By now you’ve probably heard tales of the Portland-based ice cream shop, Salt & Straw, which has exploded all along the west coast with their strange and delicious flavors. The Oregon company, founded by Kim Malek and her cousin Tyler, began as a food cart on Portland’s trendy Alberta Street in 2011. In the last decade, they’ve become a cultural force in the ice cream world, with 23 locations in cities like Los Angeles, San Francisco, San Diego and Seattle, and two new shops poised to open in Miami next year. Malek’s ice cream is so coveted that people will line up and wait just to try new flavors, often unusual and totally unexpected. Even as they’re growing, the company’s small batch approach ensures that their ice cream keeps that jolt of flavor that only the freshly-made stuff has.
LA has been a dominant market for the brand, with shops already cropping up in places like Larchmont, West Hollywood, the Arts District and Studio City, but their new Culver location puts them right in the middle of all that’s happening there, located on the corner of Culver and Washington Boulevards, near the Culver Steps. Back when the Maleks was first ideating what they wanted Salt & Straw to be, Kim was taken with the idea of creating a community gathering place. Her hope is to bring people together, and what better way than through some sweet treats?
There’s truly something for everyone with Salt & Straw’s eclectic flavors, from the extremely floral tasting Honey Lavender, a purple-y, herbaceous batch that hits sweet and deep, to the Sea Salt With Caramel Ribbons, a decadent and dazzling mix of creamy vanilla pocketed with dabs of stretchy caramel. The amount of space between these two flavors is enormous, but the amount of care that goes into perfecting each is evident in every bite. At the shop, customers can get either scoops of ice cream to eat on the spot or pints to take home. And for those who don’t live on the west coast and are reading this with sadness, don’t sleep on their online shop’s nationwide delivery and monthly pints club subscription program. No one will go without Salt & Straw if they don’t want to.
As much as the other two flavors reeled me in during a tasting at a media preview event earlier this week, another one stopped me dead in my tracks: Arbequina Olive Oil. Yes, the grassy, salty richness that makes sopping up oil with a piece of crusty bread so satisfying, but somehow morphed into creamy, icy dessert. How on earth they managed to perfectly imbue ice cream with the feeling of fancy olive oil, I’ll never know. My job is to simply tell you that you must eat it, and if you ever need a gift for me, well this might be it. There are, of course, so many other flavors too, including a seasonal take on the salted caramel that involves adding turkey, but my final pick is the Salted, Malted Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough. It’s like combining the classic cookie dough flavor with the en vogue salted caramel notes. A two-for that hits a sweet spot between classic and current.
On a lighter note, Salt & Straw have also decided to release a perfume. Yes, a perfume. It’s not ice cream flavored, but it is built around the smell of a fresh waffle cone, true to form since the company fresh presses cones every day on waffle irons. In partnership with Imaginary Authors, a Venice-based parfumerie located on Abbot Kinney for A Whiff of Waffle Cone perfume. Seriously. I smelled it and actually, it built a musky, spicy base around the vanilla and cream you’d expect. More balanced than I’d assume, it could be a hilarious prank gift, something for a white elephant exchange (done over Zoom? is that happening), or a bullseye for someone who really, really loves ice cream and waffle cones. There’s a few bottle sizes or it comes as a candle, which is probably more my speed. The minute they make an olive oil perfume though? I’m in.
Check out Salt & Straw in Culver City at 9300 Culver Boulevard, or shop pints online.