But what do the children eat? "Oh, they like the vanilla," answers the knit-capped woman behind the counter at Salt & Straw. This is suspicious. As a child, I remember screaming for bubble-gum or mint chocolate-chip ice cream. Indeed, the two little blond girls in front of me seem too frightened and confused by the exotic menu to order. "Sorry," Mom says to me. "Kids and ice cream—not a good combination."
Yes, somewhere the funnest thing ever—ice cream—has been salted with stylized "artisanship" such that children no longer blithely adore it. Finally served, these girls sit quietly poking at their cups as songstress Anya Marina's ironically earnest acoustic cover of T.I.'s "Whatever You Like" plays overhead.
"Stacks on deck, Patrón on ice/ And we can pop bottles all night/ Baby, you can have whatever you like," Marina sings. "Late-night sex so wet, so tight/ Gas up the jet for you tonight/ Baby, you can go wherever you like."
Salt & Straw scoops out some interesting clots of frozen milk fat. Flavors like honey balsamic strawberry with cracked pepper or pear with blue cheese will draw foodniks into the rope corral leading to the counter at the chain's new location on Northwest 23rd Avenue. They'll order the $9 "tasting flight" or a $5.75 double-scoop cone and maybe buy a T-shirt or a souvenir wood-handled scooper off the artfully worn shelves. Perhaps they'll pause to admire the rusty old bucket—er, antique churn—that gives the place atmosphere. They will like this as well as the apothecary table they bought down the street at Pottery Barn.
The ice cream at Salt & Straw is simple, perhaps even old-fashioned. Rich in fat and neither tart with lactic acid nor sweet with sugar, flavors come from the mix-ins. The sea salt and caramel ice cream tastes mostly like salt and a little like cooked sugar. The faintly green Arbequina olive oil ice cream tastes like olive oil poured into coffee creamer. Only the two best flavors we tried, the warm and nutty cinnamon snickerdoodle and a dandelion sorbet sprinkled with earthy purple flowers, offered real complexity.
"It ain't trickin' if you got it," the shop's speakers say.
"Do you like it?" Dad asks.
There's no response.
- Order this: One scoop of cinnamon snickerdoodle in a waffle cone ($4.75).
- Iâll pass: The Arbequina olive oil, which tastes just like olive oil.
EAT: Salt & Straw, 838 NW 23rd Ave., 971-271-8168, saltandstraw.com. 7 am-11 pm daily. 2035 NE Alberta St., 208-3867. 11 am-11 pm daily. The 23rd Avenue location includes a bakery.