When I found out that Salt & Straw, a Portland-based ice cream shop, was opening up a new location within walking distance from my house, I knew it was going to be trouble. I'd been reading about them for years and all of the rave reviews were well deserved. Salt & Straw's Creative Director, Tyler Malek, is the arbiter of their incredible combinations (my faves are their sea salt ice cream with caramel ribbons and the almond brittle with salted ganache) and when I reached out to find a way to work together, he offered to create a bespoke flavor for me. Read on for his creative process.
First, I was asked to answer these three questions:
Q: What is your favorite childhood food memory?
A: Summer barbecues at my parents' house. The smoke outside, the warmth of the bricks under my bare feet and the inevitable s'mores that would follow the meal.
Q: When you hear ice cream, what is the first thing that comes to mind that is not food related?
A: Sun dresses, tan skin, light scent of florals in the air.
Q: What is your favorite restaurant in LA and why?
A: Gjelina. Fresh, farm-to-table ingredients. Cozy, rustic vibe. Classic dishes with a twist.
Tyler explains, "All of Emily's answers point to a flavor that is just as nostalgic as sitting around a campfire or hanging out at a family barbecue. I like s'mores just as much as Emily does. For me, making s'mores forces you to be present: you're watching your marshmallow and making sure it doesn’t catch fire. There are very few things these days where you're mandated to enjoy a specific moment. I wanted the flavor to be satisfying, even unctuous, but in the best way possible."
"The base of the Cupcakes and Cashmere flavor is a combination of chocolates. I used Portland-based Woodblock Chocolates and mixed it with cocoa rouge, an intense chocolate essence. Combining these two chocolates makes a really round flavor, which means that it doesn’t taste acidic like a dark roasted one. The final result ends up being almost childish in its sweetness."
"Because there's so much chocolate, the base is really dense. I mixed in some texture to break it up. First, I added homemade graham crackers that I candied in sugar and butter so that they keep their crunch. There's nothing worse than soggy bits of cookies or crackers in ice cream."
"Of course, I had to include homemade marshmallow fluff. I chose fluff instead of actual marshmallows because they keep their melt-y consistency even if the ice cream is frozen through (a good melted marshmallow can make or break a s'more)."
"Emily is also a big fan of Venice-based restaurant Gjelina (I am too) and they’re well-known for their smoky flavors, so I included some smoked salt given to me by my friend Jonathan from Compartes Chocolates. A small sprinkle adds a deep, almost campfire-like, taste and the saltiness makes the final flavor complex. To top if off, I had to crumble in bits of chocolate cupcake, of course.
There you have it: A sweet, smoky, marshallow-y, crunchy Cupcakes and Cashmere flavor made especially for Emily." Thanks to Salt & Straw I now have a pint of one of the best ice creams I've ever tried sitting in my freezer with my name on it, literally.