Vegan ice cream I didn’t hate

Let’s face it: it’s really hard to hate ice cream. Ice cream is a privilege and remains one of the best joys of being human.

There was this one time I tried to be nice to animals and bought vegan ice cream that was god-awful. I’m talking about a face-scrunching regret that made me think twice before pawning it off to one of my friends and then to the dumpster. We all knew the trash was its destiny.

But I’m actually here to tell you about the day that I got over that, and I accidentally ordered vegan ice cream that I didn’t hate. In fact, I actually loved it and would buy it in the next ten minutes if I could.

Heaven is a place where you never have to feel guilty about the amount of free samples you ask for and Salt & Straw is that place. You are quite literally told that you can have as many as you want and not in that fake sort of, passive-aggressive way. I tried three different ones and only felt sort of bad. And when I told them how, I felt bad they told me not to and gave me more.

Nestled in the quaint, up-and-coming Hayes Valley main drag is Salt & Straw’s new, second SF location –– a highly-anticipated, cozy space with the most impressive ice cream flavor selection I have ever seen.

With flavors like Happy Birthday Elvis –– a banana coconut ice cream with marionberry jam, peanut butter fudge and candied coconut that tastes like bacon and Candied Mango Faux-Yo, a fresh fruit sorbet made from coconut oil and sprinkled with cardamom, it’s easy to see how I accidentally ended up ordering vegan ice cream. I chose Mint Chip Whoopie Pie blindly which was an addictive combination of the classic fresh mint chip taste and a lovely mess of folded in marshmallow and chocolate cake. This was the guilt-free ice cream I had been waiting for: a vegan ice cream that didn’t taste like it was vegan at all.

Rest assured, if you aren’t sold on vegan ice cream yet, Salt & Straw offers a wide range of other ice cream choices you can feel good about. Just about all of them utilize ingredients that are responsibly sourced from local businesses, or support other small, California specialty shops.  

Who made the ice cream? No cows were used in the creation of this vegan ice cream. (JULIO CEBERIO/GOLDEN GATE XPRESS)

So many times do new businesses neglect to utilize the resources they have in their community and resort to outsourcing their products elsewhere to save money. However, Salt & Straw recognizes not only the importance of keeping other small businesses alive but the abundance and advantage of utilizing the unique flavors the Bay Area has to offer.

The Sightglass Coffee and Origin Dandelion Chocolate flavor features coffee beans from a local cafe that sources its beans from Rwanda and chocolate from the famous Valencia Street confectionary, Dandelion. The Berkeley Olive Grove Olive Oil flavor, which I would highly recommend trying if you aren’t in the mood for something especially sugary but with a unique, unparalleled flavor, is the result of a partnership with Berkeley Olive Grove. They actually created a special batch of olive oil that would mix perfectly with the sweet cream vanilla ice cream its blended with.

The list goes on and on with two variations of Roasted Strawberry ice cream made with Oxnard berries, Peach Vinegar Cobbler with California peaches and Sparrow Lane Vinegar and a few decadent chocolate flavors if you are feeling classic.

If you really can’t decide, go for the tasting flight for $11.50 with your friends –– or just yourself if you’re feeling sad or selfish –– and try a small scoop of a few flavors. If you’re like me and have tested too many already, go with the single scoop in a hand-made waffle cone for six dollars. It’s the standard price for Bay Area ice cream but without a lot of the guilt and and a conscious investment in businesses that matter.

I may be an amatuer ice-cream taster but if I got over my traumatization of vegan ice cream, I have faith in you too. And I think you should go right now. If you go right now and don’t see any flavors you’re interested in, you’re a liar and if you swear you aren’t lying, check back in a month because their flavors come in small batches and change monthly.

For a longtime, you could say I’d lost faith in the idea of “healthy” ice cream. The ice cream that should-not-be-named temporarily ruined the only consistently good food group in my life. Can you blame me? But Salt & Straw has given me faith in the future for vegan ice cream and a much needed reminder that it’s important to understand where your food comes from.

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