The Salt & Straw in Portland, Ore.


Danielby Daniel Wirtheim

I should start by saying that not only do I think a craft ice cream shop might work, I know it works. One of the highlights of my trip to Portland, Ore. was going to Salt & Straw, a little ice-cream shop with a line that’s constantly stretched to the sidewalk.

Salt & Straw uses seasonal and local ingredients — cucumbers, olives, carrots, tomatoes, cauliflower and watermelon — in their mix. I’ve been thinking about the pear and bleu cheese ice cream I ate from a house-made waffle cone. It could only be challenged by the texture of my brother’s olive-oil ice cream.

Salt & Straw’s philosophy is that ice cream is a dynamic food that works well with savory ingredients. It means that ice cream doesn’t have to be full of sugar to be delicious. It’s about using the texture of the cream as a floor for the ingredients to slow dance around your taste buds.

What I thought would just be a novelty gave me a whole new lens for seeing dessert. Even my taste-conservative mother, who didn’t want to go to an ice-cream place where cauliflower was on the menu, changed her tune after a scoop of strawberry balsamic black pepper. The thing is, people are hungry for creative ice cream; they just don’t know it.

Homeland Creamery has a great product, but the furthest they go to break the mold is cake batter. All I’m saying is that they can do better. “Craft” is a buzzword but it also sets a good standard for products. It pushes businesses to put a local stamp on their goods, and the craft mentality fuels ingenuity.

Think of all the collaboration with local farms and small businesses a craft creamery would encourage. There’d be a flavor using mulberries from Lake Daniel Park and Broad Branch Distillery would have another. The point would be to make flavors that distinguish a community. Serving up cream that tells a story of North Carolina agriculture is how you’d brand it. The same philosophy is already working for craft brewing companies.

The Triad’s craft beer industry is quickly making a name for itself. Ice cream is something that crosses more demographics and age groups than beer and could be endorsed by nearly any organization that isn’t vegan.

The whole frozen yogurt thing is past its prime. It was a nice break from ice cream for a while, but most of the allure comes from topping bars or probiotics that can be easily found in kombucha. Craft ice cream doesn’t rely on any of those gimmicks; it’s for serious ice-cream eaters and serious business.

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