The Unexpected Ingredient One Company Is Adding To Ice Cream

The smell is unmistakable. Caramelized waffle cones, rich vanilla, and a mild potpourri of sweat from the droves of ice cream-crazed customers waft through the air within a 500-foot radius of any given Salt & Straw outpost, whose lines have a habit of snaking around the block. The Portland, Oregon-based chain, which has trickled into 27 shops across four states since its 2011 founding, has come a long way from its origins as a food cart on Alberta Avenue, now having earned accolades from the likes of Oprah Winfrey, Harry Styles, and President Joe Biden (per The Hollywood Reporter). 

In keeping with the small town from where it came, the brand is bent on working with independent farmers and chefs in its respective locales, using locally beloved ingredients to craft "taste-provoking" scoops. Even its standard flavors go beyond your average chocolate and vanilla, with options like Arbequina Olive Oil (Oprah's favorite, for the record), Pear and Blue Cheese, and vegan Marionberry Coconut Sorbet. The real draw for Salt & Straw fans, however, is the brand's infamously daring seasonal flavors. (We'll never, ever forget the pork blood ice cream with optional coconut-crusted bugs on top that the brand scooped up for Halloween one year.)

With summer on the horizon, Salt & Straw's latest flavor lineup is a Summer Picnic Series inspired by the platonic ideal of a smorgasbord in the park. One flavor, in particular, uses a surprising ingredient you wouldn't think to put in a dessert. 

Fried chicken and ice cream merge as one

If you've spent any time in Seattle or in the company of Oprah Winfrey (it's a total coincidence that she's featured thrice here, but we're okay with it), Ezell's Famous Chicken needs no introduction. The regional chain, which now plays host to over a dozen locations throughout Washington State and Oregon, per its website, was founded in Seattle's Central District in 1984 and has been feeding hungry customers ever since with its ethereally crispy battered poultry, creamy mac and cheese, and sweet buttery rolls. Ezell's is undoubtedly married to the classics, but that didn't stop the brand from teaming up with Salt & Straw for a standout flavor in the ice creamery's Summer Picnic Series: Cinnamon & Honey Fried Chicken. With a base of salted vanilla cream strewn with shards of croissants deep-fried in chicken fat "'til crispy perfection," the flavor uses Ezell's "secret" spice blend for a uniquely sweet, savory, and slightly spicy treat. 

The other cast members of the Summer Picnic Series make similar use of opposing flavors, from the Baked Brie & Fig Cheesecake with bits of Ritz Crackers crust to the Deviled Egg Custard with Smoked Black Tea to the vegan Pink Rosé & Watermelon Sorbet, rounding out with a brandy-spiked Chocolate Nocino Cherry Pie — a sweet dessert to cap off your ice cream dinner. The Summer Picnic Series will be available at participating locations (and for nationwide delivery via the online shop) on June 3.