Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Raspados, Diablitos, Nieves y Más

I haven't been around much for the past few weeks, for sad reasons which I will get into in another post, which is why I haven't written in quite a while. But my post on shaved ice and other cold things, published on Serious Eats NY yesterday, works perfectly for the blog, since I found everything along the route. The link to the slideshow is here. This is a slightly different version.

Along Roosevelt Avenue in the summertime, raspado (hand-shaved ice) carts pop up everywhere—in front of delis and restaurants, on street corners below the 7 train, traveling vendors with grocery carts full of blocks of ice and syrup magically materialize in the afternoons. Aside from raspados, paletas, and ice cream, if you're lucky, you might stumble upon a place that make Mexican nieves (ices or sorbets) the old-fashioned way, which is really something special. Here's what I found.

The Raspado Lady: The raspado lady on the corner of Roosevelt and 80th Street has her ice shaving down to a science. She shaves the ice and creates a pyramid with a funnel so quickly, it's amazing. And she doesn't skimp on the syrup, either. A small raspado is $1.00.

Raspado Lady: 80-02 Roosevelt Avenue, Jackson Heights (map)

I got a mango and orange raspado from the lady.


Maracuya Raspado from El Bohio Grocery: There is always a line down the block at this grocery with a raspado window. This was a passionfruit syrup ice topped with condensed milk. I never understood the line, but now I do. Sometimes raspados quickly become a block of ice floating in syrup, and difficult to eat. The ice here was expertly shaved and remained flaky and crunchy, absorbing the flavor of the syrup. Small raspado, $1.00. El Bohio Grocery: Roosevelt and 99th Street (map)


Diablito, Cart under the 7 train, 90th Street and Roosevelt Avenue: Not your typical raspado, diablitos are doused with tamarind syrup and a spicy liquid chile mixture, then topped with a squirt of chamoy—a sour, salty, spicy and sweet fruit-based salsa. Small raspado, $1.00.

Raspado Cart: Corner of Roosevelt and Elmurst Avenues (map)

Nieve Mexicana at Viva Puebla: In front of the restaurant Viva Puebla is an outdoor counter where they sell snacks such as chopped fruit, elotes, chicharron preparado, and homemade nieves. These Mexican ices are somewhere between Italian ice and sorbet— creamier and smoother than the former, but icier than the latter. The process is long, and done by hand: paddling a metal bucket full of the liquid fruit base within a larger bucket filled with ice and salt until it reaches the perfect consistency. At Viva Puebla they only have one bucket, so they make the flavors one at a time.

Viva Puebla: 89-16 Roosevelt Avenue, Jackson Heights (map); 718-947-2302

Guava, watermelon, coconut, lime, and melon. I tried three of the five. I will definitely go back for the other two.
Nieves de Sandia y Limon. The sandia was like taking a sweet icy bite out of a watermelon, and the limon, with flecks of lime zest, was perfect slushy limeade. Cold, tart, and refreshing.

Nieve de Guayaba from Viva Puebla: Sweet but not too sweet, with a fresh guava flavor. Creamy and smooth, except for the occasional mouthful of seeds. I appreciated the seeds, though—it proved that the nieve was homemade using the whole fruit. Small cup, $2.00.

Nance Paleta from Paleteria Fernandez, Cholula Bakery: Paleteria Fernandez is located in Port Chester, New York; I found the pops at Cholula Bakery on Roosevelt Avenue. Nance is a small yellow fruit, sometimes called a yellow cherry, which grows in Central Mexico and continues southward. It's an acquired taste, strong and musky. The paleta was full of chunks of the fruit, as well as a few inedible stems. Although the actual fruit is sour, the paleta was sweet and creamy with a strong aftertaste. Arroz Con Leche Paleta from Paleteria Fernandez found at Cholula Bakery: I love rice pudding, I love arroz con leche, so what could be bad about a frozen version? Well, the creamy, milky, Mexican cinnamon-tinged ice pop is good, but if you don't like chewy pieces of cooked rice in frozen form, it might not be the pop for you. Flavor wise, it's delicious, but the texture might be a turn-off for some. Paletas are $2/each
Cholula Bakery: 88-06 Roosevelt Avenue, Jackson Heights (map); (718) 533-1171

It is really exciting to have all of these icy, refreshing, and sweet snacks so close to home, but as quickly as they appear in the hot weather, the carts, stands and wandering vendors disappear just as fast, so I plan on eating as much ice as possible while I still can.

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