But now I feel wronged and a little queasy, like an OkCupid user out to dinner with a toothless first date. We have eaten atrocities at $9 a pint.
Well, with one exception. Nong's Khao Man Gai is a phenom in Portland based on one wonderful item, a chicken and rice dish with ginger-garlic-soy sauce that melts hearts and includes liver. The melty ice cream, it turns out, is also great: The Nong's flavor was all rich peanut butter and a hint of surprising spice, mixed in with chocolate and coconut vegan ice cream. It distilled Thai essence into ice cream and squared it off beautifully with chocolate.
Wolf and Bear's tahini cardamom also fared well at first—hell, cardamom ice cream might as well be a Swedish cookie made smooth. Until, that is, you hit the textural nightmare of the frozen halva candy: bitter, uncomfortable to chew, and ill-served by Salt & Straw's refusal to actually blend its flavors rather than distribute them in uneven chunks. Likewise, the lingonberry ice cream from Norwegian lefse cart Viking Soul Food had simple promise: goat's milk and lingonberry, beachfront ice cream on vacation in the North. But the lingonberries were delivered in literal tablespoons of jam seemingly injected as pockets within the ice cream rather than swirled. Those sticky-sweet globs somehow felt 10 degrees warmer than the rest of the ice cream.
The edible ended there. I am a fan of all things fermented, especially kimchi, but the kimchi-rice ice cream from bulgogi taco empire Koi Fusion captured none of pickling's brightness. The ice cream's huge soft-chocolate clusters contained the low, sickening taint of rotten vegetation—the fetid stench of a Singapore summer. It was like a mean-spirited prank played by Spencer's at the mall: corpse-flavored chocolate. And old-school fry cart Potato Champion's poutine flavor, which I love in poutine form, forgot something essential, which is that no one actually wants cheese gelatin or salty potato in ice cream, let alone the terrifying psychological suggestion imparted by gravy facsimile.
Get the Nong's flavor—in pint form, thus avoiding the lines. It's a great flavor. But we're canceling our subscription to the $65-a-month seasonal ice-cream club.
EAT: Salt & Straw's Street Food Series is available during June at Salt & Straw, multiple locations.