Walter Mencken 6:15 p.m., Feb. 28
Begin the ice cream challenge
It's been hot. Really hot. That's not all bad because it gives me a chance to go buck wild with one of my favorite foods--ice cream. Technically speaking, paletas aren't ice cream, but the Mexican-style iced pops bring the same satisfaction in a manageable, on-a-stick form. Viva Pops, in Normal Heights, specializes in paletas and the brightly-colored shop looks like La Michoacana's San Diego cousin.
Viva Pops started out peddling iced treats out of a freezer cart at farmers' markets and the store didn't open up until a few years of success in that realm. There's a vegan-organic-local theme that underpins the business, but it isn't taken to the point of distraction. That's nice for most of us because, while most people appreciate the option of organic foods and the like, it's hardly a deal-breaker for the majority and we feel a but smugly looked down upon when the thing gets taken too far. The company's policy of compassion pokes through in other ways, too. There's a little donation box for an animal rights charity on the counter; make a donation and get a free "dog pop" made of carrots and juice for canines. Cute.
Pops come in flavors that range from normal (blackberry, caramel) to classically Mexican (chili mango) to inventive and refreshing combinations of fruit and herbs (strawberry and cilantro or cucmber). Hand-made and carefully frozen, the pops have a silky texture that puts Otter Pops to shame. They're heavy on the sugar or agave nectar, which gives them that richness, but the pops are the right size and the sweet, frostiness feels just right.
As with any other "gourmet" product, the pops aren't the cheapest. Most of the cost $3 and the more special flavors--blueberry and goat cheese, anyone?--are $3.50. Let's be real, that's not a lot of money. It just seems like a lot compared to Hershey's Ice Pops. But Hershey's doesn't make a lavender lemonade flavor, last time I checked.
3330 Adams Avenue