It’s hot out. Here’s how I’m beating the heat:
Kulfi. These Indian frozen ice pops can be found outside storefronts on 37th ave from 73rd to 75th street. You’ll see a coolers on the sidewalk with usually 3 flavors of pop inside: pistachio, mango, and malai(cream). They are creamier than ice cream, as a result of using condensed and/or evaporated milk in their creation.
Moving east to Latin America, we start to see lots of street cart vendors selling raspados. Here, an icer will shave ice into a cup, then splash it with any combination of flavors you like. Some shavers, like the team shown below at the Elmhurst Avenue triangle, are particularly easy to order from. Each bottle of syrup is labeled with the flavor they contain, and the colors are colored to the extremity of how they should taste. At this stop, there are no less than 20 flavors from blueberry to tamarind to diabolito (little devil syrup). You can add to the concoction a sweet cream called lechera , and a few carts have chamoy which is a salty, sweet, spicy tomato sauce; It tastes like a bloody Mary, which is flavor that gives me reflex. Yow!
A good raspado won’t solidify 10 minutes after being shaved, and the ice chips will be as small as possible, affecting the syrups to be absorbed rather than just coat the ice pieces. This is a skill by the respadero that I can’t yet comprehend the complexity of.
Even finer (and much rarer) are nieves. These are essentially slushies. The best I’ve had this year have been from Maravillas (37-64 90th St). They sometimes have cantaloupe or other flavors, but they always have the most popular nieve, limon (lime). At Maravillas, which the owner told me won a Mexican newspaper award for having the best, nieves are only $1 for a small cup.
Nieves are made by spinning a metal canister full of lime, sugar, and water by hand within a tub of ice for at least an hour. It’s essentially what you’d get from 7-11, but with real ingredients and made by hand. It seems pretty laborious, and when I mentioned to the owner that there are machines that spin or a handle would help like they have on steering wheels, he seemed to perk up. But he’s especially proud of his nieves as they are now, as he should be.
I also found a pair of nieves the other day at Senor de Chalma CPR Deli (90-02 37th Ave). They had TWO barrels: cantaloupe and lime. I did not get a chance to try.
On 82nd Street and moving east along Roosevelt Avenue, you’ll find a great selection of people selling homemade popsicles or helados. One of the kindest ladies ever sits near on 82nd Street, off Baxter Ave. She makes them at home, bringing in coco (coconut), salcipon, mango, tamarind, dulce de leche with raisins, passion fruit, and pineapple flavors. You’ll find chunks of fruit in there, and laugh at the suckers paying 3x for these from the artisans at smorgasburg. These homemade ice cream pops are usually molded into a small plastic cup and mostly top out at $1.50. To find them, look for people sitting on top of or next to coolers. If the bearer is gracious, they’ll even roll it around in water to unlock the frozen fruit on a stick from the cup that holds it. Gracias!
Paletas originated in Michoacán, Mexico, and, as opposed to the above helados, take the form of popsicles common to commercial production. You can find them in very few places around the city in Mexican sections of each borough. Cholula Bakery (8806 Roosevelt Ave) is one of the only places I can find them in this area. They have 2 brands: Paleteria Fernandez and Sley.
The assortment of flavors include: Fresa de leche (milk strawberry), coco (nut), mango, pina(pple), guayaba(guava), ron con pasas (rum raisin), arroz con leche (rice milk), chocolate, lucuma (a fruit), mango con chile, nuez (pecan), nance de leche (some fruit).
I consider paletas and nieves the jewels of ices along the avenue.
These are bit more expensive though, at $2 each.
Also, outside many street carts you’ll find aguas frescas. These are seen in big containers of drinks, usually limonada, tamarindo, jamaica(purple stuff), horchata, Limon (lime), or naranja (orange). Jugos Naturales are also popular; look our for stands with blenders. For around $3-$5 (expensive in this area for drinks), they will blend up a combination of fruits for you. This is what Jack LaLanne would have if he came down (from heaven) to this area. I’m not sure what else he’d have….You can see more about these items and more on last year’s post on aguas frescas, batidos, raspados, cholados, crema guayava or espumilla, coca, salpicon, jugos naturales, arroz con leche and Latin American sodas.
Finally, you’ll also see plenty of Italian ice ladies, but if you wanted that, why are you here anyway??