Every March comprises our Flavor Vault Series, when we reach into our now nine-year-old collection of recipes and unlock five flavors that represent our creative roots. Some capture our inaugural Student Inventors Series (looking at you, Cinnatopia Cinnamon Bun) or mark a milestone like our first-ever vegan flavor (make sure to taste Coconut Milk w/ Cashew Brittle & Pandan). Others highlight an ingredient we were gunning to use, like PNW wild berries in Wild Foraged Berry Pie. Still others retell the beginning of lasting partnerships and the practice of spreading—not withholding—knowledge among our cities’ great talents (Salted Caramel Cupcake). Many of these unlocked flavors also represent innovative “firsts” for us, methods and techniques that allowed us to see ice cream through a wider lens than traditionally expected.
But the one recipe that epitomizes our Vault Series this year is Bone Marrow & Smoked Cherries. Crafted by our co-founder and head ice cream maker, Tyler Malek, long before he was officially the head ice cream maker (well, he was the only ice cream maker), this earliest of flavors spins a narrative of eschewing convention. Tyler figured out how to translate bone marrow's unctuousness into an extra velvety ice cream base, first by roasting cow bones, scraping out the marrow, cooking it, straining gristle, and then adding it to sweet cream. But that didn’t come without its share of problems. Fats don’t play nicely, and creating a semi-permanent emulsification requires high-speed blending of the cream, while gradually adding liquified marrow at two specific temperatures.
We pair the savory ice cream—similar to bone broth in that each batch tastes slightly different depending on the bones’ flavor—with dark sweet cherries. Back in 2011, we picked up the stone fruit every Saturday from the Draper Girls stand at the Portland State farmers market, then pitted each by hand before smoking them on cherry wood. Today we steep thousands of pounds of cherries in smoky tea and bourbon syrup, stirring both the fruit and a little brine into the ice cream.
This flavor proved vital to our flavor evolution for a few reasons. Understanding how bone marrow works in ice cream opened the door to us tinkering with more flavors that rely on fat, like our now-signature Arbequina Olive Oil. It features a few of our favorite Portland products. And most importantly, it marks a mindshare of our city’s culinary resources. Tyler hadn't thought to incorporate smoked cherries until colleague Michael Madigan of KitchenCru offered up one of his jars. It proved to be the key missing element to unite the savory marrow and sweet cream. (Michael later proposed the brilliant addition of black pepper to one of our most beloved classics, Strawberry Honey Balsamic.)
Be sure to experience all of the epic flavors that emerged from our Vault this year. You'll never know when you'll be able to taste them next.