Is it me, Orlando, or is it getting hot in here?
The weather peeps were predicting a high of 95 for Friday as I penned this piece on frozen pops, and I had a cooler bag full of fresh-made paletas all set to take it down a notch so that cooler heads — and bellies — would prevail.
Refreshers like kiwi-strawberry and coconut, mango chili and a fun, fruity version called pico de gallo for its colorful chunks of fresh mango, pineapple and cucumber with housemade chile sauce called to me like cute, colorful combatants to all this sultry heat.
Response has been great to this new addition at Winter Park’s La Hacienda (3090 Aloma Ave. in Winter Park, linktr.ee/lahaciendarestaurant). If you’re more familiar with its adjacent Mexican restaurant, they’ve got a nice little market right next door. And its newest addition is an expansive counter selling ice cream and an impressive array of homemade paletas.
Co-owner Javier Garcia, fresh off a January trip to his native Jalisco, Mexico, brought some new skills back — and some killer equipment — to bring this homespun favorite to their customer.
“Paletas are more homemade-handmade than what many people are used to when it comes to Popsicles,” says Garcia’s wife, Ana. “If it’s strawberry — it’s real strawberries. If it’s chile, people will often make their own to pair with the mango. They are all-natural.”
And at $2, ridiculously reasonable.
“We know you’d pay more for something like this that’s made in-house by hand in other places,” Garcia says. “But our customers are used to the prices we have, and so they’re going to be $2 — that’s it.”
One month in, with temps heading skyward, they’re doing brisk business with simple flavors like creamy coconut or refreshing melon or the wild, striped crowd-pleaser of chicle (bubble gum).
“The kids see the colors, and they just want it!” says Garcia. The grown-ups aren’t much different.
“People come in and say, ‘Oh, my gosh, it tastes like home! Like we’re in our little corner grocery store in Mexico!’ It really does taste like home.”
If you call Winter Park home, now you can say the same. Bring a cooler bag and stock up.
Where else can you stick it to the heat? Read on…
Can’t decide between a Popsicle and a cocktail? At the Pop Parlour — with locations in downtown and East Orlando — you don’t have to. Boozy pops like bourbon peach, mango mimosa and cucumber lime gin beckon brunchily, but teetotalers need not fret, there are even more unleaded varieties on the menu, which rotates year-round.
All pops are made in-house, by hand, from fresh fruit and house-grown herbs and peppers. Their flash-freeze technique makes for a less icy pop, they purport. I’ve had a few — all good — but the pineapple cilantro is my jam. (The Elvis takes creamy care of business, too, and runs a close second.)
If you go4214 East Plaza Drive in Orlando and 431 E. Central Blvd. in Orlando; thepopparlour.com/
The Vineland outpost of this national franchise, locally owned by Luisana Conte and her husband Tomas Requena, was a big hit when it opened at Orlando Premium Outlets – Vineland back in 2017, prompting them to double-down with a sister location at the I-Drive OPO in 2019. Why? Variety probably has something to do with it. At Popbar, you can go simple — frozen yogurt, gelato and/or sorbet on a stick — or get a little crazy with popwiches (it looks like an ice cream sandwich, but that’s a Popsicle those familiar cookies are bookending). They’ve got loads of vegan options, too, each one customizable.
“Our most popular combinations are our chocolate fudge popGelato and chocolate-covered strawberry popSorbetto, which are both sipped and topped with our high-quality chocolate.” More than 10 available toppings — Conte recommends toasted marshmallows “torched on the spot!” — give guests a lot of room for experimentations.
Flavors run the gamut from vanilla and hazelnut to blood orange, cereal milk and spicy chocolate.
If you go: Orlando Premium Outlets - Vineland, 8200 Vineland Ave., Unit 162 or Orlando Premium Outlets – I-Drive, 4967 International Drive, Unit 166, 407-744, 1720; pop-bar.com/
Even the most basic store-bought pops are picture-perfect, but very few are as ready for a supermodel food photoshoot as the ones coming out of the freezer at La Palette. They’ve been keeping the Hunter’s Creek neighborhood cool since 2016 with pops made on-site and on the daily — in dairy, nondairy and sugar-free varieties, with roughly 40 flavors available any time you “pop” in. Signature offerings here include exotic choices like avocado vanilla and guanabana and dulce de leche, but those looking for classics can find simple fruit flavors like mango, pineapple, orange and more.
If you go: 12720 S. Orange Blossom Trail in Orlando, 407-251-0735; lapalettepop.com/
Peak Season Pops
Serving area farmers’ markets including Lake Eola, Maitland and Winter Park — as well as movie nights and First Monday at Leu Gardens, this mobile outfit is local and seasonal, so even in the fall, you can get your pumpkin spice on subtropical style. Reach out via their website for information on catering or special events. They’ll even craft a signature flavor just for you.
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