Thursday, October 23, 2008
Viva Pops Paletas at the Little Italy Mercato
San Diego is a small city. How small? Well the other day I read in the Little Italy Mercato newsletter about a couple selling gourmet paletas --the Mexican style popsicles -- at the Saturday morning market. Intrigued, I called to find out their story.
Lisa Altmann started telling me about her love of using organic fruits and herbs from the farmers at the market to create her creative Viva Pops combinations like Lemon and Lavender, Nectarine Basil, Pineapple Chili, Chocolate Banana and simpler choices like Tart Plum and Strawberry. After a few minutes, we realized that we had met each other years before at a craft show. Altmann had been selling beeswax candles; I was there with my jewelry. We had become friendly, then she and her then boyfriend Jack moved to the East Coast and we lost touch.
They're back and Lisa, who's always been a foodie and has found her calling: paletas. Sold from push-carts by vendors who ring a little bell to announce their presence, traditional paletas have always come in fanciful flavors like watermelon cantaloupe, rice pudding with cinnamon, even cucumber with lime and chile. Altmann takes it further, by using organic fruits in season and even agave nectar to sweeten some instead of any sugar.
So what do they taste like? Like biting into a piece of ripe fruit that's frozen to a perfect consistency. The Tart Plum was a gorgeous shade of gold and mouth-wateringly good; the Nectarine Basil had a wonderful creamy texture and just a hint of the herb. But my favorite was probably the Pineapple Chile (top) which starts out bright and sweet and then leaving your mouth warm and tingly. Even the youngest visitors seemed to be delighted with the discovery of Viva Pops.
For more updates from food and drink expert Maria Hunt on the latest and best when it comes to cocktails, wine and cuisine, visit www.thebubblygirl.com