Sunday, November 3, 2013

West Coast Ice Cream Adventure - Salt & Straw + Molly Moon's

While working on the West Coast last week, I ended my weekend visiting friends, Moses and Sonya who live in Portland.  One of my favorite cities, which I'm quickly falling more and more in love with, Portland offers some of the most amazing food I've had in the country.  What I love about it so much is that the overall food standard is super high, making it really tough to get bad grub virtually anywhere.

Even though it's getting colder, I had a great time experimenting with ice cream - not only in Portland but also in Seattle.  I thought it'd be fun to do a little comparison here, offering you the best of both cities in terms of non-traditional, delicious ice cream flavors.  Let's start with Portland...

Salt & Straw:

I first heard about this place from Meg, when she mentioned they had a pumpkin custard and spiced chevre flavored ice cream.  Loving pumpkin flavored anything, the thought of pairing it with a hearty chevre made my tastebuds tingle.  When I told my friends I wanted to try it, they were happy to oblige, Sonya already confirming it was really good.  

Located in the hip NE Alberta St. neighborhood, Salt & Straw is a popular hang out, as we noticed a lot of folks hanging out inside and outside of its spacious locale.  The storefront is bright and cheery, with natural furnishings, such as a reclaimed wood counter with high stools that enables you to do some proper people watching. 

In addition to the busy ice cream counter, there's a little shop section where you peruse quaint little goodies such as Salt & Straw t-shirts, mugs, and other local wares.  Even though it's a great place to visit with your little ones, it also exemplifies a sophisticated, grown-up vibe that's very appealing.

Ice Cream:
Deciding on a flavor of choice here is no easy feat, as there are so many unusual mashups.  Salt & Straw specializes in non-traditional ice cream combos, which are both sweet and savory, and I loved that a lot of them combined cheese with fruit.  This is exactly the route I took when choosing my flavors, which ended up being apple pie filling with sharp cheddar cheese, as well as a pear with blue cheese.

Out of those two, which were both very fall-like, the apple pie/cheddar was my favorite.  Incorporating real apple chunks and little bits of pie crust too, it paired nicely with the more savory yet subtle essence of cheddar.  The pear and blue cheese was nice too, but I would've preferred a chunkier rendition of the pear, while I did enjoy the little creamy bites of blue cheese that provided little bursts of tang.

Service and Cost:
The staff at Salt & Straw were great - cheery, approachable and friendly, they allowed you to try any flavor you liked without judgement or expectation.  Even though the store was busy, everyone seemed to be in a good mood, spreading the delight of ice cream to all its visitors.

Costs are expensive, but so worth it for this unique rendition of a nostalgic sweet.  An ice cream cone, a cup of ice cream and two mini cookies set us back about $13 total.

3 Salty & Savory Mmmms

Salt & Straw - 2035 NE Alberta, Portland OR 97211

Molly Moon's:
Once again, Meg didn't steer me wrong, as she spoke highly of this Seattle based ice cream shop.  My co-workers reaffirmed her recommendation, and mentioned there was a location in Capitol Hill, about a mile away from where I was staying.  "Enough said," I thought, as I headed there one night after work, preparing to devour their signature, salted caramel flavor and other intriguing delights.

Located in the trendy Capitol Hill neighborhood in Seattle, Molly Moon's is situated on East Pine Street, which is one of the main tributaries in this neighborhood.  Surrounded by lots of interesting restaurants, and shops, including the well known Elliott Bay Book Company, it's a lovely place to visit and to get lost in.

Similar to Salt & Straw, Molly Moon's boasts a pretty interior with a sky blue and chocolate brown color scheme.  There's plenty of seating inside, and you'll find lots of adults (and kids) chillaxin' with their treats, showcasing this place as a popular neighborhood meeting place.  I appreciated that it's open late, allowing for a more grown up crowd to gather there in the evenings.

Ice Cream
I couldn't walk out of here without having a dose of their salted caramel ice cream, which I chose to juxtapose with the black pepper creme fraiche flavor.  The former totally stood out as the clear favorite, boasting a toasty sweetness with a little hint of savory in the aftertaste.  The savory kept me coming back for more, reaching deeper into my cup.

While I really wanted to love the black pepper creme fraiche flavor, which sounded exotic, it fell flat and was unfortunately a little bland.  Expecting a bite of flavor and spiciness from the pepper, it was surprisingly muted and unremarkable.

Service and Cost:
Just like at Salt & Straw, my server was hospitable and patient, as he gave me a few generous tastings of anything I asked for.  I think he was pretty generous with my final helping, which was both a blessing and curse (sorry waist, sorry butt).

Costs are pretty fair for really excellent, gourmet, and local ice cream.  A large, two scooper portion set me back only $5.40.

3 Mmmms

Molly Moon's - 917 E. Pine Street, Seattle WA 98122

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