Portland cuisine has become synonymous with the locavore movement, with hundreds of restaurants offering local, sustainable fare. So, it’s no surprise that those ingredients have ended up in the city’s ice cream. Portland’s artisan ice cream makers also add their own twist, creating flavors unique to specific stores. As such, locals visit certain shops for certain flavors during certain weeks when a rotated flavor might be available. This surge of gourmet ice cream takes the traditional ice cream parlor to a whole new level that caters to adults. In fact, one shop sells sorbet cocktails, while another has a happy hour menu. Here are the best five to get your ice cream fix.
The two cousins that started Salt & Straw are proud of their ice cream. And they should be. The ice cream is handmade using local, sustainable ingredients from farms in nearby Willamette Valley and churned into a variety of unique flavors that have received accolades from Martha Stewart and Oprah. Take the sea salt ice cream with caramel ribbon, for instance. They created the flavor with Mark Bitterman, the owner and "selmelier" at The Meadow an internationally acclaimed Portland salt shop. The Fleur de Sel they use is made in Guatemala from salt pans said to have supplied the Mayan Empire.
The ice cream at What’s the Scoop? is made from scratch and frozen with liquid nitrogen, which freezes the ice cream faster than a traditional ice cream machine. This creates smaller ice crystals and an extra smooth creaminess that makes these locally sourced ice creams delicious. The custom blended vanilla, for instance, features four different vanillas, turning this traditional flavor into one with a kick. Other standout flavors include peanut butter curry, bourbon toffee and bananas foster.
Cool Moon started with a skywritten message in the sky — a move that certainly sparked the interests of fellow Portlandians. Ever since Aug. 8, 2007, the Cool Moon team has worked towards creating some of the area’s best ice cream using all-natural ingredients. Fig and goat cheese and summer rose are some of its more exotic flavors, while it also has 11 different kinds of just cream and vanilla. This place also knows its audience. It has $4 happy hour pints, pre-packed for the after-work locals looking to satisfy a sweet tooth.
Ruby Jewel, an artisanal ice cream shop that sources ingredients from local, sustainable farms, opened in 2004. It is best known for its ice cream sandwiches, which pairs flavorful cookies with unique ice cream flavors. Flavors such as lemon cookie with honey lavender, cinnamon chocolate cookie with espresso and chocolate cookie with salted caramel can be found at the shop’s two Portland locations, as well as in several retail stores throughout the country. Of course, customers can also try the ice cream the traditional way: on a cone or beneath a delicious heaping of sundae toppings. The Buzz sundae consists of chocolate and espresso ice creams, topped off with espresso caramel sauce, candied coffee and whipped cream.
The staff at Fifty Licks handcrafts the custard base that gives its ice cream such a creamy, silky texture. And the ice cream is not overly sweet so the unique flavors can really stand out. Some highlights on the menu are buttermilk blood orange creamsicle, jasmine tea with apricot and Stumptown coffee — an ode to the locally based coffee empire. The ice cream shop also serves up sorbet cocktails. The Nordic Palmer, for instance, combines a frozen lemonade sorbet with sparkling iced tea mead for a new twist on the traditional Arnold Palmer drink.