Local fourth-graders create unusual ice cream flavors for Salt & Straw

Beginning Friday, Sept. 6, San Diego customers can sample ‘cramel with cocanat,’ ‘sourdough penut’ and ‘chilly mango’ concoctions


Beginning today, customers at Salt & Straw ice cream shops in San Diego will have five highly unusual featured flavors to choose from, including Cramel with Cocanat and Lime with Chiley, Sourdough Penut, Fire Twist Chips and Vanilla, Yan-Chan Swirl and Chilly Mango.

These mind-boggling concoctions, with original spelling errors included, sprung from the minds of fourth-graders at Washington Elementary School in Little Italy. The students took part in the Portland-based gourmet ice creamery chain’s annual Student Inventor Series. Today through Oct. 4, stores in San Diego, Anaheim, Los Angeles, Seattle, San Francisco and Portland will serve a combined 28 flavors created by grade-schoolers in their areas. Ten percent of featured flavor sales will go to the PTA committees at those six West Coast schools.

Tyler Malek, co-founder of Salt & Straw and chief flavor developer for the 8-year-old company, works year-round with his research and development team to create unique ice cream flavors every month. But he has a soft spot for developing the flavors in the Student Inventor Series, which debuted in 2012. He said fourth-graders are boundary-breakers who put his R&D team to the test every year trying new ingredients and flavor combinations they’ve never considered before.

“There is a clear lack of barriers to their creativity,” Malek said of the students. “This is one of my favorite parts of being at a growing company. This is like access to the food culture in a genuine way that I never dreamed of.”

One past example of this fourth-grade ingenuity was the flavor Olde People, which the child suggested be made with wheat germ, Lipton ice tea, Werther’s Original hard candies and a hint of mint to smell like Bengay. Another was Fish ‘n’ Chips, made with gummy Swedish fish. Malek said he’d always avoided using gummy candies in his ice creams because they freeze rock-hard, but for this flavor his team reformulated the recipe to keep the chilled gummy fish soft and chewy.

Washington Elementary was chosen for its proximity to Salt & Straw’s original San Diego store. Students at the school submitted more than 200 suggestions and the five winners were chosen from that. The winners received free ice cream parties for their classes. For the contest, the students were asked to name and describe their flavor, list the ingredients and draw a colored illustration showing how the ingredients would be mixed together. The R&D team spent several months testing the flavors. Malek said he was delighted that the San Diego flavors reflect the multicultural heritage of the students at Washington Elementary.

Here’s a look at this month’s five featured flavors available only at the shops in Little Italy and Del Mar:

Sourdough Penut: The student designer, Angel, asked for sourdough bread, vanilla ice cream, strawberry drizzle, hot fudge and “penuts.” Malek said his team used crisped sourdough bread, fresh strawberries, peanuts and chocolate chunks. To deliver the “fresh sour funk” of sourdough bread, they developed a unique flavoring made with rice vinegar and other sour ingredients.

Fire Twist Chips and Vanilla: Student inventor Leslie is a big fan of Takis, the spicy rolled corn chips from Mexico. Malek said this flavor was the hardest of the five to create because he wanted to create something more elevated than just crushing the chips into a vanilla ice cream base. Instead, the R&D team ground Takis chips into a corn meal, baked the meal into a Florentine cookie to balance the spice, and then sweetened the ice cream to mask some of the strong artificial flavor in Takis.

Cramel with Cocanat and Lime with Chiley: Designer Dahlayla had a hard time picking one flavor so she chose four. The team faithfully created to her instructions for a vegan coconut ice cream with caramel swirl with bits of lime and chiles.

Yan-Chan Swirl: Team-designed by students Delilah, Heaven, Savanna and DeAndré, this is a vanilla ice cream with caramel swirl and pieces of Japanese-made Pocky biscuits mixed in. Pocky cookies are stick-like biscuits dipped in dark chocolate. The inventors helpfully suggest it be served in a chocolate waffle cone.

Chilly Mango: Coinventors Jazzy and Mia like their ice cream fruity and spicy. Made with a vanilla base, it includes fresh mangos, Tajin seasoning, which has chile powder and lime flavorings, and chamoy, which is a Mexican sauce made from pickled fruit.

Salt & Straw locations in San Diego are at 1670 India St. in Little Italy and in the One Paseo shopping center at 3705 Caminito Court, Suite 0580, in Carmel Valley.