At the corner of a dark grey building in Portland’s Central Eastside, I step through the unassuming glass door into a sanitizing foot bath. This cleans any bacteria from the soles of my shoes. Then I tuck my hair into a bright blue hairnet. Around me, a half-dozen fellow journalists and writers do the same.
It’s 9 a.m. on a sunny summer morning and I’m very ready – and excited – to be on a private, guided tour of Salt & Straw’s main ice cream-making facility, the first stop on our two-day exploration of Oregon’s berry industry.
Five years ago, artisan ice cream mavens (and cousins) Tyler and Kim Malek exploded on the Rose City’s culinary scene soon after opening their first scoop shop on NE Alberta St. Now they have scoop shops on NW 23rd Ave. and SE Division St as well as a soft serve dessert bar, the Whiz Bang Bar, at the Pine Street Market in downtown.
And for the last three years, the facility I now stand in – about 5,000 square feet, at my best guess – is where all of Salt & Straw’s fresh, innovative ice creams are made. Up to 100 batches a day, we learn. If that’s not impressive enough, eighty percent of everything that goes into their ice cream is made right here and all the chocolate, coffee, jam, spirits, etc. that are currently squeezed into the storeroom will be completely used up within the next two weeks.
After a chilly walk through the enormous freezer (it’s negative 40 degrees inside so none of us wish to linger) we stop at one of the workstations filled with buckets of fresh Oregon berries and jugs of cream, just in time for the annual Oregon Berry Festival.
A short time later, we finish our tour with a round of pints, the flavors including the sweet-tart Wild-Foraged Berry Sherbet, Gin Spiced Blackberry Jam with Chocolate Chips and Goat Cheese Marionberry Habanero. Cheers!