Almost by definition, we all know a gimmick when we see one. Capsule collections of novelty merch, nostalgia-flavored seltzer, a 3-pound Reese’s peanut butter cup “pie”—all of it designed to ensnare just a moment of our attention in a marketing-clogged media landscape, every brand vying for just a moment of our time. At The Takeout, we get a thousand PR emails a day about wacky, WTF products and promotions; very little surprises us anymore. What surprises us is when these novelties actually deliver on deliciousness as they ought to. And when we read that premium ice cream maker Salt & Straw was launching Friendsgiving pints with real turkey, rolls, and sweet potato mixed in, we understood the gambit. A premium brand wouldn’t take the risk unless the resulting flavors could be made extraordinary—right?
So it was that four members of The Takeout staff all gathered to taste, with curiosity and trepidation, the following ice cream flavors:
- Parker House Rolls w/ Salted Buttercream: Actual rolls glazed with “a generous smear of fresh-churned buttercream and topped with flaky sea salt” are churned into salted sweet cream
- Caramelized Turkey & Cranberry Sauce: Turkey bacon seasoned with thyme and pepper is turned into a savory brittle and churned into ice cream with cranberry sauce
- Candied Walnut Cheesecake: Graham cracker crumble with walnut butter is added to cheesecake ice cream
- Sweet Potato Pie w/ Double Baked Almond Streusel: Slow-roasted caramelized sweet potatoes and almond croissant streusel blended into ice cream
- Pumpkin & Gingersnap Pie: A vegan/dairy-free coconut ice cream with molasses-spiked gingersnap crust and pumpkin puree
I should say that only the first two flavors brewed any amount of doubt. Those last three barely caused us to bat an eye—we knew they’d be at least good, and they were excellent. Candied Walnut Cheesecake, Sweet Potato Pie, and Pumpkin & Gingersnap all delivered precisely what they promised, with three thoughtfully considered flavor profiles that you won’t find in any supermarket freezer aisle. The Parker House Roll and Turkey flavors stood out as the most puzzling, so of course, they came first in the taste test.
First up: Parker House Rolls w/ Salted Buttercream. This flavor is, for lack of a better term, astoundingly literal. Sizable chunks of bread intermingle with the velvety ice cream, giving you something to chew on. While it’s meant to evoke Parker House rolls, in reality the bread is more like a sweet brioche, relying on the power of suggestion to convey Thanksgiving flavors. For two different Takeout staffers, this was the frontrunner of the Friendsgiving series. “Fantastic,” said staff writer Angela Pagán.
Next we dug into the Caramelized Turkey & Cranberry Sauce. This flavor was tasted in utter silence as we all braced ourselves for severe palate confusion. Staff writer Dennis Lee was first to break that silence, and he did so with a burst of laughter. “I got the turkey!” he said. “It tastes like drippings... sweet drippings.” And the turkey—technically a turkey bacon—really does pack a concentrated wallop of turkey flavor, perhaps more due to the herby seasonings than the meat itself.
But the turkey flavor suffers from two flaws, and strangely, “presence of poultry in ice cream” isn’t one of them. Firstly, the turkey bacon is presented in the ice cream as a brittle. Salt & Straw might have done it this way to mitigate the textural oddity of frozen turkey thighs, which might very well have an uncanny, fleshy quality to them when churned into ice cream. (Who knows? I sure don’t have expertise in this area.) But when the turkey is turned into a brittle, the flavors we usually associate with tender, juicy meat become hard, crunchy, and grainy in a way that makes you feel like you’re biting down on a piece of gristle.
The other flaw: an excess of cranberry sauce. Staff writer Lillian Stone pointed out that her entire serving contained no turkey bits, just an overwhelming ratio of cranberry puree to ice cream. It almost seems like Salt & Straw is trying to obscure the turkey flavor as much as possible, a move that betrays its lack of confidence that customers will shell out $13 on a pint that tastes primarily like crunchy meat.
“I would not buy this” is a sentiment uttered by more than one member of The Takeout staff in reference to the turkey ice cream. Still, it’d be fun to present it to someone as a hosting gift, wouldn’t it?
And this must be why the five flavors are being sold as a Friendsgiving gift package: the novelty might not be enough of a draw on its own, but bundle the turkey with four other truly excellent seasonal flavors and I can’t imagine anyone who wouldn’t be curious enough to go splitsies on the $65 package with friends or family.
With all the supply chain issues spelling doom for everyone’s Christmas shopping, it’s the perfect time to start investing in experiences rather than items. A gourmet ice cream delivery offers both, and as this editorial staff can attest, it’s the bonding experience you didn’t know you needed.