We got a sneak peek this week of the first O.C. location of Salt & Straw before it opens Friday morning at Downtown Disney in Anaheim. The company opened its first location in Portland, Ore., and its small-batch, handcrafted ice cream has been a West Coast favorite. With monthly specialty flavors, convenient to-go pints that let you skip the line, locally sourced artisanal ingredients, and a “modern-day mercantile” aesthetic featuring handcrafted wooden pieces, Salt & Straw’s latest scoop shop offers plenty of delicious, creamy reasons to pay a visit.
We talked to Kim Malek, co-founder and CEO of Salt & Straw, as well as Ian Kane, a customer-engagement specialist who has helped open many of Salt & Straw’s shops, about what you can expect from the new location:
How does it feel to open a location in Orange County?
Kim: It’s blowing my mind. I haven’t had the same feeling of intensity since we opened our first store. It’s kind of cool what Disneyland is doing because they’re bringing in smaller artisan companies. People who visit from Orange County and from around the country and around the world will have exposure to a lot of local folks that we partner with, and favorites from up and down the West Coast. It’s just such an incredible opportunity.
What’s unique about this store in particular?
Kim: There’s a bunch of stuff that’s special. This menu is exclusive to Disneyland. We’ve kind of pulled our top favorites from up and down the West Coast. There’s one flavor that you can only get here: Pots of Gold & Rainbows (Lucky Charms flavor).
Ian: This is a flavor that we do everything by hand. They take the marshmallows and the cereal and they hand separate them into two separate piles. They take the cereal part, toast it, and then grind it down into this powder. The powder goes into the ice cream base and so it tastes like the milk at the bottom of the cereal bowl. Those marshmallows get sprinkled in by hand.
Any particular ingredients that you are proud to feature in your ice cream?
Kim: One ingredient is our dairy and the cream that we use that is from a fifth-generation family-owned farm called Scott Brothers Dairy in Chino, Calif. So, the cream we use is very local, and they’re well-renowned for the environmental efforts that they have implemented. The quality is superior to anything we’ve come across. Every single flavor we have has a story and a person that we’ve worked with to create the flavor.
What went into designing the look of the store?
Kim: Our ice cream is done in small batches, so we wanted to have a lot of hand-crafted touches. We have this chandelier design, and it’s sort of an abstract take on ice cream cones. There’s a totem pole out front that’s brand new and crafted just for this location. We thought it’d be a good meeting place for people to ‘meet at the totem pole.’ The door handles were also hand-carved just for this store.
What’s the process of hand-crafting your ice cream?
Ian: All our ice cream is made in 5 to 10 gallon batches, so we have a lot of control and make sure every bite is perfect. Our prep team cuts all the brownies and the cookie dough into the perfect bite-sized pieces. There are a lot of hands that go into making our ice cream.
Kim: We’re crazy about quality. We really want you to have the perfect bite.
Can you tell me about your efforts to give back and collaborate with local communities here in O.C.?
Kim: First of all, we do local collaborations, so we’ve already been working on one with Sidecar Doughnuts here in O.C. We’ve done some pop-ups and ice cream with them. You can expect to see more of that as we grow our menu with other local artisans and chefs and even local schools. Usually, every spring, we do a collaboration with an elementary school that’s closest to each of our shops and the kids have a competition to come up with flavors. We’ll be doing that here, and the money is donated back to the local schools to help with different programs that need funding. It’s really cool; Ian’s been part of it. When you walk into a classroom and tell them ‘I make ice cream for a living,’ and they’re like ‘That’s a job?’
Ian: It’s amazing.
Kim: We talk about the creative process, food science, careers in hospitality … Those kinds of partnerships are really important for us. We’ve already been reaching out to a few schools in Orange County.
Can you tell us a little bit more about your collaboration with Sidecar Doughnuts?
Kim: We’ve been working with them on a few different things. On National Doughnut Day, they parked in front of our shops and you can put a scoop of our ice cream on your Sidecar doughnut.
Ian: Doughnuts a la mode.
You even created a flavor based on their doughnuts.
Ian: We created the Apples and Sidecar Doughnuts flavor based on their salt and butter doughnuts. When you meet someone that’s doing something so incredibly delicious, it’s like ‘we have to find a way to make this happen.’ So, Tyler, our chef, and the folks at Sidecar went back and forth deciding which doughnut would be best. So, it’s this beautiful vanilla base with this homemade apple filling with chunks of this perfect chewy and fresh Sidecar doughnuts. There was also this really fun opportunity for us to collaborate backwards. Sidecar created a doughnut that was based on our Salted, Malted, Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough flavor. It’s great when someone’s creativity can inspire yours.
How often are you planning to change your limited-edition flavors?
Kim: Every four weeks. Right now, we have our Halloween flavors and after that, we’ll have flavors inspired the courses of a Thanksgiving meal like turkey skin and pecan pie. During the holidays, we’ll head into more traditional flavors. In January, we’ll have an all-vegan limited edition menu and help bring your year off to a healthy start. In February, we’ll have a chocolatier series since it’s the month of love and chocolate. So, every month, we’ll have a different limited menu, which is fun because you’ll always want to check back.
Good To Know
You can park in the Downtown Disney parking lot; Salt & Straw will validate for 3 hours.
Fresh waffle cones are offered for $1.50.