Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Local Discovery: Paletas for the people

Posted By on Tue, Oct 2, 2012 at 9:00 AM

Let’s just start with the flavors: Mexican chocolate, pineapple with flecks of serrano chile, avocado and lemon-scented Greek yogurt with blueberries. These are just a few of the made-from-scratch gourmet paletas or, Mexican-style popsicles, being served up by Luis Echegaray of Senor Pops.

I spotted Luis and his popsicle operation parked in front of the Atherton Mill Market on a busy Saturday morning. He was preaching the power of paletas and handing out samples to the market crowd. It didn’t take long for a sweets-loving gal like myself to casually wander within tasting distance.

A fresh batch of paletas
  • A fresh batch of paletas

Senor Pops is new to the Charlotte food scene and a welcome addition to a city saturated in fro-yo chains. Two months ago, Echegaray moved from Homestead, Fla., a predominantly Mexican community, where his family owns two panaderias (Mexican bakeries). He began making paletas down south as a way to balance out the slow summer season at the bakery.

At first, the popsicles followed the current standard of Mexican-style pops using artificial flavorings and concentrate to bolster flavor. Then, Echegaray decided to use fresh produce, developing the rich flavors and textures that now set his popsicles apart. This, he says, is how Mexican-style pops were originally made, with fresh ingredients.

“I wanted to be proud of what I was making,” he says.

Luis Echegaray and his prized pops
  • Luis Echegaray and his prized pops

The day we chatted, he was in the middle of cooking down a batch of local apples for his salted caramel apple paleta. He took me on a tasting tour of some of his best-selling pops, which included the soulfully spiced Mexican chocolate and the tart and creamy lemon-scented Greek yogurt with blueberries.

Taste-testing Paletas
  • Taste-testing Paletas

I even got a chance to taste a failed batch of toasted coconut paletas. Not a failure in my opinion, but to Echegaray, who holds his pops to a high standard, it was an overly sweet and unsaleable batch.

Think pops are only a summertime treat? Senor Pops focuses on seasonality and has flavors like Pumpkin, Egg nog, Squash cream and Pure Pear on deck for the fall. He’s even got an arsenal of boozy pops for all the lushes out there. Think Pear with Bourbon and Pina Colada pops.

Pumpkin paleta
  • Pumpkin paleta

Senor Pops is just getting started though. Echegaray has been selling his gourmet paletas for a few weeks at the Atherton Mill Market, but hopes to one day to have a permanent home and place where people, young and old, can enjoy the frozen treats.

For now, he says, “I’m just a Hispanic dude selling popsicles.”

Look for an orange sign bearing the Senor Pops logo, a mustache-wearing popsicle in front of the Atherton Mill Market on Tuesdays between 2 p.m.-7 p.m. and on Saturdays from 9 a.m.-2 p.m. Keep up with Senor Pops and his growing list of flavors on his Facebook page.

Keia Mastrianni loves to tell stories about local food products and the people behind them. When she's not scouting out local discoveries, she's steadily working in her vegetable garden, spending time in the kitchen and nosing through cookbooks. She maintains a happy food blog called The Sunnysideup where she shares recipes and her culinary adventures.

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