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Gourmet Popsicles: Licks to Love

These frozen sweet treats are the latest so-cool-it's-hot summer trend.

Mary Stutzman
SasaPops exotic fruit popsicles by Chill Spot of downtown Las Vegas, Nevada picture
Photo credit
Photo: Courtesy of Sasapops/Tomorrow People Llc
Photo caption
SasaPops, in Las Vegas, features exotic fruit ingredients in their fancy popsicles.

This summer, join the so-cool-it's-hot trend: savoring frozen fruit bars, pop ices, and paletas, the Spanish name for frosty sweets on a stick. The new gourmet bars come in a blazing array of flavors—and flavor combos—prepared in small batches from fresh, local ingredients.

Joe Vergara and his sister Liza Vergara-Gross dreamed up SasaPops to beat the Las Vegas summer heat. They tried Hawaiian-style snow cones, but couldn't package them. "When we remembered the frozen pops we made as kids, we had our answer," Vergara says. Find the new mango chile and coconut lemongrass pops at ChillSpot, their downtown shop.

"Paletas are a common treat in Latin America—we all ate them when we were teething," says Casto Moreno, owner of Ome Calli in Beaverton, Ore. (The shop's name refers to a second home in Nahuatl, an indigenous language of Mexico.) Moreno serves mango chile, guanabana (soursop fruit), and chamoy (a sauce made from pickled fruit), among other choices. "Many customers come in for their usual flavor and end up choosing something delicious they've never tried before," Moreno says.

Inspired by colorful paletas, the founders of Pop Nation began using seasonal produce and natural sweeteners to make gourmet vegan bars sold from pushcarts. The bars—in a shifting menu of about 20 flavors—are available at street fairs and outdoor festivals around the San Francisco Bay Area. Look for watermelon mint, blackberry with lemon rind, and Bangkok Night Market: coconut milk with Kaffir lime and chiles.

"The best flavors come from experiences, memories, and my favorite foods," says Tiffany Tomkinson, owner of Lick'd pops in Salt Lake City. "Once, at a restaurant, they were out of my favorite cake, so I got banana cream pie and thought, ‘This would be heaven on a stick.' " Find mango raspberry and strawberry basil on Saturdays at the Downtown Farmers Market or anytime at Harmons or Whole Foods grocery stores.

Ten years ago, the Gomez family moved from Michoacán, Mexico, to Oregon and launched Paletería y Nevería El Paisanito to share their favorite desserts. Paleta flavors in the colorful Woodburn shop include guava, coconut, walnut, and chicle (bubble gum).

This article was first published in Summer 2016. Some facts may have aged gracelessly. Please call ahead to verify information.