The Mexican paleta is a superior popsicle. Made with blended fruits, fresh juices, occasional dairy, and savory accents, the paleta was the genesis of the frozen flavors we are now so fond of today: mango with chili, cucumber with lime, and rice pudding flavored with vanilla and cinnamon. Popular in Mexico since the '40s, there's even a town in Michoacan, Tocumbo, that greets visitors with a giant pink paleta statue at the city's entrance. Paleta flavors are infinite, but the rare varieties, like the ones featured here, take a little digging.
I found these flavors for $1.50 each in some of the well-stocked Mexican groceries and bodegas around town; all of them are available at Tulcingo Deli Grocery on Wycoff Avenue. On a scorching day, there's nothing better.
A nance is a small yellow fruit similar to a cherry, with bright shiny skin and crisp juicy flesh. Encapsulated in a paleta, the tart-sweet fruit, radiates with dulcet flavor, reminiscent of ground cherry and musky apricot.
On the rare occasions I have seen mamey fruits in the city's Latino markets, I've snatched them up—cracking open the sandpapery shell of the small football sized fruit to discover a shock of orange flesh and a lustrous black pit at the center. Frozen into a paleta, mamey may be even more satisfying. The meat is buttery and aromatic, and couples well with dairy. Some say the flavor is like sweet potato pie; to me, it recalls red bean ice cream.
Fresh grosellas (currants) have been flooding the markets recently. The magical, transparent ruby fruits look like tiny jewels. Too acidic to eat raw, currants do well as jam, baked into pastries or frozen into ice cream and sorbets. This grosella paleta tasted floral, perfume as popsicle, but was way too sweet to enjoy.
Rompope is Mexican eggnog, made with milk, egg yolks, and enough rum to keep it off of the kid's table. It's a perfect flavor for a paleta: icy, creamy, and just sweet enough, spiked with little flecks of soft cinnamon (canela). In Tijuana, rompope ice cream is sold in frozen cylindrical tubes by street sellers walking through the stand-still congestion on the freeways, hawking snacks and souvenirs to those sitting in cars. The rompope makes the endless snake of traffic back into the United States enjoyable. In New York, it's bliss.
Tulcingo Deli Grocery
115 Wyckoff Ave. Brooklyn, NY 11237 (map) 718-381-0295
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