“Oh, this is going to be horrible,” I said to my friend. “I can’t wait.”
We were just outside Disneyland, in the Downtown Disney shopping and dining district where, I had heard, there were some truly bizarre things happening to ice cream.
Salt & Straw is known for its unusual flavors, like pear & blue cheese and strawberry honey balsamic with black pepper—flavors that consistently give “I don’t know how this works, but it works.” Last Thanksgiving, the West Coast chain did the unthinkable by including actual caramelized turkey in one of its “Friendsgiving” flavors. I was shocked to find I enjoyed it.
So when it came time to try this year’s “Ice Scream” flavors, I didn’t hesitate—even though I knew that the lineup included salty licorice, crickets, and mealworms. It’s always worthwhile to see how these mad geniuses operate.
This year’s Ice Scream Halloween flavors are as follows:
- The Great Candycopia: “Homemade Kit Kats, Reeses, Snickers, and Heath bars folded into a diabolically delicious salted butterscotch ice cream.”
- Jack o’ Lantern Pumpkin Bread: “Tender hunks of a just-baked pumpkin bread, and swaths of whipped cream cheese frosting into a pumpkin spice ice cream.”
- Don Bugito’s Creepy Crawly Critters: “Matcha ice cream with toffee-brittle mealworms and chocolate crickets.”
- Black Cat Licorice & Lavender: “A silky, pitch-dark anise and fennel caramel with luminous salted lavender ice cream.”
- Double Bubble Toil & Trouble: “Two spices and three fruits combined in a coconut cream for the perfect concoction that tastes just like bubble gum. ”
After eating my fill of every flavor, here are my findings.
I started with the one I was absolutely positive was going to be the worst: Black Cat Licorice & Lavender. Black licorice, in my mind, is the kiss of death for any comestible. Once, I popped what I thought was a chocolate truffle into my mouth, only to discover to my horror that it was cocoa-dusted licorice, and the misery of that taste is still with me to this day.
But to my absolute shock, the black cat ice cream wasn’t just palatable—it was delicious. The lavender’s delicate floral notes worked perfectly to balance out the earthy anise and fennel flavor of the licorice-inspired caramel. It was so good that I actually found myself seeking out the soft black spots in the purple ice cream so I could have more of that effect. Easily the best (nay, only) black-licorice-adjacent food I’ve ever enjoyed.
I should have known my joy was too great to last. The flavor I was second-most-dreading had a terrible surprise in store for me. Even as a kid I didn’t like bubble gum, so I didn’t think I’d love Double Bubble Toil & Trouble. One bite, and my suspicions proved correct. This vegan flavor is made from a coconut and banana base and is stuffed with pieces of real bubble gum. Even if I liked the overall flavor, which tasted slightly more fruity than bubble-gummy, I still wouldn’t have liked the hard pieces of frozen gum.
It says something about my level of trust in Salt & Straw’s ice cream alchemy that I wasn’t even a little concerned about taking a big bite of Don Bugito’s Creepy Crawly Critters. The bright green ice cream was big on matcha flavor, and the bugs just tasted like their sugary coatings of toffee and chocolate. If you didn’t tell me there were bugs inside, I never would have known. So tasty that I went back for a few more bites when the taste test was over.
By that point, I had been on such a roller coaster of emotions that when I sampled Jack o’ Lantern Pumpkin Bread and found that it was just a delicious fall flavor, nothing scary, my friend and I were both a little let down. This is easily the most autumnal ice cream of the bunch, with big chunks of pumpkin bread and ribbons of cream cheese icing throughout. It was delicious, and I could see it tasting even better when served alongside Thanksgiving pies.
Last up: The Great Candycopia. Filled with Salt & Straw’s house-made versions of Reese’s, Kit Kats, Heath Bars, and Snickers, this ice cream kind of had the effect of a gourmet McFlurry. It all tasted very, very good—and it was my friend’s favorite of the bunch, because she prefers her ice cream stuffed with candy bits—but a few bites of this flavor were plenty for me. Eating a whole scoop would have been too much; I like my ice cream slightly less sweet. Back to the black licorice for me.
If you aren’t near a Salt & Straw, don’t despair: you can order the flavors online and ship them to your home. Haven’t you always wanted to incorporate more mealworms into your daily diet?