Don’t let monsoon season throw off your inner thermostat—summer is here, and with it, the opportunity to indulge in something cold, slushy and sweet. Some of my best childhood memories revolve around such seasonal delicacies: my grade school bus driver La Güera (“the blond one”) treating all her passengers to a paleta come the last day of school; endless adventures with Big Sticks that would progressively rob me of my gag reflex (a trait that would come in handy later in life); and munching on a chocolate-dipped banana after a scorching Sunday bullfight (don’t judge).
Along with a ravenous appetite, I brought my roommate Anna along for the adventure. On the business end of 60, her passion for crafting is overshadowed only by her love for all things sweet (you'll see her distinct notations at the end of each stop).
Throwing all concerns for reasonable blood sugar levels aside, together, we embarked on this mission with the gusto of a couple of kids in a candy er…ice cream store.
Shaved ice at Rainbow Snow de Santa Fe
Lorraine Almanzar and her husband were onto something 25 years ago when they opened up the blue roadside shack near the corner of Cerrillos and West Cordova Roads. Forty-two flavors are at hand (take that, Baskin Robbins!) ranging from “Blue Hawaii” (a fruit punch and bubble gum mix) to “Bug Juice” (an ectoplasm-hued pineapple and lime concoction). Getting in touch with her inner goddess, Ana ordered the popular “Tiger’s Blood” (a strawberry and coconut medley) that lived up to its reputation. I opted for the “Suicide”—a combination of all available flavors that invaded my mouth with hints of grape Pop Rocks and fancy perfume. Go crazy and order several; prices haven’t changed much since they opened up shop: $1.25 for a small; $1.50 for a medium; $2 for a large; and a hulking jumbo for $3.50. Burping what resembled Calvin Klein’s Obsession after a couple of those Suicides? Priceless.
Annatation: “I now have brain freeze! Brain freeze has entered the building—that’s the ultimate compliment for a sno-cone.”
“Gorilla Bananas” at CG Higgins Confections
Proprietor Chuck Higgins has this whole sweets thing down at his shop (847 Ninita St.), offering a variety of confections that would make Willy Wonka himself violet with envy. Though known mostly for his truffles and brittle, an icebox on the way to the counter houses the holy grail of summertime treats—frozen bananas covered in either dark or milk chocolate and smothered in nuts ($4 with; $3.50 without). The taste was just as I remembered; the thin chocolate layer complimented frozen Cavendish just right, and a cascade of nuts flew in every direction with every bite (a hefty amount fell inside the bag, providing a good snack later in the day)¡Olé!
Annatation: “It’s a little messy—don’t get it if you’re wearing white—but it has potassium, and the peanuts have protein. It’s like an entrée on a stick.”
Paletas at Paletería y Taquería La Hacienda
File under: The best-kept secret in town. An amalgam of colors, textures and flavors envelops visitors to La Hacienda (1622 St. Michael’s Drive). The brainchild of owner Oscar Castañeda, it is the destination for Mexican-style ice pops ($1-$2 a, um, pop). And these aren’t your garden-variety flavors either. Think: avocado, beet, romaine lettuce and even refried beans. “It’s the perfect solution for kids that don’t want to eat dinner and skip right to dessert,” Castañeda says of the savory latter, adding that more “exotic” flavors like alfalfa are in the works. The cucumber and chile paleta sees your runny Leonardo the Ninja Turtle pop and raises it a level of badassness second to none. La Güera would be proud.
Annatation: “I like it. It tastes like a bloody Mary…on a stick.”