Monday, July 16, 2012

What's the Scoop?

What's the Scoop? is an ice cream scoop shop located on N Williams Ave. in Portland, Oregon. Brian and Jodie Ostrovsky head this family-run establishment, which opened on June 30.

Ice cream scoop shop owners need that identity to set them apart from others. Not a problem here. The Ostrovskys make everything here from scratch (sans the mints in the Mint Chunk ice cream).

Open each day at 11 a.m.!

Flavors largely rotate, but there will be a few permanent choices as well!
The liquid nitrogen is what really got me to swing by. You guessed it; the ice cream here gets made with that stuff! As you walk into this place, you may see the huge nitrogen tank in the background of that open kitchen area. I think there's only one other place that prepares ice cream like that (The Last Word food cart on SE 52nd and Foster). Thanks to the nitrogen, the creamy ice cream gets cold much faster and the customer should experience more intense flavor in each ice cream choice.

The brittles and the toffees are found in certain ice cream flavors, but are also sold separately for $6 a jar. Their addicting "chocolate crack" sauce also sells for $6 a bottle. And while you're at it, throw a T-shirt in as well!

A quick summary of the flavors I tried:

"Thrilla in Vanilla": Four types of vanilla are used in that custom blend, and you can buy a bottle of that extract in the store for $12. As advertised, it produces a much more smile-inducing vanilla experience than normal. This is Brian's favorite. Of the three "traditional" flavors (vanilla, chocolate, strawberry), I too would be a vanilla guy.

Brown Butter Almond Brittle: A popular selection alone for its caramel-flavored qualities, but the homemade almond brittle adds a great texture contrast.

Cortadito: This is made with Cuban coffee, and a little caramel gets added to provide a little more sweetness. If you love coffee, get this one if it's available!

Tennessee Honey: Uses Jack Daniels Tennessee Whiskey. 'Nuff said. #yum

Bourbon Toffee: What's the Scoop? uses Maker's Mark bourbon in the ice cream, then incorporate generous amounts of their handmade "White Trash Toffee" into the mix. This was my selection (after minutes of painstaking pondering), and this flavor has been one of their bestsellers to date.

Bourbon Toffee ice cream
(What's the Scoop?)

Large piece of their amazing toffee!
Peanut Butter Curry: This was one of the most unique ice cream creations I've ever seen. It uses all-natural peanut butter and Golden brand curry. In my opinion, the peanut butter -- which is such a strong flavor -- upstages the curry. Regardless, it really brings that Thai aura and is a must-try for peanut butter lovers.

Mint Chunk: This Oregon mint ice cream also uses Andes mints and Keebler grasshopper cookies -- probably the only two items this family doesn't make themselves. Watch out for the intense minty blast you'll get here!

For the latest updates, go to their business Facebook page. Their official website also has a listing of all their rotating flavors. Many flavors pique my interest, especially the likes of "Peaches and Scream" (using habaneros) and Basil Blueberry. Their Facebook page also has a few photos of their first day. Always nice to document!

The handmade waffle cones are massive, with chocolate apparently plugging the bottom of each of these tasty ice cream containers.

They gave out free honeycomb samples on my visit. Pretty good stuff. Light and airy, not overly sweet.

In the end, my generous scoop of Bourbon Toffee ice cream was $3.50. Two scoops would have been $5, and I figure three scoops ($6.50) would lead me down the slippery slope to a panda sugar coma. A pint is $8, right in line on price as other scoop shops that serve quality ice cream.

If you want sundaes, they have "The Hosack" ($10; named after one of their chef friends). Four scoops of ice cream, topped with nut brittle, hot fudge, honey caramel, marshmallow (not sure if it's fluff or actual marshmallows), and whipped cream. It's large enough to feed a small family. Could I finish one by myself? Sure, but I'd need someone to drive me home. Then again, why stop at one? It's only a diabetic panda sugar coma. I'm sure all my family members are shaking their heads: "Where did we go wrong?" Don't worry, you didn't do anything wrong. I don't do this every day.

When I checked Yelp reviews of this place last week, it didn't surprise me that most of (if not all) the negative reviews came from people that didn't have very many reviews to begin with. My initial thought there is to take those comments with a grain of salt if the words are of a more griping, complaining nature, as opposed to the more helpful constructive criticism. To be fair to them, we all have certain standards, some more demanding than others (especially for me, where I critique Hawaiian-style plate lunches much harsher after being born and raised in Hawaii).

Also, perhaps the complainants' experiences were indeed different from mine (so I can't truly discount what they say), but I didn't have any "surly service," "hot counters," or ice creams begging for more flavor. From what I saw, the store didn't open before it finished construction; the construction work focused on the sidewalk and other parts not directly affiliated with What's the Scoop.

Will this place have to compete with the likes of Salt & Straw and Ruby Jewel? Yes. And granted, just about everyone has their favorite. People will have very critical comments for the Ostrovskys, and that's part of running a food business. Frankly, I'm an easy person to please for ice cream. I want a creamy product with great flavor, and several innovative choices to choose from. I got that here.

The Ostrovskys are extremely friendly and appear to embrace innovation. With ice cream providing such a wonderful canvas for creativity, I'm glad to see this family takes full advantage. I look forward to trying more flavors from them. Head to this great scoop shop! 8.75/10

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