Paleta season is upon us. Sold from bell-ringing ice cream carts and corner stores, the frozen Mexican treat comes in a hypnotizing array of colors and flavors, offering sweet relief on sweltering afternoons. Few things conjure summer like the thought of one dripping down your hand.
So when Fernando Villagomez, owner of La Tostadería in Venice, decided to open Boca de Agua next door to his ceviche restaurant on Abbot Kinney, he first spent two weeks studying the paleta craft in the small town of Tocumbo in his home state of Michoacán. “It’s the paleta capital of the world,” he says. “They know what they’re doing down there.”
One crucial rule: fresh and natural ingredients only. At Villagomez’s shop—the name is loosely translated as “mouthwatering”—fresh fruits, nuts, and other treats are loaded into metal molds and quickly frozen to preserve their vibrant taste (and appearance). Though Boca de Agua is one of several artisanal paleta shops in L.A., it is the first to expand into Venice’s hippest shopping drag.
“It’s obviously a huge thing in the Mexican community,” says Villagomez, “but I’ve been surprised how much people in Venice know about what we’re serving.”
Paletas de Crema
Richer and softer in texture than their fruit-based brethren, many of these milky pops riff on classic Mexican desserts like flan, arroz con leche, and Abuelita-brand chocolate. Look for strawberries and cream, pecan, leche quemada (scorched milk), creamy coconut, horchata, rum-laced eggnog with raisins, and cajeta (goat’s milk caramel).
Paletas de Agua
Blended with a little sugar or agave syrup and often a whisper of salt, these sorbet-like pops are usually studded with the pulp or chunks of whole fruit. Expect a range of flavors wider than what you’d find in any supermarket freezer case. Some favorites: mango with chile, tamarind, guanabana (soursop), guava, mamey, melon, pineapple, lemon, and cactus fruit.
Where to Find Them
Boca de Agua, 1121 Abbot Kinney Blvd., Venice
Mateo’s Ice Cream & Fruit Bars, 4929 Sepulveda Blvd., Culver City; also at 11551 Santa Monica Blvd., Sawtelle; 4234 W. Pico Blvd., Mid-City; and 1250 S. Vermont Ave., Pico-Union
La Michoacana Ricas Nieves, 303 W. Manchester Blvd., Inglewood
Los Alpes Neveria, 6410 Rugby Ave., Huntington Park
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