These Are the Hyper-Local Ingredients That SF’s Best Ice-Cream Maker Swears By

Salt & Straw's Tyler Malek has some ideas to help you support your local purveyors

September 11, 2020 11:29 am
tyler malek salt straw
Tyler Malek of Salt & Straw
Stuart Mullenberg

Tyler Malek’s Salt & Straw ice cream is more than just ice cream. Each scoop is a bit of urban anthropology, uniquely reflective of where it’s served. For example: the freckled mint chocolate chip, made with S.F.’s own TCHO chocolate. 

Malek says the way he works, his role is not a particularly creative one. (Editor’s note: This seems like extreme self-deprecation.)

“I like to think of my job as collecting and curating important stories in a city, to tell through our ice cream,” he says. “I try to use my ice cream as a soap box to share the important food movements happening in the city. When we do that, the flavors of the ice cream just happen — and all of a sudden, my job turns into something where I don’t even need to be creative.” 

Here, Malek relays his picks for his favorite Bay Area vendors, whether you’re looking for superlative truffles, chocolate or a mind-blowing tea. 

For Chocolate …

We have five I really like working with. In no particular order: 

NeoCocoa: We used a few things from her. My favorite ice cream we’ve ever made in the history of Salt & Straw is the brown sugar ice cream, which has her chocolate-covered black sesame brittle.

Dandelion: I know that’s kind of obligatory.

dandelion chocolate
Dandelion’s “obligatory” chocolate bars (Dandelion)

TCHO:  I prefer their dark chocolate — we melt [the bars] down to get a freckling effect.

Truffles from Feve: I was judging the Good Food Awards for candy, and I got his candy — I bit into it, and I was like, There’s no one else who could make anything like this. He’s incredible. One of my favorites is their candied almonds, which are insane. If you get the strawberry yogurt almonds, it’s annoying how fast you’ll snack on those. One of the most delicious things I’ve had in my life are his praline bars — they’re insane.

Dick Taylor: They’re a little bit out of the Bay. [Specifically: Eureka.] They have the most epic packaging you’ll see in your life. I love their fig and Madagascar bars. I’d worked with a few [brands] that are a little more religious about not mixing their chocolates with other ingredients. Working with Dick Taylor and learning how they mix the figs with the beans, and how the flavors coalesced, was really awe-inspiring.

For Drinks …

We’ve worked with Sightglass almost exclusively ever since we opened in San Francisco — we designed a whole set of flavors specifically for affogato.

Red Blossom Tea: To use this tea as an ingredient or to sell it at your restaurants, you have to go to the shop and prove to her that you truly care about the tea. It’s a rite of passage for a great chef in San Francisco. For us, putting it in ice cream … that was really daunting. 

The teas that they’re bringing in are just — they’re beautiful. There’s something about these teas that’s ethereal. They’re literally selling the best tea leaves you’ll ever have. I don’t know how to stress how insanely cool it is.

And I love Don Bugito. When we were first learning about the Bay Area, one of the first partners we met with was La Cucina; they’re doing insanely important work in the city. They put us in contact with this woman at Don Bugito, who moved here from Mexico and became one of the first edible bug farmers in the US. She makes a huge variety of edible bugs. Every year we buy coconut candy mealworms and chocolate-covered crickets and mix them into matcha ice cream, which kind of represents a kind of grassy field and the crickets are in the meadows. The flavors she’s doing are so cool, leaning into the sweet nutty nature of the mealworms. You can’t not have fun eating her stuff.

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