I’m gonna call this trend, right here and right now: gourmet ice pops are going to be the next huge thing to hit the food scene.

Paletas! Paletas!

Paletas – the Spanish word for ice pops – are a street food staple throughout Latin American countries, and they come in two varieties: paletas de agua (water-based, like sorbet) and paletas de leche or paletas de crema (milk-based, like ice cream). The water varieties are basically water plus fruit puree and come in an endless array of flavors, limited only by seasonal fruit and the imagination – popular traditional flavors include watermelon, cantaloupe, lime, strawberry, and chocolate.  Popular paletas de leche flavors include vanilla, chocolate, rum, coconut, pecan/walnut (nuez), and arroz con leche, a type of rice pudding.

There seems to be a lot of room for creativity with this dessert. I can imagine just about any fruit and flavor combination would lend itself well to the frozen pop medium. One newly-minted paleta shop in North Carolina (it’s already started…) once had a featured flavor called “Cardamom Chocolate Brownie”. That sounds delicious, but not as an ice pop. I’d rather have an actual brownie.

I’m not a fan of ice pops – neither Popsicles® nor Fudgsicles® float my boat – probably because I have severely cold-sensitive teeth and eating an ice pop would likely make my skull collapse into itself. But I do remember being fond of them as a child – I would break a double-stick pop (grape was my preferred flavor) in half and eat one half while the other melted and dripped down my arm. Sometimes Mom would even let my sister and me make our own, using Kool-Aid and tiny Dixie cups. Those things were even messier than the Popsicles, because you couldn’t fit the damn things in your mouth and they melted all over the place and left a giant purple stain on your favorite Holly Hobby t-shirt.

What the hell was wrong with making them with Dixie cups and popsicle sticks? Why do people have to ruin my childhood memories?

But even though I’m not a fan, and wouldn’t likely purchase a paleta, I could absolutely see them taking off. It’s just the kind of thing mindless lemmings annoying hipsters foodies are likely to latch onto as “the next big thing”.  There’s already a home ice pop maker that’s become a huge seller on QVC – the Zoku Quick Pop Maker, which promises “”freezer pops in as little as seven minutes right on your kitchen counter–no electricity needed” (it has an insert that you freeze ahead of time, like a countertop ice cream freezer).

I can see it now – “poptiques”, double-decker ice pop buses, paleta theme parks, and a new Food Network show called “Paleta Wars”.  Competing businesses will start springing up in cities all over the country, in a national pissing contest over who had the original paleteria (I don’t even know if that’s a freaking real word).

I’m completely in favor of this silly trend, especially if it replaces cupcakes. My guess is that ice pops will start gaining national attention before the end of this year, and and it’s just a matter of time before the trend makes its way up here to the Capital Region. My prediction for Albany splashdown: July 2013. Give or take a week. By which time I will want to shove a sharpened popsicle stick in someone’s kidney.

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