Friday, August 31, 2012

MANGO CHILI PALETAS: ICE POPS FOR YOU

Is summer fading—or not? Only yesterday I could hear Master Blaster Stevie Wonder telling me it was "Hotter than July," while people—especially Kensington Plaza’s stewards, rock and bench sittershungered for a man to bring them "…orange popsicles and lemonade," just like the B52s called for in "Summer of Love."

Surprise! The popsicle, if not the love or lemonade, can be found right here, buried in the Mexican Grocery Store’s freezer at 326A E. 2nd Street, just north of Church Avenue. Called paletas, they are a Mexican specialty produced and distributed by Sley Deli in Boro Park and for sale mainly in Mexican grocery stores, bakeries, and paleterias. And they are on the verge of their NYC breakout.

Witness the New York Times. Food-obsessed wanderer that I am, never would I have walked to Boro Park if The Times had not lured me to taste these unknown ice pops and then go on to explore the area. (It’s a just a short trip away on the B35 bus to Ft. Hamilton Parkway and then 2 blocks further west to Sley Deli at 4217 Ft. Hamilton Parkway. On your way back, drop into the Mexican bakery El Aguila, selling pane dolce in all kinds of sizes. I ate the horns: one cinnamon and the other slightly salty. Both perfect with morning coffee.)

Simon Leyba, the chef and Sley owner, started his training at age 6 as an apprentice to his family’s paleteria in Mexico. He makes his fresh each day and in 32 flavors—most new to gringos—from a fruit base and fruit or cream.

At Sley, they fed me a mango and chili pop and then a butter pecan—nuez in Spanish. But it also carries pistachio, cantaloupe, watermelon, coconut, rompope (similar to an egg nog flavor), coffee, and plain ol' cookies and cream. Mamey, nanche, and tamarind are tropical fruits and as paletas lavishly praised.

Indeed, paletas can easily lead to an obsession. They are simple to make at home and can be adapted to one’s own boozy preferences. From the many comments I found about them at the tail end of a 2008 Mark Bittman piece, memories of paletas haunt people.
 
But Sley's Kensington outlet eluded me. The deli address Mr. Leyba offered didn’t pan out, so I started walking up and down Church Avenue asking about Mexican delis until I walked into The Mexican Grocery. “Sley?” she said, reaching into her freezer. “We carry 6 flavors.” Bingo. Connection found.

—Jole