicious, but since they were in too-short supply, eating it quickly turned into an excavation mission as I dug down in search of more salty bits to balance the base flavor.
The apple cranberry stuffing flavor was surprising because it was the polar opposite of the sweet potato and mincemeat flavors. The texture was excellent (super-smooth, dense, and creamy), but it tasted incomplete and too neutral. With a little help, this ice cream could easily still play a role in a Thanksgiving feast. It would be great on apple crisp, or with some cranberry sauce spooned over it, for instance.
Pumpkin custard and spiced chèvre was the all-around winner, even though the texture was on the icy side. The goat cheese made the base taste like a spiced, tangy cheesecake, while the pumpkin custard provided a sweet counterpart. It's also great shaken up with a shot of espresso and served over ice.
I tried the salted caramel thanksgiving turkey last, and was feeling so optimistic that I went in for a big, greedy spoonful of it, making sure to get a hefty chunk of salted caramel brittle. Everything was going fine at first. The caramel brittle is sweet and buttery, with a pleasant crunch, but once my tastebuds registered the turkey, I panicked, spitting out the half-melted glob of ice cream in the sink, directly on top of a pile of clean dishes. I hoped the turkey would be present as a subtle, background note, bringing a salty/smoky flavor to the caramel ice cream. NOPE! It's right up there, front and center, singing its heart out. The end result tasted like the cream had been swapped out for turkey fat. I couldn't finish one bite of this, let alone an entire pint.
If you're curious to try Salt & Straw's Thanksgiving flavors for yourself, the 5-flavor bundle ($65) can be ordered online. Portland scoop shops will also be stocking the flavors, available by the scoop or pint, from November 1-29.
About the author: Erin Jackson is a food writer and photographer who is obsessed with discovering the best eats in San Diego. You can find all of her discoveries on her San Diego food blog EJeats.com. On Twitter, she's @ErinJax