I taste-tested Disneyland’s stomach-churning new dessert


I had heard that there was a Thanksgiving line at Salt & Straw, the ice cream shop in Disneyland’s Downtown Disney shopping and dining district known for its unusual (and unusually appealing) flavors — but even in my wildest imaginings, I never could have dreamed up what they’re serving this month.

The Friendsgiving Series from the Portland-based Salt & Straw has five ice creams that emulate everything you would find on a Thanksgiving table, from carby start to spicy finish. And when I say everything, I truly mean everything. Even turkey.

Obviously, I had to try it.


As far as ice cream flavors go, “caramelized turkey & cranberry sauce” sounds like the stuff nightmares are made of: turkey bacon tucked “into a savory, buttery brittle with thyme and freshly ground cubeb pepper,” as the company describes, with house-made cranberry sauce, all in a sugary, creamy, frozen base.

But, this isn’t my first frankenfood rodeo. Earlier this year, I tried Disneyland’s fried pickle corn dog and was pleasantly surprised by the results. So when I got to Salt & Straw, I didn’t just order a scoop of turkey ice cream. (Let’s just take a minute to let that phrase — “a scoop of turkey ice cream” — sink in in all its horror.) I went for the flight of four flavors: Caramelized turkey and cranberry sauce, as well as Parker House rolls with salted buttercream, sweet potato pie with double baked almond streusel, and pumpkin and gingersnap pie. 

As I ordered, I asked the man behind the counter what he thought of the turkey ice cream. “Ehhh,” he said, “I’m not the biggest fan. I never grew up with cranberry sauce and that was really weird to me.”

But, he said, “The turkey itself isn’t that bad once you get past the fact that it’s candied turkey.” 

“What am I doing?” I fake-lamented to him.

He grinned. “Having fun,” he said. I couldn’t argue with that.

The kind of Friendsgiving spread you never knew you wanted

The kind of Friendsgiving spread you never knew you wanted

Courtesy of Salt & Straw

I sat down outside with my giant tray of four scoops of ice cream, ignoring the many judgemental looks from people who saw me sitting down to tuck into dessert for four by myself (many of whom were on their way to nearby Black Tap for milkshakes topped with slices of cake that have the caloric equivalent of an entire day’s food, but, you know, people aren’t always nice). 

I decided that I would approach this Friendsgiving ice cream banquet the way I would have a real Thanksgiving dinner: rolls, turkey, sweet potatoes, pie. I took my first bite.

And wow, was I surprised.

The Parker House rolls with salted buttercream somehow managed to capture the essence of the iconic Boston bread basket staple, from its pillowy-soft texture to the delicately sweet-salty glaze baked on top. In an ice cream. A bread ice cream.

After two bites, I moved on to the caramelized turkey and cranberry sauce. It wass… not as bad as it could have been. The confection was more dessert than dinner, which was to be expected in an ice cream, but sugary iterations of foods that aren’t supposed to be sugary aren’t my favorite thing. But I was swayed by the strong herbal notes I was picking up — thyme and rosemary, enhanced by a buttery undertone and a peppery sharpness. I actually liked the cranberry part most of all. Overall, it actually worked. I ate a couple of bites and didn’t regret them.

Parker House Rolls with Salted Buttercream ice cream

Parker House Rolls with Salted Buttercream ice cream

Courtesy of Salt & Straw

Next came the sweet potato pie with double baked almond streusel. It was good, if less exciting than the previous discoveries. My two bites tasted like normal fancy ice cream. The sweet potato part was buttery and savory, and overall the whole thing actually tasted less like candy than the turkey ice cream did.

Lastly, pumpkin and gingerbread pie. I was glad I saved this for last. The surprisingly spicy ginger was a really pleasant palate cleanser, but after a couple of bites, I knew I couldn’t eat a whole scoop of it.

I didn’t finish any of the scoops — not because of the snarky strangers, whom I’ll give a karmic pass because it was 10 p.m. and everyone is tired and cranky at the end of a full Disneyland day. It was a lot of ice cream, and I would generally rather have a cheese plate for dessert than a confection anyway. The one I ate the least of was the sweet potato pie, probably because it was the most normal. I had myself in a bizarre food mindset, and that was where I was going to live. 

The one I went back to, though, was the Parker House rolls. That ice cream, with its perfect textural combination and its mildly salty notes, was a revelation. Given that my favorite Salt & Straw flavor is their pear and blue cheese, I shouldn’t have been surprised that a more food-like and less dessert-like offering was my choice. I think I might even like it better than regular ice cream. As I’m lingering over the last few bites, I dreamed about going home and starting a change.org petition to make every ice cream bread ice cream going forward. 





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